Monday, January 30, 2017

Movie Time

We watched the Ghostbusters remake this weekend. Full disclosure--I wasn't much of a fan of the original. I thought it was dumb. I thought the same of the remake. I don't know why people were so angry about the remake. Oh wait--I do. They were sexist bigots.

Another dumb movie: Escape in the Desert. I recorded it because it was  described as a remake of The Petrified Forest. It wasn't really a remake. There are only the bar bones of the original story. The setting is a restaurant/bar in the middle of the desert. A young woman--a frustrated painter--feels trapped. There's some beefy guy who likes the painter, but she's not interested. Instead of Duke Mantee and his band of bank robbers, there are escaped Nazis. I read this movie was rushed to take advantage of a real Nazi prisoner escape. It wasn't worth the effort.

Hope our next movie selections are better.

Friday, January 27, 2017

More Favorite Films

One of my first posts listed my five favorite movies. I decided to expand my list. I'm not putting this in any particular order.

The Best Years of Our Lives: I wrote about it here. It's a great film with a wonderful cast.

All About Eve: One of Bette's best performances--posted about this film too.

F/X: I learned to appreciate Brian Dennehy from this film.

The Hidden: just re-watched this tonight after years. It still holds up.

It's A Wonderful Life: not just a Christmas favorite.

Laura: Dana Andrews falls in love with a murder victim, or did he?

Double Indemnity: a classic noir

Too Late For Tears: a rediscovered noir

The Sea Hawk: swashbuckling Errol Flynn at his best

Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase: Bonita Granville may not be the Nancy Drew of the books, but she's fun.

Black Sunday and Kiss of the Vampire: 60's movie matinee horror at its best

Smart Blonde: the first Torchy Blane film

Auntie Mame: have this on the DVR to rewatch soon.

Little Miss Sunshine: a crazy road trip, Proust, a self-help course and a beauty contest

Silver Linings Playbook: I need to rewatch this to see if I still like it as much as I did.

Marked Woman: Bette against the gangster responsible for her sister's death

Dick: the "true" story of Watergate

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mid-Week Musings

It's been a weird week.

Something is off.

I can't explain it.

It's not that I feel bad. I'm fine.

I don't think it's because it's the first week of the Trump Administration. At least I hope not: I don't want to feel off for four years.


I was going to continue my time-tracking this week, but I forgot about it on Monday. I tried to do a narrative timeline yesterday, but forgot about that halfway through the day. Sigh. I can start time-tracking again next week. I'll try to use the rest of this week efficiently. Lots of ideas and projects for the next three days until I officially work again.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Return to Cranbury Park

I had originally planned to go to the gym this morning. But I got off to a slow start after a bad night's sleep. After we heard the weather forecast (a high around 50 degrees) we decided to visit Cranbury Park.

Many others had the same idea: we saw many dogs and people hiking and lots of frisbee golfers. Lola was so happy, scampering through the woods, doing her best to avoid the trails.

I work tomorrow afternoon, and it's supposed to rain the next day or two. Plus we still have two months of winter. It was nice for the three of us to take advantage of the warm weather when we could.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thoughts on Another TCM Movie: Julia

I watched the movie Julia as I folded and put away laundry today. I've seen the movie once or twice, but it's been a long time. It's a pretty good film with good performances.

Today I was fascinated by beach house where Lily (Jane Fonda) wrote. All right, I was insanely jealous. The house was small and simple, right on the beach. I could see myself writing in that house, gazing out to the sea, taking long walks on the beach.

I empathized when a frustrated Lily threw her typewriter out the window. I've been tempted to do the same with my pc.

Black Friday

Donald Trump is now President of the United States.

I fear for people of color, immigrants, Muslims and women of child-bearing age.

Hell, I fear for all of us.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Disappointing Returns

The holidays are over, and regular TV shows are returning.

Unfortunately, a few shows have been lackluster.

I'll start with Sherlock.This show hasn't been on in a year, and only one episode appeared last year. This year was a full season of three episodes. I liked the first two episodes. I couldn't stand the third. It was gruesome, with an overly complex, muddled psychological analysis. The rumor is the season finale is also the series finale. If so, the show is ending on a bad note.

Gotham's fall finale concluded with two cliffhangers: Gordon shooting Lee's husband Mario (on their wedding day) and Bruce, Alfred and Selina in trouble with the Court of Owls. One episode later, Jim's off the hook for killing Mario, and all Bruce and company seem to care about is Selina's mother. I would have liked to see a little more on both cliffhanger stories.

Then there's Sleepy Hollow. I was angry when the show killed off Abbie Mills. Jeff told me the actress wanted off the show. Okay, maybe I'm overreacting. Apparently the writers decided they had to change pretty much everything else: a new setting and a (mostly) new supporting cast. For me the worst change is Abbie's role as witness will be taken over by a young girl. I'll give it a few more episodes, but I don't think I'll continue to watch for long.

More free time for me, perhaps?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Time Tracking Check-In

I did pretty well with my time tracking last week. I decided to continue this week--oddly enough I had a little more trouble this week remembering what I did in a few time periods.

My original time-sheet was in half hour increments. This week I'm using one with 15-minute segments.

I haven't done a thorough analysis of my first week yet, but have a few observations.

I did well with exercise. I went to the gym four times (about 1.25 hour each visit) and exercised here three more times for at least a half hour.

I did 8.5 hours on my job search--less than my goal of 10 hours, but a good start.

I averaged a little over seven hours of sleep each night--which is okay (one night at 5.5 hours brought my average down.)

I'm still watching too much TV, despite being more conscious of it. I tend to have the TV on when I'm doing other things--housework, emails, prep for class. I think I am taking too long on things like class prep when distracted by TV.

Similarly, my Internet browsing is taking more time and causing more distraction/wasted time than I realized.

In my previous attempts at time-tracking, I failed to analyze my results. I'll follow through this time around.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Re-Watching Twin Peaks

Showtime's been advertising a continuation of Twin Peaks with many of the original cast members. That show premiers in May.

On Saturday Showtime aired a Season One Marathon of the original series.We loved Twin Peaks when it was first on in 1990-1991. A seemingly idyllic town is rocked by the murder of its seemingly perfect homecoming queen. In Twin Peaks, it's not just the owls that aren't what they seem.

There was nothing else like Twin Peaks: the Log Lady, a Tibetan rock throwing exercise to solve the murder, the nightly array of donuts, an FBI's agent obsession with cherry pie.

I re-watched the first episode fairly closely. The soothing notes of show's theme belie the surreal horrors to come.The images of a bird, sawmill, waterfall sucked me back into that world. I watched the rest of the first season although I couldn't watch the other episodes as closely as I did the first, and I didn't catch every scene.

The second season got weirder; going from eight to 22 episodes couldn't have helped. But the first season remains magic. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rose Petals and Imagination

The other day I was walking with Lola at Taylor Farm and saw a bunch of rose petals strewn along a path through the woods.

I noticed three other piles as we continued.

It got me thinking: where did the petals come from? I don't remember seeing any rose bushes at Taylor Farm. Plus it's January. Someone had to have brought the roses to the park.

There has to be a story.

I wondered whether someone had brought a bouquet of roses to congratulate a friend or wish someone a happy birthday. Maybe someone was trying to make up with a significant other.

Maybe there's some sort of rose petal ritual that I don't know about (a la the loves me, he loves me not with daisy petals.)

I love the recognition of a spark--the thing that gets my imagination going.

My imagination didn't get too far with the rose petals, but they were the reminder to keep my eyes and my mind open.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Book on My Nightstand

After I finished The Boleyn King, I started Outlander--my second book of 2017. It's another long one (850 pages.) It took me about two months to finish The Mists of Avalon at 876 pages.

I've watched both seasons of the Outlander series on Starz. I'm seeing the show's actors as the book's characters (similar to how I saw/read Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games.)

The first three chapters are quite similar to what I saw on the show. It will be interesting to see how the show differs from the book going forward. I'm also curious if I'll continue with the series after the first book.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What I've Been Reading

I got two books for Christmas: both Tudor related. The Boleyn King and At Home with Henry VIII His life, his wives, his palaces.

I finished The Boleyn King yesterday. This is an alternate or re-imagined history. What if Anne Boleyn did not  miscarry in 1536? What if she had given birth to a healthy son? What if Henry had never married wives three through six (Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr.)

I love alternate histories:
George Bailey seeing how Bedford Falls transformed into Potterville in It's A Wonderful Life
Helen's life changes based on whether she catches a specific train in Sliding Doors
Worf shifting through alternate universes in Parallels, an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation.

I even liked Mr. Destiny: Jim Belushi hits a home run instead of striking out in a baseball game and his whole future changes. (Unfortunately, this movie is ruined by a ridiculous revenge car chase scene.)

I was predisposed to like The Boleyn King, but I was disappointed.

First, Anne is just a minor character in the book. That's not a fault necessarily, but was a negative for me.

More importantly, the book is more a stereotypical romance novel than a historical novel. The main character Minuette is almost a Mary Sue. Two other major characters (plus a secondary character) fall madly in love with her. She's so alluring they can barely control their ardor.

A probable murder occurs in Chapter Three; I figured out the killer at the same time. (My suspicion is seemingly confirmed in the last chapter.) Usually I'm not that quick: to me that's a sign of a poor plot point.

Perhaps the worst thing is that nothing is resolved in the book. The last line indicates that conspiracies are only beginning. Ah, the author wrote a trilogy named The Boleyn Trilogy, and she's started a second, The Tudor Legacy. Was the lack of resolution just a ploy to see more books?

Overall, a great idea, a quick read, but a disappointment.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Time-Tracking and Goals

I decided to try time-tracking again. I didn't follow through on my first and second attempts. At least I did my time-tracking online last year so I can refer back to that timesheet. I'm tracking online again this year too.

I added a new goal to my list: to read 12 books this year. I think I only read six last year.  (In my defense, two were very long.) I finished a book today. Technically I may have started it in the last week of 2016, but I'm not sure. I'll count it in 2017.

I've been thinking a lot about career goals. I already get daily emails with job listings. In fact, I spent several hours today applying to a job. But I need to do more. I decided to start working 10 hours each week on career goals. I know experts say you have to work full time to find a job, but I already have a part-time job. So I'll start with the 10 hours. As I wrote my cover letter today, I realized I need to update my resume expansion for recent jobs. I first did the expansion when I lost a corporate job--it was a good exercise. I'll also use some of that time to get back in touch with contacts, research job opportunities.

Writing goals are still vague. I identified two pieces to work on, but no timetables or page goals yet. I'll keep working on it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Measuring Miles to Nowhere—The Treadmill.

The title to this post is a six word story I wrote. Here's a story with a similar theme: Running inside hamster wheel, going nowhere.

Why am I posting these stories?

Last night I read Laura Vanderkam's blog.This week she's sharing small tips to make 2017 more productive.

The first tip suggested working on your most important work--your long term goal--on Monday morning. Following this tip ensures that you don't let the mundane, everyday to-do's crowd out your most important work.

Unfortunately, I realized that I don't have any long term goals--a disconcerting thought.Yes, I have ideas and vague plans. But, that's not enough. I don't want to live the rest of my life on the treadmill or inside the hamster wheel.

Sometimes it's right to focus on short-term goals, such as the week before Christmas (shopping, wrapping, cooking.)  But there has to be something more, something larger, something more important to work on.

Today in my journal, I wrote about goals. I've already posted about my plan to stop drinking until Valentine's Day. 

Here are some other SMART goals for the year:
Write 255 blog posts
Go to the gym 150 times
Explore 10 new hiking spots

I worked on the easier goals first. My career and other writing goals are harder to pin down. I jotted down a few ideas. I'll revisit them soon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Rain, The Parks and Lola

I was in slow mode on this dark, dreary, raw and rainy morning. I needed to take Lola to a park in the morning as it was predicted to rain harder in the afternoon.

Lola used to love Mathews Park, but for some reason has changed her mind about it. I want to try it again, but not today. I stopped at Oystershell Park, but Lola didn't want to get out of the car and was shaking. I don't understand Lola's feelings; she's enjoyed previously visits there.

So we headed to Taylor Farm. I was surprised to see several other people and dogs there. I guess we all had the same idea. Lola and I lasted about a half hour. Lola didn't seem to mind the rain, but didn't object when I wanted to leave.

I was happy to spend the rest of the day inside. Tomorrow it's warming and clearing up--a better park day.

Monday, January 2, 2017

On 2017

The week before Christmas I had many things to do: shopping for presents and food, wrapping presents and cooking. I couldn't wait to get back home Christmas night and relax. I hoped that the post-Christmas week would be a time to relax, but also work on my new ACT manual, hit the gym several times, clean and organize around the house. Unfortunately, my cold did me in. I did a lot of work on my manual but that was about it.

The official start of the new year is the natural time to think/write about resolutions and plans. But I've always been ambivalent about resolutions. I usually put some kind of list together, but it takes me a while to get going.

The worst thing about resolutions is that most people don't expect them to succeed. I heard some guy on the radio today say that his resolutions were to hit the gym and lose weight, immediately followed by, "we'll see how long that lasts." Why even bother?

A goal for me is to stop drinking for six weeks, starting tomorrow. Jeff and I been doing this for at least 15 years. That's a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goal.

Everything after that is a work in progress. I'm fine with that. I don't have to have everything figured out right away. Long term goals deserve long term planning.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day Lucky Foods

Jeff's dad is a proponent of eating sauerkraut on New Year's Day. He says he ate it and got a raise. We've often had sauerkraut, but I don't remember getting much luck out of it.

I stopped at my bank branch yesterday. Employees there write fun facts on a chalkboard. Yesterday's fact stated that ham, cabbage and black eyed peas are considered lucky on New Year's Day.

Last night our friends served us 12 green grapes on wooden skewers. They told us that we had to wait until the stroke of midnight, and then eat all the grapes in one minute, before any toasting or kissing for good luck.

Today we watched a few episodes of Top Chef Last Chance Kitchen. One challenge had the chefs choose seven lucky ingredients. I don't remember all of the options: but some were pork (moving forward) ginger, kale, sage (to get rid of evil spirits) garlic (to ward off vampires) and pomegranates.

At midnight we had the grapes, Today Jeff and I had ham, garlic and sage in scrambled eggs, later risotto with kale and garlic. I hope these lucky foods prevail and the lack of sauerkraut doesn't hurt.

We can use a lucky year.

Happy New Year

For the first time in years, Jeff and I went out on New Year's Eve. Our friends hosted a murder mystery party. This was a first for us. Apparently there are several variations of this theme, and this one was fairly complicated.

At first most of us felt a but awkward and had to refer to our notes. But it was a lot of fun. Jeff ended up being the master criminal, Mr. X. I was the CIA agent who killed him.

Quite the night.