Sunday, April 29, 2007

What? Me Worry?

My desk was so messy that I couldn't find anything on it or in it, still hadn't filed away last year's records, etc., etc.  So, after the movie this afternoon I decided to tackle the top of my desk.  ... and I'm almost done, but this stopped me:



A letter from IBM postmarked March 16, 2007.  Enclosed was a 2005 (what, 2005??) Summary Annual Report which summarized annual financial reports.  IBM is required to file said report each year - for the previous year.  OK, so the Feds aren't fussy about timely reporting.



But... the thing that made my eyes pop out of my head caught my eye was this:

SUMMARY ANNUAL REPORT FOR IBM BENEFITS PLAN FOR RETIRED EMPLOYEES (that's me)

... bla bla bla



Basic Financial Statement:  The value of Plan assets, after subtracting liabilities of the Plan, was $8,412,470 as of December 31, 2005, compared to $50,142,996 as of December 31, 2004.  During the Plan year, the Plan experienced a decrease in its net assets of $41,730,526.  During the Plan year, the Plan had a total income of $688,897,738, including employer contributions of $516,815,746, participant contributions of $170,595,865 and earnings on investments of $1,486,127.  Plan expenses were $730,628,264.  These expenses included $60,645,169 in administrative expenses and $669,983,095 in benefits paid to participants and beneficiaries.

Do I read this right?  They started 2005 with $50 billion and ended the year with $8 billion?   Or, is it possible that the retirement fund that is going to pay me a monthly check the rest of my life only has $8 million dollars?  I know IBM has been changing around retirement benefits for current employees (aka no more pension plan), but...



Holy Shit!!!



I think I need to read those financial statements when they come next time; although I'm not sure what I would do if the news really is as bad as it looks.



In the Land of Women

In the Land of Women: *** Good



Inthelandofwomenposter


The NY Times didn't much care for it.  Berardinelli wrote a review I agree with.  It's a good way to spend an afternoon, if you don't have big plans to do something else.



Not much happens, but there are many little pieces of the story that work well.  A young Los Angeles man (likable Adam Brody) goes to stay with his grandmother (wonderful Olympia Dukakis) in Michigan.  She keeps saying she's going to die, and he has just been broken up with by his current girlfriend (beautiful Elena Anaya), so they are an odd family of two.



As he is cleaning out grandma's run down house, he meets women in the family across the street.   Mom (grown up Meg Ryan) has just learned she has breast cancer.  Teenage daughter (fresh and lovely Kristen Stewart) is being a teenager.  Precocious little sister (cute Makenzie Vega) is trying hard to be grown up.  The father (Clark Gregg) is a fleeting character we don't really get to know.



They all provide support for each other in various ways, and your heart is tweaked while watching.  There is no  high drama, several sweet moments, and hope for the future.



Friday, April 27, 2007

Frazier Falls in Spring

It is "a little hot, a little early" as Cousin L says.  Today was forecast for 90F so we decided to drive up to the mountains - the Sierra Nevada Moutains, South-East of Chico, CA, Plumas National Forest.



Our destination, besides lunch at the Graeagle Mill Works, was Frazier Falls.  To quote the US Forest Service:


Frazier Falls
- A gentle trail leads 1/2 mile to a scenic
fenced overlook of the 100-foot high falls. Best viewing is in
mid-spring when wildflowers are in bloom and there is plenty of water.
As Gold Lake Road may be snowed-in, check with Beckwourth Ranger
District for best viewing time.

Waah, I forgot my camera!  But that's why camera phones were invented.  Heh.  I took a few photos and uploaded them to flickr.  They aren't good enough to show here, but if you like, take a look.



There was snow!  We were able to drive up to the parking area for Frazier Falls, but the road just beyond was not plowed. 



In several places the trail was covered in snow, so we either walked over or around it without much trouble besides wet shoes. 



The falls are beautiful, and so full!  Spring is the right time to see these falls.  We've been in Autumn  and it's just a trickle.



It was a good day, and the 90F heat in Chico wasn't so bad with the car's a/c on.  First time J turned on her a/c this year.



Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Penelopiad + Babel



Book while knitting



While knitting on my current project, I listened to Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad.  I'm not educated in Greek mythology, so I think I might have missed some of the point of this book.  It's the story of Penelope and Odysseus as told from Penelope's point of view.  The book is witty and tragic.  I recommend it.



Film: Babel



I rented Babel on DVD.  I don't know how to rate this one.  I hated it - it was like swallowing bad tasting medicine; however, it was very well made and written.  You have to be in the right mood to watch it... strong and not easily depressed.  The story takes place in four countries:  Japan, Morocco, and Mexico/USA.  It's the story of people surrounding a shooting incident.  The acting is very good.  The story is very sad.



Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Peony Bush Volunteer

20070420 White Peony is Finished 20070420 Pink Volunteer Peony Bush



I planted this tree peony about two years ago, so this is the third Spring it has shown it's wonderful, full, white flowers.  It's finished right now (left).  But what's that?  A Volunteer??  Out of nowhere, this pink volunteer just popped out this year (right).  It must have been in the pot from the nursery and was dormant for a couple of years before showing itself.



The reddish bush in the background is something we call a "Tea bush".  Someday I'm going to have to look it up and give it a proper name.




20070420 Pink Volunteer Peony BlossomThe peony is fast becoming my favorite plant, what with it's showy pink volunteer and all.  I don't think the pink peony is a Tree peony, because the flower isn't as full or as large as the white.  I think I'll keep it.



Anybody have any thoughts on what type of peony has volunteered to live in my courtyard?



Thursday, April 19, 2007

Knitting Chairs

Knitting Chairs


20070419 Chair 01
20070419 Chair 02
20070419 Chair 03 (Click for larger images.)



These are my two knitting chairs.  The first (flowery slip cover) is in front of the television.  The second chair in my loft is my knitting nest.  There are two pictures of the same chair.  The middle picture has my Knitty Convertible on it, but is otherwise unprotected.  The third picture on the right shows how the chair looks most of the time, covered and protected against the three cats of the house.  (The shawl in the rightmost picture is a Zimmermann pi shawl - easy, warm, all mine.)


Work in Progress



20070419 Gift 01
20070419 Gift 02
20070321 Convertible Lace (Click to see larger images.)



The first two pictures show the same stitch pattern done in two different yarns with two different needles sizes.  The first is a worsted weight cotton (mfr = ??, bordering on bulky), knit with size 9 needles.  The second is worsted weight cotton (Mission Falls), knit with size 7 needles.  These little mystery pictures will remain a mystery until the items have found their permanent home.  The stitch pattern is:  Row 1: *YO, SSK*, repeat between borders.  Rows 2-5: knit all sts between borders.  Repeat rows 1-5 until length desired.  You end up doing row 1 on the right side, then the wrong side, and back and forth until done.



The third picture is one I've shown before.  It's a closeup of the lace pattern in my Knitty Convertible.  I'm about 28 inches along now (shown in middle chair picture above).  That means I'm half done!  I've been knitting on this in the mornings while listening to "The Piano Tuner" by Daniel Mason.  It was a good book.



About the book, the USA Today Review says, "His unlikely adventurer is Edgar Drake, who in 1886 London is an expert
tuner of Erard pianos, a brand so exquisite that they were played by
Napoleon, Haydn, even Beethoven.  One day Drake receives an unexpected request from Her Majesty's War
Service: Would he travel to a remote village in Burma to repair a
damaged Erard?
"  I listened to an abridged book on CD.  If you read the review you see some quibbles toward the end of the review.  I have none of those quibbles about my abridged audio version.



Sunday, April 15, 2007

Miss Potter

Misspotterposter
We saw Miss Potter (*** Good) today... 3 and a 1/2 months after it's release.  Some movies are slow to arrive in Chico (understatement of the year) if they aren't big Hollywood productions.  Thank goodness for the Pageant Theater or we would have had to see it on DVD.



Now, about the movie.  The only reason I give it three stars is that the scenery was absolutely lovely, and the story of Beatrix Potter's stories is charming.



Ren�Zellweger plays Miss Potter.  More than once I thought, "Oops, you can see her acting."  It was distracting.  Ewan McGregor plays her publisher pretty well.  The animation bit, where Potter's characters appear to move on the page, was fun.



I've been to Potter's neighborhood in the Lake District.  I think it was raining the entire time we were there.  Seeing it in the film was like deja vu.



I say wait for the DVD unless you especially like British scenery.  The NY Times gives a review here.



Walk in the Park

It's a beautiful, if windy, Spring day here in Chico, so we went for a walk in the park while the cats found sunny spots in which to nap.  Here are the photos from today, with captions.











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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Convertible in Progress

Image I have been knitting slogging away on Knitty's Convertibe,  The Mason-Dixon Knitting blog post from Ann today introduces her Slogalong.  It's a web site for people who knit for a very long time on one project, projects with "that lovely endless quality."  It seems like anything I knit is a potential slog!



When I knit lace in front of the television I tend to make mistakes if the program is interesting (recent Medium episode caused a missed YO).  TV lace knitting is slow because I have to visually check every lace row to make sure I haven't screwed up, and then unknit back to the mistake and fix it.  That's what I call slogging.



Early morning knitting, on the other hand, is good knitting.  I am catching up on Brenda's Cast On podcasts in the early morning between 4 and 6 am - great knitting time!  Besides Brenda's podcast, books on CD are good to knit to.  The last book I knit to was "Sharpe's Rifles" by Bernard Cornwell, which is not something I would choose to read, but just fine for background while knitting.  By the way, I don't recommend Cornwell's Sharpe series unless you like late 1700s and early 1800s war, long battles, etc.



Convertiblealt1
About the Convertible, I don't plan to wear it as a shrug, but as a kind of poncho for seriously air conditioned buildings in the hot Chico summers.  I haven't found any light-weight buttons yet.  Any ideas?



Sunday, April 8, 2007

On being Fat

This is from the April 8, 2007, PostSecret web site...



On_being_fat_2



We are a society sold on thin == beautiful.  And I'm one of the people who believes it.  I don't see fat people as attractive, which is why this PostSecret rings so true for me.



Friday, April 6, 2007

Antonia's Line

Antonias_line_poster
We saw a great movie on DVD this week:  Antonia's Line (**** Very Good).  It's the story of a strong-willed Dutch woman and her offspring.  And it's the story of the people in the village she and her daughter return to after WWII.  The NY Times says, "Antonia and her descendants come to symbolize the freedom of
independent females, with little need for men in their lives.
"  (The picture is a link to the NYTimes article.)



The movie won the 1995 Academy Award for best foreign film.  I recommend it for the lovely story that it is, as well as for the absolutely beautiful knitted items worn throughout.  There are sweaters, shawls, scarves, etc.  There are some stunning wraps made of worsted weight yarn.  They look warm and you know that people sat inside knitting in the cold Netherlands winters :-)


(4/8/07 Update year of Academy Award.)



Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Goofing Off with Google Earth



My_neighborhood
Here's a picture of my neighborhood in Chico, shown by Google Earth.  I'll give you a hint - my house is Not one of the ones with a pool.  My pool is less than a mile away at Chico Sports Club, and it's big enough to swim laps, which is what I did at 4:30 this morning.  By the way, the info on Chico Sports Club's web site says the lap pool is kept at 79-82F.  BAH!  The lap pool is warm enough to swim in, but only after a few laps to warm up.



Google Earth has improved quite a bit since I first used it.  My neighborhood is now accurately portrayed.  I think the images are less than two years old, because the new tree I planted shows in my front yard.



So, playing with Google Earth is what I'm doing this morning instead of ... my Taxes, laundry, vacuuming, and mopping,



Have a nice day.



PS:  As long as I'm just blabbering away....  Take a look at Eva Henneberry's web page.  She's a quilting artist, and her work is hung in the Chico Public Library right now.



Monday, April 2, 2007

Peonies, 2007

This Spring has been glorious in the garden!  The Dogwood is going crazy.  The Wisteria is sweetly decorating the patio.  But!



My favorite plant is the Tree Peony in the front courtyard.  The flowers are between 5 and 6 inches across.



Peony




You can click on the picture to see many Peony snapshots taken yesterday afternoon.



This year we have had a warm, dry Spring.  It would have been better to get more rain.  Californians have multi-year droughts in their minds when we get below average rainfall in any year.  But, if you ignore the ominous lack of water and just think about how beautiful the flowers look when they have not been drenched with Spring rain....