February 26, 2005
That's a Lot of Bread
We had the good fortune to be invited on a field trip to Le Boulanger. That place does it right. It's an hour and fifteen minutes of interesting, engaging presentation on wheat (most grown in India!), flour, yeast, salt, water, and hygiene, culminating with a tour of the headquarters on Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale. We got to go BEHIND the glass windows and see all the machines and workers up close. Fun! The presenter was personable, clear, responsive, and well-practiced. He's a dad, and he peppered his talk with questions to the young audience.
And the smells! Mostly fabulous baking smells, but one 38°F room was horribly stinky - the place where they keep the lactobacillus sanfrancisco for the sourdough...I had to breathe through my mouth in order not to feel sick. Jason, who normally has a hard time with bad smells, loved it, perhaps because he loves sourdough bread (I don't care for it; give me fresh whole wheat any day).
We saw some of the bakers mixing wine into the dough for the walnut-wine bread, and others rolling croissants. They told us any raw butter croissant dough that doesn't work out quite right is sold to pig farmers...no wonder those pigs get so round. Anything cooked that isn't up to the perfect standards is given to needy people who would definitely like to have it anyway. Nothing is thrown away.
I could be wrong, but I think they said this was 500 lbs of bread dough. Maybe some of it was already taken away. The guy cuts it with what looks like a machete, and heaves a comparatively small portion of it (maybe 40 lbs) into the machine behind him, called a rounder, which apportions, weighs and rolls the dough into much smaller balls before they rest for a while.
Before we left, they distributed goodie bags to all the kids, containing a sourdough roll, a cinnamon raisin bagel, and a crispy chocolate chip cookie. They handed out long browned loaves to all the parents. The hats we used to keep our hair on our heads were also to take home. And it was all completely free.
No wonder there's a two year waiting list for this field trip.
January 02, 2005
Winter Weather in SUNNYvale, CA:
For the next ten days,
highs in low fifties,
lows in low forties,
RAIN every day.
That's winter here for you.
The plants like it.
Makes the hills GREEN
as opposed to the summer GOLD.
November 06, 2004
At a loss because of victory
Ever since Wednesday morning, three days ago, I have been contemplating whether to say anything here about the election. I don't even have a politics category on my blog because I don't usually talk about it. I hate confrontation (uh-oh). I start getting hot, sweating under my arms, and removing unnecessary layers of clothing if someone even seems slightly annoyed with me over the phone. So now I find myself a bit at a loss for words on this subject, for a few reasons. Perhaps it all stems from the problem of being a conservative person in a liberal state who reads mostly blogs that at are least somewhat liberal. I don't want people I know to dislike me, write me hate mail or dismiss me. Yes, I tend to crave approval from authority figures that I respect and just about anybody else. But I think the time has come to confess that I literally jumped up and down with joy when I heard Kerry had conceded and Bush, my candidate, had won decisively. There. Now I've come out of the closet. I am sorry that my joy is at the expense of a little less than half the country's sorrow. Please love me anyway.
I have also wondered whether it is just my personal blogroll that is skewed, or whether bloggers in general tend to be more liberal/Democratic, because the only blog responses to the election that I saw were reactions of disgust or sadness. This despite the fact that over half the voters requested that Bush win over Kerry. I just wanted to put in my two cents' worth of opinion: I'm very, very happy that Bush won. At the same time, I am genuinely sorry for those of you whom this grieves. May we be united on other grounds.
October 29, 2004
Will my Absentee Ballot Be Counted?
Someone questioned me as to whether it was safe to vote by any other means than actually going to the polls in person on election day. Because serious people I know and respect vote by absentee ballot, it hadn't really occurred to me to wonder about this. But the comment got me worried enough to do some checking up on how they process the absentee ballots, since we are now signed up as "Permanent Absentee Voters." We did that for the first time this year in order to avoid the lines and inconvenience of having to go to the voting location on a workday. However, I still think there is something exciting about going in person. The kids find it fascinating too. We'll see how we feel in the future, I guess. We can always change back. Plus, we could bring our special ballots to the site if we felt like it, rather than mailing them in as we did this time.
Back to my research. I found at the secretary of state's website the statement:
All valid absentee ballots are counted in every election in California, regardless of the outcome or closeness of any race.
That was comforting sounding.
I read further to see how many other people were trusting that claim. In the county of Santa Clara, CA, for the March 2004 election (all info below is for that time frame) there were 99,051 Permanent Absentee Voters (PAV), which was 12.64% of the voters. The total for the whole state was 2,205,052 people! So I am not alone in my method.
The sad thing is that out of nearly 22 million eligible voters in California, 7 million weren't even registered, never mind actually showing up to vote.
I wondered where in the state absentee voting was the most and least popular. Going by percentage of registered voters who are PAVs, Los Angeles County scored the least with 4.82%. Alpine County got the most with 100%! Must be there are no voting stations there because it's so rural or something? Didn't have time to check that out. For counties with less than 100%, Sonoma was highest, with 37.8% (which was only 87,330 votes).
If we look at the raw number of voters instead of the the percentage, Orange County wins with 244,991 PAVs (17.7% of their registered voters), while San Diego Counry weighs in at 198,504 PAVs (14.85%), and then Sacramento County with 127,405 PAVs (21.47%).
More detailed explanations from http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections, about "The Official Canvass of the Vote:"
Immediately upon the close of polls on election day, the county elections officials and the Secretary of State begin what is called the "semifinal official canvass of the vote" - the tallying of early-returned absentees and the ballots cast in each of the state's 21,796 voting precincts. The semifinal official canvass begins at 8:00 p.m. on election night and continues uninterrupted until the last precinct is counted and reported to the Secretary of State.
The vote tallying process actually begins before election night, with the absentee ballots. Any county that counts its ballots by computer (all 58 do) may begin processing absentees seven (7) days before the election. Having verified the signatures on the return envelopes, elections officials remove the voted ballots and process them through their vote tallying system. Under no circumstances may they tabulate the results until after the close of polls on election day. Most counties continue this processing until they begin their election-day preparations for counting the precinct vote. Mail ballots not counted by that time and all those received on election day, either through the mail or at the precincts, are tabulated during the official canvass of the vote.
My dad always quoted someone as saying, "Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see." I think I've also heard that about "things you read." Certainly the ratio must be a lot worse for "things you read on the internet" and yet, somehow, I'm satisfied.
September 09, 2004
Rumbling and Rustling
It's 4am. At 3:33am we felt a big BUMP and some jiggling: an earthquake. We wondered whether it was bigger elsewhere far away. See this map of recent earthquakes in our area - right now it shows the one we felt in red (probably not by the time you see this!), about 3 on the Richter scale, looks like, centered right here. It shows 235 earthquakes in the past week in California and Nevada. Here's the actual data for the quake: 3.4 magnitude, near Saratoga, CA. Did you know you can enter information about how you experienced earthquakes (whether you felt them or not)? The subjective information for this quake. Already by 4:09am, 93 people had responded, including 26 in Saratoga itself and 5 in Sunnyvale. I can't believe that many others were awake with us at this crazy hour.
After a while, I pulled up the shade and gazed at Orion's belt and the sliver of a moon. I heard some rustling outside - a squirrel? I guess not, since they are all diurnal except for flying squirrels (haven't seen any of those lately). Then again I'm diurnal and I'm rustling around at this moment...
August 30, 2004
Next month we are all going to France again. David has a business trip for three weeks, and we decided that was far too long to be apart. So the kids and I are going over to be with him during the middle week. The first week he will be in Poitiers, in western France. Then we join him in Paris (along with my mom) before we all go down to Montpellier in the south of France, for a week. None of us has ever been to Poitiers or Montpellier before. The kids and my mom and I go home when David heads off to Munich, Germany, for his final leg of the trip.
I took the kids to the park tonight. We all rode our bikes. Whom should we meet but a lovely French family whose son was in a community dance class with Emily a few months ago. They have four children, ages 10 down to 9 months. I adored listening to their French chatter and understanding every word. I felt a bit like an eavesdropper, though. I eventually started up a conversation with the son to check he was indeed the one from Emily's class, and via that channel met the parents and revealed my francophone background. The other connections we discovered were amazing to me. The father is from Poitiers and the mother is from Montpellier. The father's name is the same as the main character in the French movie we watched last night. And it's not something common like Jean or Jacques.
June 22, 2004
We went to a San Jose Giants (not San Francisco Giants) baseball game last week. It's our second time to Municipal Stadium as a family, in the past nine years we've lived here. We have also been to one SF Giants game (as a completely spontaneous change of plans when we were planning to visit Alcatraz one time). So we're not exactly huge baseball fans, though we're open.
This time we went with at least 4 other families from our homeschool support group. Naturally, our kids wanted to sit with the other kids. Since we arrived later, in order to do this Jason and Emily had to squish in amongst the other families. David and I got to sit at the end by ourselves, next to another couple whose kids were also in the middle. From time to time we leaned over to check what our progeny were doing, whether they were behaving appropriately, enjoying themselves, not too cold, hungry, or otherwise needy. But mostly we sat close to each other and felt like we were alone at the game! We discussed the plays with the adults next to us and between innings smiled to watch people trying to extinguish the headlights of an old van by throwing baseballs at them (this is a sanctioned activity, with a vehicle driven onto the edge of the field...).
Before the game we listened to a flute solo of the national anthem (quite nice), and wondered whether it was kosher to sing along. Yes? No? Hmmm. I tried to listen and sing quietly at the same time.
At some point I looked around myself and really felt like I was in a dream. Me, in America, at a baseball game, surrounded by hot dogs and nachos with mysterious cheesy goo and the U.S. national anthem. In my childhood this was movie lore. It didn't happen in real life. Now I see people really do this. A whole lot of them. Including us.
June 11, 2004
If you’re a local reader, perhaps you’ve seen the ads for Fulton Valley Farms on the backs of buses that read, “Because it’s a range chicken.” Every repeat viewing makes me think about how everyone is supposed to know the question, so they only have to print the answer. I find that fascinating. Some things are too obvious to repeat. And if you understand the ad, you’re in the special group that knows the secret joke. Only it’s been so overused for so long that the group is rather large. So I guess it’s not such a special group after all. I don’t know where Fulton Valley Farms is and I don’t remember ever seeing one of their products at the store. But hey, they got me to blog about them! Their ad campaign must be pretty successful if it breeds more free publicity on the ‘net…
June 06, 2004
This week I had to drive through an area where there was construction. The traffic lights were flashing red. Everyone knows that means stop and then proceed when safe to do so.
However, there were construction workers standing there waving everyone on, indicating we didn't need to stop. Rip...Pop. Something broke in my brain. Not stop at a red light? It was an uncomfortable feeling obeying the live person against all the normal rules. Couldn't they have made it flashing orange and saved us the cognitive dissonance?
May 30, 2004
Inspired by Air
Yesterday our family went to our first major air show together: the Air & Space Show 2004 at NASA Ames Research Center/Moffett Field. I think we'd seen a small one up in Aspen, Colorado several years ago, but too long ago for the kids to remember, so this was a genuinely new experience. Plus, this was a HUGE event. We had to park our car and walk for 40 minutes to arrive at the show! That's insane. Anyway, it was well worth it. Our emotions swelled with the carefully chosen and beautifully orchestrated patriotic music, as we gasped and stared at the impressive feats performed above us. The Thunderbirds thrilled us in their F-16 fighter jets, zooming past each other seemingly inches apart, turning sideways or upside down to avoid collsion.
There were a few even more tense minutes when Thunderbird #6 had a sudden "maintenance issue" in the middle of a stunt. It ended up landing after about 5 minutes of investigation, and the remaining 5 aircraft finished off the show. I wonder how many adjustments they had to make in their program, given the reduction in participating members.
Notes for future air shows: the main elements of an air show are bright glare, walking, walking, more walking, ultraviolet rays, waiting, tastefully executed patriotic hype, wonderful classic rock music we remember from growing up, soaring movie soundtrack-type music, a half-hour auditory buildup to the main attraction, and finally an airborne performance that makes all of the above completely worth enduring. Conclusion: wear good walking shoes. Bring hats, sunglasses and sunblock for everyone again (we were super glad to have remembered those this time). Go.