Saturday, May 31, 2008

My 26th Time

They tell you not to exercise, to go home and take it easy, to eat more than your usual amount of food, and then they give you a donut, some other snack foods, a t-shirt, and send you on your way.

What's not to like about donating blood?

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OK, yeah...some people don't like that moment when they insert a needle in your arm, but it's not all that bad and just think about the people that you may be saving by spending a few minutes giving up a pint of your blood.

This was my 26th time to donate blood through Bloodsource here in Davis, though I started donating blood regularly when we still lived in Oakland, some 35 years ago.

When we moved to Davis, donating blood involved traveling distances and I had small children, so I didn't give for several years. Then, when I started working for Sutter Medical Foundation, they would have a mobile unit that came and I was able to give blood that way.

Then Bloodsource opened an office just a mile from home. I don't remember what brought me there to donate the first time, but these guys are so organized that they make your follow-up donation appointment while you're sitting there bleeding into a bag. Their staff is extra friendly and make it a point to greet you by name whenever you walk in the door. And they were situated right next door to a donut shop, which means that they had fresh donuts in the snack area afterwards.

Could they possibly make it more appealing?

They also make it rewarding for reaching milestones. I don't need the gifts they give, but I now have a keychain, an acryllic star, and a couple of t-shirts. (The t-shirts were for times when they managed to squirt blood onto whatever I was wearing at the time)

A Star!

It's always an adventure when I go to give blood, only because the iron in my blood is always iffy. They think it may take me longer than most people to rebuild it up after a donation. Usually they like to spread the appointments 8 weeks apart, but I frequently am rejected the first time and end up donating again two weeks later.

I was always intrigued by donating platelets, which you can do more frequently. It's a longer process, but you watch videos while they are removing the platelets. I always watch these people sitting in comfortable chairs, covered with blankets, watching TV and thought "Hey, I can do that!"

It's a two step process, which involves taking the blood out, running it through a centrifuge, removing the platelets, and putting the rest of it back. It's that "putting it back" part that is tricky because when you have a hole in your veins, the blood wants to go out so you're essentially trying to pump it upstream and encountering resistance from the blood coming downstream.

I thought there was nothing to it, but apparently it's quite complicated and my veins wouldn't handle it. After about 5 minutes, the blood wasn't going back into me through the vein that they were trying to use. They tried to find a good vein in the other arm, but were unsuccessful so we decided that my intentions were good, but that I should just stick to giving whole blood.

So now instead of relaxing in the chair at Bloodsource and watching movies, I donate blood (which I can do in 5 minutes), and then climb into my recliner and take a nap, with a puppy (which they don't let you bring into Bloodsource!).

Having a "senior moment"? You might want to check out this entry from Time Goes By by Ronni Bennett, who quotes some interesting research from The New York Times to explain those moments when the word/name we're search for eludes us.

Note to Olbermann and O'Reilly. Please get a room and settle this thing. Countdown is turning into the anti-Fox show most of the time, and O'Reilly fights back with anti-NBC rhetoric. Olbermann is so good think how much more hard news he could cover if he weren't so obsessed with O'Reilly and Rupert Murdock. Didn't realize until tonight that he once worked for Murdock, which may explain why the exhausting diatribes against Fox and O'Reilly. But, really, Keith--this is getting v-e-r-y old.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Don't Hurt My Kid!

Brianna had her 8 week well baby check this week. The doctor says she is "thriving." (Well, of course!)

But the thing about the 8 week check-up, of course, is that it's time for shots. It's wonderful that we now have vaccines to prevent babies from developing life-threatening illnesses, but is there a mother alive who has not gone through hell holding her beloved baby while a doctor sticks a needle in her arm, listening to the screams.

"I'm so glad it's over with! I think I cried harder than she did!" Laurel wrote.

I remember those days, holding a tiny baby, knowing that in a few seconds he would be screaming, but knowing that the brief screams were better than what could happen if a child were to get diptheria or tetanus or whooping cough or any of the diseases that they vaccinate against these days.

If you have kids, sooner or later you're going to have to hurt them in order to help them.

BrokenL.jpg (32573 bytes)Jeri broke her leg when she was four. She was walking to a friend's house, a few houses from our own. One of the children in the house made a turn into his driveway on his bike, and the pedal on the bike happened to clip Jeri's leg. I didn't see it, but I remember someone carrying her, screaming, into the house.

We realized that it wasn't just a simple injury, so we rushed her off to the Kaiser emergency room, where they diagnosed a greenstick fracture. Imagine that you have a twig and you go to break it in half, but it doesn't break all the way, part of it sticking up, still attached to the other part. That's what the fracture was. In order to set the leg, they had to press the bone back into place. Lately I've read of doctors who give kids pain killers or inject the area around where the procedure was going to be done, to minimize the pain. But they didn't do that for Jeri. They just had me stand at her head and pin down her arms while the ortho tech pushed the bone into place while she screamed and screamed and screamed.

I still cringe when I think what the four-year old Jeri must have thought about her mother helping this big scary guy hurt her so badly.

There were other times when it made me cry that I had to hurt one of our children. Ned didn't break a bone until he was 10 and fell out of a tree in Ashland, Montana, while we were on a camping trip. (I told that story in its entirety here.) We took him to see a local doctor, but he couldn't set the leg until the swelling went down, so we had to drive all the way from where we were back to California, and each time we had to move him, it was excruciating for him, bone rubbing against bone.

DavStitch.jpg (39046 bytes)David fell getting into the car when he was about a year and a half old. He split his lip and stitches were required. (He was, later, very proud of his fat lip and happily posed for the camera.)

Thinking I would be an hysterical mother, they took him away from me in the emergency room and took him into a room behind closed doors to stitch him up. I asked if I could stay with him, but they firmly told me no, though I reassured them that I do not fall apart in a crisis. They wouldn't let me stand by him, but did let me stay in the room, safely out of the way.

They tied him down to something they call a "papoose board," where his arms and legs are held tightly in place so they can work on them. They were completley unaware that he was working his hand through the straps and was about ready to grab the hand of the person who was stitching him up. I rushed to his head and held his hands down. I hated being there, listening to him cry, but, stangely enough he was calmer than he had been before because I was there, even though I wouldn't let him move so the medical people could finish their work.

But I still shudder, yet again, thinking of my part in inflicting pain on my precious little baby.

The tears a mother sheds through her kids' growing up years continue, with broken bones, falls, stitches, and all the things that little kids go through. It never gets easier. Laurel has a lot of tears ahead of her.

On June 17, gay couples will be able to start getting married, but the fight isn't over. There is still a group hoping to place a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in November (and others are trying reintroduce the bill that would place discrimination against gays and lesbians in the U.S. Constitution). If you, like me, believe that marriage is a civil matter, not a religious one and that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same status as their straight neighbors, please sign this petition. At the very least, please go to the web site and read the information there, learn the facts, and be able to explain it when you hear people speaking out against same sex marriage.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Miscellaneous Sundries from Longs

Walt and I rarely have arguments, either because we agree on everything, or because we are both dedicated passivists. I'm not sure what his upbringing was, but mine was "don't rock the boat" (or, more specifically, "don't upset your father"). To speak out was often to anger my father and so speaking out (face to face) has always been the hardest thing in the world for me to do. I can do it a bit better in print, but face to face is the worst.

However, our "moments," if you want to call them that, invariably came around the charges at Longs Drugs. I will admit that I occasionally got carried away when shopping at Longs, but the bulk of my purchases at Longs were for such frivolous things as dog food, people food, snacks, cleaning supplies, toiletries (bearing in mind that I don't do face creams, make-up, or anything else of the expensive girly toiletries type) and office supplies. Yeah, there were frivolous things, but it got to the point that when the credit card bill came at the end of the month, we would have "words" about my extravagances and I always felt that the bulk of our money went for "miscellaneous sundries at longs," as Walt always referred to them.

This was a very long time ago, and the problem took care of itself when I finally got a full-time job and my own credit card. I just started buying all the "miscellaneous sundries" on my credit card and paying for them myself and all "words" stopped.

Over the years, the charges at Longs came fewer and farther between, as I seemed to reach saturation as far as "stuff" that I wanted to buy and I rarely go into Longs any more.

So today, when Walt got home from the office (yes, he went to work today), I said "I bought something I haven't bought in a very long time." He asked what I had purchased and I said "Miscellaneous sundries at Longs."

I went to the writers group this morning, without Joan, who had a mild heart attack over the weekend and is now (thankfully) recovering at home.

Women take note. This is Joan's description of her symptoms: I'm witness to the fact (and I want to warn you) that women, at least this woman) have different heart attack symptoms. I would not have identified my early symptoms...a fist-like grabbing excruciating pain of my right jaw, which with my usual self-diagnosing problem, immediately thought I must have had an abscessed tooth that I hadn't recognized as needing help because I have no feeling in that side of my face." However, I then got the worst hot flash imaginable - wanted the air conditioner on even more -- and got so weak and nauseated I wanted in my bed, immediately. By the time I got up and went to my bed, a had a sharp pain under my left arm...that I then felt between my shoulders in the back...and then a bit into my left breast. By this time, Ed was calling 9-1-1...Two firetrucks were at the door in 3-5 minutes...

Anyway, when I left the meeting, I decided to stop at Long's to see about getting a camera case for my new camera! (Yes, I finally got the replacement for my stolen camera!). Of course I couldn't just walk in and buy a camera case. I also had to pick up a few "miscellaneous sundries." For old time's sake.

What I ended up buying was:

- the camera case (on sale for $7)
- a carrying case for my new cell phone (not on sale)
- aspirin
- medicinal ointment
- dog food
- sandwich bags
- some packaged food for dinner
- nacho cheese sauce
- bread
- a flashlight for my office, to replace mine which is always "somewhere else"
- lights for the dark wine closet (the closet is dark, not the wine, which is only sometimes dark!)
- batteries for the lights for the dark wine closet, and...

- a Secure Digital card for the new camera (my one wild and frivolous moment, but it was on sale, half off).

I hope that I didn't go too overboard with the miscellaneous sundries. So far, there hasn't been any unpleasantness about my brief return to my former bad shopping habits.

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Gizmo is a bit difficult to photograph because she's so quick, but I did take this as a baseline photo. Note that her fur has a mottled appearance, both on her face and on her legs. She has a perpetually surprised look because of the lack of fur around her eyes. We'll see what a month or so of medications, baths, etc. will do to make this little girl ready for adoption. She's very sweet and has already fit in here beautifully.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Phun Phantom Phacts

One of the cool things about being a critic is that when you go to a show, they give you a packet of "stuff." Some theatres don't give you anything, some give you publicity photos or brochures about their upcoming show. The really good theatres give you fact sheets about the show that you are about to see, and the really good fact sheets come from the touring Broadway shows, especially those that have been touring for a long time the time a show has been around for twenty years and has toured around the world several times, what is there "new" to say about it?

Tonight we saw Phantom of the Opera in Sacramento and since all we did all day before going to the show was to sit in the car and drive home (well, Walt drove all the way; I was engrossed in my book and he let me read--I started it as we left and finished it about two hours before we got home!), I thought I would share with you some of the facts on the voluminous fact sheet that I got when I arrived at the theatre tonight. These are things that never make it to reviews and you probably would never think to search for on the internet. Since over 80 million people have seen the show, it's likely that many who read this journal have also seen it and might be fascinated, as I was.

These facts were last updated 10/19/06:

* The cost of mounting this tour: $10 million
* The weekly running cost: $610,000

* It takes 2.5 tons of steel reinforcements to support the weight of the set pieces.
* They need twenty 48-foot semi trucks to transport the show.

Here are facts about the scenery:

* The replica of the Paris Opera chandelier is 1,000 pounds, it is 10 feet tall, and contains 6,000 beads and 50 radio-controlled lights.
* The winch that controls the chandelier weighs 1.8 tons
* It takes 9.5 seconds for the chandelier to crash to the ground.
* The baroque procenium which frames the stage weighs 2.5 tons and took 4 months to construct.
* The portcullus (the gate to the Phantom's lair) weighs 1,600 lbs an takes 71 seconds to lower.
* There are 11 life-sized mannequins on the staircase for the "Masquerade" number
* There are 2,700 yards of fabric in the drapes
* There are 22 scene changes.
* There is one life-size elephant

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Photo by Joan Marcus

* There are 36 performers in the show, 60 crew members, 37 scenery and electrical operators, and 17 orchestra members.
* There are 230 costumes, held on 200 feet of rack space and they cost $1.5 million.
* The weight of Carlotta's dress in the "Hannibal" opera is 35 lbs.
* There are 25 hair pieces
* The show has 14 dressers and 5 hairdressers
* It takes an hour for the phantom to get into his makeup
* They use 1 lb of gel every week for the Phantom's hair!

* 141 candles rise out of the deck to form the underground lake
* There are a total of 213 electrical candles in the show
* There are 52 special lighting effects, 10 follow spots and 14 pyrotechnic effects
* They use 550 lbs of dry ice each per performance, which comes to 114.4 tons a year.

The Phantom of the Opera has been seen in New York alone by 11 million people and the Broadway production has grossed over $600 million, more than any other show in Broadway history.

Sixteen actors have played the Phantom, with two of them (Hugh Panaro and Howard McGillin) returning to play it for a second time. McGillin has played the title role in the Broadway production more than any other actor.

The show has been performed in 124 cities in 25 countries and there are currently (as of 2006) eleven productions around the world: London, New York, Budapest, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Pretoria, Capetown, and the U.S. National Tour.

Now aren't you sorry you aren't a critic so you can get cool background information like this?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Like Riding a Bicycle

I looked up and saw that both Walt and Laurel had reached for cameras and were aiming them in my direction. I was standing up, balancing Bri on my hip, and rocking back and forth, which had made her stop crying.

Amazing how it all comes back to you. After all those years of holding, rocking and comforting babies, you get a baby in you arms and you start doing all the same old things again, with the same results. (Of course when I was doing this 30+ years ago, I had less flab and more hip!)

We've had our last "grandparent fix" for this trip, as we will be leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow. We spent a couple of hours at Tom and Laurel's and both got good opportunity to cuddle our granddaughter. Bri and I had a chance to do some bonding. She rewarded me with some smiles and one chuckle, which was very cute. I expect to get a lot more when we next see her, in July.

Just before we left, they put the baby in the crib. They are starting to wean her out of her cradle and into the big crib, in preparation for Laurel's return to work in a couple of weeks. I loved looking at her under the 49er mobile that we gave them at Christmas. Even though she is a girl, Dad is a dyed-in-the-wool 49er fan and I wanted his daughter to start off in this world right!

After we left Tom & Laurel's, we drove over to Maravilla to get Alice and bring her back here for a BBQ...hamburgers and corn on the cob. Perfect holiday fare.

But the fun came after dinner, when Joe brought out the top of their wedding cake to serve for dessert. Their wedding was in October of 2006. The top had been duly wrapped and frozen for a year and they took it out in October of 2007 and had some then, but there was more than they could eat, so rather than (a) throw it away (which I would have done!) or (b) wrapped it up and put it back in the freezer, they stored in the refrigerator.

So it's been sitting in the refrigerator for six months and they figured that now was as good a time as ever to finish it off.

Joe carefully unwrapped it and cut into it....

...and pronounced it edible. He and Alice Nan fed each other pieces and then offered slices to the rest of us. (You'll have to watch the video). Actually, the filling, which was kind of a fudge chocolate, wasn't bad. But I dunno...the others were surprised that the cake itself tasted good, but I didn't think so.

Fortunately, there was ice cream to top it with and I ate some of the crumbs with my ice cream, but I fear I left most of the actual cake.

They decided to toss the leftovers this time.

Good decision.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I'd Walk a Mile...

Tom promised that he'd make sure I got out walking while we were here, and away from the treadmill. Today he made good on his promise. We went to their house shortly after noon, packed up Brianna into their 4-runner, and drove over to Mission Santa Barbara, the location of i madonnari, a street painting festival.

Street painting has a long tradition in Western Europe and the artists who draw with chalk on the sidewalk are called "madonnari," or "Madonna painters," because traditionally they reproduced icons of the Madonna, though I'm not sure how a painting like this meets that description:

There are some fifty such festivals worldwide now, but Santa Barbara was the first such street painting faire to come to the United States. Artists apply to participate and are chosen by the committee. Some 400 professional artists, and young people search for sponsors (it's a fund raiser for the Children's Creative Project, which brings arts education to schools in the county), get assigned a spot in front of historic Mission Santa Barbara and over the three days of Memorial Day weekend, they produce their artwork, many of them working from drawings divided into squares to be easily recreated on the ground in chalk.

All within the backdrop of the lovely mission chapel....

...while hundreds of spectators walk around looking at all the paintings,

or listen to the music playing on the grass, or have a snack, browse the souvenir stands, or just sit and enjoy the lovely day (on days when it's not overcast and threatening rain!).

I had contacted our friends Craig and Roy before we went to the faire. Roy is the music director for the Mission and I thought they might be around. They were. We visited briefly (and we congratulated them on their impending nuptials), and Roy told us about a concert his men's choral group was giving at 6, so we planned to return later that evening.

We kind of cut short our time at the Mission, in deference to Brianna's impending feeding time, though she was an angel all the time we were wandering around. We picked up huge Italian sausage sandwiches to bring back to the house for lunch. I even got a bit of a smile,

a funny face,

a tear or two,

and finally outright boredom with the whole scene.

We finally pulled ourselves away so Bri and her Mommy could get some rest and we came back to Alice & Joe's house to get them and take them to the concert back at the mission.

The concert was brief but lovely. It had been a long time since I'd heard "church music" and afterwards, Craig and Roy let us into the private courtyard to see an amazing frieze by Italian Renaissance sculptor, Andrea della Robbia, which someone found packed away in crates in the attic of the mission. It dates to 1522 and is in perfect condition, so it has been set up in the courtyard of the Mission and soon for a mere $35 you can take the tour that will let you see it, but...heh heh...we know friends in high places and got to see it for free.

We finally said goodbye to Roy and Craig and wandered around the paintings a bit more (now that the crowds had thinned). I will be posting lots of photos on Flickr, but want to wait until I get home to do it.

We ended up at Harry's Bar & Grill for dinner...and who do we see when we walk in the door? Craig and Roy and two friends of theirs. Then the hostess seated us right next to their table, so we were able to kibbitz during the meal.

Now we're at home and I'm sure that I've walked my mile for the day, with lots of fun stuff to see, to hear, and to eat!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Brianna, 7 weeks plus

Yes, I've morphed into Grandma mode again and here I sit at Alice Nan & Joe's house, having just enjoyed a lovely evening with them, with Walt's mother, and with Tom & Laurel. Brianna was, of course, the center of attention.

(We are all watching her be burped.)

Every single person, at one time or another, asked us how our ride down was, which got to be pretty funny after awhile. Actually, the ride down was fine. It's 8 hrs no matter how you look at it. I slept a good part of the first section of the trip. I had been up until 1:30 working on my review of the show we saw last night, and then got up at 5 to finish it, so I was pretty out of it .

Since we were traveling on Saturday, we seem to have missed the bulk of the Memorial Day traffic, at least people who were planning on traveling long distances. We had a bit of a jam-up around an air field where there were lots of helicopters, of all sorts of types and sizes, all loading up with flame retardant to dump on the fire burning just over the ridge in the Santa Cruz mountains. Everybody became a gawker and it slowed progress briefly.

We also stopped just outside of Gilroy at a stand selling fresh cherries. They actually had more peanut and pistachio products, but we did buy a nice bag of cherries, which helped us make it down to Gonzales to the Burger Queen for lunch. The Burger Queen is an independently owned hamburger joint that Walt's mother discovered many, many, many years ago when she was still working for the Department of Education and traveling up and down the state. It's perfectly situated between Davis and Santa Barbara for a nice lunch stop. Total greasy spoon, but it's become a family tradition--Walt's sister stops there when she travels, Jeri stops there when she travels, and we frequently stop there as well. They have huge hamburgers, and the best onion rings ever.

I did some of the driving after we left Gonzales but I was sleepier than I realized and before I'd even driven 100 miles, I was weaving dangerously into the next lane, so pulled off at a rest stop and Walt drove the rest of the way in...I slept some more.

When we were here last time, right after Bri's birth, it was the middle of April and Joe, an accountant, was up to his eyeballs in taxes and we hardly saw him. Big difference tonight when we arrived and discovered he was putting together a big family dinner for all of us. He was so much more relaxed and I didn't worry about being a bother for him (not that he would ever feel we were, I don't think).

So we just sat around and had hors d'oeuvres, and then dinner, and oohed and ahhed over the baby.

I decided that while I would rather be here all the time to see her frequently, there is a perk in being the "far away" grandparents. We get a chance to see the "big" changes, to see how much she has changed from month to month, in a way that you don't notice when you see a baby every day. It's also so much fun to see how Tom and Laurel have already grown into parenthood

She had her fussy time, and they took her to the back of the house and got her all taken care of. Then I held her and walked her around for awhile so they could eat dinner with two hands. Then, before they left, she got passed around to everyone so we could all have a chance to bond with her a bit.

Tomorrow we are going to i madonnari, a street painting festival at Mission Santa Barbara, which should be fun...and give me a chance to take lots of photos.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Show we saw last night

This was just a fun show by the local teen theatre company, here dancing to the music of Raymond Scott (famous for writing cartoon music back in the 40s and 50s)

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Ten Things That Happened Lately

(I cannot tell a lie. I got the idea from Mary, who leads a more interesting life than I do! But I'll give it a shot anyway. It may not be a great story, but it's just what happened.)

1. I went to get myself a bowl of ice cream the other day. I knew that we hadn't finished off the carton, but it wasn't in the freezer. Had I left it on the counter? No. Had I mistakenly put it back in the refrigerator instead of the freezer? No, not there either. It was one of those mysteries of life that I could not solve until I went to heat something up in the microwave...and found a cartoon of very warm, very melted ice cream there. Oops.

Now, normally I would be very concerned about this, because this is the sort of thing that people do in early Alzheimers. Keys in the refrigerator, underwear in the silverware drawer, ice cream in the microwave. But I do put ice cream in the microwave, if it's very hard, and run the machine for 10 seconds. Obviously I got distracted and never went back for it. It was 2 days later and definitely time to dump the ice cream!

2. Walt came home yesterday and let me know that gas at our local gas station had now reached $4.20, with the price across the street $4.18. Just a couple of days ago, I was looking at a journal entry from May 23, 2001, where I was appalled that the cost of gas had skyrocketed to $2.03. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that there would come a day when I would think that price was cheap.

3. My editor sent an e-mail saying that the Big Editor is looking to start a blogging column and is looking for "reliable bloggers" who might be interested in participating. Would I be interested? Well...duhhh! I started this journal in 2000 because I wanted an exercise to see if I was capable of producing what was essentially a newspaper column a day in case anybody ever was willing to hire me to write one (in the days when I still aspired to be Erma Bombeck). So we are going to discuss this when things are slower (May-early June is the absolutely busiest time for local news).

4. I discovered that on June 21, I have both my cousin Peach's 50th wedding anniversary party and Shelly & Ellen's wedding reception and at 11:30 the next morning we have to be in Mendocino, a 6-8 hour drive from here, to scatter my friend Michele's ashes. How to do all three! Where's that cloning machine?

Actually, it turns out the anniversary party is at 4, the reception is at 8 and if we leave in pre-dawn hours, we can probably get to Mendocino in time, but it's going to be very tight.

5. I had not one, but two phone calls on my cell phone today, one from Phil (whom I asked to call so I could hear his ring tone -- the Oompa Loompa song from "Willie Wonka") and one from my friend Mary in Seattle, who has never called me before, but once she found out what her ring tone was going to be ("Eensy Weensy Spider") she decided that it would be fun to try it out. What fun to have all these identifiers! I didn't even look at who was calling. I knew instantly.

6. The writing group met in a little cafe this week, which had the temperature of a sauna. I don't know why they didn't have their air conditioning blasting. To make matters worse, I started out sitting in front of a window with the sun shining in and had sweat dripping down my face and into my eyes. I finally moved to a different seat, with all four of us huddled around in the shady spot on the table. Next week we'll meet in the clubhouse of the senior citizen housing complex where two of the women live--it has air conditioning!

7. After agonizing over how I was going to get dinner prepared for Cousins Day next week when I would have ZERO time to work on it, but managing to find a way to do it anyway, I was reminded that I'm not bringing dinner this time, I'm bringing drinks. I don't suppose I can pour the tomato-vodka spaghetti sauce over ice and call it a cocktail, can I?

8. I finally met Jack. Jack Elton is the son of our friend Jessica. He's 11 weeks old and we hadn't seen him yet, but we finally ran into him and his mom at the show I reviewed tonight. What a cutie! I used my new phone to take a brief video to send to Phil, so he and Jeri can "meet" Jack.

9. We got a very annoying telemarketing call from someone on the other side of the country trying to smear one of our candidates for State Assembly (a woman I have admired for years). Under the guise of taking a poll, the caller proceeded to blast the candidate for "not doing anything to improve health care." I don't know if the caller was aware that County Supervisors can't really effect much change in the national health care system! We hung up on her. I later heard from several other people who received the same call and had the same reaction. Those who were teetering on the edge, not sure which way to vote, said that pushed them in the direction of the candidate they were trying to smear, so it appears the smear campaign had the opposite effect from that desired.

10. The temperature must have dropped 30 degrees--at least--this week. It was in the 100s last weekend, and we shivered tonight, sitting at an outdoor performance. There is snow expected in the Sierras.

Tell Gov. Schwarzenegger That You Support the California Supreme Court!

The Governor is conducting a phone survey regarding the California Supreme Court's historic decision in favor of marriage equality and LGBT rights.

Registering your support is easy:

1. Call 1-916-445-2841
2. Press 1, 5, 1, 1

Repeat if you like. Then pass this e-mail on to others. Thank you!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stop the Slaughter

My heart did flip flops when I heard from Peggy yesterday. I remembered being back in Australia, at Caversham park, walking around among the herd of kangaroos, watching the little babies hopping in and out of their mothers' pouches, having the roos stand up next to us, begging for food, looking at the big round eyes, seeing the littlest babies learning how to walk, laughing as they stuck their heads into Mommy's pouch for a quick swig of milk before going off to explore the world again.

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I remembered sitting on a bench in the cemetery, watching the roos lounging about in groups on the graves. I remember laughing at the kangaroo fart and the roo seeming to wipe the bad smell away.

I remembered watching the roos hopping through the bush, with Chippa in hot pursuit, never able to catch them (and not knowing what she'd do with one if she did).

I hadn't thought about kangaroos before going to Australia. I'd only encountered them in zoos. They were OK, but I didn't have any real sense of protectiveness about them (they way I did about apes and elephants). But Australia changed my opinion about kangaroos.

After I returned home, Peggy started volunteering at a kangaroo rescue place and began sending photos of the babies they were working with, babies who have lost their mothers to who knows what sort of disaster, babies who sometimes aren't even old enough to leave the pouch, and who need that security that the Caversham babies had

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But Peggy's message caused my heart to do flip flops because she was asking me to sign a petition, something she almost never does. It seems that the Australian government is beginning a massive kangaroo kill and a group of people are trying to raise awareness in the hopes of stopping it.

The following appeared on the Care2 web site, where people can sign the petition:

Australia's military has just begun killing kangaroos at the Belconnen Naval Transmission Station, a decommissioned military base, to protect the land on the baser from overgrazing. The Australian government refused to relocate the animals, claiming the cost was too high, even though activists estimate the 600 kangaroos at the base could be relocated for much less.

The military plans to kill 400 kangaroos in the coming days - at least 70 kangaroos have already been rounded up and killed, including mothers and their joeys. Sign this petition to tell Australia's government to immediately halt this kangaroo cull. Your signature will be delivered via email to Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. Learn more and watch video.

The video is particularly emotional. It doesn't show the actual killing of the roos, but you can sense their terror, and hear a woman speaking about the alternatives that they have been begging the government to consider.

Think about it--Australia is an entire continent which is mostly uninhabited. Would it be so impossible to think of moving the roos to the center of the country, where they might have a fighting chance.

I try to imagine the outcry that would go up if there were suddenly open season in this country on the bald eagle. The kangaroo is Australia's national emblem.

Today, Peggy writes that the slaughter has already started in Canberra.

I've been sitting here fuming over our government and their decision to cull kangaroos in our capitol city of Canberra. They are saying there are too many but what they are NOT saying is that they really want the land to use for something else, so they organised professional shooters to come and kill them all.

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Seventy roos were murdered yesterday and the slaughter is expected to continue daily until 400 of them, including the babies are dead.

If you are an animal lover, I would urge you to educate yourself, and if you are as outraged as I am at what appears to be a senseless slaughter, when there are viable alternatives, to do something to try to stop the killing.

The following is from Brett Clifton, of "Save our Kangaroos":

What you can do to help - please write to, fax or call any or all of the following Australian Federal Government politicians, and urge them to order a stop to this inhumane slaughter now:

The Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd
Tel: +61 (0)2 6277 7700
Fax: +61 (0)2 6273 4100
Queensland numbers:
Tel: +61 (0)7 3899 4031
Fax: +61 (0)7 3899 5755

The Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon
Tel: +61 (0)2 6277 7800
Fax: +61 (0)2 6273 4118

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support, Dr Michael Kelly AM
Tel: +61 (0)2 6277 4840
Fax: +61 (0)2 6277 8556

The Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett
Tel: +61 (0)2 6277 7640
Fax: +61 (0)2 6273 6101

joey5.jpg (51592 bytes)These kangaroos did not have to die and have done nothing to deserve this fate. They are trapped behind high fences and despite their public statements, ultimately the local government has other plans for
this land.

The option of conducting a scientific trial relocation was rejected by the Department of Defence as being too expensive. However, the cost quoted for the relocation effort was ridiculously over-inflated. Other groups with experience in this field had offered to undertake the work for less than a quarter of the cost. Ether way, the cost is a fraction of the windfall the government will get when they ultimately sell off this land for future development.

Links for more information and photos from today's horrific events, and ways that you can get involved:

This was a very dark day in the history of the Australian Capital Territory. Please help us put a stop to this unnecessary slaughter now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Second test message

Second test message.

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New Toy

It's silly to have three entries that center on a silly cell phone, especially one at the very low end of the Verizon catalog, but I now have my new cell phone. And it's very pretty.

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The very first thing I did with it was to make a test video to send to Phil, who responded with a video of his own (which I inadvertently deleted after I watched it. :(

Then I came home to try sending mp3 files and .jpg files to the phone. It strips them off the messages, but I figured there must be a workaround.

I found a "make your own ringtones" program which would also format .jpg files to send to your cell phone, so I downloaded the trial version and tried it. Viola! I had my very first ring tone. (It was the mp3 file of Munchkin barking that I posted on a journal entry awhile ago. It is now my ringtone for Ashley!)

Then I tried making a photo of Brianna and it worked beautifully, but it posted to the phone with a big "DEMO" across her face. But that was all I needed to know that I would definitely use this program, so I parted with the $20 to buy the registration for it. (What a scam that try a program, like it, then send them $20 and they will send you some numbers by e-mail that you can enter into your program--they don't even have to pay postage to mail off a disc or anything!)

While I was working on ring tones, Walt was out on the patio, with a glass of wine and an instruction book, figuring out his new phone. He can now finally take photos and send text messages without paying for each and every one and he was trying to figure out how it all worked. We spent time sending each other messages to test the new phones.

I've been having such fun making ring tones all afternoon!

Now the really silly part of all of this is that I get calls from Walt and, when my mother forgets which is my cell phone and which is my home phone, I get calls from her on the cell phone. I don't actually know if Ashley has ever called me. Steve has called me (but I haven't decided what I want to use for his ring tone yet) and when we are in Santa Barbara, there will be a flurry of calls from the folks there, but setting up some of the ring tones was just plain silly. Jeri calls sometimes (but mostly we text). Tom and Ned may call if they know that I'm out of town, but otherwise I almost never get phone calls on my cell phone.

But still I had such great fun choosing tones anyway.

All of our Pinata Group people, the people from our UC Berkeley days, all now ring to the Cal fight song. (In fact that's what started this whole desire for having personalized ring tones. I think it was my friend Jeri who uses the Cal fight song as a ring tone and I really wanted to set aside that tone for that group!)

But then I started getting creative. I went thru Lawsuit songs to use for Ned and after discarding The Monks of Poo (from a Preoccupied Pipers CD), I finally settled on "Ugly Butt." I'm sure that will be wonderful going off in the supermarket if he should decide to call me some time.

I haven't figured out Tom's ring tone yet, but Jeri's is a song she wrote and recorded which I've used several times on videos, called Kettleman's Lustige Streiche.

Walt was the only one who had an official musical ring tone on my old phone, only because it came packaged with the phone ("When the Saints Go Marching In") but I don't have that recording available to me now, so I chose another Lawsuit song, "Maria Moonbread," of which he approved.

I have Ellen and Shelly listed on the same contact and I used one of the photos appearing in newspapers around the country this week for their photo ID and then made a ring tone of "Going to the Chapel and we're gonna get married" for them. I chuckled when I did it.

I also chuckled a lot when I added a ring tone to my friend Mary, in Seattle, who has never ever called me, but who occasionally sends a text message. Mary is one of the smart people who knows what kind of spider ran up the water spout and so her ring tone is a recording of "Eensy Weensy spider."

For my mother, I chose a Perry Como song ("Hot Diggity, Dog Diggity") which isn't exactly perfect, but "oh so all but.".

Then I was trying to come up with a good song for Peach, whose real name is Carolyn and who is a huge Neil Diamond fan. Her tone is now a snippet of "Sweet Caroline," of course.

My favorite, though (I still have lots to go--and am not trying to get ring tones for EVERYONE, but just the ones that seem to work well) is for my cousin Kathy. We have spent many hours over the past many Cousins Days bemoaning the problems that accompany getting older, as we fan ourselves and drink more ice water. I discovered I had a recording of a song called "Middle-Aged Woman" and chose a part out of the middle of it where she talks about hot flashes. I don't know if Kathy will find it as funny as I did.

So that's what I've been doing since we got home from Verizon at 4 p.m. At 9:30, Walt finally came downstairs to ask if there was ever going to be dinner (fortunately, it was cooked; I just had gotten sidetracked and hadn't dished it up yet).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Test Video

Checking out the video capability of my new phone.

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21 May 2008

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Just look at that. Isn't that weird in a very cool-weird kind of way? This is from The Fretting Zoo, which you should be checking every day, and if you're not--why not?

This is the kind of creativity that could produce great novels, great flights of fantasy of the kind I can't even imagine. A hatch back full of lentils? The square root of pudding is milk? The Salvador Dali allusions? Who thinks up these things?

This is the kind of thing that would never come from my brain and definitely not onto any screen. The limits of my creativity stop at sites like this:

Don't send a lame eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

My own personal satisfaction is when I've written a well-crafted sentence or paragraph. I just ended my review of Streetcar Named Desire like this:

In "A Streetcar Named Desire" Tennessee Williams gave the world a gumbo filled with failure, vulnerability, depravity and the helpless fragility of the human mind. Director Venables has mixed it with the expertise of a master chef and served it with panache.

Now that tickles me. That is something I am capable of doing and when I hit it squarely on the mark, I'm very happy with it.

This evening I attended a meeting of the Davis Community Network board and found myself volunteering to be a "tech specialist" (or some such thing) for one of the city's non-profit groups about to learn all the tools available to them through DCN. Not sure I'm up to the job, but one thing is for certain: I will learn a lot trying to stay ahead of the people I'm supposed to be the "expert" for!

On the way home, I had KGO, San Francisco's talk radio station, on in the car and heard the tail end of a conversation with a woman who stated, several times that she was going to be pissed if Hillary didn't get the nomination. Her reason was that she herself had been in a male-dominated profession all of her life and had been subjected to sexual discrimination all of her life and if Hillary doesn't win it will be because the nomination would have been stolen from her by men who didn't want a woman in the White House. She had nothing to say about Hillary's policies, her campaign promises or anything except that she was a woman and, dammit, it was time for a woman in the White House.

While I certainly agree that it is way past time for this country to have a female president and that Hillary is well qualified for the position, to vote for someone only because they are female and because you yourself and countless other women have been subject to sexual discrimination makes about as much sense as voting for Obama because he's black and it's time for a black man to be president.

Another reason for voting for Hillary that I have heard from at least one person whose opinion I normally value is that if Hillary wins, it means Bill will be back in the White House and if a crisis comes up and Hillary has problems, Bill will be there to help her.

That, to me, is a more sexist reason to vote for Hillary than just because it's time for women to rise up out of repression. It says to me "I'm not convinced that Hillary can do the job, but she'll have a strong man to back her up so it will be OK."

Vote for a candidate because he or she inspires you or meets your own vision of what direction the country should go in, or because he or she is the best person you feel can get us out of this quagmire that we are in, but to vote for someone based on your own sexual repression, or because of the color of their skin or because it will get Bill back in the White House again is just a dumb reason to support a candidate.

In my humble opinion.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

Oh, it's so much fun to go gadget shopping when you are getting something for free!

When Walt was in London, we received word from Verizon that it was TIME. We qualified for new phones. They were offering a free Blackberry for the primary account holder and a lower quality phone for the second name on the account.

Neither of us want a Blackberry (I don't need to get all that junk e-mail on my cell phone!) so I had a nice chat with the Verizon rep at their 800 number and found out that we could get whatever phone we wanted.

Today was the day to go phone shopping.

First we stopped at the cemetery to take flowers, since we didn't get there last night after dinner. (We figured Dave wouldn't mind our being late)

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Then off to Verizon to check phone availability. Turns out I can get exactly what I wanted in a cell phone -- better phone quality, ability to take video, and mp3 capability (so I can make my own ring tones for those 2-3 people who actually call my cell phone. LOL). And it even comes in a pretty metalic red case. Unfortunately, they didn't have any in stock, but the phones have been ordered and will be in on Wednesday.

(Silly to be so excited. I almost never use my cell phone, but it's nice to have a toy to play with--and I DO use it for lots of text messaging with Jeri--kind of portable e-mail.)

But the point of this is that apparently I can only send video messages to people with video cell phones. This does include sites like Utterz (and possibly Flickr), but the only real person I know with video capability is Phil, so if your cell phone has the ability to receive and view video, let me know and maybe some day I'll send you a video.


We had a scare around here today. I received a message from Ashley that Scrappy had gotten out of his foster home, near where we live. Walt was out at the time, but as soon as he came home, we got in the car to go join the group looking for the puppy, but just as we were backing out of the driveway, I got a text message from Ashley saying he had walked back in the house again.

This reminds me of the first day Lizzie arrived, when she was unadopted by us and still called "Happy." She was here a very short time when she managed to get out the front door and was last seen trotting off up the street. Walt got on his bike, I got in the car and we went all over the neighborhood, knowing she wouldn't come to us because she didn't really know us at all.

When we got home, guess who was sitting in the driveway. We decided she had checked out the neighborhood, decided it fit her requirements, and just came home to wait for her new family to adopt her.

And Sheila has started acting very weird. We came home from the theatre the other night. When we come home, both dogs are always at the front door, tails wagging, and running to the kitchen go get our return-home treat. Lizzie was there, but Sheila wouldn't come out of the living room. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. We talked, begged, cajoled, but she seemed terrified to come out.

She has come out and for the last 3 days has just been very strange. The only thing I can figure is that while we were out she had a bad slip and fall on the floor and is now afraid to walk on the Pergo.

This Pergo is just hell on Sheila, though Lizzie and the puppies have very little problem with it. I can only assume it's because Sheila outweighs Sheila by about 10 lbs, and that extra weight makes her more prone to slipping and falling. She used to race around the house, but now she creeps up and down the hall, or walks very slowly. She eventually gets past feeling leery about it and is fine until she tries to run again, and then we have more days of her being cautious.

I don't dare tell her that the plan is to take up the rug in the living room and replace it with more Pergo. That will leave her only my tiny office where she feels comfortable, though I do hope to have some sort of area rug in the living room, but if anybody knows of teeny tennis shoes for dogs who tend to slip on slippery floors, let me know!

Finally, I entered a haiku contest to make people aware of the need to adopt puppies from Shelters. The winner gets a designer flash drive. If you'd like to read the entries you can find them here. And if you decide to vote for mine, I'd be ever so beholdin' to ya! (Voting ends Wednesday)

Monday, May 19, 2008

An Artsy-Fartsy Weekend

First of all, you must, must see the new video, "My Rising Up," which I added to "Look at These Videos." The Gay Men's Chorus in San Francisco is going to be performing a cantata of Steve's music in December, but they are doing one of the pieces in their spring concert and Steve took a video of a rehearsal. My god, did this send chills down my spine. And in the middle I actually had tears in my eyes. I don't know if it's because it's that good or if it's because I was imagining what Steve must feel to be watching this. I suspect it's both.

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So it's been a three-show weekend, and fortunately all three plays, while quite different from one another, were all pretty good.

We started Friday night with a performance of Measure for Measure at the University. As I have stated ad nauseam in this journal, Shakespeare is not my forte and I knew nothing about this particular play. But I did some studying beforehand so I had a vague idea of what was going on.

I was not prepared, however, for modern dress, electric colored wigs on bump-and-grind dancers, and musical numbers tossed in at random. I could have done without the music, which was forgettable, but the production was pretty good, and the performers were all excellent. The best I can say is that it was a Shakespeare production that kept me awake (of course I don't mention that in a printed review!)

I really, really didn't want to to go see A Number at Capital Theatre Company, which performs on the Delta King riverboat in Old Sacramento. It wasn't that I didn't like the play (which I had never heard of before), or that the theatre company tended to do bad productions. On the contrary, they are one of my favorite groups because they are generally excellent.

No, my reluctance had to do only with the fact that it was a comfortable 78 degrees in the house and an UNcomfortable 100 degrees outside! Going to the show would involve putting on SHOES, and long pants and actually feeling the heat. I'm so very spoiled by air conditioning!

However, it was worth the trip. This is a play by a playwright named Caryl Churchill and has been called "the first 21th century play." It involves the subject of cloning and is a discussion between a father and son, who has just learned that he is a clone...or is he the original? It brings up the question of what makes us who we are. It reminds me of the lyrics to the song in A Chorus Line which says "Who am I anyway? Am I my resume?"

The play is only 65 minutes long, but gives the audience much to ponder at the end of it. And the two actors, Gillen Morrison and Loren Taylor, were simply outstanding.

We ended the weekend with a matinee production of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Woodland Opera House. I've noticed that on three-show weekends, the third show just really seems like going to work, no matter how good it is. This was a matinee, so the senior citizen buses were parked in front of the theatre and at some point Walt announced that I was the youngest person in the place.

I remember when the Lamplighters joked about a "sea of blue hair" at Sunday matinees, though this particular matinee had at least one fellow in the most amazing pompadour that I was sorry I'd forgotten my camera. It was an unnatural gold and piled higher than Elvis', which made me glad that have chosen to age au naturel!

The show itself was pretty good, though it's either the acoustics of the opera house, or all of our aging ears, but there was a gathering of other audience members in front of us at intermission, all complaining about being unable to understand the dialog. One guys said "I can't figure out what's going on...but at least it's a nice way to get out of the house" and then added that "you really can't beat the old musicals!"

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We ended the weekend with dinner out at a local restaurant. This is a place that sent me a coupon for a free dinner for two, if I would be one of their "secret shoppers," reporting back how my experience had been -- they contacted me in response to a letter of complaint I had sent about experiences on Easter weekend.

Anyway, we had a wonderful dinner, with starter, wine, salad, entree, and dessert. About 50% more than we would normally eat on a night out, but all was well. Unfortunately, the waitress did not live up to a lot of the picky bits that they ask about on the form (didn't give us information on specials, or offer freshly grated pepper for our salad, or ask if we wanted dessert, or offer coffee when she brought dessert). But I filled out the "secret shopper" form and thanked them for giving us the chance to participate.

So, having now reviewed the restaurant, I'm spending the rest of the evening working on the reviews for the 3 shows.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Art of Conversation

I have stated here, repeatedly, that I am very shy. I have also repeatedly received comments from people scoffing at the idea that I could be shy. But it's easy to be open and forthcoming and garrolous when writing. Writing comes easy for me. It's yet another thing entirely to have a conversation with someone.

There are some folks with whom I am never uncomfortable, with whom conversation comes easily. There are other people, some of them good friends (occasionally my own children), with whom conversation sometimes is more difficult, where I went to get it "right" and end up tripping over my tongue.

And then there are those strangers with whom I am frequently supposed to converse, particularly if I am conducting an interview, when every fiber in my being tenses up and it's a terrible effort to bring myself to speak.

Fortunately, I learned awhile ago, in this interviewing business, that everybody likes to talk about him or herself. I learned that for most of the interviews I do, if I get a good opening question, the interview pretty much runs itself.

The secret, however, is to pay attention. I heard someone recently -- I don't remember who now (it was probably Barbara Walters) -- talking about what distinguishes a good interviewer from a not-so-good interviewer is that the good interviewers are engaged with their subjects and their follow-up questions come out of whatever the subject is giving them, even if it takes them far afield from where they thought they were headed.

A not-so-good interviewer has an agenda, subjects that he or she feels must be covered and so while the subject is discoursing on something absolutely fascinating, the interviewer is already thinking about the next question, whether it pertains to the topic at hand or not.

Sometimes it seems like James Lipton falls into the second category of interviewers when you watch Inside the Actors Studio. The interviewee has just revealed that she was raped by someone when a young teen, got pregnant and had to give the baby up for adoption and he will follow up with "and then when you were 20 you appeared in this other play."

I do know better. The Inside the Actors Studio interviews go on for several hours, out of which is pulled 60 minutes worth of the best material (unless you're Robin Williams, and then 60 minutes isn't nearly enough and they give you 120). You can't be that successful an interviewer and as persnickity as Lipton without knowing how to be a great interviewer.

It works the same way in conversation with the people in your day to day life. Some time ago, I wrote an entry about my sister-in-law, and said that the thing I admire about her most is her total engagement in a conversation. She listens with every fiber of her being. She tunes everyone out but you and she listens in rapt attention as if you were the most important person in the world. When it is her turn to speak, whatever she says, or asks, will follow logically from what you have just said.

My mother is the same way. She amazes me at the depth of knowledge she has about...well, pretty much about everybody. It's astonishing the things I learn about people from my mother, because she has a way that makes it easy for people to open up and she is genuinely interested in their lives and what is happening with them.

And then there are the OTHER people.

I am thinking in particular of someone with whom I cross paths on a fairly regular basis. This is an extremely well read person whose interests are many and varied. Someone who knows pretty much something about pretty much everything.

Conversations with this person are extremely frustrating. Topics are many and fascinating and the conversation seems to invite input from myself, but all I have to do is utter an idea, express an opinion, or recount a personal experience, and I am immediately deluged with better facts, with more impressive experiences, with more complicated feelings.

Each time we are together, our conversation follows the same path, as if we were performing a choreographed ballet. We start chatting, I start giving input, I'm interrupted with a bit of "I know more than you do" and as the conversation progresses and I am interrupted more and more often, I participate less and less until by the end of our chat, I've been reduced "uh-huh" and one word responses.

I always end the conversation feeling sad, because I think that I would enjoy this person much more if I could only get a word in edgewise, or if I wasn't always being made to feel that my opinion or experiences didn't matter, or paled in comparison.

It would be a wonderful world if everyone in it took lessons from my mother or from Alice Nan on how to have a conversation with someone and have you both enjoy it.

(Carly Simon was on Ellen the other day, talking about "You're So Vain," and I couldn't help thinking about that when writing this entry, knowing full well that the person I have talked about probably doesn't even know I keep a journal, but feeling the need to sing "You're so vain, you probably think this entry's about you..." anyway!)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

12 years


Where is my mommy?

puppy cries in shelter cage

Someone please love me

(This is Scrappy, one of our foster puppies--who is MUCH happier now!)

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A Little More Stupid was research, I told myself.

The morning started with a long conversation with Ellen and Shelly about the events of yesterday, as we all sat surfing the internet to find out how many places we could find that printed pictures of them. (A lot, as it turns out! The biggie, of course, was the photo in the New York Times, but they've received email from everywhere saying that they are carrying their photo. Jeri wrote saying they were in The Boston Globe, someone said they were in the Wall St. Journal. I even found a photo in an Australian newspaper...and who knows where else. They were apparently the only couple who showed up with signs--the same signs they have been carrying at every Marriage Equality rally, and so it made them the darling of the photographers from all over the country).

[funny aside: Hibbert Lumber, one of our two lumber stores, called them saying how pleased they were to see that the photo in the Sacramento Bee showed that Ellen's sign was attached to one of Hibbert's yardsticks. I don't think they had seen that the photo was the entire front of the San Francisc Chronicle!]

Anyway, the e-mails kept flying back and forth among people and one of the e-mails was from someone who linked to the Ellen Degeneres show web site, with a video clip of her announcement, on the heels of the court decision, to marry her partner, Portia DeRossi. I watched the video and then noticed a link on the web site.

I've been on the web site before and I know she has fun games that you can play, so when I saw that it was an "Instant IQ test," I didn't notice that it appeared in the advertisement section, not in the games section. I clicked on it out of curiosity. Mary had mentioned taking a Free IQ test on Facebook recently that she found very frustrating. Her entry is called "It's a Crummy Commercial." But this was Ellen. Would Ellen lure me into such a dupe?

So I took the test, rather proud of myself that I even answered the damn "A train leaves point A..." question. It was 7 pages of what seemed like legitimate IQ test questions. At least they were questions that made me think (and also showed, what I knew already, that my skills lay in language and not in mathematics or critical thinking).

Each page ended with a question about some bit of personal information -- your age, your zip code, your gender, your e-mail address, your phone number. I used the zip code of the house I grew up in, my father's birth date (but my year), and the phone number of the house I grew up in. I set up a fake e-mail account at Yahoo to mail the results (used my father's name, feminized). I get enough spam as it is without whatever this "test" was going to give me. I'm no dummy!

I finally got through all 7 pages of the test and clicked to get my results and was tumbled, like Alice through the rabbit hole, into a quagmire of "offers," "surverys" and outright advertisements.

First there were the one-page "offers" of wonderful things you could get and the option to accept or pass (each one was going to cost you something, of course). Then it went into the "surveys" which were initially described as demographic, but which were just long list after list after list of offers to subscribe to offers like "Sump News" (for the homeowner with a sump pump -- really!). You couldn't just click "no" on all the offers, but had to accept at least one. (Naturally on the sump page, I chose Sump News.) Then you were given a subsequent advertisement for whatever you had clicked and when you clicked "no" you were then given another long list of offers that you had to accept or decline.

Like Mary, I was beginning to wonder if part of the IQ test was determining exactly how long a subject would sit there clicking "no" to endless offers of things they want to send you.

But I did notice that there was a little progress bar at the top of my screen, so I decided that I was getting near the end and would keep clicking "no" over and over again (I'm sure I did it for more than five minutes).

When at last I reached the end of the little progress bar, guess what...another progress bar popped up and you were supposed to start all over again. I decided that this was going to be an endless exercise in futility and I would never ever get my IQ score.

But when I closed down the screen, and went to close down my fake e-mail account, to my surprise, my IQ score was there. And it does indicate that I've lost a few points since high school.

They were extremely secretive about IQ scores when I was in high school. Giving someone her score was akin to violating today's HIPAA rules for medical information. However, I worked in the school office and was able to sneak a peak at my own IQ score and discover that it was 137, a decent level. But I'm only 132 today. I'm convinced it's because each time I clicked on another page of offers it lopped a point or two off of my total score.

Friday, May 16, 2008

An Historic Decision

When I received several notes yesterday, from several groups, saying that the long-awaited Supreme Court decision about the constitutionality of California's ban on gay marriage was scheduled to be read this morning, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Most of the messages had come from Shelly and Ellen (on several different e-mail groups) and I wanted to block off all feeling because I didn't know if I could bear to see them go through the disappointment again, to have their hopes of finally being able to marry dashed yet again. If the Supreme Court upheld the ban, there would be no possibility of gays marrying in California.

No matter what you feel about homosexuality, just put yourself in the place of people who have been in a loving relationship for 34 years, who have raised a family together and who have vowed to stay together till death do they part, but who are told they can never marry. They fight to prevent a proposition banning gay marriage from being placed on the ballot, but it is and by a slim margin, it passes. Straight people have now decided that gay people cannot marry. Then they get little sparks of hope. Massachusetts permits gay marriage. The mayor of San Francisco decides that it's OK for gays to marry and they line up in the rain by the thousands to be married at San Francisco City Hall. Then straight people in Sacramento decide to make those marriage invalid. The supreme court agrees to hear arguments overturning the ban on gay marriage. They deliberate for months. The roller coaster continues. One day you can marry, the next day you can't. One day you are married, the next day you are not. Your life doesn't change, your love doesn't change, but the government bats you around like a ping pong ball, deciding YOUR fate, letting you know what you can and cannot do about the person you love and with whom you are spending your life.

The decision was due to be read around 10 a.m, and I got on Twitter to ask if anybody was there, or listening to a San Francisco radio or television station.

Shortly after 10 the flood of messages and e-mail began to arrive. The vote in the Republican majority court was 4-3.

The California Supreme Court has ruled it is unconstitutional to ban same sex marriage in California. In so doing, it has become only the second Supreme Court in the United States to so rule.

The California Supreme Court today held that the California legislative and initiative measures limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violate the state constitutional rights of same-sex couples and may not be used to preclude same-sex couples from marrying.

Needless to say, there is great jubilation at City Hall, where the decision was read. The general manager of the city's Public Utility Commission said "You wait for this your whole life," and said he planned to call his partner and say, "I love you. What more do you say on a day like this?"

The city prepares for a rush on marriage licenses. Someone said that there will be a 30-day waiting period before marriages will start being performed. Legal marriages. In California

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However, even that is not necessarily a victory, as conservative religious groups are raising money to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November which would permanently ban gay marriage in California. If the measure qualifies for the ballot and voters approve it, it will supercede today's court ruling. "The initiative does not say whether it would apply retroactively to annul marriages performed before November." (To his credit Schwarzenegger has issued statement saying he is not in favor of overturning the judges' ruling and would not support placing a proposition to that effect on the ballot.)

Even in this wonderful moment of victory for gay couples who have struggled so long to achieve equality with their married straight neighbors, there is still the possibility that they could be legally married next month and then have the government tell them, yet again, that their marriages are once again invalid.

I honestly don't know how all these people who have been fighting this battle for so long have managed to maintain their sanity in light of this continuing roller coaster. One day you have equal rights, the next day you don't, then you do, then you don't. And all you want to do is stay home, mow your lawn, watch TV, and visit with your friends. But one day you're married and the next you're not and you haven't done anything but exist.

Thank goodness in the middle of all this brouhaha, it's nice to know that there are pockets in the world where Serious Business is discussed and Important Decisions have been made.

In the middle of the war in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, global warming, rising poverty all over the world, and the fight of gay couples to achieve equality with their straight neighbors, the Vatican yesterday announced that it's now OK for Catholics to believe in alien beings and that it will not contradict a faith in God.

Whew, I'm so relived.


HELP!!! If anybody sees anything with Ellen & Shelly's picture in it, could you please write to them at to get their home address, if you're willing to send them a hard copy. Their photo has been in photos all around the world and they are trying to keep a hard copy of as many as they can.