pen rainbow

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday—The Reading Corner: Corduroy Mansions

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith

Pimlico Puppy
It took me all summer, but I finished all twelve books of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith.  I also watched the HBO series that goes with the books, and I enjoyed every rich and uplifting minute.  The books made me want to buy a little white truck.  And, I was pretty much sold on a brand new, shiny blue truck by the middle of the last book.

The food...omigosh!  I still haven't stopped craving beef stew and mashed pumpkin...and doughnuts with powdered sugar...and fruitcake.  I did manage to find some herbal Red Rooibos bush tea from Peet's, and I've been brewing it as iced tea.  Yum!  However, since I do not want to become a woman of traditional build, I'll stick with healthy super foods and fresh spring greens.

I'm going to miss the gang at Speedy Motors!  I'll also miss the way that he ended every book with, "africa  africa  africa  africa  africa"—a literary hug for his native home.

Because Alexander McCall Smith created such vivid and lovable characters in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective series, I had to check out Corduroy Mansions about a little dog who lives in London.  I'm still on the first chapter, but I can already relate to the 50-Something main character, Michael, who lives in a brick walk-up in a London neighborhood called Pimlico with his cute little pooch and his 24-year old son.  I can relate to the morning chat that Michael has with himself when he looks into the bathroom mirror.  I, too, am in a comfortable state of denial when it comes to the hanging parts of my face.

Corduroy Mansions already feels like a wonderful weekly British serial, like All Creatures Great and Small (the novel written by James Herriot) with quirky characters, complex relationships, and detailed rich locations.  It's the kind of book that makes you hurry through the after-supper chores so that you can dive into bed and find out what happens next.

I can't wait!  It's time to make supper.  Stay tuned for my delicious stew recipe on Tuesday's Cupboard!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wednesday—Good For You, Good For The Home: Pool Demo!

Removal of a 20,000 gallon fiberglass pool
Removing a 30-year old swimming pool — We lived to blog about it!

We finally took the plunge!  (heh)  After 30 years, our backyard swimming pool is history.

A few years ago, it sprang a leak in the plumbing somewhere behind the fiberglass shell.  Water was draining back through the jet lines, soaking into the sand bed, and destablizing everything around it.

We let the chlorine burn off, drained the pool, and considered our options.  The fiberglass lining had been reshot twice.  We had completely retiled twice.  The light that used to illuminate the water so beautifully at night developed a short circuit, and we had to remove it ten years ago.  The electric pool cover worked, but was worn and needed to be replaced for the fourth time.  And, the deck was cracked in several places.  Pools are costly to repair, but our pool was so old that we basically needed to replace it.  Finally last winter, a 24-inch tear developed in one corner of the pool, and sand was slowly trickling into the bottom of the pool.  

We knew that we couldn't make it through another rainy season with a disintegrating swimming pool.  We had to hire a contractor and move ahead with a project that we had been dreading for five years.

I am happy to report that it was totally worth it!!  It was much less expensive than we expected—$8,700 instead of $10K to $15K—and we reclaimed an overgrown section of yard when we cleared a path for the backhoe.  We hired an excellent local contractor who specializes in pool demos, and the whole project took 4 days.

Hiring a good contractor was our first and biggest concern.  Steve and I each did our own searches and came up with the same guy. We set up a meeting with Ryan Crownholm, owner of DIG & DEMO.  Ryan is a licensed general engineering contractor and a local Bay Area guy.  He graduated from St. Mary's College in Business and Economics, and he's an Army veteran.  The company is a Bay Area Green Business (important when it comes to demolition work), Diamond Certified (independently rated for quality service), a member of the National Demolition Association, and it has a triple-A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.  

Ryan and his team were pros from beginning to end, and we couldn't be happier with the results!  They were fast, neat, careful, efficient, friendly, professional, and competent.  Really, they are what every homeowner wants when it comes to big home improvement projects.

Equipment arrives — Day 1
This type of project requires a building permit and inspections by the County.  Ryan pulled the permit before the project started and made all of the necessary arrangements for inspections.  We had access issues involving a narrow private road up to our house, a court shared with a nasty neighbor, a relatively new driveway and side yard landscaping, a wrought-iron fence, and a tight squeeze between a redwood fence and our deck.  Although Ryan's company would have done it, we opted to remove the overgrown landscaping ourselves.  They removed a wrought-iron fence and soldered it back into place stronger and straighter than before!

Damage-wise, we lost about a quarter of the sod on the side yard, but new grass seed is already sprouting, just two weeks later.  We had to clean off a couple of oil stains on the driveway, but overall, the impact from the project was much less than what we were anticipating.  I have to admit that I lost a little sleep worrying about a cracked or chipped driveway, broken sidewalks, and interfering neighbors.  I was dreading this project so much that I scheduled a week of condo projects for myself in Boulder City and left Steve in charge of the demolition project in Walnut Creek.

Hugs to Steve for holding down the fort, and many thanks to Ryan and the Dig & Demo guys for an absolutely superb job from start to finish!

We cleared bushes to create a 6' wide access path
Wrought-iron fence is sawed off at the base
One guy does the fiberglass tear-out!
The bottom is removed
Side sections are removed

Tiling is removed
Decking is broken up with a backhoe
Roots growing behind the fiberglass where the leaky jets were
Debris is hauled away

Tah-dah!  We have our yard back

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tuesday's Cupboard — Penne with Tomatoes, Olives & Two Cheeses

September cherry tomatoes
I never met a pasta casserole I didn't like!  Easy to make, meatless, and it makes great leftovers.  

I made it easier by leaving out the chicken broth and adding the sauce to the pasta immediately.  I also used chopped, Italian-style tomatoes instead of whole canned tomatoes.  Whole canned toms tend to be a little sweeter, but I'm all about fast & easy with this recipe!

Toss in shredded Havarti and olives, throw the whole thing into a lightly-sprayed, 9"x13" glass casserole.  Top with grated parmessan & freshly-ground black pepper; bake for 45 minutes.  That's just enough time to put your feet up and have a nice glass of good Chianti.  Buon appetito!

TO PRINT THIS RECIPE:  Copy the url; go to printfriendly; paste the url, edit & print!

Penne with Tomatoes, Olives & Two Cheeses 
8 Servings
Preheat oven to 350°F
Recipe adapted from "Gracious Gator Cooks," a cookbook from the Junior League of Gainesville, Florida.  Tomato-Olive Two-Cheese Pasta, p. 165

The Sauce
•  1-1/2 c. sweet onion, chopped
•  1 T. jarrred, chopped garlic in water
•  3 T. olive oil
•  4 - 14.5 oz. cans Italian-style chopped tomatoes
•  2 tsp. dried basil (1/4 c. fresh, if you have it)
•  1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
•  1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

The Casserole
•  1 lb. penne or rigatoni pasta  (I use Barilla)
•  3 T. olive oil
•  8 oz. Havarti cheese, shredded (about 2-1/2 c.)
•  1/2 c. whole Kalamata olives, pitted
•  1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, grated (or shredded or shaved)

•  kosher salt & freshly-ground black pepper

Start the water for your pasta.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a dash of kosher salt to the water; cover askew & bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan or dutch oven, sauté onion & garlic in olive oil over med-high heat until translucent (5-6 minutes).  Stir in tomatoes, basil, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper.  Bring mixture to bubbling & reduce heat to medium-low.  Season with kosher salt & freshly-ground black pepper.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain the pasta & return it to the pasta pot.  Toss with 3 T. of olive oil.  Add the sauce.  Fold in the shredded Havarti and the whole olives.

Lightly spray a 9" x 13" glass casserole, and spoon the pasta mixture into the dish.  Sprinkle Parmesan on top.  Grind black pepper evenly over the cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes on 350 degrees.  Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.
Nutritional Info (From  387.6 calories, calories from fat 121, fat 13.5 g, sat fat 2.5 g, chol 3.6 mg, sodium 99.6 mg (more depending on how much you add for seasoning), carbs 60.9 g, fiber 10.4 g, sugar 9.3 g, protein 10g

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday — The Reading Corner: My Senior Year Journal

a cat cake
It's my birthday!
Today, I am 54 years old!

I thought I'd spend my birthday doing something productive, so I decided to clean out a box of old papers.   I didn't recognize the green and white colors on the box, and I haven't seen any Weyerhaeuser boxes around here since I quit working for Upjohn in 1980, so I know that it has been in deep storage somewhere in this house for at least 31 years (minus the year that it's been sitting next to my closet).  The box had little clumps of yard debris, cat hair, and spider webs attached to it, which are all tell-tale signs of having spent years in the back of a walk-in closet, possibly behind my Jessica McClintock wedding dress or my lovingly preserved collection of 1980's-era dresses that I wore to the annual Kinetics Christmas parties.

I figured it had to be some vintage stuff, old enough to be in the Museum of Troi. Six months ago when I was considering the soft option of throwing the entire unsorted box into the recycling, I pawed through the top half of the stack and pulled out a copy of my old ACT scores.  I've taken the ACT test twice in my life, the first when I was a junior in high school (1974), and the second when I was applying to Cal as a junior transfer from Cabrillo College (1978).  Not surprisingly, I was no more capable of interpreting the results last March than I was 37 years ago, so I tossed my scores (whatever they were) back into the box and figured that I'd get around to cracking the code some other day.  I'm way past the point of caring if I was above or below the national norms for college-bound seniors.

Every year on my birthday, I give myself permission to do whatever I feel like doing on that day. When the kids were in school, Back-to-School Night inevitably fell on my birthday.  I went along with it, at first.  I sat in the little chairs and tried to keep from making rude bowel noises during the teacher presentations.  Experienced parents learn pretty quickly not to eat dinner before attending Back-to-School Night.  Stomach growling is a lot more socially acceptable than the unmistakable and excrutiatingly long-lasting internal fart.  The parent who squirms and tries to pretend that the offensive b'gurgle did not just emanate from his or her entrails is the guilty party.

The only exception to this are high school parents who show up drunk to most school functions, if they show up at all.  It's the Booster Club parents who usually show up to high school Back-to-School Nights, and that's only because they travel in packs.

The first to go was Back-to-School Night.  Then, Fall calendar & nut sale meetings.  Then, magazine sales; PTA guest speakers; manadatory whatever meetings; teacher conferences; Junior Prom and Senior Ball decorating committee meetings; sign-ups for idiots meetings; the very special, How To Talk To Your Teen meetings; and finally, the Who Gives A Rat's Ass If Your Kid Graduates (We Don't!) meetings.

This is why I don't mind cleaning out a box of old papers on my birthday.  Because I can.

Whole Foods Tiramisu Cake & colored flame candles
What I expected was a box full of warrantees, kids' drawings, vacation brochures, birthday cards, tracking receipts, furniture assembly instructions, CD's and other family paraphernalia that was important to keep once upon a time.  What I found instead was the intact and complete contents of my bedroom desk during my last year of living at home with my parents.

I must have kept every piece of paper that was given to me during my senior year and stuffed them all into my desk drawers.  Even then, I was meticulous about creating paper trails so that I could keep track of college apps, test results, job applications, payroll stubs, bank statements, letters of recommendation, awards, invitations, announcements, flyers, newsletters, newspaper articles, study materials, class notes, and exams.  I found a pledge card for Harry Reid's Senate campaign when he lost against Paul Laxalt in 1974.  I found a letter of recommendation from a teacher who spelled my name, "Troy,"and said that I was "without a doubt, the greatest person I have ever worked with."  I don't know about you, but that's what I call a letter of recommendation!

Among other things...

•  A letter addressed to "Miss T. Jones" from the Canadian Government Office of Tourism offering me a "FREE coulourful Kit for a memorable honeymoon!"

•  A recruitment brochure and financial aid information from the Army ROTC

•  Payroll records for the BC Pool from June 5 through September 10, 1975 (I co-managed the pool that summer)

•  Mailings from the Las Vegas District Attorney's Young Citizens Council (DAYCC)

•  My official Red Cross Water Safety Instructor book with lesson plans for each class I taught

•  A letter from the National Honor Society congratulating me for entering the scholarship selection competition (I didn't get it, despite that great letter of recommendation!)

•  College brochures from UNR, Oregon State, Colorado State, Arizona State, Diablo Valley College, Cabrillo College, Univeristy of California Davis, and Chapman College—The World Campus Afloat

•  The BCHS senior edition of The Pebbles (the school newspaper)

•  A roster of dues for the National Honor Society (I was the treasurer and dues were $2 a semester)

•  The BCHS Cheerleader Constitution

•  Bylaws of the Student Union of Boulder City High School

•  Nevada DMV Driver's Handbook

•  Winter Sports Banquet Program, March 11, 1975  (I got a cheerleading award)

•  Pages of the calendar for April, October, November, and December 1974

•  A magazine ad for a Congoleum kitchen that I liked
My ideal kitchen in 1974

•  Two spiral-bound notebooks of handwritten personal journals

So, on my 54th birthday, I sat down with my 17-year old self.  Horrifying...yes.  Embarrassing...yes.  Painful...oh, yeah.  Funny...definitely.  I guess, I was blogging to myself back then, and now, thanks to the miracle of technology and social networking, I can share the agony of my senior year (which was so much worse than I remember) with you, my friends.  No,'re my virtual friends.

Brace yourself for an avalanche of pure, unfiltered teen angst and 17-year old wisdom!

September 7, 1974
Writing a journal is like keeping a diary without the little gold lock & key.  It helps me think more clearly when I write my thoughts down on paper.  Writing seems to put my mind at ease.  When confusion builds, I write it all down, and by doing this, I can cope with whatever I am facing.  Many times, it is hard for me to say what I mean, to grasp an idea, and to get it across to someone else.  This is caused by my own confused thoughts and emotions, so by writing everything down, I can help myself.

More people should think and get in touch with their thoughts.  Know what they mean, know themselves,  and know what they want out of every day.  Study and observe people, plants, bugs, the sky, everything around us.  Things that are there, but we never notice because we are too busy.

We waste time on drama.  Sisters argue over hairbrushes, boyfriends, bedrooms, and clothes.  

There is more to this whole living thing than meets the eye.  ~Jonathan Livingston Seagull   

When I think for a long time, I find myself in a different world, so alone and free.  No limits.   

Why are people cruel to one another?  What makes a person want to hurt someone else?  I would say that selfishness takes away the natural care and concern for others.  Everyone is always saying, "I want this," or "Give that to me."  Me .  This is what we are taught in our society.  Put yourself before anyone else.  Otherwise, you will get hurt.  The Golden Rule doesn't always work.  Sometimes, you can be the nicest person in the world, and someone you think is your friend will slap your face for a reason that is unclear to you.  We need more communication, more understanding, more compassion.  Let's be more considerate toward one another.  —end

September 23, 1974
I miss S.  

I don't want to move.

My dad is bugging me, as usual.

I haven't heard from L. for a long time.  I hate it that I might be losing my best friend.  —end

October 7, 1974
Long time since I've written.  I'm glad that I'm keeping this journal.  Got letters from L. and from S. today.  It was nice to hear from both of them.  L. has been writing to her boyfriend, Bob, every day, so she hasn't had time to write me a letter.  That's understandable.  She sounds like she really likes this guy.

I was elected senior Homecoming attendant last week by the student body, but because of senior class politics, I'm not going to be the attendant.  It was unfair to change the election rules after the results were in.  Oh well, it's late.  I got half of my room paneled today, and it looks nice.  —end

October 15, 1974
I had only 2 classes today because it was senior day at UNLV, so there were no afternoon classes.  I got a free ticket to the next UNLV football game.  Cool!  

Read an article about what love really is, and it helped me understand what I think is going on with S.  What we have is  friendship, not love.  I miss him like I miss my friends in Omaha.  I love my friends, but I am not in love with any of them.

I'm so glad that Homecoming is over!  That was my last high school Homecoming.  The traditional school drama that makes everybody crazy at the beginning of the year.  

Zit report:  I have a zit the size of a half dollar.  I know that it will go away eventually, but I wish that it would hurry up!  It makes me feel self-concious around people, and I know that they are staring at my forehead wondering what is going on up there.  

I enjoy writing in this journal.  I feel so grown up, but I know that  am still very young.  —end

October 26, 1974
I spent this evening with friends going to campaign parties around Vegas.  They were boring (the parties, not the friends), but I got to meet Foster Brooks.  

I have to stop being so critical.  I feel guilty for being happy when high school is supposed to be so melodramatic.  It is, but I'm still happy.  I am going to turn over a new leaf and look for the good in everyone and everything.  I'll start tomorrow.  

Zit report:  Zits are gone!  

I am finally used to this town, but I've lost the enthusiasm that I had when we moved here.  I miss my friends, and I wonder what their senior year has been like.  I wonder how they are doing.  It's a rainy, cold day, but it's nice for a change.  It's a good time for change, I think.  I could write so much more tonight, but it's late, and I'm tired.  —end

November 26, 1974
It's November, and this is my first journal entry of the month.  I've been writing on the average of three times a month.  Many things have happened this month, mostly good things and many happy things.

Girls' powderpuff football was a blast and a great experience!  I loved being part of a strong girl team.  I liked the competition, too.  The senior girls took the championship.

Junior high cheerleading tryouts were last week, and H. made the team.  I'm happy for her, and I also like having 3 cheerleaders in the family.  Cheerleading is a pretty good substitute for gymnastics, which I miss this year.  I would be a senior on the varsity team if we hadn't moved.  Cheerleading is okay, but I miss the balance beam, floor ex, and the competition against other teams.

The Sun Youth Forum was interesting.  I can see a lot of leadership potential for our generation.  

Yesterday was my sister's 16th birthday.  It reminded me of my Sweet Sixteen birthday and how nice it was.  The confusion of being 16 has disappeared, and life has become a lot easier since I turned 17.  I hope that her 16th year will be as fun and happy as mine was.  

Sadie Hawkins was last Friday, and I had a great time!  I pinned a junior, and my friends pinned underclassmen, as well.  Senior girl power!  We went to the dance and bobbed for apples, took pictures, and danced a lot.  We had pizza, then drove into Vegas and cruised Fremont Street.  We got BA'd by four cute guys in a brown Chevy.  

I've been in touch with L., and I miss my best friend.  Our friendship is still strong.  It will be good to see her next Spring.  S. will be back tomorrow.  It will be nice to see him, again.  He'll be home for only 3 days, then back to school.  I've been thinking about him a lot lately, so much that I haven't even thought about him leaving again so soon.  It's been a long two and a half months. 

He's not the only college freshman in my life.  One of my good friends from last year came to visit me tonight.  He is a very nice person and a good friend.  We had a nice, long talk about my senior year and his freshman year.  It was a nice surprise to see him, and I'm glad that he stopped by.  He makes BYU sound appealing.  Not exactly the right place for a non-believer like me, but good for LDS kids.  Anything other than high school sounds good to me right now.  

Time to quit.  I'm going to bed early so that I'll be awake for the last day of school before Thanksgiving break.  —end

December 1, 1974
Today is the first day of December, but it doesn't seem like it.  No snow, and the Christmas spirit is non-existent.  Dad is a grouch, as usual.  I don't know what his problem is.  

S. has come and gone, already.  It's almost Noon, and he's probably on a long stretch of highway on the way to Tonapah.  It was good to see him, but something was different.  He took some getting used to.  I guess, that's normal after two and a half months apart.  I know for sure that I don't love him.  I love his companionship, and I can be completely at ease around him.  But, someone else with the same personality and temperment could take his place.  Perhaps I am leading him on...

There is nothing really wrong with our situation.  I'm free to be myself and to choose my own friends apart from him.  I think that I'm afraid that I might be pulled into a relationship before I've had a chance to see what else is out there.  

I don't know what to do after graduation.  I know that I'll be working next summer.  I'm not sure if I want to start college in the fall.  I'm thinking about taking a year off before I start college.  I'm tired of school, and I'd like to have a job.  I'd like to live in California.  I do not want to start school in the fall and burn out by the time that I'm a junior.  A lot of people drop out before their junior year.  Maybe, they weren't ready to go to college right after high school.  I'm going to have to work my way through college, and a year off would give me time to save up.    

I might start looking for a med tech program in California that offers job training.  Just because everybody else is starting college next year doesn't mean that I have to.  S. wants me to come and live with him in California.  Right now, that does not sound like a good idea.  I am not ready to settle down.

New Year's resolutions: 

1.  Lose 10 pounds and get in shape
2.  Start practicing the piano again and improve
3.  Start jogging
4.  Get my driver's license

I'd go practice the piano right now if I didn't think that there was a good chance that my mom or dad would make me do a chore.  They see me and think to themselves, "There she is just walking around the house doing nothing when she could be making herself useful by clearing an acre of ice plants or hauling an air compressor into the garage!"    —end  

December 11, 1974
S. got back today at 3 a.m.  I spent the day with him, then he left to go play guitars with his brother.  I have to analyze my feelings about him.  Care, concern, friendship...I don't want to get hooked, not yet, anyway.  I have to keep reminding myself of that.  My goal for this year is to enjoy my senior year, meet lots of guys, have a good time, stay single, stay free.  I'm still young, and I don't have a lot of experience with guys.  Most of all, I want my freedom.  —end

December 24, 1974
I'm so in love with S, and I know that he loves me!  The Christmas spirit is finally here, and I appreciate my friends and my family.  There is so much love to share!

I miss my best friend, L.  She will be a part of my wedding someday because she is my closest friend.  Merry Christmas to her, and I hope she has a good one.  —end

January 6, 1975
S. is gone again, and I miss him.  I got my senior key today, and I like it because it's a good substitute for a class ring, which is more than what my parents can afford right now.  

I've been thinking about college, again.  I'm going to check out a college near S. called Diablo Valley College.  I love him, and I miss him.  He'll be back in March.  

Very dark clouds this morning, like tornado weather.  Ominously calm and quiet in the desert.  —end

January 19, 1975
I am having second thoughts about college and about S.  I'm not sure if I'm giving myself a fair chance and the most opportunity to do what is best for myself.  I've got to be realistic and think it out rationally.  I don't want to lose S., but I have to consider all of my options.  

My attitude has improved toward school, despite the ineptitude of our principal and the ongoing soap opera wtih my friends.  —end

February 10, 1975
An uneasy day at school and at home.  I've been chewing my nails down to the quick, and my fingers hurt.  The thought of not going to college next year is appealing to me, once again.  I want to work and live on my own.  I need the independence and my freedom.  

I want to quit cheerleading, but my parents are encouraging me to stick with it.  I'm having to choose now between the right thing for me and what others want me to do.   Drugs are not an option.  —end

February 23, 1975
It's late, and I can't write for a long time, tonight.  It will be good to see S. again.  My feelings have changed since January, and I feel that we are falling away from each other.  It all comes back when we're together, but it fades after time apart.  I'm beginning to wonder if it's love or a comfortable habit.  We have such different lives, now.  I'm still a senior in high school, living in a small town in the desert with the same people every day.  He's a freshman at a University of California, living in a college town on the coast with different people and different ideas every day.

I am against drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and anything that can be used to escape from reality.  I happen to enjoy reality, and I feel equipped to handle life's challenges.  I am devoted to music, drawing, painting, health, excercise, reading, and peace of mind.  I am searching for happiess not only for myself, but for others who ask for it.  I'm sure that this is who I am.  I'm not sure if S. wants to live his life the same way.  —end

March 7, 1975
Twelve days until S. gets home. I love him more than I can say!  I love everybody!  —end

March 27, 1975
It's been 11 months to the day that S. and I started going out.  One of my friends is going out with his brother.  They are in love, and she is good for him.

I'm planning to attend Diablo Valley College in Walnut Creek next year.  I'll be living with two of my friends from BC, and we're driving up at the end of the year to check out the housing situation.   —end

March 28, 1975
S. and I drove into Vegas to see "Tommy."  It was excellent, and the sound track was great!  I think I'd like to get into designing sound systems and writing music.  I don't know if I love him, or not.  Whatever the feeling's good.    

Got a letter from L. today!  It is nice to hear from her.  I hope she's okay.  Her letter was plastered with Jesus stickers.  —end

April 6, 1975
I've written 20 pages (front and back) in my journal.  Only 6 weeks of high school left.  I hope I get a lifeguard job.  My senior announcements should arrive in a week, or two.  I'll send some to my friends in Omaha.  Hard to believe that I've been here for two years.  —end

April 13, 1975
I tried partying, and it's not me.  I really don't like going to parties, especially when I don't know anyone.  I love being with friends, talking and laughing and having fun.  I'm really not the partying type, though.  I could try to fit in, but I don't want to.  I feel like a fool afterward.  Sloe gin is definitely not my thing.  —end

April 20, 1975
Another weekend, another Sunday.  I went out with two new guys Friday and Saturday nights.  Nice guys, but I wasn't myself, and I hate pretending to be someone I'm not.  I miss S., and I'll see him more often when I move to Reno and start school there next fall.    

I got up at 4 a.m. this morning and watched the sunrise.  It helped clear my mind.  

Tomorrow is Senior Ditch Day; Thursday is graduation practice; and Friday is the last day of high school.  I have to work on Saturday and Sunday, then I'll leave on a road trip to the Bay Area and Santa Cruz.  It's an emotional time at school.  Everyone is really happy, but also sad to leave their friends.  High school is quickly coming to an end.  I am looking forward to the summer and to the beginning of something new in the fall.  —end

June 2, 1975
Got back from our road trip last night; actually, this morning at 2 a.m.  We drove up the Tonapah Hwy to Reno.  Visited UNR then drove to Lake Tahoe, then Sacramento, Walnut Creek, Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, the Boardwalk, and the UCSC campus.  I loved the towns around Monterey!  Back down the coast and inland on I-5 down to Bakersfield, then across the Baker grade and back to Vegas.  

The trip helped me to see the mistakes that I've made this year and how I went wrong.  I'm not that well suited for a small town.  I know that I don't want to go to UNR, as much as I will miss my friends who will be going there next fall.  It's time for a change, and I'm heading for California.  Getting away is the next step for me.  

I'm going to spend the summer earning money for college, then I'm going to start classes at a community college near Santa Cruz called Cabrillo College.  I'm going to get an AA degree and then transfer to a UC after I've established residency.  That's the plan for now, anyway!  

The trip helped me to mature, and I've patched things up with my parents and sisters.  I feel closer to them, now.  —end

August 24, 1975
So much has happened over the summer.  I am packing and getting ready to go to school in California.  I leave on Wednesday on the 3 o'clock flight to San Jose.  By 6 p.m., I'll be with S. I will miss my family. When it comes down to it, I think they like me, too.  Except for my dad, but he's nuts and can't help the way he is.  

I am off to a place where I can learn...and live and be free.  —end

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Bonus—Great White Shark Cam

Monterey Bay Open Sea Exhibit
In conjunction with the Project White Shark research program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a juvenile great white shark is on exhibit in the million-gallon Open Sea tank.  He is less than a year old, weighs 43.2 pounds, and I've named him, Malibu, because that's where he was caught.

Click here for a link to the live Open Sea web cam.  Click the full screen icon at the lower right corner of the window, and then wait...dah-dum...dah-dum...dum-dum dum-dum dum-dum dum-dum...EEK!!    

It may take a while, depending on where Malibu is swimming, but if you're lucky, you may get to see his friend, the hammerhead shark.  A look at the giant sunfish is worth the wait, too.  I've seen that dude several times, and he looks like a big sideways pancake with wings.  The dreamy background music and the school of bluefin tuna gliding around the tank is soothing...okay, hypnotic until a big triangular fin slides into view (like it just did!).  Nice sharkie...

This is the sixth great white to go on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the only aquarium in the world to put a great white on display for more than 16 days.  The length of the shark's stay depends on how well it does in captivity.  They are returned to the wild when they start to show signs of distress, become aggressive toward the other fish, or outgrow the tank.  The fifth great white shark on exhibit was released in a healthy condition in 2009, but later died in a gill net.  It is the only one of the great white visitors, so far, to have perished after its release.

Great whites can grow up to 21 feet long and weigh more than 5,000 pounds.  They eat mainly seals and sea lions, but they've been known to chomp on penguins and other birds, as well as fish, and the occasional surf board—a case of mistaken identity because surf boards resemble seal profiles from the pov of a shark.  (Crrrraaaap!  The hammerhead just swam right past the cam, and he looks slightly annoyed...)

Recent research from Stanford University (to be published later this year on the migration patterns of great whites) indicates that great white sharks are now one of the most endangered animals on Earth.  There are fewer than 3,500 great whites left worldwide making them nearly as rare as tigers in the wild (estimated at around 3,200 by the World Wide Fund for Nature, formerly the World Wildlife Fund).

Humans are much more of a threat to great whites than great whites are to humans.  Worldwide, the number of shark attacks (all species) is around 60 per year, with the majority of attacks taking place in the U.S. (Florida, Hawaii, California, Texas, and the Carolinas).  Of those in the U.S., there have been only 4 confirmed fatalities by great whites since the year 2000.  Your odds of being killed by a shark in 2000 were 0 in 264.1 million.  Your odds of drowning or being killed by something on the beach, 1 in 2 million.

On the other hand, Dr. John McCosker, the chairman of aquatic biology at the California Academy of Sciences, estimates that 70 million sharks (of all species) are killed every year by fishermen engaged in finning, the practice of cutting off the sharks' fins and dumping the still living animals back into the ocean.  Not so good for the sharks.  The practice is banned on U.S. vessels, but the importation of shark fins is still allowed in most states.  (Ooo-ooo!  A sardine ball just swam in front of the lens!)

On July 1, 2010, Hawaii took a huge step toward stopping the shark fin trade by banning the distribution, sale, and possession of shark fins.  Washington and Oregon followed suit in May and June of this year with identical legislation.  Currently in California, Assembly Bill (AB 376) sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), has passed the Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the state Senate, possibly as early as next Friday.  Yay, that's progress toward a more civilized world!

There is, however, opposition from state senators, Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who feel that the bill is "an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine."  If I may speak for the sharks, finning is an unfair attack on the sharks, not to mention the oceans' ecosystems.  Healthy oceans v. a bowl of soup...hmmm, tough choice, but I think I'll go with preserving the global shark populations and maintaining what is left of our healthy oceans.  (Sparkly, little rainbow fish swimming by...)

Check it out!  It's not every day that you go eyeball-to-eyeball with a great white shark.  Get there early, expect crowds, and wear comfortable shoes.  And, don't do the flashy thing at the fish.  They don't have any eyelids, and seriously, it's hard enough being a fish in an aquarium, what with little kids banging on the glass all day.  And, would it kill the docents to get the sunfish a mocha frappe every now and then?...