Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Near Zumwalt Meadows, where we paused our hike for a picnic lunch

Last week Andrew & I went on our summer vacation together to King's Canyon & Sequoia National Parks. It was amazing. Four nights, lots of hikes, lots of deer (bucks with antlers), and one bear sighting.

The drive out was quite long, through Gilroy, Los Banos, and Fresno. We stopped at a beautiful reservoir before entering the truly desolate wastelands that are Los Banos and Fresno. We might be biased -- it was like entering an oven when we stopped in Fresno for last minute items and Jamba Juice.

As we got nearer the Sierras, the land entered more dry hills, and we passed things like this:

Then we climbed up into the Sierras, and suddenly it was lush, cool forest. We had to drive quite a ways before getting to our campsite, which was a short walk up a hill. Everything had to be in bear boxes at all times, which really complicates your life. It's as if you had to enter a locked fridge not only for milk, but also for tea, toothpaste, and soap. The first night we settled in, took an evening walk, and ate tofu dogs, vegetarian baked beans, corn, and zucchini. Stuffed. And of course, the evening campfire with s'mores.

Tuesday, our first full day: Started with a trip to Lodgepole village, from which we went on a hike to Tokopah Falls (which was down to a trickle), ate lunch, drove to King's Canyon & waded in Hume Lake, walked through the giant Sequoias (including the widest, General Grant), and returned home for dinner. The fire didn't go well, which put me in a bad mood -- missing my stove and shower.

Wednesday was dedicated to Cedar Grove in King's Canyon. We got an early start for the 1.5 hour drive (complete with tea and coffee) and hiked from Roaring River Falls to Zumwalt Meadow (4+ miles). Saw a deer, and then, when Andrew was a bit behind me, I spotted a bear walking about 150 feet away from me. I gestured to Andrew to hurry over, and he caught a quick glimpse. We *needed* to see a bear after all the hassle of using the bear boxes.

The river and meadow were beautiful, and we made trail-side tuna fish sandwiches before making the meadow loop. No more bears on the way back to the car. We then drove to Cedar Grove village, drank water/tea and shared a double chocolate haagan dazs ice cream bar while sitting on the porch. We'd been wanting to get in the water, so we explored some areas along King's River. Finally, we stumbled upon a deserted spot with a deep little pool. I decided to swim in my underwear and top, and then convinced Andrew he needed to go swimming, too. Lovely little spot.

Then we were ready for a shower... so we returned to the village, and then made our way home up the canyon (with plenty of stops to enjoy the views). Luckily we had an easy dinner -- a pre-made jambalaya mix that we just had to heat over the fire and put over avocado. With more of the ever-plentiful zucchini on the side.

Thursday was our last full day, and we decided we were in the mood to take a longer hike. We again went toward Lodgepole, and did the Lakes Trail to Heather Lake. It was 4.1 miles one way -- and mostly uphill. The trail meandered through forest, up to stark cliffs overlooking the Tokopah Falls area from the Watchtower, and ended in an alpine lake setting. A number of European couples/ families were hiking the same path, but we had the lake to ourselves for awhile. More trail side sandwiches, and then I gradually forced myself into the water (it wasn't so much a problem of the lake being cold, as the weather not being all that hot). It was the perfect setting, from the rocks into a drop off in the lake -- I didn't have to deal with any mysterious muddy lake bottoms (which kind of freak me out). Andrew napped in the shade, while I swam about and then sunned off. Then we explored a new way out from our rocky lake-overhang, as the way in required walking and balancing on a log over a muddy marsh.

The way back down was still long, but we made much better time as we were going downhill for so much of it. And we ran into a marmot, which didn't hurt anything.

After all that, we wanted another shower... and then we went home, changed for dinner, and after quite a bit of driving around looking for food (and at the lights from towns down below the Sierras, and the stars up above), we ended up at the beautiful lodge: where we were able to have spicy sweet potato soup, Asian salad, and seared mahi mahi. Ahh, it's nice not to cook over a wood fire!

Friday morning we packed up camp, took one last hike to the Buena Vista bluff (awesome 360 views of the area), and started our descent. We stopped for a tour of the Sierra Cat Haven, where we saw about 10-15 different species of cats, many endangered. Reminded me of what Mer's doing this summer, and it was cool to get some more perspective on it.

Then we had to get to Fresno. Returned the crappy knife/ saw I'd bought there that definitely *did not* cut kindling. Had the ever-faithful Subway veggie delite for lunch, and jamba juice for dessert. Well, and a cookie.

Then it was back through Los Banos & Gilroy... where we stopped at the bizarre Casa de Fruta, and realized we were very lucky *not* to be going the opposite direction. We breezed past the outgoing traffic, saw one very confused coyote on a hill overlooking the highway, and made it back to Palo Alto in time to pick up food at the market & make dinner (after unloading all the crap from the car, putting it away, and showering). Lemon basil rice mix w/ tomato & eggplant saute.

It was kind of nice to have my own clean shower & kitchen back, but very sad to see our camping extravaganza over, and the summer together that much closer to over.

But we made the most of the last weekend -- returning the rental car on Saturday, biking to the farmer's market, doing about ten loads of laundry in the afternoon... Made a more elaborate dinner of falafel, salad, and a yogurt dill dressing. And then in the evening, Andrew's retro date: Dial M for Murder at the old Stanford Theater, and dessert (ice cream & a chocolate malt shake) at the Creamery. Yum!

Sunday we had a day in the city, as we hadn't gone there since Andrew's Dad visited us. Wandered around in Golden Gate Park (Shakespeare's Garden, which I loved; the "lake" that's really a moat around a little island/ hill; the botanical gardens; the rose garden), ate lunch at the Museum cafe (quinoa salad with figs, but I had a bite of Andrew's grassfed sustainable burger) and returned for chocolate cake after wandering, and walked through the Haight (around the McDonald's is a scary place), where I found one CD, but not a single pair of jeans.

On the way home, stopped for coffee, last minute items from TJ's... made pasta, garlic bread, and a pepper/spinach saute for dinner. Followed by our version of homemade s'mores (marshmallows over the range, chocolate fondou) and watching the rest of our Degrassi DVD.

Monday was mostly dedicated to packing and last minute errands... with a trip up to the top of Hoover Tower (where you can see everything: the bay and the city, the campus, the foothills...), and dinner out (yummy burritos).

And Tuesday we got up at 3:30 am to go to SFO together... Andrew off to Wisconsin, and I to Oregon. I slept the whole time. Went blackberrying in Washington with Mum... settling in at home... making two batches of jam... a walk along the ditch... a much needed nap... dinner on the porch, with the mountain and the sunset... talking till it was dark.

And somehow I'm going abroad on Saturday.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back from the wilderness

Andrew & I just got back from four nights camping in King's Canyon/ Sequoia... amazing. But I'll update that in a separate post... I'm still trying to remember what we did *before* we left.

Our final weekend cat-sitting made up for some of the kitty troubles. Saturday we spent at Google, reading and then exploring in the hills. We ran into some burrowing owls (I'll have to post pictures later), and then wandered down to this little lake. For dinner, we went to this awesome vegetarian Chinese restaurant that Andrew found: yum! All vegetarian, every dish. Which means you can actually get General Tso's chicken. And brown rice. Sunday we walked to the Mt. View farmer's market, worked at Google, and then headed with picnic dinners to see the SF Shakespeare festival's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Incredible. Intriguing costumes (the fairies wore red tutus, blond wigs, and black umbrellas), cool interludes with a large lit yoga ball (like the moon), and a simple set that cleverly repositioned the head/foot of a bed (as if all the stage were in a bed, or as if the posts were fences, etc.) Oh, *and* good music -- from Mad World to Ludicris's Go to Sleep to Mozart.

Andrew's final week at Google was kind of sad -- I kept fairly busy here with sitting in on a quals meeting and eating out with S. & F. & M. at the museum cafe and walking the dish at like 7:30 in the morning.

This past weekend saw us at Target every day, as we kept stocking up for camping, or returning something, or forgetting something. We did manage to take a short hike in the Portola Redwoods on Saturday, and to visit the beach on Sunday. Found campfire wood (which didn't burn well) on the way to Half Moon Bay... ate at another awesome restaurant, using local/ organic/ sustainable food (yay for organic chicken enchiladas). And trekked down to the beach at sunset, where we waded and walked till we were the last ones there.

Monday we went off camping... but that must wait till another post.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Is it bad...

...that I feel like I need this?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Not going to the movies

I saw an ad for "Becoming Jane" last week, and for a moment, I thought, yes! a movie *about* Austen.

But it sounds like it all went terribly wrong. Instead of the independent, witty, and innovative writer Austen, we apparently get Jane, who has to be informed/shaped by her love interest in order to write with the big dogs. It looks like someone read a couple of her novels, thought they were love romances and not social satires, and then followed every stereotype about women's genius/creativity. Maybe they read Mansfield Park and took Fanny's character in deadly earnest, without realizing that she's also kind of an insufferable goody-goody. Or maybe they didn't get that Mr. Darcy becomes so attractive to Elizabeth only after she's seen his estate (huge!) how he treats the servants (not too bad!). Or maybe they found the marriages in Sense and Sensibility high romance. Whatever they did, they seem to have misread Austen. And her biography. Her juvenilia was well on its way to her mature novels, without the help of any imagined love interest. She started in 1787 -- at the age of 12. She had written the epistolary novel that would become Sense and Sensibility by the age of 20. Why the film makers felt they needed to downplay her self-education and development is beyond me.

As Amanda at Pandagon put it:

And, like Violet says, the huge reach of movies makes this whole made-up biography of Austen even more troubling, since it will mean that huge percentages, probably the majority, of film-goers will see this and not do the research to find out what bullshit it is. Think about that for a minute—I can see a lot of parents encouraging teenage girls to see this movie because Austen is such a fabulous role model, a woman who cherished her own talents and seems to have avoided marriage in part because it was a very real danger to intellectual independence at the time, even if you had a relatively progressive husband. And instead your daughter gets the message that a) life isn’t complete without a man and b) a woman’s creativity and taste can no more exist without a man to have really created it on some level, even if said woman was one of the great geniuses of literature who basically taught the next two centuries of writers how to tell stories.

Between her love interest telling Austen how to write (and giving her Tom Jones, which Pandagon commentators noted she had read much earlier on her own) and the film's portrayal of Austen copying down conversations taking place around her to be placed in her novels, the film makers seem to suggest Austen hadn't an idea of her own.

It's interesting that this film has been compared to Shakespeare in Love, which Stoppard worked on... as this film seems neither witty nor able to take a creative approach to Austen's life. Instead we get Jane Austen inserted into a stock Hollywood romance. But then again, maybe we were supposed to gather all this from the title "Becoming Jane." No one who takes literature seriously refers to female authors by their first names, while still using the last names of male authors (I saw someone in Pandagon's comments compare it to "Becoming Mark" for Mark Twain: you simply wouldn't).

Couldn't they have gotten D.A. Miller on board with this film, and made something in the tradition of Shakespeare in Love? Now for *that* I would go to the movies.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Weekends & cat sitting

Somehow, even when I'm in the midst of a relaxing summer, I don't update any more often than when I'm in the throes of the quarter system.

This past weekend was... eventful. It had its ups and downs.

Saturday morning we met up with the person we're cat sitting for, went over the routine, and had lunch together. Andrew had reading to do, but in the evening we ended up going to a nearby drive-in movie theater. Which was so *incredibly* unlike the Wisconsin Delles drive-in. It was terribly crowded, with six different out-door screens, incredibly sketchy (read: drugs, patrolling cops), and incredibly dirty (flooded women's bathroom, dirty concessions area serving remarkably few snacks). It reinforced my conviction that overpopulation is a problem, particularly in the Bay area. On the upside: Many, many cool old cars ('50's and earlier), one of which was playing oldies before the shows started. Andrew & I agreed that the new Adam Sandler film was surprisingly funny (I was initially worried it was going to become overly reliant on homophobic jokes), and better than Evan Almighty (although this might also have been a function of our watching Evan Almighty VERY late at night). The latter seemed to lose its humor at some point, since the premise (Noah in our modern day) IS the absurd joke. It was fun to spot Biblical references. Both wrapped up in tidy easy take-home morals.

Sunday we got a late start to the beach... got stuck in traffic (due in large part to both a Garlic Fest and an Antique Market), had lunch at a cute mainly vegetarian restaurant, explored rocky beaches, walked along the very fine sand at Carmel, and discovered where the wealthiest 10% have vacation homes and shop (where, if you wear beach combing clothes, you WILL be scrutinized up and down by the young woman working at Anthropologie). Then we shared a decadent piece of chocolate cake and prepared for the ride home.

Cat sitting, we've discovered, would be easier if said cats were not on medication. The friendly, tiger-striped Harpo has two doses daily -- I initially mixed it in his food, but he wouldn't finish it. So now I hunt him down, corner his butt so he can't wriggle away (he's like a fish), gently raise his head, and coax his mouth open/ position the dropper. The irony of all this? He *likes* how his medicine tastes. One time I actually got him to lap it directly out of the dropper. So you can imagine how much fun it is to feed 1/4 a prozac pill every other day to the cat that hates us (he's hissed at us coming in, TWICE; he's a one-person cat). I've tried every combination: burying the pill in wet food, pulverizing the pill and mixing with wet food, inserting in a cat treat and covering with wet/dry food... NOTHING WORKS! I tried chasing him down, which takes FOREVER, results in my getting mad, and him getting *further* freaked... only to be unsuccessful at using the pill popper. And then I feel bad for lunging after him. Finally, with Andrew's help, I got him immobilized, tilted his head back, coaxed open his mouth, and massaged his throat after Andrew popped the pill. Jesus, it would be easier if you could explain to the cat what you''re doing.

Oh, the *other* highlight of cat sitting. Harpo (who is the speaker for the two) has decided that breakfast must be served at 5:40 in the morning. Which, for the record, is *long* before the sun is up. He meows at our door (we shut it after realized he *will* crawl all over us) until one of us responds. Every morning it sounds as though we have a baby. "Are you going to feed him?" "I'm tired." "I did it yesterday." "Maybe I should." "I'll do it." And we discuss the evening before whose "turn" it is (though I decided I'd do it again today, as Andrew had a sore throat last night and gets only 6 hours of sleep as it is). Then they seem to want a tad more around 6:30 am. And then they're angels until about 5 pm. It's inexplicable.

Luckily for Harpo, he is both hilarious (as in, chasing own tail) and adorable (always wants his face scratched, cute stripes).

This week has flown by... Monday I explored Steven's Creek Trail (which in so convenient for getting to the train and Google), and then we made dinner at Stanford. Tuesday I hurriedly walked to the train station (still missed the train I wanted), quickly walked to my apt. and changed, biked onto campus, and found that the quals meeting I was rushing to wouldn't start for another 15 minutes. Thank goodness Steve got the time wrong when he emailed me. I wish people would regularly do this for me, because it's so nice to realize you're early when you worried that you were late. Anyways, I *loved* sitting in, as I missed out on most of my cohort's meetings last summer, and I hadn't seen everyone in one place for ages. We grabbed lunch, and then talked from noon till after 3.

Strange to spend time in my apartment while "living" somewhere else. I visited Henrietta for the final time before Meredith's return. And then headed back "home" only to discover that someone (ie, one of the cats) had vomited all over the carpet. Yuck. Luckily it seems to have been a fluke. (Not an actual, living fluke, but a one-time-only fluke.)

Wednesday I got quite a bit of reading done... finished The Red and the Black, a bit more Williams, and started Ivanhoe. I walked to Google in the evening to meet up with Andrew for dinner at the "Five" cafe (five ingredients or less in each dish). Lovely. Squash w/ pepper, pecan-crusted cod, beets, and fig salad w/ balsamic dressing for dinner, creamy chocolate cake for dessert.

Yesterday I mainly hung out around the apartment, with one quick walk along the trail for a little exercise. Andrew brought me dinner: more figs!

Today I visited Google for the final time: I walked the trail and met up with Andrew for lunch. We went to the cafe nearest the trail, which Andrew had never gone to before. Salmon & halibut cakes, salad with heirloom tomato dressing, barley salad with pecans, fruit salad, pineapple upside down cheesecake, and eggless custard w/ thyme and topped with raspberry syrup and flowers. Somehow I really need to work at Google.

On the walk back, I saw one of the white herons in the stream, & another hummingbird. After all that walking in the sun, it's nice to sit in doors and read...