pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: January 2014

30 January 2014

Leading edge

Santa Ana, California
30 January 2014

I suppose complaining about the dry weather wasn't a bad thing. We got a little (very little) rain this afternoon, and as I waited for the daughter, the next front was moving in. By the time she arrived at the car, clouds covered the sky.

We hope.


Last night, I had to start up the daughter's old Windows 7 laptop so that she could run a simulation for her AP Bio class. I won't let Java run on any of my computers, so I had to install that, too.

It was fairly late by the time she'd finished her other homework, and I was babysitting the laptop and reading the newspaper. There was a story about George Clooney, with the highly amusing note that you could buy what was essentially a raffle ticket (benefitting a charity) for $10 and spend an evening (sort of) with Mr. Clooney. And I laughed and read it to the daughter because we have a long-standing joke about George revolving around the central conceit that when the daughter receives her first Academy Award nomination, I get to sit next to him at the show.

(We have MANY long-standing jokes about George, actually, and don't worry, they are all nice.)

We are fond of Mr. Clooney around here, and not for the reason you might think. Yes, he is a handsome man, suave and debonair and all that good stuff, but more importantly, he is interesting. And he makes interesting choices in the projects he pursues. And he works with interesting people. That interests me. So the daughter and I were discussing all the things we might ask him.

(And anyway, he bears a little too close a resemblance to one of my brothers-in-law, so crushing on Clooney would just be weird. Also, I only have one celebrity crush, and I gave my heart away on that one decades ago, and I'm nothing if not faithful, even in fantasy.)

While we both acknowledge that it would never happen (though in my life weirder things have), the daughter said, "Wouldn't it just be crazy?'

And it certainly would.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. So maybe next academic year, I will do nothing but publish photos from where I'm sitting on the street in Santa Ana, waiting. And the word you're searching for? LAZY. Okay, not really. Busy, very busy. Also, lazy.

29 January 2014

Another light

Santa Ana, California
29 January 2014
Well, that's sort of tragically out of focus (damn phone camera. Damn operator error).
So probably this isn't the place to announce that I've entered my first photo competition in a really, really, really (like decades) long time.
No, it isn't.
We'll just concentrate on how wonderful it is that the light lasts longer in the afternoon these days.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. And no, I didn't not submit iPhone photos. And the last time I entered a photo contest, I actually won a ribbon. I do not expect to win anything this time. The act of entering was what counted.

27 January 2014

High surf advisory

Huntington Beach, California
25 January 2014

So the actual reason that we went to the beach the other day was not so I could write about the high cost of beautiful winter weather (though it was all true, and I've noticed the news outlets have picked up on the same idea. Fortunately, it looks as though we might get some rain later in the week.). It was because the Weather Channel could not stop yelling about the high surf advisory, and the spouse wanted to go look.

I can't speak for the other parts of the California coast, but our part isn't particularly known for the sort of waves of toe-curling enormity that one sees at, say, the North Shore of Oahu. I guess our waves are respectable, though. I don't surf; I'm not at all a fan of open water, as I've discussed before. But I would call the waves around here fairly pacific.

(Couldn't resist. I'm so tired from the go go go of the last several months that all I can do is crack bad jokes.)

In any event, these are bigger waves.

To be fair, there seemed to be quite a lot of unusual energy in the surf. The spume down the coast was so thick that it was visible from the pier. There was clearly a lot of sand being churned up in the water, and the waves were coming pretty fast. The lifeguards seemed fairly agitated by those who insisted on surfing under the pier.

So there it is. High surf.

(Hey, I wouldn't have gone in the water).

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

25 January 2014

A cautionary tale: such a winter's day

Huntington Beach, California
25 January 2014

You can look at this and say, "WOW! California beaches in January!"

Or you can look at this and say, "The price of the food I eat is about to go through the roof."

California grows a huge proportion of the nation's fruits and vegetables. It supplies dairy, poultry and beef. No rain and snow equals no water. No water means nothing grows; livestock becomes unsupportable. And basic economics dictates that when demand outstrips supply, prices increase. If California goes looking elsewhere for water to buy, prices will increase.

The California drought. Coming soon to a supermarket near you.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Normally, I am a glass half-full kinda girl, but we've gone several rainy seasons with no rain. And while California is by no means the only supplier of supermarket staples, it is a big one.

20 January 2014

1000 words

The daughter
January 2001

Cute kid. Mine, of course. Just before her 4th birthday. Rather hard to believe that we were registering her for the ACT, the SAT and talking about college plans today. I don't think her psyche is helped by the fact that I'm almost but not quite counting the minutes until she graduates next year. Not that I want to rush her (really, I don't), but the siren song of the empty nest is becoming rather alluringly loud.

(Three semesters. THREE semesters. *She does a small jig in her office chair.*)

My kitchen hadn't been remodeled yet. That was still a year off. It was a galley kitchen, about 9 feet wide. Our house was built by retired people and Mrs. Retired Person obviously had no intention of cooking. Gated to keep the kids out and the dog in (when she was in). I had no storage at all, which is why there were rolls of TP tucked under the pass through (which the previous owners had converted to a sort-of island with an overhang of granite that we were all constantly banging our heads on). Bottles of water, the large economy size cranberry juice. I'm not sure why there would have been Coke. We don't drink soda.

The 12-pack of Corona. It took forever to get through one of those. We don't drink much. What's funnier is that you won't even find beer in our house these days. Over the holidays, the spouse finally used up the bottle of gin we've had in the pantry since 1991. That is not a typo.

(The previous owners "remodeled" the kitchen, meaning they put in granite counter tops, a new cooktop and painted the cabinets. There was an ancient microwave, probably one of the first ones manufactured, that I was terrified to use, certain that it must leak radiation, and a wall oven that was probably original to the house. When we bought the house, a dead cockroach was lovingly nestled in the clock that was part of the oven. There was no way to get it out without dismantling the entire oven. Believe me, I tried, not feeling overly fond of an inherited dead cockroach.  When I remodeled the kitchen, I took it down to the studs and blew a wall out. The demo guy noted with interest that our house showed no sign of cockroaches at all. Except for the dead one in the oven clock.)

It's possible that I was preparing for a party. Both children have birthdays early in the year.

I can't explain the white sneakers. They look like the spouse's. Why they would have been sitting in the dining room rather than the laundry room is beyond me.

The daughter always liked Play-doh, so I suppose it's no surprise that she's in a ceramics class this year. At Back-to-School night, the ceramics teacher handed us all a hunk of clay to shape into a small gift for our kids. We had about 10 minutes. I made a cat face. I'm not terribly artistic, but it was fun.

The ceramics teacher is a hoot.

And look! That's real, honest to God newspaper. The sort you don't see anymore because we all read newspapers on screens. What do parents do for scrap paper to keep the Play-doh off the floor? Surely they don't use the iPad...

I still have the same rug in the dining room, much the worse for wear thanks to the cat, the dog, the children and my in-laws. The only thing I have ever spilled (and it didn't get on the rug) was a Yule log. I blame the box.

(It was spectacular. The family still talks about it. My mother-in-law threatens me with Yule logs every Christmas, grinning ear-to-ear. "You never spill anything," she chortles with glee.)

My dining room chairs still have the same upholstery, much the worse for wear thanks to the cat, the contractors, the children and my in-laws. They really need to be reupholstered. And refinished. Time (and cats and contractors and children and in-laws) is not kind to furniture.

(It is 20 years old, or thereabouts. I, of course, still think of it as the "new" furniture. As opposed to the "old" furniture which was mostly mismatched oddments from my mother-in-law joined in unholy matrimony with my thrift store belongings. Except for the bed, which my mother bought me when I graduated from college. And there's my "new" wedding china, which has now reached a quarter century. Largely unused, I might add.)

This must have been taken in early January because the old Christmas tablecloth, the waterproof one with penguins that is perfect for children as well as adults who spill (my father-in-law, followed by my husband), is on the table. I don't remember precisely what happened to that tablecloth, but I think it finally got used up at one of the interminable parties that I had to throw at the kids' school. I was so happy when I was done with that stuff.

Wait. I'm still doing that stuff (like this weekend). But without the tablecloths.

Some of the Play-doh brick-a-brack, like that green spoon in the foreground, turned up not long ago in the shed.  It just proves that childhood never really ends as long as the bits and pieces live on in the garden shed. There is still a lot of childhood in the shed: scooters, bikes, old helmets and sporting good pieces.

There are a lot of spiders in there, too.

Tech stuff: probably taken with a Canon S110. This picture did, in fact, only merit 916 words.

16 January 2014

Of the full moon, Santa Anas and earthquakes

Early morning
16 January 2014

Two nights ago, I was dreaming that I was pushing or on some small wheeled contraption, like a room service trolley. Suddenly, I hit a full, jarring stop. The abrupt slam to a halt was violent enough to wake me.


Just a small one. But enough to wake me.

While much of northern and eastern North America digs out of snow and ice, we are into our seventh or eighth day of hot dry winds since the year began. Our air conditioning came on last night. It was 72F when I took this photo at 6:25 this morning, standing in the middle of the road in shorts and a t-shirt. Unbeknownst to me, up the road in Glendora a fast-moving fire had consumed its first 30 acres.

There are so many jokes for this sort of weather. Shake and Bake. The Four Seasons of California: Fire, Flood, Earthquake and I'll skip the popular fourth because we aren't having that problem at the moment.

Earthquake weather.

Scientists swear there is no correlation between this hellish weather and earthquakes. Maybe we notice the quakes more because we're already at our wits end from the weather. People go a little crazy when the wind blows like this. I just know that there have been plenty of earthquakes when we've already been unseasonably hot.

Like 20 years ago. I was wearing summer pajamas in January.

I was 8+ months pregnant. A Monday, January 17, the first morning of my maternity leave. It was 4:15 am. I had to get up for the reason all hugely pregnant women get up at 4 am. Doodle, my cat, stretched happily and followed me. She loved the fact of my pregnancy because she could talk me into giving her breakfast very early in the morning. After I did the necessary, I went down the hall to the kitchen, small calico cat preceding me, bouncing and happily talking about her breakfast. I fed her and looked out the kitchen window to the lights in the valley below. It was still dark, utterly dark, and quiet.
I waddled back up the hall, and carefully climbed back into bed, preparing to try to talk myself back to sleep. It was hard not to think about all the things that I needed to do, like finish painting the baby's room, put away little clothes, pack that hospital bag.

I might have dozed. But if I did, it was for seconds.

At 4:31 am, what felt like a giant hand smacked our queen-sized bed straight up into the air. That is an image that has stayed with me for two decades. In my mind's eye, I saw a giant blue hand like that of Robin Williams' genie from Aladdin come up out of the ground and smack us into the air.

And then the shaking began. The cat was gone, and outside our bedroom window, through the closed shutters, I saw huge flashes of light as the powerlines across the street arced and sparked, a terrifying display of lightning of which I'd never seen the like. I was screaming, God knows what I was screaming, I was just screaming, and flailing, trying to shift my enormous pregnant self out of the bed because every nerve ending was telling me to run.

No fight. Just flight. On this scale, you don't fight Mother Nature. You just run like hell.

The spouse was struggling to disentangle himself from the lamp that had fallen on him, while simultaneously trying to wake up and hold me down on the bed. Truth was, though, that even had I managed to lever myself out of the tossing bed, I wouldn't have been able to stand, let alone run. The ground was shaking that hard.

I've read about earthquakes that lasted minutes. I can't begin to imagine that. The Northridge quake lasted 15-20 seconds. Doesn't sound like long, does it? But try this: get a stopwatch. Watch the seconds tick away. Count the breaths. Imagine being in a room shaking so hard that you can't stand.

It's much, much too long.

The shaking is a terrifying thing, trust me, and seeing the ground actually move is unutterably creepy, but to my mind, the worst thing about a big earthquake is the sound. It's not just the sound of your house trying to tear itself apart around you, but you can hear the ground. During one of the larger aftershocks, we were outdoors walking the dog. It sounded like 1,000 garage doors slamming shut simultaneously.

So, the shaking did stop, and I stopped screaming (we put it down to pregnancy hormones because I'd never reacted to anything--including bigger earthquakes--like that in my life, and I certainly haven't behaved like that since), and the spouse woke up, and we checked for gas leakage, made coffee, and cleaned up.

I've had so much stuff fall down in earthquakes that I can't actually remember which quake claimed what item. I think the only thing that's ever broken irreparably is a vase that I didn't like anyway, but I've got any number of dented candlesticks (one of which was heavy enough to take out part of the fireplace brick when it fell and that was Northridge) and broken-backed books. You live, you learn and heavy candlesticks have been packed away for two decades.

We turned on the TV to watch the news, and the spouse was pacing. At the time, he was working on a new museum being built on the Westside, and as he was geologist of record for a very important part of it, he was having kittens. He was not the least interested when I told him that we needed to start timing contractions, because I, unsurprisingly, was having contractions. He was fretting over the startling news that Santa Monica seemed to have sustained as much damage as Northridge.

Even though it was still dark, the devastation was clear. I lived in Sherman Oaks in the years between college and grad school. As I watched, the news crew showed the strip mall near my old apartment in flames. The roof of the grocery where I shopped had collapsed.

As the sun rose, the spouse got a call from his boss with instructions to do damage assessment in the area since we were nearest the epicenter. I wasn't going to be left home alone, and I told him I could take photos while he drove.

It was a long and not very pleasant day. The air was thick with dust and smoke. At a park in Simi Valley, I watched fascinated and repulsed as the grass seemed to ripple and crawl toward me during an aftershock. Years later, I heard a scientist say you can't see the ground actually move during an earthquake, and while he may not have ever seen it, I most assuredly have.

Although I continued to have astonishing contractions that day, I never went into labor. Ever. The son was safely delivered by emergency C-section a couple of weeks later. Two large aftershocks rocked the hospital while I waited for the Pitocin to do something, but to no avail.

Funny thing about aftershocks. When you've been through a big earthquake (Northridge was M6.7), a mere 4 or 5 feels like a carnival ride.

The spouse's project came through the earthquake with flying colors. He works for a different company now, and instead of building stuff, he studies how things fall apart.

It was January. It was so hot, I wore my summer pajamas.

And I've never forgotten that.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. I still think of those who were lost that day. Because the number was relatively small, because eventually the area was rebuilt, some discount the tragedy. But I think of them. Some of their stories resonated very strongly with me, and I don't forget.

04 January 2014

Guns, cranes and the Vincent Thomas bridge

From the battleship Iowa
Los Angeles, California
4 January 2014

Since September, the daughter has been one of the crew working on a PSA for the It Can Wait campaign. The actual PSA premiered today in a small theater, so we had to be in Long Beach early this morning so that the daughter could see her work on the big screen. The woman who spearheaded the effort is an individual of tremendous energy and she had media kits made and is in the process of submitting the finished product to numerous festivals. Really, hats off to her, her daughter and the other teens who put the thing together. I know how much effort it took.

The spouse has been making hopeful noises about visiting the Iowa for a year or so, and since we were near it this morning, we made the trek over to wander around it. I've seen my share of battleships (Missouri after it was decommissioned; New Jersey while it was still in service); aircraft carriers, and destroyers, not to mention military aircraft; I come from a family with a lot of military service. The exercise is not what I'd necessarily term enjoyable, but it is instructive.

(Okay, so the time I got to fly the F/A-18 simulator was pretty fun. Also, instructive.)

The docents on board were pleasant and knowledgeable, and the spouse seemed to have a fine time adding to his military history.

A successful day.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Because the D7000's battery still isn't charged. Horoscope says that 2014 is going to be a wildly creative year, so I suppose I should get moving.