Scottish Independence

To all of our dear friends in Scotland, in the wake of Brexit, you know what happens next:

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(That’s a “YES to Scottish Independence” flag, in case you missed it.)

-D & T

Posted in In Retrospect, Rant | 1 Comment

…Otherwise, by Jane Kenyon

Wasa Stacks 2L and A Wedding 22Tanita and Ashley, in the wild


~ by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Skyway Drive 373Skyway Drive 372Skyway Drive 375

This weekend, we celebrated a life, gathered with loud friends, argued about social movements, and played cards with a fancy deck. It might have been otherwise. We ate sweet, soft, summer fruit, wore disreputable pajamas, contemplated brushing our hair, and didn’t. We picked up and discarded books, made vegeburgers, watered the plants, ate cheap chocolate, and drank in the breeze. It might have been otherwise.

This morning, we woke up.

Grace and gratitude for simple gifts.

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FauxOreos, Redux

Back in 2010 we made fauxoreos, and don’t know why we haven’t made them since. Possibly because they’re so fabulously addictive?

Well, we decided that, rather than baking a carrot cake (which seems to be the most favorite thing of all things, at D’s work), we’d try the oreos again. We have decided that they are so awesome that they need to leave the house first thing tomorrow, if they survive that long (they will – there’s no way we can eat more than a few bites and stay sensible about sugar intake).

Homemade Oreos 2.06

We had set out to roll these out as we did last time, but D wasn’t happy with them being oval for some reason (he’d forgotten that last time we didn’t roll them out, but smooshed them with the bench scraper – the bench scraper that’s gotten lost somewhere along the way, and was perfect for smooshing things). So, instead, we made the best use of our sushi press/mold ever, and used it as the thickness guide for rolling these out to a perfect 1/4 inch thickness.

Homemade Oreos 2.14

Of course, in addition to the more reasonably-sized oreos, D had to make one that’s about 6 inches in diameter. Just because. And then we got down to the icing things portion of the exercise, and realized that we didn’t have any icing sugar in the house … so we used granulated instead, sent for a spin through the cuisinart for long enough to at least be finely ground.

Homemade Oreos 2.17

Tomorrow morning, some of these will be going to the Honda dealer in Vacaville, because they’ve been so good to us. Some others will be going to D’s work, possibly to be handed out to a few special people, ’cause there really aren’t all that many in this batch. As to the huge one … we’re not sure. That may just have to stay home.

-D & T

Posted in Baking | 1 Comment

Marauding Squirrel

Skyway Drive 355

Yesterday afternoon, we were happily reading away when we heard a scritch-scritch noise. Looking out our sliding-glass door onto the deck, we saw a squirrel. This squirrel was in the process of amputating our sunflower. It then carried it off to who knows where.

Squirrels apparently like sunflowers. Not quite what we were anticipating when letting it grow.

-D & T

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Automobile Woes

Around about October or November of last year, our 2012 Honda Insight started acting strangely, so we took it into the shop. Nothing. Further on in November, the check engine light came on, so I took it in and they topped up the oil, which it had apparently been burning. Rinse, repeat, add in about 8 quarts of oil added over the next 5 months and now … well.

Two weeks ago, we suddenly lost power while getting onto the freeway, all sorts of lights warning us that all manner of systems had trouble. So, we limped home, and I took it to the dealer the next morning. After waiting about for about an hour, the mechanic comes out holding a spark plug, with an odd look on his face. The spark plug is blackened and missing the little metal arm that actually makes the spark gap.

Skyway Drive 04

So, add a new plug and it works nicely for a few weeks, then last night on the drive home it was kind of stuttering – almost as if I were running over a series of small potholes. This morning I’d planned to take it into the dealer and have them check it, but before I was even off of our street the warning lights started, so I returned home, talked with T., and headed to the dealer to trade this thing in.

Click through to the video for the whole blurry experience.

We now have a shiny new Honda HR-V, EX model, all-wheel drive. It feels like an SUV when you’re in it, and it looks kinda like an SUV, but then it’s able to be parked in regular spaces. We’d been eyeing it for a possibility, talking over getting rid of the Insight, and today was the day for it.

Skyway Drive 369

Hope you’re all well out there in the internet world.


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They’re baaaack….

Despite the perception of turkeys as Thanksgiving beasties, they’re really showing off those traditional tail-feathers in mid-to-late Spring. They’re noisy and twitchy and generally a mess, as most grooms are.

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Meanwhile, the intermittent rains keep are keeping things gorgeously, almost historically (hysterically?) green — and we find ourselves torn — wanting to go outside and revel in all the color, while knowing full well we’ll end up sneezing and wheezing and regretting the whole thing. Life with seasonal allergies; life in California. Life in the Spring.

Sonoma County 187

Carpe diem.

Posted in California, Life | 1 Comment

Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow and plough…


Pied Beauty

~ by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Skyway Drive 365

    Glory be to God for dappled things—

        For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

            For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

        Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

            And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spáre, strange;

        Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)

            With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;

    He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:

                                                Práise hím.

Walnut Creek 2

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Skyway Drive 356


First published in 1918, the above poem can be found in:

  • Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Gerard Manley Hopkins. Catherine Phillips, ed.
    New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  • Harmon, William, ed. The Classic Hundred Poems (Second Edition).
    New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
  • Skyway Drive 367

    Happy National Poetry Month!

    Posted in California, Life | Leave a comment

    ‘I’ll to thee a Simnell bring,’ Part i

    A great deal can change in a short time. Contracts can be changed, lives or health can be lost, and vacation plans altered mid-stride. We’ve all lived it.

    What’s weird is how rarely that impacts our daily world. Most of the time, things change realllllly slowly. At the speed of glacial snails. We’re dying for Something To Happen, and …nothing much does. That, too, is life.

    Culinarily, change is never swift. A recipe from the 15th century still today can bear the echo of its roots. Take, for example, the Simnel cake. This is an old, old English Easter cake, mentioned in a 17th century Herrick (1591-1674) poem from 1648. ‘I’ll to thee a Simnell bring ‘Gainst thou go’st a mothering, So that, when she blesseth thee, Half thou’lt give to me.’ The narrator (we assume Robert Herrick) confides that he’ll bring his friend a Simnel cake, so that, on the festival day of Mothering Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday of Lent, he’ll receive half of her blessing. Interestingly, Mothering Sunday can allegedly be traced back to the Greeks celebrating a three-day festival of the goddess Cybele, mother of all gods. Rather than celebrating motherhood, the festival apparently celebrates the Mother Church. Used as part of Mothering Sunday celebrations through Britain and beyond, it’s a specialty because Mothering Sunday, or “Refreshment Sunday” as it’s also called, relaxes the strict fasting rules for Lent. Thus: cake!

    Simnel Cake 1

    Sounds good to us.

    More information we ferreted out: the word simnel is from Old French simenel, or spelled seminel, based on Latin simila, meaning fine flour. In Greek semidalis means finest wheaten flour, and an old Assyrian word, samīdu and the Syriac word sĕmīdā, mean fine meal. (Semolina, anyone? It’s the same root. Also semmel in German means a bread roll.) Thus, we know that this Simnel cake is made with finely milled flour, probably white, or as close to white as a household could get. It was studded with dried fruits – what was available at the beginning of Spring, leftover from winter – and heavily seasoned. Some recipes call for it being both boiled AND baked. Of course, boiling is traditional for many Scottish cakes, as boiling was all some households had. Few working people had ovens in the 18th-19th century, and cooked in a kettle over a fire, or on a hearth. However, there’s a goofy legend attached to this — a man called Simon and his wife Nell argued over whether the cake for Mothering Sunday should be baked or boiled. Too keep peace, they did both, so the cake was named after both of them: Sim-Nell. Aaand, we don’t believe that at all, but it’s convenient fiction to explain why some recipes call for both methods of cookery.

    Our first shot at this cake comes from England. We used the hand-written recipe recorded between 1705 and 1726 blogged at Cooking in the Archives. The recipe is held at the University of Pennsylvania library, and calls for ingredients like “a peck of flour” “a race of Ginger” “Balme,” which was the wild yeast found floating atop fermenting beer, and “sack,” which is kind of like sherry. We didn’t have spirits or fermenting anything in the house, so skipped that step. We noticed that this old recipe did not call for marzipan or peel or anything like more modern Simnel recipes call for, but we made sure to honor the “fine flour” aspect of it by using a strong white bread flour. We substituted the “boyl” – er, boiling for a long, slow rise in a slightly warmed oven. This was a necessity, as it’s still pretty cool here of an afternoon and evening, and the nights are crisp, and this bread just didn’t otherwise want to raise. This could also be blamed on the absolute stuffing of raisins and currants. This stuff is LOADED.

    Simnel Cake 3

    Posted in Baking | Leave a comment

    Rode hard, put up wet, still smiling

    Friends in the East are having very different weather than ours today. “Oh, spring has sprung,” one said Tuesday. “The rest is just details.” Another crowed on her blog the other day, “The air is glorious like wine! Saw my first tiger swallowtail, and all the frogs are singing!”

    Our friends are reveling in their gardens, sitting on front stoops with cider and books, and stretching their limbs in the sun. “Must be nice,” we sigh, as another gust of wiiiind slaps a handful of rain into our faces, but then we look over our shoulders nervously. We are NOT, repeat, NOT tired of the rain. No, no! Californians who whine are subject to lightning strikes about the head and shoulders, so we are NOT whining, not when we’ve finally seen a light at the end (well, the beginning of the end) of the nastiest drought tunnel in years. Even in the face of a potential Category 3 storm (the weather person who said this was met with bewildered, “What?” faces), we are sucking it up to relearn appropriate rain behavior. We first met this in Seattle, and really learned the ropes in Scotland. The Just Do It school of rainy weather behavior is “if you let the rain chase you indoors, you’ll never come out again ’til July,” so we’re managing the trick of being out/about anyway when we’d rather stay in and read and bake and schlepp around the house. One of the ways we keep moving, as Lake Shasta and the reservoirs, creeks and rivers are filling – or in poor Sebastopol/Guerneville/Monte Rio’s case, overfilling AGAIN – is to step outside and remember one of the ten thousand reasons to be happy right now.

    So, go outside. We’ll wait.

    You out there? Good. Listen.

    In the daytime, in between the soughing of the wind and the plink and prickle of raindrops against the earth (and the unfortunate wail of sirens, as people collide and slide across the road) you can hear something else. Birdsong. Millions of birds, tweeting and squeaking and singing. And, of an evening, you can hear this:

    Leoni Meadows 1

    Okay, this is two hours from our house, on the edge of a meadow facing a great thousand acre swath of woods, true, but the frogs are singing at our house, too- even in the damp and cold and wet (why would that make a difference to them??) – singing. Singing aloud – I’d say with joy, but no point in waxing ridiculous; they’re singing aloud with an “I’m an available mate” tune going on. 😈 It’s what Spring is all about.

    As the traffic snarls and you watch the eejits in front of you speed, then hydroplane and fishtail up the road (note to people who own pickups – in high wind and rain, put something in the truck bed; didn’t they tell you that in Driver’s Ed???), remember the birds. Remember the frogs. Drive carefully, stay out of the wind, if you can, and remember to take a little bit to listen – and be grateful.

    Happy storm weekend.

    Pleasant Hill466

    Posted in California, Life | 1 Comment

    Old Code Lives On

    Stirling 307Occasionally I remember how old I am. Thinking about how I got into computer programming, I usually tell the story about how I was working doing data entry and got tired of the repetitive nature of the job, so automated a piece of it and ended up drawing the attention of the IT department as a result. (I still keep in contact with that guy, 20 years later.) Thinking about it, though, I realized that my start was a lot earlier than that. I realized this when reading an article on The Law of Accelerating Returns. Something in there struck me as being … well, wrong.

    The movie Back to the Future came out in 1985, and “the past” took place in 1955. In the movie, when Michael J. Fox went back to 1955, he was caught off-guard by the newness of TVs, the prices of soda, the lack of love for shrill electric guitar, and the variation in slang. It was a different world, yes—but if the movie were made today and the past took place in 1985, the movie could have had much more fun with much bigger differences. The character would be in a time before personal computers, internet, or cell phones—today’s Marty McFly, a teenager born in the late 90s, would be much more out of place in 1985 than the movie’s Marty McFly was in 1955.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but my first DOS-based computer resembled something like the PC3 “LunchBox” Portable Computer, and came to me in something like 1984. Of course, somewhere around the same time we were playing with the Commodore Vic-20 (came out in 1981), Commodore 64 (1982), and the Commodore 128 (1985). So, no, going back to 1985 wouldn’t be all that shocking. Yes, it’d be annoying to have to use a card catalog in order to find something, rather than asking teh interwebs. It’d also be strange not to have call waiting, or cell phones, but I can’t say that it’d be particularly troublesome overall. Nor can I really say the world was all that much different.

    Stirling 308I got to thinking about how long I’ve been writing software (this time) because I’d been asked to pull together some screenshots and instructions for a database application I built back in 1998. This application is still running, 18 years later, and still the “system of record” for the company. This and a couple other systems I’ve written are still ticking over in some form or another (this one’s running on a virtual machine just to keep it alive, because nobody can get the software any more, and nobody really knows how to replace it – I had to install an older development tool just to convert it to what it would have been in 2003’s format so that I could convert it to the current format and have a look through things.).

    In any event, I think it’s important to point out that yes, the rate of technological change is ever-increasing. On the other hand, there are these bedrock systems which keep on running that nobody is willing to replace because they aren’t broken – they still do their job just fine, and there really is no need to change them. (Have a look at this PCWorld article, for instance.) In parallel with these systems, old code keeps on ticking over, and continues to work (e.g., just about the entire Banking sector of the UK runs on COBOL, or the VA Hospital’s Electronic Medical Records system is .NET wrapped around Java wrapped around Delphi wrapped around a file-based storage system – so, your medical record is just a text file somewhere, when all’s said and done). Other, operating-system type foundations have also not shifted – there really are only 2 operating systems in use today, *NIX and Windows NT – and those have been around for decades – everything added to them is just window-dressing.

    It’s only the surface of things which has really shifted – the core remains as it was 20 or even 40 years ago. Yes, computers are much faster. Yes, computers are way smaller, and in seemingly everything. But I just don’t see the level of technological change being all that huge even now, nor do I think it’s changing as rapidly as Kurzweil thinks. Or, rather, I don’t think that the entire ecosystem changes as rapidly as all that – it’s that the outliers are arriving faster, but their adoption depends upon their incorporation into the devices and technologies we already use, which is necessarily slowed by our very humanity.

    Dolomites D 300So. Take the time to look back at all the computing you’ve done, and realize how much things haven’t changed, despite the new names and different packages. Ignore the window-dressing and really think about the technology and you may be surprised at how, really, things haven’t changed. Sure, if they implanted teh interwebs into your head you’d be hugely changed – and, yes, they’re working on that somewhere – but do we really see it happening in our lifetimes? I really don’t think so, because I really think that the rate of change is not solely governed by tech, but by the economics of the matter, and by our ability to incorporate that change.


    Posted in Miscellany, Rant | 1 Comment