Monday, January 11, 2010
Chicken soup for dinner tonight. ...
Chop. Chop. Chop. Garlic. Onions. Carrots. Celery. Brown a bit in olive oil. Add bay leaves, 8C water, leftover bits of a denuded roast chicken: meaty bones, wings, whatever. All tossed into the pot. Bubble for 2hrs.

Strip the chicken off the bone and tear into shreds and add back into pot. Discard bones. Retrieve bay leaves & discard.

Add some leftover chicken salvaged from the pre-denuded roasted chicken to the pot. Taste. Add Herbes de Provence. Bring to boil then shut off.

Boil some water. Make spaetzle. Strain spaetzle. (Made four batches worth so I didn't overwhelm the boiling water.) Add butter and toss spaetzle.

Reheat soup. Serve. (Me) : Spaetzle in the bowl, covered w/ soup. (He): Buttered spaetzle on the side. Soup in a bowl.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009
After the storm
Cold. Wet. Yes, please. Could we have some precipitation?

A friend up the hill reported snow falling. His nibs said hail was causing havoc -- and slips -- on the Steps as he came home from his stint at the Academy of Sciences.

I was (relatively) snug and warm inside today. Thick sweater. Warm wrap. Fuzzy slippers. (Thermostat set at 65dF as is our wont. ...)

And then the storm cleared and I took pictures ...

Here's one:

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Thursday, December 03, 2009
Let us now praise Canon Customer Support
Nearing the end of October, an annoying spot appeared on photos taken with my Canon SX110 IS. The spot was too big to edit out of most photos. I tried cleaning the lens. That wasn't the problem.

At first the spot was up near the top of the photo and I could work around it with judicious planning and cropping. The spot drifted down over the days toward the lower middle of the frame. Cropping and editing EACH AND EVERY photo was not a plan.

I'd had a similar problem with my previous Canon, ending up with multiple spots to deal with, and eventually bought this one not that long ago. Trading in a 4x for a 10x made the upgrade easier to justify. But now this camera had a spot as well ... so I went looking for a solution.

The online help at Canon did not deal with dark spots on photos. No solutions given. White spots, yes. Dark spots and blurs, no. So I searched online and found some who claimed the problem was with dust specks inside the camera. The one solution I found for do-it-yourself dust removal seemed hair-raisingly difficult.

I sent a note to Canon support:

Every photo I've taken for the last several weeks has a spot in the lower middle of the frame. The spot is large enough that retouching is difficult although I can crop the spot out of some photos. The problem appears to be a dust speck (or specks) within the camera body. What can I do to clean the dust out of the camera?

First back from them within three minutes was an auto-response: we got your msg

The following day:

Thank you for contacting Canon product support. We are sincerely sorry
to hear you are experiencing an issue with dust in your PowerShot SX110
IS. Please accept our apologies regarding this matter. We value you as
a Canon customer and appreciate the opportunity to assist you.

Please mail your digital camera to the Factory Service Center shown
below. When shipping your camera, please be sure to remove the memory
card and batteries. You are not required to send any accessories or
manuals when shipping the camera. Be sure to include your name, street
address (no P.O. boxes, please), telephone number, and a letter
describing the issue with the product. Since it has been less than one
year since the camera was purchased, we ask that you also include proof
of warranty in the form of a copy of your sales receipt.


OK. Fine. So I packaged up the camera, made a copy of the receipt, mailed it off (as suggested) via USPS priority mail. They had suggested that or some other method that tracks packages.

I sat back to wait.

In the mean time, I received two requests from Canon to fill out a survey to see how they were doing. I decided to wait until I saw whether they fixed the camera. ...

30 November: a note from Canon that my camera had arrived there and yes, indeed, it looked like a problem they could fix. However, " Please note that in the unlikely event that any additional internal damage is found due to liquid/water, sand, corrosion, battery leakage or impact (such as dropping the unit), a revised estimate will be sent for your authorization, since these conditions are specifically excluded from warranty coverage."

02 December: a note from Canon saying they'd shipped my camera back to me.

03 December: I signed for it at the door and took a couple of test shots.


I went back to take the Canon survey that they'd sent earlier and the survey window had expired. [sad face here]

So, instead, I am writing this paean to Canon service. Thank you for fixing my camera so promptly. I felt naked without it with me as I walked around. I appreciate your efforts.

p.s. I wish you'd make some note on your site that black specks in photos could be caused by dust inside the camera that you will fix under warranty. If I'd known that, I would've sent my previous camera back to you for service, but now it's too late and the camera, which I bought a little over two years ago, is out of warranty. Alas. [sad face here] Cost to have a camera repairman take the dust out is probably more than the value of the camera. Instead his nibs will use his fine motorskills to see what he can do -- the worst he can do is make the camera unusable, which it already is.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009
Sliding toward the end of the year ...
Sliding into the end of the year.

Halloween's been and gone. The clocks rolled back an hour. Day of the Dead. Guy Fawkes. Siblings' November shared-birthday, although the older sibling of the two skipped the family gathering and Thanksgiving to go off gallivanting in France and Italy. In another week December comes and with it Dad's (RIP) and Dan's shared bday, my sister-in-law's bday, my oldest brother's (RIP) bday, his nibs' bday that he shares with my uncle. Christmas. And then, around the corner, is the New Year, awaiting discovery.

And the sound of hoofbeats creeping up behind. ...

Instead of Black Friday, yesterday, his nibs and I met up at the California Academy of Sciences, where he had two shifts of docent duty, and went to the Moss Room for dinner. The Moss Room isn't, anymore. The living wall of mosses never gained traction and has been replaced by a living wall of ferns and other such flora.

Will they rename the restaurant the Fern Room? I doubt it.

We shared a delicious turnip soup with cream, a splash of this and a bit of pork belly. We shared a Lon and Bailey Farms Pork Belly with spiced pumpkin puree, sweet onions, pheasant egg, balsamic -- eggs and bacon by any other name. He had opah. I had guinea fowl on a pool of green curry, greens, fingerling potatoes. We shared a side of gratin cauliflower.

So what's on the table tonight? Leftover Thanksgiving fixings, courtesy of my talented brother (brined turkey, mashed, two kinds of dressing, corn casserole) and courtesy of my talented son-in-law with able assist from our son (salad, rolls), and my contributions (sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie).

And then the November holidays will be gone and we'll be skidding into December and what?

Where has this year gone? Anything accomplished? Happier now than last year this time? Who is gone? Who has arrived? Books read? Words written?

Flowers planted and picked and enjoyed, then tossed into the compost bin.

The days grow short when you reach the end of November.

Time to make plans.

Time to re-commit to and internalize the final panel of Calvin and Hobbes.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009
Bay Bridge still closed ...
The ferries head in and head out. The bridge is empty of traffic (except for the 108 on the upper deck) while repairs continue on the eastern span.

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After sunrise. A single truck on the bridge. Traffic is only allowed between San Francisco and Treasure Island/Yerba Buena: the 108, a few cars, repair vehicles, an occasional truck. That's it until the repairs on the broken crossbeam and tie rods are finished, examined, inspected, okay'd, and the bridge re-opens.

Traffic elsewhere is a scramble. BART and the ferries are packed.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009
Contigo and more
Public transit to Eureka Valley for the annual (always a different neighborhood) San Francisco Victorian Home tour.

Then walked up and over to Noe Valley and hung out (in bookstores and a bar, 'natch) until Contigo (1320 Castro Street -- between 24th St & Jersey St) opened for dinner.

Dee-lish dinner.

Walked down to Church and took the J to the Montgomery Station and popped above ground to take the 30 to Washington Square Park. Walked home.

I'll write about all in more detail ... later.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009
Red Sky At Night ...
Sailors' delight. ...

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Took a handful of pictures of Treasure Island tonight. The setting sun drifting across the eastern clouds was reason enough.

The spinning Ferris wheel on the island frosted the cake.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009
A swell evening out, followed by an SFMTA ... messup.
Last night we headed over to the Galleria at SF Design Center for Wine & Spirits' Top 100 Wines event. We bought the plebe tickets and had a discount on those, so the evening was the cost of a nice dinner. Walked down the hill and caught the 10-Townsend at Levi's Plaza. A while and a ways later, we arrived just as the plebe doors opened at 6:30P.

Fine time. In addition to the wineries that made the list (of which we had far fewer than 100 tastes and red-wine-only at that), the interspersed foodie tables included wares from Flour & Water, Il Cane Rosso, Hog Island Oysters, Heaven's Dog, Gitane, Cliff House, and more.

The event was shutting down at 8:30P, and with a last hurrah we handed our Riedel wine glasses to the gent at the exit and left to catch the bus home. The 10-Townsend stops running at 8P or so, but we could catch the 19-Polk at 15th and Rhode Island and take it up to Union and Polk where we'd catch the 45 down to Washington Square Park.

We thought.

We walked around the corner and down a block to the bus stop. NextBus signage said the next bus was due in 20 minutes or so. We could wait. The weather's been relatively warm with the Japanese storm and it wasn't raining. Thanks be.

The signage counted down (with some hiccups) to four minutes more to wait and then, suddenly, flipped to saying the next bus was due in 15 minutes. Wah?

The signage counted down (again) (again with some hiccups) until it said, "ARRIVING."

We watched a different bus heading south on an adjacent parallel street and our next bus info changed its mind. Our next bus was now due in twenty-two minutes.

Is NextBus based on GPS in the buses? Or is it all just wet-finger guessology?

One of the other people waiting for the phantom bus called to see where the 19-Polk might be and when we could expect it. Oh, the answer came back after he'd been put on hold, there was a shooting and that's why your bus is delayed.

(So tell me again why it said, "ARRIVING," if it had had no intention of arriving and was, in fact, twenty-some minutes away?)

(Still can't find any news reports of such a thing online this AM. Had we misunderstood? Would a fire at Union Square interrupt a bus route on Polk, because that's the only trouble that happened last night that seems to have been deemed newsworthy.)

It's now quarter to ten rather than quarter to nine, when we first arrived at the bus stop. No bus. No one knows if the latest ETA is even accurate. When will the next 19 arrive? None of us trust the system at this point. Pretty crummy for bus service that is supposed to arrive every twenty minutes at that time of the day.

The crowd waiting for the 19 at 15th and Rhode Island started to disperse. Each of us headed off to the location we thought would most likely result in a bus ride before midnight.

We opted to walk from 15th & Rhode Island to 4th and Townsend (a little less than a mile) to catch the 30 back to Washington Square Park, which still would leave us about half a mile up hill (and down) home. (Most of the other nearby bus stops we knew about were either no-longer-running 10s or the mysteriously-missing 19.)

Finally reached home around quarter to eleven. Far later than we'd intended.

What if we hadn't been in shape or willing to walk over to catch the 30? Would the 19 ever have arrived?

What responsibility does SFMTA have to their customers waiting after dark (or during the day for that matter) to get them from where they are to where they are wanting to go according to the published schedules?

Inquiring minds.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009
[RECIPE] Not Chicken Waterzooi
Since Sunday, chimes had jangled like mad. Jets took off in the other direction from SFO's runways to adjust for winds from the south. Clear signs our first rains of the season were coming. Cue early morning hours. Pelting rain. Creaking trees.... Wild winds. I was awakened when a heavy set of chimes ripped from its moorings and landed downhill.

I sat next to the windows yesterday, watching the storm beating down. The wind sometimes blew the rain sideways. The parrots were in hiding.

A supper of stew seemed in order. I had no beef suitable for stewing in the house, so I opted for chicken. I was going to make Gentse Waterzooi, which his nibs adores, but had no leeks and no intention of leaving the house to pick up ingredients.

Here is what we wound up with for supper last night.

[RECIPE] Not Chicken Waterzooi

6 chunks of boneless chicken thighs cut into large pieces
2 large carrots, cut into chunks. (Next time I'll shred them as is more proper for Waterzooi, but I was being lazy yesterday.)
half a large yellow onion, chopped
leftover grilled strips of trumpet mushroom and onion from the Bixby weekend

Toss into a crock pot with 1 1/2C chicken broth, parsley, mixed herb seasoning.

Let burble for several hours until the chicken and carrots are tender. Add as much frozen O'Brien hashbrown potatoes as you'd like to the mix. Cook until the potatoes are tender.

Serve in large soup bowls.

No added heavy whipping cream. No thickeners beyond the natural thickening talents of carrots and potatoes.


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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Farmers' market tomatoes in my future
Last year we watched the tomatoes ripen on a neighbor's deck and I thought, ho. Hadn't realized we got enough sun and warmth here to grow tomatoes but maybe I could add some tomatoes to the mix of herbs and flowers I currently grow on the deck.

The die was cast when we were in a nursery and saw six-packs of begonias that had volunteer tomatoes growing in them. Two six-packs of begonias. Three "free" tomato plants. The two tomato cages were picked up for free on the sidewalk down by Union and Cadell Place where someone had left five for first-takers. I bought pots. Pots are reusable. I bought bags of potting mix. Also reusable. I potted my tomato plants and began the adventure.

Net cost $0 except for the cost of water.

One pot's contents turned out to be cherry tomatoes. So far I've got two cherry tomatoes off the plant. Something four-footed seems to get to the tomatoes before I feel they're ripe enough.

The two plants with large tomatoes? So far all of the tomatoes have met the fate of this one.

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Sometimes the entire almost-ripe tomato disappears overnight. Sometimes just part of it, but the rest disappears soon enough.

We're talking either roof rats -- possible, although they've been nowhere to be seen for four years, since the cat moved in -- or raccoons -- more possible because they know their way up five stories of spiral metal stairs. The Guy says it could also be parrots, nibbling during the day and we just don't check the tomatoes before we go to bed. Whoever is doing this, boy, do they make a mess, spattering tomato juices on the wall behind the pots.

No deck-grown tomatoes next year. Farmers' market at the Ferry Building will be my tomato source instead.

Was worth a try.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Barney Frank Confronts Woman At Town Hall
"Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table."

Barney Frank Confronts Woman At Town Hall Comparing Obama To Hitler

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009
They fly through the air with the greatest of ease...
T-Mobile had a delightful parachuting and jetting extravaganza today at lunch time to promote their new myTouch 3G phone.


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More photos here.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009
The crows plot mischief when they think no one is watching
I'd mentioned the mysterious behavior of our crows to Sara Zarr in response to her Facebook link to the NPR story on crows. (Read it. Interesting!)

Our crows flock to the roof top at Levi's Plaza and perch on the railings for "meetings" in the afternoon. In small groups, they practice walking around like humans while the crows on the railings critique their technique and progress. After a certain period of time, the meeting is adjourned and they fly off in all directions, just as they'd arrived.

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Spooky, I tell you! Who knows what sorts of mischief they're plotting in the late afternoon when they think no one is watching.

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Monday, July 06, 2009
Fourth of July from the 52d Floor
We partied on the 52d floor of 555 California for the Fourth with maybe a hundred other people, from pre-toddlers to creaky oldsters. Pre-fireworks entertainment included watching everyone else, making faces at the adorable seven-month-old (maybe) girl at the next table, a buffet that included hotdogs and hamburgers, and a hosted bar.

The event opened at 7:30P so we were a bit perplexed when we walked in a few minutes later to see all the occupied tables and chairs. We found an empty table next to the windows facing Pier 39 so we could at least see the eastern portion of the dual-barge, synchronized show. As it got closer to showtime, people began genteely squabbling over whether tables could be "held" for expected guests.

I took pictures of the view as the sun faded and the colors greyed. We watched "our" barge being pushed up from the south and over to Pier 39. The hills behind Tiburon and further north looked like a Chinese watercolor as they faded, faded, faded in the distance. (I tried to capture that view. The photo also captures the reflections of the party in the window as the lights came on and the twilight darkened.)

Note the hunkering layer of clouds just waiting to drop down and obscure the evening's entertainment.

Reflections on the window overlaying the views led to talk of Plato's Cave. We watched the fog creep in, hoping it wouldn't get so low the fireworks would (again) be fogged out. Dinner ships and private boats maneuvered into place. The Coast Guard churned back and forth keeping people out of the critical area, and then Hooray! The fog held high and right on time (9:30P) the show began.

I was using my digital camera, holding it steady on the railing between us and the window, which would have worked if there hadn't been some young adults who kept moving under the railing to get close to the window to use their digital cameras AND BUMPING THE RAILING WHENEVER THEY DID!


So the pics here are of views of Telegraph Hill and the Bay/Alcatraz/Angel Island as the light fades and Coit's lights come on. Followed by some of the better fireworks shots. (But oh ... my, the City's civic 4th fireworks just don't compare to KFOG Kaboom!)

We stayed for a while after the civic fireworks were over, enjoying the amateur fireworks that were exploding to the west. I've included a couple shots off the west side of the building showing the Civic Center and downtown and the vista out to the ocean (Note how "straight" streets on a grid look all curvy as they go up and over hills...)

And then we wandered home and watched some fireworks that were still going off. We had a good time. (I enjoyed my first hot dog in MONTHS!)

All-in-all, I took over 170 photos, of which I've kept ninety-five. (That collection may still be weeded.) My bloggy photo gallery here contains only twenty-two.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009
So much for PETA
PETA's not happy that Obama squished a fly. Oh, well.

To make PETA even unhappier, I will tell the following "slice of Sal's life" tale.

His nibs just opened the door down on the first level and shooed a pretty little skipper butterfly (who'd wandered in because I had the doors open this afternoon) out the door to freedom.

Within seconds a bird swooped down and had the skipper for dinner. The bird is now hanging about waiting for his nibs to flush more game in its direction.

Notify PETA.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009
08 August 2004
My photo files were getting all higgly piggly. I have a master directory labeled filPhotos with subdirectories under it labeled Family, Travel, SanFrancisco, &c.

Ah, but under San Francisco, I had folders labeled SF2009-06-17 and SF2009-06-01 and so on and forth into the hundreds.

Over 8400 photos, if I can believe Picasa, and I probably can. ... Too many folders. And if I want to check through all the views to the east to have a look-see for a good one to post somewhere or send someone, where would I find it?

08 August 2004 Posted by Picasa

So in lieu of writing something I should be writing, I went through all my San Francisco photos and pulled out all the views to the east from this specific spot (not views to the east from the top of the Hill, nor views to the east from the Embarcadero ...). And found I had over 2000 photos. Some were dupes. Some were why-are-you-saving-that-Sal. I winnowed. A bit.


I then moved the individual SF2009-06-01 and SF2009-06-10 sorts of folders into month-specific folders, only keeping those folders with a bunch of photos of a specific subject. e.g. SF2005-02-12MarriageEqualityCityHall (the one-year-anniversary party for the Valentine's Day surprise of 2004), SF2008-05-18BayToBreakers, SF2007-10BlueAngels, &c.


So now things are a bit easier to handle, although I may start bundling the photos in larger SF2009Q1 and Q2 sorts of bundles. Fewer bundles, but not so few I wouldn't be able to find photos of that walk we took in April 2008 easily.

Results? Less overwhelming photage. With a final count, SFViewsEast: 2110. (Plus the few that are in my camera as-I-post.) I see more winnowing in my future.

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Monday, June 08, 2009
Update on the ranunculus
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More petals have fallen since the previous shot was taken.

I'll find another flower to take its place. I enjoyed having something floral on the rain drum as I headed up to the next level.

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Make a wish
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When the younger guys were much younger, the loss of a helium balloon wasn't an occasion for tears.

When your balloon slips your grasp, don't cry. Make a wish.

Make a wish and watch the balloon as it slips up into the sky carrying your wish with it until (keep watching!) it is (keep watching!) so high it disappears from view.

The next time something slips from my grasp, I'll try to remember to make a wish.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009
Still life with yellow ranunculus
His nibs was at the Academy of Sciences annual meeting for docents and other such yesterday and brought home some flowers: a gathering of small daisy-ish flowers and a gaggle of alstroemeria as well as a twosome of yellow ranunculus (?). I put the Peruvian lilies and daisy-ish flowers in a vase downstairs and brought the yellow flowers up to the landing on the second floor. Cheery as I go back and forth during the day.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Pilot boat
The sky turns blue (Thank you, Rayleigh!) as the sun goes down behind us.
A pilot boat cruises in.

The bay, the hills, the shadows take on a blue-ish tinge as the sun sets and the City wraps itself in twilight.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009
Back to the past ...
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Reliving sixth grade, age 10. One of my class projects required a pyrographed report cover.

I decided a while back our sign-less (and dead-end, needless to say) path needed some signage, especially with the gang event scheduled for tomorrow.

Scrap plywood. Wood burner. Olde English staining polish. Bob's your uncle.

(Now to figure out a way to get the sign to stay up in the planters for at least the duration of the get-together.)

Sure to be a hit with ALL the neighbors. Heh.

[Update: Turns out one of the neighbors really likes the sign and asked if I'd mind if he screwed it into the wood retaining wall at the end of the path. He didn't want to appropriate my private property without my permission, he said. Gee. He likes it! Go right ahead, I told him.]

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Thursday, May 28, 2009
Remembrance of things past
A taste can do it. Proust had his madeleines. Lilikoi/passion fruit takes me straight back to breakfast in Brazil. The cook would pick fresh fruit off the vines on the back fence and make our breakfast juice. My early grade-school self is still angling for a bit more juice.

A scent can do it. I use punks as incense sticks because the scent of punks takes me back to long ago July 4th fireworks. His nibs bought me two boxloads of punks for Christmas a decade or so ago. He could only buy in bulk. I'm set for life.

I was pulled back to sixth grade yesterday when, for the first time in nearly a century (slight exaggeration, but only slight ...), I was wood-burning or, as the swanky like to call it, doing "pyrography."

We're having a party here Sunday and our little path off the Filbert Steps has no signage. Had some wood. Couldn't find the old woodburner in several searches of boxes of stuff, but Amazon came through and for <$20 delivered a new woodburning kit a couple days back. Now I'm in the process of making a street sign soze no one will walk past the turn off the steps.

Yesterday I was fiddling with nibs and brands, heating, cooling, covering up errors with more burning. The smell of the smoking wood reminded me of country reports we wrote back in sixth grade -- hand-written on binder paper (no computers avec printers in those days) and "bound" in wooden covers. We burnt designs onto our covers, stained them, sealed them. We cut off a two-inch or so piece from the left edge. Drilled three holes in the two-inch edge and used leather laces to hold the pages. Added brass hinges to attach the edge to the rest of the cover. Voila! a hinged cover!

My report was on Argentina and the Pampas and the gauchos and Buenos Aires and the Patagonia. No mention of Malbec. The design I burnt on the report cover was a map of Argentina. I don't know whatever happened to that report.

Gee ... over forty-five years ago now. But the smoky scent yesterday took me straight back. (And I woke up this morning with a scratchy throat. When I continue on with my wee project, I will make sure I sit up-breeze from the smoke.)

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Címon, get happy: Experts say you can
Back in February, Greg Morago wrote an article for the Houston Chronicle titled, Címon, get happy: Experts say you can.

At the time I noted in the book I keep in my back pocket, lefthand side: "hedonic adaptation"

I'd forgotten all about it until I was thumbing through the book this afternoon, looking up word references I'd forgotten, killing time.

"hedonic adaptation" -- an interesting idea.

There's a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation. It basically means that people adapt and get used to things, she [Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UCRiverside] said. Let's say you suddenly have less spending power. You feel less wealthy because you have less money in the bank. That's going to make you unhappy. What happens is that you get used to that. Our daily life is not determined by the size of our savings account. We'll adapt to almost everything.

In a similar way, people who have extraordinary fortune, win the lottery, get that high six-figure job, become accustomed to their new circumstances and instead of feeling euphoric about their change in lifestyle, soon discover life's the same old same old.

Hedonic adaptation is a good thing when your circumstances take a tumble. You don't, after all, want to be moping around forever because you had to turn in your Mercedes for a used Honda.

But, if you have had extraordinary good things happen to you, stop every once in a bit and reflect on them. Remember how lucky you are. Remember what a good life you lead. Don't let hedonic adaptation pull you down until your extraordinary life becomes just ordinary and you get the mopes because the sparkle's gone out of your life.

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Monday, May 25, 2009
Memorial Day weekend in Paso Robles
We were down for a long weekend on a fairly HUGE piece of dirt that friends own outside Paso Robles, on the west side, in the hills, before you get to the ocean and San Simeon/Cambria.

This was their tenth annual Memorial Day weekend but ... for whatever reasons ... we've never been before. (Last year we had something happening, the year before ...)

We came this past weekend, bringing with us a charming teenager who lives in our fair ville, who needed a lift down to the party (unless someone from down in Paso was willing to drive four hours up to our fair ville and four hours back down with her.. and they would've been, but we promised to bring her with us).

The three of us arrived, after a four-hour drive, in time for chile verde and/or buffalo stew burritos on Friday night. We left after helping to pack up the tables and chairs and sundry furniture and stowing them in the workshop/barn on Monday morning.


These folks invite a lot of people. (More than fifty. Less than one hundred.)

Some arrive Friday. Some leave Monday. Few are there for the duration. Some bring some pretty hefty trailer-type vehicles. (HUGE! some of them) Some bring vehicles the youngsters can chew up road with. (Wear your helmet!)

Folks bring their dogs, ranging from petite chihuaha-type dogs to WOLF HOUNDS THAT WILL EAT YOU FOR LUNCH. Watching the social dynamics of the dog pack was an on-going entertainment.

Some guests stay with other party-attenders. Some go over to Cambria or San Simeon to grab a place to stay. Some come in from Paso -- those who are relatives or high school chums. Most stay in tents, pitched on the grounds around the main house.

We were lucky (being the first to ask) to stay in the bunk house, with a bathroom and shower and EVERYTHING. (Plus the cabin is well-insulated so even when the evening temperatures dropped we were fine. We spread out sleeping bags on the futon ...)

First thing in the morning, our host started a huge pot of coffee. From there the day progressed through food. more food. visit to the farmers' market in Templeton. food. more food. drinks. drinks. more food. food. more drinks. dessert. drinks. And talk talk talk talk.

The guys cook. And others too. Burritos on Friday night. Salmon and pork ribs on Saturday night. Chicken on Sunday night. Sundry other stuff. Steam shovel vegetables. Desserts up the wahzoo. Salads. Hors d'oeuvres. Garlic bread. Caprese.



We also checked out the home of a close friend of our hostess (and work-related compadre of his nibs) on Sunday. His nibs had heard so much about the place while it was in the building phase and we were dead curious. Their home was less than five miles as the crow flies from Party Central, but almost fifteen miles by (sometimes dirt) road.

The house was not large, but the siting. ...

Oh. My. The. Views. (°Mira los robles!)

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A good weekend was had by us. A really good weekend. Nice people. Good food. Interesting guests. Bouncy dogs.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
A not-so-typical Sunday
The traditional brunch scheduled for last Sunday was re-scheduled, so we found ourselves with an unexpected free day on the calendar.

After checking the clock several times to make sure we timed it right, we used our Ukraine-specific calling card to call the younger younger guy, who'd requested a Mother's Day call. Later, I talked with the older younger guy. Happy Mother's Day to me.

A bit after lunch, we headed down the hill to the Ferry Building for bread at Acme. After scoring our sour b‚tard, his nibs took me out for a delish Mother's Day brunch at Butterfly on the waterfront. I watched the Bay: he watched the family dynamics of the Mother's Day celebrants in the restaurant.

Our meal started with a small platter of four amuse-bouches for each of us: a Bloody Mary oyster shooter, salmon and strawberry salad roll, tuna poke tartar, and -- my favorite -- Rob Lam's outstanding meatball of Kobe beef wrapped around a bit of foie gras and then cooked until the outside is crispy. (We'd had these meatballs at a wine tasting event at Butterfly a while back ... memorable. Hot. Crispy. Rich. Ymmmm.)

The amuse-bouches were followed by a choice of first courses. From four or so we chose two different items -- a rich, creamy shrimp bisque in puff pastry with white truffle oil, minced chives =and= spicy green papaya and mango salad with Vietnamese carmelized shrimp. We swopped halfway through.

Next, we had a choice of main courses -- again, four or so ... we both chose the Eggs Benedict three ways: traditional, w/ crab, and w/ wild mushroom. And, finally, a dessert plate from the chef. (We boxed up the non-melting portions for later consumption.)

On our way home (after opting to head straight up the stairs rather than go roundabout with the 39bus up to Coit Tower and walk down), we stopped off at a neighbor-on-the-steps' everything-must-go sale. She's headed off to Fiji with the Peace Corps and off-loading as much as possible.

We were so thoroughly full that even the walk down to the Ferry Building for bread (0.9mi), over to Butterfly for brunch (1mi), and back up the hill (0.5mi), didn't wear off enough calories. We both went to bed later Sunday night without our supper (and without having a single regret that we'd missed a meal).

A lovely day it was. ... extended by the package that arrived from our PCV (sent from Berkeley) this morning.

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The Blogging world slows down ...
I kick-started Bloglines this afternoon to see which of the bloggers I follow had new bits to read since the last time I kick-started the app (a week or so ago) and ...

Sara Zarr had two posts.
Zen had one, and that was a photo.
Arleen had six, one quite long, but four posts were simply daily collections of her Twitterposts.
Nikki (Nicole J. LeBoeuf: actually writing blog) had one (and that was her first post since 05 April).
Don had two, and one of those was a pano shot from the top of my hill. (Thx, Don!)
Heather had two. (One of them quite long.) And she'd posted six entries on her micro blog. Yay, Heather! Not bad for the mother of an almost-six-year-old and a new-born.
Ms Paula had six, but then she's way conscientious about keeping her blogger peeps amused.
Alan had naught.

... and so on and forth.

What is going on?

Well, for them I can't answer, but for me, I've been posting short things on Twitter and re-tweeting interesting short things I find there. Anyone can read the Twitterfeed (check it out!).

A Twitter app automagically copies what I post there over to my Facebook presence.

On Facebook, I post a bit longer stuff and stuff that I'd rather keep out of Twitter. (Photos of the wee gifty the youngest sent me for Mother's Day, f'rex.)

I've been hanging out on Facebook and Twitter because they are an easy way for me to follow the antics of certain folks, post inane comments about their passions and their lives, and pick up nifty bits of fact all while I'm doing the same. More seamlessly. Less back and forthing. Less disconnection.

The blog is becoming more of a collection of longish thoughts and prettyish photos. The short 'n sweet links will probably end up on Twitter for the most part.

Make sense?

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Tuesday Flower and Plant Market in La Grand'Place, Brussels
The Web cam at La Grand'Place, Brussels has been a favorite since I found it years and years and years ago.

These days the camera only shoots from one end of the plaza (instead of two, when I first found it) and you can only view it (or =I= can only view it) with IE.

Luckily, I have a little app with my Firefox that swaps back and forth between FF and IE. I use that app to be a voyeur on the La Grand'Place.

Right now it's a bit after midnight in San Francisco.

It's drizzly in Brussels. I'm watching the setup for the Tuesday Flower and Plant Market in La Grand'Place.

Such a voyeur I be. Come watch with me.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009
Photos earlier today
We have another visitor down at P29 -- not as big a ship as the cruise ship earlier this week. This is the Golden Bear, belonging to the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo.

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(For Don's benefit, note the fog covering Treasure Island and Berkeley beyond ...)

A lovely sight -- watching the fog ebb and flow across Treasure Island and Yerba Buena.

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And then ebb. Flow. Back again.

It's dark out now and we don't see the fog. We only see the lights on the islands get blotted out and then come back into view. Yerba Buena is almost clear now.

For a while. ...

(n.b. The planes from SFO are taking off to the north. Our short flurry of rains is over for the nonce.)

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Thursday, April 23, 2009
[LONG] Earth Day thoughts and The Stories of a Girl
Sara Zarr blogged (in her blog, The Stories of a Girl) about a number of things yesterday. I was captured by her comment,

Earth Day. I donít know how I feel about it, as a day, which mostly feels like yet another opportunity for capitalism to taint what should be common sense.

I remember the first Earth Day. 1970. A few months before Sara Zarr was born. Spring semester of my freshman year. We buried a new car (a Ford Maverick?) in the Quad at San Jose State during the Earth Day Survival Fair. Oh, we were root-toot-tooting greenies even back then.

Looking back, though, the green we are today wouldn't even have been dreamed of back then. Sara went through some of the things she's now doing ("a few of the major though easy things") that help celebrate Earth Day year-round. Here's my list of ten greenie things that are part and parcel of my life these days.

1) WATER Like Sara we don't do bottled water -- not at home, not in restaurants. (Well, if someone else is paying for the con-gas/frizzante at an event, I will certainly imbibe. My no-frizzante-at-restaurants is because I'm way frugal too ... Why pay a restaurant for a marked-up bottle of water? Why buy water at the store? I appreciate restaurants that fizz their own water instead of bringing on the French or Italian bottled stuff.

Our local HetchHetchy water is fine water indeed. I understand that some other folks may not have tap water that tastes good. (I've been in Midland, TX. Reverse osmosis water is the ONLY way to go in that town.) But if you don't live in Midland or some place with equally bad water, have you even considered tap (or as an office mate used to say, "sink") water?

Sara doesn't live in San Francisco these days, but where she is her tap water's fine too. Are you missing out on drinking from the tap because it's "sink water"?

We have a couple bottles of chilled water in the frig for (f'rex) when we're going out for a walk on a hot day (to avoid getting so terribly thirsty that we break down and buy a bottle at the wharf). We refill our bottles. Again and again and ...

We have a case of bottled water under the bed as part of our earthquake supplies.

That's it.

2) BAGS: PLASTIC & OTHERWISE We reuse paper bags and packaging materials. And those peanuts &c. that show up in mailorder stuff that we can't use? We give those to a friend who is slowly decluttering his house by selling stuff on eBay. We stuff clean plastic (which isn't recyclable with the city recycle program in this town) into a large plastic bag and when the bag's full, take it down to Safeway, which does, still, recycle plastic. We save the larger grocery-sized plastic bags to line the wastebasket in the kitchen.

We have cloth bags (and, for Trader Joe's, paper bags) for shopping. Most of the cloth bags are from conferences: Bouchercon, AAAS, LCC. We have HUGE STURDY IKEA BAGS that we bought for $0.59-$0.99 each (they dropped the price and we bought two more) which we use to haul stuff in from the car down the stairs and up to the front door when we take the car to Costco or Trader Joe's and buy in bulk. We also use them to haul stuff UP! so we have a couple bags on either end. We have had these bags now for years and they carry a ton of stuff without wearing out or ripping at the seams.

2a) I wrap presents in Sunday comics. Did you know that you can cut long strips of comics (or any wrapping paper, really) and curl the strips with a knife/scissors edge to make ribbony attachments that MATCH!! the wrapping paper? I wrap packages for mailing in paper bags, deconstructed at the seams and turned inside out.

3) RECYCLE We recycle newspaper, magazines, cardboard, flattened boxes, clean paper items, bottles and cans, plastic bottles, &c. We stash the recycle stuffs in boxes and on the day before the twice-a-week pickup, we transfer them to paper grocery bags and carry them up to the nearest street and leave them in a recycle bin there for pickup. We empty the bags that hold bottles/cans into the bin and bring the bags back for re-use. The bags holding magazines/newspapers, we leave in the bin.

4) GREENCYCLE San Francisco has a wonderful compost program -- green bins or, as we call it, Greencycle. What can you put in the green bin for composting? All food scraps, food-soiled paper, garden clippings and cuttings, pizza boxes, paper milk cartons, tea bags, coffee filters, banana peels, food-soiled paper napkins, wooden crates, tree trimmings, sawdust. Oh, the list goes on. Fish bones, lobster and crab shells, oyster shells, bones, wine corks.

The only things that shouldn't go in the green cart are (1) things that are already recycled in the blue bin: newspaper, clean paper items, bottles and cans, empty spray cans, aluminum foil, plastic bottles, tubs and lids, &c. and (2) things that belong in the real garbage:

* Styrofoam
* plastic bags
* diapers
* kitty litter or animal feces
* rocks, stones, or dirt
* &c.

How hard is this? Well, for us, we have to make more effort than someone living in a SFH with curbside pickup. Where we are, the City will not pick up recycle or compost. A bunch of greeny neighbors FINALLY arranged for the City to pick up recycle if we carry it up to the nearest street and tuck it down on the first landing. (The neighbors on either side of the steps complained if we put the recycle bin on the sidewalk next to their buildings.) Greencycle, though, is out of the question at that spot.

Our Greencycle effort goes thusly. We have a large glass casserole dish on the counter that gets the stuff that would go into the green bin, if we only had a green bin. When the dish gets full (or at the end of the day), we transfer the contents to a large, lidded, metal menudo pot (lined with a compostable bag), which sits over in the corner of the kitchen.

When that bag gets full (or in four days, whichever is sooner, because the compostable bag begins to compost at that point), we put the bag into a larger plastic bag and take it out and drop it sans plastic bag in a green bin that we know of that's on our way out-of-town or over to Costco or somewhere else that we'd be heading anyway. I suppose we could find a neighbor with a green bin (Hey! I may know just the one!) who lives within a quarter mile who would let us drop the Greencycle in her bin.

Greencycle is so very cool. I wish everyone used it.

As the article linked above says,

San Francisco's garbage and recycling companies are leading the way in producing a high-quality, boutique compost tailored for Bay Area growers, experts say. In one year, 105,000 tons of food scraps and yard trimmings - 404 tons each weekday - get turned into 20,000 tons of compost for 10,000 acres.

Greencycle recycles 105,000 TONS of food scraps and yard trimmings a year! How cool is that?

5) PACKAGING AND PLASTIC WRAP We don't buy many things that are in non-recyclable packaging. We still eat meat, so there are usually styrofoam trays (why?) to dispose of and the plastic wrap around them. Vegetables go into plastic bags before purchase, but if you rinse them out and dry them, the plastic bags recycle. Cheese is wrapped in plastic. Bulk rice comes in tough plastic bags. But we don't buy a lot of bagged, canned and bottled stuff, and what we do is usually in recyclable containers or something that can be Greencycle'd.

5a) When we heat things in the microwave, we tend to either use dishes with glass lids or put the food on a plate and cover the food with an inverted glass casserole dish from the cupboard. (We have several sizes.) The steam stays in. There's no plastic wrap to deal with. You can see through the glass dish to see how things are progressing. Wash the casserole dish afterwards. Reuse.

5b) All in all we probably have half a grocery bag of "garbage" a week. If that. (And the "garbage" bag is a plastic grocery bag from Chinatown now that the majors aren't allowed to give out plastic bags in our fair ville.)

6) WALK & PUBLIC TRANSIT We don't drive much. His nibs drives to work in the south bay once a week. Unfortunately, even though his company is now near a train station, the logistics are impossible for him to take the train to work unless he got out of here soon after 5A to catch the bus that would take him to the train station. Car it is. We also take the car when we're going to Costco or if we're planning to pick up A LOT of wine, &c. at Trader Joe's. Other than that we walk or take public transit. The nearest Trader Joe's is a mile each way. Coming back up hill with a bag or two of groceries each is doable. (We bring our own bags, 'natch.) We walk to dinner or down to the library or out. We do our veggie shopping in Chinatown and pickup our sweetbreads at Little City and walk (uphill) home. If we're going out to dinner somewhere too far to walk, we take public transit. We've taken one cab ride since we started living here and that was shared with fellow diners after a Subculture Dining experience that ended too late. The J-Church had stopped running. Really.

We currently have two cars (with -- ouch! -- the leased parking fees they incur). Eventually, when the older younger guy gets his license, he's due to get the 2000 Honda and we'll be down to the 2005 Mini Cooper. After his nibs stops working in the south bay altogether, we'll probably go carshare. My Mini Cooper consistently gets about 33 MPG. When we drove down to my cousin's memorial service and back, it got 36MPG, iirc.

We don't belong to a gym. The walking and the stairs and the carrying of groceries is pretty good exercise.

6) ELECTRONICS AND PAINT San Francisco has great hazardous waste dropoff/recycling. San Francisco residents can drop off household hazardous waste at the Tunnel Avenue transfer facility. Hazardous wastes accepted include batteries (large and small), paint, chemicals, motor oil, used oil filters, fluorescent bulbs, antifreeze, &c. Norcal tries to reuse as much of the "hazardous waste" as possible. Collected latex paint, for example, is available free to anyone who stops by (sometimes remixed, sometimes as donated) in large buckets. Customers can drop off up to 30 electronic items per month for free if they are delivered separate from any other garbage. You don't need to wait for the special "hazardous waste" days and hours. If all you are dropping off is electronic items, you can bypass the line of people waiting to use the public dump facility.

If you have BIG ITEMS that need pickup, you make arrangements with NorCal and they'll pick them up. When we got rid of the BULKY air conditioner that had been here when we bought the place (which was really pretty useless and took up space), we called NorCal and they sent someone out to pick it up. We paid extra to have him carry it down from our top floor, down our stairs and up the path/stairs to the street. We're no fools. The extra charge was well worth it.

7) WATER CONSUMPTION We watch water use. Short showers. Large loads of laundry. Handwash/air-dry dishes because we really don't use enough to fill/run the dishwasher even every other day and if you don't run it that often the kitchen stinks, we've found. We hardly ever drop things at the drycleaner. When we do, we've collected a batch over a while and take it all in at one time, saving the hassle of dropoff and pickup.

8) ENERGY We have photovoltaic cells on the roof with battery backup. Our meter runs backwards. The solar covers about half our use, which leaves us with a minimal power bill. No A/C. Turn off the lights. No TV. We use sweaters and sweatshirts on colder days rather than cranking up the (gas) heat. We're using compact fluorescent light bulbs, even though there are still questions how (years down the road) CFLs will be disposed of.

9) MAGAZINE RECYCLE AND ALTERNATIVES We just joined the Mechanics Institute Library downtown. I plan to give up most of our magazine subscriptions and save money and save the paper that then needs to be recycled by reading most of my magazines, and ones I don't currently subscribe to, there. Yes, I know. Magazines are having tough times. My subscriptions weren't enough to sustain them anyway.

10) THRIFT STORES, GOODWILL, FLEA MARKETS, BARTER I love thrift stores. Buy a dress or shirt or whatever that someone else bought first and you're saving all the associated construction/manufacturing costs that went into the original product. The current issue of San Francisco Magazine interviews Cris Zander of Cris, consignment boutique at 2056 Polk St., which has been in business for decades. (Full disclosure: I've never been there, although I might take a peek in to see if the prices are way over my wallet.)

The writer asked Cris about her ladies-who-lunch clientele who use her boutique to sell the clothes they don't plan to wear anymore and (perhaps) pick up alternatives. She quoted one of her clients who wondered why people worried about buying "used" clothes: "All of the clothes in my closet are used," the client said.

Exactly, I thought. But then I always got plenty of hand-me-downs from my three-years-older sister while I was growing up.


I look at the list I just made and think, yeah, fine, but you can do better than that. If we were vegetarian, we'd avoid all the expenses associated with raising meat. We could be more conscientious with buying locally. We still have two cars, fer pete's sake, but that will change. We have plants that are purely ornamental. Bottles and cans don't recycle easily as people would like to think. There's a glut on newsprint and cardboard because the cheap trinket folks are making fewer cheap trinkets in this downturn and don't need as much packaging. And what really happens to the plastic bags we take to Safeway?

And, as always when I buy something (or even pick it up free), do I really need that? Do I need that book? Do I need that stuff I picked up at Bonham's/Butterfield yesterday? Can I cut back?


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Friday, April 17, 2009
Susan Boyle - Britain's Got Talent ... a one hit wonder?
Susan Boyle aced Britain's Got Talent and the link to the video of her performance is flashing around the Web. The YouTube video was even mentioned in Jon Carroll's column this morning.

But can she really sing or was her rendition of I DREAMED A DREAM from Les Miserables a fluke?


(Thanks, Annie Chernow!)

Update: ?? I guess! Guy Kawasaki Twitters about an analysis of Susan Boyle's viral video.

Holey moley!

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My star turn on Jungle Red Writers: Writing well is the best revenge
Hallie Ephron asked if I could guest on Jungle Red and introduce Internet Resources for Writers to people who might not know about it.

The gig consists of Hallie's interview with me (already in the can) and me checking in and sticking around during the day answering any questions that might come up.

Today's the BIG DAY!

Should be fun.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
United Airlines To Charge Heavier Passengers Twice To Fly
United Airlines To Charge Heavier Passengers Twice To Fly -


Under the rules outlined by United, passengers who "are unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin; are unable to properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt extender; and/or are unable to put the seat's armrests down when seated" will be denied boarding unless they purchase an extra seat.

If no empty seat exists, the passenger will be forced to take a later flight.

"The seat purchase or upgrade must be completed for each leg of the itinerary," the United policy states. "If a customer meeting any of the above-listed criteria decides not to upgrade or purchase a ticket for an additional seat, he or she will not be permitted to board the flight."


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Sunday, April 12, 2009
A road trip home
We were in the Central Valley this weekend for a memorial service for my cousin.

We spent the night in Lost Hills and took the long way home, through the Bitterwater Valley and on to Parkfield, then up 101 and a jog here and another there and finally home.

More photos to follow. Maybe.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Social isolation a significant health issue
So I open my Chron yesterday to find this article: Social isolation a significant health issue by Katherine Seligman.

I promised yesterday to blog about why the article's focus annoyed me so much.

They could have more friends than ever online but, on average, Americans have fewer intimates to confide in than they did a decade ago, according to one study. Another found that 20 percent of all individuals are, at any given time, unhappy because of social isolation, according to University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo. And, frankly, they'd rather not talk about it.

i.e. "friends online" aren't considered fodder for intimate confidences.

The article also points out that 80% of people are not feeling socially isolated, but that doesn't sell books. (I doubt their 20% figure anyway.)

The article goes on to quote Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist who teaches at Harvard Medical School and co-authored "The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century." "People are so embarrassed about being lonely that no one admits it. Loneliness is stigmatized, even though everyone feels it at one time or another."

Olds wrote the book with her husband, Dr. Richard Schwartz, because, she said, she wanted to bring loneliness "out of the closet." The two were struck by findings from the General Social Survey (conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago), showing that people reported having fewer intimate friends in 2004 than they had in 1985. When asked how many people they could confide in, the average number declined over that same time period from three to two.

Why would three be better than two?

In 2004, almost a quarter of those surveyed said they had no one to discuss important matters with in the past six months; in 1985, only 7 percent were devoid of close confidantes.

Two separate issues [1) no one to disuss important matters with in the past six months, 2) devoid of close confidantes for a year]

I'd be interested re 1) in what the question text was. Was it, "Did you discuss important matters with a close personal friend in the past six months?" If so, what if there were no "important matters" to discuss with anyone? Does a "No" answer mean that you're lonely?

Those who know me can see where I'm going here.

#1 The authors writing these books are obviously more comfortable with people around to talk things over with.

#2 The authors writing these books obviously don't think that people can "talk things over" with online buddies. It's F2F or on the phone or nothing at all, according to them.

So I read on

But humans are not wired to live alone, researchers say. The impulse for social connection - though it is stronger in some people than others - is rooted in the basic urge to survive. The need is so great, says Cacioppo, [John Cacioppo, whose research was mentioned at the beginning of the article and who has also! written a book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection] that it is reflected in our neural wiring. Most neuroscientists agree, he said, that it was the need to process social cues that led to the expansion of the cortical mantle of the brain.

In "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection," which he co-authored last year, he wrote, "In other words, it was the need to deal with other people that, in large part, made us who and what we are today."

Loneliness, Cacioppo explained in an interview, has more in common with hunger, thirst and pain than it does with mental illness. It signals that something is wrong and needs to be corrected.

and at about this point I twigged that Olds and Seligman and others who worry so much about loneliness and being alone are probably extroverts, eh?

See the Atlantic article Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch, to see what I mean. (DT recently reposted a link on his Facebook page, just in time for me to get my every-couple-years re-read of a great article.)

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Sunday, March 01, 2009
Other classic, and annoying, Facebook types
As a follow-on to Peter Harlaub's

The 9 types of Facebook friends

which the Chron ran last Sunday, today they ran

Other classic, and annoying, Facebook types

Probably the two most annoying types of FB friends I'd add to the list: "The Infected" - seems to exist on Facebook to propagate memes (make lists and tag others) and share their quiz results. "The Activist" - almost every day they invite you to join a new cause, sign a petition, or send you a "lil green patch" request. They occasionally inspire the urge to explain why you don't believe in a cause or how you feel their demands are a bit unrealistic, which you refrain from indulging.

- Sarah Lockhar, Oakland


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Thursday, February 26, 2009
The Tenderloin National Forest
The Tenderloin National Forest

We were at a North Beach Neighbors dinner at Lichee Garden on Powell last night. (Terrific dinner. $28, including tax and tip, for a ten-course dinner. No-host beer and wine, if desired. Fun time was had by all. Interesting conversations. Good food.)

Rigo was with a group at our table at dinner that included Fernando [last name?], from Portugal. Fernando was sitting between Rigo and me and only spoke Portuguese. Although I know Brazilian Portuguese is a far cry from Portuguese, I wished it had been less than fifty years since I last had a conversation in Portuguese. There are not many words I remember.

Talked with Rigo about ONE TREE and TRUTH, two of my favorite Rigo public works, and about what he's up to. Turns out he and Fernando are currently working on a mosaic for the Tenderloin National Forest on Cohen Alley, off Ellis.

(photos of the Tenderloin National Forest from Dave Schumaker on flickr)

I plan to wander by some day soon and see how it's coming along.

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It's Not What You Eat, It's How Much
Friday, February 20, 2009
Field Trip Report (12Feb-19Feb 2009)

Thursday 12 Feb 2009

Up by 3:15A. Super Shuttle pickup at 3:45A for a 6:A departure from SFO.
Arrived O'Hare. Caught GO Shuttle to Fairmont for the 2009 AAAS annual conference, which split meetings between Hyatt Regency (sessions) and Fairmont (plenary talks).

We've been attending AAAS meetings during the long Presidents' Day weekend in February since 2001 when the meeting was held in San Francisco and had dueling plenary talks by Francis Collins (director of the government's National Human Genome Research Institute) and J Craig Ventner (head of privately-held Celera Genomics) announcing the decoding of the human genome.

Also that year was one of the best (and most beautiful) plenary talks I've been to: David Malin's overview of astronomy images from the Anglo-Australian Observatory. Beautiful.

We had such an entertaining time that in 2002, when the meeting was in Boston, we went again. And we've continued going each year as the meeting moved.

# Boston, Massachusetts, February 2008
# San Francisco, California, February 2007
# St. Louis, Missouri, February 2006
# Washington, D.C., February 2005
# Seattle, Washington, February 2004
# Denver, Colorado, February 2003
# Boston, Massachusetts, February 2002
# San Francisco, California, February 2001

Back in the day when I was writing a monthly surfing-the-web column, I could always depend on the AAAS meeting to give me enough batter to cook up several months of columns.

Arriving at the Fairmont, Chicago, Thursday afternoon, we checked into our room and walked over to the Hyatt to pick up our badges and bags and schedules.

(The AAAS Annual Meeting offers a unique, exciting, interdisciplinary blend of more than 150 symposia, plenary and topical lectures, specialized seminars, poster presentations, and Exhibit Hall.)

From 5-6:30P Thursday, we attended the Canadian reception at the Hyatt and schmoozed and noshed and drank wine, then moved over to the Fairmont for the AAAS opening and plenary talk by James T. McCarthy, President of AAAS, followed by more nosh and wine. Wine at the AAAS function was open bar (and $9/glass of wine!), so the amount poured by the tenders was considerably less than what was poured at the Canadian reception.

Friday 13 Feb 2009

Friday... sessions. His nibs' background is in experimental high energy particle physics. Mine is in biology with a chemistry minor. When we look at the sessions (15-25 per time slot) and scratch this one and star that one as we decided which of the multitude available we'll check into and maybe stay with, our choices are amazingly complementary. i.e. He scratches the things I star and vice versa. We do meet up at the noon-time topical lectures sometimes and the evening plenaries, but he'd rather listen to people expound on string theory while I'd rather listen to people talk about the problems of resuscitating dead zones in the Black Sea.

The Friday plenary (Evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll on Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species ) was held early, (4:30 - 5:30P). Interesting. Carroll talked of Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates, who were all under 25 when they went off exploring into the Amazon jungle, the Malay peninsula and on the Beagle and came back and changed biological science. Wallace, Bates and Darwin and their on-going inter-related histories made for an interesting tale.

Luckily for us we went, because some people left after the talk and we shifted over five seats in our row (third row back, stage left, even with the speaker podium) and wound up within feet of the speaker podium with an uninterrupted view.

We sat around, holding onto our super primo seats, waiting for the 6:30-7:30P talk by ... Al Gore. We were >< that close to him. The ballroom was packed. The bouncers at the door were checking to make sure all the people filing in to find seats had their conference badges showing. The room kept getting fuller and fuller until it was utterly packed and Gore took the stage, thanking everyone for the welcome, thanking the scientists in the audience (by name) who had helped him further his understanding of climate change, thanking the multitudes who were off in another room listening to his talk because they couldn't be seated in the ballroom.

Interesting to see him do his pitch, which we've all heard so much about. I've never seen An Inconvenient Truth, but had heard folks tit for tatting about it. Gore had new slides and a revamped talk, updated things to say about climate change. Turns out a slew of scientists at the meeting, including the Prez, who'd given the plenary the night before, had given him long and lengthy explanations about what was going on that he'd used as a basis for parts of his original talk, and this one.

I knew some folks I knew from elsewhere would be having kittens if they were listening to Gore talk, which made it all the more enjoyable.

Walked over, after Gore finished and left the building, to the Elephant & Castle and had a couple Guinness and steaktips in gravy w/ mashed for dinner.

Saturday 14 Feb 2009

Saturday was another full day of sessions.

From 5:-6:30P we went to the AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception at the Fairmont and enjoyed delish food (lamb riblets, &c.) and wine after. Then on to the 6:30-7:30P plenary address. Planetary scientist Susan W. Kieffer gave Saturday's address: Celebrating the Earth: Its Past, Our Present, a Future? Kieffer had interesting things to say, but gave her lecture reading from her notes. STOP IT!

One of the things that becomes obvious during AAAS is the difference between having something interesting to say and having an interesting way to say it. Some sessions have talks that are just too mumble mumble boring while others are pepped up and interesting.

Stopped off to see Paul Sereno give his Family Science Day pitch in the exhibit hall on Saturday. He has amazing energy and a way of connecting to young people who come to listen to him talk about hunting down dinosaurs. Compare his stage presence with ... well, we won't go there. Suffice to say that some scientists really really really need media coaching to properly convey the excitement of the stuff they work on.

We returned Saturday night to Elephant & Castle for Valentine's Day dinner. Ah, the romance.

Sunday 15 Feb 2009

After another full day of sessions, Sunday's plenary was A Neanderthal Perspective on Human Origins by evolutionary geneticist Svante Pššbo. Interesting guy. Interesting talk.

We had Sunday dinner at the Fairmont because by this time it was snowing a bit and we had no clue which restaurants might be open on Sundays. We'd been stopping off at a coffee/sandwich place for a morning poppyseed bagel (split, toasted, with cream cheese) and coffee on our way over to the Hyatt and discovered Saturday and Sunday that "our" place was closed so we stopped off at a local small market that sold far-too-sweet-plastic-wrapped-coffee-rolls and coffee.

We didn't want to wander out in the cold and snow Sunday evening and find that the restaurants we might be thinking of going to were closed. Hotel it was. We stopped off in the bar/sushi/casual food venue because we weren't interested in what a hotel might think was a dining experience. The food arrived tepid. Too long under the heat lamps, perhaps. The service was slow. The food was over priced for what you got. The waitress mis-represented the beer she offered as an alternative after she told us they'd run out of the beer we wanted. (Gee, the beer she offered was $3/bottle more than what we'd ordered and she forgot to mention it?!??! Gee ... Odd.)

Other than that ...

Monday 16 Feb 2009

Monday was the wrap up of the conference with the last sessions ending at 12:30P. We'd asked for late checkout Sunday evening, and needed the extra time. We caught a cab to the Metra @ Union Station about 1:15. Ate sandwiches at the station while we waited for the express train that zipped us to Naperville in half an hour or so where Mom picked us up with the grandkids in the car -- even the teenager, who was off school because it was Presidents' Day.

Mom is in a bowling league and rather than spend hours there on Tuesday, when her team/league was playing, we went over to the bowling alley Monday evening so she could bowl three games in lieu, with the alley keeping her scores for the league play.

The teenager, his nibs, myself, the five-year-old and the three-year-old bowled in the alley to the right of Mom's. Our single game took as long as she took to bowl three. The two youngest in our set had to roll the ball with both hands down the alley (bumper guards up of course). We waited patiently each time to see if the ball would even reach the pins. The ball always did, although not at great speed.

The teenager beat me by a point. His nibs came in just a bit behind our scores. Not bad for a couple geezers who hadn't bowled in forever. (I think my last bowling set was about three decades ago.)

Tuesday 17 Feb 2009

Next day the teenager went to school and the geezers and Mom took the younger ones to the Brookfield Zoo for the day to see dolphins and pennipeds and orangutans and such. Came home in time for Mom to head off to her p/t job.

Wednesday 18 Feb 2009

Wednesday, the teenager stayed home from school to spend some quality time with her gparents. (Permission granted by Mom because the teenager's grades showed all As and Bs when checked online.)

Thursday 17 Feb 2009

We got up early in order to spend some time with the teenager before she left to catch the school bus at 7:15A. Three and a half hours later, a shuttle picked us up and drove us to O'Hare to catch our plane home.

A fine time was had by me, and I think by all. More complete notes re sessions and plenaries remain to be straightened out.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Sal is off to bed and then off.
Catch you on the B-side.

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Friday, February 06, 2009
Just outside the office window*
I hadn't realized what a production nest building was.

Our new neighbors -- two doves -- started in another spot, a little lower to the ground, a little more exposed to the neighbor's Siamese cats. They decided after several days of nest building that their chosen spot wasn't a good place, so they started over again. The new spot is higher and more protected, and they've carefully dismantled the partially-built nest and incorporated it into the new one.

I watch one of them (the guy? probably) down in the dirt finding twigs and grasses. He picks one up. No, not good. Tosses it away. Picks another. No. Finally he gets a bundle of twigs and grasses together and takes them up to the nest. The other dove arranges them and tucks in the edges and fusses while the first one goes back down to see what else there is that might work.

Lovely. Really sweet.

Our cat sits at the edge of his nibs' desk next to the window and watches the doves. She moans and clatters her teeth. So near! So unobtainable!

The doves survived the rain that hit us overnight and this morning, even though the nest is far more exposed than it will be in a month or so when the fig tree is thick with leaves. I'd been worried the rain would drive them off, but they're still here.

I sit at my desk, working, with their susurrant cooing as background noise.

Posted by Picasa

* a mashup of several Facebook posts and comments

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Thursday, February 05, 2009
Bakers make cake with image of flash drive instead of image in flash drive - Boing Boing
Bakers make cake with image of flash drive instead of image in flash drive - Boing Boing

Oh, dear.

Not realizing that the flash drive had the image wanted for the cake, the bakers made the cake with an image of the flash drive.


Pretty cute, though. Bet the cake was a hit.

[via 'sted]

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Michael Bierut - 26 Years, 85 Notebooks
On August 12, 1982, I took a 10 x 7 1/8 inch National Blank Book Company composition book from the supply closet of my then employer, Vignelli Associates. From that moment, I have never been without one. I always have one at my desk. I take one with me to every meeting. I am now in the middle of Notebook #85. It's in front of me right now. Together, these well-worn books create a history of my working life that spans three decades.

I tend to be obsessive-compulsive, and I am very picky about the notebooks. No fancy Moleskines for me, just standard-issue office supply composition books.

I use them in order. Tibor Kalman once asked me why I didn't have a different notebook for every project. I have to admit, this would be more useful. But I don't. I fill each one up and then move to the next one, the projects all jumbled together. Starting with the third one, every one of them is numbered. Except for two at the very beginning that used gridded paper, they have blank, unlined pages. I hate gridded paper (but not as much as lined paper.) There have been times when it's been really difficult to get unlined composition books, which I gather are oddly unpopular. One time I found a supplier who would only sell them in bulk and I bought a whole boxful. I thought these would last the rest of my life, but I gave a lot away, which I regret. Now they're gone.

... continues

His nibs gives me grief because I'm enamored with blank notebooks. I'll be in a bookstore or stationery store and go missing and he'll find me looking at the stacks of blank notebooks of various sorts. When we moved from the bucolic village to the fair ville I gave loads of the simple composition books that Bierut describes away to an outfit that stocks supplies for teachers. My stash is growing again because there is something about blank books that calls to me.

I've started an exercise similar to (although not as arty as) Michael Bierut's. I wish I'd started decades ago. I'm on my second book and continuing forward.

My notebook of choice these days fits into my back pocket and goes on walks with me and sits beside me as I read. I also have a composition book that captures to-do lists and other bits and pieces I want to hang on to.

My inspiration for starting the exercise was a guy named Paul Madonna, who fills notebooks with his sketches and drawings and notes. He has a passel of them on the shelf in his studio (not 85 yet) and flips back in them when he's looking for information or inspiration. His conscientiousness about maintaining the notebooks and adding content struck me as a "good" thing.

Notebooks are a "good" thing.

DesignObserver - an interesting read
Paul Madonna's site

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Sunday, February 01, 2009
The Phrontistery: Obscure Words and Vocabulary Resources
The Phrontistery: Obscure Words and Vocabulary Resources

I did one of those "Twenty Five Things" sorts of things over on Facebook. On that list were four items pertaining to Webbie things:

16. I collect quotations and factoids and bits of sparkly info and stash them away and then can't find them when I want them.

17. I do the same with Web bookmarks and then discover that a site I just discovered is one whose bookmark I'd stashed away nineteen months ago. Too many pretties?

18. I no longer cut recipes out from newspapers and magazines (much...) because things of that sort are all on the Web, or a decent substitute is.

19. I worry (seriously) that one day the Web won't be there and I'll be lost and archive-less because I've given all my stuff away and grown dependent on the Web as resource. And then where would I be?

What does that have to do with Phrontistery?

I came across Phrontistery today (AFTER I put together the Facebook note) and thought, oh, cool. Wordstuff stuff. I loves Wordstuff stuffs.

I clicked my Delicious click to bookmark the site ... and found that I saved it 06 Jun 2007 ... which is just under twenty months ago.


If you like Wordstuff, though. Go there.

Since 1996, I have compiled word lists in order to spread the joy of the English language. Here, you will find the International House of Logorrhea (an online dictionary of obscure and rare words), the Compendium of Lost Words (a compilation of ultra-rare forgotten words), and many other glossaries, word lists, essays, and other language and etymology resources.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Estimated Net Worth $10,614.20 USD
Someone dropped me a line today, asking to buy and its content for something more than $1K and less than $2K.

Coinkadinkly, just now on Facebook I found an ad telling me they could tell me what my blog or Website was worth. Well, why not? Estimated Net Worth $10,614.20 USD

Woo hoo.

How WebValuer got its numbers is anyone's guess. SiteMeter puts my pageviews and visitors a stretch higher than WebValuer has them. There's no ad revenue, even though WV estimates $3.84 - 9.60.* No ads, so no ad revenue.

Domains linking (est) 13,685.


Entertaining for five minutes or so. I need to get back to the guy who was offering cash for the content. (Serious? A scam? A hoax? ... No, thanks.)

* His nibs said, "$3-$9/day? That could add up over the long run. ..."

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Monday, January 26, 2009
Kung pao chicken
In honor of the day (Happy Year of the Earth Ox to you too!) I made kung pao chicken for dinner. Loads of cutting and chopping and mincing of garlic and fresh ginger and green onion and chicken.

The recipe -- one that I've used for years ... used so much in fact that the page has fallen out of the cookbook -- calls for 1tsp. chopped garlic. 1tsp. chopped ginger. Wha? Wimps. I threw in a certain amount that might've been five or ten times what they asked for.

Loads of measuring and stirring -- first for the goop the chicken sat in before cooking and then for the cooking sauce added after the chicken was cooked through. Measuring of peanuts. (Well, I didn't measure, really. I scooped up about twice what the recipe called for.) Counting of red hot dried peppers. Cook this. Set it aside. Then this. Add that. Add that back in. Stir until thickened.

Cooking of rice in rice cooker. Making of veggie to accompany -- in this case, a green salad with cherry tomatoes. Not very traditional but something his nibs likes. (He made it.)

Cut, chop, cook, stir.

Well worth the effort.

We'd seen a bottle of "kung pao sauce" at the grocery store over the weekend when we were getting a fresh bottle of hoisin sauce, having used up our bottle dregs when we were eating egg foo yung the other night. Bottled kung pao sauce? Why? And what's in it anyway?

Still, I'd already been thinking of kung pao chicken and we had peanuts on the shopping list because we were out and I couldn't make kung pao chicken without peanuts. Seeing the bottled stuff kinda shoved me over the edge.

Today seemed like an appropriate day.


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Monday, January 12, 2009
/ RECIPE / A different way with brussels sprouts - not Kosher
(1) Trim brussels sprouts' stem ends. Shake in water and shake water off. Toss into covered dish and microwave, just enough to cook, don't let them get soft and soggy. I usually cook for four minutes and then use a fork to pierce the sprouts to see how they're doing. Keep cooking until they're as done as you like them.

(2) While the brussels sprouts are cooking, take two or three strips of bacon. Cut them into small pieces. Toss them in a frying pan and cook until crisp. Take the bacon bits out of the pan and pour the bacon fat into the refrigerator dish you keep full of bacon fat down on the next to the bottom shelf in the 'frig.

You do have a bacon fat dish in your 'frig, right? How else do you cook your eggs in the morning, mon? How do you fry your leftover noodles? What do you add to the pan for some added flavor when you fry chicken? What do you use when you're making fried mush? SAVE YOUR BACON FAT.

(3) Throw a couple large spoonfuls of sour cream into the frying pan, which should still have teeny bits of bacon stuck to its bottom. Stir around until the sour cream warms up and thins and the bacon bits stuck on the bottom of the frying pan get mixed in.

(4) Add horseradish to taste -- make sure you can at least taste the horseradish in the sour cream sauce.

(5) Add the crispy bacon bits.

(6) Either toss the cooked brussels sprouts into the pan and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed

Or serve the brussels sprouts and add the horseradish-sourcream-bacon sauce on top or to the side.

Trust me.

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: views from the Hill

Bertold Brecht:   
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

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