Friday, March 27

Is it just me…?

…or does everyone get excited
when their kitchen gets a
brand new sponge?

Thursday, March 26

Pray for Rain

Summer’s heat is coming. Dread accompanies its arrival.

Articles in the local papers warn of a possibly devastating summer due to California’s continuing drought. Wildfires of unprecedented intensity are possible. This means more to me than it does to most people since I experienced what is called the most devastating wildfire in California’s history.

The Harlow Fire happened in 1961 and was described by the Sierra Star, our local paper, as “the fastest burning fire in California history.…” It destroyed 18,000 acres in two hours and raced up the back of the mountain we lived on at almost fifty miles per hour. When it was finished, it had burned 43,000 acres.
Browning has already started

At the time I worked at TV channel 47 and was living in an apartment in Fresno. From there I could see the huge pall of smoke topped by an enormous cumulous cloud. At night the sky glowed. My parents showed up at my apartment after dark in their old 1940 Ford flatbed truck which carried the few things they could grab from the house before flames chased them away.

The following morning Dad and I headed up the hill, got through the roadblock south of Coarsegold, and drove down the little dirt road to where we expected to see the ruins of our house. Miraculously, the house survived because a neighbor had used a garden hoe to clear away a few weeds nearby. Apparently he had run through the neighborhood right after my parents left. We were eternally grateful to him, for sure! Dad and I then turned our attention to putting out the many small spots that were still burning. I was wearing shoes that had a loose fit at the top (they were called Desert Boots, I think—very stylish at the time) and stepped onto a spot that sank, plunging my foot down into smoldering embers. I pulled my foot up, filling the shoe with hot stuff. That really hurt and took awhile to heal.

The air was barely breathable. Noise from fire trucks, airplanes, helicopters and chainsaws added to the hellishness of the scene. Not a stick had escaped the inferno that had been raging only hours earlier.

That was over fifty years ago. Now we are preparing for a repeat of that awful time by clearing ground cover for at least a hundred feet around our buildings. We have few vulnerable trees close by, being widely spaced and trimmed of any low branches. But there’s always more to do, which we will get done as soon as we can.

Adding to our protection is a large-diameter pipe coming down the hill from our two 5,000-gallon water tanks. Our hundred-foot fire hose will provide some protection, or at least can refill the tank of any fire truck that happens by. Current policy of Cal Fire is to protect any houses whose owners have obviously prepared for fire; if owners neglected to do so, the firefighters will move on.

Wish us luck. Oh, and pray for rain!

Wednesday, March 25


We were in some heavy traffic in north Fresno, and had plenty of time to look around as we crept along behind a bus. I noticed a sign on the back of the bus that said, “This vehicle stops at all railway crossings.” What got my attention was the period at the end of the statement. When’s the last time you encountered a public warning or notice that ended with a period? Is there a new guy or gal who’s writing this stuff? Someone who actually went to complete-sentence school?

What if this were applied to other signs, for instance STOP. Whoa—a period after the word STOP adds much more emphasis to the command. A period would also help when a traffic sign should be broken into two sentences, like LANE ENDS. MERGE LEFT. That would simplify things for me, since while driving I need things to be as clear as possible to save time processing the information while simultaneously piloting a speeding vehicle, sipping a cuppa, listening to Karla, and scooting around in the seat trying to relieve that nagging back pain.

And as long as I am ranting about traffic signs, here’s one that is off the subject, but needs changing. Last week while zipping along on Highway 50 heading eastward from the IKEA store near Sacramento, I was looking for the off ramp to Highways 99 and 5 south. A sign said “99 5 Redding.” To me that meant it was leading to the northbound lanes of the highways, since Redding was in that direction; the southbound lanes off ramp must be coming up soon. But it turned out the sign was for both directions, north and south. They could have said “99 5 Redding Los Angeles” which would indicate both directions. Or simply said 99 5. Or 99. 5. since it was leading to two different roads.

Oh, well. I guess I should start writing letters to those in charge of all this stuff. Period.

Tuesday, March 24

Get an Early Start

I think the only way I am going to get a blog or two in is to do it in the morning. The past few days Karla and I spent heading north to Sacramento, shopping at the IKEA store. We used to go to their Palo Alto store, but thought we’d try something different. The mileage is about the same either way.

We had spotted a very nice kitchen island at Palo Alto, but they didn’t have any in stock. We went to the Sacramento store on Friday but they were out of the tables also. Being a little smarter this time, I checked IKEA’s Web site for both stores, and it showed that neither had any available. Bummer, since it is a very nice item. We found out that whenever these islands come in, they practically vanish immediately they’re so popular. One of the store’s employees told us we’d better arrive early on the day the islands go into the warehouse to be sure of getting one.

So I found out that six of the islands would be at the Sacramento store on Sunday. We got up at five and left the house at six sharp, arriving in East Sacramento at five minutes to ten. It was a very nice drive since this time we took the Prius Plug-In, not the three-quarter-ton Dodge pickup. That car, by the way, is an invitation to a speeding ticket since on a smooth road it can creep up to 85 MPH or more without my noticing! So I activate cruise control and keep my foot off the accelerator.

We were the very first customers at the check stand and loaded the packages into the car. Whew! Mission accomplished! Then we headed back inside to do more shopping for us and Hilary and Luke. (Any time either of our families goes to town, we check with the other to see what they need. Saves gas.)

Another four hours on the road and we were back home. The sun still shone so Karla took the dogs for a walk while I tried to figure out where to put a carload of stuff. By nightfall, we had unloaded everything and were ready to eat and go to bed. No more getting up at five for a few days!

On Monday I assembled the table. The quality of the parts is outstanding, especially the top. Solid oak, heavy as all get out, and just simply flawless. The instructions said to sand it lightly, then spend the next month giving it plenty of oil, so we won't be using the table as it's intended for at least a week. Then it's going to be the main meal-assembly spot. We already had about sixty square feet of built-in countertop, but it's all ceramic tile. This table is just shy of ten square feet, but we can use a knife on it anywhere.

It's also a nice place to sit and have breakfast as we did for the first time this morning, enjoying poached eggs on cornmeal patties, Canadian bacon, and a bowl of creamy yogurt topped with fresh raspberries, blackberries, and dried cranberries. Now I can get back to my usual duty, assembling the IKEA office furniture for Karla's space. I figure I have at least another two days' work doing that. Wish me luck. And stamina.

Monday, March 23

Busy Busy

I haven't posted any new stuff in quite awhile. It isn't because I've died or anything; it's because I am both busy and having trouble getting a photo out of my phone onto the computer. Also for a couple of years now I have memory problems. Like remembering to post something.

Bear with me. I shall come back!

Friday, March 13

G'bye, Old Friends

It happens in everyone’s life when you have to say goodbye to things that have served you so well it would be hard to toss them aside. That day has come with my trusty old pair of New Balance 409 sneakers. They still fit, they’re still comfortable, and as you can see from the photograph they still look mighty good—there’s lots of life remaining.

So why do I have to abandon them? Well, they’re getting slippery afoot; the soles are smooth. I sometimes slip on our tile floors and I don’t want to risk life-ending concussion from a full-on flying fall or from crashing into a wall or falling against the kitchen counter and launching a whole rack of dinner plates into the air and having them come flying at me edge-on, carving a deep gash in my neck and splashing blood all over the place and—well, you get my point.

Bet you never thought old shoes could engender such havoc.

Thursday, March 12

Needs Salt

Every spring we’re treated to huge fields of white blossoms. Around here they’re called popcorn flowers. They’re edible, but to my taste they need salt. Maybe I should sprinkle a few bags of salt on the ground for next year’s crop. The flowers could suck up the salt and be perfectly seasoned.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Rain Dance, Anyone?

The word meniscus means “the curved upper surface of a liquid in a tube.” In the case of rainwater in a rain gauge, the edge of the water curves up while the surface is at the bottom of that curve. So when I first glanced at the level in our gauge, anxious to see how much rain we got yesterday, I was heartened to see that we got an enormous three hundredths of an inch. But then the real reading is a third less—two hundredths. Fooled once again by the meniscus!

Either way it’s a piddling amount of rain. California’s drought is getting to be something that will take an awful lot of precipitation to overcome. Today I checked a satellite picture of California and saw the disappointing snowpack in the Sierra. Here in the foothills we’ve had, since July 1 this year, a measly 9.96” of rain (25.3cm for my Australian readers). That’s ahead of last year, but still piddling.

Time to start dancing methinks.