Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Day 216: Happy Halloween!


Day 215: Junk Mail (election edition)

Next week is the general election (Nov. 4).  Both Mr. E and I are permanent "absentee ballot" voters, so we've already submitted our ballots a couple of weeks ago.  In theory, this means that our names should be removed from the voter rolls and from the address lists that candidates and other groups can access for their communications, but this never seems to happen.

Case in point: Yesterday, we received 11 pieces of mail, 10 of which (i.e. 91%) were related to the election, and several of which were for the same candidate(s). What a waste of paper and ink and resources...!


Day 214: New Helvetia Brewing Company

We had a "non-bridal" shower for my colleague, Big B, this afternoon at New Helvetia Brewing Company on 17th & Broadway:

I was hoping that there might be a cider on tap, as I'm not much of a beer drinker, but I ended up ordering a light lager as the closest option to a blonde ale, which is the one style of no-fruit-ish beer that I actually enjoy. I tasted the Molly American Red Ale as well, but it was too bitter for me. And I was pleasantly surprised to find the lager rather tasty, and also quite content that a small glass was only $3!


Day 213: Renaissance Tower, aka "Darth Vader" Building

The downtown Sacramento skyline is marked by several distinctive buildings, including the Renaissance Tower, also fondly (?) known locally as the "Darth Vader" Building:

This building sits on K Street, just a few blocks from the former Westfield Downtown Shopping Plaza (which has now been mostly demolished as part of the new downtown Arena project). In the ground floor of the building is a branch of Chase bank, and one of the commercial tenants is apparently the State Mining & Geology Board, part of the Department of Conservation.  Who knew?!

When Mr. E and I were visiting our friend K during his temporary assignment in Oahu, we noticed a rather similar building in downtown Honolulu, which turns out to be the Imperial Plaza condos:

I'm not sure if the buildings were designed by the same architect or not, but they certainly look at least related.


Day 212: Early Evening Crescent Moon

As the days are getting shorter, my bike commute home after work has gradually been getting darker and a bit more shadowed.  Today, I spied a sliver of an early evening crescent moon as I headed away from the office towards the gym. 

I really need to start carrying a camera with me so that I can capture the images I see rather than resorting to online Google image searches, but for now, this will have to do:


Day 211: Dollar Tree

A few years ago, a new Dollar Tree store opened on S Street, about five blocks from where we live in downtown Sac:

I've stopped by a few times to check out the merchandise but haven't made it part of our regulation shopping rotation.  This afternoon, I needed to get a few more Halloween cards, so I figured I'd try the Dollar Tree first before heading a bit farther to Safeway, if necessary.  And now I think I may have found a new sources for decent and affordable cards!

All of the greeting cards are 2 for $1, and although the store doesn't have the largest assortment, it does carry all of the basics as well as some specialized holiday cards.  Considering how expensive cards can be elsewhere (up to $5 for some of the really fancy or music-infused options), I'm very pleased to find a local source for some of my typical card needs.

Oh - and I also couldn't resist buying a hanging Halloween decoration with a little black cat centered in an orange expandable honeycomb.  I managed to hang it from one of the air vents in the living room, and Calypso has been totally freaked out since it appeared.  Not sure why, but if this continues, I may need to remove it and bring it into the office instead!


Day 210: California Capital Book Festival

The inaugural California Capital Book Festival is this weekend at the Sacramento Convention Center. 

This is a free community event, so I when I learned about it a few weeks ago, I emailed my Book Club to see if anyone was interested in attending.  M was the only person available, so we made plans to meet up this afternoon.  However, once we both looked at the agenda, we weren't as enthusiastic about the prospect, and she called me earlier today to chat about our options.  We agreed that it might not be worth going (and certainly not allocating two hours to the experience) since there weren't any authors on the agenda of particular interest to us.

I figured I might still check it out after getting a haircut, if the weather cooperated, and since the sun was still out once I was finished at Super Cuts, I jumped back on my bike and headed over to the Convention Center. 

I strolled around the Expo Hall and learned about the nine Wells Fargo Museums throughout California; heard some great spoken-word poetry from Noah Hayes, which was best when the religious references weren't the primary focus (he's a fellow blogger, too); and was delighted to watch the tail end of a short performance by the Sacramento Ballet as a preview of this weekend's performances of The Great Gatsby:

I'm glad I took some time out of my day to take advantage of this Sacto event!


Day 209: Shooting in Sacramento

I got an email today from my high school friend, C, mentioning that she saw the news about a "shooting spree" in Sacramento, so she was checking in to see if we were anywhere near the area. I hadn't heard anything about it!

I immediately looked at the Sac Bee online and found the whole story. How awful. I actually do know the area where the first shooting occurred, as it's a busy shopping area near the Arden Square Mall and Cal Expo.



Day 208: Garlic Capital of the World

How ironic. Our final health center site visit today was in Gilroy, a city proud to claim the title of "Garlic Capital of the World."  Luckily, there was absolutely no garlic aroma wafting about, so I could safely walk the few blocks from our car to the health center.

We all admired the striking mural on the side of the building, and although the subject matter fills me with horror and dread, I could definitely appreciate the artistry and details of the artwork:

After our tour of the health center, we learned that the mural had become rather faded over the years since it was originally created and painted by an Italian artist in the early 2000s:

The city and residents are so fond of the mural and take such pride in it that they raised funds to bring the artist back to Gilroy from Italy to restore the mural to its original luster, and it was rededicated in 2013. Below are photos I found online of the artist at work and the ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating the restoration:


Day 207: Sunset in the California Desert

Three of my CPCA colleagues and I are in the midst of a two-day road trip to visit four health center organizations and some of their sites in the Central Coast area -- Nipomo, Watsonville, Hollister, and Gilroy.  Today we were in Nipomo, which is farthest from Sacramento, and we drove north to Salinas to spend the night so that our morning appointment tomorrow isn't too far away.

Much of the area between cities and towns along Highway 101 is full of desert landscape, and we saw a beautiful sunset over the mountains this evening, with intense orange and fuschia colours staining the clouds.

I wasn't able to take any photos of the actual sunset, but these images give a pretty good sense of the hue and intensity that we witnessed:


Day 206: Sacramento Rainbow

The forecast yesterday was for a minimal amount of rain in Sacramento and more in some of the surrounding areas. Apparently, some sprinkles did arrive in the central city area, but I didn't see any proof of the precipitation.

What I did see was a half rainbow outside my window at the end of the day - what a lovely way to wrap up a Monday work day!

This rainbow wasn't as vibrant or extensive as the colorful arc that I spied from the plane window last week when I was arriving in Portland, but it still made me smile.


Day 205: Panera Makes It Right!

Last week, I posted about a disappointing experience at Panera. 

I submitted feedback through the Panera web site and was extremely pleased by the response -- not only did I get a personalized email apologizing for the fact that Panera didn't meet my expectations, but I also received a $10 eGift Card to use for a future visit.  Sweet!

With that type of customer service, Panera has definitely restored my sense of customer loyalty.


Day 204: Aerial Views of Sacramento

Whenever I fly home to Sac during the day, I love seeing the patchwork of farmland laid out along the valley. The mix of greens, yellows, golds, and browns is so striking and beautiful from the air, and it lets me know that I'm almost home.

One of the cool public art features at the Sacramento Airport is a rug woven with a panoramic aerial view of Sacramento that lines the pedestrian bridge from the terminal to the parking structure:

I'm surprised this funky and functional graphic design hasn't yet been replicated for home use!


Day 203: Bridges

The theme of the conference I'm attending is "Building Bridges," which is so appropriate for an event that's taking place in Portland, a city of multiple distinct bridges linking the City Center and western neighborhoods to the eastern neighborhoods.  I also love the criss-crossing Willammette and Columbia Rivers that demarcate the city in much the same way that the Sacramento and American Rivers delineate different sections of Sacramento.

On my morning runs this week, we've taken advantage of the ped/bike path along the Steel Bridge that leads to the lovely path along Waterfront Park.  The photos below show an overall view of the Bridge along with a closer look at the ped/bike part, which can raise and lower as needed to allow boats to pass underneath.

This morning, I turned around a bit earlier than the rest of the GPA running posse, and as I headed back towards the bridge, I noticed that the ped/bike path was raised! I ended up having perfect timing to see the large boat coming through, the path lowering, and the gates opening just as I reached them.

Mr. E and I have often tossed around the idea of a future relocation to Portland, as we both feel so comfortable in this city and appreciate all of the great urban design and focus on sustainability that makes this place unique and utterly livable.  I'm sure it would take some time to adjust to the different climate, but it's still a tempting option, and a possibility that might become even more appealing if A, R, and F end up moving back to the Pacific Northwest, as it would be lovely to be closer to more family.


Day 202: Rainy Running

This morning's run was classic textbook Portland Pacific Northwest weather - chilly and rainy - so different from the lovely clear morning yesterday that led to sunny skies and mountain views! 

I did spy the mountains a couple of times today through the clouds and fog, but I'm very glad I decided to do a longer run yesterday rather than waiting 'til today.

It took pretty much all day for my running shoes to dry out, and my socks are still wet!!!


Day 201: The Mountains Are Out!

(NOTE: Although this year-long blog project was intended to focus solely on aspects of life in Sacramento, I sometimes digress from that mission when I'm traveling and experience something noteworthy.  Hence, the following post...)

It was still dark when I got up this morning around 6:10am and headed down to the lobby for a morning run with other GPA conference attendees.  We had an enjoyable run across the river and along Waterfront Park.  What struck me the most, however, was the view from my hotel window when I got back and was getting ready for the day -- a beautiful sunrise over Mt. Hood!

On my way down to the lobby, I glanced out through the glass elevator panels and was rewarded with clear sunny skies and the fabulous dual view of both mountains -- Mt. Hood to my right and Mt. St. Helens to my left.

Seeing this panorama reminded me so much of the almost 2 years that I spent in the lovely Rose City back in 1993-1994 (20 years ago - yikes!).  Noting that "both mountains are out" was always indicative of a clear day here in the often-rainy Pacific Northwest, and I'm so glad I got to relive those moments during my visit this week.


Day 200: Rainbow

I'm at a conference in Portland, OR, for the next few days.  My arrival at PDX was a bit delayed due to a thunderstorm over the airport, so we had to circle for about 5-10 minutes before we were able to land. I spent the time reading the Southwest airline magazine, and at a certain point, I glanced out the window to judge if we were any closer to the airport and was delighted to see a full-colour rainbow arcing over the Columbia River! 

Since my vantage point was higher than usual, the rainbow appeared larger than a semi-circle, with the tail ends starting to curve in towards each other again to complete the full circle.  It was gorgeous!  And it stayed with us for most of the final moments of the flight until we dropped closer to the runway.

Seeing the colorful arc reminded me of when I moved to Portland in June 1993 after graduating from Wesleyan.  Some of my fondest memories of that summer were of the frequent rainbows and ever-present rose-bushes that permeated so many of the residential areas I discovered as I got to know my way around the city.


Day 199: Disappointment at Panera

Last month, I raved about the new option at Panera for rapid pick-up, as it was the first time that Mr. E and I had placed an order online for pick-up at the store at a specified time. We had a relatively complex order, with lots of customizations, and what we got was absolutely perfect.

My experience today was just the opposite. I placed the order online this afternoon for pick-up at 7pm, but when I arrived around 7:15pm, the order wasn't ready and waiting for me. An employee asked me if I there for a pick-up order and then explained that the store had run out of the appropriate bread for Mr. E's Italian Combo sandwich, which was why the order wasn't ready. I asked about other options, particularly the baguette, and was told that the store was also out of baguette. That in itself is a big problem, since the common side choices for most orders includes a piece of baguette. I finally was able to select whole wheat bread and then went to do my final errand rather than waiting in the store for the food to be made.

All of this was annoying enough, but the worst part was yet to come...

When Mr. E came home from the CAC and took a bite of his sandwich, he ended up with a mouthful of red onions, which were definitively noted on the online order to NOT be included. In addition, his sandwich was supposed to have extra pepperoncini, but that customization was also lacking.  *sigh*

I'm willing to try once more to see if the next order is accurate, but I'll be sure to confirm all of the food items before leaving the store.


Day 198: Google+ Hangout

I participated in a "Talkabout" this evening for my MOOC, and it was hosted through the Google+ Hangout platform.  This was the first time I'd been an active participant (not just a viewer) of a Google Hangout, and I actually really enjoyed the experience.

Luckily, there were only four of us who joined the Talkabout, so we each could chat and contribute meaningfully to the conversation.  Oddly enough, two of the folks were from Orange County, and the other was from San Francisco, so we had an even SoCal/NorCal split!

All of us had interesting stories to share and seemed to make a real connection, so we exchanged email addresses in the chat at the end of the hour.  It will be interesting to see if we continue any sort of discussion through email throughout the rest of the course.


Day 197: Nasty Weather

Summer has been lingering here in Sacramento, with temps staying in the high 80s and into the mid 90s for several weeks longer than usual.  Typical weather at this time of year has highs in the 70s, and it looks as though we'll finally reach that mark early this week.  Phew!  I'm ready for fall and cooler weather and sweaters and boots!

Today was particularly unpleasant, due to the extremely windy conditions that carried smoke from the fires still smoldering in the northern and eastern parts of the County.  At least we've still had cooler weather overnight and in the morning.

Maybe it will even be time for flannel sheets later this month?  We can hope, anyway...


Day 196: Almost No Blog Tonight!

When I first booted up my laptop (aka "Big Purple") tonight, I didn't have any Internet connection.  Yikes! 

Mr. E had had problems earlier in the evening when he tried to connect to his Intel VPN, but he figured it was something wrong with his new computer.  However, when I had the same issue, I realized it must have been an error with our home wireless network, so I turned it off, let it "rest" for a few minutes, and turned it back on so it would reset.  Presto!  Internet access again.

Phew!  It would have been quite frustrating if my year-long blog project had been stymied by Comcast technical difficulties!


Day 195: Mr. E's New Employer

This past Monday, Mr. E started a new job by jumping ship from HP to Intel.  He now has to commute into the Intel campus in Folsom every day (his building is in the bottom row at the far right):

All this week, he's been focused on orientation, training, and taking care of administrative tasks such as getting his laptop, setting up his docking station, choosing health benefits, enrolling in the 401 (k), syncing his email to Siri, etc.  And he's discovered and taken advantage of the lovely cafeteria on site:

Mr. E has also enjoyed the free Starbucks coffee, which saves him from having to take time in the morning to make his coffee at home, along with the free fresh fruit (apples, pears, bananas).


Day 194: Sacramento Convention Center

Apparently, a downtown location for a Convention Center can sometimes be a bit challenging if the surrounding neighborhood is home to rather diverse and interesting residents.  CPCA's Annual Conference this year (and last year and next year) is hosted at the Sacramento Convention Center:

During registration this morning, we had a few wanderers try to join the event or approach us with rather interesting questions and comments.  I had to play "bouncer" one time when a gentleman tried to enter our Trade Show Exhibit Hall although he clearly wasn't part of the Conference group.

Frankly, I wouldn't really mind sharing some of the leftover food and beverage with more needy folks, but I'm sure some of our guests and leadership wouldn't quite share that approach.


Day 193: Hyatt Regency Hotel Capitol View Room

CPCA's quarterly Board and Committee meetings were held in the Capitol View Room in the Hyatt Regency Hotel this week, as we had other meetings and trainings that were scheduled for the CPCA office classroom space, which is where we usually have the quarterly meetings.

The Capitol View Room is quite aptly named, as the large floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides all provide a view of the Capitol dome along with a panorama of the surrounding region.  On a relatively clear day, you can even see mountains in the distance from the balcony on the west side of the room.  Below are some images of the view and the room set up for a special event (our meeting set-up wasn't quite so colorful...):


Day 192: I'm Enrolled in a MOOC!

The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is a relatively new phenomenon in higher education.  I've been following this development thanks to news and stories in my alumni magazines from Wesleyan, Middlebury, and UW-Madison, all of which are now involved in some way with delivering content via the MOOC.

Here's the wikipedia entry:
A massive open online course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education which began to emerge in 2012.

And here's a fun graphic about the term, MOOC:

I've been very curious about this method of delivering distance learning but hadn't yet found an appropriate opportunity to enroll in a course to try it out.  One of the biggest providers of MOOCs is Coursera, which has partnerships with a number of universities across the world.

In one of my industry email updates, I learned about a MOOC focused on philanthropy and giving, created and taught by a professor from Stanford.  So I figured this would be a good chance to experience a MOOC and also learn something directly relevant to my field.

Giving 2.0: The MOOC began yesterday and runs for 6 weeks.  So far, I've only watched a few introductory videos for Week 1, as this is an incredibly busy week at work for me due to our Annual Conference and related activities.  Once I've got a more typical work schedule again, however, I'm really looking forward to exploring all of the aspects and components of this course, especially the various communication tools provided to help students interact with each other and with the instructor.

More updates in a later post, I'm sure!


Day 191: Vines Cafe, Hyatt Regency Hotel

This morning, our entire CPCA Development & External Relations team had an Annual Conference prep meeting at the Convention Center with the Convention Center staff, the a/v duo, and the team from the Hyatt Regency Hotel across the street, where several of our pre-conference meetings will be held beginning tomorrow.

We had a quick tour of the Convention Center areas where our Annual Conference sessions and activities will be located, and then most of us headed to Vines Cafe at the Hyatt for lunch:

I'd never been to this restaurant before, and I opted for the flat-rate $14.95 lunch buffet once I saw the lovely fresh salad bar and the jar of cookies that were included in the set-up (I brought several home to Mr. E to celebrate his first day of the new job at Intel):

Since we bring lots of business to the Hyatt for various trainings and events, CPCA has a master charge account with the hotel, so we could charge our team lunch to the account.  Sweet!


Day 190: Urban Cow 1/2 Marathon

This morning, I did the Urban Cow 1/2 Marathon Relay with my colleague, ML, from CPCA.  I've done this race every year since we moved to Sacramento in 2004.  The event has evolved over the years, with changes in the race distance options and in the name.

I used to run the full 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles) up until a few years ago when my body decided it didn't want to run as far any more.  So then I switched to the relay, which involves a team of 2 people who each run half the distance (6.55 miles).  Oh... except for the blooper year when those of us in the first leg of the relay or the first wave of the 1/2 marathon ended up running an "udderly long" event due to a mistake on the part of the cyclist who led out the runners and inadvertently took a turn into the 5K loop that added on almost .75 mile to the route.  Oops!

I was quite pleased with my run today, as I stuck to my plan of 12 minutes running/3 minutes walking throughout the course.  At this point, that's the only way I can run more than about 50 minutes at a time.  My total time this year was also faster than my time last year, and my overall mileage pace was just over 10:00 minutes.

All of that makes me feel much more confident about achieving my new fitness goal for the next year, which is to run a race every month. I've got October completed, November will be the Turkey Trot 5-miler in New Orleans over the Thanksgiving holiday, and December will be the CIM relay with a 4-person team from CPCA.  So that's already 3 months down, only 9 to go!


Day 189: Bargain Shopping

This afternoon, I had a volunteer shift to support the sidewalk sale at WEAVE Works, the thrift store run by and benefiting WEAVE, an amazing local organization that provides services to women, children, and families who are victims of domestic abuse or violence.

The thrift store used to be in Midtown Sac on 20th Street between I and J, and Mr. E and I visited that location a couple of times when we first arrived in Sac and lived just a few blocks away in an apartment next to the train tracks on H between 19th & 20th.  Quite a few years ago, the store moved to a large location on Arden Way:

I'm sure the relocation was advantageous for many business reasons, but it certainly isn't a common destination area for us, so we really have not stopped by the store again for many years.

After my experience today, however, I may need to find reasons to get out that way more often!

In addition to helping to neaten up the racks, keep the dressing rooms cleared, and move racks and bins inside for storage, I happened to do a wee bit of shopping.  The prices are already remarkably low, and volunteers get an additional 50% off all purchases.

So for the low, low, low total price of $17.23, I bought 3 pairs of shoes, a small black evening purse, and a black mid-length leather jacket.  Amazing!!!

I couldn't find a photo of the jacket online anywhere, but here are the shoes I purchased:

From top to bottom, we have Clarks black wedge sandals, Montego Bay Club gold sandals, and Adirenne Vittadini black mid-heel dress sandals.

As I found images of the shoes online, I discovered that the original retail price of those last heels at Macy's is $95.  My price?  Umm... yeah... that's right... just over $3 with my extra discount.  Ha! Bargain shopping rocks!


Day 188: More Capitol Box Art

Earlier this week on my way to work, I happened to be on the north sidewalk along Q Street, which brought me into close contact with part of the Capitol Box Art project that I hadn't really noticed before:

This piece, "Scrap Wrap," was created by Julia Couzens.  I think the piece hadn't hit my visual radar previously because I tend to bike on the south sidewalk of this street as part of my morning bike commute, so something about being on the other side and closer to the box made me really take note of the design.

Here's the artist's statement about her creation:

In thinking about a design to wrap a utility box I envisioned electricity as a form of conversational energy and the box as a magnet, or punctuation point, along the Sacramento grid. “Scrap Wrap” represents coalescing particles from the life of the street — scraps of vagrant papers snatched by a breeze, twiggy bits dropped from trees, wind-skipping straws, the boogie-woogie street patois pulled into the orbit of our downtown Capitol City energy.

I enjoy the lightness and whimsy of the design, and it reminds me of something a young child would create with simple geometric shapes and a limited colour palette.  Although this certainly isn't one of my favorites, it's still much better than a typical bland metal utility box!


Day 187: Unexpected Guest on My Bike

After doing an errand in the late afternoon today, I locked my bike to the rack outside the CPCA building rather than taking the time to go back into the nearby parking garage, knowing that I'd be leaving again in about 30 minutes or so.  I expected that I might have some unwelcome critters on my bike by the time I was heading home (i.e. stink bugs, since they've been so prolific lately), so I was quite surprised and pleased to find an entirely different unexpected guest on the frame of my bike when I went to unlock it -- an elegant little praying mantis:

It was a wee bit challenging to convince this guy to relocate, as he was very fond of the narrow areas on my bike, such as the break lines and lock cables.  However, I was finally able to convince him to grasp onto the bike lock cable so that I could then transfer him gently to the grassy ground nearby.

Mr. E and I have had the occasional praying mantis pay us a visit out on the patio, but I'd never had one try to hitch a ride on my bike before!


Day 186: Swimming Etiquette

I may have discussed this topic before in some way, but I was reminded again about folks who practice poor swimming etiquette this morning when I ended up whacking an older gentleman on the back with my hand paddles as he was exiting the pool. 

So how did this happen?  I was in the edge lane closest to the CAC facility, and he was in the lane next to me, one of the two middle lanes.  The edge lane I was in happens to have a built-in ladder at the end closest to the door, and folks who aren't able to propel themselves out of the pool on their own often need to use this ladder (or the ladder in the other edge lane at the far end).

As I approached the end of my lane, I saw a pair of legs on the middle step of the ladder, but I wasn't able to stop my momentum in time to avoid hitting the owner of those legs, who was the older gentleman from the lane next to mine.

What I really don't understand is that this is not the first time I've had this experience with a fellow swimmer!  And here's the deal: The pool is 25 yards long, and the ladder occupies at most the last 2 yards of the lane.  That means that folks using the ladder when someone else, such as myself, is swimming laps in that lane has a good 46 yards of time and space to enter or exit without causing any sort of conflict or contact with the lap swimmer.

So why do some people seem to have such difficulty coordinating their timing???  Grrr.