Monday, February 25, 2008

Nights in White Salmon

No, it's not time for the annual summer street festival in downtown White Salmon. But there have been some good things going on at night around here. There was the moonlight ski at Atkinson Ski Park on the 16th. On the way up Rte 141 to Trout Lake, we were treated to alpenglow around Mt. Adams. We need a 'this car brakes for photo ops' bumper sticker. Here is what we saw: This photo (by Lloyd) does not do what we saw justice. I'm serious. I love Mt. Adams. It hides. You can't see it from as many places as you can see Mt. Hood. But it is a beauty if you go looking for it. I swear, the mountain photo they use for Discover Card must be Mt. Adams.

We arrived at the warming hut, ate pot luck, drank a little vino, then headed out to the woods. I'd bought nifty new headlamps as Valentine's Day presents for us. Guess who got distracted right before we left the house (I believe it had to do with finding a corkscrew to take) and left her hat AND lamp behind? Lucky for me, I'm married to a guy who never wears his hat for long, and who sees well at night. The skiing was pretty in the moonlight, even though the snow wasn't great. Beasts in the night never materialized, except for the damn snowmobiles that roared past. Most were courteous enough (not running us over) but the FUMES! The exhaust definitely taints the experience. Thank goodness we were off the snowmobile trails for most of the trek. I just love nordic skiing. I'll be sorry to see the snow go.

Our other night venture last week was the Lunar Eclipse. With a huge void in our evening calendar, now that we have no kids in local schools and no jobs to go to, it doesn't matter that an eclipse happens on a week night. But we have trees around our house. We had no good place to watch an eclipse. What to do? Call Nick. "Nick, we have a great bottle of Northshore Cellars Cherry Wine (bought during our Valentine's Day dinner excursion) and a box of See's Chocolates. Put on your coat and meet us in your yard to watch the eclipse." Nick, good sport that he is, came out, provided seating and canine friends for Brindle. This is Nick with Trout, who visits him regularly from down the street. We all call Trout "The Mayor of Brislawn Loop". The moon photos were tough to take, but here is the best shot Lloyd came up with: I left the date on intentionally, by the way, since it will be a few years before the next lunar eclipse...It was a stunning night, the cherry wine and chocolates were perfect, and all the stars were out. No red carpet necessary.

Sweet Home Alabama

Did anyone catch the 60 Minutes show last night or were you all watching the Academy Awards???? There was an excellent segment on the political conviction and imprisonment of Alabama's former governor, Don Siegelman, a Democrat in a very Red State. Once headed for the national scene in politics, he'll spend the next seven years at a federal prison in Louisiana. It was a jaw dropping story. I had no idea this went on. Alabama was not on my radar screen. Fifty-two former states attorneys general from BOTH parties have asked Congress to investigate. Who says bipartisanship is dead? It will make a great Grisham non fiction, as frustrating as Innocent Man (and hopefully will be better written). It includes accusations of bribery, smear tactics, a Karl Rove connection to the campaign manager of Siegelman's opponent, the wife of this campaign manager as the prosecuting federal attorney…heck, go here, read or listen to the story. I'd suggest watching it so you can see the players faces as they tell their stories.

This morning's NY Times online had linked an article about a curious blackout of this particular segment in Alabama. The CBS affiliate which broadcasts the program in N. Alabama put an apology at the beginning of the show saying they were having difficulty with the signal from CBS. CBS says, no way, our signal to you was fine.

Guess who I believe?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hiking in the Hood

We've had quite the sunny stretch of weather, which is supposed to be coming to an end. My friend Shelley, who didn't go to Mt. Hood to snowboard yesterday because it was getting too icy, called looking for a hiking buddy. Lloyd was in Aleve mode, with his knee still recovering from Saturday's kayak roll practice followed by a moonlight ski adventure (on crusty snow), was happy to pass. SO it was just us girls, Shelley and I plus Brindle and Kenosha, Shelley's dog. We started hiking up the hill behind the hospital, and spent the next 3 plus hours following switchbacks up to 1600 ft, where we hit remnant snow fields, then found our way to a trail back down. Great discussions on a vast range of subjects. We had some great views, which I will share.

The hospital in at the bottom of this hill. You are looking out over Bingen, and the bridge to Hood River. Portland is 60 miles downriver. Here is White Salmon. The snow you can still see in on Underwood Mt. We see that from our house, which is on the far side of that lump called Strawberry Mt. The White Salmon River runs between the two. It was a beautiful day to be outside. We had a few streams to ford. The runoff has created some lovely waterfalls along the trails. Shelley promises more hikes to come, unless of course she gets a job. Like many other people who populate this area, she works on contracts that she tries to fit around snowboard seasons and windsurfing season. Dang that work can really get in your way!

There Will Be Blood

No, I'm not talking about the debate tomorrow in TX. We went to see the film Monday night, based on the Upton Sinclair novel "Oil". Daniel Day Lewis is just an incredible actor and this performance is Oscar-worthy. Note: this is an intense movie, not recommended if you want light entertainment! Oil patchers will love it. Rather bizarre ending, though....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Did you know that male honeybees explode after mating?

It was in the paper this morning. Talk about a climax!

I was over visiting my friend Susan's place, and found myself almost wishing I was back in Texas, for just a little while. Seems there's gonna be a knock down drag out debate in Austin! I'm happy for her and all my friends (I didn't say OLD FRIENDS this time). If there's any way to get tickets, I know Susan will find some. Susan, we'll expect all the juicy details! Don't leave out a single thing!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we've had a busy week in paradise. First order of business was attending a Gorge Commission hearing on Tuesday morning. This is an emotional issue around here, so we need to get ourselves educated, so we can have an opinion. We like to have opinions. Especially informed opinions. See, there's an old lumber mill/eyesore along State Hwy 14 west of White Salmon that the owners want to turn into a 'destination resort' (translation, condos) called Broughton Landing. The land is in the protected scenic area, next to a state park, fish hatchery, and HUGELY popular windsurfing mecca (The Hatch). Now, they could build a resort with some cabins and RV slots, and be approved. But they want to build condos instead, so need an amendment from the Commission to the zoning rules that everyone else has been following for over 20 years. People don't like that too much. And they all showed up to testify. So many that the hearing was extended to next month's Commission meeting. Stay tuned for more. This one's been brewing for a long time, apparently, and will be on the burner a while longer. Thing is, SOMETHING has to be done with the eyesore.

We escaped halfway through the testifying and headed up to Pineside for an afternoon ski around Big Tree Loop, about 5.2 miles. The snow is old, the trail was rutted, but it was delightful to be out getting some exercise. We planned to christen the hot tub that night, but the wind was so bad, we were afraid the cover would be blown off to Oz. So we waited until LAST night, opened a bottle of Wind River Cellars Port, and had ourselves a nice soak under a clear starry sky. Heaven.

Oh, you thought you were gonna get a picture from last night? It was too darn cold to be setting up cameras !

Monday, February 11, 2008

Other Voices in the Wilderness

I'm feeling a little less lonely. I just read two op eds in the NYTimes online that made my day. I knew I'd be happy with Paul Krugman when I saw his title, "Hate Springs Eternal". Then I saw Sunday's article, by Nicholas Kristof, "When Women Rule". How perfect was that! Honest, I never saw it before I wrote the earlier post today. Highly recommended reading.

On a less frustrating note, today we got the new hot tub hooked up. It's full. It's running. It's still freakin' cold, but maybe by tomorrow night it will be toasty. It certainly will be ready for me on Saturday night after the full moon ski at Atkinson Sno-park!

And just for all of you who don't know what to do on a gray day in February in the Gorge, GO SKIING ANYWAY! You just might see this! Yep, a rainbow!

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Let's go back to Sesame Street.

Which of these does NOT belong?

San Marino, Switzerland, Ireland, Liberia, Philippines, Argentina, Bolivia, Burundi, Chile, Ecuador, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Iceland, India, Indonesia , Israel, Latvia, Malta, Mongolia, Mozambique, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peoples Republic of China, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, USA.

I woke up early Sunday morning, my brain still full of caucusing and elections. A question crossed my mind and I thought, I'll have to look that up today. I think it was in my mind because of the misogynous comments I've been noticing in the media and among the populace. Well, PARADE had the same question, so there it was, already answered for me when I opened my paper. I rephrased and edited Parade's just a bit after a little googling.

The answer is the USA, which has not ever had a female head of state, in any capacity (elected, appointed, acting). This list not including monarchs or female heads of government, such as prime ministers (sorry Margaret Thatcher fans). Some of these countries have had more than one. Some are currently lead by women.

I'd say it's about time we gave it a try. That would count as CHANGE, wouldn't it?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What a DAY!

We did it! We held a caucus and lots of people came! More than twice as many people as 4 yrs ago. Our merry band of volunteers met at 10 am Saturday, after doing 4 hours of set up Friday. We had our signs, our 15 precinct areas, our coffee, our cookies, our buttons and bumper stickers, our name tags, our precinct maps, our microphone and precinct packets. Oh yeah, and our donation jars. At 11:30 we held a pre caucus training session for people who were going to help lead the process. By noon, people started coming in, for the 1:00 caucus. It was SRO by start time. All the coffee was gone, most of the cookies, and all of the pizza meant to sustain us long haul volunteers.

We had our first tally of votes. Then the 'discussions' began. Lively. Yes. Mind changing? Not generally. But it was fun. People sitting and standing with their neighbors, publicly supporting their candidates. Nothing secret. Telling your neighbors why you are voting the way you are. People were nice to your face, even if they didn't agree with you. As it should be. Then came the final tally and the election of delegates. I get to go to the next level for my gal Hill. Thank God we got enough votes to send a couple of delegates from our precinct, which went 3 for the O man, 2 for Hill. Overall the O man won in our county. Incredibly, one of our precinct members said she was voting for Obama because Oprah told her to. I kid you not.

Our county dems were the big winners. We got lots of people participating in the process. AND enough donations to cover our expenses, and then some.

We had fun cleaning up and working on the final tallies. Except for having too many people, it went very smoothly. That's a downside we can live with. Now if we can just convince the State to use the primary votes (mail in) instead of the caucus votes next time. SO many people had family members who had to work, or knew someone who couldn't be there from 1-3 on Saturday afternoon. Many people did not know that their primary vote would not count for anything. Let's be fair next time, folks. I want to see that data comparing the primary split with the caucus split.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Day of Reckoning is Upon Us

I'm 55 years old. I'm not stupid. Been lied to. Been schmoozed. Been there done that. Tomorrow I'm going to my caucus. I have hefty mistrust of politicians. They all fudge the truth. They all take money from special interests. All of them. Even the ones who say they don't. You don't get millions and millions of bucks for your campaign from mom and pop emptying the cookie jar. And let's face it, there are lobbyists for GOOD things. SO it's not ALL bad. It's not illegal, and until we change how our elections are funded, this is not a deal breaker for me.

I am especially cynical when it comes to smooth talking men. Sorry. Just a personal bias. We all have them. Biases, that is, not smooth talking men. I've done a lot of research. I've thought long and hard about what a leader is. I've had a little help from some friends who can clarify things easier than I can. I've thought about situations in my own life that taught me that women have to do things ten times better to get half as far.

SO tonight I've been making my list of hot button points that I might get hit with when I support Hillary Clinton tomorrow at my caucus. I started with the things I heard from people who support Obama, when they find out I'm haven't drunk the Koolaid. For me, it comes down to intelligence, experience, confidence, empathy, resilience, and GUTS. Testicles are not involved, though if any female had them, it would be Hillary.

SO. On Iraq. With the exception of HRC's opposition to the promotion of the Iraq war 'architect' Gen George Casey (Obama voted FOR it), their votes have been identical. Obama didn't have to put his name on the line in 2004, he wasn't privy to the same intel that the Congress was, and admitted that he and GWB were on the same page with regard to Iraq. Way back in 2004. Then, when he had the chance to put some muscle behind his anti Iraq stance, he did not join his fellow senators in supporting the Kerry-Feingold amendment which set a troop withdrawal start date. So, no ad for you Barak.

On PAC's. While claiming to be pure of funding from PACs/Lobbyists, Barak has taken money from 10 bundlers who have registered as federal lobbyists. He's also taken money from former lobbyists, people who HIRE lobbyists, spouses of lobbyists, and state lobbyists. Until he started running, he took money from federal lobbyists and as a state senator, directly from corporations. No ad there either.

On Iran. HRC saw the danger in GWB's saber rattling way before Obama did. She called for Congressional approval before Bush could take ANY military action in Iran., and cosponsored a bill to prohibit funds for military action without congressional approval..Ironically, Obama missed that vote. He cosponsored a later bill…

On Energy, he fails to mention he supported Cheney's energy policy, voting FOR it in 2005. On Gulf Coast Restoration, all of his proposals were similar to Hillary's, and touted 3 months AFTER she presented hers.

On who can beat John McCain, the independents who support Obama are generally Dem leaning independents who are likely to back the eventual nominee. There will be no advantage with Republican leaning independents. Both Clinton and Obama are progressives who will have to deal with a divided electorate. Neither one will have a free pass.

On women's issues, who better? She does not want us going backwards. Here Here. On international diplomacy, contrary to what Obama wants everyone to believe, Hillary never said he shouldn't negotiate with our 'enemies', just that it wasn't a good idea to promise to meet one on one with every perceived enemy in the first year of his administration. I've heard speculation from people overseas that Obama will be so eager to 'get along' that he will be perceived as 'weak'. Not out of the realm of possibility.

On who the Republicans want to run, Obama has barely had pebbles thrown at him. Hillary has had the whole arsenal over the last 10 years. There will be no surprises. The laundry is already hanging. Don't doubt that the Republicans will throw all they can dig up on him, including his lack of experience in these 'dangerous times'.

So, do I vote for the first term senator who talks great? Who WILL be great once he gets a little more seasoning? Who truly thinks HOPING will make things HAPPEN? Who has not been tested at ALL by the rabid media? Who has not even finished one term in the senate, never mind stood for and won reelection? And who has a number of 'present' votes that he would not go on record for. I have to ask, do you want the top job? Then you gotta make a stand, man, and take your lumps.

Or will I vote for the woman who was an ambassador for our country as First Lady, who tried to deal with our health care issues in an uphill battle, who learned from her mistakes but was bold enough to TRY in the first place, who ran for Senate, and did such a good job she was reelected handily, taking traditional Republican stronghold districts. She has reached across the aisle to cosponsor legislation with Republicans who lead the charge to impeach her husband. You can't get much more cooperative than that. She has worked hard to support our troops by making sure they get to keep bonuses even if they are injured and can't complete their tours, by bringing the needs of troops with traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress to the forefront, by working on improving health care for ALL of our people. I'm going with Hillary. She CAN DO. We need her to get us back on track. It's about damn time we put a woman in charge. We're way behind the curve on that one!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

No Tacoma Road Trip

This afternoon Hillary invited me to a Town Hall meeting in Tacoma tomorrow morning at 10:15. Too bad Tacoma is more than 3 hours away, and I have to be at our caucus set up at noon, then again Saturday morning at 10. Sorry, Hill, No can do. I'm a busy woman. I need more notice!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

And the winner was?

El Cid! Man, was that good chili. I sure voted for it! My humble entry was good for second, though. And I won a big jar of Salmon Row extra hot horseradish, made in the Gorge (Cascade Locks). Excellent prize.

It was a very snowy day. The road was treacherous for all but 4WD vehicles so our numbers were small. There were four entries, the two aforementioned, plus Andy's southern Mexico recipe complete with banana leaves, good for third. I have to say, I loved Kris' chili verde with the while beans. She and I had the only bean chilis. Say what you will, I LIKE beans in my chili. But then we Boston people do like our beans.

Speaking of Boston, how 'bout Eli Manning? I have to say, that 'shoulda been sack' where he threw that completion, setting up the winning score in the last minute of the game...AWESOME. I knew it was all over but the cryin'. SO, can we all stop hating New England now?

And speaking of hate, I wish some of those Hillary bashers out there would stop reading the papers and listening to the talking heads and take a listen to HER. She held a national town meeting last night, which was partially broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, til they cut it off to show their latest sappy movie. I listened to the rest online. It was brilliant, and inspiring.

So that's it from here on Super Tuesday. Spent the day working on our own caucus coming up Saturday. I heard Obama's people will be there. Hillary should be calling me soon so I can be sure there's room at the table for her stuff...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Secret Ingredients

Tomorrow is the Chili Cookoff at Wind River Cellars. I worked on my entry last night, and it's 'resting' in the fridge til I do the final phase in the morning. I searched the local grocery store for just the right 'secret ingredient', and found the perfect addition. My secret ingredient is usually a brew of some kind. It changes based on where I live. I wanted to use the local brewpub's Scottish ale, but the weather has been so bad, we didn't go over to Hood River to get some. SO plan B was in effect, and Rogue Brewery from Newport, OR came through with their Chipotle Ale. No lie. Chipotle Ale. How perfect is that?

Back in our Nigeria days, a group of us started the Annual Alamo Day Chili Cookoff, which also included salsa and margarita competitions as well as chili. The feast was followed by a "Run for the Border", the brainchild of the creative teachers at the American International School- we stole it for the cookoff. It was an obstacle course around the pool area that involved tequila checkpoints. Ah, good times, good memories. Anyway, I found my sheet of winning recipes from the 1997 event the other day while cleaning out my recipe box. That year Kim and I sent my driver and her cook to get bush meat for our entries in that category. Jean came back with a gazelle in a cooler (it was a small gazelle, big cooler) for Kim, and Kayode had some cane rat (we called them Nutria in Louisiana) for me. Needless to say, Kim and Jean concocted a winning chili that year. My bush meat special (I wasn't gonna call it cane rat chili) was an also ran. I will say it tasted alot better after the margarita competition. Guaranteed, my Rogue Chipotle Chili will be MUCH better than that. I stuck to beef and pork for my meat ingredients...

A Sign?

I sure hope the BALD EAGLE that was in the big pine down the hill from our deck this morning was a sign of good things to come! Unfortunately, it was too far for my humble camera to capture a good photo. Lloyd did a little better, with cropping and enlarging. It's evidence, nonetheless. And you thought that we drinking Irish Coffees for breakfast!

Just in time for sister Mary's birthday tomorrow. Even though she was born on Ground Hog Day, she wanted to be a "Baldigle" when she grew up. Happy Birthday, Mary!