Thursday, October 30, 2008


Is it an October Surprise if no one pays any attention?

I've heard only two short stories about the US attack on the Syria/Iraq border to kill an Al Qaeda operative. One of the volunteers mentioned it on Monday and the next day I heard a short piece about Syria wanting restitution for the people who were killed.

I know it's cynical to focus on the effect of deaths of people on the other side of the world on the US Presidential election, but the October Surprise is practically conventional wisdom. We haven't had one this year - I thought it was going to be the results of the investigation into Gov. Palin's possible abuse of power, but it wasn't. However, the very overwhelming fact of the economy's tanking is shadowing every other issue Americans might care about. So much for any surprises.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Amoebas of Doom

Saturday night, Dibu, Rouzi, and I went to hear the Amoebas of Doom play at a bar in San Francisco. The Amoebas include the Trained Killer (in bleach-blond wig) and sing a bunch of late 70s and 80s songs, with a few more recent mixed in. Kind of like listening to KFOG about ten years ago, actually.

I used to say that the Amoebas sang "classic rock" but I started paying attention to what they were playing, and the songs were ones on the radio when I was in high school. That's not classic rock - that's the soundtrack of my adolescence. So besides the Amoebas being my friends, I always have fun at their gigs - I like all the songs they play, and they play them well.

When they played "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" by The Clash, of course I started to pogo. That's what we did at my high school - jump up and down bouncing our heads on the slow parts, and on the fast parts, spin and stomp in place. The place was mostly filled with people who were very young when that song came out, and Rouzi and Dibu don't pogo, I guess. So I was on my own, but when the music moves ya. . .

I snapped something in my neck because I was hurting by the time I got home. I figured that heat would help - it didn't. Yesterday my left shoulder and neck were hurting, and dipping my head forward (like to read small print on a monitor screen, for example) sent shooting pain down my back.

This afternoon I went to the chiropractor and told him I'd hurt myself pogo-ing. He looked at me blankly, so I said, "C'mon, you're not that much older than I am, you must know how to pogo!" He shook his head, so I described it to him.

It turns out that the chiro is a big Prince fan, and has been listening to Prince's records since the first one came out in 1978. He said he'd just purchased the DVD of Purple Rain to watch with his kids. Then he told me the story of when his niece got married a few years ago, she had him called up on to the dance floor. She explained that she remembered dancing The Bird with her uncle, and had him lead the guests in the dance. The chiro used to play basketball in college and is over six feet tall; with his long arms, it must have been quite the spectacle.

My pogo-ing days may be over, but not hearing the Amoebas!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

First of the Season

The first Christmas stocking of the season! Here it is performing the function of being the legislated "red" on a pole longer than the vehicle it's being carried by.

I think it would have been fun to toss a couple candy bars in, but it was too far away. And I didn't have any candy bars.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Photos of Our House

Dancing in the living room with a philosophy professor

Jujubi, Denver D, and friends in the kitchen making pizzas

Each of us thought we were Santa - the trick was getting candy into the stockings before anyone else came into the living room

Mrs. P taking a break on the couch in the big window

Bink poses in the dining room

Graduation - Phil, Jujubi, and I about to move out of Our House!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our House Is A Very, Very Fine House

The parenting blog on has a feature titled "Off Topic Tuesday," which allows the bloggers and commenters to talk about non-parenting topics. I think this is mostly because Peter Hartlaub, the lead blogger, likes to talk about growing up in the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s. I can get behind that. Like him, I also grew up in the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s. In fact I mostly read the blog because of "Top of the Hill, Daly City!" and the old Nut Tree.

This past Tuesday the discussion was "The Best Place You've Ever Lived." I noticed that the definition of the "the best place" had a lot to do with how close the house/apartment was or is to whatever the resident thought were good things to be near - the beach or ocean, restaurants, schools, etc. I was thinking about this, and the place I've lived the closest to all those kinds of things was the house in which I grew up: My elementary and high schools were within walking distance, as were the Junior Museum; the California Academy of Science; the Japanese Tea Garden; UCSF with its community pool and fun summer classes like Circus Skills; the Children's Playground, the Panhandle, and not too far from Sharon Meadow, Marx Meadow, and Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park; Rocky Road Mountain; and Haight Street with its roller skate rental shops and cafes (this last when I was in junior and high school, as I wasn't allowed on Haight until I was a teenager). We spent a lot of time at Baker Beach and at the Exploratorium. The corner grocery allowed us kids to sign for candy on our parents' accounts.

As I write all this down, I realize how lucky I was to live in such a place. I haven't lived in a place so close to everything as I did then. While I was thinking about the post on the other blog, though, I was thinking about my favorite place I'd lived as being the house I shared with Jujubi, Phil, and 17 other people across the three years I was a sophomore, junior, and senior in college. One block from campus, it was university owned, and had one bedroom for a triple, one for a single, and one double. There was a fireplace, a kitchen with yellow tile counters and a breakfast nook, one and a half bathrooms (including a tub), a livingroom with a plate glass window, a separet dining room, a huge basement, a backyard. On clear days we had a view of Mount Rainier from the window on the stairs. This house was known as Our House, after the song, and the Dance In The Living Room House, or DILR House. More formally (well, hardly "formally"), it was called Eleven Twenty Three, after the address.

The university thought it was a six-person house. Most of the time, only five of us were officially living there: soph year, Jujubi, Phil, Mrs. P (before she was Mrs. P), Bink, and I lived there. Junior year, Mrs. P and Bink had moved out and a friend moved in, along with two freshmen, one of whom left college after a couple weeks and the other of whom moved into a dorm at the semester break. Senior year Jujubi, Phil, and I were joined by two others of our friends. In the meantime, though, we had one friend or another sleeping on the couch for a semester or boyfriends sharing sleeping space. Since all the keys had "Do Not Duplicate" printed on them we left the door unlocked.

At that time, Tacoma wasn't much of a place to hang out in. The only place to hang out close to the university was a bar, so if you were under 21, which I was most of my college days, and you wanted to go out you went to Denny's or Dunkin' Donuts on 6th Avenue or up to Seattle to the Last Exit. There was a grocery store and a 7-11 within walking distance, and a public library and park a long walk away. Bus service was marginal so without a car it was hard to go to the mall, a movie, or Point Defiance Park.

But I didn't want to go those places most of the time. I was really happy to be at home. Because we were on the main approach to the campus, everyone came to the house all the time. On snow days, I would get up in the morning to one or several friends drinking coffee on the couch - people whose classes started earlier than mine and learned classes had been cancelled once they got to campus. When we had cast parties, from down the street you could hear people singing with Steve Miller, "I've been to Phoenix, Arizona, all the way to TACOMA!" If it was a warm fall or spring day, Phil would grill chicken or hamburgers, sometimes on the front lawn, and people would stop by on their way home. On the colder evenings, they would come by for some of Jujubi's great bean soup and beer bread.

At the time I credited Jujubi with the power of making that house feel like home. Maybe it was because she had such a nurturing vibe and I felt like a kid most of the time (I was, but I didn't think so then). She and Phil were the love in that house, and I just kept the door open. Our friends brought in a lot of love of their own, and that's what made our house so very, very fine.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Well, Wells.

Wells Fargo is purchasing Wachovia.

Last week, I sent the following email to Wells via the customer service email link:

I'm one of your customers and not a stockholder. In fact, I'm a mortgagee - Wells owns our house, and that's about all the business we do with Wells (we "bank" at a credit union). We took a regular mortgage without an ARM and received the interest rate we deserved for our income and our credit rating. We are also paying our mortgage every month.

I am really unhappy that Wells is making a move toward purchasing Wachovia. I imagine that WF is doing this for financial reasons, perhaps only part of which is to receive a portion of the bailout (which, incidentally, is a bad deal for the taxpayers, like myself). I don't like it. I want WF to stay as far away from this mortgage mess as possible, and not take on one of the lenders that got caught in the subprime mortgage or credit default mess.

As a customer, I feel I have the right to make my unhappiness about this known. I do not expect you to do this but I'm asking anyway: Please back out of the deal.

I got an email back, but it said nothing:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and suggestions with us. Please be assured that we take customer feedback very seriously. Your views are important and are always welcome. We forwarded your suggestion(s) to the appropriate personnel who are always interested in improving customer service and satisfaction.

At Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality service to our valued customers. We appreciate your business and look forward to the opportunity to exceed your servicing expectations in the future.

Thank you again for contacting Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. If you have further questions, please reply to this message or contact a loan-servicing representative by calling (866) 234-8271 Monday through Friday between 6 AM and 10 PM CT and on Saturdays between 8 AM and 2 PM CT.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Check This Out

Do you wish you could get a bailout? Or wish you could decide where that money would go? How about for teachers? The Food Stamp and School Lunch Programs? Police Officers? New homes? To pay off student loans? To pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Look at what $700 billion dollars would buy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ten Kitchen Essentials

The San Francisco Chronicle's Food Section has a story this week titled Ten Kitchen Essentials. This list "goes beyond [the] basics like kosher salt and panko breadcrumbs" listed here and includes the following:

Mirin (Japanese rice wine);
Dark chocolate (at least 62% cocoa);
Fish sauce (the Southeast Asian clear sauce);
Salted capers;
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce;
Garbanzo beans (I prefer to call them chickpeas);
High quality honey;
Whole grain mustard;
Fancy tuna in olive oil

It happens that quinoa and chickpeas are a standard item in my pantry, piled on shelves in the garage, as well. I personally prefer rice to quinoa, but Zirpu likes quinoa's higher protein and lower glycemic index better, so we have both. It's also important to be able to whip up a batch of hummus anytime, and I have been known to use them as part of a whole non-chickpea-focused recipe as well. We like mustards here, and the kinds of mustards we buy - garlic mustard, jalapeno mustard, Jim Beam mustard - tend to be made with whole grain mustard. But we also keep the usual yellow on hand. I use fish sauce so slowly that it becomes part of the pantry after I buy a bottle for the few tablespoons I need for a Chinese recipe from my wok book.

The rest of this intrigues me. These are pantry items? I think of pantry items as the things you could make a meal of, not with. It strikes me that perhaps this list was mistitled as "essentials' and should have been called something like "Ten Versatile Pantry Items" and even then not including cream of mushroom soup is pretty questionable). Kitchen Essentials in my kitchen, in no particular order:

Olive oil
Mustard of some type
Tuna (not packed in oil)
Pasta (low carb, soy or whole wheat)
Barbecue sauce (because I have several slow cookers)

The top ten things we pack the boxes with at the food bank are:
Canned fruit;
Canned vegetables;
Canned corn;
Canned soup;
Canned tomatoes;
Canned chili, stew, or ravioli;

These are what I consider the "essential" essentials, the best guess for feeding folks from nonperishable goods for the best price (several commenters in the original article mentioned the cost of the Chron's list).

Now, please excuse me while I make biscuits out of flour and bacon grease to go with the slow-cooked ribs with barbecue sauce.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Maybe it's the economy...

There's an ad playing on the radio these days and I have heard it twice. It turns out to be about something other than what I expect it to be about.

A man's voice says:

Just three carats (that "ding" noise that goes with an image of a shine)...
Just a ski weekend (sound of wind and snow)...
Just a little retail therapy (ca-ching!)...
Just a toy (motorcycle revving)...
Just a hobby (horses' hooves pounding)...

And so on. While he's reading the list I'm expecting the end of the ad to be woman's voice talking about "using your credit card wisely" or advertising credit counseling services, or even a bank advising potential customers that they'll be helped with financial advising. I'm all prepared to hear a supportive but lecturing voice about spending money wisely.

At the end of the ad, the man's voice says, "Just a millionaire." Another man's voice continues with a line about the California Lottery.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dahlias, Darlin'!

From a visit to the San Francisco Dahlia Garden, just east of the SF Conservatory of Flowers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!

I don't send money directly to candidate's campaigns. There's something so odoriferous to me about how money = votes, and the press is always reporting on the fundraising done by this or that candidate or campaign as if the one with the most money wins (which is sometimes the case). Also, my vote can't be bought - I may vote with a sense of resignation, but not because I saw this many "convincing" TV ads; I read my ballot booklet and I try not to vote with my gut (for example, the hardest votes for me are for/against bond measures). I think about how people I know may be affected by whether the measure succeeds or fails.

About a week ago I received a forwarded email from a friend about Sarah Palin. I've received a few of these, like a letter from a Wasilla resident and from Planned Parenthood. The letter I got from my friend was a suggestion to send a donation to Planned Parenthood in the anti-choice Sarah Palin's honor, and because I trust this friend I know she's internet savvy, I made a decision. I Googled the name of the person who signed the email I got, and found her at a local college.

The email suggested sending a donation of at least $5 to Planned Parenthood in honor of Sarah Palin. As the honoree, Palin would receive a card acknowledging the donation in her name. I'm someone who believes that each person should be able to decide for herself whether she will have a baby; I'm someone who has used PP for health services (full disclosure: birth control pills and the last shot of three for the hepititus B vaccine); and I'm someone who understands that not all teens can go through their family doctors for certain kinds of health care, so I support Planned Parenthood's mission. By supporting Planned Parenthood, and by letting Gov. Palin know I support Planned Parenthood, I would a) not contribute to any presidential campaign and b) let McCain/Palin I do not support their campaign. Also, I like irony.

Then I did something I have only done once before, which was forward the email to a bunch of (selected) friends (I never send anything to my entire email address book). One of my friends wrote back that she was looking for her credit card and hoped that PP would get $1000 from this effort.

Yet another friend sent me (and others) an email following up on the Planned Parenthood Donate in Palin's Name email. The estimate of $1000 was an underestimate. As of September 30, Planned Parenthood had received over $763,000 dollars from 30,000 donors, 3/4 of whom are first-time donors.

To quote Hannibal Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.

** If you wish to participate, please go here. Gov. Palin's address is John McCain 2008, P.O. Box 16118, Arlington , VA 22215