Gayle Madwin's Journal
                              25 MOST RECENT ENTRIES
Thursday, 18 May 2017
Thursday, 18 May 2017 4:11pm
May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses . . . but Mostly at Barry's House

I'm several days late for May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but here I am at last. Let's just say I was somewhat delayed by the fact that I set my boyfriend's front yard on fire . . . with hot pink flames made out of flowers. Specifically, mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) - a species known for putting on a big show in late spring, much like its cousins whose common name is farewell-to-spring.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)

But I will show you more of that later. Right now, three different versions of my gardening self are having an argument about their vastly different gardening skill levels. It is clear to all of them that the me who gardens in Barry's front yard is the most talented gardener, and the me who gardens in Barry's back yard is the least talented gardener, while the me who gardens at my own house is somewhere in between. But they are arguing over the finer details of that. They all have different advantages: Barry's Front Yard Me (BFYM) and Barry's Back Yard Me (BBYM) have an ever-so-slightly milder climate than My House Me (MHM) . . . not so much that you'd really notice, if you're a human, but if you're a plant who spends all day long and all year round outdoors, you might. The two houses are less than 40 miles apart as the crow flies, and they are both in the Sacramento Valley, and they both see similar levels of frost in winter and similar levels of heat in summer. But the summer heat cools off slightly more at nighttime at Barry's house. On the other hand, MHM generally has a somewhat shadier garden than BFYM or BBYM. And then there's the soil. BFYM has several inches of pure compost on top of the native soil and a couple of inches of storebought cedar woodchip mulch on top of that. MHM has basically no compost but an inch or so of fairly dense mulch in most areas, made from a mix of storebought cedar woodchips and the naturally occurring detritus of the garden plants. BBYM has basically no compost and also very little mulch - just a very thin scattering of some sort of black-dyed woodchips and some twigs dropped from nearby redwood trees.

And they are going to hash out the results of their different garden conditions in photographs here. On Dreamwidth, not on LiveJournal, because apparently I have finally managed to write an entry that is simply too long for LiveJournal to handle, and so LiveJournal has refused to post it. New achievement unlocked? Not really an achievement I'd like to repeat, though.

Mood: accomplished
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 17 April 2017
Monday, 17 April 2017 2:23am
April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses

This is my boyfriend with what I have done to his yard. His life used to lack flowers. Now he is completely inundated with flowers.

He does not know yet, as I do, how much the mass of his garden will shrink back down, by June or July, to a tamer and more traditional-looking garden. But there are enough perennials under the mass of annuals that there will still be a decent garden here in summer and winter and fall. It just won't be like this anymore. Until next spring, that is. Each spring we can do this all again.

Like last month, I'm going to cover both his yard and my own yard in this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post, because I'm the primary gardener at both. (Almost the only gardener, for most of this year - but lately, Barry has been starting to help me out pretty regularly with the weeding and learning to recognize more and more plants, so I may have to give him a lot more credit next year!)

I'll start with Barry's yard. It turns out that I actually took more photos of his yard than I did of my own yard this month. I can't get enough of it lately.

Barry in his front yard, April 2017

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Mood: busy
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
Tuesday, 11 April 2017 2:19am
Mavis Henson Field

This is my first time cross-posting between LiveJournal and Dreamwidth. I have the same username on both sites. I'm not sure yet which one will be my primary account in the short-term future, but LiveJournal is no longer feeling to me like it can be relied upon to have much a long-term future. I do not think LiveJournal's Russian management is likely to attempt to impose significant free-speech restrictions on English-language accounts, because Vladimir Putin has little reason to care about what Americans writing in English think of him. However, I think LiveJournal's business decisions lately seem designed to drive the company into the ground. As I understand it, the main reason LiveJournal acquired such a large userbase in Russia in the first place was precisely because Russian users wanted to host their journals somewhere that wasn't in Russia or subject to Russian law, so the decision to move LiveJournal's Russian free accounts to servers in Russia can only scare Russian users away. LiveJournal's Russian paid accounts are apparently not being moved to servers in Russia, which I guess might be some incentive for Russian users to pay for their accounts, except that those users are still forced to accept LiveJournal's new terms of service that apply Russian restrictions on political (and LGBTQ+) speech. Between that and the fact that their friends with free accounts must be leaving in droves, I can't imagine that this is a sustainable way to run a business in Russia. I can only infer that Putin and his underlings must have offered LiveJournal's Russian management a large enough bribe for suppressing free speech to make it wothwhile to them to utterly destroy LiveJournal's profitability. Meanwhile, we English-speaking users are relatively fewer in number, and furthermore, LiveJournal's management has now also destroyed the main remaining incentive for English speakers to pay for their accounts, because LiveJournal is now displaying ads on all journals, whether paid or not, to users who aren't logged in to a paid acount. Sure, paying for your account will still spare you personally from seeing ads on LiveJournal, but come on - if that's all you want, you can achieve that goal just by installing a free adblocker. The real motivation to pay was to have a journal that didn't look like trash to anyone else who visited it. Now, whether you pay or not, anyone who visits your journal will see giant banner ads on it. This is a stupid way to run a business. If paid accounts weren't profitable for LiveJournal, management could have raised the prices. By making paid accounts no longer worth paying for, management is making themselves wholly dependent on ad revenue alone, while simultaneously driving away users, which means they will receive fewer hits on their ads. This cannot possibly be a sustainable business model.

I've been on LiveJournal for almost 16 years, and I have a permanent account here. I have a big stake in the site's survival, because as long as it survives, I get to continue benefitting from all the perks of a permanent account (including a considerable amount of photo hosting, which Dreamwidth doesn't provide). But I have no actual ability to stop the site's management from making suicidal business decisions, and that is what they appear to be making lately. Therefore, I am not expecting the site to survive very much longer, and I'm trying, regretfully, to prepare for its demise as best I can.

Anyway, let's get on with this.

This past weekend, while Barry spent most of his time playing and/or running board games at ConQuest Sacramento, I went on a portion of the Gardens Gone Native Tour. I just went to the two gardens in Woodland and the six gardens in Davis, out of the total of 28 gardens. I don't think it's actually possible to see all the gardens in one day unless you really hurry through them. I might have made a gardening friend at the second garden I visited; I struck up a conversation with the homeowner/gardener and gave her Barry's address and invited her to see the native garden I've planted in her yard, and gave her my own email address so we can talk native plant gardening. We agreed that it's nice to know someone else who has a native plant garden nearby. The next garden I visited after that was the only other one that made a strong impression on me; in that garden the homeowners weren't home, but the woman showing people around the garden explained that the homeowners had been ripping out California golden poppies (the state flower) and purple needlegrass (the state grass) because they didn't like the look of them. I remove a few purple needlegrass seedlings myself when they show up where I don't want them - or I transplant them to Barry's house - but I thought it was rather hilarious that anyone with a native plant garden would be ripping out California golden poppies because they don't like the look of them.

Anyway, after I finished the portion of the tour I wanted to see, Barry wasn't home yet, so I decided to go back out in search of native plants in a different location: Mavis Henson Field. This is a local park of sorts that I found out about via the LocalWiki entry for Mavis Henson Field, which makes it sound like a great place for seeing wildflowers. But I had tried to find the field once before, with Barry, and we had failed to find it. This time, when I tried again, I realized that the directions on LocalWiki were inorrect; the field is on the opposite side of County Road 25 from where the directions claimed it was. But I figured out where it was because it was supposed to contain a lake, so I looked for a lake. The field still did not turn out to be a good place to see wildflowers, though, except maybe for the select few wildflower experts who are allowed into the fenced area where the meadow and vernal pool habitat are. For the rest of us, it is a pretty good birdwatching park and a decent place to see some native shrubbery, but it's the wrong place to go to see annual wildflowers.

Still, I took some pictures while I was there. I didn't feel comfortable taking a lot of photographs during the garden tour, but taking photographs of Mavis Henson Field was unlikely to bother anyone. So now I'm going to take you on a photographic tour of Mavis Henson Field in Woodland, California. Here are a silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons) and a Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) among miscellaneous grasses alongside the parking lot. In the background, a family is riding bikes on the gravel path around the lake.

Lupinus albifrons (silver bush lupine)

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Mood: happy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 8 April 2017
Saturday, 8 April 2017 1:26am
Cache Creek Nature Preserve Anniversary Date

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of our first date, Barry and I spent Monday afternoon at Cache Creek Nature Preserve, walking on the trails and having a picnic in a gazebo. In this journal entry I'm going to share the photos I took there.

These are silver bush lupines (Lupinus albifrons) in the parking lot. They're a species that grows wild around here, but these were obviously planted. They were part of a native plant garden in the parking lot area, where most of the plants had signs to identify their species. 

Lupinus albifrons (silver bush lupine)

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Mood: loved
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 10:53pm
March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses

It's time again for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! I haven't participated for nearly a full year . . . the last time I managed a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post was in April 2016. After that, posting about the beautiful new boyfriend I acquired early that April took precedence over posting about the plants I was acquiring. But the plants have also been beautiful, and I've planted about half of them at the beautiful new boyfriend's house, so today I bring you Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day from both our houses.

I have a backlog of garden from the past 11 months that I haven't posted yet, and in the past, whenever I've missed a few months of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I've included my backlogged photos in the new month's post. This time, though, I've missed more consecutive months than ever before, and I simply can't possibly catch up with the backlog. Instead, for now I'm just going to try to keep up with the current blooms. Maybe when the current bloom season winds down, I might have time to go through the backlog and post some 2016 photos in the appropriate months of 2017 (June photos in June, July photos in July, and so on).

I will post about Barry's house first. And for this first picture, I do have a couple of comparisons from earlier in the year!

Here is my beautiful boyfriend's front yard, as of a few days ago. In the lower right, you can see the "Native Plants live here!" sign I received during the Fall 2016 California Native Plant Society sales. They were selling these signs but also giving them away to people who spent a certain minimum amount of money on plants. I always spend a lot of money on plants at these sales, so I got a free sign. I may get another one this spring or next fall for my own house. I gave the first one to Barry because his front yard is more nearly pure native than mine. It is all California native, and almost all locally native, except for two crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) and a Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), which were the only plants in the front yard when I first went to Barry's house. The crepe myrtles (located on either side of the driveway, not visible from this angle) were planted by previous homeowners, coppiced (chopped down to ground level) before Barry bought the house, and covered with lawn. They resprouted after Barry bought the house and are now chest-high shrubs. I might try to kill them in the future. The Chinese pistache tree (visible below, currently leafless) was chosen by Barry and planted before he met me, and I plan to leave it alone, because it is a reasonably well-behaved and ornamental tree that is plausibly more marketable than a lot of the native options - and besides, if I tried to replace it now, it would take some years for a replacement to achieve comparable size (not that this tree is very big yet, but it is not fresh out of a pot, either) - so leaving it there could be a meaningful selling point for the house.

The plants currently blooming in Barry's yard are baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), the only flowers you can see in this picture; Cedros Island vervain (Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'), behind the Chinese pistache; cream cups (Platystemon californicus), on the other side of the driveway; and California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus), in the back yard. Well, and the deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the foreground of this picture. Also present in abundance, but not blooming yet, are Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii), white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), bird's eyes (Gilia tricolor), blue globe gilyflower (Gilia capitata), mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena). There's also plenty of other stuff that's less abundant, but those species are the ones I expect to make the biggest showing in the next few months. The Douglas' meadowfoam and California poppies at my house have already started blooming, but the ones at Barry's house were seeded later in the season because I was trying to beat back the weeds to make room for them, so their bloom season is being delayed due to their delayed planting time. Otherwise, they should start blooming sooner at Barry's house, because it is (as the crow flies) nearly 35 miles south of mine, and bloom season moves progressively northward over the course of the spring. None of the baby blue eyes at my own house have started blooming yet, but the ones at Barry's house are at peak bloom now.

Barry's house, March 2017

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Mood: accomplished
7 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Wednesday, 15 February 2017 2:00am
Evacuated! And Also, Two Weekends Plus Valentine's Day <3

The weekend before this last one was a quiet weekend at Barry's house in Woodland. We had originally planned to spend it at my house in Marysville, but then Barry's board-gaming friends suggested a game day that Sunday, so we spent it at Barry's house. I arrived to find that Barry had just bought a gigantic new TV, 65 inches across. It came in an even more gigantic box; the box filled up pretty much an entire wall of a room. Barry is giving me his old TV, because my only TV at the moment is an ancient CRT one, which Barry seems to like for its nostalgia value (he plays similarly antiquated video games on it), but which is useless for actually being able to receive any TV stations. We are thinking of putting Barry's old flatscreen on top of my fireplace mantle, but we haven't transported it to my house yet. Barry is also giving me a Playstation 4 to use with it, because apparently he had an extra Playstation 4 lying around.

We finished watching The Legend of Korra that weekend on Barry's new TV, and then Barry spent most of Sunday playing board games with four of his friends while I did a little more weeding in Barry's back yard. It was a quiet weekend.

Between the two weekends, there was a little flurry of discussion in which I made plans to probably acquire a temporary roommate this spring. Barry has a friend of several years who has a girlfriend of several months who needs a temporary place to stay in Marysville while working at the nearby air force base. I've met her several times, played board games with her, and thought she seemed very nice, so I offered to rent her a room of my house. Well, first I agonized a bit over whether it would be a terrible idea to make such an offer, because I've never had a roommate before. But after consulting with two different friends of mine who are landladies, I decided I was comfortable with it and made the offer. I still need to move some stuff out of that room, see if I can locate the key that goes to that doorknob, and prepare a rental agreement, and also I assume she'll want to come look at the place before she makes a final decision to move in. But I set a price for her and sent her a link to a map and some pictures and description of the place, and it seems like she'll be moving in. It should be for about two or three months, and she might be working night shifts, and she'll probably have weekends on different days than I do, and we'll each probably be spending our weekends with our respective boyfriends, so we may not actually see that much of each other. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how it goes. And if for some reason it goes badly, it should be over before very long.

Also there was a bit of local news on Tuesday when the main, concrete-lined spillway at nearby Lake Oroville developed a hole in the concrete. This was a bit alarming to all the local people, and I was following the story each day, looking at new pictures and video of the hole, but the experts seemed to be handling the situation. Things did start to sound a little more worrisome as the weekend approached, because it was decided that the water level in the reservoir would be allowed to rise enough to start spilling over the emergency spillway on Saturday. The emergency spillway had never been used before in the whole history of the reservoir. Unlike the regular spillway, the emergency spillway is not lined with concrete - it's just a dirt hillside - and is not gated - there's no way to stop the water from spilling over it except by lowering the lake level below the height of the emergency spillway. Anyway, I saw somewhere on Friday that if a problem developed with the emergency spillway, it would most likely develop on Saturday, so I was bearing that warning in the back of my mind throughout this past weekend.

This past weekend started out quietly. Barry and I planned to spend Friday evening through Sunday evening at my house and then, because I had taken Monday and Tuesday off work, to spend Monday and Tuesday at Barry's house. Barry arrived around midnight Friday night. On Sunday we went to Marysville's Second Annual Historic Faire, which involved going on guided tours of the Mary Aaron Museum and Marysville's Chinatown. It wasn't the best tour of Marysville's Chinatown that I've been on, but it was worth taking Barry on it. Afterward we ate lunch at the Szechuan Chinese restaurant. I ordered the almond chicken, which was okay, although I only ate about half of it. We took the other half home, and I let Barry eat it. There were a lot of carrots and squash and bamboo in it, all of which were acceptably edible in my book, but not especially enticing - I ate them while I was hungry and lost interest in them as soon as I was a little less hungry.

On Sunday we watched Enterprise and Barry glued pieces of wood together to make stuff for his customers. Around 5:00 p.m., I noticed on the Internet that low-lying areas of the city of Oroville were being evacuated. This was disturbing, but I didn't see any details about what exactly was going on. Anyway, Oroville is half an hour's drive north of Marysville, and Marysville was not being evacuated. I quickly put the news out of my mind, and we continued watching Enterprise in my living room. The blinds in my living-room window were cracked slightly open, and at one point I noticed a fire truck coming down the street and commented on this to Barry. I also noticed a car behaving kind of oddly, stopping in front of my house with its lights on, and I commented on that too. Barry commented that there seemed to be unusually heavy traffic in front of my house. I still didn't give it much thought, though, until Barry's dad texted him to ask whether he had heard that Marysville was under a mandatory evacuation order. Barry's dad didn't even realize that Barry was in Marysville with me, but his text was the first we both heard about the evacuation. Barry was actually already packing up to go home anyway, but I had been planning to spend a few more hours taking care of stuff around my house (such as preparing that potential rental room!) before getting on the road to follow him. I was a bit shocked to find out we were being ordered to evacuate. Basically everyone in Sutter County was evacuated, as well as the southern portion of Butte County and the western portion of Yuba County - an estimated total of 188,000 people - because a hole was now developing in the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville. The information we were looking at on the Internet said that the emergency spillway was expected to fail within the hour. This statement had been posted on the page we were looking at 19 minutes before we were looking at it, which implied that the spillway was now expected to fail within 40 minutes. I knew that the water wouldn't arrive at Marysville immediately, but I was not sure how long it would take. And under the circumstances, it didn't seem especially wise to spend ten minutes Googling for further details and trying to verify how fast the water might travel.

Barry asked me whether I wanted him to stay and help with anything. I said no, he should just get on the road right away, and I would follow soon afterward. He kissed me, told me he loved me, and got on the road. Then I looked around and tried to figure out what to do next. I felt myself doing some very weird prioritizing as I tried to mentally take in the situation. What do you think you would do if you had just a few minutes to grab whatever is most important to you and rush out of town? Whatever you think you would do, you are probably wrong, because you are probably thinking about it in a non-panicked mindset. When you try to think while in a panicked mindset, thinking doesn't work as well, and you end up spending five minutes brushing your teeth while trying to figure out whether this is really serious enough that you should leave in fifteen minutes or unserious enough that you should take 40 minutes. And then spending ten minutes taping protective seat-coverings to the back seat of your car to protect the seat from your incontinent dog, while wondering all the while whether the ten minutes you're spending on this might cause you to no longer have a dog or a car or a life at all - and yet, if you don't do it, you'll probably have a big mess to clean up later, and you'll probably wish you had done it. I took the time to finish doing that.

I started out slow and started to feel more and more urgency as the minutes passed. I started consciously reminding myself that I had a lot to live for, a wonderful boyfriend waiting for me. I had at first planned to let Barry know what time I left my house, as I usually do when I'm coming to visit him, but when I tried to message him, my computer was slow to respond, so I just closed it and got out of there. I grabbed my cat and my dog and my personal laptop and work laptop and two days' worth of clothes, threw us all into the car, and got on the road. I was a little over half an hour behind Barry.

Once I actually got on the road and turned on the news on an AM radio station, it became clear that the risk was significantly less immediate than I had initially thought, both because water was no longer flowing over the emergency spillway and also because the experts were reporting it would take at least 24 hours (possibly as long as 36 hours) for floodwaters to travel from Oroville to Marysville. [Edit: That information seems to have been inaccurate, though: detailed simulations here suggest it would take about nine hours for floodwaters from a collapse of the emergency spillway to reach my house.] The mandatory evacuation order had been expanded to the Marysville area at around 5:45, and we had seen it an hour or so later. I got on the road with my pets at 7:30, and by then, the most urgent danger had already passed: officials had released enough water down the damaged main spillway to lower the water levels to the point that water was no longer spilling over the damaged emergency spillway.

But by then I was already on the road. Not that I was moving very fast! It took me an hour on Highway 70 just to drive the length of the local high school. I kept wondering, during all that time, whether I should pull over at the next side street, park my car, take my dog with me, and run back home to pack a few more things I now realized I wished I'd brought with me. I didn't pull over, though. Nothing I wished I'd brought with me was really all that urgent. And I didn't want to lose my place in the nightmarish line of stopped cars. There was a stoplight up ahead where a gigantic line of cars from a side road was merging with the gigantic line of cars I was in, and the side road seemed to have a vast advantage. If I'm ever evacuated from Marysville again, I need to try to remember to stay on the side streets as long as I can, and postpone merging onto the highways. And I also need to remember that if the floodwaters are coming from Oroville, it's okay if traffic jams make it take four hours to get out of town, because I should have a good nine hours before the floodwaters arrive in Marysville.

It took me nearly two hours to get to the other end of Marysville (a distance I could have traveled on foot in less than half that time, even loaded down with belongings as I was) and a little over four hours to get all the way to Barry's house (which is normally a little under a one-hour drive). Barry made it to his house a bit more quickly than I did, because he had the benefit of a GPS advising him about which side streets to take to avoid the main flow of traffic, but it still took him nearly three hours.

If I'm ever evacuated from Marysville again, I also need to have plenty of gas in my car. I'm the kind of person who never lets my car get below a quarter of a tank of gas, and on this particular day I had half a tank of gas in it. I was extremely glad I didn't have any less that that, because the radio was reporting a major run on gasoline at all the nearby gas stations, with huge lines to wait in, and many stations were rationing limited amounts of gas per customer. A quarter of a tank would have been just barely enough to get me to Barry's house under normal circumstances, but with the traffic as backed up as it was tonight, having only a quarter of a tank would have made me extremely worried. Although, in the end, it didn't seem like spending four hours driving to Barry's house actually used up noticeably more gas than spending one hour driving there would have, so I also want to try to keep in mind in the future that sitting in traffic, unable to move for hours does not really seem to use up gas at any noticeable speed.

Anyway, eventually I made it to Barry's house. He said that worrying about me while he waited for me to arrive had made him realize how much he loves me. This is similar to other things Barry has said; it is a different type of thing than I would ever say. Barry seems to be taken by surprise when he feels strong emotions, and he also seems to treat these emotions as important guides to base future decision-making upon. Whereas, although I don't generally think of myself as being especially aware of my emotions all the time compared to the average person, I think I must be more aware of my emotions than Barry is of his - and more aware even of Barry's emotions than Barry is himself - because whenever Barry expresses surprise at noticing strong emotions in himself, it seems to me not in any way surprising whatsoever. That is, I am not the least bit surprised that Barry would feel such emotions, and I would also fully expect the same emotions in myself and feel equally unsurprised by them there.

But also, perhaps more importantly, I do not tend to treat my emotions as important guides to base future decision-making upon. The question of what feelings I actually feel tends to seem to me largely irrelevant to my decision-making; when making serious and important decisions, I'm far more likely to base such decisions on an intellectual analysis of what emotions I feel I'm justified in having, rather than on a gut-level assessment of what emotions I actually do feel, because my first instinct in reacting to my own emotions tends to be a certain wariness of being overly influenced by them. That is, it is easy to sympathize with anyone who pours out a sob story, but if you give in to every sob story you hear, you may get swindled by a lot of con artists. I can't say, however, that my wariness of trusting my emotions has seemed to make me particularly immune to being manipulated; if anything, I'd say I'm more easily manipulated than the average person. But it's possible that I'd be even more easily manipulated if I were more inclined to trust my emotions; it's unclear (to me, anyway) whether my vulnerabilities arise mainly from being distrustful of my emotions when trusting them more might sometimes offer important insights or whether my vulnerabilities arise mainly from simply having strong emotions.

Anyway, I was glad to be safe with Barry at his house. Barry's parents took us out to lunch on Monday, and then we went to pick up Heathcliff - Barry's new laser. Barry's old laser arrived in a cardboard box wooden crate with the name "Cathy" inexplicably written on it, so the laser became known as Cathy. Barry recently decided to buy a second laser, the same size as the first, to increase his production capacity, so he was seeking a name for it. He thought it should be the name of a cartoon character, since Cathy is the name of a cartoon character, but his mom suggested Heathcliff because Cathy and Heathcliff are the names of the couple in Wuthering Heights. I approved of this suggestion and pointed out that Heathcliff is also the name of a cartoon cat. The new laser is now named Heathcliff. Anyway, I went with Barry and his dad to the U-Haul place to rent a trailer to pick up the new laser in, but the electrical connections in Barry's dad's SUV failed to work properly with the taillights on the trailer, so they had to hook up the rented trailer to Barry's pickup truck instead. The pickup truck only has seats for two people, so I stayed at Barry's house while Barry and his dad went to pick up Heathcliff. Then I helped Barry remove the plastic wrap from around Heathcliff. Heathcliff still isn't quite operational yet, because Barry needs to finish installing some ductwork to vent the exhaust out of the garage, but he's getting there.

Barry and his parents joked about my status as an evacuee; Barry called me a refugee and warned that the president would like to deport me to Syria. It was strange to see news reports about evacuees and realize I was one of them. It's like being a minor celebrity, but not in a good way, and in my case, not in a particularly significant way at all. I must have been one of the least inconvenienced evacuees ever, because "evacuating" for me only ended up meaning that I left my house for Barry's house a few hours earlier than I'd planned to, and brought my pets with me when I otherwise would have left them at home. The mandatory evacuation orders were lifted on Tuesday afternoon, so I went home Tuesday evening at the same time I'd previously planned.

For Valentine's Day, I gave Barry two heart-shaped boxes of candy and a red box, about 3" × 3" × 3", decorated with Valentine stickers and filled with similarly decorated hearts cut out of wrapping paper, with little one-sentence reasons on each of them saying why I love him. There was a total of 25 reasons in the box, and enough stickers on each of them to make those 25 paper hearts fill up most of the space in a 3" high box. Also Barry's cats gave him a Valentine's Day card, which I may have assisted them in picking out and signing. Barry gave me a heart-shaped box of candy, a bunch of strawberries dipped in white chocolate, and a helium-filled balloon with a picture of a bear holding a heart that says "I Love You" on it. Also he showed me a game he is building for me out of wood, resembling a board game I liked when we played it before.

a Beary balloon from Barry

Barry had asked me questions in advance about what kinds of things I wanted for Valentine's Day, and I had advised him to go for visual impact: "Go into the store, look around, and see what catches your eye first. Buy that." This is how he ended up buying the balloon and a heart-shaped box of chocolates that was purple. I feel that this strategy worked out well. The fact that one heart-shaped box of chocolates was purple was a good reason to buy me that one rather than another one, and the bear balloon is perfect because Barry's name is Beary (and also Berry and Beri and other variations . . .) and Barry is a bear. I think too many people treat Valentine's Day as a time to spend a ton of money buying generic, personality-less presents, and I think the best presents, especially on Valentine's Day, are more about personality, less about money. Which is why, when shopping for Valentine's Day stuff for Barry, I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of heart-shaped stickers and resolved to make something out of them (and I did).

This was sort of our first Valentine's Day together and sort of our second, because last year on Valentine's Day we'd been corresponding obsessively for three weeks, but we had agreed not to meet in person for another month and a half. (Last year I sent him a copy of a picture of him, with a heart-shaped frame around his face; he sent me a picture of me with a different heart-shaped frame around my face.) Things were looking promising, but there was still a potential for them to be derailed before we even met. I am glad we stuck together and actually met.

Although I'm back in Marysville now, the situation at Oroville Dam is still a bit iffy and seems likely to remain so until the end of the rainy season. I expect to be coming and going a bit, and keeping more of my stuff at Barry's house than usual so as to protect it in case Marysville does flood. There is another rainstorm expected on Thursday, and if another mandatory evacuation order is issued, I hope to be better prepared for the next one.

Mood: pleased
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Wednesday, 23 November 2016 11:46am
Yuba City Sikh Parade, Star Trek, Election, Swanwatching, Foster Cat, Etc.

I keep meaning to post some garden pictures, but I'm having trouble getting around to it, first because I have this wonderfully exciting boyfriend to write about instead, second because I now have over six months' worth of garden pictures to post and therefore it'll be time-consuming to catch up, third because I've been having to work ridiculously long hours all this year that have left me with extremely little free time to split between this and everything else I want to do, and fourth because things keep happening in the world that require attention . . . such as that terrible little election we just had. But I still intend to get around to posting some garden pictures soon. And in the meantime, I'm going to write about the four days Barry and I spent at my house up to and through Election Day: the evening of November 4 through the morning of November 9. And a little postscript about the two more recent weekends, too.

When Barry arrived on Friday evening, I had a pork roast in the slow cooker, and some red and yellow potatoes as a side dish. We were talking about the Star Trek: Voyager DVDs we've been watching at Barry's house, and Barry mentioned that he discovered recently that the Amazon Prime subscription he has for his lasersmith business gives him access to all the episodes of Enterprise, so we decided to start watching our way through the first season of Enterprise. I think we started right away, that evening, with the first episode. By the end of the day Tuesday, we had watched the first 22 episodes.

The next day, Saturday, Barry and I went for a walk to the Feather River. We had previously (on our first date) walked to the Yuba River from my house. I don't walk to the Feather River as often, because the walk in that direction leads past larger homeless encampments, with off-leash dogs that I can't take Boston past, and because it's a less scenic walk, to a riverfront that itself is less scenic (by which I mean that there's not much wilderness left along that riverfront - there are a bunch of soccer fields along it). But I wanted to show Barry both the rivers I live within walking distance of, so we set out toward the Feather River.

It took a while to find a way past the chain-link fence surrounding the soccer fields and make our way past the soccer games to the riverbank, but we made it eventually. There is a small strip of wilderness I've been to before that we could have gotten to if we'd walked far enough along the bank, but it wasn't readily accessible. We walked out on some broken asphalt under a bridge and explored the place a little, then headed back away from the riverbank. Barry saw what looked like a water fountain and decided he needed a drink. But the water fountain was full of trash and did not have any water. We kept walking and saw another one, this one very near to a well. We tried that one too, hoping that it might be supplied by the well, but there was no water there either. Finally we decided to climb across the levee and buy water from the grocery store on the other side. As we walked, we were talking about the graffiti we saw all over the bridge - various people professing eternal love for each other (I wondered whether any of them were still together, if in fact the love had ever even been reciprocated in the first place) and occasional other statements. We passed some graffiti that said "Fuck bitches get money," and I asked Barry whether he thought it meant "If you fuck bitches, you can get money" or "Fuck bitches; focus instead on getting money." Barry said he thought it was neither, but rather the graffiti artist's do-do list: "First, fuck bitches; second, get money" . . . there was no third thing to get around to doing, apparently. Graffiti artists should learn to punctuate if they want to make themselves understood.

Anyway, we made it to the grocery store. I hadn't brought my purse, but Barry had brought his wallet, so he bought us water and trail mix. Then I said I wanted to walk across the bridge to the other side of the river for a few minutes before we went back to my house. So we walked across. We saw more graffiti on the walk over, mostly more people professing eternal love, and Barry said something about people having such an instinct to proclaim their love by writing it on their surroundings. He asked whether I wished he had spray paint with him and would vandalize the bridge in my honor. I said no, I much preferred for him to have water and trail mix.

On the other side of the bridge - the Yuba City side, as opposed to the Marysville side - we tried to climb down to the water as I remembered having done two years ago, but it wasn't as easy as I had remembered it being to get down to the water. I suggested that we walk a little further upstream until we found a spot where we could reach the water. We walked to the recently developed Willow Island Park and followed its pedestrian path down to a small strip of beach, where signs informed us about salmon in the river. With my finger in the sand at the very edge of the water, I wrote "I love Barry." Then we turned back and headed for my house. We took a somewhat different route on the way back - more through the center of town rather than around the edge of it. We walked to Ellis Lake and were accosted by a very friendly loose dog whose owners were outside with it - they and the dog were on their own property, overlooking the lake - and the owners were embarrassed because the dog took an instant liking to us and tried to follow us home. Eventually they got their dog under control, but we had to stop walking for a minute or two so they could catch up with it. Then we continued walking again. A goose on the shore a little ahead of us dove into the water as we approached. Then we were past the lake, and then a bit later, we were home. And we watched more Enterprise, of course.

On Sunday we went to the Yuba City Sikh Parade. I was pretty certain this would be a big hit with Barry, and I was right. It is always a big hit with me too, but it's even better suited for Barry, because Barry likes Indian food far more consistently than I do, and this event is all about free Indian food. It is a religious holiday in which Sikhs give out free food to everyone in sight, as a matter of religious duty, an obligation to take care of one's fellow people. I like it because there's something about walking down a street crowded with people offering all the free food you can eat to everyone in sight that never fails to inspire a renewed faith that random human strangers can be very nice people and there's hope for humanity yet. And besides that, in an age in which Trump has sowed all manner of racist hostility, this is an event in which the streets of a very Republican and very pro-Trump neighborhood are flooded with brown-skinned people wearing turbans and salwar kameez, and there is no evident hostility toward them from any of the white people present, because come on, it's pretty hard for even a Trump voter to react with hostility when being offered tons of free food.

There is a custom of politeness, however, for when the first parade float passes by. The first parade float carries the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text, and when it passes, it is considered polite for everyone, even the nonbelievers in the crowd, to cover their heads. Before leaving the house, I searched for some Indian scarves I had previously used for this purpose, but I seem to have gotten rid of them. I didn't especially like them; I just didn't have much else I could use for this purpose. I settled on a shawl, a silk-and-velvet shawl with a beaded picture of a peacock on it that I bought some years back while going through an intense craving to own all the peacock-blue clothing I could find, whether or not it had actual pictures of peacocks on it. This shawl doesn't go well with most of my clothes, though, so to find some clothes that it did go with, I pulled out a dress I generally reserve for rare special occasions. And then, because the dress is not much below knee-length and bare ankles are disapproved of in Sikh culture, I added a pair of black tights. Basically I ended up dressed to the nines. Barry was very impressed and very delighted. Two Sikh women at the parade also complimented me on my peacock shawl.

After struggling a bit to figure out where to park, I parked at the Home Depot, and we set out from there, walking a few blocks to the parade area. Then we spent a good hour or so sampling all the Indian food. In one of the lines, I declined a lot of what was being offered, because it was too vegetabley or too spicy-hot for my tastes, and was then given twice as much bread as other people at the end of the line, because apparently my plate looked too empty. We both ate until we were completely stuffed. And then the parade showed up, and I started taking pictures.

Parade pictures!Collapse ). . . And then it was over. Barry has been suggesting ever since that we should go back to the Sikh Parade again, as if it were held every day or every week rather than just once a year.

Since we had parked at the Home Depot, we went shopping there upon our return to the car. Barry was working on fixing several things for me - a dripping showerhead, a chainsaw with a loose chain, a fluorescent light that was being very slow to turn on, and a cat fountain Barry gave me that was leaking water because it was missing an O-ring. He looked for parts at Home Depot, but he didn't know exactly what he needed, so we went home first, and then Barry went back out again to buy what he needed. He ended up giving up on the dripping showerhead - he told me it needed a new cartridge, but he encountered some brass parts and didn't know whether they were soldered and was afraid of wrecking them if he tried to continue, so he advised me to call a plumber. I did, and the plumber confirmed that it needed a new cartridge, and the plumber fixed it. Barry is still working on the chainsaw; he thinks it might need a new tension pin, and I asked him to help me figure out how to buy a new tension pin for it. He's also still working on the cat fountain. But he fixed my fluorescent light for me! I had replaced the tubes in it a couple of years ago, but Barry replaced the ballast in it and also repaired the acrylic light covers I had cracked.

When Barry wasn't working on fixing things, we went back to watching Enterprise for most of the rest of the Sunday and Monday. At some point during this, Barry mentioned that he has trouble telling the difference between two of the characters on Enterprise: security officer Malcolm Reed and chief engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker III. I think Barry had previously mentioned to me that he has trouble recognizing faces, but I had just thought, well, I don't think I'm all that great at recognizing faces either; I didn't give any further thought to it. But now it suddenly made a big impression on me because Barry had cited an actual example of two faces he has trouble telling apart, and those two characters do not look at all like to me. I mean, they're both white men probably in their thirties (late thirties for Malcolm Reed, early thirties for Trip Tucker - okay, I just looked up the actors' ages, and during the first season of Enterprise they would have been 39 and 32, respectively), but beyond that, I don't see a resemblance. One has dark blond/light brown hair and the other has dark brown hair; one is plainly older than the other; their faces do not look similar to me. They also have completely different accents (English versus Southern), but Barry has no trouble recognizing them once they start speaking; he just has to wait until after they start speaking before he can tell which is which. Barry is faceblind! Upon realizing this, I spent much of the rest of our extended weekend together periodically asking him follow-up questions about it, trying to get a better idea of how it affects his perceptions and how it has changed his life experience. It seems to be a major factor in kind of a lot of the things we have in common, which is kind of weird since I'm not faceblind (just maybe very slightly below average at face recognition). Though it turns out that maybe my mother is, and my mother also influenced me in a lot of the ways that I have in common with Barry. My mother had very bad vision for much of her childhood and did not get glasses until she was a teenager, so she thinks the face-recognition part of her brain didn't develop well because her vision was so bad during much of the time when it would normally have been developing.

Barry has no comparable explanation for why he might be faceblind, but he has explanations of how it affects him. He said he was always hopeless at team sports when in school because he couldn't recognize who was on his team and who wasn't. This was kind of similar in effect to my own experience; I was always hopeless at team sports when in school not because I couldn't recognize people but because I inevitably tuned out when the teacher started explaining the rules, so I inevitably ended up unsure which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for or which direction was first base in softball. In second grade I voluntarily signed up to play in a soccer league but then tuned out when told which goal to aim for, so I spent the entire season deliberately slowing down whenever I got anywhere near the ball, because I didn't know which direction I was supposed to be kicking it. And in softball I intentionally struck out every single time I ever batted, all the way through all my years of school, because I wasn't sure which way was first base and didn't want to risk humiliating myself by guessing wrong. And because after a certain point, asking someone to tell me which way was first base or which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for would in itself have been humiliating. (I also tuned out when other class activities such as spelling bees and that kind of thing were explained aloud, but with most things other than sports, the class would take turns, and I generally had time to figure out the rules from watching what other kids did before my own turn came up. There was less taking turns in sports, and also I was so uninterested in sports that when someone else did occasionally get a hit and run to first base, I would promptly forget again which way they had run.) Anyway, although the causes were a bit different - perhaps I had an auditory processing disorder? - it seems like Barry and I had a similar experience of school sports.

I said I often have trouble following the plot of old black-and-white TV shows, because too many of the characters in the era when they were made tended to be white men, usually all dressed virtually identically and with virtually identical haircuts, and when you additionally take out all the color so I can't even distinguish between things like blue suits and brown suits, I usually can't tell all the white men apart from each other. Barry said he has the same problem even with more contemporary, color TV shows, and it's why he doesn't watch much TV - and also why he does watch Star Trek, because the different colors on the Starfleet uniforms and the different alien species' markings usually make it easier for him to tell the characters apart on Star Trek than on most other TV shows. This is another thing we have in common, not watching much TV other than Star Trek. In my case, my not watching much TV other than Star Trek was strongly influenced by my mother's not watching much TV other than Star Trek.

I asked Barry whether his trouble recognizing people made it hard for him to make friends, and he said yes. I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in distinguishing which race people belong to, or in "reading" people who are in drag or transitioning between genders. It was difficult to pin down in anywhere near precise terms how much trouble "most people" have in distinguishing people's races or birth-assigned genders might be, but the impression I ended up with was that Barry "probably" has slightly more trouble with this. Then I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in reading people's facial expressions, and he said yes, he mostly reads people's body language. This led into another thing we have in common - that both of us were cheated on in our last relationships, and both of us felt similar shock and betrayal, and both of us reacted in similar ways. Both of us could hardly comprehend the idea that anyone, much less someone we'd loved and lived with and trusted for so many years, could behave in such an untrustworthy manner, and both of us feel that we have below-average abilities to see through liars and recognize when they are lying to us. Both of us have learned the hard way to be a bit distrustful of our own tendency to be trustful.

For some reason I asked Barry whether he ever has the experience, as I sometimes do, of suddenly feeling a very strong sense that the person he's talking to is feeling a certain way in response to something he's just said, but of being completely unable to explain to himself what it is about that person's behavior that is conveying that. He said no, he tends to analyze and dissect people's body language very consciously and can't recall ever sensing an emotion from someone else without being conscious of what it was about this person's behavior that was conveying this. I would like to always be conscious of what it is that gives me the impression people are feeling a certain way, because not being sure why I have that impression leaves me not quite sure whether I'm just being paranoid or just engaging in wishful thinking. But sometimes things are just not that clear.

Anyway, it seemed as if he discovery that Barry has trouble recognizing faces helped explain a whole lot about him. But then, a week or so later, I found an online test for faceblindness - the "Famous Faces Test." (You can Google for various versions of it.) Barry scored 85% on a version of it that said an average, non-faceblind score is 85%. I took the same version of the test and scored 81%. So now I don't know what to make of that. Websites about faceblindness do note that some self-identified faceblind people may get high scores on the test. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any test that diagnoses faceblindness with much reliability at all, in terms of correlating with people's self-diagnoses. Faceblindness seems to be almost always self-diagnosed, to the point that now I'm not sure to what extent it's even a real diagnosis at all. That is, there have been a few people who abruptly lost their previous ability to recognize faces as a result of a brain injury, so it seems to be a real thing for those people; and any ability that can be lost in midlife can presumably also be never developed, in some rare few people; but it is not clear whether it's really at all common for people's facial recognition to vary all that much from normal levels. Presumably some people are some degree better at facial recognition than others, but we might all get the impression that our abilities in this area differ more dramatically than they really do, simply because different people focus on different details when recognizing people - so, for example, the difference between Malcolm Reed and Trip Tucker might be completely obvious to me and incredibly subtle to Barry, but there might be some other pair of people who would look incredibly similar to me and incredibly obviously different to Barry.

I don't know. Anyway, that was a big topic of discussion between us for a while.

I was a bit sunburned after the Sikh Parade, due I think to the combination of being outside a couple of hours for the parade and also being outside a couple of hours on the previous day when we were walking to the Feather River. So on the day after the Sikh Parade, when Barry suggested going for another walk, I put on sunscreen first. We just walked to the dollar store and looked around in it, then left without buying anything. Along the way, I tried to give Barry a botany lesson, because I'd been weeding my front yard immediately before our walk, and I wanted to share that experience with him. I told him about seed leaves (the first leaves that sprout from a newly germinated seed, which look different from the leaves that will grow later), and how most plant species are dicots, meaning that they have two seed leaves, but some are monocots, meaning that they have one seed leaf. The information didn't really stick with him. At some point I will do some careful weeding while he has time to sit and watch and listen to me, and I will manage to convey to him at least the general sense of how I think when I'm weeding, and some sort of vague overview of botany. In the meantime, I explained to him that the seedlings coming up in the planter boxes at his house from the seeds I planted there are very likely seedlings from the seeds I planted - I mean, they're sprouting from newly purchased, storebought dirt and compost that shouldn't have any weed seeds left alive in it - and he expressed that lovely sense of wonderment that every new gardener feels upon realizing that the seeds planted last week have magically turned into tiny baby plants.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Two days after the Sikh Parade was Election Day. Barry had already voted by mail, but I voted at my local precinct on Election Day. I had taken that Monday and Tuesday off work, because Barry was staying at my house, and the reason he was staying at my house was that he wanted to go with me to the Election Day party that my friends Alyson and Jackie had organized. It was an all-Clinton party in an almost-all-Trump part of the almost-all Clinton state of California. It was also a very lesbian party. Barry was one of only two men there; the other man was a neighbor of one of the lesbians, and had put up a Clinton yard sign, which had been stolen, and his yard sign had gotten him invited to the party.

There were lines at my precinct when I voted, even though I voted at an uncommon time of day, in the middle of what would ordinarily have been my workday, because I had the day off work. I wondered then whether it was a bad sign about the election's outcome, that turnout was high in my very pro-Trump neighborhood.

Barry and I had a 45-minute drive to the party that evening, and there weren't any election returns coming in yet when we left my house. But 45 minutes later, the very first thing we were greeted with upon walking in the door at the party was the news that the election was a nailbiter and things were not going well. It only got worse from there, of course. By the time we went back to my house, we had a very bad feeling that we were very likely to end up with Trump as president. There was some degree of room for doubt until we woke up the next morning, but it wasn't all that much.

On the drive home, I drove through some drifts of tule fog and suggested that Barry might want to stay overnight with me so as to avoid driving home in tule fog. He had planned to go home late Tuesday night, but he ended up going home first thing Wednesday morning instead. The morning was a bit of a daze. I found that I had to consciously remind myself that not everything in my life depended on who was president - that I had not, for example, entered into a romantic relationship with Barry contingent upon the president being a Democrat, and therefore I could continue to date Barry even with Trump in office. It simply was not the way I had been expecting the future to go. I had known, of course, that having Trump elected president was a real possibility, but since worrying about it wasn't likely to help anything, I had mostly been choosing not to worry about it.

The following weekend, Barry and I didn't see each other at all. I had bought tickets for a swanwatching tour as part of the California Swan Festival, but Barry came down with a cold that made him too sick to drive here that Friday night and too sick to go swanwatching that Saturday night, and I had a ton of work to catch up on anyway, so I advised Barry to just stay where he was, at his own house, and focus on getting well, rather than coming to my house just to be sick and maybe get me sick when we wouldn't be able to do much together. I did go on the swanwatching tour myself. I carpooled with a family from the nearby town of Lincoln - Rick and Mayumi and their two very well-behaved small children (ages maybe 4 and 6). I liked them. They were plainly introverts, so we were all happy to be silent together. And I figure they were probably not Trump supporters, because neither of them was white (Mayumi was presumably from Japan, given her name, and Rick appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent). And we all cared about looking at tundra swans, so we had that in common. I took swan pictures, and maybe I'll post those later, but I didn't really get anywhere near as good a view of the birds, or as good of photos of the birds, on this tour as I did on a similar tour two years ago. Mostly I just got pretty sunset pictures, which are nice, but not entirely the point of the tour. I told Barry I want to take him on the tour route in January, just the two of us, with me acting as tour guide. We may get a better view of the birds when there aren't so many other people around to scare them off.

And the next weekend after that, I went to Barry's house. He has a new foster cat named Lois - an adult cat this time, maybe two years old, being fostered for six to eight weeks while she recovers from surgery after being found injured, probably bitten by a dog. Lois is extremely cuddly. I haven't gotten around to taking any pictures of her yet. On Saturday we bought a truckload of dirt to finish filling up the second planter box he built, and then Barry had friends over to play board games while I worked. Although it rained all weekend, on Sunday I weeded his front yard anyway and planted seeds in it. We also found time to continue watching Star Trek: Voyager and one episode of Enterprise (which we switched over to because we were being sat on by cats and therefore couldn't get up to put in the next Voyager DVD).

This coming Sunday is Barry's birthday! He will be 35. We have much to celebrate.

Mood: busy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 18 September 2016
Sunday, 18 September 2016 11:49am
Camping at Silver Lake

Barry and I went camping! At Silver Lake Campground (near the town of Quincy), which I also camped at last year. Last year I was camping alone except for Boston. This year I brought Barry and also Boston. I think, though, that this was Boston's last camping trip. She seems to be getting too old to handle camping anymore. After our six-mile hike on our second day there, Boston was hobbling and limping so that I was afraid to attempt any further hiking, and on our third day there, Barry noticed she had peed in the back seat of my car, and during our third night there, she peed all over the foot of the sleeping bags, while we were sleeping in them. It's common for older female dogs to lose bladder control, so I'm assuming that's what's going on. Her legs seemed to be fine when I got her back home, so I'm assuming that was just temporary sore muscles or sore foot pads or some such thing. The discomfort while walking might have contributed to her failure to ask to be let out of the car or the tent to go pee somewhere else, but I had also noticed a suspicious stain in the back seat of my car when I was packing for the camping trip, so I think she also peed in my car when I took her to and from the vet's office a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, we had originally planned to stay four nights and five days, but we decided to go home one day early because Boston had peed on the sleeping bags and we didn't want to sleep in dog-pee-soaked sleeping bags. And I would like to avoid encountering that problem on any future camping trips.

We encountered several other problems as well, including running out of drinking water and getting stuck on a dirt road with speed bumps on it that were so high that they were completely impassable at any speed in my Nissan Sentra. But solving problems together is an important relationship-building experience, right? So, we solved our problems and emerged just fine, and also had a wonderful time. We hiked to Rock Lake and Gold Lake, went swimming in Gold Lake, drove to Snake Lake, and drove to the town of Quincy to buy more drinking water. And we took lots and lots and lots of pictures.

Running out of drinking water was actually semi-planned. It isn't easy to pack two adult humans, one medium-sized dog, and five days' worth of camping gear into a Nissan Sentra, and my Nissan Sentra doesn't even have a roof rack for extra space. Barry has a pickup truck that might have fit our stuff much better, but it has no back seat for Boston, so we squeezed everything into my Sentra instead. But we scrimped a bit on drinking-water space because the campground is not far at all from the town of Quincy, so I knew we could easily buy more water there if we ran out.

Anyway, we packed everything into my car and set out early Wednesday, September 7, with a bunch of Barry's and my CDs to listen to along the way, and we arrived at the campground in early afternoon. We parked in campsite 1 and got out and walked through the rest of the campground on foot to decide which campsite we wanted. There are 8 campsites in the campground, with sites 6 to 8 closest to the lake shore, and a large gap between sites 5 and 6. Last year I stayed in campsite 2 because sites 1 to 5 were all empty, and I wanted to be far away from the numerous people who were at the other end of the campground. This year there was only one other person there when we arrived, and that person was in campsite 7. We selected campsite 6 for ourselves, because there was an adequate distance between campsites 6 and 7 for us to still feel isolated, and there was no other campsite any nearer that anyone could move into later.

This is Silver Lake. We camped alongside it - across a dirt road from the shore at the far right.

Silver Lake

Click for much more!Collapse )

Mood: pleased
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 31 July 2016
Sunday, 31 July 2016 5:03pm
Presidential Election

I have some things to say about the presidential election. Specifically, from my perspective as a registered third-party voter (Peace and Freedom Party!), as a woman, as someone who cast her first-ever vote in a presidential election for a third-party female presidential candidate (Marsha Feinland) running against Bill Clinton in 1996. And as a lifelong Californian voter, a voter in the most populous of states and one of the most decidedly non-swingy of states.

If you live in a swing state, what I'm about to say may not apply as much to your situation. But for me personally . . . I have never seen any sense in pretending that the votes I cast in presidential elections are going to make any difference in terms of who becomes president that year. The number of people I would have to persuade to change their votes to hand over California's 55 electoral college votes to anyone other than the Democrats is ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, though - I believe it's very important to vote. Voting makes a real difference in people's lives. If more good people in California had bothered to show up to cast votes against Prop 8 in 2008, thousands of couples would have been married years earlier. They couldn't be, just because too many voters failed to go fill in one little bubble on their behalf. But the votes you cast that are most likely to make a real difference are the local ones - for mayor, for city council, for or against local ballot measures, that kind of thing. State-level elections are harder to swing, and in national-level elections, Californians have hardly any voice at all. We only get two senators to represent our 38 million people, just like Wyoming gets to represent its fewer than 600,000 people, and our lack of senators results in a lack of electoral votes as well, and since our electoral votes are awarded in winner-takes-all manner, it's been 28 years since our electoral votes last failed to go to the Democrats. (George H. W. Bush won California in 1988. California had been solidly Republican for a while before that, but demographics and political parties have changed, and we're not at all likely to go Republican again anytime soon.)

So the most important thing I wish left-wing activists would focus on during election years is trying to persuade people to vote, rather than trying to persuade them to vote for any specific candidate. Feeling browbeaten and pressured to vote for a particular candidate can sometimes actively turn people against that candidate, but the message "We desperately need you to bother to vote!" tends to be received much more welcomingly than the message "We desperately need you to vote for this specific candidate!" And persuading more people to vote tends to strongly favor left-wing candidates and left-wing causes all up and down the ballot.

And this is a big part of the value in having third-party candidates on the ballot. Many people, unfortunately, will not bother showing up to vote if there's no one on the ballot that they're comfortable voting for in a prominent race such as the presidential one. Many people pay very little attention to the races further down the ballot, and simply say to themselves that if the choice is between two presidential candidates they hate, then they'll stay home. Giving these people additional choices, even if those choices have no real chance of winning, can help persuade them to bother going to the polls - simply to "send a message," because having a candidate in the race whom they can express agreement with lets them feel able to send the message they want to send. So having third parties on the ballot, especially left-wing third parties, tends to benefit Democrats in down-ballot races by helping bring more left-wing voters to the polls. And down-ballot races are the ones most easily swung.

This is why I'm a registered third-party voter. I was a registered Democrat when I cast my vote for Marsha Feinland of the Peace and Freedom Party against Bill Clinton in 1996. In 1998, the Peace and Freedom Party was removed from the California ballot - the only state whose ballot it had been on to begin with - because its gubernatorial candidate that year didn't receive the number of votes that the Democratic-controlled California state legislature had decided to require third-party candidates to receive for their parties to remain on the ballot. For the party to get back on the ballot, it needed to obtain a minimum number of voters registered as being affiliated with it. I changed my party registration to Peace and Freedom to help the party get back on the ballot, and the party was restored to the California ballot in 2003.

I have never been a fan of the Clintons. I didn't like Bill Clinton in 1992 because he was a philanderer and a centrist, but I was too young to be eligible to vote against him then. In 1996 I was struggling with the question of whether or not I could stand to vote for him when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby ensuring that I will hate his guts for the rest of my life. (Hillary Clinton could have dissociated herself better in my mind from her husband's actions on this issue if she had "evolved" more quickly on marriage equality, but instead she was among the slowest prominent Democratic national politicians to "evolve," and Bill Clinton has been quoted as saying, when he was president, that he thought she was homophobic, which certainly did her no favors in my book.) In his second term, Bill Clinton continued making me angrier and angrier at him; the "welfare reform" he was proud of achieving was pure Republicanism with a sticker labeled "Democrat" stuck unconvincingly on top. As for Hillary Clinton, I never had anything against her personally when she was first lady. But when she became a senator, she was one of the very large number of Democrats in Congress who voted in 2002 to authorize George W. Bush to invade Iraq. On the day of that vote, I immediately vowed never again to vote for any of those Democrats for any office ever again, because the vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was the most transparently stupid and evil and utterly unjustifiable Congressional vote I'd ever seen. And in the 14 years since then, I've stood by that vow. I had always voted for Senator Dianne Feinstein until she voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, but I never voted for again after that. I voted third party against John Kerry (for Leonard Peltier of the Peace and Freedom Party) in 2004 because John Kerry had voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq.

So if this were even remotely close to a normal election year, I would be perfectly primed for voting third-party against Hillary Clinton. And I don't feel there's any especially compelling reason not to do so - I have no illusion that my vote as a Californian is going to make any difference in who becomes president. I will cast my vote in the presidential election purely to send a message. Yet I'm feeling that I'm more and more likely to break that vow I made in 2002 and actually vote for Hillary Clinton this year, simply because there are so many competing messages associated with the candidates this year that I think voting third party this year would tend to lend itself to drastic misinterpretation of my intended message.

Frankly, I'm not sure what a lot of this year's "Bernie or Bust" contingent really stands for. I'm sure there's some legitimate feeling of wariness of Hillary Clinton because of her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, and I share that sentiment. I'm sure there's also some debatably somewhat legitimate wariness of Hillary Clinton because of her husband's Republican-like policies as president; I rate this as "debatably somewhat legitimate" because, although I do think it says something that she's married to the guy, I'm not at all sure - being the daughter, myself, of a Democrat happily married to a Republican - that it says all that much. People can be married to one another, even quite happily married to one another, and still each have their own quite distinct individual views on political issues; I think there's a sexist tendency to assume women's political views must be identical to their husbands', and I think Hillary suffers somewhat in the esteem of many left-wing voters due to this sexist assumption. I also think there's some completely illegitimate and blatantly sexist panic going on in which Hillary Clinton is being falsely painted as having emotional problems simply because the sexist stereotype of women in our culture is that women are somehow emotionally out of control.

On Facebook this year I've seen numerous people accusing Hillary Clinton of being a sociopath, a narcissist, an egomaniac, a pathological liar . . . I don't understand this. She is a politician, so naturally she seeks political office, promotes her qualifications for that office, and engages in some degree of political machinations and manipulations. But I don't see how she's in any way more extreme about this than any other national-level politician. I have some very strong disagreements with her about policy, but as for her sanity and emotional stability, I think I've never seen any comparably prominent politician whose sanity or emotional stability could ever exceed hers. If you want to accuse a Clinton of being a narcissist, you should be accusing Bill. Narcissism is strongly correlated with cheating on one's partner; it is not at all correlated with putting up with being cheated on by one's partner. The same goes for sociopathy. That right there is pretty strong evidence that whatever else Hillary Clinton may be, she is not a narcissist or a sociopath. And I simply don't see any evidence for egomania in her. She wants the job of president and promotes herself accordingly, but the same has been true of every presidential candidate ever. This isn't egomania; it's the same thing you do when you want a job and you have relevant qualifications and so you list those qualifications and try to explain to the job interviewer why you're the best candidate for the job.

What I want to know is why there was no loud, angry, "Howard Dean or Bust" contingent in 2004 comparable to the loud, angry "Bernie or Bust" contingent this year. And why there was no loud, angry, "Jerry Brown or Bust" contingent in 1992, and no halfway meaningful primary challenger at all to Bill Clinton in 1996. How were John Kerry or Bill Clinton any less disappointingly right-wing than Hillary Clinton is? I completely acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is disappointingly right-wing, but John Kerry and Bill Clinton were even worse! And though so many people seem loath to admit it, there is some value in the fact that at least we got a woman as our disappointingly right-wing candidate this time around. I'd definitely have vastly preferred a different woman (you know, the one with the initials E. W.), but the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman does in fact count for something. Her being female will have an impact on the culture. For the better. It's not everything, but it's something.

I definitely feel that a substantial portion of the resistance to Hillary Clinton is motivated by sexism, even though, simultaneously, I also definitely feel that there are some very good reasons to feel resistance to Hillary Clinton.

When I've voted third party in the past, it's been with the hope that some Democratic strategist somewhere would look at the election results and see that the Democratic Party lost some voters to a further-left candidate and recognize that they might regain those voters by moving further left themselves. This year, though, I'm not feeling confident that the Democratic Party's strategists will necessarily infer that from votes cast for left-wing third parties. I think they might at least as accurately infer that the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman is what's scaring most of the third-party voters away from her. And the other thing is that the Democratic Party isn't the only party that can be sent a message here, and they're not necessarily the party most severely in need of a message this year. The Republican Party has this year nominated a significantly more blatantly racist and misogynist and all-around despicable candidate than they've ever managed to before - a con man and promulgator of racist "birther" conspiracy theories who is slow to disavow endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan and regularly retweets posts by members of known hate groups. There are two different messages the Republican Party could potentially learn from this year's presidential election results: that choosing such a person will cost them the election in a landslide or that choosing such a person is a viable option that might be worth trying again in future years. They might choose to learn the latter lesson even if Trump loses, as long as the race is close enough. And by "close enough," I mean the number of votes for Trump versus the number of votes for Clinton - because those are the numbers the Republican Party is likely to look longest and hardest at. So, in full recognition that my vote in the presidential election will serve simply to send a message, and despite the fact that I'm not thrilled at the idea of having to let either one of the Clintons anywhere near the White House again, I'm feeling like, this year, the message I want to send is likely to be best sent via a vote for Hillary Clinton.

And if, unlike me, you live in a swing state, and your vote might have some potential to do more than just send a message, don't forget that the balance of the U.S. Supreme Court depends on this election. This is the first time in my lifetime that we've had a chance to reverse the conservative tilt of the U.S. Supreme Court, and I'm 40 years old. Whatever happens this time around, there might not be another such chance in our lifetimes.

Mostly, though, just please bother to vote. For whoever. Going to the polls is an improvement over not going to the polls.

Mood: not fully decided yet, but getting there
12 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Friday, 8 July 2016
Friday, 8 July 2016 4:49pm
Bike Parade and More Kitten Pictures

I was in a bike parade for the Fourth of July! And I can't even ride a bike!


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Mood: cheerful
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Wednesday, 29 June 2016 12:01am

So, when I went over to Barry's house on Friday, he surprised me by revealing that he'd picked up foster kittens earlier that day. Four tiny adorable foster kittens. And now I'm going to show you the pictures we took of them while I was there.


Kittens!!!!Collapse )

Mood: kittens!!!!
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Friday, 24 June 2016
Friday, 24 June 2016 9:13pm

My adorable boyfriend who has an affinity for his fellow adorable creatures brought home today four itty bitty teeny tiny five-week-old kittens to foster for two weeks until they reach adoptable age. This means there are currently seven cats in his house. The adorableness level had exceeded all tolerable limits. And I don't even have my camera with me! I will have to borrow his. I will do that later. For now, it is simply necessary to exclaim, KITTENS!!!!

Mood: KITTENS!!!!
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 10:35pm
Lake Berryessa

On Sunday my wonderful boyfriend and I went to Lake Berryessa. I don't remember ever having been to Lake Berryessa before, and it seems ridiculous for me not to have been there before, because I've always lived within a 1.5-hour drive of it, all my life, and for much of my life I lived within a 1-hour drive of it, and it's a pretty big and readily accessible lake to just randomly never go to. But now I've been to it. It was Barry's first visit there also, but his previous neglect of the place was more excusable than mine since he grew up in Arizona and only gradually worked his way north from there toward this end of the state.

I researched the trail options the night before the hike and quickly settled on two: the Smittle Creek trail, which is a fairly flat, 5-mile round-trip, out-and-back trail between Oak Shores Day Use Area and Smittle Creek Day Use Area, and the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, which is a rather steep, 4-mile loop trail at the far southeast end of the lake (the nearest end to us). I decided on the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, because it was nearer to us. However, when we arrived, we found that the trail was closed , shut off behind a chain-link fence for repairs.

So we decided to look for the Smittle Creek trail instead. However, we were already out of range of cellphone signals, and we remained out of range for the rest of the drive, so Barry's cellphone would not give us directions. What it did do was show where we were going (using GPS) and where our intended destination was. It just didn't tells us where any of the streets were between us and our intended destination. But we set out to find our own way, using tried-and-true methods such as "Look for a right turn somewhere. If you see a right turn, take it." Barry was driving, and I was watching our GPS dot move around on his cellphone. Eventually we found the correct turnoff - actually, we found our way all the way from Stebbins Cold Canyon trail to Smittle Creek trail without taking a single wrong turn at any point, and with no particular stress at all over getting lost. Barry even said he likes getting a little lost now and then. This is a very desirable attitude to have when lost. I feel that I have now confirmed that Barry is a good person to get lost with.

This is a basic view of the lake from along the trail, before I get into the chronology of the pictures I took.

Lake Berryessa from the Smittle Creek trail

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Mood: contemplative
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 5 May 2016
Thursday, 5 May 2016 11:47pm
Table Mountain

So, last Sunday my lovely and adorable boyfriend and I celebrated our then-impending one-month mark by wandering Table Mountain in search of waterfalls. Okay, it wasn't specifically planned as a celebration of the one-month mark, but it served the purpose anyway. One of the many great things about this new boyfriend of mine is that he takes excellent photographs of me, such as this one he took on Table Mountain. It probably helps that he's just very good at giving me reason to smile.

me on Table Mountain, May 2016

But I took a lot of pictures there too, and mostly I'm going to be showing you the ones I took.

Pictures from Table MountainCollapse )

Mood: happy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Tuesday, 26 April 2016 5:53pm
More Boyfriend Pictures!

My boyfriend is ready to be publicly introduced in his LiveJournal identity! He is berialpha. His journal and his profile are both quite blank at the moment though, so you're just going to have to take my word for it that he is great. He is the greatest BeriAlpha in all of human history. There may not have been any other BeriAlphas in human history, but if there had been, they couldn't possibly have compared to him.

I now have pictures of Barry and me together! His mother took them with my camera, at my request, in his parents' back yard. Despite a slightly unfortunate glare from my glasses, I think I like this one best.

April 23, 2016

But here are a few more.Collapse )

Mood: pleased
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 17 April 2016
Sunday, 17 April 2016 2:43am
April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I'm just slightly late for April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Considering that April and May are the biggest months for flowers, I'm going to count being just slightly late as doing pretty well. After all, I have a whole lot of photos to write about this month! This is what my front yard looks like right now. The orange flowers are of course California poppies (Eschscholzia californica). The ones that look plain white at this distance are a variety of different things: white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), five spot (Nemophila maculata), and bird's eyes (Gilia tricolor). The ones that look plain blue at this distance are baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), Chinese pagodas (Collinsia heterophylla), and foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs'). You can also see a few yellowray goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata), in yellow of course, and if you look hard enough, some mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) in pink.

April 2016

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Mood: accomplished
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 12 April 2016
Tuesday, 12 April 2016 12:16am
Boyfriend Pictures!

I have a boyfriend! I have a hot young 34-year-old boyfriend who has all sorts of impressive talents and charms in addition to being gorgeous. His name is Barry! In this post I'm going to show you pictures to illustrate how delightful and talented and beautiful he is.

We will start here, with the very first picture I took of him. He was cooking corned beef for me in his kitchen, with eggs on top. I think it is entirely fair for me to claim credit for putting that smile on his face. Is there anyone in the world who has any kind of appreciation for the concept of boyfriends who doesn't want a boyfriend who cooks for them while smiling like that? No, I thought not. This is the ultimate in boyfriend perfection, right here. This is what every boyfriend-wanting person wants from a boyfriend.

Barry cooking

More pictures to illustrate the greatness of my boyfriend.Collapse )

Mood: boyfriend!
7 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 17 March 2016
Thursday, 17 March 2016 11:02pm
March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's spring! And I'm a little late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, because I had more pictures to sort through than usual, because I have more flowers to photograph than usual, because it's spring.

My garden usually peaks in the second half of April. Occasionally the precise middle of April. Either way, we're not there yet, but we're getting there. In a lot of ways I like the month leading up to the peak better than the actual peak, because at the actual peak, everything starts going downhill.

This is my front yard this week. The whole area to the right of the path used to be lawn until last August. Also I chopped down a tree there in October. So everything here is new, but it's filling in nicely. In the past month I wrestled that big blue pot onto the tree stump where the tree used to be, and also wrestled a smalled blue pot onto a smaller tree stump (well, shrub stump) up against the house, near the left edge of the picture. I also sawed both stumps a bit to get them more level than they were. And filled both pots with soil. And then the fun part: planting them! They're now home to a combination of non-native strawberries and native ornamental shrubs.

The small, pale flowers you can hardly see in the foreground here are two California native annuals, baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) and five spot (Nemophila maculata). The big orange flowers are California golden poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and the spikes of bluish flowers a little behind them are foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs').

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), Penstemon heterophyllus &apos;Blue Springs&apos; (foothill beardtongue), Nemophila maculata (five spot)

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Mood: accomplished
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 7 March 2016
Monday, 7 March 2016 10:11pm
Barry's House!

I went to Barry's house today! We arranged that it would be while he was away at a music class. I was there for exactly two hours. In that time, I managed to plant all 29 plants I'd brought with me, and also labeled them, and left 18 oranges and a thank-you note on Barry's front porch, and took home in return a potted ponytail palm houseplant, a note from Barry, one of Barry's business cards (carved out of wood: a laser-cut piece of wood, laser-etched with his contact information, to advertise his lasersmith services) and a bag of homemade taiyaki pancakes, shaped like fish and filled inside with red bean paste.

I had already eaten most of the taiyaki pancakes before it occurred to me to photograph them, but here are the last three. They are good! Barry is good at making food!

His note says, "I made taiyaki pancakes! It went okay. If the taste isn't right, take them home to try with peanut butter or chocolate sauce. The filling is red bean paste."


I was systematic about the planting. There was not a second to waste! He had left the gate to his back yard open for me, so I carried all my plants and my trowel back there and assessed the space, then started pacing off measurements with my feet and placing the potted plants where I wanted them to go. I first placed all the ones that will become large plants: incense cedar, Western redbud, toyon, mock orange. Once I'd decided where all of those should go and placed the pots accordingly, I took my trowel and planted them. Then I moved on to choosing spots for the smaller plants, starting with the ones I had just one of, and progressing to the ones I'd transplanted from volunteers in my garden, of which I had many individual plants per species. The large plants all went in the back yard, but for the small plants I put plenty in the front yard also. It seems like I must have looked odd to the neighbors - a stranger planting plants in a garden that wasn't mine - but I guess burglars are not known for planting plants in people's gardens, because there were plenty of neighbors around and none of them paid the slightest attention to me.

I basically landscaped his entire property today: front yard, back yard, side yards, everything. Only thinly - I'd definitely want to put in additional plants over time - but once these plants grow a bit larger, there shouldn't be any area in his yard that looks too obviously empty.

When everything was planted, I went around putting little index-card labels next to each plant and weighing them down with pebbles. I'd written the index-card labels in advance, so I only had to write a few extras for instances where I'd separated the transplants from my own garden into more separate plants than I'd expected when writing the labels at home. I'd also brought the pebbles from home, to spare myself time looking for them.

And then I sat on the bench on his front porch for a minute to write a final note, thanking him for the taiyaki pancakes.

When I got home, there was an email waiting for me that began this way:
Hooray! You're real! Our relationship was not just a long con so you could rob the house while I wasn't home!

You scored a lot of big points tonight, Cynthia! Not only doing very efficient work and getting lots of plants in the ground, but also for respecting my schedule and my property, for being reliable, all that jazz.

I'm over-analyzing your note :) Purple ink on lilac paper, you really do have a favorite color!
Soon thereafter, before I even had a chance to reply, I received a follow-up that began this way:
I just looked around and found all the plants, which was a lot of fun. Remember how I said that I hadn't really had an emotional impact from our conversations yet? Well, there we go. Seeing some physical connection to your presence is making me all kinds of happy.
So that's very good. April 5 is the earliest his divorce might be final. So I'm just counting down the days until April 5 for a first date.

Mood: accomplished
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 14 February 2016
Sunday, 14 February 2016 8:06pm
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Valentine's Edition: It's Spring!

Spring may be more than a month away by our human calendars, but my plants have already begun their celebration of its arrival. Daffodils everywhere! Even several of my shrubs are blooming. And the first of my California native annuals! I have far more to show you for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month than last month.

This is in my front yard. The blue flowers are a non-native hybrid larkspur (Delphinium belladonna 'Bellamosum') that I'm trying out this year for the first time, and the yellow daffodils in the background came with the house.

Delphinium belladonna &apos;Bellamosum&apos; (hybrid larkspur) with Narcissus sp. (daffodil)

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Mood: pleased
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 19 January 2016
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 1:00am
Three-Day Weekend

I finally have adult silverware! When I first moved out on my own, I got to take with me some mismatched pieces of my parents' old silverware sets, and then when I moved in with Susan I combined those with some mismatched pieces of hers, which she left behind when she moved in with Rebecca because Rebecca already had her own. I decided then that I wanted to acquire a proper set of fully matching silverware and a proper set of fully matching china for the first time in my life. I succeeded right away with finding a set of china that I liked, but my search for silverware didn't go so well. I gave most of the mismatched silverware pieces to former neighbor/former housekeeper Jessica and mail-ordered a set of silverware that I liked the look of, but when they arrived, I found that the metal bent extremely easily, and I wasn't happy with them. So in the two years since then I've shopped around carefully for other options, and for the past year I've had my eye on a particular set, but I was waiting for a good sale so I could get them cheap. I finally nabbed them in an after-Christmas sale a few weeks ago, and now they've arrived in the mail. I'm very happy with them! They're incredibly strong and don't feel like they'll ever bend out of shape. They're also rather huge - they appear to be made for giant people with giant hands and giant mouths. The salad forks and teaspoons are the size that regular forks and tablespoons normally are. But I don't mind the hugeness. I like them a lot.

Acquiring them inspired me to further reorganize my kitchen. When Susan lived here, it was her kitchen and she got to organize it however she liked. Two years ago when it became my kitchen, I moved some of the most obviously illogically placed items around, but this weekend I confronted some remaining illogical item placements in the kitchen and fixed them. So now the silverware are in the drawer that has built-in silverware compartments, whereas before there were pens and pencils in the built-in silverware compartments. And the cupboard that has built-in dishtowel racks now has dishtowels on the racks rather than being stuffed with paper bags. I fixed the dishtowel cupboard a while back already, but I fixed the silverware drawer just this weekend. Everything looks better and works better when used in the way it was intended. Though there's still no clear use for the cupboard containing the severed base of a formerly built-in ironing board. My kitchen is full of odd built-in features.

I also mopped my floors. I meant to steam-clean the carpets as well, but I didn't quite get around to that. But I mopped the floors. That was good. And I attempted to cook something I hadn't tried before, although it came out rather disastrous in terms of visual appeal. I attempted to cook pecan meringue cookies, but the meringue melted together (despite having held its shape very well before I put it in the oven) and produced something more like pecan meringue brownies. I realized later that I forgot to add the teaspoon of vanilla extract that the recipe called for, so maybe that caused the problem? It tasted all right, though, so it wasn't a complete failure.

I also made cream of fennel and pear soup recently and decided I want to make a really huge batch of it sometime soon and see whether I can freeze it and use it as a sauce or gravy in the future. I always forget how good it is when I don't make it for a while, and I generally only make it once or twice a year because it's rather a lot of trouble. But it's really good.

This is the time of year when I always start trying new recipes in an effort to use up the oranges on my orange tree. So far this year, though, the recipes I've been trying haven't used any oranges yet. I should probably start using my oranges. They don't keep for as long as my pecans do.

I also managed this weekend to get my blood drawn and escaped from the office after only a single needle-stick! First time in quite possibly a decade that I've escaped without multiple puncture wounds. It was a different phlebotomist than in the past. She must be very talented.

And this evening I spent hours heavily editing an 11-page article for a friend. Or maybe more of a friendly acquaintance. A guy I went on one date with once, ages ago, after which we both had no interest in any further dates but did not hate each other. Anyway, he wanted and needed editing help, so I helped, and I think I did quite a good job with it. The thing I really like about providing free editing help to friends and acquaintances is that it reminds me of how much I actually do enjoy editing - because when people pay me to do it, it feels like something I'm only willing to do for the money, but when I do it for free, I remember that actually it's something I do like enough to be willing to spend an evening of my free time doing just for the fun of it. I wouldn't do it 40 hours per week just for the fun of it, but I can happily do a few hours here and there for the fun of it.

Some part of me is still totally despondent about David Bowie's death, but at least I'm doing a reasonably good job of submerging the despondency under a burst of productivity and functionality.

Mood: busy
Speak Your Mind
Friday, 15 January 2016
Friday, 15 January 2016 8:45pm
January Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's January, and not a whole lot is blooming, but it's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, so I photographed what there is. This rose isn't even actually mine, but it was hanging over the fence from my next-door neighbors' yard, so I figured it was fair game. Maybe this particular flower of it is mine.

Rosa sp. (rose)

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Mood: indescribable
Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 14 January 2016
Thursday, 14 January 2016 12:45am
Loose Dogs

I went running tonight. I had just come back from running on Sunday night when I found out about David Bowie's death. I took Monday and Tuesday off from it because I didn't get any sleep those nights (and also I always take at least one night off after a run anyway). I got a bit more sleep last night (maybe six hours). Not enough to make me feel particularly well - in fact, I had a terrible headache all day long, and took ibuprofen for it repeatedly - the full dose, whereas usually I just take half a dose and find that to be sufficient - but didn't manage to get rid of it until I finally resorted to taking migraine medication (acetaminophen + caffeine) in the evening. I'm not sure it was actually a migraine - it felt more like a tension headache - and taking caffeine in the evening may not be great for my prospects of sleep tonight, but, well, the headache wouldn't have been good for my prospects of sleep tonight either.

Anyway, once I finally managed to get rid of the headache, I went running. And I tried a different route than usual. I've been trying slightly different routes almost every time I run lately, but there are still a few streets in the neighborhood that I've never tried running on before. Tonight's route took me through a few blocks of one of those. While on one of those unfamiliar streets, I saw some people outside talking. As I ran past them - not directly past them, but around a corner that was diagonally across the street from where they were standing - their dogs, which I hadn't previously noticed, came running at me. Three dogs, all off-leash, all rather large, mixed-breeds with slightly varying heritage, but at least two of the three had significant amounts of pitbull blood in them (which means that they had very powerful jaws). They surrounded me, and I felt one of them press its teeth against my arm. Only the front faces of its teeth - my arm was not actually in its mouth - but it was a definite, urgent, immediate warning sign of the sort that directly precedes biting. I yelled "Hey!" and raised my arms to try to keep them out of the dogs' reach and stopped moving so as to avoid triggering any further the dogs' predatory instinct to chase a creature that was running away. The owners called out for the dogs to come back to them. All three of the dogs ignored them and stayed focused on me. It took at least 60 seconds for the owners to actually come over close enough to get the dogs to obey them.

I did not have my own dog, Boston, with me. When I bring her, I always try to remember to bring pepper spray in case I need to defend her from other dogs. I've never actually managed to use pepper spray to defend her with any kind of success at all, and it's not necessarily a great idea for me to try to, because when I have tried to in the past I managed to get at least as much pepper spray on myself as I got on the dog I was trying to ward off . . . but it is at least theoretically a line of defense in case of emergencies. I sometimes also bring pepper spray when I'm by myself, but not so often, because it's kind of a pain to carry it (perhaps this can be fixed, if I can figure out a good system for carrying it - I need either some running clothes with a convenient pocket for it or some sort of clip-on attachment device so I don't have to hold it in my hands) and because I figure that with any kind of luck, the number of loose dogs or humans that are liable to launch violent, unprovoked attacks on me is significantly smaller than the number of loose dogs that are liable to launch violent, unprovoked attacks on Boston. Tonight I didn't have it with me. But more importantly, even if I had had it with me, I don't think I would have dared to use it, because the owners of the dogs were there watching, and I would be afraid that pepper-spraying their dogs in front of them might provoke the owners to violently attack me.

I mean, I've heard from a woman who lives in Marysville - a small, frail, elderly woman - that when a loose dog lunged at her here in town, she did pepper-spray it in self-defense right in front of its owner, and its owner did become extremely threatening toward her, following her around for the next several minutes while screaming obscenities and threats of violence at her. And then one of the woman's acquaintances who turned out to also be acquainted with the dog's owner (this is a small town) saw her and told her, after the dog's owner finally went away, that the dog's owner was indeed a very dangerous man and was extremely likely to actually commit the sorts of violence he'd been threatening to commit.

And, well, the very fact that the owners of the three dogs that came after me were letting them run loose inclines me to think not very highly of them. So . . . this whole situation is very bad all around. And one of the reasons I've been varying my running routes so much is that I keep hoping to find a route that doesn't contain any creepy spots that frighten me. But wherever I go, there are houses with loose dogs, or houses with dogs in the front yard fenced in by ridiculously low fences that I'm virtually certain the dogs are big enough to jump over if sufficiently motivated, or houses with humans who catcall me or leer at me or just give off a creepy vibe. There are certain blocks that are fairly reliably not creepy, but the only way to string together 5K worth of fairly reliably not creepy blocks seems to be to run repeated laps around a smaller loop. Which I do resort to doing sometimes. But even then, I never know for sure how far the loose dogs may wander on any given night.

I'm very tired of being made to feel unsafe. I don't know anyone who lets their dog(s) run loose, do I? If you let your dog(s) run loose, I do not like you. Even if I'm under the illusion that I like you because I don't know any better, I don't actually like you. Please properly restrain your dog(s) so I can like you. Your dog's teeth do not belong in contact with my arm.

I think there should be an extremely huge fine very consistently levied against anyone whose dog is found running loose. I would be willing to risk being fined myself in the unexpected event of Boston escaping, just to have a safe city to run through for a change.

Mood: scared
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 10 January 2016
Sunday, 10 January 2016 11:43pm
R.I.P., David Bowie

David Bowie is dead.

It was on the day of his death, just a few hours before they announced it, presumably as he was dying, that I was listening to his brand-new album Blackstar, released just two days ago on his 69th birthday - I was listening to it on YouTube because my copy of the CD hasn't even arrived in the mail yet - and I was thinking then, for I guess the last of many, many times over the years, how terrible it would be when someday David Bowie died and I outlived him and I would never get to look forward to any more new music from him ever again.

And then I thought a slight variation of it that I don't remember ever thinking before today: I thought how much even more terrible it would be if I didn't outlive him. I thought, if I died of cancer and David Bowie were still alive at the time, I think quite one of the very most terrible things about dying for me would be the thought that there would be David Bowie albums that I would never get to hear.

Well, now there won't be. But I wasn't planning to die anytime soon! I do not want him to be gone.

I was watching his music video for his new single, "Lazarus," while I was having those thoughts. He spends most of the video lying in what appears to be a hospital bed. While singing about being already dead. I guess that was a fairly unsubtle hint. I'm glad he lived long enough for his album to be released. I'm glad he lived long enough for all his previous albums to be released. I'm glad he seemed, by all accounts, quite happy in his final years, in his 23-year marriage to Iman, with their 15-year-old daughter Alexandria (named after the famous library) and his 44-year-old son Duncan from his first marriage. I'm glad he followed his conscience and his heart in choosing to take ten years off from his career so as not to miss out on his daughter's childhood the way he missed out on his son's. I mean, I would have liked to have more albums during those years, but not at the cost of sabotaging his family life. I'm glad he seemed to have found his way to the calm and happy family life he always wanted, that he did not have in his younger years.

I learned of his death on Facebook, from a grieving post by jess_s. A few seconds later I got messaged about it by my high school friend Christine, who knew me when I first discovered him and became instantly obsessed. Christine promised to listen to the entire Blackstar album tomorrow in his memory. I didn't ask for that - she volunteered it. She wasn't even a particular fan of his. It was a kind gesture.

The word is that he died at home, surrounded by family, after an 18-month battle with cancer. I would like to know what kind of cancer it was so I can harbor an especially ferocious hatred for that particular kind of cancer forever and ever.

[Edit: They're saying now that it was liver cancer. Same thing his guitarist Mick Ronson died of, and his close friend Lou Reed. Though there are different types of liver cancer, starting in different types of tissue within the liver.]

I looked at his son's Twitter feed and saw that Duncan had written on New Year's Day that he had really hated 2015. I guess he had reason. Eighteen months ago, though, the date of initial diagnosis, would have been June 2014. And I did not need any more reasons to hate 2014. 2014 was when I got diagnosed with cancer too. In June I had just finished my radiation treatments, and David Bowie was just getting diagnosed.

I feel orphaned. Both my biological parents are still alive - and I know how tremendously lucky I am in that - but I feel orphaned by my celebrity idol pseudo-deity pseudo-parental figure. I don't have any other word for it. He was younger than my father and only a few months older than my mother, but I always suspected he'd die before either of them because he didn't exactly treat his body well for much of his life. Well, I was right. Stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine, people I care about. [Also, stay away from hepatitis viruses, which apparently cause a substantial percentage of liver cancers.]

I've had to forcefully remind myself that even if it were possible, I don't actually wish for him to be forcefully resuscitated just to suffer miserably for longer. I don't want to torture him. I love him.

. . . It took me a couple of hours after hearing of his death before I could cry. I guess I wrote this post to bring that on. It's gotten me there now. It looks like this is what I may be doing at the top of my lungs for the next several hours.

Mood: heartbroken
12 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Friday, 25 December 2015
Friday, 25 December 2015 11:50pm

It's present-giving day! The pagan one that most people I know celebrate four days after the solstice and pretend has something to do with Christianity even though rather few of the people I know who celebrate it are actually Christian. Not much about this holiday makes a lot of sense to me, but anyway, it involves giving people presents, and I did that, and I got a bunch of presents in return!

I also saw snow! Not very much of it, but a little. I thought I might see snow in Grass Valley, because I know it snowed there yesterday, and because it was where I saw snow on Thanksgiving. But all I saw when driving through there today were wet spots along the sides of the road where snow had recently melted. I saw actual snow farther along, though, in Garden Valley, where my parents live. My parents did not have any snow themselves; they said they had only gotten some hail, and the hail had melted already. But elsewhere in their town I saw snow. There was snow near them, and I saw it, even though they didn't.

I am very pleased with this year's present-giving day. I don't generally do Christmas cards, but occasionally when people post notices to say things like, "I don't generally do Christmas cards, but this year I'm doing them, so if you want a card, send me your address," I respond to those people and exchange Christmas cards only with them, only that year. So this year I exchanged cards with frankepi, an Internet friend of seventeen years now, and that made me happy. And I also started preparing to mail a housewarming gift to woo2step and recycledsilence - it may go out in the mail tomorrow - and that made me happy too. And then I found out that I'm going to get to see my high school friend Christine on New Year's Eve, and that she wants to go on a hike with me before we go eat somewhere, and I get to help pick out a place for us to go hiking, and that made me even happier. Also I have a week and a half off work (I last worked December 23 and won't go back until January 4) so I can probably find time to do some other fun things as well.

So it is a very good present-giving day! And also I received a very good collection of presents:

Peter Alden and Fred Heath: National Audubon Society Field Guide to California
Mariama Bâ: So Long a Letter
James Baldwin: No Name in the Street
Cao Xueqin: The Story of the Stone (or The Dream of the Red Chamber), Volume I
Cervantes: Don Quixote
Louis Chu: Eat a Bowl of Tea
Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The Possessed
Brian Evenson: Windeye
Sue Monk Kidd: The Invention of Wings
Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies
Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Haruki Murakami: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir
Pu Songling: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
Tayeb Salih: Season of Migration to the North
Sylvia Townsend Warner: Mr. Fortune's Maggot
Lidia Yuknavitch: Real to Reel

New Order: Music Complete
Echo & the Bunnymen: Meteorites

yellow lupine (Lupinus densiflorus)
arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus)
tidy-tips (Layia platyglossa)

a pitchfork for turning my compost pile
a portable sitting/kneeling platform for weeding my garden when the ground is muddy
a cast-iron coat-hanger forged by a friend of my aunt
popsicle molds

The books are quite an odd mixture. Pleasingly odd. It was really a very good present-giving day for me. How was your present-giving day?

Mood: happy
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