Friday, December 18, 2009

First Ski of the Season

Monday brought a few friends and I to Alta Sierra, about an hour and a half drive from Bakersfield, for some cross country skiing after the weekend had brought some 12 inches of snow to the area.

I finally got to try out the gear that I had bought at the end of last season and was extremely pleased with the results. Especially the boots - worth every penny!

When we took a little break for lunch in a wide open area, the sticky sunny snow was calling for a snowman. It was a little too easy to roll the large balls of snow, and I destroyed the body with an extra large head on the first try... we did finish him successfully, and even with "hair"!

I'm still a little awe struck that this lies literally in my backyard and up until last year, I had absolutely no idea.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Does anyone see anything wrong with this? Something just seems so inefficient...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

an accomplishment... sort of?

Many of you know that since my arrival to California, nearly 5 years ago, I've been pressing for our school to "go solar" - I mean, of 365 days a year we get maybe 3 with rain and/or clouds. It was (and still is) astounding to me that every building here is not equipped with rooftop photovoltaic cells. It's more astounding that it's not in the code for all NEW buildings being constructed.

Well, despite my constant suggestions (primarily being PV carport installation in the parking lots or on building roofs or both) at various campus-wide meetings, which tended to generate grumbles of annoyance from the administration, I kept on pushing. At one point I was told that I needed to cease all outside inquiries because I had somehow single-handedly pissed off PG&E (which is Pacific Gas & Electric) - an entire company - an entire company who provides rebates for PV installations. I never quite understood this, but under threat of ruining my green dream, I stopped.

Later I was asked to serve on the "Facilities Planning Subcommittee" and also the "Action 2012 Facilities Team" to head up the "green" division. I mostly asked what the hell the point was, since all my efforts had so far culminated to a loud SHUT UP NATALIE from above. But, I guess I also saw those committees as an invitation to keep on being the squeaky wheel. Last year I invited a student to work with me on a project proposal: car port style PV installation as a pool shade. We presented this, and solar security lighting, to the President. At that time, he stated that "a plan is being conceived for PV carports". I was all of excited, angry and confused.

Over the past 4 years I had been told the following: 1) solar carport over the parking lots is way too big of a project, think smaller (hence the pool shade), 2) PV installations are too expensive (hence the 3rd party purchase agreement I had proposed and also... oh, the PG&E rebates), and 3) in our community, which is driven by the oil & gas industry, there's no way a PV installation would be accepted (thus, I suggested Chevron or someone being the 3rd party purchaser so that they can appear to be "greener").

Now, in my 5th year here, we received the following announcement via e-mail yesterday:

Bakersfield College invites our neighbors to learn more about an exciting new project

Beginning in Summer 2010,

Bakersfield College will commence construction on a Photovoltaic (solar panel) field, to be located above the College’s northeast parking lot at Panorama Drive and Mt. Vernon Avenue

Please join us for a presentation, information and a question and answer period.

December 7, 2009

6:30 p.m.

Bakersfield College Fireside Room (Campus Center)

I have absolutely nothing to do with this (on paper). In fact, I am currently in stages of begging to be included in this project - to observe the installation, to be able to use this as an educational tool. This plan, this "new" plan, has been entirely conceived by District Administration...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

for kilometres

Pumpkin Pecan Pie
(in a way cool apple shaped dish)

1. I can't help the dish you have or may not have... the main important bit is making sure the dish is deep... 'cause you're putting 2 pies in there.

2. Make pie crust. Or buy one. Again, make sure this is enough crust to fit a dish deep enough to jam 2 pies in there.

3. Turn on oven: 350

4. Make pumpkin pie: 1 egg, 1 (generous) cup canned pumpkin (or real pumpkin if you're cool with getting icky up to your elbows in pumpkin goo), 1/3 (lean) cup sugar, generous 1/2 tsp cinnamon, generous 1/4 tsp ginger, generous 1/8 tsp clove (all dry & ground). Stir together and make as first layer in pie crust.

5. Make pecan pie: 2 eggs, 2/3 (lean) cup sugar, 2/3 cup dark corn syrup (yup, that's right), 2 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla (I make mine with madagascar vanilla beans in vodka - but you can use imitation, it'll do...), stir very well - make sure eggs are well combined in there. Then stir in a whole bunch of pecans, a minimum of 1 cup. I can't be bothered with the nice neat layering of them on the top in a pretty pattern, plus when they get all coated with the filling it's even better. Pour this layer on top of the pumpkin pie layer.

6. Bake for about an hour - keep your eye out on the crust, it should be golden. The filling should also be starting to come away from the crust at the edge.

7. Cool thoroughly. I mean it! That hot pecan-sugary goodness BURNS!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

final Diva bout of the season

For the final bout of our first season, a season that started with 8 eager women in the fall of 2008, and grew to include me (never having been on roller skates in my entire life) in February of 2009, a team that first bouted in April shortly after having purchased pads and helmets and faithfully practiced and grew in skill and membership over the next 9 bouts, 3 scrimmages and 7 months closed out the season with a win - and truly having evolved as a team.

We played the Folsom Prison Bruisers, and they made us work for our win ever step of the way. They also scared the crap out of us (Jack Skellington?):

We were tough and pulled through, below Short Stack gets beat up a little, but that little chica sure did amazing with her jams!

Amazingly enough, photo evidence even has me doing something effective - here I'm the bread on one half of a Canadian-Hippie sandwich, with a somewhat unhappy looking Bruiser (getting bruised) in the middle. Delicious!

These photos only exist because of our fabulous bout photographer of the evening. Below I pose with her nerdy husband.

This photograph exists because of an article in the school newspaper... another one (article that is) should follow this bout too. I'm just goofing around...

Monday, November 16, 2009

dun dune done

Drawing an end to the semester with one final field trip that culminated in my beloved "singing" sand dunes. A few short weeks remain during which time we have our final roller derby bout of the year, American thanksgiving, and final exams. I can nearly taste the freedom!

Past dune visits here and here and here but that's not all of them! Check out NewScientist's video of the dunes here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Homecoming 2009

Some of you may remember past Homecoming accomplishments, but if not, they can be found here and here. This year's theme was "Renegade Pride", which was a little cryptic to say the least. The Geology Club decided to build something geological that represented the establishment of Kern County (oil industry, naturally) and the Engineers Club decided to build a reproduction of a vintage 1950's (aka "rosette style") float that had been done in the early years of the college.

As the weeks went by, the Geology Club students built and built, and slowly but surely, a cross section from Sierra Nevada to Coast Ranges through the San Joaquin Valley was built, complete with the "Bakersfield Arch", oil derrick, and anticline full of oil. Meanwhile, barely a soul showed up to work on the Engineers Club float, and in the end it was scrapped.

the boys painting the "Renegade Pride" slogan on the arch - we went with:
"Reaching New Heights..." "While Hitting Rock Bottom"
(had to sneak a geology pun in there of course)

The end of the float located at the trailer - as we see strewn across mountain ranges far and wide, it's only appropriate to have some white rocks spelling out our group and year...

The "front" (facing north in schematic geological representation) of the completed float - there's adits in the mountain of course.

The back (facing south in our representation), ultimately there was going to be a rear end in that hole, you know, "rock bottom", for the tour around the track a student just sat there facing in, still a butt, but a more appropriate clothed one.

Making good use of the adit! The headlamps worked really well in there come dark and the actual parade of floats.

No trailer is complete without a license plate, note the message is mirroring the message on the mountain on the other side. Aren't we clever?

Finally, since there was only room on the float for 2 miners and a butt, we had to have petroleum engineers walking alongside to monitor their derrick.

It was pretty funny when a woman from the audience yelled out "I love a man in uniform!"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Roller Derby!

You asked for it, and I can finally deliver. What follows are a few summary shots of our bout against "Atomic Assault" (from Fresno) on Saturday night. Our team, the Diamond Divas, won 106-64 (check out our website to learn more about the team and the game). More photos are here.

some action - our pack dominating the front line

the VIP seat (couch that we raffled) seeing some action and losing their drinks... pile ups are frequent, but this is definitely the funniest we've had

this is definitely a penalty... you are NOT allowed to bear hug in derby

the jammers jamming - our Devious Darling on the way to score some points

speaking of names, here's me: "Canadian Crusher" - note my appropriate number

the requisite booty shot - what really draws the crowds in...

one of the funniest names on our team: Dutch Dynamite "kiss my tulips" hahaha!

proof that I was actually in the action

Atomic Assault and Diamond Divas, all done, sweaty and about to go to the after party

Saturday, October 24, 2009

You never knew that you wanted to do this. Now you're jealous!

The geology club has been working on their float out at a cotton gin in Buttonwillow. Yesterday, during some downtime waiting for papier mache to dry, we eyed this:

The Mt. Shasta of cotton seeds.

And then climbed it. Not unlike Mt Shasta, climbing up a 45 + degree slope of softness makes each step sink in and down. Unlike Mt Shasta, it's much shorter.

Regardless, it still took quite some effort to get to the top (not that that meant we didn't climb up more than once...)

From the top, the obvious thing to do was to use a scrap of cardboard as a sled and slide straight down, as illustrated below:

Since we were unprepared for such fun to occur, the photos and video are all cell phone captures (now THIS is how cell phones are useful!!!) and thus, not the greatest quality...

One extra strength antihistamine later, I slept like a giant allergy-infested, leg-fatigued log - and am wondering a little how this might affect my game in roller derby tonight...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

cats + yarn = danger

Loki is turning out to live up to his name - trouble maker - quite well. Some time ago he ate his way through a cardboard box that was housing some yarn, extracted a substantial amount of this yarn, and then set up an elaborate trip-wire with it, a leash, and my bike shoes at the bottom of the stairs. Besides being annoying, it was also quite impressive.

He later showed that this trap may not have been indicative of intelligence and menace so much as a total fluke of spazziness. Below he has wrapped himself up so tightly in the yarn that he is "army-crawling" his way out of it with his front paws...

getting tangled...


the army crawl (Kiki looks on with dilute interest)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Mermaid Triathlon

At the end of September I did the Mighty Mermaid Triathlon in Santa Cruz, this is an all-women's event, and just to add in some extra challenge for myself I did the Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run). This post is a little late because I've been impatiently waiting for the event photos to be posted!!! You can find a few shots of me through the search function, my number was 8. Anyway, the real reason I was waiting for the photos was to see if my sweet Dogfish Head beer jersey would be photographed appropriately, and the answer, sadly, is not really. The corner of the photo below is the only evidence of the coolness of my jersey, and it's so not visible, that I added a red circle to it so that you can see one of the 4 beer bottles "sticking out of" my pocket.

Especially being that this was almost exactly one week after the disaster that was my 2/3rds of this year's Bakersfield Triathlon, I was 'mighty' (haha) impressed with my results, 28th overall (at one point it was 25th, then 26th - I guess some people's timing chips didn't register or something, but the number of participants keep increasing on the results page and some of them are beating me!).

swim - 30:22 - this was an ocean swim, and a cold one at that - not to mention other dangers. One of the women who had practiced in it the day before told me it was in the 50s. That's some sort of farenheit number, and it translates in degrees C to "brrrrrrr". There were substantial waves crashing at the shoreline and as waves of competitors got in to start, we saw many of them being held back by wave after wave and they just couldn't really start swimming. When our wave, the Olympic wave, got going, I abandoned my traditional at-the-back-so-you-don't-get-swum-over rule and booted it to get through the waves and actually swimming. This partially worked, I was not held up by waves so much as the heart-stopping cold of the water (and a little bit of the stanky dead fishyness of the water) and I ended up doing the water polo head-up swim for the first 1/8 or 1/4 of the swim until I stopped gasping and won the mental battle of "just get your damn face in the water and swim". By the time we passed the half way buoy my hands and feet were completely numb and I felt like I was kicking and slapping rubber nubs around at my extremities. In the water this was fine, but when we got out and had to run across the beach and up 150 stairs (they numbered them for us) to the transition zone, the rubber foot nubs that were supposed to do the running were pretty ineffective and the rubber hand nubs that were trying to take the wetsuit off (difficult enough in general) were failing miserably.

bike - 1:32:42 - once the removal of the wetsuit was accomplished, the attempt at removing the wads of sand from my feet was the next task. Again, relatively numb hands and feet make adept maneouvering of towel between toes more challenging. Eventually I gave up getting my feet clean and just pulled my socks and biking shoes on in order to ride and warm up. We had been warned that the ride had 2 very steep hills on it, and one of them was pretty soon after leaving the transition zone. They weren't kidding! As biking is my best event, and I like to think I'm pretty good at it, I'd evaluate the course as having 3 steep hills on it - this based on me having to stand up and pump out of the saddle on 3 separate hills during the ride. I'm never out of the saddle. Not on the ridge route, on the Bakersfield course, and if I hadn't here - the bike would have stopped rolling forward and toppled over. Despite that, the route was pretty and I felt really good throughout the ride. Just past the half way mark I even managed a record setting farmer blow that finally rid my sinuses of the dead fish ocean from the first part of the tri.

run - 59:53 - I made a commitment to myself to go all out on the ride, no matter the cost to me physically. I knew the ocean swim would not be fabulous, and I had lost faith in my swim time potential after Bakersfield this year, and I also knew that I had not done anywhere near enough (ok, ANY) training on the bike besides the daily commute to and from work. I also figured that no matter what condition of fatigue I was in starting the run, I could always fall back and walk and still complete the event. By some miracle I had enough juice left in me to jog the entire entire run, including the 2 steep hills (it was actually the same steep hill that we had to run up twice). In fact, the only part of the run that could even be classified as terrible was the crispy salt thigh chafing that occurred because I did not remember to put body glide on after the swim...

In addition to my times, I was also thrilled with the friendliness of the competition, and walked away with half a dozen new Santa Cruz friends from my transition area.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"Sunny" Bakersfield

Quite some time ago, I unearthed these name stickers from the depths of my office, and sent them, among other items, to kilometres for entertainment value. Regarding the name sticker, two things truly struck me as bizarre: 1) California's most "conventionable" city??? What on earth does that mean? 2) Why is the word "Sunny" in quotes? It's almost never NOT sunny here, so... uhhh... what's going on?

Today I brought the entire roll of name stickers over to the College Archives, just in case they wanted them for some reason. I said that I thought they were funny, and I also said I guessed they were from the 50s or 60s based on the generally brown and multi-fonted theme. The Archive Queen took a look at them, and after a few moments, a look of surprise and recognition came over her face.

"These must have something to do with Sunny Scofield", she said, "she had a talk show and that little icon in the corner was her logo".

Her brief biography follows, and this will be considered another post in my unofficial series "lessons in odd California history".

First woman producer/director and host of a television talk show (The Sunny Today Show, 1968). Almost 2500 shows aired weekday mornings. Believing that existing TV programs did not meet the needs and interests of viewers, Sunny originated a morning program with such a variety of guests and subjects that the program became nationally recognized.While talk shows are common today, there were no programs like this on the air in the late ‘60’s.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

the casual triathlete

yes, that's me...

The philosophy is that if one pays the registration fee for an event, there is a certain level of commitment towards staying in shape for said event. While many use the word "hardcore" to describe me in the context of triathlon-doing, I keep the viewpoint that it's just swimming, biking and running. Breaking that down, once you know HOW to swim, then swimming is like riding a bike - you know HOW to do it, so even if it's been a while, your body still remembers what it's supposed to do. Biking, well that IS riding a bike, so there you go. And running, well, running is really just a bouncy walk of sorts - right?

Of course, there's all kinds of obstacles that can get in the way of the theoretical simplicity of a triathlon: flat tire, blazing heat, unforgiving hills, waves, opaque water, lack of aid stations, etc.

I really have lucked out quite a bit with the triathlons I've done over the last couple of years, and with minimal effort in the training department I've accomplished surprising results. We can look back on the Bakersfield Sprint, Las Vegas Olympic and Shaver Lake Sprint for examples.

Anyway, today's event does not rank up there with the others. My colleague, Air Pollution Control (APC), does the Bakersfield and Shaver triathlons annually as part of a relay team. Early this year it was apparent that his swimmer was not going to be able to do it, so he asked if I would swim for the team. No problem, I needed to get in an open water swim anyway to prep for Santa Cruz next weekend. Later it was determined that his runner had cracked his knee cap and would be unable to do the run portion either - so I agreed to do that as well, mostly because the Bakersfield triathlon long course run had been shortened to "10K". The Bakersfield Long Course is renowned for its difficulty because of the run, this is for two reasons: the run includes some of the steepest hills imaginable (a comparable slope can be seen here), and because of the late start to the race, the temperatures are usually pretty horrific.

While our relay team finished 4th in the open mixed category, I can't say that my race times were even remotely worth being proud of. Let's compare them to my Las Vegas Olympic times and throw some gripes and excuses that account for the difference in speed:

SWIM (1.5K): today 37:29, Vegas 24:25. Yikes! Issues - nasty weeds that tangled around me throughout the swim were slightly distracting, sun in my eyes in the direction that I needed to see where I was going was most distressing, opaque water also problematic in being able to see - seeing is not usually a complaint in the swim for me because when you start in a big mob there's lots of people to follow - in the relay event there was no mob :( and in the end, quite frankly, I was just plain SLOW in the water (I am also suspicious about the true length of the course).

RIDE (40K): today 1:26:05, Vegas 1:36:25 - so clearly the best part of the race, but I wasn't riding! That gloriousness was all APC, who, in his modesty, claimed that he "wasn't much help". Pffft! He clearly was responsible for us finishing 4th in the open mixed, I contributed nothing to help there!

RUN (>10K): today 1:30:26, Vegas 1:04:46. Ok, major factors going on here: 1) the 10K was significantly longer than 10K. The race director said "it was more like 11K" - for sure, if not longer! 2) the temperature at the time that I was running was 36 degrees C. Gah! 3) I tripped on a petrified item of clothing that was stuck in the trail and somehow wrapped itself around my toe causing me to do a superman face splat, additionally, my ipod rocketed out of my sport bra and died. This would have been less bad towards the end of the run, but, as my luck has run out, it was within the first 500m. *sigh*

So there we have it, some personal worsts to go on the record, and hopefully next weekend will only be an improvement! Apparently there's a photo or two of me during the race kicking around. If they're not horrendous when sent my way, I'll post them here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I had this idea some time ago to make a modular wine rack out of fabric. This morning I messed around with some felt and constructed a couple drafts of it. One idea is a series of triples like this that can be placed side by side and then stacked. The other idea is rows that stack into a pyramid, a 4 bottle row, 3 bottle row, etc. I like the triple better myself.

And while I'm on here with photos, here's a kitten update: Loki is ridiculously hyper and the rest of his food energy seems to go into growing a giant tail so he's pretty skinny still, but he's catching up to Kiki in length surprisingly quickly.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Hooray! I'm in KNITTY! So exciting! It's been a surprisingly long and difficult process, but a great learning experience, and all in all I'm pretty psyched!

Meanwhile, in other news, I'm an alternate for tomorrow's roller derby bout. Wish me luck. And that actually means: luck that no one hurts themselves so that I don't have to play!!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

off to the races!

So, you thought this would be a post about my upcoming triathlon events that (as usual) I am unprepared for... does buying a new bike saddle count as training?

No, this is a post to share two FABULOUS e-mails that I received today. Both made me laugh, sigh and curse a little.

e-mail 1:

I was just wondering on the Exam we are having next week it says we have to define 5 words (out of 10), so what 10 words are they? I would really appreciate some help, thank you.

e-mail 2:

I would like to know what we have to study for the next class's quiz. I looked up the on-line information regarding the class and it said scientific method and geological time. Dose that mean the quiz will include chapter one only? I would greatly appreciate if you can answer this question since i am confused about whether to study mineral or no.

Friday, September 04, 2009

eat's shoot's and leave's???

I received a flier in my mailbox at work this week. The above image is the top 1/3 of it. Before reading any more than that (normally I'd be sold on "free dinner"), I growled aloud in my office. They're sending THAT out to EDUCATORS at a COLLEGE??????????? Where's the proof-reading? I could never bring myself to go to some sort of "educational workshop" where they can't seem to differentiate between PLURAL and POSSESSIVE.

I thought about calling the reservation number and pointing that out to them. I thought about not doing that. Then I noticed that there was fine print beside the reservation phone number that said "24 hour automated message system" - perfect.

I called... and then, to my surprise, a human answered.

"Hello" he said
"Uh..." I replied and paused, "I'm not exactly calling to make a reservation - but ummm I guess I'm calling to be somewhat obnoxious"
"Okay" he replied somewhat hesitantly
"As an educator," I started, "I just wanted you folks to know that you have an error at the top of your flier - "educators" should be plural"
"I know," he said with the annoyance of someone who's already been called about this several times, "we used a comma"
"Actually," I said stifling an explosion of appalled laughter, "it's an apostrophe, and that's why I won't register for the workshop, but I hope you have a great day"

Then I hung up the phone and a little part of me died at my desk.