Saturday, December 29, 2007

Architecture was her life...

Tonight, C showed me a book about Julia Morgan, a woman determined to be an architect during an era when women didn’t do this kind of work. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1894 with a degree in civil engineering. Then, went to Paris in hopes of attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. But because she was a woman they would not admit her. So she tried again, and in the meantime, she entered every prestigious architecture contest in Europe. After winning many of the contests, the Ecole finally let her attend.

When she returned to SF, she started her own architecture practice. Through her life, she designed and built over 700 buildings in the SF Bay area. Her most famous project is the Hearst Castle. She also designed the Los Angeles Examiner building, the Fairmont Hotel, private homes, churches, and many others.

Morgan was almost forgotten in later years, but architecture critic, Allan Temko championed her work, kept her in the public eye, helped save a number of her buildings.

Her work is beautiful. That is the best word to describe it. Arched windows and doorways, unique window framings and wrought iron designs, such detail in brick and tile work, curving lines, filigree, all so well done. It’s described as being part of the Arts and Crafts movement. Regardless of the label, it is beautiful.

We attended a dance performance in one of her creations. Originally St. John’s Presbyterian Church, it is now the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts.

And we once stayed in an historic hotel in Berkeley (shown in these 2 photos) that was designed by one of her associates, Walter Steilberg. An aesthetic space that nurtures the human spirit. Difficult to describe, but -- curving staircases, stained glass windows, tiled / hardwood floors, special detail inside and out. [And it was spring and the scent of eucalyptus hung in the air…]

It seems that architecture was her life. She never married, nor had children.
And her contributions still stand, 50+ years after her death.
An inspiring, intriguing life.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Shoveling a little snow...

Snow is predicted across the Midwest and the West for the next few days.

And it sounds like some snow jobs have been going on in the TV evangelist world—again. (You’d think they would've learned from the downfall of Jim and Tammy…)

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley has launched a probe into the lack of "financial transparency" into six ministries that teach "the Gospel of Prosperity." This particular gospel preaches that if you live well and give well (donate $$), God will bless you with earthly prosperity ($$$). Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Except that the ones who get blessed are the TV ministers. Some examples:

Creflo Dollar (yes, that’s his real name) took in $69 million, and owns 2 Rolls-Royces, 3 private jets, and 2 million-dollar homes—one of which is an apartment in Manhattan.

Paula White of Paula White Ministries made $39.9 million in 2006 according to an audit. This year, she bought a (another) huge home on 3 acres, with a pool, guesthouse, and 3-car garage.

Benny Hinn sent out a mailing asking for donations for a new private jet valued at $36 million. And his ministry has gotten an "F" rating (meaning "opaque") in financial transparency from Ministry Watch, an organization that watchdogs ministries and publishes a list to advise potential donors.

Eddie Long was accused by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of mishandling funds that were given to a charity that he started. The article said that the charity paid him over $3 million in salary, benefits, and use of property. Long has also written that God told him to get rid of the "ungodly governmental structure" of a deacon board. (Jesus will provide oversight, of course…)

According to one article, Kenneth Copeland has not yet responded to the probe. His ministry has a $20 million private jet (among other blessings), and he’s been criticized for using it for private vacations and to entertain friends. Ministry Watch also gives his ministry an "F" rating in financial transparency.

Joyce Meyer owns several expensive homes and travels in a private jet. In response to Sen. Grassley’s investigation, she now says her ministry will maintain financial transparency, publish their annual reports, have people other than her relatives on the Board of Directors, and have an annual audit. (wonder how large her family is??)

And there’s the recent scandal with Oral Roberts University where Roberts’ son was caught mishandling funds…

Although many people can see through this kind of tripe, there are those who are "snow blind"— vulnerable; perhaps desperate for something good to happen in their lives, perhaps unable to exercise good judgment or make sound decisions. And it’s sad when people are "taken" by stuff like this.

But it’s also irritating that these "organizations" aren’t held as accountable because they are religious organizations. If you are a non-profit organization that is NOT religious, you have to abide by all kinds of regulations. To get the benefits of the non-profit religious tax designation, they should have to be just as accountable—and financially transparent—as the rest of the non-profits.

High time to do a little shoveling...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Time off and snowfall

We’ve had some snow recently, and when snow falls, people rush outside to build a snowman before it melts away. This one’s lost his vision, poor guy; note his "eyeball" in the left corner.

Time off is great. Doing things on our own schedule – yes! Went to a movie, "2 Days in Paris," which we give a big ‘thumbs up’, regardless of what some critics say. Some of them sound like they just "skimmed", rather than actually watched it…

Also went out for a fantastic meal last night: seared scallops, sushi, wine. Light snow falling. Wonderful company. Excellent food. Perfect.

Tried to get a look at Mars last night, but it was cloudy at first, and later, it was out of my line of sight. C and I did take a drive around to check out the holiday lights in the neighborhood. Plenty of red there, mixed in with the other holiday colors. All glowing magically on lawns of snow.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.
-Margaret Atwood

Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow.
-Jeff Valdez

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Singing stars and Mars

‘Tis that time of year when carolers begin to roam the neighborhood, looking for a little Wassail or Figgy Pudding. I believe this group was performing O Holy Night…

And according to astronomers, Mars will outshine Rudolph’s nose this Christmas Eve. Mars is orbiting close to earth right now and will be directly opposite of the sun, which greatly increases its luminosity. "It will outshine the brightest star, and won’t be this noticeable again for nine years," says Jack Horkheimer (the "Star Gazer" guy on PBS).

So, now that the clouds have cleared from our recent rain, we’ll have to go out and look upwards, to the heavens on Christmas Eve, search for a familiar red glow…

* * * ** ** ** * * *** * * * *** * *
Mars is a red-tinged planet
With a very shiny glow
And if you look to see it
You will find the moon in tow.

All of the other Yuletides
Santa would have at his side
The shiny nose of Rudolph
Acting as his big sleigh's guide

But this very Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph, now with Mars so bright,
You can stay at home tonight."

Then all the reindeer teased him.
And they shouted out with glee:
"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Outsourced to astronomy."
--Jack Horkheimer

Monday, December 17, 2007

Star fire; rose water

Today, NASA released a photo of one galaxy "attacking" another galaxy. A powerful jet of radiation, x-rays and gamma rays from a large black hole in the first galaxy is blasting the second galaxy. Scientists said this is the first time they have seen one galaxy assault another. The jet of radiation contains a tremendous amount of energy and as it punches into the second galaxy, will vastly change the makeup of its planets, perhaps creating new planets and stars in its wake. The photo is awesome:

And it’s been a Monday in the neighborhood. Fire trucks screaming by our house this morning on our usually quiet street. And backhoes and other large machinery roaring in the alley behind our house, repairing the aging sewer line. We turned on the water—and it was rusty brown. Nice. The local water company told us it was because of the sewer repair; all the rumbling from the machines stirs up the iron and magnesium in the water pipes. But it's safe to drink...

Later found out there had been a fire in an apartment on the block up from us. Luckily, no one was hurt. When I drove by later, they had it taped off and a large pile of what may have been a sofa was in the yard. Maybe it was attacked by a death ray from outer space…

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
The universe contains vastly more order than Earth-life could ever demand. All those distant galaxies, irrelevant for our existence, seem as equally well ordered as our own.
-Paul Davies

When a heart is on fire, sparks always fly out of the mouth.

Water which is too pure has no fish.
~Ts'ai Ken T'an

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Provoking incentive

Stimulus: An action, condition or person that provokes a response. Something that incites or rouses to action.

A day of talk ranging from the personal and family to the lack of creative stimuli at work, possible meanings of a wallpaper pattern, energy power grids, and the situation of rebuilding levees in New Orleans.

Outside was gray, inversion. Hyped up asthma, nosebleeds. But we took a walk anyway, and stopped by a local shop to investigate a delectable candy called Blackberries and Raspberries.

Last night, we journeyed through houses in various parts of France via a gorgeous picture book C gave me for the Festival of Lights. Eye candy. Blueberries and Strawberries. Dream stuff.

As you may have seen in the news, Brad Pitt is sponsoring the Make it Right project to help build "green" houses for displaced residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. He has constructed a "pink city" for the time being; structures of pink canvas that represent the 150 new homes that will be built—and to keep public attention focused on the great amount of work still need to be done.
Check it out:

Between stimulus and response is our greatest power - the freedom to choose.
--Stephen Covey

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Trappings of power

Came across a news article about an art project called "Trappings." Tiffany Ludwig and Renee Piechocki interviewed over 530 women across the U.S., asking them: What do you wear that makes you feel powerful? The results are portrayed through exhibitions of photos and videos, a public archive, and a book, "Trappings: Stories of Women, Power and Clothing"(Rutgers University Press). There are also photos and interviews available on their website:

It made me pause a moment and think about their question. For me, rich colors are part of it. Red and black. Clothing that fits "right." Not pastel or frilly. Striking earrings. A touch of makeup.
But there are many aspects of "powerful dressing." There’s the "professional" outfit when doing presentations for work. The "artistic" look I like when going to a play or art opening. The casual "going shopping" attire. And the sporty "doing outdoor activities" apparel.

I wonder how guys would answer that question. What type of clothing—or other items—make them feel powerful?

--Speaking of power, the Geminid Meteor shower will reach its peak in just a few nights, December 13-14. The best viewing of this glorious shower is around 2 a.m., according to the experts.

--And of powerless: In a very close race, President George Bush lost the competition for the "Foot in Mouth" award, given out each year by the Plain English campaign. He was edged out by former England soccer manager Steve McClaren.


He is inexperienced but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through.
– Steve McClaren, speaking about soccer player Wayne Rooney

As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.
--George W. Bush, on the No Child Left Behind Act

I don't particularly like it when people put words in my mouth, either, by the way, unless I say it.
--George W. Bush

He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.
-Lao Tzu

Sunday, December 09, 2007


A few of the tidbits of international news on the web today:

--A bottle of 81-year-old Scotch sold for $54,000 at Christie’s, in New York's first liquor auction since Prohibition.

--The Netherlands is considering creating an island in the shape of a tulip to deal with overcrowding and to shield the coastline from the rising sea.

--At the U.N. climate conference in Bali, the world's top two polluters, the U.S. and China, say they aren’t ready to commit to mandatory caps on greenhouse gases. (Hmmm, how did The Netherlands vote on this issue?)

--In Annapolis, a man was arrested after an officer found him in a store's bathroom with a $700 fishing reel stuffed into his pants.

--A new species of giant spitting cobra, measuring nearly nine feet and carrying enough venom to kill at least 15 people, has been discovered in Kenya.

And locally:

--A teenager caught a giant rainbow trout from the Boise River below Lucky Peak Dam. The fish measured 30 inches long with a 25-inch girth. (According to reliable sources, his fishing rod was not shoplifted).

--The head of the Idaho Realtors Association says the housing market is still strong. (Perhaps he’s been nipping at some five-year-old Scotch…)

--And our "toe-tapping" Senator Craig filed 45 amendments to national global warming legislation. (Perhaps after he "retires," the Senate Ethics Committee could assign him to serve as the "levee czar" in New Orleans or ambassador to The Netherlands)

You have to wonder about the discoveries of a massive cobra and trout. Why did they grow so large? Do greenhouse gases or global warming have anything to do with it? Holes in the ozone layer? Too much carbon monoxide? Reminds me of old sci-fi movies from the 1950s, like "Godzilla" or "Them." The general plotline: "After being exposed to high levels of atomic radiation, common creatures mutate into giant man-eating, city-destroying monsters that threaten civilization."

Perhaps a new film to promote the local economy could be "The Trout that Ate Boise." After all, fish don’t swallow houses…do they?

Friday, December 07, 2007


A long week of working on grants; squeezing vital information and explanations into tiny boxes on online applications. (And I write concisely in the first place.) The business of trying to sell the funders on the importance of your service, why it deserves funding. Building charts that show how your service is working toward specific outcomes (already prescribed by the funders).You provide them with the number of people who received help, and show them how the need is growing, show them your budgets and audits. But that isn’t enough. They want quantitative evidence – and all you can show is that 98% of the participants stated in a survey that they felt this service helped increase their quality of life – or access to health care – or access to food.

Would people miss the service if it shut down because it didn’t receive enough funding? 100% of participants say YES. But does that matter to the funders? It depends.

Lately, a number of funders have been changing their funding priorities. For example, it seems that funding basic services, such as soup kitchens, or help for elderly, or health clinics that serve low-income people aren’t "in." And with enough funders seeking causes that are more "in", the cumulative effect is that funding for those basic services is cut. Right as the need for those services is increasing.

Certainly, there are thousands of worthy causes that deserve funds. But causes, like other aspects of our society, seem to be driven by trends. And when the trend to fund basic needs becomes passé, then people truly suffer.


Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.
-St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, December 03, 2007

A little jest

Nothing like browsing the dictionary to stimulate jeu d’esprit

Read a news story about a pair of jeuness dorée, a young couple, who, even though they had plenty of money and privilege, stole the identities and credit cards of their neighbors and went on lavish vacations, lived in extravagance. Two years worth of jiggery-pokery going on. The world was their oyster -- until they were caught.

"We were just joshing," they cried. But the Justice turned a deaf ear. Now they have the permanent jimjams, and will have to joust with a judge and jury in the judicial system. When they finally get out of prison, they will have to beg for a jitney. No more jet set for them.

The moral of this tale: Be honest, just, and judicious to attain joie de vivre.

$$$$$$ $$$$$$ $$$$$ $$$$$$

Jeu d’esprit: Play of the mind, a witty comment or composition.

Jeunesse dorée: Gilded youth; young people of wealth and fashion.

Jiggery-pokery: Underhanded manipulation or dealings, trickery.

Jimjams: Feeling nervous, having the jitters.

Jitney: Slang for a nickel. An unlicensed taxi.

A head for the news

Seems like it’s always a too-short weekend. But here are a few news items to cap Sunday night.

Thieves in Sydney, Australia stole 17.6 tons of ham and bacon from a warehouse over the weekend. They left "Thanks, Merry Christmas" painted on the wall. Guess they needed their bacon fix…

A feral cat a Tennessee woman was feeding somehow got its head stuck in a peanut butter jar. Amazingly it survived for 19 days. It finally became too weak to run away, and the woman and a friend were able to catch it and get the jar off. She says it’s now back to normal; eating the cat food she puts out and running if she comes too close.

To truly make it an Idaho Christmas, you can get your friends a Talking Senator Larry Craig Action Figure, which has just been released in time for the holidays. Press his button and he says: "I am not gay, I never have been gay." Speaking of Larry, there are now four gay men that state they each had sexual encounters with him over the years, according to the headlines of today’s local paper.

And a giant truffle, found in Tuscany, sold for $330,000 at an auction over the weekend. Its weight of 3.3 pounds and the bid amount set records. Here, just for the new truffle owner, are some ideas of what can be done with truffle leftovers (from a gourmet food website):

--Cut your favorite cheese into slices, place the leftover truffles over them, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and place in the fridge for about three days. The cheese will soak up all of the essence of truffles, and will make for a decadent fromage.
--Use leftover truffle slices to artfully garnish your dishes for a sublime edible décor.
--Store leftovers (or even whole truffles) with eggs for a few days, you’ll be amazed at how quickly they absorb that heady chocolaty flavor that only truffles have.

With truffle-flavored eggs, all we need now is some ham…


The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.
--Martina Navratilova

If you can't control your peanut butter, you can't expect to control your life.
--Bill Watterson

The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.
--Raymond Chandler

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Telling time

Somewhere a clock is chiming

In the past, clocks were always chiming;
in the farmhouse of her youth
in the houses of her first marriage
Clanging clocks demanding attention

Now there is soft music in the morning
her lover's gentle snore
and sweet bells on Sundays
from the nearby cathedral