Friday, August 29, 2008

Why I Will (Probably) Vote for Obama

A friend telephoned last night, just before Obama spoke at the convention. I mentioned that I thought it was interesting that people would assume that those who would take race into account in their decision-making would therefore vote against Obama. I am taking race into account, and that means that I am more likely to vote for him than I would for a white candidate who took the same positions. (It should be noted, of course, that I come from the left and that I'd be more likely to vote for McKinney or Nader if I don't vote for Obama. McCain is not an option.)

In 1992 I voted for Bill Clinton. It was the first and only time I voted for him. I knew that he'd most likely renege on the important positions, and he did. Within weeks of taking office he was already returning the Haitian refugees to certain death. And from there it just got worse.

And unlike Bill Clinton, who graciously waited until after the election, Obama is already backsliding. He said that he would get us out of Iraq. Now he will--someday. He has already crawled into bed with the Wall Street boys who, in case he hasn't noticed, did silly, stupid things that have made a complete hash of the economy. Instead of being brave enough to explain that offshore oil-drilling will have a negligible effect on oil prices, and that we could save more oil than we could ever produce if we just increased the fuel-efficiency of the cars on our roads, he now thinks that drilling might be a good idea. (C'mon folks, my car gets almost 40mpg on the highway, and it's 10 years old!) A lot of his policies look like warmed-over Clinton, but without the bubbles and the high-value dollar to pull it off.

But he is the first African-American candidate selected by a major party. And that means something beyond the weakness of his positions and his willingness to keep the corporate interests happy. That the United States might elect an African-American president means that, in some small way, we are confronting the racism that is central to the construction of our national identity. But I don't expect that I'll be chattering on about how much I like his policies. Demonstrating against them is a lot more likely.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Food and the Democrats

I ran across this in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle and was mightily amused. I've always known that the quality of the food at an Democratic Party event is entirely determined by the cost of the event for the attendees. The rubber chicken dinner costs $50-75. The chips and cheese event is $25-40. That's why I never go to any Democratic Party event that I can afford--the food is bound to be awful.

Many years ago, a friend asked me if I planned to attend the victory party for a local candidate for Congress. I declined, noting that it was a free event and that the food table would be graced with stale chips and old salsa. The next morning my friend telephoned to tell me that he thought of me every time he looked at the food table. Yup. Stale chips. Old salsa.

On Vacation

Last week J and I made a short trip to Lake Tahoe, where we camped, walked and lazed on the beach. J took some really good lake pictures (although I think it may be hard to take a bad picture of Lake Tahoe). At left is one of my favorites.

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place, but very crowded. It's a relatively easy drive up two highways--Interstate 80 to the north side of the lake and Highway 50 to the south side--so people can come for the weekend. Further a huge percentage of the basin is in private hands, so the area available for public use is fairly small. (There are no public campgrounds, for instance, on the north end of the Lake at all. All camping is on the less elite south end.)

Now that we have a digital camera, I can put up pictures all by myself. It used to be that I'd have to ask J to scan them for me, but the digital camera and Blogger make it easy for a technopeasant to post photographs to her heart's content. So here's a picture of the pretty beach at D.L. Bliss State Park. This one is down a long, steep flight of stairs, so it's not good for long-term lounging with beach chairs, snacks, books and so on.

So J and I spent our beach-lounging time at Lester Beach, where we could easily carry all of our equipment to the beach. Much time was spent reading magazines (he the
Linux Journal, she Elle, Vogue and various house magazines). Lest you misapprehend and conclude that the reading of fashion magazines indicates any fashion sense on my part, I present this picture to disabuse you of that notion. (We were at Balancing Rock, a short walk from the road at Bliss.) I would easily make Mr. Blackwell's Worst Dressed list, had he ever heard of me.

Wildflowers at Lake Tahoe are best in July. The short summer season begins in June and lasts until mid-September. By the end of September most years, Tahoe has had a hard freeze and the first snow often falls by the beginning of October. So wildflowers sprout grow, flower and die within just a few weeks. By the middle of August many flowers have already gone to seed. But J, using the really cool flower setting on the aforementioned camera, was able to capture a few of the remaining flowers near the seasonal creeks that still had water. This is one of the remaining columbine.

Several flower varieties near this spot had already gone to seed, and we saw the remains of meadow rue (a columbine relative) as well. We went to the Visitor Center at Bliss and looked through the flower books to identify some of the common flowers we saw there. Unfortunately I didn't write down their names, so I must either present unidentified common plants and expose my ignorance to the millions or leave these pictures unpublished.

The yellow-flowered plant is common; it grows in open ground and in the rock crevices along the highway all over the Tahoe area. I was able to find it in one of the wildflower books easily, but couldn't remember what it was called.
Through the magic of the Internet, however, I was able to quickly determine that it's buckwheat.

The picture of Emerald Bay was taken when we walked back up from Vikingsholm, an old house that is now a Tahoe tourist attraction. It's a long walk back up and I demanded that we stop several times. J used the rest stops as an opportunity to take pictures. Emerald Bay is pretty, but the motorized boats
give the water a sheen that is not natural.

And no camping trip would be complete without the obligatory picture of me drinking coffee in the tent. The tradition began early in our marriage, when I refused to get up until it was no longer freezing. J would bring me my coffee in the tent, in the hope that it would encourage me to get up. He later took a picture of me as I drank coffee in the tent so, were I to search through our old pictures, I could trace the development of my wrinkles and grey hair through the coffee in the tent photographs.
Here's the latest.

We came home to two cats who seemed to have done quite well without us, thank you. In fact, I think they might have enjoyed spending time with the Exploitable Teenager we hire to take care of them when we're away more than they enjoy spending time with us.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


August is usually a hard time in the garden. In mine there's lots of work to do, as both the privet and the eucalyptus shed constantly. So while other gardeners are basking in the late summer sun and watching their summer-bloomers, I'm raking leaves and picking plant debris out of the pots. Some plants--the fuschias and flowering maples, in particular--never stopped blooming, but others--the dianthus and campanula come to mind--have re-started. This is common in the Valley. Plants go dormant in the heat of summer and then we have a "second spring" in the fall. What's unusual this year is that it's come in August instead of September. So we may have an early fall. Yes! Yes!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'm, Like, Totally Ready to Lead

The best line of the whole campaign. And how could we have known it would be spoken by Paris Hilton?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

For Emma

After I posted on Dashiell's birthday yesterday, Emma reminded me that I had posted nothing for her birthday at all and that, if I did not recognize her in some way she would write her own birthday post. Then everyone would think I was one of those people who wrote blog posts as the cat. So here's Emma's post. She was six on April 1. And here's her picture.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Room with a View

Here's the view from my spot on the sofa, looking out the slider to my back patio. Now you know why we live here. J's chair is set across from the sofa, so he gets a clear view of my potting area. And since I fling dirt far and wide, don't stack my unused pots neatly and drop empty plastic pots on the ground, it's not one of those Martha Stewart-like potting areas. When I emerge from it, in fact, I look a little like Pig Pen.

And here's another picture. Of course I vacuumed the rug before I took it. And swept the patio too.

A Mighty Oak in Training

We have been thinking for some time that the northeast corner of the front yard should have a large tree. Most of the time a yard doesn't need shade on the northeast side. But this corner gets very hot in the summer -- I guess it's all the asphalt. We hadn't gone very far in our planning, though, as this section is two sections away from the next to be planted. But then this little oak sprout appeared. We're going to leave it alone for the next year and see how it does. If it makes it, we'll have to leave the ivy and the juniper as they are, since oaks do not flourish will summer irrigation. No fancy planting under them.

My only trepidation is that it may be a Valley Oak which, while apparently resistant to Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, is one of the messiest oaks around. The one in our back yard drops litter all year, and that's before it sheds its leaves. It's not a tree for the tidy.

Happy Birthday, Dashiell

Today is Dashiell's second birthday. Adopted from the Sacramento SPCA when he was just eight weeks, he moved in and demonstrated in oh so many ways why he was called "Boss" by the shelter staff. I haven't been out to get his present, but I think we'll try him on a laser light. He really needs to get more exercise, as he is now a robust 14 pounds.