All us shutterbugs on the California Photography Workshop in the Alabama Hills

All us shutterbugs on the California Photography Workshop in the Alabama Hills


The 99Cent Chef was out with his wine tasting lush basket of goodies from the 99cent store Saturday. He entertained those of us who attended the latest blogger’s picnic at the Aztec Hotel, and we were well rewarded. Check out his video at 


Bloggers 99.99 Cent White Wine Tasting – Video

I may write about Altadena, but I’m not there this weekend. We are up in Mendocino/Fort Bragg enjoying some real time off. I loved Bill Geist’s Sunday Morning piece on the “staycation,” the energy conserving alternative to a vacation. But it seems this year we won’t be taking one of those.

It’s my pal Liz’s 50th birthday, so we hopped on a 7 am plane to Oakland at Bob Hope Airport, rented a car and took a leisurely drive the rest of the way. We stopped for breakfast in Healdsburg, which is a really happening town with fabulous restaurants, galleries and one of my favorite stores, Rainsong Shoes. I picked up one unassuming but beautiful shoe on display, turned it over and saw that it had been inspired by Paul Simon as it sported a “diamond” in its sole. Or maybe that should be soul. Diamonds in the sole of her shoes. Lovely. And it was placed between the heel and the sole to protect it. I coveted the lovely thing, but didn’t buy it. What control I tell you. Then, with photography in my blood, we entered a photo gallery called Capture and viewed some of the most spectacular photo work I’ve ever seen. Fantastic fantasy pieces, blending faces and trees, perilous holes in the ocean off New York, bridges full of cars driving through a gallery. I am sorry to say I can’t recall the artist’s name. I remember his last name is five letters, two syllables, and starts with a B. Do you recall things in certain ways? This subject fascinates me. I will recall the number of letters and syllables and often the first letters. I see the name or word visually and “feel” its structure. As a kid I had a “photographic” memory. I see it, I remember it.

That ability hasn’t remained exactly the same over the years, and I think there’s more to it than just the visual. It’s rhythm, too. My first phone number was 347-3343. I loved the rhythm of that number, and the math. All the numbers could be added to make seven, or subtracted from seven to get the other number. Our second house’s address was 23836. I loved that rhythm, too. I love numbers in a weird way. I see I’m on a completely unintended subject now, but what the hell, I’m on vacation. Numbers. I loved math as a kid. I would do extra math homework, buy the workbooks in the grocery store and ravage them at home. I loved the feeling of accomplishment. In 7th grade, my algebra teacher wanted me to become a math teacher. By then I was over the joy of math and into the transition to junior high and all the social insanity that goes with that, but honored that he thought I could teach. I fantasize about what that might have been like, especially now that I work at Caltech, known for many things wonderful, including the TV show Numbers. Those brilliant number guys change the world with their theories, ideas and proofs. And, of course, all mathematicians say the same thing about the world: it’s all math. But to the me in 7th grade, it was all just too boring.

There’s so much about numbers. Lucky numbers. Seemingly magical numbers. Numbers that seem to repeat in our lives to tell us something. Remind us of something. Clue us in about something. We pick dates that are meaningful. Bet lottery tickets based on birthdays, anniversaries, our own “lucky” numbers. Our lives are run by numbers. In fact, 40+ years ago my dad created his own comic strip called “By the Numbers.” No one had any names, just numbers, except the boss, who had the initials JB. My father was convinced the world was going to hell and would become unbearable to live in. He was an Ayn Rand aetheist and couldn’t bear to see independence crushed by the inept. Which sounds all noble and fine, but I think he could not bear being hemmed in by anything and Rand’s philosophy hit him where he lived.

A number is the reason we’re here in Mendocino. A significant birthday. The 50th. A half-century. A milestone. An achievement to be celebrated. For my friend it truly is, as she’s faced more health battles than I could list. Her medical records would probably stretch around the world. Let me tell you that lupus is one insidious, crappy disease that attacks on all fronts without regard to anything. And the treatments, like steroids, are equally horrid in their side effects. It may be the first signs of it showed up in my friend on her honeymoon nearly 30 years ago. After a beautiful wedding on the east coast, they boarded the QEII for Europe. She ended up seeing the country by wheelchair. So now it’s good times, slow times, up and down times, but talk about a birthday bash! A fine collection of 22 women gathered to celebrate the day with wine and song, dancing and laughter, gifts and gab, tribute and tears.

So here’s to numbers, and the magic, mystery, knowledge, significance, milestones and possibilities they represent. As for my husband and I, we’re in room 210, with a deck, a jacuzzi tub and view over the Noyo Harbor and ocean, anticipating another number — time for lunch!

Take a look at pix from our trip to Death Valley. These are the dunes, with a little surprise in the last few! Took these on a photo workshop weekend with Keith Skelton and Brian Leng of California Photography Workshops. These were taken early Sunday morning, March 9. More later…


© Debbi K. Swanson Patrick


© Debbi K. Swanson Patrick

Coulda used a camera on our walk this morning, and a few other mornings, as well. I’ll get more pictures up soon.

Altadena is such a mix of sensibilities you just don’t know what you’re going to see or find on any given outing. It could be the surprise of a neighbor creating an unexpected little seating area on the corner, with a potted flower beside a small bench. Or a series of stone piles being created, a new one every couple of weeks, in front of another house nearby. Then it’s a co-worker walking her dog and saying hi to one of the Nuccio Nursery wizards of azaleas and camelias.

Or it could be the ugly surprise of a used condom up on Chaney Trail. Eeeewwww. Or a speeding maniac without care for who or what is in the way. And you fear for the dog who’s gotten out and lost with no collar. But just then the owner drives up in a panic.

There’s the skunk you see racing up the road or into your yard — and your dog racing right into its spray.

One of my favorite sounds — and sights — is when I’m sitting in my living room and hear a clop-clop-clop and somebody on a horse rides by, inspiring all the dogs in the neighborhood to aria level performances. That just has to put a smile on your face.

And then there’s the quiet of sitting in our hot tub under the stars — and not a sound to be heard save my cat hunting in the bushes. That’s the magic of Altadena…

This is a different Christmas for me, for us. My husband and I didn’t hold our annual party, aren’t hosting any big shindigs. Instead, we’re visiting friends, going to other people’s parties, viewing the neighborhood Christmas lights — like the Balian Mansion —  stopping in at relatives, and enjoying a little snack and chatter, doing a few things for others. This is the first time in years I got cards out to nearly everyone on my list — custom cards at that. I have time to bake my grandmother’s Swedish Coffee Bread, wrap all my gifts with care, hand deliver cards to my neighbors, call friends who are far away. The gift of time, means, intention and enjoyment of all these things is the greatest gift.  Merry Christmas to all! Here’s a reminder of how to enjoy it all…

Holiday Eating
1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table
 knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave
 immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It’s rare. You can’t find
it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has
10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an
eggnog-alcoholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me.
Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy.
Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed
potatoes Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat step #3.

 4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or
whole milk. If it’s skim, pass . Why bother? It’s like buying a sports
car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control
your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other
people’s food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s.
You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the
time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table
while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like
frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near
them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center
of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them
behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if
you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have
three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

Yes, I’m in St. Louis now for a CASE conference. got some shots fo the Gateway Arch — and the Ringling Bros. elephants walking through downtown! My pix are on Flickr — photodebbik. 

What a lovely day yesterday. Rainy, cold, and gray. I know, but it’s gorgeous in contrast to the 100+ temps of late, the drought and just plain “ugh” of A“ugh”ust. Listening to rain all night long, falling steadily for the first time in months.


In Feburary USA Today said LA was on track for the driest year ever (6/30/2006-07). It’s been a brute since then. The fires have ravaged the city, Griffith Park especially, and mudslides along Forest Lawn Drive wiped out cars today as a result.


Brings me to the GW problem. That’s Global Warming. I sat in on the 50 Years in Space celebration at Caltech this week, and the information is staggering. Here’s one tidbit. For 400,000 years our cycles of ice/melt have been fairly steady, with C02 levels staying between 180 and 300 ppm. Since 1957, when levels started being recorded at Mauna Loa, C02 has steadiliy increased at such a rapid rate that we are now at 400ppm and rising — rapidly. And even with all the improvements we could make on creating greenhouse gases, the increase will contine for years. But, we can stop a SUDDEN climate shift that would be catastrophic worldwide. How? More to come…






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