San Francisco – The Dark Side

When I hear ” San Francisco,” I think of Tony Bennett singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”,  Pier 39, Cruise ships, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other tourist attractions. The last time I visited San Francisco, I traveled there in a bus, and went straight to the cruise ship boarding area. No mess, no fuss.

But recently I had a very different experience. I rode “shot-gun” and served as the navigator for a friend. Neither or us had actually driven through San Francisco in several years. I am not known for having the keenest sense of direction. ( Calls of  ‘Your other left’ still haunt me when I think of dancing), but in spite of this I never recoil from the role of navigator.

We made it through without incident to our destination and completed our task. Granted, there was one place where we almost ended up in Oakland/San Jose due to some misdirection from the car’s On Star system ( not MY fault!) but other than that, it was relatively smooth.

After a few false starts and several conversations with the folks at On Star, we made it back toward San Francisco and in the general direction of Interstate 80 East, the main highway that would take us home. That’s when the trouble began. We soon rediscovered how interesting it can be to drive through San Francisco.

Because I was so busy making sure we stayed on the correct course, I did not take even one photo of our adventure; however, I do have two drawings I did after we returned home. I hope you enjoy them.

The official plan for entering Interstate 80 East from downtown San Francisco

The way the official plan looks to most drivers.

 

Peace

Early Spring?

We are supposed to have an early spring, according to the expert ground hog observers in Philadelphia.  On February 2nd, the little critter did not see his shadow, due to a passing tornado. And, as the saying goes, no shadow -no fear – so the little critter was not frightened by his shadow into climbing back into his burrow for more sleep, but decided instead to cavort outside. (Really? A tornado isn’t something to fear?)

In the spirit of Early Spring, I’ve decided I should try something new, something I’ve never done before, something to celebrate the beautiful weather. I hit upon the perfect activity, and it turned out to be interesting, but not without frustration new activities sometimes generate.

My local newspaper has been publicizing the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), being held this weekend (February 12- February 15th.) It is a global event, coordinated through Cornell University. For several years I have had bird seed feeders and hummingbird feeders in my backyard and they have been fun to watch. It seemed reasonable to participate in the GBBC at least once. Besides, all I had to do was site near my kitchen window and record what I saw.

The recording was not that difficult, and although I am hardly a committed birder, I did know the types of birds that frequent my backyard.  In a 30 minute period, I saw 40 birds from 5 different species.

You can find information on GBBC at BirdCount.org,  at  ebird.org or by contacting your local Audobon Society.

It’s a great activity to do as a family – go to a park to watch the birds, then have a picnic.

 

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A picture of one of the bird seed feeders in my backyard – rather barren looking because apparently the vine that usually grows so beautifully has not yet gotten the word that  spring is early this year!

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Thing Leads to Another . . . . A Treasure Hunt

I was in a Washington D.C. bookstore at the end of a wonderful sightseeing trip to The National Air and Space Museum, looking for a paperback to read on the plane ride home.  I found Melanie Benjamin’s  The Aviator’s Wife. Perfect, I thought. I already know quite a bit about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and I just saw the Spirit of St. Louis at the museum. This probably won’t take long to read and if I happen to leave it on the plane, it’s no big loss. (Not like leaving your Kindle!).  Being a bit of a history snob, I thought a Historical Novel couldn’t have much more than entertainment value.  I was completely wrong. It took more than a plane trip to read. When I got home, I found myself going to the computer to get more information about that period in world history.  Since historical fiction raises the question how much is historical fact and how much of this book is fiction, the author’s notes on that topic are very important. Ms. Benjamin’s notes were great!

After reading the book, I had to know more about Lindbergh, so I re-read A. Scott Berg’s Lindbergh. I read it when it first came out during the dark ages (1998). While I read it to compare some of the points of history between the two books, reading one after the other was just fun.

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At a holiday party, someone recommended another historical novel, Stevenson’s Treasure, by Mark Wiederanders.   This is a story about part of Robert Louis Stevenson’s life. I was aware of Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but I regarded him as an author of boys’ adventures stories. I knew he had spent some time in the Monterey-Salinas area, and I had lived in that area for several years. On top of that 100 year-old coincidence was the fact that the author apparently lives not too far from me. That was it. I was sold. I had to read that book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found myself checking the historical references, just as I had for The Aviator’s Wife, and they were wonderfully accurate.

I decided I really didn’t know enough about Robert Louis Stevenson, so I tackled  a biography written by G.K. Chesterton. I say tackled because G.K. Chesterton (1874-1935) is anything but an easy read. It was not a biography in the typical, linear sense, but more of a literary and social commentary. It gave me a further context for understanding Stevenson and the chance to read a brilliant, if confusing author.

I went on a treasure hunt of my own and had fun on the way.

 

P1000712Peace.

Where in the World?

Looking through some old photos of trips my husband and I have taken through the years, it struck me how many places in the world bear a strong resemblance to each other – not that anyone would completely mistake one for the other – but close in some ways.  Here they are. What do you think? Either/or?

IMG_20151231_0001South Africa or the Salinas Valley, CA in August.IMG_20151231_0002

 

 

Germany or Bloomfield Hills, MI.

 

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The Alps or the Sierra Nevada in CA.

What’s New in Washington D. C. and How Deep are My Leaves?

I spent Thanksgiving in Washington D.C. site seeing with my son and daughter-in-law. They are the two best travelers I know. The weather was perfect, the town was not crowded and we had a wonderful time touring the White House, walking, eating, and visiting museums and monuments. This was my first trip, and I already have a list of things to see next time.

I did take a few pictures – 143 in all, including several of my shoe, the tour bus seat and my thumb. Here are a few of the better ones.

P1000562                                                        The White House Blue Room (of course)

P1000567                                                      The White House Red Room (aptly named)

These two rooms make me want to consider redecorating.

P1000607  The original Wright Brothers plane at the National Air and Space Museum. (Can’t tell from the picture if it is Orville or Wilbur piloting.)

IMG_0152The dome of the Capitol Building where congress meets is undergoing maintenance. The glow around the dome is not an indication of angelic behavior on the part of its inhabitants,  or a lack of focus by my camera, just lights reflecting off the scaffolding. The light to the left of the building is actually the moon.

The morning after I returned home, I noticed fall had arrived in my neighborhood. I think it is just as beautiful, in its own way, as Washington D.C.

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Peace

Gardening with Critters

“Dogs look up to us; cats look down on us.”

Winston Churchill

I was out in my backyard, by myself, cleaning up after the last rainstorm. As I finished putting up the bird feeder, I noticed L.C., one of two cats that live in my backyard. Of the two, L.C. is the shyest. She lets me scratch her head, usually after she’s had dinner, but otherwise she keeps her distance.

Today was a little different. She sat about ten feet from me, next to a rose-bush and stared at me. A few minutes later, her sister joined her and the two of them proceeded to inspect every item I had touched during my clean up.

I’d like to think it was because they find my activities fascinating, but according to John Bradshaw, in his book Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make … (sorry,  my Kindle does not list the entire title of the book), the sisters were really just updating their mind-maps of their territory. You know – the best sleeping place, best hunting/hiding place, location of food dishes, etc.

John Bradshaw is British and the Brits do like their cats and dogs, but I still choose to believe there is a social aspect to my cat’s behavior. How else could you account for a cat’s well-developed ability to manipulate human behavior with a purr and a two-eyed blink?

 

P1000534                                                                          L.C. supervising.

 

 

P1000536                                                       L.C. and S.C. checking things out.

Peace

 

November Garden Tour – Cautious Optimism

It’s official! Fall has arrived in California. This is the second weekend in a row of rain in the valley and snow in the Sierra. Let’s hope it is just the beginning of a very wet Fall and Winter. My brown back lawn is even showing signs of green.

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Not even the cherry tomatoes have given up. (Note the small yellow blossoms.)

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Life cycle of a rose – on display all at the same time.

P1000524                                                  Humming bird’s favorite.

Peace

How Flat is My Tire? (with apologies to John Ford and the Morgan Family – 1941)

I am fortunate to have a car that is under two years old. It works well, I like the style, it is modern, and it has very low mileage. I’m writing this while sitting in a local shopping mall. I’m writing it here because my almost-beloved car is next door having the tires checked, and this is much more comfortable than the chairs in the waiting room.

There is apparently a slow leak in one of the tires. Yesterday afternoon I noticed the low tire pressure. When I checked it out, it was not the left front tire as the car’s  sensor indicated, but the left rear tire. I pumped the tire up, then decided to let it rest overnight and check it again in the morning.  I have to  get the tire repaired locally, then drive to the dealership 25 miles away to get the sensor reprogrammed.

The timeline for the tire repair was two to three hours, due to labor shortages. This is much better than the other company which promised to fix the tire in two days, also  due to a labor shortage.  Which leads me to wonder why these major companies are having so much trouble recruiting and keeping employees.

My car tire was repaired and they were able to adjust the sensor, so I was saved a trip to the dealership.

While waiting to see how much pressure the tire would lose overnight, I went to the movies and saw The Martian.  It is an excellent movie. I was so impressed with the fact that although this movie had the potential for being a disaster/horror film, it was anything but! It celebrated problem solving and human ingenuity in a very unique way. It made my small problem of a leaky tire seem silly.

All of us face all sorts of challenges everyday. For some of us, they are  life threatening. I’m very fortunate that I’m not facing such a problem – at least not today.

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What the BEEeeeeep ?

I live in a multi-lingual household. In addition to English, some Spanish is spoken, an occasional mispronounced French phrase, Latin (thankfully no one knows if it is pronounced correctly), and some cartoon swearing (Dirty-rack-a-fratz!) can be heard. Outside, in the backyard, bird, squirrel and cat are the more predominant languages.

Saturday night, a new, previously unheard language emerged inside my house. About 9:30 p.m., a mysterious, short, fairly soft “beep” sounded. Since I have several devices that speak “beep” and the direction from which the beep emerged was not clear, I proceeded to discover the source. Following the lead of my current mystery book heroine, Kinsey Milhone, I set about using the process of elimination to find the source. (By the way, Sue Grafton’s latest book featuring Kinsey Milhone, X is a very good read!)

One hour later, I had narrowed it down to one area of the house. The fact that the once soft beep had become much louder, longer and the beeps were closer together was a big factor in the success of the process.

I found it! It was emerging from a black box, about the size of a car battery, that was lurking under my desk. It was labeled “Battery Backup and Surge Protector ES 750 APC.” I was puzzled, since both the Wi Fi and the phone services were hooked up to this box, and yet they both worked. Just in case, I unplugged the computer, printer and phone, then closed the door for the night. The beep did not sound.

The next morning I plugged in the phone and Wi Fi. They were still in service and the box sat quietly, its one green eye brightly lit. I called the phone company. The technician confirmed that, “Yup, the battery was probably dying.” All I had to do was bring in the box to the store on Monday and they would replace the battery. “Thanks,” I said. The box sat their quietly. All was well.

Two hours later, the beep resumed – only much louder and non-stop. It verged on ear-splitting. I again carefully unplugged the phone, computer, Wi Fi and printer, then crawled behind the desk and unplugged the black box. Of course, the beep did not stop, since it was generated by the dying battery and didn’t need to be plugged in to continue its song.

I put the box, still beeping, in the garage and closed the door. For a moment I felt guilty about leaving the box alone as it beeped its last beep. But it was a very short moment. Ears ringing, I went into the house. I checked later and the box was quiet. I placed it in the car, ready for its Monday morning trip to the store.

You don’t expect most things to break – small things, yes, but not the really large things; e.g. front steps, water heaters, pipes, or car battery sized back up systems that have been with you forever. They do break, of course. Everything and everybody has a life span, but we are perpetually surprised when those life spans approach their end.

Peace

 The culprit

The culprit

Just a nice flower.

Just a nice flower.

Sometimes . . . .

Historic City Hall, Toronto

Sometimes you need to take a walk.

 

DSCF1908                                       Sometimes you need to stop and smell the flowers.

 

 

DSCF1890                                                                Sometimes you need to work.

 

P1000505                                                          Sometimes you just need a nap.

 

Peace.