Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Burmester Thing

We went to the "Burmester thing" tonight.

In 2005, I did a feature article (and journal entry) commemorating Acme Theatre Company's 25th Anniversary.

In 2007, I did a feature article (and journal entry) about what was to have been Dave Burmester's last summer production.

In 2008, I did a feature article (and journal entry) about Dave's retirement from Acme and the debut of his very first play.

At some point, we attended a celebration of his retirement from teaching (no journal entry, I guess!)

Tonight, Acme Theatre was having a celebratiaon (A "Fanfare," if you will!) thanking Dave Burmester and his wife Libby, for all they have done in founding and running Acme theatre for 30 years. It was a wonderful celebration and very odd for us to be in a huge gathering of Davis theatre people and to know almost nobody there!

Before things started, there were musicians entertaining the people mulling around looking for seats.

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We sat with Libby and Gene, whose son Dan, who now works in theatre in New York, was in Acme in some of the years that our kids were involved. And we were delighted to run into Jen, who performed with Jeri, Paul, and Marta.

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Also at our table were Melanie and Mark, who are our neighbors, and whom we have only previously seen at Neighbors Night Out gatherings. I didn't remember that their daughters is in Acme.

There was a very nice program, run by Dara Yazdani (who won the Paul Sykes Memorial Scholarship the year he graduated), and Zoe, whose last name I have forgotten (Garcia?). They started talking about the various Acme shows, with Acme alum and current members popping up in the audience the continue the list. It went on for a very long time. Acme has produced a lot of shows!

Then they took a break to serve several of the desserts which had been donated by local merchants--fresh fruit, cheesecake, cookies, chocolate cake, apple turnovers, pumpkin mousse, and lots of other stuff. I was glad that I had skipped dinner tonight. Ethan Jaffe, whom I have reviewed in several productions, was our waiter. He was extremely conscientious and treated us very well (that's a monkey hanging around his neck)

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After dessert, Acme alum Sarah Cohan (1996) did an amazing bit of dialog between Kate and Petruccio from Taming of the Shrew, where she played both parts. It was marvelous.

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John Ramos and Delaney Pelz did a scene from the upcoming production if MacBeth.

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(I loved the shadow on the wall during this scene!) There were more desserts, and coffee served before we got to the meat of the evening. A group of five people, who had collected memories from several Acme alum and community people, read a collection of those memories, woven together into a single piece. It's 20 minutes long and I will probably post most of it as two videos in the next couple of days. But it was absolutely marvelous.

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There was the expected request for money by the head of the "Counsel of Elders," and a nice toast to Dave and Libby with some Martinelli's sparkling cider.

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(Dave is circled. I think)

Finally, there was word from the sponsor, "frickando," (which is both a furniture polish and a dessert topping), complete with a frickando jingle, which was sung heartily by Acme members in the audience.

And then it was over. Dave was mobbed by well-wishers, and since I'd talked with him when he arrived, we didn't wait around to talk with him afterwards, though I had told him, tongue in cheek, that this was going to be the very last tribute to him that I was going to attend! This blurry photo was all I was able to get.

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I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Dave, even before our kids hit high school and we only knew his family from dinners at the old St. James parish hall. He's one of the good guys. He and his wife richly deserve any accolades anybody decides to give them!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mom's Christmas Crisis--a Bit Early

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He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?" "It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!" "It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

One of the advantages, I felt, of having Thanksgiving at my mother's, and Christmas in Santa Barbara, is that we would at last have a holiday without Mom's Christmas Crisis.

Unfortunately, I forgot to share that information with Nicki.

This morning started, as usual. Nicki apparently woke up. But she is always very quiet. I wouldn't know she was awake, if Sheila didn't insist on making me aware that the Puppy Needs Care...NOW. I had been up futzing around with photos and videos last night until 2 a.m., so I tried burrowing under my blanket for a little more sleep, but that cold nose managed to find my face and she gently kept licking me until I got up. 6 a.m. Damn dog.

Nicki was, of course, overjoyed at having company (and Sheila now got to sleep on the couch, because I was out in the cold, wet back yard with the puppy. Grrr.)

Nicki did her business outside. Again, producing an amazing amoung of poop for such a little thing. I got that cleaned up and both of us back in the house. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, then went back into the family room. As I was approaching the recliner, I realized that my slipper felt funny. It felt funny because it was caked with dog poop. That little...bitch (well she is a female dog)...had even more in her than what she had produced outside. It was still pre-sunrise, so it was dimly lit in the room and I can't see well, you recall. I just never saw it and stepped right in the middle of it. By 6:30, before the coffee was made, I was washing my slippers and scrubbing the floor.

I finally got that all done, came into my office and sat down--and immediately smelled more poop. I got up and there, down the hall was another line of puppy poop. I swear, I'm not going to feed her 10 times a day, I'm going to starve her for a couple of days!

So the day progressed calmly. I had done two loads of towels in the washing machine before 8 (I love that the SPCA has supplied me with a seemly endless supply of towels for our various foster puppies!). I wanted to work in my office, but I work with the TV on in here and I noticed last night that the cable box was not on. I figured Nicki had unplugged it and I decided that I would plug it back in again. Which was easier said than done.

OfficeTV.jpg (30844 bytes)The first problem is that to get to the cords you have to get through a stack of bags and boxes that have been accumulating for probably years. And to the right of the TV is the dog door, so I had to try to keep Lizzie and Sheila from using it and knocking over the TV.

I also had the "assistance" of Nicki who thought it was just oh so much fun that I had that funny broom thing in my hands and was sweeping up so much stuff that she could chase. I finally locked her outside. Of course then Lizzie and Sheila wanted to be outside, because they didn't want to miss anything, so I locked them out too, and immediately Lizzie started jumping at the door trying to get back in because I wasn't out there with them and she was surely missing something good INside, and Sheila managed to get in the dog door anyway, under that tiny space under the TV table. It is a miracle she didn't knock the table over.

But I was knocking things over myself. Everything I touched ended up falling. I was trying to move things out of the way and the more I moved, the more I spilled. I didn't lose it until I accidentally tipped over a box that had glass Christmas balls in it and several of them broke.

Now I had glass shards all over the floor, Nicki somehow back in the house and wanting to play.

My children are familiar with the cry of anguish that emerges from me during Mom's Christmas Crisis. Walt looked like he was afraid I was going to attack him and asked if he should help or get out of my way, he did the only logical thing, and retreated upstairs to let me have my meltdown in private.

I finally managed to get things mostly cleared out of the way and the TV moved (it would be easier if I could just get down on my hands and knees and just plug the damn thing in, but I can't get down on my hands and knees so all this furniture moving was necessary. With the TV sort of out of the way, all I had to do was find the unplugged cord. Yeah. Right.

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This was hindered by two things: this office has the worst lighting ever. I've been griping about it for years. So I was trying to work with this tiny flashlight. But you can see that it's kind of a snake pit of cords down there and I can't see, remember. I got all the cords plugged in and the thing still didn't work. I was determined I was going to find the solution by myself and not ask Walt for help.

I finally found the cord on the back of the cable box and followed it back to the socket and discovered that it was on the floor, hidden under all the other cords. Once I found that and plugged it in, I was back in business again and Mom's Christmas Crisis was once again, if not exactly averted, at least solved.

But it's not even December 1st yet. I'm sure there will be another one before December 25th.

But at least I found a bag of books I could shove in the space where Nicki has been going to get to the cords and maybe at least I won't have a repeat of this particular situation.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Thanksgiving Scrapbook

We left home around 11 and joined the throngs driving somewhere else for Thanksgiving. Jeri sent a couple of videos while we were on the road and Tom sent a picture of Bri, dressed up for Thanksgiving in Pismo Beach. I couldn't see any of them because it was so bright, but could see them when we finally got into a darker place again.

We arrived at my mother's in time for lunch. Peach and Bob were already there with their two dogs, Tess and Sophie.

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My mother fixed toasted cheese sandwiches for us, then asked Walt and Bob to open up the heavy table to add a leaf to it, since it's too heavy and she can't do it by herself any more (oh please watch the video!) and then, the cards came out. A game of 65 was on. Peach and Bob's daughter, Karen, had her lucky stone with her...

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...but it didn't help. Bob was not at all happy when he accidentally discarded a wild card and discovered he had to be the "boob."

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Walt was the perfect host when Ned and Marta arrived.

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Karen had brought a mountain of hors d'oeuvres for the 8 of us to share.

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Around 5 p.m., Bob carved the turkey

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and my mother made the gravy.

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The table looked lovely, of course.

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We went around the table, each saying what we were grateful for (in addition to having everyone at her table, my mother was grateful for Obama.)

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And when dinner was over, there was a bit of time to relax before we had to leave for home.

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(Ned and Marta's dog, Bouncer)

All in all, it was a low-key, but very enjoyable Thanksgiving. And Jeri texted to say that she saw my video yesterday about "the perfect pie crust" and made it for their own Thanksgiving pies. She said she thought it was maybe the first recipe Mom had passed along. I felt good about that!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Terrible Twos

If one = seven in dog years, I wonder if four months is the puppy equivalent of the "terrible twos."

My sweet little Nicki has become a Devil Dog.

Oh nothing bad. She's positively gleeful as she races around the house wreaking havoc wherever she goes.

Actually I'm glad to see it. I no longer see neurological signs that worry me (either that or I've stopped noticing them). She's just behaving like a normal puppy. She races at top speed down the hall chasing Lizzie, they roll over and over and over again, Lizzie growling ferociously, then they race back again, Nicki slips on the Pergo, picks herself up and races on after Lizzie again. Nicki no longer gets freaked out by some hulk pinning her down. She's learned how to roll over, get up and go right back to the fight.

She's learned about knobs on doors and as I sit here I keep hearing scramble scramble thud scramble scramble thud. That is the sound of Nicki jumping up to grab handles or knobs in her mouth, slipping off and falling to the floor.

Then yesterday I decided she'd developed a tapeworm. The day before I had finally realized that all the barking and barking and barking was coming from the little garbage can where I keep the dog kibble. I thought I'd see if she was hungry so I gave her an extra cup of kibble, and she downed it like she hadn't eaten in a week.

Wellllll....I created a monster. The next day she was barking at that damn garbage cann most of the day. At one point I wrote to ask Ashley if there was any danger of overfeeding her. She wrote back that she was a puppy and I could feed her whatever she wanted to eat.

I swear that dog ate 10 extra times yesterday. Not only that, but when I went to pick her up at the end of the day, I swear she'd gained 2 lbs. I couldn't believe she could eat so much. (Today she seems to have stopped demanding food every 10 minutes, so maybe the growth spurt is over.)

If there is anything good about that it's that I know with 100% certainty that all of her food processing organs are working just fine, thankyewverymuch. This little dog is quickly earning the title of "Poop Queen." We've had grown BIG dogs that don't poop as much as this little puppy does. But then they don't eat as much as she ate yesterday either.

I wouldn't say that she is learning that outside is the place to eliminate, but she seems to have learned that when I take her out, she should produce something. We go out first thing in the morning and she circles and circles until she finds the perfect spot and then she pees, then circles some more, poops, and I bring her back inside. 3 minutes later she's repeating the whole thing indoors as well. Sigh.

Actually "housebreaking" might go better if I just did nothing all day long but watch her. We used to worry that she walked around in circles. Well, I don't see her doing that at all unless she's looking for a place to pee or poop. So if you just sit here and watch her and grab her as she starts to circle you can keep the floor clean. But since she seems to pee every 15 minutes, that pretty much has to be your WHOLE focus every day.

There are two things that haven't changed, though. She still seems to have an "off switch" when you pick her up. The way to calm her down is to put her in your lap. She has a kind of zen response to being cuddled and petted. That makes dealing with her so much easier.

Also, from day 1, she has slept in the cage all night long without a single complaint. When she wakes up in the morning. she just sits there calmly waiting for me to take her out. In that respect she is by far the easiest puppy we've ever had.

When you balance out poop output with cage behavior, it's a tossup.

She's definitely a unique little puppy. I know I'm going to miss her when it's time for her to move to a forever family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Thanksgiving Meme

Since it's Thanksgiving week, I thought I'd do this meme I found on Shannon's blog.

1. What Are you thankful for this year?

Oh there is so much to be thankful for this year!

* There is sweet little Bri, now nearly 8 months old.
* I am grateful that Jeri has married such a wonderful man and that we now have such a perfect complement of terrific son and daughters-in-law.
* We are grateful that Walt's brother and mother survived scary health issues this year, and that my mother made it through the year with only minor problems (compared to last year).
* I'm grateful that my eye problems will soon be corrected.
* I'm thankful for all most of the foster dogs we've had and very grateful that Nicki seems to be growing and improving every day.
* I'm grateful to friends, near and far, and for the social networking that bring so many of them closer to me, despite distance.
* Last but not least, I'm so very, very grateful that there is a light at the end of that long, dark tunnel, that we are seeing the end of the Bush regime and that the country voted for Barack Obama!

2. What does Thanksgiving mean to you?.

It's a chance to get together with family, give thanks for all the things that we have, and enjoy a meal together. I like this holiday because there are no expectations of anything other than enjoying one another. We don't have to do any "Thanksgiving shopping" except for food!!

3. What is your favorite part of the holiday? / your least favorite

My favorite part has always been how much my kids enjoy getting together. Of course this year, only Ned and Marta will be able to come, so that won't happen...but in previous years, that was the best part. My least favorite part, now that the kids are grown and married, is having all of us scattered across the country with no chance to get together.

4. Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes? question. Mashed! We rarely have sweet potatoes. Now, that said, Walt's family recipe for mashed potatoes, passed down from Uncle Ernie to our kids, includes the addition of an egg and lots of pepper to the potatoes which, for me, ruins them. But I don't need more starchy things to eat, so I just pass on the potatoes and load up on my mother's turkey stuffing instead.

5. Do you own eating pants? Describe.

LOL. You've seen my picture. All my pants are eating pants. I don't have a single pair that don't have elasticized waist and a skosh more room in the seat!

6. What is your favorite thing to do with the Thanksgiving leftovers?

I love turkey sandwiches on soft white bread with mayonnaise and cranberry sauce added. But I also have a great simple recipe that my friend DanaRae gave me years ago for Layered Leftover Turkey:

1-1/2 cup turkey
1 cup stuffing
1/2 cup gravy
1/2 cup green veggies
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 Tbsp butter

In casserole, layer turkey, then stuffing, and pour gravy over mixture. Add veggies. Spread mashed potatoes over top. (Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning and garlic powder, if desired--I don't). Cover lightly and freeze. To serve, dot with butter or margarine, thaw in microwave and bake until piping hot.

(You can also, of course, just bake right away without freezing!)

7. Who are you most looking forward to seeing? Least?

I always enjoy it when we have people at the table who aren't there all the time. So this year my cousin Peach and her husband and daughter are joining us and that will add a different flavor to the day, which will be fun. There's nobody I'm "least" looking forward to seeing--I love 'em all. We will be: My mother, Walt and I, Ned and Marta, Peach, Bob and Karen (and Peach & Bob's puppies). A good sized, congenial group.

8. Do you go shopping the day after Thanksgiving?

Bite your tongue! I wouldn't be caught DEAD at a store at 3 a.m. with a bazillion other bargain-frenzied women!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Breath of Fresh Air

It was my friend Olivia on the phone. "Did you see it?" she asked, in an excited voice.

"Yes, I did!" I responded, in a tone which matched hers.

"It" was President-elect Obama's press conference today. It was as refreshing as six hours at the seaside for the both of us.

The man stood there and spoke in complete sentences. Without folksy euphemisms. He spoke with intelligence, with knowledge, with a plan. He looked comfortable in front of the microphone. He announced his new economic team, and talked about his plans for helping to fix the economy. He told us that it was going to take a long time and he talked about the need of all of us to work together to rebuild what we have lost. He talked like he was talking from a place of understanding, not just from written notes on a cue card that he didn't understand, and often couldn't pronounce correctly.

When was the last time that happened with a president? Eight years?

And then he did something even stranger....he took questions from the press. Tough questions. He answered each without being evasive. When someone asked a question, he addressed that question and didn't start throwing in talking points because he didn't know the answer to the question. He gave complete answers, and then expounded on those answers, further laying out his plans.

I repeat -- when was the last time that happened with a president? Eight years?

It's interesting that in addressing the current crisis, everyone seems to be hanging on the words of the incoming president -- and who cares what the guy in the White House thinks? I have lived a long time. I was born during the Truman administration so I've seen ten presidents leave office, even one who left in disgrace. Never have I seen such a nonentity as this president. While the country turns to Obama for answers to the financial crisis, we see pictures of W donning strange clothing and posing for a photo op in some foreign country, with that same dumb grin on his face. And of course Darth Cheney is nowhere to be found at all....except maybe working on his defense for his indictment with Alberto Gonzalez in Texas.

But the never-satisfied press is already hard at work. I've heard Chris Matthews rant and rave about Obama's lack of activity. "The economy is tanking--and where is Obama in all of this?" he might shout, forgetting that this is not yet Obama's crisis to fix, that he has no authority to do anything, that he wants to take his time to get it right before he is inaugurated, that there is a guy nominally in charge who is supposed to be the point person for answers.

Then today comes the announcement and the commentators on MSNBC were wondering about whether this might be seen as overstepping his bounds because he's not yet president and that the currrent president is still in charge.

I don't know why anybody wants to be president. No matter what you do, someone is going to think it's wrong...and get a team of "experts" to talk about the terrible thing you have just done endlessly.

I just hope that as President-elect Obama moves into the White House and begins to use the power of the office to begin working on his vision for how to get the economy rolling again, and to solve the Middle East situation, that there will be fewer and fewer things to complain about.

At the very least, we will finally have a President that doesn't make us cringe whenever he takes a microphone, who embarrasses us in foreign countries, and who has so little respect for the form of government set up by the founding fathers -- who only proved that no matter how careful you are, NOTHING is entirely "fool" proof!

My little retarded puppy is becoming entirely too smart for my own good! She has decided, apparently that two meals a day isn't enough and she wants more. How do I know this? Because she's taken to running to the bin (a small garbage can) where I keep the dog food in the middle of the day, standing up against it and barking and barking and barking until I come and dole some dry food out into a pan for her. Breakfast and dinner are canned food mixed with dry (and a couple of chunks of pineapple, which I am starting to feel cautiously optimistic about). I figure if she was really hungry, dry food would be OK for a mid-afternoon snack.

She scarfed the thing down like I hadn't fed her in a week. She already eats as much as Lizzie and then goes around and finishes any food that Lizzie or Sheila might have left behind. This little girl is starting to develop an appetite like a St. Bernard. But I also notice that she is growing. Her legs are definitely getting longer, so I'm assuming that this sudden increase in appetite is to help her keep up with the growth spurt.

Either she has improved so drastically that she is now more like a "normal" puppy...or she's been here so long and I'm so used to her quirks that I don't even notice them any more.

Now if only we could get the elimination habits regulated.....

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Soundtrack of My Life

Rodney Olsen, a blogger from Australia (he hosts a religious-oriented radio show) recently wrote an entry called "The Soundtrack of my life" which introduced what he hopes to be a regular series of entries about songs that have been important to him throughout his life. He began with one song and discussed its meaning to him. I decided to try to be more concise and do a sountrack of my life in one entry.

I can't remember a time when music wasn't a huge part of my life. There are some songs that I hear today that instantly transport me back to a moment in time and I can recall the moment with startling clarity. Those are the songs that I am going to put on my soundtrack. These aren't necessarily songs I would call my favorites, but songs which I identify with important moments or eras in my life.

My father had a large collection of 78 records and was a great jazz fan (ironically, I never could get into jazz). But my favorites were always the more novelty records and ballads. So the very first song that I would put on my soundtrack is a Bing Crosby record, "Don't Fence Me In" (sung with the Andrews Sisters). I was probably in the 6th grade when we were asked to bring in our favorite records to share. That was the record I brought in and as student after student got up and played classical music, I began shaking in my boots because I had this bouncy tune to play, which was totally unlike anything that had gone before me. I remember my hand was shaking so badly I could hardly put the needle on the record. In retrospect I was probaby the only student who actually brought something she had picked out herself, and not something picked by her parent to look good! (I don't think we ever had any classical music in our house.)

I grew up in the 50s and so I was part of that era of transitional music to rock and roll. I never really got into much rock and roll either, but the schmaltz songs of the 50s always take me back to specific times and places.

Sam Cook's "I love you" instantly transports me to a place on a beach or a park or something. But I'm with a group of friends from grammar school; we're probably in the 8th grade and we're all sunbathing.

The Four Freshmen's "Graduation Day" takes me back to a party at a friend's house and the dancing we did in the dark. Another 8th grade gathering.

The Chordettes' "Lollipop" takes me back to sitting in a car, perhaps with that song on the radio and telling my father I was going to buy that and "I Love You," and my father lecturing me on what junk music it was and what a waste of money it would be. (I never bought either--and it's somewhat of a smug thing to realize that "I Love You" is now considered a classic in some circles!)

We all really liked folk music when I was at Berkeley and whenever I hear "Tom Dooley," it reminds me of the Newman Center. I'm not sure why. I can't pinpoint it to one particular moment or event, but perhaps just the whole experience of being at the Newman Center.

Oddly enough I'd put David Rose's "The Stripper" on the list as well. I remember a night when we were having dinner with our friends Dave and Elizabeth and their friends from Germany. Dave put on "The Stripper," and the woman, who had never heard the song before, talked about how much she liked it and how much it made her feel like dancing. We all enjoyed a laugh as we explained what exactly that song was!

Can't have this list without Barry Manilow's "Copacabana," which our kids loved when it first came out. They tormented poor Eduardo when he lived with us, singing it all the time (since he was from the Copacabana area of Rio de Janeiro). It was funny when they grew up, started a band, and included "Copacabana" on their play list!

I wrote recently about the experience of hearing Steve sing "Save me a Seat" for the first time. I am still transported back to that tiny theatre every time I hear it, so it goes on the list.

When Peggy was here, we discovered we both liked John Denver, so we played a lot of John Denver. There are lots of memorable moments involved with John Denver, but the strongest, perhaps, is hearing "The Flower that Shattered the Stone" for the first time. I have no idea why this always pops up in my mind, but we were at Lake Tahoe and were taking a drive around the lake. This particular time we were on our way to Emerald Bay when the song came on. It was one with which I was not familiar and Peggy said was one of her favorites. I could see why. It's just beautiful and still one of my favorite Denver songs. So whenever I hear that song, I think of the spot on the road to Emerald Bay where I first heard it.

And I have to end with Sarah McLachlan's "In the Arms of the Angel," which Audra and Marta sang at Paul's memorial service. That song is forever etched in my mind. And I wish it weren't.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Green Room Perjury

There is a thing that happens with community theatre that I really don't like. It's where the actors come out after a performance and line up so that the audience has to pass by all of them in order to get out of the theatre. In theory, I guess this is to give the performers a chance to meet the audience and thank them personally for coming to the performance.

This isn't a new tradition. Way back in the 1960s, when we first attended Lamplighters shows, there was always a curtain speech inviting the audience to join the cast members in the audience for free coffee and cookies and to give them a chance to meet us and thank us personally. (Difficult financial times necessitated the elimination of the free cookies and coffee long ago, but the cast still comes out for the meet and greet.)

Of course in those years they didn't line up so you couldn't get out of the theatre without encountering them and it was easy to get your cookies and even rub elbows with a performer without actually having to think of something to say. (The exception to this was a night when the audience was very small and I had fallen asleep during the performance and a guy came up to me afterwards and asked if I'd enjoyed my nap!)

I have said here many times that I'm shy and I just hate being put into a situation where I have to meet someone I don't know. I never know what to say. I am so envious of my colleague Jeff Hudson, with whom we sometimes carpool to shows. Jeff will talk to anybody about anything and he knows all the actors and directors and producers. He's the consummate reporter. I never could be.

It's even worse if I'm the reviewer of a show. If this is a good show, I'm going to have good things to say about most of the performers, but there are going to be a few clunkers in there and if their performance has been horrible, I'm going to say not so nice things about them and I hate to smile and shake the hand of an actor that I'm going to go home and write bad things about for the newspaper.

Sometimes you get lucky and the theatre's architecture is such that you can escape by a side door and not have to mix with the actors. Or the aisles may be so wide that you can slip past the people standing there telling Mary Smith, who just gave the worst performance you've seen in a long time, how wonderful she was.

I like to give my criticism from the safety of my own home, thank you.

What's worst is when the actor who has given a bad performance is someone you know personally as a friend. That's the real problem with community theatre. Too often you know half the cast personally.

Many, many years ago a friend of ours had the lead role in a very well known play. I won't say what play, I won't say which theatre and I won't identify this actor as a man or a woman -- I am using the generic 'actor' to refer to either gender.

Anyway, I was very anxious to see this person perform because the role seemed ideal. I could easily picture the actor in this role and thought that it was going to be a very exciting evening.

Only the actor was worse than bad. The actor was abominable. From the first couple of lines spoken, it was painful to watch the performance. During the first act, I leaned over and whispered to Walt, "can we leave at intermission?" "No," he whispered back. "Too many people here know us."

And so we stayed to the bitter end...and I do mean "bitter" end.

But the actor had known we were coming and was expecting to see us after the performance so we took a deep breath and went to the stage where the actors were meeting people.

Years before I had heard the term "green room perjury." The Green Room is the room where actors wait before going on for a performance, or hang around between scenes (it is not necessarily painted green, but that's what it's called). Someone at the Lamplighters had told me about green room perjury years before, the kinds of non-committal statements you make to a performer who has done badly that sound good, but really aren't.

Things like "I've never seen anything quite like your performance," or "What a memorable performance!" or "You must really have worked hard to produce a performance like that." The actor thinks you're praising the performance when in reality you're avoiding any comment whatsoever.

So we went to greet our friend who had just done this awful, awful performance and I muttered something inane about memorable performances (obviously it was memorable--this was probably 20 years ago now and I still remember it clearly!)

Fortunately, I wasn't a critic then. I was actually offered the job of critic many years before I finally accepted it. But the thing that kept me from taking the job at that time was one particular actor. This was a very popular actor who, in my estimation, couldn't act at all and sang even worse. I knew that a good deal of my job would be reviewing this particular actor, whom theatre goers in town just loved, and I knew I couldn't lie and say the performances good, but because we were atually friends socially, I also couldn't be honest because of what it would do to our friendship, so I never did accept the job until the actor retired from performing.

The whole theatre thing gets very convoluted when you are involved personally, whether it's your job, or whether you've come to see friends perform. But I just wish that I didn't have to do that damn reception line so often. My very favorite places to review shows are places where you don't encounter the actors at all (such as the touring Broadway productions), or places where, if the actors come out, it's after they have removed their costumes and are mingling as just regular people and you can pretend you don't recognize them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's NOT My Fault

I'm having a hard time with Rosie O'Donnell. I've always liked her. I enjoyed her daily show when she had it, I watched The View when she was on and found I totally lost interest when she left. She's big and brash and bold and loud and outspoken and it seems that people either like her or hate her. I've always been in agreement with most of her political views. I share her love of movies and theatre, and her awe of celebrities, I love her love of children and animals and have supported her "theatre kids" charity. And it doesn't hurt that she's built more like me than most women you see on TV. So I like her.

I was pleased to see that she has a variety show coming up next week. Who better to present Broadway talent in a kind of show that we haven't seen in a very long time. I could easy see Rosie O'Donnell becoming the next Ed Sullivan, though I don't know if the world is ready to embrace that kind of show on a regular basis again. But a one time only show should be fun.

So when I read that she was going to be a guest on the Conan O'Brian show last night, I stayed up to watch it. He ran a clip from The View, where Barbara Walters was expressing great anger at comments that apparently O'Donnell has made which she (Walters) found negative toward The View. Walters' fury was plainly visible, though, being a professional she worked to make it seem dispassionate.

O'Brien questioned O'Donnell about it, O'Donnell gave her impression and the interview went on.

I was sitting there with my stomach churning.

You see, I was realizing that I was watching two people I admired (O'Donnell and Walters) in a major feud and I was feeling emotionallyfrantic that I couldn't do anything to make it better.

That may sound silly but as I sat here analyzing how I was feeling, and how silly it was, I thought about where those feelings came from.

Tension was big around our house when I was growing up. Ironically, I don't remember hearing fights between my parents (though I know there were lots). I remember one doozy but I can't remember any others. But I remember the constant tension. Sitting at the dinner table hoping the phone wouldn't ring because it would always ruin dinner. my father felt that if the phone rang at 6 or at 8, whenever we were at the table, that it was an intrusion on our privacy--unless it was his mother calling--and he would blame US for the call and lapse into one of his famous silences. I remember the silences that were so loud you wanted to wear ear plugs. He wasn't speaking to anybody and you didn't know why--but you always knew it had to have been your fault.

I remember his nervous breakdown, which intensified the silences. I remember him sitting in a completely dark room, the only thing visible the glow from the tip of his cigarette. It was a small house and there was nowhere to go because you didn't dare go into the living room.

Ned often takes me to task for talking about my father and tells me I should let it go. Well, I have, pretty much. I'm not really angry with him any more, but I can't deny what the lifelong effect of growing up under his temper has done to me. All those years of feeling that whatever the problem was it was my fault sits with me even today. (I really am sorry that my sister isn't still living. I'd love to know if she, as an adult, still bears the same kind of scars. Her personality was so different from mine, She was the strong one, and she butted heads with our father often, so I don't know if it would have affected her the same way. I was the wimp.)

The lingering effect on me is that I can't deal with anger or tension in anyone. Whenever there is a tense situation, I'm aware that I'm standing in the room, frantically thinking of something funny to say that will break the tension. Because I know that somehow--even if the tension is between people I barely know, that it's MY fault that they are having difficulties. I guess I have a reputation for being a funny person and it comes out of trying to diffuse a potentially uncomfortable situation.

Now logic tells me that this is crazy, but logic doesn't rule our emotions. The 65 year old intelligent Bev sat here knowing that there was nothing I did to cause the tenion between Barbara Walters and Rosie O'Donnell, neither of whom I have met, but the 10 year old Bev felt that it was my job to try to make it better.

As I sat here thinking about all that, it made me wonder if I did this to my kids too. Do they feel they need to make things all right all the time? Do they feel that it's their responsibility to solve all the problems of the world? I remember that Paul, even as a young child, would cry if there was a crisis reported on television because he felt that somehow it was his fault. That was the reason that we thought he had killed himself, because of the shootings at Columbine.

It's too bad that when we are raising our kids we don't realize that things we do, that might not even involve them can affect how they behave for the rest of their lives.

On the off chance that Rosie O'Donnell and/or Barbara Walters are reading this journal entry, c'mon, guys. Can't you just get along? Please? I'll feel so much less guilty if you'd just kiss and make up!

Friday, November 21, 2008

In the Kitchen

The Today Show has been running segments on "green living," this week, with todaoy's emphasis on going green in the kitchen. Meredith Vierra confessed that she had actually gone shopping at her local market and had cooked dinner herself.


I'm impressed.

She cooked dinner herself. And she enjoyed herself! She was so excited about it.

I suppose if I had the fame, fortune (and busy life) of Meredith Vierra, I would either hire someone to cook for me or eat all my meals out but it seems that more and more "cooking meals" is becoming a lost art. If you listen to Regis Philbin, it sounds like he and his wife eat all of their meals out. Watch commercials and it seems that many families pile into the car and make the rounds of fast food joints picking up food for dinner. KFC has even come up with a bucket with three different kinds of chicken so you can have one stop shopping for your family dinner, something to please everyone.

There is a commercial running right now -- I can't remember the company -- but it shows how having breakfast at home just one day a week can save the average family $900 a year.

With store shelves filled with a bazillion kinds of cereal, what family eats breakfast out every day???

More and more commercials show Normal Rockwell-type scenes with the family all sitting down to a "home cooked meal" which you took out of the freeze,r popped into the microwave, and served to raves from the eaters. Gosh! Mom cooked dinner!

I have been amused, and I think I've written about this before, that it used to be you could buy cookie dough in a roll. You cut it off the roll and put it on a cookie sheet to bake. Then they made it easier and cut it for you and stuck it in a bag and sold a bag of cookie dough lumps. NOW you can buy a tray with the cookies all laid out on it and you just open the package and pop it into the oven for wonderful "home baked" cookies.

We have a whole generation of kids who won't understand when I talk about "licking the beater."

It can't be that we are so busy in our lives that there is no time for making dinner. When I had five kids living at home and a full time job, and did transcription at night--and sometimes had a cake to decorate for a customer too, I still cooked dinner. And often we had foreign students here too. Dinner for up to 10 people. I wasn't making beef wellington, but I could whip up a casserole and side dishes when I came home from work and then work after everyone was finished eating.

Walt pointed out recently that when he was at his brother's house while Norm was in the hospital (he's home now and doing very well, thank goodness), he realized that Norm's wife doesn't do the cooking--Norm does the cooking in their house. His sister's husband does the cooking in their house. Ned is the cook in their house. Tom is the cook in his house, and Phil is the cook for Jeri.

Where did I go wrong? How come I'm still cooking? (Walt says I do the cooking because it's all I do around the house. I feel that's a bit of a stretch, but not much. He definitely does the lion's share of chores around here, but I'm not totally useless.)

It's amazing with the rise in popularity of The Food Network, and the popularity of shows like Top Chef and America's Next Food Star that it seems fewer people are actually cooking.

But then, one of the Food Network's popular shows is "Semi-homemade," where you take some store-bought stuff and mix it with some home-made stuff and come up with a new dish.

My problem is that I see a lot of stuff in the store that I would love to buy, stuff that doesn't take any preparation, that you can just pop in the microwave and cook...but then I realize how much cheaper it would be if I just made it from scratch and I rarely buy that stuff (and probably don't make it from scratch either). Heck, I rarely even bought baby food. I had my handy dandy non-electric, non-battery operated baby food grinder that pureed food right from your table (whether at home or even out in a restaurant) and the babies always liked that a lot more than the bland baby food.

With the cost of ready made food and the cost of fast food and the cost of meals in a restaurant, it amazes me that home cooking seems to be becoming a dying art.

On another subject, I spent an hour with Cayce, the dog trainer today. She really seemed to nail it as far as Nicki's "idiosyncracies" are and offered suggestions for how to help her learn how to use her senses better. I'm very encouraged.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


There is a scene in A Star Is Born, toward the end. Norman Maine (James Mason) is making his first public outing after being released from an alcohol rehab place. He goes into the racetrack and gets into a fight with a guy he thought was his friend. He goes to the bar and asks for a double Scotch. He drinks it down and then hunches over the bar, kind of doing this dry retching business.

From years of typing for The Psychiatrist, I know about Antabuse, the medication they give to people with drinking problems which makes them very sick if they drink alcohol, so they quickly learn not to drink (or so the theory goes).

I just found out that I have doggie Antabuse sitting in my own pantry.

When I was at Cousins Day, I was bemoaning the fact that Nicki eats her own poop. In fact, when she was accidentally locked outside for a couple of hours, after dark, I suspect she was eating all the poop she could find. (Walt wants to know what happens to all that injested poop? Is it just recycled back out again?)

Peach told me about a couple of products she knew that you could mix in with a dog's food that would prevent her from eating poop. I guess it makes it smell undesirable or something. (Of course how that works with a dog who doesn't seem to be able to smell the way other dogs do is not clear).

Today I spoke with a dog trainer, who is going to come tomorrow and work with me and Nicki and give me some pointers about how to deal with her...more on that in a bit. She said that yes, there are products out there that may work, but the thing she found that was the most effective was adding a couple of chunks of pineapple to the dog's food.

Peach had mentioned frozen pineapple as well.

Fortunately, I had just bought a big box of pineapple at Costco, so I have lots of it on hand and will begin right away adding pineapple to the diet and see if it works. There is nothing like picking up a sweet little puppy who goes to lick you and smells like feces! (Especially with a dog whose feces are Nicki's are.) I may have to revise my statement that a really sweet smell is "puppy breath."

I had a long chat with Casey, the dog trainer. She spent time with Nicki the one day Nicki went to obedience class (and freaked out again). She's going to come here tomorrow and spend some time with us, on Nicki's home turf, to help me work with her in a more effective manner.

It was as refreshing to speak with Casey about Nicki as it was to speak with my ophthalmologist about my "bad eye." Dr. Heinz was able to explain to me why it was that I couldn't see with my "bad eye." He was the first person who understood what I meant when I said that I didn't use it for vision. After 65 years, how refreshing it was to speak with a doctor who understood what I was telling him.

It's the same with Casey. Ashley understands what Nicki is doing and has been pretty accurate in her assessment. Casey has the experience to understand exactly the problem. It is her theory that Nicki's problem is not that she has vision problems or hearing problems or smelling problems, but that she has some sort of defect in the occipital lobe of her brain. This would control how her brain perceives the impulses that it gets. That would explain why sometimes she seems to see just fine and other times she can't figure out that the door of her cage is standing wide open. It would explain why she turns away from a swab of alcohol held under her nose (which the neurology doctor did to her to show that she can smell), but why she can't sniff any treats that I hold for her. It would explain why she can't hear me if I call her, but can hear me if I clap for her. It would explain why she seems to be able to function less well when she's stressed than she can otherwise.

It's going to be interesting to work with Casey tomorrow.

She also feels that the way to find Nicki the perfect home is to put out a call to vet students, especially people who work in Neurology, who will understand what may be going on in that little head of Nicki's and will be able to see her for the sweet little dog she is, even with her problems. I know that person is out there. Somewhere.

In the meantime, I'm going to freeze some pineapple chunks and see if we can at least get rid of one of her annoying ideosyncracies!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"Did you get my text message?" Walt asked, when he called this evening. He had sent a message earlier in the day letting me know that his brother was being released from the hospital, word we had all been very eager to hear.

I had to explain that my cell phone was in my purse -- and, worse, it was still on "vibrate" from the night before, when we had been at a play -- so I hadn't heard the alert.

It made me realize, again, that I'm having a big problem with my cell phone.

It's pockets.

I don't have any.

It didn't really matter when I first got my phone. There were few people who even knew the number and even fewer who ever called it. But then text messaging entered my life, Jeri and Ned got cell phones with tex messaging and I started getting more calls.

Then there are those friends who have given up land lines and only have cell phones now. They always have their cell phone with them and frequently call my cell instead of our house phone. My mother half the time calls on my cell phone and half the time on my regular phone.

I don't know what to do with the phone.

When almost nobody called me, it was enough to keep it in my purse, but once I started texting hot and heavy with Jeri, I tried to keep it near me. But it always seemed to be in the room where I wasn't.

That's a problem that could be solved with pockets.

My friend Char only has a cell phone. She also has pockets. When her cell phone rings, it's right there in her pocket.

My wardrobe consists of four pairs of black sweat pants without pockets, one pair of "dress" velveteen pants without pockets and one pair of leisure pants--with pockets. But you can't wear the same pair of pants all the time.

I bought a pouch to keep the cell phone in. It has a nice cord that will allow me to wear it around my neck, but that feels stupid. I keep thinking about the pouch of foul smelling herbs that Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon) made for Rosemary (Mia Farrow) in Rosemary's Baby. It's also a garish color that doesn't really go with anything--the only one they had when I went looking for pouches.

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The only value to the pouch is that the cord is long enough that it makes it eas(ier) to find in my purse...assuming I hear the thing ring in time.

It also has a tab on the back, which allows you to attach to a belt.

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But there's that old sweat pants thing again--no belt. No belt loops.

Sometimes I carry the phone around in my hand, but I'm such a klutz that I know one day I'm going to drop it in the toilet if I do that.

So I don't know where to carry my cell phone so I can be sure not to miss those important calls that come every few days or so.

OK--so it's not a huge problem...but I'm still trying to find a work-around...or a source of sweat pants that come with pockets and don't cost more than $20 a pair.

I'm not that hard to please.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Love Tom Sims

I don't often go public with statements like this, but midway through the day, I had to admit to myself that I am madly in love with Tom Sims.

Tom is a guy I "met" on line years and years ago, when my only interaction with the Internet was through CompuServe. Tom and I were both in the same discussion forum, run by Georgia Griffith. I met him once, a very long time ago, when Georgia came to San Francisco and hosted a dinner for all of her friends in the area. I don't remember that we spoke much, but he seemed like a very nice guy and we got along well.

I haven't thought about Tom in the intervening years. A few weeks ago, when I was searching for people I might know on Facebook, I came across Tom's name and added him as a Facebook friend. He confirmed my request to be friends and again, I haven't heard from him, nor have I contacted him.

As I wrote yesterday, I had terrible problems with Yahoo. I didn't worry about it until morning, because I assumed there was some horrendous glitch with the Yahoo servers, but when I got up in the morning and there was still no Yahoo--and what'smore there were no blaring headlines anywhere about it--I began to suspect that maybe it wasn't what I thought it was.

I posted messages to Facebook and to Twitter, and I asked whether or not people could access Yahoo. It was a big problem to me because Yahoo hosts this web site. I could get the stuff that has already been posted, but I couldn't get to the page I need in order to upload new stuff.

I also couldn't get ANY Yahoo site, not even That meant no Yahoo maps, no Yahoo groups, no Yahoo mail. Nothing that had "yahoo" connected to it would come up for me.

I began getting notes from people that they could get Yahoo. Then I thought maybe it was a local problem of some sort, so I contacted my friend Joan, who lives just a couple of blocks away. She, too, could get Yahoo.

I decided to fire up the laptop and see if I could connect to Yahoo on that. I could. I was able to post my journal entry for yesterday, but that only confirmed that the problem was my desktop computer. And I didn't have a clue how to begin troubleshooting.

I sent off a message to my computer guru, who never responded.

The wonderful thing about the internet is how generous people are with advice and how they will bend over backwards to try to help you solve your problem. David Howell over on Twitter, suggested that I flush my DNS cache by going to a command window and typing in a command he gave me. (Problem was that I didn't know how to get to a command window, but I didn't want to admit that!)

Ron left a note in my guestbook letting me know how to get to the command line (thanks, Ron!)

Someone suggested it might be a virus and so I ran my virus checker again, the the machine came up clean.

Joan suggested using ctrl-alt-del to delete any programs that might be interfering, and said that happened to her occasionally. But there were no other programs running.

Paul Zawilsky, from the Lamplighters, gave me several useful suggestions, but they didn't work either.

Roy Spicer told me how to delete cookies and I did that, but when I did that, it knocked me out of Flickr and since Flickr is now owned by Yahoo, I couldn't get back in again because it wouldn't let me access its log-in screen.

Swell--the two websites I use most every single day and those are the two I couldn't get to.

I had forgotten that I could do a system restore in Windows XP, so I tried a system restore and set it back to November 1, certain that would cure the problem, since it almost always has in the past cured any oddball thing that is going on with the computer, but it didn't.

And then I got a note from Tom Sims. He directed me to a freeware program called CC Cleaner. which removes unused files from your system, and cleans up the registry.

I downloaded that, ran it, rebooted the computer, and, with fear and trepidation, tried to log onto Yahoo.

EUREKA! I'd done it! Well...Tom had done it. And so I'm sitting here feeling like I love Tom Sims and I'm not embarrassed to say it. Thank you, Tom, for your help. Thanks EVERYONE for their helpful suggestions. I should keep a list of all of them in case something odd happens again! But it sure feels good to be back in business again!

Another weird thing that happened happened on Facebook. I've been discovering a whole bunch of people I used to know lately, one of whom is Paul's old girlfriend Sue. She was the girl he turned to the night David died, but he married someone else, and so did she. Now here she was on Facebook and I added her as a friend. Then this morning, I get a note from Ned's godmother's daughter, expressing surprise at seeing Sue's name in my list of friends and asking how I knew Sue and explaining how she knew her. When Sue updated her status she said she was still amazed to discover that "her father-in-law's girlfriend's son's wife's mother is her ex-boyfriend's brother's godmother."

That is six degrees of separation, Facebook style!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Do You Yanoo?

Dr. G has come back into my life. He had a huge web design edit which I spent a good part of yesterday doing. In truth, I would love to teach his staff how to do this stuff, but that doesn't seem likely to happen. So whenever he needs changes, I charge him big bucks (though people tell me I'm not charging him enough), work a couple of hours and pad my bank account.

I got most of his corrections made and posted to his web site. When I originally set it up, it was on Yahoo, just like Funny the World is, so I was logged into Yahoo under his log in and password.

When I got ready to post my own journal entry last night, I went to log out as Dr. G and log in as me and couldn't do it. It wouldn't let me connect to the log in page.

That was strange, I thought. I even tried going to Internet Explorer and logging in from that browser, thinking this might be a Firefox problem. But I had no better luck there.

I tried connecting to and received a message that the site didn't exist.

Yahoo didn't exist? Oh my...NOW what's going to happen?

I sent a message out on Twitter asking if others were having problems. I only received one response, but she said she'd been having problems with the site all day, so that made me feel a little better.

I sent out a note to my notify list saying that I couldn't post to Yahoo. And I went to sleep, confident that the Great Gods of Yahoo would have the problem all fixed by morning.

I guess my subconscious worried about it all night because I awoke at 5 a.m. with a headache and wondering if Yahoo was back. I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't, so I got up to check. No. Yahoo was not back. I checked Google for "Yahoo" and expected to see huge news stories about Yahoo servers crashing, but there was no news whatsoever. And all the links led to yahoo, none of which worked.

I'm intelligent enough to realize that something is wrong with the yahoo servers, but I continue to hope that somehow I'll find a workaround.

This is the first day that I've been home and haven't posted a journal entry since I started this journal nearly nine years ago. There have been a few days when I didn't post entries, but it was usually when I was on a boat in the middle of the Thames or somewhere in the Australian outback, or somewhere else without internet access.

When I first started my journal, it was Geocities and Geocities was so cutesy that when you joined, you chose a "neighborhood" and then it gave you a map with available "homes" to choose. You could pick which person you wanted to be your neighbor. It was all very graphic-designed.

It wasn't long before it just became Geocities without all the map and the houses and you just posted directly to the server, which I've been doing now for nearly nine years. In all that time this is the very first time I haven't been able to post. I've heard of other people who have had problems, but it has been completely reliable for me. Until today.

Early in the life of this journal, I heard horror stories of people whose servers went down and they lost their entire journaling history. At that time I started keeping a backup. I went back to the very first entry and backed the entire journal up to the present, so if something catastrophic happens to Yahoo and, god forbid, it loses all its files, at least I have them.

I know that it will be back up--eventually--and that it's just a matter of being patient and waiting until they fix this...whatever it is...that is wrong with Yahoo today, but it's damn frustrating.

Of course there are always alternatives, and a year or so ago, I started a mirror site on Blogger. I did it because of people who wanted to follow me, but because of the way I structure Funny the World, I can't have an RSS feed on it. So every day I post the same entry on Blogger and I can post THIS entry on Blogger so that I don't miss a day.

But I want my Yahoo back!!!

I posted a note to Facebook to see if others were having problems and two people responded that Yahoo came up just fine for them, so I tried rebooting my computer to see if it might be something on MY computer, but it still comes back with a "page not found." Now I'm REALLY flummoxed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

With a Little Help from Photoshop

Want to get an idea of what it's like for me to "see" now? I found this picture on the net:

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...and decided that I'd fiddle around with PhotoShop effects and see if I could come close to creating what this picture would look like if I were in a car getting ready to pass. The result is pretty accurate.

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There is a slight difference. Some headlights are more yellow than others. And the rays coming out from the center would be thinner, more, and closer together. But this comes pretty darn close.

Now you know why I don't drive at night!!

Why I don't drive in the day is a little more difficult to do with PhotoShop because a huge part of it is a difference in the intensity of light and I can't quite get that right using PhotoShop, but I came up with this picture, which I took on the highway when we were driving down to the Bay Area today.

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Now the closest I could come, using PhotoShop to alter this photo and make it loook like what I see when I look out the window is this:

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As you can see, the center is darker and more blurred, and the it gets lighter as you move out to the sides (I'm actually kind of proud that I was able to recreate this with PhotoShop!) But add to this the light, which can be overwhelming when the sun is shining and you have some sort of idea why I don't drive in the daytime either!

It's not like this, of course, around the house, or as I sit here at the computer, but the light outside blurs everything and makes it that much worse.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to my surgery in January!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Catalog Season

It was last week, the first week in November, when I was walking through the supermarket and heard "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" come over the music system. It's not even Thanksgiving yet, for Pete's sake!

I remember,when I was a kid, how much fun it was the day after Thanksgiving because it seemed as if every store suddenly exploded with Christmas decorations. The fun was to go downtown in the days after Thanksgiving to see all the stores done up in their Christmas finery. The other day I was walking through Costco down an aisle where one side had Halloween costumes and the other had Christmas decorations.

Any day now I expect to see Christmas decorations pop up with fireworks for 4th of July.

It kind of takes the "magic" out of it when the promotion of the holiday starts so early.

One of the most fun things I remember during the Christmas season when I was a kid was the arrival of the big Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs. They were our "wish books." My sister and I poured over the books looking at all the things we knew we'd never get, but hoped for. Beautiful dolls with long hair and gorgeous clothes, kitchen sets, bicycles, and, later, the most trendy clothes. The books were each a good two inches thick and all inclusive, everything from kitchen appliances to toys and clothes. When we were small, we didn't have a television, so we had no hard-hitting ads to let us know what we couldn't live without. All we had were the wish books.

When Christmas was over, Karen took the books and cut out the human figures and made paper dolls out of them, as our mother had done when she was a child.

I am on a "do not mail" list, which has significantly cut down the number of catalogs that I get throughout the year, but I still get an inordinate number of them. I decided to keep a record this year, because I swear that there are some companies that send me a catalog every day and I wanted to see if my feeling was correct.

I don't remember when my first Christmas catalog came this year,a but I started keeping records twenty-six days ago, on October 20, and since that time I have received 45 catalogs.

While I haven't received different catalogs every day from any company, since October 20, I have had four catalogs from Woman Within, a catalog for fat women's clothes. FOUR. Has their inventory changed four times since October? Of course not. They just change the cover and send out the same catalog.

Signals, which offers "gifts that inform, enlighten and entertain" has sent me three catalogs. I'm trying to decide whether to order the Christmas Story leg lamp, a kit to build my own Golden Gate Bridge, or a t-shirt that says "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel."

Tying Signals with three catalogs are Plough and Hearth, the magazine for gardening and home decorating. How I got on THAT list is anybody's guess, since my idea of "gardening" is to step outside every month or so to see which weeds have grown since the last time I went outside, and my house seems to be decorated in "early bath towel," as the floor is often covered with towels which started out sopping up puppy pee and became puppy pull toys. I'd love to buy some of their decorative accents, but don't have a spare flat surface on which to put them.

I really had the feeling that Junonia (another fat ladies store), Just My Size (another fat ladies store) and Lands End sent me catalogs every day, but maybe it's just that the rotation of the three along with Woman Within is so constant that it seems that way. Just My Size and Lands End have only sent me two catalogs in the past three weeks, and Junonia only one.

But it's early. It's not even Thanksgiving yet. I intend to continue keeping this list from now until Christmas and then write a final report at the end of December.

Walt, who had come home yesterday to get clothes so he could go back to Santa Rosa and be at his brother's bedside, along with his sister and sister-in-law, sent the best text message I'd received since Norm was admitted to the hospital: "We have talking." The doctors were finally able to remove the ventillator from Norm and he is awake and able to talk, though still very groggy.

It seems a very long time since I got the message "he could die" to today. I am feeling like a huge load has been lifted for all of us.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Just a Little Slow

Nicki's long-awaited neurological appointment has finally taken place and the final diagnosis: everything looks normal, but she may be a little slow. In other words, she's never going to be an agility trial champion, but if there is a Special Olympics for dogs, she will probably do very well.

In truth, the final word didn't surprise me. She has improved so much in the month she's been here. At first she didn't seem to hear and we weren't sure if she could see anything, but now she responds to sounds (though not usually to voice), she obviously sees, she doesn't circle as much as she used to (now mainly when she needs to pee or poop). She still doesn't make eye contact, but kind of looks past you, which makes me wonder if she has better peripheral vision than straight-on vision, but I haven't really noted any severe problems with her, other than that she's not quite the brightest bulb in the package.

And that's pretty much what two neurologists (or a neurology intern and a neurological assistant) said.

I wondered about the fact that she is totally unresponsive to any good tasting treat, but they tried putting some alcohol under her nose and she reacted to that and tried to get away, which shows that she smells something.

It's like everything else -- she sees, but who knows how clearly (I can definitely relate to that!). She hears, but who knows how much? She can smell, but who knows how much?

Mainly, though, when she was sent up to be spayed three weeks ago, they decided that they didn't want to mess around with anesthesia until they had a clearance from the Neurology Department that it wouldn't harm her, so that's why this appointment was necessary. Now we can go ahead with the spay and then become more aggressive about finding her a forever family. (Sniff, sniff...)

If someone can figure out the best way to housebreak and train her, she will make that person a fantastic pet because she's so easy to have around, other than the peeing. She is also so independent that she can easily be left outside in the yard on nice days. So far, here, she hasn't shown any signs of barking at the neighbors, which already puts her a step up from Lizzie and Sheila!

She was one exhausted puppy when we finally got home. The appointment had taken about two and a half hours, from check-in to check-out and the hands on stuff was stressful for her. She was happy to collapse in her cage and take a very long nap, for most of the rest of the afternoon.

While Nicki was napping, I decided to take Ashley out to lunch.

Tomorrow is her birthday and when I asked what her plans were for her birthday she said "nothing," and I couldn't let that happen. We went to a new hamburger place (the name of which I've already forgotten) word was it good! It was one of those places where they made hamburgers out of hunks of meat, not prefrozen patties, where the mushrooms and onions (I had an onion mushroom burger) were fresh chopped, and where the onion rings I upgraded to were beer battered and...oh my....incredible. Best onion rings I've had in a long time.

We had a leisurely lunch which allowed us time to chat about all sorts of "getting to know you" things that we rarely have an opportunity to do during the frenzied moments of dealing with doggie issues. I got to ask her more about her "real" job (the one that pays the bills) and heard that she works for a division of the UCD Vet school which does necropsy exams on large animals. Ashley doesn't have hands on experience with those big, dead animals, but that's what they do elsewhere in the building.

I only bring this up because I just loved the story she told of one of the vets who works in a different facility in the state calling Ashley to report that he needed a replacement cell phone because he dropped his inside an elephant on whom he was doing an autopsy. He assured her that he had dug around trying to find the phone and that, in fact, he had retrieved the phone, but that it no longer works.

I don't know about you, but I think that beats the "the dog ate my homework" story all to heck!!!

The other good news tonight is that Walt's brother finally had the ventillator removed and is able to talk. He's on the road back!!!