Friday, October 31, 2008

I Had to Change

This tune will get stuck in your head. You should give a listen anyway. Score one for the operatic hockey mom.

There is a Season

Autumn has come to SoCal!
leaves fallen on car

Work decided to host a "harvest festival" on Halloween, and have a jack-o-lantern carving contest. They even supplied the pumpkins! Check out some of these mondo stems.
pumpkins with large stems in SUV hatch

I signed up for the contest, having left my unmolested natural pumpkins in my office as part of our group decoration scheme.
pumpkins and cobwebs and leaves

I happen to like those pumpkins a lot just as they are. Here's a zoom.
big and small pumpkins in white and orange

Swinging around to the side, we get a glimpse over my office and into cubicles that would otherwise be a boring grey color.
office decor including plastic pumpkins lights and cobwebs

Cobweb alley.
halloween decorations mostly cobwebs

And it looks like we get to involve a cauldron in our breakfast tomorrow.
office decor including cauldron with fake fire and Medusa portrait

I've been searching the web for jack-o-lantern inspiration. Yes We Carve has some good stuff, but given that work supplied the pumpkin, politics is out. I searched Pixolu for ideas too. Then I got my pumpkin and it had sunken sides making me think of Mvnch's The Scream. But I don't have lots of experience at this or a plethora of task specific tools so I decided to go with a puckered up face. I stood in front of the mirror trying to figure out what that would look like and think I did ok.
pumpkin with side divots and face

And here it is, astonished and lit up.
backlit pumpkin with astonished face

Could I leave well enough alone? No. I really wanted to carve a cat in front of a moon. The face took up only a small amount of real estate. There was a large flattish area on the back of the pumpkin. Even though I know that too much is too much and too little is just right when it comes to sculpture, I could not stop myself. It's a little hard to see in this photo because you can also see the face behind it, but I'm happy with it!
pumpkin carved with cat in round background

It's even better lit up! Partly because the eyes glow and partly because you can't see the strings as well.
backlit pumpkin of arched cat

I could swear I was carving a spaghetti squash. I do have a plastic pumpkin scooping spatula and serrated toy carving knife with a small turning radius. Note to self - get sharper scooper. And while it's probably easier to clean up the inside if you don't carve first, the carving went really easily with the pumpkin still whole.

And a crafty friend of mine and I swapped halloween crafts. I sent her a glass pumpkin and she sent me the motherlode of homemade cards including a selection of Halloween ones. We each think we got the better end of the deal so I call that a good trade. Eat, Drink, and be Scary!
witchy cards

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Time for Every Purpose

I was going to write about why I think Barack Obama hasn't come out strongly to denounce Prop 8 but got sidetracked by pumpkin carving. Yet now that I'm here, I can't seem to stop myself. Pumpkins next.

The reason Bush kept winning wasn't so much that he ran a persuasive campaign, although he did. (And he persuaded me that he was dangerous.) It was that he ran a campaign against 2 guys who looked wooden in public and couldn't get people to rally behind them. And in conjunction, the GOP got a bunch of state level activists to propose anti-gay and/or anti-woman measures on the ballot which are known to draw out people who vote Republican. It gets them fired up and out the door and into the voting booth like nothing else. When you have two candidates who no one is really excited about, you encourage the voters you want by needling them about their pet ancillary issues. When are only 2 parties capable of winning, it's pretty easy to polarize them and the GOP will not give up on bullying people out of their rights - even now.

In Obama's case, a vast number of people think he's the cat's meow. But he's black and that is a serious handicap. The rest of the world, were they voting, would almost unanimously elect Obama over McCain [economist readers responded]. The reasons I see that it's even a close election now and not a wipeout is because Obama's black and therefore scary and because there are people who will never, ever vote for someone who might allow that a woman has the right to protect her own body from unwanted harm and the GOP is careful to keep them on their side. A lot of people have seen how the last 8 years have sent our lives and reputations spiraling downward and are willing to overlook the color thing. A few are even willing to overlook the women's rights thing. But they absolutely cannot stand to see gay people have equal rights. And while this saddens me, it's a fact of living in America.

Election strategies that ignore the reality of living in America will not do well. With the handicap of being black in America, Obama really cannot afford to come out and say "I love the gays". He has included 'gay and straight' in his public definitions of American people. He has quietly said he will support NO on prop 8. But if he were to make a big stink about Prop 8, I think the GOP would polarize on it and finally, finally, get their people out to vote. There are too many states where it's too close to call. Is it worth winning this battle to lose the war? I think not. Not at this time.

And here's why. If McCain wins, gay rights and women's rights go into the toilet, spearheaded by a man who is erratic and a woman who has a disdain for education and a lack of curiosity about opposing viewpoints. Whereas if Obama becomes president, he has shown that he will listen to and respect other viewpoints. He may not agree, he may not champion your cause, but you will get a hearing. And he does believe in civil rights. McCain no longer appears to. So if Obama makes a big statement NOW about civil rights for gays in "liberal CA", he will likely not get a chance to do so later throughout the rest of the country. I understand this. It is a strategic play that I wish he didn't have to make. But the choice isn't between the vocal gay-rights supporter or Obama or McCain. It's between Obama and McCain and McCain as the alternative is not tolerable to me.

Yes, I'm once again considering my plan to move to neutral Switzerland. I didn't execute on this in '88 or '00 due to lack of funds, but I did want to. I suspect the condo and job will keep me in place regardless, but damn. I just cannot go there in my mind. We must elect Obama, and I hope hope hope that prop 8 goes down in flames, even without his full bodied denouncement .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kinetic Energy

Have some hope going on here. As you know I've been floundering around about what to do to influence the election. I'd like Obama to win and props 8 & 4 to go the way of the dodo. There's some other stuff in there but I don't care about it as strongly. I finally signed into and found a local event. It was just a mile or two up the road and after work so I signed up and went over.

First, the house was huge. Great props to the homeowner for opening it up to the rank and file. It has a little wear and tear built up since its 70s or 80s installation but that goes with the country decor. The living room is larger by far than any place I lived in Boston. The dining room table was an antique rustic affair that is larger than some kitchens I've had. And every inch of it was filled with pumpkins, bats, and volunteers working on behalf of Barack Obama. It did my heart good to see it. I imagine that you all who have helped out yourself more directly in the election have had the same sort of jaw dropping experience. But I've literally never seen anything like it and this was just one site.

I think Barack Obama is committed to pushing through until the finish line is crossed and is asking the volunteers to do the same. It's only smart. He may be a change from the current broken and divisive people and policies; he may be well spoken and inspriational; he may be running against a guy who isn't well liked by his party and didn't pick a qualified running mate. But he is a black man in America who has seen the last two elections slip past the democrats due to various things and schemes, but largely because no one at the top commanded excitement that got people out to advocate on their behalf, let alone vote. Yes, we're all thinking the stakes have never been higher this year which helps the momentum. But having the leadership on top of it is gratifying. Obama knows that potential energy is no good unless it's tranformed into action. This campaign has more action than I've ever seen.

And the excitement is electrifying. I was calling tonight to sign people up to phone bank this weekend. Now I used to get 8-9 calls a day, or more, from telemarketers. I got to the point where unless I knew it was my dad calling, I stopped answering my home phone. It's one reason why I don't have a landline and fear the stoppage of charging by the minute on cell plans. (On one hand, an all you can call plan is great, on the other, it opens up the possibilities for pollsters and telemarketing.) Given that the rest of the world is still subject to the telemarketing juggernaut, I couldn't believe the positive response I got.

I don't know where the names phone numbers came from, but I had roughly 2 dozen names. About half weren't home or didn't have a phone number listed. Of the other half, EVERY SINGLE PERSON I called was HAPPY TO TALK TO ME. Even given that we are calling the base, I sometimes don't get enthusiasm like that from friends. One lady I called had already been called that evening; I was her 3rd call and she was still happy to talk to me. "It's very important. I don't mind. I'll see you sunday." The first guy I got ahold of said, "I'M SO GLAD YOU CALLED ME!!!" [emphasis his] Two people said they might make it but would probably be calling for "No on Prop 8" and I told them to keep up the good work. One lady said her daughter, whose name we had, had already absentee voted for Obama since she was off at college, but she would come help this weekend. All in all, I got 4 solid signups and 4 "I'm already calling for my local groups", and another 4 "let me check my schedules". Even if that last category is actually "go away" it was still very affirming.

I have no illusions that things will continue to be so affirming but who knows? I think I'm going to try to do something for either Obama or Prop 8 every day for the rest of the week. Because it matters so very much to me that our country return to a state of hope. And tonight I could see that even in my red-dot of a town in a blue state that the energy is flowing.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

When You are Engulfed in Flames

Our local NPR station (KCLU) has been having their fundraiser this week which in one sense was bad timing since I think everyone has funneled their $$ into the election. On the other hand, one of the items they would give you for a large donation was 2 tickets to see David Sedaris read at a theater in Santa Barbara this weekend. I considered it, but then I didn't want to donate quite that much, then I waffled some more.

When Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim came out I'd gone with a friend to see him read in Rhode Island. We hadn't taken our books figuring there'd be no hope of getting them signed. Yet there he was, signing away. While it was cool to hear his inflections and whatnot when speaking, he mostly just read snippets I'd already heard or things from the book. He answered questions engagingly sure, but was hearing the stories I'd already read worth driving to Santa Barbara? Well gas is down to $3.19 now so I went for it.

Since I wasn't sure, I got some last minute tickets. (I find that one has to buy tickets the first day or at the last minute.) Having learned from last time, I packed up my Sedaris books and took them along just in case. I even found someone to go with me. And we hied up to Santa Barbara. He was signing books in the lobby before the show. My plan had been to get there a little early, but anyone who knows me can predict how that turned out. We did make it on time, but I didn't get things signed.

The show was great. There was an ASL interpreter. He said he was pleased to have her there so we'd have something interesting and enjoyable to watch for the evening. After one story, he asked her again what the signs were for "leprechaun" and "cockmaster" which she duly repeated while laughing hysterically. But mostly he read his work with some unpublished pieces thrown in and it was funny. He did a piece or two that were in the works, he did a piece that got cut from the book because it's more of a presentation piece. If you ever hear him speak the phrase "Nicaraguan French" you'll know what I mean. He read his recent New Yorker piece Undecided with his original wording which was to use the phrase "human shit with broken glass" instead of "platter of shit with broken glass". The "platter" version was better tolerated by editing. Uh, one's classier? Apparently.

Afterward he took questions from the audience. That was meh because people were trying to be clever and failing. But then he said he'd be going back out to the lobby and signing even more books. As an author stalker: Joy!

As I was in line I realized that I had the perfect opportunity to replace my lost copy of "Me Talk Pretty One Day", my favorite of his books, which I somehow lost in the move. My suspicion is that I lent it out then moved before it returned. I bought a new one at the well stocked supply table run by Borders (although I have to say I like the original spine font better). I didn't get any audio versions, but it was a near thing. An hour and a half later at the front of the line found me saying "I apologize in advance, you don't have to sign all 7 books..." But he was very nice and not only signed all 7 books, "Of course I'll sign them!" but signed an older piece I'd printed off the internet, rifled through some papers, showed me a picture of him with a "slave monkey" then gave me his Proof copy of Undecided and signed that too! OMG!! [insert fangrrl squee!] It looked like he still had an hour to go after me but seemed quite happy to do so.

If you're a David Sedaris fan or think you ought to be and he comes to your town, or a town near your town, buy your tickets early (or late!), take your books, and go!

Friday, October 24, 2008

In Perfect Harmony

Along the same lines as my ostensible blog inspiration, I found this list of questions in an email I got from my Aunt a while ago. It focuses on the people who have been instrumental in ones success. Someone might already have sent it to you, but instead of emailing it, I'm posting it here. I think it's a good list, and it's nice to think of and remember friendly people.

Granted in my attempt to keep the blog semi-anonymous so as not to give publicity to the publicity shy, I will be going with semi cryptic answers. If you think you resemble these remarks, you do. If you don't see a resemblance you ought to stop by more often it was unintentional.

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  • My middle school science teacher who recommended me for the only one of two slots allotted for a "space camp" (in LA of all places, not Huntsville) that wasn't filled due to nepotism. Yeah, yeah, I learned some science stuff. More importantly, it was the first time in my life I was ever in the popular crowd. I might not have been as successful in high school or gone to MIT without this experience.
  • My fifth grade year was pretty miserable. I had grown away from my childhood friends and didn't know what to do with myself. My teacher gave me tasks to do over recess if I didn't have anyone to hang out with that day.
  • A quick list: My high school calculus teacher. She was just a really fun lady, and the math team coach. I really enjoyed her classes and the Math Team.
    My third grade teacher taught us some German and about bacteria and positive visualization and gave us stickers. Eighth grade teacher inspired me to Eurail around Europe, which a friend and I did in May of 1992. My HS principal let me keep my drafting assignments in his office during lunch so I wouldn't have to run to class. My drafting teacher let me pick my "random" class partner from a face up selection of cards. My middle school geography teacher had us color maps and learn about Minnesota and geology. My HS chorus directors took us to sing in Europe in '89. My lab professor who encouraged me to ask my Thesis advisor for a project. My 7th grade homeroom teacher still talks to my mom at the library.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
Naturally, my list is longer than three. But I will try to restrain myself.
  • Thanks to my friend who called me every morning for a month and spoke to me for 45 minutes every day until I woke up enough to get out of bed. I finally asked my parents for help and my dad took over and called me every day for a year and nearly every day for 3. I would probably not be employed without this intervention.
  • Any friend who let me do laundry at their house so I didn't have to chose between their company and being clean.
  • My friends at work who talked me down off the edge time and again so I could be reasonably composed after a chat and a little pork pad see yu.
  • Friends who either visit me or let me visit them when I'm in need of company. Or when you are.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
  • Mom and Dad, obviously. Mom sent me to Barbazon's "be a model or learn to look like one" class for makeup training and Dad taught me to drive and to knock all the nails out of used lumber so you don't get caught on them. And to open your home to people who need a nice place to be every so often. Among other things.
  • Page Hazelgrove who taught me to blow glass and let the glass speak to me.
  • The seminar instructor who taught me how to say "I don't like what you did" without saying "I don't like you". And the difference between being assertive vs aggressive or passive.
  • HGTV designer Karen MacAloon who gave me the courage to modify things I own so they suit me, rather than live with things that are slightly wrong.
  • All friends, family, professors, etc...

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
  • Everyone who responded to my blog yesterday. I really am feeling more impotent about the coming election. But I'll just keep talking to people. It's what I do.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
  • If I've hung out with you, consider yourself on the list, unless you were on the street corner with a "Yes" sign recently. Whether eating out, hiking in the town forest, kayaking or rafting, watching TV, unpacking, drinking, blowing glass, traveling, sitting on the beach, rock scrambling up the side of Catalina, going to booksignings, driving around, baking cookies, or doing not much of anything... it's all good.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tilting at Windmills

This week when I drove to the farmers market after work, the proportion of "YES" to "NO" on 8 signs at a big intersection I pass through was way off in favor of yes. I bought my fruits and veggies and squash and my blood continued to boil. Instead of raging silently I decided to go talk to them. The staff at the arts council let me use a marker and a piece of paper to make a "NO H8" sign and tape it to my back.

Then I hied off, parked at the mall, and walked over to the corner and started confronting the haters. For some reason that happened to be really effective, I just walked right up to the kids in a block of maybe 10 people and asked why they were holding signs. "To say Yes to 8". "Why?" "To Protect Marriage." "From What?" Adults interceded. So I asked why they thought it was ok to take kids to a streetcorner to help them profess their hate. To a one they denied having any hate for gays. Uh huh. They just want to protect society from going to hell in a handbasket of perversion.

Well, what they call perversion, I call progress. If people weren't using the exact same arguments against gay marriage that they used against black people marrying white people, they might have a valid point. But as it is, they feel self righteous in denying other people rights they themselves are allowed. Intolerable. So I didn't change any of their minds, but I hope I planted the seed of doubt with the kids. And I was able to discuss with them, without screaming, but generally making enough of a pill of myself that I drove them off the corner. When they asked if prostitution should be legalized too I said yes. "Well obviously you're too far to the left for us to talk to." Uh, sure. And you're too far to the hate for me to like. They were particularly annoyed when I pointed out that laws that discriminate against differences in identity lead directly to things like the 15 year old cross dresser being shot to death in school two towns over a couple months ago, for being a little strange. Granted, when they left the majority of traffic had gone down, but I definitely think I hastened their departure.

Which left a very small handful of "No on H8" people left over. But hey, we were there. One of the more lucid H8ers came back to chat, sans sign. His primary argument, despite having a gay brother whose long term relationship he "tolerates" but does not "celebrate", was that if gay marriage is allowed, suddenly sons and fathers will be marrying. Well, Sons can't currently marry mothers, so why the fear? He also thinks that gay sex is risky for health. ALL sex is risky for health. And straight people can have oral and anal sex too. Oh, and the "it's unnatural" argument? There are twice as many gay people as redheads. Even if there were only one though, by virtue of existing, gays are as natural as any other person.

One person tried to ask me "if a six year old would prefer to live with his natural mom and dad or two dads". Then wouldn't listen if I asked if the natural mom and dad wanted to raise the child, were abusive, etc... saying I wouldn't answer his question as if his question was reasonable. He left when I insisted that there were more answers than just his two. What I should have said is, "If you asked a six year old if he wanted Cheetos for dinner, would he say yes? Should we then legislate that all kids should only have Cheetos for dinner?"

I can't say it helped anyone but me for me to go do that. But I was heartened that a kid coming by on a skateboard stopped to ask the calm h8ter how he thought kids of this generation would judge their parents for promoting intolerance. And another young woman with a rainbow flag came by.

I think that unless something is so dangerous that it causes immediate and lasting or fatal harm to the unwary, we should choose education over legislation for matters of personal choice - alcohol, cigarettes, other low toxicity drugs, and sexual choices. Things that need to be illegal (or extremely hard to get) are those things that cause immediate and lasting harm to the unwary, and behaviors that endanger or take advantage of people who have not or cannot give consent. Anything related to core identity, like sexual orientation or race, should be protected by law because we have shown time and again if differences are not legally protected, people who are different will be marginalized legally and socially. When people are protected legally, they become accepted socially.

And I can't see any downside to tolerating other people choosing what is best for their family, as long as they don't mandate what is best for me and mine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grins From My GrandFather

As someone who inherited my dad's chin and jaw, it kind of fascinates me to see the familiar chin and jaw in this photo from the Chicago Tribune. He may have gotten dreams from his father, but that chin came from Kansas. I will assume the grins come from love.

baracks grandfather and barack at the beach

Other good things today:
  • We had a health checkup "fair" at work today. We got 5 minute massages. My sight with my new glasses is good, even at the end of the day. My total cholesterol 5 hours after eating salad and cream of mushroom soup was 180. My blood pressure is 110/70. However I am fat. And according to my temperature dot on my hand gauging my stress level, "extremely tense" alternating with "unsettled". I still need to see someone about that possible cortisol thing. But on the whole, yep, I'm fat but healthy according to the major indicators. More genetics at work.

  • Made actual progress on my tool today. It is a pesky temperamental diva. But we are making progress.

  • I remembered to charge my phone. Which allowed me to take an impromptu call from my friend in South Carolina. (She is looking for technical contract jobs large and small. Let me know if you have work to contract out to someone sharp, dogged and technically savvy.)

  • The red hair dye, I like it. It becomes this sorta purplish color. Looks like brown indoors and shiny red out in the sun.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Eye of the Tiger

I came up with all sorts of topics to blog about today, but the only one that is sticking with me is this rule:
    If you ever handle hot peppers, even mildly hot peppers, with your fingers DO NOT attempt to put in contacts with those same fingers for at least 12 hours.

Same goes for removal. Get some good hydrating eyedrops and sleep in the suckers.

See the thing is, in these trying times, my roots are still going grey and so I'm trying the at-home hair color thing in the interest of saving $60-80. The Clairol worked well but the color was bland. I found a funky auburn (aka red) color from Loreal so I figured I could try that.

But first I had to get allergy shots (all five!) and then I was starving. I went to a cheap Pho place and along with basil, lime, and beansprouts, I got sliced jalepenos to stuff in my soup. Or perhaps they were a stronger pepper. The only utensils were soup spoons and chopsticks. I'm good with chopsticks but they don't really lend themselves to cutting. So with my fingers, I tore up a couple pepper slices and tossed them in my soup. I figured the whole slice would be too strong to eat at once and I was right. They contributed a nice lip-tingle burn. I added a small dollop of the red pepper paste to move the burn more toward the back of the mouth. It was pretty good.

Belly full, I came home and started mixing up the hair color only to realize that I was wearing glasses and that maybe wasn't such a good idea. So I took the Kate Spades. Then I took the protective gloves off and rinsed the glove powder off my hand and tried to put in my right contact. I'm pretty sure I didn't have ammonia or anything like it from the color on my fingertip. But I sure as hell had something on there and given past experience with peppers and contacts (which I would have blogged about had I been blogging then - the day I tested whether red or green peppers off the same plant were hotter than the other and 6 hours later tried to take out contacts... memorable day) I'm pretty sure I still had hot pepper oil on my fingertip. Which I stuck back in my eye to retrieve the contact figuring it wouldn't help to leave it there.

You know how when you get water in your eye it kind of stings unless it's salinated or otherwise buffered? And when you read the warnings like "run water in eye for 15 minutes if you get product 'Blinding Toxin' in your eye" and you think about how much that raw water on your eye will sting? Not so much. Raw tap water on the inflamed eyeball is in fact quite soothing for a while. I was fortunate to also have a big bottle of saline that I switched to after the blinding pain reduced enough that I could cut back the volume.

In the meantime, my dye was chemically reacting so I got out my older glasses and put those on. I'm sure I could do it by touch but I wasn't looking forward to a purple forehead. I can only see clearly for about a foot, maybe less. (Just under twice as far as a short eyeliner pencil is long.) The Loreal upmarket variety of dye actually seemed weirdly dry when I put it on. Normally, I get big gloppy paste on my head that holds all my hair up, but in this case, it kept falling down and leaving dark streaks on my neck. It also tingled a lot more than the Clairol (which I don't remember tingling, but will have to check my blog history) meaning I'm probably more allergic to it. So I'm not loving it. I do like the Loreal conditioner a little better though.

I'll have to see what the color looks like in the sun tomorrow. If all goes well, the highlights (raw color on grey hair) will match my red eye.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reality Based Policy

It's always nice to find articles which clearly articulate a belief strongly held. It's ironic in this case when the article is about the slow re-emergence of facts over ideology. Far and away the worst problem I have with the current Republican ideology is their inability to incorporate facts into their world view. I like it when people change their minds after new information enters the scene. I have seen where Obama asks experts for the facts and their opinions, then uses those inputs to make decisions. He doesn't just step up and say, "my gut says we go with Door 2." Ultimately it may come down to a gut instinct, but at least his guts have had exposure to facts first.

In light of the recent economic mudslide, I've pulled a book out of my TBR pile for bedtime reading. Jared Diamond, of Guns, Germs, & Steel fame, also wrote a book called Collapse covering the worst collapses of civilizations in an attempt to figure out why they went down when other civilizations in similar straits did not focusing on those dealing with ecological catastrophes. Turns out he's got a cheery, "cautiously optimistic" outlook he wants to share. And when I read the end first, success comes down to two factors - willingness to acknowledge and deal with ecological problems, and a willingess to change basic ideology when the current beliefs are not helpful.

There seems to be a pervasive notion that people of the past were more in tune with nature and lived easier on the earth. I think that's a load of crap. (J. Diamond does too.) When your farming policy is clearcutting 10 acres for your village's crops, using the land for 4 years then clearcutting another 10 acres, it works fine if there are isolated villages in a large forested area. While you're farming your second area, the first is reclaimed. When the population density goes up, though, you either farm the area too long or clearcut too close together or cut too much for natural reclaim to occur when you're done with the farm. At some point you overwhelm the system and either need to farm a new way, or help the reclaiming along somehow. Some societies put in place decisive policies to improve farming and/or reclaiming and some don't. Those that do keep going on. Those which don't, don't.

I recently read another well written essay on being conservative. If I remember the link I will post it but I suspect I won't. His primary thrust was that "conservatives" look at how we've lived our lives so far and think it's safer to use methods we've already used to solve future problems. Whereas "liberals" see problems which "ought" to be fixed an often propose scary new, untried solutions. Ok.

As with my first paragraph, my problem with "conservative" thinking comes in when the evidence says, "We've tried to do things with methods X,Y,Z for many decades. X works great. Y is marginal and Z causes great harm." and the conservatives say, "Well, X,Y,Z work well for us so lets keep going the way we always have." Either they don't agree that Y is marginal and Z causes great harm, or they don't agree that the harm is sufficient to try wacky new policies B and C. And it makes me want to scream.

I think there are a lot of things currently wrong with how we're going about things. And continuing to do things the same way, I'm convinced, will lead to all kinds of disaster. While I'm still a bit of a "global warming" skeptic, I can totally get behind the "global weirding" idea. What's more immediate in my mind is the volume of pollution and toxins we dump into the air when we already have the technology not to. We've done pretty well with passenger car emissions. We have not done well with trucks. We have not done well (still! thanks to GWB) with coal fired power plants. We have gotten better in some ways about industrial waste. Unfortunately, some of the ways we deal with it are to send it to places that don't have OSHA and the EPA and let them throw it out, or recycle it in hazardous ways. One of the points J. Diamond makes early is that environmentalists and corporations need to work together to solve problems or nothing will happen.

As I see it, we (the people of all countries) need to immediately reduce the amount of mercury we spew into the air. Due to mercury poisoning, there are only 2 fishable rivers in New England and they're pretty restricted too. We need to reduce the particulates from burning anything. The haze of Beijing is the iconic picture of this. We need better methods of recycling things and water and we need to do much more of it. And we need further policies (for lack of a better word) to reduce water and energy waste. What I mean by this last is that we need to set things up so it's easier to use less water/energy and possible but more difficult or costly to use more.

Some would suggest compact fluorescents. But they have pollution issues and I've never have them last long enough to justify their use. We need LEDs or other such technology, preferably. Fluorescents are a stop gap measure at best. As a better example, instead of flow restrictor faucets which limit MAXIMUM flow, keep the maximum high, but make it harder to get maximum flow for most tasks. So when someone just flips the handle on a faucet to wash their hands, they get only 1/3 of the max flow. But instead of getting an anemic trickle have aerators and other dispersers in place to get good coverage with the lower flow. Then if you need to fill a pot, you can push a button (for instance) on the side of the faucet to enable the maximum flow without superhuman strength. I keep seeing people leave the water on while they're doing things away from the water (yes, in this arid area). We'll never convince people not to do this, so make it less harmful when they do.

And my mind is warming to the global warming notion due to having a friend who is a climate scientist who says "global warming" is real based on the data she has seen. And it does make sense. Oil and coal are energy sources that were essentially out of play when stored underground. Solar energy comes and goes regularly and interacts with the surface plants and land and water. If you redirect solar energy either with solar collectors or by burning trees, you're redistributing the energy already in the atmosphere. But when you dig up oil and coal and burn it, you're adding energy to the system that wasn't there before. Adding energy causes temperatures to increase. The fact that we have non-uniform temperatures across the globe means that things won't heat uniformly. Things will, however, interact.

Since corporations don't seem to respond well to concensus, unless there is already evidence or a market in place, I do think government needs to step in with regulations, even if they're different and untried and scary. We can make them temporary trials if we must. When people say "I'd like better gas mileage, we get a couple fringe cars and a lot more of the same. But when the government says "improve fuel economy or there will be financial penalties", then fuel economy gets improved more broadly. I don't think every vehicle must have a gas mileage over 50mpg. Perhaps that's unrealistic for something carrying 20 tons. But for a 2 ton car, it's absolutely possible. I've gone through 20 model years in the cars I've owned as an adult, and had zero improvement in mileage. Actually, I went from 32 to 31 to 30 mpg. Yes, I do have more features and more safety devices I'm hauling around. But if we hadn't had the gas scare in the 70s, it's unlikely I'd even have gas mileage that good.

So to try and wrap up this ramble, I DO think governments need to work with the people and the corporations to force us to work in our own best interests. Where the market doesn't account for the negative externalities, the government needs to step in and do so. Since I want things to change and want to try wacky new ideas to cause that change, I guess that makes me a liberal. However, what those best interests are will always remain in contention and I understand that. So I'd prefer to have a president setting the tone with congress and the populace who has shown that he will be looking out for all the people of the country, not just the folks like him. And who has shown respect for facts and experts. I do think more than our economy is in crisis. I think our ecolosystem is at a crossroads and we can choose the road less traveled by, up 'til now, and make it more of a thoroughfare. If we all have increasingly clean air to breathe and fresh water to drink and the hope of maintaining this state of affairs, I think this civilization of ours will become more prosperous.

My preference, though, is for government to set a goal, not give a roadmap to get there. The mileage one is good: 85% of passenger cars seating 5 or fewer people need to get 50mpg in 10 years without negatively affecting emissions or crash safety. Don't, however, say we have to do it with a certain technology like ethanol, batteries, or hydrogen. Just give us the goal. Then all sorts of people and corporations can try all sorts of technologies and the one or two that seem most promising can be phased in. Make a goal of reducing commercial or residential water use, or charging extra for large consumers. (Yes, I realize this could be bad for my company!) Make a goal of getting out of Iraq...

9 to 5

The woman I was blowing glass with today provided the iTunes for our listening pleasure. We were taking a break when I heard a beat start up I recognized from a mix I have on a CD in my car. (Ironically, that mix is for working out.) The CD starts with Dolly Parton belting out "9 to 5". Well, after the initial beat I was mentioning. I mentioned it and she said she'd just added it to her iPod after seeing "9 to 5, the musical." Four times. It wasn't that it was so good she had to see it four times, but it was good enough that she was not willing to cry off when she wound up there an additional 3 times.

I had been intrigued when I heard Dolly promoting the show on radio a few weeks ago and made a mental note to see it. With the reminder today that it was closing soon, starred Allison Janney, and that there were rush tickets available, I decided today was the day I would *finally* make it to the theater in LA.

Unfortunately, I had to drive back home from the Valley, then back through the valley and into LA which took a while through pockets of dense traffic. Fortunately, I've gotten better about figuring out how much time I need to get places and knowing that I should arrive early to get rush seats. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten better about leaving on time. Fortunately, I did leave early enough to get there more than an hour before the show started and had no problems getting a vertigo inducing nosebleed seat.

Even with my new contacts, I was too far away to see faces very well. In big scenes, unless the spotlight was obvious, I sometimes didn't know who was singing every so often. Still, I could see a lot, the view was unobstructed due to the frightening balcony angle, and there were fun visuals and sets to watch. I could see how some of the mechanisms worked, which is fun for me.

I enjoyed the show. Like the movie, it's campy good fun. They had it set in the late 70s still, with typewriters and everything. There were a few audience directed laugh lines with current references that did get the laughs. The newer musical numbers were alright, but didn't quite have the kick of the original song. I wasn't inspired to grab a soundtrack, but there was only one song that I would have cut to be a lot shorter. They might have needed the time for set and costume changes though. There was a fairly large cast of essentially extras doing a lot of dancing in the background. Allison, she is not a singer, but she does put on a good show even if she has to sing. A lot of the rest of the cast hopped over from "Wicked", so there were definitely some quality vocals going on. If it winds up taking off, you should go see it. There are too few shows that star women, and this is good entertainment.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vote this way

I think I may have turned into one of those liberals who doesn't want to hear what you have to say if you disagree with me about prop 8, prop 4, or Obama. On one hand, this is not, generally, my style. I like to hear other people's stories. I have some friends who call me "Switzerland" for always being able to point out why the person they're disagreeing with isn't just a wacko but might actually have a point.

But with a few rare exceptions, everyone who has recently tried to promote the opposite side has merely repeated lies. Not smart lies, either. Stupid, obvious, provably false lies. And like I don't want to hear their lies, they don't want to hear truth, my opinion, or my anything really. Because what these people want to vote into law is that they don't trust me, or any woman (prop 4) or gay person (prop 8) to decide what is best for themselves. Only someone who is not me and believes unfounded lies is possibly capable of deciding what is best for me, obviously. And this notion makes me decidedly cranky.

So cranky that I currently couldn't up and write something like this piece on why gay marriage is about civil rights, not marriage. But if you're reading my blog, it's preaching to the choir. I know this, but I need to say it anyway. If you've already written your letter to the editor, I absolve you of feeling the need to read my rant.

I'm worked up today because I saw a bunch of people with prop 8 signs hanging out on a busy street corner. The Yes folks mostly had professionally printed signs. The No folks were holding their own, but had only one pre-printed sign. I don't know what that means, but does make me curious about the state of funding. (I have donated what I can afford.) One of the wacko, yet pro, "yes" signs said "8 = free speech". Another said "8 for the kids". Excuse me, but are y'all smoking crack? I have done lost my patience with your hate and disrespect. Kids are fine with gay marriage if they aren't told to hate, fear, and disrespect it. And make no mistake, they are overwhelmingly told to hate, fear, and disrespect gay people, and to allow others to disrespect someone for their fundamental nature.

Marriage equality is about being able to walk down the street and have ANY adult you see be legally able to pick any other consenting adult to marry and get lots of state and federal financial and legal benefits that every other adult can have. What is threatening about that?

Now that I've been thinkingon it, lack of marriage equality is kind of like male-succession laws where you have to wait until the baby is born to see if it's a useful one or a dud - and the girl continues to be treated like a dud for her whole life. Arbitrarily denying a portion of people the right to marry means that your kids, when growing up, won't know whether they're a fully acceptable adult until they become aware of their sexuality. How is that good for the kids? I've got a pretty good life now because we're trying to be better than that and celebrate all children as equally important regardless of gender on arrival. Because we looked at the way things were always done and said, "believing this doesn't help us."

One of my best friends blogged about coming out to the neighbors, and more, to the neighbor's kid. While it wound up being no big deal, the lead up was a year of anxiety and planning the timing and contingency planning to minimize potential issues. But my friend had to plan around the predjudice allowed to flourish in schoolkids for when her girlfriend could move in. And her son was anxious that his best friend who has run tame in their house since she was 3 would not take it well. Anyone else would have just said, "my mom's getting married". How does this help the kids?

Yep, that's a rhetorical question. And fully believe that if I allow you to make a fundamental choice about how you live your life, and you allow me the same, we will all be better off. And I really don't care to hear why I'm wrong. Because I'm not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not a Six Inch Valley

I live a couple valleys over from the giant HILLS ON FIRE!
(not my photo, this comes from the newswires...)
SoCal hills on fire in the news

While my town didn't look like this, in fact today the sky looked pretty clear where I am, yesterday when the winds were blowing, it was very smoky. And really, I could live where there are tornadoes or hurricanes or nor'easters or blizzards or electrical storms, so its a matter of choosing your preferred disaster. I'm not sure I like fire more than snow, but so far so good. So really, I'm not in a bad way, knock on wood.

Pictures were taken at lunch and while (ahem) driving home. All the good angles were on the road which is why you'll see a lot of buildings from parking lots I pulled into - it was the best I could get without holding up traffic.

I was coming back from lunch when I noticed the alarming color of the eastern sky. The line between smoke and clear blue sky was really crisp.
smoke blowing into the valley

For contrast, the clear blue sky.

clear blue sky over southern CA

With the trailing edges of the smoke blowing in. It looks like clouds.

smoke blowing into the valley

But is not clouds. Is smoke.

Orange smoke over Amgen

Later, it had settled down. I had a really great view that didn't work for the camera so you get the snap with the moon and electrical wires instead of the wireless moon hiding behind the tree.

smoke settling over valley beneath full moon

Then as I was driving home, I couldn't resist trying to capture this. I think I need a different camera to get decent landscape shots, honestly. But it probably wouldn't be tiny like my Elph so I wouldn't have it with me anyway. I think the smoke up to the moon then clear sky overhead looked really funky. It was like the moon was mimicking a sunrise.

smoke on the commute home with full moon and mountains

But people who were driving over toward the fire had a hell of a commute left. The electronic freeway information signs that normally say 20 and 30 minutes to the reference intersections said 60 and 80 minutes. Longest times I've ever seen posted. Probably due to everyone taking the 101 instead of 118 which was closed due to smoke about 24 hours after I last drove that way. Yes I had been playing with fire, but I turned off the glory hole, I swear!

Maybe books are not the best investment in this climate. Maybe I should hop on that Kindle bandwagon...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Never Being Boring

When I was younger and had no friends, my mom would make a big deal about how I was unique and special. I was still an outcast, but at least she tried. And it turns out she's correct. Once again, my allergist has told me that I might be a pain, but I have not committed the sin of being boring. Between the cats and ragweed, I'm still virulently reacting to them (and possibly dogs or feathers) at the 1:10,000 concentration even at 5 months when for all other things I'm at 1:1000 or 1:100. So he wants to split them out - again. I started with 3 shots and am headed up to 5 - joining only a handful of others getting that many. Probably still only once a week. Apparently, I'm the first patient that needed 2 special mixture revisions. When your 82 year old allergist says, "this is the first time I've had to do this", it likely means one is unique. Special, even.

And did I mention the weird extra branch of my aorta? I'm feeling all kinds of special.

In other news:
I took my car to the dealership at 160 miles shy of 36,000 miles because I had some notion that my warranty was 3yrs/36Kmiles. Turns out to be 4 years/50K. Sweet. Plus, I found the dealership. Like most things in this town, it's almost within spitting distance and I can't find it, even with directions. After a false start at the VW place, I finally found it. The Mazda3 needed an oil change, tire rotation, brake inspection and... a new engine mount. I mentioned that the engine power surged at 3300rpm. I think it's always done that so I figured it was a weird "feature". Turns out it's a bug that can be fixed by replacing a cracked engine mount. The ride is much smoother now. I totally love this car.

I put up some shelves in the bathroom to get the crap off the counter so I can rip out the sink and sink surround. It's a total gut job. Why not just replace the faucet that is rusty, attached so the handles turn backward, and now dripping? Well... The mirror is losing the silver backing. The sink deck is not level and water gathers in one corner. The finish needs a serious stain removal and polish, the undermount sink grouting is disintegrating, the drain lift lever is broken, and the drain leaks. Because the drain leaks, the cabinet is damaged in a way that swelled up the wood so the doors don't shut. And the ugly doorknobs are glued on.

I was going to wait until the kitchen was done, but the faucet took to leaking and the Höllviken price started trending up. So I bought the sink, the cabinet for it to go on, new drain parts, and a kitchen faucet for the bathroom. After at least half a dozen shops, I finally found a 1 post faucet with a 1 piece handle that doesn't require me to drip water on top of the faucet to turn it off. And it comes with a pull down spray option (as opposed to pull outward which requires 2 hands not to shoot water all over). And the faucet was sales tax free this weekend making it the same price as my second choice with tax.

brushed stainless faucet Bridgewater V51123T

Anyhow, I'm getting more and more excited about this project. Yay, plumbing! Now if I can figure out how to put a filter in-line with at least the cold supply so the water for tooth brushing doesn't taste vile. Judging by the residue from my drip collector, I probably never need to take calcium supplements ever again.

I made ornaments this weekend. I worked out a process for getting good blue/green swirled pieces without having the shape go out of round. Good stuff. Although I did drive back home on the freeways that are now shut due to fire. The hills about 20-30 miles east of here are on fire. The smoke blew over my way at lunch, turning the sky that alarming shade of orange, but is otherwise not troubling me.

Another thing my mom (and dad) did when I was little was read us the Paddington Bear stories. According to the google picture today, he's 50 today. Happy Birthday Paddington. I hope you have some fine orange marmalade while stomping about in your Wellingtons to celebrate.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Out with the Jive

There are some things harshing my mellow. I was spurred into blogging about them by Shaggy Gamer who doesn't even live in CA but is wise beyond his years.

  • I've been bloating up recently and wow, I think I've gained about 10 pounds in 2 weeks. I kid you not. I feel rather repulsive. I do need to eat less now that I'm not on vacation, but aside from the last 5 days, I haven't been overeating, to my knowledge. I do find it hard when I'm trying not to eat when I'm not hungry, but I'm either "not hungry" or "starving" with no discernable transition in between. So I have to plan to eat before I'm hungry, which is weird. Jenny Crusie's blog is helping to deal with the negative feelings at least.

  • There are troubling ballot measures on the CA ballot. It would be really bad if they pass. Please vote NO on 8 and 4.
Here's why.

8 Eliminates right of same-sex couples to Marry. I kid you not. Currently any adult in CA (and MA!) can marry any other consenting adult and the San-Andreas activity has not picked up, the sky has not fallen, and no one else's marriage was wrecked because of it. It just doesn't affect anyone else any more than any marriage does. (Mostly, the effect is you can just give your 2 friends 1 gift from now on.)

Just because you might find the thought of gay sex icky is no reason to find it illegal. By that criterion, your parents would never have been allowed to have you! We all know that parent sex is about the ickiest thing imaginable. Get over it. Vote no. Let all adults pick the one adult person they want to be their family. Is that really so hard? No.

If you already didn't need convincing, donate here. Or possibly here.

4 Waiting period and parental notification before termination of minor's pregnancy. Vote NO for many reasons, but mostly to protect the lives of young girls.

I am willing to believe that people who are concerned about their children being able to have medical procedures without their knowing about it are behind this, but I have serious doubts. If you want your kid to talk to you about an unintended pregnancy: talk to them about sex; don't threaten to kick them out of the house, ever; bring up uncomfortable subjects without freaking out. If your kid is willing to talk to you, you don't need this law. If you feel you *need* this law, you have some work to do as a parent and this law won't make your kid come to you with their problems. But it could kill your kid or your neighbor.

Without overstating the case, this law is about terrorizing young girls. A friend who is a social worker shared recently that one of her first cases was a 10 year old girl who was raped by her step-father. Couple that with the revelation that a book club member never was able to convince her mother that her step-father was molesting her repeatedly, so she was molested for years. Years. These are the people you want "re-thinking" whether or not to bring another child into their household? Seriously? Which parent would sign the forms? The father of the child's child? Or the mother who won't believe you? These are the girls who will be damaged if this law is not voted down.

Imagine you're 12 years old. By hook or by crook you find yourself pregnant. And if you're 12 - it's definitely by crook. Maybe it's a parent, maybe it's a neighbor kid, maybe it's your brother. You're still struggling to accept the idea of pubic hair and monthly bleeding, which may not yet be regular. You don't yet know what a "normal" period is. How long does it take you to realize you're pregnant? Give it a month before you suspect something. Give yourself another month of denial that it couldn't possibly be the case or have the courage to ask the middle school nurse what to look for. Then another week or two to decide that you can't possibly bring a child into your world. You're at week 10. Abortions are safest for the woman (or GIRL in this case) before 12 weeks. You might not know this though because you've only had rudimentary sex ed up to this point, and likely the lesson only said to avoid sex.

Now you have 2 weeks to find resources - a clinic, possibly money, and certainly transportation to the clinic - and to have the abortion. Only you're told that you can't rid yourself of a nightmare unless you go home to your nightmare and bring more of your nightmare back with you. Or go to court. Most 12 year olds are adept at navigating the judicial system, no? Best case scenario is you get assigned a case worker who may or may not be able to meet with you immediately. By the time you get the judicial override and another ride back to the clinic, you're over 12 weeks pregnant and now only special clinics can handle your more complex procedure. You see how this is helping this 12 year old girl? Now she has a more invasive, less available, costlier procedure to do what could have been more safely done two weeks prior. What a great law.

In a supportive household, mom and dad would be holding your hand and guiding you through your options, even when all your options suck out loud, and this law never applies to you. Unfortunately, I can imagine all number of worst case scenarios for a 12 year old pregnant girl from an unsupportive and likely abusive household who can't get an abortion on demand.
  • She's kicked out of the house, pregnant and alone at 12.
  • She's kicked in the stomach until she miscarries.
  • She has an illegal abortion and loses her ability to have a child when she's older.
  • She has an illegal abortion, there are complications, and she bleeds out.
  • Her parents grill her endlessly on who the father is and don't believe the truth or protect her from further attack.
  • She's forced to drop out of school and the people who can best help her lose track of her whereabouts.
  • She's forced to have the child of her rapist before her body has grown to full adult height and her growth is forever stunted.
  • She hides her pregnancy as long as possible and has no prenatal care.
  • The baby is born in secret and the baby is born dead, born alive but left for dead, or killed outright so no one finds out. (Best case the secret delivery happens at the emergency room where everyone looking at her crotch is a stranger to the raped girl, and she's able to give the child into the care of the state. )
  • The new child grows up in a terrible household and is, perhaps, molested before her mom can escape with her.
And this is why I don't watch horror movies. I can imagine horror in everyday life and I don't need it, especially when my imaginings get confirmed. All of these things have happened to real girls, and worse. I'm not saying an abortion fixes a terrible living situation. But it prevents a miserable life from becoming tortuous. Twelve year olds should not be having kids. Heck, we barely tolerate 18 year olds having kids these days, when less than a generation ago it was normal. So think of the children- specifically those girl children who are not loved, and whose parents will never help them either raise a child or sign papers to help her prevent one.

And vote NO on measure 4!
The safety of young girls depends on it.
for the search engines:
vote no on prop 8
vote no on prop 4
vote no on prop 4 & 8
vote no on prop 8 & 4

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


As it turns out, despite being called "The Tar" tar pits, the La Brea Tar Pits contain no actual tar. For those who like trivia and didn't already know, oil is made from animal remains and tar is made from plant remains. The local "tar", aka oil or asphalt (sludgy oil mixed with aggregate), is the product of plankton. So not only do these pervasive microscopic animals feed the largest sea creatures we have left (baleen whales), but they also settled by the kazillions into the ocean bottom millions of years ago. Add pressure and time and a little tectonic action, and you get black sludge that makes a fun waterproof adhesive.

The museum is small enough to be able to take in the whole thing without total overload yet large enough to be fun and informative. We got a "walking tour" of the grounds which mostly consisted of standing under trees to get out of the 90F+ hot in direct sun while our guide yammered on about things not directly related to the scenery. The heat didn't stop someone from proclaiming, "science hasn't proved a common ancestor between dogs and cats". Um, yes, yes science has. Yes, I said so. We learned other cool things, but it would have been just as well to do so in an auditorium or around one of the excavated pits.

The cool things we learned:
  • The first tuesday of the month is free day. Fantastic coincidence, that was today.
  • Juvenile saber tooth tigers have grooves on the interior of their baby sabers to allow their adult sabers to partially grow in before they lose the baby teeth.
  • There are only 2 full time palentologists on staff, the rest are volunteers. To be a volunteer, you need to be 16 or older, ready and willing to work, and able to tolerate the smell of oil. (Almost the same criteria to be VP, apparently.)
  • There were camels in america! And horses came from here.
  • Mammoth teeth are roughly larger than my head.
  • They have enough mammoth fossils to do a frequency chart of the age of juvenile bones. They're only found in certain age ranges which are roughly a year apart, which means mammoths were migratory and only hung out in LA for a couple months a year.
  • It appears that no otters found themselves stuck.
  • Ossicles - they found these lumpy things a little bigger than raisins that were clearly fossils and yet just rounded lumpy things they couldn't place. Finally someone found a sloth in south america that had these suckers all over its skin. Apparently they grow on sloths as protective lumps and there were sloths aplenty in the pits. I'm not sure they've updated the pictures to reflect the impact of ossicles on hair growth patterns.
So J and I are going to keep saying "ossicle" a lot. But I have to work tomorrow and so does he so I'll stop doing it here for noe. He, at least, can work out of a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf before I drive him to the aeroporto.


Hey, I finally found somewhere cool to take visitors which is also free. As luck would have it, 'Esperanto Guy' is visiting and was with me when I found out Mulholland drive sort of dead ends at a gate where there is a park made from an abandoned missle launch site, LA96C. You can see into both the LA basin and the San Fernando valley from there. Super cool. As we were driving on the dirt road (you're a redneck if the directions to your home include "turn off the paved road at..."; you're a genX hiker if the directions for your afternoon jaunt include same.) we passed some joggers and bikers and covered both my car and them with lots of dust. Yet again, the monthly carwash plan = good idea.

Tomorrow, I think we'll go check out the LaBrea tar pits. And see if I can exchange my door pulls for Hafele 115.21.001-.004 cabinet hardware, which are very like mine, but twice as wide and would look better on my wide door stiles. I'd also like to mock up an over-stove cabinet with stainless (or fake stainless) on the doors. I saw such a thing today and I think it would make sense in the space, but I can't afford the $1200 quoted to me for an 18"Hx27"Wx13"D upscale version.

Other updates, both good and sad:
One of my mom's best friends died thursday. She was a month from turning 70. No known suffering, just "woke up dead". On one hand, if you have to go, that's not so bad. On the other hand, she's dead. It's weird for me since I've known her since I was 7; her oldest daughter was my best friend until 5th grade or so; her youngest daughter was one of my brother's best friends; and we spend between 1/3 and 1/2 of our holidays at their house. Diane loved to entertain. Little fun fact - compared to her, I'm never late for anything. If dinner was at 4, we all knew to eat heartily around 2 or 3 because dinner would be at 7, if we were lucky. Go with God, Diane.

Spent friday helping a friend with a charity golf tournament in Napa. I think it went well, but we'll know for sure when the $$ is counted. I helped last year too and this year was much more organized behind the scenes, but if people love it and want to come back, and get good press from it, it helps. I was unable to help myself and won a silent auction item of 10 cookbooks their magazine staff rated well. Some of you might have cookbooks in your future if I can convince myself not to keep all of them.

On saturday, we met even more book club friends in the city of San Fran. The plan was to go to the Exploratorium or some such thing then have dinner. But those were hard to get tickets and we wound up at the Love Fest. Wall to wall people around a city block with wall to wall cacophony. Four major decibel sources on each of 4 sides. People clad and unclad in all manner of funny stuff. If I can figure out how to upload my .avi clip to blogger so you can hear and view it, I will. I have to trust that my friend will send me the picture of the young woman in a skirt and Obama stickers used as pasties.

On sunday, I was awakened by screaming raccoons. Staying at my friend's house with a lovely garden has a downside (aside from the allergens) in that it hosts a substantial raccoon family. This family got really pissed when one (mom? dad? older sib?) got stuck in one of the cages and raised a ruckus. One XL raccoon kept coming over to the back door to bark at us. Scared the bejesus out of us all, mainly because her mostly-outdoor kitten was nowhere to be found. When I checked after flying home - a scared kitty came crawling out from under the decking with all his hair on end, and the raccoons managed a jailbreak. Relieved at the news, I picked up my friend and we went back to Stick-n-Stein for a quick nosh.