Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December Last

Yes, it's been an entire month. A month filled with the holidays, of course, and friends & family, gifts (the buying, wrapping, giving, receiving & enjoying thereof), and good food, particularly the 70+ dozen cookies Hub 1.0 and I made over two days. Not too much blogging, clearly, and not enough sewing. So here I am, trying to cram something into my last post of 2008.

First up, how did I do on my 2008 resolutions? Well, first I need to remember what they were, and here's where I looked. I made 6, and my results are mixed. I did lose a fair amount of weight, and then gained some of it back, and have that to lose again, plus a lot more where that came from. Consider that an ongoing resolution. I did get more exercise, but there's always room for improvement there too. And I'll carry forward the eating better item as well. So consider Resolutions #1-3 to be in force for 2009. Number 4, well I did join a quilt guild. It's a million miles away from me (no, really -- across state lines and everything!) so I don't make it to all the meetings, but I love the people and will work to be a better member. Thus, I can tick off #4 from last year as done, and write #4 for 2009 as "be a better guild member."

I did not get four quilts made in 2008, and I'm really disappointed that this didn't happen. I know why it didn't -- I started a quasi-legal career, plus had lots of travel in 2008 -- but I really wanted to accomplish that one. In fact, of all six resolutions, it was the one I felt most strongly about, and the only one I actually remembered a year later.

Finally, I think I accomplished #6, which was to figure out what was wrong with me medically. I am satisfied that I had gallstone pancreatitis, that it was psychosomatic in some respect, and that when I modified my behavior to reflect that reality, the symptoms cleared up. This wouldn't necessarily be the conclusion my doctors would have reached (the psychological component makes body plumbers slightly queasy) but I think it's been borne out. Certainly I am symptom free a year later.

So, here are my resolutions for 2009:

1. Eat better (e.g., less fat, less white flour, less sugar, more vegetables)
2. Lose weight
3. More exercise (thanks to Coffee Jones and Dino Burger for the Wii Fit we received last month -- it's really increased the exercise for these chilly days)
4. Make four quilts
5. Be a better quilt guild member
6. Get organized with my legal work: more filing, more scheduling and use of the calendar, and more preparation for specific issues.

It goes without saying that I should blog more!

Monday, December 1, 2008

December First

Oh, lord -- how did this happen? I have a whole slew of things I really really really need to do This Month, and while it was Last Month, I didn't have to do them. Guess what today is? (I've included it in the title of this post, to spare you the work for scrolling down to see when I posted this.)

So already I'm feeling late. Now, you may ask why I didn't get anything of This Month's items done Last Month. Um, several reasons, none of them really satisfactory. (A satisfactory reason would have to be pretty extreme: documented abduction by aliens, month-long catatonia, that sort of thing.) First, the Month Before Last was really busy, so Last Month was a huge exhalation of breath, followed by a delightfully relaxed start on long-range projects, like Starman's niece's quilt. Next, Last Month had some natural problems: the election, Thanksgiving, and some emergency dental issues (which have trickled over into This Month, unfortunately). And finally, I just didn't feel like it. Okay?

I have legal work to do. I have to talk to our delightful D.A. about the fact that, while he's such a nice man, I still think he's violating my constitutional rights, and I just can't have that. It's the principle of the thing. I have to buy Christmas presents -- no, really, I don't already have that done! And then there's that dental work.

Plus I'm in food jail. Again. I have to answer to the Wii-ble (Hub 1.0 calls it "Madame Wii" but that's far too mature for the voice that comes out of the TV), which is tracking changes in my BMI. And "Cookie Weekend" is less than two weeks away -- that's when Hub 1.0 comes up and we spend the entire weekend making outrageously yummy cookies to give to people in his office, and this year, to people in Montrose. So I'd better be extra good for two weeks before the Wii-ble figures out what I've been doing that weekend!

And don't think I don't know that I need to be blogging. I've been neglecting you as well.

So much to do. *sigh*

But first . . . lunch!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Here in November, it's snowy and very pretty. Back in Vancouver, it was early September and . . . steamy. Not meteorologically, perhaps, but horologically. To wit: the steam clock!

See the white wisps up around the top of the clock? Well, that's the clever use of a steam vent that the good burghers of Vancouver thought of, and Hub 1.0 -- pictured here with me -- just absolutely had to look see how it worked.

While we were admiring the clock -- which we visited twice to be sure to hear all its on-the-hour toots (which are silenced during the night, so we didn't hear it when we first showed up at -- yes, you guessed it! -- 9:00 a.m.), a street character engaged us in touristy conversation. He was quite nattily dressed for a homeless guy, and he had some good suggestions of where we should go and what we should do. We happily tipped him for his advice and headed off toward Chinatown. At that point, Hub 1.0 went off on his own for a further ramble.

The guys on the beach. Our flight wasn't until the evening, so we thought we'd go to the anthropology museum on the university campus. Upon arrival, we discovered we were literally two days late -- it had just closed for renovations. But that was okay -- we found a lovely bistro for lunch and then explored the coastline of this bay (inlet?) during the afternoon. After that, we returned the rental car and flew home.

Wow! It feels like just ten weeks ago that we did all that. (Actually, that's not even true -- it feels like a LOT longer than that. Something about all the legal work I did in October makes that trip seem like ages ago. Just think; when we started that trip, none of us had a clue who Sarah Palin was!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Such a Nice Man

If you haven't been following along, the district attorney for my county commented on a blog post I did last year. (You can see the post, and comments, here.)

Well, as a result of my legal work, I've just had a chance to talk to him on an unrelated topic, and he's such a nice man. Which makes me feel good. Not about his Christmas columns (still gotta talk to him about those...) but about him, and the legal community here, and my small role therein.

So I retract my criticism of him personally, and I am genuinely sorry I judged him without talking to him first. I certainly shouldn't have written so harshly about him. But in a way, I'm glad I got to this place the hard way, because it humbles me (always a good thing) and because it reminds me that this is a good place.

I like Susquehanna County. I really do.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Autumn in Harmony

I'm back. I've commented on the election here. I've shown the quilt I finished in September here. My legal work has quieted down a bit. (We lost the trial against That Man. I'll let you know if there's to be an appeal. Everything else is continued, or pending, or resolved.) So now it's time to get this blog up to speed.

I'm down to the last day of our trip to British Columbia, although I still owe you photos of Hub 1.0's trek onto Mendenhall Glacier. I also have photos from our trip at the end of September to England. But for now, here are some pretty pictures of life in Harmony this autumn:

From September.

Early morning, to be exact.

And this was an early morning in mid-October.

I just love the colors in this photo. But you can tell we didn't do anything special for this shot. If we had, we'd have moved the recycling bin in the corner and tidied up the hose!

That's Just SO Two Months Ago

Finally -- we're nearing the end of our epic journey that only feels -- because of delays in my posting the photos! -- like it's taken over two months!

We stayed at this lovely bed & breakfast in Victoria:

It's right across the street from Canada House, the official residence of someone important. In fact, as we walked into town the first day, we saw someone important -- not the resident of the house in question, but a visitor. Still you can tell it's someone important when the car is a luxury town car (Jaguar? Mercedes? something like that) and it's got flags all over it.

Hub 1.0 and me on the porch. Our hostess was a lovely woman who did all the work. Our host was a voluble man who made all the recommendations as to where we should eat. It seems somehow fitting that the only bit of Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican Convention I saw was on the TV in the sitting room at this B&B.

This is Craigdarroch, a stately home open to the public -- it was right around the corner from the B&B -- we were clearly staying in a tony neighborhood! Actually, the point is that it used to be a tony neighborhood -- the mining tycoon who had Craigdarroch built owned a good bit of land, but when his widow died and the kids inherited, a lot of that land was sold and developed into more conventional suburban plots.

Craigdarroch is another pastiche of the stately English home that you find from time to time in North America. Inside is lots of lovely woodwork and stained glass windows; the original furnishings didn't survive because the building was used as a school for many years, and as a nursing home (I think; it's been a while). The current caretakers have gotten some furniture from the period, but it's the building itself that's worth visiting.

No particular reason -- I'm a sucker for early 20th Century children's book art. (Hey, I've spared you the photos I took of the floral collage entirely done in dried seeds -- so Victorian!)

This one's for Hub 1.0 -- this is a finial at the top of the curved staircase. This is precisely the sort of thing that gets Hub 1.0 to declare, "He's rather sweet!"

The view from Canada House (or whatever it was called). The gardens were open, and on some occasion Hub 1.0 and Starman wandered over for a longer walk. This and the following photos are their choices of what to photograph, so where with me you'd have gotten more flowers, with them you get -- well, you'll see.

A pretty view...

Interesting sculpture...

An arty backlit photo of Hub 1.0...

And a turtle. Nice job guys -- diversity in nature and in my blog. I love it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Scenes From Another World

It's blowing snow here right now, which is very pretty, I guess, but also very wintry. Combine that with the fact that my side lost in the trial yesterday, and repeated news items about McCain tightening the race, and I need some cheer. So, if the nice folks at FiveThirtyEight don't cheer you up, here are some pretty pictures of flowers, all taken at Butchart Gardens.

I'm a sucker for tuberous begonias, so there are lots of pictures like these. Believe me, I didn't even load them all! It could be that wonderful Pacific Northwest climate, or Mrs. Butchart shared my passion, but I have to say, there were lots of begonias at the gardens. Enjoy!

Hmm... So they have elevation changes, too? Well, it's actually the site of a former quarry. Supposedly, Mrs. Butchart got into some sort of device and planted the nooks & crannies of the exposed rock walls herself.

I like Japanese maples, too.

I love the way light filters through and around those wonderful serrated leaves.

Okay, there's more here than a begonia, but -- yeah, it's another begonia.


We did have a wonderful time at Butchart Gardens. It's nice to revisit these photos on a very different sort of day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The World in Miniature

Right behind the Empress Hotel in Victoria is a tiny entrance to a huge world of tiny things. The following pictures don't do it justice -- we didn't try to photograph the train layouts, for example -- and they rather tilt toward toy soldiers (for Starman's brother's sake) and Dickens tableaux (for Starman himself). Still, I owe you some photos, and these are next up in the queue.

If anyone can tell me more about these soldiers, that would be helpful. I'm sure there was some sort of caption, but as Starman has just said (on the other side of the room, looking at these pictures to identify the Dickens ones below), "In a time long long ago, in a world far far away." In other words, we just don't remember what the heck we saw then that caused us to take a photograph that I now can't identify.

(Truthfully, I just think the detail is cool.)

Not Dickens, so I'm guessing I photographed it just because I liked it -- Great Gatsby, perhaps? Actually, what it makes me think of is some Southern (U.S.) college. I don't know why it makes me think of that, but it does. The automobiles are all suggestive of the 1920s, so Gatsby's a better guess.

David Copperfield, I'm assured. The blacksmith's house is on the left.

Pickwick Papers.

Nicholas Nickleby.

Oliver Twist -- that's meant to be the Thames riverfront.

No, not a diorama. This is the actual water in actual Victoria. This was taken around from the southwest of the downtown area. We went to a brew pub (our hosts at the B&B were a bit horrified that of all the great restaurants in Victoria this was the one we were eating at, but we had a fine time) to meet up with a fellow crossword chum of Starman's.

The chum, Julian West, was just about to start a busy campaign season, as he was standing for a seat as a New Democrat. Unfortunately, a couple weeks into the campaign, it was revealed (no pun intended) that Julian had once stripped naked at some sort of bucolic retreat to go skinny-dipping. You wouldn't think that was career ending, but he did so in front of some teenage girls. This was all 12 years ago, but a couple of the women who were there recall it and claim that he was "aroused." Hmmm. I'm afraid in politics in Canada as here, impressions matter -- whatever actually happened, that impression is pretty bad. He withdrew from the race. We were very sorry to read about this -- and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Our Regularly Scheduled Programming . . .

Remember me?

I really apologize for leaving you stranded on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. You’ve had tea at the Empress Hotel, but you’re still waiting patiently to go see Craigdarroch Castle, and there’s a veritable Eden waiting for you at Butchart’s Gardens. (In fact, you may have seen some of that before reading this, as I really do plan to get all that stuff up right away…!)

In the meantime, I owe you all an explanation. In case you didn’t know, we got home from our awesome Alaska & British Columbia trip and two weeks later flew to England for five days. By the time we got home, it was nearly October, and that meant I was going to be a lawyer nearly full time.

I don’t do a lot of lawyering, overall. But it just happened that all the hearings, trials, reviews and such that got continued from over the summer landed in October. In fact, I counted seven court appearances on the calendar in October, two of them full-bore trials/hearings, complete with witnesses, documents, etc., all of which requires preparation.

And then I met April. (That’s not her real name. It’s actually just the month this year that some nice things happened to her. But, although I haven’t met her in person, it seems like it might fit her.) April lives on the other side of the country; her ex-husband and daughter live here. The ex (I’ll call him Mike, for no particular reason) filed in August to have April’s parental rights terminated. There was a hearing on October 3; I had one week in which to prepare to represent April at this hearing.

I made mistakes on this case, like not looking up the relevant statute right away and the relevant case law, but I suspect I did more work than the court was expecting. In cases like this one, the dad has a lawyer, mom has a lawyer, and the child has a lawyer (called the guardian ad litem). Mike’s argument was basically that April was a drug addict who never called her daughter, and Mike’s new wife wanted to adopt the daughter. Understand, Mike’s lawyer and the guardian ad litem have been on the case since the summer. I had a week (well, because of something the court administrator said, I actually prepped in about three days – another mistake I won’t repeat!) in which to get to know my client, April.

What I learned is that she’s an amazing success story. Yes, she made some huge mistakes in her life (Mike isn’t one of them, and their daughter is quite the opposite of a mistake), but in the past year and a half, she’s really turned things around. She’s an inspiration to anyone who thinks, “I can’t undo this damage. I can’t make it up to the people I’ve hurt.” I’m genuinely proud of her, and I’m honoured to be her attorney.

At the hearing, April was on a speaker phone line with her counsellor and caseworker at the inpatient treatment center (the next day she left, a month early because she had done so well). Mike testified to how badly April had been up to 2005 when he left their hometown with their daughter and moved to Pennsylvania. He testified how little contact April had had with their daughter prior to that move. He testified that his current wife wants to adopt the daughter, and how excited his daughter was about the possibility of adoption.

April testified to how hard she’s worked at parenting classes as well as her recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism. Her caseworker and counsellor testified about how great April was, how she’s owned up to her mistakes, has matured and grown, and how well prepared she is to meet her future. (As well as all the touch-feely stuff you might imagine one does at a treatment facility, April had housing and a job lined up. She had even applied to and gotten admitted to a college program, and was smart enough to get financial aid lined up BEFORE the nation’s credit dried up. Smart woman!)

Okay, so the hearing comes down to the issue of whether April had “failed” in her duties as a mother by not contacting her daughter during the months and years before Mike filed his petition. (Mike had refused to let April’s family – who did know where Mike lived – tell April that information, so she actually didn’t even know what state he and their daughter were in. Unfortunately, that’s not as legally relevant as you might imagine. The courts just figure you should try harder to find your kid.) As things finished up, Mike’s lawyer concluded that April’s [alleged] failure as a parent was sufficient to justify the termination of her parental rights.

I had the clever thought (one that made up for my previous mistakes) to offer to provide the judge with a brief on the applicable case law. Bingo! Of course, what I was talking about was the question of whether April’s voluntary steps to improve as a parent trumped her not calling or writing to her daughter. Come to find out, April should probably have won on the existing Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases because no one presented testimony to show that it would be in their daughter’s best interest to have no further contact with April where the state Supreme Court sees the connection with the non-custodial natural parent as very important. I did argue that her efforts are sufficient to qualify as not being a failure as a parent. I also argued that public policy should prompt this court to deny Mike’s petition because it would be a bad message to send to parents that even the amount of work that April did might not be enough.

Anyway, the point of all this is that this is why no one has heard from me for the past six weeks: England, various court appearances, legal research and brief writing in April’s case, and now I have major court cases tomorrow and next Monday, and the Tuesday after that is the election.

Oh, right – I forgot to say, we’ve been active with the election as well. I’m “county counsel” for the Obama Campaign for Change here, so that’s involved a certain amount of work. We also participated with a local fundraising effort for our congressman, so that has been busy.

And I’ve been named to the board of directors of the Maternal and Family Health Services, which provides women and children with health services in 16 counties here in Northeast Pennsylvania.

And I’m learning the “Two-over-One” bidding convention in bridge.

So, many apologies for not writing sooner. I hope you understand.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Britain, oh, and Victoria, British Columbia

Okay, so you've seen all our Alaska pictures. Well, I'm still hoping to get a hold of Hub 1.0's Mendenhall Glacier photos, but they're not on this computer, and so that will have to wait.

In real life, we're just back from the U.K. We had a nice, if whirlwind visit: we attended a dinner celebrating the 4000th puzzle in the weekly series that, for many years, Starman used to edit. That was a bit of a quirky event -- a great many cryptic crossword fanatics in a smallish hotel banquet room trying, with varying degrees of success, to make conversation. Noise levels were up, and we were at a Quiet Table. As a result, we were mostly unable to get talking to the others at our table -- there were ten people in a circle: two were elderly enough that hearing and being heard were nearly impossible, four were dead quiet folks who just didn't converse even amongst themselves, two were fairly chatty until the wine overcame them, and two were Starman and me. As the one American, I was torn between my mother's staunch conviction that a dinner table HAS to have a dinner table conversation at all times, and my reluctance to reinforce the Chatty Yank caricature. So I chatted, and then (particularly when the wine drinkers to my left succumbed to inebriation) fell silent too.

Our hotel room was certainly memorable. We couldn't make the television work when we checked in. British wiring includes those massive plugs and even has on-off switches on the outlets, but nothing seemed to be amiss. Finally, on a separate wall, I saw a small metal box on the wall that instructed me to insert my key card. Suddenly, all the lights (and the TV) came on! Amazing. Well, if you're a commercial traveler (Britspeak for salesman), this makes sense -- you only need the lights on when you are in the room, plus you always know where your key card is. But they'd only given us the one card, so we couldn't split up. (We were in the F Cell Block, so there was an outer door that needed unlocking before you got to the room. If it's all sounding a bit like a penitentiary, it was.) We did learn that any plastic card would work; we ended up using the card that logs our attendance at a Binghamton, NY movie theater!

The next day, we drove to Ruislip, which is west of London and north of Heathrow. Starman's sister lives there, and we were part of a reunion of all the sibs & offspring. Thirteen people at the table, ranging from 4 to 52. Yup, that would be me as the eldest, which after a lifetime of being the youngest is quite weird. I still worry that these people -- who have been nothing but kind, friendly, open and trusting since they all first met me -- will judge me and find me wildly inadequate for their wonderful older brother/uncle. In other words, I still think like a youngest. [On the other hand, it makes me feel particular kinship with Starman's brother; we bumped knuckles on the subject of baby pictures, lamenting the dearth of photos of the fourth child to come along.] But really, I have no reason to worry, and I know that. If they don't like me, they're far too polite and self-contained to say or do anything. Theirs is a "don't ask, don't tell" family; it may well have not even occurred to any of them that they were allowed an opinion on who their brother/uncle married! And anyway, what's not to like, right?

On then to Wimbledon, and Starman's aunt, now into her 80s: Lady P., whom the family calls Pip. She's the widow of the someteenth baronet Hyphen-Surname, which explained the dark oil portraits of preceding baronets lining the walls. I gather the title died with her husband; they'd had all daughters and the one male cousin died childless. (Which would also explain the portraits; you would assume that they'd have been shipped along to the (x+1)th baronet if the title had traveled.) As an American, I had lots of questions, which I did rather understand wouldn't be polite to ask. (Asking about the transfer of the title was the one rudeness I allowed myself.) What happened to the ancestral home? How anachronistic was it to be Lady P.? Did anyone use her honorific anymore, and did she care?

Mind you, I like Pip -- she's of an era I know a bit about, as my aunts are all in the same age range. Also, being Starman's mother's older sister, Pip is the best indication I'll ever get of what my mother-in-law was like before the combination of Parkinson's and a bad fall started her current gentle slide into senility. I would love to see more of Pip, but she too feels the need to gather the family when Starman is on the doorstep. Only one of Pip's daughters was close at hand, but it was clear she'd invited all three. Not, I think, to see if the American has two heads, but rather to evidence the family connections. I like that impulse, just as I like Pip.

From Wimbledon, which is south London, to Oxford to see Starman's mother, and then on to York. Starman, bless his furry heart, did all the driving on this trip! We do feel particularly comfortable visiting his brother's family -- I know them the best, and planning a wedding in North Yorkshire cemented our relationship. We're hoping they are able to come to the U.S. next summer so that we can return the hospitality.

Okay, so that was the most recent English trip -- back to earlier in the month, and British Columbia. After Alaska, we docked in Vancouver, rented a car, took a ferry, and went right back over to Vancouver Island (where Campbell River is) to spend a couple nights in Victoria. There'll be more photos tomorrow, but for now, we'll share the ones from our tea party at the Empress Hotel.

Those are the Saluki-dog trees at the entrance of the hotel. Tea there is expensive, but yummy. Our bed-and-breakfast host advised us that you're allowed to request seconds, even if the waiter frowns (literally) when you do it!

Us, and the tea. Note that Hub 1.0's default expression is a bit, uh, dour. Remember that for when I get his photos of the glacier trek up -- he's grinning from ear-to-ear, which is not to suggest he was wasn't happy at the Empress Hotel, but that he was euphoric finally to walk on a glacier!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Special Advisory

Starman and I are off to England today, so posting may slow or even stop altogether for a few days. But we'll be back, and I still have lots of photos of British Columbia to bore you silly with post.

So hang in there. And if you're missing me, remember I have two other blogs that have been getting some attention recently: Quilting in Harmony, and my political blog. Go read those!

Campbell River, B.C.

For some reason, our ship didn't dock at Ketchikan, but rather at Campbell River. Here is a lovely photo of Hub 1.0, and a rather unlovely one of me. (Everything about the pose I'm in is ill-advised, at least from the point of view of having my picture taken.) What's interesting is that both of us were still recovering from illness -- I had been up and about for a couple days at this point, but still felt blecch, and Hub 1.0 had been under the weather the day before, when it was a sea day and we took no photos.

Anyway, here we are at the waterfront park in Campbell River, a small town on the north point of Vancouver Island, which is not where Vancouver (the city) is located. Vancouver is across some water from Vancouver Island. And to make this even harder to understand, after these photos were taken, we hightailed it back to the ship, sailed into Vancouver, left there, rented a car and took a ferry back to . . . you guessed it . . . Vancouver Island. Silly duffers.

What can I say? We enjoyed our little slice of Campbell River, and we did a teensy bit of shopping (some smoked salmon and smoked tuna for our neighbors who had done such a wonderful job of looking after the cats for us). But if you're thinking, Hmmm, not a lot there, you'd be right.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The ship (not that one, below, but the one our intrepid photographer is standing on) is in Skagway, the last port of call in Alaska. Skagway is an olde-tyme mining town now catering to the tourist trade. Or so I'm told. I was still stuck in our admittedly-lovely stateroom, and thus couldn't join my companions on the excursion from Skagway to Canada through the White Pass. There was a train trip, and a bus trip, with some shaggy dog stories from the bus driver, a lovely woman who explained the ratio of men to women in Alaska this way: "The odds are good, but the goods are odd."

Lots of twists and turns on this train trip.

Hub 1.0. We just love photographing him, don't we?

This is clearly a diesel train -- there was a steam train excursion, but I believe it went someplace silly, like a spot where you could try panning for gold.

So my two British-passport-carrying pals had to explain to the Canadians what they were doing and why. I was reassured that this was the most casual border crossing yet.

That's the suspension bridge. Did I understand correctly that the only real reason to cross was that the rest rooms were on the far side?

Hmmm -- to cross or not to cross?

The view halfway along.

No idea -- probably a rest stop on the way back.

The highway on the way back to Skagway. I believe the jokey driver said at this point, "Yeah, that's a scary bridge. If you're at all nervous, you may want to close your eyes as we go over this bridge. I do!"

Picturesque Skagway!

Although, honestly, this vista has a lot in common with small towns in the far west -- Arizona, Montana, Wyoming. Wide streets and low-slung shopping emporia.