Friday, May 31, 2002

Jacaranda trees

The jacarandas are in glorious full bloom right now. Entire streets in my city are lined with jacarandas, just like in Harare, Zimbabwe.

I found the jacaranda picture at the top of my web page via searching at Google Images. It happens that the picture is from a brochure about a tree walk on a university campus I drive by on my way to and from school. So someday I'll have to get off the freeway and take the tree walk!
A sigh of relief

It's a warm, sunny evening. This morning I took my big cat, Leo, to the vet to get his teeth cleaned. When he got his shots a couple weeks ago, I asked the vet to look at his teeth, and she said, yes, they needed cleaning. So last night I closed the window and put the cat food in the fridge, because he couldn't have food after midnight. Then this morning I got him into the cat carrier. He doesn't struggle nearly as much as the little cat, and putting him in rear first really helps.

He cried all the way to the vet, even more than usual, I think, because the little cat wasn't with him to comfort him. I went out to school and spent the day editing the documents I scanned previously. Then I picked Leo up late this afternoon. He was still crying, although much hoarser by then. (I'm sure the tube that was put down his throat for the general anesthesia didn't help.) Even the vet's assistant who brought him out to me commented on how much noise he made. By the time we got home he was merely whimpering. But now he's asleep on the couch, and peace reigns.

It always surprises me how tensed up inside I feel when the cats are upset, almost to the point where I want to start crying, and how reassuring it is to see Leo stretched out, relaxed and recovering. The little cat, however, is still jittery. She remembers the cat carrier too well, and even though she didn't have to go in it this time, she is staying away from the house for now.

As for me, I've almost unwound. I'm trying to convince myself to do something productive this evening, but I feel like just sitting on the couch and leafing through catalogues and magazines.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

The long weekend

I've been storing up things and links to write about all weekend. I was going to write earlier today, but then I read that Susie's friend's friend was killed in that train wreck in Mozambique. I had been imagining only too vividly the scene of the wreck after reading earlier that drivers of private automobiles were taking the wounded and dying to hospitals, because I remembered, as a child, coming across bad car wrecks on two occasions in neighboring Zambia. Once we took someone who was bleeding with us, and one time I remember someone being loaded into the back of another Land Rover.

So how does one then transition to the trivial events of one's own life relative to the suffering so many are experiencing? I don't know--and I think the confused grammar of the previous sentence reflects that disjointedness.

I had a good weekend on many levels. Friday I worked at my secondary job and scanned documents all day. The computer lab manager helped me figure out a system to scan about 50 pages, which I was going to go ahead and re-type because my first scanning attempt was so time consuming. The PC scanner is broken and won't be replaced until July; the scanner software attached to the Mac scanner doesn't convert scanned images into editable text. Therefore he figured out how I could scan the documents on the Mac, save them to a disk, and use the OCR software on the PC (TextBridge) to convert the image files to rtf files so I could then edit them. It felt so good to find a competent person to help me solve my dilemma. TextBridge is a much more sophisticated OCR program than the one I had to use previously at the other lab, so I will save tons of time (and quantities of boredom) editing. Because the text is a mixture of words and numbers with some handwritten notes, there are still a lot of weird formatting codes I have to clean up, but it is faster than re-typing would be. Also, with TextBridge I can save individually scanned pages into one file rather than having a separate file for each page, which then all have to be merged. So that was my 10-hour work day Friday, as boring to read through as to sit through, no doubt, but what a sense of accomplishment!

On Saturday I loaded my bike onto my bike rack on the back of my car, swung by the Farmer's Market to buy strawberries and a basil plant, and then went to a free "how to maintain your bicycle" workshop at the store where I bought my bike nearly two years ago. We learned how to remove a tube and tire, repair a punctured tube, and put the tube and tire back on the rim. We also learned about adjusting the brakes and gears, as well as oiling the chain. I bought a few supplies (a compact bicycle tool, as well as a tire repair kit with pump) so I'll be prepared if I need to make any (basic) repairs. Then I came home and oiled my chain and figured out how the gears work. I grew up riding a one-speed bicycle and never really understood how the gears on my new bike worked. It felt good to take the time to figure out something mechanical (at least to a certain degree). I still need practice knowing which gear to select when I'm riding and how to shift smoothly. I then went for a ride around my neighborhood. At the end of the day I was dirty and tired, but that night when I struck a match to light one of the burners on my gas stove, the smell of the lit match took me right back childhood and that wonderful sense of contentment from having played hard all day outside and coming in for supper just as it's getting dark.

Sunday was Trinity Sunday. I already wrote about the liturgy and sermon in my offline journal. One quote from Pastor Peg: "It's better to be at risk in the hands of God than to be safe in one's own hands."

On Sunday afternoon I went on a home tour of seven houses in my neighborhood, The Historic Highlands. It was fun to see inside the homes I walk by so often! One of my favorite houses was on the tour, the Lacey house, a classic Craftsman "bungalow" with an enormous California live oak in the front yard. The chimney and front porch are constructed with massive river rock boulders. Unfortunately, good pictures from this year's tours haven't been posted yet, but some of the previous years' tours have better photos. I really like that I live in a very modest duplex for a reasonable rent (although not quite the bargain it used to be...) but so close to beautiful, historic homes with incredible mature trees.

Sunday night I cleaned out and reorganized my Tupperware and yogurt containers and recycled glass jars cupboard. Monday, I tackled the garage, buying big plastic containers in which to store my household supplies I don't have room for in my one-bedroom duplex. Because the garage is porous (i.e., you can see the sky through the siding) anything in the garage has to be containerized to stay clean. The kitchen is looking much better (i.e., you can see patches of countertop) and the living/dining/study room is progressing, although piles of papers still cover most elevated surfaces (but not the floor!).

Well, I think this entry is quite long enough, so, until next time. Yours truly.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

More Julian Green thoughts

Last night I picked up Julian (or Julien) Green's journal (1928-1939) again. Here are some quotes I was going to post earlier today except that the picture of bluebells in SW England had to be displayed and, of course, properly credited.
I have made four fresh starts on the beginning of my new novel. I feel rather like a mole patiently hollowing out its little tunnel, and suddenly finding itself confronted by a wall. The little creature then goes back and begins all over again, till it finds the right direction (pp. 183-34).
On why he was reluctant to attempt writing a historical novel when he hadn't lived through the experience:
Historical facts are not enough. There are those long hours of boredom, those vain strivings, that restlessness—all those things that fall into eternal oblivion because no one thinks it worth while to note them down (p. 185).
Throughout his journal he writes descriptions of objects and paintings he views at exhibitions and museums, especially the Louvre. For example,
At the Louvre—the Saïtic Egyptian room. There is a capital of a column, in the form of a basket, which is a marvel of delicacy; the bands of the friezes are so lightly sculptured that it seems almost as though a touch of the hand would crumple them....(p. 186)
And on the attention looking at paintings demands:
A Le Nain exhibition in Paris. I went there with two people who were lacking in that serious attitude painting demands, and without which it has nothing to offer you. How many people in a gallery have any idea that a picture is meaningless unless one looks at it for at least five minutes?
Afternoon tea

One of the hidden treasures in my city is a traditional British tea room, the Rose Tree Cottage, run by Edmund and Mary Fry. (Mr Fry served at Buckingham Palace earlier in his career.) Here's how they describe their tea:
English style Full Afternoon Tea featuring a selection of finger sandwiches (including the favourite - Cucumber), freshly baked scones with lashings of Devon cream and our own delicious preserve. To complete the treat there's a selection of sweets, including the famous Rose Tree Cottage shortbread. During tea we serve you all the English Village Tea you can drink. All is served on fine Royal Doulton Bone China.
There is nothing more relaxing and refreshing than being surrounded by Victorian "clutter," sipping fine tea and eating delicious sandwiches.

The Frys also sell imported British goods, including the renowned AGA stoves. In addition, they lead group tours to England and beyond. Which brings me to the inspiration for today's entry—this picture from their recent tour to Devon and Cornwall (click for a larger image - Edit 6/11/06: Photo deleted.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

What color is your diet?

In an article in the NY Times, the benefits of various colors of fruits and vegetables are outlined.
"Pigment power" is what it is all about, say the authors of "The Color Code," who divide fruits and vegetables into four broad color groups: red, orange-yellow, green and blue-purple, each with a different set of beneficial phytonutrients. Dr. Heber, who is more of a "splitter," groups them into seven color categories, as follows:

Red, including tomatoes (especially cooked tomato products), pink grapefruit and watermelon, which are rich in the carotenoid lycopene, a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals that seems to protect against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease.

Red/purple, including red and blue grapes, blueberries, strawberries, beets, eggplant, red cabbage, red peppers, plums and red apples, which are loaded with powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins believed to delay cellular aging and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots. Dr. Heber includes red wine in this category.

Orange, including carrots, mangoes, cantaloupe, winter squash and sweet potatoes, rich in the cancer-fighter alpha carotene, along with beta carotene that protects the skin against free-radical damage and promotes repair of damaged DNA.

Orange/yellow, including oranges, peaches, papaya and nectarines, which provide beta cryptothanxin, which supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease.

Yellow/green, including spinach, collards, corn, green peas, avocado and honeydew, which are sources of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These are strongly linked to a reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of preventable blindness in developed countries.

Green, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and bok choy. These are rich in cancer-blocking chemicals like sulforaphane, isocyanate and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens.

White/green, including garlic, onions, leeks, celery, asparagus, pears and green grapes. The onion family contains allicin, which has antitumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. Dr. Heber includes white wine in this category.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Red, white, and blue

Have you noticed how quickly marketers and product manufacturers jumped on the red, white, and blue theme for summer? I was in Target last night and saw two or three different sets of dishes and a whole line of casual summer clothes with stars and stripes themes.

In the Sears' ad in the Sunday paper the first two inside front pages were covered in patriotic colors.

I am happy with this current marketing blitz because I collect red (but not stars and stripes) things for my kitchen, and sometimes it's difficult to find red. However, as I surveyed the red kitchen items in Target last night, I thought, "Do I really need a Made-In-Tawain red cutlery-and-serviette holder? How often do I have picnics or buffets where such an item might be useful? How about, 'Never'!" So I passed that up. I did buy a glass gallon jar with a red lid, though, in which I can store opened packets of crackers or cookies (or even homemade cookies...). I store most of my dry goods in glass jars on my counter.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Sunday morning

It's almost 8:00 on Sunday morning, and the paper has not yet been delivered. I like to get up early so I can read the paper before going to church. Today is Pentecost Sunday, so in the service about a dozen of us will read John 3:16 in various languages. (I was assigned Hebrew.)

Yesterday I needed to get out of my house. I had intended to study, which is why I chose not to go to the Huntington plant sale. But later in the day I made a pilgrimage to the used cookbook store nearby. It's right next to the biblical studies and theology used book store, a very dangerous stretch of road for my wallet.

I picked up a couple cookbooks. Dear S.O.S.: Thirty Years of Recipe Requests to the Los Angeles Times is a collection of recipes from a column in the LA Times that often prints recipes from local restaurants, as well as previously published recipes from the paper. I also got Gormet Every Day, which has some unusual, delicious sounding recipes that are fairly straightforward.

One idea I want to try is preparing lettuce ahead of time. The recipe (p. 163) recommends red-leaf lettuce, curly-leaf green lettuce, arugula, and grated carrots. Wash the lettuce but don't tear it. Then lay out the lettuce and arugla on a length of paper towels, sprinkle the carrots on top, roll up the paper towels, and put the bundle in a zip-lock bag. (If you use one head each of the red and green lettuce, two bunches of arugula, and half a pound of carrots, you can make four bundles.) The bundles will keep in the fridge up to one week. When it's time to make a salad all you have to do is tear up the lettuce.

I also have a piece of terry cloth I was going to make into a salad bag I saw in a store (for $10!). I'll have to experiment to see which way keeps the washed lettuce the longest.

Well, the paper still hasn't arrived. It must be because of the smattering of rain we got last night and this morning.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Notes of the week

Today I went out to school to take care of some paperwork. I was hoping the computer lab director would be there, but he is on vacation. I need to figure out how to get some fonts on the lab computers so I can print a manuscript for a professor. I was going to do a few other things, but when I went out to my car, I noticed it was leaking coolant. So I called a friend who lives in town, and she recommended a mechanic. I didn't want to drive all the way home to my mechanic with coolant leaking.

It ended up it was leaking from the heater core. I didn't have time for them to change the heater, so they bypassed the heater. Since summer is approaching, I don't need a heater, so I'm in no rush to have the bigger job done.

I got home just in time to round up my cats and get them in the carrier to go to the vet for their annual shots. The little cat protested vigorously. She did not want to get into the carrier. The vet told me to hold her by the scruff of her neck and put her in rear first rather than head first. So I'll try that next time (hopefully not for another year). Leo has to go in again to get his teeth cleaned, but he doesn't fight so hard.

So it was a stressful day.

Work has been pretty busy. On Tuesday night three of us took some business partners out for dinner. It was really fun, and the food was excellent. I don't dine like that in private life, but it's fun to do it occasionally for work--cocktails; appetizers; dinner; wine; desserts; and dessert drinks. Wednesday we met all day with the business partners and planned for the upcoming months.

Switching back and forth between corporate life and academic life can be dislocating, and, frankly, corporate life often wins out. I'm trying to figure out how to scale back so I don't have to depend so much on my job, but haven't quite figured it out yet. Anybody know of a cheap place to live that allows cats in the Pasadena-Claremont area?

I've been following the Crusader story with some interest. Last night the NewsHour had a short segment on the story.

Monday, May 13, 2002


It is now completely dark. The birds are quiet. An occasional car drives by. A neighbor is outside watering the lawn. In a short while I'm going to watch PBS's Masterpiece Theatre's The Road from Coorain. Maybe it will inspire me to hurry up and finish my degree so I can embark on an academic career. One can hope....[Edit: The program only covered Jill Ker Conway's life up to when she was accepted at Harvard. But what a wonderful portrayal of a complex (is there any other kind?) relationship between mother and daughter. Juliet Stevenson is a favorite actor.]
Now, and soccer

I was just about to write how quiet it was. Both doors are wide open after a warm almost to the point of dragging out the fan day. One cat is sprawled on the (newly vacuumed, I'm pleased to report) carpet; the other is outside on the front porch tracking the activity of the birds overhead. The birds were the only things making noise in the dimming twilight until an helicopter flew over and a few cars drove by. Still, this is a favorite time of time of day. Most people have arrived home, so not many cars are on the street. It's cooling off. There are three or four kinds of birds trilling in the trees. I've turned off the television after watching the NewsHour. Occasionally I hear the clink of dinnerware as a neighbor family finishes their evening meal, then the voice of a child who has come outside to play for a few more minutes before it's too dark.

I thought I'd take this (rare) opportunity to write about a sports event I watched yesterday: the U.S. men's soccer team vs. Uruguay in a pre-World Cup match. I happened to catch the very exciting second goal by DaMarcus Beasley on the U.S. team.
Chevrolet Man of the Match Beasley was dangerous all afternoon, recording the game-winning goal in the 40th minute. Only a great save from Uruguayan goalkeeper Gustavo Munua in the second half kept Beasley’s name from appearing on the scoresheet a second time. Beasley helped create the first goal, earning a corner kick with his work on the left flank. Agoos curled the ensuing free kick to the near post, where an onrushing Tony Sanneh nodded the ball just under the bar into the upper left corner of the net.

Beasley did all the work alone on the second goal, intercepting an errant pass in the midfield and carrying the ball into the penalty box. Beasley cut the ball around defender Gonzalo Sorondo and fired a shot that Munua saved. Beasley jumped on the rebound and knocked it home before going to celebrate his second career goal with Sam's Army in one end of RFK Stadium. (From the U.S. Soccer's World Cup 2002 Plus site.)
The advent once again of the World Cup reminds me that it was two World Cups ago that I moved down here and witnessed the post-final match euphoria in the the streets of my city when Brazil beat Italy. (Speaking of helicopters overhead, my apartment at the time was directly under the departure flight path of the helicopters that covered the matches. So, each night after a match finished—around 11:00 PM—a convoy of helicopters flew over. Just as one got out of earshot, another one would drone into hearing range.)

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Watch and support your local PBS station!

Right now I'm listening to a favorite CD, O Brother, Where Art Thou? I first heard the music on a PBS/KCET program, Down from the Mountain, of a live performance of the soundtrack. It was one of those times when I was flipping channels, happened upon the music, watched and listened to the end, and then immediately went out to get the CD. I like singing along and harmonizing with the songs. "Some bright morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away...."

Experiences like learning about and enjoying a type of music I'd never paid much attention to before (bluegrass) because of a television program make reading today's front-page LA Times article on PBS's low ratings very sad.
Its prime-time ratings have hit historic lows, the median age of its viewers is a demographically unappealing 55, and it is fighting for its place--some would say its life--in a television landscape full of better-funded cable copycats such as A&E and Discovery. Even Britain's BBC, while it still has close PBS ties, has launched its own U.S. channel. And a looming $1.8-billion conversion to digital transmission threatens to add complexity and confusion to the situation by turning each PBS outlet into as many as four channels.
I don't have cable, nor do I want to pay the minimum $45 per month to get cable in my city. Besides PBS programs have a depth (as well as sheer escapist entertainment) that most cable programs I've seen don't.

Technical note: LA Times now requires free registration to read most of its articles online.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002


From the "About" page at the weblog Wherever You Are via the blog list at Barbara Fletcher's blog: the website for Marmite. At boarding school we were served a blob of Marmite with our rice cakes at breakfast (except on Wednesdays and Sundays when we got catsup instead).

Monday, May 06, 2002

Back again

Well, the trip happened after all, just a few days later than planned. The baby is perfectly gorgeous, and my niece is lots of fun. Pennsylvania is so green. Spring already happened a few months ago in So. California, so I was surprised by all the blooming and newly-leafed trees in PA. I now know what dogwoods and sycamores are. It was fun to experience the spring I've been reading about in east coast weblogs.

I got home last night at 2:00 AM. My flight was half an hour late because the pilot had to skirt some thunderstorms. Then the other passenger on the shuttle was headed for the Greyhound bus station in downtown LA and the shuttle driver wasn't quite sure of its location. Almeda and 7th is not a place you want to be lost in LA in the middle of the night.

My cats were happy to see me again. They have full run of the house while I'm gone and come and go as they please. A neighbor girl feeds them. Thankfully they didn't drag in anything too nasty this time.

Now I feel like it's time to buckle down and get things DONE. Top on the list is to clean up my house. My sister-in-law puts me to shame.