Saturday, June 30, 2007

My world, 8 am, Saturday morning . . .

Birdies at the feeder (they are delightfully noisy!)

Nanners and Noodles winding down (we've been up since a bit before 6)

My side to side sweater, in progress (probably the last wool I will work with until the fall)

Dog stew simmering on the stove (mmmmm - this batch has chicken livers!)

I don't have big plans for this weekend, and living at the beach, parking and traffic become big issues in the summer time. You have to think twice before giving up a parking space to run an errand. Even so, things I may do this weekend? Pick out new eyeglasses, hike in the Wetlands, and hit the driving range . . . or I may just do a whole lot of nothing!

Anybody living a more exciting life than me?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I was tagged by the Princess in Galoshes to list 8 random facts about myself . . .

1. I used to be an avid seamstress, and in college, made all my sorority formals.

2. I hate sushi. I have tried dozens of time to develop a taste for it, but it remains for me like being forced to eat peas when I was a kid. Wash it down, and try not to chuck it back up.

3. I was born pigeon toed and had casts on my legs beginning when I was only a couple of months old. The result was that I could talk beginning when I was 9 months old, but was nearly 2 years old before I could walk.

4. I like rollercoasters, but hate rides that spin.

5. I skipped 4th grade.

6. I have never been able to do a cartwheel.

7. I have a pioneer woman fantasy, where I live on a plot of land with lots of animals, and grow my own food.

8. I dislike most chick flicks.

Anybody else care to share any interesting/semi-interesting/uninteresting facts about themselves?

I have encountered some cool things over the last few days . . .

An older gentleman was riding past my house on a motorcycle with a side car - in the side car? His German Shepard . . .

The dogs and I were walking, and passed under a tree. There was a flurry of activity above us, and a hawk emerged to perch on a street sign. This was my closest view of a hawk . . .

I went to get a pedicure, and three women brought in 20 little girls to get their nails painted. I asked the little girl next to me (who was getting her toes painted green) what sort of group they were, but couldn't understand the answer . . .

I had lunch bought for me yesterday by my neighbor to pay off the bet as to which team would win the last Angels/Dodgers series . . .

My other neighbor has volunteered to organize my garage for me . . .

My mammogram results came back normal . . .

The only bummer? Today I go to the dentist!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ok, so I finished this sweater, and because it was on the cool side yesterday, I wore it down to my local biker bar (recently redecorated!) to visit with my former neighbor who manages the bar. The sweater must be reasonably attractive, because as I was leaving, the best looking gentleman at the bar came running out after me to introduce himself and give me his phone number. (Don’t get me wrong - being dubbed the best looking guy at Mothers is like being named the best athlete at the Special Olympics [no disrespect meant to any "special" readers]).

I’ve been in a dating lull for quite some time (besides this blind date), but I met a nice fella when I was in Maui, and I might give this guy a call . . . hey, who knows? Even though motorcycles scare me . . .

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Now that we’ve reviewed movies that make you cry, and movies that make you laugh, today’s topic is movies that make you say "WTF? How did this piece of crap get green-lighted? Did anyone read the script? Did they consider hiring people who could (or would bother to) act?"

My choices for ridiculously bad movies are:
Roadhouse starred Patrick Swayze, hot off his success in Dirty Dancing as James Dalton - the world’s greatest bad-ass bouncer. The usually enjoyable Sam Elliott slums his way through the role of Wade Garrett - the Yoda/Zen Master of bad-ass bouncers. Throw in Kelly Lynch as the doctor who is inexplicably impressed by Dalton carrying his medical records around with him, (to make his frequent trips to the hospital go that much smoother), and you have a mix that can only spell out D-movie bomb.
Showgirls is the first movie I can recall that was able to remove all the sexiness out of having a lot of naked attractive people on screen. Elizabeth Berkley stars as Noni (wtf?) Malone, the tough as nails gal who comes to Vegas to see her name in lights. Gina Gershon stars as Crystal Connor, the showgirl who has Vegas tied around her finger . . . and Kyle MacLachlan sleep walks his way through the role of Zack Carey, who owns the casino, or something . . . First off, since when did a Vegas showgirl become a star? We’re not talking Gypsy Rose Lee here, we’re talking a topless, and pretty much faceless, show somewhere on the Strip. Anywhoo, Noni manages to knock Crystal off her throne by knocking her down some stairs, and yet, after she has Vegas eating out of her hands, she chucks it all away.
Any other nominees?

What, you may ask, are these? These are photos of the big ticket purchases I am currently coveting: a sewing machine, a new bike, and a 42 inch flat screen tv.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I came home a bit early today, after a long week of work, and found Young Frankenstein on TV. Young Frankenstein, the 1974 comedy film directed by Mel Brooks, stars Gene Wilder as the title character. Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, and Gene Hackman also star. The screenplay was written by Brooks and Wilder.

Young Frankenstein is number 28 on Total Film Magazine's List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time, number 56 on Bravo television network's list of the "100 Funniest Movies", and number 13 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 funniest American movies of all time. In 2003, it was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the United States National Film Preservation Board, and selected for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

It is one of my favorite all time comedies, and one of the few movies for which I can remember quotes, including the following:

[Frankenstein, Igor and Inga in front of HUGE castle doors]

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: What knockers.

Inga: Oh, thank you doctor.

Or, after the monster awakens and acts just a bit strange . . .

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Igor, would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?

Igor: And you won't be angry?

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.

Igor: Abby someone.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby someone. Abby who?

Igor: Abby Normal.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby Normal?

Igor: I'm almost sure that was the name.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide GORILLA? [shakes and grabs him]

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE TELLING ME?

What is your favorite movie comedy?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I am currently listening to "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright. Wright, a New Yorker writer, brings exhaustive research and delightful prose to what is generally regarded as one of the best books yet on the history of terrorism.

The book starts in the days post World War II, and lays out the rise of Islamic militants in Egypt, and later, in Saudi Arabia. Wright begins with the observation that, despite an impressive record of terror and assassination, post–World WarII, Islamic militants failed to establish theocracies in any Arab country. Many helped Afghanistan resist the Russian invasion of 1979 before their unemployed warriors stepped up efforts at home. Al-Qaeda, formed in Afghanistan in 1988 and led by Osama bin Laden, pursued a different agenda, blaming America for Islam's problems. Less wealthy than believed, bin Laden's talents lay in organization and PR, Wright asserts. Ten years later, bin Laden blew up U.S. embassies in Africa and the destroyer Cole, opening the floodgates of money and recruits. Wright's step-by-step description of these attacks reveals that planning terror is a sloppy business, leaving a trail of clues that, in the case of 9/11, raised many suspicions among individuals in the FBI, CIA and NSA.

Wright shows that 9/11 could have been prevented if those agencies had worked together. Instead, they failed to even share important pieces of information, let alone coordinate and cooperate, and at times were torn apart by inter-agency and intra-agency infighting. For example, the mostly young and female agents at the CIA assigned to prevent terrorist attacks at home are nicknamed "the Manson Family" and ridiculed for their devotion to their assignment, and thus, largely ignored. . . .

This is an important, gripping and profoundly disheartening book. I’ve got about 2 hours left in the audible book, and sadly, know how it will end.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Which books and movies make you cry?

The first book that I can remember making me tear up was Charlotte's Web, when the spider dies. I also sob every time I read (or watch) To Kill a Mockingbird. Other movies that are guaranteed tear jerkers are Bambi (when Bambi's mum dies), and Brian's Song when Brian Piccolo passes away.

What turns your taps on?

My fourth book for Liz’s Summer Mystery Reading Challenge is Murder in Belleville, by Cara Black. This is the second in Black’s Aimee Leduc series, and is set in April, 1994.
Aimee is a Parisian young woman who co-owns a corporate security company with her dwarf partner, Rene, and who also moonlights as a private investigator. When Anais, an old friend and wife of an interior minister, sends her a desperate call for help from Belleville, an immigrants' quartier, Aimee responds, intending to confront Sylvie, her husband's mistress. When a car bomb fueled by Algerian plastique takes Sylvie's life, Anais begs Aimée to unravel the tangled threads that led to her death.
Aimée's investigations take her into the heart of the unrest surrounding the political status of illegal Algerian immigrants, or sans-papiers. The government has decided to enforce a decree to deport the sans-papiers, and Bernard Berge, a low ranking government official, who is also a pied-noir, or Algerian-born French citizen, is called upon to do the dirty work. Given the situation these days with the debate over how to best deal with the illegal immigrant situation in America, I found this particularly interesting.

The jam-packed plot is some times hard to follow. I also found the intermittent presence of Yves, Aimée's fickle, and possibly married, lover, distracting, as is the frequent (and untranslated) use of French words and phrases, but Black's Paris, at times grimly threatening, is also wondrously vibrant:

"She wondered how Sylvie/Eugénie fit into the melange that swelled the boulevard: the Tunisian Jewish bakery where a line formed while old women who ran the nearby hammam conversed with one and all from their curbside café tables, the occasional rollerblader weaving in and out of the crowd, the Asian men unloading garments from their sliding-door Renault vans, the Syrian butchers with their white coats stained bloody pink, the tall, ebony Senegalese man in a flowing white tunic, prayer shawl, and blue jogging shoes with a sport bag filled with date branches, a well-coiffed French matron tugging a wheeled shopping cart, a short, one-eyed Arabe man who hawked shopping bags hanging from his arms, and the watchful men in front of the Abou Bakr Mosque near the Métro."

I enjoyed this book, even without having visited Paris in person for nearly 20 years.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This week's doctor's appointment/attempt to keep this old body going, was the Ophthalmologist. I am not officially blind yet, but we are increasing the prescription on my contact lenses. This increase may have a negative effect on my up close vision, so it is probably time to break down and buy some of those reading glasses they sell at the drug store. Honestly, that is what the Optometrist told me to do. It's so odd not to have someone try to sell you something . . . and at least I don't need bifocals yet.

This year I will probably also get a new pair of prescription glasses to wear when I don't feel like dealing with the contact lenses. They really do offer alot of cute frames. I always wish I had the moxie to buy some really funky ones, but I'll probably stick to something like this. Next up . . . the dentist!

Monday, June 18, 2007

My pick for quirky, fun, summer series is Flight of the Conchords, Sunday nights on HBO.

According to HBO, "In the series premiere, transplanted New Zealanders Bret and Jemaine search for romance and gigs in New York City. At a party, Jemaine falls for Sally (who used to date Bret), but Bret spoils the moment back at their apartment. Meanwhile, their manager Murray shares his two-pronged plan for the band that includes making a music video, and Bret deals with the advances of Mel--the band's lone obsessed fan."

I watched it on the HBO website, and spent most of the 27 minutes laughing out loud. Check it out!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Unfortunately, my father died 30 years ago, a little before my 16th birthday, but I have many fond memories of him. My love of sports can definitely be traced back to my father. I remember climbing the stairs of the LA Coliseum to the very last (and highest) row to watch Roman Gabriel and the Los Angeles Rams. We went to every single Angels' home game from the mid '60s to the early '70s. I remember going to CSULB with him to watch college basketball, and staying up on Friday nights to watch UCLA basketball games (this was in the John Wooden undefeated era) broadcast beginning at 11:30 pm, and going with my dad and brother to the drive-in to watch a James Bond triple feature. My all time favorite Christman present to this day was when I got my own fishing rod from my dad.

I also know he is rolling over in his grave every time I enter the voting booth and vote Democrat - sorry Dad! And Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My latest knitting project is "Sonnet" from I'm using a mohair/wool blend that I had in my "stash". It's knit side to side instead of from the top down or bottom up. This is the right front, right armhole, and beginning of the back.

I finally broke down and bought 2 new dog beds, since the old ones were flat, torn, and/or so dirty that the washing machine just wasn't enough to get it clean any more. Here Nanners and Noodles show off their new beds and new chew toys. The chew toys claim to be extra tough to tear apart - we'll see about that.

It's a gorgeous day here in So Cal, and I hope everybody else is having a nice weekend too!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Since Nanners and Noodles were becoming better known as Itchy and Stinky, they each got a bath this morning. The good news from their point of view, is the after bath treats I am holding in my hand to entice them to sort of sit still for their photos . . .

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In keeping with this week's "boobie" theme, here are some Nazca Boobies in the Galapagos Islands. The one to the right is a male seeking to impress the hard to get young lady to the left.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Monday I called around and made a bunch of appointments for things I have been putting off . . .

First up, this morning is my annual mammogram. It never ceases to amaze me that they really do "bounce back" after being flattened to a quarter inch thick pancake.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I did do quite a bit of snorkelling during my recent trip to Maui. Ok, so the underwater cameras are kind of iffy, but here are a few shots taken at Honolua Bay.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I don't know if I ever mentioned that in 2002, I participated in a 3 Day, 60 mile walk to raise money for the Avon Foundation's Breast Cancer Crusade. I will state unequivocally that it was one of the most difficult, and also one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I am proud to say I raised about $2,600, thanks to the generosity of my friends and family. And at the end, I swore I'd never do it again . . .
These days, the walks are 40 miles over 2 days, and take place all over the country. Two caught my eye - the Los Angeles walk in mid September, 2007, and one in New York City in October. The LA walk is actually in Long Beach, so it would be very convenient - I could sleep at home (rather than in a 2 man tent), and hitch a ride there both days . . .
The New York City walk is a week before I am heading to the Berkshires for a week of hiking along the Appalachian Trail. Either walk would help get me into shape for hiking about 10 miles a day. But how cool would it be to walk 40 miles around Manhattan? Then I could spend a few days in NYC before heading to Massachusetts for the hiking the Berkshires trip . . .
Crazy idea? Or super cool?
I don't have a lot of things planned for this weekend . . . tonight I am attending a charity wine tasting that benefits the local animal shelter with some friends. I went last year, and it was a lot of fun, and supports a worthy cause. I hope to finish up my current knitting project, and Hanna hopes I will spend a good portion of the weekend filling up her peanut butter bone with goodies. (It usually gets stuffed with baby carrots and peanut butter). I've also managed to make my slow moving kitchen sink drain worse by removing the trap to see if that is where the clog is . . . it wasn't, but I have been unable to properly re-attach it, so now I have both a slow moving and leaking drain. I removed the trap in reaction to the $225 estimate from Rescue Rooter to snake the drain. I thought that was high, and declined to authorize the work. Now I'm trying to get in touch with a guy I have used before, who works independently with a couple of employees, and is more reasonable. So, cooking and doing the dishes are low on my list of weekend plans.

What do you have planned for the weekend?

Addendum - apparently you need to use teflon tape when you re-attach the trap - fortunately, my brother knew that and had some!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Today at Liz’s blog, Liz, the leader of the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge, has kindly introduced us to Lonnie Cruse , the author of a series of mysteries set in her hometown of Metropolis, Illinois, as her featured author of the day. The books sound like fun books to read, and have received great reviews from readers on Amazon, so I ordered the first in the series - Murder in Metropolis - from Lonnie today. I love how blogs turn the world into one, big, small town sometimes!

It's been one year and 444 posts since I first started this blog on June 7, 2006. In honor of the blog's namesakes, here are Nanners and Noodles enjoying the late afternoon sun yesterday . . .

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How did I spend the last 40 years as an avid reader without having ever read a Travis McGee mystery?
My first selection for Liz’s Summer Mystery Reading Challenge, was John D. MacDonald’s A Deadly Shade of Gold, the fifth novel in MacDonald’s Travis McGee series, and I plan to make up for lost time by reading them all. I knew I had struck gold (pun intended) when the 1995 foreward to the re-issue of this 1965 book was written by Carl Hiaasen. I love Hiaasen for his subversive humor and contempt for those who abuse the environment. I quickly found out that Hiaasen’s observation that MacDonald had expressed similar views on the environment was true - and that MacDonald was doing so long before it became fashionable, and long before Al Gore was winning Oscars for making movies about global warming. MacDonald - through McGee - also expresses a healthy skepticism about governments that strive to suppress dissent; a message that was vital in the ‘60s and vital today, as well. ("If we can restrain ourselves from killing off our own rebels, our doubters and dreamers, all in the name of making ourselves strong, then we can prevail.")

I found that this book holds up surprisingly well, even though written more than 40 years ago. Sure, there are a few colloquialisms that smack of the swinging ‘60s, but overall, McGee is as timeless as James Bond. In "Gold", we meet Mr. McGee as he is between jobs, living on his houseboat in Florida, (the Busted Flush - he won it in a card game) and enjoying the good life - good friends, cold beer, nubile young ladies lounging around the deck. He receives a surprise phone call from an old friend who left town 3 years before. When they meet up, Travis finds Sam world weary and looking like he has been ridden hard and put away wet one too many times. It becomes clear that he is involved in some illegal activities involving ancient artifacts, but also, that he wants to come clean and re-join his old life, including rekindling a romance with the woman he left behind. McGee returns with that woman to find Sam with his throat slit, and the only artifact in his possession missing.

McGee’s investigation takes him to New York, Mexico and California, and it become clear that what Sam was involved with was not just about money, but may also have grave political ramifications for the many Cubans who fled Cuba after the revolution . . .

MacDonald was a prolific author, writing more than 75 books, including more than 20 in the Travis McGee series, all of which include a color in the title. I look forward to enjoying more adventures with Travis McGee.

I came home from vacation to find that my pink calla lily is thriving, and the gladiolas are in full bloom.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I recently read "The Ballad of the Flim Flam Man" by Guy Owen as part of Maggie’s Southern Reading Challenge.
I really enjoyed this book, which was written in 1965, and its colorful descriptions ("Like Pa always said, Wish in one hand and pee in the other and see which hand gets full the quickest"), and characters. The story revolves around Mordecai Jones, the Flim Flam Man, and his brief partnership with Curley Treadaway, a young man AWOL from the army. They meet while Jones is being unceremoniously evicted from the moving freight train that Curley hoped to catch. Curley quickly realizes this isn’t just any old tramp, this is THE Flim Flam Man, rumored to have escaped from a Georgia prison. Initially, they con a storekeeper with some 3 card Monte to get enough money for food and the basics, and from there plan to pull off enough cons to get themselves each a $500 stake. Ostensibly they are heading towards Wilmington, but they never get far from the tobacco fields and small towns around Cape Fear, North Carolina. The book, for me, has a real depression era feel to it - but for a few references to the Korean War and television, I would have placed the story in the ‘30s.
The cons they pull off are all great fun, and they even steal a truck full of liquor from a local moonshiner, and then proceed to drive that truck all over the back roads dispensing good spirits wherever they go. The boys know they can rely on southern hospitality, particularity from the local black folk: "He stopped and asked us if we wanted a ride. I took it as a pretty good sign - - though most Negroes will do that . . . they are mighty good to help a white man when he’s down and out and other white folks are ready to peck him to death, like chickens after a sick hen."

The success of Jones arises from his understanding that most men are motivated by greed. "Greed’s my line, lad" he tells Curley, "And fourteen carat ignorance. You might say I’m one who puts his trust in the taint of corruption in the human heart". They encounter this corruption in everyone from store owners to Dynamite Doakus, the tent revival preacher taking advantage of country poor folks with little money to spare. After Doakus, whom Curley calls "Bogus," is taken ill after over-imbibing in moonshine supplied by our heroes, it is Jones that delivers a true sermon about confessing one’s sins and forgiveness. Almost equally as contemptible to Jones are those "legitimate" businessman who were "the greatest conmen of all, only they was spoiled by greed."

Some ideas are timeless, and I found I could relate to the cynicism of Jones about the greed of most men, the old idea that you can’t con an honest man, and the apparent lack of Christian ideals in some of our religious leaders, even though the con takes place over the television rather than in revival tents.

This book was fairly hard to track down, but I highly recommend it!

Sure, the elections may be many months away, but you wouldn't know it by the amount of campaigning and fundraising activity across the country. In my travels, it came to my attention that 2 of the countries in which I recently travelled - Peru and Ecuador - have mandatory voting requirements. In other words, all able bodied persons of voting age, MUST vote, (and they are provided with proof, which is probably more durable than the "I voted!" sticker we receive at my local polling place) or you become ineligible for government services. So for instance, without this proof, you cannot register your car.

Do you think mandatory voting should be instituted in the United States (or in Canada for our north of the border friends)?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

So this morning was my latest venture into the world of athletics - the Playa del Run 5k run at Bolsa Chica. First off, I'd like to point out to Editthis that I carved a whopping 45 seconds off my previous personal best for the year of 38:15, and came in at 37:30.

Ok, so I didn't reach my goal of 36 minutes, but I also showed up this morning with a bit of poor planning behind me. Maybe drinking yesterday from 11 am to 5 pm (I went to a wedding, I wasn't sitting home alone) wasn't the best race preparation. Maybe not eating anything since the noon wedding buffet the previous day was not the best way to "carbo load". Maybe running twice in the past couple of months wasn't quite enough training. Nevertheless, I cowboyed up, and ran the whole thing. My friends and I rewarded ourselves in the usual way - a heavy, fat and calorie laden breakfast and cocktails. So, in retrospect, making out like I'm an athlete has some redeeming values . . .

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I took a ride to the Iao Valley near Wailuku, Maui, and found a few pretty flowers . . .

I did quite a bit of reading while on vacation, (oh, the luxury of laying in bed with a good book and a strong cup of coffee) and hope to post my reviews of a couple of books this week - The Ballad of the Flim Flam Man by Guy Owen for the Southern Reading Challenge, and A Deadly Shade of Gold by John D. MacDonald for Liz’s Summer Mystery Reading Challenge. I liked them both alot.

Sunset over Molokai . . .

Had a great time in Maui, though I have now learned that someone got hold of my credit card number while in Hawaii, and is apparently enjoying some online gaming . . . . Citibank picked it up pretty early, so the fraudulent charges are pretty minimal, and the card has been cancelled. I did quite a bit of snorkelling, and hope my underwater photos will be worth posting.

This morning I'm off to a wedding, and tomorrow a 5k . . . I already feel like I need another vacation! Hope everyone has good things planned for this weekend.