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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Ooooh. Pretty waterfalls in Japan. (
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:46 PM

Saturday, February 28, 2004

I did a wonderful thing on Friday: I took most of the day off.

I had to go into the office for two hours of administrative meetings, which was a drag. But they ended just in time for me to visit the Friends of Photography/Foto-Grafix Bookstore on Mission Street. The bookstore shares an entrance with the Cartoon Art Museum, which has an exhibit on ex-Mayor Brown's reign which I hope to see soon. (Especially if the cartoons are harsh and critical!!)

I bought a stack of great books, including one of the little Phaidon "55" series books on Lisette Model ( Something I hadn't considered: it was once "political" and "dangerous" to take flattering photos of black people. During the upswing in Cold War paranoia, many photographers were blacklisted. The short essay in the book mentions that there was a demand for an idealized, white, middle-class American image, and if your photos didn't reflect the demand for that particular ideal for propaganda, your career could be ruined.

Happy with my books, I went to Crepe House in the Civic Center area, a crepe restaurant that appears to be unaffiliated with the other local chains I frequent. My meal was fabulous, and the restaurant itself is very cheery.

After getting nearly tearful over the sweetness of a family posing for wedding photos with their daughter and her wife out in front of City Hall, and learning that the Asian Art Museum's 3 upcoming tea ceremonies had all sold out, I went to the San Francisco Main Library to read up on running a home based photography business.


The library has some great books, generally pre-digital, on how to gradually sell your images and on the practicalities of setting up such a business. (Some books were more useful than others: one book specifically about selling nature images gave advice about having absolutely perfect images, the more the better. WELL! I wouldn't have figured THAT one out!)


I have some very modest goals that I would like to apply myself to. Or, I think they're modest, but I'm sure they actually involve more than I think. Basically, I'd like to use some of my botanical images on cards and postcards. I already use these images, but I don't SELL them, and I'd like to.

The way I've been conditioned, WORK is this thing you MUST do, whereas hobbies and passions must always be set aside, perhaps until old age, in favor of WORK. If I can turn photography into something even minimally profitable, than it becomes fully justifiable WORK that can be done as often as I please. And I wish to devote much, much more time to photography. This is my method of reaching compromise with my conditioning.

One local photographer I admire, Thea Schrack, has a professional set up similar to what I want: a lovely web page, corporate clients who purchase her prints, a local publisher whose books are all gorgeous and all appear to be directed toward me, personally (I'd love to work for them in my next office job, but in some ways it appears that I already do!) and who distribute her lovely postcard books of local subjects widely... I know it took Ms. Schrack years to achive this, but I'd like to work toward that.

I think I can do it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:27 PM

Mmmm. Spicy olive mix. Kalamantas, small pink olives, large green olives, red and green chili peppers of various sizes and shapes, all marinated together. Mmmmm.


I didn't know this, but the food at the Great American Music Hall is pretty good. Thursday night I went to see headliner Low, with opening bands Timonium (good), the Decoration (not bad), Jolie Holland (whiny about how the audience was talking during her set; she then asked to play additional songs at the end of her set anyway, which made her set...too...long...) who were all playing as part of the Noise Pop 2004 Festival. Low kicked everyone else's musical rear, as was expected. It was a great show.

The GAMH's short dinner menu is quite servicable. S had the bean and cheese flautas, which he ate so quickly I barely had time to get his opinion of them. I had the garden burger on a baguette with absolutely fabulous, scaldingly hot fries. I washed my tasty and satisfying meal down with a couple of glasses of pear cider, which were also mighty tasty.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:57 PM

Friday, February 27, 2004

After days of the same rainy cloud graphic appearing in the paper, the storm finally came. And it did so with zeal. And thunder. And lightning. And wind. And lots of rain.

Wednesday morning I was unsure of whether or not to leave the house. The rain was coming down fast enough that the drain for my roof couldn't accommodate it, and my deck was being pounded by the overflow. Sheets of water cascaded down the steep street in front of my house in waves.

But I like storms, so I put on a raincoat and decided that a walk to the BART station would do me some good.

I wasn't entirely correct. The streets were draining so fast that the intersections were flooded. Crossing the streets meant crossing four-lane wide streams filled with soil that was washing out of people's gardens. The wind was pushing water sideways, soaking the lining of my raincoat as it whipped around. Two blocks from my house, the street streams topped my high-ankle Doc Martins and flooded both boots. As the rain contined to reach my raincoat's lining, water crept up the inside of the coat. By the time I reached the station, I was soaked up to the waist.

I wanted to feel sorry for myself, but the kid next to me was soaked to the bone, with a pool of water around him on the platform, water running down his face from his hair, and a sad, squishy sound when he rung out his long sleeves, releasing another torrent into his personal pool.

I keep a change of clothes at work, so I managed to spend the rest of the day in relative comfort, while my colleagues walked around with wet pant legs. Being dry allowed me to relish discussing the storm a bit more than they did.


After work that day, I went to meet with a professional recruiter to discuss the possibility of a career switch.

I had been very honest with her already, letting her know that I am well paid, have good benefits, and will only jump ship for a better opportunity, not merely for a comparable one. My definition of better and hers don't necessarily mesh - I'd love to work for an advocacy group even for a cut in pay, while her commission from employers is based on pay and so she has an interest in finding me a good-paying job in a large corporation. Which is in my financial best interests, at least.


What I think I'd REALLY like to do is this: stay at my job until my 10th anniversary, when I'll be given a lump sum of a certain amount of paid time off. Then quit, cashing out that time and any other time I haven't yet taken. Then spend the summer hiking in the high sierras, taking lots of photographs, and establishing a small, home-based photography business, primarily focusing on selling images to agencies. Resume wage slavery in the fall for the sake of medical benefits.

It sounds like a good plan to me. I'm not sure I can stay at my job that long, nor that some good, time-consuming other job won't appear irresistable to me, and prevent me from having my first summer off since 1986 or so. But it's nice to think about.

No, my employers generally don't read my blog. Why do you ask?
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:23 PM

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Where did all these children come from? No, wait, don't explain...

Today I visited a client's office. An attractive young man was introduced to me and assigned various projects to do for me. He had a grown-up sounding title. One of the projects involved making CDs of data for me.

His boss asked him if he knew how to burn CDs. He almost laughed and said that he did that in college.

I spent the next several minutes trying not to laugh. Because I suddenly felt like my elderly relatives when they launch into one of their tirades about what things used to be like. It was all I could do not to burst forth with "CDs in college?!? When I was in college, audio CDs were new! I surfed the web through a 600 baud acoustic coupler modem, using an all-text UNIX interface and emacs as an e-mail editor! Hypercard stacks were the next big thing! And you burned CDs? Are you even old enough to VOTE?"

I contained myself, but I know it's only going to get worse.

It makes me wish my paternal grandmother were alive again, so I could bemoan this to her, and she could laugh: she was a telephone exchange operator, back when people had to call her up and she had to plug one cable into another to make their connection...

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:59 PM

Sunday, February 22, 2004

The web is truly full of fascinating things. I was looking for an instrumental cover by Art Blakey of the Sam & Dave song, "Hold On, I'm Coming," and instead found this version of Hold On I'm Coming by a group in Japan. Golly.

There was also a country version by someone I've never heard of available. And a version by Michael Bolton. I'm not kidding. It's just amazing.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:00 PM

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Remember when I used to be able to write here daily? I miss those times. Perhaps, in the future, I can have that again.


It is a rainy Saturday evening, and I am relaxing with a glass of cabernet sauvignon after a tasty pasta dinner. My lettuce cravings go unfilled – I haven’t gone grocery shopping, because I haven’t been awake enough to plan out any meals for the week. I’ll need to apply myself to such tasks tomorrow.

The pasta sauce I had with dinner was ad hoc: I’d wanted to make a black olive tapenade listed in 125 Best Meatless Pasta Dishes, but didn’t have the correct ingredients in the correct proportions, so I improvised:

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:03 PM

Simple Kalamanta olive pasta sauce

½ cup of pitted Kalamanta olives
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1-2 small paste tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup of olive oil, extra virgin is best
1 teaspoon of oregano
freshly ground pepper

Puree these ingredients in your blender, and toss with hot pasta. This makes about enough for 2 large servings.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:03 PM


Earlier today S and I attended the 2004 Pacific Orchid Exposition, hosted by the San Francisco Orchid Society at Fort Mason. It was beeee-oooo-tiful, as always. There seemed to be a wider variety of plant types in the display area, without any one ‘trendy’ plant this year. The displays were fabulous, and I took great pleasure in shooting film – yes, actual film! – in the extremely shallow depth of field photographic style that I enjoy. S could not gain my attention for much of anything until I used all the film I’d brought with me (5 24 exposure rolls), and when he finally had my attention fully, he squandered it by shopping for orchids after I had already finished. :-) Ah, well.

My preferred film for this sort of photography no longer exists. Kodak Royal Gold 400 has now been replaced by “Kodak High Definition HD,” which is intended to attract film photographers who like digital-styled names and computer-oriented graphics on the box. Which is not me. But it was the closest thing to what I was after, so I’ve tried it. I’ll have the results late next week, and we’ll see how they held up.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:03 PM


Speaking of rambling about film, I’ve finally had a chance to finish Diane Arbus: Revelations, a book about the brilliant photographer whose exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was the best photo exhibition I’ve yet seen.

The book is equally brilliant, relying on the same interpretive source materials that made the exhibit feel so complete. As an avid note maker, journal writer, letter writer and photographer, it is fascinating to look into the work of a kindred spirit by reading her notes, journals, letters, and looking at her photos.

She talks about boring technical things a lot to her loved ones, who probably had no idea what she was talking about. But those things are entertaining to me. Like her agony over a discontinued film she favored. (Sound familiar?)

Even though I consider myself to be a botanical and landscape photographer, I still find Arbus’ portraits deeply inspiring. Her scenes of New York, rich in extraordinarily sharp detail, show us how things were in a time recently past, but very definitely gone. It’s just amazing.

An essay by the man authorized to print her work recounts trying to recreate her methods in her darkroom, and how the 7000 rolls of film Arbus shot and kept may have had numbered contact sheets stapled to them, but they didn’t have an INDEX. Which might have spared him from devoting so much of his professional life managing and reprinting her collection. But perhaps not…

Next up at SFMOMA: an exhibit on the town that used to be where Lake Berryessa is now. I hope to see that tomorrow.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:01 PM


The Triplets of Belleville is an animated film very much worth seeing. Go see it. Log off and go! It’s just brilliant. The grandmother character is so kind and determined; the dog is so obnoxious; the cyclists are so… malformed… The story is great, the animation style is great, the washes of color are great… It’s completely unique in its own, special, good way.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:00 PM


S and I saw Cold Mountain recently. It was a very pretty film, with lovely scenes in all seasons of the beautiful farm where parts of the story takes place. It’s a love story; a war story; a pseudo-American-history story; a friendship story; and ultimately, a retelling of the One American Morality Tale that nearly all films are. To my annoyance.

What do I mean? Well, there are certain elements that must always hold true:

-Handsome men are morally good; ugly, handicapped, or strange men are morally evil
-Intellectualism is a waste of time (she studied foreign languages and music, and look how USELESS they were!)
-all sex should be procreative
-betrayal, even by good people of bad causes, is always punished
-there must be a chase scene
-women are nurturing
-women are naturally familiar with all natural cycles, unless they’ve been unnecessarily intellectualized
-love at first sight is true love
-women require men’s protection and to be saved by them
-violence is a useful, problem-solving skill – ALWAYS
-all disputes are ultimately solved through a mano a mano fight at the end.
-etc. etc. etc.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:59 PM

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

A great story from my colleague M: she was at home, and her son was making pretend food for her, as he periodically does.

He asked her what she wanted, and she said coffee.

So her young son announced, "I'll make you a grande."

M was amazed. She takes her son and husband to Starbucks regularly, where her son gets an organic chocolate milk, she gets a grande, and her husband gets a vente. She'd always thought her son was so fixated on his milk that he wasn't really paying attention. But now she's really impressed that he not only paid attention, but knows HER order!

(Now, if only I could train her son to persuade her to go to Peet's instead!)
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:07 PM

Beginning yesterday, I'm determined to work fewer and more reasonable hours. I'd like to make a habit of not allowing work to completely dominate my life. Right now I'm recovering from a deep fatigue, troubled sleep (partly from coming home late in the evening and eating shortly before bed, a recipe for bad dreams), and trying to feel at home at the home I've seen so little of.

On Monday, I made an artichoke lasanga, which made my kitchen feel like my own again. Tuesday night I prepared (purchased) fresh spinach/pine nut/ricotta/parmesan ravioli and topped them with a hot olive oil/green olive tapenade. It was quite lovely.

Home feels homey again, like more than a place where I go to sleep, bathe, and change clothes.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:05 PM

Monday, February 16, 2004

It is a rainy holiday morning. It is gray, wet, dark, and quiet. It is restful. I need the rest.

Over the past 11 days, I worked my ordinary job hours (8 hour days during the work week), and then I worked more than 30 hours of overtime.

I don't recommend doing this. It isn't the right way to live. In fact, as a result of this experience, I am currently layout out the groundwork to leave my job of nearly 10 years, because I think I could use a change. Though I'm under the influence of exhaustion, I suspect that once I recover, a change will still seem like a good idea.


During my long days, I have skipped meals; I have been away from home late into the evening, and have been too tired to cook upon finally dragging myself to my own front door. My mail sits unopened; my laundry rests in piles; my refrigerator is largely bare. My life is out of whack.


I have had some pleasant food experiences in recent days, even though they were squeezed in almost by force.

In the town of Martinez, where I have been doing research for a client, I have now had two positive food experiences. Legal Grounds, a cafe near the courthouse, serves tasty large lattes and delicious banana nut muffins, in a cheery little storefront that receives lots of morning sunlight. I also lunched at a restaurant called Thai Lanna, which is near the new Amtrak station in the old part of town. Not only did it have the only Thai all-you-can-eat buffet I've yet seen, but when I ordered a veggies with basil in a spicy sauce and asked that it be made "hot," it really was!! In fact, the hostess laughed when she realized she forgot to bring me water, possibly because I was turning colors while eating. It was DELICIOUS, and almost painfully hot. Which is just the way I like it. (Perhaps the only othe Thai place I have visited that has put in that much heat in the Bay Area is Plearn, in Berkeley.)

Here in the City, I had a pleasant food day on Saturday, another one of those rare, work-free days. At creperie Squat and Gobble I ordered their basic cheddar and onion crepe, but added artichokes and avocados. It was HEAVENLY. If I hadn't been so fond of spinach, mushroom and salsa crepes, I surely would have tried this before.

That same afternoon, after a pleasant photographic exploration of the Strybing Arboretum (soon to be renamed the San Francisco Botanical Gardens at Strybing Arboretum, since no one knows who Ms. Strybing was, or that an arboretum is more than a few trees), S and I went to the site of our first dinner date, Thai Time. This tiny restaurant is still my absolute favorite Thai restuarant in San Francisco, and it was great to consume their crispy spring rolls, eat their rich 'cho chee tofu' in a red coconut curry sauce, and enjoy 'pad prik king j,' green beans, tofu, eggplant, carrots, and a few other veggies in a spicy brown sauce. Mmmmm.


There have been many things I've wanted to write here about, but they have been lost in a sea of exhaustion. Not that exhaustion can't be entertaining. We find ways to entertain ourselves:
[Time: midafternoon. Scene: open carrels at a legal office.]
Colleague1: Have you had your cocktail yet?
Me: Has the cocktail cart come around already?
Colleague2: No, and the heroin dispenser in the ladies room is out of order.
We've been joking about starting a cocktail cart for some time now. It would be a bad idea, but the current state of affairs there is bad, so it's hard to say it would be out of place.

I have some tea to drink (from my own teapot! On my own couch!) and a huge backlog of chores to handle, so I'll excuse myself for the time being.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:20 AM

Sunday, February 08, 2004

I have been working very long days. Thursday and Friday of last week found me in the office from 8:40 a.m. through 11:30 p.m. There is no immediate end to these sort of hours in sight.

I internalize stress and maintain a sunny disposition under adverse conditions, but my current situation is out of hand. With exhaustion comes an awareness of my mortality. While I'm usually someone who feels that I am approaching the ideal of living life to the fullest without regrets, I believe that were the world to end right now, I would have wasted the final weeks of my life. Contrary to the ideals of this culture's 'Protestant work ethic,' being very busy in profitable activities is not sufficient for a meaningful life.

I am doing my best to squeeze in small pleasures, especially bicycling, but it is not enough. I can't quit immediately, because that would merely distribute my pain to my peers, who are likewise overloaded.

I'm going to go out to breakfast, put more air in my tires, and go to work. I'll try to write more upon my return this evening, hopefully at a reasonable hour.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:52 AM

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

I'm exhausted. To make myself stay up past 9 p.m., I decided to give myself a green tea and clay facial. I'm not sure it actually does much for my skin, but the cream sure smells good: like tea, and almonds and fruit. Mmmmm.

Even better smelling: the henna I used to color my hair last week. It smells like tea. It basically is tea: ground up herbs I mix with hot water to make a thick paste that sits in my hair for 1-2 hours. The instructions come with a black tea option, which might make the henna smell even better.


Spas are making a lot of money on food-scented items: soothing teas, nutty massage oils, cucumber lotions, and lemon drinks. I can use all of these things at home, but still not have a 'spa experience' because no one is fawning over me for cash, and because I'm at home, surrounded by unfinished chores.

Pesky chores!


I went to the east bay town of Martinez for work again today. The old part of town has an otherworldly feeling: the buildings are from early last century, covering a variety of styles which all suggest the distant past. People are very casually dressed. The bus drivers are friendly, and passengers are friendly back. No one seems to be in a hurry. The jail is disproportionately large relative to the other buildings in town. Only two young people crossed my path all day. There weren't many restaurants.

I felt like I was in a foreign country.

Unlike, say, the way I felt in Vancouver, Canada, which was just like being in a parallel universe - everything was just like home, but with teensy weensy differences...
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:42 PM

Monday, February 02, 2004

I've been mentioning a few more gross food-related items here in recent months. I have to blame Mark Morford of SFGate for this. He's fascinated by the food industry's darkest side. A good example of this fascination is in his piece, Tastes Like (Mutant) Chicken: The great McDonald's diet test, and why Ukrainians won't touch your buffalo wings. (sfgate) What starts out as an interesting, unpublicized story about the Ukraine confiscating American chicken products smuggled into the country because they don't meet local standards turns into a review of the new film "Super Size Me." A healthy young filmmaker decides to eat nothing but McDonald's food for a month, and watches his body and health immediately disintegrate. (What I want to know, of course, is how to get a copy of the film to my dad, pronto.)

I'm interested in some of these 'icky' food stories because I just can't imagine eating that kind of stuff. It seems too much like small animals being tricked into thinking that styrofoam is food, and making themselves sick by filling their small tummies with it. But humans should know better than to eat processed, non-nutritional substances shaped like food and trucked thousands of miles.

(Even produce in this country travels thousands of miles, though it isn't especially fresh when it reaches its destination. ( This article is entertaining: it talks about how difficult it is to have no variety in a New England winter diet. How did the people who lived there before manage? How did the colonists? THEY weren't flying in mangoes from South America...)

posted by Arlene (Beth)7:06 AM

Pretty lanterns! (sfgate)
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:57 AM

Sunday, February 01, 2004

I knew last week was unusually difficult when I found myself in a bar with my girlfriends on Friday night ordering Absolut vodka martinis. One of the late-arriving girlfriends looked around the table at the rapidly disappearing hard liquor in front of each of us but one (who had beer), and remarked that we must have had quite a day. She didn't even know that we'd just ordered our second rounds...


Work is currently no fun at all. None. Zip. Nada. Just as my partner S has suggested in the past that I should support both of us so he can devote more time to gardening, I suggested that I quit and catch up on my reading while he pays our mortgage and saves up for a fancy vacation. :-) He appreciated this suggestion enormously.


We're having something of a premature spring. The plum trees are beginning to blossom; the seeds I planted in the garden are beginning to germinate and put up tender little shoots; camellias are opening their heavy flowers; even our lavendar rose is in bloom, with three flowers spreading a gorgeous and subtle scent. The frequent and gentle rains are turning the hills lush and green. It's a pleasant time of year. (Especially if you're a thirsty plant.)

I have several yellow pear tomato and opal basil seedlings indoors that will soon be large enough to move to a cold frame or to the 'tomato house,' a.k.a. the phone booth. I'm eager to compare yellow pear tomatoes to the output of the tigerella tomato plants we had in the phone booth last year. That plant was prolific with lively, green-striped, round, red fruit. They were tasty and soooo fresh tasting! I'm hoping the yellow pear will be even more productive, being slightly better suited to the cool climate here. We'll see.

I'm very eager for the lemon balm seeds to germinate, and for my two young lemon verbena plants to grow wildly so I can make tea of their lovely leaves.

S has pledged to make a raised bed for lettuces and other tender seedlings for me. I'm ready to plant!


I've eaten out quite a bit recently. The highlight is Mikaku, a Japanese restaurant on Grant just outside the Chinatown Gate, near Bush. It has vegetable tempura, soba with dipping sauce, vegetarian sushi sets, AND may be the only Japanese restaurant I've ever been to that warns you that they make their miso soup with fish broth!!! The service was excellent, the tempura was crisp and tasty, and I appreciated their veg-friendliness. I'll have to return.

posted by Arlene (Beth)5:52 PM

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