Monday, March 31, 2008

Back to Square One

Things change very quickly with puppies, I'm learning.

We were doing so well. I've been working hard at giving Russell treats for coming to me when I call him and he's started taking treats out of Walt's hand too, where before he wouldn't go anywhere near him.

Mealtime around here is a zoo, literally. The dogs get fed in three different parts of the room and really Lizzie and Sheila are pretty respectful of each other's bowls, standing back until the other leaves her bowl before helping themselves to whatever might be leftover.

Puppies don't know the rules, of course, and so puppies learn the hard way not to try to sneak food from the big dogs' bowls. The dogs don't hurt them, but they get Very Big and they get Very Loud and even the bravest puppy runs crying loudly to the farthest corner of the house. Unfortunately, as I have seen over and over, they don't extrapolate from one dog scolding them for trying to steal food that ALL dogs will scold them for trying to steal food.

By the time they have been chastised by both dogs, they are very skittish about eating from any bowl. So the way they eat is to take a piece of food, back off and eat it away from their own bowl. This, of course, makes the bowl look abandoned to the older dogs, who then feel that they should be able to come in and take the food. When I have time, I solve this problem by standing in the kitchen to protect the puppy. Sheila stands at one end of the kitchen and Lizzie at the other and neither takes her eye off of the puppy bowl. Only when the puppy has walked away, obviously full, do I give them permission to finish the leftovers.

This can be, however, a very time-consuming process, especially with a puppy like Russell, who seems to savor every mouthful and who does not inhale his meal that way, say, Half Pint did. (That chihuahua's tummy could be seen to swell up, she ate so fast--and so much!)

Not surprisingly, there are some days when I just don't feel like standing in the kitchen guarding the puppy for 15 minutes. I have, in the past, solved this problem by feeding the puppy in the cage, where I can close both doors and they are safe from attack by the other dogs. I don't leave them in the cage. As soon as they finish, I open the door.

This seemed to be fine while Jack was here, but now that Russell is an only puppy, he does. not. want. to. go. in. the. cage. Not no way, not no how.

Well, I didn't realize that until yesterday. Before that, he would poke his head in tentatively, leaving his legs safely outside and I would gently push his rump inside and close the door. But he was now onto my trick and was having none of it last night. So I took the treat lure and held out the cheese he loves so much. He came close to me and, stupid me, I grabbed him. This caused immediate yelping and yelping and he peed everywhere. I put him in the cage and he ate, but ever since then he won't come near me or near Walt if we have treats in our hands.

Oh, he'll still jump in my lap for a cuddle but he is extremely wary of any attempt to catch him when he's on the ground, so he won't join the older dogs when I give them a treat any more. So I'm back to square one, trying to earn his trust all over again and he's going to be less eager to give it this time around because I've found that while dogs can't remember a simple command like "stay" for more than 3 seconds, an incident like this one will be imbedded in their psyches the rest of their lives!

Things have also changed around here with respect to bedtime. Jack and Russell had been very good about going to sleep in the cage at night and I wondered how Russell would do without Jack here.

The night Jack left, I took him outside to pee, as I always do and he came in the house and ran right into his bed in the cage. This was going to be a cinch!

Well. Not exactly. The next night I had to chase him to get him into the cage and he protested loudly. The same thing happend the following night, only that night in the middle of the night Lizzie started growling and barking at "something" in the family room in the middle of the night. When I woke up, I wasn't actually sure if it was Lizzie growling and barking, or if it was Russell. I got up to check and Lizzie was standing in the door of the living room, looking toward the back of the house, growling. BUT, at the same time, I heard Russell jump off of a chair in the living room. Somehow I guess I hadn't shut his cage as tightly as I thought and he had managed to escape.

I just gave up and brought him with me onto the couch.

Now Russell's favorite place in the world is draped around my body, wherever he can manage to find a space (his favorite place is draped across the back of my neck -- we do not share the same opinion about how comfortable this is!), so he was just in hog heaven when I put him under the blanket. He draped himself across my waist and to my amazement, we both slept until 7 a.m., long after the sky had become light. It was the best night of sleep I'd had in a long time.

So I made the decision to just let him sleep with me. He's the puppy who needs to feel comfortable around people so he can find himself a forever home. I know that crate training is ideal, but at this point I'm going for bonding...and for sleep for me! I didn't even try the crate last night, but just took him into the living room when I went to sleep. I couldn't see his face, but his body language gave me the impression that he felt he had just won the jackpot. He hardly moved all night and we again woke up sometime around 7 a.m.

I could get to like this. I'm afraid his forever family is going to have to establish their own preferred nighttime rituals. I'm liking this new situation a lot more than listening to him cry when I crate him and getting up at 4 a.m. to take him outside to pee.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

On the Naming of Things

I saw a fascinating special on the San Francisco PBS station this past week. It was called "Madams of the Barbary Coast," and told the story of the prostitutes of San Francisco and the bawdy houses that flourished during the Gold Rush era.

I remember as a young child going through the area of town still called, in the 1940s "The Barbary Coast." You'd be hard pressed to find it now, as it is filled with designer warehouses and places to buy expensive stuff for your fabulous apartment. But when I was a kid it had some of the more seedy of the area nightclubs. Up on Broadway St. there were the clubs that had not yet gone totally topless and were, in themselves, risque, but a couple of blocks away whatever dubious quality existed on Broadway disappeared.

What I found funny in watching the special was learning that the names of some of the streets I know so well came from the prostitutes who worked the city in the late 1800s. Maiden Lane, for example, is now the home of exclusive boutique shops, but was named for the "girls" of San Francisco. I was amused to learn that Clementina St., on which was located the sister convent school to my high school, was named for one of San Francisco's prostitutes, as were Harriet St. and Clara St. and probably several others.

I thought about this TV special as I drove past Tim Spencer Alley in downtown Davis. It runs for a block behind what used to be the police station. I wondered how many newcomers to Davis know how the street got its name.

Tim Spencer was, for years, the UPS guy who delivered packages to downtown Davis merchants. There are some guys who just make an impact. I couldn't tell you who delivers packages out in this area, but everybody in town knew Tim, who always had a big smile as he hopped on and off his delivery truck many, many times a day and marched into offices, sometimes whistling, but always with a cheery greeting for his customers. When he retired, the city decided to name a street for him. I don't have a clue where he is today, but his name lives on, like Clemintina, Clara and Harriet live on in San Francisco.

Davis doesn't have a lot of imaginative street names. The town must have been designed by an engineer without any creativity in his head. The central part of town runs, north & south, from 1st St. to 14th St. and east & west from A St. to L St. Not a lot of romance in those names. Even the local teen center, after struggling to find a meaningful name, is known simply as "Third and B" because that's where it's located.

Nor is there much romance in the mobile home park, with Full Circle, Outer Circle, Inner Circle, and Broken Circle for street names. (Guess what shape the park is built in!)

We live in what was, when it was being built, known as University Estates. So the streets in our area have names like Villanova, Harvard, Radcliff, Bucknell, Cornell, Purdue, etc.

Out in North Davis, they decided to name the streets alphabetically: Anza, Balboa, Cabrillo, Del Oro, Encina, Fiesta, Grande, etc. And nearby are the bird streets: Bluebird, Flicker, Robin, Magpie, Waxwing, Mockingbird, Kestrel, Sandpiper.

Farther west are the National Park streets: Lassen, Shasta, Tahoe, Pinnacles, Joshua Tree, Denali, etc.

In East Davis they went for tree names: Nutmeg, Buckeye, Alder, Fig, Manzanita, Magnolia, Baywood.

It gets cutesy out in Village Homes, the country's first all solar energy homes. Roselyn Carter was here for a special dedication when the place opened. Its developer, Mike Corbett, named the streets for places in the Hobbit world: Overhill, Westernesse, Oakenshield, Buckleberry, Elendil, Evenstar.

But then out around the man made Lake Stonegate, on which our kids and the City of Davis staged the famous "Pirates of Lake Stonegate" each summer, you find the nautical names: Oyster Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Whaler Ave., Trawler Pl., Bermuda Ave., Portsmouth Ave. and Marina Circle.

I always wanted to design something like Savoy Estates, with the street names of Gilbert & Sullivan characters. The subdivision wouldn't have a lake, but would be built around John Wellington's Well. Who wouldn't want to live on Pitti Sing Place? Or how about Grand Duke Drive, KoKo Circle, Bunthorne Way, Mabel Manor, Pinafore Place, Rackstraw Rd., Tittipu Ln., Katisha Corners, or Iolanthe Ave.

(I'd love to hear how they'd pronounce Iolanthe ("eye-oh-LAN-thee" would be the proper pronunciation). I grew up three blocks from Greenwich St. in San Francisco and was an adult before I learned that it was NOT prounounced GREEN-wich. For years I heard Sacramento newscasters talk about "Gaiety Park" and thought nothing of it, until one day Walt pointed out that the name was spelled "Goethe.")

What determines if a street is a "Street," a "Drive," an "Avenue," a "Road," or a "Way" anyway? They all seem interchangeable. I wonder how they acquire their particular status in the name of streets.

We walk along the streets of our towns and we know the street names, and the names of the schools and other well known city locations, but do we really know how these places got their names.

There are people in this area whose children attend Willett School, very near us, who have no idea that it was once (when our kids went there) called West Davis Intermediate School (or WDI). The name was changed to honor Robert Willett, Jeri's 6th grade teacher, after his death. I have met parents who had no idea that was how the school got its name.

When people picnic at Sandy Motley Park, do they realize she was once the mayor of Davis? Sandy lived directly across the street from us and I remember she had a couple of corgi dogs that she used to walk. But she was killed in a scuba diving accident on vacation in Belize one year. Really a lovely lady and I'm glad the city has chosen to remember her by naming a park for her.

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And when children sit in the little windshade at the Davis Art Center, under the individual painted ceramic letters that spell "David's Place," does anybody remember our son, for whom it was named...?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

ENOUGH, Already!

My heart goes out to the parents of the two girls involved in a fatal auto accident a couple of years ago, where one died and one was in critical condition for weeks...and it was only after the funeral, after weeks of sitting by the bedside of the surviving girl, that it was discovered the identities had been mixed and the girl who was supposed to have been buried was actually in the hospital, while the girl they thought was in the hospital had actually died in the accident.

Whose heart wouldn't hurt for these parents, these families...especially someone who has lost a child in a terrible accident.

The families have now written a book, which is what has gotten them back in the spotlight, but my God, I swear NBC has all but given then their own show to discuss the tragedy.

How much wallowing do we really want to do in the pain of someone else's life?

The Today Show did a lengthy segment yesterday morning, which made me squirm. Those segments always make me squirm. I don't know when "can you tell me how you felt the minute you realized that your daughter was dead?" or "can you describe how you felt when you saw your child's battered body lying in the hospital bed?" or "what did you feel when you realized your beautiful child was disfigured beyond all hope of restoration?" questions came to be the norm, but I just want someone, sometime to say "How do youTHINK I felt, you idiot! My beautiful child had been crushed/killed and his/her life is never going to be the same again. I wasn't preparing to go get my hair done for the funeral or anything, you know."

But no, they smile bravely and their eyes tear and they give the interviewer what he/she wants, that moment of live grief, with the camera going in for a close up. You can just hear the director in the booth. "I think she's got a tear coming, Charlie. Do a close zoom. Now focus. Yes...yes! It's a real tear!" Extra points if the tear actually spills over and runs down the cheek. Now we're talking Emmy nomination, folks!

I generally have great respect for Matt Lauer and others on The Today Show staff. I feel Ann Curry is a genuinely compassionate, caring person, but if I have to watch her lean over, lower her voice to almost a whisper, touch the hand of an interviewee and ask how she felt when her life changed forever again I will scream.

It wasn't bad enough that we had to go through the whole saga of Whitney Cerak (who lived) and Laura Van Ryn (who didn't) in agonizing detail in the first segment of The Today Show yesterday, they did a recap of the entire interview in the third segment of The Today Show yesterday and just when you thought it was safe to turn on your television set again, they interviewed the families again in the first segment of the show this morning and once again in the third segment of the show today, this time including Whitney in the interview. ("How did it feel to realize that your friend had been killed when you lived?" --actually I don't know if they asked that question, since I turned the sound off, but it wouldn't surprise me)

At the end of the final segment, they did a recap, showing photos from the first four segments featuring the Cerak and Van Ryn families.

And then, as if FOUR segments and a recap on these two families wasn't enough, there was a promo for an hour long Dateline interview with them which is going to be on this evening.

I will not be watching.

The sad thing is that the viewing audience gets what it deserves and according to Lauer, this story on the MSNBC web site has received millions of hits and is one of the most popular segments they've had recently.

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Look at the links down the left side of the photos. It's just too much...too much!

Gee...maybe all those hits are from people like me, searching desperately to find ANY sort of feedback link so they can express their utter disgust with wringing every ounce of emotion out of these people that it is humanly possibly to elicit.

But then, being fair to The Today Show folks, if the families wanted to go back to living their lives in peaceful quiet, I guess they wouldn't have written a book and started on the publicity circuit.

But I am not one who gets off on someone else's pain. There is enough in my own life, thank you, and I don't need to borrow someone else's tragedy to get my emotional fix.

Friday, March 28, 2008

One Down, One to Go

Jack has a forever family.

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Jack's new Mom is the veterinarian who neutered him and fell in love with him while he was in the doggie hospital. She says she doesn't know why she decided to adopt a little dog when she has been doing Lab rescue for years and has always had big dogs. The SPCA tell me that Jack won the "jack"pot with this family and is going to have a great life. In fact in two weeks he's going on vacation to Connecticut with the family and his Lab big brother.

With Jack gone, Russell spent his afternoon on display in the lap of Jackson (I think that was what his name was)

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The poor puppy was shaking like a leaf when I picked him up, probably more from all the stimulation of so much activity around him than from the actual cold air. He is so different from his brother in that he is so incredibly skittish. He hates being around lots of strangers and barely tolerates Walt here at home, though he seems to love me.

Ashley says that she hasn't had a single inquiry about Russell, either by phone or by e-mail, through his page on The problem is that there is a litter of Lab/Golden Retriever puppies which are ready for adoption and these are the most popular puppies, so while she has lots and lots of inquiries about "Mia's puppies," poor little Russell has gone unnoticed.

I put him in the dog carrier to ride home from the park yesterday, figuring that he would feel safer there than he would sitting on the seat next to me. When we got home, I just brought the carrier into the house and opened the door and let him decide when he wanted to come out (which didn't take too long, once he realized he was "home.")

So now that Russell is an "only puppy," I'm starting a program to get him more open to having people other than myself around him. It was almost impossible to do with Jack here because Jack was such a dominant puppy that he wouldn't let Russell get any one-on-one attention.

I have cut up cheese into the teeniest possible cubes and I call Russell often throughout the day. He has to come and take the cheese from my hand. Now, he's not afraid of me, but he doesn't like to come up to anybody who is standing up. If I sit down, he's in my lap instantly, and his favorite place to sleep is draped across my shoulders, behind my neck (amazingly UNcomfortable for me!) But already he is getting used to come to me when I call him. And for the very first time he now jumps up against my knees when I'm working and begs to be picked up. Jack did that all the time, but Russell never did.

I'm also having Walt give him cheese whenever he comes into a room. He so much wants to pet Russell, but any attempt to touch him causes him to run away, so I'm hoping that as Walt gives him cheese every time, the puppy will start feeling less skittish around him. It's so funny that he will sit in Walt's lap, but only if Walt takes him out of my lap first. He doesn't want Walt to pick him up. But once in his lap, he's fine.

I'm wondering if these puppies were somehow abused, especially by a male, before they came to the SPCA. I've never actually asked Ashley what their story is.

There is placement at Petco on Saturday, as usual, but when I asked Ashley if she wanted Russell there she said no, that she would prefer to wait until he can stop shaking in public all the time before she puts him up for adoption, so it looks like this little guy and I have our work cut out for us in the next week or so.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Transcribers Club

GaryTony.jpg (19057 bytes)Little did Tony Kahn know what he had unleashed when he made an innocent comment on his Morning Stories podcast that he and co-producer Gary Mott thought maybe one of the listeners might be interested in helping transcribe the archive of Morning Stories podcasts so that those who either couldn't hear them, or who wanted to use them as an aid to help learn English, could read them.

(That's Gary on the left, Tony on the right)

I didn't hear the request until several days after he made it, but I immediately dropped a note to Kahn and Mott and volunteered my service. Unbeknownst to me, an amazing woman named Liz Cooksey...

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...had already volunteered to spearhead the project and a couple of other volunteers had been working on the archives. I immediately set to work on doing transcription along with the others, who ultimately numbered 13 -- men and women, in this country, in England and in Italy -- working to complete the backlog of episodes.

It is three months since we started this project and there are only a handful of shows in the archive left to finish (I am embarrassed to admit that two of those are mine. With the complication of computer problems, houseguests, and trips to Santa Barbara, among a few other things, I just haven't been able to complete them--but I should have them finished this week.)

But the amazing thing is not that we completed the archives in three months (and plan to rotate through the group of us to keep things up to date when a new podcast comes out), the amazing thing is the community which has formed around this little group of dedicated, semi-faceless people.

It started, as these things do, simply with e-mails flying back and forth all concerning the business of getting the transcription done: getting consistency in format, assigning new shows to various ones of us, and reporting back on how many had been finished and where we were in the list.

But somehow in the course of all that "business" we started popping in personal messages. There were cheers for "Wonder Woman," for example, who seemed to be working at this 24 hours a day and flew through the transcripts, putting us all to shame.

And then there were little jokes that crept in, especially with the woman in Italy, who once mentioned something about a "piazza" which I mis-read as "pizza" and the fun that ensued because of that mistake.

Gradually we began to learn about each other's lives, the woman with the special needs child, the woman who is in a race with our daughter-in-law Laurel for who is going to give birth first, the young man who is having settling-in difficulties at his college. The woman who just broke both her wrists (and Walt thought he had it rough!)

We began to talk about our lives.

And then there was crazy Geo, who really sort of became the heart of the expansion into a real community. Geo, with her offbeat sense of humor and her internet expertise. She set up a blog for Morning Stories readers, where they can download the transcripts and chat with others about them. She also set up a private blog for the 13 of us to discuss things more in depth than in individual e-mails.

She also spearheaded getting all of our information, such as addresses and birthdates (you don't suppose she's a stalker, do you? :) ). And it was Geo who suggested that we all get on Skype so we can chat with each other, so slowly we are all getting Skype accounts and though the first call has not yet taken place, I know that it will.

I love it each morning when I check my e-mail and find a whole slew of e-mail from the Transcribers Club.

Now Tony Kahn has decided to make us a morning story. A couple of weeks ago, he interviewed half of the group and planned to interview the other half a few days later, but got sick. Organizing six people for interviews on days and blocks of time that are convenient for all isn't easy, so it wasn't until today that we had our interviews.

Tony has kind of been haunting me for...well...years. He's on the panel of Says You, and I've seen him interviewed by several of the vloggers that I know. There was a period of time that no matter what I clicked on, there was Tony! So our chat was like chatting with old friends.

Now he has the task of blending all of our babbling into a coherent Morning Story. Having listened to lots and lots of them now, I have every expectation that it is going to be fun to listen to when it's all finished.

In the meantime, I have a Skype chat set up with the woman in Italy. We'll either be on the piazza or having pizza. I'm not sure which yet.

Talking with Tony Kahn

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Notes from the Road to Nowhere

Someone signed my guestbook and asked about the treadmill and wanted to know more, and about how I was using it, so I guess that a week into this new activity, I could give a report on how I'm doing on the road to nowhere.

I have to admit that I was dubious about this whole thing, but Ned was adamant, and everyone in the family was so excited about my having a treadmill in the house. I promised that I would use it every day and secretly wondered if I would really do it, or would I lose interest once the first enthusiasm subsided.

Well, it's a bit too soon to know about that, since I'm still in the "honeymoon" phase, but I have to admit that I'm liking it more than I dreamed I would.

The difference between going to the gym and having a machine right in the house is that going to the gym requires getting dressed in gym clothes, putting on shoes, and then hoping that you manage to get there when it's practically deserted, because you know you are going to be the fattest person there, and you know that if most of the treadmills are occupied, people are going to be going twice as fast as you are, if not exactly jogging (as Dr. G was the day I left in a hurry before he saw me).

And of course, even with three television sets, they are never tuned to what you want to watch! (It always puzzles me why the TV in the GYM is always tuned to The Food Network!)

So here at home of course I still have to be dressed with shoes on, but I'm not worried about what other people might think to see the fat lady walking slowly (well, more slowly than they do) on the treadmill. No, in truth, I realize that is a very egocentric thing to say. I'm sure there isn't a person there who is even noticing me...but since I notice everybody else and feel inferior, it's only likely that I would think people are checking me out too.

At the gym, I forced myself to stick with it for at least 20 minutes, but if it was one of those days where I just didn't want to leave the house, I would be off of that machine the second that 20 minutes came up.

With the machine in home, as I said a week ago, I'm not going to the long walk right now. I'm doing three or four ten-minute sessions a day, and not feeling guilty for getting off after only 10 minutes. At times when I am less enthusiastic about walking, I walk at 2 mph and at times when I'm more perky, I sometimes push it up as high as 2.5 mph for part of the time.

Right now I'm just trying to begin to build up strength again, not worrying about meeting some goal that is going to make me quit because I'm so frustrated trying to reach it. My immediate goal is to move, even if it's only briefly.

Yesterday I only walked twice, but I walked for 15 minutes each time. Earlier in the week, when I gave blood, they told me not to do strenuous exercise for 2 days, so I did none the day I gave blood and did only 5 minute stints each time the following day--but did more of them.

I'm not worrying about the incline function of the machine at all yet. As I build up my endurance, then I'll start fooling around with speeds and inclines and that sort of thing. I'm doing kindergarten right now.

To tell you the truth, I am already feeling a difference. The first couple of days I really hated dragging myself on the machine after the first time I used it because everything hurt. And I felt so stupid for that. Ten minutes on the treadmill and I could hardly walk when I got off.

Well, when you think about it, there's a lot of meat on these bones and the pounding on the feet is really brutal until everything gets broken in. It's why going for a walk outside is something I don't enjoy doing. It just hurts. Likewise, I had a painful time getting up whenever I sat down the first couple of days because my hips just ached so badly.

BUT, I've apparently walked through the pain and now I don't really have any pain at all. In only a week. I'm amazed at that.

I also love that the puppies join me. Sorta. The puppy cage is right next to the treadmill and wherever they are when I start walking on the treadmill, they run into the cage, get into their bed and go to sleep.

One thing I didn't do was to do any starting measurements, which I think I will do starting tomorrow. I can't imagine that I won't walk off SOME inches on my hips sooner or later, if I continue to walk a minimum of a mile a day.

Yeah, there are times when I just don't feel like getting on the machine, but, you know...? When it's "only" 10 minutes, you really can talk yourself into anything. If I had set a goal of 30 minutes each time I got on it, I think I would be less consistent with it.

And, as I start to notice my body responding better, my breathing getting better and all that stuff, I will increase time, speed, and incline. But that's not for this week.

I do notice that I started a week ago averaging 2.1 mph and now my average is 2.3 mph and today was the first day I kept it at 2.5 mph for a minute, so already I'm starting to push it just a bit.

The machine has a nice journal function, but for the information I want to get out of it, it's not very useful, so I keep a pad and pen handy and as soon as I end a session, I write down what I did, so I can go back and check how far I've come.

I'm still a long way from reaching even Sacramento from Davis, but I also have a long time to be on this journey and it is 1000% better than trying to find an excuse why I don't want to go to the gym!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008



Was there ever a more arrogant, snide word uttered than that by the Vice President of the United States when asked how he felt about the fact that 2/3 of the citizens in this country feel that the cost of the Iraq war in both lives and money was not worth it.

"So....?" he answered, with that shit-eating smirk/sneer on his face.

So what if the vast majority of the citizens feel this is a mistake, we should not be there, it's not worth it, and want the war to end.

So what?

Who cares?

Anybody who has doubts and who wants to experience an infinitesimal piece of the cost of this war needs to watch Ellen Spiro and Phil Donohue on Bill Moyers, talking about their movie "Body of War," which tells the story of Iraq war veteran Tomas Young who was shot and paralyzed less than a week into his tour of duty. Three years in the making, "Body of War" tells the poignant tale of Young's journey from joining the service after 9/11 to fight in Afghanistan, to living with devastating wounds after being deployed to Iraq instead.

I challenge Dick Cheney to watch this film -- or even Moyers' report on it -- and sneer into the camera.... "so....?"

There's no excuse to miss the show. The hour is played in its entirety here: and if you can't watch it, the transcript is also provided (it obviously lacks the emotional punch of the video). But I urge everyone who missed the show on TV to watch it on the Internet.

This weekend, we passed the 4,000 body count of American soldiers killed in Iraq.


Add to that the thousands of young men and women who have come back broken in body, in mind, in spirit, never to be whole again. Add to that their families, whose lives are irrevocably damaged.


Add to that the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, many of them children, who have been killed in this war, started with a lie.


Add to that the billions of dollars we pour into this war every week, while Americans are losing their jobs, their houses, their self respect, their hope. Add to that those people who will die in this country because they can't afford health care. Add to that the price of gas, almost reaching $4.00 a gallon in California this week


Add to that the corruption related to this unjust war that goes unchecked in Iraq and in this country, the shady dealings that have lined the pockets of Cheney cronies at the expense of American lives.


Bush doesn't care. Cheney definitely doesn't care. They feel no responsibility for the country's pain because they know they have us over a barrel and nobody is going to do a damn thing to make anybody in this administration accountable for anything.

The country is in pain, Mr. Cheney, because of the actions of your administration.


Screw you all, he seems to say.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail

There was something little and cute hopping down the bunny trail today, but it wasn't Peter Cottontail. Some folks have Easter bunnies. We had Easter puppies. Even when I leave OUR puppies behind, I can't seem to get away from puppies!

I don't know how long it's going to take before we get back to some sort of predictable routine for family holidays, but it may be a long time. I actually don't know where Ned & Marta spent Easter, but I assume with her family. And I don't know where Tom & Laurel spent THEIR holiday, but I assume with her family (though since that baby is due any. day. now. -- my guesstimate is the 24th, which would be today! -- they may have stayed closer to home. Jeri and Phil were going to be with friends in the Boston area.

It used to be that whenever someone wasn't with the rest of the family, they would call at some point and talk to everyone, but now with the family so scattered, that's impractical.

Walt and I even split up for the holiday. I wanted to be with my mother, she didn't want to be around a lot of strangers, so she and I were going to do a quiet Easter together while Walt went to his brother's with all of his sister-in-law's relatives. As it turned out, Peach and Bob decided to come to my mother's too and the four of us went out for brunch.

BUT, Peach and Bob recently had to have their beloved 18 year old Mollie (a shitzu) put to sleep and the best way to heal a broken heart is to go out and get another puppy. Only they went out and got another TWO puppies.

They are adorable, little fluff balls that reminded me of those net balls that you can get in the drug store these days to work up thick lather when you are taking a shower. Or chrysanthemums in full bloom.

It is obvious that these two little guys are very much loved and helping to mend Peach and Bob's broken heart very nicely. It's hard to grieve much when you are housebreaking puppies and trying to keep them from getting into everything!

We left Sophie and Tess in their cage and the four of us went to the Peacock Gap Golf Club for a lovely brunch. We've been there on Easter before and have spent a couple of Mothers Days there too. It's a lovely setting, the food is good, and it's a nice place to feel "special."

And full.

We all waddled out of there an hour or so after we arrived, after having availed ourselves generously of the buffet tables (heck, when you pay that much, you want your money's worth, right!)

(And I didn't get on the treadmill at all today because we left so early and I had so much to do when we got home again! Bad me. I'll have to do double time tomorrow.)

While we had a brunch, Walt was having dinner, so he was going to be quite a bit later picking me up and naturally that gave us time to have several games of 65 and, after Bob quit in a huff because someone, whom modesty prevents me from naming, kept winning all the games, my mother, Peach and I played canasta and, again, modesty prevents me from naming the winner, but I'll just say that I was very glad that I did not protest too hard, before the game, when Peach suggested that we play canasta for money.

Walt finally got there sometime around 8 or so and we drove home, listening to the podcast of Says You on the way home, which was the very best way to end a lovely day.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Feeling Crabby

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, it seemed like a GREAT idea at the time.

Walt had come home from the Farmers Market and announced the Caffe Italia, an Italian restaurant on the outskirts of town, was having an Easter weekend brunch and that they were serving crab omelets until 2 p.m.

And y'all know how I love crab.

I was in the middle of writing an e-mail to Jeri, but left it instantly and ran out to the car so we could get there before the deadline.

We were surprised when (a) there was no line at the door, and (b) there were few cars in the parking lot.

But the place was flashing an "open" sign and there was a menu on the front door, with "crab omelet" the first item on the list.

We went in and were seated by a nice lady who brought us glasses of water (because we didn't want drinks). Then our waitress came to introduce herself and give us menus. The table across from us was empty. She asked if she should explain the specials and I said that there was no need. I was just there for the crab omelet.

It was too late for breakfast, she informed us.

We protested that the sign on the door said they would be serving the breakfast menu until 2 p.m. and it was only a little after 1. She was gone a long time and then came back and said that the sign actually said that they would serve champagne on Saturday and Sunday and that the special menu was for Sunday only. We had missed breakfast and the kitchen "was very strict about not cooking breakfast after breakfast time."

We took the menus and tried to decide if we should leave or not. Walt left the decision up to me and I finally decided that if we had a big meal at 1:30, we could have something light before we left for the theatre, since I was reviewing "Cyrano de Bergerac" tonight.

We ordered salads. Cold salads. Walt had an Italian antipasto salad and I had a thai chicken salad.

While we were making our decision, two girls sat in the booth across from us, looked at the menu a long time, had a long conversation with the waitress, which I gathered was about which dishes were vegetarian, and they finally ordered some cooked dish.

Finally, the waitress took our order. We sat. And sat. And sat. And sat.

At one point I told Walt that she wasn't going to be able to serve us lunch because by the time it came it would be time for DINNER service.

It was 30 minutes before our food arrived...and that was AFTER the girls across the aisle had been served their COOKED meal and were nearly finished.

The Thai salad was good, but when your mouth is all ready for crab and you get chicken with cilantro, it just isn't the same.

The waitress merrily invited us to come back tomorrow for crab omelets. We declined. Not only do we have other plans, but if the wait time is any indication, with the crowd which will probably show up for breakfast, we could easily spend the entire day there and I have better things to do with my Easter Sunday.

When we left, I looked at the menu and yes, it does say it is Sunday's menu, but the way it is written, it was a very easy misinterpretation to make. I dunno...If I were running a restaurant and knew that a customer had come specifically for a certain dish, I certainly would not send the waitress back with an admonishment for coming too late. And if I were the waitress, I would certainly not keep the customer then waiting 30 minutes to get the food she didn't really want to order in the first place.

But then I am finding, sadly, that this kind of attitude tends to be becoming more the norm than it used to be. Just another indication of how fewer and fewer people in customer service situations even care any more.

(Do I sound like a cranky old lady?)

However, we came home to lively puppies. Gosh these guys are cute. Walt and I sat in the back yard (because they won't really go out without someone with them) while they chased each other around and around, and explored all corners of the yard.

I've finally decided that the only way to keep Jack out of my office is to block the dog door and CLOSE my office door. It's the only thing that he can't get through--wood (though if he were to live here long enough, I have no doubt that he's smart enough to figure out how to get up high enough to turn a door knob!)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Big News

At last I have permission to discuss The Big Secret.

No, Tom and Laurel's baby hasn't been born yet, but the news is just as good.

Walt went off to Home Depot the other day and while he was out, I had a phone call from Jeri. She said she and Phil were walking in the arboretum near her house and it was a lovely spring day and they thought the would call me.

Then she asked me if I had any plans for August. I said I didn't think so. So she invited me to their WEDDING, which will take place on the beach in Santa Barbara (where we have Tom's annual 4th of July barbeque) in late August.

Apparently while Walt was at Home Depot, Phil had called HIM to ask for Jeri's hand. At least that's what they told me. Walt says they had actually asked for his blessing, not his permission (that's from "Fiddler on the Roof"). He gave both. They had picked up a ring at a thrift shop and he presented it to her at the arboretum.

We could not be more happy. We LOVE Phil. We've loved Phil ever since he first showed up at the Sunshine Children's Theatre when Jeri was in junior high and his sister Vickie was performing with our kids. Phil was the guy who worked backstage for all the shows.

Later, during the Lawsuit years, Phil was the "roadie" (along with Jon and Greg) who helped set up the shows, run the lights, load out after a show, and hang out with the group. It was more than a "band" during those years, but a big social group as well.

Phil gave wonderfully heartfelt speeches at both David's and Paul's memorial services. He walked my mother down the aisle at Ned & Marta's wedding.

Through it all, Phil and Jeri were always good friends. She dated, he dated, and they were friends. As the Lawsuit group began to find mates and marry, they always joked that Jeri and Phil would end up together.

Something happened a few years ago. Suddenly that friendship began to blossom into something deeper. We had our suspicions. They seemed to be doing stuff together that they hadn't done before (such as making plans for big trips together). I'd never seen Jeri look so happy. Or Phil either, for that matter.

Phil started coming to family events and then he decided to make a trip to Boston. When he returned to Sacramento, he sold everything in his apartment that didn't fit into his car and moved to Boston, where he has been living with Jeri for about a year and a half. I love looking at the two of them because they positively glow when they look at each other.

Phil is the perfect partner for Jeri because he understands her lifestyle. Jeri teaches music at Berklee College of Music. She teaches junior high music students privately. She works with a junior high near Boston to design lights for their theatrical productions (and teach the kids as well), and she plays in pit bands for various musicals in and around the Boston area, so she has this very strange schedule, very strange lifestyle.

Phil has been a professional theatre technician for many years, a profession easily transferrable to Boston, though it's a field where one must pay one's dues, so he has to prove himself, which he has been doing for the past year and a half. He understand Jeri's life--has always understood it.

As I said at the outset, we have loved Phil for what seems like forever, and now that he is going to be part of our family, we just could not be more pleased. Phil's the real deal and they are so much in love.

It's still in the early planning stages, but it will be a simple, casual wedding, with Marta performing the ceremony (she's getting quite good at it; she officiated at the ceremony of her mother and stepfather last summer) and me making the cake. I'm thrilled to be doing the cake, since I made both Ned's and Paul's wedding cakes. (Given the nature, timing and distance for Tom's wedding, Laurel got the cake done by a bakery.) I'll have to see if I remember how to make a wedding cake! LOL.

So anyway, that's my big news and I am SO thrilled to be able to finally share it with you all!

(Of course, Phil had to get past having his life spread out all over the internet as I am wont to do...but, thank goodness he has become resigned to it.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Life, Such as It Is

I made no progress on the "Road to Nowhere" today. But I have a legitimate excuse! Really!

I gave blood this morning and they tell you "no strenuous exercise" for a couple of days. I figure that the way I walk on the treadmill is hardly "strenuous," but the idea is to get the heart pumping and I suspect that was precisely what the blood people DON'T want you to do, so I decided to give myself a one day vacation after a whopping three days of religious exercise.

However, it was kind of cool at Blood Source this morning because they gave me a lovely acrylic paperweight to commemorate my having donated 3 gallons of blood.

Not today, of course, but cumulatively.

So I spent a good portion of the day under puppies again. These little guys go way beyond "craving" attention.

Russell isn't so bad. Maybe he's the calmer of the two normally, or maybe he's under the influence of the pain medication I'm giving him for his hernia operation, but you can actually put him down somewhere and walk away and not have him follow you.

Jack is just insane. He must. be. with. me. at. all. times.

I tried using the gate across my office, but he learned to climb it.

Figuring it was because he could get toeholds in the mesh of the gate, I tried putting a wooden barricade across the living room so I could look at a book I had just received that I couldn't read while he was leaping about in my lap.

I use this barricade to keep Sheila and Lizzie out of the living room. Lizzie can jump three times its height, but has never figured that if she put some forward motion into her jumps she could easily get over the barricade. Jack got in the living room within 10 seconds, without toe holds.

I fixed up the cage so that they could get into the cage to sleep on the soft bed and could get out the door into the back yard, but could not get into the house.

It took Jack about 5 minutes to figure out the dog door into my office so there went that idea.

I blocked the dog door the way that I do when I'm trying to keep Lizzie and Sheila in, by putting a large container in front of the door so that you can't get in and I saw Jack balanced on all four feet pushing against the container trying to push it out of the way. I gave up and let him in.

As long as I sit in the recliner, with Russell asleep on my right arm and Jack finally asleep on my left arm (after he's licked me and licked me and licked me and licked me), they will stay quiet for more than an hour. I can either nap with them or watch TV, but little else.

Looking at the two bodies lying on either side of me so much of the time today I thought better names for them might have been "Romulus" and "Remus."

They are sweethearts, to be sure, and I do love cuddling with them, but I just never get anything DONE with them around. Which, today, wasn't such a bad thing. Not that giving blood ever really wears me out, but it was a handy excuse.

On the computer scene, things are coming along. I have had wonderful help from many sources. I discovered, for example, Open Writer, which is freeware which mimicks Word. Sooner or later I will find my word perfect disks, which are "around here somewhere," but in the interim, Open Writer is wonderful.

Several people also recommended some non-Microsoft web design software for me and I think that it's going to work very well. I am thinking of changing the look of Funny the World, so between now and the first of the month, I will get to know the new software (I have three options to try out) and maybe feel comfortable with one by the time it's time to start the new look (in the meantime, I am doing the journal on the laptop!)

But one fabulous thing that happened is that I found and purchased a mailing label program which was one that I had used before. I had borrowed the program (it's one of those cheapie programs) from someone and installed it, but then returned the program disk, so when the computer crashed several months ago, I couldn't reinstall it. In preparation for losing all of my addresses, I had efficiently printed the file, but it was so wide that each page took three pages to print and it was later impossible to tell which page went with which other page, so the print-out became essentially useless.

BUT, when I reinstalled the program from my brand new paid-for disk (which I have filed in my new "programs to reinstall when the computer crashes next time" binder), I discovered that I still had all the original files and they called up beautifully once I got the program running. At least SOMETHING has gone right with this "clean reinstall" of XP.

Tomorrow Russell is going off to the newspaper to be photographed to be Pet of the Week (I predict he will be adopted almost immediately, he's so darn cute), I'll get back on the treadmill, for 5 minute spurts instead of ten and then ten minutes the next day, and life continues moving on.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lap Full of Puppies

First of all...happy journalversary to me! Today is the 8th anniversary of the date Ned moved into a playhouse and I started writing this journal. Time flies when you're having fun. So many adventures, so many puppies.

...and now two more.

Jack had a great night. He slept in the cage and was quiet all night, after some initial protesting. We all slept well. The problem with Jack is that he desperately wants my lap. He'll sit in Walt's lap...

...but he really wants to be in my lap. The way to get him to go out and play with the other dogs is for me to get on the treadmill. Yesterday he hopped on with me and slid right off the back of it, so he stays away whenever I'm on the treadmill...and actually goes out the back door.

But when I tried to do any work, he was trying to leap into my lap. Try getting anything done like this.

I eventually just sat with him in my lap for too much of the afternoon.

But at 4:30, it was his time to go the Farmers Market. His brother, Russell, had come back from the vet (in addition to being neutered, he also had a hernia operation) and was there waiting for us when we got there.

You would have thought they had been separated for years, rather than two days. The two of them leaped at each other and kept chasing each other around the pen. Jack was so happy!

I left him there for a couple of hours and went home to get some work done. We brought both of them home and Russell was definitely not the dog he had been in the pen. They had told me that he did some "anxiety biting." I left him in the car while I took Jack inside and then returned to get Russell. I put him into the cage, but left the cage door open so he could come and go as he pleased.

As it turned out, he didn't "please" all evening. He and Jack had huge dinners (Jack had eaten hardly anything so far) and then while Jack ran in and out bringing Russell toys, Russell was content to just lie on the pillow and sleep.

Now, in fairness, he had just been through two surgeries. I'm sure anybody would be a little withdrawn if their balls were cut off one day and their abdomen opened up the next.

But when Walt and I sat down to dinner, suddenly there was lots of activity in the other part of the room. Since Sheila and Lizzie were at their usual places, begging for food, the noise came from the puppies and as we ate, they chased each other around the family room.

I hoped that they would continue to play together so I could put the finishing touches on the article I was writing, but no. As soon as I went into the office, Jack was in here begging to get into my lap.

Russell followed him, but did not want to be touched, so I just waited him out. He finally sat by my feet and didn't pull away when I petted him, so I picked him up and took him in to the recliner. Ashley had said that he needed lots of love and I figured it was time to start.

Naturally Jack wouldn't be left out, so I sat there through American Idol and Top Chef buried under puppies. I eventually tried to extricate myself and come in to the office to work, but Jack was right here, barking and barking and begging to come up again. I finally decided that it was BEDTIME for puppies, so I locked them in the cage for the night, let Sheila and Lizzie into the living room and finished my article and, now, this journal entry.

It's a challenge having two such active puppies here. Ashley and I agreed that we loved having them around as puppies, but neither of us is interested in living permanently with a Jack Russell terrier, let alone two of them.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008


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Tower of Babel

If I were living in biblical times, I would have to say that I feel as though I'm working on the Tower of Babel. You remember the Tower of Babel, don't you? It was going to be the largest structure in the city of Babylon, however it became a source of pride for the people, and God wasn't happy...and you don't mess with God. He caused them all to speak different languages and "scattered the people throughout the earth."

It's not the "prideful" thing for me, but more of the "languages thing."

We can start with my orientation yesterday for STEAC, the Short Term Emergency Aid Committee, which is a non-profit volunteer organization whose purpose is to provide immediate, short-term emergency assistance with basic necessities (electricity bills, food, clothing, i.d. cards, etc.) to county families whose incomes are at or below the poverty level.

I volunteered for half a day in December, helping check in the holiday food baskets that were received and I learned they had a great need for volunteers to help with telephone calls, assessing the need and deciding who met the criteria to receive assistance. Yesterday, I met with a woman who has been volunteering at this job for years. And that's the problem. She knows the job so well, inside and out, backwards and forwards that as she explained what she was doing, and the agencies she was talking with and the forms she was filling out and the people who needed to have input on the decision, my eyes began to glaze over. She suddenly had started speaking a different language.

I am going to go back again in a couple of weeks and perhaps also visit the office in the interim.

Then this afternoon my desktop computer came back. My guru is a great guy and he's spent so much time getting this computer up to snuff, all at no cost. But he speaks faster than my 65 year old brain can comprehend and he tosses out terms and pops menus up on the screen and says "well, you go here and you do this and of course you never want to do that and if people play this game or that game this or that will happen and and and and and and....

I know he's talking. I know he's talking to me. I know that at least part of what he is explaining is important for me to know, but I can only understand about 1/4 of what he's saying at the speed he is rattling it off. And when he pops menus or screenshots up on the monitor and tells me that this and that and the other thing is important and here and there and the other place is where I look to do this, that or the other thing, I'm still back at "where is the plug" and my aging eyes can't focus on things that cycle across the screen so quickly.

So I just nod and pretend that I understand it all, when in reality I don't understand 1/10th of it, and I hope that when he leaves, I can figure it out.

But of course I can't.

I know that Front Page, which has been my bestest program for 7 years is no longer working and, unless I want to spend $300-400, will no longer work, so I have to find an alternative (at the moment, the alternative is to write this on the laptop and upload from the laptop, but I can't do that indefinitely). I know I have lost Microsoft Office, which I used only rarely, but did use from time to time.

I know that I have to reinstall all of my programs, which, after the last clean install of XP, I organized much better, so it's not as horrendous as it has been, but there are still disks I need to find (like Word Perfect). And when I get them installed, find the information that went with my Outlook Express address book and all the e-mail that I had stored. I know that it's on here somewhere, but don't know how to find it, though the guru shows me how several times--with me standing across the room, when I can hardly see what's right in front of my face.

I cried a bit as I tried to reconfigure everything (it's going to take a long time) and Walt went out to the SPCA Thrift Store to pick up the new puppy, a Jack Russell terrier puppy (whose brother will join him tomorrow).

Then I went off to a board meeting for the Davis Community Network, where again I was in the midst of people who were speaking a language that sounded mostly like English but which included terminology and alphabet soup that I didn't have a CLUE about, so I just sat there and nodded my head and smiled and spoke only when I could contribute information about my area of expertise, which appears to be "social networking." I could at least enlighten people when they asked me what "Twitter" was (since nobody had heard of it) and I could give a somewhat intelligent-sounding definition!

It was nice to come home and watch something fairly mindless like "American Idol," though I don't know. Sometimes Randy Jackson sounds like he's working on the Tower of Babel too!!!

The number on the "blogodometer" (Tom's term) is now a whopping 2.11. I was going to put in 10 minutes several times a day, but only made it three times because that's when the guru showed up. So I hope to get over 1.11 miles tomorrow. They say that 10 minutes several times a day is just as good as 30 minutes at one stretch, so until my legs, hips and feet stop hurting, that's what I'll concentrate on.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Testing the webcam

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On My Way to Nowhere

It arrived today!

Around 8 a.m., a big truck pulled up in the driveway. I locked the dogs in the back yard and two Laurel-and-Hardy looking guys wheeled a big box into the house.

It took them no time to get it all set up, under Lizzie's diligent supervision.

After they left, Walt hopped on and took it for a spin.

And then I started learning the various properties of the machine. I set it for me being User 1 and set up the journal (which will hopefully keep track of a cumulative total).

That little wire at the very top attaches to my iPod and you an play music through the speakers on either side of it. Talk about high class!

Walt brought down a fan from upstairs to keep blowing cool air on me. I changed into shorts (which I would NEVER wear out in public going to the gym) and started my first session on the treadmill.

So here's the deal. In a year and 3 months, Jeri and I are going to France and Italy with some of our lifelong friends. There is no way I could do that trip now, or in June of this year. It's 5,504 miles from Davis to Paris and the deal is to see how far I can walk between now and then. My first goal is making it to Carson City (Nevada), which is 113 miles away. I suspect it's going to take a veeerrrryy long time to do this (but I have a long time) and I probably won't get more than a couple of states across the US, but at least I have a goal to aim for.

When/if I make it 100 miles, I'll award myself a little Eiffel Tower:

I can't believe how wonderfully generous my family has been in pooling their money and buying this machine. Thank you so much to all of you who contributed. I won't let you down. I promise!

Monday, March 17, 2008

On My Way to Nowhere

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Lovely Things

Looking for inspiration tonight, I went rummaging through some old entries from my fellow journalists and came up with this one from the ever-reliable Bozoette. A lot of questions I've answered before, so I'm going to give DIFFERENT answers this time, 'cause there can always be more than one answer. This time I'm going for offbeat answers that I've probably never used before.

Song you love: "Grandma's Feather Bed" by John Denver. It makes me smile every time, and I have yet to be able to sing along with the entire song because my tongue gets twisted somewhere in the middle

It was nine feet tall and six feet wide
soft as a downy chick
It was made from the feathers of forty 'leven geese
took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick
It'd hold eight kids 'n' four hound dogs
and a piggy we stole from the shed
We didn't get much sleep but we had a lot of fun
on Grandma's feather bed

I never can wrap my tongue around "took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick" 'cause it goes by so fast!

Food you love: crab won ton. Now, I don't kid myself that there are a whole lot of people living in China who have won ton stuffed with crab and cream cheese (any more than there are sushi bars in Japan which use avocado and cream cheese in their rolls!), but that's OK. It's pure junk food and of course I'm addicted to junk food.

Thing you love to look at: At this time of year, blossoms. There are some streets in Davis right now which display masses of blossoms. White blossoms, and pink blossoms and it takes my breath away every time.

Sound you love: The sound the mourning doves make when they call to each other on my mother's porch--Mama calling to Dad to come and babysit so she can go get something to eat, or both parents on the deck calling encouragement to the babies to jump out of the nest and try their wings for the first time.

Thing you love to laugh at: Puppies. Very definitely puppies. We are getting two 2-month old Jack Russell terrier puppies on Tuesday (named Jack and Russell) and I'm looking forward to giggling at their antics.

Gadget you love: I think I'd have to say my garlic press. I've had this particular one for years...perhaps ever since we got married...and I like it better than any other newer model that I've acquired over the years. I'm not a huge gadget person, so my gadgetry is pretty limited.

Person you love: I said this was going to be offbeat answers. My new TV love is the chubby little kid who is talking about all the mistakes of his life which made him fat and lazy and how he's changing his ways and getting more active now. I can't remember his name, but he's so cute you just want to eat him up.

Software you love: Well, of course there are all the biggies, like PhotoShop and Word Perfect, but since I'm going for offbeat in this list, I would have to say SRip32, a freeware screen capture utility. I am amazed how much I use this simple little tool.

Word you love: A Brasilian word: Saudade. It has no exact translation in English but I understand it to mean missing someone so much it hurts, beyond simply "missing" someone. It's wonderfully descriptive for all sorts of situations. I feel much saudade for David and Paul, for example

Thing you love on the internet: Two things -- "That's My Answer," the first thing I turn to each morning; and a couple of flash jigsaw puzzles, which for some perverse reason I just love working.

Place you love to go on vacation: We've never had "a place" to go on vacation. We have gone places on vacation, but never anywhere regular. Still, if I could go back to a vacation place that we have visited as a family, it would be the cottage that we rented in the teeny town of Mayo Abby on the west side of Ireland. (Given how things have grown up in Ireland, it's now probably a booming metropolis!)

Sensation you love: Sneezing. Seriously. Don't you feel just wonderfully relieved after you sneeze? I read somewhere that it is the next best thing to an orgasm.

Animal you love: Elephants. How can anyone not love elephants. And I don't mean performing elephants or elephants in a zoo, I mean the real deal, out in the wild being what they were supposed to be. I love reading and watching programs about elephant families and think we humans could learn a good lesson about sticking together and about raising children. Elephants invented "taking a village" to raise a child! I don't know how anyone who has studied elephant societies could ever want to see an elephant in a zoo or performing in a circus again.

Book you love: I will not use my usual ("East of Eden" and "The Mother Tongue"), but instead I'll pick "Tuesdays with Morrie," which I thought was an amazingly powerful book, also entertaining and a real tear-jerker.

Emotion you love: Optimism, which is a combination of anticipation and joy.

Occasion you love: Well, I would be lying if I didn't say that my very favorite "occasion" is Cousins Day.

Quality you love in people: Selflessness. I have recently re-encountered people who give tirelessly to their neighbors and to the community and I feel sad that I let so many opportunities to do likewise pass me by throughout my lifetime.

Thing you most love to shop for: Books. It's actually about the only thing I actually LIKE to shop for.

And finally…

What you love about today: I got some fantastic news this afternoon, which I hope to write about very soon. (No, the baby hasn't come yet!)