Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"What Are You Writing?"

I ran into someone in the supermarket yesterday. We've known each other for most of the time I've lived in Davis. Our children grew up together but we almost never see each other (this is the situation with most of the people I met during the years I was doing PTA stuff). We're both rather shy, so we never developed a real friendship, but we both liked to write so that was one bond that we had. (We've both also buried adult children, which is another sad bond that we share.)

I run into her, usually like this, in the supermarket, maybe once a year, maybe not for several years. Her first question is always "how are you?" and her second question is "what are you writing these days?"

This year the question was prompted by her seeing a letter to the editor by me and letting me know how nice it was to see me "writing again after all this time." She then asked "what else are you writing these days?"

I never know how to respond to that because I'm in the paper every week for at least one review (sometimes two or three reviews) and every couple of months for a full page story on the front of the entertainment section. She obviously had never noticed any of those, which surprised me because she's a theatre person herself.

Or maybe she does notice but feels that doesn't count.

"What are you writing these days?"

Why does that question make me feel guilty? Heavens, I write every single day. I write too much. But I "just" write this journal. It's not "serious writing." She's had a book published. I bought her book, but it's in a genre that is not something I normally read, so I've never read it--I just bought it to be supportive.

She's in the middle of her second novel, but is working full time now and doesn't have that much time. But I'm "retired," so "what are you writing these days?"

It shouldn't make me feel guilty, but it does. Yeah, I know I can write, and somehow questions like this make me feel like I should be writing, you know, "Important Stuff."

However, I have no desire to "write a book." People think that if you can write, you should write the great American novel, as if it's a simple little thing and that it will make you millions.

First of all, I write crappy fiction. My fiction is not believable, the dialog is stilted and I have no ideas whatsoever about plots. I've never had an active fantasy life, so I don't have a hundred plots floating around in my head just waiting to be put into writing. I tried it once, when I did Nanowrimo, and I did manage to complete my 50,000 word novel, but it was horrible. I wrote it and I could see that it was terrible.

But, more important, I've seen "publishing." I've seen what happens when a good book tries to get published. It's amazing to me that new authors ever emerge on the scene at all.

Dr. G spent about $1,000 to find a publisher that would cover half the cost of publishing his book--and it's a good book! It took a year of shopping the book around, with contacts. I cannot tell you how many publishers returned our packet (each packet cost at least $10 to produce) unopened with a stamp on it that they did not accept unsolicited material.

He tried getting an agent and that was also a thankless, expensive, time-consuming project.

Eventually it did get published and I wonder if he ever made enough in sales to begin to make a dent in the money he paid to have it published. Still, I suspect that getting his second book published was made a bit easier because he had one book under his belt.

So, faced with the knowledge that I write crappy fiction and that even great books only get published because of extraordinary good luck, why would I be "writing something" that I know I don't write well these days?

I love what I write. I love this journal. I love it when I get feedback from people who have followed it for any length of time because I know that at least someone is reading it.

I have such a good time conducting interviews, as I did yesterday with the writer and director of a new movie that is being premiered in Sacramento in July. I get to meet such interesting people and it's fun when a story comes together "just right."

I'm working on two right now--the one on the movie which is having a "test preview" here in Davis in June, and a big splash feature article for the founder of the young people's theatre, who is directing his last show (which he also wrote). I did a big deal on him a few years ago, and there will be a lot of duplication, but I hope not too much. I love this guy anyway--we've worked with him off and on for 25 years or so (and he was a speaker at one of the Paul memorials) and I really want to do right by this article.

So I guess that's the answer to "what are you writing these days?" even if my friend doesn't know that I write stuff like this, and even if I'm never going to appear on the bookshelves of the local bookstore.

One nice thing about sites like LuLu is that you can self-publish without spending a fortune. From time to time I think about doing a "best of Funny the World," if only for my own benefit.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Theatre of the Absurd

The review I wrote last week still makes me giggle. We had gone to see a show and it was one of those shows that make me scratch my head and think "what in God's name am I going to say about this show?" and makes Walt roll his eyes as we leave the threatre, whispering sotto voce, "I'm sure glad I'm not you."

As we walked out of the theatre, a woman I had interviewed before, with connections to this particular theatre, walked beside me and made comments about the performance. In my heart of hearts, I know she was feeding me ideas for a review because this performance was just so weird and surely she must have known that I was going to have a difficult time reviewing it.

I don't even know if I can describe it for you. It took place in something like a big empty warehouse...or, given the size of warehouses, maybe a small empty warehouse is more accurate. Seating for the audience was in chairs that ranged from the kind of chair you'd have in your living room to the kind of chair you'd have in your kitchen, to footstools, desk chairs, and anything else they were able to grab. The chairs were arranged in a huge semi-circle, two deep, and there were mats on the floor for people who couldn't find a chair to sit in (the ushers requested that the "younger people" sit on the floor, which we older people definitely appreciated!)

The room smelled of freshly popped popcorn and when I looked around the semi-circle in which we were seated I saw on the opposite side of the room an enormous bowl filled with popcorn. Now, when I say "enormous," don't think about the largest bowl you have in your house; think of the largest bowl you can find in a restaurant supply house. If you filled this bowl with paint to do your bedroom, you'd probably have lots left over at the end of the project.

While we were coming in, the performer was standing on a bench making hand gestures and twisting her body into different positions. As the lights came down, some women behind us started chanting, there were bell sounds and electronic sounds. After five minutes, the musical cacaphony stopped, the performer walked to a mic hanging overhead and looked like she might be talking into it, but so softly that she could not be heard (I don't think she was meant to be heard). It was 10 minutes before the performer spoke.

The performer describes her work as “a sonorous and physical exploration of speech and the unspoken: a winding and poetic piece of physical theater that pulls patrons inside worlds of hesitation and restraint.” It made no sense to me when I read it before the show, and, believe it or not, it makes much more sense after having seen the show.

The performance continued for some 30 minutes, during which time she started sentences and stopped them, the same sentence over and over again, she struck poses, she used the bench to stand on, to drag across the floor, to lean upon. There were "musicians" (for want of a better word) who played the kazoo, tapped drumsticks on the concrete floor, used slide whistles, and I don't know what all.

At one point she sat down in the audience and ate popcorn before getting up again.

I dunno. I'm just not sophisticated enough to "get" a show like this. I may not look forward to reviewing Annie or Music Man for the 10th time, but at least I know what is going on on stage. There's a plot and tuneful music.

It's seeing avant garde theatre that makes me question my qualifications to be a theatre critic.

So I came home to write a review of this very strange piece of theatre. I guess I had a sense of how reviewers felt trying to describe the Impressionsts when they first started painting and giving shows. They were so different from anything anyone had seen in the art world that they were roundly condemned.

I think about Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which practically caused a riot when it was first performed because people hate it so much. Now it's practically melodic, compared to some of the more recent modern works.

So I am not quick to put down any sort of new take on performance art. Who am I to say if this was something wonderfully innovative or a piece of crap? But I am paid to give an opinion and to let other people know what to expect when they come to see a show, and perhaps give them some idea of whether they are going to enjoy it or not.

I struggled a lot with this, incorporating some of the ideas the woman who walked out of the theatre had given me, along with the performer's description, and then I ended with this, which is what still makes me giggle:

It was one of those once in a lifetime experiences you had to see to try to understand.

I’m not sure that [the performer]’s idea of theater exactly meshes with my own, but whatever it was that she did showed a range of pretty amazing talent.

I still like the way I wrote it. It says plainly that I didn't understand it at all, but that I acknowledged the talent it took to put it together and maybe some folks were intrigued enough by my verbal meandering through the minefield of avant garde theatre that they might have decided to check it out.

But somehow, hearing that my summer season will start off with yet another production of Sound of Music doesn't sound quite so bad any more!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hey, Look!

I ended up posted on The Today Show web site!

A Brief Post-Mortem

I just want to add just a few more words about Says You before going on with the rest of my life. I've had messages from people who say they checked it out and it doesn't seem to be playing in their area.

Best thing to do is to go to the Says You web site where you can find a list of all the stations in the country which carry the show, and when it is on. If none of those stations is within your radio-listening area, many of those stations stream the show, so you can listen on the internet, if you have a way to do that. The wonderful thing about the Internet is that you don't need to be near a radio station's signal to listen to a radio show. You can be in Maine and pick up the streaming audio from San Francisco (in fact, before we started getting the show from, our radio signal was often very weak and we would listen to the San Francisco station on my computer instead).

If you love word play, bad puns, and just general intelligent (and sometimes downright stupid) humor, I encourage you to check the show out. The thing that we have enjoyed, these past three years of flying to LA to catch tapings, is finding out how many other people are as nutty as we are, as addicted to this show about "words and wimsey; bluff and bluster." I know so many people who love "Wait, Wait, Don't tell Me" (and I do too), but that show is more topical. Unless it's an "evergreen" episode, it kind of loses its impact three years later, whereas the Says You 11 year old recordings are as fresh as they were at the time they were recorded.

The interesting thing I discovered in an extremely short poll, based on the fact that I seem to "know" Tony Kahn in so many different venues, is that there are Says You people and there are Morning Stories people and the two don't seem to have met. It was a surprise that none of the Morning Stories transcribers had heard of Says You and it was another surprise to discover that none of the people we spoke with in line at Says You ever listened to Morning Stories. It just seemed, to me, at least, that a crossover was inevitable.

One nice thing about the trip, about any trip, actually, was the time spent in the airplane, which allowed me to finish reading the book I had been readiong ("The Surgeon," by Tess Gerritsen) and start reading a new one ("Dead and Doggone" by Susan Conant).

(yes, Jeri, I can turn off the TV any time and read, but somehow I just don't.)

I bought the Conant book after I finished her first one, "A New Leash on Death." I really, really like reading books which are part of a series in order, so I couldn't read any other Conant books until I'd read book 2 of the series.

I didn't like book 2 as well as I did book 1. It might have been partly because I was distracted by airports, and airplanes and just all the stuff we were doing. But one thing that Conant does--and I've seen this in two books now--is to slip in an awful lot of instruction about dogs within the format of a plot line.

I've learned a lot about obedience training, for example, as well as characteristics of various breeds. I think it was the last book that gave a recipe for making your own liver treats to use in training.

But this book did something else. It shed light on animal testing and what you might find in a laboratory that is testing products on animals, specifically dogs. She describes dogs stolen from their families, sold to laboratories who ask no questions, the living conditions in cramped cages, debarking to prevent them from making noise when they are hurt, and a host of other things that happen to research animals.

I'm sure that any animal lover (a) would also be appalled at what I read in Conant's book, and (b) probably also turns a blind eye because we don't really want to know. It's easy to get indignant on a case by case basis. The recent expose on puppy mills got me, for one, to write a diatribe against pet shops and puppy mills, and YouTube had lots of videos about the living conditions of the "breeder bitches" in puppy mills.

I've recently been watching Escape to Chimp Eden, which documents a man's fight to save chimpanzees who have been through horrible traumas -- held captive for decades without access to trees or anything but concrete under their feet, or infants torn from their mothers to become someone's housepet, until that person finds out that a chimpanzee is not as "cute" a pet as they once thought. The stories go on and on.

And then there is the David Sheldrake Wildlife Trust, about which I've written before, which rescues orphaned baby elephants who have watched their mothers often slaughtered before their eyes and who have lost the love of the herd to which they belonged. (I am still haunted by the photo of Daphne Sheldrake comforting an infant who watched the slaughter of its mother and cried out in its sleep.)

The other day I watched an expose of dolphin farming, first learning about the nature of dolphin societies, the closeness among family members, and then watching as hundreds of dolphins were killed on Japanese beaches, watching them in the death throes, hearing their cries. It was heartbreaking.

But we human beings are terribly cruel to animals. We spend fortunes on cute little outfits for chihuahuas or bull dogs, but we buy products that torture animals in the process of making a face cream safe for a middle-aged woman's wrinkles.

I don't have a place where I am taking this entry. I am appalled at what we do to animals and I don't know what to do with my anger, because I still eat meat and I probably use products which were developed by testing on animals. I understand that some testing maybe necessary and that we probably do far too much of it. I also understand that animal societies are far more complex than we ever realized and that it diminishes us as human beings to devalue the life of other animals.

I have this burning need within me to DO SOMETHING, but the problem is so huge I don't yet know what that "something" is. I guess the first step is just awareness and then education...and reading labels more carefully to familiarize myself with the products and brands which test on animals, trying to find similar products which do not.

I haven't reached the "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" stage, but I sure have reached the "I'm seriously concerned that I have unwittingly contributed to the torture of some poor animal" stage. It seems to me that once we know the facts and see for ourselves the horror that some animals go through, we really are duty bound to make some change in our lives, whether that be becoming active in animal rights causes, or simply changing the way we choose the products that we use.

It seems like a small thing, but every good change begins with a small step, doesn't it?

Check this website if you really care...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Not a Multi-Media Event

Anyone who has read this journal for any length of time at all knows that I am obsessed with recording the special events, as well as the mundane events, in my life with photos and now with video. But, you know? Sometimes it's just nice to sit back and watch it all happen, without hiding behind the camera.

We are now home from our whirlwind trip to Southern California for the taping of four Says You radio shows and I have only a handful of photos to show for the trip, and none of those is particularly good. But I sure have a wealth of memories of the lovely time that it was.

This morning started with a Grand Slam breakfast at the Dennys attached to the motel. We thought we might take in the Bob Dylan exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center, where the Says You tapings were taking place, but there really wasn't time. By the time we got to Skirball, "the faithful" were already lining up to pick up their pre-ordered tickets (the show was sold out). By the time the doors opened, they filled the 300 seat hall.

SaysYouCrowd.jpg (119807 bytes)

One woman, who definitely qualified as a hard core groupie, let us know in no uncertain terms that she was first in line. She had been to see the group in Raleigh No. Carolina and now in Los Angeles, but she missed the taping in her home town of Seattle. But she was an expert in All Things Says You and wanted to make sure we all knew it.

Walt and I sat with a lovely couple from San Francisco, who had also been to the previous years' tapings. So we were not the only ones to have come such a long distance.

While we were waiting, Tony Kahn passed by on his way from the Bob Dylan exhibit to the green room, and we all chatted for awhile again. One topic was Tony's six part show, Blacklisted, originally produced in 1996, which is available to hear or download from the WGBH web site.

Tony's father was screen writer Gordon Kahn, whom J. Edgar Hoover, called "one of the three most dangerous Communists in Hollywood," and put him on his "security index," a secret list of people to be placed in armed detention camps in the event of a national security emergency. Gordon Kahn spent Tony's growing up years shuttling his family back and forth between Mexico and the United States, always under the watchful eye of J. Edgar Hoover, trying to feed his family by writing under various nom de plumes. The experience of growing up in such an environment related by Kahn and a host of top notch actors (Carol O'Connor is Hoover, for example) is both riveting and an amazing piece of theatre. I highly recommend checking it out, if you remember living through that period, and even more strongly if you are too young to remember. Hear what it was like for the families of the victims of the witchhunt which was conducted in this country for fifteen years and find out the secret Kahn kept during all those years.

...but back to Says You...

SaysYouPanel2.jpg (131264 bytes)
The other panelists: Carolyn Faye Fox,
Arnie Riesman and Paula Lyons

As it was yesterday, the show was just so much fun. And of course we came away with a bunch of esoteric facts, like learning about the Pando aspen grove in the Fishlake National Forest in Utah, determined to be part of a single living organism by identical genetic markers and one massive underground root system. The plant is estimated to weigh collectively 6,615 tons, making it the heaviest known organism. The root system of Pando is claimed by some to be among the oldest known living organisms in existence at 80,000 years of age.

I also want to commit to memory the term "clem" which is the state of being very hungry!

Once again, first grader Benjamin Shur, son of moderator Richard Shur, was one of the scorekeepers and again I was reminded of how much he looked like a very young John Denver.

Benjamin.jpg (123660 bytes)

The neat thing about Says You is that it is really a comprehensive word game. If you can't do all that well on astronomy or other science questions, or aren't too clear on your sports trivia, just wait and they'll eventually hit your category.

Today it was identifying Broadway musicals from a list of songs in the show, from lest known to best known. If you identified the musical with the first song, it was for 10 points, if you needed two songs it was 8 points, etc. I got every single question with the first song (except The Producers which I needed two songs to identify), while all the panelists struggled with each set of songs.

Ok--so I don't know anything about the Van Allen belt, but I know that "Little House of Uncle Thomas" is from The King and I!

Tony and I talked a bit about bringing the show to San Francisco and what is involved in that. I offered some suggestions of possible venues that would work and be the right size for the show and hope to follow through with that in the coming weeks.

After we left Skirball, we drove through town looking for a place to eat, and ended up at a Mexican restaurant, where we filled up on burritos and tamales and really good chips. Then off to the airport, onto the plane, and home again.

We'd been gone only 36 hours but sure filled those hours. We also came home to only three dogs. Scrappy and Scooby are gone. I have to admit that though they were real cuties, it sure is more peaceful around here tonight!

This is the "Photo of the Day" over on Funny the World.
I just love it--it's panelist Paula Lyons in conversation with young Benjamin.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Two Pairs of Pants

It's so late as I write this that it is actually April 26th (so let's all take a moment to wish Jeri a happy birthday, OK?).

It seems a very long time since I put on two pairs of black long pants and headed to the Sacramento airport yesterday morning.

Perhaps I should explain.

I slept with all the dogs last night, three puppies in my lap in the recliner. I woke up around 5 or so and started to prepare to leave on our whirlwind trip to So. California. We were going to two days' worth of tapings (i.e., 4 shows) of "Says You," flying down in the morning of Friday and returning the evening of Saturday.

Since all I really own in the way of pants is sweats and my "good" black velveteen pants, I chose the latter and got dressed (a whole 'nothing story--try keeping 3 puppies downstairs while you shower upstairs!). We still had an hour or so before we were taking off for the airport so I worked some (of course) at the computer and the puppies would. not. leave. me. alone. They were desperate for affection and kept pawing at my legs so vigorously that I was afraid they would tear a hole in my only good pants, so I decided to put on a pair of sweats over the velveteen. This worked quite well.

Until, of course, we were backing out of the driveway and I realized I was still wearing two pairs of pants. But I decided to keep them on, in case I spilled something on myself (a definite probability!).

I knew the second we stepped off the plane in LA that I was waaay overdressed. It was probably mid-80s, and not only was I wearing two pairs of pants (one of which were sweat pants), but also a lovely wintery top which has long sleeves, and was way too hot.

Thank god for air conditioning in our rental Kia (which is very red!)

We found a restaurant ("Tom's Family Restaurant #7", which promised "Tom's Better than Mom's") and had a not-better-than-mom's burger, then checked into our motel. Walt took a nap, I took off my sweat pants, checked e-mail (love that wi fi!) and finished my book.

We decided neither of us was hungry, so we headed up to the Skirball Cultural Center, arriving shortly before 7 to join the people already lined up to get their entree into the hall where the evening's "Says You" episodes were being taped.

The hardest part is the waiting. Not too long to get tickets, but it seemed like forever before we were allowed into the hall. Since we had made arrangements to meet panelist Tony Kahn, host of WGBH's "Morning Stories," as well as "Says You" panelist, at the break between the two shows, we sat in the second row directly in front of where Tony would sit with fellow team members Francine Achbar and Barry Nolan.

Tom Bergeron, host of "Dancing with the Stars," a fan of "Says You" and friend to several on the panel sat directly behind us and, we learned later, in the row in front of us was the producer of "Desperate Housewives."

There was one seat empty in our row and a woman asked if it was taken. I told her it was not and we started chatting. I had the sneaking feeling it was Tony Kahn's wife, producer Harriet Reisen, with whom I had had some communication. She began asking questions about where we had come from and if we'd been to a taping before. Almost at the same time we said "Are you Harriet? / Are you Bev?" So it was delightful to watch the show with her.

It was an even bigger surprise when the mic checks began and each panelist was to introduce him or herself and make a few wisecracks and the first thing Tony said to the crowd was "Is Beverly Sykes here?" I think he intended that to be a jumping off point to talk about the transcription we've all done for Morning Stories, but he got sidetracked when he noted that I was sitting next to his "lovely wife Harriet Reisen."

As always the show was fun--hilarious in spots. Look up Rhinotillexomania, if you want to increase your vocabulary. And while you're at it, toss a few nobbins at the busker on the corner. We learned a lot about interplanetary trivia, I know what a "white dwarf" is, and I'll bet you don't know that Dan Rice was the model for Uncle Sam (and that he was also a professional clown who once ran for, you see, GW wasn't the first after all.)

It will be fun to relive this all when the recording comes out through in a couple of weeks. (Though I'm betting that the 5 minutes that the host (Richard Sher) was missing during the middle of the show will have been edited out, though it was very funny, as he explained that the elevator didn't want to work and so he was unable to return from his bathroom break!)

At the break between shows, I finally met Tony Khan up close and personal.

I've "known" him via the internet, "Morning Stories," and the interview he did with each of the transcribers for "Morning Stories," so it was like meeting an old friend you had never seen in the flesh before.

The taping ran so late that we left without saying goodbye, came back to the motel and went to Denny's to get a very late dinner.

Tomorrow we head back to Skirball for the taping of another two shows, then back to Davis before nightfall. As I said, this is a whirlwind trip, but lemme tell you--it sure is worth it!

But I have to figure out what to do with my sweatpants, which won't fit in the suitcase. I sure don't want to wear two pairs of pants around Burbank all day!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Day of Silence

Joining with others participating in a national "day of silence" in memory of 8th grader
Lawrence King, killed while sitting
in his English classroom in Oxnard, California
on February 12.
He was killed by a classmate.

Because he was gay.

(My silence is an internet silence)

LKing2.jpg (114311 bytes)

(Can you imagine killing this child in cold blood because he is gay?)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cavities too?

I never worry about going to the dentist. Since my dental recovery I've been pretty good about brushing and flossing and keeping myself from having big problems again. Some appointments are better than others, but on a 4-month cleaning schedule, how can I really go wrong?

Well, apparently. To my surprise, after my cleaning and polishing, my dental hygienist called Cindy in to check and Cindy found two small cavities, so "we're going to get to see a lot more of each other!" she said, happily.

Actually, I don't mind. I like the chance to visit with Cindy from time to time, even with a mouthful of instruments. We rarely see each other. I sometimes miss those early morning bike rides we used to take together...except on the days when it was 6 a.m., still dark, about about 30 degrees out. But we got a lot of chit chat on various sections of our ride and I do miss it. So if I have to get a couple of small cavities filled to catch up on our respective families, that's OK. (Of course, I never had to pay her to ride bikes with her!)

As I drove into the parking lot before my 8 a.m. appointment this morning, I was reminded, as I always am, of the very worst (and shortest!) job I ever held, because the office is in the same complex as the dental office.

Everyone was very excited that I was interested in the job. I had been recommended by a friend who also worked there. I met with Boss Lady and Assistant Lady, we all got along great and we made arrangements for when I would start.

I really liked Boss Lady and felt we had a lot in common. My chats with her were always pleasant. Assistant Lady was OK, but we were two different personalities. She was a cross-the-eyes and dot-the-ts kind of person and I'm more of a "get the job done as quickly as possible and fix the problems later" kind of person. But we never really butted heads.

Two days later they called me back in because they had concerns. Seems they found out that I kept an on-line journal and they were afraid they would appear in the journal. We discussed it at length and I promised that I would never discuss my job on line. And in a way, I'm still not doing it. I'm not mentioning the employer or the name of the people with whom I worked...but I sorta feel that my promise of silence ended a long time ago.

With the journal problem apparently settled, I prepared to begin the job "on a trial basis." I was eager to work with people again. I'd been in a one-person office for a year, and had been the boss before that, which does not lend itself to camaraderie when times are tough, so the idea of being a peon, with no responsibilities for executive decisions and co-workers who seemed congenial was appealing to me.

In truth, my job was not exactly mind-stretching. I did copying, filing, and database entry. All the stuff that I love doing, like writing and editing and designing was left to Assistant Lady. But still, I gritted my teeth and reminded myself that this was exactly what I was looking for right then--mindless work that would bring in a salary, but not put me in an executive position.

I had been at the job for about month when Assistant Lady suggested we have our lunch together (we had bought brought our lunch). We chatted about this and that and she said something to the effect that I'd been at the job for about a month and she was wondering how I was liking it. I told her that as far as I was concerned, things were going along fine and I was happy with the job. I asked her how she felt about my performance.

"No complaints from me either," she smiled, saying that she felt I was doing a good job.

That was Friday.

Monday I woke up with a very bad cold. I called the office and talked to Assistant Lady, who said she didn't want my germs in the office and suggested I take time off until I felt better. I checked in each day that week and was told that in the interest of everyone's health, it would be better if I just took the whole week off and get well.

I did.

Monday I came back to work. In the week I was gone, apparently some Big Project was started, but I never was given details of what was involved. I was pretty much left to my own devices to find a need and fill it. I quickly did what was given me to do. Assistant Lady let it be known that she was too busy to find work for me to do, so I began to do things that needed to be done "when you have time to do them." One of the jobs involved Boss Lady approval, which seemed to irritate her because she was so busy working on The Big Project and didn't want to be bothered by things which could be put off.

On Tuesday, I arrived at work before everyone else and after Boss Lady and Assistant Lady had arrived, I was called in to a meeting with the two of them. I picked up a pad of paper to take notes and walked into the office.

I wasn't expecting the purpose of the meeting.

It seems, I was told, that I just wasn't working out. When I asked Assistant Lady who, a week before, had told me she was pleased with my job performance, she told me "there are too many reasons to list and there's no point in going into it now." I was asked to leave immediately.

My head was spinning. I had been fired after only a month, and given no reason why I was being fired, just that my performance had been SO horrible that they couldn't even give me a second chance, or even go into the reasons why things were so horrible. Since I was still on a trial basis, they had no legal responsibility to give me any reason.

I had arrived at the office at 9, ready to work the rest of the week, and by 9:30, I was out the door, with all my stuff, and without a job.

In truth, it wasn't a huge disappointment, simply a huge blow to my ego. This was not the first time I'd been blindsided but I decided then and there it would be the last time. When Walt came home, I told him I had decided not to go back to work. Ever again.

People have, from time to time, offered suggestions for things that I might do for employment, but, truth to tell, interviewing for a job at my age, and at my weight, and with the experience of having been let go from a job I thought was going very well more than once leave me reluctant to put myself in that position again. Thank goodness I am now 65, have received my first Social Security check and don't have to deal with the work world ever, ever again.

But, as I backed out of the parking space this morning, I had cavities to think about, pushing the bad memories of my worst job out of my head, for a change.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DOOs and DONTs

Doos.jpg (52003 bytes)

Meet the "Doo" family. That's Scooby Doo on the left and Scrappy Doo on the right (No, I didn't name them!) They are 4+ month old Jack Russell terriers whose foster family is going out of town for a few days, so they moved here. They are, if possible, more skittish than Russell.

They dropped the puppies off in a huge carry crate (which they are peeking out of) and the melee was on. The other three dogs barked and barked and the new guys cowered. I didn't open the cage door until they'd been here for a little bit. When the dogs started calming down, I opened the door and let Scooby and Scrappy decide when to come out.

They pretty much spent the evening cowering whenever either Walt or I came near them, but they did eventually start playing with the other dogs. Russell was in 7th heaven, having someone that was about his age and size to roll around with. Everywhere there was a ball of puppies whirling around in a circle, a blur of brown and white.

ballopups.jpg (45637 bytes)

They were clearly interested in human beings, but it was a real approach-avoidance situation. Walt tried picking up Russell (who, with the arrival of the new puppies, was much more open to being picked up by Walt, after all this time) and the puppies were very interested in Russell, but absolutely did not want to be touched by either Walt or me.

DoosChair.jpg (49533 bytes)

While Walt called to them and tried to let them know he really was a good guy, I decided to just leave them alone. I sat in the middle of the room watching them, but not trying to touch them, not calling to them, waiting for them to decide on their own that I wasn't the big bad wolf.

They were definitely intrigued. They would stand on the blue recliner and half cross the table between the two chairs, they would sniff my hand, if I put it on the table (without looking at them), but they were just too scared to actually get closer to me.

DoosLooking.jpg (44170 bytes)

Walt finally went upstairs, Russell settled into my lap and "The Doos" curled up on the blue recliner.

DoosSleeping.jpg (42759 bytes)

When it came time to go to sleep, Russell and I left the puppies on the chair, hoping they would sleep all night, and we went into the living room. We had all settled down in our little "pack" -- Me on the couch with Russell on top of me, Shelia lying on the floor next to me, and Lizzie on the chair next to the couch.

Suddenly I thought I heard a sound from the family room. Then I heard something fall. I decided to ignore it. Pretty soon, I saw the two puppies creep very cautiously into the living room. Nobody moved. They tentatively began sniffing everywhere. I hoped they would climb into the recliner in the living room and go back to sleep, but they didn't. Soon they were starting to feel more comfortable so they started picking up things, which made noise, and Russell started barking.

This wasn't going to work. I got up and, followed by all the rest of my pack, went into the family room Scooby and Scrappy were so scared they ran into their cage, which was perfect. I locked them in and they were quiet the rest of the night.

In the morning, we all went outside. They were SOOOOOO happy to be outside and kept running over to jump up on me and then run away before I could touch them (which I wasn't really trying to do).

Breakfast was a real challenge (it is with three, with five, two of whom are afraid of their shadows, it was significantly more challenging!)

Slowly, over the morning, they got braver about me.

In the afternoon, they slept on my feet while I worked on the computer.

Doosfeet.jpg (51371 bytes)

They still aren't real sure about coming up to me, but whenever I get into my recliner, sooner or later, someone will join Russell in my lap. They let me pet them. They will take treats out of my hand (sometimes).

I don't expect to work miracles before we leave for Los Angeles on Friday, but Ashley will be here while we're gone and she's the expert in winning doggie trust, so I'm sure they will do just fine until their "real" foster family comes home.

They sure are cute!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Worse than Felons

A 2005 government audit found that 10,000 troops, including more than 50 Arabic translators, have been discharged because of the military ban on being openly gay. (Seizing on the latest discharges, involving three specialists, members of the House of Representatives wrote the House Armed Services Committee chairman that the continued loss of such "capable, highly skilled Arabic linguists continues to compromise our national security during time of war.").

Now, also according to the Associated Press, in order to beef up its shrinking ranks, the military is recruiting convicted felons instead.

Under pressure to meet combat needs, the Army and Marine Corps brought in significantly more recruits with felony convictions last year than in 2006, including some with manslaughter and sex crime convictions.

Data released by a congressional committee shows the number of soldiers admitted to the Army with felony records jumped from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007. And the number of Marines with felonies rose from 208 to 350.

The bulk of the crimes involved were burglaries, other thefts, and drug offenses, but nine involved sex crimes and six involved manslaughter or vehicular homicide convictions. Several dozen Army and Marine recruits had aggravated assault or robbery convictions, including incidents involving weapons.

Apparently, according to our military, someone who has committed manslaughter or who has been convicted of a (presumably heterosexual) sex crime is a better member of The Few, The Proud, The Marines than someone who simply admits to being a homosexual.

Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (now that's an office which must be busy these days!), says, that "low unemployment, a protracted war on terror, a decline in propensity to serve," and the growing reluctance of parents, teachers and other adults to recommend young people go into the military, has made recruiting a challenge.


Late last fall, the Pentagon quietly began looking for ways to make it easier for people with minor criminal records to join the military. The goal of that review is to make cumbersome waiver requirements consistent across the services — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force — and reduce the number of petty crimes that now trigger the process.

According to the data released Monday, a bit more than half of the Army's 511 convictions in 2007 were for various types of thefts, ranging from burglaries to bad checks and stolen cars. Another 130 were for drug offenses.

The remainder, however, included two in 2007 for manslaughter, compared to one in 2006; five for sexual crimes (which can include rape, incest or sexual assaults) compared to two in 2006; and three for negligent or vehicular homicide, compared to two in 2006. Two received waivers for terrorist threats including bomb threats in 2007, compared to one in 2006.


At least 235 of the Marine Corps' 350 waivers were for various types of thefts in 2007, and another 63 were for assaults or robberies that may also have included use of a weapon. The remainder included one for manslaughter in 2007, compared to none in 2006; four for sex crimes, compared to one in 2006; and five for terror threats, including bomb threats, compared to two in 2006.

The total number of sailors who received felony waivers dipped from 48 in 2006 to 42 in 2007. Most were for a variety of thefts or drug and drunk driving convictions. Two in 2007 were for terror or bomb threats compared to three in 2006.

But by God, none of those criminals now putting their lives on the line in Iraq looks fondly at the guy in the next bunk. Whew! What a relief. They might blow the barracks up or start a drug dealing ring in the Green Zone, but thank God they aren't gay.

What kind of stupid screwed up system is this?

This goddamn administration has so screwed up the system, stretched our military to the limits, and turned its back on everything that we once held sacred in this country that now that fewer kids are going into ROTC or rushing off to the nearest recruiting office to serve their country, we have to turn to the prisons to get guys to do our killing for us.

But heaven help us if a guy who knows the region, speaks the language and has a clean criminal record, but happens to have a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend, wants to serve his country. (Or vice versa for women.) That would bring about the fall of civilization as we know it.

Let's get the drug dealers, the burglars, the thiefs and the terrorists. At least they aren't gay.

Sometimes it just makes me want to stick my head in the oven. Fortunately (a) I can no longer get to my knees, and (b) it's an electric stove.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Is It Any Wonder...

Tomorrow was going to be Cousins Day and it was my turn to cook. I was completely uninspired. Nothing sounded good to me, so I spent a lot of time rummaging around on

I finally came up with a recipe from Rachael Ray, which sounded tasty--it was chicken in an apricot sauce served with butternut squash risotto. I always try to make something I've never made before when it's my turn to cook for others (except for Walt, of course) and this looked to be pretty simple.

The risotto called for using frozen butternut squash, but they didn't have any, so I decided to go with fresh, which worked just as well.

However, the thing that got me was that I stood at one end of the frozen food aisle and took a photo:

frozfood.jpg (65414 bytes)

A vast array of frozen foods, everything from frozen vegetables to entrees to desserts to breakfasts to frozen fruit, etc., etc., etc.

How much of this aisle do you suppose is devoted to frozen vegetables?

veggies.jpg (71965 bytes)

Exactly TWO of the doors open to just plain ol' veggies. There are vegetables in the third door here, too, but those are the ones that come buttered, creamed, or in some other way adulterated with unhealthy stuff.

Now, I am the very last person to complain about the preponderance of high fat, high carbohydrate, overly sweet, fake foods. I never met a carbohydrate or a calorie I didn't like, but when I looked at that long aisle and realized that the unadulterated frozen vegetables were tucked off in a corner like the black sheep in the family, to make room for frozen pizza, 50 different kinds of waffles, whipped topping, breaded whatevers, cream cheese stuffed peppers, etc., etc...well, it just seemed strange, given the epidemic of obesity in this country, especially among young people that we continue to have a proliferation of bad-for-you foods and continue to stock the shelves with all those things that I love and shouldn't eat.

Just an idle thought I had while wandering around the supermarket with a camera at my fingertips.

You may have picked up on the wording of the first sentence above, where I said "tomorrow was to have been Cousins Day." I had just about picked up all of the ingredients I needed for my Rachael Ray meal when my cell phone rang. It was Peach, saying that Kathy isn't feeling well and didn't think she could make it to Cousins Day. Peach and I had to make the decision about whether we were going to go anyway, or just change the date.

Well, that's a no brainer. We can't have Cousins Day without Kathy. So we are going to do a conference call tomorrow and see if we can find a new date.

The plan for the evening had been for Walt and I to go to the cemetery and then go out to dinner, but in all honesty, I really didn't feel like going out to dinner. My heart wasn't in it. It was partly disappointment about Cousins Day and partly because...well, because it was April 20.

So instead, I cooked my Cousins Day dinner for Walt and me. It wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be, so I will probably choose something different when we actually do have Cousins Day.

We did go out to the cemetery. This year I bought pink roses, because of Brianna and then I printed off Laurel's latest photo of her and stuck it in a plastic case and attached it to the bouquet of flowers.

Yeah, it was silly...did I expect them to know I'd done it? To rise up out of the grave and check the photo? Of course not, but somehow I just needed to do it. The two of them would have been so excited about their little niece.

And besides, anybody visiting the cemetery from now until they remove the flowers will notice it and I'm nothing if not one to wring every bit of drama I can from a situation.

It can't be 9 years. Wasn't it just yesterday....?

Oh...and if I didn't already e-mail it to you, you MUST go to Flickr and see the very best photo of Lizzie ever.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Some Internet-Related Stuff me a slow learner, but where has Google Reader been all my life? Actually it's been right on my desktop. I started using it a year or so ago when I was watching more video blogs than I watch now, and just never got the whole "reader" thing so stopped using it. My god, I was so wrong!!!

A "reader" (there are many of them; Google Reader is only one) allows you to subscribe to the blogs that you read on a regular basis. Now this is where the difference between "blog" and "journal" comes in. Initially the difference had to do with content (journals being chronicle of a person's life, blog being an indepth discussion of internet material), but now I think that it is mostly structural.

With a blog, where all your entries are run together, in reverse order, the latest one preceding the others on the page, you can tell when a new entry has been made. A journal, like Funny the World, which has a front ("splash") page which directs you to the list of entries that you'll find on subsequent pages, is a different format and you can't really set it up for subscribers (which is why I set up the mirror blog to this journal, Airy Persiflage, for those who complained that they used readers and couldn't subscribe to Funny the World).

(This is boring the hell out of you, isn't it?)

ANYWAY, the whole point of this is that I was playing around with Google Reader yesterday and subscribed to all the blogs that I read on a regular basis. There are some which are still in "journal" format, like Jim's Journal and Nilknarf News (to name just two), which aren't able to be subscribed to. But most of the ones that I read could be added to the list.

Now, the neat thing about this (for those of you who are still following me and who haven't been using readers for decades already) is that now you just open your Google Reader and there, like bookmarks, are all your blogs but if there has been a new entry since the last time you checked, that blog will be highlighted. So that means you don't have to check every single blog every single day. Google Reader lets you know when there is something new to read! This of my day, because I don't have to go to each and every blog to see if there is new content. I just look down the list on Google Reader and it tells me instantly.

This actually means that I've now added more blogs to my list because the ones that were way down on the bottom I didn't get to all that often because I got so tired checking all the ones at the top of the list. Google Reader has allowed me to clean up my bookmarks significantly.

Why did it take me so long to discover this wonderful tool???

GReader.jpg (59089 bytes)

And while I'm asking "how come" questions, I am finding it curious that Michele, who has one of those "question of the day" sites has hundreds of hits every day, but Indigo, who asks questions on That's My Answer has less than a dozen regulars. All you people who find it fun to answer questions, hop over to her site and check her out! She's more consistent than Michele.

Some of the recent questions that people have answered:

  • if you were to play tic tac toe, would you be X or O?

  • Do you have anything that you keep to remind you of somebody important to you?

  • Would you rather be 6" taller or 6" shorter than you are now?

  • How many hours do you sleep each night?

  • When was the last time you played on the swings? Went down a slide? Built a sand castle?

See? Fun stuff. Try it out. It's addicting.

hearts.gif (2106 bytes)

OK. It has to be mentioned.

When Paul did his last monologue show, Sedona, Arizona, the most difficult segment to watch was his segment on David's death. It was particularly difficult because Walt and I hadn't been in the hospital when David died and nobody told us the extent of his injuries, which I learned for the first time in the theatre when Paul described them in detail in that segment.

But he started the segment saying that he wanted to talk about it because he and I had never discussed the details surrounding my sister's death in 1971, and throughout his life, people hardly ever mentioned her. He felt that, to him, Karen was just "the one who died" and he didn't want Dave to become just "the one who died" so he wanted to talk about him.

Well, today is the 9th anniversary of Paul's death...and next month, on the 18th of May, we will commemorate the 12th anniversary of David's death. I'm wondering if when Brianna is in her 20s she will feel that they were just "the ones who died."

So, Paul, I'm talking about you again. You definitely are more than "the one who died," but you have to understand that we have all moved on and that you haven't done much in the past nine years to warrant conversation.

It doesn't mean we don't love you or miss you.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The "Good" People

My sister-in-law sometimes reads this journal, sometimes does not. If she reads this entry, it's probably going to embarrass the heck out of her, but I'm going to write it anyway. So, Alice Nan, if you're reading...sorry, but my heart is very full and I have to talk about it.

I thought a lot about Alice Nan after the camera disappeared. No matter what the outcome of this whole thing is (no, it has not been found), the reaction of each of us was the reason why I wanted to write this entry.

After we had gone over all the possibilities, remembered when we had last seen it, I remembered that I'd made the decision to take it with me to the dining room, and I was certain that wherever the camera and I parted company it was in the dining room.

It's a lovely dining room and there are lots of servers. They can't make a lot of money and when I thought about the crowd that gathered around the rug right by my purse when the tray of dishes and glasses fell over, I was certain that someone had somehow seen and stolen the camera.

I guess I just naturally assume the worst of people.

I wasn't really vocal about my suspicions, but the point is that it never once entered Alice Nan's head that the camera had been stolen. It never seemed to occur to her that someone who found a camera wouldn't turn it in.

And that's the difference between us. She always expects the best of everyone; I don't always.

balloons.jpg (60778 bytes)

Alice Nan is such an amazing person. She's one of those people who has never met a person she didn't like. She automatically thinks the best of everyone. I've never met anyone who got along with people so easily (with the possible exception of my mother). She has best friends in their 20s and best friends in their 90s. She gets the most out of everything in her life.

GreenHat.jpg (37268 bytes)

Put Alice Nan in a group of 100 people and at the end of the evening, she will probably have talked with most of them, will remember their names and know lots of things about them. When she talks to you, she gives you 100% of her attention, her eyes staring intently into your own, unwaveringly. She asks questions and genuinely wants to know what you have to tell. This makes her seem at ease in any situation, a quality I so admire.

(Put me in a room with 100 people and I'll find a nice potted palm to hide behind (hi, Ron), hopefully next to the food table so I can pretend to be busy eating and won't have to talk with people. I might even forget the names of people I should know, much less strangers.)

I admire her enthusiasm for everything. Everything to Alice Nan is an adventure of sorts, a journey of discovery, something exciting to learn or to do.

AN-ABS90.jpg (46500 bytes)

She has been amazingly attentive to her mother since Alice has been living in Santa Barbara. Walt and I have been there frequently and I almost never see family members of other residents. Alice Nan drops by to see her mother almost every day. They have their routine. She knows all the caregivers and administrators by name, and a lot of the other residents. She has a smile and a greeting for everyone.

We don't often tell the people in our lives what they mean to us. I don't know that I've ever told Alice Nan what I think of her, but I am so fortunate to have her as a sister-in-law. If I could emulate one tenth of her attitude about life, I'd be such a better person!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Nobody Gave Me an Apple

In the first semester in my all-too-brief sojourn through the University of California, Berkeley, I took a speech class. This was a terrible decision, the first of what seems to have been an unending stream of bad decisions while a student on that campus.

Since I entered mid-year, I had no direction whatsoever. I was the first person in my family to attend college, so there was nobody to clue me in as to what to expect. I didn't know a single person on campus, since none of my friends had gone to Berkeley. I didn't know the lingo, I didn't know how to enroll in classes, I didn't know the funtion of an advisor (I never met mine until semester 3, when I staggered in, drunk, to tell her I was quitting). There were no mid-year orientation sessions.

[I really blame Char for my spectacular failure, since she was one of the grad residents in the dorm where I lived and I really feel she should have somehow sensed that we were going to become life-long best friends and taken better care of me...even if she wasn't the grad resident for my section of that dorm!]

So when my roommate (whom I came to loathe through our too-many months together) told me I should take a certain speech class because she had taken it and knew it was "an easy A," it sounded like a good idea. It never occurred to me that while she was a "speaker" (in fact, shutting her up was the most difficult thing), I was a "writer" and would have done much better in a regular English class. But the thought of an easy A was tantalizing and so I took the speech class.

Not surprisingly, I did terrible in it. I was terrified to stand in front of a group and speak, a fear I have not lost in the 50 years since that horrible semester.

Ironically, I got involved with La Leche League several years later, a task which required me to lead a group of anywhere from 3 to 20 women once a month. I had stage fright every time, even though I knew the material intimately.

Strangely enough, the very BEST public speaking I did was at a huge La Leche League convention where I was to talk about toddlers and breastfeeding to a session of 100-200 women and decided to wing it without preparation, script or even notes. What in the world was I thinking? But strangely, I hit my stride and it went off well.

Still, public speaking of any kind is not something I want to do, and teaching is something I hate. So why did I agree to teach a blogging class? Well, because I am one of the newest members on the Davis Community Network (DCN) board, because I'm still not sure what my role is there, because I still can't keep up with the lingo, and because I felt I should do something to earn my keep. Also, because if there is one thing I know a little bit about it's blogging!

So I agreed to do it. No was a long time from when I made the agreement. I adopted the Scarlett O'Hara mantra. I would think about that tomorrow.

Well, when we got home from Santa Barbara and I turned the page of my desk calendar to the upcoming week, my blood turned cold. My class was in three days. How much preparation had I done to that point? Zero.

Naturally, I did the only logical thing: I put off worrying about it until the day of the class. Oh, I did think to ask someone to show me how the room worked (good thing, as it's not just a "stand and talk" thing). And then yesterday morning I woke up at 4 a.m. realizing that I was going to tell the class how to set up a blog on Blogger and in order to log into Blogger, you have to have a gmail account. In a panic, I contacted DCN to ask for the e-mail addresses of people taking the class and sent them all g-mail invites. I was relieved when the day of the class dawned with notifications from G-mail that they had all set up their own g-mail accounts.

I planned to spend Thursday preparing for the class, but I had lots of other really important things to do, like try to beat Joan at Scrabble, keep a running dialog going on Twitter, do a few on-line jigsaw puzzles, and catch up on things recorded on the DVR. I was operating on the same principle I use with writing a review: Do a little bit of it, then sleep and when you wake up, you'll know what you want to write (don't laugh--it works!)

Finally, at 4 p.m., I put together a hand-out sheet to give to the class, showing them sites other than Blogger and giving a couple of links for each site so they can check out the diversity in look and content. I had arranged to meet someone to let me into the building at 6 for the 6:30 class. I wanted to at least look like I was prepared.

I put on my "Blog ur self" shirt, packed up my handouts, and headed off to class.

Ann, from DCN, met me to show me how to get into the building. When we got in, we discovered that the main computer, the one that you hook up to the projector so whatever you do is on the big screen, wasn't working and wasn't hooked up. We couldn't figure out what to do, so I had to call the guy who is in charge of the facility, even though he was taking the night off because he had a dinner invitation. He was good natured about it, though. Came over and got the computer set up.

There were 4 students + another woman from DCN who also wanted to hear about blogging. She was a godsend because she was able to help me give hands on attention to everybody.

I planned to start with asking what brought them to the class and what they hoped to get out of it.

"Maybe if you tell me what a blog is, I'll have an idea," said one woman.

Oh-kay. Maybe this was going to go all right after all. Maybe I wasn't going to have to get to RSS feed, aggregators, or any of the stuff that I didn't understand too much myself!

I showed them Funny the World and then showed them Airy Persiflage (the blog version of FTW) to explain the difference between a "journal" and a "blog" (though I'm not sure that the line is as distinct was it was in 2000, when I began Funny the World).

And then they were all supposed to log into Blogger. The combination of their questions, my answers about blogging vs. journaling, and the computer problems we had easily took up half the class.

But by 7:30, everybody had actually set up a Blogger account, had created a blog and was writing something into their blogs. Someone asked about how you add like a list of books in the side column, which was entirely too complicated to get into in the first class, so I showed them how it was done, but told them we'd go over it more thoroughly next time--and told the DCN woman that I would teach a follow-up class. I also showed them how to upload a photo to their site by adding a picture of Bri (of course), which I had downloaded from Flickr, to my test blog

I came out of there so jazzed. It was such fun. The women were just great and they seemed eager to learn. I came home to check their blogs. One of them apparently didn't publish her post, so her blog is empty, but the other two blogs are there. I bookmarked them to see if they will do anything more on them after the class.

So all my angst was for naught. My first experience as a teacher just went great, I loved doing it, and I look forward to the follow-up.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I am testing the video upload function of Blogger, with a short video I made for Flickr last night.

Bringing You Up to Date

The latest word on the camera is not good. Alice Nan writes:

I have no positive news about the camera so my hopes of finding it are slipping. Brianna did not do as she should have and they are still trying to track down the camera. Brianna says she put it in a drawer at the receptionist desk with a note that it belonged to Sykes. But Walt and I checked all those drawers on Saturday night when we went back and it wasn’t there. I am sure Walt can veryify that too. I shared this information with Robyn today when I went by.

I am not optimistic, but I did tell Alice Nan that I feel the place is financially responsible, since they knew it belonged to someone in Alice's family and didn't try to contact us and since it has now disappeared.

I have pretty much given up hope of ever seeing the photos again, but if I can be reimbursed for the camera, the extra batteries, and the brand new camera bag I had just purchased, I will be satisfied, if still unhappy. They are lucky that it is Alice Nan they are dealing with. I would be parked in the office, frothing at the mouth, if I were the one handling the hunt!

NoSignal.jpg (39230 bytes)

After a night of sleep following the episode with the exploding lightbulb, Walt was all set to attack the set-up of the new TV. Naturally, it did not go smoothly, but after lot of head scratching, manual reading, and button pushing, the new TV was finally set up and working. Which means, of course, that I have no excuses not to get back on the treadmill again.

Keith.jpg (45056 bytes)

Now I learn that in order to get a hi-def signal, I have to call Comcast and sign up for a hi-def account. I will have to call them tomorrow and see how much that is going to cost. Nothing comes inexpensively, I know.

MammaMia.jpg (186289 bytes)

Tonight we went to see Mamma Mia! again. I reviewed it in 2003 and again in 2005 and, like a bad penny, it's back again. The long line outside the Sacramento Community Center theatre told me all I needed to know about why they are bringing it back yet again. Because it sells out, that's why!

I had been dreading seeing it yet again this evening, but was pleasantly surprised. I'd forgotten what a fun show it is. And, since I just saw the story of ABBA on the Biography channel recently, I could now put the whole thing in a bit better perspective (did you know ABBA was "bigger than the Beatles" in Australia, yet during the time they were together they only had one #1 hit in the United States? (That was "Dancing Queen," back in 1976.)

It wasn't until someone named Catherine Johnson got the idea to weave a story around the lyrics of 22 of the group's songs (albeit a fairly simple, kind of dumb story) that the music really took off. In March of 2002, "Mama Mia" became the highest grossing show in North America, taking $3.7 million in a single week. The original cast recording is consistently in the Top 20 of the Billboard Catalog Charts, selling more than 4,000 copies a week in the U.S. alone. It is celebrating six sold-out years at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway and is currently playing record-breaking engagements in Las Vegas and on National Tour in the United States. The original West End production has played more than 3,500 performances and an international tour has played in more than 30 foreign cities. A feature film based on the stage show will be released in July 2008.

So there!

(I suspect the production of Pajama Game that we are seeing on Friday won't have quite as impressive statistics!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Going Hi-Def, Slowly

There was a note from Ashley taped to the television when we got home from Santa Barbara saying that the television hates her. She said that since Sunday she could only get sound, but no picture.

We have a confusing television set-up which drive ME to tears sometimes, and I've been working with it for several years. I just figured that she had pushed the wrong button, though I didn't remember encountering that particular problem before.

But I did what I always do when the TV starts acting weird, I sat down in a chair with 3 remotes in my hand and scientifically began to push buttons at random, with no idea what I was doing.

I also unplugged the TV and the cable box, 'cause that's what they tell you to do. I don't know why, but I always do what they tell me to do. (I assume that is the television version of rebooting, or kicking it or something)

Anyway, with a lot of button pushing, I was finally able to recreate Ashley's problem--sound and no picture. That was the best I was able to get it.

Now, this isn't anything Ashley did, I don't believe. We have been getting a lot of "halos" on the screen for over a year and I have just assumed it was a sign that the thing was on the way out.

"We could find someplace to take it to be fixed," Walt said, kind of half-heartedly. I told him I didn't know if people even fixed televisions any more (especially ones that will require a cable box after February 19, 2009). We finally decided to go TV-shopping at the newly opened Costco.

When you enter Costco you are greeted with a veritable WALL of television sets.

TV sets are like olives. Have you ever seen a can of "small" olives? of course not. The smallest olive you can buy is "large" and they go on up through gigantic or something like that. So the "small" TV in the wall of sets we were looking at was 5" larger than the "huge" TV set sitting without picture in our family room. And of course the price was comparable. I don't remember how much we paid for our 32" set, but I suspect that we were looking to at least double that cost, no matter what we bought. Then, of course, there were the sets on which you could probably show a first run movie in a theatre and have nobody complain about it being too small. For those you had to take out a mortgage on your house, or sell your first born son.

Fortunately, we have no place big enough to put a set that big--and we kinda like our first born son.

Walt suggested we go to Wal Mart to compare prices. I wasn't too keen on going to Wal Mart, just on general principles, but I did agree to at least look. We found one we kind of liked there, but Walt had forgotten to measure exactly how much space we had, so we drove back home, measured the space, drove back to Costco and the one we had chosen at Wal Mart was gone. They had only had one Vizio TV and in the hour since we left, they had sold it. (They aren't going to carry it any more.) But they did offer to sell us the floor model and we went with that.

The last time we bought a TV at Costco, it was so heavy we could barely lift it, it was such a tight squeeze to get it in the car that we had to uncrate it in the parking lot and I remember riding home with my knees practically in my stomach because we had to move my seat up so far (and I have knees that don't want to bend--even that long ago).

This time Walt picked the TV up by himself and we put it in the trunk of the car. Yes, there have been big changes in the past 10 years or so!

I had a meeting to go to and was already late, so he dropped me off at the meeting and came home to read the instructions. (He couldn't actually put the TV in until I came home because it would take two of us to lift the old one off of the shelf where it is.)

When I got home, my first way to be "helpful" was to put a new lightbulb in a lamp which had a burned out bulb. We were switching from regular light bulbs to those weird eco-friendly fluorescent bulbs. But the lamp was in an odd position and in trying to twist the bulb around so it would go into the socket, I dropped it. It broke. Walt shouted "DON'T TOUCH IT!" He said that the mercury was poisonous (I remembered as a kid playing with mercury whenever we had a thermometer that broke).

I decided that the best help I could be would be to get out of the way where I couldn't break anything else. An hour later Walt, with face mask and rubber gloves, was still cleaning up the floor before he could even think about setting up the new TV.

By the time it was all cleaned up, it was after 9 p.m. I asked if he'd rather have dinner first, and he said that yes, he'd rather have dinner...then admitted that he wasn't going to be able to get the TV put up tonight.

So, as the evening ends, we are still TV-less (or, rather, Walt is watching on the upstairs TV and I'm watching on the little set in my office) and we are hoping that in the morning he can finally get the new TV set up before I go off to a writing group gathering.

(All this to watch Boston Legal and Monk reruns!)