Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Devil's Playground

They say an idle brain is the devil's playground. Well, ol' Scratch better search elsewhere, 'cause there ain't no idle brains around here today. I feel like I'm working mentally on so many different things that I was more or less oblivious to what was happening in my real world today.

I'm doing one project that has been occupying my time for all this week. I'm lovin' it and will talk about it more when it's finished, but I spent all my time looking at it and changing and then changing it again.

I'm also trying to get together Christmas packages for the Compassion kids and looking for Christmas things in September is not easy, even though sometimes you can find Christmas stuff being put out after the 4th of July. Just not what I'm looking for specifically.

And I'm also still in the honeymoon phase of the postcard project, looking for interesting postcards to send, getting my first postcards from Belgium and Germany. I particularly liked this one from Germany.

dogpostcard.jpg (35674 bytes)

I was so engrossed in my various projects that I nearly forgot I was going to lunch with Ruth. And then when I remembered, I called upstairs to tell Walt goodbye as I was leaving and when he didn't answer, I assumed he'd gone to work and I'd been so busy I hadn't noticed when he said goodbye (later I found out he was actually home and just in the shower, so didn't hear me call to him).

liszt.jpg  (6620 bytes)There were several errands to run after lunch, including getting a haircut. I had washed my hair yesterday and I was looking like Franz Liszt and decided it was time to get it all chopped off. So I went to SuperCuts and got the haircut. They never do it exactly the way I want it, but I figure if I can kind of brush it into the shape that I'm used to it's OK, and this was one of the good cuts, so I was happy.

I had more errands to run, but instead came home to the projects briefly. At 4 p.m., I was meeting the head of publicity for the Theatre and Drama Department to talk about what they have coming up on their schedule.

Just before I left, I had an e-mail from Erin XX about the parking ticket:

I discussed this with our Operations Manager, who has indicated that in order to honor a media business card for parking, that the card must have the person’s name on it. When I dismissed the previous citation (below), you did not attach a copy of the business card; I looked online to confirm your affiliation. When I responded at that time, I was not aware that the business card you were using did not have your name on it.

I have gone ahead and dismissed this citation as an exception, and there is no further action required on your part. For future parking, it would be best to display something with your name on it (perhaps you could display a copy of whatever credentials you use to get in to the event you are covering), along with the business card in the vehicle.

What the bloody f**k???

I discussed it with the Publicity rep, who is going to make a special placard for my car with their logo on it. But good God, when you think of it, it costs them nothing to let me park for free. I am giving them free publicity. When I do a story I make 3 or 4 trips to the university for interviews and rehearsals (none of which require "credentials") and by the time I write the story, it has taken so much time to gather the information that I don't even come close to making minimum wage for that story. So what's the big deal??? This is doing them a favor. I could just never write any story about university functions again, if their bloody $6 is so important to them!

I was still angry a few hours later when we had to leave to go review a show in Sacramento. Now it is 1 a.m. and I have spent the last 2 hours on my big project, have now written this journal entry and am just now starting to write the review. After that it is my hope that my brain will be idle for a couple of hours, but don't hold your breath, Devil.

Thursday Thirteen

The last 13 musical things downloaded to my iPod

1. “Everybody Hurts”from “Helping Haiti”
2. Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” album
3. “Big Legged Women” by the Righteous Mothers
4. “Hallelujah” by Justin Timberlake (from Help Haiti show)
5. “60,000 Naked Hoosiers” by the Righteous Mothers
6. Glee soundtrack
7. “Lulu’s Back in Town” by Johnny Mercer
8. “Countdown to Class Reunion” by the Righteous Mothers
9. “Barbara Cook and Friends at the Met"
10. “Mr. Sandman" by the Chordettes
11. Kristin Chenoweth’s “Let Yourself Go” album
12. “I have a song to sing O” by Peter, Paul and Mary
13. “We May Never Love Like This Again” by Maureen McGovern

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mama Mia, that's a Spicy Meatball

Remember the old Alka-Selzer commercial about the guy eating the spicy meatballs?

meatball.jpg (59059 bytes)

I thought about that a lot last night as I downed milk and plain rice to cut the burning in my throat.

For a long time the station that I kept on the TV here in my office as white noise in the background while I worked was the Food Network. I became friends with Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, Giada deLaurentis and Ina Garten. I didn't actually watch the shows, but I listened to them as I worked (unless, of course, I was transcribing something).

The thing that happened during those days is that I kind of absorbed some cooking ideas, got suggestions for things to cook for dinner, became more adventurous in "winging it," and I think that our mealtimes were more interesting.

Then came the presidential campaign and The Food Network was replaced by MSNBC, CNN, and other news shows.

When I finally was so sicked by politics, and needed a great diversion I discovered marathons. NCIS marathons, House marathons, Criminal Minds marathons, and marathons of several version of Law and Order. I see more bloodshed and sick criminals in a month than probably most law enforcement officers see in a typical year!

But sometimes there are no marathons and so I go searching for something else. At the same time that I was needing a new station to watch, I found the Cooking Channel, a new entry into the field of cable television. It wasn't as formal as the Food Network and I liked its hominess, so I started using food and cooking as white noise again. It even had familiar faces -- Emeril Lagassse and Mario Batali, who had left the Food Network, Graham Kerr whom I used to watch decades ago and hadn't seen in all this time. There were tapes from the late Julia Child and the delightful Two Fat Ladies (one of whom has died). And who doesnt love Nigella Lawson's sensual approach to food?

The other day I happened on a show by Indian chef Anjum Anand, whose program is called "Indian Food Made Easy." I love Indian food, but don't cook it much.

The dish she was making was curried meatballs. We love curry and she described all the spice blends so thoroughly that my mouth was watering. I even had garam masala on my spice rack. I was all set.

So after Jeopardy was over, I set rice to cooking in the rice cooker and started making the meatballs:

1 pound ground meat (pork, beef or veal)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp (I substituted Worcestershire, which was suggested)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg

Sounds pretty innocent, doesn't it? After the meatballs were formed and cooked in oil, I made the sauce:

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1 green chile, minced
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup red wine

Again, it didn't sound all that bad. I substituted Worcestershire for the tamarind pulp here too. I used mild green chilis, which have flavor, and almost no heat at all.

When the sauce was all assembled, I returned the meatballs to the sauce and let reheat. Looked great!

hotmeatballs.jpg (102834 bytes)

Smelled great with all the combination of spices. I took a small taste and realized it was pretty spicy, so I poured myself a glass of milk to go with the meal and served myself the rice plain so as to sop up the heat.

Walt took a bite and his eyebrows went up as he said that it tasted very good.

That was before the steam started pouring out his ears.

We ate in silence, each of us trying to find ways to calm the burning spice in our mouths. We drank a lot of ice water (realizing that ice water does nothing for spicy heat...but it felt good at the time!). In truth, I didn't think it was hotter than some of the Thai food I've seen Walt eat, but I'm not a big fan of anything other than mild spice.

There were leftovers. I suspect neither of us is going to eat them. Needless to say, this is not a recipe I will be making again!

Parking Ticket update: I called the parking ticket office and spoke with Robin XX, who treated me like putrid meat and said she wouldn't be able to deal with me until tomorrow. The saga continues...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Advantage of Being a Packrat

Ha! You may groan about my cluttering habits, but I have the last laugh.

Not only is my house cluttered, so is my computer, which is why I had to recently get a terabyte external hard drive.

Now, backtrack to a couple of weeks ago when I went to the University to see a production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. As I have done for many years, I parked in the pay lot and placed my Davis enterprise business card on the dash boad.

EnterpriseCard.jpg (93003 bytes)

Note that this does not have my name on it, but merely "staff writer." For many years now, this has given me a pass to park in the university parking lots.

However, when I returned to the car after Putnam County, I had a ticket.

I wasn't worried. I've had one ticket before and it was excused when I wrote to the parking office and explained my predicament.

So on Monday morning I called the parking office. Only now it's all computerized, so you are supposed to go on line and make your case.

I did that, explained what happened, included the above scan of the business card and figured it was just a matter of time before it was expunged.

HOWEVER, today I received a note from an Erin XX saying that because my card does not have my name on it, it is not sufficient to excuse the ticket and that I am responsible for it unless I can produce a PERSONAL business card.

Well, I still didn't think it was a biggie. I wrote to the woman in charge of publicity for the Theatre and Dance department and asked her to talk to the parking department and straighten it out for me. But I also tried to call the parking office and learned they had closed for the day.

So I decided I would try to write a note to this Erin XX and plead my case directly.

I began to address the e-mail. Now, as most of you probably know, if you have sent an e-mail to someone on Outlook Express, it automatically retains that e-mail address in your address book. I sometimes find this a pain because of how many addresses are there, but it's convenient that when you begin to write the address for someone to whom you have written before, it automatically fills in the address for you.

Before I had finished writing ERIN, the address filled in for me. Hmmm...

So I went to my inbox to see if there was anything in there from Ms. XX. Yes, you should clean out your in boxes. I have >7,000 e-mails in my inbox from people who don't deserve a special folder of their own, plus dozens of folders that filter the more personal mail. I rarely clean any of them out...especially now that I have a terabyte hard drive. I even have folders for dead people that I've never deleted.

Lo and behold there was an e-mail from Erin XX from April of 2009, the last time I got a parking ticket. It reads:


I have dismissed this citation based upon your media affiliation. You should be able to park with just your business card displayed; it just seems that the officer that issued this citation did not see your card.

There is no further action required on your part, but please let me know if you need anything else.

Thank you,


A-HA!!! I forwarded this letter to Ms. XX, along with my comments about the current ticket and we'll see what happens tomorrow.

See? Sometimes being lazy about such things pays off!

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Latest Passion

Just what I didn't need--a new television show to watch.

If you have cable-TV, you must check out the BBC's newest sensation, The Choir. This is the reality TV version of Glee, but it has a lot more heart (and a lot less nastiness).

Young Gareth Malone is a man with a mission. He'd like to teach the world to sing in more or less perfect harmony.

I heard about this show on Facebook and, knowing that I'd missed most of it already, I checked out ComCast's On Demand menu and lo and behold, it was there on the BBC section. Apparently there have been five episodes aired so far.

In the first show I watched, Malone visits the Lancaster School in Leicester, a boys' school long on sports but with no music program. The boys all think it's silly to sing, but he manages to get a few involved and in working with them, more joined until he had a large choir that was good enough to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

I've also seen two episodes from South Oxney, a town which was established in the 50s for victims of the blitz in London to resettle. South Oxney has a bad reputation and everybody else in the area avoids it, fearful of violence and drugs. The town itself has no sense of "community," as witnessed in the first scene by the empty town center, which in many small British towns would be teeming with people, friends meeting friends.

As with the boys' school, Malone finds resistance to...ewww...singing, but he manages to get a few key people who are interested and ends up with a large choir which performs for other South Oxney folks and ultimately (in a different episode) at the nearby Watford Colisseum, where they perform Hallelujah, one of my favorite songs. South Oxney has been reborn. People talk to each other now. The town square is coming back to life.

I asked my friend Steve if he was watching this show and he dismissed it, saying "It's like watching someone work, for me. I always hated rehearsing. So, watching other people rehearse just bores the shit out of me." Never ask the opinion of a professional musician.

For me, the value of this show is the change that music is making in the lives of the people with whom Malone works, the self esteem it is boosting by the simple act of getting groups of people together to sing -- The lonely new widower, mourning the loss of his wife, making new friends for the first time. The young guy who had dreams of being a singer, but found them crushed by economic woes, now finding his voice again as soloist for the choir. The single mother with no friends in town showing an incredible voice when she is asked to take the solo...and earning the respect of a community which had previously rejected her. The special needs girl who gets a solo at the children's choir's first big concert. I cried along with her mother, watching the little girl shine and give a great performance.

I watch this show with tissues at hand, because I find things that move me to tears. But the best thing about this reality show is that while it's long on "reality," you won't find any snarkiness about it. It's a real feel-good show...and if you enjoy choral music, as I do, you'll love it.

Unless, of course, you're Steve.

This afternoon I was working on the review of Suds, the Cabaret show we saw on Friday night. When I do a project like this, I "watch at" things on TV. Sunday is a bleak day for TV to accompany a project, at least for me--there is a lot of sports, a lot of cooking but you need to actually LOOK at the screen to watch those. I do best with a marathon of some show I watch all the time (tonight there is an SVU "killer clergy" marathon, but I needed something earlier in the afternoon).

TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is frequently a good bet, unless they are running moster movies or westerns, neither of which I will watch, or huge historic dramas, which you really want to watch, not listen to. But I came on a showing of the 1955 movie, The Last Time I Saw Paris, with Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor at her most lovely. (Walt wanted to know if there was ever a movie with Van Johnson where he wasn't in some branch of the military! I did tell him that In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland had him as a clerk in a music store at the turn of the century...but I got his point. Johnson was a tall, handsome man during the time when war movies predominated, so it's not surprising that he spent so much time in uniform.)

As this movie progressed I began to pay more attention to the plot. Essentially Johnson and Taylor meet on the Champs Elysee on VE day, when she grabs him out of the crowd during the frenzy of the moment and kisses him. Later, her sister, Donna Reed introduces the two formally. Needless to say they are smitten and eventually marry.

Near as I can figure out, the two spend their marriage cheating on each other, in zipper fashion--first him, then her, then him, then her. The one being cheated on gets his/her feelings hurt and the cheater feels guilty and stops his/her cheating ways until the other one finds a pretty boy/girl with whom to dally. (He with Zsa Zsa Gabor, she with a pretty teeny bopper Roger Moore one year after Ian Flemming wrote the very first James Bond book.)

At some point, Taylor's ne'er do well father (Walter Pidgeon) discovers that oil has been found on his land back in the U.S. of A. and they are now all fabulously wealthy. Taylor utters the classic line "It's that thing that keeps us safe in the Middle East." Yeah. Right.

Anyway, the affairs continue to rock back and forth with some lovely scenery in Paris and around Monte Carlo (which I was pleased to have recognized as some of the roads we had been on).

I kind of missed the last big blow up, when he, frustrated at rejection of his latest novel, has become a drunk. She tries to make up with him and takes a cab to his house. Now it's the dead of winter, snow is all around and she is in this snazzy red dress (with about a 16" waist), open toed high heels, and no coat. He is passed out, having fallen down the stairs, and she just leaves and walks to her sister's house. In the cold. In the high heeled open toed shoes.

Naturally she develops pneumonia and ends up in the hospital where they wheel in scary looking equipment for her, which they don't seem to set up because that would mean she wouldn't look beautiful for the tearful reunion with Johnson and her dramatic death scene.

Without looking at the screen, I knew she was dying because she whispers 'I will always love you' and the music playing is "The Last Time I Saw Paris," in a minor key.

There is a custody battle, with Donna Reed refusing to give his daughter to Johnson because she has loved him all of these years and he never even noticed. But this is a 50s movie so you know that it all ends happily, with Reed turning over the child--no suitcase full of clothes accompanying her--and Dad and daughter walk off, hand in hand, presumably to live happily ever after. Well, after he buys her new clothes, of course.

Made me remember how totally silly those 50s movies were and how I loved them at the time.

Oh. Sorry if this is a plot spoiler for anybody!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mr. Clean and the Merrie Maid

There is nothing that creates a burst of years-postponed cleaning like a phone call from someone saying "We'll be in the neighborhood; we thought we'd stop by for a little bit."

The person in question was Walt's brother Norm. He and his wife Olivia were going to a wedding a couple of blocks from our house. The reception was going to be held across the street at the Veterans Memorial Building and they thought they would drop by while the photographer was taking photos and visit for a bit before they went to the reception.

Now it is no secret for anybody who has read this journal for more than a month that I am not a housekeeper. But I'll say one thing for that new show Hoarders (which I could only watch once because it made me feel too guilty), if nothing else, I can stand here watching the dust accumulate and trying to find a place to put the crap on the kitchen table so we can find a place to put a dinner plate and I can congratulate myself because I'm not one of "those" people.

You can actually see my floor. Some of it. And you can find space to stack things on a shelf here and there. I know that the kitchen counter is blue because there is actually a piece of it that shows when you walk through the kitchen. The laundry pile doesn't reach nearly as high as the ceiling. Yet.

And my desk doesn't look all that bad because I semi-organized it before the guy came to install the wifi last week and so far I haven't screwed it up.

mydesk.jpg  (63411 bytes)

It's only a matter of time, I know.

Now, in fairness to me, because I get so little chance to feel good about something when it comes to housekeeping, I had already planned to wash the floor today, long before Norm called. I suspect there are men's rooms in Grand Central Station that have cleaner floors. And I have this perfectly lovely steam cleaner that works great on Pergo floors. The problem is trying to clean a floor with five dogs curious about what you're doing. But even I could no longer overlook the pawprints everywhere that were starting to make the family room Pergo look like it had a marble overlay on it when you looked at it from the side.

But the dogs were going to Petco and I had decided long before the phone call that while they were gone would be a good time to wash the floor. Norm's call just sent it all into overdrive.

Walt, bless his heart, long ago stopped waiting for a miracle to happen that would turn me into The Happy Homemaker. When he retired and especially when we had these puppies running everywhere, he took on the task of keeping the living room floor clean. Every day he is picking up stuff and sprinkling stuff and vacuuming stuff. It is because of him, dammit, that the recent house breaker didn't run screaming out the front door when he sniffed the living room.

I have kind of ignored the living room ever since we decided to have Pergo installed there in addition to the rest of the house. I stopped caring whether the foster dogs tore up chunks of the rug or not. At one point I packed up boxes of stuff and moved it into the family room in preparation for the Pergo, but the time wasn't right, so the boxes went back into the living room and are stacked around on chairs and the dining room table, waiting to be moved out of the living room so we can get the Pergo laid. The boxes need dusting.

The dogs have been teething on a chair and have destroyed it--but I don't move it out because they only teethe on THAT chair and it keeps them from tearing up other chairs.

(OK, the logic is faulty, but stick with me here)

We haven't had guests here in years. I wonder how old Brianna is going to be before she asks her parents why she has never seen Grandma's house. When we DO have guests, we take them into the family room, where there are only two chairs (because with cages, a playpen and a treadmill there is no room for more. Walt moves in a couple of kitchen chairs for him and me to sit on while the guests have the recliners. It's no biggie. We have no close friends here in Davis any more anyway and it's rare when any family members stop by. And the kids grew up with my casual approach to housecleaning, so they are used to it. Embarrassed by it, but used to it.

ANYWAY, when faced with a rush cleaning job, you work your little tail off and hope that you can get the house to the point where you can apologize because it's so messy and not feel totally appalled that the guests are about to sign us up for a future edition of Hoarders.

While I was sweeping and steam cleaning the rest of the downstairs, Walt was in the living room sprinkling and vacuuming and moving stuff off of the flat surfaces. At one point I found Sheila looking very wistfully at the couch, which had a coffee table and a chair stacked on it (so Walt could vacuum the floor). You could tell she was wondering why she couldn't get up on "her" couch and look out the window.

By the time Norm and Olivia got here, through my eyes the house looked damned good, but I'm used to seeing the stacks and the dust and the clutter. I don't see anything unusual about a bright red blanket sitting in the middle of the living room floor with a broken secretary's chair standing on it. The blanket covers up the concrete, where the dogs ate through the rug, and the chair holds the blanket in place. It's all perfectly logical.

Still Norm and Olivia did stay for awhile and I even let Norm come into my office to check out the wifi set up. I mean, it's not as if they haven't SEEN this house at its cluttered best. Some of the stacks of stuff covered with dust were probably there the last time I hosted a family Christmas dinner, many years ago.

I figure we did our good deed for the day. We've given Norm and Olivia hours of things to talk about, and they can dine out for years on tales of "my brother's house is SO messy...."

When I went into the family room a few minutes ago, I see that the dogs have already torn up something and there were a couple of puddles from the puppy, so it will be no time at all before things will have settled back to normal again.

But for one bright shining moment, it only looks "terribly messy" and not deplorable.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

She Called Me "Sweetie"!

You know you must be (or look) very old when a kid who looks barely out of high school hands you your KFC bucket and calls you "Sweetie."


Harumph. It's amazing she didn't pat me on my big grey head.

Well, it's been a l-o-n-g day. Made even longer because I could not get to sleep last night. It was after 2 before I finally dozed off, and I woke up an hour or so later, then forced myself to go back to sleep, and was wide awake at 5. Even the DOGS didn't want to get up that early and I slid out from under them. They barely moved.

What I wanted to do for the morning was nap, but LifeLine was coming to my mother's at 11:30 and I'd said I'd be there.

The drive down was miserable. I didn't nod off, but my whole body cried out for sleep and my scalp got scratched a lot (those who know me well, know what that means--you can tell if I'm sleepy because I start scratching my head).

I was listening to another Michael Connelly book and even that couldn't keep me from longing for sleep.

The LifeLine installer arrived and put in the unit and all went very well. My mother even seems to be relieved that it's in. Of course she is wearing the pendant UNDER her clothes, and that may affect how well it works, but at least she has it.

The whole installation and testing process took about an hour and then we fixed ourselves sandwiches. During lunch, we talked about senior centers. A couple of years ago the owners of the mobile home park where my mother lived raised everyone's rate for rent on the land their units sit on to more than double. This meant my mother's rent would go from $800 to $1900 overnight.

This became a court case and after a very lengthy court battle, it was resolved that effective immediately, new residents of the park would pay the $1900, while current residents would continue paying their current rents (with cost of living increases each year) for the next 10 years. Since we figured that my mother would finally have moved out by the time she hits 100, this was a great relief for us all.

But now the park has been sold again and she just received another notice saying that they have filed an injunction against the decision and that if they win this time, the rent will go up to $1900, effective immediately. It's kind of like gay marriage. One day you're fine, the next you're not and then you're fine again and just when you think it will all finally be over, they start it all up again.

But this did give me the opportunity to suggest that now might be an excellent time to "home shop." She has some friends who have moved into assisted living facilities and she'd been thinking of getting information about them. I encouraged that strongly and she said that her best friend was also thinking of looking around, so she will suggest to Paula that the two of them go hunting. The main reason she is reluctant to move out of her house is that she loves having the space to entertain, which she won't have if she moves into a smaller apartment.

But at least it's now in the discussion phase.

I was going to take a nap before going home, but our discussion had lasted so long that I wanted to leave before rush hour traffic and assured her I was OK to drive. In truth, I felt fine. Until I got on the freeway. That same damn stretch of highway from Hwy 101 to I-80 put me to scratching my head again.

I stopped at Borders on the way home to use the bathroom and then decided to get KFC for dinner because it would be so late when I got home that I really wouldnt feel like cooking.

And the teeny bopper called me "Sweetie." Harumph.

After dinner we drove to Sacramento for opening night of Suds, the new cabaret show at the Cosmpolitan Cabaret. It's billed as a Rock Soap Opera with all or part of some 60 songs from the 60s. It is about as substantial as a soap bubble, but fun and the audience loved it.

At the cabaret you sit at tables for 4. Last time we sat with Mary Jane Popp, a radio talk show host and one of the reviewers we always see at these things. This time we sat with Walter, whose last name I can never remember, and his wife Terry. Walter, who is in his 70s, used to work with Ned until Ned changed radio stations, so we usually chat when we run into each other. I had a good time telling Terry about my experience reviewing the show called The Puppetry of the Penis (one of my very favorite reviews) during intermission.

I had a very difficult time staying awake toward the end of act 1, but made it through act 2 with flying colors. I am very glad, though, that we saw the show on Friday and that my review is not due until Monday, so I don't have to try to prop myself up and write it when I can barely keep my eyes opened.

Good night, all you Sweeties out there...

Friday, September 24, 2010


I should have seen it coming. But it's here...perhaps not quite here, but coming close.

When the Kindle became the "gotta have it" toy of two years ago, though I did not buy one, one of the appealing things was that I could buy "new" books and wouldn't have to pay new book prices. The Kindle editions were generally $9 for new books that were selling for >$20 in the stores. Such a deal!

Gradually, as the number of Kindle sales have increased, I've seen the price of new Kindle books creep up too. Now it's not uncommon to find only a couple of dollars between the hard book price and the Kindle price. Amazon managed to sucker thousands of people into spending ~$300 (that was the initial price) for an electronic book reader and then began to remove the reason why many of us would prefer an electronic book reader in the first place.

I buy most of my books, whether electronic, for my free iTouch Kindle app, or paper books at Amazon or Borders. My friend Alison (a book store owner in her own town) rolls her eyes at that, but we have only one locally-owned book store in town (the rest left when Borders moved in) and I just happen not to like that store, for personal reasons. So it's either Borders or Amazon for me, mostly Amazon because I'm lazy--buying at Borders involves actually getting out of the house and walking around a store.

With Amazon you can buy new, at a discounted price (which, even if you pay postage, is still less than a regular book store) or there are options to buy used from other vendors. I was amused the other day to see Jon Stewart's new book, "Earth" (which I will probably buy from Borders, if I buy it, because I want to look at it first) selling new for $15.10 and used for $18.85. Now that's just plain silly. Why pay >$3 more for a used book?

Book stores, whether hands-on or on-line, are to me what shoe stores are to a lot o women. I know my way around bookstores and am hopelessly lost (and disinterested) in shoe stores! Though I recently heard of women paying more than a thousand dollars for a pair of shoes or a handbag. Even expensive Kindle books seem like dirt cheap in comparison!

The fall television season has started and I am in hog heaven. My DVR is filling up faster than I can watch the shows. In addition to old favorites returning for a new season (NCIS, House, Criminal Minds, Law & Order, Glee, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, etc.), there are actually new shows that show promise, like Outlaw and The Event.

I was initially put off by all the hype for The Event and afraid it would not live up to press, but the first episode made me look forward to the second, so we shall see.

I even started recording NCIS-LA, now that it seems to have found its own footing and isn't trying to be an NCIS clone any more. It's worth it, if only for the enigmatic Linda Hunt.

I'm a sucker for reality competitions, too. I have no interest in the housewives of anywhere, or bachelors or bachelorettes of anyplace, but I love all those cooking competitions and, of course, am sticking with Survivor and Amazing Race.

When Top Chef ended (I was very happy with the outcome), Top Chef: Desserts started. This is a brand new cooking competition and I thought that since it features desserts, I would love it because I could live vicariously. I've only seen 2 episodes and so far I don't love it. This past week had perhaps one of the weirdest events ever, with one contestant breaking down in hysterical tears during the Quick Fire challenge, so much so that he had to be held in the arms of and comforted by the celebrity judge (who then voted his dessert as one of the least favorites). He then went off on all of his fellow contestants more than once. During a "shopping" spree behind a liquor bar, he stuck the pouring spout of several fruit bottles in his nose to test for the flavor.

It was when he draped spring-form pan frames over his head and topped them off wth a big bowl so nobody would look at him that I just shook my head and hoped he would get voted off. He didn't this week, but he's obviously not long for the competition. His mother may be very ill and have thousands of dollars worth of medical bills and he may love her more than life itself and want the prize money to help her, but he lost even my sympathy vote by his bizarre behavior (and I'm a sucker for a hard luck story).

Survivor this season is pitting the "old tribe" against the "young tribe" (and how depressing it was to hear that the "old tribe" consisted of anybody older than forty. My CHILDREN are older than forty!)

I don't know whether Survivor has been on too long and people are behaving differently because they've watched it so long, or whether the mixed age tribes worked better because the older people mellowed out the younger ones, or whether more age-group specific groups just bring out the worst in everybody, but with very few exception on either team, I don't like anybody. They are all behaving like jerks.

I just hope that there is going to be somebody worth rooting for when Amazing Race starts on Sunday.

Addicted to TV? Why yes, I am. Why do you ask? (be quiet, Jeri)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Spice of Life

If variety is the spice of life, my October is going to smell like the spice vendor's stall at the farmers' market in Arles.

It actually starts next week, a couple of days before October, with my annual meeting with the head of Publicity for the university's Department of Theatre and Dance. We get together at a cafe called Ciocolat. She has coffee; I have coffee and a treat and we discuss the university's upcoming season and decide which productions sound interesting enough for a feature article.

The new Broadway Series opens that night with a show called "Burn the House," which I haven't heard of before, but which looks like it's a lively dance show.

Then comes something I have not exactly been looking forward to. My dentist tells me that I need "gum scraping." It is done in two sessions, each 2 hours. I'm going to bring my iPod with me and listen to a book while it's being done. I'm concentrating on lying there for 2 hours listening to a book and not what it's going to feel like, if not while it's being done (she's pretty good about numbing me up), but afterwards. I figure the first session won't be bad, but I'll probably be less enthusiastic about going back the following week for Part 2.

We also have the birthday party for a 90 year old friend. This is Arthur Sullivan, no relationship to Sir Arthur of Gilbert & Sullivan fame, though Arthur was an integral member of the Lamplighters tech crew for decades. He's such a sweetheart and has always reminded me of an overgrown leprechaun.

ArthurTriptych.jpg (52521 bytes)

Arthur's partner, Jim, is a retired surgeon and always throws wonderful parties, so I am looking forward to easing Arthur into this new decade.

Following Arthur's birthday is this year's PhotoShop Seminar in Sacramento. I think this is the fourth one of these things that I will attend. It's always pretty much over my head, and they are always using the latest version of PhotoShop, which I don't have, but each year I surprise myself by how much I actually do know. I come home energized to try all sorts of new things, and generally don't. But that knowledge is buried somewhere in my memory banks and at least I know what can be done and where to find out how to do it.

Shortly after that, we fly off to Washington, D.C. for Walt's cousins' daughter's wedding.

KayleenSean.jpg (131610 bytes)

This is going to be a gala affair, with the reception held at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. Walt and his brother and sister are arranging a gathering the day after the wedding so they can see as many of their friends in one place as possible. I'm hoping my friend Melody will come, but she didn't respond to my invitation, so...who knows...?

Ashley is excited about dog/house sitting for us this trip, now that we have wi fi. I knew there was an important reason why we needed to get it for the house!

I'm also going to take a Twitter class (and see if the teacher has the same kind of computer/internet problems that I did with my blogging class!). I've tried and tried with Twitter but just can't get into the swing of it. Maybe I'll learn what I'm missing...especially now that we have wi fi in the house.

That's just for starters. There are shows to be reviewed, and other stuff to be done, but this is more activity than I have in any given month. I feel almost like my mother!

(My current favorite picture of Buttercup)

Thursday Thirteen

Women in my life whom I admire

1. My mother, my best friend. She’s not perfect, but there is so much about her that I admire.
2. Dair Rausch, a woman in this town who has given so much to the homeless, low-income, migrant workers, battered women, etc.
3. Laura Morefield, fighting cancer with the support of “Team Laura.” She has opened my eyes to what really happens in the battle against cancer.
4. Gabi Clayton, who lost her son to a hate crime, and went on to become active with PFLAG and to work with (and found) groups devoted to putting an end to hate
5. Georgia Griffith died several years ago, but she was a latter day Helen Keller, blind and deaf and becoming a mentor to other handicapped people so they could get on the internet. She was amazing.
6. Ashley, my SPCA contact, for all the work she does to help animals. She goes above and beyond simply “helping to place dogs in permanent homes.”
7. Ellen and Shelly, fighting tirelessly for gay rights.
8. Maria Mertz, our Mexican daughter, for the successful businesswoman she has become. Who knew that shy high school girl who moved into our house would become so incredible.
9. My daughter Jeri, who has grown into such a talented, giving, caring person.
10. Walt’s sister, for her dedication to and care of her mother.
11. Merrell Frankel (recently deceased) for for life, which was incomparable.
12. Peggy, who puts in incredible hours helping to save orphaned baby kangaroos (and I thought I worked hard with puppies!)
13. Laurie Feldman, a woman I have watched grow from a little girl sitting in the Lamplighters audience, mouthing all the words to all the songs, to a world class opera director.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Politics in the Time of Media

Odd thoughts began to churn around in my mind today while watching Jon Stewart on Oprah (great show. I hope you didn't miss it!)

JonOprah.jpg (21756 bytes)

It occurred to me how much our political opinions are shaped and orchestrated by media. I mean, we all knew that, of course, but remember when we were all worried about our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. When was the last time you even thought about fighting in those countries? When was the last time you heard a report about fighting in those countries?

Remember that mosque in New York. Surely you do -- it was in all the papers. Notice how the ire that had been whipped up to a frenzy has just suddenly disappeared? It was the main story in the news every single day for weeks. Suddenly you dont see it at all. The media appears to be bored with it all and has stopped reporting on it and suddenly -- where is the ire? Where is the indignation? Where is the terrorist threat? It all seems to have returned to the situation one year ago when it all began, before the media, or some media-savvy politician decided to make it a cause celebre.

And remember when illegal aliens pouring over the border from Mexico was the biggest threat to our national security? Remember when we had people rushing off to the border with their rifles, and when the police were going to start arresting people for the crime of looking Mexican? Seen anything about that lately?

Whatever would we do without the media telling us what to get our knickers in a twist about?

Something else very disturbing is happening with this election cycle. There has been an insidious change in electioneering. I've only just begun to put the totality of it all together and see the trend. Maybe I've just discovered something that you guys knew all along.

Have you noticed that nobody seems to be campaigning any more?

Candidates are refusing to debate and instead are relying on their media stream and Twitter posts to win them the election. But the odd thing about all this new crop of candidates who are trying to win the opportunity to go into Congress and make decisions that will affect the rest of us for years to come is that their ads don't say anything.

A nasty picture of their opponent comes on the screen and there is a list of three or four things that the candidate thinks s/he has done that are really horrible. And then some stentorian voice says something like "isn't it time for a change? Vote for John P. Good Guy for Congress."

And that's it. We don't know anything about John P. Good Guy except that he's obviously better than Ebinezer Nasty Man. But we never get a chance to see Ebinezer challenge John about his accusations or about his platform because John is oh gosh darn just too busy campaigning to bother about a little thing like a debate about the issues, or even to answer reporter's questions about off the wall things s/he may have said or accusations s/he may have made. Or heavens to Betsy let you know what his/her plan when s/he gets to Washington actually is.

This is how we have come up with candidates like Christine O'Donnell, who today said that the consitution says right there plainly that the government shall not award any titles of nobility to any citizen, so Obama is clearly in opposition to the constituion if he appoints a Czar of anything.

These are the people who want us to let them run the country.

God help us. And God bless America.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Oh lord, was it a bad afternoon!

The puppy has decided that she must join the "pack" and now that she doesn't eat me alive every time she gets into my lap, I've been letting her sleep in my lap at night with the other two little dogs and I guess I'm just not sleeping well at night.

I was so exhausted after the matinee yesterday that I was falling asleep at 7 p.m. I forced myself to stay up for awhile and then settled in to sleep, covered with dogs. I desperately wanted to stretch out on the couch and I just couldn't bring myself to sleep on the couch that "he" had slept on the other night, so I slept under all the dogs after all.

This afternoon, I settled down to clear away some stuff on the DVR and fell into a deep sleep, riddled with dreams.

First I heard a commotion and went to the door to peek out, then I opened the door to find a large family in my driveway, the oldest man looking like my intruder of the other night, but older. They seemed to be a foreign family. Turkish, maybe. They were there with a big truck and tools. They had decided to clean up my house and yard. Nobody would tell me why, or who they were, but I assumed it was to make up for the actions of the guy who broke in. I tried to get the mother to tell me who they were, but she only smiled enigmatically. I was spending all my time trying to keep them out of the house as they tried to slip through the back gate, opened the garage, and opened the front door which, surprisingly, didn't make the dogs run out.

I was relieved when Walt was suddenly home and we barricaded ourselves in the house, but the house was like a mansion with very tall white walls. We locked a gold chain lock prominently placed on the front door.

Then the dream switched to the Capitol building in Washington, DC, where I was taking a tour with friends. There was Mary from the Netstock group, with her daughter (who is now a teenager, but who was a toddler in the dream), and my grammar school friends Lois and Maureen, my mother, and some other people. I remember that I was wandering around what was like a rummage sale being held there to demonstrate the downturn in the economy.

At some point I got lost from the group and kept trying to call my cousin Peach, who was apparently part of the group. I finally caught up with them, and we all got on a bus together. I took some photos, using my telephoto lens to take pictures of Lois and Maureen, with whom I had not yet spoken and they apparently became upset and disappeared.

Just before I woke up, I was trying to take a picture of Mary's little daughter.

I haven't had such vivid dreams in I can't tell you how long.

While I was busy with my daymares, the puppy was busy with my cell phone, which I'd left on the table beside me, when I sat down to watch TV.

holder.jpg  (84367 bytes)

I went out this afternoon to get a replacement cell phone holder at my local Verizon store and ran into a good deal.

Seems they are having a BOGO (buy one, get one free) sale, so if you buy an accessory, like a cell phone holder, you can get either a car charger or a charger for your house. Only I don't need either of those things, so one guy suggested I get a second cell phone holder in case a puppy got to the new one, since it would be free.

So I left Verizon armed with two brand new cell phone holders, and the next time a puppy decides to teeth on the one I'm using I'm already all set.

Sometimes you wake up to good things.

(Incidentally, the video of the day was really recorded for the's what goes on here about once a day or so, whenever a siren sounds in the distance.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some Embarrassing Confessions

I really missed Walt today. I was reviewing the third show this weekend, Camelot at the Woodland Opera House. It's a fabulous production and I'm giving it a glowing review.

guen_arthur.jpg (59724 bytes)

But because it's Sunday, it was a matinee, a 2 p.m. production. I've become MUCH better about shows over the past couple of years. Ever since I stopped working a 9-5 job, transcribing at night, and reviewing shows all at the same time, I almost never have problem falling asleep in a show. And if I do, Walt knows that his role is to poke me to wake me up again.

Things became much better when I realized that even if I'd had a good night of sleep the night before, I really needed to take a nap before a show. Doesn't make a difference if it's the best show in the world, I tend to nod off during the show without a nap.

But at a matinee, on a day when I'd slept until nearly 8 a.m. in the morning (though the dogs going into barking frenzy at midnight had me kind of spooked for awhile, but the front door was barricaded), I didn't think I would be sleepy.

I took my friend Ruth to the show with me. She hadn't liked Thursday night's show very much and I figured this would make up for it. And it did. Fabulous casts, beautiful looking show and everything was wonderful.

Except I got sleepy. More than one time...many more than one times...I found myself picking myself up after leaning waaaay over to the side and falling asleep. Ruth didn't know that her role was to poke me. I missed a crucial scene. I just hate it when I do that. But 3-show weekends are always tough on me. I don't know how New York critics go to a show every night!

In addition to falling asleep intermittently throughout the show, there was the finale. I haven't seen Camelot for a long time. The first time we were involved in the show here in Davis, David had the role of young Tom of Warwick, the kid who comes on at the end, wanting to be a knight of the round table and who helps Arthur realize that his legend will live on.

So when this production's young Tom of Warwick came on, all I could think of was David and the tears flowed. I just hate crying at the end of the show because I leave the theatre with red eyes and I am just so embarrassed to admit I've been crying--especially this time because I was crying over memories and not the show itself. I didn't want to admit to Ruth that I was crying either, so I told her we had to wait for a minute, while I rummaged through my purse for my cell phone and I sent Walt a message that said "Run, Tom of Warwick." I felt more under control and less weepy and we were able to leave the theatre.

I drove Ruth home and decided I would get something for dinner. I hadn't decided if I would pick up something or have dinner in a restaurant, but suddenly I realize I had to go to the bathroom very, very badly, so my decision had nothing to do with where or what I was going to eat, but where I could find the closest bathroom.

I decided on a Chinese restaurant and decided I'd do take-out, and told the guy I had to use his bathroom first. He directed me to the rest rooms. I opened the door and it was pitch black and I couldn't find the light switch. Things were getting more and more desperate and I can't find the damn light switch anywhere.

I finally opened the door far enough to take aim on the toilet, then shut the door and groped my way there in the dark. I wasn't quite in time and peed on myself and on the floor before getting most of it in the toilet. How embarrassing!!! When I finished, I had the time to open the door and find the light switch which was about 3 feet from the door and up higher than a normal lightswitch.

Since I was ordering take-out, I didn't leave a big tip, which is too bad because of the mess I left in the bathroom. Another embarrassing confession.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Having "The Talk"

The plan for today was to go to my sister-in-law's 60th birthday party. As it turned out, I was the Sykes family sole representative, except for her husband, who planned the party. Walt is in Boston with Jeri, Tom and Walt's sister (and her husband) were at a wedding for one of Tom's friends, and Ned was home nursing his sore mouth.

NedsMouth.jpg (59832 bytes)
(all he wants for Christmas is his 2 front teeth--and he might finally get them!)

That left me to help the birthday girl celebrate her day.

The party was at 1:30 so I left early and went to visit my mother for a couple of hours first, since she wasn't feeling well enough to go to the party. And we had "the talk."

We talked about her wishes when/if the time comes that she's not able to live independently and I talked with her about Lifeline. It surprised me to hear that she had been thinking of both. She readily agreed to wearing a Lifeline pendant and we agreed that if it comes to the point where we don't feel she is safe to live independently, she would prefer to go into an assisted living facility instead of having someone come into her house.

In truth, that is pretty much what I would have suggested, but it's nice to know that she agreed with my thoughts.

Whew. I'm glad THAT's done!

Then I went on to the birthday party. Talk about surreal experiences. I keep forgetting, since Olivia and Norm have been married for so many years, that her uncle had sung with the Lamplighters in its early days. In fact, I interviewed her uncle and his wife (and their 4 or 5 white poodles) for the first Lamplighter history, many years before Norm and Olivia ever even met.

It's a branch of the family that doesn't usually show up at the Easter dinners, so when Aunt Alice and her children were introduced (I'd probably met them before), Marilyn said "Didn't you write the Lamplighter history?" and then talked about how they had found Uncle Ray's scrapbook with all the newspaper clippings recently and how she had taken on a project to scan them so that everyone in the family could have copies of them.

So there I was at my sister-in-law's birthday party talking with an old Lamplighter's family about Lamplighter memories and people we all knew from years and years ago, long before my brother-in-law had ever even met his future wife!

(Not only that, but Marilyn works with the Marin Humane Society, so we had that in common as well.)

But the first surprise had come when I walked through the door to the party and was greeted by Olivia's friend Paulina, who was full of comments about my recent little break-in experience. Turns out her husband has been reading Funny the World since our Russia trip (hi, Bob) and had told her all about the midnight napper. Very flattering to learn about this new reader, but strange to discover. I enjoyed talking with him about blogging in general.

The party was very nice and I had a good time, and even better when I came home, someone had posted a bunch of photos from the party on Facebook (since I forgot to take my camera)

OliviaBD.jpg (76889 bytes)

I finally had to leave to come home. I was glad of the long distance involved in getting here because my audio book was getting riveting and wherever I had the choice of which direction to turn, I always took the way I thought was the longest.

I must be off my game because, again, I hadn't brought my camera with me today, but I did text with Walt a couple of times and it was a surprise to get a note from him that Jeri has eye glasses, presumably for reading music. I always thought it strange that both Walt and I have worn glasses since our childhood and all four of our parents wore glasses, but none of our kids have had eye problems. But now that they are middle aged, Ned has had to get reading glasses and now, apparently Jeri has too.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My First 911

Around 4 a.m., the dogs barked and barked and barked. The little ones eventually came back and got in my lap. Polly wouldn't relax, but just sat at attention, looking down the hall, trembling. Lizzie stayed in the hall woofing and woofing. The light was on in the front hall, so I could see Lizzie's tail and she was barking into the living room, but I ignored her--dumb dog barking in the middle of the night. Big Scary Sheila appeared not to notice the commotion.

Eventually Lizzie came back in the family room with the rest of us and we all went back to sleep.

At 6:30 I got up, went to the bathroom, swept the family room floor of all the doggie debris, and then went into the living room to check for dog poop.

I picked up a couple of piles over by the dining room table and took them to the bathroom to flush. Then I got more toilet paper and went to check the other side of the living room, and I stopped short.

There was a man sleeping on my couch!!! His back was to me. I could see he was young and muscular. The dogs barked and barked and he didn't move. I was stunned (of course) and tried to figure out if maybe this was one of Tom's friends who decided to crash here for the night. I know there is a wedding of one of his buddies this weekend, and maybe there had been partying going on. I kept staring at the back of his head and his hairy legs poking out from his knee length pants, trying to find something familiar about him.

I finally went into the kitchen, got the phone, went into the laundry room where I could close the door, and called 911. All the while I was doing this, Polly was barking at the inert lump on the couch, who didn't move.

The dispatcher told me to go outside, which I did, and she kept me on the line until the police cars (2) showed up. All the while I was waiting for the police, I could hear Polly barking and could see that Lizzie had climbed over the guy and onto the table behind the couch to watch me. He never moved.

The police came in and handcuffed him. The guy was a drunk college student who apparently wandered into the wrong house. I probably forgot to lock the front door last night. I had the option of having him arrested or letting him go and, having had stupid kids myself, I decided to let him go.

So the drama is over, but I'm still kind of shaky. He must have been VERY drunk because it was about 30 minutes from the time I first saw him until the police arrived and Polly barked at him the entire time and he never even moved.

But it's funny how you react when your privacy has been invaded. I want to send the couch out to be cleaned. I want to put a chain lock on the front door (even though this was probably my fault to begin with because I probably forgot to lock the door last night). I want to build a blockade in front of the door before I go to sleep tonight.

One thing I learned was which of the dogs is the best watchdog. Big Scary Sheila was useless. I may have to adopt Polly.

And the measure of how upset I was by all of this was that I had a totally inert body on my couch for fully half an hour after I discovered him, with dogs running over him and barking at him and I didn't take a picture!!!!!

This is apparently my week for police confrontations. I went to review a show at the University last night. The deal is that I put my business card on the dashboard and I can park for free in the parking lots. Only occasionally there is an enthusiastic traffic cop who doesn't know that. When I got back to the car there was a ticket on the windshield, a $40 ticket.

Fortunately I know how the system works (or has worked up until now). If I get a ticket, I just have to call the parking office, show them my business card and the thing gets expunged.

At least that's how it's always been before. Let's hope that still works!

I'm also trying to get to AT&T. We have such horrendous static on our telephone line that you can just barely hear the person on the other end (try giving a police report through that heavy static!). I tried calling AT&T and was told they preferred that you give complaints on line. Well, I'm an on-line kinda guy, so I went on line to the AT&T web site and after MUCH searching I found out where you can report problems.

I've reported problems before. They send a guy right out and it's fixed in a jiffy.

Now, I filled out a complete form and they led me to a complicated page of instructions for what to do to fix it myself. Maybe.

I haven't tried it yet. After the parking ticket and the guy sleeping on my couch, I just wasn't up to tackling a bit of electricity repair. I'll just use my cell phone until I'm ready to try it again.

And finally, I decided to tell Walt about it anyway...we finally have wifi!

wifi.jpg  (130868 bytes)

I called Davis Community Network and arranged for someone to come and install our router for me. When I went to look for the router, I couldn't find it. Jeri reminded me of our problems trying to install it before and suggested that it was so old, maybe I should get a new one. So I did on the way home from Sacramento yesterday. It took Craig all of 15-20 minutes before he got the router up and running and I was downloading a book onto my iTouch.

When Walt gets home he will finally be able to use his new lap top with the speed it can give him, which should give him lots of free time to install a new chain lock on the front door.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Boring "How I Spent My Day" Entry

This seems to be a busy week, for some reason or other. Yesterday I met my friend Ruth for lunch at the local Chinese buffet. Today I met my friend Kathy at the Olive Garden in Sacramento. Ruth and I eat together every other Wednesday; Kathy and I eat together every month. Sometimes the two lunch dates happen in the same week.

I like making the trip to Sacramento to meet Kathy because it means I get to listen to my audio book. I'm slowly making my way through Diana Gabaldon's fourth book, which is something like a bazillion pages long in unabridged format. It's actually six different files from and I am now in the fifth file (each file is about 6-7+ hours long). With a trip to my sister-in-law's birthday party this weekend and 2 hours of a dental procedure later this month (they tell me I can listen to the audio book while Cindy is scraping my gums), I should make big headway on file 5.

So anyway, we had a nice lunch. If you remember back a month ago, Kathy stood me up at our last lunch (and I went to Red Lobster for crab instead). I found out why today, and it is a good reason why I never fit in a corporate environment. I won't say what the problem was but suffice it to say if you're going to make accusations against a supervisor, make sure it's not for something she has been honored for locally, state-wide, and nationally! But the process of getting to the "nothing really happened" decision took two months and 30+ interviews. That kind of corporate games playing just ain't for me.

I had thought of going shopping for clothes after lunch, so that maybe I can wear something new to the family wedding we are attending next month, rather than the same pants and top I wear whenever I need something fancy, but lunch didn't sit well in my stomach, so I just came home instead.

I did make one stop en route to get up something for tomorrow, when something exciting is going to happen (I hope) which I won't be able to talk about until next week...but I can keep dropping tantalizing hints about it.

Knowing I had to review a show tonight, I decided I should take a nap (I've decided that I should take a nap before every evening show I need to review, whenever possible...I even nodded off recently in a show that I knew well and loved. It's hell to get old.) I slept through all of South Pacific, which I thought would be a good movie to have on in case I didn't go to sleep. All the way from "Gonna Wash That Man right Out of MyHair" all the way to the final credits.

The nice thing about napping is that it's impossible to nap without three dogs in my lap, but since Buttercup has finally learned that laps are for cuddling and not for teething or fighting, she's pleasant to have with the group. She and Shiloh have become such good friends that they sleep together in my lap, in Buttercup's cage, or on a pillow in the living room. She was kind of funny, though, this afternoon as I watched her slowly slide off the end of the chair in her sleep. What a rude awakening that must have been!

The show I was reviewing tonight was The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the University. I remember reviewing it a few years ago and really enjoying it.

spellingbee.jpg (96783 bytes)

Since Walt isn't home right now, I invited Ruth to join me and met her there. It was a good production, but I didn't like the show as much as I had before. I think it's because I was seeing it again. It just gets boring, especially since it is done in 2 hours with no intermission. Ruth agreed with me.

Tomorrow I'm reviewing an outdoor production of Romeo and Juliet, so I'd better have an extra-long nap, knowing how Shakespeare puts me to sleep!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The End of a Beautiful Career

I don't know if you can call teaching one 1-1/2 hour class every six months as a volunteer a career, but I think it ended last night anyway.

I taught my third blogging class and by the time it had finished, I decided I didn't want to do it again. For all sorts of reasons.

The class is held in a room in one of the city training offices that has about 10 computers. One computer is connected to a projector so the students can see on a screen what I'm typing on the computer.

All of the computers turned on except for the one that I needed to use. My partner fiddled around with it but she couldn't get it to work, so we called the expert, who only lives 5 minutes away, so came down to see if he could get it going.

In the meantime students were arriving. Four had pre-registered for the free class, Seven showed up (fortunately I had prepared hand-outs for 10). The youngest student was 14, the oldest was my age or older.

The first thing I always do when teaching this class is to go around the circle to find out why they think they are there. The first time I taught the class I had 3 people show up and all three really didn't have the first notion what a blog was and what they really needed were web sites for their businesses.

By now I guess more people are becoming aware of what blogging is and most of the people were there to do an actual blog, though one woman wasn't sure what was the difference between blogging, Twitter and Facebook.

The way I've done it the last two times was to have everyone log into Blogger, since that's the blogging platform that I use and with which I am most familiar. Then I take them through the creation of a blog and once they have their blogs created, we look at the various things you can do to tweak them.

I logged into Blogger, as I always do, and discovered that the city had now put some sort of firewall on its computers which prevented people from viewing personal blogs. Swell.

We called the guru again to see how to bypass the firewall, but he admitted he didn't have a clue what to do about that and wished me luck. The warning screen I was getting said that you could override the system for a 60 minute period of time, but that it would have to be done in 10 minute segments, which really didn't work for what I was trying to do, but I tried to go ahead with it anyway.

I set up a test blog like I always do, but I couldn't really have the students set up their own blogs and go around and help them, because every 10 minutes, it timed out. We did get blogs started, but it was very choppy and I was thrown off my game.

I finally just had people ask me questions. The person with the most questions was the 14 year old, who sat at the far end of the room and spoke barely above a whisper, so every time she asked something I had to walk back to help her. She had also brought her own computer, which had print that was very tiny and a screen that was very dim.

People in the class asked more questions that I couldn't answer and I had to say "I don't know" more times than I have in the past, which was embarrassing for me.

In the end, I think people learned some things but I didn't enjoy it at all, and left feeling that I really didn't want to do it again. I'll have to think seriously about this in the future.

I had to take Walt to the Sacramento airport at 5 a.m. this morning. It was after midnight before I got to sleep and my internal clock (aided by dogs) woke me up at 4 a.m., so I just stayed up, fearing I would otherwise oversleep. I felt like a zombie when I got home from the airport and ended up taking a nap until a very strong muscle cramp hit the top of each foot and sent me into an upright position trying to walk the cramps out.

I was still groggy when I drove downtown to have lunch with my friend Ruth and when I got home the only thing I wanted to do was sleep again, so I napped off and on almost all afternoon, waking intermittently to more foot cramps.

I'm still feeling groggy, my stomach somewhat unsettled by the Chinese lunch I wasn't really ready for, and, amazingly, another nap sounds pretty good right now, but if I take a late afternoon nap, I won't be able to sleep tonight!

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen places I’ve visited that I absolutely loved

1. Geraldton, Western Australia
2. London
3. Glendalough, Ireland
4. Washington, DC
5. Jasper National Park in British Columbia
6. Seattle, WA
7. Yosemite National Park
8. Mendocino, CA
9. Lagoon Lake, Western Australia
10. Graemsay, Orkney (Scotland)
11. The Cliffs of Mohr, Ireland
12. Cinqueterre, Italy
13. Arles, France

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Friday vs. Collar

A couple of people have been asking me, over and over again, if I'm watching Friday Night Lights and then tsk-tsk-tsked when I admit that I had never watched the show, telling me how it's the best show on TV.

I think "best" show on TV is definitely subjective. I had started watching Friday Night Lights when it first began and just couldn't get into it, so stopped. However, when someone told me that the Family Channel was rerunning the entire show, starting with Season 1 (2006), I decided to see what I've been missing.

FriNite.jpg  (67361 bytes)

When I watched the first episode, I realized why I had stopped watching it to begin with. For one thing I'm not a big football fan. I like football, but if this was going to be a show which spent an hour every week talking about football games, I wasn't really interested. I also found it very difficult to understand about 1/3 of what was said. This being about a high school team, the boys all have that mumble way of speaking which, combined with a Dallas accent makes me have to work too hard to understand what they are saying (add to that the sadly familiar Comcast pixellation that freezes our television for a few seconds several times during a show and it's not very rewarding to even try!).

But the show now has several seasons under its belt and I decided to stick with it, since it is being broadcast, now, a show a night and doing a 4-show marathon gets you hooked faster. I'm now hooked. I still wouldn't say it was the best written or best acted show on TV, but I'm enjoying it and have been informed that as the show moves on the plot lines get further away from just high school football.

It is, though, an odd thing to realize that there are places in this country where high school football is so big that it is the main topic on the radio, the players' homes have big signs in front of them with the name of the player and the position he plays, and most of the town turns out for games.

As passionate as some of my friends are about Friday Night Lights is how I've felt about USA's White Collar, though I have yet to able to get anybody to watch it.

WhiteC.jpg  (66978 bytes)

I love the characters, I love the writing, and I love the chemistry between Neal Caffrey, forger and thief, released to the custody of FBI Special Agent Peter Burke (who was the one who arrested Caffry in the first place, after a long chase) in order to help the FBI solve some of its most puzzling white collar crimes.

The problem with White Collar, however, is that I suspect it might be confusing to start watching it now. There is such a continuing story arc, which doesn't affect the weekly crimes to be solved, but is such an integral part of the overall story, that I wonder if anybody could catch up. Who is Kate? Who killed her and why? What is the mysterious music box? These are becoming larger and larger parts of the before and after story and I would probably find it off-putting myself (which is why I rented four seasons of Sopranos before committing myself to watching the new season, back when I was hooked on that show...I needed to know what had gone before).

However, I really strongly recommend investing a little time, renting Season 1 from Netflix or watching it on Hulu to get caught up before it returns next summer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hey, Mr. Postman

Monday is turning into letter-writing day for me, at least many Mondays it is. Sometimes it's every other Monday.

On Monday, I try to get out some sort of letter to the Compassion kids. Sometimes it's an e-mail, which is nice but kind of boring. When I get into it, it's a letter and a little gift to go along with it, and probably a photo. There are all sorts of ways to get creative, but you are limited to something made of paper and not thicker than 1/4". I've found that things like stickers, and page from coloring books, post cards, and a few other creative things I've found help make it possible to send each child something each time.

Then there are the letters themselves. On Mondays when I'm feeling creative, I write a separate letter for each child. Other Mondays, I write a generic letter that can be sent to each of the six children. That's what I did today. With school starting, I wrote a description of my grammar school and the walk to get there and what the building was like. Then I just copied that same letter for each child.

They all got something different, though. Fred got some pages from a book I bought awhile ago called "Prayers for Boys." It has very cute pictures and though I'm not big on the religion stuff, they are and I know they will like it. To Pedro, who is older, and Brasilian, I sent a package of socceer stickers. Anjali in India got a little gift bag (the kind you put gifts in) that I removed the handle from (since the rope-y material wouldn't go) and I put a couple of stickers inside the bag. I sent Shallon in Uganda some pages from an activity book. She can read and write English, and I knew she could understand the instructions. Briana from Haiti got some stickers from a book of fairy stickers and Esther from Indonesia got a pad of note paper with a smiley face on it and "God Loves You."

With all of the sponsored kids taken care of, I also wrote a letter to Bri on paper that I decorated with stickers and put it inside a blank Mickey Mouse card, I'm writing in larger letters so that when she starts to read, it will be easier for her. I wonder if she can understand "BRI" yet....

Finally there were post cards. I joined something called "Postcrossing," where you send postcards to others who have signed up for the program. It doesn't start any sort of dialog at all, since they don't have your address so can't respond, but I'll see how it goes. I've already heard from someone from Facebook who has been doing this for many years. I hope to confer with her and find out what her experience has been like.

I took all my goodies to the post office, bought stamps, stopped to buy post cards (you only get 5 addresses at a time, but I decided to send out all 5) and then came home to check Facebook, whereupon I saw an ad for Women to Women International. I'd heard good things about the group before, but this particular ad tugged at my heartstrings because they were asking for help for women of the Democratic Republic of Congo, women who have been devastated by rape and AIDS and who have lost all hope.

My heart went out to these women, especially because we have friends from Congo, now living in the United States. and I remember their horrible tales of persecution, and how desperate they were to get their families to this country to prevent their torture and/or execution.

I could not turn my back on a request for help for the women of Congo, so I immediately applied to become a "sister" to one of the women from Congo (my second and third choices being Rwanda and Afghanistan, if there is no woman in Congo who is in need right now). The commitment is a monthly stipend (of course) and letters to be written to my "sister," when she is assigned to me.

I realized that my monetary sponsorship commitment was getting up there so I thought about where I could cut back. I ended my subscription. Now that I have all of the big-ticket Diana Gabaldon books, to buy a regular book is not all that much more than to pay the monthly fee, and I have a huge backlog before I will need to buy another audio book.

And I also ended my membership in While I enjoyed finding out about some of my father's relatives, the amount of time I have available to spend researching genealogy there does not justify the monthly cost and, frankly, the cost will just about cover my Woman to Woman sponsorship.

I dare either of those organizations (Audible or Ancestry) to try to talk me into keeping my membership, when I put forth such an eloquent case for what I was going to do with the money instead!

I won't know about my sponsored "sister" for about a month, but she will then go into the Monday letter writing queue. At least those letters, with imbedded photos, can be sent by e-mail and I won't have to go to the post office and buy stamps for them!