There has been a lot of buzz in these parts about the new 49ers football stadium. People have spent a lot of money for season tickets and the underlying required seat licenses. One man wrote in to our popular roads and traffic newspaper columnist asking about public transportation options, once he learned how absurdly expensive parking will also be. He said he had been debt-free. I believe even his house was even paid off, but he mortgaged it for the seat licenses and season tickets.

Even before I was laid off I had asked myself if that made any sense in terms of priorities.

Just sayin’.

photo: CBS San Francisco

email annoyances

I’ve had this problem with Outlook for a while.

When I start up my computer and open Outlook it will sometimes just hang and not receive anything. Then I go rename the Outlook.srs file (as I read I should do) and reboot. I’ve disabled most of the add-ons, but that doesn’t seem to help. Sometimes I can go a week or two without this happening, but recently it happened two days in a row. Very aggravating.

I got up on Saturday morning hoping for some quiet blogging time only to be faced with this issue and have all of my blogging time eaten up by trying again to find a resolution. The advice I’ve found online for the most part I have either done or is not helpful.

On Sunday I installed and set up the free, open source Thunderbird from Mozilla, but I wasn’t ready to make the switch. So I also took one last shot with Outlook. I greatly reduced the size of my mailbox file. I also cut back on the number of filters that direct email into a specific folder. And I’m giving the computer a good, long time to start up and get all of its processes going before I open Outlook.

This week: so far so good.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

#145668376 /

a different routine

Given my changing circumstances, I was rather restless one morning a couple of weeks ago. After getting out of bed a few minutes before my normal 7:00 a.m. time and feeding Tasha, I threw on my clothes and went for my walk. Turns out I liked doing it.

I’ve been doing it since. It makes a nice start to the day, I don’t have to worry about the heat, and I don’t have to worry about fitting the walk into my day later on.

That works.

pressure cooker blues

I have had a stove-top pressure cooker for years that I’ve used to cook dried beans. But I had read about electric pressure cookers and their use in making one-pot meals. Back in late 2010 my blog friend Tahoe Mom wrote about the success she (her husband, really) was having with their electric pressure cooker. I decided to give it a try.

cpc600I bought the Cuisinart model and over the past almost for years now have gotten a lot of good use out of it. Then, a few weeks back, it stopped sealing correctly. The consensus on the Yahoo! pressure cooker group was that it was the sealing ring. I ordered a new one, installed it, and, guess what, no luck.

Someone pointed out that I could replace the whole lid. That would certainly be a lot cheaper than buying a new PC, but then there’s no guarantee that that would solve the problem. And I have to consider whether I really want to remain in the electric PC world. Mostly I do things like chicken and rice or stew with sausage, potatoes, and veggies. And as I think about it, I’m not sure how much time I’m really saving. After all, I will always brown the chicken or sausage, then I have to wait for everything to come up to pressure, go through its normal cooking time, and for the pressure to go down. I generally do a natural pressure release, but even if I do a manual release, I generally wait at least ten minutes after the timer has turned off to do so. Seems to me that I could put on the rice and come back into the kitchen ten minutes before the rice is done and start the chicken in the frying pan. And that eliminates what you inevitably (and simply by the nature of the design of the appliance) get when you cook those same ingredients in the PC – everything tastes the same.

Where the real value of the pressure cooker comes in is when you do something like a pot roast. In such cases you really do save a lot of time, and the flavors come out marvelous. But I may do that perhaps twice or three times a year. And I can do much the same thing in my crock pot – it just takes a little more planning and scheduling. So I’m not sure that it’s worth the expense, especially given my recent layoff.

Maybe I’ll go without cooking that way for a while and see what it’s like.

Sacred Music Friday: Bizet, Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, George Bizet, Jessye Norman

Thanks to my cousin LeeAnn for this.

hot, sweaty work

You wouldn’t think that installing a simple high-tech device would be hot, sweaty work, but it can be.

Given my layoff I knew that I would be making phone calls into Silicon Valley as part of my job search. We’re about 35 miles south of there, depending on your point of reference. That means that calls up that way are toll calls. Not expensive per call, but the cost can add up. So I decided to get a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone device and service. Such services allow for unlimited nationwide calling. I decided on the magicJack with its year of service included in the purchase price as the best value. I went out and bought one. That was the easy part.

I used to have a second line in my office loft. It was once used for work calls and for our DSL. But we switched to cable for Internet service, and when my company provided me with VoIP service on my work computer, we dropped the second line. Fortunately I never bothered to gather up the phone cord, so it still stretched from under my desk to the now-inactive jack behind the computer table. But I still had to find a way to get it up to the top of the computer table where all of our Internet and routing equipment is. I took a length of string and fished it down behind the table then tied it to the phone wire, after which I pulled it up. Sounds easy, but there was a lot of crawling around under the computer table and other sweat-inducing activity.

Then there was figuring out where to plug it in. The always-on power strip underneath the computer table was essentially maxed out, and I certainly didn’t want in the power strip that I shut off when I turn the computer off. I found an open slot in an extension cord. That was fine, but it involved a lot of stretching, wrapping the cord back behind the computer table and a cabinet, and ended up knocking the magicJack back behind the computer table, so I then had to retrieve it. Again a sweat-inducing activity accompanied by the appropriate cursing and swearing.

But I got the job done, and followed it with a soak in the bathtub.

child safety seats

I had a revelation a while back. I had long been annoyed with parents who would have the back doors of their car wide open and taking up the parking space that I wanted while putting their child into or taking them out of the child safety seat. Then it hit me. They are simply following the law.

Things were different when my brother and I were growing up. Before we got our station wagon my dad set up a plywood platform covered with a blanket in the back of our Ford sedan. We would sit back there and play on our trips between Barstow, where we lived for three years, and Hemet, where the rest of the family was. After we got the station wagon we’d sit back there with the back seat folded down.

Probably not the safest thing, but we survived. I think that we as a society today tend to be a bit overprotective. I understand that dodge ball has generally been eliminated from elementary schools. Has to do with self-esteem or something. But I don’t know anyone my age who was permanently warped by the game, and we played a lot of it.

Safety seats are a different matter, however. They are well-designed based on decades of analysis and testing. Automobile and safety experts know how to make a child as safe as possible in a car. And although the kid may be a bit lonely strapped in the back seat instead of being in the front seat with mom, they are as safe as they can be if the seat is installed properly.

It’s one of those things, though, that took the longest time for me to “get it.”

#470623527 /

A Difficult Woman

DifficultWomanA Difficult Woman
Alice Kessler-Harris
Kindle Edition  $13.35, Amazon Hardcover Bargain Price $12.00, Amazon Paperback  $14.05
448 pages, Bloomsbury Press (April 30, 2012)

Author Alice Kessler-Harris states at the very beginning of this book that it was not intended as a biography of Lillian Hellman. She acknowledges the existing biographies and refers the reader there if that is what they are seeking. Her undertaking here, she says, is an analysis of Hellman’s life and work from a feminist perspective.

Certainly Hellman, as one of the foremost writers and activists of the twentieth century, is deserving of such an analysis. And a fascinating and multi-faceted individual Hellman was. I believe Kessler-Harris hits the nail on the head when she says, “critics, reviewers, political friends and enemies collectively formulated a life that reshaped Lillian Hellman, turning her into something of a Rorschach test.” What one thinks of Hellman is a reflection of one’s own political and social views.

The book is arranged thematically with chapters on Hellman as a woman, an activist, a playwright, a manager of her own finances, and a perhaps sometime Communist. Generally the chapters cover those themes throughout her life. As such, we read a lot about Hellman’s intense sexual appetite in an early chapter and see almost nothing about it through the rest of the book.

Kessler-Harris, while obviously an admirer of Hellman is by no means an apologist. She acknowledges the numerous fictions in her autobiographical writing (most notably the piece “Julia” in the book Pentimento, in which she claims to have delivered $50,000 to a friend in the Austrian resistance). At the same time Kessler-Harris points to the extensive research and detail Hellman put into her plays.

At 448 pages there is a lot of Hellman here, and in the later chapters I found myself wishing for a little less detail. Nonetheless, I believe this book makes an important contribution in helping us to understand who this important and complex woman was.


I have long avoided Walmart for a number of reasons. They have a history of paying their employees poorly, and they squeeze everything they can out of their suppliers. On the other hand, they are undertaking a significant investment in solar energy, and they are engaged in an initiative to sell organic produce, which could give a boost to organic farmers and bring down prices for consumers.

And when one receives notice of a job layoff one reassess one’s priorities. Especially when one’s favorite allegedly upscale regional grocery chain is not known for its low prices and when the store isn’t really offering anything special.

Last week Terry and I swallowed our pride last week and went in to our local Walmart. It was good to have Terry along because she does a much better job of paying attention to prices than I do. On item after item Terry was impressed at how much lower their prices were than elsewhere. Our total bill was $36.30. Terry estimated that same purchase at our allegedly upscale regional grocery chain would be $50.00.

As Terry said, “I guess we’re going to stop being snobs.”

#157019316 /

Sacred Music Friday: Lamentations

Tallis, Lamentations, the clerks of the Choir of New College, Oxford, under the Direction of Edward Higginbottom