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 bulldog 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 me 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.


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.