Thursday, June 28, 2007

Oregon Recap

I've been back in California for three days now, with no clear schedule/agenda, and since I find myself in my room with nothing terribly pressing to do, I thought it was as good a time as any to update.

I flew up to Oregon on the 16th (after an hour of sitting in a hot plane, waiting for a mysterious "mechanical problem" to resolve itself), met with the family, and had a nostalgic dinner at Shari's. I was almost in a student-produced play about Shari's in high school. Almost. It was never actually performed. But that's another story.

Spent the first couple of days catching up, visiting at Grammy's, & grading papers. The first night we had the grand "weigh in" -- in which the whole family ends up on the scale, in order (I think) to reconcile our sense of everyone having changed since the last visit, by finding tangible, concrete numbers. Seriously, this isn't the first time. I'd lost weight while teaching PWR, and Mer gained some as she took a weight training class. Always hilarious. But Mer is still trying to steal my clothes.

Monday we headed into Portland for dinner at Old Town Pizza with Dad & Mer's friend, Charlie. Good beer, good pizza, and good conversation. Charlie and Dad got along... perfectly. We had quite a bit of time to kill after dinner, as a concert that Charlie was into didn't actually start till 10 pm. So we wandered around a shady park, window shopped, visited Powell's (yay Gissing novels!), and ate cake in the car (almost like tailgating). The concert, as Mer aptly describes it, was experimental -- Nintendo controllers were used. And a very smelly fog machine (boo).

Tuesday Mom, Mer, & I went hiking on Lookout Mt. Unfortunately Merrie made off with all the photos and is now in Africa, so I won't be able to post any visual evidence till Sept. But it was beautiful -- 360 degree view, easy to see the lay of the land and the mountains: Hood (of course), Adams, Rainier, Jefferson, St. Helen, the Three Sisters, etc... Bugs out in force, but not mosquitoes, luckily. After mountain goating it up to the peak, it was a pretty easy descent. Made it into town almost in time for Mer's appointment. I bought hiking/jogging shoes & comfy flip flops, finally. Then we were off to the DMV for new licenses: Mer because hers was horribly outdated (it still listed her weight as like, 75 pounds). And mine needed an update after expiring on my birthday while I was at Stanford -- so I'd been using the "Valid without photo" license that I requested, in conjunction with my older one. And which always gets me stopped at the airport, bars, etc. In fact, at the Someday Lounge on Monday night, the woman checking ID's disappeared with both my ID's for a full 5-10 minutes, after which I showed her my college ID, bank card, credit cards, etc., -- and her response? "I'll give you the benefit of the doubt." WTF?! Oh, and I'm now an organ donor. On the spot, I said yes. But just for the record: I'm fine with my organs going to others if they can be harvested, but *don't let them take the top layer of my skin, or my corneas* -- it's illogical, but I have an extreme aversion to thinking of my body being literally peeled (even if I can't feel it). So just in case it comes up, organs yes, skin/eyes, no.

Anyway, after the DMV experience, we got iced mochas at Dog River. Best things ever. Especially with whipped cream. Quick stop home for dinner, then cleaning with Mum & stopping at the Mid Valley Market for candy (old times).

Weds. we took a Lost Lake trip -- picnicked on sandwiches from The Good Deli lakeside, and Mum and I hiked up the I think Blueberry Ridge trail -- basically the connector between Lost Lake & the Pacific Crest Trail. Beautiful -- avalanche lilies everywhere. Made me want to do the Pacific Crest (at least parts of it). Mer started out with us, but turned back at some point.

Thursday was another town day -- last minute errands for Mer (including a health clinic stop at which I become increasingly frustrated: people are so wrapped up in their own red tape), and meeting up with Dad & Uncle Scott for a yummy dinner at The Crazy Pepper. They now have veggie tamales (yum), but Mer and I agreed that we should have gone for veggie burritos instead of cheese enchiladas: seriously, gross. Just tortillas, filled with tons of cheddar cheese, topped with sauce, and, you guessed it, MORE CHEESE.

Friday involved more hiking: this time exploring a trail off of Laurence Lake, that connects to the around the mountain trail. Forested, pretty, and still snowed in at points. Which is why we turned back before reaching the trail junction: cold, melting drifts of icy snow that made it difficult to pick up the trail. I was not dressed warmly enough. Ended up huddling on a log, eating sunflower seeds, prunes, and rhubarb pie.

Saturday: Mer & I took a walk along the ditch and ran into a nasty old pitbull mix. Someone had the bright idea to leave an aggressive, unneutered, violence-prone breed dog uncontained, unleashed, and with access to a trail frequented by local folks of all ages. Seriously, before it maims a child, someone needs to get said dog neutered, tethered, and trained. That experience more than anything else makes me want to start carrying a hunting knife or something.

One more trip into town, visit with Dad, last minute errands, and then home for dinner (venison pot roast: which was excellent) & cake. Lindsey visited, and I so loved catching up finally! Now I just need to get back in the habit of writing real letters.

Sunday was busy, with Mer packing, me taking a jog along the ditch for old time's sake, and Mum & I visiting the Punch Bowl briefly for one last dose of Oregon natural beauty (and quiet, and solitude -- things lacking here in the Bay Area). Then we were off to Portland, with a stop at the NY Sub place for dinner (favorite). Had fun at the hotel -- Mum & I swam, I hung out listening to music and eating cake, and Mer visited with Charlie. Unfortunately we didn't sleep well -- too many people in one room, with a noisy dog, and an out of control thermostat.

I had a nice flight home, despite getting up at 3:45 am. Above the clouds, Mt. Hood was peaking out, and I was able to see other neighboring mountains/lakes clearly along our route. Made it back without trouble... unpacked, napped, etc.

Since then, I've been catching up on cleaning, watching Degrassi (thanks to Mer lending me her DVDs of Season 4), and spending time with Andrew. Tuesday we went to Trivia Night at the Rose and Crown bar, and had the chance to catch up with Wisconsin folks who were in the area for a conference. Last night we had an Ikea/ Trader Joe's night -- I now have glass storage jars so that my bread/dough/biscuit creations will *stop* tasting like my cupboards.

That's the update --

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Rhetoric of: Thompson

Shorter Thompson:

Look, here's my wife & little kids! Aren't they cute? Ok, scoot off, I've got *business* now (which y'all know women don't need to be a part of, it's not like we're going to talk about *them* at all).

I'm against abortion [no reason given besides something about "life" that apparently doesn't include women's lives]. I'm against partial-birth abortion [even though I *clearly* don't understand that this procedure saves women's lives when a pregnancy goes wrong].

I'm against embryonic stem cell research [because of "life"? apparently not the lives of people with diseases. but let's ignore that those embryos will get thrown out anyway! let's call them "unborn children" instead of freezer burnt embryos!]

I care about children! [because my opponents don't? And I bet you were waiting for something about the millions of uninsured children? Like I'd even think of that, much less *mention* it.]

I'm worried about government spending! [and you all should trust a former lobbyist to cut government spending while actually caring about public programs?]

LOOK, TERRORISTS! [Had to fit that in somewhere]

Is it over?

My new flexi- pesca- tarian motto. From Natalie Dee.

It's been ungodly hot. 103 degrees yesterday.

The quarter is over -- although I'm *definitely* still working on grading.

Minimal cooking lately. Saturday Andrew & I found the hole-in-the-wall (seriously) that is Brown Rice Sushi. It was good. The mountain yam sushi seemed like jicama to me though. And my plum leaf-avocado-cucumber rolls were missing the actual, you know, plum leaf. But it was intriguingly sweet. Next time I want to try the straight plum rolls. Sunday we did the CA Ave. farmer's market. Tues. was the CA pizza/ice cream dinner (or as Jill aptly put it, the 5-year-old's birthday menu). Met one of our new co-CA's, who seems great. Then Weds. was the quals meeting for the first years -- so we of the quals committee procured & arranged snacks (for the actual meeting) and dinner (for the informal meeting with us afterwards). Arranging berries & picking out salads: *incredibly* concrete and fulfilling activities.

Yesterday, however, was the culmination of not-cooking. Jill & I had lunch with the "retiring" Review Club chairs at the Museum Cafe (beautiful salad...pickled beets & eggs, asparagus & radishes) -- I think we have a pretty good idea of the timeline and major expectations for next year. And the summer projects!

After a bit more work in the afternoon... Jill & I went to "the google" for dinner with Andrew. It was ridiculously amazing. "Passion" fish, red pepper & nectarine saute, polenta, nectarine & mint infused water... We were trying to figure out what skills we could use to get a job at Google.

Movies lately: The Science of Sleep (trippy but beautiful), Why We Fight (Mum-recommended: excellent and sobering), Maxed Out (still halfway through: but so far, an interesting look into credit card debt in the US).

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Modest Proposal

After this foot-in-mouth moment, brought to us by NYT:

NASA administrator Michael D. Griffin said Friday that he regretted having sparked a furor last week when, in an interview with National Public Radio, he said he was not sure climate change “is a problem we must wrestle with.”

I've come upon a novel idea. I think it will solve all our problems with the political ramifications of global warming.

Everyone who doesn't believe global warming is happening, or that it's not something we should worry about, or that, you know, it's not nearly as important as the latest news on Paris's stay in prison (this last being the catch-all for the most apathetic among us) --

All of you, move to the coastlines.

The rest of us? We're taking the highlands.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Work & Adventure

Very busy couple of weeks (hence the lack of updates). Andrew arrived on the 19th, and we had a good weekend -- a studio brunch, Canadian bbq, catching up. The Canadian bbq was hilarious: they served us (I kid you not) french fries, which were sprinkled with cheese curds, and liberally drizzled with gravy. I told Steve (our Canadian host) that they could totally make up a ridiculous "national dish" and serve it to us, relying upon our ignorance of Canadian cuisine. Steve assures me that the french fry/ cheese curd/ gravy mixture is actually the real deal: I still have my doubts.

The usual work week followed. Then a lovely Memorial Day weekend (which partially made up for the fact that I didn't make it to Reunion). On Friday night I "helped" at the Raines BBQ extravaganza, and Andrew joined me after he was done at the Google. Listened to the music, drank the beer, watched the "beach" volleyball competition.

Saturday we had a fantastic hike at Stinson Beach. We made a 7+ mile hike through a series of stages/ landscapes: 1) climbing up switchbacks in an old forest with massive fern growth, and an impressive population of slugs, 2) bursting out into a hilly meadow a la The Sound of Music, insanely blue sky with misting clouds traveling over the hills, 3) leveling out along fir tree forested areas, drier than stage 1, 4) hurrying across the highway to take a mellow descent along a stream with a series of little waterfalls, in a background that reminded me (and Andrew agreed) of the sort of foliage you expect on a Discovery Channel special with digitally rendered dinosaurs stalking about, 5) passing an old dam and coming out upon the coastal landscape, all low shrubs and within sight of the beach, where we were warned by fellow hikers that someone had seen a mountain lion, and that we should keep talking and making noise, although Andrew & I were more prone to call "here, kitty kitty" (until we saw a couple of deer: then we figured *they* could be the bait).

I discovered that Andrew stops complaining that he's tired around mile 5.

After the hike, we came home briefly & then had Andrew's belated birthday dinner at the cheesecake factory (yay tuxedo cheesecake!).

Sunday was also busy: Mountain View farmer's market (so many peaches, nectarines, apricots, strawberries...), reading on the beach at Half Moon Bay, short appearance at the cohort bbq, fried rice adventure back home, etc.

Monday we ran some errands & then went to Berkeley for a Memorial Day bbq with Rachel, Josh, and the new baby. Who is ridiculously cute. And is learning how to hold things. And has the best nursery room *ever.*

Another work week... I had all 15 of my student conferences, while trying to find the time to read all their papers & comment (oh yes, and also trying to fit in my own reading, an 800 page George Eliot novel, and various books of the Bible).

And another fantastic weekend: Saturday morning we got up at a time that, in my opinion, is more appropriate for just getting to bed at, rather than just waking at. 3:30 am. And waited in the dark for our Super Shuttle, which got us on our flight to Minneapolis. First stop with the rental car: The Mall of America! Yes it is huge. Yes there is a "park" in the center, and basically an indoor, year round fair. Wandered around a while, finally chose a pair of sandals from Nordstrom's to go with my dress, and ate at Wolfgang Puck's, where I was pleasantly surprised by the food (considering it's mall food): grilled veggie sandwich (good), tuscan minestrone soup (decent), and bread (amazing: at first I made fun of their giving me some more starch to go along with my other two starches, but I shut up after tasting it).

Then we quickly got ready for the wedding, which was gorgeous. In the unique Memorial Center -- rounded contour with irregularly placed windows (Andrew says it could be a modern synagogue). The ceremony was short and sweet, with a pretty chuppah (gauzy white cloth, gathered at the front two corners with bouquets), and a well integrated Lutheran & Jewish dynamic (it seemed to go back and forth: from candle lighting to rings to breaking the glass). Reception in another room, which was decorated with live grass, candles, and a beautiful chocolate frosted cake. Then back to the outer room, which was now a dining room & ballroom: table centerpieces very Midsummer Night's Dream -- tree branches hung with candles. Yummy dinner (strawberry & mandarin orange salad, I had the fish with rice and grilled veggies) and decadent wedding cake. Then a little dancing, with me getting stepped on three or four times (and only half of those by Andrew, somehow everyone near us manages to step on my feet), and then our taking off since we were pretty exhausted. Sunday we had a hell of a time finding a place to eat brunch, and finally ended up at an adorable bakery, called Cupcake. Would have been perfect if they didn't run out of oatmeal right before I ordered. Got some way too sweet crepes (raspberry cream cheese filling, smothered with raspberry jam, and sprinkled with sugar), which Andrew chivalrously returned for me, in exchange for a more neutral fruit cup. We did get some cupcakes to go, and a delicious loaf of multigrain bread, which I'm still working on.

After: the Minneapolis art musuem. I spent the most time in the Blake exhibit, with his illustrations of the Book of Job. The runner up: Psychadelic SF concert posters & 60's musician photos.

Then a short walk in the sculpture garden (what's up with the white spoon, holding a cherry, fountaining water over itself?).

Then more of the mall, which made me feel frustrated, since I just wanted a quiet place to read Daniel Deronda.

Then Ikea for french fries (my thinking process: craving for french fries, but who would most likely not fry them in trans fat? my answer, the Swedes!)

Then a wild ride to return the rental car.

Then a triple shot latte.

Then 3.5 hours of Daniel Deronda while on the plane.

Followed by an hour of waiting for the Super Shuttle, which it turns out, is neither super, nor very good at shuttling. Our prepay reservation wasn't honored, so we had to go with a different van, after waiting around for an hour (during which I kept reading D.D.). Speeding along the highways at an illegal clip. Finally at home: 1:15 am. Shower, reading response, more reading, finally in bed after 3 am.


Managed to finish D.D. (all 810 pages) before class... final reading group meeting at the Treehouse... picking up bakery goodness from Andronico's... getting Adela's help to serve our residents chocolate cake, cheesecake, hazelnut-chocolate cake, mocha cake, fruit tarts, mousse cups, fresh berries, etc. Cleaning of the apartment with Andrew. Finally reading some of the Book of Revelations.

Today was also busy, with Jill's birthday lunch, getting yet more bakery goodness & fruit for my students, watching The Shining (which, when not edited for TV, contains a number of scenes with racial & gender politics that I wish we could have discussed further, but we already were 30 minutes over the end of class), and going to the final Bible class. Where my hunch was confirmed: the Book of Revelations is the crazy.

I feel like I just exhaled a huge breath.

Some day I'll have pictures to post from Andrew's better-than-mine camera.