Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Things to think about for 2010

On Sunday, my friend Sarah and I visited Animal Acres in Acton. It's a sanctuary for (farm) animals who have been abused, abandoned, and otherwise mistreated. We went there last year with Patrick, and were impressed by the tour (I wish I could remember the name of the woman who lead us on both tours! She was wonderful, and had a kind spirit). Patrick and Sarah are already vegetarians (Patrick has, in the past, been vegan for many years but is not a vegan now), but I'm not. I'm starting to seriously think about it, especially after considering what we learned about commercial farming.

(Don't get me wrong, though: I mostly enjoyed hanging out with Sarah and the goats and sheep! I love goats and sheep, and Sarah is awesome!)

One thing I heard this time on the tour was that though some of the animals rescued by Animal Acres do end up dying soon after they're rescued (some of them are just so far gone, too abused, too neglected, to be saved) that what they try to do is to make the last days easy and loving for the animals anyway. That kind of thinking is something very, very special.

On Monday, I happened to catch Jonathan Safran Foer on "Ellen" (he's written a book called "Eating Animals") and he said something that really surprised me: he was talking about the poultry industry, and he suggested that if you can only do one thing (in other words, you still want to eat meat), the no. 1 thing you can do to help animals is to stop eating eggs. Then he gave some grisly details about the poultry industry that were cruel, disgusting, heartbreaking and totally convincing. We also heard about this kind of thing at Animal Acres.

Right now I'm thinking about it from a "helping to end cruelty to animals" mindset. That's what they talk about most at Animal Acres, and it really struck me that animals are not only being killed to feed me, but are forced to suffer and to live their lives in pain because I want a cheeseburger, and because some big agricultural corporation wants more profits. I need to read more and think more about it before I can really start talking about it here, but for now, I have decided to definitely cut meat out of my life. I am not against people having meat in their diets in general, but it seems to me that there needs to be better laws, better protections for animals to make it something honest and healthy and fair to the animals, and if I can do something about that, I'm going to try to find out what it is.

This is complicated. I'm not sure I am ready to go vegan (and all the literature and websites I've visited suggest that making a huge leap into veganism is a mistake), now or ever, but I'm going to look more carefully at the foods I eat and where it all comes from.

I admit that I am already having a hard time with the eggs thing. Today I went looking for information about cruelty-free eggs, and I read a lot of contraditory stuff. Basically, what it comes down to is that these labels are not very well regulated. I got a little overwhelmed by the idea that the labels on cartons don't always mean what you think they mean: that outright lying is going on (I know: I'm naive) by the food industry kind of shocked me. I mean, this is our government we're talking about, and they're letting this go on? I don't eat eggs all that regularly (Chrismtas morning, with my tamales!) but they're in practically everything. Unless I start raising my own chickens (here's the law for the city of Long Beach, from a website called "The City Chicken": "Homeowners are allowed up to 20 hens. No roosters. Must be 20 feet from a dwelling and confined." Um, my backyard is big, but I don't think it's big enough), how do I know how the birds were well-cared for? The other thing is, not only are the animals being abused, but they're being fed horrible things, and given hormones: besides being cruel to them, how can it be healthy for us? I'm not a health nut or particularly spiritual, but it seems greedy, and ignorant, and wrong.

I'm kind of conflicted: I have some facts about the cruel things that are done, I know it goes on, but I'm not sure I can handle reading about it in detail. I'm afraid it's so awful that I won't handle it well. I trust what I learned at Animal Acres, but I'm not sure I'm ready to dive right in and (for example) watch PETA videos or see evidence of cruelty. I want to learn more, but seeing it for myself feels too scary. Can I be effective without seeing it myself? I don't know.

So. I am not perfect. I will make mistakes with this, but I'm going to try to help, and will do my best.

If you're interested in finding more information about Animal Acres, click on the link to the right of this post. They can tell you, in much more detail and much more eloquently, about what they do, and why, better than I can.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The best of 2009

Here it is! 18 (I know 18 is a random number... I think I have another sinus infection; I definitely have a stuffy head; I'm not thinking very clearly right now) of my favorite posts from this past year. Maybe next year I'll be able to come up with 20 of them. Also, maybe next year I'll get them in the right order.

1. January 9, 2009
Do crickets carry the plague?

2. March 12, 2009
I discover that "Don't Let Me Down" is one of my favorite Beatles songs, especially when sung by a cute guy in a dark alley at 11:30 p.m.

3. May 20, 2009
I get a tad bit maudlin when discussing a performance of mine. Still: I like this one a lot.

4. June 25, 2009
I wrote this the morning of Michael Jackson's death, which I didn't know about because it had not yet happened. I was feeling somethng that day, I guess.

5. June 2, 2009
Not much happens in this post, but I like it because it's a fairly typical example of my writing, and the things that interest me.

6. May 5, 2009
I bought tickets to see Stewart Copeland in San Diego and surprisingly put quite a bit of thought into it.

7. August 20, 2009
I wrote a letter to Stewart Copeland.

7.5 September 25, 2009
I wrote another letter to Stewart Copeland.

8. June 6, 2009
We traveled to Washington, D.C., and had a great time. Everything was excellent.

9. July 12, 2009
I helped a friend celebrate his birthday at the theater and got to perform for a bunch of friends.

10. July 29, 2009
Occasionally, I get annoyed.

11. August 25, 2009
I am a fan of moonlit bike rides. Especially when the moon is made of cheese.

12. August 12, 2009
After doing this blog thing for like three years or something crazy like that, I still like doing quizzes. Sometimes I can't think of anything to say on my own.

13. October 8, 2009
I met Stewart Copeland in Hollywood at a booksigning. He signed my hand. He's awesome. No, really: totally, 100% rad.

14. September 24, 2009
My mom had knee surgery. Re-reading this one was hard for me, so I understand if you skip it too, but I don't want to forget that time, either.

15. October 13, 2009
I got cheap and then I colored my hair in my own bathroom. I would like to point out that while it wasn't a total disaster, this month (December) I went back to the salon and let a professional do it, with much better results.

16. November 2, 2009
I start off talking about my outsides, but what I was thinking about was my insides.

17. December 2, 2009
A random bunny sighting makes me happy.

18. December 11, 2009
I can dance if I want to.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas greetings


Merry Christmas, everyone!

I am so glad to be able to spend this day with my family!

We're wearing purple because it's the color for the type of cancer my mom has (leiomyosarcoma).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bye... for now

Hi, everyone,

(If you can name all the people you're referring to as "everyone" and count them off using one hand... can you still call them "everyone"?)

Not that I'm all that busy or anything (my Christmas shopping is finally done!), and I'm working through the holidays (no time off for me!), but I think I need a bit of a break. Oh, I can admit it: my last post was pretty lame. So, in an effort to regroup, re-engergize, and reload, I am hereby granting myself a holiday from blogging. I have been working on a "Best of 2009" list (which will also include content from I Can't Stand [Meeting] You), and I'll get that posted in the next couple of days, but for now, I wish you the happiest of holidays, and I'll be back soon.

I'm so glad you're here and I hope you join me in all my silliness in 2010.

All the best,
Irene

Monday, December 21, 2009

From an LA Times article about a car accident:

(Actually, I am going to be talking mostly about one of the comments from a reader.)

Over the weekend, there was a horrible, fatal accident in San Bernardino where a woman was rear-ended on the freeway by a drunk driver going over 120 miles per hour. She had two people in the car with her, but she was the only fatality. The driver of the other car (the drunk person) survived. The story was pretty short, mostly a retelling of the facts of the accident.

Follows is one of the comments on the story (excerpt):

LAT - not to be morbid, but for people who want to know which cars are safer, not just what NHTSA or IIHS says, how about publishing photos of the vehicles and who was sitting where in each?



Posted by: My Next Car
December 20, 2009 at 10:53 PM

My first reaction was, hell yes, this is morbid. This person is basically asking for diagrams, with circles and arrows indicating the victim's position in the car, so that readers can take this into consideration when buying a new car. "Hmm... the driver of this [Unnamed Make and Model] died but the passenger survived..."

Then I thought - well, maybe just showing a photo of the accident...? Wouldn't it be like those totalled cars they always put up around the local community colleges during the holidays? I think Mothers Against Drunk Driving is responsible for those displays. Now, thinking about it this way, I think it's a great idea. The LA Times should post the photos. I don't know about the idea of using it for car buying data, though (what if it's an older car, for example) but a big color photograph might have some impact (no pun intended) on people.

Anyway, it's a sad story. A lady died because some jerk got in their 2009 Acura after drinking and got that car up to 120 miles per hour (some of the other comments on the story were related to the speed and why vehicles need to go that fast. I don't know about that, but I think it's more important to wonder why assholes need to drink and drive).

So now I preach:

Don't just think about this stuff at the holidays. Drinking and driving is probably the stupidest thing you could possibly do. The drunk person in this story will be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated and causing the death of another, and live the rest of his or her life with this on their conscience. Personally, I don't think I could live with myself.

Be safe.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I treasure my iTunes library a bit more than is, um, sane (disappointed update)

Note: this message was started Friday, December 18.

Lately I've been having an annoying problem with iTunes. I've been getting an error message that I can't figure out:

"The iTunes library file cannot be saved. You do not have enough access privileges for this operation."

Could anything be more ominous? iTunes gives you no suggestions or options for solving this problem: they merely state that a problem exists. Searching their help files is no help. How does one remedy a lack of access privileges?  "Cannot be saved" is apocalyptic and makes me apoplectic when there's seemingly (a) nothing I can do about it and (b) no explanation of what this even means.

Patrick and I both tried to figure it out but none of the suggested solutions we found at Apple's site and various chat boards or whatever have worked (I'm not going to tell you what we did because for one thing, none of it worked and I don't want to perpetuate a bunch of useless fixes. For another thing, people can be very judgmental or unhelpfully helpful about this sort of thing, and I'm not looking for more suggestions at this point, unless you're willing to come over here and do it yourself. I'll buy you lunch!). It started, I guess, when we got a new computer and operating system (yay for Windows 7!). Patrick reinstalled iTunes and everything was good for awhile, until we started getting this error message a blurry amount of time sometime later. I never had this problem when I just had my iPod, so I also don't know if it's the combination of having an iPod and and iPhone? It seems unlikely but what the hell do I know? Earlier this month (or maybe it was last month) I talked to an Apple "Genius" and he told me to do something I had actually done (uninstall and reinstall iTunes, which apparently you have to do in a verrrry specific order or else the planet will blow or the aliens from "Independence Day" will return to Earth intent on destruction). I mean, does the fact that I did what he said before I was told by a Genius to do it make me a Genius? I think not, because one morning soon after, I woke up and came in here to my messy office to download some music and sync my iPod, and my entire fucking library had been wiped out. iTunes was still there, but none of my songs were. We tried all kinds of stuff, but none of it worked.

So I, of course, cried.

My library isn't super-huge (I have about 6,000 songs) but I have cared for and nurtured it for a couple of years now, and it is always growing and being perfected. Yes, I know that sounds creepy. Anyway, I felt like a tool for crying, but Patrick got pissed off (or pretended to be pissed off: all I know is he was incredibly sweet about it) and said, "That's it! Apple sucks! You shouldn't be crying!" I had to leave so I couldn't stick around and see what he did, but while I was at the theater, he fixed it. I didn't even bother to check when I got home because I had resigned myself to having to rebuild my library, but when I did look, there it was, exactly like it had been before the Great Erasure, and everything was fine. (He used the "previous version" thing that's a feature of Windows or something and there apparently were more technical things involved, but I wasn't here to see what he did, and realizing my long-lost library had been saved, I really didn't have time to listen to the details. He was a hero, got a big kiss, and I got reacquainted with my library.)

A few weeks later I started getting the message again. So now, afraid that there's a limited amount of times you can see that message before the whole library is erased (again!), I've once again called Apple.

Right now I am on the phone with Mike (Suzanne started helping me, but Mike is a Senior Advisor. A Genius's Genius, if you will), and he's puzzling it out for me. I have him on speaker phone so while he's crunching this problem, I'm typing. I wonder what he thinks I'm doing? He has a slight Southern-ly accent. When he's thinking, he clucks his tongue. Somehow it's charming. Other times, I think he puts the phone on mute, because all the background noises go away.

Right now we have discovered that my music is in two folders: the iTunes Media folder, and inside the Music Folder that is inside the iTunes media folder! What the hell this all means and if it's the cause of the problem is for Mike to figure out.

Update: Saturday, December 19

So, Mike and I were on the phone together for two hours. He assessed the situation, put me on hold for awhile, I played a few moves in FB Scrabble, kept a kitty from vomiting on the bed, and when he came back, he had some things for us to try. I think basically what I did was created a new iTunes ("iTunes 1"), which he had me do by holding down the shift key, clicking on the start menu, and opening iTunes. Several steps later, a new iTunes had been created. We repopulated (his word, not mine) the new iTunes with my library, which took forever (Mike was impressed with the number of songs I have). Oh, there's something else we did, too, which involved the duplicate library that we did before we created the new iTunes but beats me what it was. I just followed instructions.

Anyway, I was able to stay on the line with him until my library finished but at that point I absolutely had to go: I had to be in Culver City to pick my mom up to take her to chemotherapy at noon, and it was about 11 already when it was finished, and I still had to take a shower! So Mike gave me some parting words of wisdom, counseled me to email him on Monday if anything new happened, and sent me on my way. I didn't have time yesterday after getting home from Culver City (it took me two hours in traffic, and that's not an exaggeration) to play with iTunes: I was too tired and worn out. Instead I watched a couple of cheesy movies on TMC ("Amazing Grace and Chuck," I've already forgotten the name of the other one), and went to bed.

I've been using iTunes all morning (unfortunately my iPod is in the car and I'm still in my pajamas so I haven't synced it yet, but my iPhone synced and backed up just fine) with no problems. And I am getting to know and appreciate my library yet again.

Last 25 songs I listened to during this post (I'm way slow today) - with links:
  1. Back to the Wall, by Divinyls (Make You Happy)
  2. Seen and Not Seen, by Talking Heads (Remain in Light)
  3. You've Never Been Right, by Melvins (A Senile Animal)
  4. Naked Eye, by the Who (Who's Next)
  5. Videotape, by Radiohead (In Rainbows)
  6. My Life Would Suck Without You, by Kelly Clarkson (All I Ever Wanted) shut up
  7. These Foolish Things, by Bryan Ferry (More Than This - The Best of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music)
  8. Walk, by Blind Melon (Soup)
  9. Caligulove, by Them Crooked Vultures (Them Crooked Vultures)
  10. Vamos, by the Pixies (Surfer Rosa)
  11. Doublewide, by Corrosion of Conformity (America's Volume Dealer)
  12. Sofrimento, by Waldemar Bastos (Luaka Bop 10th Anniversary: Zero Accidents on the Job)
  13. Timeless Melody, by the La's (The La's)
  14. Celebrated Summer, by Husker Du (New Day Rising)
  15. Glider, by Captain Beefheart (The Spotlight Kid)
  16. I Heard Her Call My Name, by the Velvet Underground (White Light/White Heat)
  17. Statue of Liberty, by Descendents (Milo Goes to College)
  18. Can't Get Used to Losing You, by the English Beat (I Just Can't Stop It)
  19. Water Buffalo, by Aldo Romano, Louis Sclavis, Henri Texier, Guy Le Querrec (Suite Africaine)
  20. The Love You Save, by the Jackson 5 (Anthology: Jackson 5)
  21. The Smiling Cobra, by Melvins (Nude With Boots)
  22. Everyone Says Hi, by David Bowie (Heathen)
  23. Mongoloid, by Devo (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!)
  24. Iluvya, by Thom Yorke (Analyse)
  25. Understanding, by fIREHOSE (Fromohio)
Update: Saturday, December 19 (about an hour later)

So I was syncing my iPhone (I'd changed some settings) when I got the goddamn error message again.

Something is seriously wacky here.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    So this is Christmas

    (This is a horrible iPhone photo; obviously my sister-in-law got better shots, but I really just wanted to demonstrate how packed the place was. Also I shushed these three men twice during the performance. Just because you're at the back of the house or your kids sang already doesn't mean you can TALK during all the other performances!)

    Last night we went to my niece and nephew's school Christmas pageant (they go to Catholic school, so they've definitely left Jesus in the holiday). Usually attendance at these pageants is incredibly high so we try to get there early so we can score a couple of seats, but it's been taking me more than an hour to get home, and last night was no exception. I couldn't leave early - I had to work on a project. When I finally got home at 6:25, we decided to walk, since we knew parking would be terrible. It was kind of fun, walking through our neighborhood in the dark, looking at the Christmas lights, together, making it across the Intersection of Death alive.

    When we got there, all the seats were taken, and so we ended up standing behind a very nice man and his wife in the doorway to the church (the inside doorway). It turned out to be a great place to be, because we got to see both our niece and nephew make their entrances and exits. My nephew is younger, and when we saw him in his sporty red sweater and khaki pants, I almost didn't recognize him: he looked so serious, and (maybe) a little nervous. My niece, who is growing up, was of course more sophisticated, looked so pretty in her sophisticated black and white wrap dress, with her hair all shiny and perfect (my sister-in-law does a great job with her hair! I wish she'd do mine before work!). The school is K-8, and each class performs one song. They do it with a piano accompaniment, and a conductor, their music teacher. That guy does a great job, because all the performance were wonderful. Some of the song selections are better than others (I have to find out the name of the song my nephew's class did: it was rhythmic and interesting), but the kids are so cute. They get all dressed up and you can tell that for them all, it's a pretty exciting night. If this many people came a to flute choir concert, I would be super nervous and excited too (and I would think Improv Everywhere was punking us)!

    We didn't have a program, so we had to guess at each class's grade and if it was our niece or nephew's turn (the little kids, of course, are the easiest) by going, "These kids look younger," or "These kids look older" but eagle eye Patrick spotted each of them first. My niece's class ended the concert (the kids don't perform in order of grade; they keep it interesting by mixing up the little kids with the bigger kids). She was in the front row, so even I, with my lousy vision, could sort of see. Her class did "Happy Christmas (War is Over)," and it was absolutely beautiful. Sometimes I think that's a sappy song, and sometimes I think it's an angry song, and sometimes I think John Lennon was a genius and sometimes I think he was fool, and a bunch of elementary school kids singing "War is over if you want it" in a Catholic church isn't going to change anything... but man, that line right there made me totally cry. The other classes joined in (after they perform, the kids take seats in the front rows and on the floor near the stage); they stood up where they were and faced the audience. I loved it. I think Patrick did too.

    We were so proud, and I finally felt a bit of the Christmas spirit, which, I have to admit, has sort of been eluding me this year.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Winter recital

    Today I joined Patty's students at her winter recital. I haven't played a solo, as I'm sure I've mentioned, for a couple of years, so I (rightly) chose to play something I knew already - Suite de Trois Morceaux, by Benjamin Godard (first two movements). I pulled my usual act of not practicing nearly enough, but I tried something new this time around: I knew I hadn't worked hard enough but I was really, really calm about it beforehand.

    I was also trying not to worry about my flute - it's been making some noises (mechanical in nature) that are worrisome. I totally need to get it into the shop, but I've been putting it off. For one thing, it's way expensive. I had no idea what was going to happen today, so I just wished for the best. Nothing seemed to be wrong with it today, but after Christmas, before flute choir starts in January, I need to have it looked at. Shozo, here I come!

    I also played in a trio with Judy and Meagan (the unavoidable Tchaikovsky; we did an arrangement for three flutes and piano of three of the movements from The Nutcracker; my favorite was "Arab Dance"), and played with everyone on three holiday songs (Infant Holy, Infant Lowly; O Hanukkah; and We Wish You a Merry Christmas; I have a distinct fondness for "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," because it was my first ever duet. I played it with Melissa a hundred and one years ago. She played the top, and nailed it. I think I was too green to do much but be nervous about it. This time around I played the bottom, and it was short and sweet). Since I don't get to see Patty's other students very often, it was fun to see and hear them. She has two high school students, Patrick and Meagan, and I love seeing them grow up. They're both great kids. Meagan's playing is wonderful now: she has great tone and is so self-assured and elegant.

    My performances were okay. At first I was being very hard on myself - my plan to be calm was fine, and I certainly was very relaxed during the piece, but afterward, I felt bad because of some of the silly things I did. For one thing, my stupid right hand was out of control for some reason. I just could not make it work on this one measure that unfortunately is repeated like a hundred times during the first movement. After the third or fourth time of flubbing the figure, I realized that it was just funny. I let it go but it didn't make it better. I also flubbed my entrance at the end. But afterward, people were very nice about my playing, and I think it must've been better live than it was in my head. Patrick (my Patrick) recorded it with his Blackberry, and though the Blackberry's recording equipment is horrible and the quality is shoddy, I heard the things in my playing that even I have to admit are good: my tone, my pitch (I think - I seemed to have conquered yesterday's problems with being in tune); I was light where I needed to be light and except for the aforementioned figure, I played almost all the fast bits well.

    Here's where I get to totally talk up our accompanist, Mark Abulencia. He's an amazing pianist, a wonderful musician, a sweetheart, professional, much more than merely competent; he listens and follows you and when weird things happen (and weird things will always happen) he figures it out and leads you out of it, and sounds great himself while doing it. He's wonderful, and I am so lucky to get to play with him. Thank you, Patty, for hiring him! He makes me want to go back and fix the things I need to fix, re-learn the third movement, and perform it all over again. Maybe next time. Maybe in January I'll take a few more lessons and try to get serious again.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Misplaced sense of obligation? / Solo dance party

    I just straightened up my house in preparation for a visit from... the Gas Man, who is coming to relight our pilot lights (they did a little work outside today on our street - we all got new pipes).

    This does not speak highly of my (admittedly horrible) housekeeping skills. Then again, maybe if we had visitors more often, perhaps my home would be cleaner more often, too. (Usually I only clean when my parents are coming over, or for my catsitter, who as of yet has not commented on the state of my home while we were in Vegas over Thanksgiving, but I'm sure he could, especially in regard to the mammoth furballs we seem to create.) Yep, we need more guests. Maybe I should plan a Rizzoli Christmas party during the actual holiday season, if it's not too late already.

    Hang on, I have to go make the bed. Surely he won't be going in the bedroom but it is sort of visible from the living room.

    ...

    After the gas man left (his name was "Gato," by the way. Seriously? Gato?), I turned the music back up (I had been listening to my iPod while I straightened up; the song playing when I shut it down was some Pearl Jam song), my iPod played "Linger," by the Cranberries, and "Kid," by the Pretenders, and then? Then my iPod hit me with some English Beat. I had started feeling good during "Linger," then couldn't help but sing along with "Kid," but when "Mirror in the Bathroom" came on, I was struck by the unfamiliar desire... to dance.

    So?

    I turned it up, made sure all the doors were locked, and proceeded to dance around my living room like it was the 9th grade again, and I was at Leadership Camp. The only difference? It wasn't all that dark, and Michelle Broadus wasn't leading the way (that girl could dance). I think those Leadership Camp dances were the last times I ever danced in public, or with someone (Patrick and I like to do a few moves in elevators sometimes but that hardly counts). Nobody was here except the cats, and they were all bundled up under the blankets in the bedroom (obviously the bed never got made), but for about 30 minutes, I pretty much bounced around like Belinda Carlisle in those old Go Go's videos (or the Police, in the video for "Don't Stand So Close to Me"), only not as good. I was definitely leading with my elbows.

    I'm all sweaty now, and "I Just Can't Stop It" is still playing in the living room, and I need to practice my flute and finish the laundry before I have to go to Santa Monica for "The Trojan Women," but if a good song comes on next (ooh, maybe "Best Friend" - that's a great song), I'm going back onto the 7x5 rug and, um, cutting it.

    See you later.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    This looks more promising.

    Label/Receipt Number: ##################
    Scheduled for Delivery: Thursday, December 10, 2009
    Class: Package Services
    Service(s): Delivery Confirmation
    Status: Arrival at Post Office

    Your item arrived at 5:31 AM on December 10, 2009 in LONG BEACH, CA 90808. Information, if available, is updated periodically throughout the day. Please check again later.
     
    Detailed Results:


    Bullet
    Arrival at Post Office, December 10, 2009, 5:31 am, LONG BEACH, CA 90808
    Bullet
    Electronic Shipping Info Received, December 09, 2009
    Bullet
    Arrived Shipping Partner Facility, December 07, 2009, 11:14 pm, UNION CITY, CA 94587

    Dear Apple,

    Why has my package been sitting in Carson since 3:50 yesterday morning?

    (I just ordered a case for my iPhone; don't get excited.)

    Date
    Time
    Location
    Activity
    12/9/2009
    03:50 AM PST
    Carson, CA
    ARRIVAL DESTINATION DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
    12/8/2009
    05:45 AM PST
    Union City, CA
    DEPARTURE ORIGIN DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
    12/8/2009
    12:08 AM PST
    Union City, CA
    PROCESSED
    12/7/2009
    11:14 PM PST
    Union City, CA
    ARRIVAL ORIGIN DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
    12/7/2009
    08:15 PM PST
    Elk Grove, CA
    PICK UP

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Reading stuff

    In the summer, I read a story in the LA Times about a little girl who was diagnosed with Childhood Onset Schizophrenia, a very rare (disease? condition?) diagnosis in children. I'm not going to link to it. You can find it quite easily. Anyway, I read the article, and was impressed by the writing, and how the disturbing subject matter was handled. It made me extremely sad, but curious about the topic. And I hoped there would be future updates or features on the little girl (there have been, but not many).

    Then, while I was visiting my mom on Monday, we were watching Oprah, and she did a whole show on the little girl the article was about, and interviewed the little girl, her parents, and the author of the LA Times story. It turns out this was a re-run, but the original ran just a couple of months ago.

    I was disappointed: Oprah provided nothing that the LA Times story didn't say. She brought nothing to the story but herself, and this is why I am not a fan. But, seeing the show and re-reading the article got me to thinking about the little girl again, and that lead to a Google search, and that lead to me finding her dad's blog.

    I read a lot of it it, until it kind of started feeling very exploitative. It's seriously a very raw journal, the full-on "truth" (truth in quotes because that's what he says it is, but how can we know?), and it's rough reading. He writes some very scary things about his past, his own mental health issues, wanting to kill himself, about his relationship with his wife, and about his daughter. To be honest, as I kept reading, I thought, this guy wants to be famous. He must be writing one of those memoirs like "A Million Little Pieces" where the author writes the most horrible stuff about himself and gets rich and famous from it. I'm no longer interested in this type of book (Augusten Burroughs, Dave Eggers... thanks but no thanks). He admits that he's writing a book (and boy I hope he gets an editor. He needs one). The parts that are purely about him were the least interesting things to read (sorry, dude). I am really only interested in the story of the little girl. It's another example of figuring out when too much is too much. I feel very sorry for this little girl: she will probably never have a normal life. Her parents have made decisions that probably mean that they too will never have normal lives. I read a few other blogs that comment on the story, and I read the comments on the father's blog, and most people were either sympathetic or judgmental. I'm not judging - I don't know anything about mental illness or parenting, and I'm definitely not qualified to make any pronouncements on anything related to this story except to say that it affected me, a lot.

    I don't know why.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Maturity IS a bitter disappointment.









    Side by side comparison (sort of) of my new banner.

    Turns out Patrick doesn't like either the hat or my font. He thinks serif fonts are too old-fashioned (or something - I was listening to something at a rather loud volume). Maybe so. Since I like both the goofy photo and the font, I'm not sure how I'm going to handle his notes. My friend Paul's critique was easier to understand: he thought the orange-iness of the font was too brutal. Then again, he only had about two minutes to look, and that was on my iPhone in the dark lobby of the theater.

    For now I am going to try just changing the colors around. Maybe the font is just too big or something - but I always fall in love with something and then other people don't fall in love with it and it takes me a long, long time (if ever) to come around to their way of thinking. For now, this is how I want this to look (one of the two choices). Maybe I'll change it later. Maybe not. I mean, I'm not a graphic designer or anything (obviously). I've seen blogs with way worse designs than this one, and who cares, really?

    That said, I will definitely appreciate any comments* you all may have, since it's pretty obvious that to the question "who cares," the answer is "I do."

    *Well, by "any," you know that I, of course, mean only the nice ones.

    Today's silly hat photo

    Yesterday I left work early and headed over to Culver City to spend the day with my mom. She had a doctor's appointment (just a follow-up with her primary car physician) but she wasn't feeling good so we stayed home. She ended up taking a nap and we rescheduled the appointment.

    She had her second chemotherapy treatment last Friday, and this one seems to be affecting her more than the first. She seems okay, but it takes a lot of out of her. Luckily she has this week off from therapy, and can hopefully recuperate some before starting the whole thing all over again.

    Before the nap, though, she asked me to make lunch for her and my dad. I made them tuna melts, at their request. I think I freaked them out because instead of celery (which they were out of) I used carrots. They seemed to like their sandwiches, which looked yummy - perfectly golden on the outside, nice and squishy on the inside. I wasn't that hungry so I made myself half a toasted tuna sandwich (minus the "melt" part), but I added raisins to the leftover tuna. I wish I'd had some nuts to put in it, too! Yum, but I think my parents would be shocked. Shocked, I say!

    While my mom was napping, I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen (I never cook or clean as much at my own home as I do at my parents' house!) and watched the rain. It was a cold day in Culver City yesterday.

    After lunch and my mom's nap, I took the dog for a walk. I don't know if I've talked about Goldie, their dog before, so I will tell you now: Goldie is an aging, beautiful golden retriever. She is 100% retriever: though she's graying and getting a bit less agile, Goldie will play catch with you forever. It's her favorite thing to do. I have literally tossed that ball for her until she's practically limping. She's a sweet dog, and I have been tempted many times to take her home, but she needs more attention than we can give (I work too much! I wish I could stay home with a dog!) and would totally miss my dad, her best friend. It stopped raining for about 20 minutes, and I put on my coat, my scarf, and borrowed my brother Dan's hat (see photo), and took her out. I looked a little weird but it was cold and wet. That hat was warm. I think I look a bit like a chauffer (I always thought that would be a fun job, but that could just be because I loved that movie with Eric Stoltz). Goldie had a good time, I think, but we turned around earlier than I wanted to because of the rain. I didn't want to bring home a wet dog to my mom's clean house.

    After the walk, when we got back my mom was up and watching TV with my dad. My dad has a strange fascination with the Maury Povich show (his favorite, Ricki Lake, went off the air in 2004). Total trash! The topic of yesterday's show was typical: DNA tests to determine the fathers of babies. Some of the stories were hard to watch because the people were such trainwrecks. Maury seemed like a good guy, though, I don't know. I could never watch that stuff on a regular basis.

    After Maury, I went back in the kitchen, put on my mom's apron, and put together a turkey meatloaf my mom had her heart set on. It was easy, and no gourmet recipe (I followed the directions on the flavor packet, which includes a layer of ketchup on top of the whole thing) but was complicated by the fact that my parents' oven is jacked up. I'm not sure how my brother cooked a whole turkey in there on Thanksgiving, because the temperature was all over the place. It took much longer than I expected to cook that thing (my dad's going to get the oven checked out soon). My dad made mashed potatoes, I cooked a can of corn (ah! Just like the old days!) and finally we sat down to eat. Just like the old days, I helped myself to seconds (and, ahem, thirds). It's a good thing I don't cook at home (see, Patrick?) because we'd have even more serious weight issues to deal with.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Thursday's random thoughts

    A friend posted something about the full moon tonight in his Facebook status. I could've sworn the moon was full last week. Which one of us is wrong?

    I am ashamed to admit that I am compelled to watch the skanks of the Real Housewives of Orange County, and I find it interesting that now that Jeana, the only one who was pretty enough to be an actual Playmate, is gone, the show seems even skankier than ever. Could it be that she had some class?

    My feet hurt.

    I'm not getting enough sleep and I'm eating too much and I haven't been on my bike in a MONTH.

    I think I am thinking about a new job and this worries me because my current job is kind of great. It might not be the job that's the problem.

    I had mentioned awhile back that I was considering taking a writing class at UCLA Extension starting in January but it looks like the money is not readily available (I don't want to put it on a credit card; those classes are expensive) so I will wait until the spring. This is fine. I just wonder how much of my sanguinity about putting it on hold is due to the fact that I might be scared. That's fine, too. It's just something to think about. Also, I'm not sure if I used "sanguinity" properly. Spell check keeps thinking it's misspelled. The word I'm really looking for would mean "acceptance." Whatever: I'm tired.

    I had a weekend off from being in the booth, and I go back tomorrow after a very busy day (errands around town in the morning, then a concert at Lamp Community in downtown Los Angeles for the residents there, then a flute lesson, then hopefully a nap on Patty's couch), and I'm totally looking forward to it, but at the same time it's a lot to do. And this month is just getting busier.

    Finally, Patrick doesn't like my new banner, and I'm trying to figure out if it's him, or me. I like it, but that might be because I made it. Now I'm not sure. I made new ones for the Stewart Copeland and Flute Choir blogs too (he likes those just fine). What do you think? It could be that he just doesn't like that stupid hat, but the hat is supposed to be stupid. I am supposed to look ridiculous. His actual comment was concerning the size of the font, but like I said, I like it. He has a very good eye for this sort of thing, though, so I don't know. Grr.

    My co-workers and I may have seen a baby mountain lion on our walk today. That's really cool, but it doesn't bode well for the bunny I saw yesterday.

    I'm going to bed.

    'Night.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Be vewy, vewy quiet....

    At my work, like most places, I get two 15 minute breaks. Since I usually I roll into work about 11 minutes late every morning, I skip the first break and hope that my boss notices (or doesn't notice, whichever works out better for me), but later in the day, I do try to take a walk. Getting out of the office at least once is a must or else I go nuts and start thinking about my co-workers in less than friendly terms. Today I was ready to go at 3:30 but apparently there was some brouhaha from yesterday about coverage and nobody being here (I was scheduled off so I missed the whole thing)... so instead of standing around waiting for my co-workers to figure out what they should do, I went by myself.

    A couple of months ago, we received a message from one of the executives warning those of us who walk (East LA! I work in East LA!) that a mountain lion had been spotted up in this area, which is literally just above the 710 freeway. There is a helicopter pad and a dog run where the sheriffs' department people bring their K-9 companions for lunch time ball breaks. There's a shooting range. It's definitely not desolate up there. In the communication we were warned not to go by ourselves, and given tips on what to do should we see a mountain lion (don't run, don't crouch down, wave your arms and try to appear larger, fight back, etc.).

    In spite of the mountain lion scare, and because by going alone, I could call my friend Michael earlier in the day rather than waiting to do it on my way home, I was fine with the idea that I had just ditched my co-workers. I was walking up the hill, had just passed the fire station on my right, and I was talking to Michael about some upcoming comedy gigs he has and mocking his pantry and what he would serve a surprise guest ("What are you offering him? Cigarettes and beef jerky?") when coming toward me, down the hill, was the cutest little bunny you've ever seen. He was brown, with a big fluffy white tail. He was running, fast. I interrupted Michael and said (and by "said" you should realize that I mean "screeched") "Bunny!" Michael kept talking. Apparently at this point my voice was only audible to dogs. "Bunny!" I said. "I saw a bunny!" By this time the bunny had bounded toward me, crossed the street, and plunged himself into a big bush of flowers. I laughed - how could I not? Bunnies make me happy! - and Michael laughed, and commanded me to write about it, which I have just done.

    Now, it's not that interesting, what I have just written, but it is done. I am nothing if not obedient.

    When I came back and told my co-workers, who were just then gearing up to go for their own walk, one of them asked how big Mr. Bunny was. "He was pretty small," I said. "Darn," he said. "I'm starting to get hungry." Tomorrow I'm going to recommend that this particular co-worker of mine start taking solo walks. What do mountain lions eat, I wonder...

    (Yes, I am aware that mountain lions probably eat bunnies. Shut up now, please.)

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    A couple things I learned while visiting Las Vegas:

    During the relatively quick trip there (4 and a half hours):
    Patrick has the best music for road trips. Though I may have more actual music on my iPod (over 8,000 songs but it doesn't function in his vehicle) his music has not all been listened to over and over again. My music lacks a certain amount of newness. A sampling of what we listened to from LA to Las Vegas: Meshugga (from Wikipedia: "Meshugga is a Swedish five-piece experimental metal band formed in 1987"), Captain Beefheart (Clear Spot, The Spotlight Kid), Dr. Nico, Melvins, Eric Dolphy, Bolt Thrower, Slayer, Fela Kuti. So we had some avant garde weirdo stuff, a bunch of metal, punk, jazz, afrobeat, and SLAYER. I was most pleased with the Slayer. We pulled onto the Strip listening to Fela, though, and it was perfection.

    About drinking:
    If one is a casual drinker (myself), i.e., I really don't drink very often anymore, maybe once every couple of months, perhaps starting things out with four gin and tonics and half of Patrick's whiskey sour in quick succession was a poor decision. Following the G&T's with a couple of Newcastles? Total insanity.

    However, this face (see photo) can be eradicated quite simply: one must simply drink a ton of water and take a couple of Advil. A couple of hours later, problem solved! Let's do it all over again (with a bit of moderation this time)!

    About hotels:
    We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was fun, loud, young, with lots of fun stuff to listen to and see (including an in-house tattoo parlor). Our room was a bit disappointing but Candice and Adrian's mini-suite with corner windows was really nice. Well, the price was definitely right. We walked around to other hotels and casinos, and finally went to the Wynn, which is, in one word, GORGEOUS. Totally sublime. Elegant. Beautiful floors. Patrick and I had a couple of margaritas while sitting on a heated patio overlooking a lovely pool and waterfall. We were a tiny bit scruffier than the rest of the crowd, but we loved it.

    On foreign languages:
    While visiting the Paris casino, it is funny how funny all the ladies in the ladies room found the translations provided via speakers of "Useful phrases" from French to English ("What happens here stays here," "Would it offend you if I told you how sexy your body is?," "Oh sheet! I lost my wedding ring!"). I'll admit it: I thought it was funny, too.

    On gambling:
    I would prefer to spend my money on drinks and cabs.  

    About showgirls: 
    We saw the classic Vegas production Jubilee! on Saturday night at Bally's (we saw the topless show, not the earlier, family-friendly show), and it was beautiful, fun, and just a bit too long for my teeny attention span (though I suspect Patrick and Adrian will disagree). Those women have beautiful bodies and incredible posture. I got inspired to stand up straight. Shoulders back, chest out: I can do that. Also? I think I need feathers.

    During the longest ride home:
    It took us twice as long to get home as it did to get there. I had received tips from a few friends advising us that Sunday was a bad day to go home, but our schedule couldn't be changed. Patrick is a champ, and didn't need relieving at the wheel (that sounds different than what I was originally trying to say) (also, it took awhile for the giant mimosa I had at breakfast to wear off). Also, it's amazing what Slayer can do. We were in good spirits and had fun. And I learned: never eat an entire can of Pringles during an 8 hour drive.

    Best of all, I was reminded that a road trip to Vegas with Patrick is fun, fun, fun. We laughed so much, and had a great time. More pictures later.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Thanksgiving update:

    Good morning, all,

    Just wanted to let you know that mom has been doing pretty well this week. She sprained her ankle on Sunday while getting out of the car at church, but thankfully nothing was broken, and she's okay. She started physical therapy in the rehab center at Kaiser last week, and this might be a tiny setback, but her spirits are good.

    Tomorrow she has her first round of chemotherapy. She will have chemotherapy one day a week, for two weeks, with the third week off. Then she starts again. We don't know how long the chemotherapy will last yet - she'll get a check up next month and and the doctor will see how she's doing. She had a pretty good experience when she had chemotherapy before, so we're hoping this time around will be just as gentle, though she knows she will probably lose her hair. Hair loss is temporary!

    We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. Is it time to eat yet?

    Today I am thankful for my family, and for you.

    Love you,
    Irene

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    What a mess!

    Yesterday I allowed myself to feel like a 5 year old.

    I was perhaps provoked but still - I'm the one who went there.

    Let's chalk it up to stress and lack of sleep, and not talk about it anymore. Hopefully I will grow up at some point and not let my thin skin become an issue again.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    This is not the news I'm looking for.

    Yesterday kind of sucked. I had a really bad headache at work, and I ran out of Advil last week. All I could find in the office was some Excedrin Migraine that my co-worker gave me. I will tell you this right off the bat: I. Will. Never. Ever. Take. That. Again. Apparently it has caffeine in it. Caffeine and me, we don't get along. I get jittery, heart fluttery, and I was already kind of a nervous wreck. As I was leaving to meet my parents for my mom's doctor's appointment, two of my co-workers wished me luck (they knew where I was going) and I totally lost it. I had to leave, in tears.

    I got to my car and cried for awhile, and I told myself, You can't do this! You have to be strong! I did not want my parents to see me cry. Or, frankly, my co-workers. So I sat there for awhile, and calmed down, and played an old Kevin and Bean podcast, because sometimes they make me laugh. Not so, yesterday, but I suspect it wasn't all their fault. The drive to Culver City was really fast: like 15 minutes (I took the 10 and there was no traffic. I wish I could do that all the time!), and I still didn't feel ready to go to my mom and dad's house, so I stopped at Target to pick up some stuff we needed at home (i.e., Advil).

    When I got to my mom and dad's, they were both fine. My mom was cheery and fine. So I sucked it up and got cheery and fine, too.

    Follows is an email from me to my "mom's army"  about the doctor's appointment. It's much easier to be "cheery" in an email.

    ...

    Hi, everyone,

    Mom had a follow-up with Dr. McRobot today to discuss the results of the CT scan. He found a small lesion on her liver, and is scheduling her to begin chemotherapy starting in the beginning of December. This wasn't the news we wanted to hear, but we're glad Dr. McRobot has a treatment plan, and of course we know that she's blessed to be getting good care.

    Mom goes tomorrow for her first physical therapy session at the rehab center at Kaiser, and we're going to concentrate on her getting stronger and healing her leg and knee. On Friday she'll have more bloodwork done and meet with her very sweet primary care physician, Dr. Holly, and Monday, November 23, we'll go for a "teaching" session to learn about the chemotherapy.

    Thanks for all your prayers! She's scared but thanks to you all knows she has a great support system.

    Keep my dad in your thoughts. This is hard for him, too, and he appreciates your love and support.

    Love you,
    Irene

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Yesterday I was in Target (shopping for a new cabinet thing for the bathroom... I bought one but when Patrick took it out of the box to install it today, it turns out there's a huge crack in the top. I hate it when stuff like that happens. Now I have to find the receipt, take it back, find another one: I just want the damn thing on the wall), and in the deodorant aisle when I heard a kid crying.

    This was not the cry of a child who was hungry or hurt. This was the cry of a kid who was bored and whiny. Choosing a deodorant took a surprisingly long time, so I listened to the kid for awhile, and then I heard mom, who sounded young, pissed off, and desperate. Their one-sided conversation went something like this:

    Mom: "Please stop crying."
    [Crying]
    Mom: "You have to stop crying."
    [Crying.]
    Mom: "Come on, ______, please stop crying. I can't shop like this."
    [Crying.]

    It went on like this for awhile, and then mom's tone escalated from exasperated to... slightly psycho. And yes, meanwhile, I'm wandering the nearby aisles, browsing the hair removal items. 

    Mom: "God! Would you be quiet?"
    [Crying.]
    Mom: "What is wrong with you?"
    [Crying.]
    Mom: "Do you want to go home and see daddy?"
    [Crying, but with an uplifted, hopeful tone. I suspect the kid was interested in going home and seeing daddy.]
    Mom: "If you're quiet I'll get you french fries."

    When I first heard all this, and then I saw mom, who was indeed, very young, I was kind of shocked. I'm not doing a very good job of describing just how inappropriate and scary what mom was saying and the way she was saying it was. When I got my first look at her, she was bent over at the waist, very close to her son, who was probably 2 or 3 years old. He was indeed crying. They were real tears, not fake ones, but there also seemed to be something going on here: it took so long (I eventually walked away and paid for my items, and mom was still there, talking to her now sobbing boy), it just felt wrong. But then I got off my high horse, and realized that I've never been in public with a crying baby. I've never had to reason with someone who is unreasonable, who I'm supposed to be protecting and caring for. Personally, I think I would just turn around and take the both of us home and do my shopping another time, but what do I know? She knew everybody in the vicinity, including a security guard who was hanging out in the hair removal item aisle with me, could hear her, and yet she continued to beg, yell (oh, yes, she yelled), and threaten her little boy. She never touched him, and he must've eventually stopped crying.

    I know being a parent is something most people are totally unprepared for, I know most people learn as they go that bribing your kid with french fries is a bad idea, I know everybody's different and there probably was no underlying story with these two that I need to be worried about, but let's just say that exchanges like this don't make me any more eager to be somebody's mom.

    My cats never cry in public. Never.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Flute lesson - CMA awards

    Last night I had my first flute lesson of the year. I can't remember exactly when I decided to take a break, but I think it was in January or February. I could research this but I'm too lazy, so you're just going to have to take my word for it. It wasn't really a lesson - we didn't do much besides establish that I'll be playing a solo at a recital to take place... next month. I played a couple of scales, and the two movements of the piece I'm going to perform. Since it's been so long since I've worked seriously on anything or since I've been on the spot (there isn't a lot of pressure involved in playing at these recitals - I've been doing them since I was a little kid, but I still get nervous), and there isn't a whole lot of time (I am very slow at learning new pieces) it seemed like a good idea to play something I know. We picked two movements from "Suite de Trois Morceaux," by Godard. Relatively easy, beautiful (if done correctly, which: we shall see), French: it's right up my alley. I'm doing the "Allegretto" and "Idyll" movements. Pretty!

    Having a lesson was fun. Granted, I didn't have to perform: it wasn't like a real lesson, where you have to prove that you actually did some work since the last time you were in that spot (interestingly, I fell right back into place in Patty's living room... I did all the [obessessive/compulsive?] things I always used to do at a lesson, such as needing a glass of water and a tissue right from the start, constantly arranging and rearranging the music stand to fit perfectly in the corner of her green rug, surreptitiously [and I'm sure totally obviously] reviewing the music while she talked to me), but since I didn't have to pretend I had practiced anything out of a study book (ah, those were the days! Slopping my way through an exercise was always so much fun) because she already knew I've been slacking off, I felt totally relaxed. I really like these two movements and so even though it's been at least a couple of years (maybe more but let's not think too much about that) since I first learned this piece I like to get it out once in awhile and make sure it still makes sense. It does. I also like the idea that I'm older now and might have something else to say about the music. I remember working this one up and the ideas that I had in my head from that time, and I think there might be something a little different in there now. I've been playing a lot in flute choir and I do practice on my own, but I have to say that, for me, working on a solo is different. Even if the only people I'm performing for are Patty's young students, their parents, and the old folks from the retirement home she has her workshops in, there's something about working up a solo that's exciting. Maybe it's the thrill of playing with piano (her accompanist, Marc, is an amazing player, and manages to make even your mistakes sound good), or just being on your own in front of people, but I like it. And, I liked the feedback I got from Patty and having to get out of my comfort zone a little and really listen to myself - all the nit picky things!

    ...

    After the lesson, and a quick dinner with Patty (we haven't had much time to chit-chat lately so catching up with her was almost as important as the lesson itself), I went over to spend a couple of hours with my mom and dad. We watched the CMA awards, and surprisingly, I liked what I saw. Not so much all the performances themselves (Taylor Swift is adorable, a wonderful performer, but not the world's greatest singer; Brad Paisley is gorgeous, a great host, and writes horrible, cliche-ridden songs; Darius Rucker sounded really rough and his song was pretty dull; same goes for the Daughtry/Vince Gill duet and the Dave Matthews performance...) but there were a couple that were really good, and I loved that there was so much live music. I totally enjoyed Zac Brown band's version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (that fiddle player was hot - and talented), but my favorite performance was Miranda Lambert's song "White Liar." I thought she was clever, a great singer, and fun. I am not a huge country music fan, but I might seek her out. I also am now curious about Jamey Johnson, who won for song of the year. I wish they'd let him perform it or played it more.

    Right now I think I'm going to go see if I can find "White Liar" on iTunes... I bet I'm not the only one downloading it today.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Not Quite a Book Review: Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

    Over the last couple of days I read two books by Suzanne Collins - "Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire." They're books one and two in a (trilogy?) sci fi/fantasy series for young adults. My friend from Rizzoli who (lucky dog) still works in a bookstore (another one) recommended and got them for me: we both love this kind of fiction and bonded several years ago over the Philip Pullman novels, "His Dark Materials."

    I thought these books were really, really good. Lots of action, teen angst and yearning, they moved along very quickly, and were a very fun read. This is "not quite" a book review because I'm not going to tell you anymore than that.

    Anyway, the best thing was, my friend also got me a funny little lapel pin that figures in the story. I probably won't be wearing it but it was nice of him, no?













    Photo stolen from jabberjays.com, a fan site for the book, and, get this! The movie! It's coming out in 2011. Exciting!

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Update on my mom

    Here's an email I wrote to Mom's Army with an update about my mom.

    The scan I mentioned that she's getting on Thursday makes me a little nervous but I'm trying to start thinking about them like you think about x-rays at the dentist. Then again, I'm not the one who has to get in that machine and wait a week for the results.

    Every once in awhile I read Dana Jennings' blog at the NY Times website on his own "battle with cancer" (the NY Times also has a column on "grammar, useage and style" where they point out misused and overused words that appear in the paper, and "battle with cancer" is one of them, which is why I put it in quotes), and though I don't really know what else he wrote before now, he's a wonderful writer and does a great job. This article about humor and a life-threatening illness is really good.

    ...

    Hi, everyone,

    Just wanted to let you know that my mom has been doing really well! She's had several visits with a physical therapist, is walking a lot more (with the walker) and getting out of the house to do fun stuff like go to the movies or to her friend's house to play games. Her scar is healing nicely and I think her leg/knee looks wonderful.

    Last week a blood test showed that her potassium level was low again, but this may be caused by medication she takes for her high blood pressure (which is perfect, by the way). Her doctor is keeping track of it.

    Mom will be having another CT scan on Thursday, followed by a visit to the oncologist next week. I think she's getting used to these scans but still, they're a little nerve racking for her, as well as the visits to the oncologist, so keep her, and us, in your thoughts.

    Thanks for everything!

    Love,
    Irene

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Like water off a duck's back, or something

    This weekend, I spent part of the day on Saturday over at my parents' house. I took my mom to run a few errands. She's been getting out of the house more now, which is good for her. She's walking great with the walker and has been cruising up and down McDonald Street, but for outings like this, she uses the wheelchair. I was a little nervous about it because it was our first time out, but it was okay. I took her to the Dollar Tree, Target, and Bed Bath and Beyond. I was afraid Target would be a madhouse. It was, but we managed just fine. Next time we're going to leave her wheelchair in the car and use one of the little motorized carts they have at Target. I hope those things have a horn or a bell installed.

    We had a nice time. In spite of what I'm about to say, we have fun together. The only thing that is an issue is me.

    How can I put this and not sound ungrateful?

    My mom is sweet, and loving... but she can also be exacting. She is very, very sharp, and she likes things done in a certain way (I too have this trait, and believe me, it has been pointed out to me by my very patient husband). I vividly remember being a child and being instructed on the right way to dust the living room furniture. It made sense because even I remember that I was a lazy, dreamy child, more interested in whatever book I was reading than in keeping things neat, and without detailed instructions and supervision, I'm sure I would've done a half-assed job. As I got older, this kind of micromanaging made me rebellious, cranky, irritated, and pissed off. I never learned to shake it off, though, maybe my defense was to pretend to not care as much about how neat and clean my own home is now.

    Besides household chores, my mom pretty much has an opinion on everything. It's cool, because you know what? So do I. I'm just as opinionated as she is. It's how we are. But when it comes to commenting on how I should drive, I kind of lose it.

    Don't get me wrong, it's not just her: I don't like anybody criticizing my driving. I mean, why do people feel they can do that, anyway? If I don't like the way somebody's driving, I just make sure I'm buckled in, hold my breath, and count the minutes until I can get out. I think it's kind of rude to comment on it, right? (Though, Patrick, sometimes you really do drive too fast.) I guess I'm sensitive because it took me so long to learn in the first place (I didn't get a car, or my license, until I was 22), and it took me multiple times to pass the test... and my brother used to mock the way I rode a bike. But now I've been driving for quite awhile, and I drive quite a bit, and I think I'm responsible and safe and finally, a good driver.

    My mom and I were driving around Culver City on Saturday, and she said something about something (possible the "right route" to take from their house to one of the places we were going, which was probably different from the way I wanted to go): I don't remember what, exactly. I just remember maybe losing my temper a little (it's possible she'd already made other comments), and I got pissed off.

    There are, I guess, two ways to look at this. One is that I need more self-confidence, because a self-confident person wouldn't be bothered by anyone's criticism, even coming from their own mother. And the other is that I need to control my temper. After all she's been through? I felt horrible. I didn't really say much, I just got mad: I felt it, being mad, and I didn't like it. After a while we laughed about it and talked about other stuff, but I don't know. I felt bad.

    When I got home, I mentioned it to my sister. I said, "I need to learn to be more patient when people are criticizing me." I was general because there was another incident with someone else last week that was kind of on the devastating level, which we won't be talking about here. My sister agreed. She's right: I should be better about handling this.

    It's sort of obvious to me, now that I've written these paragraphs (and possibly was obvious to you, sooner, if you've been here before or actually know me), that the key words here are "self-confidence." Standing tall, and proud; not taking shit in a way that means I think I'm important but not in an annoying way - knowing when it's not worth it to get angry. This seems doable, I guess? I think controlling my emotions is something I need to work on, too. Being nice (instead of snapping back, or worse, sobbing) when someone is heckling you seems counterintiuitive, but what do I know? It might be a good idea to try.

    So I guess I get to be the duck (you knew I'd get to the title of this post somewhere in here, didn't you?). It should be easy: I already walk funny.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    I'm tired

    I'm tired, had an exciting, busy and strangely overwhelming weekend, and I've still got this stupid cough that apparently annoys even my own mother (she's doing great, by the way! Her potassium is still a little low but the doctor thinks the culprit might be a water pill she takes so they're monitoring that. And: she has a CT scan on Thursday, and those are no fun for her at all [and neither is the waiting to discuss it with the doctor], but she's doing well using her walker, and getting out of the house more to do fun stuff like going shopping or to lunch with her friends, or to church). But don't worry: I still have plenty of codeine cough syrup (and if I run out, there's always the J├Ągermeister).

    I did get a wonderful hug on Friday from an old friend, and yesterday I received a very sweet email from an unexpected person, and a lovely thank you gift today from someone else, and I've been a little high on that, so it's not all bad news over here

    I'm not sure that the way I feel right now lends itself to interesting writing though, so I'll just say that after two weeks of rough tech rehearsals and an exciting and successful opening weekend at City Garage, I'm looking forward to getting back on a doable schedule and to getting some sleep. Starting right now.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Please don't call me ma'am...? / or / Covering up a more important issue by talking about myself

    On Saturday, I took my antibiotics and cough medicine and drove to Seal Beach, where I got a facial. Lili, my old (as in "former;" she's probably 10 years, at least, younger than I am) aesthetician retired awhile ago to pursue another career, and I've been without a trusted place to go. I had been seeing Lili's old ("former") boss but it wasn't the same. I didn't expect to find someone as lovely as Lili had been, and I hadn't even really been looking (I pretty much stopped getting facials in favor of this new foot massage place [Rivini Foot Reflexology] that opened by my house). Anyway, the other day Lili made a recommendation, and I made an appointment.

    I was still a little concerned about being sick, but the cough medicine was working, and it turned out to be a great day to get outside during the heat of the morning. Seal Beach was celebrating Halloween in the daytime, and I saw a bunch of cute little kids trick or treating at the shops on Main Street.

    It was a great facial, and Leako (isn't that a cool name? She also has a very cool voice) did a wonderful job. I think all the steam even helped my sinuses or whatever. I didn't cough once. I was relaxed afterwards, and comfortable with her, and I had missed the kind of personal care you get when you get a facial. Also, I don't know about you, but there's something about lying on that table with my eyes closed in that half awake/half asleep mode that gets very close to levitation. I love it. She complimented the quality of my skin and told me that she would've guessed my age at 6 years younger than I actually am.

    I'm not sure how I feel about this. I like being told I look younger: who wouldn't? Several years ago my masseur (the Great and Wonderful Bruce; at 60-something I suppose he could be described as "old" but that's exactly why I was so comfortable with him, and I don't mean because I considered him "harmless," which isn't what I mean at all. He was just a special guy who I was very comfortable with, and who I looked up to) told me that he thought I was 27 (I was not) and I had a hard time accepting that compliment then, too. I mean, I was pretty naked at the time, you know? Using his math and accounting for the years that have passed... both of them had me at around the same virtual age. I'm trying to not make such a big deal out of it - Leako reminded me that to keep my skin looking good, I need to wear sunscreen more often than just when I'm biking or baking in the sun for some reason. And to stop touching my face. It's good advice. I will try to follow it. She used a new sunscreen on me that felt like nothing (a vital quality). But my joy at her statement about my age makes me wonder how important being young and looking young has become to me, and how healthy that is (or isn't).

    (And no, it hasn't escaped me that while both these people are very nice [Bruce and I had an almost friendship thing going on there - we talked about a whole bunch of things unrelated to whatever it is you're supposed to talk about when you're getting a massage, and he had lots of great life experience and stories to tell me that always, always helped me], ultimately, the truth is, they might be capable of saying anything in the hopes that I would be flattered into leaving a bigger tip. I don't think either of them is mercenary; they are earning a living. I get that.)

    Anyway, my joy at being thought I'm younger than I am makes me a little nervous.

    I'm not especially a "girlie" girl. I don't wear makeup often (lipstick: never), or pretty clothes. I don't like to dress up. My work clothes are very utilitarian (I pretty much wear a v-neck sweater every day; a couple of of them have holes). I have about six pairs of earrings but I usually wear the same pair all the time, and my very plain Swiss Army watch, which I wear on my right hand (I'm left-handed). These items, with my wedding ring and a hair elastic around my right wrist are usually my only "accessories." Given a choice, I would happily wear my ratty old Gap jeans rolled up at the cuffs with flip flops and any one of my multitudes of v-neck sweaters or t-shirts every day. Every day. On the weekends I'm rarely in anything else. Oh, I switched it up a little this weekend, I went to the mall to pick up a book wearing capri-length Old Navy sweats, flip flops, a t-shirt, and my hundred year old denim jacket. I'm a tomboy, or maybe just a slob. I get pedicures because honestly, I don't like touching my own feet. I'm slowly losing a few pounds but I'm not "thin." I like to look pretty but my idea of "pretty" and yours are perhaps not the same thing. My hair is too long and messy-looking; my current home dye job is passable but nobody's going to mistake me for Sandra Bullock (she's 8 years older than me). I don't know what I'm getting at with this excessively long description of what I am, and what I am not. Maybe what I'm trying to convince you of is that I'm not vain. But that's the thing: I totally am.

    The other day I had lunch at this yummy Thai restaurant by my house. I was alone (I think it was a Friday). I don't mind eating alone - I had a book with me and I was fine. The waiters and waitresses were sweet, and it was a fine meal. Until the end, when my waitress called me "ma'am." I try not to let that bother me: it's just a way of being polite. Even if I were six years younger than my actual age, the fact that I'm married excludes me from the "miss" pool. Still. I love being called "miss." I love getting carded. I love having the young guys at Von's talk to me in a way I recognize as being reserved for people their own age. I love calling people "dude."

    During the run of the last show at City Garage, one of the actresses from the company worked box office this one night. If they can't find any of the members to do it, I will; it's not a big deal. Though sometimes I bitch about having to do it (I already have a job at the theater, the other members should do it, blah blah blah), the truth is, I really like it, once I stop being nervous about the show. I'm pretty shy, normally, but the patrons are mostly nice and it's fun to talk to people. I miss interacting with strangers like I used to at the bookstore. And these people are not always strangers: some of them are repeat customers, or friends of the actors who I know too, or they remember me from the two shows I was in, and it's always fun when that happens. Anyway, this girl was going straight from the theater to another event in Hollywood. She was gorgeous, as the actresses (and actors) at City Garage tend to be, and dressed to kill. She had on a fringed, short black dress, and gold high heel shoes. She was beautiful, kind, fun to talk to, and interesting. She had a cool accent. She was perfect for the front of the house. I was wearing my uniform of a two-year old, very thin, navy blue v-neck t-shirt from the Gap, my holey jeans, brown leather flip flops, and possibly an army green jacket. Next to her, I looked homeless, or like a particularly endowed boy. I looked like I belonged backstage, possibly with a broom in my hand. It doesn't bother me: looking this way is comfortable and familiar, and I do like it. I can't imagine looking any other way.

    This would be a good place to end today's post if this was really what I wanted to talk about.

    I'm covering up what's really on my mind by talking about my looks. Isn't that typical? The thing that's really been bothering me is, a couple of weeks ago my mother asked me and my brothers to go to church with her (my sister goes more regularly than we do). My mom is a former Catholic, born-again Christian (for 30 years or so now) and attends one of those Baptist churches that profess love for everybody and then the next thing you know, the pastor is espousing opinions about what he considers the sinful lifestyles of the gay residents of Palm Springs that don't jive with the whole "love one another" theme. When I was a child and forced to go to church, the hypocrisy made me sick. I hated going. Catholic church, at least, tended to veil the message in long boring stories. Nothing was said (in those days) that was outright, or at least I didn't understand it to be a condemnation of people who were different. Granted, I was young, and I didn't pay much attention. She switched to Baptist churches when I was around 9 or 10, and went to a couple different ones before finding the one she's gone to for about 10 years now. The last time I went to there, they showed a movie that somehow managed to imply that global warming and the war in Iraq was caused by... sinners (not George Bush and Dick Cheney). Now that I'm older and realizing that my own feelings about religion are just as silly (apparently my beliefs are very similar to "the Force" from "Star Wars"), and my mom's health has become an issue, it bothers me that though she has asked on several occasions for me and my brothers to join her at church, and it seems like an easy request to grant, I just can't seem to make myself go. It would make her happy, it wouldn't hurt me much, it's over soon enough... but I don't know. I don't want to do it. I don't particularly want to discuss it with her, either - we've never agreed much about religion, though I know it gives her so much strength and hope, and her church family gives her so much support. I don't want to do or say anything that would hurt her or seem like I was trying to diminish that. She wants so much for us to believe what she believes. I just can't do it, and I don't know how to keep it balanced: what I believe, and respecting her.

    If there's anybody out there who made it through this whole post who might have a suggestion (if talking about my looks didn't scare you away; it's kind of what I do with how I dress, now, isn't it), let me know. I'd love to hear what other people think.

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Bike ride... sort of

    After not being on my bike for awhile, even though I am still coughing and on antibiotics, I decided not to waste this beautiful morning and to go for a bike ride.

    At about 3.30 miles, I heard a strange sound coming from my front wheel. It went away, so I kept pedaling. Later, I heard it again - sort of a scraping sound. I stopped and checked that my wheel wasn't coming off. I checked that my brakes weren't rubbing. I couldn't figure it out, so I sat there for a minute, and I realized that I had a headache. So I blew my nose, drank some water, and turned around to go home. Then I looked at my computer, which had this readout: Exit.

    Hmmm.

    Then it said, "Reset Odo." My computer's name is Odo? I had no idea. 

    I have a wireless computer, but that's the only thing I know about it. I assume there's some sort of magnet or something attached to the front tire but I have zero clues as to how the thing works. Alberto at the bike shop set it up for me, and I wasn't there, and as long as the thing works, that's all I'm concerned about.

    So this ride was kind of a bust. I went about 7 miles, and the last 3: very slowly. I was tired, my head hurt, it was hotter than I thought it was. Also, my stomach started to hurt, and though I did take my pill this morning with food as instructed, the food was just cheese and crackers. I couldn't get a straight answer when I asked the pharmacist if the "take with food" instruction meant a full-on meal complete with waiters and a cloth napkin, or if I could just eat an apple or something. She was all, "If you don't take it with food you will get a stomach ache." Thank you, Robot Pharmacist. I figured cheese and crackers was "food" enough.

    I figured wrong.

    ...

    Update:

    Oh, and when I got home, and walked in the door, I saw Franny, sitting in the corner, looking very wide-eyed and... guilty. I wondered what she had been up too, and she stayed put while I wheeled my bike over to the other side of the living room, where it lives. When I went into the kitchen to get something to drink, I discovered that while I was gone, she had gotten into the catnip I bought yesterday to go with the new cardboard scratcher thing we got the cats.

    She knew she was bad. And oh, so cute.


    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Nobody wants to hear the details about being sick (updated)

    So I will spare you most of them. I seem only to have a cough*; my favorite, reoccurring cough, which every year brings with it the magic that is... phlegm. Sputum, really.

    (I say "only" because I don't think I have a fever, I'm not vomiting or having other intestinal problems. I'm pretty sleepy, though.)

    There, that's enough for now.

    After doing a little internet reading, I think I might have bronchitis.

    *No, I do not have the swine flu. Stop asking me.

    ...

    Yesterday I went to the doctor. After explaining to him all my symptoms and (most importantly) the color of my phlegm, he deduced that what I have is... an upper respiratory infection.

    From Wikipedia: Onset of the symptoms usually begins after 1-3 days after exposure to a microbial pathogen, most commonly a virus.

    I don't know who exposed me to the "microbial pathogen," but when I find out? HEADS ARE GONNA ROLL. 

    So, I am continuing with my plan of staying in bed, eating soup, and drinking lots of juice and water. I just ventured out of bed to check my email and to consider watching Star Wars (probably "The Empire Strikes Back"). Unfortunately, later I have to go to the theater, where I will have as little contact with other people as possible, to avoid infecting them. It shouldn't be hard: the booth is rather isolated.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Proving that the world is a strange place indeed

    I like to read the "blog" at nytimes.com devoted to style and grammar issues. Sometimes I learn something. Sometimes I find out that I was right all along (the apostrophe some people use when pluralizing abbreviations like "CD" drives me nuts and has driven me nuts forever). Sometimes I read it just to laugh at the funny/ridiculous/psycho comments people leave on a blog about grammar. (Also, it annoys me that newspapers have blogs. Newspapers have columns, and writers. Columnists. Journalists. Journalists are not necessarily bloggers, and bloggers are not necessarily journalists, or writers. The act of writing does not make you [or me] a "writer." There's a difference. I wonder what Katharine Graham would say about this?)

    This comment in particular is a trip:

    October 27, 2009
    11:50 am

    I typed “payed” recently and saw that it was underlined in red, indicating a misspelling. It took me a second to realize what was wrong. Never having misspelled “paid” before, it’s funny that this mistake should suddenly appear.

    — Shaun

    (The writer of the blog had pointed out that "payed" had slipped through as a typo somewhere in some random article. Shaun was responding to that.)

    Here's my response to Shaun, who is so obviously from L.A. that all that was missing was the word "totally" in between the "I" and "typed" in the first sentence:

    Shaun, it is a crazy world, full of strange coincidences that, taken by themselves, seem like nothing. However, if you add them all up - the song you were singing in the shower was the first song you heard when you turned on the radio; the streetlight above your home went out the second you pulled into the driveway; the pretty girl on the bus looks just like your 10th grade girlfriend - they add up to a magical list of... things that mean nothing. So come on, dumbass, pack up your dreamy fictions about coincidence and karma and get off the public library's computer. There's a line of people waiting for that PC and they're starting to get angry (and you do not want to get people who use public computers angry, belive me).

    (And no, Shaun, the word wasn't underlined in red because you misspelled it [or did you? Are the words on the screen words you were thinking or perhaps you've had an episode of automatic writing?], it was underlined in red because Satan is talking to you through your keyboard. What other words were underlined? Are you hearing voices, too? Dude, call the nurse: it might be time for your medicine.)

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    I love Google product search

    I love it not because I actually use it to shop for stuff (I get everything I need at Target, my local Hallmark store, Borders, J. Crew, and the Gap, thank you) but because I love to see what other people are shopping for. And because sometimes I am too lazy/too bored with my own schtick/coughing up my lungs too much to come up with something else to write about. Also, it used to be called "Froogle," and I'm glad they renamed it because "Froogle" reminded me of "the frug," some old-timey dance I'm too young to know about, or "Fraggle," as in "Fraggle Rock," a stupid off-shoot of the Muppet show. I hated those damn Fraggles. Anyway, here's a taste of what people were searching for this morning:

    A few of the items recently found with Google Product Search:
    venetian masks
    spork
    gumball machine
    espn nba basketball
    deep space nine dvd
    atomic clock
    money sorter
    homeworld
    godfather dvd
    back massager
    1 day acuvue
    boat shoes
    birthday card
    flash card
    hotwheels
    firewood rack
    car amplifier
    bottle opener
    carpet shampoo
    frank sinatra cd
    corkscrew
    cat collar
    baby crib
    cpu fan
    desk lamp

    I refreshed four times to find this particular list, and I would like to say that "back massager" appeared twice. Somebody really needs to relax. Carpet shampoo... hmmm. Is that for before or after the "back massager"? I love this list. Venetian masks! Sporks! Cat collar! Boat shoes! Somebody is planning a seriously awesome Halloween party. Also, "birthday card." Hello! That's what the Hallmark store is for, dumbass! And, I didn't know individuals like you and me (as if anybody on the Internet right now is like me) could purchase an atomic clock. I tried reading up on them at Wikipedia to figure this out but I'm on cough medicine right now, am not very smart to begin with, and frankly, don't care all that much.

    On to the next list!

    A few of the items recently found with Google Product Search:
    nikon coolpix
    doormat
    gas generator
    dustbuster
    briefcases
    norton antivirus
    dave matthews
    coffee percolator
    mustache trimmer
    clogs
    foosball table
    superman t-shirt
    gatorade
    baseballs
    ladies watches
    apple imac
    air conditioner
    faux fur coat
    baseball glove
    hip flask
    pony beads
    stationary bike
    frontpage
    elvis costume
    george foreman grill

    I find it very interesting that right after "doormat" comes "Dave Matthews." I wonder if his wife was on Google this morning? Looking for a gas generator, probably. This is actually a much more useful list for me, because you know, I've been looking for a new faux fur coat. I'll need something to cover the Superman t-shirt.

    ...

    Follow up:

    That second list reminded me that I haven't had a new pair of clogs in years, and in fact, the only ones I know the whereabouts of are my hundred year old black Dansko professionals that look awful. So I clicked on the "clogs" list and found these. Are they not adorable? I'm not quite ready for fall and/or winter or to give up my flip flops (I am so lucky to live in California) but these? I might go for these.