I picked my mother up at the san jose airport on tuesday afternoon and dropped her off at a fruit stand near san juan bautista on friday morning. here's what we did in between:
on tuesday we went to dinner at the saturn cafe and for tea and chocolate cake at cafe pergolesi.
wednesday we took the roaring camp railroad steam train up bear moutain from henry cowell redwoods state park. the roaring camp scenic railway was founded the year I was born, 1963. in honor of our collective 40th birthday I got to ride the train for original fare of 90c. I took some pictures, of course. there isn't one of my mother and I together, but if you click the link you can see one of us taken on cape cod in may. after our visit to the redwoods we went to santa cruz's excellent & funky downtown farmer's market and bought bags and bags of peaches, apricots, nectarines, corn, fingerling potatoes, zuchini, watermelon, and canteloupe, and a bunch of salmon pink gladioli. yum. after dinner we played backgammon on the beautiful inlaid board that elise brought us from egypt. dice were not included in the set, so bill wrote a matlab program that turned my $2500 laptop into a 50c pair of dice.
thursday we ran some errands, quilt shop, photo developing, grocery store, and went to natural bridges state park. I've often wondered why it's called natural bridges, when what it really has is a stone arch out in the water. the isolated arch used to be connected to the land, as part of a rock outcropping composed of two natural bridges. one of the two bridges collapsed in the late 1970's.
meanwhile, my brother john called with the following information: 1) he reads my blog (hi john!); 2) he has cavities filled without novocaine (ouch!); 3) riding a bicycle is more dangerous than riding a motorcycle (must be true, he read it on the internet).
after the beach and a delicious farmer's market stir fry dinner we went to see winged migration, a fabulous documentary about birds which had been recommended to me repeatedly by friends. add my recommendation to the list --- I've always been a bit of a sucker for nature shows anyway, but this one is really worth seeing. word seems to be getting around, the theater was well over half full even though it's been playing in santa cruz for over month, and the audience clapped at the end.
friday morning we paid a (very) brief visit to mission san juan bautista before meeting my mother's old friends reggie and alice cormier at a fruit stand just off of highway 101. reggie & alice lived down the street from us when I was in kindergarten, it was great to see them again after many years. here's alice, reggie & my mother.
on my way back from the fruit stand drop off I stopped for lunch in watsonville at la perla del pacifico, a mexican/seafood restaurant at 458 main st. I had been there a couple of years ago with steve, elise & bill on the recommendation of one of elise's colleagues at the san jose mercury news, who claimed it was the best mexican restaurant for miles. I agree with that assessment completely --- I had an amazingly delicious chile relleno, with handmade corn tortillas that were so good I took the extras home with me. afterwards I lounged at a really nice coffeeshop/internet hookup called net cafe run by watsonville high school students. (I also took some pictures of my favorite cat, fiji, as I was getting my stuff out of the car when I got back from watsonville.)
everyone is entitled to whine a little after a visit with their mother, so here it goes. my mother's trip to santa cruz was a complicated little detour embedded in a larger trip that includes seattle, apple valley, ca and bozeman, mt. fortunately, both she and alice have cellphones, which normally would make coordinating complex travel plans much easier. unfortunately, neither my mother or alice turn their cellphones on unless they want to make a call and neither of them know how to check their voice messages, which makes coordinating complex travel plans much more difficult. yo mom! yo alice! the cellphone doesn't cost you anything unless you actually make or answer a call and start talking. and even if you don't answer it when it rings, you can still see who tried to call you and call them back if you want. unless there's something wrong with your battery, the charge should last all day. just leave 'em on already!
basic perceptual fact: it's much harder to notice things that aren't there than things that are, to see a pattern of absences. what's missing from my account of the past few days? coffeeshops. writing. quality time with bill. quality time with wilma (my laptop). ah. it's nice to be back in my chair, typing.
today is &pi approximation day, 22/7
maybe ammon will make quiche.
normal blog entry
I've noticed that other people's blogs are more chatty, filled with short updates about daily life, rather than the long ponderous essays about daily life that abound here at blog-O-rama, interspersed between the plagiarized bits of political commentary. I've decided to make a go at a normal blog entry today.
so what have I done this week?
last tuesday was 15 july, which was the half way mark for my summer in santa cruz, one month since I arrived, one month until I leave. not a bad day, I worked on some writing projects and a blog entry, I started reading cannery row, and I rode my bike to the dive shop to make sure that I still wore the same size wetsuit as last year. I really kicked it on the bike ride, and I was proud of myself for not driving --- one less car. as soon I got back from the dive shop, richard called and we made plans to go diving first thing in the morning. it was 7:40 PM and the shop closes at 8:00 PM so I hopped in the car, still in my sweaty biking clothes, and drove to the dive shop to pick up the dive gear that I just checked out.
wednesday was my dive adventure at point lobos, read all about it. after napping all afternoon, I made bill drive me to the dive shop to return the gear and we went out for sushi at pink godzilla, a santa cruz landmark.
reading binge on thursday. (I also wrote in the evening.) I finished cannery row. when I reviewed a reader's manifesto by b. r. myers on 19.05.03, I wasn't convinced that a long string of mediocre prizewinning bestsellers was necessarily equivalent to the decline of fiction since 1950, but I'm more inclined to agree after reading cannery row --- it's the best thing I've read for a while, and also one of the funniest, worth reading just for steinbeck's one paragraph exposition on the sociology of model T ford and his hilarious description of a frog hunt organized by a gang of cannery row bums. steinbeck studied marine biology at stanford and includes some brilliant descriptions of the monterey bay marine life and of the workings of a local biological supply laboratory that collected samples to send to universities and researchers. he also mentions that robert louis stevenson lived in carmel, the geography of treasure island was likely inspired by point lobos. steinbeck's description of tide pools struck me as especially brilliant after my dive on wednesday.
The tide goes out imperceptibly. The boulders show and seem to rise up and the ocean recedes, leaving little pools, leaving wet weed and moss and sponge, iridescence and brown and blue and China red. On the bottoms lie the incredible refuse of the sea, shells broken and chipped and bits of skeleton, claws, the whole sea bottom a fantastic cemetery on which the living scamper and scramble.
friday I went to the dentist for my regular checkup. (I have a really good dentist here in santa cruz -- dr.brennan. she's so awesome I commute to california to see her.) it looked like I was going to get away without needing any additional work for the first time in years, but no, I'm going back next week to have the last of the silver/mercury amalgam fillings removed and replaced with resin. after having one root canal and four crowns installed over the last two summers I've decided that sooner is better when it comes to replacing fillings. after the dentist I went grocery shopping. in the afternoon I was jumpy and wired, but determined to write. after numerous false starts and much staring into space I decided I was too scattered to make progress on projects and decided to work on the blog entry about diving. after numerous false starts and way too much staring into space I decided I was too scattered to work on the blog entry and I decided to describe the dive in an email to my friend peter. in other words, I ended up using my mail program as a word processor, and it took all afternoon.
my santa cruz housemate ammon had been working flat out since he got back from LizardQuest03 to finish a grant. he submitted it on friday, so I made dinner in celebration. later ammon, doug, bill & I walked down the ocean, then watched songcatcher, a movie about an uptight music professor who goes to the mountains of appalachia and learns how to get down to that old time music.
saturday was quiet, no visitors, just the usual drill of coffee shop and laptop. I started reading charmed life, which is quite a bit like harry potter, except that it was written in 1977 by diana wynne jones. I didn't feel like working at home so I made it a two coffeeshop day --- I went downtown to 120 Union, which I would consider the best coffeeshop in santa cruz if it were within walking distance of my house. I finally made some measurable progress on my writing projects in the afternoon but procrastinated on doing the nordictrack until well past dinner time. exercising on a grumbling stomach was no fun at all.
still quiet on sunday morning, coffeeshop, laptop, phonebook (looking for names for characters). in the afternoon, doug and I attempted to go swimming at harvey west pool, but it closes early on sundays. I combined a short bike ride with short excursion on the nordictrack instead. liv, the the more permanent resident of the cozy detached garage that bill & I call home when we are in santa cruz, stopped by on her way to the san francisco airport (the very scenic route). ammon had baked a couple of strawberry-rhubarb pies might have been construed as being in liv's honor, mainly because he made them with some strawberries that liv had picked herself and stashed in the freezer. also, ammon's 'incredible growing lizard! increases in size by 600%' took the plunge into a bowl of water. (I am in charge of photodocumentation.)
monday started out normal. I guiltily finished reading charmed life at the coffeeshop instead of writing in my journal. after that bill & I drove to palo alto to meet robin's friend anil (but not before I had a brief visit from my pet neurosis. apparently leaving the house for 10 hours is the same as running away from home, at least judging from the amount of stuff I packed into the car.) anil is visiting from trinity college in dublin, where he's doing some really interesting work on image restoration and information retrieval. in the afternoon, I ditched bill with robin & anil and I drove up to piedmont to visit with siobhan & eirik and their awesome children malachy, niamh, padraic, & sorcha. eirik's parents were visiting from cairo along with some friends from nigeria who now live in palo alto. niamh, padraic, & sorcha are all turning into fine fiddle players (at 2 yrs. 2 mos. malachy hasn't quite mastered the instrument yet.) niamh let me take home a picture that she drew of a lizard and played a very nice rendition of the 'tennessee waltz.' sorcha is off to fiddle camp in tennessee next week, and went to orchestra camp earlier this summer. padraic was last seen reading a book titled I lost my sneakers in dimension X. that used to happen to me all the time too.
by the time I had collected bill in palo alto, eaten some apricot pie with robin, veronique & anil, and driven back to santa cruz it was 1:00 AM. that means it was officially tuesday, and it still is. I've already been to the coffeeshop and am typing in the blue chair that I dragged off of the street 3 summers ago. bill is working at the one desk in the garage, which I also dragged off the street 3 summers ago. the cat is sleeping in the bean bag chair on the deck. it's another glorious, cool, sunny day in santa cruz.
okay, this is not really a normal blog entry judged by the standards of the larger blogosphere. (but then, why be normal?) I wrote up a whole week at once instead of a day at a time, so not only is it quite long it's not in reverse chronological order either. it's possible that my life would appear more interesting if I dribbled it out one day at a time, tried to build up some suspense and all. (I did write it faster than just about anything else other than email.) speaking of the norms of blog culture, not to mention standard webpage protocol, I really need to archive my blog --- this file is far too long, and getting longer.
margaret mead on iraq
This excerpt from an essay that I read online has been lurking in my blog for over a month, but it's still just as relevant. It amazed me that the Bush administration was able to spin the invasion and occupation of Iraq as a war of self-defense, pre-emptive or otherwise. While most of the media attention has focused on false claims about Hussein's alleged nuclear program, the failure to produce convincing evidence for even one single "weapon of mass destruction" is the real intelligence failure/fraud. What exactly was it that the United States was supposed to be pre-empting in Iraq?
The original essay by William O. Beeman, an anthropologist at Brown University, is called "Mr. Bush, you're in big trouble with Phil" and appeared originally on 16 June 03.
In her classic work, And Keep Your Powder Dry, Mead pointed out that Americans have four prevalent attitudes toward violence:
"Here we go again: What did the president really know?" Op-Ed by Bill Press, 16 July 03.
And if they lied about Iraq trying to buy uranium in Africa, what else were they lying about? What about the president's assertion, in the same speech, that Saddam was connected to Osama bin Laden? Or his possession of weapons of mass destruction? To date, there is zero evidence that any of those charges were true.
Got this one at Tomdispatch.com, a round-up of media coverage researched, written and edited by Tom Engelhardt, a fellow at the Nation Institute. This column also includes the full text of the memo to Bush from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity calling for Cheney's resignation.
"Rice said on CBS's 'Face the Nation' that 'it was a mistake about a single sentence, a single data point. And I frankly think it has been overblown.'" This from an administration that took us into Code Orange-land, promoted duct tape for our problems, and turned the pathetically punch-less regime of a brutal local dictator into the equivalent of a superpower enemy. Overblown? Please.
Arianna Huffington takes a good, well-deserved whack at Bush over at alternet.org.
With the events of the last week, George Bush has come across as very presidential indeed. Like his Dad, he's been out of the loop; like Clinton he's become a world class word weasel; and like Nixon he's shown a massive propensity for secrecy and dissembling. Not exactly the role models Karl Rove had in mind.
on wednesday I went scuba diving at point lobos state reserve in the monterrey bay national marine sanctuary. my first attempts at cold water diving last summer were, um, somewhat less than successful. the first dive I attempted, a supposedly easy boat dive off carmel, was one of those over-the-top miserable (but-at-least-nobody-lost-an-eye) experiences that over time turns into a hilarious story, so long as its told from a warm dry barstool with a beer in hand. so I'm happy to report that my first dive of this summer was excellent.
I learned to dive on the great barrier reef, which is not only the most awesome place to dive in the world, it's also one of the easiest. the water is warm and clear, there's no surge at all inside the reef, you just plop off the side of the boat and there you are in an incredible underwater paradise --- even jacques cousteau would run out of adjectives trying to describe it.
monterey bay also has a unique and incredibly diverse marine ecosystem, due to the upswell of nutrient rich cold water out of (some big trench out there). forests of kelp, colonies of sea lions and harbor seals, starfish, anemones, rock fish, abalone --- some people would argue that when it comes to diving, monterey bay is as amazing and wonderful as the great barrier reef.
my dive buddy richard is one of those people. in fact, it was richard's insistence that diving in the bay is every bit as awesome as australia combined with his branding me a 'cocktail diver' on the basis of my warm water only diving experience that persuaded me to get back into the water last summer (*). the very very cold water.
cold water makes everything about diving more work. it requires a heck of a lot more wetsuit. I wore a skintight 6.5 mil neoprene wetsuit, in two layers, a pair of sleeveless overalls called a john and a long sleeved jacket/shorts combo that fits over it. of course, I also had a hood that fits tightly around my face, and booties, and gloves. (so how exactly did I end up with sand inside my bathing suit at the end of the dive?) the hood induces a truly unique combination of claustrophobia, heat exhaustion and nausea as soon I pull it over my head and the gloves make it that much harder to deal with the rest of my diving gear. a heck of lot of wetsuit also requires a heck of a lot more weight to counteract the buoyancy (30 pounds in my case). even after all that there's still no getting around it --- the water is cold cold cold. and then there's the waves, which can make getting into and out of the water exhausting and dangerous and turn being in the water into a slow motion amusement ride that I find not in the least bit amusing.
so why did this dive come off so well? first off, point lobos is the perfect dive site for someone, like me, who is a little out of their element in cold water. the water is the same temperature as the rest of monterey bay, but the cove is almost completely protected from surge and waves. the entry point into the water is a little ramp off the parking lot which limits the distance that the dive gear has to be dragged. and best of all, the rock walls of the cove are covered in sea creatures so there's almost no swim out before the fun begins.
on the shore, sweating inside my wetsuit and struggling with the weight and details of even the simplest gear, I felt progressively more anxious and incompetent, the actual dive loomed like a dentist appointment, something to be endured. but underwater, the everything was wonderful and new. the sand was made of sparkling crushed bits of shell, the rocks were covered with lacy lavender rock weed, the kelp danced underwater in time to the ocean's invisible music, abalone shells flashed on the bottom like discarded treasure. each anemone, each starfish, each snail clinging to a strand of kelp, was a small revelation. which. come to mention it, is why I think diving is so awesome in the first place.
richard & I saw a very cool decorator crab doing its creepy alien walk on the tips of his claws followed by a smooth floating descent off the edge of a tiny underwater cliff; also a live abalone wedged deep in a crevice between two rocks; a school of blue rockfish silhouetted against the kelp canopy overhead; and a fish with perfectly camouflaged lavender, brown and white markings that richard probably knows the name of.
secondly, the dive went well because of richard's (**) willingness to engage in 'public service diving' with a far less experienced and occasionally downright spastic dive buddy. he not only drove out to santa cruz to pick me up, then all the way down past monterey to point lobos, he also drove back from point lobos to a dive shop in monterey to get a fax of my diving certification because I left my cert card in wisconsin. even under the best of circumstances cold water diving is still a struggle for me. my inability to deal with even the most basic gear, like my mask and fins, did not exactly inspire confidence and I can imagine that my habit of following richard so closely that I bump into his fins at ten minute intervals might be just a tad irritating. (I may not be able to rescue richard if something should happen, but at least I'll be right there to watch him drown.) not only was richard willing to put up with me, as an added bonus dive buddy feature he brought along his slick underwater camera so I'll finally get to see just how stylish that mask and hooded wetsuit look under water.
I even managed to get back to shore under my own power, even with a bit of a kelp crawl and some surface swimming on the return journey. I find diving, especially in cold water, to be peculiarly exhausting. swimming on the surface with all that gear turns out to be more like weightlifting than swimming. diving dehydrates me from the inside out. it's water water everywhere and most definitely not a drop to drink --- the air in the tank is so dry it makes my lungs and throat feel crunchy. and there's no way around it, diving in cold water makes me cold, my lips cold, my forehead cold, my feet and hands and arms and legs cold, especially when the water flows into the wetsuit with a sudden gush. I was feeling wonky by the time we got all the gear back into the (warm!) car. wonkiness turned into full blown sea/car sickness by the time I got back to santa cruz. the usual cure, tea and sleep, worked fine --- I felt much better after spending the afternoon napping in the shade on the deck all afternoon.
richard, on the other hand, drove back to mountain view and went to work.
a poem, a stink, a grating noise
I just started reading John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. He includes some nice descriptions of the marine life in the bay, especially in the great tidal pool on monterey point. (Steinbeck seems to know his stuff --- I'm only about 20 pages into it and he's already mentioned nudibranchs twice.)
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and the scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses.
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is now a tourist trap, a two line poem inside a greeting card, an entirely different stink. Souvenirs have trumped sardines.
the advantages of dial-up
the best thing about using a dial-up internet connection is that it takes the edge off of my obsession with google news. I've only been checking it about 4 times a day.
as far as I can tell, all of the political news these days falls into two categories: "boy, does this ever suck" and "I told you so." the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in iraq is clearly an "I told you so," as is the the bush adminstration's blatant abuse of the information gathered by various intelligence agencies. the lack of response on the part of the american public, on the other hand, is a "boy, does this ever suck." the daily suffering of the iraqi people under occupation, the decreasing possibility of a rapid transition to a civil society, the increasing level of violence and the increasing cost in human lives and resources of a hostile occupation of iraq: "boy does this ever suck" and "I told you so" at the same time. (and as for my professional opinion of the looming federal deficit, now estimated at $450 billion, it goes beyond "I told you so" into the realm of "well, duh.")
for the last word in the "I told you so" dept., check out the statement made on January 24, 2003 by a group of Japanese and international specialists on the U.S. occupation of Japan. Entitled "U.S. Plans for War and Occupation are a Historical Mistake" the statement detailed the reasons that the occupation of and the establishment of viable civil society in Iraq would be a much more difficult task than the post WWII occupation of Japan. Here are a few excerpts:
They were right on most all of their points, and boy, it really sucks.
Bush shifts the blame for his Iraq whopper. By William Saletan
When George W. Bush ran for president, one of his big selling points was responsibility. Americans were tired of Bill Clinton's fudges and legalisms. They were tired of hearing that the latest falsehood was part of a larger truth, or that it was OK because the president had attributed it to somebody else, or that the country should "move on." Bush promised to end all that. He promised an "era of responsibility" in which leaders and citizens would no longer "blame somebody else."
Pattern of Corruption by Paul Krugman
The story of how the threat from Iraq's alleged W.M.D.'s was hyped is now, finally, coming out. But let's not forget the persistent claim that Saddam was allied with Al Qaeda, which allowed the hawks to pretend that the Iraq war had something to do with fighting terrorism.
What Liberal Media? this sunday's doonesbury is great.
what have I done since my last entry on 04.07.03?
are you cool one day, a dork the next?
do you find yourself switching between social interaction paradigms, hanging with the cool crowd for a while, then taking refuge in online role-playing games when no one is around? do you feel like you need to conceal parts of yourself, being careful to not let on that you have a social life when you're at work, never mentioning your latest hack at the bar? are you constantly pulled in different directions, never quite sure where you fit in?
you (or someone you love) might be bisocial.
answers to frequently asked questions about bisociality.
find the missing WMDs with google
try this --- go to google, type in weapons of mass destruction and hit "I'm feeling lucky."
chances are, you'll end up at a. r. cox's brilliant 404 error page.
welcome to civilization
I went to the santa cruz public library to get a new card and grab a few novels. the garfield park branch is a three blocks from the ocean and looks like a jungian archetype of a public library in miniature, a stately brick building with columns and steps out fronts built at 2/3 scale. (it would fit in perfectly at portmeirion.) inside it was filled with late afternoon light and last minute patrons. the top of the half-height shelves of juvenile and teen fiction displayed summer reading suggestions from mission junior high and a poster inviting you to help build a papier mache model of the space shuttle on thursday afternoons (wear work clothes because it's a messy project.) a job board lists the names of teenagers available to babysit, walk dogs, and mow lawns this summer. and you can take a free bookmark made out of a glossy magazine picture and yarn home with you.
for 2 dollars the librarian reissued my card. later she helped me find a book I was looking for (jack gantos' new autobiography hole in my life which had been temporarily reshelved with the mission jr high summer reading) and put in a request for another book (kathe koja's buddha boy) from a different branch. as I stood waiting for my stack of books to be checked out (due back july 14) I decided that the inside of a public library is the most civilized place on the earth.
several years ago at christmastime bill & I had the misfortune of attempting some last minute shopping at the "stamford town center," the mall near my parents' house in stamford ct. the phrase "welcome to civilization" was painted in small capital letters on the glass doors leading from the parking lot into the mall. in the same way that the inclusion of the word 'science' in the title of a discipline indicates that the discipline is not in fact a science, institutions which pronounce themselves to be 'civilization' most surely are not.
visit beautiful santa cruz
the second best thing about having friends come out to santa cruz is that it gets me out from behind my laptop, into the woods and onto the beach. saturday's visitor was richard "it's only a small alp, so we're going to climb it twice" dearden, so we started off by hiking through the ucsc campus and then down into the lower section of henry cowell state park. then after the hike we went down to the beach at natural bridges state park and boogie boarded and body surfed in the waves.
the waves were dark with seaweed which my (incredibly useless) two piece 'tankini' collected in large quantities. I finally gave up trying to remove the seaweed and decided to go for the little mermaid look. I think I ended up with how the little mermaid would look if she washed up on the shore with a really bad hangover after a hard night of drinking during a tropical storm. I got thrashed by the waves in several new ways, including having the boogie board jammed into my abdomen, and had a blast anyway. but maybe the best part was getting to watch richard alternately getting thrashed by the waves and skidding triumphantly onto the shore.
robin & veronique came out on sunday and stayed on til monday. we went hiking in the upper section of henry cowell where the big redwoods still stand. it was my first visit to the 'cathedral redwoods,' a space formed by a large circle of trees that are the scions of a long departed giant, with an echoing circle of the blue sky still visible above and the transcendent light of sun bending and weaving softly down through the trees. after hiking, we went downtown for dinner at the saturn cafe. then after a brief, very chilly walk on the pier we retreated back home to the couch.
meanwhile, while I was off hiking and boogie boarding, bill was working --- he figures that working is actually less work than having fun.
ps: the first best thing about having friends come out to santa cruz is that I get to see my friends.
At Baltimore Washington International airport today, an individual, later discovered to be a public school teacher, was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a protractor, a compass & a graphical calculator.
(really bad puns courtesy of paul super)
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