September 2005 Archives

thank god for autumn

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While I wasn't looking, the weather turned not-horrible! Unfortunately my work is too busy right now for me to garden every day like I did last fall, but I've been trying for every other day. I think I mentioned planting dayliles on the bank by the road. On Wednesday I planted daffodils all around the daylilies. It wasn't too hard because we had tilled up there and added compost in the spring. But it took two and a half hours so the cumulative effect left me pretty tired. I'm so glad to have it all done though. Two hundred daffodils and fifty clumps of daylilies. I tried the method of making the daffodils look natural by tossing them on the ground and planting them where they fell. But they tended to roll into the furrows so I had to walk along the bank and place them to look more random.

Today I tried to get back to work on my hole in the ground. It's a huge project: removing solid clay 18" deep from the bed along the sunny side of the house, so we can fill it in with good soil and turn it into a flower bed. I worked on it bit by bit in early summer, but gave up when it got too hot for such strenuous work.

Well today was the day to get back to it, but I discovered to my dismay that drought makes clay impossible to dig. Not just difficult; impossible. It was like trying to dig up concrete with a shovel. I did manage to remove one wheelbarrow full, from a pile that I had dug up and left sitting there earlier this year. But the hole in the ground was immovable. Guess I'll have to wait until we get some decent rain for the rest.

who are you calling little?

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"That's a big camera for a little girl like you."

Yes, someone actually said that to me today. One of the guys at Stoneline. I was tempted to follow him out to the factory floor and say "That's a big air compressor for a little boy like you," but I thought he might take it the wrong way.

This was the first time I've heard that one, but sadly it probably won't be the last. I guess I ought to be happy about it: I've heard that key to getting good photos in a crowd setting is to look non-threatening. I even read a really funny tongue-in-cheek guide to blending in with advice on how to look like a tourist, an artist, or a photojournalist. If I look like a little girl with a camera that's too big for her, then I guess no one will object to my taking their picture.

No, it's no use. I'm still annoyed.

searches

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  • men in tights: nope, just me
  • humanoids: that is what we are
  • the groovy: that is also what we are
  • evil clowns: I think this is redundant
  • strange looking fishes: not just strange, funny strange!
  • how to remove yucca tree stumps: if you figure it out, let me know
  • funky fuzzy: the cool thing is, this search came from our own IP address
  • fotos del cadillack: what language is this?
  • piped buttonholes: finally, something useful
  • The ending, a guy thinks a woman is dead, but she's not, and he hears on the car radio a recording of her singing in a bar. So he sets out to find her. Any ideas? American, I'd say maybe late 80s or early 90s. Thriller.: sorry, haven't seen it
  • let's give the ending a ride: it can find its own way home
  • funtastic cat: aren't they all?
  • washing mouths out with soap: I'm not going to touch this one
  • do you suffer from long term memory loss: not that I can recall
  • main point of sexy girl: do I even have a point?

gardening review

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This was our first year growing a vegetable garden, and you might not be surprised that we were maybe a little overly ambitious. Also unsurprising, our results were very mixed. Here's how we did, in order from the most to least successful:

  • Shallots: Now this is the ideal plant for me. Almost no work: all we had to do was stick them in the ground, water a couple of times a week, wait until the stems dried up and pull them out. We have enough shallots to last for months, and I have another set ready to plant for a winter crop.
  • Swiss Chard: The plants grew big and healthy. We ate chard at least once a week until mid-summer. At first using no pesticide seemed like the right choice because we knew we weren't eating any toxins. Then the bugs took over. Now the chard plants are still there, but all the leaves are lacy with bug holes. This weekend I'm going to pull them out.
  • Poblano Peppers: It took a while but these guys are going like gangbusters. Four plants are producing more than we can eat. We're going to have to make a sauce and freeze it or something. My only gripe is that the peppers are smaller than the ones in the store, and can be hard to peel.
  • Beets: They did great in early summer, but when I replanted the seedlings didn't come up. I'm not sure if the heat killed them, or if they did come up but were immediately eaten by rodents, or if improper seed storage was the problem. I got a fresh packet of seeds so we can try again now.
  • Tomatoes: We planted many varieties and results varied wildly. By far the best producer was the Super Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. It's still in overdrive, with lots of fruit and even new flowers! I don't know how long it will keep going; I guess the cold weather will shut it down. With the full sized tomatoes we had major problems with cracking. Over the winter we're going to try and figure out what caused that. But I think in general we'll move away from heirlooms and grow mostly hybrids.
  • Zucchini: A massive producer until the squash bugs took over. (At the same time the plants developed some kind of fungus on the leaves, but the bugs were so bad that we'll never know if the fungus would have slowed them down.) Then we made matters worse by spraying the plants with insecticidal soap which must have been mixed improperly or something, because it burned up any leaf surface it touched. We pulled them out over a month ago. Next year we will research pesticides and be more vigilant about stopping the squash bugs before they get entrenched.
  • Annual Herbs: The basil did well all year, and is still going strong. The parsley and cilantro took a big hit early in the year when the seedlings were all eaten by rodents. We bought plants to replace them, but the cilantro again got eaten up. We did end up with one parsley plant, which was plenty for our needs. The parsley is indestructable too: last month it was eaten down to little nubs by swallowtail caterpillars, but it bounced right back and looks healthy again. I just planted more cilantro & am crossing my fingers that it survives this time. The rodents and caterpillars ignored our epazote, which grew huge. Unfortunetely, we didn't use it much either.
  • Tomatillos: We were totally unprepared for the size and sprawl of these guys. They took over the neighboring bed and encroached on the driveway. They also produced tons of fruit, but by the time it was ripe the bugs had completely taken over. I don't know if we ever got more than a handful of usable tomatillos.
  • Yellow Squash: Total failure. Two plants which never produced any fruit and quickly became a squash bug farm. I don't even like yellow squash that much, so we're going to skip it next year.
  • Pumpkins: We had a dozen seedlings that seemed to be doing well, but they all died while we were in Florida. I don't know if they didn't get watered while we were gone, or if they were victims of the killer insecticidal soap, or what. I have to admit this one breaks my heart. I was so excited about growing pumpkins. I'm friends with these two little girls, and I was going to scratch their names into two young pumpkins. So that when the pumpkins matured, their names would be embedded in the skin. What a bummer. At least it was a surprise, so I don't have to disappoint them.

Looking over the list, it's clear that our main problem was fighting pests. Not to put too fine a point on it, we were totally unprepared. Next year I'm going to research in advance, and be more open to non-organic products. After all, what good is an organic insecticide if it kills my plants faster than the bugs do?

Water was another problem. The bank along the driveway was ideal in terms of sunlight -- over 10 hours of full sun in high summer -- but with raised beds built up on a slope, it was hard to keep the plants adequately watered. I never realized there was such a thing as too much drainage. This fall we're going to build raised beds in the yard. It will be more level so water won't run off as fast. If we're feeling really ambitious we'll put in a drip irrigation system too.

dear spamsieve,

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Even though I just met you last night, I think I'm in love. You've already blocked over 200 spam email with no false positives. I promise I'll never look at another spam filter as long as I have you.

love, Sarah

a day to be outdoors

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I had intended to get lots of work done this weekend, but I couldn't stand to spend a day like this indoors. First I took the dogs for a walk in the park. We got there fortyfive minute early because I mistakenly remembered that the park opens at 8. So we went to Home Depot where I bought bulbs. Nothing fancy, just daffodils to fill up the bank by the road.

It was the first time I had run an errand with Jane in the car since that first ill-fated attempt when she nearly dislocated a shoulder trying to shove her body out the mostly closed window. To my relief she was much better behaved this morning. I hid behind an outdoor display and watched her for a few minutes and she acted like a normal dog waiting in a car: watched the direction I had gone, looked at passersby, etc.

After our Home Depot trip and a short stop at home, the park was finally open. Which was great. I finally figured out a solution to the problem of walking both dogs together. Thirteen is doing so much better than before, but she's still so slow and tires so easily that Jane gets hardly any exercise. So this morning I had the idea to walk them both for about ten minutes at Thirteen's pace, then put Thirteen in the car and go for a run with Jane. It was cool enough for Thirteen to be safe in the car, and I left her a dish of water too. Jane and I didn't run for very long -- maybe fifteen minutes -- but I'm so out of practice, it was all I could handle. We'll work our way up to more.

Then in the afternoon, instead of working I did yardwork. I planted daylilies on the bank along the road, with the daffodils I bought this morning underneath. The daffodils had some mold on them, which pissed me off at first, but I looked it up online and apparently blue-grey mold is nothing to worry about as long as the bulbs are firm. It's white mold and mushy bulbs that are a problem.

It wasn't very strenuous because we did so much work on improving the soil this past spring. But it was awkward: up on this high bank with a fence on one side and a steep drop on the other, and the nice soil is in three furrows which I was trying not to step or lean on. Not much room to maneuver. It took about three hours to finish the bank and even with frequent breaks, I was wiped out. One thing I learned up there: if you're gardening on a bank that was recently covered with wild brambles, don't wear knit pants! I'm not kidding, wear your heaviest jeans.

I spaced the daylilies fairly far apart, because I had a lot of space to fill and also I want them to have room to spread. But the downside is that for the next couple of years it will look sparse up there. I may buy some more daylilies to fill in the gaps, and will definitely be adding more daffodils. Next year I'll try to fill in the bank with annuals. Or maybe I'll just let it go all weedy like I did this past year.

carolina dog

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I had pegged Jane as a shepherd mix, but Jason P. said he thought she looked like a Carolina dog. I looked up Carolina dogs online and in my dog book and he's right, she does look a lot like one! Not exactly the same: she's a bit too big; her tail lies down; and Carolina dogs have dark brown eyes and yellow coats, while Jane has amber eyes and a black & tan (actually black & yellow) coat.

Still, she looks more like a Carolina dog than like anything else I've seen. I wonder if she's a mix of Carolina dog with a bit of German shepherd. I've been saying that she must be a mix of shepherd and "something skinny and yellow." Which does describe the Carolina dog. The description of their temperament also sounds a lot like her, but that could just as easily be from whatever conditioning she learned in the first five years of her life.

I'm very happy to think that she might be mainly Carolina dog, aka American Dingo. It's a "pariah breed," only partly domesticated, indigenous to the Southeast. Because they're feral and were never bred by humans until very recently, they lack the kind of genetic defects that are introduced into popular breeds by irresponsible breeding. (Which is yet another reason why I've only owned rescue mix breeds. But don't get me started on that one.)

munchhausen

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September 25 movie: Munchhausen. No, not the one by Terry Gilliam. This is a German movie about the same character, made in 1943. I haven't read anything about where Gilliam got his inspiration, but he must have at least seen this movie. The two movies are based on the same story so many of the particulars are the same -- the servants who can shoot 100 miles away and run super-fast, the visits to Turkey and to the moon, the cannonball ride, the disembodied lady's head with the hots for Munchhausen, etc.

Even though the movie was made during the height of the war, with government approval, it had pretty much no political content. Robert Osborne said it was intended to be Germany's answer to big budget Allied fantasy movies like The Wizard of Oz and The Thief of Baghdad. It's certainly fanciful, with special effects that were amazing for the time. I was surprised by how sexy the movie was. I would have expected a movie made during the Nazi regime to be prudish. But on the contrary, Baron Munchhausen is quite the ladies man. He gets it on with Catherine the Great, a Venetian princess, and plenty of others. And there's even a scene with topless harem girls frolicking in a pool, which even pre-code Hollywood couldn't have gotten away with.

I was enjoying the movie immensely until the scenes at the sultan's palace in Turkey. There were a bunch of extras played by African actors. I started wondering where a Germany movie company found dozens of Africans in 1943, and what happened to them after filming was over. That soured me on the whole movie.

[ETA: I checked Wikipedia and discovered that our own James Wallis published a game based on the adventures of Baron Munchhausen! Wow!]

libeled lady

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September 24 movie: Libeled Lady. I wrote up the basic plot last time, so this time I'll just say that I enjoyed it again immensely, and this time I sympathized mainly with Jean Harlow's character. The movie is kind of sad from her point of view. Both Tracy and Powell prey on her need for affection for their own gain throughout the movie. Then at the end a marriage proposal is supposed to make all that go away.

That makes the movie sound depressing when it's really quite funny. As long as you don't think too hard about Harlow's character.

corpse bride

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September 24 movie: Corpse Bride. Best. Movie. Ever. It was fun, funny, touching, and completely put me in the mood for Halloween. I think my favorite character was the maggot who imitated Peter Lorre. We saw a couple of great trailers too, for a Wallace and Grommit movie and the next Harry Potter. Both look fantastic.

We also saw a trailer for a movie that looks like a complete knockoff of Jumanji, and in fact the trailer said it was "from the world of Jumanji" or something like that. Well I saw Jumanji already, and didn't enjoy it the first time, why would I want to see it again with space aliens instead of animals?

the magnificent ambersons

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September 24 movie: The Magnificent Ambersons. As I mentioned already, I missed the ending because the movie ran over its scheduled time and the DVR cut it off. Damn you TCM! Although actually, I read that the studio screwed around with the movie and completely changed the ending, so maybe it's for the best that I missed it.

This movie had some problems, especially it seemed to come apart near the end, but it also had compelling moments. Especially the scenes with Agnes Moorehead. She was scarily good as the bitter spinster aunt completely losing her shit. Joseph Cotten was also wonderful. He seems to perfectly embody the sense of melancholy & lost opportunity. I've never seen a Joseph Cotten movie in which he wasn't wonderful.

So if anyone knows how the movie ends, please let me know. And if you also know how it was supposed to end, I'd be even more grateful.

run silent, run deep

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September 24 movie: Run Silent, Run Deep. This was a good submarine thriller with an interesting story about conflicting motivations, having all the wrong reasons but still managing to do something good and important. Clark Gable got top billing although the movie's focus was really on Burt Lancaster.

basic instinct

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September 19 movie: Basic Instinct. I love good trash as much as the next person, but oh lord did this movie stink. It's about a screwed up freak cop who sleeps with his court-appointed psychologist, who's also a screwed up freak -- or is she? Then he finds true love with a screwed up freak ice pick murderer -- or is she? That's the story in a nutshell.

I only watched it to see what all the fuss was about Sharon Stone's coochie, and what a disappointment! Also she has the fakest, most awful looking breasts I've ever seen. They were immobile. Like two hard little tangerines stuck to her chest. Do men really go for that?

watch on the rhine

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September 18 movie: Watch on the Rhine. Bette Davis stars in this movie based on a Lillian Hellman play. It was made during the war but set just before, about a German anti-Nazi underground fighter who escapes to the US and is then blackmailed. Most of the movie is people standing around speechifying at each other about the importance of standing up against fascism. The sentiments are laudable, but the movie is so preachy that I really can't recommend it.

the magnificent ambersons

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If anyone reading this has seen The Magnificant Ambersons, could you please tell me how it ends? Please please? The DVR ran out early and I missed the ending!

When it cut out, George had just been injured in a car accident and Joseph Cotten's daughter Lucy said she was going to go to him. What happens next? I'm dying here!

new gear

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The dogs seem to be fine so I can finally relax and have fun with my new camera gear. The UPS man kindly left on the back porch while I was out. The flash isn't here yet but I get to play with the wide angle lens and the remote release.

You can see some distortion in the background of the wide angle shots, but it's actually much less pronounced than I expected. I only took a couple of photos today before round-up mania took over. But I noticed already that it's really true what they say: the wide angle effect works better the closer you get to the subject. I read that to take good photos with a wide angle lens, you have to learn how to shove your camera into people's faces. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that! But in any case, I'm looking forward to getting out and having fun with it.

I got the remote release not so much to take photos of myself, but for low-light photos. I've found that the camera is so sensitive that even with a tripod I couldn't get sharp photos at night: just pressing the button caused camera shake. This ought to solve that problem. And also let me take photos of myself.

tip: don't step in round-up

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We had a bit of excitement today. See, when we got up this morning, we discovered a mysterious water puddle on the front porch floor. We both had busy days so we figured we'd clean up the porch this evening and figure out where the water came from.

Well, this evening we discovered the puddle isn't water but Round-up. The source: a previously half-full, now empty gallon jug of Round-up which had sprung a small leak. Aie! Some of it ran off into the hydrangea bed, and much worse, the dogs might have stepped in it on their way outside.

I allowed myself about five seconds of panic, then looked up the phone number of animal poison control. They charge $50 per call, so I called human poison control instead. I told them that my dogs and I had both stepped in it because I was afraid if I said just my dogs, they'd just refer me to animal poison control.

The woman I talked to at poison control was great. She had me look up the exact product, then told me that it could cause contact dermatitis. I said my feet weren't irritated, and she told me to irrigate my feet (not soak, rinse with clean water) for about 15 minutes, and do the same for the dogs.

I asked what symptoms I should look for if the dogs have licked their feet. The woman said Round-up was an irritant, and could cause vomiting and excess drooling. But she didn't have complete information on dogs, so she suggested animal poison control if the dogs show any symptoms. She mentioned the fee but said it's worth it because they have all the information.

I put each of the dogs (one at a time of course) in the bathtub and ran the water until it covered their feet, then let it drain off. Repeated that a few times while giving them baths, which they needed anyway. I'm not sure they even stepped in the Round-up at all, but you can't be too careful.

While I was bathing the dogs, Georg mopped up the Round-up. Now we're both feeling a combination of wiped out and freaked out, as Georg put it. The dogs seem fine, but I'm really glad we don't have plans tonight. If we did, I'd cancel them to stay home and watch the dogs for signs of poisoning.

I haven't even thought about the hydrangea bed. First of all because the dogs were the priority of course. And secondly because there's nothing much we can do about the hydrangeas, except hope that since they're still so small and the Round-up leak was also small, it didn't reach too many of their roots.

brief update

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We had another acupuncture appointment for Thirteen this morning. I've started bringing Jane along, which has been great. Jane loves the car ride, and Thirteen is much more comfortable with her there. Thirteen even lay down while the needles were in! Normally she just stands there looking scared the whole time.

While we were there I had the vet tech clip Jane's nails. She really needed it, and it's one of those tasks I just can't stand. Once years ago I was cutting Lina's nails and I cut her way into the quick. It really hurt her, and ever since then trimming a dog's nails totally squicks me. Plus Jane hates it too, and she's big and kept jerking her foot away. It's basically impossible for me to do alone.

So anyway, it took three people to trim Jane's nails this morning. I held her down, the vet tech did the trimming, and Dr. Pagel distracted her with treats. They suggested I might just hold her foot, and even hold the trimmers against her nails, without cutting. Just to get her used to it so she wouldn't be scared.

After the appointment I took the dogs over to Denovo to meet everybody. Jason's dog Bahamet goes to the office everyday, so they got to meet him. Thirteen really dug Bahamet but Jane can take or leave other dogs. She said hi to him and then basically ignored him. She loved Peter though. She tried to follow him when he left the room!

Now I'm anxiously awaiting a package from B&H photo. I spent my tax refund on camera gear! Whee! A wide angle lens, an external flash, and a wireless remote release. I almost didn't buy the flash, because I almost never take flash photos. But then I realized that the reason I don't take flash photos is because the built-in flash sucks so bad and the photos always look horrible. It might help a lot to have a good flash.

The only annoying thing is that B&H's order form said they wouldn't deliver to a PBM, which is what my box is, so I had to have it delivered here to the house. The UPS website says it's out for delivery today, but I have to leave for Stoneline in 10 minutes! Arggh! I'm going to leave a note on the front door asking them to leave it on the porch. What a pisser if they didn't leave it and I had to go to UPS to pick it up. I don't even know where they are or if they're open on Saturdays.

best news in ages

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These guys will be back at the state fair this year.

disaster reservist team

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As I mentioned before, Patricia and I went back to the Nortel Center on Saturday. Security was a lot tighter this time. Last time I pretty much breezed in just by telling everyone I was there to volunteer with emergency management services. (Though I was told later this maybe only worked because I was white.)

This time I was stopped at the front gate, before I even got to the building, and told I couldn't be let in without an ID badge. I explained that I didn't have a badge because I had to turn it in when I left last time, which the officer had to get on his radio and explain to his sergeant. The officer sent me to the main entrance, with instructions to ask to speak to the sergeant.

When I got to the main entrance, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not getting in that way. She was pleasant but very firm about it. She said that no one could drive in that way because that was the bus route (?), and told me to go back to the other entrance. I told her that the officer at that entrance had sent me to her, which prompted a flurry of talking back and forth on the radio.

Eventually it was agreed that we (Patricia was there too by then) would go back to the other entrance, where we were indeed waved right through. We pulled around to the building, where we were met by the sergeant and another officer. Yes, they were waiting for us. Again they were pleasant (they chatted about my car) but no nonsense about security. They escorted us in, watched us sign in, walked us over to get our badges, walked us to room 130, and made sure the people in there recognized us and were expecting us. Jeez louise! I'm surprised they didn't watch us all day and escort us to the bathroom too.

The place was almost shut down; they told us that as of Friday night, all but 30 people had been moved to other housing. We were there to do data entry: the first week when people were coming in, they didn't have enough time or computers to enter the forms directly onto the computer. Instead they printed out a bunch of blank forms and had people write them out by hand. So Patricia and I were there to finish typing in the handwritten forms.

This made the day much less stressful than the week before, but also more tedious. There was pretty much no one there but a bunch of FEMA people, who spent most of the day discussing how to fill out their reimbursement forms. That's not intended as a criticism: those guys were going nonstop a week before, and probably had been since they got there. This was probably their first chance to work that practical stuff out.

For most of the day we sat next to one FEMA guy who told us a little about his situation. His real job is with the Dept. of Homeland Security, and he volunteered to help FEMA in the days immediately after the hurricane. He said that when he signed up, the duration of his assignment was "between one week and 120 days"! But he expects to be home by Thanksgiving.

He said that when they finish up at the Nortel Center, his group is going to move to "outreach," which means seeking out people who migrated to NC on their own or were brought here by private organizations, who might not have registered with FEMA yet. He said they heard there were a lot of people in Winston-Salem so that's probably where they'll be sent next. Up here they look for groups of people, but he said that in Louisiana and Mississippi they have teams knocking on doors, looking for evacuees in every community.

Patricia asked him if he thought the criticism of FEMA was justified, which was an excellent question that I didn't have the nerve to ask, and I'm really glad she did. (She also made quite a cutting joke at his expense: early in the day someone asked him what he was doing, and Patricia said "Oh he's FEMA, he's not doing anything!")

He acknowledged that FEMA's bad rap was at least partly justified, though he didn't elaborate on that. Instead he went right into criticism of the mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana. Which was actually more than I expected. It must be tough to leave your family on two days notice, for who knows how long, and be working your ass off to help people, all day every day, for weeks, and hear nothing but how badly your organization screwed everything up. Which is not to say that FEMA didn't screw everything up; just that the people on the ground who are doing their best, and have nothing to do with the mismanagement, must be a little defensive about it.

I think it's interesting that so many people seem to have such an emotional investment in deflecting blame away from themselves or whoever they sympathize with. My boss is a hardcore liberal, and can't stand to hear any criticism of Louisiana state or local government. To him the disaster is all the fault of the federal government, and he gets a bit agitated if you suggest otherwise. Personally I think there's plenty of blame to go around. I think the failure was at all levels of government, and I don't see how criticising Bush exonerates the governor, or vice versa.

I have to say, regardless of what the federal agencies did right or wrong, all the people I encountered at the Nortel Center were dedicated and working hard to help people. Most were making personal sacrifices (like the fireman who's far from home and is going to miss his son's entire first season of high school football), but no one seemed to mind. It was a good antidote for cynicism.

anytime now

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Wasn't the season supposed to change about now? Isn't it supposed to be, like, cooler or something? Here are a few tips for recognizing autumn, when the weather refuses to cooperate:

  • Pumpkins and firewood for sale at farmer's market
  • church sign bizarrely advertising "harvest festival"
  • Have moved the wool skirts and tights to the front of the closet, even though it's 92 degrees out
  • Every store crammed with Halloween decorations
  • Strange compulsion to buy straw and stack it in front yard
  • It's late September, for chrissakes. Hurry up and get cold already!

a fistful of dollars

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September 17 movie: A Fistful of Dollars. How do I love this movie? So much that I can hardly think of anything to say about it. An interesting trivia note: one of the bad guys is called Rubio, which according to Georg can be translated as "Blondie." Which was the name of Eastwood's character in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Also, in the intro, Robert Osborne mentioned that Kurosawa is never acknowledged or even mentioned in the credits of this movie. We wondered if there were any problems because of that. The Berne Convention has been around for over a hundred years, but I don't know if Japan was always a party to it. It's a pretty clear appropriation: sometimes the Leone version is a shot for shot copy of Yojimbo.

designing woman

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September 16 movie: Designing Woman. Now this was a fun movie. I've written up the basic plot before. This time I was better able to appreciate everything that was going on. Especially the intro, where each main character speaks to the camera. Of course that made little sense to me on the first viewing. Dolores Grey is excellent as the other woman. She was the only good thing in The Opposite Sex, now that I think about it. I wish she had become a bigger star. She had kind of a horsey face, but if that was her own singing voice in Designing Woman, she had talent.

the celluloid closet

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September 16 movie: The Celluloid Closet. I was flipping channels last night and this was just starting. I had only seen in once before, long ago when I hadn't seen most of the movies they talk about. It's interesting and I can't disagree with their conclusions, although I can honestly say it would never have occurred to me to interpret Rebecca in a gay context. Not that I would accuse them of stretching to make their point. Or maybe I would.

I watched the "early Hollywood" section and mainly found myself regretting movies they hadn't included like The Mark of Zorro and Designing Woman. When they got to more current movies I had to turn it off. I was in the mood for a fun movie last night. Marlene Deitrich in white tie? Fun. The Children's Hour or Cruising? Not so much.

le corbeau

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September 14 movie: Le Corbeau. Suspense movie about a small French town convulsed by paranoia when anonymous poison pen letters start appearing in everyone's mailbox. This is the third Clouzot movie I've seen, and probably my third favorite. Which means it was merely excellent, not spectacular like Diabolique or The Wages of Fear. I think my only criticism of the movie is that I figured out who did it too soon. Unlike Diabolique, which I figured out just when I thinbk Clouzot wanted me to. Le Corbeau was made during the occupation of France, and though it can be interpreted as an anti-Nazi statement, was at the time roundly condemned by everyone -- the Vichy government, the resistance, the Catholic church, and the post-liberation French government.

junebug

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September 13 movie: Junebug. Patricia and I saw this together on Tuesday night. We both enjoyed it a lot, although I have to agree with Pinky's assessment that there seemed to be chunks of plot missing. By far the highlight of the movie was Amy Adams as the younger brother's wife. She could have been a cheap caricature, but she made the movie for me. They did capture the flavor of small-town North Carolina life pretty well. During the scene at Replacements, Ltd., Patricia leaned over and whispered "they filmed my family!"

movie list time

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Spent the day at the Nortel Center again today. They're closing up shop; almost all the evacuees have been placed in other housing. More on that later. Now, I'm tired. Not really up to any writing but updating the movie list.

aftermath

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Jane got her rabies shot this morning. The vet said Thirteen didn't need one because I didn't think she had interacted with the possum at all. She was still laying on her bed when I got up, and when we found the possum she came over and sniffed at it like "what in the heck is that?"

Even if Thirteen had gotten into the fray, the chances of the possum carrying rabies were remote. Both Dr. Lindeke and Bob the Critter Control man said that possums can have rabies, but rarely do. Besides, it was acting like a totally normal possum as far as I can tell. Only active at night and apparently spent its time trying to burrow into the insulation in our crawl space. Jane would get agitated when it got active, around 10-11 pm every night. During the day and evening she acted normal.

I just realized that if I had stepped on the possum with my bare foot, it would have been far worse than I had originally thought. I was just thinking, "ew, gross, I almost stepped on a dead animal." But it wasn't dead, and if I had stepped on it, it probably would have bitten me. And Bob the Critter Control man told me possums have a nasty bite. He said he got bitten by one while he was training someone, and it tore up his whole finger.

If I had been bitten, instead of spending the early morning hours feeling creeped out and writing in my blog, I would have spent them in the emergency room getting stitches in my foot and rabies shots in my gut. I am SO glad I managed to walk around the possum in the dark.

critter control

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Many thanks to Spacegrrl for the recommendation of Critter Control. I highly recommend them. Bob, my Critter Control representative, was here less than an hour after I called. He inspected the foundation and quickly found the place where the possum got in. There was a plate missing above one of the air vents (up under the bottom of the siding). He said it would be quite expensive to replace the missing plate, but not at all expensive to cover the whole vent with a screen that would be just as effective in keeping critters out. So we opted for the screen. You can hardly see it and in a couple of years the hydrangeas will cover it entirely.

Bob said there were small gaps above two other vents, that we should keep an eye on and maybe screen over as well in the future. But the immediate vulnerability was just that one.

Then Bob went down into the crawl space and laid a humane trap. He put marshmallow cookies and peanut butter inside to attract it. He said that he could tell a possum had been in there because it had pulled down the insulation. Apparently they try to crawl up into the insulation, but they just pull it down. According to Bob we were lucky that Jane alerted us to the possum so quickly and it didn't have time to do much damage. He said that if a possum has time to make itself at home in the crawl space, it can damage ductwork and electrical wiring before anyone knows it's there.

Bob seemed pretty confident that the possum had probably been alone, and had probably taken off after its battle with Jane. But the trap is there to be safe. He's going to come back and check it on Monday, and we're supposed to call in the meantime if Jane acts like there's something under the house again. (If it ever happens again, I'll call them immediately! I won't wait until the critter finds its way into the house.)

Now we need to get a new rug for the hall. It was a cheap Ikea rug, I think maybe $15, and it was already getting old and gross from several years of use as a dirty dog sleeping area. It's definitely not worth trying to remove the possum blood stains. And we need a lock for the crawl space door. Bob said that if it gets left open for just one night, animals will get in. But it sounds like as of now, we're most likely possum-free.

WHEW!

things you never want to see

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The past couple of days Jane has been acting agitated at night, roaming around the house and sniffing at a hole in the baseboard. We suspected there might be an animal in the crawl space, and (being the lackadaisical homeowners that we are) took no action besides opening the crawl space access door, so that if said animal was trapped, it could get out.

Tonight around 4 am, Jane yelped loud enough to wake me despite my earplugs. I was fumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out what was going on, when Georg got up too and turned on the hall light. At which we discovered a dead possum lying in the hall. Judging from the blood stains a couple of feet away from it, Jane must have killed it right there in the hall. And I nearly stepped on it in the dark, in my bare feet.

Much yelling of various colorful exclamations ensued. I got the dogs away from the possum, and Georg rolled it up in the hall rug and took it outside. Here's the really creepy part: as soon as he got it outside, the dead possum got up and ran away. I guess there's some truth to that expression "playing possum." The poor possum must have been badly hurt. I hope it survives long enough to get far enough away that Jane can't find its body.

As you can imagine, we're both really creeped out and not at all in the mood to sleep. In the morning I'm going to call the vet and see if Jane needs to be checked out. She isn't wounded but who knows if she might have picked up a disease or something. And I'm trying to find out the name of that humane critter disposal service, to look under our crawl space in case there are any other possums under there. Also go to Home Depot and get some wood to nail over that hole in the wall, until we can put up a proper baseboard. Which we will be doing as soon as possible.

blah blah blah

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For some obscure reason I've been listening to the Roberts confirmation hearings. (Actually, it's because I'm too lazy to change the channel on the radio in the mornings, and I forgot to put the iPod in my car.) Are supreme court confirmation hearings always this predictable?

First a Democrat:
"Judge Roberts, will you disavow the memo you wrote 23 years ago, when you said that the poor should be fed to wolves?"
"Senator, as I have already said, I was promoting the position of the Justice Department at the time, which was my job. Just because I wrote it doesn't mean I believed it. Or maybe I did. I'm not telling. Neener neener."
"Judge Roberts, you poopy head, will you promise to never ever ever agree with Judge Thomas?"
"I can't hear you, lalalalala"

Then a Republican:
"Judge Roberts, is it true that you are the best legal mind of our era?"
"What an insightful question. Yes I am."
"Judge Roberts, do you agree that Ronald Reagan was the greatest man who ever lived?"
"I can't comment on my personal beliefs, but that is in fact the position of the court."
"Judge Roberts, may I kiss your hem?"

And repeat.

follow the fleet

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September 11 movie: Follow the Fleet. This isn't Fred and Ginger's best, in fact it's probably one of their weakest, but I still have a fondness for it. It includes the magnificent "Let's Face the Music and Dance" number, and also some great songs, like one of my favorites, "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket."

It's also got some truly hideous gender politics, including this exchange between Ginger Rogers and Harriet Hilliard:

Hilliard: "I don't know why, I just scare men away."
Rogers: "You look too intelligent. It's not that men prefer blondes; we just look dumber."

Feh.

nortel center

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The past two days my friend Patricia and I spent volunteering at the Nortel Center, where the evacuees are staying. We were helping the state division of emergency management services. Specifically, helping people fill out registration forms.

I'd never encountered mass bureaucracy on this level before. The process was kind of insane, mainly due to the myriad agencies the evacuees have to deal with.

Everyone was in this one room (not that big) with rows of tables. Us, HUD, the IRS, Social Security, Housing Authority, FEMA, and some private real estate developers. The DMV was supposed to be there too but they never showed up.

When people first came in, they came to me or Patricia to get their state form filled out. The form wasn't too long, but it was clunky and hard to use. They told us that the database program had been written in 2 weeks for immediate use during a previous emergency. And it shows. For instance, "date of birth" and "age" had to be entered separately, when age could have been calculated from the DOB. One field (street, lane, drive, etc., and why is that even a separate field from the street name?) was a drop-down which did not include common responses such as "avenue." If there was more than one person in the household, then the primary applicant's name, SS# and age had to be entered again, far down on the form where you couldn't see the previous fields. So you either had to ask them to repeat themselves, or scroll back and forth to copy and paste each field.

Enough griping about the form. The point is that the state form was kind of a pain to fill out. Once we finished that, then we asked them if they needed housing. If they did, they had to go to HUD. The HUD guy was sitting at a table right next to us. He was a nice guy, I could hear him talking to people and he tried hard to help them. But everyone needed to talk to him, and each person took a long time, and he was a little overwhelmed. So he had us filling out a form in advance for him, and putting people on a HUD waiting list. The waiting list never worked as intended because there were so many people milling around every which way. And I always felt bad about the housing form, because almost everything on it was a duplication of information they had just given me for the state form. What I would do is fill out the housing form for them while they visited the other agencies in the room. I could just copy everything from the state form, they didn't need to be there.

Okay, so once these forms were filled out we'd print out the state form and give it to them with a checklist they had to take around to the other agencies. FEMA was a big one, everyone had to go there and get a FEMA number. I don't know what forms they had to fill out there, they were on the other end of the room. Social Security was for people who had lost their SS card in the flood and/or didn't know their number. The IRS was giving tax advice to people who had lost major property like a home or car. Housing Authority and the private developers were for people to find public or private housing, respectively. I heard that developments like Briar Creek were providing whole blocks of new apartments, and HUD is paying their deposit and first month's rent.

Once they were done talking to everyone, they had to bring back the printout of their state form, with every agency checked off on the checklist. Then another person in emergency management services did an "exit interview." I don't know what that involved, I never did that.

There were some other agencies in other rooms: employment security commission for either job hunting, or unemployment benefits; human services for food stamps, medicaid or child support; aging and adult services for aging issues, etc. But most of it seemed to be happening in our room. So there were tons of people milling around, it was crazy noisy at times, you found yourself yelling at people just to be heard, trying to explain to them which agencies they had to go to.

I must say, what really blew me away was how good-tempered everyone was. I wouldn't have faulted them for being pissed off at us for putting them through all that rigamarole. But people were overall pretty nice about it. I only talked one person who had worked up a head of steam, came in complaining that no one would give her a straight answer. And I was able to make her happy, which felt great.

The women in charge of me and Patricia was amazing. I don't know how she managed to keep her head through all that chaos, and stay on top of everything that was going on. She told us a bit about her background on Sunday (which was slower than today). Apparently she's a "reservist" for emergency management, she gets called up whenever there's a disaster in the state. In her real life she runs a women's center in eastern NC, where she helps women figure out career goals and develop job skills so they don't have to be on welfare. She said that she got this job with emergency management because of the skills she had developed navigating through bureaucratic crap. When I grow up I want to be like her.

Today was non-stop all day; whenever Patricia and I weren't helping someone, we'd fill the time by entering handwritten forms from previous days into the database. Which was tedious, and also annoying because the database had a nasty habit of giving us both the same record ID, and then whichever one of us clicked save first, that record would be overwritten by the other. We thought maybe this was happening because we both logged in on the same user ID. Or maybe just because it was a quick and dirty DB that no one had ever gone back and cleaned up. (Hey, they should hire me to fix that database.)

We had been instructed to act cheerful and encouraging, make people feel welcome and give out lots of hugs. Which comes naturally to Patricia -- her boundless energy never ceases to amaze me -- but I did my best too. I was a little worried beforehand that I might get emotional about the situation, but it only happened once. I was entering a handwritten form and saw that it was for a married couple in their 70s. I started thinking about what if it had been my parents who lost everything in a flood and were sent on a bus to a city a thousand miles away, and had to sleep on cots in a shelter, and I nearly lost it. Luckily no one was around and I got control over myself pretty quickly.

We barely had time to go to the bathroom today, but yesterday we had time for a tour of the building. The people living there don't have much privacy. Not any, really. I didn't get but a quick glance at the sleeping areas, but it looked like about 20 cots to a room. And the rooms all had uncovered windows next to the door, so even if you managed to be alone in the room anyone walking by could look in at you. I didn't see where people could change clothes. I guess maybe the bathrooms.

They have a room full of donated clothes that people could take whatever they wanted, another room with new clothes from Wal-mart that people could take one outfit, a room full of school supplies, a TV room, a decent computer room with net access. Also I think people can have pets there: I heard announcements on the intercom about the ASPCA arriving to walk people's pets. Or maybe the ASPCA is keeping the pets, and brings them to the center for visiting hours? I'm not sure.

On the downside, I also heard on the intercom that residents (or "guests" as they were called) could only have a shower or do laundry at certain times of day. And the cafeteria food was pretty blechy today, although it might be better on other days. And security around the building was fairly strict: you had to be on a list to even get in, and everyone had to wear name badges at all times, and the guards (who were everywhere) would stop you if you weren't wearing one. In short, it seemed better than living on the street, but anyone who would say "this is working out well for them" has their head in their butt.

I'm sure I have more to say, but I've been writing for a long time and I'm really, really tired. I wish I could go back tomorrow but I have to work. The people I was working with might leave soon anyway. They said emergency management might send them to eastern NC depending on how Ophelia goes.

My contribution was pretty trivial and I'm not sure if I actually helped in any real sense, but for my own peace of mind it was monumental. I couldn't stand sitting and watching disaster news on TV and feeling helpless anymore. When I left today, the woman in charge said I had been a big help (another reason she's amazing -- she could make me feel like I made the day possible, when all I did was fill out forms all day). In all sincerity I told her that she was the one who helped me, just by letting me be there.

ordet again

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Now that I've had a few days to process the experience, I can talk a little bit more about Ordet. The title means "The Word" and it's about faith, or lack thereof, in the well-off Borgen family: the father who displays outward piety but is only going through the motions; the eldest son who has gone over to atheism; the youngest son who doesn't care about religion and wants to marry a girl of another faith; and the middle son who is insane and believes himself to be Jesus Christ.

After seeing the movie I did a bit of reading online, and apparently the religious conflict in the movie is based on the situation in Denmark in the late 19th/early 20th century. The Borgen family's faith, described derisively as "bright, happy Christianity," was mainstream Lutheranism. Which was in crisis at the time, with many people giving up religion altogether (like the oldest son in the movie) or converting to dour, evangelical sects, throwbacks to the Reformation, like the one the youngest son's girlfriend belongs to.

Like every Dreyer film I've seen, the photography is stunning. Almost every shot is so perfectly composed it could be hung in a museum. And also like every Dreyer film, Ordet isn't easy to watch. At first because it's slow moving and doesn't seem to be going anywhere, then because it's so emotionally intense. The slow pace builds the tension, and adds to the power of the final sequence. About which I am not going to say anything: I would be quite a spoilsport if I wanted to ruin those scenes for someone else. If you have any intention of seeing this movie, please don't read any reviews beforehand. Some of them do spoil the ending, which is a crying shame.

I'm also not going to say anything about the ending because honestly, my thoughts about it are too emotional and too personal to share. I'll just say this: as powerful of a statement as Day of Wrath makes about fear, oppression and evil, Ordet makes an equally powerful statement about faith and joy. I will be lucky if I ever experience another work of art as transcendent as Ordet.

the good, the bad and the ugly

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September 10 movie: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. This came on late and I didn't intend to watch it, but I should have known that I'd get sucked in. It's such a great movie. So many brilliant images, but I think my favorite (this time) is Eli Wallach running through the cemetary, looking for Arch Stanton's grave, running and running until the headstones are a blur behind him.

IFC is also showing a documentary on spaghetti westerns called Spaghetti West, but I didn't see it. I think it's going to be on again next week; I'll try to catch it then.

the bandwagon

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September 10 movie: The Bandwagon. I can't believe I hadn't seen this movie until now. A later Fred Astaire movie, it costars Cyd Charisse. While the dance numbers weren't as memorable as some of Astaire's earlier films, it's a very funny of Broadway, and well worth watching. There are some great songs too, notably "That's Entertainment" and a song about beer, complete with German accent.

I think Astaire did a dance number about beer in his first movie, the otherwise forgettable Joan Crawford vehicle Dancing Lady. I can't remember if there was also a beer song, but Astaire did wear lederhosen during the beer dance.

dangerous female

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September 10 movie: Dangerous Female. This was a 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon. I can't comment on its quality because the Bogart version is so firmly imprinted on my brain, it was impossible to give this earlier one a fair shake. Sam Spade smiles too much, the woman's betrayal is too obvious too soon, and Gutman and Cairo ... no. Just no. The actors (Dudley Diggs and Otto Matieson) weren't bad, but no one can play those parts besides Syndey Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.

The one weird thing was Diggs's performance as Gutman, a bizarrely accurate imitation of Greenstreet's. Bizarre because The Maltese Falcon in 1941 was Greenstreet's first movie, and that was his real voice, not a shtick. So how in the heck did Diggs manage to turn in such a prescient performance?

the great lie

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September 7 movie: The Great Lie. I never see this on "best movie" lists, but for my money it's one of the great melodramas. The focus is conflict between Bette Davis and Mary Astor over George Brent's child. I love both Davis and Brent, though Astor's selfish concert pianist is the best character study in the movie. But they're all great.

in the garden

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Finally started gardening again today. We started with a trip to the farmer's market. The plant vendor area is only about half full, but my three favorites -- Messenbrink, Archer Lodge and Bramble Woods -- are still there. Their prices are a little higher than the big box stores, but it's so much nicer to buy plants that were grown here in NC, so you know they're suited to the climate. Not to mention having an expert to talk to about how the plants will handle the conditions in your yard. Last fall the guy at Bramble Woods warned me not to buy something that was a tender perennial unless I had a place for it indoors. How many Home Depot employees would do that?

It was especially nice that the guys at Bramble Woods and Archer Lodge remembered me, even though we hadn't been there in a couple of months. The guy at Archer Lodge gave me his email address and said they're working on putting their catalog online. When they do, I'll be able to email them and tell them what I want, and they'll have it waiting for me at the farmer's market the following Saturday. God bless the Internet!

So what did we buy? Well, we got some ground covers to go under the hydrangeas. Creeping jenny for the sunnier parts of that bed, and peacock moss (selaginella) for the shadier parts. The creeping jenny is a light lime green that turns chartreuse in sun, and the peacock moss is a darker blue-green. The guy at Archer Lodge suggested them. They look nice together and I think they'll look great with the hydrangea foliage.

We also started buying perennials for the bank along the driveway, which is now the vegetable garden. Two rain lilies, two coreopsis in dark pink and white/light pink (colors I hadn't seen before), a yarrow, a butterfly plant called "blue mist shrub," and a silvery foliage plant whose name I forget.

Also we admired the beautyberries, which are showing their berries now. Birds are supposed to love the berries in winter. Georg suggested we make a small round bed out in the sunny part of the yard, put a beautyberry in the middle, and smaller perennials around it. I think that's a wonderful idea. We can put other bird feeding plants around it, like dwarf echinacea. And we can use those extra bricks to make a ring around the bed so it's easy to mow around.

After we got home I went ahead and planted the ground covers in the hydrangea bed. Georg watered the vegetable and herb gardens -- did I mention that I planted brussels sprouts a few days ago? My seeds never came up, not one, so I bought seedlings from Home Depot. I hear that brussels sprouts actually taste better after frost, so I'm not worried about planting them so late. Anyway, the baby brussels sprouts are doing well so far.

Then I took a few hours off to wait out the heat. Once it had cooled off I did a little weeding around the bed under the oak tree, and around the blueberries. They are looking good! Two of the four are going like gangbusters; one is growing at a respectable rate; and the last one (the one which had gotten completely covered by weeds over the summer) is at least still alive and seems to be sending up new growth. I have more work to do out by the blueberries, but at least I took care of the weeds that were right near them.

After that I mowed the lawn. Which is always a big job because our mower isn't self-propelled. A rechargable electric mower is great: it's so much quieter, you don't have to fool around with gas fuel, no fumes, and less maintenance too. But there are downsides, mainly the motor is underpowered compared to gas, the battery runs down after about an hour, and it's not self-propelled. Still, it's well worth it.

Anyway, the point of that digression is that mowing is a bit of a chore with a push mower. Especially when you let it go for a few weeks and the grass gets really long, as we had done. I don't know if gas mowers do this too, but the electric mower has a bad habit of stalling when you push it through long, thick grass. My tips for preventing a stall are to go slowly, overlap already-cut grass so that only half the mower is passing over the long stuff, and if you hear it start to stall, stop (or even back up) to give the blades a chance to clear themselves.

By the time I finished mowing it was almost 8. At which point we realized that we weren't going to make it to the drive-in movie which started at 8:30. Oh well, we were sociable last night.

private lives

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September 4 movie: Private Lives. Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery star in the Noel Coward play. It's very funny, but it's basically about two people who stay together because they're so miserably awful that no just world would inflict them on anybody else. The movie takes advantage of its precode date by featuring extended adultery (Shearer and Montgomery are married to other people when they run away and shack up together) and Montgomery hitting Shearer in the face more than once (believe it or not, it's funny).

I read that while this film version is true to the spirit of the play, the dialogue was changed somewhat. It seems to me that if you're going to mess around with Noel Coward's dialogue, why even bother making the movie. But that's just me.

no more ladies

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August 24 movie: No More Ladies. Joan Crawford again, this time marrying philanderer Robert Montgomery and then pretending to repay him in kind with Franchot Tone (Mr. Joan Crawford at the time). This movie had a great cast, but somehow failed to come together. It also featured Gail Patrick as the object of Montgomery's adultery, Arthur Treacher (the fish guy!) as the current husband of a woman from both Montgomery's and Tone's past, Edna May Oliver as Crawford's hard-drinking, cheating-at-cards granny, and Joan Fontaine.

above suspicion

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August 22 movie: Above Suspicion. I really, really need to write these movies up right when I watch them. It's been two weeks and I've forgotten this one. I have to look it up in IMDB.

Oh right. This is a thriller made during WWII, but set before the war, with Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray as American tourists who are asked by the British to spy on Germany. They treat it as a fun game at first, but the game quickly turns serious.

TCM also showed a documentary about Joan Crawford, and they showed a clip from this movie as an example of Crawford's first career slump, the one she ended with Mildred Pierce. Fred MacMurray as a costar was definitely a step down from Clark Gable. The thing I didn't like about this movie was that it didn't seem like a Joan Crawford movie. There wasn't anything about her character that made it work for her; it could have been played by anyone. In fact, it wasn't really well-suited to Crawford and the movie might have been better with someone else in her part.

theodora goes wild

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Aug 21 movie: Theodora Goes Wild. The movie opens with Irene Dunne leading a small-town ladies club who are shocked, shocked I tell you, by the local paper serializing a racy bestselling novel. Lo and behold, said racy novel was actually written by pseudonoymous Dunne!

The first half-hour or so I found this movie too much of a conventional romantic comedy and was disappointed. But then the movie does a 180 when, just as the title promised, Theodora goes wild. What was that they say about first impressions? The rest of the movie was unpredictable, hilarious, and even had a point (which I'm surprised they were allowed to make under the Hayes code). I greatly enjoyed this and I would watch it again anytime. Besides Dunne, the movie costars Melvyn Douglas. My favorite supporting actor was the upright & seemingly prissy aunt, who when push comes to shove refuses to judge Theodora, no matter what Theodora pretends to have done.

ordet

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Sept 8 movie: Ordet. I've been so heartsick over recent events, tonight I felt like I needed to experience something beautiful. Ordet fit the bill. I've been saving it on the DVR for weeks, waiting until I was ready to watch it. It's Dreyer's meditation on faith and it's .. well I can't talk about it. It was profoundly moving, and I'm going to be thinking about it for a long time. That's all I can say right now.

is that my eye?

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Those of you who have met me in person, go to this link and click the eyeball labeled Sarah. Is that my eye? The eye and lash colors are about right. Georg remembers me telling him that someone took a photo of my eye for some art project, but I have no memory of it. I guess I'll have to go to the show and see if the photo is labeled with a full name.

This, on the other hand, is definitely my eye.

clown shoes

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Went to DSW to buy sneakers today. My old pair had an unfortunate case of wading in the Eno river and then being left outside in the sun and rain. By now that is a truly gross pair of shoes. They were getting old and worn anyway, so I'm not too bummed about getting new ones.

The only downside is finding a pair I can live with. I don't think I'm that picky; all I want is a pair of running shoes that feel good and don't look ridiculous. Unfortunately sneakers have been trending towards clown shoes for years, and the trend doesn't seem to be letting up. I swear, some of the shoes I saw today looked like they were designed by Dr. Suess.

For obscure reasons I have brand loyalty to New Balance, which helps. NB shoes seem to be among the least ridiculous in the store. I tried on a few pairs and finally settled on one I can live with. They're a bit too bright and zig-zaggy for my taste, but they'll fade fairly quickly I hope. I guess I should wear them in the rain a few times to speed the process.

or you could just ride a horse

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Spacegrrl has posted excellent advice on minimizing automobile fuel consumption.

I'm pleased to see that I was already doing some of the things on the list, like grouping errands so that if I have to drive to Chapel Hill, I have several things to do while I'm there. Aside from road trips, I don't actually drive that much. More these days because of Stoneline, but it's the closest job I've had in a long time, and it's only three days a week. Before Stoneline, when I was working entirely at home, I would sometimes go several days without using my car.

I can't do much about the car I drive now, but I had been thinking that on the sad but inevitable day in the future when I have to replace UMJ, gas mileage will be a major factor. I'd like to drive a really small car, Mini or Insight small, but it will have to be something that Jane can fit inside. UMJ's mileage isn't bad but it isn't great: about 30-33 mpg, depending on how much city driving vs. highway driving. Still, I think that's pretty good for a largish sedan with crap glued all over it.

I am going to take Spacegrrl's advice and use a map to check alternate routes to places I frequently go. And I will make a concerted effort to drive no more than the speed limit. Which isn't that much of an adjustment for me. I already kind of drive like a grandma. On most streets I'm more likely to drive below the limit than above it. I'm sure I annoy people, but so what. For years I've indulged in the passive-aggressive behavior that if I'm going the limit, and someone flashes their brights at me, I slow down. Every time. No way am I going to speed just to help some type A asshole get to their destination ten seconds faster. If they honk at me, I slow down more. I used to also give them the finger if they honked. But one time some guy followed me and I seriously thought he was going to jump out of his car at a red light and beat me up. I'm not kidding, it was scary. I don't do that anymore.

So I guess today's moral is: Conserve fuel. Drive slowly. But don't make obscene gestures at strangers.

planned parenthood

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Planned Parenthood of Houston is giving free birth control and emergency contraception to Katrina refugees.

I already gave as much as I felt I could to charities feeding people and helping animals, but I may have to give again. That's a worthy cause if ever I heard of one.

free bird

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The bird is free. Georg came home and together we pulled out the fireplace insert. That thing is heavy, I think it's iron, and I was worried that the bird might get crushed. But we went slowly and the bird popped out the side of the fireplace.

It couldn't fly at first and we thought it had been hurt, but it looks like it was just confused from being trapped in the fireplace for a couple of hours. After a minute or two it started flying and headed right for the open door. Unfortunately it found the screened porch more confusing, but we left it alone on the porch and it found its way out after about ten minutes. We watched it hopping around on a tall branch on the oak tree and figured it would be safe there.

It's a good thing Jane is such a fraidy girl and fled the room when we started moving furniture. I was watching her, to keep her away from the bird, but I didn't have to worry about it. She stayed clear of the room until the bird was out on the porch.

birdie

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There's a bird trapped in my chimney. I can hear it beating its wings. How do I get it out? I opened the fireplace doors and the flue, but it won't come out. It sounds like it's just above the fireplace. I think it must have just gotten in there; I've been sitting in front of the fireplace all morning, and I only just started hearing it a minute or two ago. I don't want the poor thing to get hurt in there.

meet n sniff part 2

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The BPAL sniffing party was a great success. In attendance were myself, Lisa, Alicia, Christa and Shayne. Many vials (or imps, as the kids call them) were opened and sniffed and tested. Only one was spilled, and none of us liked it anyway. I think everyone left with something they didn't have before, and for some it was their first BPAL. Yay! I took home Le Petit Mort and Chesed. And was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was more or less correctly pronouncing chesed.

I forgot to take photos this time, but if you want to know what the table looked like, go to this photo and imagine about 4 times more. Yeah, Lisa, Alicia and I have all been acquiring. We're talking about having the next get-together in early November after all our massive Halloween orders arrive. (Which, by the way, I can hardly wait.) Maybe by then Christa and Shayne will have their own BPAL stashes to share.

Along with the imps, I also took home some decanting supplies Lisa had ordered for me. I already had empty imps, but this time I got tiny eyedroppers, little 2 ml bottles, and a couple of atomizers. When I got home I put Shanghai in an atomizer. I love the scent but it disappears so fast when applied directly to the skin. I mixed the oil with everclear at a 1:10 ratio. (You can also order special perfumer's alcohol, but I hear everclear works just as well, and it costs a heck of a lot less.) I shook it up and spritzed it in my hair. I smelled it when I first sprayed it, but as for its staying power I can't really tell. I tried so many bpal blends today that I can't distinguish it from the general cacophany of scent. I'm probably Stinky Perfume Lady right now, and I'm enjoying my own stink. Mostly I'm getting cocoa and sandalwood from Velvet and musk from Buck Moon. Mmm, musky sandalwoody chocolate.

Anyway, after mixing up the atomizer of Shanghai, I decanted a few imps of Tarot: Strength. It didn't really ring my bell so I'm going to try and sell/swap it. I already have one imp spoken for & possibly the rest of the bottle. That will be great if it happens, but if not I'll just sell it one imp at a time.

ready for autumn

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I am so ready for fall. Beyond ready. The weather is finally right for gardening, but alas I'm probably going to be working all weekend. (Except of course for the sniffing party this afternoon!).

If I can't do any yardwork this weekend, at least I can start preparing for fall planting season. This morning I ordered hydrangeas! We had to replace a couple which had died -- Leuchtfeuer was dug up by Thirteen, before we got her on the crazy pills, and Sensation didn't survive the summer, I think because the tiny little shrubling bloomed last fall right after we planted it. I let the blossom stay because it was just so beautiful. But I think that was a mistake. It never grew like this others this year, and it collapsed under the summer heat. I guess it didn't have the root structure of the others. Word to the wise: when they say not to allow a plant to bloom or fruit in the first year, they mean it! And we added this one just for fun.

I asked for a 10/1 delivery date, figuring by then it will be nice and cool, good weather for planting shrubs. I wish it was October already!

heroes

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Someone I work with is going to the Gulf to volunteer. He's a skilled carpenter and I'm sure there's tons of work for him there. He called the Red Cross but they only want people who can make a minimum 3 week commitment. He didn't want to take that much time off work, so he's going to try and find another organization that will accept his help for a shorter time period. If that fails, he's just going to pack his truck full of tools and bottled water and head out.

To me this guy is a hero. I feel humbled by knowing him. It makes me wish I could make that kind of contribution. But my skills, such that they are, would be useless in a disaster area.

For those of us whose only way to help is monetary contributions, Charity Navigator is a great website which reviews the budgets and operating expenses of charities and recommends organizations which use donations most effectively, i.e. what percentage of income is spent on program expenses. I was surprised to see that PetSmart's charity gets a higher rating than the ASPCA or the Humane Society, though all three are working on Katrina disaster relief for animals. The Red Cross gets a very high rating, but there were some smaller organizations whose numbers were even better, like America's Second Harvest.

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