First ArtWalk for FFF>50

First ArtWalk for FFF>50

Yet another drizzly Friday April 5 did not stop 16 members of the “Finding Female Friends over 50” MeetUp group to meet near Spinster Sisters restaurant for the First Friday ArtWalk at South of A Street galleries. The rain washed out the expected live music and the food trucks, but we met artists Lorna and Linda and Carole Watanabe who gave me a copy of her book! Great fun!

Joan, Deborah, Janelle, Patricia, Lorinda
Carole Watanabe Floating Free Peaceful Alliance
Carole Watanabe gave me a copy of her book. Photo by Paula Park.

Doran Beach Perseids 2018

Doran Beach Perseids 2018

I brought some new equipment to this year’s annual SCPN campout at Doran Beach sites D & E. The Wind Warrior worked very well after Bruce enlarged the opening the plastic connectors and hammered in the “no tools” stakes.

Wind Warrior

Protection From Afternoon Wind

The inside of the plastic connectors were convex when they should have been straight, so Bruce corrected them with his pocket knife. I had spent hours trying to resolve this with the manufacturer and am grateful to Bruce for his resourcefulness.

The “no tools” claim is false

I also tried out my Big Agnes sleeping bag with integrated air mattress. It worked well in southern California last October, and in Loon Lake last month, but it is a summer bag and an air mattress is not insulation. I was so cold the first night I got very little sleep, and the second night the wind was even stronger. I could not tuck the sleeping bag close to me because the mattress held it away from my body. Finally, I moved to my car to at least get out of the wind. I forgot that it is always 40° at the coast and that the wind can make it feel like December in Alaska. I should have had some hot tea to warm up, maybe take the mattress out of the sleeve pocket in the sleeping bag. But it kept me awake enough that I got a chance to see the Perseids.

The food was delicious and the fire was roaring. The quinoa dish I brought to the potluck was not popular. This year we did not have the pleasure of the company of Helen, Jeannie, Gretchen, Lillith and others. Billy recently retired and invested in this Arctic Fox and will be letting go of his apartment in the area, so I wonder if I will see him again.

Sebastopol Art Walk

Sebastopol Art Walk

There were 33 of us, counting Bob’s Saturday Saunterers on the art walk. We visted some of the sculptures of Patrick Amiot, then visited the sculptor himself at his home and studio. We were told that he creates the scuptures for his neighbors based on the neighbors themselves. I don’t think I would like to see this one titled “Surrender Dorothy” as the choice for me!

Robert Amiot
Robert Amiot StudioThe studio was better organized than most people realized. There was a lot of very good art by others on the wall, and I loved the statue of the Madonna with a sunburst clock supplying her halo. The drawers full of many small parts were all carefully labeled. The artist and his wife are from Montreal, and they met when they were young and she was on her way to being a lawyer. He knew he was dyslexic and she encouraged him to become a full-time artist.

We were fascinated by his process. He prefers to assemble the pieces and based on that, plan the artwork. My guess is that part of his brilliance is pattern-recognition. He can remember the vast range of items he has and his creativity assembles them into a unique assemblage of found-parts. He is now doing commissions and he sounded frustrated in trying to fit what he has into a vision that has been already been committed to by contract.

We also visited a Seed Farm where plants are not harvested at peak but are allowed to go to seed to be shared so that people can grow unique varieties that work well in Sebastopol’s sandy soil. The team, pictured here, works every Wednesday afternoon and alternate Saturdays. There were a few Master Gardeners on the walk, so there was a lively discussion. We also visited the outdoor sanctuary of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and the mosaic artist who created the waterfall backdrop of the altar told up about executing the non-denominational imagery.

We continued on to Ragle Park to see the mother-and-child carved in to a chestnut tree by a Japanese woodcarver. The hike was a long five and a half miles by the time we got back to the central plaza in Sebastopol where we started. Martha and I topped it off with a delicious lunch at Gaijin Ramen which was decorated in woodblock prints of comic book superheroes.

Disposal Clog Fixed

Disposal Clog Fixed

I am turning into the man I always wanted to be. A couple of days ago, I put a banana peel down the disposal, and the next day, nothing else would go through. I found the YouTube videos for the make and model of the disposal. I found the “clog wrench” for the disposal. I found the reset button. None of these things made a difference. It was not the disposal that was clogged, is was something in the pipe.

I tried a plunger to force the clog through and discovered what the air gap was for. Dishwater squirted up and hit the lightbulb in the pendant task lighting, ending the life of the bulb. Now a trip to Home Depot was certain.

It is a double-sink arrangement, and the sink without the disposal drained normally, so the clog was in the horizontal pipe that connected the two. The problem was, I could not figure out what to detach in order to free the horizontal pipe. I unscrewed it at both ends, but it was firmly wedged in. I was reluctant to dismantle the vertical stack that was draining properly. In the picture below, you can see on the horizontal pipe that the black collar has been unscrewed on the left and the white collar on the right has been unscrewed, but I was baffled as to how to get the pipe out.

I slept on the problem, and in the morning I awoke with the ideal to put on my rubber dishwashing gloves, run hot water down the working drain to make it a tiny big more flexible, and see if I could pull out the horizontal pipe at one end. I tried, but I was afraid of breaking something, so I went to Home Depot at 6:45 on a Saturday morning and found Danny, the kitchen plumbing guy high on the restock cart.

He did not come down to look at my photos, I had to shout up to him and act out the plumbing using my arms, but I learned I was right, I would have to pull out the horizontal pipe with muscle power. He suggested that I NOT dismantle the other pipes, simply loosen them. He explained that this model of disposal has a “sleeve” style — the horizontal pipe is just forced in. I had to rely on the plastic pipe flexing but not breaking to allow me to get the horizontal pipe out.

Wearing my headlamp, I opened the connection about three-fourths of the way and dug out the clog with my clam knife, then put everything back together. I was quite proud of myself, and got to the Saturday morning hike on time. I will be more respectful of the pipes, and cut up any banana peel into much smaller pieces before putting them through, or else resume composting. I learned that the tubes connecting the dishwasher and disposal to the air gap should make a “W” not a “U.” I continue to be amazed at all the little things that need to be known to make home repairs. YouTube goes a long way, but I needed to find someone who understood how this particular model went together.

Google Cloud Next 2018

Google Cloud Next 2018

I was thrilled to score a free ticket for the Google Cloud conference July 24-26 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. On the first day, I was waiting on line at 6:30 a.m. for the doors to open at 7 a.m. Tickets purchased on the “day of” the conference were $2000. I felt very lucky that Google had reached out to include more women attendees at the conference. There were many women on stage, including Diane Greene, the CEO of Google Cloud. She opened and closed the keynotes, and interviewed the 2017 Turing Award winners David Patterson and John Hennessy, the chairman of Alphabet.

I was delighted to spend some time with another woman from the DevChix list who also was able to take advantage of the diversity ticket. I am very excited about her prospects as she sets out to start a consulting firm. I also was pleased to be able to borrow a couple of Chromebooks: the Asus C302 flip and the Samsung. I was frustrated because of the difficulty of saving my contemporaneous notes but was very impressed by the resourcefulness and gentle customer support of Luis and others on the “Grab and Go” team.

I learned how to use my Clipper Card on Golden Gate transit and that if I leave at 5 or 5:30 am the trip is about 90 minutes. If I take a 4 p.m. express bus back, the trip takes two and a half hours. The bus stops close to SFMOMA and Moscone. All in all, quite an adventure. I am gobsmacked at the range of AI, Machine Learning, Cloud Security and all the innovation including hardware, software and open-source. It was mind-boggling.

Skunks Under The House

Skunks Under The House

On May 22, 2018 I met with a divorce mediator and Howard to work out a property settlement. That night, I slept poorly and stepped outside in the early hours to discover skunks under the house. I could see their little faces through the vent near the camellia bush. Now that I had just started negotiations to make the house mine, I was going to have to deal with this on my own.

There was a Hogan’s Heroes tunnel with the entrance in the neighbor’s yard. The tunnel went under the fence, under the shed, under the concrete path to get them under the house

Here are the things I tried that didn’t drive away these nocturnal animals:

  • squiring them with water
  • floodlighting the crawl space under the house
  • playing loud talk radio in the crawl space all day
  • spreading bloodmeal where they walk
  • liberally applying moth balls anywhere they might walk
  • applying predator scat from Wildlife Rescue ($240)
  • installing motion detector lights ($200) under the house
  • spreading used cougar cage straw all around the deck
  • sprinkling pepper pellets ($16) at their entry points
  • shooting at them with plastic BBs ($20)

I paid $300 to have the tunnel entrance closed by a handyman who specializes in such work and who sealed my neighbor’s house a few years ago. By the end of June, the mama was taking the three juveniles out for nightly forays.

skunksUsing the motion lights, I partially blocked their return — the juveniles got in but mama did not. She dug two holes in the front garden under the picture window trying to get in (I squirted her with the hose to drive her off). She started three holes in the side rose garden and one hole under the kitchen picture window. All were unsuccessful.

The juveniles continued to return every night. I kept closing holes as I found them to limit them to a single entrance I could monitor. I kept trying to exclude them using Wildlife Rescue. The motion lights were installed before I went to Loon Lake, and when I came back, I thought my problem was solved when I discovered a dead juvenile in the concrete ditch by the creek path, just yards from my property line. Santa Rosa Public Works disposed of the carcass.

Convinced that my problem was over, I closed up the remaining entrance, but I was wrong. At 10 p.m. that night, the skunk smell was very strong. I discovered that the young adult I had inadvertently blocked in had dug his way out under the rocks I used to close the burrow by the spigot. He was pretty mad and I think he released his scent.

That may have been a mistake. About midnight there was a commotion in the area of the spigot but I was too tired to get out of bed to check. I had already resealed the newly-dug burrow. At about three a.m. I went outside to check and found his remains near the skunk mating area. Maybe he couldn’t defend himself because he had used up his ammo. At dawn, a few hours later, I found the remains had been dragged behind the bottle brush tree and I cleaned up the very little that was left.

I did everything I could to exclude them humanely. I wanted them out, but I was unwilling to kill them. I am glad they are gone and I will continue to varmint-proof the house to deter mating and nesting on my premises next Spring.

September Update

I spent another $250 with the handyman to have the foundation and bottom of the deck sealed. He came the day AFTER the skunk knocked out the newspaper plug I used to detect activity. The motion lights and cement activity drove him out so the handyman successfully sealed him out. I then covered all the soft dirt between the shed and the previously sealed fence with newspaper, then coated chicken wire, then I shoveled a yard of drain rocks over that.

skunk deterrence

Drain Rock over Coated Chicken Wire

I set up a motion-activated squirter. I cut back foliage so their mating boudoirs were gone, and yet the surviving juvenile is still showing up: last night at 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.

I believe I have sealed all the sides of the shed to keep them out from under there and there tunnel to the crawl-space under the house.

My fake-dog motion-detector wakes me up and I go out with a flashlight and a plastic gun with plastic BBs. I yell at the skunk and pop a few BBs in its direction, but it is back every night. I move the squirter to different locations so it can continue to surprise night time varmints. It goes off a couple of times a night. Needless to say, I am not sleeping well.

Loon Lake 2018

Loon Lake 2018

Isabelle Saint-Guily and Carl Inglin invited me to join their private trip scheduled for the new moon in July. The one-hour drive from Santa Rosa to Napa was through luscious vinyards. Liam joined us on the trip, so there were four of us who had camped in Loon Lake together in 2014. This time, I paddled Isabelle’s kevlar canoe with her — the boat’s first time in the water in two years. Carl paddled a solo canoe with us, putting in on Thursday afternoon. Liam wanted to make sure we got a good site, so he left Novato with his kayak at 5 a.m. on Thursday and scouted several sites, selecting a great one in Pleasant Campground near a beach and near the refurbished composting toilet. Carl, Isabelle and I were on the water at 2:30 p.m. and the wind was at our backs, so the paddle took only about an hour.

Loon Lake Sunrise – Photo by Isabelle

Carl and Isabelle were up early every morning, making coffee out on the rocks, painting and reading. It was a surprise to find that I was not the first one up. The campsite was quiet and dark at night because of the new moon, and shady during the day.

Carl and Isabelle in the AM


The Fast Moving Weasels Were a Challenge to Photograph, But Carl Succeeded


Liam had this map with him, and he thinks we were in campsite six. The island was farther away and Isabelle swam out there to discover it was a bird nesting area — but no Loons!

Loon Lake Pleasant Campground

Carl found this great old map showing the lakes before they were flooded to create water supply for SMUD.

Before The Lakes Were Water Supply

We enjoyed short hikes, but we could feel the altitude. Friday was pretty quiet during the day, but Friday night and Saturday morning the campsites around us started to fill up. We had to do some trail adjustment to deter hikers from walking through our camp. The trail marker sign was broken so we made the correct trail for hikers more visible by clearing it and lining it with light-colored stones.

Hiking Near Pleasant Campground

Friday night we hiked up the rocks to watch the sunset. Carl got this great shot.

Loon Lake Sunset by Carl

We were all thrilled to learn that France was playing in the World Cup Final on Sunday 15 July and Isabelle needed to return to Napa to watch it with her Alliance Francaise friends, so we left Saturday after breakfast and stopped for lunch during the drive home. Liam had scouted a lily pond so we checked it out on the paddle back.

On the way back, Isabelle, Carl and I stopped at Bassi campground to wade in the stream and enjoy our lunch. Traffic was slow at 4 p.m. as we drove through Vacaville and traffic was stopped where 121 and 116 join to connect with the 101 freeway so I took highway 12 through Sonoma to get home. A beautiful end to a fun and relaxing camping trip.