Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Graeagle and Frazier Creek

We went for a drive up to Graeagle, CA.  It's a cute little town and the Graeagle Mill Works might be my favorite place to have lunch.

20070131 At Frazier CreekAfter lunch we took a quick drive toward Frazier Falls, but didn't get very far because the road was frozen.  We stopped at a bridge over Frazier Creek and enjoyed the scenery (photos here).

Frazier Creek near Graeagle, CA, is in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, in the Plumas National Forest, Plumas County.

(You can double click on words in this blog to get more information.)

Monday, January 29, 2007 on Tailfeathers

I added a new widget (link to information) to this blog.  It's called AnswerTips.  You can double click on any word in my blog entries, and information will pop up.  For example, you could double click on the word Bidwell, in the phrase Bidwell Park and see information about Bidwell park in Chico, CA.  Cool, eh?

Which brings me to the web site  They have a section called "Today's Birthdays".

Richard Brautigan was born on this day in 1935.  He is one of my favorite authors and poets.  Too bad he ended his own life.  Who knows what more he could have written?  Go ahead, double click on Brautigan for more information....

Note (2/12/07):  The widget has been fixed by and now fits in my left column.  Very nice.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Walk in the Park

Image Image We went to Upper Bidwell Park today and walked on the Yahi Trail.  The water in Chico Creek is clear and low this winter.  We have had about 10 inches less than normal rain, so all the places that are usually wet with creek overflow are dry, dry, dry.  "They" say that there is no cause for alarm yet because it's still early in the season.  Dry or not, it's still scenic.

Image Upper Bidwell Park is still a Chico City park, so while it may appear to be unimproved, it is still a popular place for local Chico State University kids to congregate and party.  One place, Bear Hole, is particularly popular and signs of civilization go along with the popularity.  Almost every year some student drowns in the Spring runoff and no amount of warning them will make some kids feel mortal.

Image One of my favorite trees in Bidwell Park is the Western Sycamore.  All that lovely white bark against a blue sky is a beauty to behold.  The neat thing about Yahi Trail is that it is an interpretive trail, meaning they have signs telling you what is growing near the sign.  We also saw Ponderosa Pines, Gray Pines, Bay Laurel, Oaks, and Ash trees.

Image Image I feel lucky to live here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Freedom Writers

FreedomwritersFreedom Writers (*** Good) is predictable, but even though you know, basically, what is going to happen you are swept along with the characters and the story.

Hilary Swank, two Oscars to her credit, is good in this role.  She requires the right role to shine and this one is good for her.  She plays a new teacher whose first assignment is a high school freshman English class.  Her first class, made up of members of about 4 different gangs, is one of the most difficult situations a new teacher can be in.  She is naive and over eager, yet she succeeds.

Imelda Staunton, of "Vera Drake" fame, is marvelous as English Department head.  She is the image of a teacher who has been in her job too long.

The "Freedom Writers" title refers to the collected and edited diary entries of the class members.  The actors playing the students are good, and you care for their characters more and more as the story progresses.

I recommend it.  Reviews are mixed.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A week in Arizona, USA

(updated to fix typos - if you have already read this, you can quit now.)


View from Sonoita, AZ

Here are all the photos, stored on

SUNDAY, January 14

Photo of Rain Valley HouseWe left Chico at 6AM and arrived at our Rain Valley House about 11 hrs later (Southwest from Sacramento, CA, to Phoenix, AZ).   We picked up a Budget Rental car, 4WD Ford Escape.  Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch (C-), then did some grocery shopping at Trader Joe's in Tucson.

The drive at dusk through the Green Valley area was really pretty.  Highway 83 south from Hwy 10 is a scenic drive. The only slowdown was at a Border Patrol station, but they didn't stop us because they are concerned with northbound traffic and we were headed south.

Our house (pictured) is down a dirt road, and it's really quite nice, out in the middle of nowhere.  Quiet!!

MONDAY 1/15/07

Went to find the nearest big town, Sierra Vista - WalMart, a couple of grocery stores.

Found the Elgin winery in Elgin - bad wine except their $35/bottle Sonoita Claret (not on web site), a very dry red.  We bought one of the so-so wines, Tombstone Red.

TUESDAY 1/16/07

Madera Canyon ViewWent for a very nice walk in Madera Canyon - many pictures. 

On the way to and from we had to drive through Nogales which is a frustrating experience.  The exits are all on the wrong side of the road and they don't warn you ahead of time.  There are big produce packing plants there for all that Mexican produce, and there are huge long hall trucks all over town.  It's an ugly poor town. 

There are border patrol checkpoints on the roads heading north.  If you want to smuggle something send it with two old ladies in a rental car.  They just waived us through.

Summer SpinningWent for lunch in Tubac at Shelby's Bistro (very good).  While we were waiting for for our table we stopped in the art gallery next door.  Artist Star Liana York does beautiful sculptures.  (Karin Newby Gallery, Tubac, AZ)   Tubac is where we bought our red face mask - $10 from Mexico.


Cold and windy again today, beyond Jan's tolerance for unpleasantness.

AAAWe went to Patagonia for a very cool walk at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve (Nature Conservancy).  not particularly scenic, however birders "flock" to it.  What do you call a group of squirrels?  a convention? a
fluff??  We saw one place where a bunch of squirrels we congregating and munching nuts.  There tails were all fluffed and curled up over their backs - cute.

Then we went looking for ghost towns in the Coronado Nat'l Forest.  We drove over miles of dirt roads only seeing a few other vehicles.  The roads are pretty well maintained and the weather is dry, so the roads were no problem.  We saw no ghost towns - none.  But the mountains are very interesting... red rocks with bright green lichen on them... big trees along the creeks (cottonwoods?)... cattle... and absolute quiet, no sound of wind in trees, no hum of civilization.

Tomorrow will be Tombstone - guaranteed ghost town experience.

THURSDAY 1/18/07

Cochise's StrongholdWe started the day at the Amerind Foundation.  Amerind is a combination of the words 'american' and 'indian'.  It is a museum to showcase the purchases and archaeological finds of a man named William S. Fulton.

Next was a visit to Cochise's Stronghold.   it's a beautiful setting and very defend-able.  The nature trail is full of information. 

Then we stopped in Tombstone, a truly tarted up "ghost town".  lunch was forgettable at the Longhorn Restaurant.

It was a long day.  Good to put our feet up at the end of the day and watch an Australian Open match between S. Williams and Petrova.

FRIDAY  1/19/07

It rained quite a bit last night, so I put 5 pan-bucket-bowl drip catchers on the second floor of the house before we left for the day.

Our first stop was Ft. Huachuca in Sierra Vista.  The nice MP at the gate told us that there would likely be snow today and the roads into the canyons were pretty wet.  We decided to try elsewhere.  It was still raining.

Next stop was Ramsey Canyon, a Nature Conservancy preserve.  When we arrived it was still dark and drizzly out, so we just turned around and left.  it looked like it might have been pretty on a nice day.

So far 0 for 2....

Coronado National MemorialNext we went to the Coronado National Memorial.  By then it wasn't raining anymore.  They had a short but uninformative video about Spaniards arriving in North America. 

The ranger on duty said the road to the mountain pass, with its fantastic view, was only 3 miles up the road.  He said the road was good and there was no snow.  It was a wet dirt road most of the way.  The last mile was narrow, steep, and just a little slippery with no guard rails and steep drop-offs near the edge of the road.  It was white knuckle time for me even though I was driving a 4wd car.

At the top the view is indeed spectacular, even with clouds covering the top of most of the mountains.  The air was crystal clear after the recent rains.

The drive down the mountain wasn't so scary, but just as slippery.  I took it very slowly.  I think we saw about 5 other cars/trucks on the road the whole time.  Two of them were passenger cars - bet their ride up and down was interesting!

Lunch at Chili's in Sierra Vista.  I thought it was awful and I'd only give it a c-.  The service was disinterested, and they forgot to return my credit card to me with the bill.  I didn't notice until a day later, so I canceled the card rather than drive all the way back to the restaurant.  Don't bother with Chili's in Sierra Vista.

Last stop of the day was Murray Springs Clovis Site.  It is the site of an archaeological discovery of bones of ice age animals and human hunting tools.  The interpretive trail was short, interesting, windy and muddy.

Score for the day's outings is 2 for 4, or 2 for 5 if you count Chili's.

We are glad to be back at the Rain Valley house - aptly named.

SATURDAY  1/20/07

U of A Women's BasketballWoke up to light layer of snow on top of the BBQ and roof.  Just enough to make it cold.  We went to Tucson to a women's basketball game between the University of Arizona and UCLA.  The UofA facility is quite nice.  It was good to see a Pac 10 game again.  I must say, though, Chico State's defense is better than UofA's.

SUNDAY  1/21/07

We got up early and drove back to Phoenix, where we met our plane and experienced several delays (weather, equipment, late pilots), resulting in us being almost 2 hours late getting back to Sacramento.  We flew almost directly over Lake Tahoe, a beautiful site from the air.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm outahere


This is as clean as my desk has been in months!  I cleaned it for the
pet sitter who will be coming to take care of the kitties while I am
away, away, away.

I'll be in the hills and desert of Southern Arizona for a week.

Have a good time while I'm gone, and play nice.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Treo Alarm works for me

I downloaded a copy of Treo Alarm for my Palm Treo 680.  I wasn't expecting much, but what a pleasant surprise!

We have a new timekeeping system at work and I was always forgetting to log in and out at lunch time.  Treo Alarm lets me set an alarm to remind me of several events during the day.  I can change the tunes that play for each type of alarm.  Life is good.

And!  It gets the weather for me so I know how to dress after it wakes me up in the morning.  I can check the weather at the same time I check the time.  Life is good.

And... it's not too expensive... only $18.50 for a year's subscription.  Life is good.

For those of you worried about crashes and resets on your Palm 680, this little piece of software has caused me no trouble at all.  Life is good.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Children of Men

Children_of_men_posterToday's movie was Children of Men (**** Very good).  It's based (loosely, apparently) on the P.D. James novel.

It's 2027, the near future.  The world's population has become infertile, and people are aging.  Suicide drugs are sold over the counter.  Order (not!) is maintained (not!) by armies all over the world.  Illegal immigrants are public enemy #1 and 'fugee camps are cruel encampments.  In London, England, our unlikely hero is given the task of saving the mother of the first child to be born in many years.

He travels with an underground group of resistance fighters, then through an ugly countryside and a refugee camp in order to help her escape.

Clive Owen is wonderful, as is the rest of the cast.  It has gotten very good reviews.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Blood Diamond

BlooddiamondposterBlood Diamond (*** Good) has two very good actors sharing the lead - Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou.  DiCaprio is maturing very nicely and I have liked Hounsou since he was in Amistad.  Jennifer Connelly does pretty well too.

The story takes place during a 1990s civil war in Sierra Leone, rebels and government troops fighting for control over diamonds and people.  It's another story about how outside money and corporate interests (diamond dealers and weapons dealers) are benefiting from a bad situation in a third world country.

The message is heavy handed.  I don't need to see quite so graphically how awful it was, and how cruel.  People were shot for no reason, by both sides.  Refugees by the millions are kept behind chain link fences.  It's not an easy movie to watch.

Mixed in with The Message is an action movie about one man trying to save his family (Djimon Hounsou), one man trying to make enough money to leave Africa (Leonardo DiCaprio), one journalist (Jennifer Connelly), and one rare and beautiful diamond.

Only about half the critics recommend this one.  I only about halfway recommend it.  You can wait for the DVD if you don't have the stomach to have violence and cruelty handed to you in big screen, living color.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Wraps Per Inch Tool

WPI Tool My newest toy tool for knitting is a Wraps Per Inch Knit-Kard & WPI Tool Kit, from Nancy's Knit Knacks.  You can click on the picture to the left to see a really big, but in focus, picture which is too big to fit on my monitor.

With this small, but mighty, tool I can measure the yarn weight (thickness) of any yarn, whether or not the yarn has a wrapper with gauge and weight information.  You wind the yarn around the little wooden thing for an inch, and then you count how many times around the yarn was wrapped.  You could do the same thing with a ruler; however, the valuable information is on the card...

Based on the Wraps Per Inch (WPI), the card tells you the yarn weight, average gauge per inch, recommended US and Metric needle size range, and recommended crochet hook size range. 

For example, I wrapped some sock yarn around the tool and counted wraps.  I got 21 WPI.  The card told me the yarn weight is Finger ("1", Super Fine); should knit up at about 6.75 - 8 sts per in on needles sized 1 - 3(US).  Yep, it's fingering weight yarn.  I did knit the socks on #1(US) needles, but I usually get about 9 sts per in.

The back of the card explains how to use the tool and suggests that you knit a gauge swatch, no matter what the card says.  Another hint on the back of the card: wrap hairy yarns loosely to allow for bloom; and thick-and-thin yarns should be wrapped for 2-3 inches, count, and divide wraps by 2-3 to get WPI.