Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adventures in Photography

Had a routine shoot in Woodacre today - just west of Fairfax in the country. Been out there many times - it's aptly named - acres of woods, dirt roads, muddy roads, no Peet's - pioneer living at its finest.

The directions I had told me to "go to the end of the paved road" after cruising through a short stretch of unpaved, un-maintained county road. I read the words "paved road" but in my rusted brain, I heard "dirt road."

I drove the short stretch of unpaved road - muddy and full of deep ruts and thick puddles from the recent rain - and when I got to the other side where the pavement picks up again, I turned to the right as the map indicated.

It was more dirt road, and my idiot brain said "go to the end of the dirt road." I've had to get to such locations before, so this wasn't new or strange.

But this dirt road... a muddy disaster waiting to happen, was almost less than one-lane wide and had a few downed branches here & there. I drove for a few minutes, seeing *nothing* up the hill and realized I couldn't be in the right place.

Found my map and sure enough, I'd driven right by the property when I turned onto the second dirt road. There aren't any curbs or curb numbers in those parts.

Thankfully, the XC-70 had no trouble going up or down the mud slide, gently rolling over & along the ruts sort-of like how you'd walk a horse down a steep hill. Fun!

Got back down the hill and turned onto what I thought was the long, paved driveway to the house - again, not seeing any house numbers anywhere, I followed the actual directions to "the end of the paved road." This was definitely a road and it was paved and it went up the hill to two houses.

I went all the way to the end where I found an old beater car parked on one side of the road and a 4WD truck on the other. There was an old cast iron tub perched in the brush beyond the truck and other discarded items & junk strewn around the driveway.

It's not uncommon to see trash ready to be hauled away when a house is going on the market... So I started up the steps to the front deck, which had a Beware of Dog sign posted at the bottom. When I got up to the deck (about four hundred steps, with a bee trying to stab me the whole way), it was littered with dozens of empty beer bottles, lawn chairs & more junk.

I thought... This doesn't seem right... I stood there for a few minutes, wondering where the agent was. And the dog. I almost knocked, but there were no signs of life inside. It wasn't quite 11 a.m. yet - way too early to be up after drinking that much beer.

From my sky-high vantage point I could see a cute little house down below... a house that looked ready for photographs, with cleaned up landscaping and new flowers on the deck. Sure enough, I'd gone one house too far on the little narrow road.

Good thing I got there early & the realtor had no idea I was standing on the neighbor's deck yelling her name.

(the wrong house, at the end of the road and about two miles straight up the hill to the right of the white truck)

(the right house - no junk, no beer bottles - quite lovely)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Not So Bad?

Finally started watching Breaking Bad, catching AMC's marathon this past weekend & I love it. While reading Tim Goodman's deconstruction of the 3rd season premier, about how Walt really is the bad guy but he won't admit it to himself, I started thinking, Is he really that bad?

Sure, the plane crash he's indirectly responsible for is pretty bad, no getting around that... but let's take that off the table for a minute...

Aside from the 167 people killed in the plane crash, he's directly or indirectly:
  • taken out three nasty drug dealers (one a total psychopath)
  • put two hopeless junkies out of their misery
  • gotten a kid removed from junkie parents
  • sent a guy who loves prison back to jail
  • gotten his brother-in-law promoted for shooting the psycho drug dealer
  • paid for his cancer treatments, surgery and a new water heater without incurring any debt
  • and now his kids' college and mortgage will be covered.
Not too shabby!

Sure, he's cooking meth, but it's really good meth - isn't that better than bad meth? If the tweakers aren't getting it from him, they'll just get it somewhere else, right? So, is he adding to the meth problem, or helping to rid the planet of stupid people that much faster? Maybe he really isn't a bad guy, but performing a valuable public service and helping his local economy.

I'm starting to see Walt as the good guy, but he needs to steer clear of anyone involved in air traffic control.

My favorite part of the show, Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman. Awesome, brilliant casting. More Saul, please!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dangerously Cute

Not for rookies - if you haven't had extensive experience with cute kittens, you could lose consciousness or experience dizziness and a floating, euphoric feeling after watching this.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

Excellent, excellent presentation on the evils of sugar (fructose/high fructose corn syrup) by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF.

It's *really* good if you watch it while eating delicious double-chocolate brownies with a nice glass of shiraz.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Spider Senses Aren't Enough

Chelsea King

Last week I saw a tweet from KTLA about a missing teenager who hadn't returned from a run in a county park. The story caught my eye not just because it was about a missing girl, but a runner out on her own.

Every time I run I'm alone. I ran by myself all the time when I was her age. I've run alone through city streets, parks, on beaches, in nice neighborhoods and not-so-nice neighborhoods - all sorts of places.

Every time I go out my spider senses are on high alert. I'd like to think that's enough, always ready to escape danger or fight for your life. My parents used to think me a bit paranoid, then I told them about being followed while out running - in the nicer neighborhoods, I might add.

The first time, a guy in his car followed me for over three miles, driving ahead and waiting for me to pass, then pulling out behind me, following me down the street and flipping u-turns when I crossed the street.

That was the fastest three miles I've ever run and I remember promising myself I'd never run after dark again. Um, I've not kept that promise.

Another time I was up in the Saratoga hills after a long track workout on my way back to school. The girls had left about 10 minutes ahead of me and the boys were still doing hill repeats about a mile away.

A car cruised down the narrow road behind me for a little while, then pulled over ahead of me asking for "directions." The only "directions" in that neighborhood are up the hill or down the hill - there was nothing else up there and no one wanders up there accidentally.

As soon as his car stopped, I stopped and started shouting "I don't know" over and over again, as loud as I could. I kept shouting at him and after a minute he got back into his car and drove off. I was rattled but eventually kept going, another lightning fast sprint back to safety.

Just the other night I went out after dark - I kinda had to - we'd had burgers for lunch at Joe's Cable Car Restaurant and you can't run on a pile of ground steak in your belly.

Alameda is one of the safest towns in the Bay Area - I've run here many times after dark, often fairly late when it's hot in the summer and I always feel totally secure.

That night I ran into a nearby schoolyard to grab a drink from the fountain. There are no lights on the playground so it's very dark. The only light comes from streetlights around the perimeter.

I crossed the blacktop where a few young kids were playing basketball, but the gate on the other side was chained & locked. I cruised along the fence to see if there was another opening and then I saw him. A large, shadowy figure standing on the other side of the fence, watching the playground.

He wasn't with the kids playing ball - they were way over on the other side of a large blacktop. He just stood there, staring. As soon as I saw him I calmly turned and ran back the way I came with a knot in my gut. Get away - just get away. And I did.

But Chelsea King was in a popular park in broad daylight, due home before it got dark. Even if she was hyper-aware of her surroundings, if the evil, shadowy figure is waiting for you and is twice your size and strength, spider senses won't be enough to get away from that.

Worse, this guy was a known sex offender and it was recommended he be locked up for a very long time. He should have never been allowed out of prison.
...Convicted 10 years ago of forcibly molesting a 13-year-old neighborhood girl. He allegedly hit the girl in the head repeatedly before she managed to escape to a neighbor's house.

Gardner pleaded guilty in May 2000 to two counts of forcible lewd act on a child and false imprisonment. He was sentenced to six years in prison. He served five years and was released in September 2005.

The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that a psychiatrist urged a long sentence in the case because Gardner "would be a continued danger to underage girls in the community."

Prosecutors had initially charged Gardner with more-violent sex crimes in the case which could have resulted in a sentence of more than 30 years because the terms would have been served consecutively, the paper reported.

A plea deal allowed him to serve the sentences concurrently.

Gardner remained on parole until September 2008, and after that was required to register as a sex offender.

Reading that I'm reminded of my plan to just exterminate these people. There's no reason to keep a guy like this alive. He offers nothing to the planet. And what piece-of-shit prosecutor would allow a plea deal involving concurrent sentences? How is that even possible?

Prisons too crowded? Start with the sex offenders and exterminate every last violent criminal. Keep doing that. Maybe then things will start to change. Maybe then women won't feel like prey when we go out alone.

Does this prosecutor have a daughter? Wife? Sister? Whoever signed off on that plea deal should be put in the same deep hole in the ground with the rest of the criminals and set on fire.

Chelsea, I'm so sorry - for what happened to you, for your family, your friends - everyone who knew and loved you. It should not have happened. None of it makes any sense.

More about Chelsea King from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Chelsea King was sociable and liked to have fun, but she also had an emerging worldview aimed at helping improve her community and the environment.

She liked hosting slumber parties, venturing out with her friends, playing the French horn and running. She also was a straight-A student, counseled her peers and cared enough about the environment to start eating only organic foods six months ago.

The 17-year-old senior at Poway High School had “big dreams, of not only seeing the world but healing the world,” her father said earlier this week... In an emotional interview Sunday, Brent King described his daughter as “a light bulb, just a piece of energy.”

“When she comes into a room, you know she’s there,” he said, “whether it’s because she’s got this huge smile and she’s lighting it up or because she’s stumbling around and making somebody laugh.”

That description was echoed by one of Chelsea’s closest friends, Tara Trujillo, 18, who said Monday that she was “very quirky and unique, very bubbly, and this person you always want to be around.”

Tara and Chelsea were on the cross-country team together. “That was one of her passions, running,” Trujillo said.

Chelsea also was interested in environmental studies. She had applied to many colleges and had been accepted so far at the University of British Columbia and the University of Washington.

“She wanted to go to a great school and wanted to concentrate on her grades,” her father said. “She’s just that kind of person. She always wanted to be better.”

Chelsea decided last year to try to eat organic because she was worried about the effect of pesticides on the environment, Brent King said. “She couldn’t stand the idea of eating processed food because they were destroying the planet,” he said.

Ian Roy, 18, said Monday that he knew Chelsea from taking honors and Advanced Placement classes with her. “She was just such a positive person,” he said. “She was very willing to learn, and she would always ask questions. She was very outgoing.”

Besides running, Chelsea’s after-school activities included playing the French horn with the San Diego Youth Symphony.

As a peer counselor, she helped students who were having trouble in their lives. In one instance, she sought to educate teens about eating disorders by organizing an awareness week at school.

Chelsea was born at Pomerado Hospital in Poway, but the family moved when she was young. They lived in the Chicago area for 12 years before her father, who worked in mortgage banking, was transferred to San Diego County in 2007, when Chelsea was a freshman.

The family — Chelsea’s younger brother is in eighth grade — lives in a gated community in northern Poway.

Chelsea’s close friends said that when she arrived at Poway High, she looked like a newcomer to Southern California. On one day, considered cold by San Diego-area standards, she wore shorts.

Despite the adjustment of moving from Chicago, Chelsea quickly joined a tightknit group.

Katie Chang, 17, said during a group interview Monday that she could tell immediately that Chelsea was nice. “We were part of the group that came up to her on her first day and invited her to eat lunch with us.”

Zoe said in that interview that the girls would have “sleepovers all the time,” and that some nights were spent working on school projects. The group would sometimes go on excursions, including a recent jaunt to Convoy Street in San Diego to experience Asian culture by singing karaoke and drinking “boba” tea with tapioca.

Katie said of Chelsea, “She was a really great person.”