Sunday, September 30, 2007

Potpouri II

Saturday was such a lovely day. It began, as many days do, a couple of days before. On Thursday the clouds left for the first time in over two weeks, and I got to see the harvest moon after all. Sitting at my computer, with the breathless beauty of the full moon shining, and almost total silence from the open window. Friday the sky was a heart gripping blue that cheered the spirt and allowed the temperature to drop into the 40s, so that when I left for breakfast on Saturday morning amid full-on rain, the mountain tops were cold enough that by 9:45, as I was sitting on the bench in front of A & P* watching the ravens in the parking lot, talking to children I know as they went into the store, and waiting for the Care-A-Van to come and pick me and my groceries up and take us home, the rain had stopped and the clouds had lifted. And I could see snow on the very tops of Mount Roberts, Mount Juneau, and across the channel on Mount Jumbo.

My trip to A & P had made me appreciate living in a small town and knowing my neighbors. There is a woman here who looks like a friend of mine from my Fairbanks days, and so I have noticed and talked to her over the years. I have watched her sons grow from two tiny guys in '93 to two well behaved and handsome teens. Today they were in A & P and the younger son came over to me and asked if I had heard from my friend who looks like his mother lately. Told me who his teachers are and what sports he wants to play.

There were Alice, age six, who I held when she was 4 days old, and her younger brother, Jonathan, who had to show me the carnival squash their great-grandmother was buying. And, there was their great-grandmother.

I was having trouble with my back today, and when I was at the deli counter I leaned against the case to ease it. The young man who was waiting on me noticed that I wasn't doing so well, and instead of handing me my chicken over the top, where I would have had to stretch, he walked it around and put it in my cart. When I got to the check-out, the clerk remembered that I'm now sales tax exempt** and asked me for my number -- a good thing, because when I'm in pain I forget to give it to her. The young woman who was bagging remembered that I need anything the Hooligans would get into put into one "cat bait" bag, along with whatever has to be refrigerated, so that I can put that away as soon as I get home and then sit down and rest my back if I need to. It's nice when people know you and care about what you need.

When we got home, I went up the stairs first, to unlock the door. And when I got to the landing half way up, there was a redwing sitting there looking stunned. As I got closer, he turned his bright little eye toward me but otherwise didn't move. I waited, wanting make sure that the Care-A-Van driver knew he was there and didn't step on him or get startled at the last minute and drop a bag of groceries on him. While I waited I talked to him quietly. By the time Robert was loaded with grocery bags and reached me on the landing, Sweetie shook his head, took a tottery step, and flew away. As we went up rest of the stairs, we could see a small, gold feather on my window.

As always, sitting for about 15 minutes*** eliminated the pain in my back, and I spent the rest of the day watching the first four segments of Ken Burns' The War that I had recorded from PBS. And reading. The only thing that put a little rain on my parade came when I was reading. When I lived with people, I seldom turned on the TV unless there was something that I wanted to watch, but now that it's just me, I like to have CHCH**** on when I read. And for some strange reason, for the first time since I moved here in 1993, they were playing songs! Songs from the 30s and 40s. I find it hard to read when someone is singing. I can totally tune out talking and not even know there are people in the room, but singing cuts right through my defenses. I tried turning the volume down, but that just left me straining to hear the words. In order to get back in my comfort zone, I had to mute the sound and put Mozart on the CD player. And since I didn't want to get up and change the CD all the time, I had it on repeat. That gets just a little boring.

* Not, like on the east coast, Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, but Alaskan and Proud. Except for their produce department, which too often is the A & A, Alaskan and (Should Be) Ashamed.

** That's because I'm 65.

*** After I'd put the cat bait away.

****CHCH is "the Channel channel," so called because it is a public access channel that has a camera mounted over the Gastineau Channel and plays classical music. It's nice to have the music on when I read, and better than the radio because there is no talking at all. No commercials. No commentator. Just classical music. If I look up, there is a lovely scene in front of me. During tourist season***** I can watch helicopters take off to deliver tourists to the glacier for a sled dog ride. The rest of the year I may see people fishing on the shore, various small boats, birds, or just the clouds.

***** Just ended. No more cruise ships in the harbor dwarfing all of our buildings. No more crowds of people on the streets totally oblivious to the fact that this isn't Disneyland and cars actually drive here. No more groups of tourists stopping just in front of you under the awning to talk over what they are going to do next, forcing residents to walk out into the rain and the street to get back to the office after lunch.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Southwestern Meatloaf

Anna requested this recipe. So here it is.

  • 1 pound ground beef, lean
  • 1 pound Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
  • 2/3 cup Southwestern Egg Beaters
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped jalapenos
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste


Combine all ingredients and mix until well blended. Line the bottom of the pan with two slices of stale bread* to absorb the fat. Pack into a loaf pan and bake at 350° for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from pan, peel bread from bottom **and serve.
Serves 8.

Makes great sandwiches to take to work for lunch. Since I am only one, when I make it I freeze half of it for another week.

* If you don't have any stale bread, fresh will do.
** If you live in a cold climate and have an outside dog, in the winter you can feed the bread to the dog to help with her keeping warm. If, like me, you don't have a dog, ravens*** love it.
*** When the bears are hibernating, I can just throw it out on my roof, but since I don't want to attract them the rest of the year, I save it in a baggy and then feed the ravens downtown.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Comfortable Road

I've been listening to Hal Holbrook's "The Best of Mark Twain Tonight" and he talks about smoking. Among the things he says is that the first time he gave it up, when he was 10 or 11, because he had heard that smoking could take ten years off of his life. He got scared and gave it up one day -- for two or three hours. But he realized that the decade would not be worth living without smoking in it, and that was the end of that.

I understand that. The last diet I actually went on, I was hungry all the time. Since I wasn't eating much, even at meals, I left the table still hungry. If I was concentrating on something I might not be thinking of food, but too often I was. Every minute that I wasn't actually eating, I was resisting eating. Even when I was eating, I was resisting eating other things and more. It was ok during the day, when I was at work, because I was pretty busy and food was only available at lunch. But the evenings were hell. I discovered that if I chewed on ice it wasn't so bad. I was going through three trays of ice cubes a night, and weekends I couldn't get it to freeze fast enough.

And I remember thinking, very clearly, that if this was what it took to be and stay thin I honestly didn't think it was worth it. So I might live 20 years longer -- who wants to live 20 years of obsessing about all the food you can't eat and chewing ice?

And the most amazing thing is that when I gave up dieting, I no longer obsess about food. If I think I'd like to eat, I do. And food just isn't on my mind so much. Later on the same CD, Holbrook quotes Twain as saying, "If you can't get to 70 by a comfortable road, don't go."

Thursday, September 27, 2007


A few little things, on a foggy morning.

Yesterday I had lunch at the Wild Spice. I ordered a lovely salad, colorful, fresh, and full of things I love. And when it arrived, I remembered what it is that troubles me about Wild Spice salads -- all of the ingredients are sliced and chopped oddly, so that it is difficult to get them to stay on my fork. The bell pepper, of which there were three colors, has to have been shaved to achieve those large layers of extra thin pepper that the fork won't penetrate. The carrots have been rendered into sticks that are too thin to pierce or to stay between the tines and too long to lay over the tines. The lettuce is a little too big to go into my mouth in one bite, too much of it to make it fun to cut up. And it got me to wondering -- has the person who makes this salad ever tried to eat it?

Which makes me think of bread packaging. Particularly, Orowheat. There is a stiff plastic wrapping inside of a soft plastic wrapping, closed with a brittle plastic tab. Since I live alone, I open and close a loaf of bread a good number of times. The most slices I might take out at a time is two. And when I close it back up, the stiff inner wrapping resists being closed with the brittle tab. So, I have to fold the inner wrapping, gather the outer wrapping, and then affix the tab. Which breaks the third time I open the loaf. I've purchased little closures that work quite well, but short of taking the bread out of both wrappings and replacing it in the outer, it is still frustrating to deal with. And yet, Orowheat makes one of my favorite breads, and the only one of them that I can get at the grocery store I usually frequent. And so I wonder -- do the people who make Orowheat all have servants who deal with this or do they eat some other brand?

All of which reminded me of a car I once rented that had a cup holder on the floor. I'm pretty short, and I have short arms, and I couldn't reach it. I do know, however, who test drove this car. An orangutang. I'll bet the engineer who designed it, the production line people who put it together, and the salesmen who sold it never tried to use that cup holder. Or, perhaps it was made in another country by people who hate us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saguaro Moon

Credit & Copyright
Stefan Seip

From Astronomy Picture of The Day
Tonight's Full Moon, the one nearest the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere, is popularly called the Harvest Moon. According to lore the name is a fitting one because farmers could work late into the night at the end of the growing season harvesting crops by moonlight. In the same traditions, the Full Moon following the Harvest Moon is the Hunter's Moon. But, recorded on a trip to the American southwest, this contribution to compelling images of moonrise is appropriately titled Saguaro Moon.

Even though Juneau is under cloud cover, as we are so much of the time, and I can't see the moon from my window, luckily this site exists and I can see it, along with the saguaro cactus, which I also love. Clear nights on the desert are wonderful.

Do click and enlarge

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Just Amazing

On Tuesday's Pharyngula, PZ Myers has posted Why do we need a secular America?. It seems that the Atheist Alliance is holding a convention this weekend in Washington DC, and one of the things that they're planning to discuss is a generic atheist symbol. When they went to have a poster displaying the suggested symbols printed, a couple of print shops refused to do the job, because, as the print shops explained, they are Christian and won't do work for atheists.

What?!* Apparently the poster contained nothing but the symbols -- identified as such, not even any atheist propaganda or evil ranting. Just a few symbols for people to look at and choose from. And staff at one shop explained, very kindly, that they had also turned away work for the KKK. ?! yet again!

I'm at a loss for words. Well, no not really. I'm seldom at a loss for words.** But, there are all of these feelings mucking around inside of me, like a mixed gallon of M&Ms, ball bearings, buttons, screws, peanuts, pebbles, Q-Tips, nail clippings, pull tabs, and those dots that the paper punch punches out of paper had spilled on the down escalator. And I don't think I could possibly sort them out by morning.

I mean! To refuse to do business with an atheist?! To liken us to the KKK?! I know that it's going to be a long time before an atheist will dare run for the presidency and that people have all sorts of strange ideas who we are and how we behave. But to turn aside our money and compare us to the KKK?! I had no idea.

* In one of her books, Peg Bracken suggested a new punctuation mark that she dubbed the interobang which would combine the question mark with the exclamation mark and would be for just these situations. I could really use it here.

** I can only actually recall twice in my life I've been at a loss for words. Once my teenaged children informed me that they knew I'd had sex at least twice, because there were two of them. I never did figure out what to say to that. The other time, I was alone in the ladies room in City Hall in Stockton, and when I came out of the stall, flashing my slip with my skirt up so I could pull my blouse down, there were Geraldine Ferraro and four secret service men. My business partner was waiting in the hall and when I came out she wanted to know what I had said, since obviously I had made a good quip. It was a good two hours before I figured it out. I should have said, "They passed the ERA and no one told me!" I'll bet Geraldine would have laughed at that.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thoughts About Sunday Dinner

Mama likes chicken breasts. She doesn't like meat to remind her that it used to be alive, and white meat is nice and dry and bloodless. These days, she and Aunt Flo buy white meat only and they both get what they want and all is well. Or, if some of her descendants are coming over, she gets a whole chicken and roasts or fries it and that works. Because Forrest and I, not having been exposed to white meat in our childhoods, like drumsticks and thighs and wings and even backs. As Julie and Richard were growing up, I used the white meat for casseroles or else bought only dark parts.

Having developed my chicken taste towards drumsticks is fine if I'm cooking or if I'm buying parts at the deli. Even if I buy roasted chicken at the grocer, I get the quarter with the drum and thigh and I'm in tall cotton.

But if I want to eat chicken at a restaurant, they serve breasts. Or if I want to have an easy dinner at home, all of the frozen meals, from Hungry Man to pot pie to Healthy Choice this and that, is all white meat. Campbell's soup is made with white meat. Canned chicken is white meat. So, I want to know. What is happening to all those extra legs and thighs? I figure the wings get used in Buffalo wings, but what is happening to the rest of the dark meat? Does it go down a black hole? Get fed to pets? And how can I get my hands on it?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

You Know,
The Whatzit

As I've mentioned, I was the Ultimate Oney-Oney when I was little. The oldest child of two oldest children, and for five years the only child**, the only grandchild, the only great-grandchild, and the only niece. I was the center of the universe, the child who only had to breathe to endear herself to a passel of relatives. One set of great-grandparents had been teachers, and everyone in the family was bookish and valued education. I impressed my family by learning things. Counting and reading and nursery rhymes. Songs and stories and jokes. The way to command even more attention than I already got by the simple act of being there, was to talk.

And I was a great talker. Verbal to the point of garrulous. Big words were a big hit, so I practically fed at the dictionary. If I didn't know what a word meant, I would ask, and when I was old enough, I would look it up. Added to all of the talking and reading aloud that people did with me, I taught myself to read when I was four, and there came a bunch more words. I always read in advance of my age, and I was as apt to use a word from one of those books as one that I heard at the dinner table.

I love words. I have always prided myself on my vocabulary. On knowing the exactly correct word to convey the slightest shading of meaning. On being able to come out with a dozen synonyms. It was my very best thing.

So, you can imagine how frustrating it is that I sometimes have to wait and excavate for a word. That, at times, it is hours or even days before the correct term presents itself. If I can't think of the word when I need it, it just haunts me until I do get it. I go around feeling that empty space on my tongue where a word is supposed to be until it finally comes out and gives itself up. Sometimes days later. Often in the middle of the night, so that I wake up to go to the bathroom and suddenly there it is! "Aha!" I exclaim in victory, "Table! That's what that thing you eat your meals on is! Table!"

Oh, yes. That's the other frustrating thing about it. It is seldom something like complementary schizmogenesis that I forget. Oh, no. Not a term that there might be some excuse for forgetting. It is so often a simple word like table or carrot or tonsil. A word I've known forever.

* Image from The Visual Thesaurus.
** Other than an older half-brother and sister, who we seldom saw, and a brother who died when I was three.

I Told You Teens Are Wonderful

Ok, so I found this link on Echidne of the Snakes and it was so delightful that I had to share it with you.
Sea of Pink

Having spent a good deal of time working with high school students, this confirms my favorable opinion of young people. Good for them. Good for us, that they are growing up to take their place as adults in this world that surely needs them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Click on photo to enlarge.

Autumn has come to Juneau. The trees are turning. This one is in the yard at the place where East doglegs and becomes Basin Road, just two blocks down from my apartment*. I love watching this tree turn every year; it puts on a fine display and gladdens the heart.

I like living in a place with four distinct seasons. Winter we get snow -- not daily, but last winter we got a record breaking 222 inches, so that it seemed like it was always falling down. Spring the leaves bud on the trees, everything turns green, and the flowers bloom. Summer it is warmer, berries are ripening, and the town fills with tourists. And fall -- plants change colors, leaves fall, and there is an invigorating nip in the air. And for three of the seasons and part of the fourth, it rains and then it rains again and then it rains some more, and finally it rains. We're currently having rain. Some downpours, although that isn't the usual thing. Usually, we get a fine misty rain that convinces you that you don't really need to open your umbrella, but manages to soak you by the time you've walked a couple of blocks. This fall we are having California winter style rain -- someone is standing on the clouds and dumping buckets of water on us. We do not, however, get thunder and lightening. About once in 15 years, when the rain comes from Canada instead of from the Pacific, the temperature differential between cold wind and maritime climate gives us thunder and lightening. I have to say, I really miss it. But the Taku winds are dramatic. Having been born on the birthday of Shakespeare and Shirley Temple, I do love drama.

* One morning about seven years ago, I was walking to work and as I turned the curve and started down I saw a large black dog going into this yard. And then I realized that the reason that dog was as big as a bear was because it was a bear. So I turned around and went the other way. My Mama didn't raise any fools, and only a fool argues right-of-way with a bear.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Out My Window

*When I write my blog or read your blogs or e-mail or do anything else on my computer, I sit in a window alcove with a bookcase and a computer table. And the Hooligans take up positions to watch me: Pippin close to my left foot, Merry at the head of the stairs. They are friendly company, and the view out my window is often spectacular. In 2000, when Maya was three and a half and the cat watching me was Missy from her station on the foot of my bed, I wrote about my window for Maya.

Sometimes Granny looks out her window and she sees people coming up the hill with their dogs to go for a walk in Last Chance Basin (which is where Granny takes walks almost every day, and it starts only three minutes from her front door). Sometimes she sees barges in the channel.

In the summer, the hills on Douglas Island are all green, and the trees on Basin Road are all green. Then, Granny may see tour buses taking tourists out Basin Road so that they can walk in Last Chance Basin or go gold panning or visit the mining museum or climb Perseverance Trail to Ebner Falls. She can see cruise ships at the dock from her window. At night, the ships are all lighted up and she can see them leave town, going down the channel towards Admiralty Island, and the lights are so festive and beautiful it makes her feel very good. On sunny days in the summer, sometimes she can see sail boats sailing in the channel and hang gliders gliding about the channel. Sometimes she sees float planes and helicopters in the sky. One day, when they were building the Mt. Roberts Tram, she watched several helicopters carry loads of steel girders up to the top of Mt. Roberts.

In the spring, Granny watches crows building their nests in nearby trees. One day in June, she watched a dozen crows mob an eagle. "Oh, my," said Granny, "that eagle must have thought baby crow would be a good dinner for her baby eagle. The crows don't agree. How wise of the crows to get together in a mob and chase the eagle away. Good for the crows." And then she thought about how the eagle needs to feed her babies, just like the crows need to protect their babies, and she thought, "That eagle needs to go fishing. Salmon never mob eagles. They don't have the good sense."

For many months, Granny looked out of her window and she saw snorts on her hill. Sometimes they were working on the road, but often in the evening, which is when Granny is usually working on her computer writing stories for Maya or reading e-mail from Maya's Mama or her Ma, they would just be parked on the top of the hill. There was a backhoe, and a dump truck, and a grader, and a pay loader. Once, after Typhoon Tom had visited Juneau, and the heavy rains had washed out the trails along Last Chance Basin, Granny watched a goose-neck trailer haul a bulldozer up the hill. The bulldozer was used to put dirt back on the roads and big sections of trail so the part of Basin Road beyond the houses and in the basin could be used again.

For two weeks, Granny could look out her window and see her neighbor painting his house. She can often see him and his wife working in their garden (and in the summer, when her window is open, Granny can hear the wind chimes that hang in his yard).

In the winter, Douglas Island and Admiralty Island are covered in snow and so are white instead of green. The leaves have fallen off the trees, and so Granny's hill isn't green either. Sometimes in winter there is snow in Juneau, and then her hill is white. Sometimes there is rain, and then it is brown. There are no tour buses. Things are very quiet on her hill in the winter. People come up with their dogs to walk in Last Chance Basin. An eagle or a raven fly by. Crows fly by. The barges are the only boats Granny sees in the channel. All of the excitement in the winter comes from the rain or snow and the wind. In the winter, the Taku winds blow. Sometimes they blow very, very, very hard. Sometimes they blow garbage cans down the hill. Once they blew the neighbors picket fence away. When the Takus blow, Granny doesn't open her alcove window, but she can still hear the wind howl as she writes stories for Maya. Granny loves the sound of the wind.

* This picture was taken in the early 90s -- since then, I've upgraded to a flat screen, a new computer and printer and speakers. And I've had to close off all of those wires so the Hooligans can't chew them. The alcove, the computer desk, and the window seat are the same, however.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Congo Green Papaya Soup*

I've been in a bit of a rut about food lately. Everything I've fixed myself has been food I like (New Orleans Red Beans & Rice, tomatoes Kandahar, spicy tuna casserole, V-8 aspic, pico de gallo, southwestern meat loaf, zucchini lime soup, a few other things) but I've been eating the same few recipes over and over. So, I sat down at my desk and pulled out my cookbooks and went looking for something that I haven't fixed in a while. And found this, which I haven't had in the last three or four years and which is easy and which I love. It's fairly quick and inexpensive. And it occurred to me that some of you might enjoy it as well.

2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
2 large, green papayas, peeled, sliced lengthwise, seeded, and diced
1 teaspoon salt
cayenne pepper to taste (I use ½ teaspoon)

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and sauté until it is transparent, then add the broth. Add the papaya, salt, and cayenne pepper and simmer until the papaya is tender, about 8 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Update: Julie asked if you serve it cold, because of the ice in the picture. That picture is from a version that is served cold. I serve mine hot.

* Medaris, Angela Shelf, The African-American Kitchen. Page 29

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mighty Squirrel

Here is a true story that I wrote for Maya when she was about four. Linda and I have been friends since we lived almost next door to each other in El Paso when we were 12. Bobby is a retired fire fighter.

Now, in Linda and Bobby and Alex's yard, outside of Fairbanks, there are many squirrels. One year, way over ten years ago, before Alex was born and while Linda and Bobby still had a wonderful St. Bernard named King, there was a squirrel they called Mighty Squirrel, who really earned his name.

Like all squirrels in the very far north, Mighty Squirrel was reddish brown and had a long tail (although it was not as long and as bushy as the tails of the squirrels in the parks in California) that he liked to arch over his back while he sat and looked at the world and hold out straight for balance when he ran along the fence. All summer long, he labored to fill his food cache for winter. Since summer in Fairbanks is short, and winter is amazingly long, he worked from morning till night, as hard as he could. He gathered mostly spruce cones, carrying them to his cache and hiding them. As he sat and considered which tree to harvest next, he chattered and chattered. As he ran from tree to tree, he chattered and chattered. But he was silent while he gathered the cones, because his cheeks were stuffed and he couldn't chatter. From early in the morning, till late at night, Mighty Squirrel chattered and chattered, sat and considered, ran from tree to tree, and gathered spruce cones. Linda and Bobby and King heard him when they got up in the morning, and during the day as they went about their chores, and at night when they were ready to go to bed.

Now, Mighty Squirrel loved strawberries, and so he used to pick them out of Linda and Bobby's berry patch. It wasn't enough that he would eat the berries, Linda and Bobby were not so selfish as to deny the occasional berry to a squirrel. No, that wasn't enough, what Mighty Squirrel had to do was pick lots of berries and leave them on the stairs to dry. When they had dried, then he would carry them to his winter cache, and save them for the cold days. He also liked to save mushrooms that he found in the woods this way, for he was a good forager. Linda and Bobby tried everything they could think of to stop Mighty Squirrel from taking so many berries, since they had planted them for their own use. Finally they got a plastic owl and set it in the center of the berry patch, and that stopped that. Mighty Squirrel thought the plastic owl was real, and since he didn't want to end up being fed to baby owls, he stayed out of the berry patch.

However, that wasn't the end of the troubles caused by Mighty Squirrel, oh no it wasn't. You see, Mighty Squirrel wanted to get into the house in the worst way. No one knows why he wanted to get in, and no one knows what he thought happened in there. Whatever it was that he thought they were doing, he wanted to be part of it. Bobby knows that he wanted in because he began biting holes in the screens. Mighty Squirrel would chew a hole in a screen, and Linda and Bobby would fix the hole, and Mighty Squirrel would chew another. Finally Bobby talked to the screen man about it, and they decided to replace the nylon screens with wire, so that Mighty Squirrel couldn't chew through them. So, Bobby took all the screens off the windows and took them to town and paid a lot of money to have them made squirrel-proof. Then he took them back out to the house and put them back on the windows. Finally, he could relax.

The very next morning after Bobby had put the squirrel-proof screens on the windows, when he got up to go to work, he went down to the kitchen and there was Mighty Squirrel, sitting on the kitchen table. He had chewed a wonderful hole in the middle of one of those wire screens! When Mighty Squirrel saw Bobby, he ran for cover.

Bobby got a broom and chased him, going as quietly as he could so King wouldn't hear and wake up. Bobby knew that if King knew there was a squirrel in the house he would chase it, and Mighty Squirrel would run under the furniture, and that great big dog would follow him, and the house would be a shambles! So, there went Bobby with his broom, swish, swish, swish, just as quietly as he could. And there went Mighty Squirrel, running for all he was worth, run, run, run, as fast as he could. Well, luckily Bobby was able to chase Mighty Squirrel out the front door without waking King, and after work he fixed the screen. And the interesting thing is that Mighty Squirrel never came back in. So, whatever it was that he thought was going to happen when he got into the house, being chased by a big man with a broom was not what he had in mind at all.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Time Lapse:
Juneau, Douglas, and Idaho Inlet

Today is one of those days. Can't think of a thing I want to say, except for things that would take four months to write. So, here is a YouTube of a time lapse of Juneau, Douglas(across the Gastaneau Channel, visable from my apartment window), and Idaho Inlet (an area famous for wildlife viewing near Glacier Bay).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Taking Off
Rocky Gutierrez Airport

And then there is taking off from the Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport, located on Japonski Island, reached by a bridge from Sitka itself. To quote Wikipedia, "There is a single runway that juts off Japonski Island as a paved causeway of sorts." Notice when the wheels leave the runway that you are already over water.

Take offs and landings, whether you are in the plane or watching, have been known to give the faint of heart the colly wobbles. Ah, nothing like an adrenaline rush to put a little dance in your step. The flight from Sitka to Juneau takes 42 minutes. Locals take a nap.

Take Off
Juneau Airport

From: Flowis311
A take off from Juneau, Alaska in a g... A take off from Juneau, Alaska in a good old Boeing 737-200 Combi using the special FAA approved departure procedure for Alaska Airlines (immediate right and left turn after takeoff)...Listen to the captain's announcement at the beginning and check out how close the mountains are!! My all-time favourite takeoff movie. Please enjoy
Why I love flying out of Juneau. Notice as the plane taxis, you can see the Mendenhall Glacier in the mid-distance.

This is also why flying out of flat country feels wrong. Here, we have to get as high as we can as fast as we can, while turning, to avoid hitting mountains. When I take off in other places it seems to me that the plane is moseyin' down the runway and then sorta-lifting off, as if it had all the time in the world. Very tense making -- I have to keep reminding myself that it does have all the time in the world.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Remembering That It's Nice
To Be Alive

Two photos from

"A star in stripes: One of two four-month-old Amur tiger cubs makes its debut at the Brookfield Zoo next to its mother Tiara, 12, in Brookfield, Illinois. The number of Amur tigers in the wild is estimated at 350 to 450."

Of course I would choose this one. That old mama and baby theme. And, it is cats after all.

"I feel like such an ass: A donkey looks at firefighters with pleading eyes after getting trapped in a well near Underwood, Minnesota. Rescuers dismantled the well to free the beast, which lost a bit of fur and some of its precious dignity."

Isn't it wonderful that people will rescue animals? This is taking a bit of trouble, and I don't imagine that there are many farms in Minnesota that are dependent on donkey power.

Return on Success

From Bush's Thursday night speech:
The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is "return on success." The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home.” And in all we do, I will ensure that our commanders on the ground have the troops and flexibility they need to defeat the enemy.
What this says to me is that until they succeed, they don't get to come home. And if success is impossible? If it is not possible to defeat this enemy? Where is he going to get the troops? More stop-loss actions? Longer rotations with shorter breaks? A draft?

What if this mess simply can't be solved by anything this man knows how to do?

I remember reading that generals don't like to have a president who hasn't seen combat, because he is too willing to throw the troops into unnecessary wars. And of the officials who had anything to do with this war, only Colin Powell had combat experience, and Colin Powell didn't think this war was such a good idea.
THE former American secretary of state Colin Powell has revealed that he spent 2½ hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by US forces.

“I tried to avoid this war,” Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”

Powell has become increasingly outspoken about the level of violence in Iraq, which he believes is in a state of civil war. “The civil war will ultimately be resolved by a test of arms,” he said. “It’s not going to be pretty to watch, but I don’t know any way to avoid it. It is happening now.”

He added: “It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States.” All the military could do, Powell suggested, was put “a heavier lid on this pot of boiling sectarian stew”.
According to Powell, the US cannot “blow a whistle one morning” and have all American forces just leave.
Powell believes that a reduction in US forces will have to be accompanied by talks with Syria and Iran. “You have to talk to the people you dislike most in this dangerous world.”

The general and former joint chiefs of staff added: “Shi’ites will ultimately prevail because they are 60% of the population and their militias can be pretty violent. They will prevail also because they are determined not to be ruled again by the Sunnis.

“The Sunnis are struggling for power and survival and it’s going to be resolved by a test of arms. It’s going to be very ugly.”
I don't know what we are going to do now. Powell is right, we can't just pull the troops out. Our invasion made this mess. We have to work on cleaning it up. But, I also don't think that continuing to do what we have been doing is going to make it better. Some say that Iraq is going to fall apart when we leave, no matter what we do, and no matter when that is. And if that's so, perhaps we should leave now rather than see how many more dead Iraqis and coalition forces we can rack up. Before we have sold our grandchildren into indentured servatude to pay for this major bollix.

I think I agree with Powell that we need to bring Syria and Iran into it. Perhaps all of the Arab and Persian countries. And the UN. Things might be less explosive with UN Peace Keepers on the ground instead of an occupying force.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Remembering How It Was

AMC is running a series, Mad Men, about a New York advertising agency in 1960. I've caught the last three episodes, and I'm hooked. They have the look and feel of the time down so perfectly. Even though I was a high school senior and then a college freshman and in California in 1960, and the series is about working adults in The Big Apple, it almost smells like 1960.

They smoked, and thought nothing of second hand smoke. They drank almost all day long. They were sexist and racist and other things we have outgrown.

In the first episode that I saw, the secretaries test lipstick that the agency is representing. As they try on the shades, they blot their lips on tissues, which are then dropped into a waste basket. After the session, one of the secretaries brings the waste basket to an ad exec, saying, "Here's your basket of kisses." Of course, he wants to know where she got the phrase and she tells him she just thought of it. Later he is telling a few other ad men about this and describes listening to her make intelligent comments as weird. "Like watching a dog play the piano."

And, of course, when she is encouraged to write ad copy, it is on her own time and she doesn't get paid extra.

All of which got me to thinking about how things were for women in those days. About having a B.A. and being asked in job interviews for my typing speed. I also remember one job interview when I was asked what kind of contraceptive I was using. And an interview while I was still married where they wanted to know if my husband would object to my working occasional Saturdays!

When I returned to college after Julie was born, I was 23. And had two small children. UC Berkeley wanted me to get permission from my parents to live off campus! I was having none of that, and responded that I would be happy to live in campus housing with my children. It's amazing what having the guts to stand up for yourself will accomplish. Faced with the prospect of a three week old baby in the dorms, suddenly I didn't need permission after all. My Aunt Florence was newly widowed and returned to University of the Pacific at the same time. She had to get the dean's permission to live off campus although she was 41 and she only got it, as a single woman, because she owned a house within a mile of the campus. One day she was in the grocery store, wearing grey wool slacks and a white cotton blouse, and the dean of women came up to her and explained that if she was seen in town again in slacks she would be expelled.

I remember being told in 1975 by the financial director of the agency I was working at that "no woman can manage a business." Barely two weeks after that, there was a situation where someone had to go to the medical director and tell him something he wasn't going to want to hear. It should have been the accountant, who wouldn't do it. So then he called the financial director, who back peddled like crazy and refused to do it. So, I did it. By the time I got to the man's office, the fact that two men had been afraid to do it had me a little bit tense, but I took my foot in my hand and did it. The response? "Why the hell didn't Larry or Bob come to me about this? Are you the only one in the agency with guts?" Bob didn't really say too much about women being able to manage after that. Well, he did once, but I looked at him and looked at the medical director and looked back and he had the grace to blush.

My grandfather gave my mother some money in the mid-60s, and she decided to buy stock with it. She had to get Daddy's permission. Daddy was outraged. "This," he declared, "is her money. Her father gave it to her. It has nothing to do with me. Why should she need my permission to spend it on anything she wants?" But, that was the law. It was also the law that a married woman needed her husband's permission to have a bank account or credit card in her own name. And, if she didn't, if he died, she had no credit history.

And although things are no longer that bad, they still aren't perfect. It is interesting that watching Mad Men throws certain behaviors in the here and now into sharp relief.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

AWWW! A Baby!

There is something about a baby anything that charms us. Here, courtesy of SFGate is one month old Malti, at the Calgary Zoo.

Isn't he a sweet looking little boy? I'll bet I'm not the only one who feels like kissing his little forehead. I'm guessing it must be a touch chilly in Calgary, with him having a blanket belted on him and all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Only Comfort That I know

I have been thinking about what to write, just as I did last year. And it seems to me, that other than changing one word (the number of years it has been), what I wrote last year is as true now as it was then.

I've been wondering all day what I would say. What is there that can be said? There are no words that will take us back to the way things were before The World Trade Center fell. There are no words that will undo the horror of that day or the shame of the years that have followed. Thousands of people, all but the tiniest number of them, totally innocent, are dead. Thousands more are wounded, physically or spiritually. Life will never be the same again. Two countries have been invaded, with no long lasting good and much harm coming out of it so far. The ground in Afghanistan and Iraq is littered with depleted uranium, that our government rained down upon the heads of the civilian populations. There are so many widows and orphans and parents who have lost children where before there were families. The Afghani poppy crop is bigger than ever before and the Taliban is regaining the ground that we left prematurely in order to attack a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Osama bin Laden is still at large. The Constitution of the United States is under attack from within. Our government has imprisoned people without charges for over five six years. And tortured people. And allowed the rape of Muslim women, who were then driven by the conditions of their culture to commit suicide. Our government has felt no shame in sending mostly working class young people to attack brown skinned people who do not worship as we do. That frail, miraculous thing, the human body has been violated and torn apart and destroyed in nightmarish ways. The souls of those who knew and loved those who were lost in the planes, in the towers, on foreign soil are bruised beyond healing. Every wonderful thing that all of those who were lost would have done, all of the books they would have written and diseases they would have cured and jokes they would have told and babies they would have loved and songs they would have sung and gardens they would have tended -- all lost. Lost forever. And the undreamed of babies of the unborn babies and all that they would have added to the wealth of our souls, all lost. No way to reclaim them. No way to know what we have lost. Only that it was precious.

And the only comfort that I know, is to treasure the people that we love, to hold on to the ones who are left.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Frog Prince*

This is the fairy tale that should have been read to us when we were little:

Once upon a time in a land far away, a beautiful, independent, self-assured princess happened upon a frog as she sat contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond in a verdant meadow near her castle.

The frog hopped into the princess' lap and said: "Elegant Lady, I was once a handsome prince, until an evil witch cast a spell upon me. One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back into the dapper, young prince that I am and then, my sweet, we can marry and set up housekeeping in your castle with my mother, where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children, and forever feel grateful and happy doing so."

That night, As the princess dined sumptuously on lightly sautéed frog legs seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce, she chuckled and thought to herself:


* Courtesy of my friend Alli. Alli is a Jehovah's Witness and I am an atheist and she once made up a joke for me:
What do you get when you cross a Jehovah's Witness with an atheist?
Someone who knocks on your door and then doesn't have anything to say.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rubber Duckie

Photo: Everything's duckie

Michael Penn
Juneau Empire

Eric Forst, president of the Glacier Valley Rotary Club, plucks a plastic duck out of the pond Sunday at Rotary Park during the club's fundraiser. The club offered 5,500 ducks for "adoption" at $5 a piece. Romulo Moskito of Juneau won the $10,000 first prize. Amy Mead is paddling the boat.

Pippin jumped on keyboard. Hitting one key. Two or three appear on monitor. Delete extras. Shoiret poset ethetirkfoiret.

Here is my current ABC

a ,b cv dg et kf dg h ir j kf l m n o p q ir s et u cv w x y z.

IRet irs dgetetetirndg ,betetetetir.

Update: All it needed was to rest overnight. It is working fine now.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Why We Love Bears

By worldromer, who says,
BEST VIEWED ON SMALLEST SCREEN: We did a bush plane bear viewing fly-in from Kenai to Big River Lake. Unlike land based viewing from 150ft (a half football field away three of us were in an open motorized ROW BOAT so that all filming was from about 20-40 feet away.Despite being that close we WERE NOT ON LAND and the bears had all their uninterrupted space. It was Black bears choice to swim toward our boat. Quite amazing when he gets to within FIVE FEET OF US. Younger Black bears are 'playing' at a tree. Mother Grizzly strolls from a nearby hill and leads her cubs to the water and to US! And NO, Grizzly cub does not try to snack on the ducks.
NOTE: Sorry about a bit of camera 'wobble' the direct result of BEING ON A SMALL BOAT!

Friday, September 07, 2007

From Harold II

When Harold sent me the pictures of kittens, he also sent these sweet guys.

So, here, in the spirit of Friday pet blogging, are the pups.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I'm So Jealous

Jill at Brilliant At Breakfast posted this and I had to copy it for you.

Why, oh why didn't I have this attitude all those years when I was hating my body and feeling guilty every time I ate something not on the list and trying to be someone else* and generally miserable with food? How joyous this woman is! How at ease with herself! How comfortable at the table!

I gives me great comfort to know that there are some young women who are finding acceptance of their own bodies, who are recognizing that it is genes and not sin that dictates their waist size, who can eat and not feel either fear or guilt. I have decided that this is my anthem.

*Well, not really trying to be someone else, I have always really liked who I am, but trying to be in someone else's body.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


For seven months, from September of 1944 to April, 1945, the Nazis placed an embargo on all food items to the western Netherlands. By the end, people were eating less than 600 calories a day. Over 30,000 people died of malnutrition. Furniture, the interiors of houses, shops, and orchards were chopped and burned to keep people from freezing to death. Crops were destroyed in bombing raids. On April 29, 1945, in Operation Manna - Chowhound (Manna was the British code name and Chowhound the American), the Allied forces began dropping food behind German lines.

I first became interested in the Dutch Hunger Winter because of
The Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study, carried out by the departments of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics , Gynecology and Obstetrics and Internal Medicine of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in collaboration with the MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit of the University of Southampton in Britain, has found that pregnant women exposed to famine produced offspring who were more susceptible to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, microalbuminuria and other health problems.
This study also linked maternal starvation to schizophrenia spectrum personality disorders, thought by some to be caused by the fact that people were eating tulip bulbs since they could not obtain food.

When I was researching this four years ago, I found a memoir on line which I have not been able to find since. It was written by a Dutch woman who had been 13 that winter. She told about the struggle to stay alive, the constant hunger, and hiding a man from the Nazis in the family basement even though that meant that she and her mother had less food. She told of the wonder of the food drops. Of how Spam, which no one had heard of before, became a favorite meal that comforted the survivors for the rest of their lives. Of not knowing what to do with powdered eggs, particularly since they had no fuel to cook them.

And she told of meeting an American who had been involved in the food drops years later and his telling her of flying back to England and seeing that the Dutch had taken pots of white flowers and spelled out "Thanks, Yanks." This is one of those stories that brings tears to my eyes. Such a simple phrase. Such a depth of meaning and wonder. A feeling of sympathy for the Dutch and pride in my countrymen.

And then I think about how far we have strayed from those days. From "Thanks, Yanks" to pre-emptive war.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day, 2007

I was talking to my mother on Sunday and she mentioned how Daddy and four of my five uncles had gone from impoverished childhoods to very prosperous adulthood, none having much formal education, but all having intelligence, drive, and a willingness to work hard and keep learning. And then she said, "I don't think that's nearly as possible in this economy as it was then. These days people don't start with nothing and build a middle class life. They start in the middle class, get a good education, and then struggle not to sink."

And she's right. Things have changed drastically for working people. These days it's like being trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits. There is a struggle to stay afloat that overcomes too many. The economy favors investors rather than workers. The CEOs are incredibly rich and jobs get exported to countries with cheaper labor, no benefits, and few regulations to get in the way of making maximum profits.

When my Dad was coming up, it would have been considered a disgrace for the owner of a business to be one of the ten richest people in the world and the workers in his (and in those days, it would have been his) firm to be earning minimum wage. For workers to have to apply for medicaid and food stamps to make ends meet. For both parents to have to work to support a family. When I was younger, it would have been unlikely.

But now, the greed at the top, the feeling of "I've got mine, who cares about you," the corruption of politics that allows it to happen are so stacked that the working people are sinking. And are being told that it's an illusion, because the economy is doing so well.

So, for Labor Day, I want you to think about how much harder it has become for people who labor. How much more wealth has been built on their effort and how little of it is being shared with them. And I would like to suggest that instead of going to a Labor Day sale and enriching the already rich, you consider whether or not you need those things. And if you do, how about a yard sale?

When they don't support me, I don't see any need to support them. That goes for Coca Cola who I haven't forgotten made huge contributions to Phyllis Schlafly to defeat the ERA and it goes for Walmart, who drives manufacturing to China in order to keep their costs down

Sunday, September 02, 2007

from Harold

One Saturday morning, about 12 years ago, I was waiting for my favorite restaurant to open. There were two men, obviously very good friends, also waiting. The three of us waited for BaCar's to open every Saturday morning, all three being compulsively early. This particular week, we started talking.

One thing led to another. We started talking every week as we waited. Since we always sat near ecah other, the conversations would continue once we were seated.

One week they said that it would be easier to continue to talk if I joined them. That's how I met Harold and his friend Pete. Later we added Pete's new girl friend and then her boss (who was already eating there when we were) and finally his girl friend became his wife and we added her mother.

Over the years, Pete's wife's need to sleep in on Saturdays caused them to drop off. Her mother recently left to do other things. But Harold and Christina and I still have breakfast every Saturday morning.

Harold and Christina are two of the best friends a person could ever have. I look forward to seeing them on Saturdays; even though I no longer work on Saturdays, and could sleep in if I wanted.*

Harold and Christina and I are cat people. I have my beloved Hooligans, Christina has four cats, and Harold and his father have rescued a herd of feral cats. Harold rounds them up, takes them in and has them neutered, and releases them. Except, he and his dad have kept a number of the kittens.

We tell each other stories of our cats on Saturday mornings.

And Harold e-mails Christina and me pictures of and jokes about cats. Well, other things as well. But definitely cats and kittens.

He sent me these this week, and I am posting them for you.

* Originally, eating breakfast out on Saturdays was my reward to myself for being the only person in my agency who worked on Saturdays.