Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Few Final Thoughts on Portland

The more I'm in Sacramento, the more I like Portland. It's a prettier place, my skin doesn't dry out so much, and there's more to do. After all, Sacramento's main tourist attractions(!) are the State Capitol and the Railroad Museum. Oh, gee, we could go to San Francisco and ride a cable car and go to Golden Gate Park and Coit Tower--or we could go to the Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Not much of a contest.

Anyway, we noted that the housing in all but the most remote suburbs and a few infill projects is much older than the housing in Sacramento. I wondered why and sent off a request for information from the Sacramento Public Library's AskUs email reference service. My working hypothesis was that Portland had a much larger population much earlier and, consequently, more housing in the early years of the 20th century. The wonderful James at AskUs sent me the population figures and on reading them, I discovered that I was right. While Sacramento now has a population of more than 400,000 souls, the population was only about 80,000 in 1940. In 1940, Portland's population just above 300,000, and it has grown to 529,000 in 2009. Unfortunately I'm perfectly willing to give up crown molding and other evidence of "charm" for adequate plumbing, wiring, and sliders leading from the living room to the garden. (Prior to the 1920s the back yard was the midden, which is why it's off the back porch, with no window out to the yard. Only the servants' quarters looked out on the garbage pile.) I even want a dishwasher, though it means that I will permanently lose another skill, this time the ability to do all the dishes from a dinner party for four at one time, stacking plates, glasses and cooking pots into a single dish drainer.

Today would have been my mother's 80th birthday.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

So Lazy

I haven't blogged for a month. And it's not as if nothing happened--it's just that I was too lazy to write about it. The weather has been pretty normal for fall here--warm to hot some days, cooler others. But we also had an unusual storm, the remnants of a cyclone, that dumped three inches of rain on Sacramento in a couple of days, and 40 mph winds. That's not much for most places, but for Sacramento--a desert climate--it's major. The plants loved it and so did the humans, mostly. The cats were split, with Emma sitting in the window to get the full picture, while Dash retreated to the Panic Room (linen closet) for the duration. Dash is only three, so his experience has been of drought; a lot of rain is very strange for him.

Fall here also means that some of the spring bloomers bloom again. The roses, which took a break during the heat of the summer, are putting out a few tentative blooms, and if the weather is moderate (doesn't turn too cold), they should bloom until mid-December. Pelargoniums are also in bloom, but the hardy geraniums appear to be going dormant. I'm experimenting with diascia, which I grew in Oakland. It bloomed for months there, but here not so much. In fact, it keels over dead in the heat--of May! I purchased one plant and am going to see if it does better in the fall to spring--as a cool season bloomer.

The trees have been turning color. J and I took a drive to the foothills last weekend, hoping to see some fall color. We did--green and brown. Most foothill natives are either evergreen or oaks, and oak leaves just turn brown and fall off the tree. (I know this well, as I have an oak tree in the back yard and have been sweeping up oak leaves and picking them out
of the plant pots for several weeks now.) But I did visit Georgetown for the very first time, and determined that I wouldn't want to have to commute from there to Sacramento. The road out is winding and narrow, and would be less than enjoyable in the dark. It's a pretty drive though, on Sunday afternoon, with little traffic and no deadline.

I also replanted the same section of the back yard that I replanted last October. I wasn't happy with it again, so I ripped it out and started over. This year's version has retained the tree mallow from last year (which suffered some damage in the storm), which has been joined by a fringe flower, butterfly bush, ceanothus and cistus. I wonder if people will starting putting money on whether I tear out this incarnation next year.

On the various issues of the day:

1. I'm amazed that we're getting such a lousy health insurance reform. It's not even going to cover everyone, and it's going to provide more subsidies to the health insurance industry (which hasn't done an exactly stellar job to date). What are these people thinking? I know, it's all about the campaign contributions, but do the "moderate" Democrats and President Obama have to be so obvious about it?

2. Afghanistan. Sending more troops is likely to strengthen the Taliban. Worked for the Soviets--now we can do it too.

3. Our local planning administration gave the go-ahead to a Nestle bottled water plant, which will take our tap water (yes, tap water), pay industrial rates for it (very cheap), and then re-sell it to us for premium prices. As it turns out, the administration fast-tracked the process and no one found out what had happened until the facility was half-built. Aside from the fact that we're on water restrictions because of the drought, the bottled water "industry" is
one of the most worthless wastes of money ever conceived. Right up there with Credit Default Swaps. Even the little town of McCloud managed to keep Nestle out. We'll probably end up doing what Bolivia did to get rid of Bechtel--pay them money to leave. Bolivia at least had the excuse that the World Bank forced them to do it. And Sacramento is a world-class city. Uh huh.