So, I have a confession to make. I don't particularly like tomatoes. Oh, I love tomato sauce and ketchup, but I don't like tomatoes in their natural state. Usually, I order a BLT without the T. But if I'm lucky, I can find a place that will replace T with FGT. (This one below also replaced the lettuce with spinach.)

A good green tomato is tangy and solid. A fried green tomato is delicious. When I heard the Safeway had some heirloom green tomatoes, I knew there was only one thing I could do.

Room With a View: Grants, New Mexico

Where in Nevada County: It's Not a Disney Ride

Where in Nevada County can you find Flume 27?

In Search of Alpha

So a while back I went on a fruitless search for the Omega mine. I was much more successful on the 23rd in finding the Alpha mine. Alpha and Omega were mines just the other side of Washington, California. The mines in our area, for the most part, were not the sort of square-shaft coal thing I grew up believing in. Instead, we had the surface destruction of placer mining, where huge water canons washed away layers of mountainside, pushing the run-off into long sluices.

So when you find the remnants of one of these mines, it's generally a pile of rocks with some water features. What caught my eye first, though, were the manzanita. I love the way the red and gray branches twine. (It's worth clicking on to make it bigger.)

Of course, the Alpha diggins had plenty of rocks.

And a water feature.

But really, it's just beautiful to walk around inside the National Forest.

And so my streak for the December Photo Project comes to a close on the 23rd. Both the 24th and 25th failed to remind me to take pictures and tomorrow I will be spending most of the day traveling to a remote part of New Mexico, which is so covered with snow, I'm not really expecting to find any wee toaty explorers.


The only pictures I took yesterday were at the very poorly designed new terminal for Sacramento airport. I was stuck at the end of this crowd:

It was a little bit after midnight and only one of the two tiny trams was working. There is no other option for civilians to exit the terminal except by these cars.

It took about 30 minutes for this whole mess to clear on the one tram. I waited to keep from getting squished. (Some employees snuck around to the exit side of the cars to get first crack at entering the trams.)

I'm sorry, SMF, but your terminal stinks. When you enter from the garage, there's no way to see which airline is at which ticket counter without walking in front of each one, there is not a direct escalator from the baggage claim back up to the garage level, every line has the nekkid TSA scanners, and these trams are already too small even before they break down.

Des Moines, Iowa

This little guy has decided to brave the snow.

Looks like he's making the crew work.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here.

Room With a View: Clive, Iowa

This time of year, it's hard to be in the hotel when it's still light enough to take a picture out the window.

For both the room with a view project and the December Photo Project.

Airport Wreath

My 19 December offering for the December Photo Project. With all the traveling, I didn't get much of a chance to take pictures. Still, here's a holiday wreath at the old terminal.

Where in Nevada County: One Dollar Rooms

Where in Nevada County did Dan Smith provide $1 steam-heated rooms?


Submission accepted.


More cooking!

I had a hankering for my grandmother's candy cane cookies. So I bugged my aunt and got the recipe.

It was a lot more work to roll out and twist them then I thought it would be. Plus, I got red food coloring all over my fingers.

Somehow, the red was harder to get off my skin than the blue I used for the dreidels I made with the same dough.

After a bit of baking and a dusting with powdered sugar, they came out tasting fine.

The powdered sugar tended to obscure the letters on the dreidels. Also, the blue food coloring gave me green cookies!

But they still tasted just as good!


The wicked cool photos from the indicommons world-wide museums & archives feed continue with this 1946 picture of Sharon Monts-DeOca and her first Christmas present.

Repository: State Library and Archives of Florida, 500 S. Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250 USA. Contact: 850-245-6700. Persistent URL:

Some Kind of Aztec Symbol?

Nope, it's just another bit of mining paraphernalia, covered with Christmas lights.

My 17 December offering for the December Photo Project.


Well, I tried to go to a micro-lending party, but I was stymied. Grass Valley is overrun with folks tonight. In a fruitless search for parking, I nearly ran over 16 kids, almost got hit by six drivers not paying attention, and something else bad. I don't know what that was, but you should have a list of three bad things for a sentence to be funny.

I hope that they got the foot traffic they were after and that some dream-filled entrepreneurs found some funding.

Baby Burger Bites

On days where I don't make it out of the house, you get pictures of food for the December Photo Project.

Today I had a craving for those little tiny burgers you can get at White Castle or Krystal (or in the olden days, at Little Tavern). Not having one of those around, I made my own.

And I made them double burgers! Buy 'em buy the sack.

The easy way to make these is to squish down meatballs and serve them on dinner rolls.

Top them off with tots, and you have a meal fit for a king, if the 1% knew how to live.

Yes, Virginia

Oops. I forgot to upload yesterday's offering for the December Photo Project. I did, however, take this picture yesterday. This is in one of our local shop windows. Nicely set up.

Nature's Water

My 14 December offering for the December Photo Project is a bit of Nature's Water. Drink it at your own risk, people.

I Made a Book Print!

It seems that Scholastic is going to donate one book to a school for every "book print" generated on their website. My book print is the list of five books that influenced me most. I had a lot of trouble separating my favorite books from the ones most influential for me. I also had difficulty distinguishing between books that influenced me and books that I simply resonated with. I'm not sure I can really separate the two, so these five truly reflect the books that most say something about me, I think.

Here's mine:

In roughly chronological order of entry into my life (note how I subtly get around the limit to five books; also, the links are all to librarything):

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

This is the first book I remember re-reading as a child. I selected it because I think it is a key example of books that are a source of the sense of wonder with imaginary worlds as well as playing games with language. I'm sure I loved Harold and the Purple Crayon, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and The Great Brain nearly as much, but this must have been the first. I think it's a direct predecessor to me of the kind of things I liked in A Wrinkle in Time, in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and in The Hobbit.

A Separate Peace (John Knowles)

This book about friendship and envy is the earliest book I remember reading as schoolwork and finding myself unable to wait to read it at the same pace as the teacher directed. I may have done the same with Great Expectations. It's also an example of a book that I could dive into based completely on its atmosphere alone. There's another book that meant a lot to me around this time -- early high school/late junior high -- but I have no idea the title or author: it was a book about a kid who moves to a new town and interests a gang of other kids in playing with him by providing maps for imaginary driving in their broken-down car. I wish I knew what that book was.

Parable of the Sower (Octavia E. Butler)

This book reflects both my concern that the entire world is slowly tearing itself apart and my hope that small, self-organizing communities are a real answer. I think this rounded out my understanding of community and tolerance/compassion that (surprisingly) started with Speaker for the Dead.

Slapstick (Kurt Vonnegut)

I can't really put every single Vonnegut book into a list that's supposed to be five books long. Kurt Vonnegut taught me that important things could be said with, and people could be influenced by, a mix of humor and intelligence. Vonnegut's writing is what I most want my own writing to resemble. If I could mix together Vonnegut with Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, PG Wodehouse, and Neil Gaiman, I'd have the perfect output.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (M.T. Anderson)

I so wish this book had been available when I was young. This is an amazing example of how much depth, world-building, and importance can be woven into a young adult or even middle grade novel. It had been a long time since I was overwhelmed by a book when I found this recently. Other books I wish were around or I had discovered when I was younger include The Book Thief, I Capture the Castle, and Northern Lights.

So that's my list. The only book I couldn't find a way to fit in was Diamond Age, which I love for its world building but also for how much it makes me want to make things.

What books influenced you?

In Search of Omega

If there's one thing that the December Photo Project is doing for me, it's getting me out of the house. These next two weeks I'm doing a lot of coding from home, so an excuse to go outside (to take a picture) is probably doing wonders for my posture, if nothing else.

So in the middle of the day today, I wandered into the forest to try to locate the Omega mine. I never found it. It's so weird to be able to go somewhere so close to home where my phone loses signal so completely and I can't get a map. I think that Omega was down a side road that was marked No Trespassing -- Danger!

I know it's shocking, but one thing I found up there was a tree. It was this wicked cool dead tree, all alone in an area that was otherwise seemingly cleared of trees.

What was really neat was the same tree's innards.

Turns out I might have been wandering around on private land. It's so weird how the Tahoe National Forest is checkered with one-mile-square private reserves.

Cooking with the Abbot

Well, this entry has a bad word in it, but you can blame my mother for that.

This is my 12 December offering for the December Photo Project, an attempt to take at least on picture every single day of the month. Today, I decided to cook.

Here are the ingredients:

This is a no-bake cookie recipe, but it does involve some boiling in a pot. It's probably the easiest cookie in the world to make.

The world calls these peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate no bake cookies.

Mom called them turds.

I'm sorry.

Where in Nevada County: Signs of the Times

Here's an easy one: Where in Nevada County can you yell at this duct tape?

Victorian Christmas

Every year, Nevada City has a series of capitalistic nights and a few days, where they close the streets, a few people dress up, and a selling frenzy begins.

We call it Victorian Christmas.

This guy roasting chestnuts is my 11 December offering for the December Photo Project.

As a bonus, here is Father Christmas and presumably his wife. They are definitely taking seriously their responsibility for determining who is naughty and who is nice.

Put a Bow On It

My 10 December offering for the December Photo Project.

Minding Your Ps and, Well, Just Your Ps

For the December Photo Project, I'm uploading full-sized of all the pictures for the month. So for this 9 Dec offering, you get full-size Wee Toaty Explorers at no extra charge.

There are protestors everywhere these days. And that's a good thing. The only thing we are all born with is a voice to raise.

These little guys must be really agitated to be out in 30° weather on a grim Seattle morning.

I didn't think about placement and how it was going to be easier in this location to shoot everybody from the wrong side. Everybody has a good side for pictures and a bad side. Letters of the alphabet will usually look better from one side, though the As, Is and Os of the world are born with a natural symmetry. Damn them!

I learned an important lesson this time out: super gluing cardboard to toothpicks is not good enough. There isn't enough surface area on the toothpick to hold the cardboard. And a little breeze will rip that sign right off. I suppose it's just as well: those signs would have acted like sails if they held better and the wind was any stronger at all. Even when you don't think there's a wind, it's there, lurking.

Of course, you might really be wondering (or perhaps you've already guessed) what these little guys are protesting.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here.

Space Christmas

This is my 8 December offering for the December Photo Project. There's a Christmas tree on top of the Space Needle.

Room with a View: Seattle

Two projects at once: my own year-long project of pictures from hotel rooms and the December Photo Project.

It's a dreary day. I'd wait to see what tomorrow turns out to be, but really the dreary day and that electric bus really say "Seattle."

Farewell to Thee, Terminal B

This is my 6 December offering for the December Photo Project. Click on the dpp link to see my entries for the month.

Album Cover

More random fun with GIMP. Here's an album cover for the imaginary band Big Purple Enemy. I saw them on Names for Things and thought they deserved one.

With apologies to Creed and Grimace.

Lifting an angel statue

There has been a good stream of interesting photos from the indicommons project this last week or so. What a wonderful project.Via Flickr:This photograph is from the Robert Hope collection.

Main Street Lights

This is my 5 December entry for the December Photo Project. Click on the dpp link to see my entries for the month.

I love this house at the top of Main Street. I obviously need to learn how to take night-time pictures.