Thursday, March 31, 2011

Big Love

If you have Big Love on your DVR and have not yet watched the series finale, or if you are curious and plan to rent it from Netflix, DO NOT READ THIS ENTRY. It will be a spoiler from start to finish.

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I was curious when I saw that there was going to be a HBO series about polygamists. I don't know how I feel about polygamy. After five seasons of the show, I still don't. But I loved the series.

Bill Paxton as Bill Hendrickson was very likeable and I fell in love with two of his wives, Jeanne Triplehorne as Barb and Ginnifer Goodwin as Margene. I've actually never liked Chloë Sevigny in anything, which probably means she's a wonderful actress because she never plays sympathetic roles, and her role as Nicolette always had an edge to it, often more than not.

In the first season, we see the Hendricksons as your average family. It's just that they live in three houses which are all connected by a big back yard (not visible to the neighbors). Bill goes to work, the wives sometimes are in their own home, sometimes together planning the activities and menus for the week, discussing the problems of the children and making the schedule for in whose bed Bill would be sleeping on any given day.

Bill had grown up on a polygamist compound but left it for a more normal life. He married Barb, who never imagined she would enter into a plural marriage. Nicki was the second wife and is already in place (as is Margene the third wife) at the start of the series, so we don't see what went into convincing Barb to enter a plural marriage.

Bill runs the local very successful Home Depot type store in town with his partner, Don, also a secret polygamist.

During the first season we see the "good polygamists" and the "bad polygamists." While Bill's wives seem to be full partners in their marriage, the women still on "the compound" are under the thumb of the evil Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton), a self-proclamed prophet. The women dress in old fashioned garb, are often seen to be beaten and we see the dark side of polygamy. Roman's a real bad ass, who is finally killed by his son, Alby (Nicki's brother) in Season 4.

Alby is worse than Roman and what's more is a closeted homosexual. There is a constant war between Bill and "the compound," which he can't completely give up because his parents still live there.

As the series progressed, things began to shift. Margene finds that she's a wonderful salesperson and gets involved in several schemes, which seem to work against the family. Nicki is torn between her devotion to the compound and her father, Roman and her marriage to Bill. She often is the odd woman out, maintaining a semblance of the old compound ways in modified compound dress and hair style.

Bill decides to run for state senate. He is determined to make "the principle" (polygamy) legal in the state and figured that if he can get elected, he can make that happen because the electorate will see the truth behind the what he perceives to be the normalcy of his family. He runs as a man married to Barb and keeps his plural marriage a secret until the election is over.

He does get elected but things don't quite go the way he expects. His appearance with all three of his wives, and with their children at the end of Season 4, at his victory party sends his supporters into a tizzy.

I knew that Season 5 was going to be the last and I wondered how they could possibly end the series. I had seen Ginnifer Goodwin interviewed and she was so tickled about the ending, said it was something nobody would ever expect and that it was just perfect.

What could happen? They obviously couldn't end with the legalization of polygamy, since that hasn't happened. And for the Hendrickson family to leave the neighborhood would be just running away and would solve nothing (though leaving open the possibility of another series).

Well, the writers were brilliant. First, we began to see more of the compound mentality in Bill. Barb feels the calling to be a priest in their religion, but Bill puts down his foot because only men can be priests, Bill starts his own church when he is ousted by the existing one. His congegation is very, very small. Barb starts attending a church where she can exercise her calling to the priesthood.

Bill nearly loses his business and then Margene confesses that she had been 15 when she married Bill, which makes him guilty of statutory rape, even though he didn't know it. He is also in danger of losing his senate seat and he is shunned by everyone.

Then he takes a stand and brings a bill legalizing plural marriage to the floor of the senate, causing all sorts of havoc, but he becomes the hero of the plural marriage community. His church is suddenly filled with people, who treat him with the reverence that they would treat a prophet.

Barb, in the meantime, misses his big momennt in his new church because she's being baptized in her other church, but at the last minute can't go through with it and returns to Bill's church and her sister wives.

As the series winds to an end, there is a noise outside and Bill goes out to see what's going on. A mentally deranged neighbor has a beef with Bill, pulls out a gun and shoots him. As Bill lies on the ground, dying, he asks for Barb's blessing, essentially giving his approval to her priesthood.

The final scene takes place 6 months later. The family is still together. The wives work together more closely than ever, Barb has taken up Bill's post as the head of the church and the whole issue of their plural marriage is now a non-issue, since Bill is dead. Their children are starting their own families, and most have rejected the notion of plural marriage.

This may be long and rambling in the telling, but I was so incredibly impressed at how the writers took this story from the beginning to the end, created just the right kinds of friction and problems to bring about a really logical/workable/believable conclusion. And, as Bill had taken a tractor to the compound buildings before his death, the compound is gone too.

Really, really a great show.

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen movies released the year I was born (I've seen the ones in bold)

1. Heaven Can Wait
2. Cabin in the Sky
3. For Whom the Bell Tolls
4. The Human Comedy
5. Mr. Lucky
6. Madame Curie
7. The Ox-Bow Incident
8. Shadow of a Doubt
9. The Song of Bernadette
10. Watch on the Rhine
11. A Guy Named Joe
12. Lassie Come Home
13. My Friend Flicka

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do you want fries with that?

I was driving home from the Bay Area at 5 p.m. this afternoon and yawning repeatedly. I realized I was very sleepy and decided to take my usual sleepy driving remedy: a McDonald's iced mocha, which seems to wake me up instantly and allow me to finish my ride home.

I pulled into the drive-through of a McDonald's and did a double take when the first thing I was asked was "do you want oatmal with your happy meal?" "Uh...all I want is an iced mocha," I answered. "OK. Do you want fries with that?"

Now, I know that all these places are supposed to push extra stuff but sometimes it goes a bit overboard. Oatmeal for a side dish? At 5 p.m.? Fries with an iced mocha?

I somehow have the idea that the person on the other end of the microphone might have been having a little fun at the customers' expense. When I asked her about it, she didn't admit it, but the big smile on her face was all I need, as she continued to ask the next customer what extra thing they might want with their food.

It was almost worth going around for a second mocha just to see what she would try to tempt me with.

All things considered, it really was a lovely day. We were interviewing Lawrence Ewing, actor, singer, and board member for the Lamplighters. We were meeting him at 11 at his apartment in San Francisco. Now, parking in San Francisco is difficult at best, impossible most of the time.

I thought I had told the story of my parking angel here, but a search of my journal entry database seems to indicate that I have not. So, if you've heard this before, apologies.

Gilbert's family came out from Oklahoma for his memorial service and funeral back in 1986. His cousin had never visited San Francisco before, so the day after the memorial service, I offered to drive him and Gilbert's niece around the city so they could see a little before returning home. I was driving Gilbert's car and when I got into the car I said, "OK, Gilbert. I've been finding you parking place for years; now it's your turn to find me parking places." That day I found a parking space in the middle of Chinatown (I'd never even SEEN a parking place in Chinatown in all the years I'd lived there), and in front of the back door the Ghirardelli Square, again a place you normally have to park blocks away from.

Ever since then, Gilbert has been finding me parking places everywhere. People used to scoff when I said that, but so many people have seen it happen when I ask Gilbert to find a parking space for me, that I have a whole legion of believers. Gilbert has been dead nearly 25 years now and I did tell him he didn't have to look for parking for me any more, but he seems to still be doing it. I'm sure this is his penance for whatever sins he committed in his lifetime.

Naturally there was no parking near Lawrence's flat. I found a metered space, but even though I had lots of quarters, it was only good for an hour and I figured we'd probably need 2 hours (we did). So I called on the big guns: Gibert. On my return trip around the block there was a perfect parking spot right across the street. "Show off," I told him.

Only the problem is that though the size was perfect, the older I get the worse my depth perception gets. I used to be great at parallel parking on San Francisco hills (even using a stick shift), but I could not get angled right to get into this parking space and finally gave up.

"Let's change the request," I told Gilbert. I not only need a right sized parking space, but I need one that my aging eyes will let me park in. I drove around the corner and there was a space that looked almost perfect, that ended at a driveway. Just what I'd asked for. But I thought I might be leaning over into the driveway. I could just hear heavenly sighs as I gave up on that space as well. One car past that there was a space that was exactly the length of my car and that had both a driveway behind it and a fenced off grassy area in front of it. See what you think? Is this heavenly sarcasm, or what?

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When the interview (which was delightful) was over, Alison took off for BART and I decided to go across the Golden Gate Bridge and go home through Marin County so I could stop off and visit my mother. I was thinking I'd have lunch in Sausalito, which is a major tourist spot. All the fancy restaurants were crowded and there was no parking,but on the way out of town, I found this great little place.

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(notice that I'm parked directly across the street)

where I stopped for lunch. There were these great old guys there having lunch.

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I realized that the "old guys" were probably my age. You'd expect a couple of guys like this to be discussing sports, but they were talking about movies, actors and actresses, directors and Elizabeth Taylor's death and her movies. I was sorry that I wasn't close enough to really eavesdrop fully. but I thought it was so Sausalito.

Outside the cafe there was a bank of newspaper racks and I saw that Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashin had just died suddenly of a heart attack at age 49. His aunt was a very good friend of my mother's and she has spoken with him often. I was shocked to read of his premature death and stopped at my mother's on the way home to talk with her (she had already spoken with his cousin). It was nice to visit with her, even briefly, and I watched her feeding her ducks, who were kind of hanging out on the little hill across the parking lot from her place, but when she walked out on the porch with bread in her hands, they immediately waddled across the parking lot to be fed.

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My mother says she likes how the male duck stands guard and doesn't eat until the female is finished eating.

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Mama duck must have been extra hungry because she gobbled up all the bread cubes herself, and ended up with bread sticking to her beak.

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But as it was getting on toward rush hour, I left after only an hour. I didn't expect that I'd be so sleepy, but I'm glad I was, or I never would have been offered oatmeal at 5 p.m.!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Communication gap

I'm really going to have to learn how to communicate better. I'm obviously doing something wrong.

If you were to get this message from me, setting up the time for an interview, what would you think?

"Shall we say 6 p.m.?"

We showed up at the interviewee's house at 6 p.m. on the dot and they had expected us at 8. Not only that but the spouse seemed somewhat disgruntled because there were other things that they had planned to take care of between 6 and 8, when they expected us.

I apologized profusely, sure that the mistake was mine, but still thinking that I would not have made an interview appointment for 8 p.m., knowing that I would have to drive 80 miles home after it was over.

But, no matter. We got that settled and had a great interview.

The exchange with today's interview subject included this: "I'll be on the road by 10, but I'm meeting Alison at the Grand Lake and we'll find a restaurant somewhere around there. I'll call you when I get to Oakland." The interviewee then suggested a Japanese restaurant near where I was meeting Alison.

When we arrived at the appointed place of the interview, there was surprise because the interviewee had no idea there would be two of us coming and thought that the interview was going to be conducted at the Japanese restaurant.

Sigh. Did I not say "Alison and I" and did I not specifically say that "we" were going to have lunch, "not YOU and I of course, but Alison and I" ??

As I said, I need to learn how to communicate better. Tomorrow we are doing an interview at 11 a.m. at the home of the subject. I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to screw that one up.

However, despite the mix-up, the lunch was FABULOUS. We had been recommended a Japanese restaurant in Oakland called Mijori. One of those little neighborhood hole-in-the-wall places that looks like a hundred other places, but this was so good. Alison had a rice bowl, which looked wonderful.

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I had a bento box with my choice of ingredients. I chose beef gyoza and tempura and it was amazing.

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Everything was flavorful and the fried stuff was very light, not greasy-heavy at all. Best of all, neither lunch cost more than $10. Definitely the high point of the day.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Sometimes it seems like you start one little thing, like sending a snowball down a mountain that ends up as an avalanche ... or pulling that one little loose thread in the arm of a sweater than ends up unraveling the whole sweater.

I sort of feel like I'm at the start of an avalanche...and it's my choice whether to let it continue or not.

First of all, unrelated to my avalanche, I woke up at 2:30 this morning. As I do every time I wake up in the middle of the night and am looking to get back to sleep, I checked what was on TV and ended up turning on the PBS broadcast of a concert performance celebrating the 25th anniversary of Les Miserables. I figured that would be a sure-fire soporific. It's a show I know well, so I could just enjoy the music while I kept my eyes closed and drifted back to sleep.

Well. Uh. No.

If you get a chance to catch this broadcast and if you are at all into musical theatre don't miss it! It was one of the most exciting bits of theatre. I did some research and it was held at the 02 Arena, a 23,000 capacity venue in South East London. According to the Les Mis page there were over 500 artists on the stage for the performance (presumably this includes the members of the orchestra).

All those big musical numbers were breathtaking. Just see it. Even though the broadcast (with pledge breaks) was 4 hours long.

Needless to say, I was not sleeping so I decided I could NOT watch it, but I couldn't turn it off, so I moved to the couch in the living room, where I could hear it--barely--and thought maybe I could sleep. But no. Finally at 3 a.m., I got up, went to Amazon, found out it was a $20 DVD, ordered it, and then I could turn off the broadcast and finally get back to sleep.

But now to the avalanche. I feel like I’ve just fallen down the rabbit hole. I’ll tell ya, you start mucking around on the Internet, one link leads to another and suddenly you are in information overload.

This all started because I've run out of people to correspond with. I've written letters all my life, starting with pen pals in grammar school, a correspondence with my friend Judy when I went on vacation, a very long time writing back and forth to Peach when she and Bob were traveling around with the Navy. There was a daily correspondence with my friend Phil, until Gilbert died, when it stopped. There was a lengthy correspondence with my friend Ann (who co-founded the Lamplighters), which kind of petered out. My friend Diane died. Peggy has other things to do and if I'm lucky I will hear from her once a month, but it's not quite the same as the frequent exchanges we had. I realized that my mail box was lonely and I missed having that "somebody" to write to.

I read something somewhere that made me realize that there were web sites out there where you could look for a pen pal and I began to investigate them (one of them was kind of creepy, but the rest seemed pretty interesting).

A couple of days ago, I discovered a blog called 100 days of Snail Mail, by a writer who was determined to write at least one snail mail every day and write about her experiences. I decided I wanted to read about the project, starting at Day 1 and on up to today (Day 70-something). Next thing you know, I’m following links to other blogs, learning about somethings called "Mail Art," and "Swaps" and making your own envelopes and agreeing to write to soldiers and sick children or just send a person on a list something they think they'd like to receive from you. All sorts of things. I have 50 bazillion blogs I want to follow, photo sites for doing special stuff. It makes my head spin!

(I have to ad that so far I am the oldest person I have found on any list. On some lists the "old people" are the age of my children. I have found a few in their 50s and 60s, but nobody 68 or older. But it does my heart good to see how many people in their 20s and 30s, both men and women, want to find pen pals. It gives me hope for the future of a correspondence that extends past text messaging!)

At some point in my crazed web surfing today, I decided that I want to learn how to make envelopes, so I gave it a try, using a program that will print a Google earth picture of your neighborhood (or any other neighborhood, for that matter) on a page that you can fold up and make the inside of an envelope. Given how many thumbs I have on each of my hands, I wasn't optimistic, but my envelope wasn't awful. It wasn't really very good either.

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But there were a couple of problems. The first is that the envelope it makes is so tiny it's only good for putting inside another envelope, since the post office won't mail anything that small.

The second problem is that my printer is crap. It works great on just regular black and white printing, but the color is really bad. Printing on regular paper is hopeless. Printing on glossy paper is better, but I've printed off some pictures for the Compassion kids and they are OK but if I got them at a photo store, I would reject them and refuse to pay for them.

Now, the obvious solution is to think about getting a new printer. They are certainly affordable these days. Ahhh, but there's where the avalanche starts. The printer is easily accessible, but the PLUG is not. It is behind tons of junk. So the first step in getting a new printer is to move the tons of junk that has been collecting dust for about 10 years. That means relocating all the binders I have for the Compassion Kids. And as long as I'm doing that, I might as well find a way to organize pen pal letters before I get deluged with them (assuming people will actually want to correspond with me).

There are about 100 things that should be done in the process of getting a new printer and I know that if I start, another 200 will make themselves apparent. I will end up with taking everything out of the office (which I did, I think, when I installed the current printer) into the family room and starting from scratch putting it all back.

Now this is really a very lofty goal and a really good idea, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to jump onto the snowball and get enclosed in the inevitable avalanche right now, when I have two Lamplighters interviews to do this week and Brianna's birthday coming up at the end of the week!

(Oh yeah...and I started a new blog, like I don't have enough already, for my own Pen Pal project like all those blogs I have been reading for the past three days). So I probably won't be talking about all this project much here again, but if you're curious you can find the new blog here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

To Martini Time

Walt and I are enjoying a Saturday night martini. It seems the week for it. This is not a cousins day frou-frou vodka martini, but a real gin-n-vermouth martini. I asked him to hold the olive (since I don't like green olives). Turns out we don't have green olives anyway, so the request was not necessary.

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There were a lot of virtual toasts to Martini Time earlier this week. On Wednesday there was a memorial at a carioca bar in San Francisco for Ned's friend Brendan, who passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago. This was Brendan at his best.

Brendan "Baddy" Bailey Memorial
from Titus Prime on Vimeo.

People who weren't able to make the memorial (like Jeri and Phil, for instance) sent messages via Facebook that said "to martini time," which has been a part of Lawsuit life for a very long time.

saum.jpg  (30849 bytes)Then today we attended a memorial service for Jim Saum. We didn't really know Jim well, but his wife played in the orchestra for the Davis Comic Opera Company, when it was still alive and we always saw Jim around.

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Davis was filled with people who had known him. It was one of those services that you hope someone will have for you. I found I knew almost nothing (not "almost"...nothing!) and with what reverence and love he was held by the people who knew him. There were wonderful warm and funny stories--and tales of the impact he had on people throughout his life. What a lovely legacy to leave behind!

Jim grew up in Emmett, Idaho. He attended Oregon State College leaving to serve in the Army 1943-46. Following his discharge he completed a master's degree at Oregon State, then earned his doctorate degree at Stanford University. He worked as a professor of counselor education at Sacramento State College/University for 36 years. He was particularly active in legislative concerns related to establishing professional standards for counselors, helping to write most of the pertinent legislation. He was the recipient of many awards and much recognition for his professional and community service. He died peacefully in his sleep at an Alzheimers facility at age 89. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years.

(No, I don't have a great memory; I found an obit for him)

The memories of his family, friends and people who had worked with him were so touching. But the thing we enjoyed most was how much Jim liked his evening martini. In fact, it had been such a part of his routine for such a long time that the doctor prescribed a nightly martini for him in the facility where he lived.

We thought there would be a lot of DCOC people there, but we only saw three there...I guess DCOC is beginning to be more scattered (and old) than when the company was still putting on shows.

But we felt the need to come home and have a martini and toast Brendan and Jim Saum. (Of course, Walt made me my martini about 4 hours ago and I'm still sipping it!)

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I got a couple of nice compliments on my new rainbow smiley sox at the memorial!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's All in the Timing

The sun was out when Walt was ready to go to work this morning, so he decided to take his bike instead of the car. He really likes riding his bike to work and hadn't been able to do it all week. (Retired? Did you think he was retired? Just because they had that big party for his retirement? Oh you silly person!)

Since we only have one car and I had no appointments this week...and since it has been pouring off and on...I have been in the house all week, after I got home from Cousins day. So I decided to run some errands.

First I went to the post office to mail lots of stuff, including 3 letters for my Compassion kids, a post card for the postcrossing project, and a couple of letters to new pen pals. As I walked into the post office with this big stack of things to mail, I realized I'm getting obsessed by this whole thing. Must. stop. now.

But I mailed the envelopes and bought some more stamps.

Then to the Dollar Store. The Dollar Store is a great place to get little gifts to send to the Compassion kids. There are lots of Bible-related things there and since I'm not really a Bible reader, I am happy to find things that I can send to the kids, so I can give them some religious content, just not from me.

I was amused to look at the display in the book aisle.

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(The book on the top shelf is called "Best Laid Plans" and you can tell from looking at the cover that it's definitely not something about planning anything!)

So far it was all going OK. I got several things for the Compassion Kids, a few things for the Christmas boxes I make up each December through Samaritan's Purse (figured I'd get a head start and pick up a thing or two whenever I'm in the Dollar store), and some stationery for writing to the new pen pals (see what I mean about being obsessive?)

The stop at the post office and the stop at the Dollar Store means that I arrived at the supermarket just before noon. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was stuck behind a very old (older than 68 :) ) woman shuffling along with her walker. God love her, she was out and about and walking on her own, but she moved at about 6" an hour and there was no way to get around her because she was in the middle of the parking lot. So I patiently waited and finally got to park my car, after she glanced at me rather menacingly as if daring me to run her down. I finally got into the market.

Oh my word. I swear the entire population of the University was there trying to get lunch. The aisles were filled with the kind of shopper who is browsing and who finds something facinating and stands there on one side of the aisle with the cart totally blocking the rest of the aisle.

I had thought I would pick up one of my favorite deli sandwiches for lunch but there were at least 100 people in line ahead of me, so I got some Chinese food. (You buy a "single serving" at this place and it would feed a family of four in a developing country for a week. I ate my fill after I got home and you can barely tell I took anything out of the box!)

Then I went to check out with my packages and every one stretched out into the aisles and, as an emergency call had gone out, there were clerks running from everywhere, hastily tying on their checker aprons.

By the time I had checked through, it had started raining again. I thought about how much of our lives is all about timing. If I had left the house 30 minutes before, I probably would have avoided the old lady, the blocked aisles, and the long lines at the check out stand and the rain and I would have come home with a nice lamb sandwich instead of Garlic chicken and chow mein.

How many times in one's life has something monumental happened because we were 30 minutes too early or too late. And will we ever know that...?

Just something interesting to think about.

Friday, March 25, 2011

March Memeness

I loved this one, stolen from Kwizgiver. It's "60 things you might not know about me."

1. What is in the back seat of your car right now? I don't have a clue. I think nothing. It is still at the body shop being repaired, though it should be back tonight.

2. When was the last time you threw up? Maybe a month ago? I had been feeling "odd" and suddenly there I was. Once I threw up, I was fine.

3. What's your favorite word or phrase? My favorite word, at least the one I use most often, is probably 4-letters. But for phrases I do like "I always think there's a band, kid."

4. Name 3 people who made you smile today? Do 4-footed people count?

5. What were you doing at 8 am this morning? Sitting right here checking stuff on the Internet.

6. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? See above

8. Have you ever been to a strip club? Yes. Read "My Life in the Fleshpots of San Francisco."

9. What is the last thing you said aloud? "Do you want dinner?" (asked of the dogs, who were very happy when I asked them)

10. What is the best ice cream flavor? I make a vanilla malt with chocolate chips that is to die for

11. What was the last thing you had to drink? coffee

12. What are you wearing right now? Sweat pants, a "two dads are better than none" t-shirt, my Partridge Litigation Support sweatshirt (which, sadly, is starting to look old and raggedy, I've worn it so much!) and jelly belly sox.

13. What was the last thing you ate? Trader Joe's mini oatmeal cookies.

14. Have you bought any new clothing items this week? Yes. Ordered sox from The Joy of Socks web site this morning.

15. When was the last time you ran? ran? Surely you jest!

16. What's the last sporting event you watched? the World Series

17. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Africa or the inland passage to Alaska

19. Ever go camping? yes, and I don't ever need to go again

20. Have you ever lost anything down a toilet? I think so, but I don't remember what.

22. What is your guilty pleasure? Breakfast at Jack in the Box (sausage and cheese biscuit and orange juice)

23. Do you use smiley faces on the computer a lot? Not a lot, but some

24. Do you drink your soda from a straw? I don't usually drink soft drinks, and when I do, it's about half and half. I like the feeling of the ice in the drink on my teeth, but if it's a paper cup with a lid on it, I'll use a straw.

25. What did your last text message say? "Yay." (Walt had just texted to say that our car would be ready to be picked up today)

26. Are you someone's best friend? I hope so.

27. What are you doing tomorrow? basically the same thing I did today

28. Where is your mom right now? In her house, 80 miles away, probably playing solitaire.

29. Look to your left, what do you see? My little office TV, showing an Elizabeth Taylor retrospective

30. What color is your watch? I don't wear a watch

31. What do you think of when you think of Australia? Peggy

32. Ever ridden on a roller coaster? yes, and once was definitely enough

33. Birthstone? amethyst

34. Do you go in at a fast food place or just hit the drive through? If I'm by myself, the drive thru; if I'm with Walt, we go in.

35. Do you have any friends on facebook that you actually hate? Isn't that a contradiction in terms? I do have friends that I like less than others.

36. Who is the last person you wrote a snail mail letter to? A woman named Phyllis, whom I found on a pen pal site. I wrote a first letter to her yesterday.

37. Last person you talked to on the phone? Someone from the fraud detection unit of my bank...everything was OK, but they called literally FIVE minutes after I placed the order for socks.

38. Have you met anyone famous? yes, several people -- Judy Garland, Carol Channing, Theodore Bikel, Tipper Gore, Harlan Ellison, Michael Connelly, the dog that played Sandy in a traveling production of Annie...and a few others.

39. Any plans today? We're going out to dinner at a Thai restaurant which is donating part of the proceeds to Japan earthquake relief.

40. From whom did you get this? Kwizgiver

41. Are you happy? more or less -- and rather more than less

42. Where are you right now? sitting at my desk in my home office

43. Biggest annoyance in your life right now? A toss-up between Charlie Sheen, and the fact that you can't buy roses that smell like real roses any more.

44. Last song listened to? The song Ned wrote for Brianna's 2nd birthday, which has become an ear worm.

45. Last movie you saw? The King's Voice

46. Are you allergic to anything? not that I know of.

47. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time? SAS loafers

48. Are you jealous of anyone? my sister-in-law, who is about to do something that I have wanted to do for years.

49. Are you married? yes, for 45 years

50. Is anyone jealous of you? I doubt it

51. What time is it? 10:21 a.m.

52. Do any of your friends have children? almost all of them do

53. Do you eat healthy? rarely

54. What do you usually do during the day? stuff on the computer, sometimes frivolous, sometimes actually "working."

55. Do you hate anyone right now? no, I don't hate anyone

56. Do you use the word 'hello' daily? no.

57. How many kids do you want when you're older? Older than 68? I think that ship sailed years ago!!!

58. How old will you be turning on your next birthday? 69

59. Have you ever been to Six Flags? Yes. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. Once, I believe. I went for the animals, not the rides.

60. How did you get one of your scars? Carrying a box with my friend Madelyn, in high school. A nail sticking out of the side cut me on the arm. I can't seem to find the scar now, but it was there for years.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Risky Business

We were driving down the freeway and she was texting. But she wasn't texting where she could be seen by a highway patrol officer. Since it's against the law, she was holding the cell phone in her lap and looking down to write her text. I was terrified, but I didn't say anything. I sighed a huge sigh of relief when we arrived at our destination. I should have spoken out, but I was afraid of hurting her feelings. I did check to make sure there was an air bag in front of me.

Why do we do that? Why do we put ourselves or others in danger for the sake of keeping the peace...or for the instant gratification of sending or reading the text NOW instead of five minutes from now?

I remember years go my mother talking about a friend of hers, a priest, who had spent the evening at her house, having dinner and drinking way too much. When she talked about the evening to me the next morning she said she was so relieved that he made it home safely because when she saw him stagger down the stairs barely able to make it to his car she worried so much about him.

Huh? She was putting a drunk in a car on the highway. The heck with his safety! What about the safety of the people he might hit if he caused an accident. I asked her why she continued giving him drinks when he was clearly not fit to drive. "Well--he wanted another drink," the consummate hostess replied. Never say no to anyone, especially a man, who asks for another drink he's really already too drunk to have.

We don't take the warnings or the dangers seriously.

I remember when my uncle was still alive. He had macular degeration and his vision was severely hampered, but he felt it was safe to drive because he "only drives around town" and he brought my aunt Barb (who had Alzheimers at the time) with him to let him know when a stop sign was coming up. He lived in a relatively small town. But my god, he could have killed someone just backing out of his drive way.

People talked to him about the dangers, but everyone was afraid of him, so nobody actually took his keys away from him. They didn't even warn the DMV when he renewed his license. He was legal to drive until he was 100. I was relieved when he died without having killed someone.

When I was a young adult, we all had stories about dumb things we did while having had too much to drink, many of which included funny driving incidents. Heck, when I was working for The Lamplighters in the 1980s, I would go out to dinner with Gilbert after work. We would each have a Manhattan before dinner, many nights, and then split a bottle of wine. I would then drive the 80 miles back to Davis. Many nights I knew that I was not safe to drive and once I fell asleep at the wheel and almost ran into a fence (THATwoke me up pretty quickly and I never drove home again after drinking too much)

We think of ourselves as invincible. Those are the things that happen to the other guy. But somebody has to be the "other guy" and sometimes that "other guy" is us. Or someone we love. Or one of our children.

Of course there was David, whose friends did all the responsible things -- took him home when he was too drunk to drive after a party, hid his keys from him, and, when he found them, took the keys away from him twice before they finally got him to sleep and went to sleep themselves. Nobody could have guessed he would have gotten up a third time, found his keys and tried to drive home, his last minutes being wrapped around a telephone pole in San Francisco.

There are people who drive too fast, who follow too closely, who text while driving, who do other dangerous things behind the wheel. We really need to be reminded that we are sitting behind a huge metal object that can easily kill people, often ourselves.

Is it really that important to get there 5 minutes earlier by putting the life of everyone on the highway in danger? I often see cars speeding and weaving in and out across thre or four lanes of traffic. I pray that a highway patrol car has set up a speed trap.

Please. If you drive a car, drive as if every other car on the road was being driven by your own child. If you're late for an appointment, make an apology when you get there, don't drive too fast to try to make up for lost time, or text a warning message while holding your cell phone in your lap and not looking at the highway.

(I have become the person my father hated. The old lady driving the speed limit on the right side of the road. He would impatiently wait for a chance to speed past her.)

And, for god's sake, don't do what a man I had to ride with one time over the speed limit with one hand on the steering wheel so he could check his phone messages with the other, while looking off to the side at me to tell me something. I never, ever got into a car with that man again. At least he was sober.

Thursday Thirteen

Facebook status updates I’ve enjoyed. I'm posting this today in memory of Baddy B., whose status updates were gems and whose memorial service was last night

1. David is not unhappy, but doesn't know what makes him happy, specifically.
2. Adam had a dream last night he was watching "Waiting for Godot" starring George Jessel and Lou Jacobi. One of my weirdest dreams ever.
3. Joe is enjoying the familiar rattle and groan of his pipes expanding as the first, hot cup of sweet coffee elixir rushes down into his guttywucks.
4. Ally is taking applications for a worry proxy. inquire within.
5. Linda stopped at store. No one wants to run out of nacho makings if trace of snow. Scary how much of my diet is chips, cheese, onions, jalapenos.
6. Kim: 5 Hershey's kisses with almonds and champagne...... the breakfast of champions!!!!
7. Sharon: I know I sound like an old geezer, but music today really sucks.
8. Marta: Where's Bart Simpson? I need to strangle somebody.
9. Kerry: currently doing an experiment in procrastination. I'll let you know how it works out if I ever finish it.
10. Sue: I think the cheese head hats would be far more interesting if they were really made out of cheese...
11. Baddy: If God wanted me to stand, he wouldn't have given me a butt.
12.Elizabeth is a reveling, drunken, whoring pervert.
13.Christine: Dear Toasted Cheese Sammitch, Thank you. You were wonderful. You were toasted perfectly, with your cheese inside being just the right amount of melty. I didn't wolf you down, though I wanted to. Nay, I lingered... enjoying our time together. We shall meet again, of this I am certain. Love always, Christine

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

May the Force Be With You

There were two issues that predominated our Cousins Day (1) my mother's fingers and (2) the force field that she found herself sitting in.

Perhaps a bit of explanation is necessary.

We had scheduled Cousins Day for today (Tuesday), but my mother had a doctor's appointment on Monday and, since Kathy hasn't been feeling well and we didn't think she was going to make Cousins Day at all, Peach decided to come with me to take my mother to her doctor's appointment, saving me a second trip.

And that's what we did. My mother has symptoms of "trigger finger" and had been to a private doctor some time ago, on the recommendation of her step-son. Of course she hadn't called Kaiser about it and ended up paying $400 for the appointment, which included an injection of cortisone mixed with a couple of other medications. It eliminated her pain instantly.

The doctor told her then that she shouldn't have to pay out of pocket for when Kaiser has a guy who was "better than I am" who could treat her. "The guy" turned out to be the doctor who operated on my mother's ankle.

Her first injection has lasted a year, but she has been having problems again and so made an appointment to see her doctor. Having been with her at doctor's appointment, I really feel strongly about accompanying her because she really forgets an awful lot of stuff and I just feel better if I can be on top of what her doctor tells her and what regimen she is supposed to follow so I can remind her when she forgets.

So we went to see the doctor and he gave her the injections. Within minute, her fingers turned numb, as he told they would. The numbness was beginning to wear off this morning, as he told her it would, but last night she must have told us 100 times if she told us once that her fingers felt weird and that she didn't like them feeling like that.

The only thing that kept her from telling us this 200 time was the force field.

I don't know if I can adequately describe the force field, but this is how it was explained to us. We started playing 65 when we got home from the doctor's. Now, before we left, we played canasta, which takes a different deck of cards than we use for 65. So when we began to play with the 65 deck. Something happened and every single time she picked a card off of the deck, she would let out a sound of surprise and tell us that there was something that was pushing the card toward her body and that the cards felt like if she let them go they would fly away (but when she tried, they didn't).

Peach and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes, but this complaint about what we came to call her force field went on and on and on. Every single time she picked up a card, she had that sensation.

Finally we had her change seats with Peach. The force field stopped. She didn't feel it sitting in Peach's chair and Peach didn't feel it in my mother's chair. We played one round that way but my mother didn't like sitting in Peach's chair, so they switched back. Instantly the force field was there again. We decided it must be our aunt Betsy, who was very into things like this.

My aunt Betsy was an artist, a very good artist. In fact, she introduced my parents. My father met her when she was one of the street artists at the Worlds Fair in San Francisco in about 1940 She was dating his best friend, and she arranged a double date with my father and my mother...and the rest, as they say, is history.

But Betsy was also into the supernatural and life after death and anything mystical. The story goes that she woke up one morning and wasn't feeling "right." She decided to draw something and got a piece of paper and a pencil and started drawing, only the pencil moved by itself, she says, to the opposite side of the paper and started making teeny triangles. She ended up just barely holding the pencil by the eraser and it seemingly drew a picture of a Chinese man all by itself, the entire picture done in tiny triangles. My mother swears that she saw it happen.

ChineseMan.jpg (38639 bytes)

This is actually an enlargement of the small picture she first drew. If you look at the very bottom of the picture, over on the left side, you see a dark spot. That was a mayonnaise stain on the original paper she used.

She actually produced two pictures like that, the second one a woman, drawn with tiny circles. They say that she once took them to a Chinese store to have the characters at the bottom translated and that it so upset the man who read them that he went to the back of the store and wouldn't talk with her (this may be apocryphal, but that is the story I was told).

So, as you can see, it was a logical assumption that this was Betsy trying to communicate. Or maybe someone else in the family who has crossed over trying to contact my mother.

At one point, Peach changed the deck of cards and shuffled and dealt a different deck and again, there was no force field. So we don't know what it was but at one point we could actually see a card kind of fighting with her hand and every time it happened (and it happened every time she made a move), she would comment on it and wonder why this was happening to her.

A part of me halfway expected to wake up in the morning and to discover that she had died in the night--and that this had been a premonition of things to come. But no, she was awake at the regular time and when we started playing cards, the force field started again.

Eventually Peach and I had to leave, so we've left her alone with the force field and who knows what is going to happen now!

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Understand My Mother

I've understood my mother's seemingly irrational fear of technology on some level, but it wasn't until today that I really, really felt her pain. Ironic that it should come on a day when she called me on her cell phone. My mother has had two cell phones before, both purchased under duress at the urging of someone in the family. She never used either, even when she needed a cell phone and went looking for a pay phone.

But somehow she saw an ad from AARP that spoke to her and all on her own, she ordered a cell phone. When it came, she learned how to use it all by herself. She asked me to add some phone numbers to it and today, when something happened to her land line and she had no phone, she actually figured out how to call me on the cell phone. Good Mom!

My understanding of my mother started yesterday when our issue of PC Magazine arrived. We have been receiving this magazine for years. It was a selection originally as a substitute when another magazine went out of business and we still had months left on our subscription (I'm not sure, but I think it was Ramparts magazine).

We've been getting PC Magazine now for at least 15-20 years. Each month, I glance through it, but more and more I'm understanding less and less. PC Magazine to me now is like reading something in French or Portuguese. I can recognize a lot of the words, but I don't have a clue what they mean in context.

There was a time when we were all learning how to use computers, when I read all the computer magazines, but you find that the more technology advances, if you don't need to know all the latest software or gadgets, you begin falling more and more behind at faster and faster speeds. And here is where I begin to understand my mother. She has no need for all the gadgets that we all use, so she scoffs at them and makes fun of us for using them...but today, when she needed a phone, she figured out how to use her cell phone and discovered it wasn't so difficult after all.

Now, I am going to tell you about my afternoon. I fully expect that this is going to be confusing to everybody including me, but I want to describe my pain and explain what happened--and how it all seems to have ended.

I was connected to iTunes and I noticed that when iTunes syncs your iTouch, it syncs the "notes" feature of outlook express or explorer or something. I had never noticed that feature before. I have been trying to find a way to type myself a note on the computer and move it to my iTouch ever since I GOT the thing. The best I can do, for a long note, is to e-mail it to myself on GMail, pick it up on my iTouch, and then do a cut and paste into the notebook app. This is definitely not ideal, but I was very proud of myself when I figured that out.

However, if there is a way with a simple sync that I could get notes from here to there, I was all for it. But I realized that in order to do that I would probably have to upgrade iTunes, which they have been bugging me to do for months.

The thing I hate about upgrades is that you just get something working the way you want it and somebody figures out a little tweak that THEY like and they upgrade the software and then you have to figure it all out all over again. I am using Version 3 of Front Page Explorer, dated 1995. I know that technology has advanced waaaay past this program, but it works for me and I don't need anything fancier, so I don't see the need to upgrade. I still use Word Perfect 9, which is so out of date that whenever I have someone here to work on the computer they have never heard of it--now it's all about "suites," which I don't need and never use. WP9 and I are old friends.

But I did like that potential "notes" function for my iTouch and so I started on my nightmare. I clicked "yes" when it asked if I wanted to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes. And it did its thing for what seemed like a very long time, until I got the message that something had gone wrong and it couldn't install. OK...I'll try again. (What is the definition of insanity? Repeat the same thing over again expecting a different result?) Again, it would not install and suggested that I download it first and then install it, making it a two step process. OK. Let's try that way.

There were some intermediate problems that I encountered that I've forgotten now, but ultimately I downloaded the new version of iTunes and started to installed it. But it seemed to get hung up about 3/4 of the way through. It sat there in one spot for more than half an hour and I finally decided that I wasn't going to be able to install it this way either, so I cancelled the install and figured the heck with "notes," I'd live with what I already knew.

But then I plugged in my iTouch and it told me that it could not recognize that machine because it was not turned on. What? I couldn't figure out what that meant. I tried everything to get it to recognize my iTouch, but it would not.

Finally, trying to figure out if it was a computer problem or an iTouch problem, I got out the laptop and set that up. I decided I would upgrade iTunes on that machine first while at the same time trying to install iTunes on the desktop. When the laptop install was done and I connected the iTouch, it did recognize it, but it said that I would also have to update the software on the iTouch (of course). This meant that, it told me, all of my apps and documents would be erased and to be sure they were backed up on my home computer. Well, I knew they were, so I blithely started the upgrade of the iTouch, only too late realize that I had no clue whether, after this was over, I would be able to connect the iTouch to the computer with the backup files.

I had things being installed on both computers and on my iTouch all at the same time and I was running back and forth from the kitchen to my office, keeping track of both. It took forEVER and I kept seeing messages like "uninstalling programs" which I didn't like at all. When the software seemed to be upgraded, then I got a picture which looked like it was wanting me to plug the iTouch back in. But it WAS plugged in, so I disconnected it and reconnected it again. Somehow that worked and it began syncing...for nearly an hour. It took all my willpower to just let it sit there doing its thing.

It had finally gone on so long that I decided it had stalled and disconnected it. I could now turn on the iTouch, but it had nothing on it. Photos gone. Videos gone. Games gone (though amazingly my kindle books were still there).

Now came the moment of truth. I plugged it into the desktop and after a couple of lurches it started synching. This was a better idea for a couple of reasons -- first, because everything is backed up on the desktop, and second, because with this synch, you could see how many more files needed to be backed up.

After about six hours, the sync was finished and (almost) everything was back as it once was, except for the videos, but most of those just needed to be moved over from the library. A few could not be moved, but I'll figure that problem out later.

Finally. I had my iTouch back. I have upgraded iTunes and the software for the iTouch.

The only thing is...I still can't figure out how to synch the "notes" feature.

Cousins day tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Simply Thrilling

This video has had over 6 million hits (as well as being on The Today Show, I think), so you probably have seen it already, but it's just so darn cute I had to post it here.

I have said here before, but it bears repeating...the great thing about being a critic is that you get to see everything (for free). The bad thing about being a critic is that you have to see everything, the good, the not so good, and the really bad stuff.

I don't review shows every weekend, but more weekends than not and sometimes you have good weekends and sometimes you have bad weekends. Sometimes if I'm reviewing three shows on a weekend, I'm pleased if one of them is good.

Last weekend was a split weekend. One show was so-so, the other show was one that I wasn't reviewing, a Lamplighter show, the first half of which was a play which was so-so and the second half of which was Trial By Jury which was great.

This weekend I had two shows to review. We went to the first one last night, a play called Master Class, which was presented by my favorite theatre, Capital Stage, in Sacramento. The company is in the process of moving to a new theatre, but right now they perform on the old Delta King riverboat, which is kind of cool. They have a lovely, intimate theatre downstairs and we've been going there for about five years now.

Master Class is by Terrence McNally and is based on a series of twelve master classes that Maria Callas gave at Julliard in 1971. Though there are five people in the show, this is esssentially a one woman show.

Janis Stevens gave an amazing performance as Callas. She was funny, sad, angry, reflective all rolled into one. You were mesmerized by her performance. The others in the cast are a pianist and three students who are coming to be critiqued by Callas. They really serve the role as props more than actual performances because when they sing, Callas is transformed by the memories of things in her own life and Stevens' non-speaking moments were almost more breathtaking than her speaking moments.

She does quite a lot of imitation of Onasis and to watch that, it's impossible to picture the refined Jacquie Kennedy we know as the wife of this sloppy Greek buffoon. But of course these are the memories of Callas filtered through the pen of McNally.

We left the theater uplifted. It was truly one of the most amazing performances I have seen in my years as a critic.

And then we had to face Sound of Music tonight. Sound of Music is one of those shows like Annie that you can't avoid, but after seeing it a bazillion times, the magic is just gone. Fortunately I like Sound of Music much better than Annie, but I always sigh as I realize I have to see it again. I understand now how the poor newspaper critics felt about reviewing The Lamplighters. Gilbert & Sullivan only wrote 13 operettas that are commonly performed and what in the world can you say about HMS Pinafore the twentieth time you are reviewing it?

The Sound of Music production was at the Woodland Opera Company, a local community theater. Community theaters as a general rule, when they do a good production, have a few really good performers (if you're lucky) and then fill in with the not-so-good. With one or two exceptions who weren't "not-so-good" but just not on a level with the rest, this cast was outstanding and the production was easily the very best community theater production of Sound of Music I have ever seen.

The children were uniformly wonderful. Little Gretl (Anneli Spieler) was absolutely irresistible. She's only 5 and she got a little squirmy before the end of the show, but only a little squirmy and by god, she didn't miss a cue or muff a line or forget to sing a single thing.

The boy who played Friedrich (Christian Salmon) hit a high note on the good night song that was so clear and so perfect that I felt like I looked like the surprise on that baby in the video above.

But the real find was the Mother Abbess (Nancy Agee) who was clearly on a par with any professional singing that role in a professional production. She was so perfect on Climb Every Mountain that I sat there praying that she hit the last high note clearly and she nailed it.

After eleven years of reviewing theater in this area, I guess I have become a bit jaded and it takes a lot to thrill me, but these two shows this weekend were each, in their own way, absolutely thrilling.

I don't review another show now until April 13, so I have time to come down to earth after this weekend!

Oh...and if anybody cares, this is the 11th journalversary of Funny the World, the mirror site to this one. Whew. 4,010 entries under my fingers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sleaze and Deception

The caller ID said it was a woman calling from a local number. It's always a NAME that calls, always different, always local.

"And a goooood morning to you, Mrs. Sykes," said the sleazy voice that I recognized instantly. (He says "gooood" like Robin Willliams in Good Morning, Vietnam.) I could hear the grease dripping off of his hair as he continued on, oblivious to the fact that I was remaining stonily silent (usually I hang up on him).

He continued on to tell me that "It's that guy who always calls you," he purred. "It's always something" (usually it's taking some unspecified group of kids to a ball game). He's great at tugging at your heartstrings, while holding up the jar of snake oil that you know you want.

This time, it's "guys returning" who need some help in resettling and, well, Easter is coming and they want to do something special for these guys.

"And where are these guys coming from?" I asked. I've volunteered at the homeless shelter and know a tiny bit about this.

"Oh they're coming back from across the water," he said, "and some of them can't fit in the homeless shelters."

"Across the water?" I said. "That could be across the causeway for all I know" (the road that leads from Davis to Sacramento across a spillway for the Sacramento river.

He laughed as I pressed for an answer. "Oh, they're returning from... you know that place, where we're pulling out of...?" he sputtered.

I told him that if he didn't even know where these guys were coming from, I couldn't help him.

I don't know. Maybe he is legit but he is just such a smooth talker, has such a sleazy voice over the phone that I don't want to give him a dime. I've been hanging up on him for years, yet I'm still on his call list. It's too bad that you can't add charitable organizations to your don't call list. I just hate realizing that this damn guy has suckered me into answering the telephone yet again.

I hate it that in my dotage I have become so suspicious of everything and everybody. We donated to earthquake relief after Haiti and then found out a year later that the money was being "held" and none had been disbursed. It makes me question who are the good guys that you can donate to for help in relief in Japan. Will we give money to some government agency or to the Red Cross or something and then discover that people are just holding the money and nothing is actually being done?

The president went on TV yesterday discussing the danger from the nuclear reactors and how there was no danger to the United States. The second his message ended, there was a news teaser that the local news would have some scientist on to talk about a "radiation cloud" that was headed for Los Angeles. News at 5. Which is it? There is no danger, or there is danger? And since we can't do a thing about it anyway, do we even care?

This afternoon I succumbed to an ad on TV for "Clean My PC," which promised to get your system running faster. It had a high rating from Two Cows and some other web sites that I trust, so I decided to try it. Naturally, it picks up lots and lots of problems and then to clean your registry you have to pay. Interestingly, you have to pay $40, which I decided not to do. I could live with the slow PC that I'd become used to. But when you try to close the web site you get "wait! If you want, we'll reduce the price $20." Well, $20 vs. $40 sounds do-able, so I decided to do it. (Note to anybody who decides to try Clean My PC---do NOT pay $40 for it!)

You call their web site to connect with a technician who does a live scan of your system. She was aghast at how many problems there were and they have a technician who can clean them all out of my system in a mere five hours for a mere $309. I told her that was out of the question, so she gave me the $125 option. I told her that was out of the question too and I'd live with the danger. She let me know I could always call back and upgrade, but we finished the call and I finished cleaning the scan with my new $20 program.

The computer is significantly faster. Significantly. But I'm left with the warnings of all the bad things that can happen if I don't pony up $125 to have a technician wipe my system of all viruses.

I figure whatever damage could be done to my system or my identity has already been done and I can't afford $125...and because of my goooood morning guy, I wonder how much of this is just a scam to get me to spend money unnecessarily.

I'm afraid that I have become forever suspicious. P.T. Barnum was right and I really don't want to be that much of a sucker.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Disappointing St. Paddy's Day

CelticBand.jpg (25479 bytes)Our friend Lee Riggs plays flute and whistle in a 5-person Celtic group called Riggity Jig. They've been together for nearly 15 years and are well known at various gatherings around this area.

A couple of years ago, we got an announcement that they would be playing at Little Prague Restaurant here in Davis for St Patrick's day (not quite sure what Ireland and Czechoslovakia have in common, but music is the great leveler, I guess!).

We went and had a great dinner and a great time. The group played outside and we sat at a table near an open fire, tapped our feet, took pictures and video and just enjoyed the Irish music that we love so much.

They are at Little Prague every year on St. Patrick's day, but this was the first year that we had the opportunity to go again. Reservations were recommended, so I called ahead and made a reservation for 6:30 and asked if we could be outdoors again, so we could hear the music better.

The man taking the reservations said they weren't sure if the band would be outside or inside and I said that I really didn't care where we sat,but that we were coming for the music and just wanted to be wherever the band was. He was very nice about it.

I was looking forward to our night out all day today. I love Irish music and I was really looking forward to sitting there again tapping my toe, making some video and enjoying a good meal.

We were a little early and saw the band playing inside. Lee waved at us and we waved back. We waited longer than we should have to be seated and when the woman finally came to seat us, she took us to the patio area. I complained that I had specifically requested being with the band. "But we take people in order and these people were ahead of you," she said. I pointed out that I had specifically requested a table near the band and had been told I could have it. She shrugged and saiid there was nothing we could do and that surely we could see and hear the band from our outside seats.

We could barely see them.

StP1.jpg  (113190 bytes)
aw...c'mon...sure you see them there, don't you, behind that tall
women sitting at the window and the waitress taking her order?

...and as for hearing them, decide.

As you can see, yes, technically I can hear the band. But there is a difference between hearing, as in being aware that somewhere in the distance there is a musical instrument playing, and really HEARING the band, listening to the words, the blend of the instruments, etc.. What with all the people at other tables talking, dishes clattering and babies crying, I could see Lee playing the whistle, but I never heard him. I never knew you could be that close to a bagpipe and never hear it. I sat there wanting to cry. I had so been looking forward to this evening all day.

What was the unkindest cut of all was that I had thought I saw a small table near the kitchen when we arrived, but when it was not offered to us, I decided my eyes must have deceived me. However, 30 minutes after we got our dinner, a couple was led to that very table and seated.

Oh the food was good.

StP2.jpg  (152271 bytes)

I had lamb stew and Walt had corned beef. They rarely checked my water glass and it sat there while they filled water glasses at other tables.

In the end, the waitress asked us if we had a good time. I don't usually get bitchy, but I complained again about how we had been promised a table near the music and couldn't hear it. "Of course you can hear it!" she said, determined to make me happy. But I wasn't.

And, as I said, I won't make the mistake of returning to Little Prague next year for St. Patrick's Day.

But the evening wasn't a total loss. We went inside the restaurant before going home to say good bye to some friends we saw sitting in there and actually got five minutes of hearing the music. And it was good. And our friend told me he loved reading my reviews because I was so honest.

Then, as we were driving down home we stopped at a stoplight and a guy on a bike next to us knocked on the door of the car window and yelled "I love your writing" to me. I rolled down the window and he bemoaned the loss of Derrick, but said he was glad we were at least still writing for the paper.

I guess I've become something of a town celebrity. Sort of. (But if that's true, how come I get lousy seating when I go out to listen to music?)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's Exhausting to be Obsessive

I don't necessarily believe in astrology but there are just some things you can't deny. Virgos are supposed to be neat and tidy and every Virgo I've met is. Along with the many, many good traits of Aquarians, they supposedly get completely involved in projects or hobbies or whatever, and then one day they are finished with that project and move on to something else.

I told that to Peggy (also an Aquarian) once and she scoffed. "I never do that," she said, until I reminded her that she had told me about her involvement with stamping, how she had bought all of the stamping equipment she could and then decided one day she wasn't interested in it any more.

Boy, is it true for me. I can think of a host of things that were my passion over the years. I remember my "plant years." Claiming that I have a brown thumb, I never met a house plant I couldn't kill. But then one day a house plant someone gave me didn't die, so I decided to try another one. In short order I had a veritable jungle in my living room and plants hanging all over the house.

The Davis water isn't good for house plants, so I carried water from Sacramento whenever we visited someone there and used distilled water when we didn't. I bought plant food. I bought macramé hangers. I talked to my plants. I was totally into plants.

Then one day I stood in the living room, looked at this jungle that had completely taken over my life and said to them: I don't care about you any more. You can all just die. And they did. One by one, I hauled them out to the garbage as they began to wilt or turn brown.

My days as an indoor gardener were over.

So many other hobbies went that way. I have a huge stash of scrapbooking material that I will never use for scrapbooking because the more involved I got with the internet, the less I was doing with scrapbook (the project also became painful after David died).

During my cake decorating period, I bought every shaped pan I could afford, all the fancy tips and lots and lots of special equipment. Then one day I just didn't want to do it any more. I still do, rarely, but dust is gathering on all that equipment.

When I took up biking, I bought a fancy bike and all sorts of fancy equipment--speedometer, mileage counter, fancy basket and I can't remember what else. True, it was my accident which took me out of biking prematurely, but I would have eventually tired of that too.

We had 70 foreigners living with us from 14 countries over 10 years and one day I just decided I was finished with it.

I was a LaLeche League leader for 7 years, helping new mothers learn how to breastfeed. I was the newsletter editor, I was on the state board, I helped organize a convention. Then I remember the day so clearly. I was leading a meeting about getting started at nursing. I looked around the room and thought to myself "if I have to hear about one more pair of sore nipples, I'm going to scream!" Fortunately I had trained several other leaders and that was the last meeting I ever led.

I even find that I am loving my SPCA vacation. I feel guilty when I get pleas for foster homes, even briefly, but there are nearly 50 names on the mailing list that comes around and I resist the temptation to take on another foster when we are all, us and the dogs, enjoying this break (of course, I will always say yes to orphans).

I see myself doing the same thing with the Compassion kids. I am so involved with Compassion right now, becoming involved in the sponsoring community, enjoying getting to know people. I know that sooner or later this will pass -- I hope not for a long time, because I love the kids, but I know that there will come a day when I will reach my limit.

I don't remember what I saw two days ago or where I saw it. It was something about pen pals. Innocently I clicked on a link. It was like Dorothy opening the door to the Munchkin land. All sorts of web sites and publications and lists began tumbling out, one more interesting than another. I discovered that there were still people who cherish letters that you send in an envelope to someone else. It's encouraging to find out how many of them are people under the age of 30.

"I'll just check one more," I'd say to myself and next thing I know I'd be looking through five more lists. There are slim pickings for older folks who enjoy writing. In fact I found I was reading the "old guys" listings for people younger than my children. I had downloaded five issues of Sandbook, a magazine for people who want to write to pen pals. Each issue is about 40 pages long.

Ultimately I sent out eleven letters, heard back from (so far) four who would like to be pen pals. I set up several folders for incoming and outgoing letters, and wrote four letters, each of which is 4 full typewritten pages long (with no cutting and pasting). I have a new "pen pal" folder in my bookmarks and have a host of new sites I want to check out.

I recognize the behavior pattern. I wonder how long this will last before I stand here looking at my computer screaming "I don't care about you any can all die!) (I hope not for a very long time.)