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.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Squirrel Nutkin

Looks like the Monkey has picked up the Squirrel Nutkin gene from both parents.  Though our packrat tendencies go much more toward hoarding stuff than cleaning out the nest, so he's a bit of an aberration.    The last two days he's been all about cleaning and reorganizing.   It's freakish, but I certainly won't complain.  This unholy urge probably started with his helping Mr. Stang clean out the garage the last few weeks.   Yesterday he was on a mission to clean out my closet.  You can see floor (except for the huge pile of assorted shoes, etc. in one little corner).  Last night he announced his intention to reorganize the bathroom cupboards by moving the stash of spare soap to make room for the T.P.  Sure thing - as soon as I jumped in the shower this morning he started working under the sink.   Now Mr. Stang calls to tell me the boy has decided the cookbook shelves in our dining room need cleaning.  He's right - they're covered in dust.  Yesterday, he helped Daddy unload a ton of 40 lb bags of wood pellets into the newly clean garage. OK - it was just two bags, and he didn't get more than 20 feet before having to drag them... but still - he only weighs 45 lbs himself!!!

Did I ever mention how I rewarded him for potty training?  He was upset we wouldn't let him clean the toilets with the cool little disposable brush thingie that turns the water blue.  I told him only people who *use* the toilet get to clean them.  It worked, more so than getting to wear big kid underpants.   He loves to mop.  And vacuum.  And wash windows (using non-toxic squirky stuff).  And dust.  And pull weeds.  And rake leaves.  I tell you, it's freakish.  I dread the day somebody will tell him these things are actually considered by the vast majority of the population to be "work" and not "fun".   But then, we never use the word "chore" in our house, either.

He was very proud of himself when he graduated from being able to fold kitchen towels/ napkins to bath towels, and gets positively irate if you don't let him dump the fabric cleaner and detergent in the washing machine before pushing the buttons (bleach, of course is off limits).   I'm not entirely convinced that the Fey Folk didn't swap him out with a changeling.  But I don't care.  I'm keeping him.

My grandmother would find this behavior very odd.  She died one year ago tomorow at the age of 90.  She lived next door when we were growing up, and would come over almost every day after school (we were latchkey kids), tsk tsk tsk and say "this house is atrocious!  Why won't you clean it up for your mother ??"

She would be amazed at how a housework-loving child could ever be spawned from my womb, get this ironic little smile on her face and sadly shake her head - awed by the vagaries of the universe.

I'm missing her very much today.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What a Relief!

Now there's even less of a chance all life on Earth will be wiped in a blazing asteroid impact in 27 years.: NASA downgrades threat of Apophis.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

An Apple A Day

The plan was to make it all the way to Kiyokawa Family Orchards in Parkdale to pick Honeycrisps.  We didn't quite make it that far as the Monkey was getting a bit anxious to get out of the car.  So we stopped at the first "U-Pick" + "Honeycrisps"  sign we saw outside of Hood River on Hwy 35.  Draper Girl's Country Farm was terrific.  Due to the coveted nature of the variety they charged a straight per pound rate, however and not $8 by the bucket as they did the other varieties. 
The Monkey went a little ape for apples, however (as you'd expect) and picked more than our budget of $10 would allow.  The clerk took pity on us and only charged $1.75 instead of the advertised $1.99/lb.  Which still beats the hell out of $2.99/lb in store.  We blew the budget out of the water, coming home with 20 + lbs of the biggest, most gorgeous honeycrisps you've ever seen.   I'd hoped they would last a few months, but at the rate they're disappearing I doubt they'll last two weeks. We couldn't wait to get them back in the car for a luscious, crunchy snack.
Next stop, Rasmussen "Funland" Farms in Hood River for the corn maize and pumpkin picking.  The Monkey and I were *so* close to bringing home this poor bedraggled fellow.  I haven't had an all-black cat in ages. Alas, he eluded our grasping clutches, much to the relief of Mr. Stang.
Undoubtedly he is a long lost descendant of one of those injured kitties Mom & Dad told us kids they "gave to a nice family farm out in the country" to recuperate and live out their lives happily chasing mice in a big red barn. Haven't seen any of the sofa-eating dogs, though that were supposed to be there, too.  Maybe they were busy chasing raccoons in the woods.

Sure, the pumkin picking is fun.  But not nearly so much as the Monkey's favorite pumpkin passtime - rolling the pumpkins in search of wiggly squiggly worms.

Because no weekend adventure is complete without a handful of slimy new friends.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Out & About in the Pacific Northwest in October

I'm going to try to provide a monthly roundup of upcoming things to do, places to go in the Pac. NW.  I meant to start this last month and give you all the lowdown on area Oktoberfests, but you'll have to wait until next year for that (yes, Oktoberfests are always in September.  It makes no sense, I know).

October.  Month of harvest festivals and All Hallow's Eve.  And so I'm told, Football :p  Traditionally it's when we head up to the Gorge area for some R&R.  See all those lovely links to B&B's/romantic inns on the right hand side?  We've stayed at almost every one.   Usually in Sept/Oct to celebrate our anniversary.  You can't drive a mile in Hood River County in October without coming across some fabulous open farm, winery, pumpkin patch or harvest festival.  The wild huckleberry harvest is over, which makes it the perfect time to pick up some syrup or jelly. Grapes and hops are in.   That means wine and beer festivals.  Apple/Pear/Pumpkin harvest is on.  And don't forget the Fall Foliage!!  Last year two Oregon scenic drives made Forbes Magazine's list of the Top 15 Most Awesome Autumn Drives: The Columbia River Hwy and Hwy 126 through Central Oregon.  It's like driving on a river of gold.

September/ October are my favorite months to travel in the NW.  The temps are typically in the 60's and 70's during the days, with crisp cool nights that make you dive for the down comforter in front of a warm fire with a hot toddy or glass of wine.  The summer out-of-state tourists are all gone and it's party time for the locals (see above... wine and beer festivals.  Also? Weird but lovable football fans).  And when it's not divinely sunny, it's fabulously stormy.  The wind whips the crunchy red and orange leaves around.  Rain showers followed by blinding sun breaks set the whole world asparkle.  Perfect days to watch old movies (or if you're into that sort of thing, football)  and watch the trees dance in the wind.   Notice the trend.... cozy blanket, fire, glass of wine.  Wet or dry, you can't miss.

I do love the football fans.  Mostly because they hole up on weekends either in a stadium or living room watching whatever big game is going on and leave the roads clear (except for I-5 south to Eugene/Corvallis on Saturdays), beaches empty and parks/festivals less crowded.  I actually enjoy a little football on occassion.  I just don't understand giving up every Saturday for three months to catch **.  I think I still have issues from being forced to watch every home football game in high school from the "Pep Band" section of the bleachers.  I was in Concert Band.  That, I loved.  But we had no marching band, and it was a requirement if you were in Concert Band to play in Pep Band. I didn't have a lot of "band friends", though so my buddies were all out in the "regular" section of the bleachers gossipping and flirting, eating hot dogs and cheering on the home team.  While I sat lonely and bereft off to the side watching a sea of hundreds of people all having fun while I was miserable playing The Magnificent Seven over and over and over again.  

Where was I?  Oh yes, back to the Harvest/All Hollow's Eve fests....

Little Kid friendly:

Hood River Valley Harvest Fest (Hood River - on the Columbia River waterfront)  Oct 17 - 19
Rasmussen Farms Pumpkin Funland  (Hood River)  Admission Free. Nationally recognized.  Daily.
Sauvie Island Pumpkin Patch & corn Maize (Portland)
Pomeroy Farms Pumpkin Lane (Yacolt, WA).  Not free.
Roloff Farms (Helvetia, OR)  (If you're a fan of the TLC channel Little People, Big World)
Stocker Farms (Snohomish, WA)

Round up of Puget Sound area Pumpkin Farms.

Halloweentown (St. Helens, OR).  Features Twilight movie filming locations.

Big Kid Friendly:

Fright Town at the Rose Quarter (Portland)   $20
Wenzel Farm Halloween Fantasy Trail (Oregon City)
Fright Fest at Wild Waves (Seattle)

I'll add more as I come across them in the coming days.   This weekend is the Honeycrisp apple harvest in Hood River.  I think maybe we'll take a trip to pick up a box direct from the farm.   Mr. Stang has this unholy adoration for honeycrisps.   We planted our own 4-in-1 apple tree in the backyard last year - honeycrisps are one of the varieties.