Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween, from our house to your's!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

So, I brought work home tonight, but I took a break for a game of "house fetch" with the dogs. My house is long and narrow, so I can toss a ball a fair distance. Here Nanners and Noodles each take a break with their ball.

And I can confirm that the rumors are true . . . 13-0 with my football picks last week and I won the local NFL pool for the second time in four weeks! My coffee can vacation fund is doing well for the next trip out of town, wherever it may be.
I've been meaning to mention that while I was in NYC, I went and saw "Lars and the Real Girl". It's a quirky film with a heart of gold. If you get the chance, check it out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is it a sign of the Apocalypse when birds keep flying into your house? How 'bout Nosferatu, did he have anything to say about that?
Yesterday, I come out of my bedroom, and noticed a sparrow fluttering in the garden window above my kitchen sink. Thankfully, Hanna was temporarily oblivious to this development. So I stepped up on a kitchen chair with a dish towel and threw it over the bird, wrapped it up, and released it outside. My good deed for the day . . .
A few hours later, the dogs and I were in the front room when another sparrow came zooming in from the kitchen, pulled a U turn and headed back into the kitchen with the dogs and me in hot pursuit . . . before Hanna could snatch it out of the air, it cleared the sliding glass door and made it back outside.
Seriously, what are the odds?
Having spent most of the last 48 hours in bed with a skull splitting sinus headache, I am finally feeling a bit better today. In retrospect, it was a good decision to ignore the inclination to grab a pliers and pull out all the teeth in my upper left jaw to relieve the pressure.
Update - I'm 12-0 for the NFL games today . . . Go Packers tomorrow night! I don't have the whole pool's picks, but I gotta believe I'm in the running!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Like many air travelers, I am aware that airplanes fly aided by capricious fairies and invisible strings."

So begins the third chapter of The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific, a 2004 travelogue by author J. Maarten Troost describing the two years he and his girlfriend spent living on the Tarawa atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. In the book Troost describes how he came to discover that the tiny sliver of land in the South Pacific, barely known to the outside world, was not the tropical paradise he thought it would be. Nevertheless, he and his girlfriend Sylvia build a home for themselves in Kiribati, alongside a host of colorful local characters, all the while having new encounters with the bizarre and unfamiliar.

In those two years, he learned to overcome the dearth of practically all food except fish ("raw or boiled"), the extreme heat (only Mormon missionaries wore pants), and a lethargic government he describes as "coconut Stalinism"—"though Stalin, at least, got something done." He meets the poet laureate, a twenty-one-year-old Englishman who hasn't written a poem since arriving on the island, and survives the "Great Beer Crisis," when the Australian supply ship went to Kiritimati Island instead of Tarawa, thus failing to provide the island with much needed beer. He copes with frequent electrical and water shortages, and struggles to get a subscription to The New Yorker from a hapless operator, who insists that Kiribati is not in the magazine's database. ("It's an independent country. It's been an independent country for almost twenty years. Surely The New Yorker's database of independent countries has been updated in the past twenty years.").
At the same time, Troost also challenges American complacency toward its own history, by doing so little to remember the many troops that died in the Battle of Tarawa during World War II, and the many foreign aid workers and consultants, who fail to consider the islanders' real needs or local culture.
Edit recommended this book, and I’m glad she did. The book was laugh out loud funny, and also heartbreaking in its descriptions of the world’s superpowers’ rape of the economy and environment of this tiny country.

Friday, October 26, 2007

We didn't see a ton of wildlife in the Berkshires, but at the Mass Audobon reserve, we did find some beavers and frogs . . . . The beaver kept swimming towards us and slapping his tail.

It's been a busy, crazy week back in So Cal. Between the fires, and needing to hit the ground running at work, I'm exhausted. I need to work some this weekend, and I'm having breakfast with a friend on Sunday.

Anybody have more exciting plans than me?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I wrote before about Tom's Shoes, and how they donate a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair purchased. Well, today I received my custom painted pair of Tom's!

After spending a few lovely days in NYC, I headed up to Albany and met the group for the hiking trip through the Berkshires. Overall, a nice group of people, especially after the two alcoholic 60 year old men from Miami decided a walking tour wasn't really the best trip for them and found an excuse to go home. (Seriously, they showed up with no packs, no rain gear and no water bottles . . .).
Here are some photos of our last day of hiking, including me on top of Mt. Allander.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Saturday while in NYC, I visited the Central Park Zoo. I'm not generally a huge fan of zoos, but this one was fairly small and nicely maintained. A sleeping polar bear, a young harp seal rescued in Maine, a snow monkey and baby, and a rain forest bird . . . . The seal was nursed back to health, but has a vision problem, so it wasn't a candidate to be released. It was interesting to watch the keeper with the seal a bit after this photo was taken. The keeper was working with the seal on some basic behaviors and to acclimate it to some basic contact with the keeper which will help the keepers care for the seal.

After the zoo, I headed to the Boathouse restaurant in the Park and had a lovely afternoon enjoying a nice pinot grigio and some fruit and cheese.
NYC was a blast! I walked everywhere, even though my plan to wear cute leather boots the first day (partly in the rain) resulted in my tearing up my left foot pretty badly. Great, blisters even before I start my hiking trip!

The first day I breakfasted at a Nice Matin, then headed to the nearby Natural History Museum. From there, I walked through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they had a special exhibitition of Dutch Masters. Even though the Modern Art wing was closed, there was still plenty to see. (This is a Georgia O'Keefe). I finished up with High Tea at the Museum, walked home on the rain, and later headed out to see Avenue Q. Very funny show, and while walking home, I passed Peter Bogdanovich on the street near my hotel.

Day two I wised up and put on some tennis shoes. I had breakfast at what became my local restuarant, (great outdoor dining for people watching) Sarabeth’s, and grabbed a cab down to Soho.

I wanted to check out a local yarn store, and since it wasn't yet open, I headed over to Washington Square Park. (this is the arch there). I'm a big fan of the Henry James' novel, Washington Square, and also of the film adaptation, the Heiress, with Olivia deHavilland and Montgomery Clift. The Square is adjacent to NYU.

Weather was great, great people watching, and they even have a dog park.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I made it back safely from vacation, and I had a great time. My first day in NYC I went to the Natural History Museum, including the Butterfly Exhibition. They created a tropical environment in a small room, and added butterflies galore. Here are a couple of my new pals. It was very cool.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I'm leavin', on a jet plane . . .

Go Jet Blue! My always nice to me neighbors are taking me to the airport tomorrow morning to board the plane to JFK. I wrapped up my work assignments, got a list of many, many good places to eat, and I'm packed and ready to go. I'm not sure if I'll be online at all over the next 10 days, but if not, be happy, and I'll be back on the 21st!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Another volunteer sunflower . . .

I've been checking the weather every day in NYC and the Berkshires and it has been in the mid to high 80s . . . it looks like it is finally starting to cool off, so hopefully I will have some nice, crisp autumn days for my holiday.

I did most of my packing this weekend, and it wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. Luggage-wise, I should be A-ok.

It looks like I won the local pub's football pool this week . . . I was 11 - 1 after the first 12 games, and regardless of what happens with the Sunday and Monday games, no one can catch me. The pub has been closed for some renovations, so it wasn't at it's usual $300 level, but I should win about $160 to add to my vacation fund.

The Angels completed their poor post season play today, losing their third straight game to the Red Sox . . . on the other hand, the Chargers emerged from their stupor . . .

Monday and Tuesday look to be hectic, but vacation is just a few days away . . .

I spent a summer in Edinburgh, and after awhile, I developed enough of an ear for the Scottish brogue to get by . . . so I'm laughing that the BBC movie Low Winter Sun, set in Edinburgh, has subtitles. . . .

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The big news for Nanners and Noodles this week was the delivery of a box of goodies ordered from This is Hanna trying to figure out the puzzle feeder. You add dry dog food, and she rolls the cube around trying to get the food out. The good news is that she likes it alot, and gets very excited by it. The bad news is that it is noisy on the hard floors, and when it rolls behind a chair, I have to quickly recover it before she destroys the house trying to get at it.

Yesterday was my every 6 weeks trip to the hairdresser's, where I took the opportunity to catch up on my People and US Magazine reading. Both the new Bruce Springsteen and Annie Lennox albums got good reviews, so I downloaded them both from iTunes. Here's one of the Boss's new songs - Radio Nowhere.

I'm a big fan of Bruce, and I really love some of his more somber work from the last couple of decades. (Of his earlier work, The River is my favorite album). Tunnel of Love is a brilliant album, as is his post-9/11 album, The Rising. Alot of artists jumped on the 9/11 bandwagon (See Paul McCartney's "Freedom" and any shit kicking song by a country and western performer), but for my money, no artist captured the angst better than Springsteen.

In the early '80s, we'd go see Bruce every night of his 4 and 5 night stints at the Sports Arena. Being sneaky little minxes, we'd always end up at the stage by the end of the show, and what do I most remember? Bruce safety pins his zipper at the top, so it won't slip down during the show. I've never quite accepted his marriage to his back-up singer, but I do love the Boss.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

In a surprising bit of good news . . . .

All but one of the 49 remaining pit bulls seized from a home owned by NFL star Michael Vick at the outset of a dogfighting investigation have placement potential, according to a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court. One of the dogs has a history of biting people and should be euthanized, according to the motion, which cites extensive behavioral testing done on all the dogs seized from the property in rural Surry County. It says the dogs were put through a protocol of 11 exercises to evaluate their behavior toward humans and other animals.

In a not so surprising bit of bad news . . . .

Women in Basra, Iraq have become the targets of a violent campaign by religious extremists, who leave more than 15 female bodies scattered around the city each month, police officers say. Maj. Gen. Abdel Jalil Khalaf , the commander of Basra's police, said Thursday that self-styled enforcers of religious law threatened, beat and sometimes shot women who they believed weren't sufficiently Muslim. Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi women had rights enshrined in the country's constitution since 1959 that were among the broadest of any Arab or Islamic nation.

Of course, living in the dark ages isn't limited to the Arab world . . .

In an interview with the New York Observer Ann Coulter said, "If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women."

"It also makes the point, it is kind of embarrassing, the Democratic Party ought to be hanging its head in shame, that it has so much difficulty getting men to vote for it. I mean, you do see it’s the party of women and 'We’ll pay for health care and tuition and day care -- and here, what else can we give you, soccer moms?'"

Last time I was in NYC, I ended up sitting next to an older gentleman visiting from Virginia who was a big Ann Coulter fan. I have enough respect for my elders that I didn't grab him, shake him and scream. Here's hoping I have better luck chatting up men in bars in Midtown this time around.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Exactly one week from now, I will be checked into my lovely Midtown Hotel room in NYC. Here is a photo taken last year from my favorite drinking location in Central Park - the boathouse snack shack/full service bar. What a delight to stop for a bottle of water, and discover that they also serve top shelf liquor.
We went to the Vet's today, for a rabies shot and Hanna is a svelte 70 lbs. My mother has been complaining that she is too thin, but the doctor says her weight is great. Noodles came along for the ride and waited in the car.
The Angels put up absolutely no fight in their 4- 0 loss to the Red Sox today - very disappointing. The big question now seems to be whether the Halos will lose the series in 3 games or 4. My colleague at work is a big Phillies fan, so I have adopted them as my National League team. I'm told that my favorite players are Utley and Howard.
And here is another great song from the Into the Wild soundtrack - Society.

Monday, October 01, 2007

I've been loading up my iPod in anticipation of my upcoming travels to NYC and the Berkshires. New downloads include the new Foo Fighters Album, the soundtrack to Into the Wild, Sweet Jane by the Cowboy Junkies and Ulysses by James Joyce, which is about a zillion hours long. Ulysses is one of those classics, like Moby Dick, that one occasionally tries to slog through. You are told that it is a really important novel, but you don't know anyone who has actually read it, or if they did, liked it. Actually, the Irish tinged narration of Ulysses sounded pretty good, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Is there any classic book you've always been meaning to read?

And in the meantime, Hard Sun by Eddie Vedder off of the Into the Wild soundtrack is the song currently on repeat on my iPod.