Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year-End Repetitive Navel-Gazing Thingie

I've been using this inventory for the past few years or so. a lot of these things don't seem to apply to me very well anymore, but I'm always loathe to give up anything that might be *tradition* so here it is:

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

  • Saw a Grizzly Bear!
  • Went Kayaking
  • Visited the Lost Coast
  • Took up "running"

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Seems unlikely... let's see, shall we? Here's what I said:

  • apply for PMP, see if they'll accept my application to take the test
  • develop a plan for career. When people ask me what I want to do in the future, I should have some sort of answer. Right now, I have no idea, and it is sort of embarrassing.

  • I've decided to do the 100 pushup challenge! Because, why not? And I need trackable goals, as I don't do well with things like "lose weight" or "gain muscle"
  • My main concern this year is getting my heart in shape. I need to talk with my doctor to be able to figure out exactly what this goal is, though.

  • Max my 401K
  • Save more cash for the shit economy
  • Sew and craft more, and specifically: sew more and start making my own shampoo, etc. (the chemicals they use in body care products are really fucked up)
  • Get Things Done.
Yikes, no career goals were met, probably because, as illustrated by #2, I'm not very career-goal oriented. I thought I'd get my PMP app squared away in the last two weeks which I was told would be quiet at work, but instead I was hammered by incessant "emergencies"
The 100 pushup challenge was going OK until it gave me severe back pain, at which time I switched to chest presses, which got lost in the move around August.
Oh, here's one! I DID improve my cardiac health-- I think I'm doing really well on that front! yays.

The "other" goals were met... maxed my 401k and stashed some more cash besides, despite a challenging financial year for us. It just goes to show that anyone can save, even someone living in one of the most expensive areas of the country with only one income for two people.
I did ok on "more crafts" especially now that I have a sewing room. We did make a lot for Christmas, which I'll divulge after Christmas is over (after Epiphany!)
I Got Things Done. Other Things, I did not Get Done.

So how about 2010 goals?

  • Keep my job.
  • Grow my responsibilities and cross-functional work
  • Do my damn PMP thing
  • Continue "running," specifically continue improving my cardiovascular health
  • Max out my 401K
  • Meet the cash savings goals Paul and I are finalizing tonight
  • Have monthly crafting day at my house with family and friends
  • See my friends more

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I don't remember anything like that...

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
hmmm, a second income? oh! A GOAT! and renter's insurance

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
September 27th, 2009! Our first wedding anniversary, and we spent it with my entire family. How... romantic. :/

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I had some successes at work in a correcting an abandoned cross-functional project. That was relatively successful despite the complete abandonment from its previous owner.

More importantly, I handmade many of my Christmas gifts!

And, I stuck with "running" in spite of my inherent physical unfitness.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I still have not submitted my PMP application, despite my boss' not-always-gentle nagging

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
just little things like needing physical therapy after taking up "running"

11. What was the best thing you bought?
tickets to the South. Savannah and Charleston and surrounding swamps were beautiful.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I am so proud of Paul for deciding to go back to school, and persevering through all the red tape bullshit getting transcripts transferred (and opened) and all of that.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Teabaggers. Michelle Bachmann. OMG, Glenn Beck-- holy crap if I see him cry on TeeVee one more time I may jump through the TeeVee and strangle him.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Savings and rent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving out of our shithole in Mountain View. It had been so depressing and we were so happy to leave.

16. What songs/bands will always remind you of 2009?

Is it sick that I really like Lady Gaga's videos, which I only know about because they occasionally have them playing at breakfast in the cafe I eat in at work?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

ii. thinner or fatter?

iii. richer or poorer?

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Reading books, crafting, adventuring, learning

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
I try to read the whole internet. It is to much, and I wish I could figure out how to stay so informed with less time. Without giving up all the cool blogs I read (yay Scienceblogs!)

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent Christmas with family as always. This year, Paul and I finally had a house to put lights on and next year we hope to do more more more! I also spent quite a bit of time crafting for Christmas, with mostly good, and a few "uh, ok, that will have to do," results.

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?
I still fall! Every day!

23. How many one night stands?
No. I decided last year I'd change this question going forward to "What's on your night stand?"

  • credit card from buying airline tickets last night
  • glass of water, almost exactly half full, from drinking water in my sleep last night
  • alarm clock-- truly alarming. I got it for Christmas and still have not gotten used to it
  • Glasses-because I'm legally bind in one eye
  • two red pens
  • a piece of thread left from sewing in bed (what, I don't know)
  • an fancy phone which I also am not yet used to
  • The case for my NTI nightguard, which I still love

24. What were your favorite TV programs?
We still don't have TV but we still watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report on the internet for free, though lately we've been too busy

(what happened to 25?)

26. What was the best book you read?
Confederates in the Attic

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
89.1 FM KCEA. It is THE BEST.

28. What did you want and get?
I desperately wanted to move from the shithole in Mountain View, and I am so happy with the place we live now. It is a boring place, but at least we don't have tweakers on our roof anymore.

Also, very importantly, a clean bill of health for my mother-in-law after some particularly nasty cancer treatment.

29. What did you want and not get?
ahem, have I mentioned A GOAT?
OK, what I really wanted and did not get was a Mission Motors electric bike hottness. I know they do not exist for reals yet, but the proof-of-concept bike was SO much fun to ride.
Really... I guess there are few crafty buildy projects around the house I'd like.. like the glass display table and the ribbon/notions rack in the sewing room.

30. What was your favorite film(s) of this year?
We didn't go to the movies this year a single time. It's a total ripoff.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My parents were out of town, so we totally had a party at their house! It was nice: Paul BBQ'd, people brought their kids over to swim, and a nice mellow time was had by us old farts. I turned 32.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
My grandfather. I think of him every day, and James too.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?
I can't afford fancy new clothes, and they are all made in China anyway.
I do like little bits of handmade jewelry though, and Paul got me several cute necklaces. And I got nice accessories from Etsy and my knitting mother... handmade FTW!

34. What kept you sane?
My dear patient husband... who watches me blow up on a regular basis and supports me when I take on too much. My job, which I love, and all the supporting stuff around that that removes roadblocks in my life (I don't have to cook! or join a gym! or have a cold butt when I got to the bathroom!)

35. Which celebrity/public figure(s) did you fancy the most?
Jon Stewart? Rachel Maddow?

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Healthcare reform. We need a public option!

37. Who did you miss?
My grandfather and James, who are gone

My friends, who are all too far away or busy

38. Who was the best new person you met?
New person? There are new people out there?

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.

As Colbert noted the other night when talking with Tom Brokaw, a few hundred noisy people can become the majority in this country just by making a scene.

Also, don't count on there being jobs available-- you need savings, and a lot of it

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I don't know... something about being poor but in love. We don't need money really.

First sentence of the month. And! A picture from each month!

oooh it's been a lazy year in blogging. I didn't even have a first sentence of blogging for each month. How embarrassing!

I've been using this inventory for the past few years or so. a lot of these things don't seem to apply to me very well anymore, but I'm always loathe to give up anything that might be *tradition* so here it is:
From 2009.01.30 Kansas Trip

(no photos)

Paul and I have had an eye on the real estate markets for a couple of years now, and like to visit houses for sale when we can.
From 2009.03 Trip to the South

Homeopathy and all manner of stoopid pseudoscience crap bugs me.
From 2009

(no sentences.)
From 2009.05.23-25 Westport

We decided to go for a ride today.
From 2009

When I lived in downtown San Francisco, there was a little building crammed in amongst the others that always caught my eye.
From 2009

Keys to the new place!!!!!!
From 2009

(no blogs.)
From 2009.09 Canada

(no blogs.)
From 2009.09 Canada

I kept thinking that if I just had a chunk of quiet time, I would finally catch up on my blog.
From 2009

I've been sick the past two weeks, and you'd think staying at home would have given me time to update, but you'd be wrong.
From 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

All Is Calm (finally!)

I slept for 12 hours last night. Incredible.

Work was insane for the past few days. Hopes that I'd use the quiet week to catch up on overdue projects were dashed and bashed repeatedly and violently by the demands of sales teams making the end of quarter work around the holidays. Glad to be of help, but gave me an insane headache yesterday, which I slept off for a luxurious 12 hours.

Not to say I didn't work a little today, but! I woke up so refreshed, I finally moved some money around and made some year-end donations to a few charities: ACLU, Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, Donors Choose, and SPCA East Bay. Got a few bucks extra at the end of the year? The ACLU and PPGG are being matched by outside donors if you donate by the end of this year. Donors Choose has a lot of projects which are being matched by corporate donors too.

I tried this year to do a lot of handmade, with mixed results. Today I had a few projects left, which, if I'd run errands last night or this morning, I totally could have finished. However, I would have been a mess of stress and I really don't think Paul deserves much more of me being like that. So I decided to accept where I was and take it easy today. From cards and cookies to gifts and (half-finished) decorations, it's been fun, but it's time to accept our flaws and move on to the "peace" part of the holiday!

I love you all and hope you are having a wonderful holiday of choice, or if you choose no holiday at all, a merry merry Thursday!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Craft Day

We've set a date for our next stitch and bitch craft day thingie -- Saturday, January 16th
I've sent a calendar invite if I knew you were interested. If you are interested and didn't get an invite, please send me a message!
Nothing major, just sitting around doing crafty stuff and talking smack.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

I'm a Christmas girl, through and through.
"Happy Holidays" is fine, and so is "Season's Greetings," but for me it's "Merry Christmas!"

Still, today is Winter Solstice, and it's basically the same mixed-up business. (religions have been "borrowing" gods, holidays, and myths from each other forever, and this is no exception.) From darkness to light! Hope is born! And the cycle continues.

I came across this short article at Scienceblogs with a quick explanation of the astronomy, and, more importantly, pretty pictures of the sun in its various phases. oooooh, purty!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What's that outside my office window?

It's SNEW, eh?!??

From 2009


And what's that in the grass next to the snow?


From 2009

That must mean it's Christmas and time for celebrating! As soon as I saw the snow shoveling in, I was shamed into finally hanging our office Christmas lights, then...

From 2009

From 2009

From 2009


I've been sick the past two weeks, and you'd think staying at home would have given me time to update, but you'd be wrong. I've been really busy! It is Christmas after all...

The weekend before Thanksgiving, one of my best friends from my tortured early teenage years came up from LA to visit. We had fun catching up, and spent Saturday in the East Bay. Lunch at Lanesplitters gave me the chance to catch up some pints of beer from the exquisite Moonlight Brewing, which is unavailable in our new suburban hell. Then we went to Takara Sake for a tasty and informative sake tasting, followed by a quick visit to the Albany Bulb while the sun threatened to go down. Ever adventurous, we rocekted through Alameda at an illicit 26 mph to go see Kevy and Jonathon for dinner and tiki and good conversation. It was a blast, and I hope they visit again.

Then Thanksgiving came, and we got to bring Paul's mom and her incredibly sweet doggy with us:
From 2009

But unfortunately, I got the plague and had to try to keep her away from me. We still managed to get out for high tea, including tiaras and pinkies-out tea drinking.

Then I was sick for a really long time and the only thing that could cheer me up was getting a Christmas tree!

From 2009

And then decorating the heck out of the house. Our lights are awesome and the Christmas music is on repeat (Paul is a real trooper).

My mom and sister came over this past Sunday for a hastily "planned" craft day, which I used as an excuse to play with glitter. It was nice to have stitch and bitch craft time, and we'll try to do it monthly, maybe others will come and bring their projects! Or at least their latent glitter tendencies. I've been keeping pretty busy with lots of crafty stuff, but mostly it is stuff I can't share because it is Christmas gifts... so there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Huh, well, I'm halfway through the week, and this one has been tough.

Sunday I got to hang out with some of my favorite people in the world! Charles and Sara had us over for a little family and friends time, and I had a blast drinking all of Charles' beer and talking too much, while Paul tired the kid out, probably whilst teaching him all sorts of things that Charles will get a call from the daycare center about.

Monday's highlight was MEGA huge. They had vegetarian chimichangas at one of the cafes at work, and I about died of happiness. Seriously. I have not had a chimichanga since I was 16 and I pine for them regularly. See, the kitchen at my high school was run by this Mexican woman and she made bean and cheese chimichangas everyday and I ate the hell out of them. My uniform skirt was covered in chimichanga stains from the fact that it doubles as a napkin. Monday's was heaven. Then I watched some band that is apparently famous play at my work but they were not my style.

Tuesday I got nothing done, as I had a department meeting in the morning, and then a team offsite the rest of the day. My team is totally the best, and we had flaming cheese. Oh yes, flames and cheese, very nice. But! returning to the office to find all of my queues overflowing and projects long thought dead resurfacing was kind of a downer.

Wednesday I had no highlights. That was when I realized I was falling completely behind in a lot of important stuff. poop. This week is out of control, but I will beat it into submission ASAP.

coming up? My best friend from my early teenageish years visits for the weekend!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Teh internets, they haz the scammers

I just had to send out the following email because someone close to me had their email and facebook accounts compromised:

Hi everyone,
You may have received a strange email from [redacted]'s email address this morning ([redacted]

[redacted] is not in London, and she has not been robbed at gunpoint. She is perfectly fine.

Her account has been stolen by a scammer with a well known scam

This scammer has also taken control of her Facebook account, and is attempting to get her friends to give him/her money. It's possible that the scammer might access other accounts to try to contact people and get money.

Please ignore any requests coming from [redacted]'s accounts. If you've given any information to anyone pretending to be [redacted] in the past 12 hours, consider changing passwords as necessary.

And please secure your own passwords.
There are lots of articles about securing your passwords, but at the VERY LEAST: do NOT share a single password for your important accounts (gmail, banks, etc) and anything else. In particular, don't share the same password with Facebook, as it is very easily phished.

I don't know who was in [redacted]'s address book, but I'm emailing everyone I think *might* have been. I apologize if this reaches you in error

- Hide quoted text -

On Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 4:19 AM, [redacted] <[redacted]> wrote:
I'm sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling. I am presently in London, United Kingdom and I'm stuck here.
I was mugged on my way to the hotel and my money,credit cards,phone and other valuable things were taken off me at gun point.
I need you to lend me some money , I need to sort out my hotel bills and get my tickets straightened out .
I would be glad if you can help me and I promise to pay you back Immediately I get back home .
Waiting to hear from you.


PLEASE, please, if you ignore all the rest of the advice about password security, at least do this.

I personally dislike Facebook in particular because it so often asks you to allow account access for stupid shit, and it is so common to get messages (emails) which you click to go to Facebook and then it asks you to log in. With your password. From a link in your email. How many times do you have to do this before it becomes so routine you forget to be careful?

I am not a security expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel this lulls Facebook users into a sense of complacency in giving up account information at the drop of a hat.

I don't know for sure how this hack happened, but I would put money on this:
  1. the user was phished with fake Facebook request to log in, providing the hacker the user's account credentials.
  2. the hacker used those credentials to log into Facebook and found the user's email address and maybe other info.
  3. the hacker guessed (because this is unfortunately common) that the user might use the same password for their other accounts, and successfully logs in to the users other accounts (email, etc... anything that's listed in Facebook! and then anything that's listed in the other accounts they are now accessing!)
  4. the hacker changes secondary email addresses and phone numbers that are in each account which the user could otherwise use to recover their password. Now the user is completely locked out.
  5. the hacker starts spamming/phishing all contacts in the users various accounts

It is not that difficult to get a user to give up a password. Therefor, don't re-use passwords, so if you do make a mistake, you won't be handing over the keys to everything you own, all at once.

UPDATE: ok, this is not the one I was thinking of, but I found a funny transcript from one of these scammers chats here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Forty Years!

So we were moving and fixing the cat, and at the same time, we were working on celebrating with my parents. They've been married FORTY YEARS!. I've never done ANYTHING for forty years, so I can't even imagine!

Paul and I made invitations to send out for the party:
From 2009

And then, September 12h, we celebrated!
We baked and cooked and decorated, and finally, there was a party!

I didn't take any pictures, so I'm stealing this one from my sister:

A good time was had by all, and my parents' friends totally stayed until like 1:30 am, tiring us kids out.

I hope Paul and I will be surrounded by such wonderful people (and food) 39 years from now. But I know it's a lot of work cultivating such a great marriage and community. We'll start with just the cat.

Forty More Years!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Novelty Cat!

Note: the following post is more detailed than most people will find interesting, and that is because this might help someone else, in the way that I found it helpful to read other people's experiences about this. The short version can be found at the bottom of this post.

Over a couple of months, we noticed the cat seemed to be limping slightly. At first, we thought it might be to do with uric acid buildup because she had the beginnings of kidney problems. So we got her the recommended meds and waited a bit, but it only got worse. So, to the vet!

The vet decided to biopsy because it was likely osteosarcoma. The biopsy was fairly major surgery, because, really, anything has to be major on a cat. I think we both thought it would be something like a needle biopsy, but actually, they took out quite a big chunk of bone, and we were both a little sobered by that. The general anaesthesia really messed her up for a few days, and she needed to be pilled.

From 2009

(post biopsy. Shaving the cat is quite eye-opening! This link shows what the stitches look like.)

They referred us to another vet hospital, where there was an oncologist, just for confirmation. We were, at this point, borrowing my parents' car and carting the cat around in a moving box, because this was around the same time we were moving house.

It was around this time we saw the X-Rays they had taken of her before the biopsy, and:
  1. It was obvious from the X-Ray that the bone on the bad leg had a different density or texture
  2. She had a pellet in her hip, presumable from when she got shot in the eye about 12 years ago. Kitty is gangsta!
The oncologist confirmed it was osteosarcoma, and other tests showed that it had not spread.
Osteosarcoma in cats behaves differently from the way it behaves in dogs. While dogs will typically have it spread and kill them, cats often just need an amputation and that solves the problem. There's no need for chemotherapy or anything like that.

We had the option to have the surgery done at Sunnyvale Vet Clinic, where Paul usually takes the cat, and the second clinic, Veterinary Surgical Associates, where we saw the oncologist. This was a more heartwrenching decision than you'd think. The second place was clearly very professional and top-of-the-line. It was also about 3x the price. Sunnyvale is a smaller, more homey clinic-- well worn, but the people are really nice and they love the cat. We took her there, but it was kind of a sad thought to wonder if we were making the decision solely on price...

At this point, we started getting advice, wanted and unwanted, from others. I looked around on the internet for other people's experiences. The vet thought the cat was pretty healthy (other than being overweight) and recommended amputation. There were a lot of people on the internet saying they had done this with their cat, and the cat recovered and rebalanced quickly. Granted, there were more than a few "let the cat go, put it down" on the internet too, but not one was from someone who had actually gone through this.

Point is, if your cat has osteosarcoma, and it is localized, don't believe the folks who implore you to let go for kitty's sake. Cats get along fine with 3 legs. (she can't count anyway, so how would she know? We just tell her it was always like that.)

So we scheduled the surgery, at Sunnyvale Vet Clinic. In the meantime, she was just beginning to recover from the biopsy surgery. The anesthesia, pain medication, and antibiotics cocktail will make your cat pretty sad and pathetic, and royally screw up their digestive track.

For surgery, we borrowed the car again and Paul dropped her off in the morning, and we picked her up together in the early evening.

She. Was. So. Pathetic.
It was totally heartbreaking to open the box and see her in a little knit stocking with a cone on her head, her usually robust voice raspy, woozy, and scared.

So now you take the cat home, and there's nothing you can do to make the cat happy. What you have to do is focus on not letting the cat hurt herself further, from falling, ripping staples/stitches (she had staples), etc. We tried to remove anything that she might want to climb on. She sat around and cried a lot, and in between, she stumbled around loudly and frantically, confused by her meds, on top of the fact that her balance was gone. It was really depressing for a long while. And again with the digestive problems, but now you add the fact that she has no balance in the litterbox-- it's NOT a pretty sight.

It was pretty bleak around our house for a few weeks, but she started to heal, and the thump/drag sound of her getting down the hall got more rhythmic and less interrupted by loud thunks. the staples came out and the doctor gave her the all-clear. (though she does need to lose some weight to help her single leg support her) She started climbing up on the couch when no one was looking, and we wondered how she got down. Rather theatrically, it turned out, as it was a cartwheel every time. She's gotten a little better at that, but we still have to be really careful what we leave for her to climb on, because we don't want her cartwheeling and injuring herself.

From 2009

(here she is after the amputation, several weeks later. Paul would have killed me if I was taking pictures of her right away. It was not pretty, really-- but it gets better!)

The best part is, her energy level is back up to where it was before she started limping. Before the biopsy, she had gotten quite lethargic, which is hard to discern in a cat due to their inherent love of laying around. But it's clear to me that she was tired from fighting the cancer, and with that gone, she has gotten a little of her energy back.

In the end, I wanted to report this in case anyone else is facing feline osteosarcoma and wondering if amputation is really something they want to go through with. If your cat is otherwise healthy, (or not, like, say, if it is missing an eye and grossly obese) then I say definitely consider it without your own baggage about how you think YOU might be impacted by losing a leg. Cats are totally different, and can get along just fine.

And plus it makes a great novelty when visitors come over.

The Short Version
Paul's cat was misbehaving, and we discovered it was because she had too many legs! So we had her altered into a much cooler novelty cat. Whilst in the process, we found out she was shot in the ass about twelve years ago (presumably at the same time she was shot and lost her eye) and has had the pellet lodged in her hip this entire time. Kitty's tough, yo.
Always remember: never pick a fight with the ugly chick-- she's got nothing to lose.


By the middle of August, we were desperately looking for a new place to park our motorcycles and our bed. The neighborhood in Mountain View was nice (as nice as the South Bay can be), but the immediate complex we lived in (a duplex behind a small apartment building) was HELL.

Despite a softened rental market, it's still difficult to find places that meet all of our needs, specifically:
  • Must have enclosed, private, garage
  • Must not share walls (we could hear our old neighbors snoring through our bedroom wall, which was a really unpleasant thought)
  • Must allow cat (this was actually one of the more difficult ones. Many landlords would rather let their properties sit on craigslist for many months, than allow a lazy old cat in the house)
  • And, the one weird thing we had to check at every location:
  • Roof cannot be accessed from any nearby structures. This is something that never occurred to us before moving into the Mountain View pit.
  • Location: needed to be near a work shuttle or caltrain, and within a mile of a grocery, with strong preference for a "downtown" nearby

Sure, there were other nice-to-haves*, but these criteria were plenty to make the whole process rather painful and desperate.

After several weeks of looking and getting more and more dejected, we managed to pick up a place in Sunnyvale, not too far from Murphy Street (Sunnyvale's downtownish district)
And? it was bigger than we needed, and we were thrilled.

The new place is bigger, has insulation, modern wiring and plumbing, a much bigger garage, our own laundry, and 100% fewer people on our roof. The commute to work takes a bit longer, and the area is a lot sleepier, but it is sooooo much nicer.

*A few weeks ago, we discussed adding "no persimmon or pomegranate trees" to our list, because based on our recent experience, they clearly attract tweakers.

Birthday camping!

And then again, first weekend of August, it was Paul's birthday. Paul is impossible to shop for. He just doesn't want stuff.

But, he really does like time with friends, and he really does like camping. So camping we went.

the cast:
Paul (birthday boy)
Me (bad idea generator)
Jennifer (my sweet, enthusiastic, always-fun sister)
Daniel (Paul's best man)
Amy (who gamely took a 3-year old on his first camping trip whilst pregnant, and without the help of her husband for the first half of the weekend)
Quinn (3 year old, not quite potty-trained)
Jesse (who showed up late Saturday night after work, bringing Paul handmade sausage and Amy some respite, and also bringing...
Lola! (the wonder dog)

It was a fantastic weekend. The script went something like this:

Me: ok, here we are. We have three sites, which is way more than we need. Most of our stuff is in Jennifer's car, and she's not here yet, so we can't pitch our tent. Pretty much all we can do is... drink this wine I brought!
From 2009.08.01 Camping in Portola Redwoods

Paul: OK, I can live with that. glug glug glug. OK, no more wine, now what?
(enter Amy and Quinn)
All: yay!
Quinn: These bathrooms are scary.
Amy: that's ok, you can just pee on the tree!
Quinn: (loves it)
(enter Jennifer and Daniel-- can't remember who came first)
All: glug, glug, glug
Quinn: The kids' campfire ranger thing was way lame.
Paul: "Bats eat bugs, they don't eat people"
Quinn: Mom, can I go home and watch Teevee?
Quinn: "We're going on a bear hunt! I'm not afraid!" (repeated ad nauseum)
All: zzz zzz zzz
(end act 1)

Act 2
All: ok, let's go for a hike!
Quinn: boring!
Paul: Quinn, there are BEARS on the trail! Let's go find them.
Quinn: ok, first I gotta make my poor sainted mom change my diaper trailside.
Amy: I'm so awesome and unflappable, this does not even phase me.
(every time Quinn gets tired and slows down...
Paul/Rebecca/Amy: Quinn! I just saw the bear! It is just around the corner up there on the trail! Did you see it??!?!
(Finally, Quinn is too tired, and makes his pregnant mom carry him up the steepest parts of the hike)
Daniel: ok, hike is over, I'm taking a nap
Boy camping next to us: Hey, Quinn, let's play with the ball
Quinn: yay! (then proceeds to fail at playing WITH the boy by running off with the ball every chance he gets)
Boy: I am so patient and unflappable, this does not phase me. (continues playing with Quinn)
Amy: Dinner time!
Quinn: I'm going to pour salt in Rebecca's wine.
Rebecca: OMG, he really did just pour salt in my wine.
Daniel: (to Rebecca) I am the awesomest friend ever, and brought a cheesecake and candles.
Amy, Quinn, Daniel, Jennifer, and Me: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Paul, Happy Birthday to you!
Paul: OMG, this is so great. Nom, Nom, Nom. I am totally stuffed.
(enter Jesse and Lola)
Jesse: I totally drove around getting lost in the dark, but now I am here, and I brought beer and homemade sausage for Paul
Paul: (already stuffed and drunk) glug glug glug, nom nom nom.
Lola: ball, ball ball, BARK! stick, stick, stick BARK!
All: zzz zzz zzz
(end act 2)

Act 3
Paul: ouch. With the loud noises, and the bright lights!
Rebecca: Let's go for a short hike before we go.
All: Yay!
Quinn: Mommy, can I go home and watch TeeVee!??
Lola: Stick, stick, stick. Why don't you throw the stick and I'll chase it? BARK!
Daniel: Screw you guys, I'm going home.
All: Let's go to Santa Cruz and have beer, I mean, Lunch.
All: Beer was nice, now to the beach!
Lola: Stick, stick, stick. BARK!
All: ok, everyone go home!
(all exit stage)

Act 4
two weeks later, at Rebecca's birthday
Amy: Yeah, so apparently the peeing in the woods thing wasn't a good idea. The next day, his daycare teacher was like "what the hell happened to his potty training??" ... oops.

It was fantastic.
You would think tht I would have pictures of us l camping and hiking and whatnot, but you would be wrong.

Aquarium Weekend Katsup

I kept thinking that if I just had a chunk of quiet time, I would finally catch up on my blog. Saturday and Sunday morning, I had some time, and guess what? I didn't catch up on anything but clearing my Reader!

So, it will never be caught up. But to go back t some highlights...

In late July, an old friend came out for a visit. Even though I've only seen Ethan a handful of times over the years, it's always surprising just how quickly he feels like an old friend. We met at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Saturday, where I was attacked by a giant whale:
From 2009

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is great, but full of really obnoxious people who feel the need to take pictures of each and every tank. Of course, they are not going to look at all 500 of these blurry cellphone pictures ever again, but that doesn't stop them from jamming the things in between you, who are actually looking at the exhibits, and the tanks.... for 5 minutes while they try to get just the right stupid shot. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a good place for kids. My personal favorite was watching the otters gleefully rip apart their meals. Who would have thought entrails could look so cute? (besides Peter Jackson in Dead Alive-- adorable!)

It was a bit of a cat-herding exercise to keep the entire group together but we did manage to get to dinner together at a Thai place across the street from the aquarium, which I thought to be surprisingly un-bad, despite it's proximity to tourist hell. Then we went to Kapp's Pizza in Mountain View for a few beers before calling it a night.

Sunday we went to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which was fantastic, and a little less kid-oriented (that's a good thing, for me) The building is beautiful, the rainforest is fun, and they have set up the large tanks so you can see them from a different angles from the different levels. Paul tried to jump into the alligator pit
From 2009

For dinner, we went to Axum in Lower Haight for some tasty Ethiopian food.

Every few years, I get a picture like this:

From 2009

and am reminded that even though people are far apart, good friends will reconnect almost immediately. I have to admit, I was wondering how awkward it might be to see someone you haven't seen for years, then spend two days with them. It was great to see Ethan!


Friday, July 24, 2009

5 Things I Did Yesterday

  1. Made plans for this weekend: aquarium marathon!
  2. Ate a lot of rum cake.
  3. Considered whether I could get rid of most of my belongings, just so we could fit into a smaller rental somewhere else.
  4. Took in the car show, again, at Mountain View's Thursday Night Live street thingie. Look! A car with stupid shit stuck to it! Look! A guy with paste on sideburns and rockabilly hair! What a hip town we live in.
  5. Slept on the wrong side of the bed, ensuring that I would, uhh, wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Five Problems I Don't Have

  1. Watching TV. We don't even have TeeVee. What we do have is Daily Show and Colbert Report, on Comedy Central's intertubesite, for free the day after everyone else. How people have time for more than that, I'll never understand.
  2. Credit Debt. I had some when I was in my early twenties. Now I'm a "freeloader," collecting miles but never paying interest charges. Woot.
  3. Traffic. I don't have to commute much, and if I do, I get to lanesplit. One of the reasons I'll probably never leave California. Without lanesplitting as a factor, Seattle or any other nice town might be a contender.
  4. Unemployment. There's a lot of unemployment, and underemployment, going on right now. I am lucky not to be in that boat right now, and to be able to provide for myself and my husband. Better yet, I actually like my job, my team, and my company. For once, I feel like I got some of the magical luck I've always envied my brother for.
  5. Laziness. I may be a procrastinator, but I don't have it nearly as bad as other people. I'm driven, and although I'm not the best at always finishing things, I'm getting better at seeing the work for what it is, and driving it through completion, or seeing that it needs to be delegated or dumped.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Five good things from yesterday:
  1. Cherries, lots of them. And very tasty.
  2. Writing a "Dear John, RTFM" letter to a challenging contact, in the nicest possible way, with my boss' full support.
  3. Nothing says "I love you" like a pile of money. Even vapor, future money.
  4. Paul finally got to talk with the academic counselor, which was borderline useless, but at least it can be checked off the list and he can proceed
  5. Trying a new restaurant on Castro Street, and not leaving with the, "well, now we know, check that off the list" disappointment we usually get.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


This weekend was wonderfully lazy. We did stuff around the house, mostly. Paul is studying algebra, and I worked on a sewing project. Then of course decided I didn't like it enough to bother finishing it by adding buttonholes and buttons.

The highlight must have been Sunday morning. Paul made Grandma Kay's Waffles!
From 2009

Paul heroically ate 2 1/2, while I just managed to finish about 1 3/4. Mine were, of course, smothered in Laura Scudders peanut butter and maple syrup, the way god intended.

I spent the rest of the time combing craigslist for a new place, and getting rather dejected.
The number of places that won't accept pets is disheartening, especially when you see what a dump half of them are (as if a fifteen y/o cat could make the place any worse), or that the landlord insists you not call them unless you have already given notice to your old landlord and are ready to move in RIGHT NOW. Like somehow being a dog or cat person is terrible, but being a dumbass who can't plan shit and/or has been forced out of their apartment on short notice makes you a great rental prospect.


I got myself into a big stinky project at work that will be very cathartic if and when it works out. It s a pain, but cleanup projects appeal to my compulsive nature. Like picking at a scab.

Today, my team celebrated our (belated) two-year teamiversary, and had Patxi's pizza and then checked out Vanilla Moon in San Carlos. I was impressed with their buttercream, not so fond of their cream cheese frosting. Clearly, further analysis is required.
From 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Looking for Bottom?

It came up a couple of times in the past couple of weeks "this is the bottom of the housing market" or "Rebecca, do you think this is the bottom?"

the answer is, depends, probably on where you are. Here? No.
Here's the NUMBER ONE reason why: Unemployment is out of control.

Also consider: Delinquencies on mortgages are still growing, and in the previously "safe" Prime territory

If you're at all interested in economics, and have not yet added Mish's blog to your reader, you are really missing out on good stuff.

Also, where I live anyway, houses are still way too expensive to rent the money from the bank to "own" them.

Paul and I desperately want to move. Yesterday I saw a listing on craigslist that looked workable for a place we might want to live for two years or so (not longer-- it was too small for permanent roots) The rental listing is for $1700/month. Later the same day, I saw it listed on the MLS for a price of $499,000.
Everyone who's interested in housing and renting, bookmark this fun calculator.
I realize the calculator is an imperfect picture (also has lots of inputs for tax rates and whatnot, so I tried to use a best case scenario but your results will vary), but it does show that buying will not be better than renting at these prices ever, unless the house appreciates at 5%/year, and in that case it is better after 5 years. (I believe 5% inflation in house prices over the next 5 years is a fantasy scenario.) Without belaboring the specifics of this particular house:
  • This is a big IF: how many people have $100K sitting around for that downpayment on a tiny little house like that? (not to mention closing costs and cash reserve for repairs and what-ifs) If they do have $100K cash, are they a new family that will fit in such a small house? (2/1, with 790 square feet) Are they planning on staying there many years to break even?
  • Based on other homes prices in the area, my strong suspicion is that this has been priced "low" to generate bids upwards of the listed price so that will make these numbers even more ridiculous if I am right.
This sort of thing will probably hang on a little longer in the Bay Area, but it can't go forever. It's not possible to have a housing market where there are no entry-level homes that make any sense. Most importantly, job losses are not finished, and further job losses will hit homeowners with foreclosures, and will hit prospective homebuyers with less access to money and credit, creating further downward pressure. Deflation is a good thing in this case, as the current pricing levels are stretching people way too thin, and out of control inflation has caused terribly risky behavior.

What really matters
That being said, if you have found something and have the means to buy it and hold on to it, by all means, do it. Where you live is where you live-- it is not a financial vehicle.

If you can buy an iPhone the day before the new one comes out and the price of your model drops the next day, ask yourself: "yesterday, I decided this phone was worth X dollars to me, and I bought it. Does tomorrow's price drop mean I don't enjoy the phone at X dollars anymore?" If you can't live with that, don't buy. But there's no reason that tomorrow's price drop should change the fact that yesterday you said the phone was worth X dollars to you. Once you've made your decision, don't look back. Live in your home, love your phone, and move on. If you think your phone or your home is an investment, beware of your market right now.
And get ready to be stressed out all your life about things that are marginally outside of your control.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tart Hotness

I almost forgot the tarts!

Paul made these lovely tarts on July Fourth:

From 2009

They were made from fresh fruit (some from the garden), and were beautiful, and tasty, and, umm... tart.

Is there anything he *can't* do???

Monday, July 06, 2009

Illegitimi non carborundum

(Yes I know it's bad Latin. You are boring.)

I had a three day weekend, and the bastards have been getting me down recently, so we had a three day marathon of reconnection. Friday we went to Berkeley and cleaned the hell out of Paul's mom's place in preparation for her return from the hospital. I sanitized every surface and brushed three extra dogs out of Kathie's dog, and we finally got the call that Kathie was ready to come home! It was very nice to see her back in her own home. With everything in its place, we took off to dinner with friends at their house on Ashby. They had an adorable dog and a one-month-ish baby, and were doing fantastic. We got whistled and hissed at by their cockatiels, ate three desserts, and talked lots of smack about motorbikes. hooray!

Saturday we hit the Turner Compound for the 4th of July BBQ. Unfortunately, I was still feeling rather unhappy and having difficulty dealing with humans (why can't everybody just be a labrador retriever?), but made the best of it long enough to eat the fruit tarts Paul made and catch up with some folks. 7:30 rolled around and I had to shoot up to the City to cashier at New Wave City, which? Was pretty slow as I'd expected. In bed by 2:45 am, hooray?

Sunday we ambled up to Alameda to BBQ with friends we had not seen in a very long time. I finally met Kevy's husband, Jonathon, and Dan-n-Irene's new baby, Natasha. Alameda is a nice place but very difficult to get to and from. I think it's nice that all of our friends are moving there to form community together, and I'm really kind of jealous because I hate the South Bay, but the commute to and from Alameda would kill me (if the speed limit didn't get me first). We stopped in Berkeley to do some chores for Kathie and eat ice cream before returning home, and then back to the grind. no hooray.

And then I had a night of weird dreams, the kind the pick at scabs that you know have been long healed. "I've moved on," you say, "you need to move on too." "But I just need to know" "no you don't"

I was reminded recently how spontaneously something you care deeply about can blow up in your face. And if it was a pillar for you, it will leave you very shaky. I need to choose my pillars more carefully, and let other things be what they are. Not just let, but restrain.

cease this long, long rest
wake and risk a foul weakness to live
when it all comes down
watch the smoke and bury the past again
sit and think what will come
raise your fears and cast them all away

Thursday, July 02, 2009

My house is finally on the market!

When I lived in downtown San Francisco, there was a little building crammed in amongst the others that always caught my eye. I mostly loved its garage doors and the quiet sense of mystery to it. Once or twice, I stood on a planter to try to get a little peek inside. (hi! I'm your stalker, building!)

Now it is on the market, and I'm quite sure someone wants to loan me 2.4 million dollars so I can run back up to the City. It's really the perfect property. Garage, downtown loveliness, but a quiet-ish street. Hello, Sailor!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

We spent fathers day at the Turner Compound, drinking margaritas and
baking (then eating) a cake.

Maximum sugar overload.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

There is no Ice Cream on Ice Cream Grade :(

We decided to go for a ride today.
Paul wanted to ride a dirt road to Mount Madonna. I protested by laying the dirt as soon as the pavement ended.

From 2009

I had taken care to choose a nice, scenic spot to wash out my front end, so we sat and made some phone calls and enjoyed the scenery, then turned around and went back to paved roads.

Then we did something like Summit to Zayante, to Mt Hermon Road so we could go to Santa Cruz for Crepe House goodness, then 9 to Alba to Empire Grade, to Ice Cream Grade, where I pulled out at the corner to animatedly beg Paul to pull a yellow jacket out of my jacket, where it had been stinging me repeatedly. (hooray) After some pouting, I really did want Ice Cream for my owie, but the best I could do was to ride Ice Cream Grade, to Pine Flat, back to Empire Grade, to Felton Empire Road, to 9 through Boulder Crick, down Bear Creek Road, then home.

Crashing and getting attacked by yellow jackets made me think I should really cut my losses and go home before something really bad did happen, so I am glad to be home safely, but I don't understand why there is no margarita in my hand!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Let the record show that I absolutely cannot take on any more projects at this time. I am so swamped and overwhelmed, I have forgotten how to just be happy.

As much as I think the idea is good and deserves execution, as much as I want to help, as much as I wish I had accomplished X, I must remember:

I absolutely cannot take it on right now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Southern Comfort

OMG, did I forget to tell you all about my trip to The South?

When we told people we were going to Savannah and the south for vacation, we got a lot of confused looks from people. "oh... how interesting. ... how did you pick that destination?" as in "uh? why in the heck are you going there, of all god-forsaken places?"

We decide to take advantage of Paul's time off, and we also discussed the great trips we've had when we went to places we would not have necessarily chosen as our first choice vacation. Stuff like a roadside apple orchard in Wisconsin, a beautiful park in the middle of Atlanta, a tiny saloon in a town not really on the map near Cincinnati-- in short, there is a wonderful quiet satisfaction in the things you find when you aren't looking for them. And perhaps it's good to go off of your own beaten track of adventure. If my habit is to prefer big cities, then the only way to see something new is to go somewhere I don't want to go. It's a weird logic. Anyway, we made a list of places we'd like to see, and checked the weather for March, and found ourselves pointed to Savannah!
We booked our flights and were excited to see the old town in all its quiet charm...
And then we quickly discovered that Savannah was going to be hosting the second biggest St. Patrick's Day parade in the country that week. Gulp. well, we thought, how bad can it be, really?

So we went to see!

We flew out Thursday night on a red-eye, swapped planes in Charlotte, and landed in Jacksonville, Florida, where we picked up our sweet ride and headed north!
From 200903 Trip to the South
(our sweet ride)
Note: if you click any of these photos, it should take you to see the whole set.

First stop was Brunswick, GA, which our tour book suggested might be cute-ish. It really wasn't all that cute, but we did circle around some rather run-down neighborhoods with funny signs before getting lunch. Then on to nearby St. Simon's Island for our Very First Sights! we pulled over to see some slave houses
From 200903 Trip to the South
(in our neighborhood, they would try to sell this as a 3/2 for $850K)
and were attacked by the onslaught of Southern beauty in its purest form: the Spanish Moss covered oak giants.
From 200903 Trip to the South

Then we moved on to Fort Frederica, to see the remains of the fort founded in 1736. There's not much standing still, but they've excavated a lot and determined who lived and worked in some of the old buildings. There's a nice audio tour, and the grounds are beautiful!
From 200903 Trip to the South

From 200903 Trip to the South

After enjoying the tour and the views, we piled back into the car and headed to Savannah. We arrived in time to head out for dinner (Thai food) and a little walk. I immediately fell in love with the city's thoughtful layout and intimate squares and greenery. What I didn't love? Crowds. Lots of people, and it was only Friday--still days away from the main event. On the waterfront, we found throngs of revelers crowding in long lines to get into pubs and restaurants. Lines of porta-potties were in heavy use (according to the next day's paper, the porta-potties the city planned for the weekend were filled before Saturday noon, and they had to call in for emergency backups) an some smart enterprise had popped up with special fancy porta potties. You paid $5 for the night and had access to these fancy crappers. Genius. We had a nearby hotel, so this didn't impact us, but, from a woman's point of view, totally worth it.
From 200903 Trip to the South

("A regal portable restroom experience")

We took Saturday to explore the city. Which? Is adorable. I would like to put it in my back pocket and take it home. I tried, but it was taken away by the TSA at the airport.
From 200903 Trip to the South
(the view I awoke to from our hotel room)

From 200903 Trip to the South
(enchanting public spaces, and again with the beautiful greenery everywhere)

From 200903 Trip to the South
(we visited the birthplace of Girl Scouts)

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(we visited Colonial Park Cemetery)

In short, we had a grand time. Savannah is a gorgeous, full of beautiful rows of houses pushed up against public squares, all designed around the scale for, um, people! Not cars. It is wonderful.

But, the nicest thing about being in Savannah? You can drink in public! Which is one of my favorite pastimes, and here I did it with impunity! It is so delightful to get a bottle of wine and enjoy sitting in a square watching the world go by.
From 200903 Trip to the South

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
We decided to go to a swamp and then on to Charleston.

So we hopped in our sweet ride and headed north. As soon as you leave Georgia, the sides of the road are littered with billboards for fireworks stores. Fireworks, how novel! But not here, where, when you get off the freeway, you'll find about 4-6 fireworks superstores clustered at each offramp.

From 200903 Trip to the South

From 200903 Trip to the South

(fireworks in South Carolina is like starbucks in California)

We did not stop for fireworks, as we were on a mission! To get to a swamp! Cypress Gardens, to be exact. And, for me, this was one of the highlights of our trip. We got there a little late, sadly, with only an hour and a half or so left before closing. We paid our ten bucks or whatever to get in and were asked if we'd like a boat tour. Well, yes, is there an extra charge? Only if you want a guided tour. Nah, we'll do it ourselves, we said. Now, being from California, I expected a 30 minute training video, fourteen pages of waivers, a life vest, and some stern warnings from uniformed killjoys. But, being South Carolina, what you get is a sort of quizzical look of, "well, the boats are there, obviously. Here's a paddle, now go." The guys at the boat dock also added a helpful "I think there's a female alligator right over there on the other side of this island. Um, really? No instructions? No opinions on how close we should get or what we shouldn't do to an alligator? No! In South Carolina,it's up to you to figure out how many limbs you want bitten off by alligators or blown off by fireworks. OMG, I'm an adult!

Anywho, this place was perfect. Just... and I mean this with no irony, for once: it was magical.
We took a ton of pictures, and if you click a thumbnail, you will be taken to the album to see your fill of them.
From 200903 Trip to the South

(our first alligator, the one the boat guys pointed us to. Apparently, she had been sitting there all day. Alligators are lazy)

From 200903 Trip to the South

(we paddled along between the trees)

From 200903 Trip to the South

(the water is black, and the lighting of the day created perfect mirrors, with the trees growing up to the sky, and their reflections shooting down over the water's surface)

From 200903 Trip to the South

(there were also lily pads and more gators)

From 200903 Trip to the South

(paul was there too!)

In all, we saw NINE alligators. One, we didn't even notice until we were looking at photos later and realized that there was a bonus gator hiding in the water in front of one we had been taking pictures of. They are very still critters.

After the boat tour, we took in more of the onsite goodness, first stopping at the alligator pit to see these lazy bastards:
From 200903 Trip to the South

(These gators were totally going to eat us. One of these days, when they got around to it)

We toured a little reptile/fishie museum, where Paul made friends with a cockatiel, and then we went to see the butterfly house, where we were greeted by this stern admonition:
From 200903 Trip to the South

Well! We most certainly will not Touch The Duck!
Well, at least we tried not to. But the duck, Cypress, took a liking to Paul, particularly Paul's shoes, and so he climbed out of the little fence area and proceeded to chase Paul. Paul valiantly rebuffed his advances, but Cypress was persistent.

From 200903 Trip to the South
(video of Cypress accosting Paul)

We had a few more minutes before the park closed (and there was a wedding setting up), so we took a quick hike round one of the nature trails. While we poked around the grounds, it started to drizzle. It was gorgeous. One of those perfect times and places you'll always remember.

From 200903 Trip to the South
(I love you, swamp day!)

We ran out of time at Cypress Gardens, sadly, we had to go. (knowing what I know now, I would have allowed several hours to do this-- you can actually take off and paddle around the lagoon freely wherever you want, and there are trails we didn't get to see)

We got to Charleston in time for dinner at a brewery and then a walk to Waterfront Park well before sunset. Waterfront Park has a pier with the great swinging benches, so you can sit and watch the water while swinging and listening to bats. At the end, we watched the birds (pelicans, cormorants, gulls, an some mystery birds) and then got very excited to see fins. FINS! OMG! A DOLPHIN!

This was terrifically exciting. Then we saw another. And... another. And then we realized the harbor was lousy with dolphins, and yelling every time you saw one was a little ridiculous. Total newbie move.

We walked down the waterfront and around to the Battery Charleston, at least this area of it, is full of grand old mansions. It sort of reminds me of the Nob Hill/Pacific Heights areas, but the mansions are more densely packed in. Each of the houses had at least one giant covered porch, and it was easy to imagine wonderful parties on these piazzas (as they are apparently known there). We hiked through these neighborhoods and noticed a lot of For Sale signs. In fact, Charleston's historic districts were full of For Sale signs, on historic mansions and iconic commercial buildings alike. We stopped in at a pub where we conversed a bit with the bartender (I was able to help him remember a motorcycle part he wanted) and his friend who laughed and told us that Savannah's St. Patrick's Day was "the biggest party on the East Coast." Oh, boy. We were in for it.

We had seen enough of Charleston to be intrigued, so we decided to head north again the next day. This time we stopped to experience a fireworks store. These places are all branded with themes and some of them decorated quite kitschy and fun. Each one had hand painted signs of the fireworks brand logos, each one made different by its owners hand. The best we saw was actually the one closest to the Georgia border:
From 200903 Trip to the South
(Joes seemed to be a common theme: Papa Joe's, Hobo Joes, etc.)
From 200903 Trip to the South
(well, you can't very well have fireworks without.. fruitcake?)
From 200903 Trip to the South
(and, you know, elephants. of course.)
Inside the store, the cashier was exactly the guy you imagine was working there. Ponytail, a couple of teeth, flannel shirt, watching daytime TeeVee.
From 200903 Trip to the South
(the array of fireworks was dizzying. This is only one end of the store, probably about a quarter of the whole thing)

And, onward!
Our plan was to see a plantation and then go back to Charleston. We knew we couldn't see everything, so we went looking for old decrepit plantation, rather than fancy maintained plantation. Drayton Hall fit the bill pretty well. (though we both had expressed an interest in something totally overgrown and ruined, but we'll look again next time we're in the South)
From 200903 Trip to the South
(Drayton Hall has not destroyed during the war because it was used s a hospital. Now it stands in wonderful condition, but without being filled with restored furniture. Here you can see that if you stand on one sie, you can see right through. Just the house, nothing else. This comforted us)
We skipped the formal house tour, due to time constraints, but took the two walking tours of the grounds. This was a really neat tour because the little hike straddled about three different types of ecosystems.
From 200903 Trip to the South

From 200903 Trip to the South

From 200903 Trip to the South

And finally, we got back to Charleston We could not resist the dolphins in the harbor again:
From 200903 Trip to the South
(this is video of two of the many dolphins, showing off just a few feet from us)

Our second afternoon in Charleston, we again walked around, traipsed through graveyards and peeked in the windows of mansions wherever we could, getting soaked in a rainstorm, and had dinner in a church-turned sports bar. Charleston is a big old town, full of grand buildings, but not a lot for us to do there on such a short visit.

Tuesday! The Big Day!
We'd toyed with the idea of spending Monday in Savannah so we could avoid the whole St. Patrick's Day thing by fleeing to Charleston Tuesday, but then decided that since we were there, and suffering through the weekend crowds, we might as well just see the thick of it. Each night we'd been in Savannah, we'd seen more people than I've ever seen before. Worse than Burning Man, worse than Gay Pride in San Francisco. More like Halloween in Castro, but the whole city was covered. Lines a block or more long, to get into pubs (not even dance clubs--pubs!) Every restaurant full to the gills, and crowds wandering around every street. We'd come to call them the green zombies. We saw them from our hotel every morning (yes, morning), clusters of people wandering mindlessly in the streets, clutching plastic cups of beer, covered in head-to-toe St. Patrick's day junk-- green mardi-gras beads, blinking green LED hats, and requisite green shirts and flip-flops.

So there we were, in the thick of the biggest party on the East Coast, per our barmate in Charleston. And off to the parade!

We took quite a few pictures of the parade, but rather than go through it all, here are some higlights:
  • Apparently, it is tradition for the ladies to run out and kiss the troops as they parade through. I imagine this started innocently enough, but has evolved to this: young women piling on the thickest layer of the reddest lipstick they can find, and then planting lipstick all over the guys as they walk through (they have to stop every so often due to parade traffic, and then they re left quite vulnerable) Every unit that came through was covered in lipstick. But even funnier was that the tradition seemed to be leaking into new territory, such as: a father carrying his small daughter (maybe 4y/o? wearing lipstick) who lost her courage at the last minute and refused to kiss the soldier; the female soldiers also covered in lipstick, other random paraders also getting lipsticked, and finally, a float that had a dancing bunny mascot? Also covered in lipstick. Why not.
    From 200903 Trip to the South
  • Shriners. A lot of Shriners. But they don't have the little cars! instead they had a bunch of other weird vehicles and vaguely un-PC things (an "oriental" band?)
  • Sons of the Confederacy. "Southern Loyalty is Not Hate" said their sign. I had my doubts. The places we went were sprinkled with memorials and plaques honoring the confederate dead and their good fight and oh isn't it a tragedy we lost the war? It made me very curious and very irritated-- did these people honestly believe that victory should have been theirs? Obviously the war was about many things, but slavery being a part of it, I found many of these plaques offensive, and imagined that all people of non-white heritage would too. So when the confederate glorifiers came by during the parade, there were a few very noisy people cheering them as loudly as they could, and the two African-American guys next to us were visibly discomforted (I can't remember their comments, but Paul heard them berating this part of the parade)
    From 200903 Trip to the South
The parade went on forever. Thankfully, we had brought a bottle of wine and some plastic cups to get us through it. After the parade, we walked around some more. Every square was packed with people. We found a pizza place that had been recommended, and it, too was completely packed. It was a 45 minute wait just to get seated! Once seated, we were too exasperated to try to speak to each other over the noise. Every few minutes, someone in the restaurant would go "Woo-ooo!" and then a wave of "Woooooo" would rip through the place. It was crazy loud and crowded. St. Patrick's Day in Savannah is just too much for little old me!
After walking around the waterfront, in the evening, we hit up The Pirate House! Which sounded totally cheesy, and I guess if animatronic pirates are cheesy, I'll take the cheese! It was also set in several historic buildings that had been cobbled together, so we had fun poking around there a bit after dinner.
From 200903 Trip to the South
(Paul took a liking to the pirate. I think the feeling was mutual.)

The next morning we headed back to the Jacksonville airport, a little sad to leave so early. We loved Savannah, and really wished we could have seen her without all the St. Patrick's Day craziness. I definitely want to return to Savannah someday, to spend more quiet time, and to see some other nearby sights, and more swamp please!