Thursday, February 28, 2008

I recently wrote about my some time frustrations with trying to get service in my obscure little beach town. After I recently tried to subscribe to the Sunday NY Times, I was told by email that they don't deliver in my location. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered a subscription charge for the Times on my credit card bill.
I called the Times and learned, of course, that they DO deliver to my address. So while they felt free to go ahead and bill me, they hadn't actually notified the delivery guy to start service at my address. Lo, and behold, the next day a paper was at my doorstep - except it was a Wednesday, and I only want Sunday delivery . . .
Last night I picked up my new 42 inch Panasonic HDTV from Sears. (You may recall that I posted about buying one in November, but I never actually received the TV, but that's another long story . . .). I called Time Warner to arrange for HD cable service. Of course, when you call, you have to enter your phone number on the key pad, which is a complete waste of time because the operator then immediately asks for the same information. Except my operator was certain that I have no Time Warner account. I gave her my phone number 4 times, gave her my name, and yet she could find no record of any account for me . . .
After hanging up and calling again, and crossing my fingers that I would get a different operator, I'm now able to go pick up my new fancy-schmancy cable box!
Yet another step by me into the 21st century . . .

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Some* say it's the best day of the year . . .

Others just think it's a good reason to get the party started . . .

But we can all agree on one thing . . .

Happy 8th Birthday, Nanners!!!

*(By "some", of course, I mean Miss Hanna herself)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's a cloudy, rainy day at the beach. Besides heading outside for a couple of short walks, we're snugged into the house for the day.

I baked an awesome Zucchini Bread this morning from the Magnolia Cookbook, and I've got the slow cooker loaded up with Angel Chicken - chicken breasts and sliced mushrooms, with a sauce made from butter, a packet of dry italian dressing mix, condensed golden mushroom soup, white wine and chive cream cheese. I have the feeling this may turn out to be my new favorite slow cooker recipe if it turns out as yummy as I think it will.

I've also been spending quite a bit of time updating my notebook on Ravelry is an onsite community for knitters and crocheters, and is the most amazing website I've ever seen. It provides a place for crafters to share their projects and knowledge, and provides a framework for each knitter to organize his or her knitting projects. It allows you to list, with photos, your "stash" of yarns, projects in progress, and future projects. It also provides tools for listing and organizing your needles and knitting magazines and books. If you're looking for a project for any given yarn, you can review the projects posted by other knitters.

Because of an explosion in popularity, you have to get on a waiting list, and wait to be invited to join. This takes about 10 days, but is well worth the wait. I Heart Ravelry!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

According to the League of Conservation Voters Environmental Scorecard, my Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher received a score of TEN for his deplorable voting record on environmental issues.

So today I sent him the following email:

Dear Rep. Rohrbacher -

Because elected official's voting records are very important to me, I have reviewed the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard and was appalled to find that you have been given a score of Ten. Given that your district includes many environmentally sensitive areas, this score is appalling. As Rep. Richard Pombo discovered, California voters care about the environment. I urge you to improve your voting record on environmental issues.

Signed, Me

The chances of his responding are less than my chances of winning the lottery this week.

By the way, Senator John McCain received a score of ZERO. According to the scorecard, McCain was the only member of Congress to skip all 15 crucial environmental votes scored by LCV.

Hillary Clinton scored a 73, and Barack Obama scored a 67. While Obama only voted once in a way that was classified anti-environment, he was absent for 4 key environmental votes. Clinton also was absent for 4 votes. They have room for improvement, as well.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Last night I went and saw Greg Mortenson speak at a local high school gym. He's on a speaking tour, and just happened to be on his Southern California swing just after I finished Three Cups of Tea.

The gym was packed with people who have read his book, and/or support his work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Greg is a big bear of a man, and seeing him in person, it's even more amazing to think about all he as accomplished in the past 12 years. Alot of his speaking engagements are actually with the US Military. Two days ago he was asked to speak to 2000 Marines at Camp Pendleton preparing to ship out to Afghanistan. Tomorrow he is speaking to the US Air Force Academy. I applaud our military's efforts to educate the servicemen and women about the people of the region from a non-military perspective.

Mortenson was speaking as part of a program sponsored by the City of Huntington Beach - "HB Reads". I hadn't heard of it before, but what a great idea - all adult readers, students and families in Huntington Beach read the same book at the same time for a community-wide experience - and then can participate in discussion groups, and in this instance at least, attend an event by the author.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

We had a mouse in the house last night . . .

I have periodically had problems with mice coming into my house. I live near the beach and next to a vacant lot, so it kind of comes with the territory. I was awakened about 11:30 pm to the sound of Hanna pawing at the baseboards in the kitchen. Miss Noodles figured out there was something exciting in the air before I did, and ran into the kitchen. But while Hanna continued to look in the area where the mouse had been, Noodles figured out something was in a corner behind a box of garbage bags and a bag of aquarium rocks. After a few sniffs, she leapt behind the bag and came out shaking her head vigorously with a small mouse in her jaws. My little ratter. She dropped the poor little thing and Hanna snatched it up, convinced she had found a great squeaky toy. I managed to distract the dogs with a milk bone, and wrapped the mouse in a towel and took it downstairs, so it could die in peace.

Of course, the last time this happened, the mouse survived, and I ended up re-habbing it, and releasing it. His name was Elmo, and that is a story for another day.

Monday, February 18, 2008

While the "pack" bedded down for a nap earlier today, I got started on the Broadripple Socks from, with some speckled wool yarn that I've had in my stash for many years.

Other than that, I worked a bit this morning, baked some awesome muffins, and walked the girls while listening to Reservation Road on my iPod.

Overall, not a bad Presidents' Day!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What can I say to convince you that you simply must read "Three Cups of Tea"?

To be honest, I haven't even finished this audible book yet (I have about 2 hours remaining of a 13 hour book). But can already say that this story of a seemingly ordinary man - Greg Mortenson - who accomplished extraordinary things through sheer determination and good intentions is amazing.

As I wrote before about Three Cups of Tea, the website describes the book as follows:

"In 1993 Greg Mortenson was descending from his failed attempt to reach the peak of K2. Exhausted and disoriented, he wandered away from his group into the most desolate reaches of northern Pakistan. Alone, without food, water, or shelter he eventually stumbled into an impoverished Pakistani village where he was nursed back to health.While recovering he observed the village’s 84 children sitting outdoors, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks. The village was so poor that it could not afford the $1-a-day salary to hire a teacher. When he left the village, he promised that he would return to build them a school.

"From that rash, heartfelt promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time: Greg Mortenson’s one-man mission to counteract extremism and terrorism by building schools—especially for girls—throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban."

Mortenson makes a convincing case that extremists can be best countered by education, and that the key to eradicating poverty is the education of a community's girls. The obstacles he has had to overcome to complete his first school, let alone the 60 since then would cause most people to turn around and go home. Mortenson persisted, through kidnappings, threats and 9/11, to bring a better life to the poor people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson puts a face on good people who don't deserve to be lumped in with the Taliban and Saudi Arabian extremists.

It may be a cliche, but Mortenson proves that one man or woman can make a difference. His story is important, not only for being an inspiration, but as a lesson about a part of the world we know mostly from soundbites on CNN.

I'm sorry, but we don't offer service at your location . . .

Admittedly, I live in a fairly obscure little beach town. But while it may be obscure, it is not in the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, I am constantly confronted with companies that think my hometown simply does not exist.

Last night I attempted to subscribe to Sunday delivery of the NY Times and the LA Times. Despite the fact that I used to subscribe to the LA Times, and I frequently observe the delivery man throwing the papers from his truck in the morning, I was told they don't recognize my address. The NY Times accepted my application, but today sent me an email saying they don't deliver to my area - despite the fact that I've seen home delivered copies of the NY Times sitting in front of Sandra Bullock's house just down the street.

And it's not just newspapers. After receiving a flier left on my door for home grocery delivery by Vons, I logged on the check out the service. The first step? Enter your zip code. The Response? We don't offer deliveries to your neighborhood. I was told the same thing when I tried to order high speed cable through Comcast. So the next time I saw the Comcast truck in my 'hood, I made arrangements directly through him for installation.

So, for now, I'll just keep reading the Times online . . .

Saturday, February 16, 2008

It's still too early to tell if the bloom will be stellar at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, but with the good rains this year so far, they are hoping for a nice covering of wild flowers. I didn't even know this State Park existed until today, but if Mother Nature comes through, I'd be willing to drive out to Lancaster to see the hills awash in color.
When I was in Yellowstone, I bought a naturalist's portfolio of field sketches of the native flora and fauna done in the 1910's - 1920's by Olaus J. Murie. The series (10 drawings) were framed and displayed throughout the Buffalo Ranch headquarters and were simply lovely. Unfortunately, I had no luck at the frame store finding the frames I wanted for the prints.
So the search continues . . .

Friday, February 15, 2008

I decided to give the blogger video feature a try. Here is a video I took in the Galapagos Islands a few years back of an Albatross courtship. There is no sound, (this was an old camera) so what your missing is the sound of the clacking of their beaks together . . .

The bigger bird to the left is the female.

After the rains yesterday, we were able to enjoy this rainbow.
It's unclear yet whether I'm going to have to work this weekend, but TGIF, nonetheless.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!
(Swans at the Central Park Zoo, October, 2007)
For whatever reason, this blog has become an offshoot of the Weather Channel this week, but our lovely weather from Monday and Tuesday has turned to rain today. My plans for V-day include walking the dogs in the rain (Noodles was horrified), going to work, coming home, eating dinner, walking the dogs (hopefully not in the rain), and taking a bath.
Update - and since a crown fell off a tooth this morning, I hope to also squeeze in a trip to the dentist!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In some cruel twist of fate, while much of the country is suffering under horrible weather, California is enjoying gorgeous days. This is when California is at its best - the recent rains have brought back the vegetation, and, to some extent, cleaned up the air.

Yesterday, I spent the day in Laguna Beach at a client's facility. My time indoors was spent in a windowless cubicle, so I appreciated how nice it was when I left for lunch and to head home on Pacific Coast Highway.

The view out the window of Olamendi's Mexican Restaurant . . .

Headig north on PCH . . .

Monday, February 11, 2008

So, the girls and I loaded up in the car and headed out yesterday to run a few errands . . .

We got the oil changed in the car, and bought some buttons for a cardigan waiting to be assembled. As you can tell by these photos, I'm still quite enamored with my iPhone.

For the last week, I've been reading about cupcakes on the Princess in Galoshes blog, and I finally broke down and made some . . . Orange Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting. Feel free to insert a sarcastic/smart-alecky/helpful comment here about possible reasons I have not reached my dream weight yet . . .

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's likely to be in the 70's here in Orange County today, so I started out the day hiking through the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. The recent rains have brought lots of vegetation to the the mesa area, and this bunny is taking advantage of plentiful greens . . .

Few things make me happier than identifying a bird I haven't seen before - this is an American Widgeon . . .
A couple more photos . . .
Birds on a fence (with snow covered local mountains faintly visible in the background) . . .
A Great Egret . . .

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I had to meet a client at my office at 10 am, so this morning I tried to get a few chores done early, one of which was loading up the slow cooker with the makings for Red Beans and Rice .

A few of the reviews of the recipe mentioned it being a bit bland - the ultimate sin in my book - so I used a spicy Louisiana smoked sausage, and added in red chile flakes and Louisiana hot sauce. It came out pretty darn good and is super easy to make. Accompanied with some yummy corn muffins (note to Sage and Maggie - I used Jiffy mix!), and dinner was a hit.

The weather was lovely here in So Cal today, and hopefully will stick around through tomorrow. If it does, I foresee a bike ride and hike through the wetlands in my future.

Friday, February 08, 2008

These are my new Laura Ashley eyeglasses. (There are kind of cool vines along the side). I haven't bought new glasses in a few years, and the clarity is amazing when you put on glasses with your actual current prescription. The lady at the store asked me what I was looking for: trendy? metallic? unobtrusive? My response was that in theory I liked the idea of trendy and stylish, but in reality, just wanted frames that looked decent on my face.

Oh, and in searching for a photo online, I found out the frames are offered online for half the price I paid at a cute beach city optometry store.

Hanna got her stitches out today, so is freed from the cone of silence. The girls are napping, and I'm drinking a glass of pinot grigio. I have to head into the office tomorrow, but will try to also get some fun in this weekend . . .

Any big plans???

Thursday, February 07, 2008

So, as it turns out, the doggie honor system is NOT the best way to keep your dog from licking her stitches, hence, the cone of silence . . .
And in case you were wondering, Noodles is NOT willing to share her bone . . .

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

At the end of Super Tuesday, it appears that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are almost in a dead heat - Obama trails Clinton by about 80 delegates.

I actually followed the primaries pretty closely last night at various online sites, particularly, the New York Times. It seemed a bit disingenuous for various media outlets to be "calling" states for either candidate, when most, if not all of the states, award Democratic delegates proportionally. Also disturbing was the divisive comments from Democrats on the NY Times live blogging of the primaries. The vicious infighting among the Dems can only help the GOP.

It looks like John McCain will be the Republican candidate. I liked McCain better 8 years ago, before he started to kiss up to Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones University, and the rest of the far right. I think McCain has a very, very good chance of winning the presidency, particularly if Clinton is the Democratic candidate. Moreover, his reputation as a maverick is deserved.

In a contest between McCain and Clinton, it is McCain that will win the vote of almost all independent voters. By contrast, Obama has an appeal to independents that Clinton lacks. I also don't think we should ignore the excitement that Obama is generating among voters.

Personally speaking, I'd vote for Clinton, but I'd campaign for Obama.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I voted!
Of course, the voting machines were all down at my voting location, so voting was done by placing an X next to the candidate of my choice. This will require hand counting, and as a result, there is zero chance that my vote will ever be counted. So for the record, I voted for Barack Obama, I voted against Proposition 93, which changes term limits in California, and I voted for Propositions 94-97, the Indian gaming initiatives . . .
And I got a nasty postcard informing me that I was supposed to have shown up for jury duty last Monday, so now I have jury duty starting on . . . April Fool's Day!
At least I try to do my civic duty . . .
And from the LA Times election coverage: "Several registered Republicans at the Sunland polling place said they were unhappy with the choices in their party and thought Obama was a viable option. Judith Holleman, a voice actress from Lakeview Terrace who declined to give her age, said she would have considered voting for Obama if his name sounded more American.
Instead she voted for McCain even though she said she doesn't like him."
What is wrong with people?
10 pm UPDATE: They are already calling California for Clinton, and I am deeply disappointed in my fellow California Democrats. While I will support the Democratic candidate, Clinton has something slightly less that a snowball's chance in hell of winning the presidency. Say goodnite, Gracie.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday with a holiday gift card I'd received and had a fun time buying some new books. Books by two old favorite authors - Reginald Hill (he writes a series of detective books featuring 2 English policeman, Dalziel and Pascoe) and Ruth Rendell, the first lady of British mystery writing. I also picked up Oil by Upton Sinclair, the book upon which the film There Will Be Blood is based. October is by Robert Littell, the author of the Company, a fabulous fictionalized account of the history of the CIA, Russell Banks is an author who was featured in a display at the store, but with whom I am otherwise unfamiliar.

I also received in the mail some sock yarn I'd ordered . . .

Things are better since my previous, whiny post . . . the girls as good as gold, mom is on the mend, and although my sinuses/teeth are still a bit sore, I'm grateful to have good health.

Here's a photo of the back of my mom's dog's head as we were driving to deliver her to my mother yesterday.