Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Summer Saturday

Today was a great summer day.

Jeff and I visited the New Canaan Farmers Market. Our priority was to get some pasta--the best ravioli I've ever had. We also got pesto, hummus, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, kale and chocolate mousse.

Next we headed to the Norwalk Art Festival in Mathews Park. We saw some beautiful paintings, jewelry and some awesome "transformer" wooden baskets. Jeff picked up lunch from Blue Cactus Grill and then we took Lola for an hour walk at the Wilton Loop of the Norwalk River Valley Trail.

We came home and changed and visited a contemporary art fair in Westport. Back home again I made dinner: duck breast with fresh strawberries, sweet potato, asparagus with Parmesan cheese and a salad of tomato and cucumber. Don't forget chocolate mousse and raspberries for dessert. A delicious meal.

To top off the evening the Mets beat the Giants 5-2.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Welcome Summer!

Wednesday was the first day of summer and the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

It was also the opening reception for the Iconic Norwalk photograph competition. Jeff and I went to check it out. It was nice, but smaller than we expected.

Since it was the longest day for us, we took Lola to Taylor Farm for an evening visit.

Looking forward to a good summer.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Live Jazz Night

On Saturday night, Jeff and I went to a jazz show at the Carriage Barn Arts Center in Waveny Park in New Canaan. In addition to the jazz, we saw the current exhibit, and sampled some local spirits and chocolates.

There were a few problems. The venue was too hot; surprisingly that didn't effect me--maybe because I had a cold--but I could see that it bothered Jeff. More importantly, several people just milled around and talked through the entire performance--loudly. I tried to ignore them, but it was hard.

We left a little early because it was hot and I didn't feel well, but enjoyed the music. I expect we'll return to Carriage Barn Arts Center.

Goodbye Bill

Jeff and I went to a memorial service Saturday for our friend Bill who died at the end of April.

I've always thought that funerals are barbaric--gazing at the corpse--hearing people say the deceased looks good. Memorial services are much better. Maybe you can't escape the sadness, but the focus is on celebration.

We saw a slideshow of photographs over the years with the soundtrack of James Taylor's cover of You've Got a Friend and John Denver's Sunshine on my Shoulders. A minister who didn't know Bill led the service. Bill's sister Janet and two friends spoke. The minister ended the service by playing Bill's favorite hymn.

I was surprised to hear about some of Bill's travels. He had been to Nepal and climbed the pyramid at Chichen Itza. Jeff and I also climbed Chichen Itza--we could have shared memories.

I wonder what other friends' stories I've been missing.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Three with Margaret Lindsay

Here a a few of TCM's offerings that I saw over the last few days.

Caught a quickie--60 minutes long--yesterday: 1936's Isle of Fury. In addition to Margaret Lindsay, it stars Humphrey Bogart. The film begins with their wedding, which is interrupted by a shipwreck which brings a new arrival (Donald Woods) as a rival to Bogart. The problem is that the romantic rivalry is never really developed or possibly too subtle under the Production Code. Bogart and Woods become best buddies despite the underlying conflict between their positions. I can't discuss this film without mentioning the stupid octopus attack. The whole sequence makes no sense. Bogart is going pearl diving to show the natives it's not dangerous. But he wears a deep sea diving suit--they have no such equipment. The octopus is ludicrous. Then Woods dives in--sans suit--and saves Bogart. Strange.

I had previously seen and recently recorded Fog Over Frisco (1934.) This stars Lindsay and Woods along with the great Bette Davis. Davis is the "bad influence" sister of Lindsay and is involved in securities fraud. She pays for her crimes by dying halfway through the film. This is one of her few early films that Davis enjoyed. It's fast paced and fairly complex with good San Francisco location shots. Although some IMDB users compared Fog Over Frisco to Psycho, the comparisons are few. Both films involved the star stealing money and both stars died in the first half of the movie.

Today's film was Private Detective 62 (1933). This time Lindsay stars with William Powell. They had great chemistry. Come to think of it, I can't think of anyone Powell didn't have good chemistry with. (I would love to re-watch Fashions of 1934 to see him with Davis.) Powell plays a moral "private detective" in an immoral profession. He reluctantly takes a job to discredit Lindsay, but falls in love instead. He ultimately saves her from being framed for murder.

To sum up: Isle of Fury is only worth watching for fans of Bogart, Warner Brothers B films and bad octopi. The other two are much more enjoyable.

Congratulations Curtis on 300!

Last night Curtis Granderson hit his 300th career home run joining an elite group. 

It wasn't just a personal triumph for Curtis; he broke a 4-4 tie in the Mets' rubber match with the World Champion Cubs.The Mets exploded for five runs in the eighth inning for a 9-4 win.

Last night's win provides great momentum for an important four-game series against the Washington Nationals starting tonight. Dare I hope for a sweep? It will bring the Mets up to .500 and they'll close to 4.5 games behind the Nats in the National League East.

Last Sunday I overheard two guys at Southbury Dog Park discussing the Mets. One thought the Mets didn't have a chance to get back into the pennant race.

I want to hope. I want to believe. It will be tough, but stranger things have happened.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Connecticut Open House Day

Saturday was Open House Day here in Connecticut.

One local event was a tour of WPA murals as well as an outing on a oyster boat. I led one of the mural tours, and Jeff and I were psyched to get out to the Norwalk Harbor on a boat. It was a a beautiful day. We learned a lot about the oyster business.

We also went to the re-opening of Mill Hill. The grounds had been landscaped with new signage added. We also enjoyed an art show which included preliminary versions of Alexander Rummler's WPA murals.

After Mill Hill, we headed home to pick up Lola for an hour hike at Cranbury Park. To top off the day, the Mets swept the double header, and Jeff cooked dinner.

It was a good day.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mis-Scheduling

Last Sunday we bought a dishwasher. Our current machine hasn't been working properly for some time; it would stop in mid-cycle. It wasn't so bad if it happened once, but it got to he point that it took all day to run a full cycle.

I thought the dishwasher would be delivered today. I had selected an 8 to 12 window. But d'uh. The actual delivery date is next Thursday, the 15th. I was annoyed because I adjusted my schedule around the delivery time today. It's not a big deal; I worked on some things that I could do at home, but it wasn't the best use of time.

One of my most exasperating traits is that when I have extra time to get somewhere I manage to just make it or I'm a little late. Similarly when I have a full day to do something, I often don't accomplish anything.

Sometimes this failure to accomplish things extends into weeks. When I have a week free, I often waste most of it.

I've been working on this by tracking my time, making to-do lists and plans. But it's frustrating to see how easily I can be thrown off my game. Next week, I have to devote another morning home for the real delivery. Another day I have to take my mother to her ear doctor.

And so it goes

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Re-reading Game of Thrones with an Assist

I started my re-read about two weeks ago and am around 40 percent through the book (borrowed from my brother.) I'm trying to read carefully to see clues that I missed in my first reading.

Originally I read the book after watching the first season of HBO's Game of Thrones, starting sometime in the summer of 2011. Technically I read a package of the first four books on Kindle. I'm ambivalent on reading on Kindles. It's certainly convenient for carrying a variety of books. On the other hand, I prefer the tactile nature of books. Plus it's so much easier to to move backwards and forwards, to check the maps and appendix of houses.

After several chapters, I remembered this website, Race for the Iron Throne. I have caught up to the chapter by chapter analysis (okay, I still have to read the analysis of the chapter I read last night (listed on the website as Eddard VII.) Race for the Iron Throne analyses each chapter with insights from all of the books of A Song of Ice and Fire as well as HBO's Game of Throne, and historical perspectives.

The show's seventh season will start in five-and-a-half weeks. I'm not sure how far I'll get in my re-read by then. I've decided to re-read the first three books. I'm also re-watching the show on demand. I should be able to keep things straight with help from Race for the Iron Throne.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Twin Peaks Update

Although we still haven't re-watched Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me, Jeff and I started the new season on Showtime. We watched the first three episodes twice. I still don't understand what's going on, but I'm not as lost.

One major issue for me: the show has no charm. In the original Agent Cooper was enchanted by fresh air, pines, cherry pie and coffee. The characters were quirky and intriguing. The new season is lacking all that. It's hardly in Twin Peaks at all: the original show characters mostly appear as cameos.

For now I'll keep watching and hope the charm returns.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Binge-Watching Twin Peaks

I had just gotten to episode two of season one about two weeks ago. Well, I finished the eight episodes of season one and 22 episodes of season two by May 29th. I belatedly discovered that Showtime would only have the original series on demand until May 30th--binge time. Yesterday, I found that Showtime had reinstated the complete series as well as the film Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me. I have to re-watch that film--as I recall it's gruesome--but my memories are vague.

Back to the original series, I loved it originally and on re-watch. My memories of the second season were vague (like the movie.) I think I enjoyed most of the story lines the first time around. On re-watch, I'm more critical.

Going from eight to 22 episodes was a mistake. The writers had to add too many subplots that weren't particularly entertaining. The worst offenders were James and his journey to low-rate noir and Benjamin's Horne's Civil War interlude. Neither story had any relation to the overall season arc.

Another problem was teenage Nadine. This subplot was kind of funny, but again had no relation to the season arc. Hmm, was teenage Nadine was the inspiration for Dena Higley's teenage Jess on One Life to Live? For the record, Nadine's storyline was much better.

We watched the first new episodes of the new Twin Peaks--not sure what to make of it. I think I need a re-watch to figure out what's going on.

A Blessing

Today was a blessing of the animals at Do Ngak Kunphen Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace in Redding. We had driven by the Center before but hadn't visited. The Center is located on 100 acres of woods and meadow. Before the blessing ceremony, Lola loved exploring the grounds. This setting was more dog friendly than the church building where Spike was blessed. Also, this blessing will extend into Lola's next lives. 

We heard from a photographer who's done a series of pit bull portraits with flower crowns. After a series of prayers, we lined up for the blessing. More prayers followed, and then we headed to Putnam Park.

This was our second visit with Lola to Putnam Park. We walked the main loop which took about a half hour before returning home.

All in all, a lovely day.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Five Years Ago Today...

the Mets finally got their first no-hitter. It took 8,020 games (better late than never.)

There wasn't much to cheer about in the 2012 Mets season. Their season record was 74-88, fourth in the NL East. But we had Johan Santana's no-hitter, plus 20 wins and a Cy Young award for RA Dickey.

I haven't given up on this year yet, but the Mets have a long climb just to get back to a .500 record.

I hope to have more to celebrate.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Five of Ten

It's been a while, but today we hit a fifth new hiking spot with Lola. My goal is to go to 10 new spots this year.

Today we visited Farm Creek Preserve in Rowayton. It's a nice property, but much smaller than we expected. It only took us about 15 minutes to walk around it. Lola enjoyed it.

We had to pass Rowayton dog park on the way home. We would have stopped there but the field was closed. Funny at both Farm Creek and and Rowayton, we saw women painting landscapes with dogs at their sides. I wondered if today was paint with your dog day. Lola will have to be much more mellow before I can try that with her.

Then we went to Taylor Farm for a loop around the park. We saw another beagle there and a beagle/English bloodhound mix. From there, we stopped at Nik's for lunch.

I had to tutor later in the day, but Jeff and Lola also visited the Wilton loop of the Norwalk River Valley Trail--a great day for Lola.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Catching Up with a Trio of Bette Davis Films on TCM

Recent TCM offerings include: The Girl from Tenth Avenue, The Golden Arrow and That Certain Woman.

Let's start with The Girl from Tenth Avenue (1935.) This is one of my favorites of the early Bette Davis "fluff" movies. Bette had already shown her acting chops in Bordertown and Of Human Bondage. Warners shouldn't have wasted her in this. But I still found it fun and wrote about it here. I enjoyed Bette's scenes with Alison Skipworth, who coaches Bette on how to be a lady. Full disclosure: The book Mother Goddamn by Whitney Stine with commentary by Bette Davis categorizes The Girl from Tenth Avenue as one of "Three Stinkers All in A Row."

The Golden Arrow: I think this is more of a stinker than The Girl from Tenth Avenue. Here Bette is pretending to be a face cream heiress to get publicity for the company. She inexplicably falls in love with reporter George Brent, who inexplicably falls for her when he learns she's a fake Huh? Enough said. At least The Girl from Tenth Avenue had Alison Skipworth and a thrown grapefruit. What a letdown die Bette from her roles in Dangerous and The Petrified Forest. 

That Certain Woman: This movie annoys me. Of course, Bette and Donald Crisp are good, as are the supporting players, especially Anita Louise. But Henry Fonda can't do anything with the weak character of Jack Merrick. How could Bette love him? Weak is too weak of a word to describe him. As someone who loves soap operas, the plot is too soapy for me. Apparently, Bette thought it was an important step in her career to work with director Edmund Goulding (per Mother Goddamn.) It's hard for me to understand this based on this film.

Luckily, better roles would be coming for Bette.

Sara Paretsky's Fallout

I've read all 18 of the VI Warshawski novels and a few of the short stories. Sometimes it gets hard to keep straight what stories go with what titles. I enjoyed the entire series, but I remember the more recent stories better than the older books. Of the earlier novels, Killing Orders, Blood Shot, Burn Marks and Hard Times are the most memorable.

I read the last six VI books in the last three months. Of these, I liked Critical Mass and the latest Fallout the best.

Fallout takes VI out of Chicago and into Lawrence, Kansas (hometown of Sara Paretsky.) VI's case combines unknown parentage, drug abuse, mental illness, political protest, national security and missing persons. VI breaks down barriers of small town residents closing ranks and racial prejudice to solve the case.

As a dog lover, I especially enjoy Peppy's role in saving the day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Midweek Update

Monday was my birthday. I'm not crazy about my age, but that's no reason not to celebrate. I'm not about to lie and shave years off my age. Age is probably the best reason to say, "It is what it is."

I had some vague ideas about my day: go to the gym, take a long walk with Lola, go to the antiques center in Norwalk (I've never been) maybe do something arty, maybe look for hiking boots.

I did none of the above.

On Friday night, I had an accident with Lola at the dog park, and ended up with a sore right shoulder and a pulled muscle in my right thigh. I still haven't gotten back to the gym. It rained most of Monday. I took Lola to Oystershell Park, and we were soaked after our half hour walk.

I vegged most of the day, playing yahtzee, re-watching Twin Peaks (before we watch the revival.)  I did a little work, checking answers to a practice SAT test I had taken on Sunday afternoon. Jeff started a new project and got home before 5. We went to Sedona Tap House for charity steak with our friend Chris. We were home by 7; it felt like 10.

***  

Jeff is able to sleep in for an hour and a half longer now than he did when he worked in lower Manhattan. He's also home about an hour earlier. It's a nice change, but I'm still getting used to it. 

***

On Saturday afternoon, I met Jeff and Lola at Bruce Park after I tutored in Greenwich. It's always fun to surprise Lola--I also did it at Taylor Farm yesterday. I like to see the moment when she recognizes me and runs toward me. I saw several black squirrels at Bruce Park. There is one iconic black squirrel at Taylor Farm. I got a kick out of seeing so many on Saturday. I took a few photos but couldn't get close enough to get a good one. 

***

Today I took Lola back to the Wilton loop of the Norwalk River Valley Trail. She likes to take the shorter loop from the parking lot on Autumn Ridge. I saw several chipmunks; they are so cute. I chose NRVT because it is an easy walk. Yesterday I stepped funny on a branch and it hurt my pulled thigh muscle. I had the idea of taking Lola to Cranbury but thought it might be too ambitious. 

***

I'm bummed about my accident with Lola. I had been getting into a good workout groove. It's so hard to get there, but so easy to lose the routine. 

***

I finished the latest Sara Paretsky book, Fallout  last week. A post will follow. I'm re-reading Game of Thrones. Maybe I'll re-read the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire. I'd like to compare Book Two Arya with Roose Bolton to show season two with Arya and Tywin Lannister. Then there's the Red Wedding in Book Three. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

TV Time--Spring 2017--Part Two

Girls: I'm ambivalent about this show. I've enjoyed it enough to watch every episode, but I don't like any of the characters. I didn't like the Hannah pregnancy story line though it was better than I expected. 

The Expanse: We started watching this show because it was described as "Game of Thrones in space." That's not an accurate description beyond the fact that there are various factions competing for power: earthers martians and belters. What will happen next with the protomolecule?

Feud: We recorded this and still have three more episodes to watch. As a huge Bette Davis fan, I was psyched to see this. I was curious to see how Susan Sarandon handled the role. She had been a favorite of mine, but lately she's bugged. I don't care that she supported Bernie Sanders, but she was so dismissive of anyone who supported Hillary. She claimed she didn't vote with her vagina, implying that's what Hillary supporters did. But she ended up voted for Jill Stein. Was her vagina involved?

At any rate, I try to watch performances without thinking about politics. Sarandon is pretty good as Davis. Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford is also good, though I'm less familiar with her story. Kathy Bates is how I imagine Joan Blondell and Catherine Zeta Jones exudes Olivia de Haviland's sophisticated cool. Looking forward to catching the rest of the series.

Fargo: The third season has a new cast and a new set of characters. I must admit that I'm not enjoying this season as much as I enjoyed previous seasons, especially season two.But it's still a good show, and I can't wait for the next episode. I'm intrigued by the Stussy brothers as well as Nikki Swango.

Twin Peaks: The new Twin Peaks or return to Twin Peaks or whatever is starting tonight. But I don't feel ready for it. I barely remember the second season. I've read that one should watch both seasons and the movie Fire Walk with Me before watching the new show. So far we're on the second episode of the first season: a long way to go.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lola's Hiking Philosophy

When we're at parks, Lola likes to go off the trails through fields and woods. As we crossed a field at Winslow Park on Thursday, I remembered this quote that describes her approach:

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. 

I garbled it a bit, I thought it was "do not follow where the path may lead," but I got the gist of it. Later I googled it to see the correct words and author--Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

I had posted a card with that quotation above my desk in my University of Delaware dorm room. I was idealistic then, with hopes of changing the world. I had vague dreams of going into politics and becoming a Senator. Maybe I haven't accomplished much, but at least I've changed Lola's world.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

TV Time--Spring 2017

It's been a while since I wrote about TV shows that we watch. So here goes.

Face Off: This remains my favorite reality show. The best part of it is the cooperation and camaraderie among contestants. There's little drama besides contestants missing their families. Season 11 ran from January through April. All contestants had participated on the show in earlier seasons, and they started off competing in teams. Most contestants were from recent seasons (four from seasons nine and 10; 11 from seasons six through eight; one from season one.) I would have enjoyed seeing more contestants from the earlier seasons.

Gotham: As I wrote, I wasn't impressed with the first few episodes after the fall finale. They seemed shoehorned in. Now we're back to the Court of Owls and their fiendish plans. Recent shows have been better, but it appears the writers are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

Sleepy Hollow: I stuck with this show, despite misgivings. I couldn't get into the new characters and setting, and I missed Abby. Just heard last week that the show was canceled.

Hawaii Five O: I started to watch this show mainly because Jeff likes it. But it's pretty good with complicated, ongoing plot lines as well as some humor.

Ripper Street: Jeff and I enjoyed this show from the beginning. For some reason we missed some episodes on BBC America, but were able to catch up on Netflix or Amazon. I have to commend one episode, "Live Free, Live True." The mystery of the week centered on a woman who led her life as a a man to protect herself from her mother's tragic end. A tragedy all women could share without access to contraception and abortion.

To be continued.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ladies Who Lunch

Today is my mother-in-law's birthday (and mine is next week.) My sister-in-law took us both out to lunch. My mother-in-law lives in Southbury, and we went to John's Cafe in Woodbury. The food was excellent: I had a power bowl with shrimp, spinach, quinoa, strawberries, almonds, vidalia onions and balsamic. We shared two desserts.

It was a nice, leisurely lunch. I could get used to this lifestyle.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Miscellaneous Mother's Day Musings

Once again my mother screwed up my mother's day plans.

It was tough figuring out what to do with her. She doesn't like to go to restaurants; she doesn't even enjoy eating. Jeff was spending the day with his mother; my brother had to go out of state to pick up furniture or something. Eventually, I decided to cook crab cakes from Bon Ton's and make a Caesar salad. My mother likes both items on my short menu.

I called last night to confirm. I didn't set a specific time for lunch. I told mom that I wanted to go to the gym in the morning. I wouldn't be there before 12, but would call when I was ready to leave home.

I got up at 8:30, lingered over coffee and writing my journal and made a protein drink before going to the gym. I had an abbreviated workout (no cardio) then headed to Shoprite. I needed romaine for the salad and wanted to get some flowers. I picked up freshly dipped chocolate strawberries, a dozen roses and a small orchid. I had to shower, dress, clean lettuce, grate the Parmesan cheese, make cocktail sauce, and pack up the ingredients.

At 12:45 I got into the car and called mom. She said she had already eaten lunch. She claimed she had no idea when I was coming and figured I was coming for dinner instead of lunch. She forgot last night's conversation. So why didn't she call me? Why did she just make assumptions? Her assumptions are always wrong. I was so angry--still angry when I arrived at her place. Glad that I had gotten the strawberries and flowers. But my main gift idea was wasted.

I ate salad by myself and my mother served ice cream for dessert. We visited for about two hours.

I took Lola to hike at the Norwalk River Valley Trail. As soon as we left the car, I felt raindrops. We only walked for about 15 minutes because the rain got stronger. The rain turned into a sunshower, our second in the past month. Before I was even halfway home, the rain had stopped. I felt bad for Lola, but was wet and uncomfortable and wanted to come home.

At that point, the Mets were ahead of the Brewers by 7-1. They ended up losing 11-9--a sweep. I had seen a newspaper at the gym Friday with the headline: Why does God hate the Mets? I hadn't heard about Jeurys Familia's blood clot. Maybe the curse that I speculated about has been re-animated.

Speaking of the gym, I broke my pattern of going to the gym four times a week after three consecutive weeks. It's my fault. I had dressed for the gym on Monday morning. But by the time I was ready to leave, it was 9:30. I blew off the gym because I had to do six loads of laundry (postponed from Friday because of brown water in our pipes) and go food shopping. At the time, I didn't know that my mother had an appointment with her eye doctor on Wednesday. Yes, I could have gotten up at 5 AM on Wednesday to go to the gym or could have gone Wednesday afternoon, or even at 5 AM Saturday, but I knew that none of these options were likely. I don't care about the streak that much. I still managed three gym visits this week and several walks/hikes with Lola, so I'm good. I went to the gym this morning: a good start to the week.

I met with two new tutoring students this week: another good thing. Both are prepping for the SAT. I've done ACT exclusively for the past several months. It's good to work on the SAT because I'm teaching a SAT class in July.

And so it goes.

Reading Update

I've hit my goal of reading 12 books this year--just about a third of the year through. Since my last reading post, I've read two books.

Deep Pockets by Linda Barnes: I enjoyed this Carlotta Carlyle mystery. A Harvard professor is being blackmailed over an affair with a student who died under gruesome circumstances. But things aren't what they seem.

I had forgotten about Roz, Carlotta's tenant, house cleaner and Internet searcher extraordinaire. I'm not sure why--she's memorable. I previously wrote that Kinsey and VI were involved with musicians. Carlotta had been married to a musician like Kinsey. VI is seeing one (as of the last book I read in the series Brush Back.) I learned in Deep Pockets that Carlotta had a baby and put him/her up for adoption when she was 15. I wonder how that will impact Carlotta in the future. It informs part of her relationship with "little sister" Paolina, but isn't simply a case of cause and effect.

A Dog's Life by Peter Mayle: My mother-in-law recommended and lent me this book. As its title implies, it's a story of a dog's life from a rough beginning to finding good home. His observations on human dinner parties are funny.

On Friday, I got the latest Sara Paretsky book, Fallout. I've only read the first chapter so not much to report.

My brother lent me Game of Thrones. I had read it on the kindle as part of a four book package. I prefer the old fashioned feel of books. Also books are easier to browse than Kindles (especially four book packages.) It should be interesting to re-read Game of Thrones after watching the show.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teacher Appreciation

Yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day and the start of Teacher Appreciation Week in the US.

Appropriately, I had my first tutoring session in about a month yesterday. Last night I received an email from the student's mother. She said I was very good, very well organized and very effective, and my student learned a lot about test taking skills.

That made my day.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Tuesday and Saturday Night Massacres

I usually watch news in the morning--most often CNN, but I also watch local news. If I'm in the car, I listen to news throughout the day. I generally don't watch any evening news.

It was close to 10 PM before I read that Trump had fired FBI Director Comey.

Comey hadn't been on my radar for most of his tenure. I probably couldn't have named him before he excoriated Hillary Clinton for her email server. I'll never forget his damning letter to Congress about Hillary days before the election. Just last week Comey screwed up in stating the number of documents Huma Abedin forwarded to her (then?) husband. It wasn't "hundred and thousands of emails." Let's just say, I'm not a fan.

But why fire him now when Comey is leading an investigation into connections between the Russians and their hackers and Trump campaign officials? At a minimum, a bare minimum, this has all the hallmarks of the appearance of impropriety. Unfortunately appearances of impropriety are standard in the Trump White House.

There are so many other things wrong with this...

Is this the 21st century version of the Saturday night massacre when Nixon fired Special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox?

Well, the Trumpians didn't try to hide the firing on a slow news Saturday night but only because they misread how the Democrats would react. They figured that since the Democrats don't like Comey, all would be fine.
***

I can't help but remember that Saturday night 44 years ago.

I was a freshman in college and had just returned to my dorm room. I turned on the TV and the firing was all over news. I didn't really get what it all meant, but I knew it was bad. It worried me. I ended up staying up late and watching The Caine Mutiny. That didn't help: the paranoid Captain Queeg was too similar to President Nixon.

Tonight I'm bothered enough to stay up and post about Comey's firing. I'm not sure what this means. But I'm more afraid than I was back in 1973. Back then, there wasn't such a partisan divide, Back then Republicans had principles. Everything wasn't about tax breaks for the rich.

Every day with this President is a new disaster. I don't know what else to say.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dog Festival

Today we went to the Westport Dog Festival at Winslow Park. Lola and I go to Winslow about once a week; she always enjoys herself there. The parking lot was full so we had to park across the street about a block away. We were pleasantly surprised at how well Lola handled it--even walking on the Post Road.

The front part of the park was fenced off and we waited to pay the entrance fee ($10) and sign a waiver. Three food trucks were stationed by the entrance. We got grocery bags with the Choice Pet logo (the main sponsor) coupons, a sample of dry dog food and a full poopy bag holder (full of bags not poop, just to be clear.) Tables and tents lined the perimeter of the field: pet food, pet services, vets, WEBE radio and more. In the middle of the field were rings set up for various competitions and doggie fun zone--an obstacle course. (Spike used to run a longer doggy fun zone at Taylor Farm on Greenwich Kennel Club show weekends.)

We got about half way around the tables when Lola was getting a little freaked by all the other dogs and little kids. So we left the festival area and walked around the rest of the park. We returned and saw the rest of the exhibitors, including our food vendor and our vet. Hopefully we'll win the vet's drawing for a free visit. The three of us took another loop around the back of the park, checked out the food trucks. We didn't see anything that interested us, so we went to Nik's Place for lunch.

The weather could have been nicer, but it was still a good time.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Happy Birthday Lola!


We don't know Lola's real birthday. We designated today as her day mainly because it is Spike's half-way day. Making today her birthday gives Lola a link to Spike.

Unfortunately, today was not the best. It rained all day. Lola and I managed a walk with just light rain by going out around 7 AM. We returned home to brown water running from our spigots. I didn't wash my hair. I didn't do the laundry. I was hesitant to clean veggies and cook with the brown water.

We got take-out for dinner. Jeff brought home steak for a proper celebration tomorrow. He assures we that Lola won't mind waiting another day.

We'll make it up to her.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Today's Trail

Today Lola and I headed back to Wilton. We picked up what I thought was a trail from a commuter lot on Route 7. It's hard to see on this map because I can't zoom in. It seems to be part of a proposed route for the Norwalk River Valley Trail. I saw pink colored plastic pieces tied on trees. A preliminary blaze?

The current path is narrow and overgrown. We walked over logs and branches (Lola went under a few.) After 12 minutes, we turned around. A tree had fallen and branches blocked our way forward. Someone had been there before us. I saw a few beer cans, that I later used to help navigate back to the commuter lot.

I'm not going to count this as one of ten new hiking areas for 2017. It was a bit too rugged, and there were too many ticks. I took three off Lola and two off myself.

Yuck.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Goal Review and Update

Today is the 121st day of 2017--33.15 percent through the year.

Here's a review of my goals

Stop drinking for six weeks--completed

Read 12 books--I'm in good shape here: I've already read 11 books, read half of another, re-read one (possibly two.) I'm reading what I feel like, not necessarily great literature. Eight of the books are mysteries (not that there's anything wrong with that.) I'm not going to stop here; I hope to branch out to a few more challenging works. 

Explore 10 new hiking spots--We've explored four in Wilton: two legs of the Wilton loop of the Norwalk River Valley Trail, Schenck's Island and Bradley Park. Ahead of schedule and know of a few more places to explore. 

Write 255 blog posts--I have 65 counting this one. 25.49 percent of my goal. I'm behind schedule here. 

Go to the gym 150 times--today was my 30th visit which is 20 percent of my goal. Again behind schedule.  

Spend 10 hours each week on non-blog writing--?

Spend 10 hours each week on job hunting--?

I have a question mark for the last two goals. I know I've done some work on both, but haven't tracked it. 

I know where I need to focus.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Another Poem: If Spring Were a Color

I recently wrote a post about the color of spring.

As I looked for my jigsaw poem, I found the following, one of several poems I wrote in April 2013:


If spring were a color
it would be green
of tree buds and grass shoots
and in the Crayola canon it is

If spring were a color
it would be yellow      
of sunshine, daffodils and forsythia

If spring were a color
it would be blue
of robins’eggs and sky

If spring were a color
it would be purple
of crocuses and lilacs

If spring were a color
it would be white
of pear blossoms that fall like confetti

If spring were a color
it would be pink
of cherry blossom trees along the national mall

If spring were a color
it would be a rainbow
of warmth, hope and renewal.

Jigsaw: A Poem

It's the last day of National Poetry Month. I wrote this poem last summer based on visits to Pine Island Cemetery in Mathews Park with Lola and this photo.



Historic Pine Island Cemetery

headstone broken in pieces

jigsaw puzzle of a life.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Three Park Day

Yesterday was the nicest day of the year. I knew it would be a great DPF. I decided to also take out Lola earlier in the day. I had two reasons: it was the nicest day of the year and I thought that if Lola got out earlier, maybe she'd be more sociable at DPF.

Around 1, we headed to Mathews Park. If Lola gets over her fear of walking on sidewalks, we could walk there--it's about four blocks away. She likes Pine Island Cemetery. The Norwalk portion of the Norwalk River Valley Trail goes from Pine Island Cemetery to Oystershell Park; we did a lap there and returned to Mathews.

I was proud of Lola for her ease in crossing the street. When we first approached it from the cemetery, she pulled back. Just our luck, a bunch of cars passed by. Normally the street isn't that busy. After that initial hesitation, she was fine. Progress.

Later we went to Taylor Farm for DPF. We walked around the perimeter of the back field before joining our friends. It was a great day.

Film Round-Up

It's been a while since I've posted about films I've recently watched, so here I go.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie: I wasn't sure what to expect from the movie. I don't think the later seasons of the show were as funny as the first three. And after all this time... But I loved it. It was a lot of fun. In a way it reminds me of Veronica Mars: The Movie: I'm not sure if people who didn't love the show will really appreciate the movies. At least non-show film-watchers won't recognize and know the history of many characters.

Scarlet Street: I found this on TCM one afternoon. I had missed the first 10-15 minutes but didn't think this was a problem because I'd seen the film before. (A few weeks later, I caught the beginning.) But, as I watched I realized I didn't remember it. It wasn't that I confused the film with The Woman in the Window. I remember that film clearly: the same director and main cast of Scarlet Street. I haven't seen The Woman in the Window in years but it was weakened by the "it was a dream" ending. I read somewhere that the studio (International-RKO) required director Fritz Lang to film the "dream" ending. I prefer Scarlet Street and its "real" ending. Robinson is awesome as the mild-mannered, hen-pecked clerk who thinks he found the woman who understands him. He is an actor of great range--far beyond the Little Caesar-type gangster that most people remember. Dan Duryea shines as the pimp/boyfriend of Joan Bennett, the object of of Robinson's affections. Duryea is always great as a sleaze--I especially loved him in Too Late for Tears and The Little Foxes--the latter is only his second screen credit. Joan Bennett is good at Kitty--she's playing roles of sweetheart and artist--but in reality she's a scheming opportunist.

The Maltese Falcon (1931): The first of three versions by Warner Brothers holds up well although it pales in comparison to the iconic 1941 version. (We should all forget about the 1936 version Satan Met A Lady--even Bette Davis couldn't save that one.) Ricardo Cortez is underrated; he does a good job as Sam Spade. I also liked Bebe Daniels. But I missed Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook Junior. All three were much more memorable than their 1931 counterparts. I disliked the 1931 ending when Sam visits Ruth Wonderly in prison. The 1941 ending with Spade and Polhaus discussing the "stuff that dreams are made of " is stronger and quoteworthy.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Small Victories

I haven't done all that well year-to-date on my annual goals. Each day I seem to lament what I didn't get done/what I should have done.

So in this post, I want to talk about a few things I've done right this week.

I went to the gym four days this week--only the second time this year.

I went through all my blouses in both closets and culled the blouses that I want to keep and will give the others to Goodwill. I still need to re-organize the clothes in my drawers--I have too many t-shirts.

As part of my prep for my performance evaluation, I went through several folders of tutoring notes. I recycled most of the papers and saved what I needed. This is the first step of a major re-organization.

First steps can be hard. I'm glad I made first steps on three projects this past week.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Anniversary to Lola!

We celebrate one year with Lola today. We wanted to go for a hike at Lake Mohegan or Babcock Preserve, followed by a visit to Sedona Tap House. Unfortunately, it was raining when we walked outside. We decided to try the part of the Norwalk River Valley Trail that Lola and I visited Thursday from Sharp Hill Road to Twin Oak Lane. The rain stopped and we enjoyed a walk of about 40 minutes.


Lola is standing in form of a display of "hero rocks."




To the left of the rocks is a sitting area (although hard to make out in this photo.)


On the way home, I saw signs for the Wilton Library Book Sale. I ran in while Jeff and Lola explored Schenck's Island. I had recently discovered Schenck's but didn't know how nice it was. Lola and I will return: three of ten.

It started raining again, so we couldn't dine outside at Sedona Tap House. We picked up a steak sandwich and fries and had a late lunch at home.

Now I'm headed into the kitchen to make duck breast and salmon for a special dinner.

Reading the (Female) Detectives

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been reading mysteries. After I read Breakdown, I read Brush Back, which had been the latest VI Warshawski mystery. Last Sunday's New York Times reviewed a new book, Fallout. 

I went to the library: I'm fifth on the Fallout waiting list. The library expects to receive multiple copies, so the wait might not be too long.

I just finished Critical Mass. This book takes place between Breakdown and Brush Back, but I missed it. I also picked up Deep Pockets, a Carlotta Carlyle mystery. By googling, I discovered there's a later Carlotta book I haven't read (Lie Down with the Devil.)

Most mystery/detective books I've read feature female detectives. Nancy Drew is the first series I remember reading; I was in a book club and received monthly installments. I also read Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton and the Dana Girls.

The first VI Warshawki and Kinsey Millhone books were published in 1982. Carlotta Carlyle first appeared in 1987. I'm not sure how I found VI or Kinsey or which one I read first, but obviously, I've enjoyed both series.

They are similar in some ways: both are licensed private investigators, divorced, runners, involved with musicians at some point, often at odds with the police, committed to their clients, smart and determined. Both have older male neighbors as confidants and friends.

Kinsey is a loner, almost anti-social. She's an orphan without family at least for part of the series. In later books, Kinsey discovers relatives from both sides of her family. She seems to have only one friend--Henry, her landlord and neighbor. In the series Kinsey's had three short-term romantic relationships. Kinsey was once a police officer before she went private. She never seems to cook--eating cereal, sandwiches, Big Macs and strange meals at Rosie's Tavern. One last thing that makes a big difference in her stories--Kinsey is "trapped" in the eighties--the setting of her mysteries--in her thirties.

VI is more social and comes from a large family. Friends and relatives are the catalysts for many of her cases. I think she has had three long-term relationships--although I'm not sure about the length of one (Conrad)--and a few other relationships. VI loves food and is a good cook. She is also a singer. VI is a feminist and a progressive; most--if not all--of her cases involve white collar crime. One predictable thing in VI mysteries--the rich/corporate people are almost always the guilty criminals.

I haven't read a Carlotta Carlyle mystery for years. She's tall, red-headed, a cab driver, a former cop, a guitar player. Carlotta has a long term off and on relationship with her cab company boss (or owner?) Sam, who has a mob family background. Carlotta is a devoted Big Sister.  I don't remember many details. I'll have to write more after I read Deep Pockets.

I prefer to read about female detectives, though I've read about male detectives such as Spenser, Lord Peter Wimsey and Sam Spade. I identify more with the women, I guess. There's no residual narrative sexism. (Hmm, what exactly is residual narrative sexism anyway? I like the phrase: did I just invent it?)

I'm  not sure if I'll continue with my mystery reading binge. For now, on to Carlotta.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Two of Ten

Lola and I returned to the Wilton Loop of the Norwalk River Valley Trail.We waited until late afternoon: it rained in the morning, and I was doing laundry in the afternoon.

This is the second new trail for us; my goal is to take Lola to ten new hiking spots this year. 

We started in the parking lot on Autumn Trail that we discovered last Saturday. My plan (same as Saturday's) was to walk for a half hour and then turn back. After 20 minutes, the trail ended. We continued around a curve but that also ended. We still had a nice walk. We saw a few joggers and a few people with other dogs.

Lola enjoyed herself, but seemed to want to walk longer. There will be other days.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Back to the Gym

I returned to the gym after a week-and-a-half. It would have been easy to blow it off today--I didn't manage to get there until after 10. It helped that I dressed in my gym clothes first thing.

I had a decent workout: back, biceps, abs and 30 minutes on the cross-trainer. Often the first return visit after a break is a tough one, so I was  relatively pleased.

In my off-gym time the past week-and-a-half, I wasn't completely sedentary. That helped. I went on three hikes, (Lake Mohegan and two at Cranbury Park) a long walk (the Wilton branch of the Norwalk River Valley Trail) and two home exercise sessions. Plus a few shorter walks with Lola.

My plan is to hit the gym four times this week and take many long walks with Lola.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Brunch, A Hike, A Sunshower

Today was a unseasonably warm Easter with temperatures in the low 80's. We joined Jeff's family for brunch at The Ridgewood Country Club. We had custom Bloody Mary's made tableside, with choices of vodka, other ingredients, rim, and garnishes. Among many other offerings I had clams on the half shell, lobster roll, blueberry pancakes, bacon, a scone, ham, green beans, mac and cheese, salad and mini lemon pudding cakes for dessert. It was delicious.

We returned home, changed clothes and took Lola to Cranbury Park for a 1.25 hour hike. The carving on this tree caught my eye. Let's go Mets!



Here's a picture Jeff took of Lola today. 




We drove home from Cranbury Park in a sun shower. Unfortunately no rainbow appeared afterwards.

***

I forgot to post this photo from Lake Mohegan last Sunday, but it seems appropriate today; paper Easter eggs strung on the lower branches. Pretty good picture, considering it was so bright I couldn't see the image on my cell phone.




Saturday, April 15, 2017

Today's Walk

One of my goals this year was to explore ten new hiking spots.Today we explored one--the Wilton loop of the Norwalk River Valley Trail. We walked from Route Seven, across from Orem's Diner, to Sharpe Hill Road.

I loved the part of the trail we walked. Although close to Route 7, we walked through woods and wetlands for about 35 minutes before turning back. We found another parking area so we can use that as a starting point next time.

This route will become part of Lola's regular hiking rotation.

Friday, April 14, 2017

First DPF of the Season

Tonight was the first warm, dry Friday since the beginning of daylight savings time--that means the first Dog Park Friday (DPF.) About 10 of us gathered today at Taylor Farm.

The Parks Department had taken the picnic table away, so many of us brought out our own lawn chairs. Other than not having the table, it was a wonderful evening. A few people commented on how Lola was more outgoing and more comfortable with others. 

We toasted to the first of many Fridays.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Color of Spring

Spring officially began about three weeks ago. But I feel that it's here for real now: that we've finally escaped winter's icy grip (purple prose alert.)

I was thinking about the color spring green (though what I remember from my box of Crayola crayons is different from the wiki spring green.) I've been admiring sunny, yellow daffodils and forsythia in my travels the last few days, instead of green.

It is that yellow that symbolizes spring for me.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Reading Round-Up

This year I've read the following books.

The Boleyn King--My comments are here.

Outlander

V is for Vengence--a Kinsey Millhone mystery

Kinsey & Me--I only read about half of this book--the short stories about Kinsey. I read two of the other pieces about an alcoholic mother, but found them depressing so I gave up.

Hardball--a VI Warshawski mystery

Body Work---another VI Warshawski mystery

The Handmaid's Tale--this was a re-read; I think my third time reading this book.

Women of Wonder--The Classic Years. I bought this book in 1996; I know because I found the sales slip among the pages. (I also bought  Women of Wonder-The Contemporary Years.) I only remember one story from The Classic Years: "Of Mist, and Grass and Sand." I read that in a short story collection by Vonda N. McIntyre. The story was expanded into Dreamsnake, one of my favorite books.

W is for Wasted--a Kinsey Millhone mystery. This book got off to a slow start. Usually I enjoy reading about Kinsey's lifestyle, her neighbors and Rosie's Tavern. This time it seemed to go on a chapter too long. Once the mystery kicked in gear, I enjoyed it.

X--the latest for Kinsey. While not a true sequel to W is for Wasted, it features some of the same characters. I liked that Kinsey found the good side to a guy she had disparaged.

Currently I'm reading Breakdown featuring VI Warshawski.

I've read seven books so far this year. Maybe another half for Kinsey & Me. One re-read, and I'm not sure how to classify Women of Wonder--The Classic Years. Regardless, I'm in good shape to reach my goal of reading at least 12 books.