Saturday, August 30, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Denver! No, Wait....



Is it just me, or is anyone else getting a flashbacky feeling here?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...

..no, wait. That part came later. Let's start at the beginning.

DIH was in her kitchen making, if she says so herself, a batch of the most awesome eggplant parm' this side of Mulberry Street, when all of a sudden--

BOOM!

and the lights went out.

Hm, I says to myself. Power outage. Wait a few seconds and it should all right itself.

But it didn't. Then Sophia and I smelled something burning outside the house. So, we trooped into the alleyway to see what was up.

At the end of the alleyway there was a small crowd of people, a smoking power pole, and one very dead bird. Apparently some kind of hawk had landed in the wrong spot on the power pole and shorted the whole thing out.

Several of my greener neighbors were concerned for the hawk. "I think it's a peregrine. It's been in the neighborhood for a few weeks with its mate. Oh my God-- where is the mate???"

"Ooh, look! There's a wing stuck on the wire up there!" said one little kid. The green neighbor turned still greener. Meanwhile the developmentally delayed teenager who lives up the street ran home yelling. Then he ran back, yelling and waving a small book. "I got it! I got it!" The book was a guide to North American birds. So at least someone was being genuinely helpful.

Another neighbor was flabbergasted. "I was watching the convention! She was just taking the microphone! She was just about to speak when all of a sudden--"

"It's the Republicans," another neighbor said. "I mean, it's too weird. Just as she's about to speak, right?"

The political discussion was interrupted by a chunk of charred wood falling from the pole. Everyone thought it best to stand back.

DIH, meanwhile, thought it best to call the fire department, as she had noticed the power pole was still flaming at the top.

The fire department came, and an hour or so later, the power company showed up. The power company guy offered solid advice to those of us without power: "Uh, you might want to go out to dinner."

DIH and crew started for the car. "I'm telling you, it had to be the Republicans,' the green neighbor said again. "Or maybe it was God," DIH suggested. "Hmph. So you're saying God is a Republican?" said the neighbor.

DIH decided to go out for pizza.

When we came home it was starting to rain, and the whole block was still dark. We got out our camping lamps and read in bed for a while, then called it a day. That's when the "dark and stormy" part started, with lots of thunder and lightning, very dramatic stuff. Even so the power guys got the lights working again, as we found out some time in the wee hours when every light in the house suddenly went on.

Good morning!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

In Other News

"GOLDEN, Colo. - The city manager of Golden, Colo., has decided to withdraw his invitation to let the Al-Jazeera news network broadcast from a barbecue in his backyard on the final night of the Democratic National Convention.

City manager Mike Bestor has apologized for any divisiveness he caused in the city of about 18,000, about 15 miles west of Denver."

So... what, exactly, was he planning on serving?

Ribs!
Oops...uh, no, maybe not. Bad piggie! Bad, bad!

Chili dogs!
Yikes, same problem. And wouldn't it offend the Mexican servers, or something?

Beer!
OMG, no, no, NO!!!

Maybe Texas barbecue? You know, the cow kind?
Unless there were any Hindus around. That might tick them off.

Couscous and chips, I guess. And iced tea.
Damn, Mike. You could've given the cheapest cookout of all time. Now you're gonna miss your chance at the record books.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fay Stays

Again with the rough surf and riptides and winds. No swimming again. And no looking out the windows at the surf, either, as the windows are salted over from the sea spray. Luckily there are two hammocks on the veran-dah, and if you don't mind being blown out of it now and then you can lie back and watch the waves. We are all hoping something interesting will be washed up before we leave.

So we pursue the other time-honored vacation activites. Yesterday my daughter learned two new card games from her grandmother. SHe is now a pretty decent bridge partner and can play "casino"- a tradition, her grandmother insists, that was passe don to her by her own grandma.

While my daughter was honing her card-shark skills I took the three resident teenagers to the movies. We saw "Tropic Thunder." It's a decent summer vacation movie. Unfortunately the biggest laughs for me were in the first five minutes of the film, which made the rest seem kind of slow.

DIH has also done the traditional browsing of the vacation cottage bookshelves. There is one book of rules of games. Handy, as it keeps us from pistols at twenty paces. There are the requisite ancient Leon Uris paperbacks. There are also a few "classics" like obviously left behind by some poor high school kid with a summer reading list. Never waste time trying to read Hawthorne at the beach, I always say. Stick to mysteries like "The Lincoln Lawyer." More edifying and more fun.

Sad to say, we leave tonight. So I guess I better go finish "The Lincoln Lawyer" now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Don't Go In The Water

Tropical Storm Fay. of what's left of her, is upon us, and once again there will be no frolicking in the surf today.

So, let's see. What does that leave us.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alternative Things To Do At The Beach

Rough surf kept us all out of the water today. So we indulged in other summer vacation activities:

Ate a variety of deep-fried foods.
Discussed the place of NASCAR in American society.
Won a thousand tickets at an arcade and redeemed them for valuable prizes.
Checked and re-checked the weather forecast for hurricane updates.
Sized up each other's sunburns.

We also played many rounds of Boggle. I'm beginning to realize that few things bring out the killer instinct in my family like Boggle. In fact maybe it wasn't such a good idea to bring it along. I'll have to reconsider this move next year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hey, Y'All

DIH has journeyed to South Carolina for a few days on the beach with the family. And boy is she happy to be here.

So happy she hasnt' blogged for a few days. But she's back now. With today's First Aid question:

What are you supposed to do about a jellyfish sting?

Aside from gripe, of course. DIH can handle that part just fine.

This morning the local paper had a front page story: "Warm water brings jellyfish." Oh, swell, I thought. They had to wait 'til we got here to run the annual "jellyfish threaten swimmers" piece. Feh, I said to myself. I didnt' come here to be intimidated by the "deadly invertebrate" crowd.

I guess this will teach me. On the other hand I don't think there's anything I could have done about it. It's just part of summer vacation. One minute you're splashing around happily in the waves, the next you're pulling something icky out of your bathing suit. (The next you're ignoring the embarrassed stares of onlookers, but that's another story.) And the next, of course, you're watching your skin swell up and getting advice from your niece on how pouring vinegar on the spot would have fixed the whole thing but it's probably too late for that now. Again, feh.

But I must say I'm in good shape compared to the rest of the crew here. My husband is hobbling around with his foot swathed in bandages, my sister-in-law is knocking back antibiotics for a sinus infection, and back home my poor little labrador had to be rushed from the kennel to the vet for a nasty skin infection.

Well, at least she missed the jellyfish.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

At Least My Dog Hasnt' Done This Yet


Separation Anxiety

So You Think Your Kid's Camp Is Cool

Oh sure. I know what you're thinking. "I'm sending Johnny to archery camp this year. He's going to be in the Olympics!"

Or maybe you're more the "Mon fils parle francais tres bien maintenant! Le Camp Jerry Lewis-- excellente!" type.

Gymnastics camp? Chess camp? Patting yourself on the back for Mandarin lessons?

Well, DIH has one question for you: can your kid do laundry?

Sophia came home from camp the other day and announced she wanted to re-fold all her clothes. "We learned how in Proper Princess class. I'll show you." We emptied her dresser and she proceeded to demonstrate. All the shirts, shorts and jeans are now in neat, perfect piles. "I can do sheets, too. You know, Mom, the way you do it, they take up too much room in the linen closet."

Eat your hearts out, all you SAT and NASA camper bill-payers. We all know what a mom really dreams about.

Monday, August 11, 2008

It Just Occurred To Me...

..oh dear. Oh no, no, no.
There might actually be people out there whose opinion of Evelyn Waugh's masterful "Brideshead Revisited" will be based on the current movie.

DIH cannot live with the thought. So for your reading pleasure, here are some of my
favorite bits from the great novel. Eat your heart out, Jeremy Brock. You'd kill to be able to write like this.
So, for that matter, would I.


"It is purely out of respect for your Aunt Philippa that I dine at this length. She laid it down that a three-course dinner was middle-class. 'If you once let the servants get their way,' she said, 'you will find yourself dining nightly off a single chop.' There is nothing I should like more. In fact, that is exactly what I do when I got to my club. But your aunt ordained that at home I must have soup and three courses. It is remarkable how some people are able to put their opinions in lapidary
form; your aunt had that gift."

***

"Charles," said Cordelia, "Modern Art is all bosh, isn't it?"

"Great bosh."

"Oh, I'm so glad. I had an argument with one of our nuns and she said we shouldn't try to criticize what we didn't understand. Now I shall tell her I have had it straight from a real artist, and snubs to her."
***

"D'you know what Papa said when he became a Catholic? Mummy told me once. He said to her: 'You have brought back my family to the faith of their ancestors.' Pompous, you know. It takes people different ways."
***

[Rex Mottram has announced his intention to become a Catholic so he can marry the Lady Julia in the Church.]

"Lady Marchmain was dismayed and perplexed by this new development; it was no good her telling herself that in charity she must assume his good faith; it brought back memories of another courtship and another conversion.

'Rex,' she said. 'I sometimes wonder if you realize how big a thing you are taking on in the Faith. It would be very wicked to take a step like this without believing sincerely.'

He was masterly in his treatment of her.

"I don't pretend to be a very devout man," he said, "nor much of a theologian, but I know it's a bad plan to have two religions in one house. A man needs a religion. If your Church is good enough for me."

"Very well," she said, "I will see about having you instructed."

"Look, Lady Marchmain, I haven't the time. Instruction will be wasted on me. Just you give me the form and I'll sign on the dotted line."

"It usually takes some months- often a lifetime."

"Well, I'm a quick learner. Try me."

"So Rex was sent to Farm Street to Father Mowbray, a priest renowned for his triumphs with obdurate catechumens. After the third interview he came to tea with Lady Marchmain.

"Well, how do you find my future son-in-law.?"

"He's the most difficult convert I ever met."

"Oh dear, I thought he was going to make it so easy."

"That's exactly it. I can't get anywhere near him. He doesn't seem to have the least intellectual curiosity or natural piety. The first day I wanted to find out what sort of religious life he had had till now, so I asked him what he meant by prayer. He said: 'I don't mean anything. You tell me.' I tried to , in a few words, and he said: 'Right. So much for prayer. What's the next thing?" I gave him the catechism to take away. Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said:
'Just as many as you say, Father.' Then I asked him: Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said 'it's going to rain.' Would that be bound to happen?' 'Oh yes, Father.'
'But supposing it didn't?' He though a moment and said, 'I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.' Lady Marchmain, he doesn't correspond to any degree of paganism known to the missionaries.'"

A Special Announcement From The Top

Pope Benedict XVI has issued the following statement.

"We are surprised to report that there has been an error in the so-called "new" calendar. We therefore intend to correct it forthwith:

"All persons said to be born on August 11,1928 were actually born on August 11, 1938. Today is therefore any such person's 70th birthday. 80th is still ten years down the road. We regret the error and invite the faithful to comply."

Well, you can't get any clearer than that.

Happy 70th Birthday, Dad. We'll do 80 some other time.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Desperate At The Movies!

"Brideshead Revisited." A film by Julian Jarrold. Starring Emmma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw and Hayley Atwell. Written by Jeremy Brock, based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh. 100 minutes.

Viewed by DIH, 8-9-09.
The kind of movie that gives gay cinema a bad name.

So, He Eats With His Hands?

"Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, flush from a silk-stocking fund raiser that ended with a $28,500-a-plate dinner of beef medallions, stopped off for a meet-and-greet at a St. Paul cafe on Thursday that ended with a $3 order of pancakes to go." Star Tribune, 8-8-08

Friday, August 08, 2008

Why Women Use Twice As Many Words As Men

DIH: Those books you ordered from Amazon came today.

SPOUSE: What?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It's OK, Katie. Sometimes We Make Mistakes,Too

The Twin Cities again are being reminded of their place in flyover country.

Last week, CBS News anchor Katie Couric mistakenly said on the air that the Republican National Convention is being held in Minneapolis.

Last night, Couric 'fessed up to the nation about her mistake and expressed her "apologies to the people of St. Paul" when signing off on her telecast. [h/t Star Tribune]

I Feel Much Safer Now

WASHINGTON -- John Anderson's family was taking a trip to Disney World in 2004 when they were stopped by security at Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport.

The airlines thought John, who goes by Jack, was on a terror watch list.

Agents were dumbfounded when they looked over the counter to see the suspected terrorist -- a 2-year-old St. Paul toddler dozing in his stroller with a pacifier hanging from his mouth.

Two years later, the family was stopped by airport security again, owing to Jack's common name. The Andersons have since given up flying, waiting for federal authorities to fix a database that has ensnared more than 30,000 Americans.

[h/t Star Tribune]

Monday, August 04, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Solzhenitsyn died yesterday in Moscow at age 89.

You can read all about the author of "One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich" and "The Gulag Archipelago" in the usual places. To DIH's mind the accounts all seem kind of flat.

No one, so far, has written much about the horror of the reports the night Solzhenitsyn was arrested, in 1974. DIH can still hear the deep, mellow voice of the New York Times's broadcaster, sounding shaken beyond belief, when he read the news that night.

As for DIH , she spent the night on the living room sofa, next to the stereo, waking up every ten minutes to see if there was any news, and to pray that the Soviets wouldn't blow the man's brains out, or send him back to the Gulag. I can still hear the arguments everyone made that night: would they really do it? Would they sentence him to Siberia? No, no, they couldnt', he was far too famous by now, imagine the uproar. Imagine the protests. But still... would they do it?

It was a forlorn relief we felt the next morning, when it was announced they had decided to just kick him out of Russia instead.

I was in college when the film of "One Day" came out. I watched it in an auditorium full of coddled American students, who for once were dead silent as the movie played. When it was over my roommate murmured, "Remind me the next time I start to complain."

It's important to remember things like that. It's important to remember Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the countless prisoners Ivan Denisovich represented.

It's important.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Houseguests

Let's see. By the latest count I have five.

An old friend who is here to do some writing. To write a whole book, actually. Fortunately his motto is "pretty good, really fast." He is at the other end of the diningroom table now as I type, scowling at his computer screen, asking if there's any way I can put more inspiration in the coffee. As soon as I figure out how to do that I will market the stuff.

Another old friend, also a writer, but not here to write. He and half his family are here to attend a wedding in Northfield. He's in the living room, absorbed in his Kindle. Every once in a while he chortles to himself. I can only assume he's reading something related to economics. That always makes him laugh.

Guest #2's wife and daughter are in the kitchen, sharing coffee and blueberry muffins with my husband and arguing about Schopenhauer and how much more fun Socrates is. All I really care about is the muffins, which yours truly made herself. Luckily they're a hit.

Guest #2's additional daughter is upstairs asleep, or trying to sleep, after arriving on the redeye a couple of hours ago.

It's nice to have guests. It's been a long time since I heard people argue about Schopenhauer over breakfast.

One of these days I may even find out who this fella is.

I think that's it. For now.