Monday, January 31, 2011


Words are so much fun. Says You introduces the audience to two new, fun words each week. Most weeks even the words that I like, I can't remember, though I try. The only one that really stuck over the years was a non-word, "strawphyllactic," which is not part of the English language but should be.

You all know what a strawphyllactic is. You see them all the time if you go to a restaurant and order a cold drink. A strawphyllactic is the paper left on the tip of a straw when they remove the bottom of the paper tube in order to stick the straw into your drink.

As I said, this isn't an official English word, but it came from the Addictionary, a list of words that ought to exist, but don't. I'd like to be part of a campaign to get Webster's to recognize "strawphyllactic" as a legitimate word.

Some recent good Addictionary words are cellevangelist (a person who loudly gabs on the phone in public), tunesia (when you recognize a song but can't remember the name of the artist), tipocrit (one who dispenses suggestions, instructions and advice which they do not and never would follow themselves), photox (using Photoshop to clone out wrinkles, blemishes and other imperfections in photographs), and apatheist (a person who fails to care about the existence of God).

But the Says You bluffing round words are real words found somewhere (though sometimes I wonder where host Richard Schur comes up with them!)

If it weren't for the bluffing round, I would never have known, for example, that "filk" came from folk music tunes for which musicians wrote new lyrics based on science fiction/fantasy themes. It has since evolved to include original songs on those same themes as well as parodies on any theme of interest to the science fiction community (such as cats and computers) and Celtic tunes (particularly seafaring and drinking songs).

This week we latched on to "catillate," which means the licking of plates. Catillation is such a big activity around here. Lizzie's specialty is catillation and I have to keep using it in a sentence to get it firmly affixed in my mind.

I mentioned "catillate" and "catillation" on Facebook and someone responded by saying that they really ought to call it "dogillation" since dogs do more plate-licking than cats. That got me wondering if I could find the etymology of "catillation."

So far I have been unsuccessful, but I did find a reference to a paper by Thomas Blount (can't read the whole thing without paying a fee) which listed catillation as having been part of the first dictionary printed in England in 1604. There were other words from that volume listed too, one of which was "adstupiate."

I have been trying to find the definition for that word, unsuccessfully. But I desperately hope that you could use it properly in a sentence like "Fox News has contributed to the adstupiation of the United States." Or perhaps a book title like "The Adstupiated Thoughts of Sarah Palin."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Typewriters I have Known

My mother, in her day, was a good typist. We must have had a portable typewriter at home before I learned to type, but I don't remember one. But somehow I really, really wanted to learn to type.

In my high school, they didn't let you take typing until your junior year, so I had to wait until my third year before I got entrance into that hallowed hall, the typing class.

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Sister Anne was the teacher and, since she taught business classes and was the supervisor for the sports program (and I hated sports), I never really knew her until the typing class. Ironically she went on to be my lifelong friend, until her death, a couple of months before Ned & Marta married.

typewriter2.PNG (417374 bytes)My friend Anne Micheletti and I sat at the front table, right in front of Sister Anne's desk and we began learning to touch type. All the keys were covered so we couldn't see the letters even if we tried to look. Instead we referred to a big chart on the wall.

Every two weeks we had to move to a different seat, but Anne and I liked our seats so much that when we had to move we just switched places and then two weeks later, we switched back again.

I took to typing right away. I loved it. When we had finally learned all the letters and numbers and started having speed trials, I was always in the top typists, which gave me an advantage because the classroom had four electric typewriters and about halfway through the year, we were allowed to use the electric typewriters--and the fastest typists were the first to have that opportunity.

It was probably Christmas of that year when my parents gave me my own typewriter, a little Olivetti (manual) portable that had its own case. I was thrilled.

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My first "real" job, with the Physics Department at UC Berkeley came with an IBM typewriter--not a Selectric, but just a regular electric typewriter. I was working in the billing department and within a year, I had moved to the brand new Birge Hall. I was no longer in the billing department, but was now private secretary for three professors.

I have done a bit of searching on the internet and can't find the typewriter I had. There can't have been many of them. It was an IBM typewriter with interchangeable keys. It was before the Selectric, with its little ball, which permitted you to type in elite or pica typeface or to add special symbols to your text.

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I had a wooden board on which were hung a couple of dozen individual keys that I could exchange for some of the keys on the regular keyboard. For example if I was typing something that used, for example, the symbol for "pi" (which apparently I can no longer make with ASCII codes on the computer), I exchanged the "pi" symbol for one of the keys on the maybe the 7 key. I got so good at both knowing which key had been exchanged for which character and in the speed of changing the keys that it was almost as smooth as not having changed them at all. I was very proud of that skill.

Then Selectrics came along with their little balls and that was almost less efficient because you would have one ball which had all the regular letters and numbers, and a different ball that had all the mathmatical symbols, but you couldn't mix and match them so it was a lot more work to type technical stuff that way (and I typed LOTS of technical stuff, including a whole answer manual to the textbook my boss had typed. I would type page after page after page of equations, with maybe a sentence of text in it somewhere.

A wonderful innovation was when they replaced cloth ribbons with carbon ribbons and a correcting key, where the letter could be lifted off the paper and you didn't have to deal with erasures (unless, of course, you were making a carbon copy). I remember one guy whose thesis I was typing, who decided he didn't like the way the letter G looked in his 200 page thesis and he wanted me to go back and remove every single G in the thesis and replace it with a different typeface. I nearly killed him. I did tell him he could have what I had typed thus far and get a new typist to finish it because there was no way I was going to do that.

I didn't have my very own electric typewriter until I worked for a newspaper office that went broke. The boss couldn't afford to pay me, so he offered me the office typewriter, which I happily took. That machine served me well for many years.

At one of the typing services for which I worked, I typed on a dedicated typewriter (I think that's what they were called), which was kind of the intermediate step between an electric typewriter and a computer and which was so complicated that I got the job because initially I was the only one who understood how the damn thing worked and I kept getting called down to the office to explain it to the other people that they finally just offered me a job. We all eventually got pretty good on the machine.

And then when I first went to work for Women's Health, they had a memory typewriter which would store phrases which you could insert at certain points, though most of the typing was like on a regular typewriter. I got very good at that machine too. I always loved the challenge of figuring out how to do very complicated things simply using the functions of whatever typewriter I was working on.

With the advent of computers, my fingers have lost the ability to type with the kind of pressure that I used in the days of my typing class. I don't know if I could type anything with one of those old upright computers nowadays, but back then, I could type 80-90 wpm on one. (My top speed on an electric, I think, was 135 wpm).

My father didn't want me to be "just a secretary." He wanted me to be a teacher, but I hated teaching and was lousy at it. I loved typing from day 1 and to this day, I am better with a keyboard under my hands than I am talking to most people face to face. And I have fond memories of all of the typewriters I've worked on over the years.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Conversations with Sheila

I talk to the dogs. Everybody talks to their dogs. Often conversation with dogs tends to be monosyllabic. "Down." "Sit." "Stay." Fuller conversations might include things like "good girl" or "treat time." Occasionally I will talk to Lizzie or Polly as I would to a person. they don't pay much attention, or look at me as if wondering what language I'm speaking.

Sheila understands me.

Sitting at night at the dinner table, when I have finished my food and have no treats to share with the dogs, I look at Sheila and say quietly, "I'm finished eating, but he's still eating." The other dogs continue to look at me, hope in their eyes. Sheila immediately looks at Walt and goes to sit next to him.

Or at breakfast after I've given them each a crust of my toast, Lizzie and Polly keep hoping for more, but when I say "that's it" and hold my hands up, Sheila immediately leaves the table and goes back to her post in the living room, protecting us from dog walkers, trash collectors, and students walking to school.

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I occasionally lock the dogs in the house, when Lizzie gets a bee in her bonnet and can't be outside without barking. Sometimes I forget that the dog door is closed. And then at some point I open it, but by then, the dogs have already tried to get out and have given up. Sheila will sit in my office, looking at me, eyes crossed because she has to pee. I'll say, quietly, "you know the dog door IS open." Immediately she whirls around and goes out the dog door.

It's surprising, sometimes, how much she seems to respond appropriately when you speak to her in sentences.

Lizzie doesn't talk to me, but she reads my mind. She can be out in the back yard and I can be thinking about leaving the house and she'll be in here in a flash, ready to get the treat that I give the dogs whenever I go out, or return home. She watches me like a hawk for any movement, however slight, which might indicate that there is a possibility of a treat in her future.

For Polly, it's non-verbal. When she climbs into my lap, snuggles herself into my armpit, lays her head across my chest, then looks up and licks me on the nose before sighing and settling her head back on my chest again with a happy sigh, you don't need words to know what she's saying.

Happy Birthday, Paul (1/28 ... which is when I wrote this)

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm a Bitch

I lied to the woman and then I hung up on her.

I'm sure she was a nice woman. She had a soft-spoken Southern drawl and identified herself as calling from some Southern state. She was representing a Cause and she wanted me to mail out pleas for donations and be the collection point for my neighborhood.

The effort would take place in March and I lied and said I would be out of the country in March (Well, March and May have the same first letter, right?) and then when she said "Well, ma'am, we appreciate that...but....") I hung up on her.

And then I felt guilty about it. I could just imagine her calling me a bitch when she found herself speaking to dead air. And she'd have been right.

But I've done a number of these collection drives over the year, each one upsets me, and I'm getting old and cranky. I'm getting more like my antisocial father every day (I am, after all, only 4 years younger than he was when he died and he'd been antisocial for several years before his death!)

It's not that I don't want to help worthy organizations. I help lots of worthy organizations, when I can. But each time I become the "neighborhood leader" I have to deal with the reality of how unfriendly our neighborhood is to me...or maybe after all these years I'm still carrying around hurts that other people dropped years ago.

When the packet comes, I sit and look at it and I put it off and put it off and put it off so long that it finally gets buried and I find it months later. Really, dear lady, you are better getting someone who will actually do the job to volunteer!

I hate feeling a prisoner of my telephone. That by the sheer act of picking up the receiver too quickly, before I can check the caller ID, I have to listen to this lady beg me to do something I don't want to do. I'm sure this is the very cheapest way to run a fund drive. You get lots of people to pay for postage to each mail out a few notices or, better, drop them in their neighbors' mailboxes. Then you hope that your representative is honest enough to send any money collected to your office and all that will go towards research to help cure your own particular cause, whether it's heart or cancer, or AIDS, or diabetes, or ALS or multiple sclerosis or the heartbreak of psoriasis. Worthy causes all. All needing funds. All trying to get some local good-hearted person to help them collect money, and I'm a bitch because I don't want to be that good-hearted person any more.

Many years ago, I had Walt put a peep hole in the front door so I can decide if I want to answer the door or not. If someone is standing there with a clipboard, I won't answer. If someone has moved halfway down the driveway and is waiting for me, afraid that the dogs are going to get him/her, I don't answer the door.

The peep hole was necessitated by the visits of two very lovely Jehovah's Witness ladies, who thought that Walt was eagerly waiting to get the latest Watchtower. He was much more polite than I. He would stand there and speak with them, and then throw their magazines away. To their credit, they never tried to preach to me. They only wanted Walt but it seemed like they were showing up every couple of weeks while he was at the office and I just didn't want to deal with them any more.

It's strange that I feel bad for hiding from solicitors, however lofty their causes. I think that just because you own a phone or a house is no reason why you HAVE TO talk with people with whom you don't want to speak.

Yet, when I hung up on my caller today, I felt like a terrible bitch. Like maybe I would have been a better person to agree to do what she wanted me to...and then do what I usually do--forget all about it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Cuppa Tea

27 January 2011

cuppa.jpg  (51408 bytes)I'm basically a dog-in-the-lap, puppy poop, dog hair on my clothes kinda person. I'm not the kind of person who dressed up and hosts or goes to tea parties.

It's not that I don't like them. It's just not the sort of thing that is usually part of my social activites. I don't even attend virtual tea parties on line -- our CompuServe group has had them, but my brain can't go there in fantasy, so I usually skip them. But, as I said, it's not for not liking tea parties (lots of sweet food...what's not to like?). I still remember with great fondness "high tea" with the cousins in Petaluma and with my friend Mary in Sacramento (as well as a nice high tea at Kew Gardens in the UK and at Harrods with my mother).

So it was actually very nice to go to a tea party today. But first there was lunch.

After postponing it two weeks because of her flu, my friend Ruth and I finally got together for lunch today. The article about her had been published yesterday, so she was very happy about it and even treated me to lunch as a thank you.

At 3, I had been invited to join others in celebrating the 80th birthday of my Scrabble buddy, Joan, held at the home of one of her daughters.

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It was really lovely, as we settled in around the fireplace, in ever-changing groupings to chat with one another.

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I knew many of the women there, from different groups, but I was particularly happy to see the two other members of our apparently defunct writing group, Nancy and Peggy.

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There were also several people I knew from the Davis Comic Opera Company and from PTA days. And, as usual when I attend a gathering like this, a guy came up to say that he used to love reading my stuff in the newspaper, but was sad that I hadn't written anything lately. I laughed told him that I was in the paper all the time, which he vehemently denied. Then I asked him if he had read last night's paper. He assured me he saw nothing by me in the paper. Ruth's article only takes up the entire page, including a photo. I suggested he go back and look at the paper.

He was, of course, referring to my letters to the editor, which I kind of cut back on when I became a critic. Once in a great while I'll still write something, but my "stuff" is in the paper sometimes three times a week. It's just not on the editorial page any more.

More satisfying was the woman who told me that she always reads my reviews.

But it was just a lovely event. I sat there drinking delicious jasmine tea and eating finger sandwiches and cookies and not only talking with people I know well, but meeting other new people.

Happy birthday, Joan--and thanks for including me in on the fun!

Thursday Thirteen

Things I love about our children

1. I think it’s great that I like them all
2. I love Ned’s creativity, especially with video
3. I love Jeri’s love of music
4. I love what a great Dad Tom is
5. I love the glow on Jeri’s face when she looks at Phil
6. I love all of our children’s choices of partners.
7. I love our family’s sense of humor
8. I love Ned & Mart's relationship
9. I love how much our kids seem to enjoy being with each other.
10. I love it when they make music together.
11. I love Jeri’s eternal optimism
12. I love Tom’s love of sports
13. I love how they are all there to support one another

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Foggy, Foggy Dew

The older I get the less I enjoy auto trips. I tend to get very nervous when someone else is driving (unless I am either asleep, reading, or have my eyes closed--Kathy thinks that I take cat naps when we're driving to and from Cousins Day. She doesn't know that I just keep my eyes closed so I don't get nervous!). I guess it's OK if I feel I'm in control, but I'm discovering that the older I get the more afraid I become on the freeway period. If I'm driving by myself, I often take frontage roads rather than the freeway, when they are available, or if there is an alternate route, I'll take that. I've come to enjoy those little side trips and unless I am on a deadline (very rarely), the extra time it takes to go "the long way" is no problem. Even if I am on a deadline, I can plan ahead and leave half an hour early to allow for the frontage roads.

Things on my right side bother me, especially as a passenger, because my peripheral vision is so bad on that side. If I'm a passenger and I see a big truck coming up on the right, I just close my eyes until we've passed it (I'm getting good at hearing us passing a truck). It's better if I'm driving because I"m farther away from the truck (the whole width of the car).

Yesterday, returning from Alameda I had to drive on one of the stretches of freeway that I hate most at any time of day, but it's even worse at night. I finally got off and drove all through downtown Oakland just because I hated that freeway so much.

This morning we had another interview scheduled at 11 a.m. in San Francisco. I was meeting Alison at the BART station (and thank goodness for my journal, where I said I was meeting her at the Richmond BART station because I really meant the El Cerrito BART station and if she hadn't written to clarify that, we were about to have yet another BART mis-adventure!

I left the house in time to stop at Jack in the Box in Dixon for breakfast (and to fill the gas tank). As I got on the freeway, I could see that the fog was very thick.

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I was nervous about heading into that thick mess, but pressed on. At one point I pulled off on the frontage road which would take me to the road to the Jack in the Box. It also routed me past the old Milk Farm sign that I had used as my Facebook Photo-a-Day picture in October.

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I took a picture of some of the cows and horses in the field. Sort of.

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When I got to the Jack in the Box, there was a gas station right across the street, but as I sat there eating my sausage biscuit and looked across the street, I couldn't even see it, the fog was so thick.

My nerves were getting more and more twisted, but I filled the gas tank and got back on the freeway. By the next off ramp I knew that there was no way I could drive to the Bay Area. Even if the road was safe, I wasn't safe to drive it. I got off and managed to catch Alison before she left her house, and called our interviewees and told them I'd reschedule. Then I turned around and headed back home. I had only driven about ten miles, but it was a very harrowing drive back. When I got off the freeway, I couldn't see as far as the road I would be connecting to. When I crossed over the freeway, all I saw was white under the overpass--I couldn't see the cars. I knew I had made the right decision.

I was also sleepy, since I hadn't had much sleep the night before, so I took a 2 hour nap. When I woke up the fog was completely gone, the sun was out, and the air was clear. Too bad we hadn't scheduled an afternoon interview!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pulling a Double Header

Not one but two interviews today! And lots of getting lost. I swear, by the time this book is written, I will know every BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station in the Bay Area.

Our first interview was at 1 p.m., with Kathryn, who was the woman who roped Alison and me into doing Book 3 of the Lamplighter History. We swore we were finished with writing about The Lamplighters way back in 1988 when our second book was published. But no, here we are doing it all over again...and even enjoying ourselves again, as we begin to get serious about working on it.

To do these interviews, I drive down from Davis (about 80 miles, give or take a few, depending on where the interviews are being held). Alison comes up from Hayward on BART. I pick her up at a BART station and we have our mini-meeting in the car before our interview or meeting or whatever we are going to.

Today since our first interview was in Daly City (slightly south of San Francisco--the town Melvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" was written about), I suggested that I pick her up at the Daly City BART station and we could go together the last few miles to Kathryn's house.

She pointed out that we could meet at any BART station, but I don't know where all the San Francisco stations are and I knew exactly where the Daly City station was because I passed by it all the time drive through on the freeway. Daly City would be perfect.

Only it is one thing to know where a place is, and quite another to know how to get there. Anybody remember my entry about "losing" Ikea, though I could see it from the freeway. I just couldn't get to it.

This was like that. I have driven by the Daly City BART station for years. I knew it was right off John Daly Blvd. So I got off and tried to get to it but there were no signs. I drove and drove and drove until I finally saw one sign for a BART station. I called Alison to tell her I was almost there. Then I kept driving and driving until I finally stopped to ask where BART was. I was only 2 blocks away. From the COLMA BART station...Colma (the "city of the dead") was the next town down.

I got back on the freeway and drove back to John Daly Blvd. Getting off going in this direction was better because I could SEE The BART station. Right there in front of me. Signage and all. I even drove up to it, turned toward it, and couldn't find out how to get INTO it. I decided I must have to drive around it, so I drove past it, turned right and found myself back on the freeway. The next offramp was about 2 miles away so I had to drive 2 more miles. I got off the freeway again, turned around, drove back to John Daly Blvd. and finally got to the station, but still had a hell of a time getting TO the station. But I did find Alison, finally, and we headed to Kathryn's house. And we were only two minutes late!

We had a lovely lunch at Kathryn's, who must have thought we were bringing an army of minions with us because she fixed so much food, but everything was delicious. And we had a good interview. Kathryn is someone who is new to us and new to the Lamplighters in the last 25 years but she joined the company when her daughter joined the young people's program and then when her daughter went off to college, Kathryn just stayed around as a sort of piratical maid of all work and obviously has a great love for the company and desire to help out as much as she can.

I guess we were with her nearly 2 hours. Then we got on the freeway at 3:30 p.m., expecting to find lots of rush hour traffic, but it was clear sailing in to Alameda, where our next interview was scheduled for 6 p.m. I took a wrong turn off the freeway and had to kind of grope my way around the docks for a bit, but I knew where I was headed and was able to find it without too much trouble.

Alison's son and his wife (who are expecting their first baby) live in Alameda and so to kill time we stopped by their house and ended up eating dinner with them at the restaurant across the street. Then on to Jonathan's house.

We arrived at Jonathan's about 2 minutes late too (after a very minor "getting lost" period...though at least I am pretty familiar with this part of Alameda, so it was mainly a result of not being able to read street signs in the dark). There was apparently a mix-up about the time. I thought we were scheduled for 6 p.m., he thought we were scheduled for 8 p.m., but it all worked out anyway.

I dearly love Jonathan. He's talented, intelligent, and tells a good story. We chatted and reminisced about mutual experiences (such as our travel with The Lamplighters to Buxton, England, back in 1995--he even has pictures of my mother, who accompanied us on that trip). At the end of the interview, I also got Jonathan to share what it's like to be a contestant on Jeopardy (we watched him win his first game and lose the second), when I spied a photo of Jonathan and Alex Trebeck on display.

Leaving Jonathan's house, I was going to drop Alison off at the Fruitridge BART station. I knew exactly where it was because I used to take my friend Olivia there when she lived in Alameda. Only I took the wrong first turn and ended up wandering around the not very nice section of Oakland for a long time until we finally found it.

Tomorrow we are doing yet another interview in San Francisco. I will have to leave here at 8 a.m. to pick Alison up at the Richmond BART station. Should be no problem tomorrow. I know exactly where that BART station is.

I think.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Whip Up Something New

Sometimes there is just serendipity in your life.

I recently made the decision to start using my slow cooker more. I am so tired of cooking the same old thing...and of trying to decide what to cook at night anyway. Even though I'm home all day and could do something exotic around, say, 4 p.m., I wait until Jeopardy is over (7 p.m.) and then decide what to cook for dinner. I make "something with chicken in it" or heat something I've picked up at Trader Joe's or Costco.

[Aside...I found jalapeno mashed potatoes at Costco this week--my "new find." I tasted it as a sample and bought some. That stuff is goooood!!!!]

Anyway, I recently started following a blog called A Year of Slow Cooking by Stephanie O'Dea and even ordered her cookbook. I also picked up a slow cooking magazine at the store and was amazed at how many things I wanted to cook from that magazine.

I thought that if I used the slow cooker, I would be making dinner in the morning when I felt more like cooking and when I was more excited about being inventive.

Then I followed a link on some other blog and found "Whip Up Something New!" The idea is this: Whip up something new! is a monthly challenge for the many of of us who promise ourselves that we'll try new recipes and yet we end up cooking the same old things. Although it was inspired by organising those ripped/cut out recipes, if you don't have such a pile of paper to sift through, feel free to make something from one of your cookbooks or from the hundreds of fabulous cooking blogs. The point is to try cooking new things!

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Each month, you are asked to make (at least) one dish from a recipe that is new to you and to blog about it, whether it was delicious or not-so-much.

Well, it just so happened that the night I found this challenge, I had just made something called African Peanut Stew from the Year of Slow Cooking blog lady's book. I wouldn't say it was over the top delicious, but Walt liked it and I liked it too. I had to adjust a bit so I'll copy the recipe the way I made it.


2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in 1" chunks
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped in 1" chunks (the recipe calls for 3)

3/4 cup all-natural creamy peanut butter (I used Trader Joe's)

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained (I used 2 14.5 oz cans)

1 1/2 cup chicken broth

(1 Tbsp dried minced onion flakes) - we were out, so I omitted this

1 tsp ground ginger

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp kosher salt

(2 limes, cut in wedges for garnish later) -- didn't have any, so omitted

Use a 6 quart slow cooker. Put the chicken in the bottom. Add the sweet potatoes. Plop in the peanut butter, tomatoes and broth. Add the dried onion and all the spices. Don't worry about stirring now--the peanut butter will make it difficult. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hrs or on high for 4-5. Stir well and serve with a squeeze of lime.

I checked it at about 4 hrs and the sweet potatoes were still rock hard, so I raised the heat to high and cooked for another two hours. They were still not quite soft, but edible. I think my crock pot, which is at least 20 years old, may not have the same temperature settings as what was used for the book (I've been trying to decide if I want to get a new one or not).

Anyway, I served it as it was and the texture of the potatoes didn't bother me. The stew had a strong, but not overpowering peanut taste and I thought the chicken was a bit overcooked.

I probably won't make this recipe again, though it was tasty. I have tons of other exciting recipes that I want to try.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

So Long, Keith

KeithOlberman.jpg (15837 bytes)Well, he surprised us all. I went to Facebook after Keith Olbermann's surprising announcement at the end of last night's broadcast that he would not be returning.

I did a Google search on "Keith Olbermann" and found a live Twitter feed with post after post after post of people just as shocked as I (and no doubt thousands of others) was.

Some of them were of the "good bye and good riddance" type, but most were bemoaning the loss of Olbermann, who was the leading personality on MSNBC and succeeded in raising the ratings for that station.

I'm not sure how I feel about it all. My first reaction was one of shock and disappointment and wondering what happened. My second reaction was wondering what Rachel Maddow thought about it (she did not host her own show last night and was pretty much noncomittal on Bill Maher later that evening).

My third reaction was to wonder what happened. Within seconds of the end of Countdown, MSNBC issued a pretty bland statement that said "MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of Countdown with Keith Olbermann will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

Whatever that means.

I watched Bill Maher, disappointed (but not surprised) to find it was barely mentioned. Then I watched Anderson Cooper, who had quite a long segment about it. Nobody he interviewed seemed surprised, hinting at Olbermann's volatile nature and problems with the network for some time, the kicker (perhaps) being the upcoming takeover of MSNBC by ComCast, which would not put up with his temperamental nature.

I have to admit that when MSNBC gave Lawrence O'Donnell a show, I thought it rather odd (now he's taking over Olbermann's slot). Was this in the planning stages all along?

After a long hiatus from regular news, I discovered Countdown with Keith Olbermann during the 2 year old campaign for the presidency. I became a real fan of Olbermann and of Chris Matthews and watched them religiously. Matthews did not suffer fools gladly, and Olbermann said all the things I was thinking, only more eloquently (I'm sure O'Reilly and Beck fans feel the same).

Olbermann gave some commentaries that were so beautiful I taped them. They appears on YouTube and went viral overnight. Keith was taking our frustration, putting it into words that we hope would be heard by our leaders (they never were).

But then something happened. There was a point awhile ago where I got the distinct impression that Olbermann was starting to believe his own press. I hated it when he went on the rampage against Fox News. Sometimes it seemed that half the show, if not more, would be directed against O'Reilly and Roger Ailes. And when he gave his commentaries now they seemed more scripted than from the gut, the way the earlier ones did.

He did good things. He got his viewers (me included) to contribute money to put on free clinics for people around the country without insurance, in need of medical care. He hoped it would show our legislators how strong the need for health reform was. That didn't work, but lots of people at least got to see a doctor or a dentist.

Walt stopped watching him. As soon as I turned on Countdown he would go upstairs to watch The McLaughlin Group. but I kept watching because when he was good, he was very, very good. I gave up on Chris Matthews because I just hated how he manipulated people into saying what he wanted them to say and wouldn't let anybody get an original thought. He is a big windbag and I don't care how smart he is, I don't have to sit there listening to him yelling at people.

I will miss Keith Olbermann...sort of. He was the right person in the right place at the right time. But maybe his "time" is not "right" any more. I'm finding, 24 hours after the fact, that it doesn't seem to leave as big a hole as I thought it would. I haven't watched Lawrence O'Donnell and Rachel, the only newscaster I really enjoy watching now, is still around. Along with MSNBC I wish Keith Olbermann well. I'm sure he has so much money now he can rest on his (considerable) laurels for a good long time.

I didn't watch Fox news after his announcement. I imagine there was a lot of chortling and high-fiving going on over there. I didn't want to see it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Friend Ruth, a Preview

A year ago, I took on the job of reviewing the book, "Weight of Gold," written by my friend Ruth Chambers, with whom I have lunch every couple of weeks. For one reason or another, the review never got written and I have been feeling very guilty about it for a very long time, because I know Ruth was very disappointed.

When Derrick left The Enterprise, I met with my new editor and brought up an idea for doing a special article on Ruth, which would include things about her book. (I must make clear that Derrick was in no way responsible for the article not getting written in the first place.) Today I finished the article. I'm worried about her, though, because I've been trying to reach her by phone and e-mail for two days, to get additional information before I submitted the story to the paper. She's been so excited about the article, that it just seems very strange that she would not respond. I'm concerned because she has had to cancel two luncheon dates because she was not feeling well.

But anyway, I decided to share the article with you, giving you a jump on what will be published, perhaps next week, in the paper.....

Ruth Chambers arrived in Davis from Los Angeles in 1994, after the death of her father, for whom she had been the sole caretaker 24/7 for two years following his massive stroke. Prior to her father’s incapacitation, she had worked with civic theater, produced several shows and was a newspaper photographer. Following her father’s death, she had to ask herself what she was going to do now.

"My friends were leaving Los Angeles. They were middle aged people who were leaving for a better life somewhere else. So I started going to where they had gone."

Her travels brought her to San Luis Obispo, which she decided was too upscale for her so she decided to push on to Davis.

"I got here at midnight and I looked around, like an LA person does. I cased the joint in 15 minutes. It had trees. It was quiet. I liked it. So I wrote down the name of a realtor, went home, called her the next day and said ‘find me a place to live.’ She did and I put my stuff in a van and I moved up here."

Chambers lost no time in making a name for herself. The name was "Granny Muffin," a woman of indeterminate age, with bright red hair, who wandered around Davis in her bib overalls, put on puppet shows at the Farmers Market, drove a car covered with astroturf, with dozens of tiny figurines decorating the dashboard and she hosted "Granny Muffin Reads" for about six years in the early days of DCTV.

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"Ruth is a lively woman who puts her full heart into all that she does," says Kari Peterson former executive director of DCTV.

"DCTV was the perfect platform for her talents. She produced shows, she helped others with their shows, and she was out on the street with a camera to cover anything any time. She had a ball. She's generous, funny, very multi_talented and has crazy, unbounded energy."

Her unbounded energy led her to old Sacramento and the Living History Program.

"I thought I could do a little street thing somewhere on a corner, a puppet show of some kind because I was already doing puppet shows here in Davis. I went to Old Sacramento because I knew they had street entertainers. But you have to wear something evocative of the period so I had a dress made by someone who knew what she was doing and then I heard about the Living History program. I started going to the meetings and there were all these people dressed up like 1849 people and I just kind of got into it. It was wonderful."

"Sometimes there’s a path for you and you don’t know it until you’re actually on it. It’s just interesting that way. I now do a gold rush puppet show. I do it anywhere, but mostly out of the Sacramento history museum which is on I St., by the River. I cover the gold rush period all the way through the transcontinental railroad so it’s not your usual puppet, it’s history."

As she got into her role, she became even more authentic and made her own dress–by hand, without the use of a sewing machine. "I started with an apron, no pattern (the women of that period had no patterns). It took me six hours. I thought well, that’s not that bad. I can make a dress. I have time. It took me 32 hours to do the dress and the apron."

Now she’s working on her third dress ("because I’m an idiot"), though she points out that most women of the era only had two dresses. " Can you imagine only having two things to wear? That’s smelly. But they were smelly people."

Her work with the Living History program has led Chambers to write her first book, "The Weight of Gold," which is available at the Sacramento History Museum, and locally at The Avid Reader.

The heroine of her story is the "Widow Chambers," who travels to California from New York with her husband, who dies en route of cholera ("It was very typical of the time. 40% of people died on their way to California," she explains).

"That leaves me a widow who will have to support herself. When I get to Sacramento it’s mostly young men between 18 and 24, very few women, and of course I’m too old to be marriageable. I already have grown children back east. So I start gathering berries in the foothills and making fruit pies and selling them on the street, which is one of the ways women could make a living back then."

Chambers explained that women could not own property during that period, so a woman couldn’t buy a farm. "If you were a widow you could be a housekeeper, you could be a cook, you could run a boarding house–you couldn’t own the boarding house. You’d have to get a man to own it and then you’d rent it from him. So then I come up with this pie thing because I didn’t want to do the other things, and probably because I was kind of feisty because of my life with Mr. Chambers. The women back then were supposed to shrink back, but because Mr. Chambers and I supported ourselves together with the Chambers St. Theater, I was used to maneuvering a bit. So I started this pie business, building my own outdoor oven."

As she discusses the book, the line between Ruth Chambers, author and The Widow Chambers, character sometimes blurs. But her enthusiasm for bringing stories about the Gold Rush, particularly about the people who didn’t go searching for gold, but who provided the support back in Sacramento, is strong and her book is replete with bits of homespun information you are unlikely to find elsewhere.

Unable to find a publisher for her book, Chambers self-published and has been marketing the book herself. "I wanted my book to be a family book as all of my TV and radio stuff was, where the family gets together again, because what I see if families falling apart. Everything I’ve been doing for the last 20 years is trying to get families together. Here’s an opportunity to read together and it could be entertaining for the adult and entertaining for the child."

She is now working on a sequel and still excited about sharing tidbits with her audience.

"Ruth enters your life in a big way, and smiles and laughs all the way through. What's not to love?" says Kari Peterson.

(Photo by Sophie Flaherty)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bib and Tucker

When we first moved to Davis and the kids began getting involved with various organization, my job became publicist for just about every organization with which I became involved, from PTA to Little League. I discovered I was sort of good at it. One of my more successful campaigns was getting a television sports guy to bring a camera crew to the swimming pool to cover the Davis Diving Team's preparation for an upcoming meet.

As the kids got older, our activities seemed to center more around theater than anything else. I was publicist for the Sunshine Children's Theatre, and for other (now defunct) theatrical organizations, including the Davis Comic Opera Company.

The long-time entertainment editor of the paper retired and a new woman was hired to take her place. As I recall, she was recruited from out of town. I spoke with her a couple of times and decided that I would curry favor by taking her to lunch, to meet her and so that we could each get an idea of how we worked, and how we could best help each other.

Our lunch seemed to go well. We got a long well during her brief time here and she was always willing to go the extra mile for me, if she could do it. For my part, I tried never to need the extra mile by being pepared and turning all of my information in in a timely manner, and when she had done something good for me, I always wrote to thank her. We had a good working relationship.

Oddly (and disappointingly) enough, nobody has ever thought to invite me to lunch to figure out how I like to get information and how we can help each other (or, for that matter, to thank me for going the extra mile). It's not that I expected it, but it made me realize what a damn good publicist I was! I meet once a year with the publicity person for the university to plan out the productions throughout the school year, but we meet at a coffee shop and we each buy our own coffee.

Today, I got treated to lunch by the guy who has taken over Derrick's responsibilities. It was kind of cool. This fellow (who is the husband of the newspaper's editor and who has been a newsman for more than 30 years, though took a break for several years to do other things) is a sports guy. His taking over entertainment news is like me taking over the sports desk. The things that Derrick knows intuitively, Bruce needs to learn, though he's mostly doing well.

We had a delightful lunch, getting caught up on old times. I was being witty, sincere, a delightful luncheon companion.

Until one point where Bruce said "oh-oh" and pointed in the general direction of my body. I looked down and there was a piece of pad thai on my shirt, which I picked up in my fingers and put into my mouth, realizing as I did it what a bad thing that was to do.

But I didn't have time to concentrate on that social faux pas because as I raised my hand, napkin still clutched in it, a long silvery strand of pad thai noodle glistened in the air, looking like a flat worm with garbage all over it.

No chance to maintain much dignity after that. I was just grateful that I was dining with someone I knew, that I already had the job, that he seems to think I do a good job, and that this is a small town and we weren't dining in some fancy schmancy restaurant in San Francisco!

Peggy once tried to explain to me why I am such a slob when I eat. It's really amazing how much food escapes between the plate and my mouth, how much of it falls on my chest or rolls down onto the floor. It's easy to understand why the dogs like to sit under my place at the table, hoping for some of those stray bits to land on the floor. I'm as good a source of treats as a baby in a high chair.

Mostly it doesn't matter. It's only people who love me who have to watch how disgusting I am when I eat. I really do try not to talk with food in my mouth, to keep my mouth closed when I chew, and to lean over the plate as I pick up a forkful of food, but somehow that doesn't seem to help. I really should carry a bib around with me, if I were serious about keeping clean during mealtimes!

It's probably good that I never had a career in the business world. If I had tried to become a successful business woman, my cleaning bill would be a whopper, and I would be a constant embarrassment to my co-workers.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

That's MY Butter!

My mother is from a family of 10 children. She was 7th from the end of the line. Peach's mother, Marge, was two years older than she was and Kathy's mother, Barb, was four years younger. (In between my mother and Barb was our uncle Paul, who died a few years ago.)

The family was a Depression era family and my mother says she doesn't know how her mother managed to keep food on the table. They never went hungry, though there were times when the local grocer would have to sadly say that he couldn't extend any more credit until something had been paid on the bill.

My grandfather was a handyman and often had to accept goods instead of money, and sometimes never got paid at all. When the family moved to San Francisco from their country home, he had $2,000 owing from his customers,which was a chunk of change in those days.

My mother is fond of telling a story about herself and Marge. They had cleaned up the kitchen after dinner this one night and had gone to bed (they shared a bed). During the clean-up my mother noted that there was just a little bit of butter left, enough for one piece of toast. She never said anything about it, but decided she would get dressed quickly so she could have the butter for herself in the morning.

When they woke up, neither spoke to the other, but they were both rushing to get dressed and finally they ended up shouting at each other, "that's MY butter!" Both had been racing to be the first one into the kitchen so she could have the leftover butter.

She laughs about that story a lot.

I think of the story whenever I sit down at the table and look at the three faces at my knees begging.

Yeah, yeah, I know you shouldn't feed dogs from the table, but I don't give them a lot. Either they get one small bite each or I let them lick my plate. They know there is a pecking order. Sheila gets the first bite, Lizzie the second and Polly the last one. It's amazing how patient they are when they know there are three pieces to be doled out.

Lizzie and Polly are VERY food oriented, Sheila less so. She trusts that I won't let her be cheated so she doesn't leap on food (unless we're having lamb for dinner, which turns everybody crazy).

It used to be that only Lizzie and Polly would sit at my feet when I ate and when I finished, I would give them my plate to lick, which they would share. Then Sheila figured out what was going on. She'd come into the room as if she'd just discovered I was having an affair with another dog. She would have the silliest shocked look on her face. "You're feeding them and not ME?" So I started leaving the two dogs with the plate and sneaking into the kitchen to give Sheila her own dog treat. Everybody was happy.

Then the other two, first Polly, then Lizzie, figured out what was going on, so I could no longer sneak into the kitchen to give Sheila her treat. I'd have to give all 3 a treat.

The worst is when I have no "pieces" of anything to give them and let them lick the bowl. All three faces looking at me. Sheila giving me the eye, Lizzie and Polly ready to leap on the plate as soon as it gets put down. Sheila could easily bully her way to the plate and scare the others away, but she doesn't usually.

But tonight for some reason, I had two plates and put both down, figuring that it would solve problems because there would be twice the area of licking to go around, but instead it started a fight. Lizzie and Sheila growling at each other, each insisting 'that's my butter!"

Eventually, I didn't let either of them have anything and just put all the plates in the dishwasher, to the shock of all three dogs. "What? WHAT??? NOTHING for me???"

Too bad my grandmother didn't have that option available to her back in the 1920s!

Thursday Thirteen

I get most of my recipes from the internet these days, but I still cook from a few cookbooks:

1. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Book (a new acquisition)
2. Trifles from Tiny Tots (which we made when the kids were in nursery school)
3. Mother’s in the Kitchen (the La Leche League cookbook)
4. Bread Machine Magic (the Bread Bible for CompuServe bread bakers)
5. Farm Journal Complete Pie Book (best book for lemon meringue pie)
6. The Women’s Day Encyclopedia of Cooking (all 12 volumes)
7. 365 Days of Hamburger
8. Good Housekeeping Cookbook
9. New York Times Bread and Soup Book (Lamb Soup of the Middle East...yummm!)
10. Slow Cooking Bible
11. The Banana Cookbook (which I compiled for my college roommate)
12. The Beer Cookbook (for lamb chops with beer)
13. Hugs and Cinnamon Rolls (which I compiled for a CompuServe group)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Musical

Friday night we saw one of the most fun shows I've seen in a long time. The problem is that I wonder how much people who aren't musical theatre people would like it. The level of your delight in this show is probably proportional to your in-depth knowledge of Broadway musicals.

It's called The Musical of Musicals: the Musical and it was written by people you've probably never heard of, Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart

The writers take the basic plot: "I can't pay the rent." "You must pay the rent" "I can't pay the rent," "I'll pay the rent," the classic old mellerdrama plot line, where some mustachioed villain ends up tying the heroine to the railroad tracks.

Not quite that visual in this show, since there are minimal sets, but you get the idea.

Anyway, they take that basic plot element and present it as if it had been written as a musical by: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerry Herman, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander and Ebb.

MMCorn.jpg  (65633 bytes)Starting with a show called, appropriately Corn, which is set "in Kansas in August," and into which a strong figure occasionally appears, legs spread apart and hands on hips, a la the King of Siam, young June is trying to find a way to pay the rent to landlord Jitter, who obviously has less than pure intentions toward her.

Hero Billy wants to help and during the course of things dances a ballet of sorts. In a discussion with June she yells "ok-ok-ok" at him and he responds "Don't throw OKs at me," which is a line I thought was hilarious, but which seemed to fly over Walt's head.

When she needs a word of advice, the wise Mother Abby, who starts the show churning butter, sings about how she follow her dreams until she dies.

Oh yeah--and there is my very favorite song in the show, which is called "Clam Dip." If I can ever transcribe the lyrics (I downloaded the cast recording from iTunes) I will definitely share, at least with the Pinata Group.

Corn ended in 15 minutes, with Jitter falling on his knife and everyone else living happily ever after.

SCREAMERS.jpg (59013 bytes)This is followed by A Little Complex, a salute to Stephen Sondheim, in which the forest of Into the Woods becomes a housing development called "The Woods" and the landlord looks surprisingly like Sweeney Todd and they talk about "specific overtures" (Pacific Overtures).

The characters sing about "Irony!" "Ambiguity!" "Dissonance!" "Angst!" and there seems to be a painter who pops in now and then, a reference to "Sundays in the Park with George.

This show, too, ends after 15 minutes and we move on to the next show.

Dear Abby is a salute to Jerry Herman and all of those grand entrances and finales that he is so noted for. The setting is a cocktail party at the apartment of Abby (an Auntie Mame type)

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Martha Kight and Michael RJ Campbell

Kight, the "older woman" gets all sorts of opportunities to shine as Auntie Mame and Norma Desmond types and there is a lot of use of a pink boa in a salute to La Cage aux Folles.

June becomes Junita in the salute to Andrew Lloyd Webber as she gives an Evita-like performance. There is dialog about writing songs for his girlfriend and the lovely exchange between the composer and his star, "Do you write everything yourself?" the ex-rock star Junita asks the Phantomlike composer who is wooing her.

"Do you know opera?" he parries.

"No," she says.

"Then I did,"` he answers.

The show ends with a send up which combines Cabaret and Chicago (perfect for Jeri!) which has that great Bob Fosse-like choreography and the wonderful parody by Campbell of Joel Grey's MC from Cabaret, and the very funny "Junie with a J" (a take off of "Liza with a Z," written for Liza Minnelli) and something that is almost a patter song which tells the entire story of Cabaret in about a minute...brilliantly.

Having written parodies, I absolutely LOVED this show and appreciated every little nuance of music, dialog or lyric. I know I missed a lot of the fun and would like to go back and see it again. My colleague, who loves Shakespeare and hates musical theatre didn't seem to like it much, but this stuff is like mother's milk to me and I loved every single minute of it.

** all photos by Barry Wisdom

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh Poop

Ned would be so proud. The thing we talked about more than almost anything else this Cousins Day was poop.

It started on the ride down when we were discussing the new Oprah Winfrey Network. Kathy happened to mention that Dr. Oz said that a normal person should be pooping 6-9 times a day. We were all shocked.

Things went downhill from there.

We talked about the Oprah show that had been devoted to poop, and the pros and cons of colon cleansing. After that pretty much everything somehow all got back to poop.

We sat and chatted when we first arrived, as usual, getting caught up on each other's lives since our last Cousins Days.

My mother had fixed a salad and a huge roll for lunch and then we cleared the table and got down to business. The cards were weird this time, at least weird for me.

Kathy tried to appeal to our pity, pointing out how few games she has won this year but we told her that didn't cut it...65 is a cuthroat game. (I also haven't figured out how to cheat, even if I wanted to).

The language of 65 poured forth. My mother's favorite "oh for crying out soft," and Peach's "things are getting very seri-eye" I don't know that Kathy and I have favorite 65 saying that aren't 4-letter words.

We played two games (my mother won one and I won the other) and then Kathy and I each took a nap. When we woke up, it was time for hors d'oeuvres and drinks while we played more.

Kathy made fantastic stuffed mushrooms (only the sausage could have used a bit more maple flavoring...)

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and I made something called an Apple Pie Martini, which blends vanilla liqueur, vodka, apple cider and cinnamon and really does taste something like an apple pie.

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After another game (which Peach won), we had Peach's crock pot chicken dinner

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There were more games after dinner, the last of which Kathy won. Kathy worked a puzzle while the rest of us watched the pilot espisode of Harry's Law, which, if you didn't see it, was excellent. I recommend it highly. But then I like anything Kathy Bates is in.

This morning over breakfast, Kathy won 2 more games, so I guess maybe the pity was kicking in after all. My mother was not happy that the level of coins in her little coin pot was way down.

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We set a date for the February Cousins day, which will come between Kathy's birthday and mine and will include a trip to the Spinnaker restaurant in Sausalito to spend the fund we collect each month for just such a field trip.

Then the 3 cousins headed home into a beautiful sunny day (it had been very foggy on the ride home). When I got here, I found the dogs had found the stuffed dog I had saved for future puppies and had thoroughly enjoyed it.

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All in all a very satisfactory Cousins Day (though none of us had 6 bowel movements, I don't believe)...and it was delightful to learn that three of the next generation, who all live in Marin County have decided to have their own cousins day. The torch is being passed!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Trip Down Memory Lane

Alison and I did our third interview today, interviewing Jim and Judy, who have been with The Lamplighters almost as long as we have been around, so they are people we have known for many years. Not only have we known them for many years, but they live in my old neighborhood, just about 3 blocks from where the first home Walt and I owned is, where we were living when Paul, David and Tom were born.

Jim and Judy actually live next door to the house our friends Pat and Rich owned back in the 60s-70s, so I was very familiar with their block.

The ride down from Davis was horrible. It was very, very, very foggy. I stopped in Pleasant Hill to take this photo. (The crosses represent the losses of our military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

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In some places it was more foggy, in some places less, but foggy, foggy, foggy all the way down to the Caldecot Tunnel, which separates Contra Costa County from Oakland. I drove through the tunnel and couldn't believe what happened when I got to the other end of it. It was like Dorothy opening the door to Oz. There wasn't a whisp of fog, the sky was clear blue and it was sunny. You'd never know that there was a whole valley full of fog on the other side of that tunnel!

I was half an hour early for the interview, so I went on a trip down memory lane. First I drove by our old house, which looks pretty much exactly as it was when we left it in 1973, except it's a different color now. I loved that house. I still do.

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Then I drove past the store, over the bridge, past the trees, and by the stairs that Tom thinks are ladders. It was by sheer instinct that I remembered where to turn (because nothing really looked familiar) and found Grande Vista Ave., the location of our old nursery school, Tiny Tots. What a disappointment to discover that while the building is still there, it is no longer the playland of little kids.

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(It's now the offices of the Oakland Family Services Center

Our interview with Judy and Jim was delightful and brought back lots of memories, as well as helped Alison and myself with some decisions regarding future interviews and layout of the book. I also loved the two dogs, Athena and Lily, who were so much better behaved than our dogs would have been (even if Athena did lick one of the scones)!

The ride back through the tunnel plopped me right back into the fog (though less thick by mid-afternoon). I stopped at BevMo on the way home to buy some vanilla liqueur so I can make something called an apple pie martini tomorrow at Cousins Day (the liqueur mixed with vodka, apple cider, and a twist of lime).

And yes, the next entry will be posted late because of Cousins Day.

But what a great day it was. Such fun being back to the place that was such a fun part of our lives.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Guess Who We Saw Today

BIGMax.jpg  (44591 bytes)Yes, that is Max, the teeny puppy I used to be able to hold in one hand.

I had to go to Trader Joe's this afternoon and Walt suggested we stop by Petco and see the puppies.

It's hard to think of these mooses as "babies" any more! I couldn't believe how big they were.

I'm not sure if Laverne recognized me, but Patty definitely did. Which makes sense since she was the last to wean, and the one who spent the most time with me. She wagged her tail a lot and licked me and then when I backed up and moved off to the left to let others get up front at the fence to look at them, she kept moving down to the left so she could keep her eyes on me and try to climb up the fence, just like she always did when she lived here.

Max was his usual blasé self.

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Even when he woke up and we petted him, his attitude was "ho-hum...who are you again?" But then that was how he behaved when he was here too. Excitement is not in Max's vocabulary.

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(Max and Patty)

While we were re-visiting the puppies, we also had some official business to take care of;

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Yes, it's official. She's ours. I noticed wryly that her immunizations expired a week ago, so our first job with her is to take her to the vet and spend lots of money to get her up to date. But since apparently after you foster a dog for a year, the SPCA will waive the adoption fee, it's not so bad.

I sure would like to know what it's like to be a dog, with that sensitive nose. Lizzie has always "taken inventory" of wherever we've been when we get home sniffing and sniffing and sniffing our clothes, but my god, she followed me around the house and sat next to me for about 20 minutes after we got hom from Petco, trying to sort out all the smells!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wasting Time on the Internet

It was about 1 a.m. last night when I discovered a fabulous new time-waster on the internet, one which would combine a couple of my other time-wasting activities on the internet.

I requested a new address from Postcrossing, so I could send another postcard. When you do that you get an e-mail with the ID number of the card you are to send, the address of where it is to go, and a brief bio written by the person who will be receiving your card. This helps you choose a good card for that person. Some people, for example, love getting homemade cards, other people hate them. Some like animal cards, others prefer scenic cards, most don't like "free" cards (the kind you pick up at a restaurant, for example).

But few are as persnickety as "David," the guy who was to be getting my next card. His bio starts out with a complaint: I received six postcards in two weeks without any ID whatsoever, and a further two cards with incorrect ID numbers. This is getting ridiculous!

He then goes on to lay out his preferences: I prefer viewcards measuring 15cm X 10cm (6 X 4 inches) and if possible showing a serial number, although not all cards have serial numbers. Please DO NOT send hand-made, ad-cards, self-made photographs, greetings cards (e.g. Christmas, New Year, Easter), art cards, drawings, shaped cards, black-and-white/sepia cards etc. My favourite cards include places of interest, for example: castle, palace, ruin, abbey, monastery, church, cathedral, temple, mosque, monument, city, mountains, volcano, custom, tradition, nature, ancient or modern architecture - something I would like to see if I came to your area.

Of course this guy has been a member of Postcrossing for over 4 years, has sent 3,800 cards and received 3,723 cards. He boasts that he has over 106,000 cards from the 1960s.

He's also from England. After reading through his very specific rules and rather prickly messages, I had a mental image of this old guy (57...just a kid) in a small apartment in some sort of Dickensonian house, hunched over his card collection in his library.

Then I got this great idea. I realized I could look him up on Google Earth (if you don't have this program you are missing out on a lot of fun!). Not only could I look him up on Google earth and see the area where he lives from an overhead angle, but there were street photos, so I could actually virtually stand on his street and look around 360 degrees. (turns out it's a more modern area than I imagined and I guess he's not the kind of person I pictured anyway).

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Then I figured out what a wonderful tool Google Earth would be to enhance the enjoyment of getting a postcard from a stranger halfway around the world, so I spent the next hour looking up people on Google Earth. I discovered that some countries don't allow street photos (or they haven't been taken yet), so I could only see the rooftops of the girl who sent me a photo from Lithuania, for example.

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A photo from Holland looked similar to the neighborhood in England...

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..but nothing like the neighborhood in Taiwan.

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or Queensland, Australia

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I was disappointed in the places that didn't have street views (Germany, Tasmania, Poland, Malaysia, Austria, Belgium, etc). The Russian arial views put up so much information that you had to read cyrillic script in order to figure out what you were looking for. And I haven't been able to enter information on some of the addresses (e.g., China and Portugal) in a format that Google Earth understands. But if nothing else, you can get a sense of the area where someone lives--near freeway? near water? in the countryside? small village?

This has added an entirely new dimension to Postcrossing!

Quote of the day, from Facebook: Does anyone else see the irony in this tragedy? In Arizona, the state that has been the de facto “face” of recent political gay bashing (DADT-McCain) and racism (their highly controversial immigration law), a white straight man shoots a female Jewish member of congress who then has her life saved by a gay Hispanic American. It’s poetic

Friday, January 14, 2011

Civility Pros and Cons

In all the hoopla about concern for the survival of Congreswoman Gabby Giffords, and consoling the survivors of the victims of the shooting, particuarly the parents of young Christina Green -- but really all of the victims -- and concern over those who are still fighting to recover in the hospital, we have neglected to remember the REAL victim of this tragedy: Sarah Palin.

Ms. Palin, who on the day of the solemn memorial to those who died, issued a self-serving video on Facebook reminds us that yes, there were people who died and people who were injured and people who became heroes that day, but we really need to remember that this was the day when the media unleashed "a bloodbath" against her and took advantage of the tragedy to unleash vitriole against the right.

It is no secret that I have never been a Sarah Palin admirer, but I have to admit that if Ms. Palin had come out with a sincere statement which showed concerned for the victims of the shooting, which asked for a return to civility in discourse, and which admitted that while she did not believe she had any part in the tragedy, she understood that maybe the language of violence should be toned down, I would have grudgingly respected her.

But Sarah Palin doesn't get it. She doesn't get that nobody feels she hired a hit man, but that acknowledgement that she has been a part of an atmosphere of violence would go a long way. She's not the only one. The right isn't the only side. Lots of people, left, right and middle, have made disturbing statements, but it's mostly the right that are putting their hands up and yelling "It wasn't me!" "You can't blame me!" "No fair!"

My friend, fellow journalist Jan Y and I agree on very little politically, but even she said that the president deserved praise for the tone he set in his speech at the memorial service. Heck, it seemed like every right wing news medium was heaping praise on the president for the way he dealt with the memorial service.

(Of course John Boehner was too busy to attend, since he had a cocktail party to go to...and someone interviewed on his staff justified it by saying that he hadn't been required to attend the memorial service. Gee no, Mr. Speaker. We just thought it might have been a kind thing to do, remembering all those dead people and all. But I'm sure a RNC fund raiser was much more important to attend.)

I wonder if the Tucson Tea Party president attended the memorial. He seemed to feel that it was Gifford's own fault that she and all those other people were shot. When interviewed, he said that the Arizona congresswoman shouldn't have attended an event "in full view of the public" if she had security concerns.

Obviously it's Gifford's fault that six people were murdered. How thoughtless of her.

Not sure where Limbaugh got this information...

"What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He's sitting there in jail. He knows what's going on, he knows that...the Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows if he plays his cards right, he's just a victim. He's the latest in a never-ending parade of victims brought about by the unfairness of America...this guy clearly understands he's getting all the attention and he understands he's got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything that they can to make sure he's not convicted of murder - but something lesser."

...but at least his people did have the sensitivity to take down the billboard for his show, which has been up for several weeks.

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This doesn't contribute at all to an atmosphere of Wild West justice, of course.

I don't know about you all, but I was so proud of our President yesterday. He honored all those killed or injured, he honored the heroes who prevented things from being worse, he didn't point fingers at anybody, he just asked us all to honor the victims by being kinder toward each other, by being civil to one another, by making our country a bit more of a good place in which to live. It was surely one of his finest hours. Heck, even Glenn Beck liked it.

Limbaugh's reaction to the speech? “They were slobbering over it for the predictable reasons. It was smart, it was articulate, it was oratorical. It was, it was all the things the educated, ruling class wants their members to be and sound like,” Mr. Limbaugh told his audience members. He wondered why President Obama waited a couple days to have the memorial. (Uh...was it up to Washington to plan a memorial in Arizona?) He theorized that Obama waited to act after receiving significant poll data on how to proceed, adding, “plus they needed time to print those T-shirts.”

Well, I guess not everybody is into civility.

Maybe, after reading over this, I'm not either.

Oh...and the sale of guns in Arizona has gone up 60% since the shooting. That should improve things I'm sure.