Monday, May 31, 2010

Judging Justices

Weekend Assignment #320: The SCOTUS Choice

Recently, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will retire, at the end of his term, later this year, leaving the position open to be filled by President Obama. As you know, Obama has chosen Elena Kagen as his nominee. I would like to hear your thoughts about this. Good choice? Bad choice? Indifferent? Who would you like to see appointed to the high court? Are you happy with the justices currently serving, or do you believe they leave something to be desired? Tell me what you think!

This one isn’t easy. Outside of that Wikipedia link, I haven’t done my homework on Elena Kagan.

The embarrassing truth is that somewhere along the way, when the Health Care debate got really ugly, I stopped watching the news out of Washington.

My politics are rather mixed. I like my judges liberal, my executives conservative and my legislature to be a mixed bag. I have long thought the Supreme Court in need of a shift although interestingly, Wikipedia says that the liberals think she is too conservative and might shift the balance in the other direction.

I am not interested in the conversations about her sexuality. However, I am rather offended that there is so much of it. Apparently, the facts that she never married and she doesn’t look like Madame Sarkozy are a problem for some people.

The interesting question is whether prior experience as a judge is necessary to be a successful justice. Kagan has experience as a law clerk, and I understand a law clerk’s job is to do much of the research to help a judge come to a conclusion. Neither has she tried a case before the Supreme Court. Is that an issue. I don’t have an answer. But I hope those are the questions that are asked during the confirmation process. I hope.

The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown

Book 22

I found Dan Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol, on the book swap shelf in my office. Actually, the “book swap shelf” is now starting to take up a second bookcase, which makes me happy, but nevermind that.

So. We have the violent beginning. The mentor in trouble. The smart-chick scientist on the run with Langdon. The bad guy is just like that Opus Dei guy from the other book. Crazy in an obsessed, narcissistic, totally committed way.

Here’s the real problem:

I am not a Mystery Reader. I read mysteries, but I just read them for a good story. I do not try to solve them. I sometimes think, “Oh, damn. I hope you aren’t the real bad guy.” But that’s about it. So if I have pegged The Big Reveal at the 3/5 mark, there is a problem. Also, the climax of the book is a good 50 pages from the end. (I was speed reading before even that.)

The good news is that Brown did some homework on DC, and it shows. That is good stuff.

Side Note: Conversation with My Mother

Me: So it’s talking about how the Smithsonian only displays about 2% of its artifacts at any given time.

Her: We knew it was a low number…

Me: Yeah. Although if you’d asked me cold I would have said 10 – 20%. So the rest of it is stored in a vast underground network of stuff.

Her: We knew that, too!  That’s where they have Ark of the Covenant.

Me: Yes! Except that was just a lame warehouse, and this is all climate controlled….

For the rest of my life, I am going to wander around Washington wondering what, exactly, is beneath my feet. So that’s fun.

But this book?

I am not the first person to dub a book “The DaVinci Code of…” The Historian was The Da Vinci Code for Dracula fans. Labyrinth was The Da Vinci Code for girls. The Lost Symbol is The Da Vinci Code for Washingtonians. And fans of that Nicholas Cage movie. And people who can’t read enough about Masons. 

Brain candy for a holiday weekend.  And maybe it will give DC tourism a boost.  Here's hoping.

30 Day TV Meme - Day 14

Day 14 - Favorite male character

To pick someone new, I'm going with Gregory House.

Dr. House is a terrific anti-hero.  Besides the typical brilliant, cranky, abrasive, etc.,  he is also addicted to painkillers.  He is the head of the diagnostic department of a teaching hospital, where he is sent the cases that the mere mortal doctors can't figure out.  He is such a rock star that he picks and chooses the cases he wants to take, has a team of fellows do all the leg work for him, and has a budget for all of the lawsuits filed against him.  His motto is "Everybody lies."  Oh, and, "It's never lupus."

House was meant to be a modern day Sherlock Holmes.  From the Unbelievable Powers of Observation to the drug use to the amiable sidekick played by Robert Sean Leonard.  But while Holmes is sometimes kind of an ass, House actually has a mean streak.  I find it really funny to watch, but I'm not sure I'd want to know him in real life.

And that, my friends, makes for good TV.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

30 Day TV Meme - Day 13

Day 13 - Favorite childhood show

And here is where it starts to get ugly, folks.

The answer is Dallas.  I'm very sorry, but if I deny it, my mother will brand me a liar before God and The Internet.  It was my first serial drama and I think I was drawn in to the concept that a story doesn't get tied up with a bow at the end of each episode.

First we have the epic Texas scope and more money than sense.  We have the star crossed lovers in Bobby and Pamela.  The bad guy you love to hate in his brother J.R. Ewing.  Sue Ellen, JR's bitter alcoholic on-again off-again wife, who you knew would be fine if she could only stay away from him.

So the Ewings were a family of oil barons.  Well - their daddy was an oil baron.  Their mama Miss Ellie was the daughter of a big deal rancher.  Southfork was actually her home.  It was the first time it entered my consciousness that a multi-generational family might live together in the same house.  Aunts and uncles and cousins.  Now it was a big house.  But I still found it weird.

Tangent:  I remember a moment in the 1980's when JR lamented that the price of oil was down to $1.00 a barrel.  It came back to me like a smack in the face a couple of years ago when it hit $100.

Anyway.  Obviously, I loved Bobby.  But I also got a kick out of looking for signs of humanity from JR.  At age 9 or whatever, I didn't know the term "Daddy Issues", but it was clear that JR had them.  He did bad, bad stuff.  And when he was famously shot, he totally had it coming.  That's what made "Who shot JR?" so compelling - many people had reasons.  But he had his moments.  We understood every time Sue Ellen went him.  Heh.  I imagine the first time I ever shouted at a television was to tell Sue Ellen "Don't do it!  Don't let him kiss you! Get out of there!"

By the time the show ended, I had long since abandoned it.  Pam was gone, Sue Ellen was gone.  I didn't want to see Bobby with anyone else and by high school, Fridays were not for TV anyway.  But for a few years there, I planned my weekend around that show.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I thought I noticed the cost of airfare climbing, but I had written it off as my business travel being on rather short notice lately. Turns out, this summer's travel is shaping up to be rather expensive. 24% more expensive, t be exact. An AP article noted:

"In raising fares, the airlines are employing a tactic first used for Thanksgiving travel last year. Most of the big carriers added $10 to $30 'peak travel' surcharges each way on nearly every day between June 10 and Aug. 22, according to an analysis by"

I didn't have too big a problem with the surcharge over the holiday weekend. I don't even think of it as a "surcharge", because in the end it is simply a part of the regular fare. Supply and demand says that on days when everyone and his dog is trying to travel, it should cost more. Not like the extra dollar I pay to take a cab just because the price of a gallon of gas goes above $3.

But an extra $10 to $30 "on nearly every day" all summer? If the cost of a ticket is going up, then it is going up. I just wish the airlines would stop looking for new ways to hide it. I find it insulting.

30 Day TV Meme - Day 12

Day 12 - An episode you’ve watched more than 5 times
I am embarrassed to say there are several episodes of several television shows that I have watched more than five times. I watched the Christmas episode to Studio 60 three times just this year. I have probably watched the Lost pilot five times already. But for sheer quantity, I am thinking it is the Season Four Premiere of M*A*S*H.

It is the one after Henry Blake dies, but before Colonel Potter arrives. Hawkeye comes back from R&R to find that Trapper John went home - about two hours before. Radar is going to pick up the new guy (that would be BJ Hunnicutt), so Hawkeye hitches a ride with him to see if he can catch Trapper and say goodbye. Oh! It's called "Welcome to Korea" I think.

It is a very extended episode that bonds Hawkeye and BJ right away, which was completely necessary since they are all BFF for the rest of the series. It does well by the character of Trapper John, as the writers did not know that the actor wasn't coming back at the end of Season 3. And in the last 20 seconds, we get the introduction to Potter. It was fabulous.

Friday, May 28, 2010

30 Day TV Meme - Day 11

 Day 11 - A show that disappointed you

This didn't take too long to figure out: V.
Remember the mini-series from the 1980's?  Marc Singer, Michael "Jester" Ironside, Robert Englund...that was good TV.  The V books actually became a bit of a franchise in that the mini-series focused on the struggles of the resistance movement in Los Angeles and the books covered the adventures in many cities.
It was so popular that they launched a regular series.  Lasted one season.  When these DVDs came out, I was all over it.  For perhaps half an episode.  In my head, it was pretty good until Elias died and Ham Tyler (Ironside) left.  It was actually terrible. 
Oh, how terrible.  I had a bad case of what I now know to be called "Red Dawn Syndrome" - when the thing was soooooo cool when you were a kid, but when you watch it as an adult you can't take it.
Subsequent to this horrible experience, rumors flew that Ken Johnson, the creator, was trying to reboot the franchise.  Rumors further flew that the actors were on board.   Apparently, Johnson had something entirely different in mind in 1984 when the network took over his work.  He published a book that was set 20 years in the future, declaring that only the first part of the mini-series was canon.  So Ham Tyler did not exist.  Um.  That sucks.  But I read it.  It was ok.
I was incredibly excited when it came back to the air..until I understood that absolutely nothing was the same.  And even my sci-fi geek friends had mixed reviews.  Another disappointment.
I guess some things should be kept locked away in our little childhood memories and never approached again.

Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern

Book 21

Justin Halpern is a writer for who moved home after a break up.  He starting quoting his dad in his Twitter updates and became so popular, he got a book deal.  And a sitcom pilot, actually.

Each chapter is broken up into a Dad Story from his youth, followed by some of the quotes that made him famous.  I'd find one for you, but they are all filled with four letter words and my mother reads this blog.  Oh, wait.  Here's one:

"Your mother made a batch of meatballs last night.  Some are for you and some are for me, but more are for me.  Remember that.  More.  Me."

OK, the swear words make it funnier.

Halpern does a really good job with mixing up the "my dad is such a character" with the illustrations that people in general (and fathers and sons in particular) show affection in different ways.  It was a good read.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

30 Day TV Meme - Day 10

Day 10 - A show you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

NCIS. A couple of years ago, USA became the after-work network in my house. I loved House and my mother loved NCIS.

So. Very. Formula.

Cranky, badass, middle-aged Navy cop. Doesn’t like anyone, but is very kind to puppies and small children. His field crew consists of the goofy Number 2, the techie geek and the girl. Then you have the wise old coroner and the…wait…is that a Goth chick in the lab? Cool.

In my head, it was “that Mark Harmon show my mother watches” until it became “that Mark Harmon show with the Goth scientist” until one day I realized I had seen this episode before. Twice.

It's more addictive than pistaschios.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Official: My Car is Old

To be specific, she is seven years and two months old.   She is starting to hassle me.  A few weeks ago, I had her brake roters replaced.  It was something of a triumph because I thought I felt something funny while braking, I was pretty sure I knew what it was and I picked the right time to stop fooling around and take her in.  It cost a few hundred dollars, and seemed like a perfectly appropriate expense for a car her age. 

Last week, my Service Engine light went on.  I had no idea what the problem was.  I saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing.  I rushed her to the garage.  The next morning, they plugged her in and checked her little microchip.  She said that she needed a new gas cap.  Seriously.

This past week, the ignition has been locking up.  I sat sweltering in the car for several minutes with a colleague that I was taking to the airport trying to get it to work.  Something similar happened a year or so ago, and the solution was to start using the spare key.

I really should have made a new spare key.

It's ok, though.  Apparently the dealer can make me a new one from scratch.  Or six.  I just have to take in my registration and prove my identity.

Here's what's funny.  You'd think with a seven year old car acting up, I would start thinking about changing the time table - getting a new car sooner rather than later.  But it turns out, I am more attached to this car than I was when she was brand new.  When I sniffled all the way home because I had left my Blazer behind. 

I love my old car.

30 Day TV Meme - Day 09

Day 09 - Best scene ever

I can think of a few that I will watch over and over again. Darth_kittius blogged about The Cosby Show the other day, which reminded me that I really love the grandparents' anniversary - and when they all get up to lip sync is a great, great scene.

There is a scene in Season 4 of M*A*S*H when Radar gifts Colonel Potter with a rescued horse.  Loved that.  There was the part of the musical ep on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Spike sings.  Swoon.  But I was having a hard time coming up with a new one to discuss, so I took a look at my DVD collection and it jumped right out at me:

The best scene of any show I have ever seen on television was Linus' speech in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I know you have all heard this story before, but the point stands:

Before my brother Scott was married, he went to school and did the stuff to become a Catholic.  Late one night, he came into my bedroom with a scowl on his face.  He pointed to the open Bible in his hand and declared, "This is not what Linus said."  I knew instantly what he was talking about.  I looked at the book and said that he was reading the wrong Bible - he should go find the King James version.  He did so, and felt much better.  Then he asked how a heathen like me would know such a thing.

Because I am literate. 

Anyway.  It crushed Scott's little heart that Linus might have misquoted, because that scene was so big a deal.  It is the moment of clarity designed to make us all shut up and think for one minute during the silly season.  And made all the more poignant coming from the philosopher that carries around a stupid blanket.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

30 Day TV Meme - Day 08

Day 08 - A show everyone should watch

I am going to stifle my urge to preach about Masterpiece Theatre and the freaking news. I really have to mix it up and not say The West Wing, even though it might teach people something (good) about Washington. There is nothing on the air right now that I find vital. To consider the all time greats…well, it is hard to pick one show. What I would like people to appreciate is innovation. Everyone is talking about Lost right now, and that is a great example of a show that took big risks to do something different and it paid off in a big way. They fooled around with the very formula of the television drama. The show that I suggest started the trend is 24.

I’ve been griping about 24 a lot lately, as the Decline and Fall has been tragic. But that show re-imagined the way a story could be told. The way an audience might get to know and care about its characters. In its prime, I couldn’t watch a marathon session because the tension was too much too take at one time. I used to scream at the television like it was a football game.

Robert Bianco, the TV critic at USA Today said, “But there has never been a show quite like the "real-time"-driven 24 —or a character quite like the tortured, torturing Jack Bauer, a world-savior superhero beautifully layered with real-world emotions by Kiefer Sutherland. And odds are we'll never see their likes again. An idea can be endlessly copied, but it can be original only once.”

I think everyone should watch the first season of 24.

Monday, May 24, 2010

30 Day Meme - Day 07

Day 07 - Least favorite episode of your favorite t.v show

It is hard to pick one episode, but I can pick a storyline.  The West Wing crossed the line, in my opinion, when the youngest of President Bartlet's daughters was kidnapped by..terrorists of some kind.  The terror was compounded by the drama of the President stepping down (temporarily) because he could not be an effective leader blahblahblah.  The drama became ridiculous because the Vice President had resigned in disgrace not long before, so the Republican Speaker of the House became President. 

John Goodman notwithstanding, it was a horrible experience.

Oh, and the Decline and Fall of Toby Ziegler sucked, too.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Pumice Stone

Like half the women in Chicagoland this weekend, I got a pedicure this morning.  I only mention it because because the nail tech gave me some advice that I thought, for better or for worse, I should pass on.  Guys, you might want to move along now...

Anyway.  She asked if I used a "razor" on my feet.  It was confused for a second, then realized she was asking if I used a callus remover on the soles of my feet.  You know, to remove dead skin.  I confirmed that I do.  It's just faster than exfoliating, ok?

She said she thinks that it just exacerbates the build up of dead skin, and it is much better to use a pumice stone or salt scrub. (Do you believe that Amazon sells these?  I am never going to have to take a product picture again.)  I can't imagine why this would be true, unless it is that if you remove the dead skin without moisturizing, the new layer of skin is just going to dry out faster.  Anyway, I think I might have to try this, since the last nail tech wasn't crazy.

30 Day Meme - Day 06

Day 06 - Favorite episode of your favorite t.v show

Sorry - I need to pick two.  The weird amazing thing about The West Wing was that the best shows were when something horrible had happened.  The second season opened with the aftermath of an assassination attempt.  While the characters (and the audience) are sitting around waiting to find out if the President and the Deputy Chief of Staff are going to live or die, they flash back to President's Bartlet's campaign.  We see who knew whom beforehand and who brought whom onboard and what Bartlet was like before he was President.  It was beautiful.
The second season ended with a character death, and the President announcing whether he was going to run for re-election.  After the funeral, there is a scene where he clears the building - the National Cathedral - so that he can yell at God.  In Latin, even.  I remember when I picked up the DVDs and saw the ep again, I actually got on the Internet to find out what he said. 
Oh, hell.  Just watch it yourself:
And just to show it isn't all high drama..this clip from the next season, but I just watched it four times:
(sigh)  They don't write 'em like this anymore.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Student Microloans

I was watching that episode of Community that utter_scoundrel recommended on and saw a commercial for   It said that a young woman in Peru could pursue her dream with a college education if she had the $700 for tuition.  I looked it up and found an article from 2009 in the New York Times:

"It uses a model similar to that of, a nonprofit organization that funnels loans to individual borrowers through microfinance institutions. The method is to solicit individual lenders for money that will back loans to young adults seeking college educations."

So I went to Vittana's website.  And while the organization's partners are a bit more faith-based than the groups that I generally support, they seem to have their act together.  I can contribute to that.

P.S.  Community was pretty funny.  But that Chevy Chase character...

30 Day TV Meme - Day 05

Day 05 - A show you hate

I despise reality T.V.  And yes, I have watched enough of it to know.  I watched the first season of Survivor.  It was an interesting sociological experiment, but the contestants' behavior made me squirm and I was pained to see Richard the Manipulative win.
I watched some of Beauty and the Geek.  It seemed to be making a point.  It seemed to have some heart.  But I stil spent the better part of each episode cringing.
I watched the first of the High School Reunion shows.  It was my graduating class from a school in my area.  Terrible.
But my worst disdain is reserved for America's Next Top Model.  It seems to be less about becoming a model and more about creating high drama among The Beautiful People. 
Reality TV rewards bad behavior and I can't stand it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just Shaking my Head

A couple of weeks ago, a friend was telling a story about her classroom. She teaches English to …I think 6th graders. She asked them to write Thank You letters to a group that had donated a whole bunch of books to their reading library. When she saw the results, she was so upset, she made them start over and write letters that suggested she taught them something this year.

Apparently, many wrote the letters in text speak.

So I was not entirely surprised to see an article in the Trib entitled, “No LOL for College Professors”. My favorite part:

“"Despite the fact that I happen to be perfectly capable of reading any incoherent drivel you may send to my (e-mail) inbox directly from your phone keypad, 'wut up ya I cnt make it 2 clss lol' is insanely unprofessional," reads the syllabus of Alejo Enriquez, an instructor at California State University-East Bay.”

Seeing it Live

Weekend Assignment #319: The Play's The Thing.
Nowadays we get most of our comedy and drama from television, from movies and even from internet downloads. Perhaps we sometimes forget that all of these evolved from a much older art form, the stage play. Do you ever attend plays, musicals or operas? Why or why not?

Extra Credit: Have you ever seen anything by Shakespeare performed live?
I do, and I am weird about it.  In a "I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like" way.  I subscribe with The Writers' Theatre, which is a small group in suburban Chicago.  I love them because they have this great mix of presenting classics and totally new shows.  I don't love every show (in fact, don't click on my last couple of reviews, because I didn't enjoy them.  They weren't bad.  I'm just cranky.  And I don't like Streetcar.) but even when that happens, I appreciate their ingenuity.
I don't go to any other theatres.  I can't think of the last...Shakespeare on the Green?  Steppenwolf?  I seriously don't remember.  It might have been when my grandfather took me to the opera.  That was awesome.  I don't go more often partly because I would have to schlep into the city.  Partly because it is expensive.  Mostly I am just satisfied with The Writers' Theatre.
I have seen more Shakespeare on stage than any other genre.  (Is Shakespeare a genre?)  The most recent was As You Like It and before that was Othello.  Both at Writers' Theatre.  In fact, I first discovered the place when my then-boyfriend and I were trying to find something to do for Valentine's Day.  We were looking in the paper and one or the other of us spotted Richard II.  That was not a typo.  Richard 2.  Whotheheckever heard of that being produced?  We were there.

30 Day TV Meme - Day 04

Day 04 - Your favorite show ever

One?  Seriously?  I don't think so.

Let's say I don't count sports.  My favorite show to have randomly in the background anytime of anyday, whatever my mood, is M*A*S*H.  Don't tell my dad, or he will gloat.  The show I have watched most consistently in real time for the last 15 years is WGN Morning News.  Except for my short love affair with Zoboomafoo.

I had a childhood obsession with Dallas, which I am sure we will get to later.  I might have had to call it The One, except that I really bailed out the last few years.  And I didn't even know about it the last time there was a supplemental TV movie.

So for the All-Time favorite, I have to go with The West Wing.  It had heroes being heroic.  It had heroes being dumb.  It had heroes being smart and funny and sometimes even mean.  It had Martin Sheen as President of the United States.  It redeemed Rob Lowe.

And OMG the dialogue.  This was the first show I ever recorded while I watched because the dialogue was so snappy that it often required a second run to catch all the goodness.  It was also the first television show that ever made me cry from the happy.  (Except when Duke Lavery came back from the dead on General Hospital.  But I was in junior high!)

It's not that they never had an off show.  But The West Wing was for the Believers.  Those of us that could envision the way that Washington might be.  Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but bright and honest and hopeful and sincere.

In Consideration of Facebook

I have so much to say about Facebook that I have to break it up into multiple posts. I am trying to figure out whether it is the Best Thing Ever Invented or a sign that we are descending into the Next Dark Age. To start:

I was so over everything and everyone associated with my high school until Facebook. I didn’t attend my 10-year reunion, thinking “I am in touch with those I want to be in touch with”. Yes, I am that arrogant. My friend Rich attended and when I asked him whether I should have gone, he came up with a couple of names that made me think, “Yeah. It would have been nice to see her.” But I wasn’t heartbroken.

I signed up with Facebook because Joy told me to - I was looking for contact information on someone. Don’t even remember who it was. I did not add much to my profile and I Friended no one. I certainly didn’t have a picture posted. I probably had the name of my town and American University listed, but that was enough for Matt to find me. And then someone else and someone else.

Like many people, my Friends list is made up of some people that I see regularly and some I haven’t seen in years. Some I am (or was once) close to and some where that came from different corners of one peer group or another. It is funny to note the differences in our Facebook habits. Who posts every day and who only checks once a week. How “Friends” are defined and how much they reveal. I don’t even have a handle on the rules for Friending co-workers, because I just don’t do it. (HR professional’s paranoia about crossing a line.) Someone could (and probably has) done a doctoral dissertation on the sociological implications.

The thing is, Facebook is way better than one night at a Reunion. A Class Reunion is a few hours and so many people to see and how the hell do you catch up? Facebook allows us to catch up with the people that want to talk, in the few minutes we can spare each time we log in. Sure, we are only getting tidbits of daily life. But those things add up. I don’t know what the sum total is, but I know that it is much easier to reach out to people when something is up if you have been building on the everyday. Even if it is only online.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

30 Day TV Meme - Day 03

Day 03 - Your favorite new show (aired this t.v season)

Hm.  I already suck at this meme.  I didn't pick up any new shows this year.  I saw a few episodes of The Good Wife, which looked really good.  I have several friends that won't shut up about Glee, but I haven't seen it yet.  I caught a couple nights of NCIS: Los Angeles, that was nice.  But really, there isn't anything that rocked my world the way Lost, or 24, or ER or The West Wing did.

I guess the closest thing for me is True Blood.  It isn't in the first season in real time, but I picked up the first season on DVD and it grabbed me. 

True Blood is all raunchy and violent in an HBO TV show way.  Joy tried to warn me, but I didn't listen.  It was, however, nasty.  In spite of that fact, I thought that the writer created a half decent vampire world with several characters worth watching.  And some things were rather scary.  Vampire Justice, for example, I find terrifying. 

I don't know how long HBO can keep this up, particularly as its script diverges from the Charlaine Harris novels.  But I am all up for Season Two.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

30 Day TV Meme - Day 02

Day 02 - A show that you wish more people were watching

Honestly, since Lost is ending, there isn't any show I think is worth pitching.  In fact, I rather wish people watched less TV.  But if I have to come up with an answer, I'd have to see I wish people watched more football.  NFL.  On Sunday.  Because then, perhaps, this country would have a bit more respect for my Sunday afternoon.

Interjection: Once, several years ago, I asked my brother what he was doing on Sunday.  He said, "What do most people do on Sunday?"  I was totally perplexed.  "Watch football?"  Apparently, the correct answer was "going to church".

Anyway.  Stores would open earlier so I am home by noon.  No volunteering gigs.  No theatre tickets.  Super Bowl Monday would be a National Freakin' Holiday!

Yeah.  That's my TV wish.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

30 Day TV Meme

My LJ friend darth_kittius found this meme, and I think I can talk about TV every day for about a year.

Day 01 - A show that should have never been canceled

It is practically cheating to have this one first, as I just finished my marathon of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  That show had everything: fab-u-lous ensemble cast, Aaron of the Snappy Dialogue Sorkin and Not about Cops or Doctors.  Launched at the apex of American Idol and Survivor, it never had a chance.

I also wish Twin Peaks had lasted longer.  I wasn't watching while it was on the air, but I devoured it when the DVDs were first released.  Agent Cooper or Sheriff Harry S. Truman?  Hmm.  And as if I weren't already afraid of Piper Laurie, she was a totally different kind of scary.

Oh! And Daria.  The animated MTV series.  I just ordered that on DVD, so there will be more discussion on that one. 

(sigh).  How is it that people can watch reality TV?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Traveling Alone

Rick Steves just wrote a nice piece about traveling alone.  He said:
"Solo travel gives you complete freedom and independence. You never have to wait for your partner to pack. You decide where to go, how far to travel, how much to spend and when to call it a day. If ad-libbing, it's easier for one to slip between the cracks than two."

So, so true.  Now, Steves was talking about vacationing in Europe and doing that alone might be a bit much for me.  I was feeling all cool about going to Toronto when my mother informed me that Canada "doesn't count" as going to a foreign country.  But I have considered doing a European tour by myself.  I stumbled onto a company online that coordinates trips for ladies traveling solo.  It looks a bit pricey, but I can see the value. 

I continually struggle with having X number of vacation days and Y dollars in budget with a whole world to see and so many places that deserve a return trip.  Or ten.  I don't know how I would do it if I had to negotiate with someone else.
This is why I am never getting married.

Organic Gummy Bears

Yeah, you read that right.

You know I love  So I was at the website reordering my awesome custom trail mix and then started clicking around for fun.  They have this new feature where they will send you a sample of something for $2.50.  It isn't all of their products, but they have a list.  On the list: "Organic Gummy Bears".

So, you ask - WTH is in an Organic Gummy Bear?  Nuts Online wrote:


Organic Rice Syrup, organic cane sugar, gelatin, organic carrot juice, organic aronia juice, organic black currant, organic curcuma, natural flavor, citric acid, ascorbic acid, organic sunflower oil"

Um.  That doesn't really sound good.  But for $2.50, I can try it and have something to blog about.  (How much would you pay for something to write about?  Discuss amongst yourselves.)  But get this:

They were sold out. 

Are they organic and calorie free?  I don't understand.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Streetcar Named Desire

Dear Writers' Theatre:

I am so sorry.  So, so sorry.  I just can't stand the play.  I came anyway, because I love you.  And I hoped that most of my problem with A Streetcar Named Desire is the movie version.  I don't believe any fan of Vivien Leigh could stand it.  But really, my problem is that there is no one to root for.  I have dismissed several works of "great literature" with that judgement and I understand that it is not a valid criticism for any piece of art.  So let's get to what might be valid criticism:

Someone was having a bit too much fun with the "intimacy" factor.  I have twice complained in this blog about the goofy seating changes you sometimes make to accommodate a vision for the set.  In theory, I am in favor of it.  I subscribe because I am interested in seeing something different.  I imagine you were trying to give the audience a feel for how the tiny apartment in hot, humid New Orleans was just charged with the electricity of the brewing conflict or whatever.  But I was a dozen feet from your actor's wet and quite naked butt.  There is the discomfort of feeling the emotional charge and then there is the discomfort of feeling like the place is...unsanitary.

Fine.  I am a prude.  A Yankee prude.  An illiterate Yankee prude.

But I had to leave.

This clip is a decent scene that Writers' Theatre posted on YouTube.  It is the one in which I find Blanche to be almost likeable.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Library, by Sarah Stewart

This afternoon, I stole my brother's library card, put Ainslie in the stroller and walked over to her library.  While she was playing with the other kids, I picked up a couple of board books for her and grabbed a couple of books for Alex, who was still at school.  One was Miss Nelson is Missing.  If you haven't read that book...well.  It might be too late for you.  Then I saw The Library, by Susan Stewart.  It had a girl with a wagon full of books on the cover.  That was good enough for me.

The Library is about a girl that loves to read and doesn't do anything else.  She grows up and buys a house and fills it with books.  Then one day she can't fit any more books in the house.  So she donates the house and all the books to make a library and moves into a little place with a friend.  They drink tea and read books.

I want to be her when I grow up.  Except with Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.

Kindle Downloads

Publisher's Weekly had an article about the bestseller list for

"For some in publishing it may be a curiosity, for others a point of contention—Amazon’s practice of including free downloads in its list of most popular Kindle titles. It will soon no longer be an issue. A representative at the e-tailer has confirmed that the company will be splitting its Kindle bestseller list, creating one list for paid books and another for free titles. The date for the switch is vague—the rep would only say it will happen in “a few weeks”—but the switch will certainly be noticed."

I have a Kindle - it was a gift from my brother.  While it is a very nice gadget, I have a problem with spending $10 on the average book.  I have done very well with the 99 cent classics, and I have certainly downloaded some freebies - including a Star Wars serial about some Sith Lords.

The article suggests to me the decision is less about trying to get us to spend more money and more about giving and receiving better (or perhaps more "fair") data on the sales.

Since Amazon plans to have a list of the freebies, I don't much have a problem with this "separation".  I scroll those lists mostly in my idle Internet surfing time, so clicking one more list doesn't bother me.  In fact, it might even be more efficient.  And I understand that comparing a "bestseller" that doesn't cost anything with a bestseller that costs $10 hardly seems fair.

Perhaps I am just a geek, but I find the evolution of this business model absolutely fascinating.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Big is Your Late Fee?

Weekend Assignment #318: Library Books

Recently, it was discovered that George Washington had forgotten to return some books he had checked out of his local library. They were only 221 years late, mind you, but late all the same. How about you? Have you ever checked out a library book and forgot to return it? Tell us about your experiences with checking out, returning, or forgetting to return, books to the library.

Extra Credit: Tell us about the last book you checked out of the library. I have never flat-out forgotten to return library books. I have been late in the “I thought it was due next weekend” sense. Or in the “paper’s not done, so I’ll just pay the fee” sense. But I have never flat out forgotten. And oooooh, with the new online renewal feature…God as my witness, I shall never be late returning a book again.

Because I volunteer at the Library’s Used Book Store, and the clearance section of Half Price Books rocks, I don’t really check out library books for fun. Harlot’s Ghost did it to me – the Norman Mailer novel. I could only renew it once from the library and I still wasn’t finished with it, so I went out and bought a copy. It was all downhill from there. I thought about trying my library’s “Book Club in a Bag”, but half of my Book Club prefers the Kindle now, anyway.

I check out books from the library when I am researching something. The last batch was travel books, before a trip to Hawaii. Before that was a batch of books on, for a paper on online business models. Before that…I forget, but it was another research paper for school.

I really need to get offline and read more.

Going to Hell

At the Library’s Used Book Sale, most of our books are sold at half price. So our inventory of $1.00 books becomes 50 cent books. In addition, we pull everything we have out of storage. We check the prices on to see if anything is worth listing online. If it is, we will list it online and offer to sell it for 20% off onsite.

Last Monday, a man was looking at a book that was listed online for $99. He argued the price with the volunteer on duty. The volunteer called our director, who checked the price online and confirmed that the correct price was $99 and the book could be sold for 20% less. The man declined.

On Sunday, a man brought the same book to the desk to a different volunteer. It had an $8 sticker on it. The volunteer thought something was fishy and didn’t want to sell it. The man bullied the volunteer until she finally sold it – for $7. After he left, she found a crumpled $99 sticker on the display table.

I do not understand how a person even rationalizes such behavior.

I am sorry to be judgmental, but if you rob a charity that way? I am pretty sure you are going to hell.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Things I Forgot to Bring to Washington This Week

  1. Toothbrush and toothpaste
  2. Umbrella
  3. Pajamas
  4. My glasses
  5. Charger for the work cell phone
  6. Charger for the personal cell phone
  7. Charger for the ipod
  8. An extra book or any DVDs
  9. Curling iron, scrunchy, rubberband, or anything with which to do my hair
  10. My travel itinerary

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick

Book 20

When A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick first rocked the NYT Bestseller List, I saw it in an airport.  I thought it looked like a glorified romance novel - seriously, look at that cover.  And the summary on the back:

"He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for a "reliable wife."  She responded, saying that she was "a simple, honest woman."  She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving herself a wealthy widow.  What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own."

Well, I was up for some brain candy.

It is a bit of a glorified romance novel, but it isn't mindless.  What you have is three intertwined stories of betrayal and heartbreak and the possibility of redemption. 

I can't say the "plot twists" were particularly surprising.  The thing that was surprising?


When Catherine begins to poison Truitt, he knows.  Immediately knows.  He doesn't confront her and doesn't try to stop her.  He seems to think this is the logical conclusion.  That his death might bring a sort of peace to everyone.

Just then, the book went from being entertaining to something near compelling.

The rest of the story unfolds in a reasonably believable way.  Goolrick does a good job of portraying complicated, conflicted characters such that I was rooting for all of them.  Even that jackass, Antonio - I held out hope for him.  The end was satisfying.

Overall good read.


An Amber Alert went out this morning on Max Hernandez. a 7 year old boy in Arizona.  Max is autistic and was taken away from his home by his father, Conrad.  Max's mother, Maile, is a friend from high school.  She says that Conrad is suicidal and disappeared with Max two days ago.

Here is a picture of Max, the details, and a link to the Amber Alert poster:


Case Type: Family Abduction
DOB: Sep 30, 2002 Sex: Male
Missing Date: May 7, 2010 Race: White
Age Now: 7 Height: 3'6" (107 cm)
Missing City: CHANDLER Weight: 55 lbs (25 kg)
Missing State : AZ Hair Color: Brown
Missing Country: United States Eye Color: Brown
Case Number: NCMC1146974

Circumstances: Max was last seen on May 7, 2010. He may be in the company of his father, Conrad Hernandez. Conrad wears thick glasses. They may be traveling in a red 2009 four door Mazda Sedan with Arizona license plates AEZ7035. Max and Conrad may be in need of medical attention.


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)
Chandler Police Department (Arizona) 1-480-782-4130

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara - Take 2

Book 19

My friends have a book club.  Books are chosen by a random pick among member suggestions.  At the end of a meeting, a call for submissions is made - they are written on notecards.  We separate fiction and non-fiction, as we alternate the two.  Then someone randomly selects a card.  I wasn't much participating while I was in school, but came back earlier this year:

So at the last meeting (Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell was the pick that day), I threw in a card recommending The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara.  I had read it last December and thought that it wouldn't get picked for another couple of years, at which point it would be a great opportunity to re-read a great book.

I got up to go to the bathroom and it was picked.

My impressions weren't much different the second around.  A whole five months later.  So here is a link to what I wrote at the time.


Although.  There was an interesting thread of observations at Book Club that I hadn't realliy considered before.  I had noted that The Ghost of Stonewall Jackson was so present as to almost be another character.  My friend Shannon said the same was true about General Lee's declining health.  The illness (or threat thereof) was continually present.  Which lead to my friend Eric saying that throughout the story, Lee seemed to be making decisions with those two "voices" in his ears.

Face Time

Weekend Assignment #317: Merry Meetings

People used to socialize with each other on street corners, at cocktail parties, at club meetings, and in a later era, at shopping malls. These days, however, we seem to do most of our socializing online. Where do you go most often for face time with friends and acquaintances?

Extra Credit: Do you ever hang out with co-workers after hours?

Mostly, my friends gather in someone’s home. Just today, I had some friends over for a Book Club date at my house. My friend Noah hosts a Game Day Open House on a Saturday every couple of months. There is always somebody having a barbecue on a three-day weekend.

Now that I am thinking about it, I realize that since we are grownups that don’t live in dorms or with three roommates, we spend much less money on going out to dinner. And going out to movies. And bars.

The time of day that we meet has changed a lot, too. I meet friends for lunch, not for dinner. Sometimes we have an afternoon that drifts into ordering dinner, but that isn’t the same thing. If you have a group of eight people that has five or six hours of conversation to get to… well, I’m just too old to start with drinks at seven.

Generally, I don’t socialize with co-workers outside the office. It is partially that I work in HR, so it becomes awkward. But also, my life is rather compartmentalized between work and family and volunteering and other friends. I don’t know that it’s healthy, but that’s the way it is.

Monday, May 3, 2010

OMG with this Cat

I believe I have mentioned that Spooky the Cat, age 19, has been slowing down and mellowing out.  When he isn't howling for attention at 5am.  Several times this past winter, I came home to find him in the exact place I left him in the exact condition - which would be asleep.  I would wonder if he had even moved.

I took the day off on Friday to help set up the Library's Used Book Sale and when I came home, I decided that everyone was going out in the backyard.  I got a book and my stadium blanket, then grabbed Spooky's leash.  I found Spooky exactly where I had left him that morning - in bed.  He protested all the way downstairs and out the door, but was very happy when he figured out the game plan.  We stayed outside for about an hour and he was all protesting again when it was time to go inside.

When we got upstairs, I opened the bedroom window and put him in the window sill.  Happy again.  That night, I went to sleep with the window open - he was still in the window sill.  2am, I was awakened by the rain and couldn't close the window because he was still in it.

Saturday, he went downstairs and hovered around the back door until I took him back outside.  And tonight, I got this:

I guess he was just hibernating for the winter.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Taft, by Ann Patchett

Book 18

I found Taft, by Ann Patchett, at the Library Used Book Store, which was cool because the author seems to think this is the book that no one has read.

I loved it. Better than Bel Canto and most definitely better than The Magician’s Assistant.

I’ll just go ahead and give you the summary from the back:

“John Nickel is a black ex-jazz musician who only wants to be a good father. But when his son is taken away from him, he’s left with nothing but the Memphis bar he manages. Then he hires Fay, a young white waitress, who has a volatile brother named Carl in tow. Nickel finds himself consumed with the idea of Taft – Fay and Carl’s dead father – and begins to reconstruct the life of a man he never met. But his sympathies for these lost souls soon take him down a twisting path into the lives of strangers.”

This is a book about fathers. What it takes to be a good one, and how one might judge a man by knowing his children. I am happy to say that by the time we meet John’s son, Franklin (as opposed to hearing John’s memories of him), we can see that he has been a great dad.

The narrative is interesting in that it moves from John’s first person history to his third person imagining of scenes from Taft’s life with Fay and Carl. You can see him incorporating things that he learns about the kids into his thoughts about their father as the book progresses. I’ve read a lot about women and their natural maternal instincts, but not so much about men being fatherly. Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong books. Or maybe it took a lady novelist to call it up in a way that made me notice.

Real Rules of Recycyling

The Chicago Tribune printed a great article this weekend about things that will and will not be recycled by its curbside program.  It was really timely because we have been debating a few things about the program in my house lately.  Things I learned:
  1. Starbucks coffee cups will not be recycled by the average curbside service.  Apparently, cups for hot liquids have a "thin synthetic lining".
  2. Plastic containers will recycle, other plastic stuff won't.  Apparently, the containers have coding that sorts them into one category or another and other plastic materials don't.  Plastic hangers, utensils and CD cases were specifically mentioned.
  3. "Newspaper, cardboard, paperboard (cereal boxes) and scrap paper" are good.  The article doesn't say specifically, but I read it to mean that  glossy catalogs, envelopes with plastic windows and magazines are not.
And while I already knew this, I feel the need to mention it: if there is food left in the container, the sorters will just toss it.

Please note that this article was written based on the the recycling in the city of Chicago, so some of the details may vary from city to city.  But the Rule of Thumb was valuable: "If the item is a container for food or laundry detergent bought in a grocery store, it's probably accepted." 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Petfinder is Cool

This widget doesn't fit into my sidebar, but if I can manage to get it to look right here, I might throw it in as a post once in awhile: