Saturday, December 29, 2007

Virtual kitchen

Here's a little video I shot of the new kitchen with my new Flip camera..

Joseph Cornell

Yesterday we visited San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) to see the exhibit of the works of Joseph Cornell. He was what's called an "assemblage artist". I found plenty to inspire me. It seems to me that a collage artist reveals even more of the inner self than someone who creates art from raw materials. Because when you choose images that have already been drawn, interpreted, and then juxtapose them with other things or images, you create a new, ironic or deeper meaning. It's like interpreting dreams, when you see a snake in a desert, it's not just a snake nor just a desert.

I think being obsessive compulsive would be helpful to a collage artist. Perhaps all artists need a little of that. But to be constantly cutting things out of magazines and saving lots of little pipes and dials... where does one get these things? Today we are going antique shop browsing, and I'm going to keep my eyes open for little collections that could be incorporated into assemblages.

There has been a lot of cookin' and eatin' over the holiday week. I found that I mostly desired to make dishes that I had never made before, which is strange to do over a holiday, when folks expect traditional food. I found one recipe for sweet and sour chicken that was an instant hit and may make it again tonight. I made scalloped potatoes, which I like but had never made before. I baked an apple pie using my molassas pear pie recipe, which was delicious. We had a veggie casserole made with almond milk. I baked baking powder biscuits. The new oven is a dream.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Let the festivities begin

Slogged through the week at work - most of our department got sick and didn't show up all week. Which meant that those of us who were immune had to hold down the fort and fill in for them. Usually I don't mind working the last week of the year, because there are long lunches and plenty of goodie baskets to keep us sedated. But this year, I had to work hard, which has generally been the case for quite a few months now. So, hurray! we are now off work til after the new year.

Our builder worked hard too this week, to get the house to a point where we could really use all the new rooms. The bathroom looks excellant, with all the hardware istalled and the shower glass enclosure. Even the doorbell is back up, and the way it echoes in the new kitchen gives Lola even more reason to bark like crazy whenever it rings.

We are expecting it to ring a lot this week, with our friends all lined up to come over for eats prepared in the new kitchen. Today, I'll dig out the box in the garage that has my cookbooks, so that I can refresh my memory of meals that I used to enjoy making.

Last night we stayed in the city to go to the new Sundance movie theater that opened in Japantown. Every seat is "reserved", that is, you pick which number seat you want when you buy your ticket, which makes the line move very slowly. The seats are large and arranged in twos, with a little table between each pair. We picked seats that put the table between us, but actually I think it'd be better to pick seats with tables on either side of you, so that there is a table between each of you and the stranger next to you. Then you don't have to listen to them complain about the movie, as we did last night for Youth Without Youth. Although I can't say I blamed them... we didn't like it much, either.

This is one of those films that reviewers will probably love, and put on their "top movies of the year" lists, just to make themselves look like an art snob. It was kind of like a bad Fellini movie (Barb disagrees, because she like Fellini). Every time there was a shot where the person was displayed horizontally instead of vertically (dream sequence), I thought about viewing pictures that I take on my camera after I upload them to the computer, and how I have to make an effort to "rotate" them and save them so that they are easy to view later. Coppolla could have made that effort for us, don't you think?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Family harmonics

This recording is from 1978, recorded by my brother Scott and my dad in Scott's recording studio at his home. I'm sure it was my dad's first exposure to multi-track recording.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The year is coming to an end - what a busy one it's been for us. The trip to Sicily and Rome, the kitchen/house remodel - rarely have we ever had a year where we made so many decisions and spent so much money! And this weekend we celebrate 25 years of coupledom. We joke that despite the remodel, we are still together. I think we collaborated pretty well, although it's the little things that get tiresome, like today at Home Despot, when we couldn't seem to agree on a single pull for a closet door. But in the end, we did find one that worked.

Last night we saw the film "Atonement", that seems to already be on many short lists for best movie of the year. It was exceptional. I really would like to read the book now, and see how they managed to capture the story. I'm reading a book called "A History of Love", and often find myself thinking about whether or not one could make it into a movie. The characters are so compelling, but the story happens in memory, not in action. I think it must be hard to make a movie where at first glance, you'd think it'd have to be all voice-over. That's why they do "flashbacks". There is one particular scene in "Atonement" that was so visually astonishing and terrible and wonderful all at once: the scene on the beach. I can't get it out of my head.

The word "Atonement" makes me think of e.e. cummings and his poem about loneliness. It goes something like this:




I love how the number 1 is all over the place in that poem, and how loneliness is all about I-ness, One-ness. At-one-ment is a similar word.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


My niece is going to have a baby in January, so I have started a little yarn project. I remember that one of the very first crochet project I ever did was on the event of her birth, way long ago in the 70s. I made a couple of funny little stuffed animals. I didn't have any instructions or guidelines, I just kept on stitching until what I had looked about the right shape. The yarn I had then was not very baby-friendly. I may have been using some yarn left over from a pot-holder project! Now, I have some very very soft yarn, and I'm hoping that the youngest member of our clan will enjoy holding whatever it is that I'm making and drool on it. I still don't have any instructions or plans, and in the very same way I did for her mother, I'm holding an dream for this little girl's future in my heart as I stitch.

Oh, and by the way, there is now a name for these funny little crocheted animals, "amigurumi". It must be a japanese crafting trend. There is a even a flickr group.

Friday, December 07, 2007

What's in a name

I read a very funny story today on one of the blogs that I found while browsing on Nablopomo. The writer/artist's name is (unfortunately) named Bambi. You can read her funny story on your own, but what I wanted to write about is just the horrible thought of being saddled with a name like that. There would be no nickname that could get you out of it. You'd simply have to endure the comments and astonished looks until you were old enough to change it, or, as the writer seems to have done, come to proudly reclaim it as your own.

There really are very few acceptable names that end with -y or -ie or -i, in my opinion. Putting the diminutive suffix on a name makes you sound like a child, a porn star or a sports figure. I had a name like that until I was 21, so I know. "Betsy" was a name that people connected with a gun, a cow, and someone from Sunnybrook farm (although that was "Becky", but no one cares to be corrected on that point, believe me). Now, I have some friends named Betsy, and I don't mind them having that name... but really I am so glad to be quite done with it.

You just have to feel badly for people that happen to have the same name as someone famous, or those named for movie icons.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Visual reminders

Here is the gorgeous new kitchen that we cook in these days!

And here is a funny hand-lettered sign I walked past on Geary Blvd. the other day.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday spirits

This is the time of year when people either start to enjoy or dread the holidays. My mom was very invested in making sure that our family had a picture-perfect christmas. I think she started out really enjoying it, and by the time I came along, as the fifth child, she was starting to weary of it a bit. All those boxes of trappings to pull out. She made it fun for me, and probably for her, too, when I was little, by involving me as her "helper". She made me a little felt badge that said "Mommy's little helper" and I wore it with pride.

She set up a gift-wrapping headquarters in her sewing room over the stairs. She wrapped all her gifts with whimsical decorations, and they always had hand-lettered gift tags. Every year, she embellished our stockings with a little icon of what we had accomplished or experienced during the past year. We always went to bed on christmas eve and ran downstairs in the morning to a completely transformed living room, full of gifts and sparkling somehow much more than it had the night before.

It was a magical time, and for those memories, I thank my mom.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blade Runner

There is a new "director's cut" version of Blade Runner coming out in the theaters soon, and we got a sneak preview of it at work today. I have seen it a few times before, but it has been a long time, and I had mostly forgotten it. So I can't tell you what parts were added or deleted to make it a director's cut. I can tell you that the soundtrack is still awesome, and the dark vision of the future is still believable and scary.

We saw the digital print, which is supposed to be much more crisp, and never get scratches and so forth like regular film.

I enjoy being able to see movies over lunchtime, but I wish there could have been popcorn and footrests.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Today I opened up a box marked "KITCHEN" that we packed in the middle of June. It was like meeting up with old friends - the pie pans, the serving dishes, the vases. There is a really pretty old creamer that we got once at a garage sale, I think, that is the perfect green for the new kitchen. Too bad I don't have a matching sugar bowl. It kind of looks like fiesta ware, but it's a different color green, and has no markings on the bottom. I browsed ebay to see if there might be something that goes with it, but no luck today.

We are trying to "edit down" the amount of stuff that we put into the new cabinets. Right now it seems that we have so many extra shelves, but I'm sure that won't last. I'm trying to suss out where would be the "intuitive" place to put little-used items, and I'm not sure what I'm going to put in the lower corner cabinet that has the lazy susan shelves.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Blue bathroom

Even as we begin to resume life inside, in the new kitchen, the remodel work continues, with the deck next to build, and the second bathroom to begin. We shopped today for the second bathroom, which has been our "main" bathroom, but will now move into a secondary role as a guest bathroom or powder room. The new bath we built is much larger and has a big shower, so we envision using it more as our main bath.

We have both always loved blue glass, and every time we shop for tile, we are drawn to the blues. We determined we would do one of the baths in blue, and today we ordered the gorgeous blue mosaic that will be the tub surround. It is an opalescent multi colored pattern, called Blue Hawaiian. The sales woman gave us the brilliant idea of letting go of the glass tub surround, that would block the view of this beautiful tile. She used to work at a fabric store, and told us about some kind of great fabric that we could make a custom curtain with, and the type of beautiful rod that would hold it up. It was very freeing to let go of the struggle of finding a custom sized glass surround!

Friday, November 30, 2007

30 posts in 30 days

The last day of November! and I did it.. 30 posts. It's gotten to be a pleasant habit of my lunch hour now, to grab a little time to muse on what I'm thinking about.

I don't keep updating a blog links list anymore, but just in the spirit of blogging and sharing a little bit of what and who I am, I'd like to list the blogs that I keep on my RS feed, those that I read whenever they post. Thanks to all of you for posting...

Bibliodyssey - Incredible book Illustrations
Gaijin Smash - Stories by a black American man living in Japan
I'm Mad and I Eat - a neighbor who blogs about food
Dykes to Watch Out For - the classic comic strip
Six Fried Rice - cool Filemaker tips and tricks
Fussy - extremely funny stories from a mom in Santa Barbara
Sacred Ordinary - a woman's thoughts on crafting, travel, and spirituality
Bizarro - my favorite comic
Rosie O'Donnell - amusing home videos and artwork from a very down-home celebrity

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jane Rule

I read today that the writer Jane Rule passed away. She is probably most famous for writing the lesbian novel "Desert of the Heart", but my favorite book of hers was "Memory Board". I remember first reading her works from the bookshelves at the Women's Center in Oswego, NY, in 1976. This center was my home away from home during my last year and a half of college. It was a very active Center, with birth control classes and consciousness-raising groups. The library had a very complete collection of feminist literature. I had read (and proudly carried around) some feminist books as early as high school, but I had never before read any novels with women and lesbians as the main characters. I devoured all those books.

The cover art for these books was quite different from the mainstream books at the time. The colors were not as bright and the binding was sometimes quite poorly done - obviously the budgets for printing them were very low. But reading them was revelatory to me, opening up another world, allowing me to imagine some future where I could be partnered with a woman for more than 25 years, where we could be integrated into a community. But I must say, nothing in those books prepared me for a kitchen remodel!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This is the future

Here are some enjoyable retro-future images, from an amazing website full of lists of images called Dark Roasted Blend. I can't imagine how much work it must be to compile this type of posting every day.

Speaking of the future, I have discovered that one way to move into the future is to buy all new appliances for your home. Apparently, since the last time we bought a new appliance, all electronically controlled machines must be equipped with a beeping system. The dryer will beep a series of 3 beeps, 4 times in a row, when it is complete. The washer will beep once when finished, and more if for some reason the cycle is interrupted. The dishwasher has a soft beep at the end of the cycle, although it's by far the quietest new appliance we have. Even the oven has its noises, with the timer and so forth, and it beeps when the oven temperature has reached your desired setting. The other day when I was baking, I felt inundated by all the noises, and when I had finally cleaned up and had gone into the other room for something, I heard one last beep. And then another. What could it be? I thought everything was turned off. I went around to all the appliances and bent down to listen. Another beep. It turned out to be the refrigerator - because I had left the door open. Honestly, is this what we wanted to future to be? I am afraid to buy a new coffee maker.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

30 minute blast

Well, it looks like I am going to make my pledge of a post a day for a month! It has actually gotten easier, and although at the beginning, I thought I would need a theme or some trick to keep me going, it wasn't that hard to find something to jot down. I find the writing to be mentally stimulating and fun.

At the health club at work, they have offered us free classes during the holiday season, to encourage weight loss despite turkey stuffing and coffee cake. Since I'm such a cheapskate, currently the only classes I take are the (free) yoga classes. When offered something extra for free, though, I have a hard time turning it down. So I signed up for the "30 minute blast" class, assuming that if it's only a half an hour, I can maybe endure it.

I went to the first one today, and although I cheated a little (pretending that my jumprope got caught on my foot when I needed a rest), I did get my heartrate up for the first time in many months. Most of the time, we did the weight training machines, which I find very hard to understand. I managed to avoid some of the workout because I was fiddling with the levers and weight adjustments. Now as I sit here at my desk, I am feeling parts of my body that normally I do not feel, like the side of my thigh. It is not yet unpleasant, but it could be difficult to get up if I don't do it soon. Well, off to a meeting upstairs! If I don't post tomorrow, you'll know it's because that jump-roping caused permanent damage!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Temples Underground

Check out the amazing Temples of Damanhur. 300,000 square feet of underground rooms - full of mosaics, carvings and stained glass windows. Dug into a mountain by a group of Italian artisans, led by a guy who had a vision of the whole thing when he was 10 years old.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

French Laundry

Jane took us to French Laundry up in Yountville today. She and her two sons flew in from Denver last night, and we all rendezvoused in Napa today. The vineyards were spectacularly red and gold, with a carpet of green, as we drove up this morning under low clouds. Flocks of starlings looped over the road as we approached the town.

Eating here was something that Jane has wanted to do... the prix fixe prices put it somewhere above the financial limit that I set for eating a meal. However, I have to say that for a special occasion, it was really worth it. Each tiny course was like a little work of art. Each one had an interesting taste combination. By the time 8 or 9 courses were downed, over 3 hours, we were all stuffed and very very happy with what we had eaten. The ambiance was very highbrow and like a library - at first, we spoke low and in whispers. Later, the room warmed up as people pushed back their chairs and chatted more freely.

I had a glass of Riesling that was the best I've ever had. I had Maine Lobster Tail flavored with vanilla butter. Wow, so sweet and so tender. The French bleu cheese "bleu du bocage" was so strong and wonderful that even though it was one of the last courses, I had to eat every little bit.

There are only about 15 tables in the place, and a slew of waiters take care of you - not one per table, but all of them at different times. They took care to always place a plate in front of each of us at exactly the same moment. After placing it down, one of the senior waiters would "introduce us" to each item. Some of the details were too much, like what kind of chicken laid the eggs that my tiny omelette were made of, or where the local onions were grown. They make an effort to have locally grown food, and even the caviar was from Sacramento. Dan, who is a caviar aficionado, said it was some of the best he's had. Not too salty. They provided three types of salt, one of which was called "Jurassic salt". I pictured a dinosaur holding a salt shaker. It was extremely salty and a little pink in color.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The results of our efforts

Sweet as can be, the new kitchen with autumn light streaming in, the pear molasses pie and the apple pie.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Feathered friends

We took a hike this morning out on the marsh near our home, where the waste water plant meets the wetlands meets the bay. A bunch of birdwatchers were already out on the path, equipped with binoculars and khaki clothing. One woman had a spyglass mounted on a tripod and was closely inspecting some pelicans that had come to roost near the pond. They looked like swans from a distance, with extremely white feathers and bulky bodies. The rest of the birds, a wide variety of ducks, grebes, gulls, cormorants, and so forth, were all sharing the area with glee, ducking and fishing and preening themselves. A flock of some tiny birds gathered on the pond's shore. When we walked past, they arose in a glorious pattern of flashing brown and white underbellies. Goofy looking shorebirds walked upon their bright orange stilt-like legs, with their knees bending backwards.

None of them minded the others. They all knew there are plenty bugs and fish to go around, and that when they tuck their heads under their wings to sleep, no other of their kind would be the one to disturb them. Don't you wish we got along as well as they do?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pie, oh my

We inaugurated the kitchen last night. I made meatballs with pasta and salad. It took me so long to cook a simple meal like that, mainly because most of the tools were still out in the patio, and I had to keep climbing down into the backyard (via the step stool) to find the colander, the salt, etc.

This morning we pulled some of the boxes out of the garage and unpacked the baking dishes and other supplies. One pie is in the beautiful oven, and now I'm taking a break at the kitchen table. The sun is streaming in through the french doors, and honestly we just can't believe that this dream has come true. Granted, the trim is not painted, the lights aren't all installed, the cabinet hardware isn't on yet, but it is a working kitchen, and now the work will not seem as much like work.

Lola doesn't seem to know how to take it in. She is aware of this being a new place to beg for food, but it seems to me that she doesn't like change, and it will take her a while to find her "power spot". She keeps flopping down on the floor in various places, looking around, and barking at the slightest sounds.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Now we're cookin'!

Just in time for the holiday feasting, our stove and oven are functional! We went to the farmers' market this morning, and it was such a strange feeling to think that anything there could actually function as ingredients.

I am so thankful that my kitchen stove USED TO look like this:

And now, it looks like this:

There will be a pear pie AND an apple pie for thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bee Calendar

Since my last name starts with B, and for the first 20 years of my life, so did my nickname (Betsy) - until I switched it out for a more lyrical and logical name that resembled my actual given name (Eleanore)- which is another story - I have a certain interest in Bees. I'm not sure if that's why my brother Bob at one time was a beekeeper. He may have had his own reasons. But I do enjoy reading about and seeing bees. Today I happened across an amazing website with a virtual tour of the Prokopovych Beekeeping Museum in the Ukraine. Among the photos was this queen-rearing calendar. The caption says, "The tan-colored inner circle turns, so the development of queens can be predicted."

I also have a fascination with calendars and this is a fabulous one. The Druids used circular calendars with each month represented by a type of tree.

The Mayans and the Egyptians also used cyclic calendars:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Big Screen

Another amenity at Stella & Jim's house is a big screen tv. Late last night we watched "Match Point" on the on-demand service. It was an excellent film. I think we avoided it at the movies because it was directed by Woody Allen. We have pretty much boycotted him since he started sleeping with his daughter... and even had that not been the reason, I was so tired of his incessant self-obsession. But this film was free and also he does not make an appearance. The art direction was gorgeous (it almost makes me like shades of beige!) and the characters make you squirm with their immorality.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Tonight my chorus is putting on a show, so we rushed around making our doing-our-part-to-help-the-economy-recover-every-Saturday trips (we bought a front porch light, picked a myriad of possible choices for the cabinet pulls, looked at and rejected some mosaic tiles for the second bathroom, refilled prescriptions). We got it all done in record time, which means there is some downtime to fiddle away here at my blog.

Tonight and tomorrow night we are dogsitting for Stella, which means staying in her spectacularly clean and spacious house for two whole days. It's so lovely to be here, looking at walls that don't have big plaster patches on them, not smelling the mustiness of tile grout and floor dust. You can brush by any surface without getting big swatches of white plaster dust on your sleeve.

The big event of the week was, last night, running the new Bosche dishwasher for the very first time. I geeked out reading the manual and playing with the racks, because they can be adjusted in so many different combinations. Imagine being able to take the silverware bin apart, splitting it so that it will fit in between all the large pots and pans. Well, with this dishwasher, you can do just that, and more. Now, we have some clean dishes, but nowhere clean to eat. I think I'll just leave them in there. The refrigerator works, too, and we had a small thrill when we were laying in bed and heard the tumble of newly made ice cubes falling into the bin.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Going with the flow

This picture was taken last night. We have achieved a kitchen sink!

Demolition of our kitchen was the second week of July, and since then, we have not had the use of a kitchen sink or dishwasher. Of course, we still had water in the remaining bathroom, and there was the hose right outside. But somehow I was beginning to feel like someone from the era of water pumps... when was that, exactly? Imagine every time you needed water, you had to get a pail or a pitcher, put your coat on, go outside, pump some water, get your shoes wet in the process, slosh it back into the house, and then start the whole process over again. There is a house down the street that has an old whitewashed pump smack dab in the middle of their front lawn. In the holiday season, they string lights on it.

I, for one, am thankful all the time that I live in the current era. I don't think I could have survived all the repetitive grunt work, beating clothes on a rock, or trudging to the outhouse, or sewing my own wardrobe. Hooray for the modern conveniences!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The language of mathematics

I was reading this morning about Garret Lisi (the article dubbed him a "surfer dude"), who has come up with a theory that explains "everything" - a rival to the commonly discussed string theory. He was inspired by the 57-dimensional E8 mandala. Although I don't claim to understand higher mathematics, the idea that the universe is all the same shape as this model feels right to me. Lisi says, "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."

I looked up E8 on wikipedia, and was struck by the complexity of the mathematical language used to describe this thing. Here's one excerpt:

"This algebra has a 120-dimensional subalgebra so generated by Jij as well as 128 new generators Qa that transform as a Weyl-Majorana spinor of spin(16)...."

If you get into mathematics at school in order to avoid English, you are out of luck when you hit the higher levels.

Speaking of school, I had a dream last night that I was just starting college. I had arrived at a campus in a very small town in Kansas, of all places! I couldn't remember at all what my major was going to be. A professor came by and asked me if I would play in the school orchestra. I said, I do play the flute, but I really don't enjoy it. He said, you can play any instrument you'd like. I said, how about the trumpet? Or better yet, could I just stand in front of the orchestra and sing?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Art's desire

I spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of art I would create, if I weren't at work during the day. I think I'd be a morning artist, who would get up early and work before breakfast.

I'd like to have a room full of inspiring images and objects that I could put together in interesting ways.

Often I'll see art that makes me think, that's so crazy! I love it! If I were an artist, that's what I'd be making!

Here is a couple of examples of some art like that, from The Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art in Salzburg, Austria.

Headdress with CHICKEN

Scrolling Eggs

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

St Patricks Day, 1981

This is an excerpt from a diary that I kept on a trip across country in 1981. It started with a FREE airplane ride from SFO to NYC. Courier companies like DHL used to pay for people to ride in coach, as long as they didn't have any luggage and could leave at any time, and DHL would use the luggage space for their shipments.

I was on my way to meet my high school friend, Teresa (aka Terri), and we were going to drive across the USA, where she was going to join our collective household in San Francisco.

AA Boarding Pass - 16 March 1981
SFO to JFK, seat 35J Smoking: Yes
Passenger name: Courier

A call first thing Monday and I was off that evening - met the DHL man at the airport, he was late 25 minutes. Sheer disbelief, especially when my ticket materialized a $700 price for which I paid nothing - and the flight was nearly empty. I watched Pvt. Benjamin, a movie with Goldie Hawn, dozed a bit, arrived NYC at 5:30am.

Terri and I went out for breakfast, did some errands, it is COLD here. 25 degrees and windy. Then we met Denise and Ed and drove to White Plains, with the crowds of green high-schoolers took the train to NYC for the St. Patrick's day parade. Watched it start from the corner of 78th and 5th with friends of Ed, who do it every year, getting drunk and rowdy and sticking out the wind and the cold. Denise is very nice, but her relationship with Ed is very weird. When they part, even for a few minutes, there is a major scene: "Do you want me to stay? I'll stay if you want me to." "No, go - oh I love you, ya ya ya ya da". Really strange. Terri said their marriage has been rocky lately but they just made up. It's like ripping flesh to get them apart. I would suffocate, but she seems to want it or need it.

Denise, Teresa and I spent most of the afternoon in Leo's, a bar down the street, drinking Irish coffee. The parade was fun, albeit cold.. I have forgotten what winter is like. I got very tired by the time we went to dinner - but didn't crash until 11pm or so, after calling Dad and Victor. Terri has a close network of friends here and it must be really difficult for her to leave. I appreciate her difficulty in deciding to leave much more now. I hope she'll be able to build a complex of friendships in San Francisco, too. We're planning to leave on Monday after we do some last minute things to close up this apartment, and we're planning to go into NY to do some things. I'm eager to get moving, and it's hard for me to be patient and let it flow. There is going to be a week in Brockport, too, which seems too much. I'm going to have to get into a rhythm that suits this part of the trip - move a little, stay and enjoy, then move again.

Ticket stub:
March 18 1981
The Left Bank Presents
Doug and the Slugs
20 E 1st St.
Mt. Vernon, NY
Wed. 10PM

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lions for Lambs

We both really enjoyed this movie, which is certainly not the typical Hollywood fare. It was a movie that took some topics (the war in Iraq, the way that media has dealt with it, and the dis-engagement of Americans from politics) and looked at them from several points of view. It was not an action movie or a political thriller, although politics played a big part, and there was action and suspense.

You have to admire Robert Redford for really doing his best to use his craft and money for delving into topics and issues that matter to him. He has made a movie that I recommend parents go to see with their children.

I like a movie, that, at the ending, I say "wow!" or "huh!" It was excellent editing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Every single day?

I said I'd post every day in November, and I'm squeezing this one in by the skin of my teeth! I had a great quartet rehearsal, in Fremont, so it was a long drive.. and then home for a quick meal and now out to see the latest Tom Cruise/Meryl Streep movie! I'm just logging in so that I can say I "done" it.

I'll review it tomorrow....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rain, rain

Last night, the sun went through a clear sky, but today it misted up and before we knew it, the mist turned to drops turned to rain. Driving on the freeway was like going through the carwash, with water being tossed towards the car from all directions at once.

I spent the day helping give a vocal workshop, and one of the other faculty said she thought she was coming down with a cold. All I could think of was, why are you here?? Why shower us with your contagion? And on the ride home, I felt my sinuses contracting and a headache starting. Is it psychological? or did she succeed in the transmission? Or is it the sudden moisture in the air, after a long dry spell?

I bought some hot soup and dosed myself with vitamins. I'll put on some Vicks and go to bed early, and perhaps I can talk myself out of this, just the way I may have talked myself into it. After all, there are germs and viruses around us all the time - perhaps it's only when we open the door that they can attach.

What do you think? How strong is the power of suggestion?

Friday, November 09, 2007

As fall as we're gonna get in California

Since I grew up back east, I have lots of sensory memories of the fall. The crunchy sound of fallen leaves, the brilliant colors of the trees. I remember jumping into large piles of leaves on the lawn - for some reason I never got hurt doing this, although sometimes a gross wetness in the leaves quickly dispelled the elation of the leap (is that dog poop??? yuck). After all the leaves were raked (blisters on my thumb), then they were taken to the curb and set fire, and the smoke would linger in the air, low to the ground, under the overcast skies. We'd take a trip to the apple orchard and get some freshly pressed cider, ice cold from being outside, not from any refrigerator. The days were very short, and walking home from school became a little scary. Crossing the park, you could hear footsteps coming towards you, but you couldn't quite see who is was until they were right in front of you.

When we planted this tree in our front yard, ten years ago at least, we chose a deciduous magnolia. The guy at the nursery reminded us that we'd have to rake up the leaves every fall (like it was some kind of odd ritual that no one should choose on purpose). I'd rather rake once a year than have to pick up the fallen leaves here and there, all year long. I appreciate that the crunchy brown fallen leaves allow my senses to travel in time and place.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A fine mess

A big container ship crashed into the Bay Bridge yesterday and left a real mess to clean up. This photo, from, shows the beach across the street from our offices, our beloved Crissy Field. In a way, it's surprising that we haven't had this problem before, with the number of container ships that you see coming and going in the Bay every day. But how on earth could you miss an obstacle as BIG as the Bay Bridge!?!? That's some very bad skippering.

In other news, I read an article in yesterday's NY Times about body weight and life expectancy. As a heavy person, I have always felt guilty that I can't seem to keep off the pounds - society makes you feel that way. On top of just feeling like I don't look "right", some years ago it became common knowledge that being fat will KILL you. Now, a study that "having a little extra weight actually seemed to help people survive some illnesses".. not kill them. There are still plenty of reasons why it's good to lose weight - but gosh, it was still nice to read that "extra fat isn't always deadly".

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Online shopping

I love to shop online, and today I found this shopping site that takes a Rube Goldberg type approach to the presentation of their products!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


One of the words that I listed here as emotions pops out at me today: ecstasy. Such an interesting word.. defined as

Ecstasy is a category of altered states of consciousness or trance-like states in which an individual transcends ordinary consciousness and as a result has a heightened capacity for exceptional thought, intense concentration on a specific task, extraordinary physical abilities or intense emotional experience. This heightened capacity is typically accompanied by diminished awareness of some other matters. For instance, if one is concentrating on a physical task, then one might cease to be aware of any intellectual thoughts. On the other hand, making a spirit journey in an ecstatic trance involves the cessation of voluntary bodily movement. Subjective perception of time, space and/or self may strongly change or disappear during ecstasy.

It's a very, very old word. Etymonline has this etymology:
1382, "in a frenzy or stupor, fearful, excited," from O.Fr. extasie, from L.L. extasis, from Gk. ekstasis "trance, distraction," from existanai "displace," also "drive out of one's mind" (existanai phrenon), from ek "out" + histanai "to place, cause to stand," from PIE base *sta- "to stand" (see stet). Used by 17c. mystical writers for "a state of rapture that stupefied the body while the soul contemplated divine things," which probably helped the meaning shift to "exalted state of good feeling" (1620).

It seems to be that this feeling is sort of a non-feeling, when all feeling departs and you are sucked into a trance or alpha-state. I get like this when I am writing database code, my face close into the monitor, my mind clicking away the logic like a little abacus. An hour or more can go by and I'm certain I have never moved anything but my fingers. I'm sure I haven't blinked. I don't think this is the kind of ecstasy that the ancient Greeks would have understood. Most people think of ecstasy as being "bliss", but I think the true meaning is not positive or negative, just outside.
- a state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion; "listening to sweet music in a perfect rapture"- Charles Dickens

If ecstasy is the state of being carried away by emotion, is it really an emotion in and of itself?

Monday, November 05, 2007


Have you noticed how everyone is making lists these days? Life lists, they call them. Hundred places to go before you die. To-do lists on a grand scale. I did make a list like that once, it's in one of my old diaries - I am a little afraid to dig it up and review it, for fear that that the "not-done-yet" part of the list is still longer than the "done" part. I'm sure some of the things on the list are no longer something that I want to, or couldn't do even if I still wanted to (like hang gliding or something).

I do have goals, but mostly my goal is to have time to spontaneously come up with things I want to do, and then have the time to do them. This is not a good way to get things done, I'm certain. But it's a goal none the less.

What is more interesting than things I haven't done yet? almost anything. How about a little list of things I like? My favorite things.

1. Fruits and vegetables that have faces drawn on them.

2. Teapots

3. Hand-painted advertising signs

4. Art cars

5. Flowers

6. Pie and wine and good company

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dashing to Modesto

Notice how clever I am about my "posting every day" promise - since I knew I couldn't post yesterday, I posted twice on Friday. This is the blogging equivilent of "turning back the clocks", which is so screwy that I can never figure out what's going on. This morning I thought it was 10, because I knew that I had not changed the clocks before sleeping. However, because of new-fangled technology, somehow the clock KNEW that is was the date to switch the time. I had fiddled with the clock for several minutes last night, trying to find the toggle to set the time, and gave up. We are staying at a Doubletree, and I guess that is just one of the "services" they offer.

We are in Modesto, which is a mess of a city sprawling across the central valley of California. It's one of those towns that was probably once cute in a western-movie kind of way, then it got dirty in a petro-chemical-insecticide-and-other-gross-industries kind of way, and then grew very large in population in a cheaper-to-live-in-than-the-bay-area kind of way, and now they are making the downtown look more presentablel in a look-like-the-old-west-but-have-gentrified-italian-restaurants kind of way.

PDQ sang on a show held at the new Gallo Arts Center, which is the heart of the new "theater district". It's a beautiful theater and the show was fun to participate in. Barb and I stayed here at the hotel, which feels like a real vacation from our dusty and desheveled house in-the-final-stages-of-remodel mess.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Global thinking

I wish I were good enough at map drawing to need one of these. The only person I know who could use this is my friend Victor. I remember lunches at the university cafeteria in Caen, France, when Victor would, on a dare, draw the detailed borders of any given country you could name. Of course, we didn't have an atlas to compare, but this talent always impressed me more than I can say. The details! the little bays and inlets of the coastlines! I am still thinking about, and this happened in 1974.

Upbeat or downbeat?

I looked over my list of emotions, trying to pick one to write about, and I noticed that there are an excessive number of negative emotions in the lot. I count about 12 positive ones (out of 45 or so), and the rest are pretty grim. So I am re-thinking my strategy of expanding on one of each of these - that could make for some very sad postings. My default personality trait is optimism. I think the emotion from the list that plays strongest in an optimist's day is hope. But, is that really an emotion? I guess so. What makes it so? You should be able to read an emotion on someone's face.

I'm thinking about a little chart that I saw once that had little cartoon drawings of faces, each one expressing an emotion. These faces were supposedly the "universal depiction" of feelings, kind of like the international pictographs for decyphering the psyche. I can imagine what the picture of "hope" looked like... big eyes, looking upward, goofy smile...

On the other hand, if one is truely an optimist, are they really hopeful, or just confident that in the end, everything will work out for the best. I don't see confidence on the emotion list.. but I can see the little face in my mind's eye. Steadfast, straight-ahead look, upright body posture (whoops, there's no body on my cartoon), strong grin.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


An emotion is a "complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioral, and physiological elements, by which the individual attempts to deal with a personally significant matter of event." It arises without conscious effort and is either positive or negative.

This is the definition. I am finding that recently my emotional landscape has leveled. The peaks and valleys, the positives and negatives, are not so pronounced. Perhaps I'll use this space as a place to note an emotion, and by noting it, it will register a bit more on the reaction scale.

For reference and inspiration, here's a list of emotions:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Holidays past

This photo was taken in 1991, at a thanksgiving (or christmas?) dinner that we held in San Francisco, when we were living in Noe Valley (a neighborhood misnomer in our case, since our home was atop a very steep hill, above said valley). I think that apartment was the last one we lived in where we had enough room to host such a large holiday dinner. On the right, there is Danilo. Danilo has since passed away, but my memory of his sweet smile, his soft skin and his compassionate values keep him alive. Dan next, sporting much more hair and fewer bulging muscles than he does today, but just as energetic. I am next, with my original haircolor (long since gone) and almost the same 'do that I have now. Maybe it's time to update! Then comes our dear Charlie, who was less than a year from his death at this time. Charlie was a visionary who designed his own way of dancing through the world. Next to him is Liz, who we have lost touch with. She married a Turkish man and had a baby, and that was the last we heard. I hope it all worked out for her. Barb is there. People always say they are surprised at how young she looks. She really looked young then! My brother John, looking a bit grim for this photo. Usually he has such a nice smile. Fran is sporting the flash's reflection above her head - have you ever seen those websites where they post "proof" of ghosts, by showing pictures with this kind of light? Maybe we are seeing her aura. April looks fresh out of a Madonna video, with that big belt. Very foxy!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cherry blossoms

This photo was taken in 1979, when I lived in Hamamatsu, Japan for a few years. Yo-chan took me to this town to sightsee - there was a castle and lots of cherry blossoms. Mostly we were looking at each other, I guess - look how young I was, and he was young, too, though much older than I. We met in a class - I was teaching conversational English to a bunch of men who worked for Yamaha & Suzuki Motor companies. They would take me out to drink beer and eat sushi, after class.

I also remember that the shirt I was wearing was sent to me by my mom, who had to send clothes to me, as I couldn't find my size in Japan. It was pure polyster, but at least it fit. I also liked it because it was slightly boyish. Before I left for Japan, I already knew I was a lesbian, although I had promised my parents I would try to change. Yo-chan was my attempt, and a pretty good one it was.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Falling notes

the days shorten
the leaves aglow
the autumn bird sings his song
twee -eeee -eeoo
a major full step down and then
the final -ee moving into a minor third
with the -oo end of the last note dropping out of key
rendering it melancholy and somewhat mysterious
but the bird himself is brown and ordinary
no special marks
no crest or lines
but his beak opens
and the notes fall again and again and again

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kitchen Fabrics

When we started choosing colors for our kitchen's tile backsplash,walls, and so forth, we were a bit overwhelmed at all the choices out there. My friend, Jan, suggested that we find a piece of fabric that combined our style and color preferences, and then match the kitchen colors to the fabric. We knew that we wanted to have a 40s "feel", so I started looking around at vintage kitchen fabrics. None of these really ended up serving as our palette, but they are so fun and full of energy, that I am still trying to figure out a way to use them in the kitchen, once it's all built.

I love this one because of the Jell-O molds and the aprons. I grew up in the town where Jell-O was invented (LeRoy, N.Y.), and have a certain fondness for it. However, I can't remember the last time I actually MADE Jell-O! The fabrics from the 40s all bring to mind the aprons that moms wore when I was growing up.

This one has the right combination of colors: red, green, yellow, with black accents. However, the red is more of a true red than we ended up choosing for the countertops - ours is more of a wine red. I love the combination of odd things that somehow say "kitchen", but are not the obvious choices - like a cuckoo clock? and a dustbin, and clothes pins.

This last one I include because of the chickens! I love the iconic representation of a chicken. They can be drawn so many ways, and I often have to hold myself back from purchasing cheesy chicken things that go in one's kitchen. When I see them in the store, those hen-and-chick salt 'n' pepper shakers, or roosters on a chalk board, I think - "oh, this would look great in my kitchen!" Then, I come to my senses and realize that I don't want a chicken theme. When my brother John visited last year, he picked up a chicken statue for me at a second hand store. He didn't know why he got it for me, it just called out to him. We happened to be talking about how much I had to hold myself back from buying chickens, and then he presented me with it! So my new kitchen will have just one chicken in it, as a placemarker for all the rest...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Food for thought

Today, I got an email from one of my yoga teachers, recommending that we make this recipe of a "curing broth" and drink it for four weeks, to prevent catching the flu or the usual colds that start infecting people at the this time of year.

Curing Broth

2 quarts of organic broth, chicken or vegetable
1 tablespoon of whole cloves
3-4 drops of cinnamon oil, or 1 stick of cinnamon (canela)
6-10 thin slices of fresh ginger
2 heads of fresh garlic, separated, peeled and rough chopped (yes, two whole heads)
2-3 hot peppers (serrano, habanero, thai dragon) quartered, seeds in
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Put all ingredients into a large saucepan and let steep for two to four hours. When ready, strain into a mug, add the juice of 1/2 lemon or lime, and drink like tea. Drink every two or three hours. When the liquid gets low, add more broth and continue steeping--there is still plenty of life in the ingredients.

It sure sounds hot! Do you really think that hot foods can strengthen your immune system? Perhaps the smell will keep germy people at bay!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Rainy day

Another rainstorm came through today, a much stronger one with real downpours and splashy puddles. The house is snug but the patio is drafty, and we had our coffee in the living room this morning. I tried to pull the cat into the house, and he was there til Barb went out to get the paper, and then he bolted. Rudy is not fond of being inside, especially when sharing the space with Lola, our pooch. I think Rudy has been in hiding under the house since then.

We saw the movie "49 up" last night, which is a documentary that follows the lives of some people, re-visiting them every seven years. The focus of this part of the series (there is a 7up, 14up, 21up, 28up and so forth) was how the subjects' lives had been affected by the film maker coming back at the 7 year intervals. I thought about how much people can do when they are held accountable. I wonder what will happen to us in the next seven years, and how would I answer the filmmaker's question - do you have a goal?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Multi tasking

This week, I've been juggling work and remodeling decisions with trying to spend as much time as possible watching the Sweet Adelines competition that's going on in Calgary. All sessions are being broadcast in video and audio this year, which has been great, but of course it's nothing like being there. I miss being in Canada, my favorite (other) country!

We are re-creating the experience of whispering things to each other during the performance in a much more polite way - we are instant messaging to each other things like "gee I love that song" or "what an ugly costume!". Last night some of my friends in chorus put together a webcast party where we watched our friends compete, projecting the scene up on a wall.

In the meantime, appliances are being installed, doggie door put in, counters measured for, lighting chosen, and so forth. It rained on Tuesday night, and I had a nightmare that workmen came in and were going to demolish the whole house.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Penny for your thoughts

Sometimes it's hard to come up with something to blog about. Luckily, there is the internet, and various RSS feeds, that present to me the world in all its complexity. Like this guy, who paints a tiny picture on any penny that he happens to pick up.. a picture of the place where he found the penny!

I would like to have the discipline to make time in my day for creating some kind of art. Once the remodel is done, I'll have my "craft" room, which I am hoping will give me the physical space to open up the creative space. I want to do collages, to scan photos and old slides, print them out and mash them together. I'd like to try my hand at other things, maybe sculpting in clay or painting on canvas or who knows what else?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Film delight

We've been immersed in film-going lately, perhaps to escape the dust and detritus of our home remodel. What wonderful films we've seen in the last few days! It started out with a bang when we finally got to the theater to see "Across the Universe". This film immediately rose right to the top level of my "most loved movies" list (I simply can't put those titles into preferential order - they are all equally beloved. Some of them are Close Encounters, Field of Dreams, West Side Story, Amelie, Moulin Rouge...)

Across the Universe tells a story of the 60s. The bones of the film make up a love story, but there is so much more woven into the plot. Julie Taymor's brilliant visual talent makes this film shine. The costumes, the sets, the colors .. everything takes you on a time trip and puts you into the era. The Beatles music, sung by the cast, is placed so intelligently into the story. Each song's lyrics are used to amplify the story, in a way that you may not have thought of before. The songs are sometimes sung in a different key, or with some chords changed to minor from major, or in a different rhythm - just enough change to keep it interesting, just enough the same to flood you with the feelings you had when you first heard the song.

We also have tickets to some films at the Mill Valley Film Festival. The first one we saw was a documentary about Anita O'Day - the Life of a Jazz Singer. Great stuff! She was a pistol until she died last year at 86.

Last night, we saw Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There", which is a very different kind of film - kind of a mash-up of stories based on the life of Bob Dylan. This film is going to get a lot of press, because there were some amazing performances by the actors involved. I got a bit overwhelmed by it, because of the intercut visuals, the music, and the stories - by the end of two hours, I was just over-stimulated! But it's another take on the 60s.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Art is alive

Last week, my sister and I viewed some Art Cars in the Presidio, and we were captivated by one in particular that was covered with rubber lobsters and fish. The seafood moved and sang, as those silly Billy Bass fish are likely to do. Today I found the car's website, run by a group called the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir. Enjoy the videos, to get the full effect.

Another site I ran across today was a story about a fascinating restaurant in Riverside, California, where the owner has gone all out to make the most fabulous mosaics (for lack of a better word) out of bottles, Barbie Dolls and more! It's not often that we find ourselves in that part of the state, but it looks like this is worth a special trip.

If you are feeling crafty, you may want to pick up the crochet hook and make some vegetable monsters!

It's art like this that makes me glad to be alive.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Over and out

I gave blood today, which I do as regularly as possible. They have a procedure these days called the "double red", which is just about as science fiction-esque as you can imagine. Your blood comes out the tube, then it goes into some machine where they take out the red blood cells, and then the blood pressure cuff releases and the tube turns white, and the now-all-white blood fluids are returned to your body. Then the pump starts up again and starts taking red out of the arm again. It's really amazing, and allows them to get twice as much bang for the buck.

I enjoy thinking about the lives I may be saving when I give blood. I try to imagine all the pleasant walks on the beach, the loving families and the exciting adventures experienced by those people who happened to need my blood.

As I lay in the trailer, watching these imaginary people do their thing in my mind's eye, supersonic jets passed overhead in real life. It's Fleet Week, which means that the Blue Angels are here to zip and zoom around the Golden Gate in preparation for a big airshow this weekend. It's amazing to see, but the noise is quite frightening. Instead of those happy people walking on the beach after receiving a transfusion of my blood, I start to imagine soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, lying on a foreign street, the victims of our imperialistic greed, with the sounds of fighter jets ringing in their ears.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A cuteness of dogs

We tried to get all the dogs at the picnic to line up nicely for a photo. How many women do you think it might take to get all those dogs to face in the same direction at any one given split second? (thanks to our neighbor Scott for the photos!)

And, additionally, the cuteness that is King Henry.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

John, Bodee and Lola

This shot was taken at Barb's birthday picnic. Bodee was especially popular among the guests (not to say that John was unpopular) several people tried to kidnap Bodee and take him home with them. He is a very interesting dog, part Chihuahua, part Corgie, perhaps? and despite only being a couple years old, he was said to "look like an old soul". I saw Michael taking a close-up of Bodee from all angles, presumably so he won't forget what kind of dog is the "perfect" one, as he & Fred search for another one like him. Will another exist?

Monday, October 01, 2007


November is national blog posting month, and I'm going to attempt to blog every day. (I jumped the gun by thinking that today was the first day of November... but maybe I'll just get in practice by starting in October.)

Why? because it might be fun. It also might be impossible. But they say it's good to have a creative habit.

Yesterday we celebrated Barb's 48th in style, with a picnic at McInnis Park. Many friends, family and dogs took part.

Today at the home remodel site, the cabinets were delivered! so the next phase is to piece together all the various parts of the room, cabinets, sink, appliances, island, lighting, etc etc! wow, can't wait to see it come together.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The wheel turns

Showers in the area today - our first autumnal snap of cool air. We were worrying about it yesterday, as our house is still a bit "open to the elements", with no door installed. We hauled out the tarp and tucked away all the boxes of items unpacked (like the ceiling fan and so forth). This morning on the approach to the bridge, I emerged from under the low-hanging sky to see San Francisco laying before me all dressed in silver and grey, like a pencil drawing, gleaming in graphite. The bay was as still as a pond.

Here's a lovely website with images of dancing through the eras. I love to look at old illustrations, especially on sheet music. I found this site referenced on one of my favorite blogs, Bibliodyssey.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

a different summer

This summer has been so different. Well, having only half a house has been the main change. And we have to do our laundry at a friend's house, or face the dreaded laundra-mat. I get up in the morning, take a shower, feed the dog and then go outside. There on the porch the cat is waiting for his breakfast. I walk around the house, down the driveway, picking up the paper first, and through the gate into the backyard. I get a can of cat food and a spoon, then walk back to the front of the house so I can feed Rudy on the front porch. Lola the dog observes the ritual, politely waiting for me to profer the used spoon for her (hotly desired) taste of CAT FOOD. She trots after me, following the spoon, to the backyard again, where I toss the spoon into the bin we use for storing dirty dishes.

Then I start the coffee. Funny, before the remodel, I didn't make coffee every day. Something about having breakfast outside in the patio makes me feel like we're camping, and so of course, you want your coffee! If there were a lot of dishes in the bin, then I pick it up and take it around to the back of the patio, where we have our utility sink with a hose in it. I wash the dishes and put them in the drainer, which sits on a table by the grill and hot plate setup.

Once I have the coffee in hand, then I can start the daily crossword puzzle and scan the headlines. By this time, Barb has joined me and we have a bagel and start making a list of what we have to ask the contractor about today. Jon has become a daily part of the household - he comes in, ready to work, around 8:30 or 9am. We'll walk the dog and wait for him to come, so that we can discuss where the lightswitches will be, or what type of surfacing would help us keep our budget in line.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


We have visitors! my nephew Ray and Liz, his girlfriend, are seeing the bay area. Liz has never been west of Indiana, and so of course the first thing we had to do was to see the golden gate bridge, and then go to the beach. The fog behaved and stayed offshore until after the sun went down.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Long, long ago and faraway...

Last weekend they held a high school reunion, and I couldn't go. This would have been a great one to attend, because many friends who I considered to be close friends at that time, and many whom I have continued to call close friends since that time, did attend. So the emails and photos have been fast and furiously flying around the net, and I have joined Facebook just to see them (and I am enjoying Facebook, but that's a separate topic). Here's one photo that absolutely is haunting me.
I know the guy in the back row, on the left, that's Chris Mouganis, who I had wondered about for years, and who turned up looking nothing like I remembered.

But the others? I have no clue. I know that I once knew them, I know that they may even be friends from long ago, but honestly, if I ran into them face-to-face I would not even have the slightest idea who they are. If anyone from the reunion is reading this, will you please comment with any names you know, please?

Also, since when did my peers get so darned old? Why aren't these men dyeing their hair, at least, so that I can deceive myself into believing that we are still youngsters? Not that ageing is a bad thing - it's just hard to get my brain around it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What's your excuse?

I have been long away from this blog, and have plenty of excuses handy. We've been hosting our two favorite ten year olds for a couple of weeks - our annual auntie stint. We took them down to Santa Monica for a wild weekend on the beach - lots of jumping in the waves and trips out on the pier for carnaval rides and arcades. Of course we are also getting ready for the kitchen remodel, which means trips to the cabinet designer and the counter top maker and so forth, and packing up boxes of stuff when we have a chance.

We've had a scorching heat wave this week - as I type, it's over 95 and the sun is going down. For the 4th, we went to the company picnic and the boys enjoyed swimming in the pond and throwing mud at each other. We had to force them to walk over to the fireworks, but once there, we all enjoyed the spectacular display. We have fireworks in our neighborhood (at the fairgrounds) every night for a week before the 4th, so we were glad to finally have a chance to get over there and see them, instead of just hearing the ricocheted sounds of them firing behind the trees.

But I was thinking a lot about excuses today, because I had been called for jury duty. The jury room monitor AND the judge gave us a speech about not trying to shirk our duty, especially this week of the birth of the USA - because the country's founders used the lack of a jury trial as proof of injustice enough to fuel the revolution of 1776. The right to a jury trial is mentioned in the constitution and two articles in the bill of rights. The judge also mentioned that all of the signers of the declaration of independance went bankrupt eventually, because of their support of the cause. I don't know if this is true or not. He also said that voir-dire means "to speak the truth", which was not true in any of my French classes.

The line to ask for a "hardship excuse" was interminable. I did not join it. I have tried that route in the past, and it never has worked for me. About half of those in the hardship line were sent back to their seats to await the call. The only hardships that he was considering was extreme financial difficulty or a medical test that you couldn't reschedule.

However, once we got further along in the (very boring and repetitive) process, the attorneys starting excusing potential jurors for no excuse at all. I mean, I understand why the attorney got let go, but why let go the 60ish school teacher? Sure, let the recent Phillapina who spoke little English go, but why excuse the woman from San Rafael who hadn't said anything about prior jury experience or knowledge of someone who had been in a crime or a policeman or anything?

Anyway, I was NOT excused, and I fit that description exactly. Someone else got excused, but I am a juror for a trial that starts tomorrow.

Well, it's not a hardship, as my company will pay me. The judge says it should only last a week. The hours are pretty cushy compared with my commute plus regular work hours. The court opens at 9:30 and they let you go at 4:30. And there is a 1-1/2 hour-long lunch break - or at least there was today! The courthouse is right down the street, so there is virtually no commute. I might even get home each night in time to finish packing up the kitchen.

In fact, I'd better do some of that right now. I have no excuse.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The power of place

I awoke this morning remembering the Valley of the Temples in Sicily. This incredible place is in the south of the island, at Agrigento. There are more than a half a dozen semi-intact Greek temples there, aligned from east to west along a sweeping open plain that faces south, with wide open views of the Mediterranean. To the north lies the city of Agrigento, along the ridge, with high rises and urban sprawl. A small valley lies between the plain and the city, and it was filled with springtime bright red poppies and purple wildflowers. These temples were built in the centuries before christ, to celebrate Greek victories at sea. They thanked the goddesses for their domination over their enemies.

I thought about the antiquity of the earth and of the buildings. But stronger than the sense of time as distance, I felt the continuity of time and the way that it acts as a glue to adhere us to the people who have walked on this earth before us. We flow through time and it is the constant. Some things we build do not flow away when we are gone, but remain for a while, and we can contemplate them.

The temples were beautiful, but more powerful was the place in which they were situated. Standing in front of the Temple of Concordia, I had a sensation of the power of the earth itself. I spun around a few times, looking in all directions for the source of the power. The sun shone and the birds called, and I knew that if I were a builder, I'd want to put my mark here, as well. We piled up a few stones on top of one another, sort of as a joke, to mark the spot.

When we visited Sedona, Arizona, some years ago, we giggled at all the "new age" advertising about vortices in the area. Then, we found ourselves at the top of a hill, looking at the rock piles that folks build to mark a vortex, and we knew why. The place had a special power. The view opened out to red rock walls and at the same time, opened your heart. You could sense time and how erosion works its magic through the ages.

This morning as I remembered the Valley, I started going through my memories of other power places I have been. Here are just a few:

Paris, at the foot of the Champs d'Elysses
Yosemite Valley
Kings Canyon
On a hill overlooking Hong Kong
Lands End in San Francisco
Ft Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands

Friday, June 08, 2007

Yes, I graduated

I'm thinking about graduation.. Ariana is graduating from middle school, and Ray & Roxanne are finished high school. I came across this list of 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know... and sure, they mostly seem familiar! I'm testing myself publically. Let's see how many I can get right. It has been a long time since my graduation! These are my guesses. I'll correct it later, or feel free to correct me in the comments, if you are a smartypants. Italics are what I looked up later.

abjure - swear WRONG - to swear to give up something
abrogate - something to do with the law? CLOSE to annul a law
abstemious - refraining from doing something
acumen - sharp mental ability
antebellum - before the civil war? or is it after? It's before
auspicious - it's a good sign
belie - goes against CLOSE to show to be false
bellicose - sounds like jolly, but I believe it's the opposite hostile
bowdlerize - edit another's writing, making it worse to expurgate! isn't that a word lower on this list! hey! that's not fair.
chicanery - foolishness, mischief WRONG trickery or deception
chromosome - carrier of genetic info
churlish - mean, full of spite WRONG rude, boorish
circumlocution - to physically go around something
circumnavigate - to go around the world
deciduous - the leaves fall off in the wintertime
deleterious - something that does not help WRONG harmful; injurious
diffident - without caring, indifferent
enervate - to give energy to WOW so WRONGthis is exactly the opposite: deprive of force or strength; destroy the vigor of; weaken
enfranchise - to give freedom to
epiphany - holy cow! I understand it now!
equinox - the day when day & night are the same length
euro - the monetary unit of Europe
evanescent - "what a surprise! evanescent Aunt Muriel!" BAD JOKE rapidly disappearing
expurgate - to get rid of, as in deleted text
facetious - light hearted, not serious
fatuous - smug and know-it-all WRONG asinine: devoid of intelligence
feckless - doesn't feck have something to do with hunger? but it sounds like someone who'll take a risk WRONG incompetent and ineffectual
fiduciary - has to do with money
filibuster - to talk and talk in Congress to prevent a bill's passage
gamete - I have no idea! High school was a looong time ago. Male or female reproductive cells
gauche - not suave, uncool
gerrymander - to chop up political districts for one party's advantage
hegemony - political domination
hemoglobin - red part of the blood
homogeneous - mixed up so that the distinct parts are no longer visible
hubris - pride (excessive pride)
hypotenuse - the long side of a triangle
impeach - what we should have done to Bush a few years back accuse
incognito - with a mask on, hidden identity
incontrovertible - unchangable, undeniable
inculcate - teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions Does that work??
infrastructure - the basic building blocks of a system
interpolate - translate WRONG To estimate values
irony - hmm, hard to define, subtle double meaning the real meaning is concealed or contradicted
jejune - I'd like to be able to use jejune in a sentence insipid: lacking interest or significance
kinetic - moving, as in kinetic sculpture or kinetic energy
kowtow - to bow low, down to the floor
laissez faire - to leave alone
lexicon - vocabulary for a specific subject
loquacious - talkative
lugubrious - heavy CLOSE heavy-hearted, mournful
metamorphosis - change, like a cocoon to a butterfly
mitosis - cell division
moiety - does this have to do with moisture? WRONG one of two (approximately) equal parts
nanotechnology - the study of teeny tiny robots that are microscopic
nihilism - philosophy that "nothing" really matters existence is meaningless
nomenclature - the naming of something
nonsectarian - someone who is not a member
notarize - pay good money for someone to sign their name next to mine
obsequious - overly polite, to the point of being annoying CLOSE bootlicking
oligarchy - ruled by just a few people
omnipotent - all powerful
orthography - spelling
oxidize - to rust
parabola - a disc-shaped object studied in math class
paradigm - an understanding of reality
parameter - guidelines or limitations
pecuniary - monetary
photosynthesis - how plants use carbon dioxide to make oxygen
plagiarize - to steal someone else's ideas or writing
plasma - the clear part of the blood
polymer - another word for plastics
precipitous - about to happen
quasar - term from astronomy - a kind of star? celestial object which appears "star-like"
quotidian - daily
recapitulate - summarize
reciprocal - both sides do something in turn
reparation - payback
respiration - breathing
sanguine - brave
soliloquy - a solo speech
subjugate - to dominate over others
suffragist - someone who believes in the right to vote
supercilious - haughty, proud CLOSE disdainful
tautology - a term in logic used to mean something that is true
taxonomy - the structure of naming something
tectonic - used to describe geologic plates that move around over time
tempestuous - hot headed
thermodynamics - study of the power of heat
totalitarian - a regime that sees everything in black & white
unctuous - smarmy
usurp - take over
vacuous - like Paris Hilton, dumb as a post
vehement - strong, with emphasis
vortex - the center of a swirling mass
winnow - to pick through
wrought - done, brought about
xenophobe - someone who is afraid of foreign ideas or people
yeoman - strong person? CLOSE bodyguard
ziggurat - tower

Phew! that's enough brain work for today. Take the challenge yourself!

Sunday, May 27, 2007


It's a Sunday night, which usually is one of my favorite times, because we get to eat Italian food, drink red wine and watch the Sopranos. This week, even better, because tomorrow is a holiday, so we made spaghetti sauce with herbs we brought back from Rome, and let it simmer all day on the stove. Add meatballs, go to check the tivo to make sure it started recording the show, and lo and behold! it's not on this weekend! Only two shows left in the series, and they take a week off?? that's harsh.

But it's still sweet knowing that tomorrow's also free. It hasn't been a lazy weekend. I spent most of the day window-shopping online for appliances, reading consumer reviews, getting prices and making a wishlist. Yesterday we buckled down and met with a nice lady at home depot, talking about kitchen cabinet design. The remodel is really beginning to take shape in our minds. Today I came up with the idea of adding a few beams over the new back deck, for creating a trellis of jasmine or other sun-loving vines, that will act as shade for the kitchen.

I'm still thinking about all the beautiful mosaics we saw in Sicily. We are trying to imagine how we can use these inspiring pieces of art in the design of a bathroom. Maybe it's better to use the patterns as ideas for smaller tiled pieces that we could hang if we want to... much cheaper that way!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Images of Italy

Our recent trip to Rome & Sicily is still washing over me. The images and sensations of so many new places are rising to the surface as I go back to my regular routines. I have been sorting through all the photos I took. As we walked every day, I always had my camera in my hand, and I tried to experience each place before I recorded it. But I tried to record the place in the way that I experienced it.. the first thing that caught my eye was usually what I snapped.

This image of one of the many faces carved into walls and doorways in Sicily is one of my favorites. Look at the funny little lion ears and the big moustache.

All around Taormina, where we stayed, you could see faces - on the flowerpots, the doorbells, the city walls, the store signs, the pastries, everywhere. One shopkeeper explained to us that the Moors had brought the art of ceramics with them when they invaded the island. The Arabic faces (some wearing turbins or with dark skin) of the Moors are the ones you see in the ceramic vases that line every balcony, filled with geraniums and succulents. He said that the heads might be referencing the fact that many heads were chopped off during the struggles of that era. He also said that one story goes, that the pots were used as chamberpots by the Sicilians, who didn't care for the Moorish invaders.