frogg files

"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." --Flannery O' Connor

Monday, August 31, 2009

California Burning, part II

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday driving around and scoping out the situation. The Station Fire is the one that's burning closest to me and my family, but we are not in any danger at this point. I'm trying to upload some pics I took yesterday and today, but Blogger is not cooperating. Will try again tomorrow. Of course, by then, the fire may look different or be in a different location. It's breathtaking how quickly it changes.

I will say that tonight, after checking in on my parents and making sure they were OK, I headed over to La Crescenta and was stunned to see huge flames on the mountain while driving along Foothill Blvd (the main street through La Crescenta and La Canada). In all my years living in Southern California, I've never seen anything like this fire for sheer size, scope and proximity to my family. It's a little unnerving, but as I said, we are all OK and are not in any of the evacuation zones.

Will keep you posted.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

California Burning

Sorry for my lack of followup on Switzerland, but Southern California is sort of on fire right now and that's been distracting me.

For the past few days I've watched from my office window as a giant plume of smoke rose up over the Angeles Crest mountains. Yesterday while I was out running errands, I saw some of the flames. And here's a photo someone took of the fire approaching the Rose Bowl where I often go to walk:

As you can imagine, it's all a little disconcerting.

The weather has been insanely hot — yesterday I thought my skin was going to blister after only a minute outside. I haven't done any walking or jogging because the air quality is so bad; everyone is being advised to stay indoors with the doors and windows shut.

This morning I woke up and our whole house smells like smoke.

I'm going to go for a drive now and check things out. Will keep you posted...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Switzerland Recap Preview, Of Sorts

I know I said in my last post that I would update my blog "tomorrow", which would have been two days ago, but obviously that didn't happen. And today doesn't even really count, because I basically have just enough time to say that I don't have time to write much. But! I'm hopeful that I may actually get a bunch of photos from Switzerland uploaded in the next day or two, so do check back. I think I've even improved my photographic capabilities since I went to Thailand in January.

For all you skeptics out there, here's a little preview:

And I didn't even try on purpose to get the real guy in the picture! Talk about your happy accidents.

Now look at this:

What? There are a lot of car tunnels in Switzerland.

OK, how about this:

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I would just like to point out the reflection of people outside in the glass of the booth. Which actually was on purpose, I might add. I believe that's called "compositional creativity."

Or something.

Finally, here's one of my favorites:

I have no idea what those guys are, but come on. You know you would have taken a picture of them, too. Don't even try to lie.

Hey, at least they're not train tracks, people! Although, alright, I confess I took one of a train station.

OK, maybe more than one. Let's just not talk about it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Well, I can't believe my trip is already over! As I type this, I'm about 30,000 feet in the air, taking advantage of a free trial of Delta's in-flight Wi-Fi. I'm using my iPod touch, which is not the easiest thing to type on, so I'll keep this short for now. I do, however, want to say that the Matterhorn is amazing and was worth the trip even all on its own. If you haven't seen it in person, I highly recommend it.

And no, the ride at Disneyland does not count. Sorry!

OK, gotta go. More tomorrow. Until then, have a lovely day, with kisses - as always - from the frogg princess.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Switzerland!

Well, I finally arrived, after nearly 20 hours in transit. I won't go into the harrowing details, but let's just say that a 4-hour flight delay right at the beginning of the trip that resulted in me having to stand in an exceedingly long "customer service" line at the Delta terminal at LAX was not a good start. On the other hand, the ticket agent ended up being a wonderful person who bumped me up to business class for the domestic leg of the flight she had to switch me to, and then the emergency exit row seat of the international portion. On another other hand, though, I would simply like to ask one question: when was it exactly that flight attendants on U.S. carriers started attending the how-not-to-give-customer-service school? Just curious.

But the flight itself was pretty smooth, and the view from the plane as we descended into Zurich was very pastoral and green, which was soothing until we were nearly on the ground, at which point I thought for a moment we might actually end up landing on a grass field, because that's all I could see below us until about 30 seconds before touching down.

When I first stepped out of the terminal at the airport, I took a deep breath, seeking to fill my lungs with the pristine air of Switzerland. That's when I discovered how many people smoke here (answer: a lot). So yeah, the pristine air idea didn't really work out. Oh well.

Anyway, yesterday my brother took me on the tram to the downtown center, the Niederdorf, where I marveled at the sights — specifically the sight of the price tags on things. Let's just say most of my souvenirs will probably take up more room in my memory than in my suitcase. We also walked near the river to where it becomes the lake, and had dinner at a sort of outdoor cafe right there by the water. Actually, pretty much every restaurant and bar gets turned inside out for the summer, and everywhere you go people are hanging out at tables on the sidewalks. It's great!

Unfortunately, my energy began to flag in a major way long before we started heading home to my brother's place, and by the time we did get back I could barely move. (Even though I'm done with chemo, it seems there are some ways in which chemo is not quite done with me. Grr.)

But I'm feeling better today after a good night's sleep, and am looking forward to exploring. My brother had to work today, so I'm on my own. Planning to take a trip to St. Gallen and check out the Stiftsbiblioteck at the Abbey. (Hmm, went to Portland to see Powell's Bookstore; and the first thing on my list here in Switzerland is a library. I'm even nerdier than I thought!)

More to come...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Future is Switzerland

In just a few days, I'm off for my second overseas trip of the year, to visit my brother in Zurich. I'm quite excited; I could use a new adventure.

So the other day I went online in search of cool things to see and do in Switzerland, and ended up (surprise, surprise) at the Web site for Swiss tourism, Please click on that link and then tell me what you think of their ad campaign. Because frankly, I think it's kind of weird. Just for starters, there's the tag line: "We do whatever it takes to make your vacation perfect." That's an admirable commitment, but it seems a little odd when shown against a photo of a train crossing a bridge. Are they saying that they're willing to build a picturesque bridge just for you?

Then there's the photo of the masseuse. She looks way less than thrilled to "do whatever it takes," but maybe that's just me.

My favorite is the first photo, mostly because I'm absolutely mystified in regards to what's happening in it. There's a guy lying on his back in a meadow, a box of tools on the grass beside him, and a long line of identical cows fading off into the distance. The man looks like he's using the tools to somehow tinker with a giant caldron that's hanging around the first cow's neck. This photo may take the "We do whatever it takes" slogan to whole new levels. I mean, it looks like he's building a million identical robotic-yet-amazingly-lifelike cows, presumably in an effort to make sure that your vacation is perfect—in which case I sure hope you're a fan of cows, because otherwise your vacation is going to suck.

Anyway, I'm not sure how this concept fits in with the rest of the pictures, which at least look like stuff that has some plausible basis in reality. But then again, reality may not be Switzerland's strong suit. Consider this snapshot of the navigation bar that appears when you click on "Interests." Specifically, consider the left-hand side of the bar:

Hmm, that's hard to read. Let me zoom in for you:

Oops. OK, that very obviously didn't work. So maybe you should just go to the site, click on "Interests" and then see for yourself that it says, clear as anything, right next to "Food & Wine"... "Time Travel."

I always knew the Swiss were an advanced race, but wow. This trip could end up being even more interesting than I thought...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Quick Note

Hey all, just wanted to let you know you can find fiction by yours truly in the inaugural issue of Ontologica. Click on the graphic to download a .pdf of the journal. Many thanks to the editors Drew Lackovic, Rod Dixon and David Harrity for coming up with the idea for the magazine, and for all the hard work they devoted to making it a reality. And for inviting me to be a part of Issue 1.1.


NOTE: The story would probably be rated PG-13 for content and at least one instance of, ahem, "colorful" language. Just FYI.

Monday, August 03, 2009

What's Cookin'?

I didn't make it to San Francisco. Boo!

On the plus side, I am feeling a little bit better. Good enough to (gasp) cook tonight after I came home from work. And, if I say so myself, dinner was pretty good. Here is the "recipe", should you feel inclined to try it yourself:

Cacciatore sauce from Trader Joe's (thank God for pre-made sauces)
Whole wheat corkscrew pasta
Frozen peas
Pre-cooked shrimp

So, yeah, basically all you do is cook the pasta, and while you're doing that, simmer the sauce and add the frozen peas and pre-cooked shrimp. Then add the cooked pasta, stirring it into the sauce. Put however much you want into a bowl, add some crumbled feta, and you're done! In half an hour, tops.

You can tell I'm running really low on blog ideas, can't you?

But speaking of cooking, I read an interesting article on about the irony of the fact that cooking shows are super popular, yet people don't really cook that much anymore. I found it interesting, because frankly, while I don't go out of my way to watch cooking shows, if I happen to be in a place where other people are watching (say, the conference room in our office at lunchtime, for example), I do get kind of enthralled. Which is weird, because I don't cook. I mean, unless you count what I did tonight (throwing pre-made, pre-cooked things together) cooking.

Anyway, I thought I'd pose the question: do any of you enjoy watching cooking shows? If so, which ones? And have you ever tried to actually cook any of the recipes that were demonstrated on a show? If so, was it a terrible mistake?