Sunday, August 30, 2009

No. Please. No.

Variety is reporting that some Hollywood geniuses have picked Heathers as the latest thing to turn into a crappy TV show:

Fox is developing a contemporary take on the 1989 Christian Slater/Winona Ryder feature "Heathers."

Dark comedy will be adapted for TV by scribe Mark Rizzo, with an assist from "Sex and the City" alum Jenny Bicks. Sony Pictures TV, where Bicks is based, will produce, along with Lakeshore Entertainment, which holds the rights to "Heathers."

I was going to write something about how those of us that loved it will hate a remake and those that hated it will harp on the post-Columbine inappropriate...whatever.

It reminds me of a line that I am going to butcher from another great Christian Slater film. It went something like:

Everything good has already been done. All the great themes have been turned into theme parks.

I thought that reality TV took over because people will watch anything and it is cheap to produce. But it seems that Hollywood really has run out of ideas. This was good stuff, though:

Here We Go Again

The last leg of the Great Mold Removal of 2009 begins tomorrow. We are gutting the Master Bathroom, which was to be the Summer House Project before we found the mold, anyway. The other projects were painting the exterior and Taming the Jungle (the backyard), which we thought we would have to put off until next summer. At least.

Once we decided to put off getting a new fence, the backyard project was not as expensive as we had feared. So we contracted with our awesome landscaper, Mr. Torres. The downside of contracting with the landscaper is that they have to squeeze in the project work in between their regular maintenance work. The regular maintenance work is, of course, beholden to the weather. So our project has been half done since last Tuesday. Check it out:

If I remember correctly (from Alex's picture books) this is called a skid steer. It is sitting in my backyard because it was used to remove the pond my dad built in 1985.

Yes, I said a pond. I don't know if he was for real, but I remember him telling me that he would put fish in the pond. There were never fish in the pond, but I seem to remember seeing water flow that first summer. I don't really remember because that was just about when we first got cable.

These are the remnants:

Oh. And these stones. We are going to use them to reinforce the remnants of the old garden so that the mud doesn't run off and flood the neighbors:

We are also taking out various bushes and a couple of trees. I will spare you the pictures of that mess.

Here's what I have learned about landscaping - less is more. You can have grass. And maybe a tree. But make sure the tree is nowhere near the house. You don't know what those roots can do to the foundation. Wait, they can still get to the sewer line. Forget the tree. Go to the park if you want to look at a tree. Just grass.

So. Tomorrow morning Kiwi the Grey is going back to board at the rescue. She is still on the anti-fungal meds. My mother is taking the dog and going back to the hotel. Spooky the Cat and I are going to tough it out and stay here.

I am exhausted already.

It Seems to Have Worked

That "Book Club Bundle" idea seems to have worked. Once anyway.

A group of four used copies of Cold Mountain for $2.50 (and we included information on some websites for discussion questions) took about a week to sell. Unfortunately, while we have two copies of several suitable books, we have four copies (minimum for a book club, I should think) of only one - Death of a Salesman. I am certain the reason we have four copies of it is that my high school teaches it to English classes in the junior year. I hated that book.

So - not an obvious pick, like Cold Mountain, but worth a shot. And I am going to be on the lookout for more.

Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago, by Mike Royko

Book 34

Since Mike Royko's death, I have been seeing his books everywhere. I picked up Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago at the Library Used Book Store. When my mother saw me reading it, she asked if it was my father's copy. He had to read it in college. They went to college in Ohio.

This particular edition had a new introduction written by the author after Daley's death. The introduction was downright poetic, in my opinion:

"If a man ever reflected his city, it was Richard J. Daley and Chicago.

In some ways, he was this town at its best - strong, hard-driving, working feverishly, pushing, building, driven by ambitions so big they seemed Texas-boastful.

In other ways, he was this city at its worst - arrogant, crude, conniving, ruthless, suspicious, intolerant.

He wasn’t graceful, suave, witty or smooth. But then, this is not Paris or San Francisco.
He was raucous, sentimental, hot-tempered, practical, simple, devious, big and powerful. This is, after all, Chicago.”

I think if the Old Man himself had read the introduction, he might have liked it. The book itself…I think he would have turned purple. The introduction validated many of my feelings of the son, Richard M. Daley, the current Mayor. Certainly imperfect, probably corrupt, but oh so Chicago. Oh, about that corruption..Royko suggests that Daley wasn’t actually in on the take himself, he just turned a blind eye to everyone else cashing in. Unless they got caught.

Royko drew a really interesting picture of the Chicago Machine, and it scares the bejeezus out of me. It doesn’t, however, give a whole lot of insight into the man. Other than the whole Getting Whatever He Wants All the Time thing.

Royko was a journalist and Daley hated journalists. I wonder what it was like to be Royko in the five years between when this was first published and Daley’s death.

Anyway, back to why I care..the current mayor. Because I do not live in the city-proper, I do not vote for mayor. I am perfectly happy with this. I don’t want the responsibility for voting for or against Richard M. Daley. I believe he loves Chicago more than he loves anything. I certainly enjoy his sound bites. I am told that the garbage is always picked up and the snow is always removed in a timely manner. And you remember how he tore up the runway at Meigs field in the middle of the night? I loved that. But what the book said about the father, I believe to be true of the son..that he builds great things that people can see and buries the horrible things that people can’t see.

Like Poverty. Segregation. And don’t get me started on the schools.

I guess it is really easy to judge from the ivory tower of the suburbs.

Aside from the Tribune bashing in which Royko, of the Sun Times, indulges, this is a fine book and some time, I might look him up again.

But now I am going back to school.


The Moe's Southwest Grill didn't last very long in Northbrook, which was sad. But last month, a new burger place called Meatheads moved into its place. I wasn't sure why the heck we needed one more burger place, but for one reason or another my mother was driving by there and picked up some carry out for dinner.

We each had a kiddie sized burger, which they call the 'Lil Meathead, and cajun fries.

The burgers are the really pressed-flat kind and pretty crispy around the edges. Tasted just fine, but the cajun fries were the main event for me:

Fresh. Cut. French fries. With cheese sauce.

I love this place.

Overall, Meatheads is rather pricey for quick service burgers. But the restaurant looks great, the location is good and omg the fries. They have been open for six weeks and we have been there three times.

It looks like the other locations are college-towns.. Naperville and downstate. I wouldn't drive halfway across the state for it (Cook County has plenty of hot dog joints with fresh cut fries, thank you), but if Meatheads is in your path, I recommend it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dominick Dunne

Somewhere underneath all of the coverage of Senator Kennedy’s death are the notices that writer/celebrity chronicler/victim’s advocate Dominick Dunne died this week.

Dunne is the reason I started subscribing to Vanity Fair (although I still haven’t caught up from all of my back issues from last semester). His writing was just far enough above Joe Gossipcolumnist that I didn’t feel bad reading it. The novels are brain-candy, but the celebrity trial stuff was good.

For example:

Most of America came to know him from the O.J. trial. He was. Obsessed. With the O.J. trial. In the aftermath, when people were trying to figure out how O.J. might actually be innocent of the crimes, a theory went around that O.J. didn’t do it, but his son Jason did. The theory explained a lot of stuff like why O.J. was acting guilty if he wasn’t guilty (because he knew something and/or covered up something) and why there was blood somewhere and maybe even some DNA stuff. O.J. didn’t tell the truth about what he knew in order to protect his kid. When Dunne was asked to comment, he said something like:

It isn’t a bad theory; it might explain a lot of things. But personally, I don’t buy it. I watched O.J. Simpson’s every move for months and it is my opinion that he is far too selfish to risk going to prison for the rest of his life to protect one of his children. I think he would have done anything to save his own skin.

What made Dunne good is that he paid attention, he talked to people and he made no bones about the fact that he was on a side. His daughter’s murder made him a victim’s advocate. He wrote a column and gave his opinion. Sometimes, like in the case of Gary Condit, it got him into trouble. Sometimes the “dishing” got to be a bit much. But he wrote with a lot of heart – affection for the people he met and liked and venom for those he truly considered to be the bad guys.

And now with are left with TMZ. Sad day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The President's Reading List wrote about the books the President took on vacation with him this week. The purpose was to over-analyze the selections and debate on what he would or would not finish. And what does it mean that all of these books are written by white men? (My answer? Not a bloody thing. Leave the man alone.) The list:

The Way Home by George Pelecanos, a crime thriller based in Washington, D.C.;

Lush Life by Richard Price, a story of race and class set in New York's Lower East Side;

Tom Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded, on the benefits to America of an environmental revolution;

John Adams by David McCullough;

Plainsong by Kent Haruf, a drama about the life of eight different characters living in a Colorado prairie community.”

Incidentally, I have read none of the above – although there is a copy of the Adams biography in my library.

I am such a sucker for this stuff.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Difference

Now this is interesting. MSN Money has an article (well, it is really a blog post) trying to determine why some people earn $30,000 and some earn $100,000:

“Many commenters noted that, from their experience, high-income earners generally exhibit several of the following traits:

They maintain a strong work ethic.
They don't watch the clock.
They seek to improve their skills.
They do quality work.
They're flexible and adaptable.
They maintain a good social network.
They possess self-confidence.”

No surprise, but the comments were at least as interesting as the original post. “Luck” was absolutely named as a factor. In my experience, being at the right place at the right time is a big deal. Knowing someone that knows someone. But while I can’t cite it, I could swear there was statistical evidence that established tall people earn more than short people, and thin people earn more than heavy people. And that is before we even get to race, gender and ethnicity. And education. And choosing the “right” field.

I love reading this stuff – for the sake of argument. But the real question is: what is that salary worth to you? Are you spending your time the way that you want to spend it? Do you have a lifestyle that you can afford?

Assuming that your basic needs are met..What makes you happy?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lost Dog

This is Margarita. She bolted out of her yard (Northbrook, IL) on Saturday, August 22 and hasn't been seen since. She was not wearing a collar. If you spot her, please call 847/509-1026.

Edit: Margarita has been found. She is safe at home now. So now I am just leaving cute dog picture on my blog.

Speaking of "Forgotten Bookmarks"

I don't even know what book this was marking, because it fell from a pile that I was sorting, but I found an old postcard:

The back says:

Hwy. 17 North
Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29577
Phone (803) 449-5423

I Googled it and found that the postcard is from the '70s and it seems to be going for $3.99 on ebay. Another site, titled "Myrtle Beach - Other Landmarks" tells me that:

"Today, its a golf supply store, like many others along the highway. "

So. That was depressing.

Trying Something New

At the last meeting of the Used Book Store committee, we came around to the topic of having multiple copies of books. Should we keep every copy on the shelves? Perhaps take extra copies to sell to Half Price Books? Someone threw out the idea of bundling them together for book clubs. The "Book Club in a Bag" seems to be a really popular thing for checking out at the library, so we thought we would give it a try:

We had four copies of Cold Mountain, certainly a Book Club favorite (I've never read it myself, but I saw most of the movie back when we still had HBO). Three hardcover and one trade paperback for $2.50. The little sign in the front has suggested web sites for discussion questions. I don't know whether this is going to fly, but I have a list of other titles that I am watching for similar bundling. Four copies seems to be a good target, although I'm not sure Death of a Salesman is likely to be a crowd-pleaser.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Conversations with Alex

I was having dinner last night with my nephew, Alex, aged 4 1/2. My brother, Scott, was waiting for his wife so they could leave for dinner:

Scott: Alex, tell Aunt Anne what we did today.
Alex: We went to see the Barrington Broncos practice (football).
Scott: What did we do before that?
Alex: Played football (on the field).
Scott: How many touchdowns did you score?
Alex: A hundred.
Me: Alex, do you know the word "exaggerate"?
Alex: How do you spell it?
Me: E,x....
Scott: (snorts)
Me: E,x,a,g,g,e,r,a,t,e.
Alex: What the heck is that?
Me: It's when you say that you scored 100 touchdowns, but it was really less than that.
Scott: Alex, it wasn't really 100, was it?
Alex: No.
Scott: But it was probably 20.

Adventures with Alex

I spent the night with Alex and Ainslie while their parents were out. We told Alex that the next morning he would get to go on a "special trip" with Aunt Anne. He was so jazzed that he didn't want to eat breakfast. I took him to the Ren Faire.

To no one's particular surprise, he hated it.

Because we were there early, we stood outside and watched the crowd grow and listened to the town crier do his thing. He saw the spritely...people on the roof and said they could fall and get a big owie. Then he really started to see the costumes.

I was a bit worried about the costumes, because he has historically disliked "characters" - at Disney, at the play and even Santa Clause. I told him the people were dressing up, like on Halloween. No kidding, he actually said:

"Why are they dressed like it's Halloween?"

I told him, "Because it is fun to dress up."
He insisted, "But it isn't Halloween."
I used the old standby, "They're pretending."
He determined, "That's weird."

I practically had to drag him inside. He didn't want to go on a pony ride. Didn't want to go on any ride. Didn't want to watch the shows. Didn't want to go to the petting zoo. He wanted to "go back". I had to take out my map of the place to prove to him that we were walking in a big circle that would take us back to the car. It took all of 54 minutes and then we were out the gate.

"Weird" and "crazy" were his adjectives to describe the experience.

Luckily, his mother had given me a back up plan - the Faire is right by the Jelly Belly Factory. So we went on the tour. The "factory" was really a warehouse and the "tour" was sitting in a trolley thing, going 20 feet and watching the candy making on video screens.

Alex was the best behaved child in the place. State code says that people are required to cover their heads, so he dutifully wore the paper Jelly Belly hat. He did not whine or cry or complain that it was too slow. Then we got our free sample bags of jelly beans and were led to the retail store. He was so pleased with his free sample that he didn't ask for a single thing in the candy store. I told him to pick out presents for his parents, which he did.

And then I saw something awesome. Toni, my friend at work, loves the Sunkist jelly candy, but can't find anyplace that sells them individually wrapped. The Jelly Belly Factory store does. Do you know how many Brownie points I am going to get for this?

So we drove back to town and had lunch at Noodle's. Over mac & cheese, I asked if on our next adventure, we should just go to a baseball game.

Alex: No, Ive already been to a baseball game.
Me: OK, then, what should we do for our next adventure?
Alex: Something I like.
Eh. Whatever. I had fun.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Rant about One's Choice of Words

“I will return your call at my earliest convenience,” was part of the recorded message I received from a vendor’s voicemail.

I once had a co-worker that had a similar outgoing message and it bothered me. Not the timing – I don’t expect people to return my calls in five minutes. I don’t expect people to call me back when they are on vacation, or even on the road for business. I certainly don’t want people to call when it is inconvenient. But “I will call you back at my earliest convenience” does not suggest that any urgency is placed on returning the call. It suggests that I will wait until the person I called has nothing else to do.

I know, I know. The “earliest” part modifies the “convenient”. I’m just talking about how it sounds to me, which is as though my call is not particularly important.

When I am the customer, I find it unacceptable.

The Circus

Jason Whitlock was talking about Favre in his Fox Sports column today. He says that “Britney” Favre (he didn’t coin it) is our own fault because we keep clicking on his name.

Yeah. Sorry about that. But this was his higher message:

"You blame the players and their agents. I blame the rules makers, the owners, the grown men with billions who should've seen this coming and implemented rules to safeguard the integrity of their games.

Too much of the money in pro sports is tied to individual fame, and not nearly enough cash is tied to the win-loss record. When fans care more about winning and losing than the players in the locker room do, it's impossible to deny the foundation of the games have been damaged."

I have never felt that I want the Bears to win more than Brian Urlacher does. But I understand what he is saying, and tend to agree.

It has been said that Walter Payton would have played for another year or two if the Bears hadn’t been nudging him toward the door. Do you remember Neal Anderson? But Payton kept his mouth shut and walked out like a gentleman. He didn’t have to do that, but you’d better believe that Chicago loved him for being ours and we still revere him, ten years after his death. His legend only grows and his memory can make grown men cry. My mother will tell you my disgust with MJ is little more than extreme disappointment that MJ is not Walter Payton.

Favre could have been Green Bay’s Walter Payton. Green Bay is rather less fickle than Chicago, you know. But now? He is the enemy.


Spooky: 10,986 Anne: 1

Spooky the Cat has been really clingy lately. In a Wants to Cuddle While I’m Sleeping way. Middle of last night, he had been sleeping in the crook of my arm when I got up to go to the bathroom. When I returned, he was lying on my pillow.

“Are you joking?” I asked.

He got up and moved to the other side of the bed.

I won one.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogs of Note

Google's "Blogs of Note" had a good one today:

Forgotten Bookmarks is written by someone in a used book store and it writes about random things found during the intake process.

I find things in the donated books pretty regularly at the library. Generally, it is old receipts or airline boarding passes. One volunteer found a fifty dollar bill. But this website finds some really odd and interesting things. I just bookmarked it.

Interior Decorating

I hate interior decorating. I’m not good at it and I don’t care enough. When I first started working, I sat at a 1960-something desk in what had once been a small storage room. From my chair, I was looking at a wall lined with old file cabinets – still in use.

I didn’t care. For those first three years, I was just tickled that I had an office with a door. When those file cabinets were finally moved, I put up a framed photomosaic of Darth Vader.

When we moved to fancy rented property, we all went on a tour of the area. The space was still being built out, and I have no sense of vision for these things, so it was lost on me. What I remember is that we were told that once we moved, we were not to be putting up our own stuff on the walls. We were to choose from among these particular pieces and a print would be framed and hung for us. We were to turn over our certifications for framing, as well.

Well. Being all individualistic, I was a bit offended by the concept. But I didn’t have any trouble at all with how it looked when we arrived. The furniture..the was all good. I missed (still miss) my old bookcase, but it was all good.

I may have told you that last year, when my bathroom was gutted, the contractor asked what I wanted. I said, “Exactly what I have now, but with new stuff.” He talked me into a couple of changes. Then I had to go to a showroom to pick out the new stuff. I was introduced to the guy and immediately apologized. I told him straight up that I hate everything. He asked me to be specific. “I hate everything frou-frou and I can’t stand that post-modern spa nonsense”. He told me that my style was “transitional” and I was in and out of there in an hour. I like my bathroom just fine, thanks.

Now my mother is going through it, but with a different contractor. There isn’t one showroom, just some preferred vendors and a general “get what you want”. I am totally useless. Mostly, when she tells me about something she saw, my response is, “I don’t care. Do what you want.”

We are also going through it with the new library space. We have a room, with a bit of latitude in how we set it up. How do we want the workspace set up? How high do we want the bookshelves to be? More light and airy or more room for stuff? More chairs for sitting or more room for storage? We had a meeting to discuss our options. My contribution?

“We’d better get what we can get now, because I do not believe for one second that there will be budget money left for us later.”

So I have gotten it from three sides. My problem, part of it anyway, is that I just can’t picture it. Whatever gift of vision or imagination is just not in me. HGTV? It is not unusual for me to like the “before” houses better.

Of course, it is possible that I am just lazy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

And You Know You Should Be Glad, by Bob Greene

Book 33

I was in the mood for some schmaltz, so I pulled Bob Greene’s And You Know You Should Be Glad from my shelf. I had originally picked it up at the Library Used Book Store.

Greene had a lifelong best friend develop cancer when they were 57 years old and this book tells the story of the friendship and the final journey. Greene’s flashbacks get rather heavy-handed, which is no surprise, but when he is talking about the present day, he does a really good job in describing the things said and things unsaid and how reality hits us in different ways at different times.

Two things stuck with me:

First, I didn’t realize that about five minutes after the scandal – the one that so disappointed me I still haven’t stopped calling him “Disgraced Former Chicago Tribune Columnist Bob Greene” – Greene’s wife died. I was somehow left with the impression that it was a rather sudden illness, and my icy heart started to melt. A bit.

Second, there was a moment in the book when cancer-stricken Jack calls Greene to ask if Greene’s mother might be able to help him find some home nursing care. I remembered from another of Greene’s books that his father had been through hospice care before his death and one of Greene’s better observations was about how hospice care workers become part of your family at the worst time, make everything easier for you, and then it is over and they are gone and you never see them again. But Greene didn’t relate the request to his father’s final illness, just to the fact that his mother can do anything. And when he called her, she knew exactly what to ask, whom to call and how to set it up. Greene noted that things like home nursing care (which he adamantly stated was not the same as hospice care) are things that we never, ever think about until we need it right now. But Mrs. Greene pulled it off.

The end of the story is about what you would expect, and there are no cosmic truths to be found. I think in the end, Greene just wanted to keep his bud with him awhile longer. And give Jack some small piece of immortality.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reading Education Therapy Dogs

Good Morning America had a story this morning about a new therapy dog program:

Reading to a dog.

The idea is that children learn to read best when practicing aloud. Many are loathe to practice aloud in the classroom out of fear of being judged by other people. Dog are all comforting and non-judgmental. The GMA story focused on using the program with children living in shelters for homeless families, as they are at such high risk for stalling out in school.

I googled it to try to find the name of the organization that sponsors the program, but didn’t find it in the GMA website. I found something very similar was on CBS a few years ago. The part that struck me was the skeptical principal that gave it a try because she knew that if kids aren’t reading at grade level by 2nd grade, we start to lose them. Apparently, 40% of 4th grade students are reading below grade level.

Reading Education Assistance Dogs is a program of Intermountain Therapy Animals. Here is the 2006 story from CBS:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Saturday, August 15, 2009

T Minus Four Weeks

Like the new school year, the football season always begins with such great hope. A clean slate and everyone is healthy. Of course, with a season that starts with the Packers and moves onto the Steelers, it is best to manage our expectations.

Preseason always messes with my head. All the new people. I spend the entire four games talking about “that guy wearing (some former player’s) number”. And of course, this time I was lamenting the loss of Mike Brown. (I know he was always hurt. But he was a leader. Urlacher said so.) Finally, since the purpose is not to win, but to review your depth chart, we don’t even know whether losing the game means something.

I have not gotten aboard the Jay Cutler bandwagon yet. But I am a sucker for NFL marketing:

Are you ready for some football?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Permanent Residents

So much for highlighting the adoptables:

At the Refuge tonight, I found that one of my favorite Permanent Residents, Comet the Umbrella Cockatoo, had been moved to a different cage in a different room. She has always been rather easily startled, but since she was moved upstairs for the renovation, she has been nearly phobic. I would pick her up and she would cuddle, but if anyone tried to take her anywhere - to a playstand for example, she would fly away in a panic.

Tonight, she let me take her out and bring her into the big room where PJ, the Queen of the Proverbial Jungle (and another Permanent Resident) was sitting on the big java tree. Comet and PJ sat together, grooming each other for about a half hour while I was working.

I went to take a picture, because they were so cute. But they went all diva as soon as they saw a camera:

I make an effort to avoid getting too attached to birds. The idea, after all, is for them to find homes and leave us. These, however, are my girls. So I was very happy to see them make each other happy.

Until they couldn't stand each other any more. Whatever. It was time for dinner.

Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Day

USA Today has been running a column called “Pet Talk” that I sometimes read and sometimes skip, depending on the subject matter. Yesterday they ran a story about how is making a push to highlight some “less adoptable” animals.

“Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Day” sounds lame, but is in the best spirit. Here’s a statistic for you:

“A Petfinder survey, in fact, found that 96% of responding shelters and rescues said they have at least one, sometimes many adoptable pets for which they're having extreme difficulty finding homes; 43% said some have been there for one year or more.”

So. True.

Once upon a time, in this very blog, I made a point to write about the different adoptable birds at the Refuge. I am going to start making the effort again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mrs. Shriver

I’ve been paying attention to the Eunice Shriver story over the last couple of days, so I was not surprised to read of her death this morning. It still made me sad.

Eunice rocked for several reasons:

  1. A woman graduating from college in the 1940s was no joke. She went to Stanford and majored in sociology.
  2. Her kids seem to have turned out ok. At least I can’t remember any big Shriver scandals. Having five kids turn out ok is a pretty solid achievement. When you are a Kennedy, it is particularly impressive.
  3. Oh yeah, the Special Olympics thing.

Joe Kennedy is widely and crudely quoted as saying, in effect, that if his daughter Eunice had been born male, she would have been a great politician. High, high praise coming from him. She was smart, she was tenacious and she actually used her gifts to make the world a better place.

Sometime in the last year, I saw her accepting an award of some sort on TV. When she stood up to give her acceptance speech, she was very frail and her voice didn’t sound right. But she had all of her energy and her eyes were sharp as she started speaking. The part that struck me went something like this:

The most important thing to have if you want a happy and successful life is family. A big family. If you don’t have one, go get one. Off the street if you have to, but get one. I can’t stress that enough.

I’m not sure we grow Eunice Shrivers in this country anymore, and that’s a damn shame.

The Wii

Yesterday, in a fit of tantrum over how much exercise I’m not getting, I went to Best Buy and picked up a Wii and a Wii Fit. Then I went to the new burger place to pick up dinner.

After dinner, I brought the new stuff up to my room. And remembered that game consoles require connecting things. Wires. To other things. With wires. I called my brother, who couldn’t help because he wasn’t looking at it and was distracted by a very large spider that had built a web on his lawn furniture.

After the debate over whether this web was in violation of the Treaty of Stay Outside in Your Natural Habitat and You Get to Live, I got off the phone and plugged the Wii into the front of the TV. No stereo. No connecting to one thing to get to another thing to get to another thing. The TV and that’s it.

I played a few games of bowling and a round of golf before figuring out that being left-handed is messing up my game. I’ll have to figure out how to change that in the program. Then I hooked up the Wii Fit, which told me that I am fat and must be tripping over my own feet on a regular basis.

I like that the exercises are two minutes each, so you can really decide how much time to spend. And I like the idea of working toward “unlocking” other features. I like that it works on my competitive instincts. Although seriously, calling me “unbalanced” and “amateur” is kinda harsh.

But mostly, I like that it feels like playing video games while actually sweating. I love this balance ball game.

I didn’t get very far last night, but I certainly found it more amusing than pretending to ski jump. I am feeling pretty good about this purchase.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Have You Ever Felt Like This?

One summer after I had graduated college, my brother and I went out for the evening. On the way home, we stopped at the Dairy Queen a couple of miles from the house for ice cream. As is usual on a summer evening, the line was snaking out the door. We didn't mind - part of the experience.

After paying, we stepped over to wait for our order. Like every other ice cream joint in the United States, it was staffed by harried high school kids trying to do three things at once. So I was stunned..stunned..when the "lady" in front of us started yelling at a kid. He had given her an ice cream cone dipped in sprinkles. Her response:

"I said I wanted an ice cream cone with SPRINKLES ON THE SIDE!"

Let's break this down:

  1. This was a woman at the Dairy Queen with her children. She is old enough to have been that high school server's mother. And she was screaming at him.
  2. She was screaming in front of her children, demonstrating to them that she thinks this is an appropriate way for people to behave.
  3. Sprinkles on the side? Seriously?

She was still harassing that poor kid as we scurried out the door. The joke of this story is that whenever Scott and I see such buffoonery we can just say, "sprinkles on the side" and it diffuses some tension. But the point of the story was that we both walked out with the same feeling:

We didn't want to patronize that Dairy Queen anymore.

How sad is that? When the clientele is so obnoxious that it drives customers away. We debated it on the way home - it wasn't the fault of the business that this one idiot ruined our evening ice cream. We shouldn't punish the business. And besides that, if we stay away, we have allowed the jerks to win. But we were so uncomfortable with that outburst that we really did stop going to that Dairy Queen.

I had a similar experience at Starbucks this morning. I stopped in to bring my mother an iced coffee (which is why I didn't go to McDs in the first place). The place was practically empty. But a woman came in behind me to complain that her husband's drink was wrong.

"I've had this drink all over the country and I'm telling you, it's WRONG!"

First of all, what kind of man sends his wife back in to the Starbucks to complain about the drink? Nevermind. She was just horrible.

I am pretty well over Starbucks, anyway. But it was "sprinkles on the side" all over again. I hate people.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini

Book 32

In case you have never been in a Barnes & Noble in your life, A Thousand Splendid Suns is the second novel of Khaled Hosseini, the guy that wrote The Kite Runner. The Kite Runner was a tale of Afghanistan told from a boy’s point of view. This was told from the perspectives of two women.
The very beginning has a girl named Mariam, born out of wedlock, living in a hut with her mother. The father, a wealthy man with three wives in the neighboring town, comes to visit once a week. Mother dies, father marries her off to some much older stranger in Kabul. Can you guess what happens next?

Yeah. Abusive bastard.

You know… there is hitting. And then there is beating. And then there is making up new ways to torture people. Put that against the backdrop of not the United States and it is even more terrifying. I must say that I nearly gave up on this one just because of the ugliness.

The story unfolds into the tale of two women. Mariam, the elder, was never able to have children. She quietly accepted her life, even as she knew that life had not been good to her. Laila, the younger, was raised in a loving home, even if her mother was crazy. Mariam had never really known what it is to love and be loved, whereas Laila knew everything about it and had lost. They were married to the same bastard.

The idea, I suppose, is how we connect with other people when all else is Hell.

The first half of the book, the set up, was engaging. The second half was riveting. In a “I can see how this would look on the big screen and I must know what happens next” way. I didn’t see the plot twist coming, but once it was there, I was pretty sure I knew where it was going.

You sort of see Afghan history floating by, but it doesn’t quite sink in. I was finding that disappointing, but I think that was the point..women were stuck in their own homes and their only connection to the outside world was through their male relatives. The story is told through that lens. It gives new meaning to “perspective”. And seriously, that is why I read so damn many books in the first place.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Shelby Foote Effect

It must have been on Academic Earth that I first heard it:

The speaker (presumably David Blight in the Civil War course) was talking about how after Ken Burns' documentary on The Civil War, women were all swooning over the historian Shelby Foote.

My mother is one of them. Let me see if I can find a picture...

Yes. History nerd with a Southern Accent.

Anyway, Ken Burns new documentary (on national parks) is coming out and
in this article, I learned that Burns himself recognizes "The Shelby Foote Effect". So for some part of the press tour he brought along the park ranger that he thinks will be the new superstar.

Shelton Johnson is the gentleman's name. And here is his quote about the old park wolves versus ranchers problem:

"When you hear the wolves are leaving Yellowstone and they are attacking someone's cattle, it's not like the wolves are getting together and saying, 'Hey, what are you doing this Friday? I'm thinking about going out of the boundary and going after Joe's sheep. Is that what you're thinking?' "

Snarky rugged park ranger? I'm in.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Here is a Scary One

The Tribune reported on an address given by retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter to the ABA:

"We know from survey results that two-thirds of people in the United States cannot even name all three branches of the national government," Souter said at the opening assembly of the American Bar Association's annual meeting. "This is something to worry about."

The same junior high history teacher that told us that our generation would never have its own president also told us that our culture was descending into the next Dark Age. Stuff like this makes me believe him.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Google Ads

Sometime between when I posted last - about property taxes of all things - and right now, Google Ads decided that a "relevant" advertisement would be for Trojans.

Any guesses on how that happened?

Edit: And now it is back to taxes.

The Rug

I believe I mentioned that while I was in New Orleans, I custom-ordered a rug from a weaver in the French Quarter. They are woven from your average cotton quilting fabric. Besides being interesting looking, they are: Totally. Washable. As in you could throw it in the washing machine, if your washing machine was big enough. Or you could take it outside and hose it down on the driveway.

We needed a new rug. Before visiting this store I only knew of two kinds - the old oriental rugs and the cheap ones hanging from the ceiling at Bed Bath and Beyond or wherever. So when I saw these, I was pleased. We sent over the paintchips from all of the rooms on our first floor because we weren't sure if the rug would go in the family room or the front hall. I think my mother also sent her some fabric sample from a quilt she hasn't made yet. We expected to receive the order in 12 weeks, or the end of August.

A couple of days before I moved out of the house for the great mold elimination (which I am only mostly satisfied is over), I received an e-mail from Louisiana Loom Works saying my rug had shipped. It sat in my garage for a week. I wasn't home an hour before I tore open the box. My poor mother was still at the hotel with the dog. And the cat. So I sent her a picture:

The fabric is espresso brown, rather like our family room couch. It is woven together with brick red, the color of the kitchen walls, sage green, the color of the bird room, camel-beige, the color of our family room walls and black. This is how it looks in the front hall:

My mother thinks it makes our dark hall too dark. Her damn fault for insisting on those teeny windows in the front doors. Wherever it lands, we are very happy with the purchase.