Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Pull Up The Covers

Today, I want to pull up the covers over my head and hide from the horrific images and stories in the aftermath of earthquake and tsunami. I ache all over with sadness of the lives lost and families destroyed. These stories are interspersed with an occasional fantastic tale of survival and reunion with family members in the disaster's path. Sending money does just not feel like it is enough, even if accompanied with prayers, hope and empathy. We have walked in some of the very streets and towns that have been destroyed.
So, pulling the covers up over my head may give a temporary break, and also help my cold and sneezing...but how can we escape from the suffering of others? I will start by turning off my computer, but the live Reuters newsfeeds that my husband has streaming into the house cannot be ignored. So many people affected have no homes in which to pull up the covers and hide from the devastation, disease and who knows what else lies ahead for them.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Earthquake + Water = Tsunami

I have learned about earthquakes (those on land and shifting underwater plates) in the past two years as my daughter has studied plate tectonics several times. I have learned that the moving plates (this fault has subduction) can create volcanos, canyons or, if in water, tsunamis, even if there has been no movement for over 100 years. I read, with sadness and horror, of the lost lives and the large number of children that were killed or have been orphaned from this natural event. I read that the areas have been impacted ecologically by development, mostly from shrimp farming and some tourist resorts, removing the natural barriers of the coral reefs and mangroves. (I don't know what a mangrove is but assume it is a tree.) Any animals that reside at the waters' edge are accustomed to storms, and have a built-in "warning system." Sadly, the humans did not have a warning system, though an earthquake under the sea commonly results in a tsunami. The ten affected nations are predominantly poor, without the economic means to develop seismic monitoring and tracking systems along the scale of that which the Japanese have created. So, lives are lost, and the trickle down effect will be felt around the world, as will the sadness for those who have lost their family, homes and livlihoods. With cellphones so prevalent in Asia, replacing the infrastructure of a traditional phone network, a sort of informal, cellphone-based, "telephone tree" might have saved some lives if some calls had been placed in the one hour between the earthquake and waves hitting southeast Thailand.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


At the Southwest Airlines terminal today, the screens displaying flight status would say ON TIME, and then, instead of ARRIVING (their usual wording), would change to FIXN2LAND. Obviously the person entering the flight info lived in the South and is a big IM or text message sender. The other people waiting were laughing with me, and one person speculated that ARRIVED would be replaced with DONELANDED, YEDOGGY. My suggestion was DWNTHERDAPECE. It was humor needed on a hectic airport day.
The Junie B. Jones books are another place where I can laugh at misspellings and grammar errors. The author, Barbara Parks, has captured the funny way in which a child can hear words and repeat things said to them that they clearly do not understand. Those books provided many nights of pre-bedtime reading and laughter in our house for all ages. We have even adopted some expressions from those books, including "flatty pancake" found in the book about fruitcake. My husband and daughter said I had the best Junie B. voice ever -- that is a wonderful compliment in my book!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Jerk of the Year

Each year, as the year end approaches, we discuss who will be Time's "Person of the Year." It could be someone with either a positive or negative effect on the world -- my husband was thinking Saddam Hussein last year. But the selection of Bush is clearly picking the negative impact, in my mind, and he should be "Jerk of the Year." One of the rationale for picking him is that he has polarized the country. That he has clearly done, and truly impacted everyone, including those that supported him and those of us that despise him.
My protest against this choice will be not to renew my Time magazine subscription. It has been my favorite magazine since I worked for them as an on-campus sales rep in college.
I would have picked, as my "Person of the Year", the founder of "Kids With Canines", a group that helps troubled teens by having them training service dogs as a way to focus and learn responsibility. We just discovered the show "Dogs With Jobs" on the National Geographic Channnel, which just joined our lineup. Perhaps I could become one of those people who have every National Geographic ever published. It could join our collections of TV Guide and Gourmet.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I am a spelling nut -- spelling errors pop out of the page right at me. Perhaps that is due to being the copy editor in high school, college and graduate school on a newspaper. To me, spelling is an easy thing to do right and I don't understand why people just don't spell correctly. So, reading that The White House went all out to showcase the advantages of a financial agenda this week, including the word "challenges" being misspelled on a large television monitor that stood in front of monkeyboy during a panel discussion, was ridiculous. The sign read:
"Financial Challanges for Today and Tomorrow," the message proclaimed in dark blue capital letters against a bright yellow background.
Seems to me that there are more challenges than a financial agenda to address, including the proofreading skills of the staff. Perhaps they should have to pass a spelling test prior to White House employment -- I know at least one person that works there that may not pass the test! Can anyone spell idiot?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Cuisine of Choice

I realized that I am not a big fan of Italian food, which probably is the most popular cuisine based on the number of Italian restaurants around. I would never dream of ordering a pasta entree; eat virtually no meat products; eggplant is usually fried and fish is not usually creatively prepared. I would make an exception for a fantastic fra diavlo sauce in some cases, perhaps at Rao's (where I hope to eat someday since we met him) or Caffe Sport in San Francisco.
I would have to say that I like New American cuisine, with creative use of interesting produce and fish, followed by Meditteranean food if prepared innovatively. And I like seafood restaurants, with a wide variety choices of appetizers and entrees. I like Japanese, if it is of the caliber of Morimoto's. Chinese usually makes me thirsty. Pizza, unless coal-oven prepared, is not worth eating. Vietnamese and Mexican must be authentic and fresh. We talk about Indian food, but never seem to actually eat it. Greek food never even enters the discussion as an option.
So, okay, I guess I am a food snob. Which explains why we don't go out to dinner too often (except to Luby's which provides a balanced, predictable meal, not withstanding the times we are grossed out by the place.)

Boycott Safeway

I pay my mortgage the day it is due at a branch bank located in a Safeway store. I have always hated shopping at Safeway, back from the days of the Chavez iceberg lettuce boycotts, but, periodically, I give in. They have some great sales; they get new products sooner than some of the other stores (though most of the store is now store-brand, which I find limiting); the prices often ring up wrong and they are the closest store to my house. Reality is I normally drive an extra 3 miles to NOT shop at Safeway.
Today, I wanted some sale items and tried again. As soon as the shopping experience disintegrates into the normal Safeway bs, I become a crazy person, and my most annoying self. The checker was complaining that he just started and had a long day; it is usually that or the fact that they have 30 mins. before getting to go home before returning for a long shift tomorrow. I am sorry they have such long hours; complain to someone when the customers are not standing there. The bagger forgot I wanted paper halfway through and changed to plastic. Prices rang up wrong. Coupons were forgotten. And it ends when the checker tries to thank you by name. Just say thank you without mispronouncing my name, always a fitting ending to a shopping experience that leaves me angry, cursing to whomever is with me and swearing NEVER to return. The only thing positive I can say is that the manager let me take another box of blackberries after I reviewed the receipt and realized it was "buy one, get one free." That is what lures me in the door in the first place, always promising to myself that I will not go back until the next month's mortgage is due.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Bush and Monkeys

Well, I don't exactly know how the artist thought of it, but there is a remarkable similarity between George Bush and monkeys. "A portrait of President Bush, using monkeys to form his image has led to the closure of a New York art exhibition over the weekend and anguished protests over freedom of expression." The picture was a small acrylic on canvas that, from afar, offers a likeness of Bush. But when you get closer, you can see it is chimpanzees or monkeys swimming in a marsh. The artist did it to get a reaction from people and he did; the show was shut down. I love it and it really looks like monkeyboy.
My favorite monkey story, only peripherally GWB related, is from a zoo in China. We were in Hong Kong and I found a day trip into China (long story for another time, but...) One stop included a zoo to look at pandas. My husband had the camera and was asked to photograph the pandas. They were sleeping and, therefore, not playful.
As we left the zoo, we passed Monkey Island, with many monkeys scratching butts -- their own and others. We have many pictures of monkey butts. The last stop in the zoo was to see "the world's biggest rat." My husband was so cute -- he kept saying he had already seen them in our Seattle basement. But curiousity could not keep him away from the giant rodent cage, and as he approached it, he took a furtive glance (in order to avoid later nightmares). He said loudly, " I didn't know Richard Nixon was here." I laughed uproariously and still can picture him at that moment. What made it so funny was that we were the only Americans in the zoo and we were getting stared at the entire day in China. No one else spoke English well enough to understand his remark.
We were not laughing when we later realized he took no photos of the pandas, sleeping or not. Anyhow, the painting of GWB and monkeys made me think of that very weird day. In case you are curious about the peripheral connection between Bush and Nixon....well, I hate both of them.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Summer Fruits

I love apricots, and peaches. And, in the winter, I miss the summer fruits, grown on the organic farms of California. Often they are replaced by fruit transported from Chile, which just doesn't ripen or taste as good. We are spoiled by the range of products available at Farmer's Markets in the Bay Area. Apples can be wonderful, if really crisp with a snap when you bite into it. We have eaten more pears, of different varieties, this year. But I long for a perfectly ripe apricot, picked at its peak of ripeness.
We found a really wonderful organic farm at the Farmer's Market recently that has citrus fruits and amazing vegetables. The owner of McClendon Farms packages his lettuce so lovingly and the produce is fantastic. For the first time ever, I made a squash with his instructions and we actually were able to eat it. Organic sweet potatoes are a favorite as well and his are excellent. So, I guess we will get by until the summer fruits are ripe. Good weather, approaching 80 degrees, will definitely help!

I Heard This Somewhere Before

I know I heard this before....five headless bodies found in Iraq. One soldier killed outside of Baghdad. It triggers a deja vu experience, probably for many people. Why are we in there, and worse yet, how can we get out? I feel so badly for the people who have family over there, that must cringe at each news item. How horrible for them, and how awful for us that we elected (not really, he stole the election) a lying leader to get us in there.
And, at the same time, he gave funds directly to the Palestinians. Well, no surprise, they are his father's business partners. Let's flip to the end of the book and see how it ends -- it cannot be a happy ending.

Friday, December 10, 2004

BK is BS!

My husband really wanted a SpongeBob watch, available as special purchase with a Burger King Value Meal. We NEVER eat fast food, but figured with all the ads that fast food restaurants are now low-carb friendly, they would have something as an alternative to fries (apple slices, mandarin orange sections, salad, celery, carrot, or something.)
We entered the BK and our cashier did not speak English. We ordered his meal, and mine, the Chicken Whopper. I asked to make sure it was grilled, not fried. The guy answered "yes, it comes with fries." I tried again, same answer. A supervisor came over and said it is grilled. I asked for something other than fries. He offered onion rings. No sign of any option and the applesauce which I found on the website upon returning home was nowhere in sight. Or they could have offered a side salad, which I saw on the menu while awaiting my already paid for order. Since they had only one watch, Squidward, I tried to cancel my value meal to just the sandwich, but the language barrier made that impossible, so we got fries.
It was unsatisfactory from beginning to end -- not being able to order or ask a question; the sandwich came wrong and had to be thrown away and remade (fact is it was disgusting and I should have told them not to bother remaking it) and you had to do a special request from the manager for mustard and lemon. The only positive comment I have is that the fresh-brewed raspberry iced tea was good.
So, in sum, fast food restaurants have changed -- for the worse. I will NEVER go back. On top of everything else, it was filthy. I would hate to see their Health Department rating. But my husband got his watch. As I said at the beginning, BK is BS!

Hotmail "Server Busy" Again

I have had it with Hotmail, with the "server busy, try again" message. If I ever get into it again, all people in my Contacts list that I care about hearing from will be re-routed to alternative emails. If they are so interested in my using all their related and new products, why do they make it impossible to even get into my email?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Future of the Democratic Party

I loved the remarks made today by Governor Howard Dean on the Future of the Democratic Party. His speech, given at The George Washington University, summed up the good and bad of the recent election and created a "State of the Union" type message that will energize all those that became active again in the last election. The Democratic Party has its challenges, but the goal and target are clear -- Democrats from the top down -- and all the folks who were involved will pick up the challenge and run with it. It was music to my ears --- we have to get rid of our lying, cheating leader, GWB. Whether it is blogs, meetups, streaming video, or pure passion for has to happen in the next four years.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Server Too Busy, Again

This is the message I get this afternoon when trying to get to my Hotmail (as I did this morning too!):

Server Too Busy:
We are experiencing higher than normal volume and are therefore unable to service your request at this time. Try one of the following:
In your browser, click Refresh
In your browser, click Back, and try again
Wait a few minutes and try again

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Don' apologize. Just fix it.

Free Hotmail Is Worth Just What It Costs

I have had an Hotmail "world's first free email" account since its early days, when my husband interviewed the founder before Microsoft bought it. But I find it so annoying and keep trying to use other accounts (Yahoo is much better -- more on that to follow) but have has this account for so long it is hard to change.
I get, at least twice per day, a message that "server is too busy" or "we are experiencing high volume, try later." Who wants to try later? I want it now, when I want it. I like that they expanded the free storage space, but who needs that much when you cannot get into your account?
Yahoo email is easier to use, messages don't disappear after seven days and I have never gotten a message that the service was down or to try later! I applied for a Google email account, but was not granted one. I even set up a account but that was two computers ago. I am a creature of habit and keep going back to my Hotmail, for better or for worse. I don't use IM, or ever look at MSN, and just use the email.
My venting for the day ---guess what triggered it? A"server is too busy" message.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Getting on "Kicks"

My husband and I have gotten on many tv show "kicks" in our years together. There has been "Love Connection" as we love Chuck, "Rockford Files" as we like James Garner, "Dragnet", "Family Feud", "Love Boat", to name a few. Our current ones are "RV Today", "Airport" and "Airline", plus "The West Wing." My husband and daughter love "Law and Order"; my daughter and I adore Mr. Monk.
We are late arrivals to "The West Wing" phenomena, though "American President" has been a favorite movie. I actually purchased the first season of "The West Wing" when it came out on DVD last Hanukkah for my husband to watch while doing his exercise bike (which, by the way, he does faithfully everyday) because it was written by the same writers as "Sports Night", one of his all-time favorites. Turns out we both loved "The West Wing", for its captivating writing and political banter. We savored the DVD episodes, despite having to return the set twice to Amazon for defective discs. (They were replaced quickly).
And then we started recording them, until we have seen all but two episodes. We like President Bartlett, Charlie, Lily Tomlin and Rizzo. I am not wild about Toby or Josh, and rather like Will. My husband likes Toby best. Leo is sort of a tragic character and Margaret is very odd. CJ is believable as Press Secretary, not in her new role. The episode with the lyrics from "New York Minute" is one to watch repeatedly.
Not sure where it will be going in the coming year, the final season, but we will be watching. The episode where the Secret Service guy is killed after guarding CJ could make me cry over and over again. Can't remember who the guest star was that played the Secret Service guy but he is very recognizable, as is James Brolin. We were wondering if Barbra had visited the set.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Ambassador Hotel

I saw the headline that "Robert Kennedy's Killer Wants Hotel Left Standing." I remember vividly standing in that hallway where Robert Kennedy was shot, just outside the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel in LA. I had goosebumps then and remember it so clearly now. I was at the hotel in Spring, 1971 as part of the Model UN delegation. Ironically, we had been given Egypt as our country --- as much as I protested, I learned a great deal about the Middle East.
Our group had driven down the coast from Seattle and checked into the Ambassador for our event. I did not even unpack when I got a call that my grandfather had died. I immediately flew home, crying all the way on the plane, talking to him as if he were in the clouds.
My grandfather was my biggest supporter, from when I was 5 and worked at the family business to the day he died. He had suffered a stroke and was in a nursing home. I was in college but visited almost daily as I was the only person whose name he could say. He did recognize my grandmother, the true love of his life, but could not say her name.
So, it is with sadness that I think of my afternoon in the Ambassador Hotel. And it is with joy and love that I think of my grandfather. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him in some way. I found out years later the reason there was always work for me in the store: on his way out the day before, he would knock over the display rack of Fuller Paint chips. And he taught me to count the nuts, bolts, screws and washers during inventory in groups -- of 2, 3, 5, etc. -- obviously teaching me my multiplication. I still count that way in his honor.


Oh goodness gracious -- our beloved Barry Bonds cannot escape the witch hunt. I don't know if we ever believed that he didn't take them, but we sure did not want to. We saw him with some fans in the Red Carpet Room -- these two guys with a disposable camera were trying to decide if they had to the guts to go up and ask for a picture. They started to approach, turned back, and two tries later, went up to Barry, who graciously had a picture taken with each of them, all with a huge smile.
And Barry, with another family favorite, Dusty Baker, kept my husband above water during my breast cancer treatments. He gave up Opening Day of PacBell Park that season to sit with me in chemotherapy. So, whatever the public says or MLB does, we will always treasure him. Seeing him in Spring Training, 30 feet away from us, is memorable. Just like seeing Michael Jordan running the spring he tried baseball on for size at the practice field in Scottsdale. As for Jason Giambi, we saw him play for the A's in Spring Training and in Oakland.
How sad that these great stars have to be tarnished for poor decision making. But, they are such role models that it cannot go unnoticed.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Surplus Funds

I am of the opinion that the John Kerry campaign should contribute some of their surplus funds to the Democratic candidate for Governor, Christine Gregoire (if it is legally possible, that is.) After one statewide recount, 42 votes separate her from her opponent, AND thousands of ballots across the state haven't been counted. Many had been set aside as spoiled ballots or have some editing in various forms.
It seems that Washington state law requires the party requesting the recount to pay for it, and it will cost at least $750,000. The Democratic Party is committed to this recount and are soliciting for contributions.. Out of nearly 3 million votes cast, only 42 votes separate the two candidates, a difference of 0.0014 percent. The error for voting machines is somewhere between 1 and 2 percent, or 1,000 times as great as the vote difference. That means that this race is tied, and anything is possible with a manual recount.
Seems logical to me, especially if the campaign has made previous contributions to getting Democrats elected.