Thursday, December 24, 2009

Where's Santa Now? NORAD knows

From CNN today, the story of how NORAD began tracking Santa:   (official NORAD tracking website here)

One morning in December 1955, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations at CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command--NORAD's predecessor--got a phone call at his Colorado Springs, Colorado, office. This was no laughing matter. The call had come in on one of the top secret lines inside CONAD that only rang in the case of a crisis.
Grabbing the phone, Shoup must have expected the worst. Instead, a tiny voice asked, "Is this Santa Claus?"

"Dad's pretty annoyed," said Terri Van Keuren, Shoup's daughter, recalling the legend of that day in 1955. "He barks into the phone," demanding to know who's calling.

"The little voice is now crying," Van Keuren continued. "'Is this one of Santa's elves, then?'"

The Santa questions were only beginning. That day, the local newspaper had run a Sears Roebuck ad with a big picture of St. Nick and text that urged, "Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct...Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night."
But the phone number in the ad was off by a digit. Instead of connecting with Santa, callers were dialing in on the line that would ring if the Russians were attacking.   Before long, the phone was ringing off the hook, and softening up, Shoup grabbed a nearby airman and told him to answer the calls and, Van Keuren said, "'just pretend you're Santa.'"

Indeed, rather than having the newspaper pull the Sears ad, Shoup decided to offer the countless kids calling in something useful: information about Santa's progress from the North Pole. To quote the official NORAD Santa site, "a tradition was born."

From that point on, first CONAD and then, in 1958, when NORAD was formed, Shoup's organization offered annual Santa tracking as a service to the global community. A phone number was publicized and anyone was invited to call up, especially on December 24, and find out where Santa was. Manning those phones over the years have been countless numbers of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel and their families, and for many people, turning to NORAD to find out where Santa is became something to look forward to each year...

These days, of course, a single red phone isn't enough to handle the demand for the information.  Google has even jumped in to assist.  Most people, Frankovis said, just want to know where Santa is. And so the volunteer answering the question will look up at the big screen on the wall at the operations center and see where, on the map that is integrating geographical information from NORAD with Google's mapping service, Santa is at that moment.

"NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa -- radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets," reads the NORAD Santa Web site. On Christmas Eve, NORAD monitors the radar systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole.    Fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept and welcome Santa to North America.

"The moment that radar indicates Santa has lifted off, we use our second detection system. Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth's surface are equipped with infrared sensors, which enable them to detect heat. Amazingly, Rudolph's bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allow our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.....

Last March, Shoup died, said Van Keuren. But in the years before his death, she and her family would take the retired colonel back to Colorado Springs each year for the Santa tracker training. "They would introduce him and he would say a few words," Van Keuren said. "So that was a big thrill for him."

In his later years, Shoup "was not as sharp as he used to be," she said. But his days overseeing the Santa tracker program were still near and dear to his heart. She said the NORAD folks had printed out a sheaf of e-mails kids had written in and gave them to Shoup as a reminder of what he'd started back in 1955.

"For the last weeks of his life, he carried them around in his briefcase like they were top secret papers," Van Keuren said. "Those were just precious to him. I'd read them to him over and over."
Don't tell me there is no Santa Claus!!!  Do you think it pure coincidence that a Sears ad just *happened* to be printed with a typo that just *happened* to connect directly to the most top-secret phone line in the world, of the only organization in the world who has a mandate to specifically "watch out" for (and defend from, if necessary) any aerial traffic coming across the North Pole?   I don't think so.  Santa's not stupid.  He knows who's been bad or good and he knows who might have the ability to accidentally take him out. 

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Goodnight!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ebay enters do-gooder market with new World of Good website

Looks like my favorite GreaterGood network is getting some competition from Ebay. Branding Ongoing

Pick a cause - fair trade, eco-friendly, animal-friendly, people-positive.  Or as they're spinning it, "Shop by Goodprint".  Lots of trademarked marketing jazz going around.  BUT, it is nice to see Ebay responding to concerns they may be providing a global market for exploitive products.  Unlike GreaterGood, however they're offering commissions.  Which I'll take.  But I promise to buy a goat or something equally worthwhile with any proceeds.  So far I'm seeing many of the same artisans on both sites.

So far, Dr. Bronner's products are looking very good to me. Dr. Bronner's Lavender Tea Tree Soap.
 I have no clue what "Shikakai" is, however.  So use at your own peril.  Hopefully it's not in the same line as the "Ellie Pooh" recycled paper products. Wait - Wikipedia says it's a traditional shampoo used in India for centuries.  Have you seen the gorgeous hair on those Indian women? Sounds good.  And it's fair trade and organic!.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I work better on short deadlines

The problem with getting my holiday shopping done early is that it leaves me plenty of time to re-shop.  I stick to a budget much better when I'm scrambling on the 23rd.  Kind of like in school when I would procrastinate until the night before big papers were due and pull an all-nighter.  For some reason, I always got A's on those papers, written from the gut with no time to edit and self-criticize.

But it does feel good to have it all pretty much done and nothing left but the wrapping. 

Guess who's already back to doing cartwheels again?  You guessed it.  Arm's still a little sore when he runs full tilt into the couch, but other than that, he's using it fully.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blow Your Own Glass Ornaments

This opportunity was highlighted on a local news station today - Blow your Own Glass Christmas Ornaments at Elements Glass Studio in NW Portland. $5 of the $38 cost per ornament goes to the Oregon Food Bank. Call and make an appointment for a large group of family & friends.  I'll add this to the "Happy Heathen Holidays" idea bag. 

If DIY isn't quite your cup of tea but you like the idea of custom handblown glass ornaments, don't forget the artisans at Portland Saturday Market!  Open Sat/ Sun in Old Town, and the tried and true "Festival of the Last Minute" the entire week of Dec. 17 - Dec 24.  I can't tell you how many times I've done my last minute gift shopping there.  This year, Cinnamon Bear will be handing out yummy cinnamon bear cookies to all the good little girls and boys he finds at the market. 

I do love supporting local artisans.  Also? Folks on the other side of the world.  Yesterday I helped a woman in Azerbaijan buy a cow through micro-lending at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quick plug for a new advertiser Pacific NW, family-owned fruit growers who specialize in very affordable gifts from 21 different farms in Oregon, Washington & California. Grower direct. For every pound of fruit they sell, they donate a pound of fresh fruit to a local food pantry or shelter. Pound for pound. Amazing! Order now and you'll not only help those who need it most but get free shipping, too! Great idea for out of town family, business partners or client "thank you's".

Monday, December 07, 2009

'Tis the Season

Blogging has taken a back seat to holiday preparations and illness around here lately.  I finally succumbed to the cold the Monkey and Mr. Stang were slowly recovering from.  We think the Monkey's elbow did pop back into place on Friday as he heard a "crack" when I accidentally jarred it, but he says it's still very painful.  Supposedly with Nursemaid's Elbow once the elbow pops back in the pain stops and kids return to normal very quickly.  He is able to move it in all directions and put some pressure on it, but his strength has not returned and he's still favoring it. I think he may have sprained it in addition to the dislocation.  Or maybe the multiple reduction attmepts caused some minor damage.  Then again, he could just be afraid to start using it. 
We're treating with ibuprofen but are not overly worried about permanent nerve damage (yet). We'll see how it is doing in a week or so.

We got the Charlie Brown-iest Christmas tree we've ever seen up and decorated.  Here in the NW we're kind of tree snobs.  You see beautiful, asthetically perfect Christmas trees all year around, so it's kind of hard to stomach the butchered (or excuse me: "sculpted") tree farm versions we ultimately get on the lots.  Basically, they take perfectly lovely Doug Firs or Grand trees and prune them into perfectly symmetrical little dense pyramids.  It used to be you could get Nobel Firs that had great character, and plenty of room between boughs to hang ornaments/ lights. But at a price. Full sized trees are generally $45 +.  So we would compromise.  Buy a shorter Nobel for $20 and put it on a short table or decorative box to make it look taller.  This actually worked great because it would leave lots of room for presents, and make it that much more difficult for Kittlins to climb the trunk/ attack the lower branches.

But this year?  The corner lot was only offering butchered Nobel Firs, too. The tree farmers (or lot buyers - not sure which) have apparently determined that Nobels in their natural state are too fat at the bottom.  Either so they can grow or display them more packed in.  So they've started dismembering unsightly Nobel specimens, too, leaving a skinny Ralph Lauren photo-shopped version of their former selves.  It's a travesty.  Unfortunately, I didn't catch on that they'd dared to prune a sacred Nobel until *after* we'd bought the plumpest of the skinny bunch and got it home.  Mr. Stang and I were both sick, and cold (thanks El Nino!) and not in the mood to shop around, let alone head up into the mountains or to a U-Cut and get our own.  But NEXT year, by all the Tree Gods, that's what we're doing. 

After getting our tree up, we headed out for a rare night on the town courtesy of my father and stepmother.  They'd bought us all tickets to the Singing Christmas Tree as they knew someone who was in the choir.  I'd thought it was a fairly religious group from past experience, but still love good Christmas music and the theatrics.  We enjoyed a rare kid-free dinner out before the event at Nel Centro in the swanky Hotel Modera. It's pretty amazing what they've done with this part of town in the last decade.  I swear when I was attending PSU this was an old Travelodge known for it's hourly specials.

Those SCT folks are sneaky, though.  The first half of the performance is all secular and Santa (and not in a very flattering light), then after Intermission they start with the preaching and live nativity. By the end, they'd thrown white robes on the actress playing Santa's elf and had her swinging from the rafters on a wire as the choir sang "Hallelujah".  Very "Reason for the Season".  Very understandable from a Christian perspective, though when Christ's birthday isn't *your* personal reason for the season, it loses a lot of the heartwarming effect.  But the music was beautiful and the time spent with family priceless . We just need to find some good heathen holiday celebrations in the future.   Like this one: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Big Brass Concert.  There's nothing like trumpet fanfares and French Horns at Christmas time.  Except, maybe the whole celebration of Peace on earth, Good Will towards (all) Men (and women), love, friends and family thing.  Giving and charity.  Hope, magic and cheer during the coldest, most dismal part of the year.   Those are my reasons for the season and I'm happy to share them with people of all faiths.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Night at the Urgent Care

The Monkey dislocated his elbow last night while attempting to do cartwheels.  Mr. Stang heard a distinctive "pop" at the time though neither of us were closely watching so didn't see exactly what happened.  They call it "Nursemaid's Elbow" and it's common in pre-school age kids because their ligaments are not fully developed yet.  It's generally seen when an adult caregiver unintentionally pulls or twists on an extended arm (like doing arm swings).  But apparently cartwheels can do it, too.  Our family doc. tried to pop it back in (or do a "reduction manuever") twice.  Didn't go. So off to urgent care we went.  They tried a third time - didn't go. Got X-rays.  Urgent Care Doc didn't see any fractures or anything serious but he's still hurting and he has limited mobility.

We are still waiting for the radiologist report to confirm the diagnosis. They tell us they never have to do surgery for "Nursemaid's Elbow" but it's unusual to not pop back in after so many attempts.  Google tells me it will probably self-correct in a couple of weeks regardless of failed reduction attempts.

The Monkey was so very, very brave.  For good or bad, I've settled on a "no sugar coating" the truth approach to bad news with him.  He seems to take more comfort in knowing exactly what's going to happen and suffers more upon discovery of being lied to than he does in the anticipation of traumatic reality.  With adults I can bullshit with the best of them but I just can't do it with kids.  Not when it's important.  Not even to smooth over the rough spots.  It feels like a betrayal of trust.

Sample of the tearful conversation follows.  In reality there were a lot more tears, a lot more "NO, I don't WANNA GO's!" and pathetic "do we have to? and "couldn't we instead????" 's.

Me: "we're going to put ice on it for 20 minutes - if you still can't move it we're going to Dr. L."
Monkey (through sobs): "What is she going to do?"
Me: "She'll need to touch it, move it a little to see what's wrong.  She might try to fix it.  If she can't fix it we may need to go to a different place, like a hospital where they can take a picture inside to see what's going on."
Monkey: "Will it hurt?"
Me: "Yes, a little.  But it's the only way to help it start to feel better.  If we don't get it fixed, it's going to hurt for a lot longer, and you may not be able to use the arm again".
Monkey: "I don't WANNA GO to that place!!!"
Me: "I know, honey, but it's got to be done."

He agreed to go see Doc. L, He was calm in the car and during the examination, though shaking a little.  Then came the first adjustment attempt.  I'll spare you the play by play of the screaming - it was bad enough watching him go through it once.  Let alone twice... then a third time at the urgent care. 
As we were heading back to the exam room at the Urgent Care the lip starts quivering again and he askes "is it going to hurt?"

Daddy, in a transparent attempt to forestall resistance says "No, honey they're not going to hurt you again".

Disbelieving, Monkey says "Mommy???"

Mommy sighs, hesitates then leaves Daddy twisting in the wind.  "I won't lie to you. They're going to need to move it to help figure out what's wrong, and again to get good pictures.  That will probably hurt a little.  If they try to fix it again like Doc. L that will hurt a lot. But then if it works, it will quit hurting."

Sorry Daddy.

Chin quivering, eyes glistening the Monkey stoically walked back to face his doom.  I don't know if gaining the kid cred is worth it.

After all was said and done and the Snoopy splint & sling applied he calmly said "can we go home now?". 
And in the car:  "That wasn't so bad.  I'm thirsty."   And requested root beer.

He slept well all night and this morning greatly enjoyed having us at his beck and call.  Though with Daddy suffering from a sinus/chest infection following a cold (acquired via the Monkey, via daycare of course when we finally relented and let him go back for one day after they got their H1N1 vaccines) he won't get to milk it very far.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks

Truth be told I wasn't feeling very thankful this year until I got some great news about an aquaintance whose ex-husband had kidnapped her two kids the week before. How could I count my blessings when another mother was going through the worst kind of Hell? But this morning I found out they were recovered, safe and sound on Thanksgiving night.

So now that the constriction around my heart has been relieved I'm feeling very thankful, indeed to all the Gods for our law enforcement officers and every other man and woman in uniform (military or civilian) who put their own lives on the line to protect us. And my heart goes out to the family and friends of the four police officers brutally gunned down near Tacoma this weekend. The suspect is an ex-con who had been sentenced to 95 years for theft, robbery and burglary by the state of Arkansas and was then paroled after his sentence was commuted by then Gov. Mike Huckabee. It appears he was recently charged in Pierce County, WA for rape of a child and assault of a police officer and targetted these officers to protest his probable re-incarceration.

On a far, far less serious note - this year I'm also thankful for the Internet. Not just the medium (though to an information addict such as myself it's like heroin) but all the wonderful people who inhabit it. I can't begin to express how much my life has been touched and bettered because of online friends - new and old, and those I will probably never meet. Love, laughter, joy and pain shared. Knowledge and insight gained.

And of course, online shopping. I've got just about all of the Monkey's shopping done already, and received the first two packages at work today.

The tops from GreaterGood are beautiful. He'll love them. I hope he'll also like the Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks book by Calef Brown.
He's big into rhyming right now and getting him to sit still for more than a very short story is always a challenge. I tried getting him into Shel Silverstein and other children's poetry but he prefers richly colored illustrations.

Like Sylvia Long's Mother Goose that  I purchased long before I'd even thought of having kids:
And I know he'll love this boxed CD set of Mary Pope Osborn's Magic Treehouse books. Magic Tree House Collection: Books 1-8

We received one from Wendy's this summer as a kids meal prize (how much better then cheap plastic toys is that!!!) and it's been a favorite for every road trip ever since - long or short. But Daddy and I are getting a little tired of "Goodnight, Gorillas" so it's more of a present for us than him.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Due to my crowd-phobic tendencies (never mind my general anti-consumer sentiments) I've never been a huge "Black Friday" shopper (day after Thanksgiving) .  Instead I became more of a "Cyber Monday" shopper - making most online purchases on the following Monday.   But now Amazon is bringing you the best of both world - price matching their competition starting *today* - all through next week (including Black Friday)./ .  And you can shop in the comfort of your own jammies and not have to worry about being trampled by wild-eyed bargain hunters.

Barnes & Noble is now getting in on the act:
Hundreds of the hottest DVDs at Special Black Friday prices most 50% off or more!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gifts that Keep on Giving

Time for my annual plug of one of my favorite groups of charitable websites: The Greater Good Network of:
The Hunger, Rainforest, Breast Cancer , Child Health, Literacy, and Animal Rescue Sites.

Besides the "Click Once a Day" campaigns, they have the most wonderful gifts & goods from all over the world with a huge selection of organic, eco-friendly, Fair Trade, sustainable, etc. products. Most of which come from the actual programs of the network's charitable partners to improve the lives and health of people (especially women and children), animals and the environment.

Before you head down to the local megaretailer to buy cheap plastic (and possibly lead-painted) stocking stuffers, for instance - wouldn't it be terrific to buy handmade wooden tops made from 100% safe, non-toxic materials from a program that provides education, medical care and micro-credit lending to "Untouchable" women living in the slums of India who have no other way to survive?  Only $2.95 each, AND that tiny, otherwise insignificant purchase (less than a latte) will allow the Rainforest Site to preserve 1145.0 sq. ft. of land  at the same time??

Or, if you're looking for a gift under $20 for that work or family gift exchange - instead of the typical cheesy coffee cup + candy, how about a hand-dyed scarf by women from Uganda who are trying to rebuil their own shattered lives but also those of war orphans, and provide health services for 4.5 children at the same time? 

There's gorgeous jewelry - which will help fund 50 cups of food for the hungry.

 Fine Art painted by endangered Asian elephants  (besides saving the elephants, you can fund 600 cups of food!)

And that's just the tip of the iceburg.  You can find anything for anyone on the greatergood websites, including flea and tick products for your pets, (the purchase of which also happens to provide 28 bowls of food to animal shelters).

Last year, gave over $3.4Million to global charities.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mary had a little goat, little goat, little goat!

It's ears were white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went the goat was sure to go. It followed her on the bus one day, bus one day, bus one day....

I'd take these guys home!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Halloween 2009

Catching up a little on some posting. Here's the Monkey carving his pumkpkin with Daddy

& the Kittlin:

as a pirate on Halloween:

 We went Raiding for Loot in Grandpa's neighborhood.

Here's the Monkey and the Twinkles.

As long as we're posting adorable pics of the Twinkles (my step-nephews), here are a few from a gathering a month or so ago:


And Brady, with the Monkey:

Then with the Giant Frog (won long ago by Mr. Stang at a carnival for yours truly when we were dating):

Guess the frog was OK, he decided he'd make a good seat:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day Greetings

I can't watch the flag-draped caskets & memorial parades  - it's too painful.  But this, this I can watch. 

Get a hankie. Four legged friends welcoming home their Soldiers.  Then hug your soldier.  Or if they're not home yet, hug your hound and remember a one year deployment is like 7 years to your furry best friend.

The last clip, of homecoming soldiers surprising their kids at school had me blubbering at my desk.  That look of total joy and relief on their faces says everything and hits me in the gut every time.  I just imagine these little kids, trying to be brave for Daddy/Mommy - holding all their fear and anxiety inside for months at a time, never knowing if they'd come home to the worst possible news.  And the absolute release of all that tension, sadness and stress when they see them walk through the door - alive.  

Every time I lay down with the Monkey at bedtime and get to listen to all his little "Guess what?" stories from his day - his seemingly insignificant questions and observations that give me a small window into his mind as he experiences this world for the very first time and tries to make sense of it all.... I think of all the missed birthday parties, BBQ's, games/recitals sacrificed by our men and women in uniform.  All the missed bedtime stories.  Missed memories.  Missed chances for hugs after skinning a knee.  Missed fevers and health scares.  The missed inches on a growth chart.  And thank those who have volunteered to miss all that with their own children to protect me, mine, and ours.

We can never thank them enough. All we can do is be damned sure when we ask *any* family to make that sacrifice  - parents not being able to experience their children grow up; children being orphaned in all but name - nevermind the ultimate sacrifice - there had better be a very, very good reason for doing so. 

Today, and everyday I pray for them to come home safe, and for their families to know peace.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I miss all the fun weather

So while the Monkey & I were up on the central Washington coast this weekend a water spout/ tornado hit Lincoln City on the central Oregon Coast.  I forgot my camera but may get some pics of the event from my cousin (our family retreat, that is - not the tornado).  We had a wonderful time.  Good company, good food, good fun.  The Storm Gods blessed us with a narrow, 4 hour window of windless blue skies in between thunderstorms to beachcomb and see what the "giant" waves had brought in.  Unfortunately, no treasures were found.  :(  Nor any new slimy/fuzzy friends.  Unless you count the dead seagulls, which I don't.   We were at my cousin's cozy little cottage near Copalis Beach -  a tumbledown, forgotten little town that's kind of sad, really (to quote Bridget Jones) but delightful nevertheless.  There's a wonderful expanse of sandy beach with lots of small dunes - perfect for building sand castles.  And I'm told a state park/nature preserve (Griffith-Priday) to explore. If you're looking for a rustic coastal escape with your own stretch of desolate beach and complete absence of  tourist kitsch, this is your place.   It's also famous for razor clams.

Now if you're looking for the quintessential upscale, amenity-loaded, picturesquely perfect charming beach town, or if you're not lucky enough to have your own relation with a cottage in Copalis Beach, you can head 7 miles north to Seabrook, WA where developers are attempting to carve "A New Beach Town!" out of nothing and doing a fine job of it.  The brand-spanking new vacation houses, cabins and rentals are all kind of stacked on top of each other.  But it is absolutely adorable, built for walking/bicycling, and probably MOST important - very dog friendly.  Because seriously - what's a trip to the beach without kids and dogs?   If you're not quite up to forking out $400k + for a vacation home of your very own, they also have a great website for renting cottages at a very, very reasonable price

You can rent an entirely stocked (except for food), decked out 3 bed house with a hottub that sleeps 8 people for $150 a night in low season.  Fully equipped gourmet kitchen, internet, Xbox...loaner bikes in the garage.  If two families were to split that? There's an amazing vacation for the kids that's cheaper than staying at a Holiday Inn.  You don't have to find a pet sitter, or pay for expensive meals out.  Just throw whatever's in the freezer into a cooler, grab some staples from the pantry and go!

If Seabrook is a little too far there are two similar properties on the Central Oregon Coast: Olivia Beach in south Lincoln City (for the record, the tornado hit on the *north* end of town), and Bella Beach - a few miles further south, just north of Depoe Bay.  Don't let the twister scare you.  Absent some kind of "Day After Tomorrow" catastrophic abrupt climate change event, the odds of another one hitting the same vicinity in our lifetime is about nil. 

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Grandma's in Florence, Oregon

The beginning of October we headed down to Gramma's house in Florence on the beautiful central Oregon Coast.

Slimy creatures abounded.

After a rain shower you can't tell where the beach ends and the sky begins.

One of my favorite obsessions - a cool gnarly old tree.

The next morning it was down to the North Jetty of the Siuslaw River to let the dogs go for a little ball-chasing and dip.

That's Jinx in the middle and the "boys" - her now very-much fully grown Labradoodle pups Moe and Curly.

They take after their daddy who was a ginormous, Royal Standard Poodle.  Mama (Jinx) can walk right underneath their legs.  But she usually still outswims them.

And the highlight of the entire trip.  Over on the jetty rocks, was this little furry guy - all alone.

Stellar Sea Lion, we think.  I wasn't going to get closer for a better identification.  Probably a pup whose own Mama had left him on the rocks temporarily while she hunted.  The Sea Lion Caves are only 11 miles or so north of here.   Don't know what was up with the circles in his fur - maybe ringworm or barnacles? His ribs are showing - could be ill.

Friday, October 30, 2009

This is why...

I worked so hard to get this administration elected:

"the Obama administration has recommended political asylum for a Guatemalan woman fleeing horrific abuse by her husband, the strongest signal yet that the administration is open to a variety of asylum claims from foreign women facing domestic abuse. "

In this whole send more troops/bring them home from Afghanistan debate my central concern has always been - what course of action will *actually* improve the lives of women and children there.  At this point, the warmongers can go shoot themselves - I don't give a shit so long as innocents are not caught in the crossfire. If we open the doors for the women to come live where they'll have half a chance, the warmongers can all go fuck themselves, too.  And maybe be "incentivized" to try to make their hellhole somewhat safe for human existence (especially female & small humans... because I am biased that way).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Day In The Life

Do you remember back in the late 80's those incredible A Day in the Life of..... Ireland, America, the Soviet Union, China, etc. photographic coffee table books?  The editors had hundreds of professional photographers deployed across an entire country on a single day to capture the amazing diversity and everyday lives of everyday residents.   Whenever I was lucky enough to visit someone who had one, I'd spend hours drooling over every page.

Now, with the miracle of digital photography and the internet you don't have to shell out a half a paycheck, wait for professional photographers and capricious book publishers to live so vicariously. We have blogs. And now that I've found  "CityDailyPhoto" blogs, I'm in heaven.   You an explore the mundanity of a stranger's everyday life and feel a connection of kinship.   See a picture of a kid's bicycle abandoned for a jump in the crisp fall leaves somewhere in Greece and think, "hey - that could have been taken in *my* front yard yesterday!"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shameless Begging

You may have noticed the ads on the sidebar of this blog.  I hope they're not too annoying.   So far, since relaunching this blog this summer I've made a whopping $3.98 in commisions.   If I have any hopes of buying the new ultra-zoon digital camera I want, I need to bump the decimal a couple digits to the right, people.

So with Christmas fast approaching please think about doing some of your online shopping from here.

Amazon - Do you really need to go anywhere else??

Barnes & Noble  

The 2010  Sierra Club 2010 Engagement Calendar is now available, FYI!  I love this calendar - I've gotten either it or the Audubon Calendar every year for a decade. Proceeds help out very good organizations, and the weekly pictures inside are breathtaking.

Chef's Catalog -
Free Gift With Purchase from a Wide Selection of Brands!All things for the cooking hobbyist or home entertainer. This particular item could be a great gift for idiots such as myself who have no idea what are "good" wines, and what wines go with what foods.... Electronic Pocket Wine Guide They should have one on hand in every wine section of every grocery store across America.
Ooh, here's a nifty product: 3-in-1 Lasagna Pan

The battery casing on my Canon Powershot is cracked.  If you want to see some less grainy/blurry photos next year, help me out a little?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Direct Oregon to Vancouver, B.C. Amtrak Cascades Service Now Available

I'd known it was coming, but missed when it went live.   Just in time for the run up to the Vancouver, B.C. Winter Olympic Games..... Amtrak Cascades can now take you all the way from Eugene, OR to Vancouver, B.C.  Previously you could only go as far as Seattle or Bellingham on the train, then had to hop on a bus to get to Vancouver.  Or so I was told - I never actually tried it because it was a hassle.

Now Amtrak is offering 25% off all Cascades fares to Vancouver, B.C. through the end of the year.   If planning such a trip, be sure to check the new border crossing I.D. requirements.   For adults, a passport or "enhanced drivers license" (available only in the states of WA, NY, VT, and MI)  is required for all land/sea crossings into Canada.   Since my long lost passport expires at the end of November, I'd better get busy!  Here's info on how to get an EDL in Washington State.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Google can be Dangerous to your Mental Health

Still here.  I've just been busy - what with the weekend trips to the beach and Gramma's, and another Into The Woods Adventure with Grampa in search of fall color bookending two weeks of mad craziness at work (the good kind), and the ongoing oinking hypochondria and all.  Pics and tales of weekend adventures to follow, but in the meantime, I've found this to be the PERFECT swine flu resource:

That and googling headache + sore throat + swolen lymph nodes + fatigue = NO fever (at this point I'll be relieved if it's H1N1 and not something truly fatal) , and seeing what you can get from flea bites (first results are *nothing* but a scratchy rash.... but seems like they were responsible for a little something called the Bubonic Plague, weren't they?).  Since getting aggressive with treating the dog and cats with Advantage the last two months the vermin are desperately seeking non-toxic human hosts.  Obsessive vacuuming, Kittlin bathing and application of non-toxic diatomaceous earth is helping, but we're still wroking on eradicating the little buggers.

OK - just googled Bubonic Plague + Fleas.   DO NOT try this at home.  If my throat isn't better in the morning I'm calling the doctor, dammit.

In other news...  Mr. Stang acceidentally left a 2 lb block of Mozzarella cheese out on the counter last night.  This morning, all that was left was the plastic wrap and a very pleased Black Lab.  Cross your fingers we don't end up in the vet's by tomorow.  I'm thinking a really, REALLY long walk may be in order.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rep. Brian Baird's got a plan

Calling my Congressional rep, Brian Baird's office this afternoon I was referred to an op-ed he wrote to the Seattle Times that was published today: "Time for Real Reform of Health Care & Taxes".

Snip: "As a starting point, we must assure anyone who has health insurance that they are perfectly free to keep what they have, while those in genuine financial need will still receive assistance. With those assurances, all current federal and state government-funded health programs for people of all ages should be eliminated and replaced with the following:

• All government provided financial support should be based on financial means. Regardless of age, participants should pay as their financial resources allow.

• Basic prepaid health care would provide routine medical, dental, vision and mental-health care with no insurance forms. Catastrophic insurance would then cover high-cost occurrences plus long-term care. Individuals could choose for-profit or not-for-profit plans that are state, regional or national, but coverage would be mandatory. A national commission would assure financial soundness and quality of care for cross state plans.

• Discrimination against pre-existing conditions or genetics would be banned, but incentives would promote positive health and prevention.

• Student aid plus increased compensation would encourage general and family practice and other high-need health-care providers.

• Comprehensive malpractice reforms would provide alternatives to litigation and reduce defensive medicine and abusive lawsuits.

• Service members and veterans could choose existing Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense care or participate in the alternative program, with the government funding their costs as their situation warrants.

• The program would be funded by money from existing federal and state programs that would be replaced; with cost savings from malpractice reforms, paperwork reduction, national risk pools and improved preventive care; and through direct payments and premiums from individuals and employers (but no new taxes would be placed on existing insurance).
Which all sounds pretty damned good to me.  If I read it right, he's essentially advocating the gov't pay for all primary care and insurance companies can pay for catastrophic & long term care.   I like that plan.  A lot.
I'm not so thrilled with the rest of the plan, though - eliminating *all* payroll and income taxes and replacing them with a national sales tax.  I'm assuming he means Federal payroll & income taxes because you couldn't very well get the states to overhaul their entire tax codes as well.  Unfortunately I think his "while we're at it..." thoughts on tax reform will detract from what is otherwise, a good, solid, simple reform plan.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Local H1N1 Update for SW Washington

As I've mentioned previously, Mr. Stang falls into the "high risk" group of individuals who need to get an H1N1 virus as soon as possible. He has asthma, allergies, diabetes, and is highly prone to chest infections.  According to the most recent news release from the dept. of Public Health for SW Washington, however, our region has received smaller amounts of vaccine than anticipated to date.  About 75% less - we'll be getting 5,000 doses this week instead of the expected 19,600.

"With this smaller allocation, Public Health is limiting vaccine administration to vaccine clinics in several schools, childcare centers and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinic."  

Guess that means we need to wait a little longer, for both him and the Monkey (who is not in a childcare center/school).  They both got the regular seasonal flu vaccines last week - though the Monkey's was nasal so we're told that means he can't get an H1N1 for a month anyway (being more potent or something). 

Updates on status of vaccinations available locally will be posted at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

WARNING: Interracial children may suffer (like becoming President one day)

Unbelievable - either this judge is one of the stupidest men alive or he's got an agenda.  Let's see which it is.

Louisiana Justice of the Peace denies an interracial couple a marriage license, says that "it is his experience most interracial marriages do not last long"  (and single racial marriages do?); that his main concern is for the children, who (again in his experience.... as a child of a multiethnic marriage himself, one supposes?   Somehow I think not..) ; and that most critically...... he is not a racist.   But this couple shouldn't take it personally, because he doesn't approve *any* interracial marriages - not just theirs. 

I'm sure that argument will go over well with state and federal superior courts.

I think President and Mrs. Obama should invite them to get married in the Rose Garden of the White House.  And invite this asshole to cut the cake.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dragon Hunt

Last weekend the Monkey & I went on a dragon hunt in the Gorge with Grampa.   Actually, we were looking for some fall color along the old Columbia River Scenic Hwy to photograph but that proved more elusive than a dragon.  This was about all I found:

Give it a week or two and it should be gorgeous.  Our first stop was the medieval inspired Vista House.  I should know this by now but there should be a warning sign:  "Here Be Wind".  I chose to believe it was ice cold Dragon's Breath.

Onward to Shepherd's Dell. 

While it looks like the perfect place for a dragon to hang out, we didn't find one here. Next stop, Bridal Veil Falls.

Gratuitous shot of the falls, but what really fascinates me is how the moss and ferns grow on the trees:

And the fungi. Speaking of fun guys....

But still no dragons, or fall color.  At the next stop, Oneonta Gorge, I could tell we were getting a little close.  First clue was the sulferic growth on the basalt cliffs.

Actually, I think it's technically some kind of algae - probably one of the unique varieties that made the Park Service designate the Oneonta Gorge a special botanical area, and set aside the steep narrow canyon.  For the adventurous, there is a spectacular falls up the gorge.  Unlike any other falls in the Gorge, however this one is *secret* (shh....). There's no trail to it.  Instead, the creek itself IS the trail.  To get to the falls you have to climb over slippery boulders and a logjam and wade up to your chest about a half mile.  We didn't make the attempt this trip.  It's a hike/swim that's best undertaken on a hot August day when the water level is lowest, and not with very small kids.  Though when I did make it once upon a Sunday there was an entire family of tourists who were trying it, too - with an 80 yr old Gramma in tow wearing her Sunday best dress, sensible pumps and vericose vein socks. If she could do it, then anyone can.

No grannies this day, though I did think I spotted the dragon's lair... Could have been here, or here;

And maybe one of her eggs. And then, up around the corner....

I FOUND HER!!!  Looks like she was feasting on river rocks.  Ah well - guess everyone needs a little mineral in their diet.

I suspect she has a back entrance to her lair.
The way to the secret falls lies just through these walls.... but beware of the dragon guarding the entrance.

Actually, Oneonta is one of my favorite hidden gems of the Gorge. 

And of course no weekend adventure is complete without finding a new slimy/fuzzy friend.  This is what is called a "paterpiller" in Monkey-speak.