Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

It's an extra day. Make the most of it!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Deb at San Diego Momma posts writing prompts each Tuesday. It's a great way to get your creative juices flowing.

Deb sends us on a trip this PROMPTuesday - to Chicago.  Joe at "The Write Practice" makes it simple.

Write about Chicago.
Write for fifteen minutes.

Retreat from Spring

Grey afternoon at Palisades Park, Santa Monica.
After a beautiful Sunday, Monday was cold, rainy, and windy. What is it about our weather? My French class meets on Monday and Wednesday evenings at Santa Monica College.

Last night, the wind was whipping palm-tree husks around the grounds of the college, and gusts of wind ambushed pedestrians around the massive concrete corners of the campus buildings. As much as I appreciate the accessibility of Santa Monica College, it is not an attractive campus - built in a kind of massive, concrete Soviet-style architecture, the dominant street-feature of the college is a massive parking garage.

These days, many aspiring students rely on community colleges for access to education. Students who may not be sure about interests and ambitions can take basic classes and then transfer to a four-year college once they've figured it out. Working students can attend community college on a part-time basis. Returning adult students can complete a degree or improve a lack-luster GPA. And in a time where four-year college tuition is going up, community college is still affordable.

My French 2 class, which is good for five credits, costs $36 a credit - or $180. Of course, there are fees for "student services" and if you want a parking decal, it's $85 for the semester. And the cost of textbooks is outrageous - I spent over $100 on two USED books. Still, it's a pretty good bargain, if you want an education.

If you haven't been in a college classroom for a while, it's an eye-opener. When you're 57 years old, it feels weird to sit in a plastic chair attached to a little formica desk. The classrooms are plain, unadorned, anonymous beige cells with a white board, and multiple signs prohibiting food and drink, warning against removing desks, and offering emergency phone numbers. The classrooms are clean, though, I'll grant that. Unlike the restrooms, which are a horror of crumpled toilet paper, empty towel dispensers, and puddles of indeterminate liquid on the floors.

I don't know whether these conditions exist at the UC or CSU system schools, or the private colleges in Los Angeles. And I know budget situations are dire. Perhaps the restrooms are cleaner during the day - I only see them after six pm - perhaps the evening custodial shift was eliminated from this year's operating budget.

No, it's a far cry from the picturesque ivy-covered halls that graced even the midwestern land-grant state college I recall from my undergraduate years.

My classmates represent a spectrum of today's college student. Most are young, but some are older, like me. There is a wide range of ethnicity - from African-American kids to the children of Russian and Eastern European immigrants; there's a Vietnamese kid who was born in Paris, Latino kids; a pierced and tattooed white girl with pink hair; a clean-cut ex-military man; a chic Iranian girl with perfect make-up. I'm not sure what they think of the old lady in the front row.

The one thing they all have in common is that they are working hard to get their education, under challenging circumstances. And in the face of budget cuts and diminishing resources, Santa Monica College is there for them to do it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday in the park

Why it's called "Red Rock."
Yesterday was a glorious day - an unclouded sky, bright sunshine, not too hot but not cold. We took a walk through Red Rock Canyon. It's been a while since we've done this - and our walk made us realize how much we missed it.

It is spring, after all, and things are just starting to grow. Here is a shoot from A Humboldt lily - lilium humboldtii - growing on a hillside overlooking the road.

Fuschia-flowered currants are in bloom, their bright red flowers like dangling earrings.

The California lilac - ceonathus species - were just starting to bloom. These are large evergreen shrubs, and many different species of them grow in our canyon. The bloom-time varies from species to species, and so does the intensity of the blossoms.

click to "embiggen"
Red Rock Canyon is dramatic evidence of the power of water, wind, and the heaving of the earth to shape the landscape. This giant boulder of red sandstone rises above a series of wind-carved caves, and is a favorite place to explore for adventurous families. It looks scarey, but it's easy enough for kids and even dogs to climb and enjoy the view.

In February, flowers are just starting to bloom - these California lupines were in a sheltered rocky place that must hold the warmth of the sun and coax them into early bloom.

The rocks are a pretty mauve-pink color.

On the edge of bloom - the California native peony - Paeonia californica - lifts still-closed buds up from its pretty foliage. I'll come back next week and see if it's opened fully.

Every time I set out into the landscape, I am grateful that I live here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reading homework

Bridal shop, S. Broadway, downtown Los Angeles
 And just as I sit down and work on mes devoirs (my French homework) I have an assignment for you.

I don't know Amanda Ching. Never heard of her before this morning. But she's a helluva writer. 

If you are following the political discussion about contraception, "personhood" legislation, and the recent attempts by the state of Virginia to mandate unnecessary medical procedures for women, you might enjoy this short story. If you like science fiction, or feminist fiction, or what someone in the comments calls Abortion Speculative Fiction, you might enjoy this. If you just like well-written thriller-type short stories, you might enjoy this.


Go on and read it, and let me know what you think.

Mes devoirs

Misty Saturday morning in Topanga
 Sorry for light posting - I've got to step away from the laptop and work on my French homework! I also have to go to the language lab and put in 15 hours of work between now and June 11. This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that budget cuts have cut the hours the lab is open, and it's hard to work around my schedule.

Here's Jack to keep you company.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Geography class

Every once in a while, an article will appear in the paper revealing the results of a study where Americans were asked to demonstrate their geographic knowledge - find Iran on a globe, perhaps, or Chicago on a US map. The point of these articles always seems to be to deliver the shocking news of how geographically illiterate Americans are.

Do you believe that? I always think the study is based on trick questions. or must have a sample size so small that one knucklehead in the bunch skews the results. However....

I recently had a conversation with a young woman of my acquaintance. She had just returned from a trip back east to see relatives who lived in a suburb near New York City. She had never been to New York City before, so, bravely, she took the train into Penn Station and spent the day exploring the city.

She told me that she had taken the subway and gone to visit the World Trade Center memorial. After that she had "gone downtown, to Times Square."

I wasn't quite sure what to say - did she mean directionally "downtown," which of course doesn't make sense? Or conceptually "downtown," as in a dense urban cityscape? Or did she maybe not mean Times Square but some other place?

But, nice person that she is, she actually made an awkward moment easy for me, because she caught herself and said, "That is, I think it's downtown - isn't Times Square downtown?"

"In New York I think the term they use for Times Square is Midtown," I said. "It's 42nd Street, so it's kind of in the middle, north-southwise."

And then we talked of other things.

Meanwhile, I was trying to imagine what it would be like to visit Manhattan without a basic orientation of where you are.

I've always loved looking at maps. As a kid I spent those long car trips following our progress on the map. I never visit a new city without checking a map of the place, and if I don't have a sense of where a city is in relation to states or natural boundaries like rivers and oceans, I feel a little unmoored. If a book I'm reading has a map in it, I always refer back to wayfind while I read. And sometimes if I know a city well enough, I feel as if I have an invisible map-grid in my head as I travel. I can emerge from a subway and, usually within seconds, know which way is North.

This probably runs in the family - my Mom likes to have an atlas by her reading chair, so she can place the geographical location of the events she's reading about.

Some people lack the ability to wayfind. A story recently on NPR featured a woman who was so unable to orient herself she would get lost in her own home if she awoke in the dark of night.  My darling [The Man I Love] has been known to confidently head out in exactly the opposite direction of his destination.  On the rare occasions I'm unable to orient myself, I find it profoundly disturbing.

I don't know whether my friend lacks the ability to wayfind, or whether she simply lacks the interest.  This is the same friend who once asked me whether you could get from Los Angeles to New Orleans by taking a cruise.

But perhaps it's just that she just doesn't see the world as a geographical layout - perfectly valid, and why should I look down on her?

What about you - Are you geographically literate? Are your orientation skills strong? Do you get lost easily? Does it really matter?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Today is the end of the season of Carnival, the beginning of Lent - Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a day for fasting, abstinence, repentance. The name "ash" comes from old customs where penitents dusted themselves with ashes as a sign of repentance.

Though I'm not a religious person, I think everyone needs time to think about things you've done in life that you regret. Perhaps a long-ago mistake impossible to undo, a harsh word you'd love to take back, an omission you wish you could correct.

Sometimes past transgressions sneak back into your memory at odd times - while lying awake at 3:00 am, maybe, or while brushing your hair.  I cringe to remember how in sixth grade I threw my broken thermos at the boy who I assumed broke it, hitting him. Ugh! that time at a reception where I sat in an open chair - only to realize it was there for the guest of honor, not me!  Or the time, while rushing to the airport, I impatiently cut short my son's farewell moment with our old dog - who died without seeing him again.

So - on this Ash Wednesday - what are your regrets?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lundi Gras

Here in Southern California it's cool and cloudy, and according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, that's how the weather's going to be for today's Lundi Gras parades - and also for Mardi Gras tomorrow.

Last year [The Man I Love] and I were thrilled at the chance to go to New Orleans two weeks before Mardi Gras. Although we'd been to the city many times before, it was the first time we'd been during Carnival season.

We had a wonderful time, watching parades and listening to music and enjoying fabulous food. So this morning, realizing it's Lundi Gras, and feeling the cool damp of late February outside, there's one place I want to be right now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pink Saturday - Woman in Pink

It's Pink Saturday - Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you.

"Woman in Pink" - undated. Soviet Union
There's street art - and then there's a street museum.

Here on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles, we came upon something surprising. An open air gallery of paintings.

The Wende Museum is a quirky little institution in Culver City. According to its mission statement, it "preserves the cultural artifacts and personal histories of Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to inform and inspire a broad understanding of the period and its enduring legacy."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Street Art

Looking south on Main from 4th Street.
South Main Street in downtown Los Angeles is not pretty. Though once a busy commercial district, even in the old days Main Street lacked the cachet of neighboring thoroughfares - Broadway bustled with department stores, cafeterias and cinemas, while Spring Street was home to banks and stock exchanges. By the 1930's Main Street was home to dance halls, bar-rooms, cheap hotels and burlesque theatres. It was the gateway to Los Angeles' Skid Row - and still is.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No girls allowed

"McSorley's Bar" - John French Sloan, 1912. from Wikimedia commons

Yesterday, Darrell Issa, the California congressman who is the Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, held a hearing intended to determine whether the Obama administration's rule that oral contraceptives be included in prescription benefits under employee's health insurance is an infringement of the employer's religious freedom.

The ten-person panel was comprised entirely of witnesses opposed to the Obama administration's rule. Further, only one of the witnesses was a women - one  a senior administration executive for a Christan college. Shortly before the hearing, a second woman witness was added - the medical director for a Christian college, also opposed to the administration's rule.

Not one witness was allowed to speak in favor of the Obama adminsitration's rule, and not one witness was brought to represent the 10 million American women who use oral contraception - both for family planning and for medical reasons. Attempts by Democratic committee members to allow a single female witness speaking in favor of women's reproductive health were unsuccessful.

The chair of a powerful congressional committee has deliberately chosen to cut women out of the conversation about their reproductive health. He was only interested in hearing from those who feel their religious freedom depends on allowing them control over women's lives.

How have we allowed this to happen?

Darrell Issa represents California's 49th district, which includes much of northern San Diego County and parts of Riverside County.

Sisters, if Congressman Issa is your representative, please let him know what you think. Here's his website.

Why did I illustrate this post with a picture of McSorley's Bar? Read HERE.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dining Alone - at your desk

Does anyone know whether eating convenience foods after their "best by" date will kill you?

It's raining outside, I have a meeting in an hour, I'm starving for lunch, and all I have in my emergency food stash in my desk drawer is a container of Healthy Choice lentil soup with an expiration date of December 2010.

Lunchtime gives me a chance to do my French homework, which is due this evening in class. Our professor claims that writing out your answers in longhand really helps you remember and mentally process the language.

My emergency food stash is for exactly such an occasion - when I don't want to go out for lunch, or don't have time to, or don't have enough cash on hand. I usually have on hand some individual serving-size cans of tuna; sealed containers of soup or Kraft mac and cheese, packets of instant ramen or Thai noodles. My problem is that sometimes I get hungry and eat them even when I can go out to lunch, so when a day like today comes up, I end up with expired lentil soup.

It wasn't so bad, spiced up with a squirt from a plastic packet of Taco Bell hot sauce, also in the drawer.

What's in your emergency stash drawer where you work?

Things that go bump in the night


It's been an odd week. Last night, [The Man I Love] got up in the middle of the night, and while trying to walk around Jack, the dog, who was asleep on the floor of our bedroom hallway, he stubbed his little toe on the door jamb. I think his toe is broken.

Saturday night it was me - up in the night, going down the short flight of steps to the kitchen, I somehow collided with the portable heater and went ass over tea-kettle, landing on the slate-tile floor. I have a purple bruise the size of a paperback book on the back of my thigh.

Jack had his own problems - unable to tell us he had a queasy tummy, on Monday night he found a quiet corner in the back of [The Man I Love]'s office, and relieved himself of it there. Have you ever been awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a smell? Cleaning up dog poo in your pajamas is not fun. Especially when it's on carpet.

Maybe the rest of the week will go better.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The mask slips

Detail from mural, Los Angeles Theatre nursery
It's going to be hard in an election year to keep politics out of this blog. I try, I really try. I don't need to cover the horse race, who's up or who's down; who ran a negative ad, who made some snappy points in a meaningless debate.

But sometimes, something strikes you as just so extraordinarily wrong that you can't let it pass without comment.

Politics, of course, is more than politicians. It's also the donors, the lobbyists, the policy wonks, and the political activists. You also know them as "special interests."  They are like a shadow government that rules the real government in Washington.

One of the most powerfully influential activists in Washington is Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. He and his group are One Issue Activists - they are opposed to taxation. Period. The fact that many Republican politicians and all the Republican presidential candidates have signed his group's pledge never to vote to raise taxes speaks to their clout.

This past weekend, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Norquist spoke, and as he made his case for the party backing Mitt Romney as the most "electable" candidate, he allowed the mask to slip from the face of the beast beneath.

We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go ...We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate...Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.
You hear that? He doesn't need a leader - he needs an automaton with a pen.

What Mr. Norquist is boldly and openly proposing is nothing less a permanent ruling cabal of non-elected powerful private interests, circumventing our democracy and electing a shill - a shell - a puppet for him to rule behind as though he were Regent behind a weak and powerless Dauphin.

No - I'm not surprised that this is possible in our political system.

What I am surprised about is that he felt perfectly safe in saying it out loud. And that no one in that crowd objected.

If this doesn't disturb you, you need to start paying attention.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Starting something new

A confectionery shop in Paris, 2009
Today I started something new - today was the first day of classes at Santa Monica College, where I'm taking French 2.

I took French in high school, of course, and in college when I was young. In 2009, planning for our first trip to Paris, I took French 1 at SMC in fall semester, 2008, hoping to continue with French 2 the following spring.

Things happened and although I got an A in French 1, I was unable to continue with French 2. We did go to Paris - but while there, I was a bit chagrined at my lack of fluency in the language.

So finally, I've re-enrolled. Today was the first day of class. I was rusty, but it began to come back as the instructor drilled the class, conjugating irregular verbs.

My class is at night on Mondays and Wednesdays, and it's just one more thing to add to a hectic life. But....I think I'm going to like it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Birth control - Look who's talking?

Well, lots of politicians  and public figures are discussing the issue of health insurance benefits that cover oral contraception. Lots of voices.

Mitch McConnell. Paul Ryan. Timothy Dolan, of the US Council of Catholic Bishops. President Obama. Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum. Catholic League president William Donohue. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. Jon O'Brian, head of Catholics for Choice. White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. David Axelrod. Nicholas Kristoff, New York Times columnist, and his colleague David Brooks.

They're all on TV, they're writing op-eds, they're on the Sunday morning news shows, they're speaking at CPAC, they're being interviewed.

Notice anything they all have in common?

They're not women.

Why is the debate over our nation's insurance policies regarding women's reproductive health care being conducted almost exclusively by men?  Why isn't the media talking to women?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekend journal

Morning mountain
Last night I had scallopine di vitello saltimbocca for dinner at a restaurant that was at one point plunged into darkness by a sudden, brief, power outage; was introduced to Michael and Kitty Dukakis; and attended a concert performance by Hugh Masekela.  Then I went home and ate crackers and cheese.

What are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paging Lysistrata - please pick up the red phone

Magazine cover, 1913, showing women in ancient dress, bearing sign "We want our rights" - Library of Congress. Click to "embiggen"
 I don't normally do politics here, but....

Perhaps you have heard that late in January, the Obama Administration's Health and Human Services Adminsitration announced a rule that would require, under the Affordable Care Act, that every employer insurance plan - with some exceptions - would be required to include contraception coverage with no co-payment.

The exceptions include churches and houses of worship who, objecting to contraception on religious grounds, would be allowed to drop contraception coverage for their employees.

The exceptions did not extend to institutions such as universities, hospitals, charities and schools that serve the general public, even though they may be religiously based.  The principle behind this is that employees like custodians, nurses, landscapers, budget analysts, IT specialists, radiology technicians, cafeteria workers and all the other professional employees that work for these institutions should not be discriminated against on the basis of sex as regards their work benefits.

Slightly NSFW image below the jump

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Morning drive

Click to "embiggen"
I've been unadventurous lately. Work, weather, and other annoyances have kept me in the office or at home mostly for the last couple of weeks.

When you just shuttle from work to home each day, it begins to feel like you're just running on a treadmill.

But oh, some treadmills are prettier than others! This morning the sky was so clear after yesterday's rain. Here's the view from stalled traffic today.

That bump on the horizon to the left is the Palos Verde Peninsula. The smaller, fainter bump in the center is Catalina Island.

Here, as the road curves, you can smell the salt of the waves on the sand. Not a bad drive to work, is it?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blonde ambition

Did everyone have a good Super Bowl Sunday? What is it about that game that makes even people who aren't football fans want to party down?

We had a few friends over, and made some tasty nibbles. Buffalo chicken wings, of course - and sesame-soy-glazed wings, for variety. A salad with celery and tart apples, some chips and guacamole - great food for noshing in front of the TV.

For dessert I tried something new - Blondies. Blondies are basically brownies without chocolate, and they're just as easy to make. A rich, buttery batter made with brown sugar, they bake up into dense bars. The recipe I used called for browning the butter, which lends an even richer depth of flavor.


When I was younger I used to enjoy home decorating - I loved to read magazines and loved thinking about every detail of my home's decor. In reent years, though, I've gotten a little lazy and complacent. Living in a house with an active kid and dog often makes aspiring home decorator snap back to reality fast, too.

Still, one of the things I always have though make a house a home is a beautiful area rug. As a young single woman I had an inexpensive smallish wool carpet in a Persian pattern - it was by no means a real Persian rug, but it was pretty and I liked it. I forget what happened to it - it probably endured much wear and staining before being hopelessly discarded.

We've often thought about getting a rug - but last weekend we finally found the rug we couldn't resist. There's a local seller of antique and imported rugs here in Topanga, and when we visited, we found our rug.

It's a flat-weave rug, or kilim; tightly woven wool yarns that produce a flat surface without a fluffy pile. The technique for using colors results in a very sharp, defined design, as there is no blurring of two colors of yarn - each strand is woven back into the color block instead of interweaving. Finely made kilims have actual small breaks in the fabric at color changes - you can see it when you hold it up to light.

Ours dates from the 1930s and was made in the Turkish village of Konya. Konya rugs are known for their striking geometric designs in brilliant, bold colors.

I love the colors of this one, which have taken on a softness from age. A warm terra-cotta-like red, soft gold, pale aqua and punched up with bold black. The intricacy of the design, with colors ever shifting, keeps it always catching my eye. 

I stood on it last night with bare feet, and it felt just warm. Jack likes to lie on it, too. It will be a household treasure for our family.

What's your most treasured feature of your home? Share.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Refining the method

I recently posted about the awesome - no, miraculous - bread recipe my son gifted me with.

I tried it again the other night to take to a dinner party. I followed the recipe exactly and it was received with high praise. I was so thrilled that I went home from the party and put up another batch of dough to rise overnight.

But it was Sunday night, and I had to go to work Monday morning. My schedule didn't work with the original recipe, which specifies 18 hours for the first rising, then turn the dough out, shape it and let it rise another 2.5 hours before baking.

So I just winged it. My dough rose for just under 12 hours, then I turned it out on the board and smooshed it around a bit - it's too soft to say I actually kneaded it.

Instead of letting it rise a second time on the board covered with a towel, I turned it back into the bowl, because our housecleaners were coming and I didn't want to leave a mess for them to work around.

The second rising took about 9 hours, before I got home from work.

When I unveiled the bowl, huge bubbles appeared on the surface of the dough. Nonetheless, we - [The Man I Love] helped out this time - heated the Dutch oven, sprinkled the hot surface with cornmeal, and turned the whole heaving, burping mess out as a gooey blob into the hot pan. Then we popped it in the oven.

50 minutes later - perfect. The only issue - it stuck to the pan at first. After cooling enough so the pan could be touched, I simply reached in and gave it a gentle twist - and out it came.

The loaf I made Saturday night was a bit more firm than my first and the one I made Sunday night. It was more "kneadable" and, notably, didn't stick to the pan at all. What was different? I think a little less water went into that dough - by that I mean only a couple tablespoons less.

Since then, I've tried it six or seven more times. I've mixed whole wheat flour with the white bread flour - 1 part whole wheat to 2 parts white. I've stirred a third of a cup of steel cut oats into the flour mixture. I've sauteed shallots in olive oil, and added them to the dough, along with chopped fresh thyme.

I've practiced with using a little less water so the dough is easier to handle. I've tried using more water, trying to see how the moisture affects the crust.

I'm still not sure what the most perfect combination is, but I have determined one thing -

This bread is always great. You simply cannot lose.

Here's the one I made today.

If you want to give it a try, go HERE and read the recipe.

Friday, February 3, 2012


“Her delight in the smallest things was like that of a child. There were days when she ran in the garden, like a child of ten, after a butterfly or a dragon-fly. This courtesan who had cost more money in bouquets than would have kept a whole family in comfort, would sometimes sit on the grass for an hour, examining the simple flower whose name she bore.”

― Alexandre Dumas-fils, La Dame aux Camélias

This morning brings the first bloom on a potted camellia plant in my front yard. It's been in the pot for years, and I'm not one hundred percent sure of its identity, but I think it's Camellia japonica "Nuccio's Pearl."

A bushel of magic beans

Sometimes I think of my daily occupation as counting magic beans.

Farmhands harvest the beans, and bring them into the silo peck by peck, where they are combined to count into bushels.

It's my job to add the number of beans in the bushels and let the owner of our bean farm know how many beans we've harvested each year.

The other day I was asked to prepare a document summarizing the year-to-date take of beans. The head farmhand provided me with a tally of how many beans were in each peck basket delivered each day. By adding up those numbers, I could find out how many beans were in each day's bushel. So I prepared a spreadsheet showing the number of beans harvested each day, and totaling them up.

There was a lot of accompanying data I was asked to track - which peck basket came from which bean-field? What was the total yield of each bean-field? What was a monthly yield? and various other questions.

Then everyone began to nitpick. Were all the beans brought in? Were the baskets completely emptied? Were some north bean-field beans put in a south bean-field basket? Please do another count.

And so I was given another tally of how many beans were in each peck basket delivered each day.  I had to add up all the numbers again to compute each day's bean harvest.

It took me several hours, but I updated the document and finally presented it to the Farm Owner for his satisfaction.

The total number was exactly the same as before. Yes - even though I had to completely re-count all the beans we harvested this year and combine them in different aggregate groups of beans, the final report I presented read exactly the same as it had the first time.

Calorie-free magical beans!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

In Denial

It happened again - I was late to work. I pulled into the employee parking lot at about six minutes past nine.

My commute is only ten miles long. The first six miles is on a winding, two-lane canyon road; the remaining drive is on busy Pacific Coast Highway, where the posted speed limit is 55 mph.

Yet this morning it took fifty minutes.

The hang-up is usually in the Canyon, which can be treacherous, especially in bad weather, and where an accident can turn a two-lane road into a stand-still until the Highway Patrol arrives. But most of the time,the problem is at the traffic light at the terminus of the road, where it meets PCH. Due to poor timing or just vehicular volume, the long chain of cars backs up the canyon for miles, moving incrementally between five-minute halts.

And so we sit, listening to the morning drive radio, looking up at the canyon walls, and enjoying the native vegetation and birdsong, watching the digital numbers tick by on the dashboard clock.

On a good day, I can sit at my desk twenty-five minutes after I leave my house. But on a bad day, it can take up to 90 minutes. I usually leave at 8:15 - leaving myself 45 minutes.

You may ask - Why don't I leave the house earlier?

I don't know. I think maybe I'm in denial. I simply can't accept that a ten-mile commute should take an hour or more.

I think many of us in Los Angeles are in denial - Traffic in Los Angeles is a constant presence. Folks avidly debate travel time and routes and how to avoid a hang-up. Running late for meetings, dinner reservations, and other appointments are - usually - accepted with understanding. Unlike in other cities, being hung up in traffic seems to be the guilt-free excuse. 

What's traffic like where you live?