January 24, 2004

National Pie Day

Yesterday, as you no doubt know, was National Pie Day. Gary and I decided to celebrate this year with a small party. We didn't do much planning, so we were a little weak in the entertainment department. But, we did have lots of pies, and that's what it's all about, isn't it?

Only 7 people showed up; we had several cancellations at the last minute due to competing (non-pie) parties. And we had 5 pies: apple, cherry, pecan, banana cream, and some sort of chocolate-raspberry cream. It was an excellent mix of pies, and I was really surprised we didn't have any duplicates. We never managed to get to the pecan pie, but we ate most of both cream pies, and half each of the fruit pies. I think the cream pies were most popular because you could get a lot of pie without feeling you'd eaten much. I personally liked the fruit pies best; they were both homemade (I made cherry and my friend Lisa made the apple), and I just like fruit pies more than cream pies. I love pecan pie, but I can usually only eat a slice of pecan pie and then not much else, so I shyed away from it. I think others felt the same (although we had one guest who claimed to be scared of pecan pies.)

Having a party was not a bad way to celebrate Pie Day. But I think what it really did for me was make me want to experiment with baking pies more often. I have 2 pies in my repetoire: pumpkin and pecan. Both are single crust and relatively simple pies. (And I don't know how to make pie crust! I always buy the pre-made crust!) After reading dozens of pie recipes last week, though, I've become more interested in trying them and breaking out of my pie-rut, as it was. Luckily my colleages at work are happy to eat my creations!

My first forays were a simple peach pie and the aforementioned cherry pie. The peach pie was made from canned peach halves (it's not exactly peach season right now!) and had a simple custard-like substance over it. I got the recipe from The Joy of Cooking. I didn't think it would be that great (canned peaches and bought crust doesn't sound like a winner), and honestly it was not a particularly pretty pie. But, it was tasty and very simple. The cherry pie was an actual two-crust pie, although again I used pre-made crust and canned fruit (but not cherry pie fillng!) I should have taken a picture, as it was quite handsome. And delicious, too! I was going to make Raisin Pie (aka Funeral Pie) but Gary talked me out of it (and rightly so.) I had also planned to make Chocolate Chip Bourbon Pecan Pie; unfortunately the pecans I had in the freezer had been there a little too long and were no longer fit for consumption. (This particular pie sounds really good, and I'm really looking forward to making it. But, the recipe claims that each slice, with 8 slices per pie, has over 650 calories!)

Thinking back on my years of baking, I can only remember making a 2-crust pie once, about 20+ years ago. After this year's National Pie Day, I think it will be less than 20 years before I make my next one!

Posted by Jen at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2004

Captain Kangaroo

I read that Captain Kangaroo passed away today. I have vague, but fond, memories of watching his show when I was very young.

His obit says he was a Marine...no kidding!

Posted by Jen at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2004

The Day the Earth Refused to Stand Still

There has been an alarming number of earthquakes in the Livermore area for the past couple of days. I have felt 4 of them, 3 of them within 2 hours of each other last night! (The first, a 3.2, I felt Monday night.) The first of the three last night woke me up, so I didn't really experience its full force (although the fact that it woke me up tells me it was pretty strong. It was the strongest we've had, a 3.5) There was another one a bit after that one, at which point Gary made me get out of bed, put clothes on, and drive around outside for a bit. I couldn't sleep anyway, so it was nice to be out of the house for a bit. Of course after we got home and I was back in bed we felt another one, but it was minor compared to the first 2 of the evening.

I don't mind a minor earthquake now and then, but a series of them is a little unsettling. The cats were pretty unhappy about it too; everytime one hit they bolted around the house (so Gary couldn't tell sometimes if things had been knocked over by the quake or by the cats!) I did not sleep well last night, waking up everytime Gary rolled over or a cat jumped on the bed. When I woke up I was certain there had been many more quakes during the night, but apparently there were just a few, all too small for me to notice I think.

The best place to check on recent earthquakes is the USGS website. Call me paranoid, but I check it out almost every day, right after the news and weather. And when there's been one recently, I check it several times a day!

So what does all this earthquake activity mean? Well, these could be pre-shocks before a larger quake (which would be bad) or they could be small slippages in the fault line (which would be better.) Being the paranoid home-owners that we are, we're going with the first theory, but it's probably just some minor geological adjustment we needn't worry about.

For certain, though, it does mean that if we ever get a larger quake (say, something greater than a 5) we will not be able to ignore it. The Bay Area is divided into liquefaction zones, rated from 1 to 10 with 10 having the greatest liquefaction potential. Our house is in zone 10. Gary's dad's house, in Napa, is also in a high liquefaction zone (9 or 10) and we were banged around pretty badly in the Labor Day earthquake a few years ago.

So, like good Californians, we have a reasonable supply of food and water stashed away in various closets in the house. We used to have flashlights all over the place, but they seem to have migrated away (that's on the to-do list this weekend.) I suppose we're as ready for the Big One as we possibly can be.

Posted by Jen at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2004

China vs Taiwan

Gary pointed out this quote to me (which I found in this BBC News article):

"The comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally, to change the status quo, which we oppose" -- George Bush

This is in reference to a possible Taiwanese referendum on increasing the island's defenses unless China removes the hundreds of missiles it has aimed the country.

The status quo, as far as I know, is the One China Policy, in which Taiwan is part of China's territory, and China will retalliate if Taiwan tries to push for its independence. But what is it that we are opposing? The status quo, or changing the status quo? Most people would probably read the quote and think that we oppose President Chen Shui-bian's plan for the referendum. I think that it was intentionally written to be vague.

I'm not actually sure what our real position on China-vs-Taiwan is. China has become an important trading partner and is much more open to the West than it was even 10 years ago. Plus they helped us out a lot with North Korea. But Gary has convinced me that our government still views China as a potential superpower and enemy, and that we would come to Taiwan's aid should the need arise.

I guess I don't have any conclusions to draw. I'll have to ask around the office next week to find out what Chinese people thing about the problem.

Posted by Jen at 07:36 PM | Comments (0)


I received 2 new cds yesterday: Tigermilk and Dear Catastrophe Waitress, both by Belle & Sebastian. Tigermilk was their debut album, and DCW is their latest release.

I like more of the songs on Tigermilk than on DCW, but probably because I've been listening to Tigermilk on Rhapsody (online music service) for months now, and I've only heard DCW a few times. There are a couple of songs on DCW that I really like, though, including "Step into My Office, Baby" and "Piazza, New York Catcher."

I laughed when I opened the package containing the cds, because someone had carefully placed a large sticker on the front of the Tigermilk album. The album cover shows a naked (at least from the waist up) woman nursing a stuffed tiger. You can see a lot of cleavage, but no nipples or anything. And it's really no worse than a National Geographic cover (and gosh, is it something we've never seen before, really???) Luckily it was just on the cellophane wrapping.

My copy of the album:

My copy of Tigermilk

The original album:

Tigermilk album cover

Posted by Jen at 07:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2004

election time

I thought this was a good article explaining the US election system:

Q&A: US elections

The California primaries are coming up pretty soon, but I haven't decided whom to vote for yet.

Posted by Jen at 07:33 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2004

Happy New Year, where's the floor?

Gary and I had a small party for New Year's Eve. A couple of our friends stayed over with their kids, so we also had a smaller New Year's Day party. Nothing blew up (at least not in the US), we didn't get alcohol poisoning, and we managed to avoid watching Dick Clark. In years past I have been unable to stay up until midnight, so overall it was a successful event.

I decided a few weeks ago that my office closet needed some cleaning. A lot of cleaning, actually. I am somewhat of a packrat, and too many boxes of things (papers, knick-knacks, memorabilia, etc.) have built up over the past few years. Last night I got started on what looks to be a several day project that will stretch into the next several years. I'm not in danger of becoming like the Collier Brothers, but I can see how it happens.

Gary said my office closet never looked so clean. When I asked him about my office, though, he didn't have good things to say.

So far the hardest items for me to get rid of are the oldest. My Extended Essay on the Q-Puzzle from high school. My award winning essay on World Peace from 6th grade. Journals from junior high school English class (actually, I got rid of one, but kept the other two.) I have kept pretty much ever letter or postcard anyone has sent me in the past 15 years. I did toss several reports from elementary school and college (I had no breakthroughs on the history of tools or the plight of Middle Eastern women, although now that I think about it, maybe I'll keep that one....) I found it ironic to recycle my freshman year paper on how the world generates too much trash.

The recent stuff is easier. I recycled or tossed almost everything I had from Incyte, my former employer. I think that was easier because it's in my recent past, so I have more memories in my head (and don't need trinkets to remind me.) Also, I no longer work in a lab, so lab protocols are not particularly useful anymore, and so much of what I tossed is very Incyte-specific (I will probably never again need to know the suffixes for different clone types, or what kind of health plan I had in 1998.) I have no problem recycling movie tickets or used train tickets from this year. But I found a bus transfer from January 1, 1984, and feel compelled to keep it.

Gary seems to think that there are places for my collection (other than a dumpster, that is.) He thinks that somewhere, someone might be interested in keeping at least the academic part, for historical reference. Yes, 100 years from now maybe someone will publish my high school math paper as an example of Twentieth Century educational practices. We looked at the Library of Congress' website but didn't find anything we needed (they are collecting WWII and 9/11 memories, though.) I did some searches for collecting historical archives, but again didn't come up with anything useful. I think my stuff may not be historical enough; I should wait 50 years, then talk to the Smithsonian. And the NY Transit Museum. And the Museum of the History of New York. I thought about selling some stuff on eBay, but I think that may be more trouble than it's worth. (How much would you pay for a collection of MMA buttons from the 70s and 80s? $1? 50?? Can I pay you to take them off my hands?)

Maybe I should just stop writing this blog entry and actually do some work. :)

Happy New Year!

Posted by Jen at 09:09 AM | Comments (5)