Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ode to the Beach House

The beach house in Baja Malibu has been sold, suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly, although we had known for the last year or so that it was coming. T's stepdad was looking for work again after 7 years of medical problems, surgeries, etc., and the border crossing was just getting too long and inconvenient to do every day. There has also been a sharp increase in Americanization (condos, Home Depots, Dominoes Pizza, and the like), as well as drug-related violence south of Rosarito. All in all, we all knew it was getting to be time, and when a realtor asked to show the house "just to see," and wound up with an offer for $370K, B and B decided that now was as good a time as any to leave Mexico.

We'll start our tour on the front patio.

The front door and patio.

When B and B first bought this house, everything in Baja Malibu was white, usually with brick trim and red tile roofs. But as soon as the ink was dry, they went to town with color, usually trying several color combinations before getting things just right. The dark terra-cotta color of the exterior, for instance, is the third incarnation.

These steps are on the patio and go up to the roof, a great place to hide stuff or to look out at the ocean.

Another view of the steps and patio wall.

The south view of the house.

Unfortunately, somebody bought this vacant lot and will be building a house on it beginning in January, leaving only 18" between the houses. Still, that will leave the new house barely 18' wide.

The front door. To the left is the doorway to the third bedroom/computer room/closet. (It's only about 12'x7'.) Behind you are three steps, then a door on the right to a second bedroom.

I wish the colors hadn't turned out so pinky in the photos--they're really a little more of a terra-cotta, like the exterior of the house but much lighter.

One view from inside the kitchen, featuring the microwave and some local art pieces.

There are actually two shades of the orangey-pink on these walls. The whole house started out the lightest color as B delicately dipped her toes into the non-white color palette.

Another view of the kitchen.

Note the handpainted tile on the backsplash and the handwoven baskets on top of the cabinets. (Yes, there are always towels hanging over the chairs. They won't ever get dry otherwise.)

This is the living area, looking toward the kitchen.

The last stop on the backwards-walking tour of the house is the living room. I love how the purple walls are echoed from the room divider to the kitchen archway to the far wall of the kitchen. B did it that way on purpose! The purple chenielle sectional sofa is waaaayyyy more comfortable that the previous one.

Another view of the living room.

The side walls of the living area are what B calls "icky green," her favorite color. What I love so much about this house is that there is absolutely no way I would have chosen olive drab to match purple, burnt orange, and turquoise, but in the end there's just nothing else that would have done. The art pieces on the wall are all from the mercado in Rosarito.

The fireplace, all decked out for Christmas.

The other side of the living area has a fireplace and more artwork. As much as B and family hate to see the beach house go, she admits it will be nice to go somewhere her stainless steel won't rust.

The fireplace was originally made of brick, which was covered in stucco and then painted.

The dining table has a great view of the balcony and the beach! The archways around the windows were bare brick before being covered with stucco. This wall is the only one in the house (besides the back of the kitchen arch) to retain the original first-try color, a very light terra-cotta orange-pink.

B and B on the couch.

This is absolutely the best, best thing about this house: this is the view from the living room onto the Pacific through the wall of arched windows on the west side of the house.

It's not all bad, though. B and B will be moving back to the mountains west of Denver, where they will be able to get quite a bit of house for what they made on this one. Inexplicably, all the houses in that area are painted white on the inside, too, so it should be fascinating to see how the new one turns out!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Are you suffering from the post-holiday blues? Unsatisfied with your current [insert winter holiday preference here]? Tired of the commercialism (or holiness) of what should be a holy (or commercial) day?

Check out Festivus. Maybe that's what we'll do at our house next year.

Old News

Here are some pictures from the aquarium in Long Beach. I realize they are a few weeks old by now, but since nothing new is happening, I'll wager, for any of us, what's the harm?

After a whole entire day of rental cars and stupid hotel rooms (more on that later, probably), we went sightseeing instead of literacy-conferencing. No fewer than four freeways later, we were right next to the ocean. It didn't even take all that long to get there. After numerous bad traffic experiences in the Inland Empire section of the metro area, getting around downtown and west LA was quick and easy by comparison.

After multiple rooms of fish and venomous critters, it was nice to take a break in the bird enclosure. The parrot-type birds in the photos are actually lorikeets, which to me sounds a little too much like something from a Dr. Seuss book, but there you go.

In the water there is a leopard ray who was about 4 feet across and more than 5 feet long, and with a beautiful pattern on his back and tail.
Besides the aquarium, there was some other stuff, but frankly I have been stricken with quite a case of ennui today and won't be getting to it at the moment.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

What says "happy holidays" better than a half-naked kiddo at the beach? I can't think of anything. For our last-ever (sniff, sniff) trip to Baja Malibu, Nick insisted on going down to the beach and trying to swim. He'd been up since 5a.m. alternating between cartoons, mock-martial-arts with a curtain rod, and staring longingly at the ocean.

Then two things happened, that, to a 12-year-old within throwing distance of a swimmable body of water, made the prospect of a long afternoon nearly unbearable: Dad broke the computer and was looking at a long day (and night!) of downloading and installing Linux to replace the Windows he'd deleted; and two little local kids hitting the waves with their boogie boards.

"Fine," I said, almost at the end of my patience. "I'll take you down there and you can just try to swim. I dare you."

Now, keep in mind that the Pacific is chilly even in the summer. The first time the waves hit your toes, you think, "I'm gonna be swimming in that?!" and then when the waves hit you in the crotch for the first time, well, it's pretty shocking. Even Deidre might have some trouble with it.

So as Nick is splashing away down there, all I can think about is: 1) Thank God he's a strong enough swimmer so I won't have to go rescue him and 2) If he gets sick doing this, I'll have a minimum of 6 parents/stepparents/grandparents calling and asking what exactly I was thinking letting him in the water two days before Christmas.

The second day we went down to the beach, Christmas eve, a couple of surfers were getting ready to go in, you know, putting on their wetsuits and everything like sane and normal people would. When they saw Nick splashing around in the surf in his underwear, they just shook their heads.

Anyway, you'll be glad to know Nick did not, in fact, get sick from his winter swimming, so nobody have a panic attack. Have a great Christmas day instead.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mysterious White Substance Falls on Henderson Neighborhood

An unidentified cold white flaky material was discovered coating surfaces throughout the Downtown area, sources reported Tuesday.

The anomaly was first discovered at 3:45 a.m. local time when an area resident was goaded from sleep to stand outside shivering in PJs and socks.

"Wow, this is the weirdest thing I've ever seen," she said sleepily as the white tufty thingies floated gently from the sky. "This is just too crazy."

When asked to identify the material, most residents were at a loss. "I feel like I should know what it's called....lemme think for a second," said another Burton Street homeowner. "Angel Dust? Isn't that what the kids are calling it these days? No, wait--dang."

Other witnesses were similarly confused. "Doesn't this sort of thing happen a lot back East? It's got something to do with organized crime, right? Drug-running and stuff?"

Local DEA agents were on the scene by 6 a.m. to analyze the substance. "It doesn't seem to have any psychotropic qualities, so far as we can tell," said one officer. "Preliminary findings also suggest that the substance's shelf life is practically zilch, making it a poor choice for distribution."

Whatever the composition of the unidentified medium, it vanished as suddenly as it arrived, leaving only small patches scattered on a small number of front lawns by 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A moral quagmire

So I've been playing Neverwinter Nights 2 since Monday, and it appears I've gotten myself into a bit of a bind. It started Friday when I picked up a neutral-good wood elf druid and my tiefling rogue didn't really care for her namby-pamby tree-hugging help-the-animals quest to the Maiden's Grove. I'd been tossing influence points between the two all through the Highcliff quests--first one would be happy with me, then the other, but never both at the same time.
So by the time we finally get to Neverwinter, I'm ready to do something really nice for the tiefling: I choose to help the crime syndicate on the docks rather than the City Watch. We've got to get into the closed Blacklake district, and the only people who can get us there are cops or criminals. Neeshka's made her opinions about the Watch pretty plainly known, and I figure she's be happy to hang out with the thieves and thugs in the docks for awhile, seeing as how she used to be a thief in Neverwinter herself. So I see this thug Caleb and he puts me in touch with the head of the criminals, who tells me I have to kill or bribe the city watchmen at the four guardposts in the docks area. No biggie. We take down the guards at the first post before I remember I can bribe them instead, which I do, and feel better about it. Then we get the chance to wipe out some thugs from Luskan, which I am more than happy to do. Then when I go back to finish my quest, she tells me I have to burn the City Watch building to the ground and kill everyone in it!
The problem is that one of the watchmen, my contact if I'd decided to join up with them instead, is this guy Cormick who comes from the same small town in the swamp as I did. Actually, he's sort of a town legend: "the boy who got out" and so forth. AND I actually met him at Fort Locke and talked to him and everything.
I actually had to quit playing the game, I felt so bad about this! I can't believe I let one of my companions decide for me what to do. I even went back to one of my saved games with the intention of re-playing all the stuff in between there and Neverwinter, then choosing to drop the tiefling in the bar and take the druid to join the Watch, but it would mean two or three days of redoing stuff. I just keep telling myself that I will probably play the whole game again because I like being all kinds of different characters, so next time I can do it right. Tyson doesn't mind having a character that goes around killing everybody, but it really bothers me.

Besides this, I am wasing dishes and doing laundry and getting ready for family to come over tomorrow. The house is a mess and we still have no heat, so we've got a lot to do. And if I start feeling any worse about this whole City Watch mess, I may just switch back to Sims 2 for awhile instead for some good wholesome much-less-morally-sticky fun.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Latest Thing I'm Reading

I'm reading Henry James right now (well, not right now because I'm typing), and it's really my first return to so-called "canonical" literature for pleasure in a long, long time. Maybe since I graduated high school.

I was reading during a cardio workout at the gym last week, and this part made me laugh out loud:

"She had no talent for expression and too little of the consciousness of genius; she had only the general idea that people were right when they treated her as if she were rather superior. Whether or no she were superior, people were right in admiring her if they thought so; for it seemed to her often that her mind moved more quickly than theirs and this encouraged an impatience that might easily be confused with superiority. It may be affirmed without delay that Isabel was probably liable to the sin of self-esteem; she often surveyed with complacency the field of her own nature; she was in the habit of taking for granted, on scanty evidence, that she was right; she treated herself to occasions of homage. Meanwhile her errors and delusions were frequently such as a biographer interested in preserving the dignity of his subject must shrink from specifying. Her thoughts were a tangle of vague outlines which had never been corrected by the judgement of people speaking with authority. In matters of opinion she had had her own way, and it had led her into a thousand ridiculous zigzags. At moments she discovered she was grotesquely wrong, and then she treated herself to a week of passionate humility. After this she held her head higher than ever; for it was no use, she had an unquenchable desire to think well of herself."

And that is about the best thing I've read lately, with the possible exception of Bill Bryson's new book, which is just as witty and as well-put, but for longer stretches at a time.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Shopping Help--Fast!

NPR saves the day, once again. If you, like me, are having trouble finding smart gifts for smart people on your list, Head Butler has ideas. They will even email them to you if you are really desperate or shop all year long.
Tyson and I happened to stumble upon this review of Amadou and Miram's album, Dimanche a Bamako. For some strange reason, Tyson heard of this band about a year ago and had been trying to remember who the heck they were and where he could find them, and POOF! here they are on NPR as we pulled into the grocery store parking lot. Weird, huh? I hope you like the video; as loyal readers know, I no longer have a working sound card on my laptop so I just went by looks.

So anyway, I realize it has been a long time since I checked in. Here is a partial list of things I have been doing and may, at some point, get around to telling everyone all about:

1. Going to the National Reading Conference in LA and feeling incredibly dumb around all the researchers, all talking about their "pedagogy" and "methodologies" and "multimodalities" and all that.
Related topics:
a. Everything in LA is expensive.
b. I got to drive a Prius.
c. I had five birds on me at the aquarium but then one of them bit me.

2. Going to Texas for Thanksgiving and eating Tex-Mex food and seeing the fam (except Deidre and my gay cousin Matt)

3. Desperately cleaning my house (including scrubbing the detailing in the cabinet doors with a toothbrush!) because other family is coming on Friday.

4. Teaching one of my classes about the Civil Rights Movemement, while trying to convice them that the way to change the world is not by going to jail--a fine line to tread, I might add.

5. Playing with Power Point and poetry

6. Beginning to realize that Christmas is coming up and I'd better get off my ass and, you know, think about other people for a change

7. Writing final exams. Here are some sample questions:
What kind of soda do advertisers drink? The correct answer is E.
a. Dr. Pepper
b. This is not the correct answer.
c. Pepsi
d. Sprite
e. Choose E. It is the correct answer.

What is the name of the teacher whose class you are taking a final exam for right now?
a. Mrs. Allen
b. Mr. Strotbeck
c. Ms. Downey
d. Mr. Guinn

(Actually, Mr. Guinn's first name is, inexplicably, Shelby, so I can see where they might be confused.)
Those are by no means the only questions. There are, of course, recycled questions on warranties and story elements, but hey, these are 7th graders taking a 110-question test. They need a little break once in a while.

8. Playing Sims 2 while I wait for Tyson to get a new external CD-ROM drive so I can play the long-awaited Neverwinter Nights 2.

9. Enjoying the 65-degree weather the last few days (sounds nice, huh Deidre?)

10. Fretting about my blog. Really.

Please check back in again early next week and I will have written about some of these topics, or about other new stuff, or about other things I heard on NPR.