January 2004 Archives

mystery street

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Jan 31 movie: Mystery Street. Nice little detective movie starring Ricardo Montalban. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Ricardo Montalban? I really do. The later, campy, "KHANNNNNN!" stuff is tons of fun, but I most enjoy his early, serious film work.

No big stars in this B movie, but it's worth watching for a couple of reasons: first, the plot is largely a forensic/procedural mystery, with a Harvard medical examiner helping Montalban find clues to the crime. That's pretty common now, what with CSI (and Quincy!), but unusual fifty years ago.

Second, the racial implications of Montalban as a detective are nicely understated, and not at all patronizing (unlike the subplot about the African American who wants to be a lawyer in In This Our Life). I think it's only even mentioned explicitly once, when an arrogant suspect comments on Montalban's accent, brags about his own position as a pillar of the community, then says "I'm used to being treated with respect." Montalban calmly replies, "So am I!" I expected the movie to be about Montalban overcoming prejudice, but it's actually about him solving a crime. I read an interview once in which Montalban expressed frustration at Hollywood for using him as a sort of "generic ethnic" (Portuguese in this film), and pride at never having played a role that was demeaning. I imagine that must have limited his choice of parts.

movie update

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Haven't had much time to post the past couple of days, so here's a quick movie run-down:

The African Queen. Can you believe I had never seen this one before? Great movie about Hepburn and Bogart traveling down a treacherous river in Africa with a plan to destroy a German ship during WWI.

Holiday. Starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn and written by Philip Barry and Donald Ogden Stewart, this could be seen as a practice run for The Philadelphia Story. But I must admit, it didn't engage me nearly as much. I can't recommend it unless you're a big fan of Hepburn or Grant.

In This Our Life. Fairly wretched film about a horrible woman (Bette Davis) who steals her sister's (Olivia de Havilland) husband, drives him to suicide, commits hit-and-run manslaughter, frames someone for it, gets caught, then conveniently dies in a car crash. 34 year old Davis was wearing heavy make-up to make her look like a young girl, which lent the film a creepy "Baby Jane" overtone. I almost turned it off mid-movie, except for an interesting sub-plot about an African American man trying to become a lawyer. Progressive stuff for 1942. The other odd tidbit is that Davis and de Havilland's characters are called Stanley and Roy. I'm guessing the movie is based on a book in which this is explained.

birthday

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I had a great birthday, y'all. Thursday was the actual day, and Georg and I went to Nana's for dinner. I'd never been there before. It was great! We had a fabulous raw tuna appetizer, then for the main course I had duck and Georg had rack of lamb. The duck was "poached in olive oil" which made it very tender. I guess that preparation is sort of like confit? Anyway they had gone to the trouble of trimming off the fat, which I greatly appreciated. Most restaurants don't do that. It was served with roasted root vegetables and chestnut/duck ravioli. I never had duck with a side of duck before.

The desserts were equally wonderful. We shared blood orange ice cream (tasted a lot like a creamsicle, only less sweet) and triple chocolate Boston cream pie. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't know what Boston cream pie was. The only thing I'd ever eaten before by that name are the Boston cream donuts from Dunkin Donuts. So I was expecting a chocolate cream pie. Actually it was an incredibly rich chocolate cake, with chocolate cream in the middle, and instead of frosting, chocolate sauce poured on top. Wow! It was amazing, and very very rich.

Yesterday I was hoping to get some sewing done. I had this outfit picked out to make for my birthday, but was too busy last week to get it done. It has some nice details like underlining, bound buttonholes and piping at the collar and cuffs, so it's taking a lot longer than a typical outfit. But I at least wanted to have some time to sew as my birthday present to myself.

But I ended up having a lot of work to do, so that had to wait. At least I had some time in late afternoon to clean up for the little party Georg threw for me. Nothing fancy, just a few friends. It was fun! At least, I had a great time. My friend David gave me a spectacular painting that he did just for me! On Christa's suggestion we're going to hang it over the mantel and move the piece that's there now.

There was only one mishap -- a glass of red wine spilled on the tablecloth -- but we washed it right away and it's barely noticeable. We're going to try a miracle treatment I read about online (Dawn dish soap mixed with hydrogen peroxide) to see if we can get it the rest of the way out. And the best part is, Georg did all the dishes after the party! What a guy.

Lina had the time of her life. She seemed to think that everyone was here for no other reason than to pay attention to her. Thirteen was terrified, of course, but she was pretty brave about the whole thing. When the door closed on the last guest, Thirteen sighed heavily like she could relax for the first time all night, and went to sleep. Lina collapsed about ten minutes later and is still sleeping it off. We've been protecting her from any excitement for so long, it was really nice for her to have so much fun.

Now I have Stoneline. Wish I could stay home in my PJs! But those taxes have got to be done.

sewing machine alert

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The Cotton Boll is having their annual sale today, tomorrow and Saturday. Fabrics are on sale in the Chapel Hill store, but the big event is the demo model sewing machine sale at all three stores.

If you have any interest in owning a quality sewing machine, this is a great time to do it. I bought a Viking 400 from their demo model sale 8 years ago, and it's still a fantastic machine. I love it as much as I love my Mac. (and that's saying something!) My only quibble is that, since it's European, I can't buy basic bobbins or presser feet from the fabric store. Have to get special ones that fit the Viking. But still, it's a great machine.

lina report

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So, Lina had her follow-up appointment today. The good news: The plate in her leg is stable, the bones healed very well, and the arthritis in her knee didn't get any worse. They showed me the X-rays, and the plate is huge! Way bigger than I imagined. It's got three or four giant screws in it too. I had envisioned delicate little screws but these looked like drywall screws. They almost looked like they should be sticking out the other side of the bone. I asked for a copy of the X-ray but they said no because it would be too much hassle for them to duplicate it for me.

The doctor talked to me a lot about rehab exercises. She's still limping and the leg with the plate (I will not call it "the bad leg," that's a defeatist attitude) sticks out at a funny angle when she stands still. He said the range of motion exercises aren't necessary anymore, but there are other exercises we can do to retrain her to walk evenly. We get to do longer walks, "obstacle course" walks on uneven terrain like the Duke Forest trails, and we can work up to jogging together again. He even gave me a couple of papers he had written on dog physical therapy (apparently this is an area of interest for him).

I don't have to retrict her movements at all anymore. Yay! No more walking around the yard in my pajamas in the middle of the night so she can go to the bathroom! I asked him about letting her sleep on the bed. He said that jumping isn't good for her, and recommended that we get a ramp so she can get up without having to jump. But he did reluctantly say something to the effect that the occasional jump wouldn't kill her. So we are going to both sleep in the bedroom tonight and see how it goes. Yay! No more air mattress!

Now the bad news: They think she has Cushing's disease. Apparently this is overproduction of hormones by the adrenal glands. The doctor said that her body shape (narrow waist but low, big abdomen) and that bald spot on her back are both indicative of Cushing's disease. They did blood work while she was there and she has a couple of indicators there too. I don't know what they are though. The doctor told me but I'm looking at the handout and it only says the abbreviations "Alk Phos 166" and "ALT 86." I can't remember what those mean.

Anyway, they said that I should see if my regular vet can do a more definitive test for Cushing's disease. Apparently not all vets can do it. They think that if she does have it, we caught it really early so she should respond well to treatment. I read online that there are a couple of different drugs that manage the symptoms pretty well. Without treatment, it causes all kinds of nasties including skin and gum infections, diabetes, liver and kidney failure and heart failure. So I'm really glad he noticed it. I never heard of Cushing's disease so I certainly wouldn't have been looking for the symptoms.

itinerary

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This was my day:

8:00 At desk, answer emails, do some web work.

9:30 Start trying to get Lina out of the house without Thirteen.

9:45 Lina is in car; we leave for vet hospital in Raleigh.

10:30 Check in at vet hospital. Try to calm Lina, who whines frantically the entire time we are in the building, except when she's growling at other dogs in waiting room.

10:45 Apologize profusely when Lina takes humongous crap on waiting room floor.

11:10 Finally get to see doctor. Lina is still whining.

11:30 Doctor keeps Lina for X-rays. Pay the bill (ouch) and head for Hillsborough.

12:15 Arrive at Hillsborough DMV. Determine that they do not have a separate line for renewals, and that the entire line is outside, and that it is too cold to read while standing outside. Put book back in car.

3:15 Sit at the desk of a very nice man who gives me a new license. He is surprisingly pleasant for someone who's been dealing with DMV Madness for weeks.

3:25 Head back to Raleigh. Stop on the way and grab a bite of lunch at Subway. (The verdict on the low carb wraps: not exactly gourmet eating, but they'll do in a pinch.)

4:15 Arrive at vet hospital. Lina is still whining, louder now. Doctor tells me that the anaesthesia has messed with her head and is making her cry. I tell him that she's always like this at the vet.

5:15 Leave vet hospital. Lina whines the whole way home.

6:00 Arrive at home. Thirteen practically (but not literally) jumps for joy when we come in. Call Stoneline and postpone work tonight. Email Lisa and beg off from Angel night.

6:15 Lie down on couch with a Tivo full of movies.

And that, friends, was my day. I truly understand "hurry up and wait" now.

success!

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license.jpg

Details later. Now, must rest.

the miracle of morgan's creek

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Jan 27 movie: The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. A lesser Preston Sturges movie, a bit too zany for my taste. Too many pratfalls and too much yelling. And stuttering for comic effect isn't easy to pull off; too often (as here) it's just painful. Still, it is Preston Sturges, tackling the rather shocking subject of a pregnant teenager who may or may not be married. Betty Hutton is luminous as always, although I was disappointed that she doesn't sing. I'm glad I saw it, but I probably wouldn't watch it again.

fiery yellow

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The coolest ad on TV right now: The new Volkswagen Phaeton spot. Because it features "Fiery Yellow" by Stereolab (the last track on Mars Audiac Quintet). An ad which prompts me to fill the CD changer with Stereolab albums is a good ad indeed.

dmv

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The DMV is closed today. Dammit dammit dammit. I called before driving out there, but the line was busy. Which led to the (false) assumption that someone was there answering the phone, and that same someone would give me a new license.

Tomorrow is all booked up for me, so I'm going to have to go back on Thursday. That's the last day -- if I don't get it then I'm screwed. On the bright side, I'm getting my hair cut this afternoon. On the other bright side, the roads are totally clear.

don't touch the mic

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I forgot about the weirdest thing that happened during my show yesterday: I accidently bumped into the mic while talking, and got a shock right on the center of my upper lip. Ow! Georg told me later that he heard the shock, a distinct pop, but didn't know what it was until I said what had just happened.

The moral of this story is: when the humidity is low, don't touch the mic. Especially not with your face.

ice day

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It's hard to tell from inside the house how much ice we got. Not enough to knock out the power (yay!). The road appears to have been plowed, but hardly anyone is driving. I hear a car go by every few minutes, but at this time of day there'd normally be a constant flow of traffic.

I realized this morning that haircut or no haircut, I have to go to the DMV today. Because Wednesday is completely booked up (have to go to Lina's appt in Raleigh in the morning, and do the quarterly taxes and W2s for Stoneline in the afternoon) and Thursday is the day it expires. Which is cutting it way too close. Damn. In a perverse way I'm sort of hoping I get a terrible picture with a stupid look on my face. Because then it won't matter that my hair looks so bad.

My friend Chandra suggested I should just let it expire, go next week, and pay whatever fine they ask. Not because of the haircut, but because the lines are so bad. She said she'd heard of people getting there when they open and waiting all day without getting their license. But according to the people I know who've actually been there in the past couple of weeks, it's bad but not that bad. Besides, I've had enough horrible run-ins with the DMV to think that deliberately letting my license expire would be a very bad thing.

Once, years ago, I accidently let my insurance lapse. I had two cars at the time (thank god) so I said that I hadn't driven one of the two cars at all the whole time I was uninsured (Which was more or less true, though probably not entirely true. But I did drive one of the cars more often). I had to turn in the plate of the car that I had been driving, and the guy at the DMV gave me some kind of extension on the other car so I could keep driving it. After a month I had to bring evidence about which car I had been driving (letters from my boss, neighbors, etc) to a hearing where they could have taken away the plate for the other car too. But fortunately they did not, just charged me a fine. Oh and my insurance went up too. Which made no sense -- I wasn't in an accident or anything. But anyway, the point is that DMV are not into cutting people a break because of circumstances. So I don't think I'll be waiting until next week to get my license renewed.

the lady eve

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Jan 25 movie: The Lady Eve. I'm sensing a pattern in the movie list: I love the screwball comedies. Not that this comes as a surprise. I watch them a lot: the good ones over and over, and even the bad ones usually have something to recommend them at least once.

The Lady Eve is one of the good ones. Barbara Stanwyck plays a con artist with a heart of gold, and Henry Fonda plays the scientist she falls for. I read a book once, years ago, that talked about how the screwball comedies of the 30s and early 40s were uniquely focused on the female stars. (Wish I could remember the title!) The Lady Eve was one of the movies profiled in the book and it's true; the movie is all about Stanwyck, and she's fabulous. Fonda is great too, of course. Nice supporting work also by Eric Blore, Charles Coburn and Eugene Pallette.

I love one scene where a bodyguard with suspicions about Stanwyck poses as a waiter so he can keep tabs on her. He keeps trying to serve from the right, causing much consternation to the well-heeled guests, and eventually drops a roast into Henry Fonda's lap. The first time I saw this movie, I didn't know that formal rule about serving from the left. I could tell it was funny, but I had no idea why. It's interesting how sixty years can completely change the context of a joke.

housebound

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Despite the snow and ice, I wasn't housebound today. I had to go out to do my radio show. The roads were a mess, but I'm so timid about driving on snow and ice that I go really really slowly -- never get over 15 mph and 2nd gear -- so I'm pretty safe. Even if I went off the road, at that speed I'd just slide into a snowbank without hurting myself. (I know; it's happened before although not today.)

I had a great time and had way more human interaction than I usually get at the station. Not only did the next DJ show up (thank god!) but Marty came in to do his PSA thing, and someone else came in to do some stuff in the production room. He introduced himself and I immediately forgot his name. I hate when I do that. There were also several calls: one guy called to request a song by Lo Fidelity All Stars which turned out to be indecent, thank you very much! Then Sylvia called to chat about some fabric, and might have walked over to show it to me but ended up doing a phone interview with a musician instead. Then someone called just to tell me how much she was enjoying the show and how she was going to listen on her computer at work every week. Aw, shucks!

Best WXDU news: the Icicles EP is back! Yay! It must have just been misfiled before. Worst XDU news: We do not have a copy of "Antmusic." How can that be?

My hair appointment today was indeed cancelled. The shop called to tell me that David (my hairdresser) would be coming in an extra day over the weekend or something. I explained to the guy how I'm desperate for a haircut, I'm already 3 weeks overdue and my license expires on Thursday and etc. He said they'd work something out. I'm hoping that means David will fit me into a cancellation tomorrow. I bet there will be lots of people who still won't want to drive.

electricity, yay!

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Woke up this morning to icy, empty roads and the power still on. Ahh, what a relief! We had taken showers last night in case we had no hot water this morning, but thank goodness it wasn't necessary.

Unfortunately I may still have to go out today. I already wrote to cancel my client meeting, but I have a hair appointment in Chapel Hill at 11:30 and my show at 2. I'm really concerned about the haircut because I already had to reschedule once, and they made me wait three weeks that time. My hair is driving me crazy; I don't want to wait another day. Besides, I've been putting off renewing my drivers license until the hair appointment (that may sound vain, but for gosh's sakes, I'll have this photo for six years. Might as well try to make it a good one), and the license is going to expire on Thursday. So I really need that haircut. I called my hairdresser and left them a message asking them to call me back if they're open today.

Speaking of which, I found out why the DMV has been such a madhouse. Apparently on February 2 the regulations will change, making it much harder for legal immigrants to get a license. So the DMV is being flooded with people trying to get a license while they still can. Georg said he's been seeing people lined up outside the Chapel Hill DMV (on 54) before they open every morning. If they're going to discriminate against legal aliens, why couldn't they schedule it four days before my birthday instead of after? I blame John Ashcroft!

bubba ho-tep

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Jan 24 movie: Bubba Ho-Tep. Don Coscarelli directs a story about Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) living in a retirement home in Texas, which is under attack by a soul-sucking mummy. All movies should be like this.

Bubba Ho-Tep was way more funny than scary, but did well at creating a creepy atmosphere. Coscarelli certainly understands the principle that the monster is more effective if you never get a good look at it. I wish all horror directors were down with that concept! We saw it at the Nevermore film festival at the Carolina, in a sold-out show. I missed a few of the jokes because of the noise from everyone laughing and cheering, but the movie was much more fun that way.

Even better, after the movie we went over to Lisa's place for her birthday party. Much fun was had by all. We had lots of cool retro music (we can ride the boogie!), answering machine messages from Latin singers from New Jersey, impromptu knitting lessons, the creation of a new drink (the "frisky," Fresca and whiskey, and no I did not have one), and I hear that after Georg and I left at midnight things really got fun.

sleet

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About twenty minutes ago the snow changed to sleet. Looks pretty nasty out there. At least it's still below freezing. A little bit warmer and it would be raining, and then we'd be in for another ice storm like last year. We had no power for 2 1/2 days last year. I don't want that again.

On the bright side, I walked the dogs a half hour ago. The timing was perfect: they got to play a bit in three inches of fluffy powdery snow. And (I hope) they won't want to go out again anytime soon.

keep the river on your right

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Jan 24 movie: Keep The River On Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale. Independant Film Channel has some annoying habits, like running the same movies over and over. But I'm thrilled with them for having done "Reality Night" a couple of days ago, allowing me to see Lost in La Mancha and this documentary about Tobias Schneebaum, the artist/anthropologist who lived with cannibals in Peru and New Guinea in the 60s. The movie shows him returning to the communities he had lived in and meeting people who remembered him; they also show him in his native environment of New York. The movie is compelling because Scheebaum is such a compelling subject. There's a brief allusion to accusations that he compromised his anthropoloical work by "going native," and there's probably another movie there, but for the most part the filmmakers get out of the way and let Schneebaum's nostalgic travels be the focus.

Probably the most sensational part of the movie was Schneebaum's struggle to come to terms with having participated in an attack on another village and a cannibalistic ritual while in Peru. But for me the most affecting moment was his reunion with an old friend/lover in New Guinea who he thought was dead. The man kisses him easily, as if they've only been apart for a few months, but Schneebaum holds back, saying that he couldn't stand the pain of losing the relationship again. Moments like that, with such genuine emotion, are why I love documentaries.

cute dog photos

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So Lina goes back for her follow-up appointment on Wednesday. It's been almost 8 weeks and her fur has almost completely grown back, except this one spot on her backside that didn't grow back at all. That spot is where they gave her the epidural. I wonder if that inhibited her fur from growing back, or if it's just a coincidence? (In that photo by the way she's sleeping on the air mattress. If I don't put it away immediately when I get up, she sleeps on it instead of her bed. At least she doesn't ty to get on the air mattress while I'm still in it! There isn't enough room for both of us.)

And so she's not left out, here's one of Thirteen. I don't know why but she usually sleeps sideways on that bed, with her head up against the hearth. There would be plenty of room for her if she'd just lay the other way.

snow!

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It's snowing! Has been for at least a couple of hours. I checked weather.com and it's supposed to continue all day, but turn into ice in late afternoon. That means no driving for me, which alas means no Firefly night at Shayne's house. I was really looking forward to it too. I had only half-committed to the series, wasn't watching every episode. Then I saw the one where they go to the big hospital and I was hooked. Immediately after that, the show was cancelled. Figures!

cold mountain

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Jan 23 movie: Cold Mountain. When I heard this had been directed by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) I crossed it off my list. But a friend saw it and spoke well of it, so when my friend Patricia suggested it for our evening out last night, I figured what the heck. And I did enjoy it. It's beautifully filmed (although, boo! on them for filming in Romania instead of North Carolina) and I found it emotionally engaging. The best part of the movie is Renee Zellweger (boy I never thought I'd write those words) who saves it from taking itself too seriously. Philip Seymour Hoffman also has a nice small part.

Possibly the biggest relief of the movie was the younger villain, the blonde guy who might have been albino but I think was actually just very fair. He spent most of the movie with this glint in his eye that screamed "I am going to go medieval and scenery-chewing on y'all's asses in Act 3," but somehow was prevented from doing so. whew!

lost in la mancha

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Jan 23 movie: Lost in La Mancha. Fascinating documentary of Terry Gilliam's doomed attempt to make a movie about Don Quixote. This was an eye-opening look at the practical side of movie-making: scheduling and fund-raising and so forth. It reminded me a lot of the book The Devil's Candy, about the production of Bonfire of the Vanities. But while Bonfire of the Vanities suffered a sort of death by a thousand cuts -- an endless series of small bad decisions which added up to a very bad movie -- the problems that beset Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote are more of a train wreck. It's sad to watch Gilliam go from giggling with joy at his screen test for three burly giants, to waiting helplessly while insurance agents decide the fate of his movie.

(Also, Georg is right: the actor who played Denethor in Return of the King looks a lot like Terry Gilliam. I'm glad I didn't notice it at the time, that would have been distracting.)

upgrade

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While upgrading Movable Type, I seem to have momentarily knocked out the comment feature. Everything should be back to normal in a moment.

I've added the 'most recent comments' thingie to the side of the page, to make the comment threads easier to follow, and also started giving titles to posts.

[Later: Everything seems to be working now. Please let me know if you encounter any weird error messages. Or banal error messages for that matter.]

everyone's art car parade

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Good news on the art car front: The Houston parade has a new sponsor! Pennzoil had been the primary sponsor, but dropped the parade when they were bought by Shell. Now they have a new sponsor: Everyone's Internet. In honor of the new sponsor they've renamed the parade "Everyone's Art Car Parade." I think that's a nice sounding title. Way better than "Pennzoil Art Car Weekend."

This is great because they won't have to cut back on events, and I'll probably get a travel reimbursement again. The announcement had a list of other sponsors, including Whole Foods. Hey, I think Whole Foods should sponsor my car! After all, half the members of our entry (Georg and our friend Chris Lewis) are Whole Foods employees. They don't even have to give me money or anything. I just want, say, a big plastic shrimp on my car that says "Whole Foods Seafood" or something like that. Wouldn't that be great?

nice day

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Today's been a good day. Georg had the day off (yay!) because he has to work on Saturday (boo!). Unfortunately I couldn't spend the whole day with him because I had work to catch up on. I worked in the morning while he fooled around on his computer, then we went out to lunch and picked up our Bubba Ho-Tep tickets from the Carolina.

My folks sent me a nice card with some photos from Thanksgiving, including this really good one of my sister and me. There was glitter inside the card so the photo is all glittery & kind of looks like it was snowing inside the dining room.

In the afternoon I met with a new client. I thought she just wanted some basic maintenance, but she actually needs to completely overhaul the site, so that's good. She lives in a gorgeous 1920's house on Gregson Street, a couple of blocks up from where I lived in college. The layout of the house was exactly like a place where Georg rented a room when he first moved back down here. Except the house Georg lived in was falling down around their ears, and this one had been lovingly restored. Also the house Georg stayed in had a speakeasy in the basement, which probably isn't true of Nancy's although I didn't ask.

After that I had Stoneline, which is always nice, I love seeing them. Then I went over to the station and gave Christa a hand with Divaville since she was feeling under the weather. Didn't end up eating dinner until about 9:30, but I feel nice and full now, all settled in with my flannel jammies on. Wish I could lie on the couch and watch a movie (I have Lost in La Mancha on the DVR) but I have some more work to do. Boo!

the rules of ex dating

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This morning Georg and I reached an important consensus: Someone dorky who used to date our friend is not allowed to like a cool album that we like. We want to be able to make fun of everything about them. Having to pause and say, "well, that is a good album" just won't do.

the philadelphia story

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Jan 21 movie: The Philadelphia Story. This is another first for the movie list: I'm writing the post before watching the movie. Because I know I'm going to watch it tonight, but I've seen it so many times I don't need to refresh my memory before writing this. The Philadelphia Story is the perfect screwball comedy. The humor is just the right level of wacky, the romance is utterly charming, and the clothes are fabulous. My two favorite moments in the film are 1: little sister Virginia Weidler pretending to be eccentric, speaking French and singing "Lydia the Tattooed Lady"; and 2: drunken Jimmy Stewart bursting in on Cary Grant in the middle of the night and constantly repeating his name. "C.K. Dexter Haven! C.K. Dexter HAAAYYYYVENNNNN!"

I've always wondered if the sleazy tabloid in the movie, Spy Magazine, was the inspiration (in name at least) for the Spy I loved reading during the 80s. And I have nothing else to say about this movie except: if you haven't seen it yet, you're in luck! It starts at 8 tonight on TCM.

new radio schedule

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One more post then I'm finally caught up. Yesterday I had my last 9-noon show. Starting next week I'll be on every Monday from 2-4 pm. I'm really looking forward to the change. The three-hour shows were starting to feel like a drag, and I was also finding it awkward when urgent client emails came in first thing in the morning but I couldn't begin to deal with them until after 12:30. Plus it will be nice to be on every week.

I got two requests yesterday. Alas, one was for the Rolling Stones. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I can't stand the Rolling Stones. I hate them with the fire of a thousand suns. But the guy was really nice, and I try to fulfill requests if I possibly can. After all, it means that someone was listening and enjoying enough to call and make a request ... which was completely inappropriate for my show. But let's not dwell on that part.

I gave him my usual "I don't know if we have that, do you have an alternate request" speil, and he gave me something else -- Acoustic Syndicate -- which I couldn't find anywhere. So I felt obligated to play the Stones. He even requested a specific album (Exile on Main Street) so I couldn't look for something obscure and old and un-Stonesy.

So I played "Happy," and followed it up with "Can't Be Funky" by the Bush Tetras. Hearing them sing "You can't be funky if you haven't got a soul" made me feel a whole lot better about having just subjected myself to the Stones.

Looking forward to Monday afternoons! The best part is, the person on before me (Sarah R.) is really nice. And her musical taste and mine don't intersect at all, so she'll never play the stuff I like from the playlist.

Now I'm settled in with a mug of cocoa and Buffy on TV. Time for a nap, or least for some quality vegging out.

untidy museum

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I stopped by Untidy Museum today with some sewing samples. Michelle wasn't there but I talked to her partner Jennifer. I think the polka dot dress was the most impressive thing in terms of the construction and workmanship, but she was most taken with the fur sleeves on the Ethel jacket. They already have a couple of people sewing for them and she showed me what they're doing: short, full skirts with funky trims and embellishments.

Jennifer gave me a piece of fabric and asked me to make a skirt out of it. At first I thought she was going to give me this really cool thick woven gold and brown fabric, but then she opened it up and discovered that it's actually a poncho. She wanted to keep the poncho so she went back and got this much less interesting floral cotton. In a way I'm glad, because that gold/brown fabric screamed to be made into a simple A-line. It would be all wrong for this cutesy embellished look, with appliques and flounce trims. Which I confess I'm not that fond of. It's going to be kind of weird to make something that I would never wear myself, but then again it matters more that their customers like it.

The silly thing is, I forgot to ask her what they pay! Well it's only one little skirt, it will take me a couple hours to do it. So if the money isn't enough to be worth doing it again, I won't feel like I wasted too much time on this one.

In other sewing news, I stopped by Grannies Panties which has a bathtub full of fabric for $1 a piece. I didn't find anything really cool, but did get a couple of pieces that will make good linings. One of the pieces still had a Piecegoods remnant tag on it. Their tags had inspirational messages on the back, so we always used to call them Piece Gods. That was the fabric store I used to always go to when I first started sewing. We didn't have JoAnn's or Hancock in the area yet.

return of the king

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Jan 20 movie: Return of the King. This is the first movie of the year seen in a theater. I actually had tickets for opening night, but I was sick as wasn't able to go. Georg and I finally went with Sylvia last night. I enjoyed it a lot. Not as much as the first one, but way more than the second. (Come to think of it, that's how I felt about the Matrix movies too, although ROTK was way better than Matrix: Revolutions.)

I'm not a fanatical devotee of the books, although I have read them. Okay, many times. But I don't object on principle to all changes. Slavish authenticity just isn't possible when adapting a book to a movie, especially not with a rambling epic like Lord of the Rings. I felt like Jackson got the first movie just right: the tone was perfect, most of the characters were just as I imagined them, and the changes made sense. The second installment I found more problematic: it seemed like they jettisoned a lot of material that I wanted to see, in favor of a bunch of junk that didn't make any sense.

This time, I think they did much better. [minor spoiler alert] There was only one change that ticked me off: Frodo believing Gollum and turning his back on Sam. I guess they were trying to show how much the ring had messed with Frodo's head, but it really wasn't necessary, in my opinion, and damaged Frodo's character, made him seem gullible. On the other hand, I think they totally made the right call in dropping the stuff about the destruction of the Shire. [/spoiler]

Sylvia hadn't read the books in a long time, so it was interesting to get a fresh perspective. We agreed that it made us sad when they killed the oliphants. It wasn't their fault, they weren't evil! We also agreed on how sympathetically Gollum was portrayed. I felt glad for him that his last few moments were happy; Sylvia wished that he hadn't died, but had been rescued and redeemed! Can you imagine the hue and cry from LOTR fans if they had made a change like that.

Sylvia also noted that the movie was almost entirely a white man's story. Which is true (Eowyn is the only woman with anything to do, and the only swarthy people we see are the bad guys riding the oliphants), but this was actually much worse in the books so it didn't really bother me.

knitting report

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After seeing the knit caps on Gina's craft page, I decided that I wanted mine to have a roll instead of ribbing at the base. So I ripped out what I had done and started over. (Good thing I'm working on small projects that are easy to do over!) I'm really happy with how it's looking, but I think I'm at or past the point where I need to decrease stitches for the top. That's a bit intimidating, so I started on the scarf instead.

I got some pink yarn to go with the red and orange, and I think the colors look pretty good! I don't, however, like the way it curls up, ending up about half the width that I wanted. Is there a way to fix that? Blocking or something? The sweaters I have with ribbing lay pretty flat. Maybe I should switch to a seed stitch or something.

harvey

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Jan 20 movie: Harvey. Jimmy Stewart stars as Elwood P. Dowd, an amiable drunk whose best friend is a six foot tall invisible rabbit. The basic sweetness of the film is somewhat undercut by some unpleasant events -- for example when his sister tries to have him committed (which in itself is bad enough), the doctor mistakes her for the patient and has a male orderly forcibly carry her off, lock her in a cell, then strip her clothes off and put her into a bathtub. Still the movie is basically kind-hearted. Stewart is funny and charming, although I heard that he wasn't happy with his performance. Later on he did a revival of the stage play with a darker, crazier edge to the character.

midnight

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Jan 19 Movie: Midnight. I have a weakness for screwball comedies starring Claudette Colbert, and this is one of the best. Colbert is a golddigger in Paris who somehow ends up posing as a Hungarian baroness, and evading cabdriver Don Ameche, with the help of John Barrymore. Mary Astor also costars, as well as a British guy who should have been Noel Coward but wasn't. Robert Osbourne said that Barrymore had a hard time with this production, even needing cue cards at times. That's sad, but cue cards or no he still brings the funny. The best scene of the movie is Barrymore pretending to be Colbert's sick daughter in Hungary, braying into the phone about alcohol poisoning. This, It Happened One Night and The Palm Beach Story are my favorite Colbert movies.

sleep good, or so i've heard

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You know, you take one day off from writing in your diary and somehow catching up seems like a terrible burden. Well, probably things wouldn't seem to bad if I'd had a good night's sleep in the past few days. The dogs' bad habit of wanting to go out at 3:30 am has been in full force. And of course, they want only me to take them out. Even on my nights to sleep in the bedroom, they ignore Georg on the air mattress and scratch at the bedroom door to wake me up. Plus I've been a busy little social bee lately, much moreso than usual. Which is great but means staying out late, which makes the 3:30 wake up calls worse. This morning Georg sweetly snuck out without saying goodbye so I could sleep, but Thirteen started scratching on the bedroom door while his car was still warming up in the driveway.

Well I shouldn't complain since they're both healthy and their bad behavior is my fault really (if I didn't let them get away with it, they wouldn't do it). Still, it would be nice to sleep the whole night once in a while.

mod seamstress?

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I've been thinking some more about Michelle at Untidy Museum wanting someone to sew for her. And today I followed a link to this website. I could so make all those clothes. All of them! The sleeveless dresses look like an easy day's work and they're getting over a hundred dollars for each one. I have a couple of patterns that are just as cool as the coolest things in their collection (like a minidress with side cutouts, that I made for myself but haven't had the nerve to wear). I could do this!

The only thing that would be new for me is working in vinyl, but it can't be that hard. I bet all you need is a special needle and special thread. The most serious stumbling block for me is resizing patterns: I have no idea how to do it. And my pattern collection is all in my size (well, duh). I could be a great mod seamstress, but only for women who have the exact same measurements as I do. I wonder if there's a book available on pattern resizing?

knitting circle

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Knitting circle last night at Lisa's place was great fun! Lisa showed extreme patience teaching Christa, Mary, her mom, and me. (Actually, I already knew how to knit but wanted to learn how to shape hats.) I was working on a matching hat and scarf; I think Christa said she wants to make a baby blanket as a gift; and Mary and Lisa's mom were just learning, with no specific project in mind as far as I know. For inspiration, Lisa's mom brought a scarf that a friend of hers had made; the friend sells them for $60! It was made of that "eyelash" yarn, all fringey.

night on earth

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Jan 18 movie: Night on Earth. This is my favorite Jim Jarmusch movie. It's about five taxi rides that take place simultaneously in five cities: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki. I guess you could call it a "slice of life" movie because each segment is basically just spending time with the characters, getting to know them. No life lessons or morals are learned, no one changes (well, with one major exception). So it's five slices of life, in five cities. My favorite segment is the one in Paris, with a fed up driver from the Ivory Coast and a harsh blind woman. You think he's learned something from her in a "very special episode" sort of way, but the seconds after he drops her off make it clear that he's exactly the same guy he was before he met her. I love this movie.

do you eat beef?

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Lisa asked me the other day if I was wigged out about eating beef. Which made me realize that I've heard surprisingly little about the issue on the news and so forth. Before it happened, I had expected the first case of mad cow disease in the US to cause a general panic. (In fact, in my own selfish way I was kind of hoping a decrease in demand would cause beef prices would drop a bit, since they shot up late last year). But the general reaction seems to be "meh."

I did some reading, talked it over with Georg, and decided that for my own eating habits:

  • whole cuts of beef are safe.
  • ground beef and sausage is safe if I know where it came from. For instance Whole Foods grinds their own, in the store, from whole cuts. So I'm comfortable eating it.
  • ground beef and sausage are risky if I don't know where it came from. The cheaper the meat, the more risk. I might change my mind about this when things settle down and we know more. But for now, no ground beef or sausage from restaurants or bargain markets.
  • high risk organs like sweetbreads, tripe and tongue are definitely to be avoided, but I wouldn't have eaten them anyway.

Whole Foods also claims to only use cows that had a vegetarian diet, no cow cannibalism for them. So I feel pretty good about continuing to buy beef from them. Thanks to Georg's employee discount card, we would almost always get meat from them anyway. And I wasn't exactly a fast-food junkie (I think I may have eaten at Wendy's once in the past year). So this hasn't required much change in my shopping and eating habits.

The weird thing is, I thought I was being fairly low-key about the whole BSE issue. What with continuing to buy beef, even ground beef, it seemed like I was taking a relaxed approach. But from talking to other folks it seems like maybe I am wigged out, at least in comparison. No one else I talked to has even stopped eating restaurant hamburgers. What are you doing? I'd really like to know. Do you still eat beef? Ground beef? Tongue? (If you weren't eating beef before, I'd still like to know how you feel about mad cow disease.)

soap life lessons

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Q: How do you know you've been watching too many soaps?

A: If you're upset with someone, you turn your back on them and face a window while talking to them.

No, I don't do that. Just saw it on TWoP and thought it was hilarious. My addendum would be, every time someone asks you a really important question, you pause for 20-30 seconds and stare at them, wait for commercial, then answer.

night and day

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Jan 18 Movie: Night and Day. Largely fictionalized Cole Porter biopic is more fun after having read a Porter biography (Noel and Cole), which makes the fictions more glaringly apparent. In the movie Porter is not only a WWI war hero, but a proud, self-made man who refuses the money of his well-to-do family and his millionaire wife Linda (they marry later in the movie than in real life) because he wants to succeed on his own. Hilarious scenes include Porter working at a department store music counter, writing songs on his lunch hour, when at that time in his life he and Linda were actually busy giving and attending parties at their Upper East Side penthouse, their Paris home and their Venice hotel suite. I read that Porter could have been successful much sooner if he'd been more serious about his work and devoted less time to his high society lifestyle. (I wanted to write "jet-set" but I doubt they were called that in the 1920s.)

Alas, having read Noel and Cole made me enjoy the music in the film less. Because apparently the producers had originally planned on cameo appearances by all the Broadway stars to do the songs they had made famous. But then for budget reasons they decided to use no-name studio singers instead. Watching some fairly unremarkable singer do "I've Got You Under My Skin," when I knew it should have been Ethel Merman, kind of stuck in my craw.

Another note of historical revisionism that stuck in my craw: they show the opening night of The Gay Divorce, sans Fred Astaire of course, but the playbill uses the censored movie title "The Gay Divorcee." (Apparently the movie board felt that a divorce could not be a happy event, but a divorcee could be happy about getting one.) I guess when practically the whole movie was made up out of whole cloth I shouldn't waste my time even noticing a tiny detail like that.

There was one bonus in the film though: a small appearance by Alan Hale Sr. as a Broadway producer who rejects "Mrs. Otis Regrets" because "I hear it here" (taps his ear) "but I don't feel here" (thumps his heart). I've been thinking about having an "Alan Hale Sr. Month" sometime this year, and seeing as many of his movies as I can. That would be fun.

the swatch saga

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I mentioned about a week ago that I had ordered a really stylish Swatch with the last of my Xmas money from my folks. I had ordered it from overseas, not Squiggly.com which I had ordered from before, but a different one. They said delivery would take 5-10 business days so I thought I'd definitely have it by my birthday.

Well, yesterday morning I realized that it had been a week and I hadn't heard anything back from them. Wrote to ask about the status of my order, and mentioning that I really wanted to have it by the 29th. Got a message back today saying that my watch is out of stock, but they expect to get more next week, but they couldn't confirm delivery by the 29th. I must say that really annoyed me. Their website said it was in stock; when were they planning to tell me it wasn't?

They asked me if I wanted to cancel the order. So I wrote back saying yes, cancel my order, then went to Squiggly.com and ordered it from them, which I should have done in the first place. I feel kind of bad about canceling the order from the first place, but that whole exchange just gave me a bad feeling. If they had written back right away to tell me it was out of stock, I might have paid for express shipping so I would get it in time. As it is I think they should have offered to upgrade my shipping for free, but they didn't.

I could have asked them to give me a free shipping upgrade, but because of the time difference email exchanges take a full day each time. Besides, they wrote back to me from an AOL account, which I don't take as a sign of a professional operation. So I thought it best to just cancel the order and try Squiggly.com while there may still be time.

cultural anthropologist

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My post from earlier today might have given the impression that last night was all doom and gloom. Not so! The visions of nuclear holocaust in Kent were merely a blip on an otherwise fine evening of celebrating Rick's birthday in WXDU style. Viva and MOD provided music and tons of XDU folks were there. I must say, I haven't been at a party like that -- way too many people crowded into an old house, drinking and talking over the music, the floor shaking alarmingly from the dancing, until the wee hours of the morning -- in a while, but I had a great time.

The theme of the evening was "what was I thinking?" and everyone was supposed to wear clothing that illustrated this concept. Lisa, Christa and I weren't totally down with this, as we've all been working on eliminating the "what was I thinking" clothes from our closets. So we decided to ignore this instruction and dress really brightly and stylishly. Sort of, "what was I thinking, looking so great?"

Lisa and I both ended up in bright pink outfits -- me in the Ethel dress, her in a striped pink, orange and purple sweater and pink skirt. The funny thing is, these two outfits were tonally almost the same, but quite different in hue. (Alicia commented that looking at both of us at the same time made her eyes hurt.) So we looked like we had tried to match, but failed miserably. I kept telling people that we were twins. Because in high school, that's what my friends and I would say when we wore matching clothes.

I'm not so good at small talk, especially when the music makes it hard to hear people. This became apparent when a woman came over and started chatting with us. She asked us what we did, and Lisa replied "I drink," then pointed to my bottle of Perrier and added "She drives." (I rarely drink anyway, so I had agreed to drive everyone home from the party. Lisa had kindly provided me with a pack of lime Perrier so I wouldn't be drinking tap water all night.)

Then the woman told us that she's a grad student in cultural anthropology. There was this horrible silence while Lisa and I both searched for something to say, then Lisa blurted out "That's great!" There was just something about her tone that made me laugh so hard, I literally (yes, literally!) had to turn around to avoid spitting lime Perrier on them both. I swear, I can't remember that last time I laughed that much. It would have been better though, if the other woman had also found it funny. As it was I was basically laughing in her face about her profession. Which, unfortunately, I didn't realize until it was too late to tell her that wasn't what I meant. I was just laughing because it was so awkward, not having anything at all to say to a cultural anthropologist, and Lisa's "That's great!" just blew the lid off the tension in a way that was very funny.

Later in the evening we were talking with Rick's housemate Lauren, and Lisa again refused to answer the "what do you do" question, telling her that she was a cultural anthropologist (and again making me laugh my ass off, but at least this time no spit take), and also that she played soccer, designs Tarot cards and drives an art car.

I wish now that we had let Lauren in one the joke; she knew obviously that Lisa didn't do all those things, but didn't realize we were appropriating each others' lives. (I wish I had thought to say that I'm a New Beetle expert!) What would have been really funny is if she had seen us get into Undersea Mah Jongg, which was parked right across the street. Then she might have believed that Lisa really is a cultural anthropologist who plays soccer and designs tarot cards.

But the fun wasn't all about messing with people's heads. There was also lots of talk about Buffy; Christa trying on someone's very cool teal suede boots (and too bad they didn't quite fit!); Georg's very dramatic polka-dotted shirt; a woman explaining that she was addicted to "shaking her ass," i.e. dancing, then proving it by jumping up and shaking her ass quite a lot right in our faces as we sat on the couch; watching a full cup of water spill just a few feet from me, but not a drop spilling on the Ethel dress; being chided for leaving so early at 12:45; and general party goodness.

the war game

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On Lisa's suggestion I'm putting all the movie posts into their own entries. That way I can assign them all a separate category which will make it easier to sort them out at the end of the year.

Jan 16 movie: The War Game. Presented by AV Geeks, this 1966 BBC documentary about the aftermath of nuclear attack was the most grim movie I have ever seen. Seriously, I've seen some doozies, and I've been sitting here trying, and failing, to think of one that was more disturbing than The War Game. Basically they took the worst recorded events at Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other bombed cities, and re-enacted them in gruesome detail in Kent. Burned up children screaming, the worst of the wounded being abandoned or shot, and so forth. Not exactly a laugh riot. The film was banned in Britain, I guess they feared it would cause a panic, but was available in the US and won an Academy Award.

As Skip (our host) pointed out, most Americans have never seen a mid-60s BBC documentary, but we have seen parodies of them. So The War Game resembled nothing so much as an elaborate Monty Python sketch. One with no jokes, but a lot of burned up screaming children. The Monty Python connection provided an element of surrealism that only made it more disturbing. However, I'm really glad Skip mentioned it. Because otherwise I would have thought there was something deeply wrong with me for finding the structure of the film somehow funny.

On the bright side, now I finally feel ready to rent Grave of Fireflies and Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Both of which I've wanted to see for a long time, but wasn't sure if I could handle. But they can't be worse than The War Game.

The AV Geeks presentation also included a couple of shorts: an RKO film called You Can Beat the A Bomb! which, as you can imagine, portrayed a nuclear attack as a minor inconvenience to the daily lives of middle America. After The War Game this was pretty damned funny. Also a Canadian animated short, I think the title was The Great Snit but I'm not 100% sure, about an old couple who argue over a Scrabble game, unaware that nuclear war has broken out. Just as they make up they are killed, turn into angels and go back to their game. Sounds creepy but it was actually funny and sweet.

Also yesterday I thought I had Tivo'ed a mid-sixties Michael Caine crime movie set in London. Which sounded like great fun. But I must have selected the wrong thing because I ended up with After the Fox, a monumentally unfunny mid-sixties Peter Sellers crime movie set in Italy. I'm not counting it as a movie of the day because I gave up before the halfway point.

i heart itunes

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I've wanted to love the iTunes music store, but they never have what I want. I don't think my taste in music is that obscure, but apparently too obscure for iTunes. Up until now that is. I checked today and they now have Eighteenth Street Lounge and Six Degrees, neither of which I think they had before. I guess they really are working on improving their catalog. woo hoo!

Now I just wish there was a way to browse by label.

nostalgia

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My friend Kevin has been writing about his oldest blogging friends and when he met them. He thought I was one of the oldest, but actually I didn't get to Duke until 1986 so I'm #6 on his list.

Speaking of nostalgia, I've been trying to remember when exactly he and I met. The first specific memory I have is that I was volunteering for the craft committee of the student union, and they made us take around these petitions to raise student fees. (Actually the petition was to put it on the ballot, but still the goal was to get more money for the student union.) So I took the petition to my dorm and asked everyone to sign, including Kevin. Who told me in no uncertain terms what he thought of said petition. He wasn't mean about it, just very clear. I wasn't very politically minded at the time, and I think that may have been my introduction to the idea that a lot of people don't like tax increases. Most of the students didn't care, maybe because they weren't paying the bill.

My first memory of his sweetie Nellorat is sitting with her and Kevin and another friend in a coffee shop, and her encouraging me to join C-APA, a writing group about comics. "But I don't read comics," I said. That's okay, she assured me, she hadn't been reading them much lately either, until very recently when she'd just gotten back into them. I was trying to get across that no, really, I don't read comics at all, but I can't remember what exactly was said. I do remember that the conversation led to my joining Frefanzine, so in a very real way Nellorat is responsible for my involvement with apas, which definitely changed the course of my life -- for one thing, I met both my ex and Georg in Frefanzine.

While I'm on the topic of nostalgia, that craft committee (for which I had to collect signatures) was way too much fun for the student union. We did workshops on things that could be done in an evening, like making felt or marbelizing paper or those string bracelets that everyone was wearing at the time, but mainly we hung out in the craft center and had fun. It was me (a freshman) and two senior girls. I totally felt like one of the cool kids. One of the other girls and I were talking once about where we came from, and it turned out that, even though she lived in some totally different place, her Uncle Sid lived a few blocks from me and carpooled to work with my dad! That was so weird.

busy days

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It's been a busy couple of days, lots of running around and doing stuff and even getting work done. Yesterday I had lunch with two really fun women that I met online. We get together every couple of months. Then Sylvia stopped by because she needed to scan a photo. She told me that she had seen a pattern on Ebay that she thought I would like, and she knew I was out of town, so she got it for me! Isn't that sweet? I have the best friends.

Last night was also Stoneline. They're so nice, they treat me like one of the family. I can't even remember how long I've been working for them. But I remember when they decided to have kids, I had been working there for a while. And their oldest daughter just turned 7. So I think it's been about 9 years. Wow. Their oldest girl, Carina, used to be my best bud. But these days she's too cool for me. But her little sister Genna is still really affectionate. She always climbs up in my lap so I can read her a book. Genna just started speaking full sentences. It's amazing. I remember when she expressed herself with single words, then two words together, and then suddenly it was complete thoughts. Well, it seemed sudden to me, but I only see her once a week.

Georg and I went out to dinner tonight, which was nice although the food wasn't spectacular. I think I've been spoiled because we don't eat out very often anymore, so when we do it's always something special -- either a really good restaurant or one that we love. After dinner we walked around Northgate Mall, where I discovered the truest sign that the economy is in the toilet: everything at the Dollar World is now 75 cents.

dark victory

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Jan 14 movie: None! With all the running around and then a new Angel, there wasn't time. We did watch a few episodes of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast from the Season 1 DVD.

Jan 15 movie: Dark Victory. I'll watch just about anything with Bette Davis in it, but I had been wanting to see this again for a long time. It's often described as her best along with Now, Voyager, which is my favorite of her movies. Well on repeated viewing, I don't think Dark Victory is as good as Now, Voyager. But both of them do feature well-developed character studies. This one, a classic weeper, is about a Long Island socialite who gets an incurable brain tumor and falls in love with her brain surgeon. Supporting roles by Humphrey Bogart as an Irish stable manager (!) and Ronald Reagan as an addled but amiable playboy (no stretch there) are more interesting for the novelty value than the acting.

Brent's portrayal of the doctor makes me thank my lucky stars I never needed medical care in 1939. The day of her surgery, Brent categorically refuses to answer Davis' basic questions. Such as, where on her head are they going to cut open, and what exactly are they going to do. All he'll say is "Don't worry, that's my concern." Yeah, it's only her brain, no need for her to worry! I wonder if that was realistic. Then after the surgery, the doctors agree not to tell her the negative prognosis, so her final months will be happy. (I'm assuming -- hoping -- that was not realistic.)

Prurient note: I read in a book on fashion recently that Bette Davis' costumers hated her, because she was busty and refused to wear a bra. So they had to dress her to conceal her bosom. Since reading that, I'm always noticing the design of her costumes. It's true -- they're always loose around the bust, and she's often wearing a bolero jacket or capelet or something.

drivers license renewal

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Does anyone know if there's a grace period on drivers license renewals? Because I would really like to wait until I get my hair cut. I don't want to have a drivers license photo for six years with the wretched hair I have now. But my hair appointment isn't until the 26th, and my license expires on the 29th. That's cutting it a bit close, especially considering that most of the day on the 28th will be taken up with Lina's appointment in Raleigh.

My hairdresser, David Sutton, is really hard to get an appointment with. I usually schedule my next appointment as I'm paying for the last one. But this time I screwed up and had to reschedule because of our trip. I didn't realize it until about a week before the appointment (which was scheduled for the 6th), and the first available they had was on the 26th. Argh! I've started wearing hats to cover the shaggy mess that is my hair, but they won't let you wear a hat for your DMV photo. (I tried once; they did not find "but I wear hats all the time, I look more like myself in a hat!" a convincing argument.)

Maybe if my hair appointment is early enough in the day, I could drive to the DMV straight from it. That would cut down on the chances of getting busy and accidently letting my license expire, and also my hair would look extra nice for the photo.

Is this the most vain entry I've ever written in this journal? I think maybe it is.

thirteen update

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With all the worry and attention to Lina, I realized that I haven't talked about Thirteen in ages. So here's a long-overdue Thirteen update. She's doing really well. I think her arthritis is better this winter; she seems to be walking better and having less trouble getting up when she's been lying still for a long time. Last fall her skin problem was really bad but it seems better now, her fur is growing back. She still goes outside and rolls in dried leaves to scratch her back, giving rise to the nickname "Leafybutt." Which reminds me I need to get more of the fish oil supplement for her food.

She also seems really happy and has even gotten braver with people from outside the family. She's inquisitive towards visitors, instead of just hiding. Sean's wife Pam has been trying to make friends with Thirteen for ages, and she finally seems to be responding, acting happy to see Pam and sometimes willingly letting Pam pet her (rather than fearfully holding still for it or just running away). I didn't think a dog as old as she is could make a personality change like that. Maybe because we've been having more visitors lately? In any case it's very gratifying.

I've been making an effort to spend time with Thirteen, scratching her tummy and talking to her, several times a day. I didn't want her to feel neglected due to all the attention Lina's been getting. Lina, by the way, seems to be doing well. She hasn't fallen since we got back from New York, what a relief. She walks without a noticeable limp (except sometimes when she first gets up) though I can still hear that her steps are different on that paw: "tick-tick-tick-thwap, tick-tick-tick-thwap." I'm hoping that this is normal, her learning how to use the realigned leg.

Last night the air mattress developed a leak. (Have I mentioned that Georg and I are taking turns sleeping on the air mattress in the living room, to keep the dogs company since we can't risk them sleeping in our bedroom where Lina would jump on the bed? And have been doing this for the past six weeks? Have I mentioned how extremely glad we will be when this is over?) Sleeping on a partially deflated air mattress feels like sleeping in a bathtub: your head, arms and feet are buoyed up, but your tailbone is pressed against the floor. Not comfortable! I was really concerned that we wouldn't be able to find the leak and would have to switch to the couch (where I love to nap, but for some reason can't sleep well overnight). But this morning I discovered that the fitted sheet had gotten caught in the release valve. I'm hoping that was the cause of the leak.

Lina's followup appointment has been scheduled for Jan 28. That's when they tell us if she's recovering on schedule, and if we're allowed to give her more mobility. Here's hoping we can put away the air mattress and things will get back to normal after that!

man with a movie camera

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Jan 13 movie: Man With a Movie Camera. 1929 documentary of "an except from the diary of a cameraman" in the Soviet Union. With no plot, no narrative, no actors and no intertitles they somehow managed to make an incredibly compelling film. The film is unusual even for modern documentaries in that the camera is a near-constant presence. They actually had two cameras, one filming scenes of public life in Odessa and the second filming the first, so we get to see both the "man with the movie camera" and his footage. It's fascinating to see how the cameraman gets a particular shot -- perched on top of the door of a moving car, lying in a trench in the middle of a railroad track, behind the counter of a government license bureau, steering a motorcycle with one hand and turning the camera's crank with the other, etc.

There's also extensive use of special effects like split screens and superimposed images, which I imagine must have been pretty radical, especially in the Soviet Union (Robert Osborne said that the director wasn't popular with the soviet government). But the most interesting moment was seeing a woman at a rifle range, shooting a target that had a little swastika on its head! When she hit the target a sign popped open that said "Father of Fascism." We were surprised that Soviet/Nazi hostility was already so great in 1929.

Unfortunately the movie has a 1995 score by Alloy Orchestra rather than the breathtakingly beautiful score by Cinematic Orchestra. So we muted the TV and started the Cinematic Orchestra album at the same time as the movie. It seems like the CD more or less follows the movie but isn't a perfect match. Sometimes the music seems well suited to the visuals, other times it's woefully out of sync. I'm guessing that we're off by maybe a couple of minutes, though it's hard to tell. Still, I adore this album so I'm thrilled to see the images that inspired it.

I was concerned that I was too tired and would find Man With a Movie Camera too arty, but it isn't at all. It's brilliant. If you ever get the chance to see Cinematic Orchestra perform the score live to the movie, buy a ticket for me!

chicken salad casserole

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I made a simple dinner out of last night's leftover roast chicken: "hot chicken salad casserole." Which was, reasonably enough, your basic chicken salad, in a casserole with cheese added and bread crumbs on top, baked in the oven. Georg's brother Rob had made it for us in Staten Island. We wrote down the recipe, but couldn't find it so I got another recipe from the net. This one wasn't quite as good, a bit bland and not as creamy. So we're going to look again for Rob's recipe.

Thankfully I did not have to go into the station this morning. I had thought it was Brad's day (the guy I split the show with) but wasn't sure, so I was up and ready to go in case he didn't show. But he did, so I stayed home and got some work done instead. Wanted to get started on my next sewing project, but didn't get all that far. Also exercised today for the first time in months. Good golly I'm tired.

literally

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My dad wrote that the big plot twist in Diabolique made him literally jump out of his chair. Which reminded me of my pet peeve: people (unlike my dad) who say "literally" when they mean "figuratively."

I try not to bitch and moan about new usages for the most part. After all, language is ever-changing and all that. But this one really ticks me off, because it removes a word from the language without providing an alternative. If "literally" now means "figuratively," then what word means "literally"? I guess "actually" can fill in, but it just doesn't have the same conversational oomph.

I've heard someone say that a couple was "literally joined at the hip." Oh really? Literally joined at the hip? So I guess they're conjoined twins? No, I didn't say that, but I still wish I had.

It even happens in Quicksilver, the book I'm reading right now. The character Daniel Waterhouse, a seventeenth century "natural philosopher," notes that an angry pirate captain can be seen running back and forth "with smoke literally coming out of his head," which really stuck in my craw. I doubt that a scientist would misuse the word "literally" twenty years ago (I would hope not even today), much less three hundred years ago.

Unless of course "literally" meant "figuratively" at that time, shifted to mean "actually" in the intervening years, and is now shifting back. In which case I withdraw my objection to the new usage (and am really impressed with Stephenson's research skills).

Speaking Quicksilver, I'm enjoying it. I'm not bothered this time by the interludes of people sitting around talking and getting in the way of the action, because there doesn't seem to be any plot whatsoever. The book reads as Stephenson's excuse to spend about 900 pages exploring an interesting environment and point of view, without any concern for, you know, story. Which turns out to be liberating: the interludes don't seem like an intrusion anymore because that's the whole book. 17th century people sitting around talking about science and philosophy, conducting experiments and so forth. If anything, the occasional scenes of action are now intrusive.

Or maybe I simply find 17th century science more interesting than crypotography. Stephenson rambling his way through a book, essentially wanking about the latter bores me to tears, but the former is more engaging.

space ghost, no!

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Spent the whole day at the office today. They asked me to come in for a meeting, which actually the client had never responded to confirm, but he 'tends to drop in' so could I hang around for three hours to cover the suggested time frame. Okay, what the hell, there was some stuff I could do there. Then when I was finally free to go, my boss handed me another project, "this hasn't been working, I talked to them about it last week and they're anxious to get it fixed, so can you fix it before you leave?" I grit my teeth, wonder why he didn't give this to me when I came in, and get to work. An hour and a half later, I'm done, and he gives me another little fix. And then another. And then asks me to call a client who's also a friend and just wants to chat for half an hour. Argh!

So that was my day. I had wanted to run some errands and get started on a sewing project but instead I spent the day warming a chair. Mmmm, warm chair.

Tonight we watched last night's Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and I am dismayed to report that the new season kinda sucks. In fact, the last two new episodes have sucked so bad they were almost painful to watch. They seem to have lost most of the giddy, freaky, off-beat humor and kept only the extremely juvenile stuff (i.e. bodily fluid jokes). What happened, had all the good writers found other gigs? If I thought that sort of thing was funny, I'd be watching Punk'd.

the nun's story

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Jan 11 movie: The Nun's Story. I ended up getting sucked in and watching the whole thing, which I should have known would happen. I'm fascinated with movies about nuns, probably because of the complete lack of religious upbringing in my life except for four years in a Catholic high school. Audrey Hepburn plays a young Belgian nun who works in the Congo as a nurse and wrestles with doubts about her calling. The interesting thing, I think, is the lack of black and white morality (a rarity in old movies about nuns). The convent system is made to seem kindly and loving, if sometimes misguided, but leaving it is clearly the right decision for her. A sharp contrast to Song of Bernadette, where Jennifer Jones glows with beatific light while being tormented by the sadistic mistress of novices. On the other hand, Song of Bernadette has Vincent Price as a sceptical magistrate, which is always a big plus.

Jan 12 movie: The Toy Wife. This movie was awful and I wouldn't have watched the whole thing if I hadn't been too tired after work to get off my ass. It's about a selfish brat named Frou-Frou, in antebellum Louisiana, who marries the man her sister loves, then runs off with another man, who dies in a duel with the husband, and the husband is such a bastard about the whole thing that the sister falls out of love with him, then Frou-Frou gets tuberculosis and dies. But they all forgive each other on her deathbed so it's okay. As an added bonus there were more hideous stereotypes of african slaves than you can shake a stick at. The Toy Wife was kind of like the Bette Davis classic Jezebel except completely wretched.

the gay divorcee

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Jan 11 Movie: The Gay Divorcee. This is one of my very favorite movies, but oddly I don't have much to say about it. Ginger Rogers mistakes Fred Astaire for hired corespondent in her divorce; wacky hijinks and a lot of dancing ensue. The original play, The Gay Divorce, featured Fred and Claire Luce and was considered rather smutty. But Ginger's fresh faced delivery makes the jokes seem less dirty. (The play also had lots of songs by Cole Porter, only one of which -- "Night and Day" -- was retained in the movie.) I've seen most Fred and Ginger movies so many times but I never get tired of them. I'm hoping this movie list will help me figure out how many times I watch their movies in a typical year.

Now I'm watching The Nun's Story with Audrey Hepburn, but I probably won't watch the whole thing so I'm not including it on the list.

vintage fabric

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The good news is I finally found the website for that vintage fabric store in Asheville where I bought the polka dot fabric. The bad news is, she's drastically raised her prices. I can't remember what I paid for the polka dot fabric but it's now $18 a yard. Yikes! Too rich for my blood.

I remember her saying last August that her fabrics went for a lot more on Ebay, but she hadn't gotten around to raising her prices in the store so I was getting a good deal. I guess she got around to it. Well, I'm going to write to her, send her a photo of the polka dot dress, and gently inquire as to whether I could possibly get more of it at the price I paid last August. If her prices are still lower in the store, I'd gladly drive out there.

housework

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A low-key day today, just hanging around the house and doing housework. Now that the Christmas decorations are finally down, I've been really noticing the dust & untidyness that was hidden by the distracting influence of garlands and ornaments everywhere.

We had bought a big under-bed Rubbermaid thing to put all the wrapping paper in, but it didn't fit under the bed. So I got some of those bed lifts, but then I realized that if the bed is six inches taller Lina might hurt herself trying to jump on it, as she'll be allowed to do in two and a half weeks. So we've had this giant Rubbermaid bin on the dining table while we try to figure out where to put it. Finally today I got it under my desk, whew! I have a big desk and I have to say, the far reaches under it are pretty scary. One of these days I'll get under there with a vacuum cleaner. Just not today.

the store i deserve

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Today was somewhat eventful, featuring Georg's car refusing to start (turned out to be no big deal, just a bad lead connecting to one of the battery terminals), a trip to Borders and another trip to Thriftworld. Which is still the store I deserve.

We went back because I had forgotten some of the stuff we wanted to drop off. And also because one of the skirts I had bought hadn't made it into my bag. The skirt was sitting behind the register, and the girl at the counter was really nice about it. I don't think she entirely understood what I was saying, but she let me have the skirt without any argument over paying for it again. Even though I'm not 100% sure I paid for it yesterday, since they don't give receipts.

While we were there I also looked through the jeans, and finally found a pair that fit! Woo hoo! My months-long quest for jeans is finally at an end. This pair are from the Gap, which is funny because I had tried on some Gap jeans in the mall and really liked the way they fit, but didn't buy them because of the price. But these were only $6! I'm wearing my new jeans and new sweater right now. Thriftworld is the best.

At Borders I browsed sewing books (the bookstore is the perfect place to read them, because they have useful tips but nothing so earthshattering that I feel the need to own them), while Georg spent the gift certificate my sister had given him, on a calendar and a couple of CDs and Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques, a new reissue of his out-of-print classics La Technique and La Methode.

He even got a present for me: Sammy Davis Jr. At the Cocoanut Grove. I love Sammy, he's easily my all-time favorite male vocalist (as Georg well knows) so this is great. This is the first live performance I've heard with just Sammy alone. On the Rat Pack CDs it's really fun to hear the guys play off each other, but it's also frustrating because Frank and Dean never let Sammy get through a song without interjecting jokes that can be pretty offensive by modern standards. Of course things were different forty years ago, we can't judge them by our standards, etc. But still, this CD is a nice change of pace. He imitates other singers (including Sinatra), riffs on that newfangled rock-n-roll, tells a funny story about meeting JFK and making an ass of himself, and sings some kick-ass songs. Right now he's doing a hilarious, spot-on impersonation of Marlene Deitrich singing "Falling In Love Again." Sammy rocks!

the wages of fear

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Jan. 10 movie: The Wages of Fear. Very good, extremely tense film by Henri-Georges Clouzot, director of Diabolique (another brilliant thriller) and The Mystery of Picasso (which isn't tense at all, but is very very good. It's a documentary of live footage of Picasso at work, using special canvases and ink, with the camera on the other side of the canvas. So the paintings seem to appear of their own accord. [Midway through the film Picasso gets tired of the inks and switches to oils, and from then on they use stop-motion to show the paintings develop.] We coincidentally saw it a couple of weeks ago, and didn't realize it was the same director as this film until Robert Osborne said so). Anyway, The Wages of Fear is about Yves Montand and three other guys driving two trucks full of nitrogylcerin through rural South America. Do they make it? Well, this is a French film.

You know that scene about two-thirds of the way through The African Queen where everyone passes out, thoroughly defeated, and then the camera pulls back to show that they've almost made it? I remember Sean saying a long time ago that if it was a French movie, that would have been the end. The Wages of Fear makes me understand that remark. It wasn't easy to watch, but I enjoyed it immensely. (And managed not to have nightmares about rotten bridges or pits of mud and oil! woo hoo!) I heard there was a 70's Hollywood remake but I couldn't find it on imdb.com. I hope it's not as stupid as the remake of Diabolique.

Speaking of Diabolique, Osborne said that it earned Clouzot the nickname "the French Hitchcock." Which apparently irritated Hitchcock because he had tried to buy the rights to Diabolique, but Clouzot got to it first by only a few hours. I wonder what Diabolique would have been like if Hitchcock had directed it? It already had the icy blonde and the humiliation of women; Clouzot was halfway there.

I remember the climax of Diabolique as one of the most shocking things (in the sense of surprising, not outrageous) I've ever seen in the movies. When I realized what was happening my jaw literally fell open. It's such a shame that movie advertising techniques rob the movies of their capacity to surprise. Why do they want us to know everything about a movie before we see it? It makes no sense.

beginning the movie list

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Whenever I see "best movies of the year" articles, I think about writing my own. The problem is that I watch so many movies, by the end of the year I could never remember enough of what I've seen to put together a "best of."

So I'm going to try keeping a list of all the movies I've seen this year. It probably would be better to keep it someplace private, so I'm not revealing to the entire world (okay, the tiny tiny segment of the world that reads this thing) just how many bad movies I'll sit through. But I know myself well enough to know that if I keep the list anywhere else, I'll stop keeping it in a week or two. Which might happen anyway, but I've got a better shot at sticking with it if it's here.

Now's the perfect time to start, because I was too busy on the 1st to watch any movies (I think), didn't see any while I was in Staten Island, and have been clearing out the shows on the DVR since we got back. So I think the list will be fairly complete even though I didn't start until today. For now I'm only going to write down movies if I saw the entire film (or close to it).

Jan 7: Monsters Inc. : not a big fan of Billy Crystal or John Goodman, but this was very cute and sweet. Maybe not being able to see the actors helped.

Jan 8: Castle in the Sky : Fantastic. I think now we've seen almost all Miyazaki's films. This seemed like more of a boys' story, unlike say, Kiki's Delivery Service which was all about friendships and had almost no external conflict. This one was a ripping yarn with pirates, chase scenes, airship battles and a lot more death than any of his other films I've seen. Still, the violence is at a distance so it seems less violent than the extremely graphic Princess Mononoke. I think girls would enjoy it just as much as boys, and small children might not even realize that people died in the big battle.

Jan 9: The Great Lie : 1941 melodrama with Bette Davis and George Brent raising Brent's child with Mary Astor. The plot was probably racy at the time, but they soften the whole "unwed mother" thing by having Brent and Astor get married, spend one night together and then find out it wasn't legal. I'll watch just about anything with Bette Davis in it (as Georg will attest) but the highlight of this movie is definitely Mary Astor as a self-centered, bratty concert pianist. I've seen this before, which I guess means I'm going to be writing down movies that I've seen before.

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I'm contemplating a change of format here. Instead of trying to write one entry a day, with everything that happened in the day crammed into that one post, I'm going to try posting shorter entries whenever I think of it. Maybe this will curb my tendency to meander endlessly in my posts. Or maybe it will encourage me to waste even more time on my web journal. Can't wait to find out.

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As you are well aware by now if you live in the Triangle, or read the web journals of people who do, it snowed today. We were only supposed to get flurries overnight, no accumulation, but it snowed (sometimes heavily) all morning and well into the afternoon. We got a couple of inches on the ground but the roads were clear (at least in Durham) all day.

I ended up going to both jobs today: a meeting at HKB, then Stoneline needed help with their payroll program. Seems it had gotten screwed up when I installed the 2004 tax tables. Took some time but I finally figured out that the new tax tables only work with the latest version of the program, which we did not have. The new tax tables installed on the older version, but got totally corrupted and wouldn't work. It was deducting 100% of the gross for federal, another 100% for state, plus the normal amount for FICA. So the employee would end up with a negative amount of slightly more than their gross pay.

I must say, this is my main gripe about this program (Aatrix): it handles problems really badly. Why does it let me install a tax table that won't run with my version of the program? Why wasn't there any warning in the installation instructions about it? Why didn't anyne anticipate that this might happen? At least we didn't have to pay for the upgrade, but we still paid in hours of my time and my boss'.

This isn't the first time we've had a problem like this. Earlier in the year we ran out of room on the zip disk we use for the program. Rather than providing an error message, the program mysteriously stopped saving data. We would enter paychecks, but they just wouldn't show up in the payroll history. Took me days to figure out what was wrong that time.

We keep using Aatrix because there really isn't an alternative that I know of. (A dangerous situation, as users of Quark Xpress in the mid 90s can attest.) But we don't have to be happy about it.

After Stoneline the snow had stopped and the roads still looked really clear, so rather than head straight home I detoured to Thriftworld, The Store I Deserve. (alas, the sign in their new location no longer says "The Store You Deserve," but I still think of them as the store I deserve.) I had a bunch of clothes to drop off, and in the spirit of recycling bought some things too. But I took home less than I dropped off, so I came out ahead on the exchange!

Sometimes you can just tell when a group of clothes at the thrift store came from the same person, you know? And when that person is my size, has similar taste to mine, and takes good care of her clothes, well I call that my lucky day! I got several skirts and a little cardigan sweater, plus another sweater that made me think of my sister. If she doesn't like it, what the heck, three bucks.

I also bought a few patterns but nothing too thrilling. They had some nice 70's patterns, including a midriff top that would be pretty fashionable right now. But I'm not into 70's clothes so I passed it over.

My bargain-hunting efforts backfired on me in one instance: there was a Swatch store in the Newark airport, where I saw the cutest Swatch I'd ever seen. It looked good on me, too. I didn't buy it, because there's this Swatch website from the Netherlands that I really like, with good prices. Well I checked the website and they did have it at a discount -- but only at the euro/dollar conversation rate of a year ago. With the current weak dollar, the price was about the same. A little more, with shipping. Plus I think I'll have to pay a jeweler to resize it, which the Swatch store would have done for free. Argh!

There's no Swatch store anywhere near here, so I went ahead and ordered the watch. I really did like it, and I hadn't yet spent all of my Xmas money from my dad. But I'm irked about having to pay more because I was so hot to save a few dollars.

By popular demand (okay, Gina asked, and she's popular, so that counts!) here's a photo of the Ethel jacket with the sleeves and collar I made. And if you missed it, another link to the photo of the matching dress I had posted before. The right sleeve looks a little lumpy but that's just the way it's lying on the table. It actually hangs nice and even.

A few impressions of New York that I forgot to mention in previous posts:

- The ferry terminal, which used to be cheerless and grimy, has gotten a lot worse. For some reason they've decided to do construction simultaneously on both terminals, so they both look all boarded over and half-finished. (No word on whether they're still planning to build a giant clock on the approach to the Manhattan terminal, but I hope they do. Because as Georg said, what do you need to know as you get off the ferry? What time it is!) Getting out of the terminal on Staten Island is a nightmare, involving a near-endless walk through a maze of scaffolding, boarded up walls, and so forth. Almost all the vendors are gone too; I guess they'll be back when the construction is finished. Plus there's the added frisson of the security people with machine guns and dogs. I guess I shouldn't bitch about them, I suppose it's better to be prepared. But still, a terrorist attack on the Staten Island Ferry seems a bit far-fetched to me.

Also the announcements at the beginning and end of the ferry ride have gotten a lot longer. Apparently in response to that whole "crashing into the pier and killing 11 people" incident last fall. Now there's a lengthy announcement about the importance of staying off the stairwells and behind the yellow line until the ferry is docked. The announcer always had this tone in his voice of "I'm not kidding, people! Were you watching the news last year? Then you know that we mean it!"

- I saw far fewer people (than on previous trips) simply asking for handouts, but lots of buskers. I gave money to a couple of people: a guy who got on the subway car and sang gospel songs, and another guy who played the accordian on the platform. Both of them were talented and made my subway experience more pleasant. I heard a guy on the subway humming the tune that the accordianist had been playing, so I wasn't the only one who enjoyed it. However, we did see the police ticketing a busker in a different subway station. So I guess they're not universally loved.

- On 14th street we saw a Circuit City with a really big number (in both senses: a long number and a large sign) displayed on the building above the storefront. The number was increasing rapidly, ticking off every second. Does anyone know what that number refers to? We didn't see anything on the building to indicate what it was. But it was dark out, maybe there's an explanation that isn't lit up.

- Another great thing about Century 21 is their selection of tights. I got several pairs, mostly DKNY. Because someone gave me a pair of DKNY tights about 8 years ago that I still wear all the time. Those things are indestructible. The elastic waist is shot, but no sign of a run after all these years. I also heard someone say the store has a good selection of purses, but I didn't make it into that section.

- Every time I go to NY I think about how great it would be to live there, with all the amazing things to do and see. I mean they've got culture out the wazoo, they see all the movies before we do (if we even get them at all), they have a great newspaper, restaurants, shopping, etc etc. But one thing always stops me short: the sight of people walking their dogs on Manhattan streets. I'll probably always have dogs. And there is no way I am following them around with a plastic baggie to pick up their poop. It's just not happening. A suburban girl I am, and a suburban girl I remain.

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The dogs are home, past the "pitiful whining" stage and the "smelling everything in the house" stage, and well into the "sleeping like a baby" stage. Lina seems about the same as before. A little stiff, but walking pretty evenly and she hasn't fallen since we got back. Of course, she's been sleeping most of the time. In a little while we're going out for our first prescribed daily walk, yay! But now I'm going to write up our dinner at Tom Colicchio's restaurant, Craft.

I'm used to tables crammed together as close as possible in NY restaurants, but Craft was surprisingly spacious. Plus we lucked out and got a table sort of in a corner, that really felt private. It wasn't the best table in the house; that one was sitting under a Rothko (or maybe a very good imitation. I didn't have the nerve to ask the hostess). But ours was pretty good.

Colicchio's purpose/philosophy is basically the opposite of nouvelle cuisine: fine ingredients treated with respect rather than elaborate, complicated presentations. The menu is all a la carte: instead of getting an entree with several sauces and sides all arranged on one plate, everything is ordered separately.

The first thing they brought out was "an amuse from the chef," which we believe is technically called "amuse bouche." It was a teeny tiny tea cup containing a delicious, rich butternut squash puree. They instructed us to drink it right from the cup, which was a good thing because I don't think the spoon would have fit!

After that we shared an arugula salad. The dressing was a bit overly salty, but since that was my only complaint about the entire meal, I think we did pretty well.

For the main meal I had roasted scallops and Georg had braised beef short ribs, and we ordered gratin potatoes and honshimeji mushrooms as sides. Everything was fantastic. The scallops were perfect, just what I wanted. The short ribs were equally wonderful, although so rich (and so much of them) that we weren't able to finish them. We'd never heard of those mushrooms before; they were small, sort of like straw mushrooms but a totally different texture. They were braised in mushroom broth with carrots and celery, and had an interesting flavor, not too strong. And the gratin potatoes lived up to their reputation as a highlight of the menu. They were served in the copper dish they had been cooked in, really creamy with a nice roasty crust on top. I suppose it's possible for someone to make better potatoes, but it's hard to imagine.

For dessert Georg had chestnut panne cotta and I had toffee steamed pudding. This was pudding in the British sense, in other words a dense, moist cake. It was yum! The waiter suggested ordering a scoop of ice cream to go with it, and I thought about the caramel ice cream, which I had heard another waiter say they were famous for. But that sounded like too much food; maybe if we had split the one dessert. It came with a caramel sauce, so I still got that wonderful caramel taste.

Last they brought us another "amuse": a little dish with caramel corn, peanut brittle and cranberry jellies. While good, this was actually a bit of a letdown after the magnificence of the toffee pudding. I mean, good peanut brittle is still just peanut brittle. But I guess it was in keeping with the philosophy of excellent yet simple food. It's interesting how you go to a lot of fine restaurants to get exotic dishes, with combinations of ingredients you would never have thought of before. But Craft is for enjoying the best possible flavors from the best possible ingredients.

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We're back in Durham! We had a great time, but it's good to be home. We had a nice dinner of take-out from Sitar India Palace, and now we're watching Monsters, Inc. while I write this. What a cute movie.

Looks like we missed the nice weather here. Someone in the airport told me it had been in the 70s! It was getting really cold in NY when we left. We passed a bank on the way to the airport, around 12:30 this afternoon, which gave the temp at 23°F. Yikes.

I didn't have my camera with me on the trip, but I did take one photo of the rat costumes before we left. I was going for a Faerie Queen look, but the wings didn't quite work out. So what I ended up with was, well, anyone's guess. Kevin suggested the ghosts of christmases past, present and future. I think the cape looks a bit Lord of the Rings.

I'd like to get to my write-up of Craft, but I have some work I have to do tonight. Doesn't that suck? Yes indeedy, that sucks. But they had some kind of frantic call from a client who needs a change made to their home page for a conference that starts tomorrow. And what the heck, it shouldn't take too long and will make me look totally dedicated or something like that. I'll write more here tomorrow, after picking up the doggies (and the 3! count them, 3! packages waiting for me at the mail center).

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We had a great time in Manhattan yesterday. It started off less than stellar, between nasty weather -- low 40s and raining -- and spending over 20 minutes looking for a parking space at the ferry terminal. But we finally did find a place to park, and the weather improved as the day went on. Even in the rainy morning, I had the Ethel jacket so only my head got wet.

Our first stop was meeting our friend Kevin at 2nd Avenue Deli. Now, my previous trip there, some 12-13 years ago, was not a great memory. The food was good, but my main recollection was of our waiter, an older man who seemed to be in charge, yelling at me because I ordered swiss cheese on my roast beef sandwich. What can I say, I was an ignorant tourist. I'd heard of kosher of course, but had no idea what it entailed, much less actually eaten the stuff. So when I asked for cheese, he shouted "NO! NO CHEESE!" and then stalked away muttering "They want we should be treif." Back then I had no idea what "treif" meant, but it sounded bad. That was my introduction to kosher dining and to New York.

This time I knew enough not to order cheese on my sandwich, but I still breathed a sigh of irrational relief when I saw that the old man who yelled at me wasn't there. (As if he would have remembered me after all those years! But I did say it was irrational.) Instead we were greeted by a nice man, who when I asked if I could take a peek to see if Kevin and Nellorat were there yet, replied "You can take two peeks! A peekette, and a peek!"

They weren't there yet, so we stepped back outside (under an awning, thank goodness) to wait. Then I saw a sign on the door about the murder of the deli's long-time owner, with a photo of the man who had yelled at me about cheese. Which made me feel very bad about having been glad he wasn't there. I'm sure he was a very nice person if you weren't asking him to be treif.

Kevin arrived after a few minutes, unfortunately without Nellorat who had been kept home by a hurt shoulder. I was sorry not to have seen her, but I must say I was worried about her being out in that cold wet weather, which would have been bad for a strained muscle I think.

Once we sat down, Georg and I gave Kevin his belated Christmas present. Now that the gift is safely given and there's no surprise to be spoiled, I can admit that I stayed up all night sewing not just for the Ethel jacket's fur sleeves (although those did take a lot of time), but also making costumes for Kevin, Arthur and Nellorat's pet rats.

I got the idea because Nellorat had bought Santa and Mrs. Claus costumes for the rats, and done a wonderful photo-essay on the rat family preparing for Christmas. Unfortunately, I didn't get the idea until Tuesday evening. Which left me two days to figure out how to make rat costumes, design them, buy the fabric, and sew them. (Besides of course making the fur sleeves and collar, packing, and any other preparation needed for the trip.)

The costumes, three in all, turned out nice if I do say so myself. I took a photo of them before we left, which I will post after I get back. (And I also hope Kevin and Nellorat will post photos of the rats wearing them!) My only concern is whether they will fit. I didn't have a pattern of course, and no actual rats to measure or do fittings. So I guessed, by looking up the average length of pet rats online and estimating the body & neck size from Nellorat's photos. I used Velcro so the straps would be adjustable and made Kevin promise to send them back for alterations if anything doesn't fit.

Our lunch at 2nd Avenue Deli was divine. Georg and I each had a bowl of matzo soup and split a humongous chopped liver sandwich (no cheese!). The matzo soup really hit the spot on such a dreary day; it was simply a bowl of clear chicken broth with a surprisingly light matzo ball, a bunch of little square noodles, and some carrots. And the chopped liver was amazing! I think it's going to be hard to enjoy merely good chopped liver, like the one they sell at Southern Season, after having had this one. Kevin had a bowl of, I can't remember what it's called but he described it as Jewish brunswick stew. I had a bite and it was excellent. They also loaded the table with freebies like cole slaw (vinegary, no mayonnaise), fresh pickles, and nice rolls.

Our waiter, not the same guy who had greeted me earlier, was also very friendly. When he brought our food Kevin said "Bless you," and he said "Oh, thank you for the kind words!" He seemed really touched. Later when we were done, he told us to be sure and keep our feet dry, and then encouraged us to stay and sit awhile if we wanted. It was early and the restaurant was still half-empty, but still I understand that this is a rarity in New York. Usually waiters shoo you out the door as fast as possible so they can turn over the tables. We did sit for a while, but then left when the lunch rush started to pick up.

Kevin had suggested before that we might visit the top of the Empire State Building, which I would have loved as I've never done it before. But the weather yesterday clearly precluded that. (It was so grey and misty that we could barely see the Statue of Liberty from the ferry! Speaking of which, did you know that they closed the Statue of Liberty? Due to post-9/11 security measures, I think. You can visit the island but you can't climb to the top. I'm very sad about that because I always wanted to go up there, but last time I was in NY I was so out of shape I didn't think I could handle walking to the top. Now I could, but they don't allow it. Oh well, maybe they'll reopen the statue someday.)

So instead we decided to go down to the winter garden in the World Financial Building. This was nice because I had visited the winter garden (a group of tall palm trees inside a glass atrium) years ago with my friend Jennifer. I had heard that the World Financial Building was so damaged when the World Trade Center fell that they had to tear it down too, but apparently not! Kevin said all the glass was blown out but the structure survived. They also had to replace the trees, which died from exposure to the elements when the glass was out.

I must say that Kevin was an excellent tour guide, pointing out interesting details about buildings around us and historical facts. He seems to have learned a lot about the city in the 10 or so years he's lived there.

The atrium has an excellent view of Ground Zero, which neither Georg nor I had seen before. I have to say, the really weird thing about it is that it looks so ordinary. It simply looks like a construction site, albeit a really large one in the middle of the financial district. You can still sort of see the footprint of the two towers, but they've installed a PATH terminal and some other structure down there, adding to the strange sense of normalcy.

They also have a display in the World Financial Building showing all (7?) proposed WTC memorial designs, which we took a few minutes to look over. We all agreed that we did not prefer the one with faces of victims superimposed over sheets of flowing water. Kevin commented that it was too personal, which sums it up pretty well I think. He also remarked that a memorial should be low maintenance, which knocks out the one with a hanging votive light for every victim. Imagine if you visit the memorial ten years after it opens and a third of the lights are out? That would be a lovely message about honoring the dead.

None of us cared much for the one which featured light passing through semi-transparent tubes (one for each victim I think) into an underground chamber below. (I don't remember the title but it had something to do with clouds.) I can't remember what Georg and Kevin said about that one, but I felt like of all the proposed designs, it would age the least gracefully. Heck, it already looked uncomfortably like a set from Logan's Run to me.

My favorite was one in which the entire memorial area was turned into a lake. The footprints of the two towers were like grassy square islands on the lake, with a bridge between them. Each island would have trees, and small clear pillars all over it with the names of the victims on them. At night the pillars are lit from below. There's also a large wall at one side of the memorial with all the names on it. If I recall correctly, this was one of the only designs to incorporate the names of 9/11 victims outside NY (i.e. the ones on the other planes and inside the Pentagon).

At this point Kevin had to leave us and get back to Yonkers, so we bid adieu and headed out on our own. We had poorly planned and ended up in the city on Monday, the day museums are all closed, so we decided to go shopping instead. Our first stop was Century 21, a discount store which luckily was right there, across the street from Ground Zero. Neither of us had ever been there before but Georg had heard of it. It was overwhelming! Like a huge Marshalls which included major designer labels. If I lived in NY I would go there all the time. Every week.

The place was mobbed -- I never even got into the shoe section, it was so crowded -- but I don't know if it's always like that, or just now because they're having a winter closeout sale. I bought two cute dresses, and a fleece hat to wear right then. Georg found the real score: a peacoat from Marc Jacobs for 75% off the original price. I spent some time looking at the designer clothes without any intention of buying, just to see. Based on the small sample of clothes they had, my impressions were: Valentino's clothes are beautiful, but not to my taste at all; I liked Galliano a lot more than I thought I would, but Gaultier is every bit as wretched as expected; Anna Sui looks like something you would find in the bargain bin at a thrift store (and put back, if you were me); Balenciaga is ridiculous, no connection to the elegance of a few decades ago; Donna Karan is what I would want for work clothes if I had an office job; and I am head over heels in love with Pucci. They had a long spring coat, solid light green on the outside with a Pucci print on the lining, double breasted with a little self belt in the front, that was to die for. Alas, it was $650. (Marked down from $2180, but still!) I'm going to scour the vintage patterns on Ebay and see if I can recreate that coat for myself. Of course it wouldn't have a Pucci print lining, but I bet I can find something suitably loud and retro that would do.

After Century 21, we headed up to the garment district and B&J Fabric. They had to move recently, now they're on the fourth floor at 525 7th Avenue. Showing my total ignorance of Manhattan geography, I had assumed that this address would be on 7th Ave. between 5th and 6th Streets. But it was actually in the high 30s. Georg said that the grid system really only works that way in midtown. In fact, I don't know if 5th St. even exists.

Anyway, Georg waited in the Starbucks below while I checked out B&J. Like Century 21, it was totally overwhelming. Wall after wall of gorgeous silks, wools, linens, laces, etc. All priced well out of my range, which was probably a good thing. (Having forgotten my list of all my patterns and how much fabric they need, I was far less inclined to splurge than if I had known exactly how much to buy.) If I wanted to make the outfit of a lifetime, that would be the place to go. But since I was just browsing, I restrained myself to a couple of lower priced fabrics: a light blue retro "atomic age" cotton for our kitchen curtains, and a cute printed flannel for me. Probably for new PJs but maybe I'll think of another use for it.

We had also planned on hitting Paron, another good fabric store. But we were concerned by this point that they would be closing, and when I called the number I had written down from the phone book, it was disconnected! They must have moved since the Pattersons' (very old) phone book had been printed. So much for Paron. I had really good luck there a few years ago, bought some Ralph Lauren wool (they get designer overstocks) and made it into a skirt which I still love and wear all the time. But I was kind of shopped out anyway, so I might not have done as well as I did on that previous trip. Come to think of it, between B&J and Century 21, it's probably a good thing for my bank balance that I don't live in New York.

At this point we wanted to head down towards Craft, our destination for dinner. It wasn't that far, 15-20 blocks maybe, and it had stopped raining so we decided to walk. On the way we happened upon the Chelsea Whole Foods, so of course we had to stop in. It looked basically like any other Whole Foods, except for having an odd layout because the lobby for the apartment building above sort of jutted into the middle of their space. They had a few things that we don't have in NC -- like a vastly expanded bagel selection, from H&H which Georg tells me is a reknowned bagel maker -- but for the most part it felt just like the Chapel Hill store back home. The line was pretty long, lots of shoppers just left work I guess, so we didn't buy anything. Too bad, I wanted to see the checkout line system they have. Instead of one line for each register, everyone gets into three lines. At the head of the lines is a caller who sends people to the next available cashier. I've heard it works really well: no matter which line you get into, you get to the cash registers as quickly as possible.

I think I'm going to close for now, spend some time with Georg's folks, and write my review of Craft in another post.

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Greetings from sunny Staten Island! Well, to be honest it's actually rainy Staten Island. Georg and I are up here for a few days with his folks. It's a relaxing vacation so far (although we are going into the city tomorrow to see our friends Arthur, Kevin and Nellorat, and also for dinner at Craft, Tom Colicchio's restaurant, and some shopping).

We definitely needed some time to relax after the past few days. I just about went crazy with sewing projects earlier in the week. Somehow I convinced myself, two days before we left, that I simply could not wear my polka dotted dress into Manhattan. No no, having worn it on Christmas day and to Jason's party, it couldn't be worn again so soon. Regardless of the fact that no one in the state of New York has ever seen the polka dotted dress (much less the undeniable fact that no one in the state of New York cares the tiniest bit about the outfits of some tourist from North Carolina), I had to have something new.

So I set about making the fur sleeves and collar for that pink velvet outfit. Which I think I'm going to start calling "the Ethel dress" after its original owner. Anyway, I didn't have a pattern for the sleeves and collar, just the photos I had taken of Ethel's original fur sleeves, now in the possession of the proprietor of Untidy Museum. So I had to try out various patterns in scrap fabric. Usually one would use a thin muslin for this purpose, but I thought that would be a bad choice since it wouldn't hang at all like fur. So I used fleece instead. Which had its own problems (notably much more stretch than faux fur) but at least it had bulk, so I could get a more accurate sense of the fit. And better yet, I had a big piece of it in a nasty color that I probably wouldn't ever have used on a real garment.

(Have I mentioned that last weekend I cleaned out my fabric trunk? That's why I had that piece of fleece on-hand. I got tired of not knowing what was in the trunk, and not being able to get anything new into it, because it was stuffed full of old odds and ends. I pulled out four grocery bags full of scraps to be tossed, and better yet found a bunch of nice fabrics that I'd forgotten all about. I don't know which is more sad: the fabrics that I remember why I bought them, what outfit I had planned to make but never got around to, or the ones that I have no memory of, no idea why I have them.)

Working out the pattern pieces took more time than I had hoped: well over a full day. This was partly because I wasn't happy with the sleeve shape and ended up trying out 4 different sleeves before I settled on one that worked, and partly because I let myself get interrupted with phone conversations and a friend dropping by. It was really nice to talk to her, she's into vintage sewing too so we had a lot to talk about. But still, I should learn how to say "no" when I have something that has to get done under a deadline. I don't think I'll make that a New Year's resolution, because I never keep those. And this is something I really would like to improve in myself.

Cutting the fur was also a challenge, because I had miscalculated when I bought it. I thought I was going to have tons of leftover fur, enough to make a hat and who knows what else. But the key fact I forgot was that when I measured the pattern pieces on the fleece, the fleece was folded over in two! So I actually had half as much fur as I thought I did. I'm actually a bit amazed that I managed to get everything cut. It took a lot of careful rearranging of pieces (including one near disaster when I came this close to cutting a cuff with the grain running in the wrong direction, I was literally holding the scissors to the fur when I realized my mistake) but I managed to get everything I needed. At $40 a yard, it would have been heartbreaking if I hadn't! I'm just grateful to the woman at the fabric store who convinced me to get 5/8 of a yard instead of 1/2. I think wasting a $20 piece of fabric when four inches more would have been enough, as I almost did, must be the definition of "penny wise, pound foolish."

Between the Ethel dress and another craft project, I ended up staying up almost all night Jan. 1 getting my sewing done. I used to do that kind of thing all the time. Like I'd plan to make a baby outfit for a shower gift, but I wouldn't start until the night before, and would end up sewing all night and into the morning, barely finishing in time for the shower. Now that I think about it, that baby outfit was a particular nightmare: I messed up a seam about an hour before the party, stabbed myself in the hand with the seam ripper, and had to finish the outfit while trying not to bleed on it. I used to think that last minute sewing was fun and spontaneous, but the appeal has worn off as time goes on. For one thing, the stupid mistakes (like sewing the wrong sides of the fabric together) increase in direct proportion to my level of tiredness. And the most detailed work (for instance the hand sewing and top stitching) tends to happen at the end, when stress and exhaustion are at a peak.

Add to all that the difficulty level of working with faux fur -- it's way thick, it shifts all over the place, and it sheds an astounding volume of little hairs from every cut edge -- and you can begin to imagine how sewed out I was by Friday morning. To reduce my stress, at Georg's suggestion I did all the machine sewing at home and waited until I got here to do the hand sewing. I was a little concerned about bringing my sewing kit on the plane, what with the latest security paranoia, but I guess nobody cares about scissors, pins and needles in checked luggage. The collar is a little crooked, but good enough for government work, and the sleeves turned out just how I wanted. It's a beautiful fur, faux sable I guess, with ridges about as wide as my hand. The sleeves and collar are supposed to snap onto the Ethel dress, but I went ahead and sewed them in. It was a lot easier to do, and it's not like I have another sleeveless jacket that can use these sleeves. I don't know if faux fur needs to be dry cleaned separately, as real fur would, but if so I can always pull the stitching out when the time comes.

So what with all the pre-trip stress, I didn't get much done that wasn't related to sewing. I managed to forget only a few things (ironically including the address of the fabric store I wanted to go to and a list of all my "to do" patterns and how much fabric they need). It could have been worse actually: my original plan was to make a pattern I just recently got, a very cute vintage Dior design, in red and ivory wool. I bought the fabric, but reading the pattern, full of couture details like bound buttonholes and piping on the collar and cuffs, convinced me that no way on earth was I going to get it done in two days. So I guess there are some limits to my sewing madness. This way I can work on the Dior dress when I get back, with enough leisure to do a good job with the details, and wear it on my birthday at the end of the month.

So what else is new besides sewing. Well, after a week or two of uncharacteristic optimism, I'm worried about Lina again. She's developed a bad habit of losing her balance and suddenly falling. It's like her legs go out from under her, and she ends up lying there with all four limbs splayed out. And it's difficult for her to get up afterwards. She used to fall like that sometimes before, but only occasionally. Now it seems to happen all the time; she fell four times in the two days before we left. The last time, she couldn't put any weight on her bad leg after she got up. She had to hop on three legs to her bed and lie down. I confess it really scares me.

She seems most likely to fall when she's excited. Like if I'm taking her outside to go to the bathroom, if I take more than a few seconds to get my shoes and coat on, she gets riled up and starts scampering towards the door, and as soon as she hits the dining room linoleum she's on the floor. (I'm trying to figure out how to get dressed to take her out without her realizing what I'm doing, so she doesn't have time to get so excited.) I'm trying not to worry too much while I'm away, since after all there's nothing I can do about it from here. Besides, I'm hoping that five days in a kennel, with a non-slippery floor and nothing to get worked up about, will help her build up some stability in her leg again. If she's still falling when we get back, I'll call her surgeon.

I'm reading Noel and Cole, the biography of Noel Coward and Cole Porter that I got from the library. I'm enjoying it, although not as much as I had expected. It's pretty slim on the personal information, more of a professional biography. Actually it's really a "musical biography" if that makes sense. Detailed descriptions of all major songs by each composer. Unfortunately I can't read music and don't know anything about musical terminology. So most of this is over my head, especially if I haven't heard the song.

Georg likened it to "dancing about architecture" but I don't think that's it. For one thing, I don't agree with that expression. Because language is a primary means of communication, but dancing isn't. So dancing about architecture is nothing like writing about music. It's just that the author is using specialized terminology to discuss a field with which I'm unfamiliar. I'd have the same problem if he were writing about highway construction or hedge fund management. Except worse, because I don't care about those topics, but I am interested in the music of Porter and Coward. I read on the back flap that the author is a music professor and composer, which explains the focus of his book.

There is enough personal data to confirm, as I had suspected, that the Cole Porter biopic Night and Day is almost total fiction. It's actually pretty funny to compare the movie with reality. According to the book, Porter described himself in the script as "some man I barely know." I am enjoying the book for the most part, but it's maddening to read off-hand remarks that allude to personality issues, love affairs, clashes with friends, etc., but no detail on any of it. I think when I get back I'll see if the library has any biographies of Porter and Coward that address their lives in more depth, not just their work.

I may not finish Noel and Cole before turning to one of the other books I have with me: The Singing Detective by Dennis Potter, which turns out to be a script rather than a novel as I had assumed (and can someone explain to me why it was filed in nonfiction at the library? I thought it had been checked out until I checked the card catalog again), and Quicksilver which Georg's brother Rob gave me for Christmas. I thought he was nearly psychic until he reminded me that I had been reading Cryptonomicon when he visited us in October. So he's just really thoughtful.

Now I'm going to ask Rob to get me online on this computer so I can post this, and also see if I can find the address of that fabric store (B&J) that I wanted to go to. And hey, we have to decide where to have lunch tomorrow in Manhattan! The obvious choice would be a good kosher deli, but I better ask Georg if he has a favorite lunch spot he's been missing.

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