Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh Heck, It's Up To My Neck!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter!

Usually the first day of winter in Seattle is just another cold rainy fall-like day. Well not this year! We're in the midst of a series of snow, wind, and ice storms that have paralyzed Seattle. And the weather has been freezing or below, to boot! That's pretty normal for some parts of the U.S., but not here.

Bijou and JoJo have been mostly cooped up inside and are getting antsy. Our usual routine in the mornings (when I don't work) is to go into the backyard for 20 minutes or so to stretch legs and catch up on the smell news by sniffing everything. JoJo also needs to check out her excavated burrow and make sure it's still open. Well this week I've been going out to feed the birds and defrost their bird bath, and JoJo and Bijou come out but don't stay long. They both seem pretty irritated by the snow, although JoJo has dug around in it and eaten some. And JoJo is finally camouflaged!

Here's a short video of JoJo in the snow:


For the rest of the day Bijou sleeps on her bed in front of our heater and JoJo lounges behind the couch or on her pile of blankets in the livingroom. In the two and a half years we've owned JoJo, she's never shown the slightest interest in any of the heaters, but it's been so cold that yesterday evening (while Bijou snoozed in a comforter on the couch) JoJo had a bath and a nap on Bijou's heater bed for 40 minutes! We've never seen her do anything like it before. I guess the house is cold!


The poor birds in the backyard have been cold. I've been pouring hot water in their bath every day, making sure they have food, and defrosting the hummingbird feeder. The Anna's hummingbird overwinters in Seattle, and I have at least two that visit my feeder. I've been very worried about them in this extended cold weather, but today I saw one at my feeder again, and that made me very happy.

The other birds have really been enjoying the warm water in their bird bath:


I've talked to my Mom on the East coast, and they're having snowstorms, too. Well, wherever you are, take a cue from the animals and roast yourself in front of a heater, have a hot bath, and drink sugar water. Merry Squidmas!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Famous Critters

JoJo made it onto Disapproving Rabbits again! Today's DR post is from the photo I posted two postings ago.

A year and a half ago I heard about Mr. Lee, the cat with the cat cam. His site has cool pictures of what exactly he gets up to all day. Now a Seattle (Fremont) cat also has a cat cam! His Flickr set is here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stuff Your Face

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today we are going to Stephanie's house for Thanksgiving, and I made this pie:
It's an apple pie with real vanilla bean in it, a cheddar cheese crust, and a glazed and sugared top. It sure looks and smells delicious. I can't wait to eat it!
[Late breaking news: the pie was delicious! Recipe in the comments. -JPQ]

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, her is a video of JoJo gorging on a banana.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Photo Roundup

I've just emptied my camera, and decided to share some photos with you.

JoJo lounges.












JoJo looks imperious.















Bijou and JoJo glare at each other across the no-man's-land of the carpet in Fringe Wars. They both love to nap on the fringe of the rug, and they've each staked out an end. No one ever sleeps on the other's fringe.









JoJo inspects her new Vacation Villa. It has turned out to be not much of a hit.



















Finally, my Indian Rope plant has continued blooming now that I've brought inside. The waxy pink flowers are lovely and smell like chocolate. Mmmm!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Two Cool Things

Cool Thing 1:
OBAMA IS PRESIDENT! I can't get over it! On election night I literally jumped for joy many, many times. I got shivers and my eyes got a little wet. They still do! I just finished reading the entire special edition of the latest Newsweek which reads like a mini-book on all the behind the scenes action from Clinton's, Obama's, and McCain's campaigns. I feel SO proud of my country. There is a little store in Ballard that sells flags, and after the election they had a run on US flags. When asked why, customers said they finally feel proud of their country again. Yeah.

Cool Thing 2:
Google Maps StreetView has come to Seattle! Now you can actually look at our house as if you were standing in the street, not just the satellite view we had before (and still have). The drive-by photos of our house look like they were taken last fall. Michael's car is in the drive, but mine is gone. Have a look at our house by searching for our address! Click on the Street View button, and then click in the blue outlined block we live on. Make sure the little yellow person icon is standing in front of our house (you can drag him). It can be a little confusing to orient to our house if you don't know our neighborhood. The brown Volvo is across the street from us, and our neighbors next door to the right are outside their house doing yard work.
If you know other people in Seattle, look for them, too! One of my friends' houses has their cat sitting in a front window, which is cute.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall News

Forgive me Blogger, it has been one month since my last blog-fession. Really, if nothing is going on with me, I don't write about it. Last week was pretty exciting, though.

I've been feeling a little sick, and I was waffling about going out, and the price was high ($25), but I decided to go see Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet after all. I've been a big fan of Abigail over the past 6 months or so. I first started listening to Uncle Earl, and then I got her solo album Song of the Traveling Daughter and loved that, too. Then I read an article about her in Newsweek which talked about her new venture, the Sparrow Quartet. Wow! How cool! Mix up bluegrass, old-timey, classical, and chinese music and you get something amazing. My banjo teacher, Candy, heard the group and didn't really like them, so I went to the website with some trepidation. After listening to all the tunes online, I was hooked! And they were coming to Seattle again! The show at the Tractor Tavern was outstanding. Each musician was well worth the $25. Béla Fleck is famous, and although I hadn't heard of the other two, I gather from the Quartet bios they're well known, too. If you like music, search YouTube for some of their videos and watch these folks play; it's astounding.

Friday night I went to the World Affairs Council second annual Transnational Trivia Challenge Championship with five other librarians. Several years ago I did a similar thing with two other librarians at a Literacy organization's trivia bee. We got booted out in the first round, so I wasn't too optimistic for this one. This Trivia Challenge was run more like bar trivia: teams confer and write their answers on slips of paper which are gathered and scored; at the end everyone's scores are compared. No losing early on in the night! We answered 40 questions on world capitals, national anthems, news, children's book characters from around the world (we got 10 out of 10 on that one!), food, and whatnot. We actually did pretty well with 30 out of 40, and we tied for 3rd place! Woo hoo! There was a tie breaker question that we didn't get, but still, I'm very proud of us. There were 51 teams (we were Dewey, Knowit & Howe), and we did better than 46 of them! We rock. My proudest moment was being the only one to know where a missing condom-mobile had been stolen from: Mexico City! I have to thank BoingBoing, my main daily news source, for that one.

Monday nights I've been going to a String Band class, which I'm loving. A new song every week, learned with 13 other banjoists (an evil number for a wicked instrument) and then played with the whole class of guitars, mandolins, and fiddles combined. The Canote Brothers and Candy Goldman, my banjo teacher, have had this going for years, but I'm only able to do it this Fall due to my work schedule. Bummer.

Michael and I finally saw Cloverfield, and I highly recommend it. What a great movie! A real thrillah.

Otherwise, life has just been turning to Fall around here. The houseplants are snug inside, Bijou is spending all day glued to her toasty butt pad on the bed, and JoJo is upset that it is no longer warm and sunny when I take her outside. I made some tasty Boston baked beans and corn bread, and am snuggled up with warm cider.

Keep warm!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My New Toy!

Monday night I called Michael before I left work to see if I should buy bread on the way home. He said, "Nope, we have bread and milk. And a banjo!" Yippee! A banjo came in the mail for me! I ordered an Enoch Tradesman fretless banjo. It's got a scooped cherry wood neck, flush frets, and a pretty black finish on the fingerboard and pot. The flush frets show me where to put my fingers while still getting the fretless sound; kind of like banjo training wheels.

My old Deering Goodtime banjo is on the left, and my new Enoch banjo is on the right. I now have black and white, yin and yang, good and evil banjos. I will use them only for good! I've ordered a pretty black and yellow strap for it, and I'll need to get the gig bag all decorated up like my other case.

I was a little afraid of the new banjo, wondering if I'd be able to play it. Lo and behold! My fingers pretty much go in the right places! I'm very excited that I don't have to retrain myself too much. One thing I need to do is change my fretting to the point of my finger or the fingernail instead of just the flat pad of my finger. The sound is much crisper that way; otherwise the sound is a little plunky.

When I was agonizing about whether or not to get myself a new banjo, my banjo friend Jeff said I was the only person he knew with only one banjo. So now I'm real banjo player! Counting the four string Michael got me for my birthday two and half years ago (which started me on my banjo journey), I now have three! The old four string hangs on the wall as visual art, since it can no longer participate in audio art.

Well, I better go practice ...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Canoeing around the Arboretum

Today my friends Sabina and Maya and I rented a canoe from the UW Aquatics Center, and we canoed around the Arboretum. It was a beautiful day. I keep thinking this is the last one of summer, and we keep having these days! Thank the gods for friends who like to get outside. We saw ducks and geese and turtles and a Great Blue heron.

I took some footage of the heron stalking. I had my second-string camera with me (in case I dropped it in the water), so it's not so clear.

Friday, September 12, 2008

That's Moi Guy!

There's a nice new blog post out there about Michael's software MoI and his recent trip to the 2008 SIGGRAPH conference.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Orleans

In 2001, I went to New Orleans with my Cajun/Zydeco band Les Femmes d'Enfer. I thought it was my first time to Louisiana. Recently I've been scanning old family photos, and I found out I was wrong! Photographic evidence shows I was in fact crawling around on the New Orleans pavement in July or August of 1969! I can tell you, during my 2001 visit we started drinking Hurricanes from Pat O'Brien's at about 10am after a red eye flight which I did not sleep on. I was ready to crawl around on the pavement in 2001, too.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

End of Summer

It's a beautiful day, but summer is definitely winding up. We've had some cold nights and are snugging up with more blankets these days. I discovered our comforter is mysteriously deflated, probably by dry cleaning last spring. They're $139 at Costco, so I think maybe we'll just pile on blankets this year.

JoJo's veggie garden is mostly gone. I gave her the bolted lettuce to eat which she liked. Fresh lettuce on a stick! Two more carrots await pulling and eating.

Meanwhile, we're outside enjoying the warmth and sunshine as long as we can! You can see JoJo's wonderful bolt hole in the right corner above the clematis. It "mysteriously" gets filled in occasionally so she gets to work off some fat digging it out. She needs to do some serious digging soon ...

Laurie and Steve

Last Saturday my dear friend Laurie married Steve. Congratulations! It was a fun wedding with a beautiful bride, a teary groom, and a packed hall of friends. May your married life be as wonderful as this day was!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cereus Film

I finally put together a little film of my 2008 cereus blooming. I didn't make it as pretty as last year's. This year I experimented with taking long films of the blooming, now that I have my snazzy new still camera that will also do unlimited films. I then doubled their speed 6 times, so 2 to the 6 or 64 times. For the last night of blooming when I actually had a bloom facing the camera, I reverted to many stills. I think I actually prefer the progression of stills since the quality of the picture is better. All the flower shots are now up on my Flickr account, and here's the video.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Across the Universe

Last night I saw a movie I absolutely loved: Across the Universe. It's a rock opera of the 60s done completely with Beatles lyrics. That sounds only mildly interesting, but the movie is way more than that. It's awesome. The director's vision is incredible and the performances by the non-star actors is amazing. Cameos by Bono and Eddie Izzard are good, but only mildly so since the rest is so great! Watch for references to icons of the 60s like the cave-like bars the Beatles first played in, Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Weathermen, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Bread and Puppet Theater, and the Beatles singing on a rooftop in NYC. If you don't like the Beatles, don't let that put you off, as the songs are all reinterpreted by the stars and the situations they find themselves in. I hardly ever watch any of the DVD extras, but I watched them all for this movie since I didn't want it to end. Rent it!


I got some great frontal views of my last cereus flower to bloom, but I won't be able to work on that 'til next week, as I actually have to work through Sunday. Boo work!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alien Pod Hatching

There has been some serious Cereus action in my house! I had always heard that all the blooms happened on the same night. This year is the first time I've had more than one bud, and they seem to be disobeying orders. One flower bloomed Monday night, but the others stayed shut. This was good because I had to work 'til 9pm Monday night and I didn't get home until after 9:30.

Tuesday night I still had four unopened buds, and once again I had to work until 9pm. Luckily, I wasn't scheduled to be on the desk for the last hour, so I was able to go home one hour early! Thanks, Alene! I set up a light before I went to work, and Michael had started the video on my camera at 7:00 when he left for Kung Fu. I got home at 8:30 just in time to change the battery on the camera and see most of the blooming. I took a bunch of stills and a couple hours of video. I hope to take the video and do some time lapse fiddling. I'll post that sometime this week.

One bud still hasn't opened, and I'm pretty sure it will bloom tonight. The plant is right next to a big window, and the blooms face the glass making them hard to film. The plant is too huge to turn around entirely. I'm going to try to twist the last one around to get some full-frontal-bloomity.

Meanwhile, I've uploaded my photos to a Flickr set.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tonight's the Night!

Tonight's the night the cereus bloom! At least I'm pretty sure it will be tonight or tomorrow. Unfortunately, I work 'til 9pm tonight and tomorrow. Big wah. I set up the camera, and Michael will get some shots and footage. Last year it got to its most open at around 9:45, so I won't totally miss it, just all the opening action. I discovered another bud, too! I'll have 5 blooms!

This week has been quite hot, although today finally cooled off with some rain. Bijou has decided her new favorite place to cool off is in JoJo's carrot garden. Michael said it's because it's a "bed of carrots." The poor carrots are getting pretty squished, so I started pulling them for JoJo to eat. They're delicious!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Playing tourist

My Dad and my brother Brady were just out for a visit, and I got to do lots of great tourist things I never get around to doing on my own. They took a train cross-country from Maine, seeing the sites as they whizzed past. At Glacier, they rented a car and came out to Seattle Friday night.

Saturday we spent relaxing for the most part, though I took my Dad for a bike ride down to Golden Gardens while Michael abused Brady with weight lifting and going up and down the long stairs to Golden Gardens. We stopped in at Dusty Strings to oogle instruments and buy a few doodads and a CD. That night, after a dinner at the Hi-Life, we went to the Tractor Tavern. I had seen a bluegrass show advertised, but I knew nothing about the performers. What an awesome show! As my Dad said, one guitar solo alone was worth the $15 to get in. Danny Barnes of the Bad Livers opened the show on his banjo. He'd lay down a lick, record it, play it while laying down another lick, record it, etc., until he had about 5 tracks of himself playing while he played yet something else. Then six handsome young bucks got on the stage and proceeded to blow us away with totally amazing bluegrass. The Infamous Stringdusters. Wow. Each musician was top-notch. The guitar player blazed around the neck of his guitar like a classical guitarist, the mandolin player's hand was a blur, the other players were very fine, and the most beautiful vocals and harmonies came from them. To finish off their encore they came off the stage and stood in a tight circle in the middle of the stage picking like they do for themselves. Brady and I each picked up a CD at the end of the night.


It's hard to beat all that Saturday fun, so Sunday we just left town. We drove up to Paradise on Mt. Rainier and hiked around for a couple of hours. Although clouds covered the summit while we were there, Dad and Brady were suitably impressed by the views they got of the mountain and the tree strewn Nisqually river bed. We saw some pretty alpine flowers, a blue grouse and her chicks, lots of other birds, and a big fat marmot. On the way down the mountain, the clouds finally left the summit, and we got a nice view of the mountain up through Kautz Creek.




They had planned to leave Monday, but I convinced them to stay another day. Monday we strolled down to the Java Bean for coffee and goodies, then walked on to the Ballard Locks. We were able to see the Locks in action and get some salmon viewing in! The Chinook were heading up to spawn. We could see them waiting below the locks, in the glass viewing area we saw them hanging out resting in the fish ladder, and then we briefly saw a few jumping up through the locks. They were mighty big. Smolt were heading out of the locks, and a seagull and a great blue heron were monitoring it all. Some fish and chips from the Lockspot got us home, and then they came with me to my banjo lesson and a little thrift shopping. We topped the night off with square dancing at the tractor.

It was great visit!

Floral excitement!

Last year, my Night Blooming Cereus bloomed for the first time in 6 years. I got one flower last year, and one flower 6 years before. This year, I left the cactus in the nice sunny window it had enjoyed so much, and I fertilized it with specialized cactus fertilizer. It's paid off! I have FOUR alien-pod-like buds! I'm very excited. I have a better camera this year, so I'm hoping I have enough memory to shoot the whole blooming thing on film, rather than just paste together stills like I did last year.


Last year it bloomed on August 17th, and it will probably be at around the same time. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Possibly Vampires

Last night Michael and I finally saw the cinematic masterpiece Night of the Lepus. Giant mutant killer bunnies on the rampage! I got it from Scarecrow Video where you can get anything. Oh my god this movie was great! We watched bits over in slow-mo and laughed our asses off! JoJo watched and got some pointers on world domination. If you can get a hold of this movie, watch the first half for the "special effects" and skip the second half if you want to. The first half has awesome close-ups of blood-drenched tooth-baring giant rabbits. The second half is just many scenes of rabbits running through miniature sets, and then of people killing them.

Michael and I kept wondering how the bunny wranglers got the rabbits to bare their teeth so much. Bitter paint on their teeth? Glue on their gums? I hope it wasn't to bad for the rabbit "actors". Every once in a while you'd see a person in a bunny suit, too, for those scenes which a rabbit actor just couldn't pull off.

I put together a montage of our viewing experience. I hope it inspires you to get the movie some day!

video

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fiddle Tunes 2008

Sunday afternoon I got back from a week at Fiddle Tunes up in Port Townsend. Oh god it was heaven! Fiddle Tunes is week of workshops in American traditional music styles, and it takes place in Fort Worden where participants and faculty live, learn, play music, and party for a week solid.

Photos are on my Flickr account.
Many many many videos are on my YouTube account.

I camped out in my huge cabin tent in a string of campsites filled with friends. This is luxury camping! We camp in the RV area, so we have electricity and water. We set up light decked canopies, dining tables, and a kitchen complete with electrical appliances.

Many people come to camp, jam, and go to the dances every evening, and these folks are usually up until 3 or 4 every morning. Participants going to all the workshops have to be ready to think by 9:30 am, though, so I tried to be in bed by 1am each night. It was hard!

This year I took banjo workshops with Kelley Breiding from Back-Step (that's them on the right) and Band Lab workshops with the band as a whole. Back-Step are from Mount Airy, NC and play Roundpeak style Old Time music. Nick McMillian plays fiddle, and his dad Chester McMillian plays guitar. What a nice bunch of folks! They were very patient with slow beginners such as myself, and they made sure we all "got it". I had my first experience of confidently playing up to speed with a band. It was exhilarating! In the Band Lab we learned Cotton-Eyed Joe, Fire On the Mountain, and Sail Away Ladies. In the banjo workshops Kelley also taught us Chilly Winds, John Henry, and Back Step Cindy. I can't begin to express how much fun I had even though it was also hard work! Kelley kept joking that we were going to"win" the Band Lab concert, so at the end of the concert we gave the band a trophy. I found a "golden" goblet at Goodwill for $1.99 and painted "#1 band Lab Fiddle Tunes 2008" on it along with their names inside the cup. I noticed on their MySpace page they have a photo of our Band Lab playing labeled "First Place Band Lab: Misstep!" You can also see the trophy on the floor in front of them in my YouTube clips of them playing their Saturday night concert. Here's a video of us playing Cotton-Eyed Joe for the Thursday night Band-Lab dance.


I also joined the World Choir led by Daniel Steinberg. I haven't sung in a choir since 6th grade, which wasn't such a good experience. But I did sing with Les Femmes d'Enfer and I also took voice lessons for two years, so I have much more confidence and skill than I did when I was 11 (at least I hope so). Anyway, I thought I'd give the World Choir a whirl, and boy am I glad I did! We sang a traditional South African song called Ipharadisi; it was a pretty simple but very cool song. Then we sang Tango Malena. Wow. I didn't even know you could sing a tango since I think I've only ever heard instrumental tangos. This tune has amazing lyrics, melodies, and harmonies. I didn't get a record of our final performance, but I do have a recording from rehearsal with Bertram Levy playing the accordion with us.

Aside from the fun banjo and vocal work, I had plenty of Fun fun, too! Every night after dinner there was a concert showcasing the faculty's and participant's talents. Every night after the concerts there were two simultaneous dance halls going with contras, squares, Cajun, honky-tonk, swing, Cumbia, you name it. But of course, the best part was our campsite's annual silly hat cocktail party. Laurie and I, being the clothing extroverts we are, had elaborate costumes and hats, but many people traditionally make hats from whatever junk they can find at or around their campsite. Some others are experts at raiding the local Goodwill for weird hat parts. Check out my Flickr account for the hats.

I feel like I could go on and on and never capture the joy! Come to Fiddle Tunes and find out for yourself. If you're a musician or want to be, come on and participate. If you just love to listen and dance, come and camp with us and party!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy Days!

Happy Birthday Dad!















Happy 5th Birthday, Jaiden!



















Happy 2nd Bunniversary, JoJo!




I love you all!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Poison

Some evil bastard in my neighborhood has put out rat poison.

PAWS called me and I found out about the fate of my squirrel. She was blind and slowly and painfully dying from eating rat poison. Thankfully, PAWS was able to put her out of her misery before dying got a lot worse. Now I'm worried about my Bijou, all the neighborhood wildlife, and people's pets.

Because of this, I did a little research, and it turns out that just weeks ago the EPA laid down the law on distribution of rat poison. Unfortunately, rat poison manufacturers have 3 years to comply.

I'm sad and angry. And now Bijou wants to go out into the sunshine and I can't let her.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When Squirrels Attack

I know I don't blog much these days, but life has been just rollin' along. Today was exciting though! This afternoon I noticed a very tired squirrel in our back yard. He was crouching motionless on the ground with his head down and his cute little nose touching the ground. He looked very healthy with a nice fur coat and bushy tail, but I have never seen a tired squirrel before. I got on a pair of gloves and a pet carrier, and these are the results:









Squirrel: Safe in the carrier.
Julia: Not so safe with the gloves.

I was able to walk right up to Mr. Squirrel and grab him, which proved he really was ill. But then he perked right up. He screamed. He bit me. I screamed. I dropped him. Then I persevered and nabbed him again a little closer to his head and shoved him into the pet carrier. He screamed and growled again, threw his little body against the bars, and then huddled in the back. That pretty much was the end of his efforts, though he growled again at Michael when Michael moved the carrier a bit.

Luckily, squirrels rarely are rabid and especially not in Seattle. Also, I'm up on my tetanus. I took Mr. S to PAWS, and hopefully they will be able to do something for him. The last critter I brought them, a mountain beaver, didn't do so well. The mountain beaver had baylis and was put down.

In other news, Fiddle Tunes is coming up! I'm looking forward to a week of music, partying, dancing, and banjo larnin'. Last year I had a blast. I had a disappointment recently, so as a consolation prize, I bought myself a Tascam digital audio recorder. No more low quality cassette recorder, piles of cassettes, bags of batteries, and endless hours sucking the cassettes into my computer. Yay! I feel so 21st century.

We also got a new dishwasher, but that's not so exciting. Just convenient!