Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Featuring the Northwest

I love living in the northwestern US, and plan on moving to a place where I can enjoy it more within the next few years. While Portland is fairly close to a lot of areas where one can enjoy northwest weather and scenery, I want to be able to simply step out of my front door and be right there. I suppose I was spoiled as a kid, living on the edge of the Olympic Rainforest. :)

So, to show my love for the area and for a site as fabulous as Etsy, I put together a treasury today, focusing on art and items of the Northwest by Etsy sellers from the Northwest. Please take a look and enjoy your visit!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Accidental Hobby: Part Two

Within a year after discovering how much I enjoyed making jams and jellies, I had found a pectin that didn't depend on sugar for the gelling process. Pomona's Universal Pectin ( depends on calcium (derived mainly from orange and other citrus peel) instead, opening up the jam-making process to varying amounts of sugar rather than several cups per batch that had to be EXACT amounts.

It really bothers me that jam you buy at the grocery store is so loaded with sugar and typically has other unnecessary additives. It bothered me even more when I started making jam that I had to add so much sugar. Therefore, when I found out about Pomona's, I felt as if the possibilities were endless. I began making low-sugar jams and jellies without any problem with setting. I discovered that rasberry jam tasted like rasberries, not a raspberry-flavored sugary snack. I fell even deeper in love with the jam-making process, and with encouragement from friends and family, decided to try and sell my product.

Last fall I sold several jars just to people I knew online, before I listed anything on Etsy. Once I listed on Etsy, I sold a few, but due to the shipping costs (which can't be avoided), interest was low. I'm admittedly not very good at promoting online, which I'm trying very hard to improve.

For Christmas last year, I received a fabulous book by Linda Ziedrich called The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves ( I love the books by Linda, as she not only provides a LOT of recipes, but loads of information on the why of things. I always do better at something if I know why it works, and her information on gelling, the different pectins, and how gelling works is indispensable. It's worth noting that her book on pickling is just as good!

In the book, Linda provides information on how to extract your own pectin from apples, oranges, and other fruit. I'm currently working on a transferable degree in biology to OSU, and last spring I was completing the last general chemistry course in the series. For my final, I had to research and present a subject, using what I'd learned in the last year. I decided to do a presentation on pectin; if I thought I knew what I was doing before... I learned loads more doing this research! Pectin is used in almost all processed foods and many things we eat every day -- like milk!

All in all, these last few years I've spent making jams and jellies have been quite rewarding. My biggest hurdle now is to get a handle on promoting online; I'm not very outgoing and I'm not the 'salesman' type, so it's definitely challenging. I'm currently looking into fall and winter craft shows, how to become visible with Google, and using social networking sites to promote.

Thanks for reading! Be sure and take a peak at the newest addition to my Etsy shop (pictured above): Healthy and delicious red currant jelly (

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Accidental Hobby: Part One

Ever since I was little, sewing and needlecraft have been staple hobbies. Other hobbies I enjoyed were 'spinoffs' of those, or other crafts like beadwork, stamping, etc. I've always been artistic and highly interested in art as well, so it was an interesting and pleasant surprise to find out I loved making jams and jellies, as well as making everything from sauces to pickles.

I describe falling into this hobby as a complete accident. Several years ago, a friend had a huge glut of grapes she didn't know what to do with. She'd moved into a home that was surrounded by a fence with grapevines growing along it, and they were getting ripe as she moved in. We decided to make juice with most of them (they had seeds, and not many people want to eat grapes with seeds). We ended up with several gallons of juice that we just didn't know what to do with, and didn't have room to store it all. Neither of us were interested or had the capital to try and learn how to make wine, so we decided to try to make grape jelly. She'd made it before but I hadn't, so I took my share of the juice home and began to research the subject.

The local chain grocery store only carried the SureJell brand of pectin, and in my ignorance, believed this was the thing to use (please know that I'm not bashing the brand here, just the type of pectin used by the brand; if that sounds confusing, read on), and went home with all the other needed ingredients. The resulting jelly was really quite sweet and very tasty, but I was shocked at the amount of sugar required. I found I enjoyed the whole process, and loved sharing jars with family and friends, so that summer I made some raspberry jam, too. Again though, the amount of sugar required when using this brand was incredible.

During that fall and winter, I did a lot of research. I found that while SureJell made version that required less or no sugar, it added artificial ingredients that I wasn't happy with. For many people they work very well, but I wanted to make jams and jellies with loads less (or no) sugar for two main reasons: The first was that we don't NEED that much sugar; using so much to make a jam seemed to me to completely defeat the purpose of making the jam-wasn't I trying to preserve the fruit to enjoy its goodness later? It seemed I was just making fruit-flavored stuff! The second was that with less sugar, the fruit used tasted more like the fruit itself. Both of these reasons really tie in together, and it drove me to find a pectin that worked with less sugar and didn't have unnecessary additives.

In my next post (Part Two), I'll discuss what I found, and how well it's worked for me. It's actually a combination of different things, most of which are just as easy as using SureJell.

For now, enjoy a look at one of the many jams I have listed on Etsy (pictured above, link at the end). Straberry Kiwi Jam, made from strawberries picked right here in Oregon from a farm that uses no herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. Small and blood-red all the way through, the strawberries were so flavorful and sweet that I used very little sugar to sweeten the jam. The kiwis were purchased from New Seasons' organic section, and really added some interesting taste to the jam; kiwi and strawberry definitely compliment each other! This jam was made in late July and has an official shelf-life of one year, although jam can typically last much longer than that when stored properly.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer in the Northwest

This summer has proven to be a trying one, at least for those in the US, though I'm sure there has been plenty worse elsewhere. Most of the Midwest and parts of the Southwest, and southern and eastern US, suffered from a brutal and long-lasting, slow-traveling 'heat dome' phenomena. Many areas didn't just break record high temperatures, they blew them away by 10 or more degrees Fahrenheit. Add to that the heat index suffered under the 'heat dome', and you had temperatures approaching 135 degrees in the worst places. Follow that up with a hurricane with all that comes afterward like flooding, significant numbers of communities cut off from everything, plus continued drought in several states. All of this adds up to a pretty miserable summer for millions of people.

Unless you live in the Northwest. We've had, in my opinion, a fabulous summer. My opinion is mildly biased, in that I am definitely NOT a heat lover. The region, along with most of the rest of the US, experienced a very late spring. During spring term I took a course in Botany, and according to records kept for every year, everything was two to four weeks late; the blooming of the big-leaf maples, trillium, saxifrage... everything. Fruit and berry farms had longer than normal seasons (still no ripe elderberries... they're close though; and blueberries are still flush), migratory birds showed up later, and truly warm weather didn't start kicking in until July. Even in Yakima, WA where my mother lives, one of the hottest places in that state, didn't start experiencing its characteristic hot, dry weather until then.

In Portland, OR, temperatures in the 70's lasted for weeks, deep into July, and it was August before we started seeing more than one or two days in a row over 80. It's been one of the best summers I've had in my adult life, as typically, the Portland area has quite a number of weeks during the summer of hot, humid weather that sucks the life out of me.

On top of that, I got to take care of my stepmother's place in Sequim, WA (a really lovely area, I hope to move there at some point) for a couple of weeks while she visited her parents. At the edge of the Olympic Rainforest region, Sequim is considered one of the most beautiful places in Washington state. While most areas around Sequim, like Port Angeles, get a lot of rainfall (Forks, about 75 miles west, supposedly gets the most rainfall anywhere in the world), Sequim is in a rainshadow. Residents in the Port Angeles area struggle to get significant garden harvests, but those just on the other side of the 'hills' can grow everything from corn to grapes. The image included here is of the sunset on the day my stepmother left on her trip.

One of the many blessings of this great Northwest summer was the long berry season. I've managed to acquire a lot of different berries and other fruits for my jams and jellies, and I've really got an impressive range of flavors for sale and several more to list. I'll be writing about them here, mainly to give more information about the fruits, the farm where I got most of them, and making the jams. Of course, I also help to aid in promoting. :)

Finally, my sympathy goes out to those who didn't have a very good summer. Oppressive heat and hurricanes have caused a lot of misery, ranging from discomfort to loss of life and home. I hope the next few months are more mildly tempered and that this winter is a calmer one.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shout-out to Crawford's Nursery!

The purpose of this post is just to try to help spread the word about a fantastic nursery here in Oregon that specializes in blueberries. They don't have a website, and it seems like a lot of their business is via word of mouth or u-pick guides in the Pacific Northwest.

I've been going to them for two years now, and the reason I want to call attention to them is not just because of their over 50 varieties of blueberries, but because of all the other types of berries they grow. They have a lot of 'exotics', like elderberries, tayberries, currants, gooseberries, mulberries, and so on. They also grow quince, several types of raspberries (yellow, black, and next year they'll have purple), several cultivars of blackberries (marionberry, boysenberry, loganberry, and several Oregon cultivars), and strawberries. Every time I go there, the owner thinks of something else I might like; today when I was there, he shared that he'd have quinces ready in September, which is just fantastic due to my hobby making jams and jellies.

So, if you're looking for some hard to find berries, Crawford's is the place. Very friendly people, easy to get around in, very good pricing on u-pick, and a fantastic variety. A bit of a drive, but soooo worth it.

What do I do with all the berries I get from Crawford's? I make jam, loads of it! I discovered how much I loved making jam a few years ago. Now, that's all my family wants for gifts, and my family and friends encouraged me to try selling. It's been somewhat successful, but I need to find some street fairs and markets. Currently, I list on Etsy:

Any feedback is welcome!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cross Stitch Friends and Updates

I posted a couple of months ago about my tendencies as a cross stitcher, plus two projects I'm working on. You can compare the updated images with the older ones in a previous post.

After posting about being anal in the sense of photorealistic projects, I did what I've done at least once a year and looked for some forums where people who cross stitch hang out. Most I'd found in the past had a fair share of stuffiness (rigidity in techniques and so forth) and rules for posting works in progress that were basically ridiculous. For example, you had to pay to have a gallery on the site, show the front and back of your work, and be prepared for some very rigorous critiquing. I wasn't looking for that, I was looking more for a place where people can share, get advice, talk techniques and just chat.

I finally found a great place this time around. is based in the UK, but people from all over the world are members. In fact, one member started up a pen pal group, which is really exciting because I had several pen pals in high school and missed writing more than I realized.

Anyway, they're a great group of folks and I encourage anyone who wants a nice relaxed atmosphere for cross stitch related topics to take a look.

As far as the updates go, the cuckoo wasp is almost finished and a fair progress has been made on Serenity (considering I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to it).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Survivor: Where Is It Going?

I'm a fan of the show Survivor, and have been since a version of it started here in the US. However, the last two seasons have really shown the direction it's going, and I'm not liking it.

A disclaimer before I go on, though. I understand ratings, and how the producers feel they've got the right combination of reality show ingredients to keep fans interested. I get that there must always be 'bad guys' and 'drama' to keep people interested. I know they pick type 'A' personalities to a fault, because they're more outgoing and have more volatile tendencies (both good and bad). Type 'B' people are rarely chosen, and I think they don't chose them on purpose.

But lately, especially the last two seasons, but even before, I think they go way to far in picking weirdly bad people. People that get satisfaction out of hurting others, have no remorse, have mental deficiencies, and are just plain rotten people.


Take NaOnka from season 21. A school teacher for elementary children who had one of the worst attitudes I've ever seen. She acted like a spoiled child through the entire show, had no courtesy, constantly cursed, and behaved in a way that would make even the nicest parents want to spank her butt raw, then put her up for adoption. Her crowning moment was aggressively pushing a tribemate who had a prosthetic leg to the ground and fight her for an immunity clue.

Don't get me wrong; I cuss like a sailor myself, and immunity clues can save your life in that game. But two things really bothered me about that situation. One, I know Survivor has rules about fighting (punching etc.) and I was surprised that not only was nothing done, but nothing was even mentioned. Jeff Probst didn't even joke about it at the reunion. Two, it was still several votes later (I think) before NaOnka was voted out. She is a horrible person, and it blows me away that she's a teacher.

Season 21 overall was awful. The few people who really deserved a shot at winning were voted out too soon, and the remaining cast was so full of morons that, for the first time ever, I almost stop watching. It was disgusting to watch the few people Survivor producers chose out of tens of thousands of applicants play, because it honestly felt that they'd had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get these contestants.

Season 22 was a bit better. A new 'twist', Redemption Island was introduced. Unfortunately, they brought back two people, Boston Rob (his fourth try) and *shudder* Russel Hanz (his third try). Thankfully, they voted out Russel early. I was glad because he was one of the least deserving players. Ever. Unfortunately, everyone on Rob's side seemed to have the social skills of gnat, because he was able to use them to win.

Russel and Rob, in my opinion, are two of the worst people they could have brought back. I will admit that they both are good at using strategy. But both are awful characters. Rob is a hypocritical ass that badmouths people behind their backs and lacks the nuts to own up to it. Russel... well, Russel suffers from what I call 'short man syndrome'. Both are continually rewarded for the way they treat people.

Again, I get the 'villain' aspect of the game. But continuing to bring back these jerks? Really? And now, Russel still may return? And again, I cry out for the thousands upon thousands of people who apply who lose potential spots to re-re-re-returning jerks...stop it!

Two other aspects of the game that I feel are important have been all but omitted. The hunger issue and competition for prizes and immunity. In season 22, once the tribes merged, I think there were only two challenges where prizes were awarded, and one of those involved people dressed up was waiters serving food to the winners in camp. No real trips, no fun toys, and so forth. As far as the hunger went, some players complained of hunger, and once there was an altercation about rice. But they showed no one going out looking for food (well, I don't count Phillip trying to spear tiny crabs). I remember in season 2 when they killed a wild pig! That was really crazy.

The car award has been gone for several seasons. In the latest season, they didn't even do the 'honor past survivors' thing (honestly, I don't miss that one bit).

I miss the hunger issue and people finding food by fishing, discovering fruit, and all that. It was really cool to see people get excited over finding baby pineapples or figs, or catching their first fish, ever. There aren't as many challenges or prizes. The contestants are mysteriously lacking in likable qualities... what's going on?

Anyway, this is a long-overdue rant. I would rather watch reruns of Survivor than some of the newer seasons. I miss seasons like the one shot in Australia. I miss players like Yao-Man, Rupert, and that chemistry teacher who one once, the guy who made the really awesome 'fake' idol.

Sigh... in season 23, they're bringing back yet two more previous players. I can only hope one of them isn't Russel.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

People Aren't So Bad...

I am they type of person that is referred to as a 'type B' personality, or an 'invert'. Others call people like me 'socially inept'. None of these terms are incorrect, but to think of this state of being as wrong, or as a disorder, that's where the error lies. Most of my life, I've been only a few degrees short of a hermit, and rarely go 'out' to socialize. Until recently, I haven't ever found a group situation involving people that I enjoyed.

Most people, in fact an estimated 3/4 of the population, think of introverts as antisocial, conceited, stuck-up, and as individuals who just don't like other people in general. This is very far from the truth. Rather than try to explain it all here, I encourage anyone who thinks they know an introvert to read this article... it's very enlightening:

I really do WANT to like doing things with other people, but it's truly exhausting sometimes. It's shocked me every single time I find out someone thinks I'm stuck-up. For one thing, they couldn't be any further from the truth (I really don't think all that highly of myself), and for another, I despise people who are stuck upon themselves, and for someone to think I'm in that category just blows me away.

But in the last year, I've taken some wonderful classes in biology. I've been meeting people a lot like myself: science/biology geeks who have some degree of social ineptness. Going to class is definitely a 'group activity', but I rarely find it exhausting. In the last few months, I've actually come home feeling invigorated. I'm more willing to put in volunteer time, participate in study groups, and help tutor. I never would have entertained doing these things a year or more ago.

It's nice to feel this way, when I never have before. It reaffirms my decision to go forward in getting an education and go for at least a Master's.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Confessions of an Anal Cross-Stitcher

First, I'm posting about two projects I'm working on. After that, you are welcome to read on about my journey with the cross-stitching craft, if you so desire. I didn't want to turn off any readers who may not be interested in the craft, but wanted to see the projects. (I do apologize for the format, I'm still getting used to this setup).

The first of two projects is of a cuckoo wasp, a beautiful insect commonly found in places like Australia (there are many species). I created a pattern from this photograph by Peter Chew at and had actually nearly completed the project two years ago. Somehow, it was lost, a month before I was going to enter it into a contest. Weeks and weeks of work gone! After two years of looking, I started over, however, because it was the first project I'd done using a program that made realistic patterns (more on that later). To the right is my current progress, and apologies for the photo quality, I haven't gotten a good day yet for natural lighting, and the flash on my camera tends to wash out colors.

The second is of the ship Serenity from the show Firefly. It's ultimately for my husband, and while it doesn't look like much now, it's a massive project and when finished will be incredible. We've both agreed that were I offered enough money for it, I'd sell! I'm currently working on the 'nose' of the ship (lower right of the provided image), and the first solar panel. Drooling fan, yes.

The wasp is on 28 count linen, and Serenity is on 28 count Evenweave (Jobelin I think?). I am still looking for who to credit the image of Serenity I've used (it's been shared and reshared quite a bit).

That leads me to the 'Confessions' part of this post.

I learned cross-stitch when I was 5 or 6, from little kits my grandmother gave me. Very simple, blocky things, and I quickly grew tired of teddy bears and puppies. The 'standard' size of cross-stitch fabric is 14 count (count = x's per inch), and I always thought projects done on them were blocky and cartoonish. Many people prefer this, it's just not for me.

Regardless, I LOVED cross-stitching. I found it relaxing, and when I did find a good pattern of realistic-looking birds or animals or flowers, I enjoyed the projects. The more colors, the better. But my search was never truly satisfied; I wanted really REAL looking things to cross-stitch. Like photo-realistic, and tons of color; the more the better!.

After high school, I discovered really small count cross-stitch fabrics, and that helped for a while. I would take projects like Gold Collection kits, and do them on 22 or 28 count cloth. They came out smaller of course, but they looked more vivid to me. But still, I wasn't truly satisfied.

Then, a few years ago, I was digging around on Ebay for patterns. I'd discovered that some people were selling some really neat patterns of fairies and animals that were large, realistic, and with lots of color. While looking through one seller's goods, I saw that they were listing a program called PC Stitch. With it, you could make your own cross-stitch patterns. I knew right then, that I'd found what I was looking for.

With PC Stitch (I use the Pro version), you can take any image and import it to the program, tweak it in several ways, and create your own pattern. While I'd love to sell patterns, that was never my intention with the program, and I doubt I'll use it for that purpose in the near future. The main reason being, while I do paint, draw and take the odd snapshot, there are millions of other artists and photographers out there better than me. Purchasing the rights to their images would not be cost effective, at least I haven't found this to be true, yet.

In short, I'm in heaven. Since I was young, I have hungered for this very thing. With the cuckoo wasp, for example, you can stand 10 feet away from it and it looks like a photorealistic painting. From 20 feet, there's no way to tell it's stitched. I'm extremely anal about that; while I love cross-stitching, the last thing I want is for it to LOOK cross-stitched. That's why I'm very picky about color richness, small count fabrics (28-32 count), and just the right size. All of my patterns take weeks or months to complete (I go to school or work, so I only get an hour or two a day), and are truly thrilling to work on.

I do intend to sell some of what I complete, and as long as paying for the rights to images I use is doable, I'll happily oblige. I always want to give credit where credit is due, and would never try to profit from someone else's work.

Anyway, would love to know what people think! Please comment. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011


Even though I'm still at the community college level, I've progressed through classes to the point that the subjects are getting more challenging. My 200 level biology series was certainly challenging, but not like this.

I'm nearly 20 years out of high school, and I've taken some college in between then and now. Education has always been something I enjoyed for the most part, and I've never found I had to study for days to prepare for a test, and I typically and A student.

Now, as I approach the last year before applying to OSU's biology programs, I'm beginning to see what's in store. Not that I didn't anticipate it, but with a chemisty final and a math (pre-calc/functions) final in the next 2 days, I've been studying since the middle of last week. Still not done!

Slowly I'm omitting parts of my other life to make room for my education. I don't craft as much, I don't play online games as much (especially those that require a lot of thought and effort), in fact I only focus on one of those. I don't watch nearly as many shows (thank goodness I can stockpile them for later). More and more I leave early to study on campus either alone or with groups, and my comfy chair at home is surrounded by school work rather than craft clutter.

Am I complaining? Not really. When the epiphany struck me in early 2009 that I should be studying to be the biologist/ornithologist etc. I 'd always wanted, I knew it would be my life. I had always wanted it to be, but my selfish side wouldn't let it in. I compare it to how I decide what music I like: if I can listen to it repeatedly and not get tired of it, I know it's going on my list of good music. I've loved learning about anything biology related since I was 4 years old, when I was learning to draw and read, and I've never, ever gotten tired of it.

And if I'm thinking two tough finals is a lot of studying, I should remind myself that next term is more chemistry, trigonometry, and botany. Whew!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

No Power in the 'Verse Can Stop the Drooling Fans

I had never been the type to fall into 'drooling fandom' with television shows, movies, actors, music, and related forms of entertainment. I certainly have my favorites and am always will to share them and encourage others to enjoy them. That is, until Firefly aired.

Firefly ( was a show first aired on the Fox network a few years ago. It's definitely in the sci-fi category, as it's set in a gritty future where space travel is the norm. It's difficult to compare it to other productions in the same category, because while it easily fits in the 'sci-fi' slot, it is more realistic and believable than any other sci-fi show or movie out there. It's serious but full of humor, the characters have flaws we can relate to (as well as traits we admire), and most of the situations are very believable.

Fox cancelled the show before the first season even ended. They gave the typical bogus reasons. And as with any show cancelled before fans feel it was the right time to do so, the fan base was quite upset. But this time, it was different.

The story is really quite interesting, but I'll keep it short here, since plenty of information is easily found. The fans got together in many ways, mostly via the internet, and sent petitions signed by tens of thousands of fans demanding and begging Fox to reconsider. This NEVER works, and this time it was no different. The fans appealed to Joss Whedon (the creator), who promised fans that if DVD sales of the series reached a certain amount, he would make a movie based on Firefly. Fans then came together again and did massive promotions, used guerilla marketing tactics, and did their best to spread the word about the show and the evilness of Fox network. Sales of the DVD easily surpassed Joss's requirement.

The movie, Serenity, did fairly well. It introduced many people to Firefly, creating lots of new fans. But the fan movement didn't stop there. They still wanted the show back.

There have been many petitions and other forms of fan effort, all of which have failed to reignite the production of Firefly. Joss has moved on to other things, though he has discussed many times the Firefly was a major issue for a long time. However, each effort brought more attention to the plight of the show, and with it, more fans and supporters.

Very recently, a huge development put Firefly in the forefront of internet happenings. Science Channel (part of the Discovery network) will begin airing episodes of Firefly soon. With this news, talk of the rights of Firefly began to circulate, and what would happen to them. The fans came together again, and through an interesting series of events (that have definitely 'changed the landscape'), are rallying to help Nathan Fillion (one of the lead actors in Firefly and captain of Serenity) buy the rights.

Many might think it's nuts, Fox network certainly thinks so. But I definitely do not. Yes, I'm a drooling fan. At any opportunity I try to get friends and family to watch the show if they haven't yet. I get very excited when I meet fellow fans. I plan to attend at least one or two conventions dressed as the character I most closely resemble (barely). I've crafted things based on Firefly. I'm a drooling fan, and it feels great!

If you're a fan, or if you're just curious, please follow this link for more recent information and developments: The story about how the fans have kept Firefly alive is interesting enough, and this new issue is truly exciting.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How the White Swan Fires Reminded Me How Cool the Internet Is.

Not the bird, the town.

Last Saturday, a small chimney fire was spread to many homes and logyard in the tiny, unincorporated town of White Swan, Washington. High winds of 40mph carried embers to the dry logs, and fanned by wind they took immediately. More embers were carried to homes that were spread around the small town. About 20 homes were lost, parts of the area are still without power today due to downed power lines resulting from both the wind and fire that had spread to trees.

White Swan is about 45 miles from Yakima in eastern Washington. It is part of the Yakima Indian Reservation and where I spent most of my childhood. I graduated from the high school there, and have been told countless times that I should write a book about the experience of growing up in such an interesting area. I haven't got a drop of Native American blood in my veins, but my stepfather and my mother's adoptive father are both Yakima. I certainly did catch a lot of flak for being red-haired and fair-skinned, but not nearly as much as you might think.

Being so far from anything remotely like a city, it took several fire crews from all over the Yakima Valley most of Saturday and part of Sunday to fully contain all the fires. Most of the people who lost homes are people I know. The best thing about the whole incident is that not one person was hurt. Amazing.

When I heard the news, it was completely by mistake. I was killing time on facebook (I'd caught another cold, felt miserable, and was waiting for some show to come on) and saw one of my high school classmates post "What's burning down there?" She sometimes posts really random things through her mobile, and it is often days before I figure out what the hell she's talking about. Because I'm a smartass, I replied with some off color remark about seeing a doctor for that.

Of course it turned out to be something pretty horrible. More people from the small town of White Swan starting posting updates... this many homes lost, the wind is spreading more fires, the logyard is burning, etc. I watched these updates like a hawk; I live in Oregon and there was no feasible way for me to attempt to help from so far away. It felt pretty helpless, not being there to at least comfort friends.

Then something really cool happened. Someone posted about the live scanner in Yakima. Apparently, many cities have sites where you can tune in and listen to police and fire scanners... I had no idea! My father was a firefighter and paramedic for the city of Port Angeles, and we always had a scanner in the house for when he was on call. The last thing I knew about scanners was that it wasn't legal for 'civilian' types to have them or to be able to tune in on their bands. I still remember what all the tones mean.

I listened for about 3 hours, and knew at a certain point late at night that they finally had a fair grasp on all the fires. It really made me feel better to at least know the current situation.

Now everyone there is pulling together, trying to get donations of food, clothing and toiletries for all the displaced people. Again, with the internet, news spread fast and they have a lot of goods flowing in. They already had to find a location with more room!

So yeah, the internet is awesome. Without it, I may not have known the plight of my little home town even now; my mother lives in Yakima still, but didn't know about it until I called her.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Other Egypt

When people think of Egypt, they usually picture pyramids and pharaohs, right? But with the last couple of week's worth of newsworthy happenings from modern Egypt, people are thinking more about rebellion and the ousting of a leader.

When I think of Egypt, I first think about a game I've played off and on for several years called A Tale in the Desert (for more info: It's an online game that falls in the 'massive multiplayer' category, though there are roughly 1000 to 1200 playing now (well, maybe a bit less, the most current tale is smaller than usual) rather than hundreds of thousands. There's no killing, but there is definitely conflict. There are pyramids, there's a pharaoh, there are rebellions, several degrees of conflict, and yes, every once in a while, a leader (of sorts) is ousted.

I love this game for so many reasons. You start out with very little and knowing how to do little more than shape mud into bricks. As you learn more and acquire skills, you can do more things, take on more tests, and advance within the game. Tests range from scavenger hunts to being elected into power (power = being able to ban other players), building huge obelisks and creating puzzles for others to play.

Every 'tale' (tales last about 18 months to 2 years, at the end of each tale all is wiped clean and a new tale begins) has its drama. This one is no different, and to coincide with the 'real' Egypt's disquiet, the virtual Egypt had some bannings, public lynching (of sorts), and lots of nasty words. The irony made me giggle, as well as appreciate that the Egypt I frequent was virtual (and by choice). Overall, the game is a kick in the pants, and I've met some really wonderful people while playing. No other MMORPG I've played has the sense of community nailed the way A Tale in the Desert does... I've written a couple of forum articles about this game in the past, as I strongly believe other games could really take a few lessons from this little known game.

If you're ever tempted to log in and give it a shot, do say hello... I go by Ketta.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Current Events

I'm trying to commit to blogging at least once a week and starting again. I often think of topics to talk about that have been interesting to friends, family, classmates or online groups, and often encounter great blogs by other people who actually do the blogging thing.

I'm currently attending my local community college and working on a transferable degree in biology to a four year university. This is the time of year when the NSF (National Science Foundation) REUs open up for application across the US, and most are due at the end of the month. So, on top of homework and other related deadlines, I've been writing essays. Lots of them. Most of which have to do with talking about yourself and why YOU are so wonderful. That's not easy for me.

After I've done homework, and when I should still be doing homework, I'm either playing A Tale in the Desert or sewing. Current sewing projects are all cross-stitch; the first (which will take a few years of off-and-on work) is of Serenity, the ship in Firefly; the second is of a species of cuckoo bee. Both are 'photo-realistic' and on 28 count cloth. The effect when finished is very striking. When I master uploading and inserting images here, I'll post updates on the projects.

At home, my husband is currently working on texturing and painting the walls in the mobile home we bought a few years ago. It's a 1970 model and wood paneling stabs the eyes in all directions... classy. He's already done this type of work on another mobile, and the finished effect is wonderful. Instead of paneling, it looks like any other textured and painted wall in a home with sheetrock. All the carpet has been ripped out as well, and faux wood flooring will be put down. If we were keeping the place, we'd go for something a bit better, but we know now that in a couple of years we'll be selling, so we fixing up more to increase resale value. Considering we now have a new furnace and heat pump and that the place is in great shape for its age, we should do well.

Other events include: trying a new diet, trials of a young teenage son, a very old cat keeps on living (nicely), and spring is coming early.