They grow up so fast
Monday June 26th 2017, 9:23 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

Mathias is two months old today.

In downtown San Francisco this year, they had a pair of peregrines at the usual nest box on the 33d floor of PG&E and an egg with a second expected momentarily.

But then another pair thought that–hey look! That was the best cliff around. Gravel (they like gravel) in a protective box to keep any eagles from seeing the babies, and it’s out of the rain, even! They tussled the two earlier falcons out of there and took over. After more courting, they laid four eggs of their own and scooted the one that had been sitting there for two weeks in with theirs.

Brooding five eggs was a big job.

It had turned dark so it was easy for the watchers to tell it apart from the later ones. It did not hatch, nor did one of theirs.

But note that it’s been over a hundred years since we had enough peregrine falcons alive to fight over territory like that–they were called chicken hawks and hunted mercilessly long before DDT nearly finished them off. Those nests represent the life’s work of some very good biologists.

The site’s videographer compressed the eyases’ first three weeks into 68 seconds, here, if you’re interested. Unlike San Jose’s nest, their cameras let you hear the birds, too.



London
Tuesday June 13th 2017, 10:38 pm
Filed under: History

Prayers for the people in Grenfell Tower and those trying to rescue them.



45*
Tuesday May 16th 2017, 11:08 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Y’know, I really tried to come up with a good blog post for today, but President Trainwreck just kinda–I mean–every day he tops what he did the day before, but, wow.

Ross Douthat, a Republican writer at the New York Times and certainly no liberal, says it’s time for Article 25. Yes. Yes it is.



Turn a route is fare, pay
Tuesday April 11th 2017, 10:32 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Lupus,Politics

If you can stand another United story to go with all the others out there after they beat up a doctor for refusing to be bounced from a flight because he said he needed to see his patients in the hospital in the morning. Two days later he was still in the hospital himself. (United’s own carrier contract I am told says that once you’re boarded in your reserved seat it’s yours.)

“Because it arrived at the time you wanted.”

That was the excuse United gave me for what they’d done.

Remember that bit of a whine over the price of the airfare to San Diego for this past weekend? When I was booking tickets a month ago, I blinked at Southwest’s cheapest “Wanna Get Away” fare that was over twice the usual and googled to see what else might be out there.

United’s fare was better. Huh. Okay, so I typed in the specific airports I wanted to leave from and go to, SJC to SAN, and what time I wanted to get to San Diego by: the kids had wanted Grampa to see Parker’s 9:00 game. (Grandma here crashed on the couch for that, safely out of the sun and needing that nap and everybody understood.)

Top of the page their site took me to, it said San Jose to San Diego in big letters, with a list of flights below. Alright, then. Did I want to buy insurance against having to change or cancel my tickets? $40, but with my health, I had to say yes. (Southwest doesn’t charge you for changes or cancellations; they apply your fare to future flights if you’ve gone with the cheapest, non-refundable option. United stiffs you while reselling your seat unless you’ve shelled out that extra.)

I hit confirm to both and only then did it say I was booked for SNA. Orange County. Two hours away. That’s the same thing, right?

I got on the phone immediately and made them deal with my deafness and demanded that they refund that ticket instantly. This was so deceptive. This was an unbelievably bad user interface and why in this day and age hadn’t they fixed it? Right there at the top of the page in bold, it said I was booking for San Diego. Unbelievable.

They did refund me instantly but said I’d have to undo the insurance through a separate company. They, too, said they’d make good on it. Okay, but this should never have happened.

“Because it arrived at the time you wanted.” Never mind that the time to get set up with a rental car and then drive it south for two hours meant that there was no physical chance of getting off that flight and getting ourselves to San Diego by, y’know, the time we said we wanted to be there. I asked again why it offered me the wrong flight and they said because they didn’t have one directly to there at that time so they redirected me to one that did land at that time.

The mind, it boggles.

We flew Southwest.



The Wave
Saturday March 18th 2017, 10:06 pm
Filed under: History

Wow, what a story. I had no idea of this local history till tonight.

It took forty years for the single student who truly resisted what her classroom was turning into to feel comfortable letting her peers know it was her all along–alone. Only her father, backing her up all the way, had known.

Nevertheless, she persisted.



We need more places to put all this water
Sunday March 05th 2017, 11:44 pm
Filed under: History

Cold and rainy. It was a great day for reading.

One more main reservoir to go. Oroville was at over 100% (and thus all this–an impressive picture gallery in that link.) Turns out the Perris’s levels have been kept lower for seismic retrofitting, just like our Anderson dam, and after three years’ work apparently it should be finished by this fall. So close…



Waiting for morning light
Sunday February 12th 2017, 11:53 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Been glued to the updates and saying prayers for the people below the Oroville Dam, where four counties are under mandatory evacuation orders as I type.

I remember the arguing over the need to reinforce the emergency spillway about a dozen years ago but the W. Bush administration refused, pronouncing it fine. With the Federal denial, there were too many owners involved to get them all to agree to pay for it on their own. The argument was made that water was too cheap and that there were real costs involved and that they needed to be paid sooner–or later.

Oroville Lake is where the water for the California Aqueduct flows from northern to southern California. It has the tallest dam in the country.

The main spillway broke wide open Tuesday and sent concrete barreling down the hillside.

Today, for the first time ever, the water went over the emergency spillway, which was simply an unreinforced hillside–at less than 5% of what it was certified to be able to handle, but instead with waterfalls churning down it it threatened to collapse from erosion from the bottom on up.

And starting Wednesday night that area will get 2-3″ more of rain.

The Sierra Club was right in suing to try to get that hill reinforced all those years ago.

This, this is the wall that needed to have been built.



Pink P-hats
Friday January 20th 2017, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knit,Life,Lupus,LYS

I love that yarn stores across the country were reporting shortages of pink yarn, and that Malabrigo dyed extra due to the demand, sure that it could not arrive in time but people were asking for it anyway.

I laughed at reading that the chunkier yarns went first. Well, yes, you can knit those faster.

The original pattern, for which the New York Times said Malabrigo Rios was the recommended yarn, was as simple as it gets: knit a length with ribbing at the ends, fold it in half and sew the sides and let the ends of the square stick out for the ears once you fit it over a round head. The beginneriest beginner can do it.

I loved the photo someone posted of a planeful of women on the way to the march in DC, some with their hats on for the camera. I grew up in the DC area. I remember the marches and the hitchhikers along the roads afterwards, the sense of being part of history even as an onlooker. I fervently wish I could be there, heck, I wish I could be at the local one but I just cannot risk the sun time with my lupus.

Not to mention that my friend Diana’s memorial service, saved for after the holidays so that people would be able to come, is tomorrow. Diana herself would have changed the date in a heartbeat had she known about the march but it is what it is and I will be cheering her on her way and her loved ones in their grief. And that is how we create the changes for the better around us: one person at a time in each moment as it comes and to the best of our abilities.

I love that Kate at Dragonfly Fibers, in my husband’s hometown of Kensington, MD, posted a picture of 1,500 donated handknit hats, many of them with a note from the knitter to the wearer. She had volunteered to be a distribution point. These had filled her van and she had that many more to put in.

Every single one has been spoken for now.

I love that the project has sparked an interest in knitting nationwide. I love that some entrepreneur designed one fast and got it out there with more realistic ears, mass produced, even if it was $35 and they’d forgotten in their rush to even say what the fiber content was. (So, probably acrylic.) The more hats made, the greater the chance that everybody could have one.

I just couldn’t quite love the idea of putting the Donald’s worst denigration of women on my own personal head. But after the marches tomorrow, I imagine every one of those handknit hats (and maybe even those manufactured ones) is going to be a treasured family heirloom and a proud story for the great grandkids to come. I imagine the knitters of the donated ones and the wearers finding and befriending each other, having already together promoted the ideals our country stands for.

I just so much love that everybody’s doing what they’re doing.

I got requests, and then more requests, and then I would have had to make three for those guys and then for these other guys too and and and there just seemed to be no way to do it right–my heart was with them but if I stopped knitting the afghan I might never return to it. It was a little overwhelming, knitting-wise. I bailed.

I finally wish I’d at least made one, too.

Don’t have any chunky pink but I can double the strands…



Spelunking
Thursday January 05th 2017, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Family,History

(Photo: down into the cave you go.)

This is really cool. A determined kid wanted to know what was behind that air seepage, a cave in France was discovered,  and the result is the discovery of the most ancient Neanderthal gathering place ever found, by far. Really far. 176,500 years far.

I know there are those who believe the earth is only a week’s worth of thousands of years old, based on Genesis in the Bible, and I applaud their reading of scripture and their faith in His Love that guides the universe. May I offer my opinion that G_d taught in parables from the beginning and that trying to limit Him to our understanding of physical time as we experience it here doesn’t quite work for me.

Evolution is a beautiful parable on a cosmic scale: it offers the thought that no matter what life throws at us, we can adapt and with His help even improve precisely because of our more difficult challenges.

So science in this case should not be considered (I totally set you guys up for this) an add-hominini attack.

(Edited to add, Dad, that was for you. One of the great treasures of my life all my life has been hearing my father roar with laughter over a great pun, progressing to a giggle fit going on and on and erupting at random moments thereafter. Love you!)



What do we want our children to think power looks like?
Sunday October 09th 2016, 11:28 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

I watched the debate. I watched the Republican candidate doing everything he could to physically stalk and literally belittle his opponent, noting which camera was on and moving in so as to be seen towering right behind her almost any time she was speaking. The camera moved? So did he. Its attention could only be on him.

Any woman who has ever had to deal with a seriously creepy guy (and that’s probably all of us, isn’t it?) would instantly recognize what he was doing. He violated her space; he tried to intimidate her; he leaned over and held her chair, which was shorter than his. Dominating, glowering, threatening.

But that was the least of it.

I’m going to let Ezra Klein of Vox take it from here.



And that’s all I’m sayin’
Monday September 26th 2016, 10:38 pm
Filed under: History

That debate was a memorable bit of history-creating. Wow. Glad we got to watch it.



Playing ketchup
Wednesday September 21st 2016, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knitting a Gift,Politics

Lots of waiting times today, part of what happens when you only have one car and (helpfully delayed) appointments six cities apart. And the lab. And the…

How much time?

This much, minus the half-repeat I started it with several days ago and the two hours added this evening. Cashmere, about 50g worth of tomato-colored, knitted on 3.5mm needles. About 13″x9″measured flat. Done!

Meantime, I got an email purporting to be from an organization I’m familiar with but from an email address I am not, saying that I needed to check my voter registration.

Given that there were a number of Democrats who showed up at the primary polls in Arizona to find their party affiliation scrubbed from the records–including an official from said party who likewise found herself disenfranchised despite having been on the rolls for years–yeah, not a bad idea.

But I wasn’t about to click through their links. Who knows…

So we went to California’s Secretary of State site, clicked on our county, found Voter Registration, and on that secure site found ourselves verified as registered to vote, and since it’s not the primary, party doesn’t matter so we stopped searching at that point. We can always verify at the polls.

But we felt it was worth checking.



Sheep and tar and fish oil
Saturday September 10th 2016, 10:26 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

Finished a quick little project from the cobweb cashmere and silk that I 9-plied on my wheel recently to a fairly thick yarn. The splittiness was a pain but it was worth every minute now, now that it’s warm and so soft and pretty and–this is important–done. (Note to self: US 7 needles.)

Interesting stuff, meantime: an art-quilt wallhanging made for a museum exhibit in Australia pieced from handknit swatches and bits. I particularly like the digitalis flowers. So graceful.

And for those who haven’t seen this article yet, a bit of Viking history, starting with a 600-year-old reused sail found insulating an old church in Norway.

And so we know they were woven not of linen but of wool, shrunken and fuzzed out to a solid surface that was then coated against the water.  They would have needed 700 sheep per sail, and their entire fleet, two million animals. There is speculating that the Vikings set forth in search not of treasure of gold so much but of pastures for their flocks.

There are lines like this one: “Not long ago, researchers found that laundering synthetic fleece floods aquatic ecosystems with tiny plastic microfibers, which made wool look even better in comparison.”

I’d never heard that before. I imagine it’s surely better if you stay away from the fluffier types that tend to shed a bit? But all the more reason to buy wool to keep warm in.

Which you will need while reading a description of sailing in a replica Viking ship in those icy waters. Enjoy.



The Bradfords
Friday August 05th 2016, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,History

Last year they had a drought and a poor crop and weren’t selling the seeds and I just had to wait.

But guess what I just got in the mail. They even came with two empty seed packets to save your own in later. If you want heritage varieties, this is definitely a heritage variety: a soft-shelled watermelon that was the best-selling one of the 1800s and considered the sweetest.

Until the arrival of the railroads induced breeding that was shipping-centric at the expense of flavor (sounds like tomatoes) and the market bottomed out for these.

Just this one family kept growing their ancestors’ variety, 170 years on their land. They got discovered. It had been thought to be extinct.

You can read their story here. And the Bradford Watermelon’s Revolutionary War history here.

They say they get an average of one watermelon per plant. How many gallons of California water to grow a single one? I’m not sure I want to know but I know I want to try. Re saving the seeds, they can cross-breed with any squash plants that might be around and although that might make for some really odd and curious future food I’m not sure I’m that adventurous. Half Bradford and half zucchini? Wait–it IS intriguing…  Baseball bat size for the win! (Yeah, but.)

I’ve got almost a year to figure out how I’m going to keep the critters from eating them.



Defensible thing to do
Thursday August 04th 2016, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Politics

Another ripe fig, and again, very very good.

On a totally different tangent, that title is both a pun and a statement.

I remember a conversation with my favorite high school teacher, Bill Cormeny, the one time I got to see him after I’d graduated from college, gotten married, and, you know, all that grown up-type stuff. He taught history, my mom was in the school’s English department and I was back visiting that day.

He found out my husband was in grad school and thoroughly approved: being married and in school? That’s the way to start out! Teaches you what’s important! Teaches you humility! Teaches you–he chuckled knowingly–poverty.

Man ain’t that the truth. I think this was when we were living on $600-something a month, rent on campus was $200 and we had been married a few years and had an infant. The memorable splurge of a year was when we bought a carton of ice cream. Many times over the years since I’ve reflected on his words and reminded myself to keep holding onto his wisdom, to not let materialism trip me up, because he was right.

That child of ours sent a link today that reminded me of that good man. I’m sure he would love to hear this little bit of new history.

Missouri’s governor with his vetoes was not obeying Missouri’s state constitutional requirement to keep the public defender’s office funded.

I wonder if he ever had to make do on a fellowship with a wife and child, if he ever learned… At least in grad school you have the relief of knowing it’s a temporary thing, but still.

After a lot of wrangling and being ignored, the head of that state office finally hit on a novel solution. The law said he could appoint any member of the bar there to take part if the poor were going unrepresented, and so he did: he ordered Governor Nixon himself to serve in a case.

I like it.