Monday, April 30, 2007

Finally, a government entity with a sense of humor . . .
Sunday night television is back on my must see schedule. On HBO, the Sopranos is back with a vengeance. Tony's world is falling apart, and his never far from the surface paranoia is in full flame. I'm not sure how the series will end, but I am sure it won't be pretty.

I am also very much enjoying the Tudors on Showtime. Though I'm pretty sure the Ladies and Lads at King Henry VIII's Court were not this attractive, I love 16th century English History, and Showtime is doing a nice job with giving us a look at Court intrigue and the political machinations constantly at play. And did I mention how attractive all the cast is?

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I will be off to Maui for the last week in May. This means 2 things - a desperate attempt to lose 5 lbs and get into better shape in the next 27 days, and an even more desperate attempt to find a new swimsuit. Methinks this one would be just perfect . . .

For those of you (ok, maybe la) wondering what my next knitting project will be after that neverending baby blanket - voila! It will be Isabella, a pattern from the latest issue of I'm hoping the flattering neckline will detract from my upper arms . . .

Sunday, April 29, 2007

My latest audio book is Mistress of the Art of Death. It's another whodunit, albeit set in 1171.

Four children have been found dead and mutilated. The Jews of Cambridge have been blamed for the murders, the most prominent Jewish moneylender and his wife have been killed by a mob, and the rest of the Jewish community is shut up in the castle under the protection of the sheriff.

The Jews are prosperous, and thus the king of England considers them his prize cash cows. He wants them cleared of suspicion and released, so they can go back to paying him high taxes. To this end, he appeals to his cousin, the king of Sicily, to send his best master of the art of death: a doctor skilled in "reading" bodies. Enter Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, 25, the best mistress of death that the medical school at Salerno (the only medical school at that time that taught women) has ever produced. With Simon of Naples, a Jewish "fixer," and Mansur, a eunuch with a mean throwing-ax, it's her job to find a murderer before he -- or she -- can kill again.

Though the story is set in Cambridge, the Crusades run through the culture. The story's background is a wonderful tapestry of the paradoxes and struggles of the times: Christianity and Islam, Christians and Jews, science and superstition, and the new power of Henry II's rule of law versus the stranglehold of the Church.

There are also fascinating details of historical forensic medicine, entertaining notes on women in science (the medical school at Salerno is not fictional), and a nice running commentary on science and superstition, as distinct from religious faith.

Birthday postscript . . .

These are just part of the bouquet of tulips sent by my mother (and her little dog Matty). I often send flowers by, but this is the first time I have been a recipient. For anyone looking for an easy way to send flowers, give them a try.

The girls and I are having a lazy Sunday. The weather is a bit gloomy, which makes it a perfect day for lying about on the couch . . .

Friday, April 27, 2007

You are all invited to a birthday party at Sage’s Musings! Please stop by . . .

April 28th - my birthday in progress . . .

6:15 am - Nanners checks to see if I'm awake, and ready to get up and feed her and Noodles. By playing dead, I manage to sleep in until 6:18 am

6:22 am - my first cup of coffee. By giving the girls their frozen "Kongs" (rubber toys filled with dog food and frozen overnight), I buy myself a few minutes of peace to enjoy the java

6:45 am - head out with the dogs for a 2 mile walk. It's a nice, cool, quiet morning

8:00 am - re-plant a few pots with Petunias, and transfer a couple recovering hibiscus to the front planter

8:15 am - second cup of coffee!

8:45 am - mmmmm - breakfast - Trader Joe's whole wheat french toast and Morningstar Vegie Sausage.

9:00 am - the first guilty pleasure of the day - a lavender bubble bath and beginning the latest book in the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency books - The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. Alexander McCall Smith's delightful books about Mma. Ramotswe, Mma. Makutsui and Mr. JLB Maketoni are things to be enjoyed and savored

9:45 am - Hanna and Samantha prepare for their first naps of the day, exhausted from being dragged out at sunrise for a re-creation of the Bataan Death March. Here Hanna yawns

10:45 am - beautiful tulips are delivered from my mother, and my brother stops by and offers to buy me lunch later. I'm surprised to see that the flowers were ordered from, because my mother makes it a point of honor to never use her computer.

12:45 pm - lunch is good mexican food with my brother, and he gave me a new dvd player (my old one has been kaput for quite some time); No more watching dvd's exclusively on my laptop!

2:30 pm - decide to forego a pedicure today, and hang out on the couch for a couple of hours instead, watching a bit of tv, and working on knitting the world's most complicated baby blanket. Noodles works on tearing apart the blue bunny toy and Hanna naps on the floor next to the couch

6pm - dressed and ready to go! I think I'll pour myself a glass of wine while I wait for friends. No, Nanners and Noodles will not be joining me for a drink. In fact, the only alcohol that I (inadvertantly) found out that Hanna likes is Apple Martinis. A few years ago, on New Year's Eve, some friends and I were ringing in the New Year with Apple Martinis. Any time you had your glass in your hand, or setting on the coffee table, and if you weren't paying attention, you'd turn to see Hanna taking a slurp. This happened a couple of times, until next thing, Hanna had quietly retreated to her dog bed looking a bit confused. As far as I know, that was the beggining and end of her drinking career.

12:02 am - had a great dinner with great friends. Came home, walked the dogs, and now I am going to bed. Thanks so much to all the incredibly thoughtful people who made my 46th birthday a memorable one. Memorable because it reminded me that I am blessed with good health, relative prosperity and good friends. Good night, and see you all tomorrow.

Last year, my friend Chris gave me some Amaryllis bulbs from her garden, and they are finally coming into bloom. Here are my first flowers up against some Gladiola stocks. I don't expect to have flowers on the Glads until late May. . . . but they are always spectacular, and I love waiting to see what color flowers will emerge.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tonight my friend Chris and I went to see the fabulous David Sedaris at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium. Chris had no idea who he was, and her taste tends to run towards the Redneck Comedy Jam, but I think she enjoyed the show as much as I did. Sedaris read one of my favorite sections from "Me Talk Pretty One Day" - the story of how he and other french language students in Paris try to explain Easter to a Muslim woman in broken, poorly translated french.

Before the show we went to the historic Mission Inn in Downtown Riverside for a coupla tasty margaritas. The Inn is spectacular, by the way, for anyone looking for an oasis in the inland empire . . . .

Baby blanket in progress . . .

I'm a bit behind schedule, but I have now finished 2 of the 4 blocks for the baby blanket. The shower is May12, so I need to get crackin'. Things should settle down after this Saturday, and I will have a bit more time for knitting. Between now and Saturday I am: working; going to see David Sedaris(!); getting my hair cut and colored (ok, so I'm not a natural blond); having lunch with my mother; golfing; and going to dinner with friends (Saturday is my birthday).

Truth be told, all this social intercourse goes against my loner tendencies, but it will all be fun.

Since I've been complaining about Netflix lately, I have to also give it credit for a pretty cool service they offer that I recently discovered - "Watch it Now". They offer a number of movies and tv shows to watch on the spot - though you do need to download the Netflix viewer. Yesterday I watched "The Great Train Robbery" with Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Leslie-Anne Down, starring in Michael Crichton's adaptation of his book about the 1855 train robbery of gold bound to pay the British soldiers fighting in the Crimean War. I read the book years ago, and enjoyed the film version.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Guilty pleasure for the afternoon . . .

While working at home this afternoon, I've been half-watching "Black Widow." Anyone else remember this 1987 film?

An attractive woman (Theresa Russell) appears to have made her goal in life to marry rich men and collect the inheritance when they die. Nothing new there, except that to speed up the process she kills each of her husbands with a poison that leaves no trace. Hot on her trail is a keen female federal investigator (Debra Winger) who cannot convince people about the murders or that the same woman keeps inheriting the money.

I remember this as the movie where Winger went from being film hottie (An Officer and a Gentleman and Urban Cowboy) to film schlump. Some descriptions of the movie talk about a lesbian subtext, but I always thought it was more of a hetero school girl crush. Winger's character is so thrilled to become friends with the coolest girl in town, that she practically giggles in her presence. A "B" movie no doubt, but oddly entertaining.

Hanna got her sutures out today. It never ceases to amaze me how much she loves to go to the Vet's and see all her adoring fans. She has had painful procedures done a number of times - infected molars were pulled on 2 seperate occasions, and she has now had 2 knee surgeries, but she retains no aversion to going to the doctor's. There was a chocolate lab being admitted for the same surgery as Hanna had - her older owner brought along her stuffed dollie to keep the pooch company. Hanna managed to steal it, but I actually got it away from her undamaged. Here is an old photo of her hanging out with the neighbors.

I mentioned that yesterday I went golfing. After I arrived at the course, I checked in with the Starter, rented a pull cart and headed off to the restroom, following the signs. As I was zipping up my shorts, I glanced over the partition to notice a man standing at a urinal about 2 feet away . . . yes, I had gone into the men's room, and looking out the open door, I could see the clearly marked door for the women's room just across the way. I apologized profusely, promised not to "peek" and slunk away.
Have you done anything embarassing lately?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I worked at home today until 2 pm, then went and golfed with a gal I've never golfed with before - the stepmom of a friend of mine. It was fun, so I'm pleased to have found a new golf partner. We golfed with a teenaged girl who plays for her high school golf team (they were undefeated last year) and her uncle, who was very supportive of his niece's golfing. It was my first time out in awhile, so I was pleased to be striking the ball pretty well.

The good news about working at home is fewer interruptions. The bad news? The dogs snore. Hanna gets her sutures out tomorrow, but her knee seems to have healed up nicely.

Monday, April 23, 2007

If you could only bring one cd/album to listen to on a cross-country car ride, what would it be?

My choice is to the left - Quadrophenia by the Who.

It will probably surprise no one that I think the following is a grand idea . . . .

An Indian state has ordered the wardens of a national wildlife park to shoot poachers of endangered one-horned rhinos on sight, officials said Monday.

"A massive anti-poaching operation has been launched with orders issued to shoot-on-sight any unauthorised person inside Kaziranga's premises," Rockybul Hussain, northeastern Assam state's forest minister, told AFP in the reserve.

Six rhinos have been killed by poachers in the 430-square-kilometre (166-square-mile) Kaziranga park since January, including two in the past 10 days.

In keeping with today's save the wildlife theme . . . (ok, so I'm a day late for Earth Day)

Hunters in Russia's Far East have shot and killed one of the last seven surviving female Amur leopards living in the wild, WWF said on Monday, driving the species even closer to extinction. Last week environmentalists said there were only between 25 and 34 Amur leopards -- described as one of the most graceful cats in the world -- still living in the wild.

At least 100 are needed to guarantee the species' survival which depends upon female leopards breeding. There are more male leopards in the wild than female because cats tend to breed males when under stress, WWF said.

"Leopard murder can only be provoked by cowardice or stupidity, in this case most likely by both," Pavel Fomenko, WWF's biodiversity coordinator in Russia's Far East said in a statement.
A hunter shot the leopard through the tail bone. It tumbled over and was then beaten over the head with a heavy object, WWF said. Amur leopards have not been know to attack humans.
Environmentalists have urged the Russian government to introduce tighter controls on its national parks in the Far East to crack down on leopard hunting.

They also want more done to protect the animal's natural environment and food supply, which they say is being destroyed by human development.

A local wildlife watchdog received an anonymous tip-off that a leopard had been killed. State wildlife officers found the dead animal after a day of searching. The leopard died on either April 15 or April 16, WWF said.

And finally, what we can do to help (from the Natural Resources Defense Council )

(Photo to the left is of a Druid Peak Pack member taken by me in February)


We need you to be "quicker on the draw" than the Bush Administration to prevent the senseless slaughter of Rocky Mountain wolves. All you have to do is click -- and you'll instantly send an Official Citizen Comment that opposes the Administration's plan to strip Greater Yellowstone's wolves of their federal protection and leave them at the mercy of Wyoming and Idaho.

Already, state officials are circling, waiting for approval to kill hundreds of gray wolves in Yellowstone's wild country and central Idaho. The governor of Idaho himself said, "I'm prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself." Appalled by this impending massacre, NRDC Members and online activists are fighting back -- at their computer keyboards -- and have submitted over 50,000 Official Citizen Comments in just 2 days! But we need to barrage the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with even more comments -- our goal is 200,000 -- and that's why we need you to submit your Official Citizen Comment RIGHT NOW.

With only weeks to go before the public comment period ends on May 9, we need every NRDC Member and online activist to take action on the wolf's behalf. The comeback of the gray wolf from the brink of extinction in Greater Yellowstone is one of our country's greatest environmental success stories. Don't let the Bush Administration destroy that success! Click here now before the hunters are allowed to pull the trigger: Click Here

Sincerely, Frances Beinecke President NRDC Action Fund

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I made it back from La Quinta (it's about 120 mile drive each way). The weather was nice over the weekend, (though it rained on Friday) and I even sat by the pool for a bit yesterday and finished "A Great Deliverance" by Elizabeth George, which is, apparently, the first of the Inspector Lynley mysteries. In this book, additional background information was offered on the main characters that I didn't know from reading the later books in the series.

The other book I had with me is "The Strange Affair of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Between it and Dracula, which I have been listening to on my iPod, I'm taking a stroll through creepy late 19th century literature and enjoying it alot. Maybe I'll head back to the early 19th century for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein next?

A bunch of us ate at a very cool restaurant called the Sand Bar in La Quinta on Friday night. It looks like it hasn't changed much since Frank, Dino and Sammy ate there in the '50s. The Palm Springs area may be booming, but they know their target audience.

Nanners and Noodles are glad to have me home, and this looks to be a busy week; but the highlight? Thursday, I am off to see David Sedaris.

Hope everyone has good things planned for the coming week!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I'm out in La Quinta this weekend for work . . .
It was raining yesterday, but it's nice out today. I have the afternoon off, but couldn't get an appointment at the hotel spa for this afternoon. It's warm enough to head to the pool, but I had a margarita at lunch at the always yummy Las Casuelas, and I'm feeling lazy.
While I was driving out here yesterday I started a new audio book, Innocent Traitor - a historical novel about Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane was the grand-niece of Henry VIII, who was "Queen" for nine days. Poor Jane was the pawn of others who wanted to control the throne after the death of Henry's only male heir, Prince Edward. Those who wanted Jane to assume the throne assertd that Henry's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth were "bastards" by virtue of Henry's divorces, and thus, were unfit to wear the Crown. Jane was "persuaded" to assume the throne by her parents and husband who wanted to be King by virtue of his marriage to Jane. Jane refused to make him King, even if she were to serve as Queen. However, the ascent of Jane to the throne was not supported by the people, and Mary became Queen in her stead, and as one would expect, Lady Jane lost her head.
The book is written by Alison Weir; I have enjoyed her biographies of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, but presumably, this being a "novel" she will take more liberties with the story. but I am enjoying the story so far.
Back home tomorrow, and I hope everyone is having a nice weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dog hair . . . don't leave home without it.
As soon as I put on black slacks for work, Hanna came over for a scratch behind the ears . . .

The rose for the day - my first bloom from my Billy Graham variety. It smells lovely.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get me . . .

Is it just me, or is the turn around time at Netflix doubling lately? It used to be that it took one day for Netflix to receive my return, and then one more day for me to receive the next disc. So when I returned 3 movies on Monday, I had 3 more movies on Wednesday. Now it seems that it takes 2 days for returns, and 2 more days to receive the next shipment. So the same returns on Monday result in new movies arriving on Friday. These delays basically make it impossible to get more than 3 movies in any given week.

Anybody else notice a change for the worse in service?

Monday, April 16, 2007

I haven't watched Dancing with the Stars the last couple of weeks. Oh, I still vote - I just log on Monday nights and place all my allowed votes for Clyde Drexler . . . But I watched tonight . . . only 2 women remain - Heather Mills and Laila Ali.

Tonight's highlights? Clyde is told he is the worst dancer left in the competition - like that matters - he still is pulling in the vote for the athlete bloc.

Heather danced with a short dress that showed off the prosthetic - it was kind of interesting, and I do give her credit for being able to pull this off . . . until the end when she tries to balance on one leg - the fake one - and falls on her ass.

Odds on favorite Joey Fatone is dancing his first slow dance - the rumba - his friends Lance Bass and Alfonso something from Fresh Prince stop by rehearsals. Lance says that Joey needs to "keep a straight face" during this dance . . . 2 of the judges say Joey's dance was "too feminine". Seriously, these guys just can't win. If they are going to ask them to shimmy and shake while wearing tight polyester, I'm not sure it's fair to accuse them of being not masculine enough.

Laila has a suspiciously deep voice that is a tad disconcerting, but she and Maksim dance the sexiest dance of the night.

Apolo Anton Ohno and his teenage dance partner try to move from cute to sexy, and they pull it off in a Smurf-like/kiddie porn sort of way. The judges give them perfect 10s.

What cruel, cruel wardrobe mistress put Billy Ray Cyrus in a lavender satin sleeveless blouse? BRC is one of the celebs who is the perfect candidate for DWTS - - even though his music and acting are pretty iffy, he will come away from this show with more fans just based on the likability factor. Nevertheless, he proves that Clyde may not be the worst dancer.

Nanners and Noodles wanna go pee, so I gotta go . . .

Addendum - Clyde bit the dust - who to vote for now? Probably Laila Ali, Joey Fatone or Apolo Ohno.

Because I am a geek/avid reader, I generally have 3 books going at any given time:

An audible book in my car;

An audible book on my iPod; and

A regular form book that I read, at a minimum, in the bathtub every day.

The two audible books I am currently listening to are I, Claudius and Dracula. These books, at least for me, exemplify the bad and good that the reader of the book can bring to the audible book experience of the listener. I, Claudius is read by Derek Jacobi, who reads all the male parts in a bored, foppish, British style, and reads all the female parts in a bored, foppish, slightly retarded, British style. I am 12 hours in to an 18 hour book, and am not much enjoying it.

In contrast, Dracula is read by Robert Whitfield, who brings to life a variety of characters. Dracula is told in the form of reading excerpts from the journal, diaries and correspondence of the main characters - Jonathan Harker, his bride Mina, the doomed Lucy, Dr. Seward, and Prof. Van Helsing. (I'm not sure how they came up with the casting of Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing in the movie of the same name . . . the character in Dracula is more of an elderly professor, than a dashing rake).

The last book I am reading is one of the Inspector Lynley mysteries by Elizabeth George. Many of these have been made into BBC tv movies, and I have found that I am able to enjoy both. Twice I have read one of the books after seeing the BBC production, but in both instances, they changed whodunit from the book.

What are you reading????

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hanna is recovering nicely. Her leg does not seem to be causing her much discomfort, and hopefully, the antibiotics are ridding her of the infection. She has been pretty good about not licking her staples/sutures, but I put the cone of silence on her overnight, and while I am away from the house. The doggie honor system has its limits, after all. The downside to the cone, from my perspective, is that when she comes to see if I'm awake in the morning (today at 5:45 a.m.) she is pretty hard to ignore - the hard plastic edge in the eye is a real wake-up call, and as she wiggles her head back and forth in greeting, the cone tends to clear everything off of my bed side table. Here she warms her old bones in the sun.

I haven't gotten a ton of flowers from my tulip bulbs, but here is a pretty white and pink one. I have a bunch of amaryllis' sending up blooms, and they should start to open this week.

I have finished square no.1 (of 4 total) for baby Ella's blanket. The shower is May 12, so my goal is to finish a square each week. I am pleased with the pretty colors . . . and hope the mom and dad to be will be too.

Rain is predicted, but the weather looks promising, so hopefully I will get out for a nice run (ok, walk) today.

Enjoy your Sunday, one and all!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I have just downloaded Bram Stoker's Dracula on to my iPod. I have always loved this horror story - both in literature and film. I read it years ago, and I think it will translate nicely to audio. Dracula has been the basis for countless films and plays. Three of the most famous are Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). In these movies, the Count was played by Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman, respectively. I am a big Gary Oldman fan, but it is hard to beat Bela Lugosi.

I also just finished listening to The Shifting Fog . In this book, the story of the ill-fated Hartford family is told by Grace Bradley, a former housemaid who is just 14 when she joins the staff at Riverton Manor in 1914. From the very beginning, wide-eyed Grace is fascinated by David, Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, the glamorous grandchildren of Riverton’s owner, Lord Ashbury. Following Hannah’s marriage to a wealthy American in 1919, Grace becomes her private maid. Over the next six years the lives of these women become closely intertwined, to the point where Grace gives up a chance for personal happiness in order to stay close to her troubled young mistress.

Now aged 98, Grace is reminded of the tragic events that occurred in the grounds of Riverton Manor in 1924 when she’s contacted by an American director. Ursula Ryan is making a movie about the death of a young poet called Robbie Hunter, who committed suicide during a garden party at Riverton. According to rumours at the time, the dead man was the lover of both sisters, who were the only witnesses to his death. After the tragedy, Hannah and Emmeline never spoke to each other again, and Grace is the only person still alive who knows the truth about what happened beside the lake on that fateful evening.
I enjoyed this book immensely, and do recommend it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hanna woke up this morning feeling quite chipper. So to celebrate, I stopped at Petco on the way home and bought the girls each a Dingo Bone, that they are enjoying here and here.

Splish, my 10 year old goldfish got a new tank . . . this time I added some real aquatic plants, that not only look cool, they should help keep the water clean and help prevent algae. Splish is very excited . . .

And last, but not least, my roses are beginning to bloom . . .

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Nanners is home, albeit in a drug induced stupor. She is getting around well on her leg, but is pretty disoriented. We plan on spending a quiet evening at home . . .

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Poor Nanners . . .
Nearly 3 years ago, Hanna had knee surgery after she blew out the ligaments in her right knee. She's been licking the surgical scar, so we went back to the doggie orthopedic surgeon today. It seems the implant has become infected. Because the knee itself is healed, the implant is superfluous, so they are going to operate today to remove it, and then put her on antibiotics to resolve the infection. Because Noodles cannot stand to be left out, she went with us to the Vet's office and waited in the car.
Hopefully, Hanna won't have to spend the night, and can come home this afternoon . . . Poor Nanners!
Update - the surgery went well, but she has to spend the night away from home

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's a long story, but for the past few years, I have had the free use of a studio condo in Maui the last week in May, and am thrilled that I will be able to use it again this year.

Here is the sunset view from the lanai . . .

It is the most wonderfully relaxing week. I like to get up early and go for a long walk, snorkel, and visit some of my favorite restaurants in Lahaina. I first went to Maui in 1977 with my family and have always stayed in the same basic area. The island has changed alot, and not generally for the better, but it is still beautiful and mellow.
And now, to the opposite end of the musical talent spectrum, the late, great Isreal Kamakawiwo ‘ole
. This song has been overused in commercials and movies, but it still makes me tear up every time I hear it . . . and it makes me want to learn to play the ukelele.

You may have read that Kevin Costner is suing some music promoters for failing to adequately promote his middle-aged crisis/male menopause attempt at music - the Kevin Costner Band. Please enjoy Kevin's fine vocals on "The Porch Song".

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

My brother and I are heading out to brunch with our mother, while Hanna and Samantha plan to get in some much needed nap time.