Wednesday, October 31, 2007


In red, me as Dame Edna. Green facepaint, my coworker Yvonne. Duo: me and my witch puppet Miss Agnes (from Folkmanis)
-- Rachel

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pumpkins have been achieved

I've been too busy to remember to get pumpkins for Hallowe'en. I raced into Trader Joe's this evening just as it was closing, and managed to score two: a small "desktop pumpkin" and a larger (perhaps 10 inches in diameter) porch pumpkin. Now I have to carve at least one of them, so I have it ready to put out the second I reach home tomorrow. I can carve the second one during the early evening tomorrow. In my old neighborhood, I'd carve them early and put them up on the porch roof, but here, they would just be smashed tonight or tomorrow before the trick-or-treaters even arrived.

I wonder if I can carve the larger pumpkin to look like Elvis?

-- Rachel

Blue AC Transit tunnel

The four views are: Approaching the tunnel from the SOMA side; Looking up into the tunnel ceiling; Inside the tunnel, looking east; Looking south.

The AC Transit Building in San Francisco (sometimes known as the East Bay Terminal) is so large it spans several cross-streets. The tunnels thus created are pretty ugly, full of dirt and pigeon droppings by the homeless people who spend a lot of time in the terminal. So I was pleased to notice, over the past several days, a serious effort to clean up one of the sidewalks, and even some fresh paint on the adjacent pillars. Tonight, I saw what they were aiming at. All the fresh white paint reflects bright blue LED light, brightening up the whole affair. Here's how it looked around 8 pm this evening, looking towards Market on Fremont.

--Rachel Holmen

sent via wifi from my Palm Tungsten T3

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Visit from Enn Zed

My cousin Joan fell in love with a marvelous man -- in New Zealand. Her Arizona mother was concerned, but Joan and Martin make an extended trip to the U.S. every few years to visit.

They have two children, now both in college, so this year's trip was just my cousin and her husband. They came through San Francisco, and picked me up at my office. We had lunch at the wonderful Brick House across the street, and then our brief visit was over.

-- Rachel

Clutter, continued -- Sept. 2007

Slowly I make progress. It feels like none at all, but I look at my pictures, and the dates when I took them, and I see that I am inching forward.

August 25: You are looking down at my shoe and at a square of clean carpet which represents an entire STACK of boxes of unread newspapers. I flipped through them and took all four boxes to the porch. Then I realized I'd seriously overdone it with my bad ankle, so they are still on the porch, waiting till I heal more and can haul them to the recycling center. Still, I think being stir-crazy after days of immobilization, helped fuel the energy that helped me clean and toss.

Sept. 16: I moved the contents of a huge, legal-sized file cardboard cabinet into real file-cabinet space. Then I added the ancient cardboard container to the growing stack on the porch.

Here are the files in their new home.

That same day, I cleared off the things on top of my tourney chest, which stands behind where the legal box had been. Two old computer monitors went on the porch. Then I aired the contents of the tourney chest. (I also discovered that the chest itself was making little rust marks on the floor, so now it's standing on a small forest of clean, empty plastic applesauce tubs, to allow some air flow under the chest. The floor in my house seems to seep moisture up from the damp basement.)

Then last night, Sept. 24, I cleared off an entire CHAIR. It's my recliner, in the bedroom, and now I will actually be able to SIT in it. (It does have boxes still stacked all around it, which will give it a cramped feeling.) The pink sheet is to protect the velvet from cat fur.

In addition, I went through nearly one entire bag of old mail and got rid of most of it, answered a survey from my health plan....

-- Rachel

Summer of Love -- 40th Anniversary

"Almost cut my hair," mused singers from the sixties. Crosby Stills Nash and Young in the album DEJA VU. Keeping long hair was an article of faith -- the song is about being tempted to set aside independence and indivuality; after all, it was 1970 and the sixties were over; time to bow to the pressures of family and employer to present a conventional appearance to the world. So it was nice to see this couple at the huge gathering in Golden Gate Park. Great hair.

(I personally kept my hair as long as it would grow -- about the middle of my back -- until late in the 80s, when my lover died. Later it grew grey and wirey, so I keep it shorter now.)

I had hoped to take a sort of tie-dye census, but my injured ankle was still bothering me and it was VERY hot, so I stayed put and didn't take a lot of photos. Still, I did manage to catch a shot of this nice shirt.

This man brought a broken TV set, some sort of old dresser as a stand, a box that he stood on, and a lot of props. He set up a station next to one of the park sidewalks, and performed a constantly-running show through the whole afternoon. He had a weather helicopter, cars, traffic pictures...very entertaining. I didn't catch his name though, so if anybody knows who he is, please let me know.
-- Rachel

Crocheted Hat

I have a long commute, but it's broken into little pieces, so I can't really concentrate on anything. I often carry with me a small crochet project, which can be picked up and worked on, then jammed into my coat pocket. A small project like this is also good for slow spots in meetings -- I can still pay attention, but I'm less likely to fidget if I'm doing something already with my hands. I learned to make simple crocheted hats from my sister. This is one of my latest, in acrylic worsted-weight yarn, mostly dark green with some variegated fall colors for accents. -- Rachel

Sunrise over the Valley -- mid August, Sherman Oaks

I took these three photos very early one Sunday morning, from the home of my sister's mother-in-law. -- Rachel

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Disaster Recovery and Net2

I'm attending NetTuesday, whose topic is Disasters.

Ephrat Bitton from iCare has made a presentation about how they match donors outside a disaster area, with requests from inside it. Jesse Robbins, who headed a Katrina relief team, argued that donations of small items, and trips INT0 the area, were liabiliies for months afterward. iCare is forging parnerships w/ orgs such as shipping companies.

Humanlink is giving a talk--Jonathan Thompson -- onhow they help improve telcom for disaster relief teams. From simple steps like de-virusing local servers in aid offices, to caching internet content on those same servers, Thompson and his associates have smoothed and speeded up disaster relief. One of his starting points is: transportation and communication are the two primary needs in such times. The UN and another firm pretty much handle air transport (and nearly every relief worker owns a satellite phone), but there are no disaster-aid ISPs.

--Rachel Holmen

sent via wifi from my Palm Tungsten T3

Visiting Monterey

Friends are going to Monterey. My favorite places there are the beaches at Asilomar, the park south of Carmel at Point Lobos, a French restaurant (VERY inexpensive, which is amazing) called Fifi's in Pacific Grove just down from a big intersection in a small shopping mall with easy parking, the excellent natural history museum in Pacific Grove, and best of all, Dennis the Menace park, just north of downtown Monterey next to a lake. It's a well-kept secret known primarily to locals. I have taken adult friends there and even though the park could be described as simply a large outdoor gym, we have had a lot of fun climbing around all the equipment (quite sturdy enough for adults), swinging, etc. Free, and I think open daily except Monday. The cartoonist Hank Ketchum lived in Carmel, and he designed and paid for the park as his gift to the city. Other than the name, there is not a single commercial reference -- no T shirts can be bought, no stuffed animals, no refreshment stands, no way to spend money at all. Just a place to have fun, and watch other people having fun. (If you go to the aquarium, its gift shop, while excellent -- they have a particularly nice selection of posters and prints -- will probably pry some cash away from you.)

The library in Monterey was a favorite hang-out for me and for my brother. We'd ride our bikes down hill to the library, past the motel with the huge aviary full of canaries (which my classmate Gloria's family owned). We'd hear weekly readings from the then-new novel "Mr. Bass's Planetoid" by Eleanor Cameron. Going home, we'd walk our bikes up the long, steep Martin hill past a fascinatingly dangerous rock quarry [now completely covered over and converted to a tony housing development], turn left at the top, and find our way back to our home on Via Ventura -- which, last time I was there, looked almost exactly like it did when we lived there.

Carmel Mission is another nice stop, with a big park-like space still attached to it -- nice gardens and a particularly nice fountain, and a small museum. Not the best-marked spot -- not much in the way of signage even when you are right next to it.

A far more obscure mission is located on Highway 101 east and south, in a hot valley -- but it's one that still preserves a lot of what its original self must have been, since there's no urban encroachment. Ah, here's what I located on Google: "To visit Mission San Antonio, leave King City by crossing Highway 101 towards Jolon on County Road G14. The mission, about 10 miles west (inside Fort Hunter Liggett Army base), is the third founded by Father Serra in 1771. It seems virtually untouched by time, and both church and the museum in the cloisters are worth the detour. Nearby Lake San Antonio County Park offers camping, hiking, watersports, and other activities." I don't know anything about the county park, but there is also, in the miniscule town just south of the mission, an old hotel built about two feet from the railroack track that went in presumably in the mid-1800s; it's another museum, with two or three small rooms. BTW, the town of Jolon is pronounced "whole OWN".

--Rachel Holmen

sent via wifi from my Palm Tungsten T3

Friday, August 31, 2007


All right, what do I mean when I say, "I am Igor" ?

I used to have a friend who teased that a monster named Igor lived in his basement. So when I started limping, I felt like something not quite human.

And I've noticed people react differently to crutches and to my cane. Cane says, "Old. In the way." Crutches say, "Active but temporarily injured."

-- Rachel

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Was it George?

I wait for my last connecting bus in the morning, in a sort of five-lane-wide tunnel under a building. Today, I was nearly deafened in this somewhat enclosed space by sirens and loud sonic bursts (accompanied by red, white, and blue light bursts) from first one, then a series of police motorcycles. A limo came past, then a few more limos, then three Bauer buses with opaque windows. I've watched West Wing -- was this the presidential motorcade, complete with staffers and reporters in those Bauer buses? The motorcade headed onto the freeway and out of site, and my bus arrived and I rode to work.

-- Rachel

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


"Oh, good, you're not dead," said my co-worker. "There were no visible signs of breathing." I had taken a pain pill, had a bad reaction, thrown up into a wastebasket, and gone to the lounge to clear my head. I'd fallen asleep on the couch. Three and a half hours later, I was stll out. I woke up, had lunch, still felt shaky, and started for home. Now I'm simply stuck in traffic on the bus. It's a Spare the Air day, all the Muni and AC Transit buses are free, but about 20,000 drivers haven't gotten it. No thanks to THEM that I'm stll breathing.


posted from Palm TungstenT3 by wi-fi

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I am Igor

Tuesday it took me nearly three hours to get to the office: probably 30 minutes hobbling a single block, using one crutch; waiting for the next #88 bus (probably 20 minutes); waiting almost 45 minutes for the F bus to reach the transfer point; time to cross the bridge; time to wait for the next bus; time to ride the #10 to Fourth and Townsend; time to hobble up Lusk to the building.

But my coworkers surrounded me with concern. One offered to give me a ride home. Another offered to drive me to work the rest of the week. Somebody drove my car home from its Emeryville parking space. A neighbor drove me to an ATM and then to my massage therapy appointment, and waited until I was done. Today, someone walked across the street and picked up my sandwich order at lunch. Another friend is picking me up at BART this evening, and still another will take me to the airport this weekend and help me get boarded on a plane.

My massage therapist is a wizard. He pulled and poked, and some of it hurt, but when it was done I could stand somewhat more comfortably, and he suggested I borrow a cane from him rather than use the crutches. Since I had fallen five times using crutches or a single crutch, this seemed worth trying. The swelling in my foot went down visibly while I was in the therapist's office -- when I left, I could actually buckle the Clarks sandal I was wearing on the injured foot. (Before, I had worn the shoe buckled over the toes, but open across the arch.)

Crutches are only for the young, I decided. You need strong thigh muscles in the "good" leg, and strong hands and strong arms. My thigh and arm muscles started spasming after using the crutches for a short time. I'm strong enough to pull myself along for a few minutes, but not for any extended time. The cane is easier, though my right hand and forearm are now sore. -- Rachel

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No fracture on Xray

Still hurts like blazes, and I have crutches. I crawled up my front steps in the dark rather than risk falling. But at least I'm finally home, and I've had a little food. (Lunch was about 1:30pm, lo-o-ng ago.)
Created on my Palm Tungsten T|3 and uploaded via wifi

Broken ankle

I have always disliked the back doors of some buses. You have to lean hard against the handles to get the door open, and it won't STAY open unless you keep leaning on it. Very difficult to manage if you are holding any packages or luggage.

To add to these delightful doors, the city of Emeryville has decided on trendy angled curbs, as if the whole sidewalk was a short, steep driveway. So as I tried to exit from the 7:30 J bus, I fell, and then I landed on the slanted curb. I could feel bones crunch, and I held on tight to the bus door (which now decided to stay open), and stood there in intense pain. Two different tiny women offered help, but I'd have knocked them down if I had actually leaned on them. The bus roared off as soon as I let go of the door, Another young woman did help me get to a signpost, which I clung to for a while.

I realized that another bus was parked at the curb. A largish, older woman walked up to the bus, and I asked her to ask the driver of the parked 57 bus for first aid. The woman reported the parked bus had no driver.

The driver walked past me to her 57, and I asked her for help. She refused, saying I hadn't been her passenger. She said she'd seen the other bus stop, because she'd been driving behind it, but she hadn't seen me fall.

Eventually I called a couple of friends, arranged to be picked uo, and talkedto the Kaiser advice nurse.

At the moment (around 9:30 pm), my ankle is being iced and I am waiting at Kaiser Oakland for my spot in the Small Injury clinic, and a nurse has brought me dinner: half a pint of milk and 8 graham crackers.

Created on my Palm Tungsten T|3 and uploaded via wifi

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Family Portrait

This wonderful old photo features my aunt Ardis, my mother, my aunt Lorraine, and my uncle Roscoe. Tucked into the frame is baby Beverly, who hadn't yet been born when the larger portrait was taken.

I'm using this photo on my business site, First Hand Life, where I describe my oral history project. --Rachel

Created on my Palm Tungsten T|3 and uploaded via wifi

Morning Glory

Radial but not bilateral symmetry.

Created on my Palm Tungsten T|3 and uploaded via wifi

Brassy birds

File(s) Attached
These birds kept coming up and trying to eat my lunch. They're in a mall parking lot in San Rafael, and I believe they are cowbirds.
Created on my Palm Tungsten T|3 and uploaded via wifi

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Test upload from Palm Tungsten T3

File(s) Attached

Created on my Palm Tungsten T|3 and uploaded via wifi

Monday, August 06, 2007

Audio Books

My current audio book is The Sunday Philosophy Club, by Alexander McCall Smith (better known for The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, etc.). -- Rachel

sent from the Palm Tungsten T3

Live from my Palm Tungsten T3

Not that I have much to say tonight. But it's exciting to send from such a portable device--blog from a bus! a concert!
-- Rachel

From palm tungsten

Text from palm.



Most of my life, I've live with more clutter than your average person. Sometimes I can master it; mostly I don't seem to. I have wondered if it was because, as the oldest of four children, I learned early to take over space. But other times, I've wondered if the problem was a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The problem causes me intense shame; I generally refuse to let people see the inside of my home. It creates related problems: bills get lost, etc. I have quietly discussed the problem with some friends (others have been suprememly unhelpful -- "why don't you just set your house on fire?" asked one, intending to be humorous but in fact sending me to bed with depression for a three-day weekend); one recently sent me information last week about a truly useful book on the topic.

  I'd like to recommend "Buried in Treasures" by Tolin et al. The book is based on lengthy research, and the authors seem really to understand the problem. For more info, see or

More to follow, probably. -- Rachel


I bought this little birdhouse at my local Joann crafts store, but it appears to be functional. There's even a little door in the back for cleaning out the box between seasons. I'm hoping some bird family will come live here.

-- Rachel

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I made a tiny paintbox from an empty mint tin, filling it with some kind of lightweight clay to create pockets for different colors, and then filling them with paint squeezed from my favorite watercolors. I carry it with a little plastic wrap between the paint and the lid, so that it doesn't leak in my purse. The lid has a few shallow areas for mixing colors. With a pad of post-card sized watercolor paper (DON'T try to use sketch paper for watercolors; it is just not heavy enough) and a Niji waterbrush, I'm set to watercolor anywhere. -- Rachel

(Here are three portable brushes: an ordinary paintbrush where the bristle section screws into the hollow handle; a Niji waterbrush; and a two-ended Pentel brush preloaded with black ink.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Boots -- HiTec

I bought a new pair of hiking boots at the HiTec outlet store in Oakdale. Yay! -- Rachel

Friday, June 08, 2007


Leaf shadows, and the usual photos of this place of staggering beauty. -- Rachel

Friday, May 25, 2007

Decoration Day

Memorial Day has become merely "the three-day weekend which marks the start of summer." But I remember veterans visiting cemeteries, and the vast veteran's cemetery near the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Today, I learned of a group that helps support the survivors of soldiers killed during their service careers. No Greater Love

You can send them an email of support (or ask them how to donate funds) to

Most Saturday nights, after I leave my group of quilting friends, I drive home past the Lafayette BART Station, and see a hillside full of crosses, crescents, stars, and other memorials to U.S. soldiers fallen in Iraq. The video I took is too large, so I will find a place to post it, and then come back and revise this message.

And I don't know the significance of the three tiny crosses in the center front.

-- Rachel

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lizard Info

Seems it was an alligator lizard, a species native to northern California. They _can_ bite, so I guess I'm glad this one didn't.

   The California Herps website has some good information and lots of clear photos. This shot of a San Francisco alligator lizard (note that this one is brown, while the one I saw was quite greenish) was taken by Gary Nafis.

If I ever see another one in a space as unsuitable as a parking lot, I will capture it, put it in a safe container overnight, and drop it off in Golden Gate park or somewhere similar, free of cars.

-- Rachel

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sad postscript: no more lizard

My co-worker Bill reported seeing the lizard, dead in the parking lot, having been killed by a parking car. -- Rachel

Lizard in the Office Parking Lot

At first he tried to hide against the side of the building.

Then he turned to face me, and ran across the driveway.

I tried to "herd" him back to the building, since it seemes like a safer place for him to be. At one point, we both just stood there, and then he astonished me by walking towards me, and climbing up my foot and finally up my leg to about my knee. I began to slowly walk back across the driveway, and he stayed on my leg for most of the trip. Eventually he turned around and walked back down my leg (I was wearing jeans), and went back to a sunny pad of concrete. When I came back later, he was gone, and I haven't seen him since.

Can anyone tell me what kind of lizard this one, and what is its normal habitat? Thanks.

-- Rachel

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bike to Work Day

I actually biked to work today. No excuses for anybody -- I have the rattiest bike and helmet in the world. Here's my helmet, with its visor held on by a combination of double-sided sticky tape and this amazing, non-sticky tape (the purple stuff, if you look closely) that only sticks to itself and is slightly stretchy. I think the Clotilde catalog sells it, and so do some hardware stores.

I am always careful to wear my velcro ankle bands made of reflective tape, when I cycle. They're at eye-level for cars, and I'm convinced they make me more visible to drivers.

-- Rachel

Friday, May 11, 2007

New Car for Me

The interoffice email said, "Free car...will need a clutch...first come, first served." I phoned. I had my mechanic check out the car. "It'll need a clutch in a few months," he confirmed. I'm registering it right away, and I've already added it to my car insurance policy. A huge thank you to my generous co-worker, Billy Bicket.

-- Rachel