Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gratuitous Flower Photos

Today was a perfect day for planting, since it was cool, overcast, with a chance of rain later. JK^2 and I have been planning to redo our front flowerbeds for a while, so today was the day to get a start on it. We pulled out a sickly azalea to the left of our front stairs, and replaced it with a lace cap hydrangea, a variety called "Blue Bird." Here's how it looks:

And if you click on this link, you'll see what it will look like when it blooms. It should be great. Our goal was to give it a lot of space to spread out. We didn't do that with our other hydrangea, and now it has outgrown its space:

(And this is after I cut it back all the way to the ground a year ago). We are going to dig it up and move it out next spring. With the new hydrangea, we have a lot of excess space, so we planted impatiens and marigolds, and then put a good layer of mulch over the top.

And while I'm at it, I thought I would throw in a couple of other photos of my beautiful flowers. Here is a close up of the blooms on my other hydrangea bush:

And here is a closeup of a gerbera daisy I have growing in a pot on our front stairs.

And my tomato plants have flowers. So everything is right in the world. :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Love in the Time of Cholera

We saw the movie, Love in the Time of Cholera, last night on DVD. I had read the book and was curious to see the movie. The movie was just as tedious as the book, unfortunately.

It's basically about a man and a woman, Florentino and Fermina, who fall in love when they are teenagers through letters (they only meet a couple of times). Fermina's father doesn't like Florentino because he's not upper class, and Fermina eventually loses interest in him. Florentino never loses interest in Fermina, for over fifty years. Fermina marries pompous Dr. Urbino instead, and when he dies, years later, Florentino comes to her after the wake. They are now both in their 70's. He tells her that he's never forgotten her, wants to be with her even now, etc. etc. I won't spoil the ending.

While the book started out well, and I was impressed with the quality of the writing, I lost interest in it when I began to dislike the characters. Florentino seems to be nothing more than a stalker. He also turns into a womanizer who sleeps with his fourteen-year-old ward (He was entrusted to be her guardian, but instead, he picked her up from school breaks to seduce her - yuck!). Fermina is just boring. I just didn't care what happened to them, so the book grew very tedious for me.

The book began with an intriguing story about Dr. Urbino, whose friend, Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, is found dead. It turns out that it's a suicide, and that Saint-Amour had made a pact with himself that he would kill himself when he turned 60 because he did not want to grow old. He leaves a long letter for Dr. Urbino, which explains about various scandals in his life, including the existence of a scandalous love affair.

I was intrigued by the letter and the story behind Saint-Amour. I figured that the author would come back to this story and connect it with the rest of the book. But it never happened, and I still don't understand the point of starting the story this way. We never hear about Saint-Amour again.

The movie had some serious problems. One big problem was how it dealt with age progression. Giovanna Mezzogiorno, the actress who played Fermina, could not play an old woman. They slapped on some makeup, and she still looked like she was 25. Javier Bardem, who played Florentino, was not much better. They tried to shuffle around, like they thought old people would do, and it just didn't work. Mezzogiorno was not very convincing as a 17-year-old either.

Another annoying part of the movie was the fact that they all spoke with Spanish accents, since the movie took place in Colombia. (And actually, Mezzogiorno had an Italian accent). I hate movies that do this. Either do the movie in Spanish with subtitles, or have the people speak English fluently and natively. They would've spoken Spanish fluently and natively, without a foreign accent. I suppose you could argue that they did the accents to emphasize that the movie took place in a foreign country. But that's stupid. There was no question that the movie happened in Colombia, because it was such an important component of the story. And for Mezzogiorno, she needs to either speak with a Spanish accent, or no accent at all.

And while I won't spoil the ending, I will say that I thought it was dumb. Before we got to the ending, JK2 asked me if it was a happy ending or a sad ending. I said that that depends on whether you like the characters. :)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of the book, has gotten rave reviews from everyone, especially in Latin America. I understand that he's a hero in Colombia, but I'm not convinced about him yet. I want to read 100 Years of Solitude before I make my judgment.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Toastmasters and thunderstorms

Tonight JK2 and I decided to try out a Toastmasters meeting. It was pretty interesting. I was envisioning going to a meeting full of very self-confident orators who gave great, inspiring, Kennedy-esque speeches ("Ask not what your country can do for you ..."). Instead, there were just a few people there. They were normal people who were getting over their fear of public speaking. They gave normal speeches about normal life. JK2 would like to join because he wants to become a better public speaker. It wouldn't do me any harm either, especially since public speaking is an important part of my job. :) We'll see. It seems like most of the Toastmaster clubs close up shop for the summer.

Tonight we're having a thunderstorm! We don't get very many of them here, compared to Buffalo, so it's nice when they come. Here is what Zeusy does during thunderstorms:

She hides! :) In my closet. And her pupils get really big. She hates thunderstorms. But I generally like them, unless they wake me up in the middle of the night. Then I'm scared too, just like Zeus. There was a huge, spooky thunderstorm in the night before my dad died. I'll never forget that. Anyway, I'm mostly happy about my garden getting some rain tonight. I guess it rained this weekend, but a little more won't hurt and it means I won't have to water for a day or more.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

We made it back home after a busy weekend. We made it in less than 8 hours, which is pretty good considering the trailer. The traffic was great until we got beyond Boston and were heading south to Quincy. The highway was backed up and 2 out of 4 lanes were closed for repaving. Lovely. We knew we were back home at that point.

Today is Father's Day so I would like to take a moment to reflect on my dad. We always had a good time on Father's Day because we'd usually go boating and then have steaks out on the grill. One year, Dad got a ticket on Father's Day because we had taken a short-cut through a parking lot, and the police stopped him. He was pretty mad about that, especially the fact that the police officer had pulled him over on Father's Day.

Father's Day seems a little cruel to people who don't have their dads in their life. I'm glad it's a holiday because I have a lot of happy memories of my dad, but it would've been nice to have had it postponed this year. I suppose that eventually I will think of my dad and not feel so sad, but that day hasn't come yet.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Buffalo News

We're back in Buffalo for the weekend. We flew in last night and go back tomorrow. I'm exhausted. It's been a really full day. We had to run a lot of errands and get a lot of things accomplished.

Tonight we had dinner at a little Italian restaurant in Black Rock that is in a 3-story Victorian house that is 3-toned: red, white and green for the Italian flag. :) We've gone there before and it's the sort of place that we haven't found in Boston yet. A place for locals, good food, good price, no frills. I don't know why we haven't found a place like it in Boston yet, except that I think Buffalo is more blue-collar than Boston is getting to be. Either that, or we really qualify as "locals" in Buffalo, because our families have lived here for generations and know all the cheap spaghetti joints, while we still have a short history in Boston.

I was shocked to see that Tim Russert died yesterday. He was a big Buffalo ex-pat. JK2's high school was his high school too, and they made a big deal of him. He even has his own page at the high school's website. I've read his books, and he seemed like a nice guy. It's sad and shocking when someone dies so quickly, even someone that I don't know, although I felt like I knew him through his books. There are so many things that he had in life and the world that will be forever unfinished or accomplished. This, as well as my reflections on my dad's life as Father's Day nears, makes me think about how much time each of us has left - are we spending it in a way that creates happiness and beauty? Is it too much of a goal to try to change the world, or should we just focus on enjoying life? Is it possible to do both?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moment of Truth

So JK2 and I watched Moment of Truth tonight. What a weird show. It's sort of a mix of Jerry Springer and "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" And I had to look on Wikipedia to understand the concept behind it. Apparently before the show, the contestant sits for a polygraph test, but is not informed of the results. Then on the show, the contestant brings her closest family members on the show and answers some of the questions again, either the same way as before, or differently. The polygraph test supposedly knows the truth. After each question, the person wins progressively more money if the test is true. The camera is sure to catch the looks on the family members' faces as they learn the truth about their loved one. You can watch their faces falling as the questions get more and more personal. The show always cuts to commercial right before the contestant answers a particularly juicy question. The woman tonight, for example, brought on her husband, father-in-law and best friend. She then admitted that she gave her kids objects that she shoplifted, that she had intentionally set a neighbor's photos on fire in revenge, and that she liked being a firefighter because other men besides her husband paid her attention.

Why would anyone do this? And if they did, why would they lie? And in particular, if you have a colorful past that your family doesn't know about, why would you bring them on the show? But apparently this woman lied. I think she got through about 8 questions before the polygraph test told everyone that she was a liar. Then, of course, there's the question about whether a polygraph test is an accurate measurement of truth anyway.

But then again, why would anyone go on Jerry Springer? It seems like maybe it's a combination of really, really, really wanting to be on TV and the chance to make a lot of money. Of course, with this show, you might win lots of money, but will you have a family to enjoy it with at the end of the show?

Has television devolved into reality-based, Jerry Springer-type shows? Is anyone out there able to write smart comedy or drama anymore? Or perhaps it's too expensive to hire writers for it?

We've been watching different TV series on Netflix for a couple of years now, after giving up cable. We've watched the entire series of Sex & the City, the West Wing, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ballykissangel, Grey's Anatomy, and Scrubs. Now we've having trouble finding something entertaining to watch. Jim's got JAG, which I'm bored with, and Robin Hood, which is not my style. We rented the first season of "As Time Goes By" but it feels like such an elderly comedy ... although we've only watched 3 episodes, and I feel I need to give it a fair try, since my dad liked it. But I wish we could find a good series that wasn't so reality-based. I guess we'll keep looking.

It's too hot

It's really hot today in Boston. When I got home tonight, close to 7:00, it was still about 91 degrees outside. Now the sun's down, and it's still 82. Supposedly, there is a 50% chance of "scattered thunderstorms" (according to the Weather Channel). So if that's the percentage for scattered storms, what the percentage of us actually getting a storm? Doesn't it seem like that percentage should be even less?

Here are the Top 5 Things that JK2 and I did today:
1) Watch Hell's Kitchen, preceded by a really bizarre show called "the Moment of Truth" (JK2)
2) Go to jail for a "house call" so to speak, then walk through the jello-like heat and humidity to the Silver Line, to get back to the office (me)
3) Make a really neat cabbage and tofu salad for dinner (JK2 ... quite the chef)
4) Finish what previously seemed like the endless bureaucracy surrounding our boat (registering for excise tax and a mooring permit) (me)
5) Thank the heavens that we now have central AC (both)

I'll have to do a separate post on "Moment of Truth." What a weird show.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Movie and brunch

We saw Sex & the City today at the movie theater on the Boston Common. When we can, Jim and I like to go into the city on Sunday for a movie and brunch. You get the movie at the matinee price (I think it was $6 ... I remember when $6 was the price for the evening movie, but that's another story), it rarely sells out, and you get a nice meal out of it too!

We like to go to a restaurant called Scollay Square, which has a nice brunch, and if the weather's nice, you can sit outside. The restaurant is named for a former section of Boston, called Scollay Square, known for its bars, vaudeville theaters and other "establishments." It was torn down in 1963 to make way for the barren wasteland that is Boston's Government Center. Many people mourn Scollay Square. If you've ever seen Boston City Hall or the JFK Federal Building, the two ugly buildings that were built on the remains of the Square, you will understand why.

The movie was not even close to as good as the TV series. It just seemed like everything was flat: the characters, the twists of fate that occur, etc. The movie's plot seemed a whole lot more preposterous than the TV series did, but maybe I just don't remember the TV shows well. At the end, everyone's pretty much in the same situation as they were in the beginning. You don't feel like they've made any progress. And by the way, it's a long movie - 2 1/2 hours, and that's not counting all the previews and other crap at the beginning. I guess a good word for the movie is gratuitous: gratuitous costume changes, shopping sprees, breakup-and-makeups, drama, etc. Then again, maybe that's why the TV series was so much fun. I actually enjoyed the gratuitous New York shots - the TV show always made me and Jim want to go to New York. Somehow, all the gratuity (?) gratuitousness (?) didn't work so well in a movie.

Tonight we had Mark and Lauren over for a little cookout, which was fun. Jim grilled fish and corn-on-the-cob. Of course, we finished it up with a walk over to Frozen Freddie's for an ice cream cone. I got a flavor called razzleberry supreme, or something like that. It was quite good. Tasted a lot like strawberry cheesecake, with chocolate pieces in it. I like trying new flavors. After all, I can now say that I've had black licorice ice cream.

On to another week at work ...

Saturday, June 7, 2008


So much for an open, carefree Saturday morning. I went into the basement this morning to do laundry and saw that our main drain in the basement was leaking. We called a plumber, who snaked a small camera through the main drain, all the way out to the street. $350 later, we learned that the pipe was clogged, has rusted and does not entirely connect to the pipe in the street, due to age. The good news is that it's a good enough fit with the pipe in the street, and even better, it wasn't a collapsed pipe, which may have required ripping up our porch to fix it. He was able to clean it out so it won't back up.

Here's the silly invoice:

Cabled main line: $295, minus $20 for Beeline Discount (because Beeline, our normal plumber, referred us to him)
Camera Inspection: $375, minus $300 (also apparently for the "Beeline Discount.").

Who knew we were going to save so much money by going through our normal plumber. :) Sounds a nice load of B.S. to me. He was probably trying to make us feel better for paying $350 for 1 hour of work.

The joys of home ownership.

Saturday morning after a good week

It's been a good week. I'm surprised at how fast it went. Usually, when I'm tired, the days tend to drag. Not this week.

I basically spent the whole week at work writing a 28-page brief. I'm glad to have it finished. I really like to write, and it's satisfying when you have a good piece of work at the end of it. I have another brief due at the end of the month that looks like an interesting case.

We went sailing in the Harbor on Thursday night with Nate. It was fun, although quite chilly. We got sandwiches at the little grocery store around the block from the wharf, and ate dinner on the water. We sailed out, and saw the coast guard everywhere. At one point, it seemed like they drove up to check us out, and then continued out further into the harbor.

As we were sailing back to the slip at the end of the night, we realized the reason for the coast guard presence. There was a huge LNG (liquefied natural gas) tanker coming out of the harbor. The police and coast guard were everywhere, and the police approached our boat and told us to pull the boat into an inlet while the tanker passed by. (Luckily we had already taken the sails down and the boat had a motor ... I don't know what we would've done if we had been in one of those boats with no motor - pretty hard to maneuver it into a small space!) The presence of LNG tankers in the harbor has been a source of controversy since 9/11, because of the volatility of the fuel and the danger to Boston if it exploded. It was pretty interesting watching the big tanker go out to sea.

Last night, I put my veggie plants into the ground, weeded, and made a big bowl of tabbouleh from the parsley in my garden! But it wasn't ready in time for dinner, because the bulgar had to sit for 2 hours. I let the tabbouleh sit over night and I'll bet it'll be great for lunch today. Today it's supposed to be 90 degrees here and we might (finally) go see Sex & the City.

I love Saturday mornings. It seems like the possibilities are endless for the weekend. You can finally do what you want, instead of what you are required to do at work.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Back in Boston

We made it back to Boston on Sunday night around 11:30pm. Jet lag is a bitch. I'm still feeling it. The flights were fine. The cross-country flight was even about 30 minutes early into Boston. It is actually much hotter here in Boston than it was in any place we were on our trip, including California. Funny.

We flew through Salt Lake City. Every time I'm in that airport, I really, really want to see the city. You can see the snow-capped mountains from the airport and the city looks amazing. We always fly over the Great Salt Lake.

We got back in time to see my lilac bush and clematis vines in full bloom. The irises are past peak but there are still some blooms on them. Same with the pink azalea. So I didn't miss out after all.

We have a stack of mail about a foot high. Most of it junk.

Our stairs are beautiful!! Here are two photos of them:

The only thing left to do are the spindles on the banister, which had to be ordered. They will be in white.

I had forgotten that we had our floors refinished. When we came home, everything looked different. I love it. :)

There was quite a saga with our cats, however. While the stairs were ripped up, Solomon figured out a way to get out from the basement through a hole. Nate and Jess came over to check and they saw him running out of the kitchen, but when they opened the basement door, they also saw him with Zeus. For a time, they thought there were 3 cats in the house! They finally figured out what had happened. Our contractor was able to get both cats in the basement before he put polyurethane on the floor, but somehow Solomon got out again, and also managed to go outside. When we came home, he was waiting for us in our backyard. Scary. I don't know how long he had been out there. He was totally freaked out.

Anyway, it is good to be home. Things are really busy this week - I've been out late in Boston both last night and tonight for different functions. Tomorrow is brief-writing day at work, and hopefully I'll get most of that done.

Hopefully I'll be able to fall asleep at a normal time tonight. My body still thinks its on the West Coast and I didn't fall asleep until after midnight last night. Ugh. Hard to get up in the morning.

Good night!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

San Diego photos

We thought about going into Mexico tonight, but then we found out that there's usually a 3-hour wait at the border to get back into the U.S. on a Saturday night. So that wasn't going to happen. Instead, we drove into Old Town San Diego and had dinner at a very nice Mexican restaurant that even served ceviche. We got to each outside and it was a nice evening.

Here are the photos from San Diego. First, the Jacaranda Tree that I keep writing about. It's incredible:

Some animals we saw. A giraffe, an elephant, and a polar bear:

Directly after this photo, the elephant let out a roar, turned around so his butt was facing us, and took a big dump ... it was really funny:

Jim eating lunch on the patio of this cafe. There was a waterfall in the background. Nice.

As always, the rest of the photos are on my flickr site, so check that out too.

I talked to my mom and Laurie tonight. My mom made it into Seattle and got a Prius as her rental car. Go figure. We get a Kia, but she gets a nice Prius. :) Oh well. They probably didn't have too many Priuses in Wenatchee.

Good night!