Monday, March 30, 2009

The Long-Awaited Day

At this moment, my Mom should be in the OR undergoing the hysterectomy....finally!! The surgery is scheduled to end around noon, but I'll be heading to the hospital soon to check on both my folks. Please keep her in your thoughts!!

UPDATE 9:07 PM : My Mom made it through the surgery okay, with very little blood loss according to the doctors. She was a bit groggy when they wheeled her into her room after two hours in recovery and desperately wanted water or ice chips or something to combat the dryness in her mouth. She may be able to return home tomorrow, but we shall see. I'm just glad the operation's over.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Rare Disney Day

By "rare" I mean that CM wanted to go. He's not as big a Disneyland fan as I am, nor does he abhor the place; let's just call him a Disney Tolerator.

I purchased two discounted 2Fer tickets to Disney a few months ago, waiting for a time when our friend RG would be able to spend a Saturday at one of the parks. Trying to schedule that, though, turned out to be more difficult than I thought, with both RG and myself getting sick or other previously scheduled events taking place. So, after a rough week filled with video and teleconferences for me and multiple drives to Pasadena and Culver City for CM, he suggested throwing caution to the wind and spending today at Disneyland.

Who am I to say "no"?

We returned a short time ago, both a rosy pink thanks to the Sun, legs aching from all the standing walking climbing of stairs, bellies full of Riverboat pork chops with garlic smashed potatoes from Hook's Pointe. We both enjoyed checking out the updates to "it's a small world" as well as to Sleeping Beauty's Castle. And we didn't mind the large number of people (thanks to Spring Break and some cheerleading or band competition). What ticked us off was not one attraction breaking down while we waited in line, but two attractions.

The first was the Monorail which we had planned to ride into Disneyland as the first attraction of the day. One of the new trains pulled into the station, and we were told not to board it because it was being tested for use. No worries; we would simply wait for the next train. Ten minutes later, and the new train hadn't left the station. A cast member announced that the other train hadn't left its station due to technical difficulties. They weren't sure how long it would take to repair so the ride was temporarily closing. Not a problem. We hoofed it along Downtown Disney to the park entrance and were soon enjoying our day.

Then came Space Mountain. Even after waffling about the 60-minute wait, we stood in line, wandering through the labyrinthine queue for the better part of an hour. And then, just within a few feet of the entrance to the building, a ride operator's voice blasts a muffled message that the ride has temporarily stopped. What many others in line didn't quite catch were the words that followed: "For those still in cars, remain seated and a cast member will help you out." My face dropped. Cm asked what was wrong so I told him that if they are walking people off the ride, it's going to be closed for at least an hour. A few guests in the Fast Pass line turned around, following the queue back the way they came. When I saw that, I grabbed CM and excused our way to the nearest chain to climb over and head for the exit. Sure enough, as we made our way out the entrance, a cast member was turning guests away, saying they didn't know for how long the ride would be down and to check back in about an hour.

We grumbled a bit but in the end, managed to snag two Fast Passes for another attraction and enjoyed a quickie lunch in the shade, listening to some ragtime piano.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sporadic Blogging

I'm in video and teleconferences all week so by the time I get home, blogging and getting anywhere near a computer is the last thing on my mind. So until next week, my blogging will be sporadic at best. In the meantime, here's a few songs that I'm digging right now....

Crack the Shutters by Snow Patrol


Legend of a Cowgirl by Imani Coppola



How I Could Just Kill a Man by Charlotte Sometimes

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quickie Post

I forgot to mention that the new computer also came with a printer-fax-copier-scanner that could probably make coffee, too, with the correct software upgrade. What makes it even more special is the $100 rebate that came with it! (Already deposited into my savings.)

So I tried the scanner feature yesterday....



The Roman Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain. Not too bad for a pic from 2000.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Stimulating

I almost didn't want to write this post after reading about Ur-Spo's problems with his MacBook. But my blogging has been very slow and spotty, of late, thanks to a very busy week at the office, so I'm posting this little bit anyway.

I did my part to help stimulate the economy.

Two week's ago, I finally purchased a new iMac G5 -- the one with the 24" monitor. Not because my older iMac crashed and burned. On the contrary, the old G4 pod still worked fine; however, I couldn't upgrade the software to the latest operating system without spending hundreds on memory and tech service to bring it up to speed. (It has since been wiped and donated to an elementary school.) Without the upgrades, I couldn't download the latest browsers or fixes, making a quick visit to the internet turn into an ordeal. So for the past year, I whined to CM about the waiting 10-15 minutes for a web page to load or the inability to watch a simple YouTube video. I set aside some money in savings and vowed that if my IRS return were enough, then I would replace the computer.

And it was.

And I did.

And now we can load multiple pages at a time while writing blog posts as a YouTube video runs in the background. (And the game I'm playing, Rhem 2 looks fantastic in widescreen.) I never knew technology could be like this. Oh happy day!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Alarming Update

I should have known better than to blog about my car alarm's supposed two-year stint. At 3AM the next morning, my alarm honked and echoed down the alley behind our apartment. I ran through the apartment, grabbed my keys and hurried down the steps to find the gate to our complex open, but not a person, car or other trigger near my car. Of course, I neglected to don my glasses so something may have blurred along in the darkness.

CM said to give it one more night. A cat may have jumped on the hood. Or someone partying at the new neighbor's downstairs may have nudged the car as he/she drunkenly left in the wee hours of the morning. And, of course, I couldn't get back to sleep, wondering if the alarm would blare again.

The funny thing is that the alarm hasn't sounded since then.

Maybe it's toying with me....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Alarming

Parking in Long Beach is almost non-existent, unless your house has a driveway or or your apartment comes with parking beneath the building. Ours comes with a garage (for which we pay extra every month and wind up using for storage because of its narrowness) and a single parking space.

I used to park in the single space directly behind our apartment building until shortly after my car accident almost two years ago. For a week, I parked my new car in that space, and within that time, my neighbor managed to damage the bumper not once, but twice as he attempted to back in/pull out of his space directly behind mine. So I stopped parking back there. CM wouldn't park in the space, either, so we offered it to our other neighbor, warning her about the damage inflicted to my car. She happily took the spot, and I began nightly hunts for spaces to park, eventually giving up altogether and leaving my car roughly six blocks away in an area known as Carroll Park. (Many homes in that area are older, historic homes complete with city plaques. The winding street is narrow with room for only three cars: two parked on either side of the street with a just-larger-than-car-width lane in between. Most of the homes also come with long driveways so non-neighborhood cars find easy parking along Carroll Park.) Out of habit, I steered toward Carroll Park each night for almost two years.

Then, a little over a week ago, I accidentally set off my car's alarm while clearing condensation from the windows. I caught the honking in enough time, allowing only two honks to escape, but that appeared to be enough for one Carroll Park resident. And tall man, probably in his early fifties, wearing a faded t-shirt and shorts the khaki color of his flip-flops, brisly walked toward me from his house.

"A-ha!" he said. "I recognized that honk." I said good morning. "You know, your car alarm has been going off every morning around 3 or 4 for the past few years. By the time I get up to look, there aren't any other cars around. One time, my neighbor and I were sitting on his porch around 8, and the alarm just went off while we watched." I grunted to let him know I was listening, if not focusing too much. My mind was elsewhere, trying to deal with the layoffs we had a few days earlier, trying to convince myself that even though my throat was a bit scratchy that I was not coming down with a cold. "For a month there, we didn't hear it at all and thought you'd finally moved away." I grunted again. "You should really get that checked. Well, good morning to you." He headed back to his house, and I shuffled into the car and drove to work.

It dawned on me as I coasted along the 405 South, a few years and no note on my windshield? I would think a normal person would do something like that, especially if he was sure it was my car. And no one contacted the police? By the time I reached worked, I decided to call CM to ask about switching parking spaces for a while so I could discover if, in fact, the alarm sounded on its own.

That night, I slept very little, keeping an ear open for the loud honking of a horn. Around 6 AM I finally fell asleep. As far as I know, the alarm remained silent. I had warned our neighbor just in case, but she never heard it, either.

And now, more than a week has gone by, and so far, no sounds. Logic leads me to want to believe that he made a simple mistake. And yet, add in the fact that after a few years, no one left a note on my car -- and he was positive that alarm sounded from my car -- and no police notice, and I wonder if he just didn't want me to park in his neighborhood? With parking at a premium, who knows the truth.

But I am reluctant to park there now, even if I can't find anything closer to the apartment.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Review: A Mercy

Being home sick with a chest cold isn't all it's cracked up to be. The garbage truck roared down the alley twice this morning; the gardeners' racket scared the heck out of our cat Diesel, causing him to freak out and hid beneath the bed; not to mention my hacking away every 15-20 minutes. (Thank goodness for Robitussin!!) One the good side, it is giving me the opportunity to write a brief review of Toni Morrison's latest work, A Mercy.
Florens is a young slavegirl in 1690's Virginia, sent by her ailing Mistress to find a young African blacksmith who cured another slavegirl of the pox. As she sets out on the difficult journey, her thoughts flow toward the blacksmith chronicling the hardships she faces to reach him: losing her Master's shoes, finding temporary shelter with religious zealots who take her for a demon, the cold nights, the possibility of capture as a runaway slave, the visions of her mother. She also recites her love for him, as a kind of mantra to keep her sane, to keep her going until she reaches him.

Interspersed throughout her story, sixth other characters offer glimpses into Florens' life and into the New World: Jacob Vaark, a Dutch landowner who reluctantly accepts Florens in exchange for a debt owed by a Spaniard; Lina, the Native American woman who serves as Mistress' confidant and is in love with Florens; Sorrow, a slavegirl, possibly the only survivor of a shipwreck, who is still haunted by the passengers and her Twin; Rebekka Vaark, a strong woman whose spiritual beliefs are put to the test when she contracts the pox; Scully, an indentured slave who provides a remarkably clear view of each character in the novel; and finally Florens' mother who commits the ultimate sacrifice unbeknownst to her little girl.

Each narrator suffers through some form of test, ultimately showing the resiliency of human nature. But how will Florens handle such tasks when she confronts them?

Something I noticed is that each character sees the others at face value, but when given their chance to speak, what's seen on the outside doesn't necessarily reflect the true person, and with many surprises, I delighted in how each character shattered those pre-conceived notions. And, as an added "family" bonus, two of the characters also out themselves: Lina's affection for Florens is very quiet and secretive, but her jealousy flares at the first sight of the blacksmith; Scully, who openly confesses that he is attracted to men. To me, this also goes along with shattering the preconceptions because when discussing books or stories about slavery or the early days of the New World, sexuality almost seems a taboo subject, though it played a large role in how society operated at the time. (And still does.)

A beautiful book, filled with many surprises and twists. And though it's only the second of Morrison's novels that I've read, this one adds her to my list of favorite authors.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quick Mom Update

She found out on Tuesday that the hospital scheduled her hysterectomy for March 30 rather than wait the 3 - 6 months they initially told her. She sounded upbeat on the phone, but I could tell she's only slightly relieved. I think she may be waiting to see if they renege yet again on the surgery and shove her farther down the line.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, too.

Thanks to everyone for your kind words and thoughts!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?
Saturday, while CM was at a training conference down in Costa Mesa, I wandered over to the Art Theatre to purchase tickets in advance to Watchmen. That way, we wouldn't have to wait in what we predicted would be a line trailing around the theatre, down 4th St. and up Cherry.

That didn't happen, of course, but having the tickets took so much pressure off trying to make it to the theater after CM's trek home.

For anyone not familiar with the movie, it involves superheroes. However, anyone thinking Superman or Iron Man or Wolverine, will probably be disappointed. The masked men and women who make up The Watchmen are ordinary citizens with no special powers. (Well, except for Dr. Manhattan -- the big blue guy with the big blue cgi manhood swaying in the breeze who can appear in multiple places, manipulate objects with the twitch of a finger, and grow to 100 feet to disintegrate the Viet Cong.) For years, The Watchmen took a vigilante stance against crime, stepping in where the police couldn't or wouldn't step in. But after their forced retirement, one of their own -- the Comedian -- is murdered, and Rorschach, a masked figure who sees everything in terms of black or white, right or wrong, sets out to uncover the reasons behind his death before the remaining Watchmen meet a similar fate. What Rorschach uncovers -- with the reluctant help of Dan Drieberg (a.k.a. Nite-Owl) and Silk Spectre (Laurie Jupiter) -- could bring about World War III.

The movie is an amazing re-creation of the graphic novel from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Every detail, from the time period referencing Nixon winning his third term as President to the iconic blood-dripped smily face button to the photos on the walls of the Comedian's apartment to the bending tips of Moloch the Mystic's ears, were painstakingly pulled from the frames of the novel and blown up, sharpened for the silver screen. Director Zack Snyder was wise to do so; with a built-in fan base expecting to see what they've read, it would have seemed odd to stray. And he followed the story with only slight variations, such as removing the sub-stories of the Black Freighter (a comic book within the graphic novel) and a tell-all book by the original Nite Owl which would have only lengthened the 2h45m running time. The special effects and cgi work impressed both CM and myself, such as Rorschach's ever-changing mask. A subtle detail but very cool to see on screen. Most of the old-age makeup, though, resembled makeup so Nixon came across as a stiff caricature of the President.

As for the acting, Jackie Earle Haley stole the entire movie with his gritty, no-nonsense turn as Rorschach. Patrick Wilson did a fine job as Dan Drieberg, gone a little soft since retirement but still wanting to do good. And, I must say, I enjoyed Jeffrey Dean Morgan's hard and angry Comedian. Those three made for an enjoyable time. As for everyone else, they were a bit bland. Matthew Goode's Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias was conceited (as he should be) and dull. I wanted Dr. Manhattan to zap him out of existence so as not to suffer through any more of his chatter.

I mentioned before that the movie runs almost 2h45m. And it definitely feels much longer. I felt a few of the scenes could be pared down, especially that overly long opening movie credit montage. The first slow motion superhero image was neat; the second okay, but did it need to last for 10 minutes??

This movie isn't for everyone. Some people walked out during our screening either because of length or story or because the movie didn't fit into their expectations of the modern image of a superhero. We both enjoyed it, however.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Just for Fun

My posting has been a bit off-kilter lately due in part to some changes at the office last week. I do have a post for today, since we saw the same movie on Saturday that so many others did, but until later today, why not kill some zombies to pass the time?

Zombie Shooter 3

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Book Review: The Raw Shark Texts
A man wakes up on the floor at the foot of a double bed without any memory of who or where he is. He finds a wallet in his pocket with a driver license that says "Eric Sanderson" -- but the name doesn't ring any bells. He wanders into the hall down the stairs and spies a small table with an envelope and a phone. From the envelope he pulls out two sheets of paper and reads,

Eric,
First things first, stay calm.
If you are reading this, then I'm not around anymore.

The pages direct him to press speed dial one on the phone and to not explore the house. Signed by The First Eric Sanderson.

The Raw Shark Texts follows the Second Eric Sanderson as he tries to piece together what happened to his memory. His trek takes him across England, deep into the Un-Space in search of Dr. Trey Fidorous who may hold the key to his memory loss and to the strange creature that's hunting him -- the Ludovician, a shark created from words, concepts and ideas but is all too real.

Steven Hall creates a fantastic world -- the Un-Space -- in which words and ideas take form in what resembles sea life: lampropini, flatwolds, jarhaphish, and ludovicians (what would be great white sharks in the real world). Words also can protect, such as by repeating a mantra, stacking books around you so the ideas confuse predators or gathering a bunch of old typewriter letters into a ball and using them as a word bomb. His characters are very well drawn from the woman Scout who assists Eric on his quest to find Dr. Fidorous and somehow resembles a woman he should know, to Eric Sanderson as a man with nothing to loose and everything to gain, to the Ludovician and Mr. Nobody, creatures of the Un-Space, made of words but teeming with life.

The Raw Shark Texts is a fast-paced thrill ride that anyone who loves words and ideas and what can be done with them will definitely enjoy.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lunch with the Folks

My Dad called the office this morning, asking if I would like to meet the two of them for lunch. "Your Mother has a doctor's appointment so we thought we'd head up that way afterwards." I checked with my manager to make sure this last-minute luncheon would be okay, and then agreed to meet my folks at a Coco's not too far from the office around noon.

I arrived a few minutes after 12 to find my Dad sitting alone in a booth. "The new doctor sent her for blood tests at 11, and without an appointment, you know how that goes," and threw his hands in the air. What I learned from our almost shouting back and forth through the din of the other diners was that the new doctor may be able to perform the surgery as early as Monday which would be a relief considering how long she's had to wait to this point. "She'll have to spend at least one night in the hospital, maybe two, but the recovery can take four to five weeks. Good thing we cancelled that cruise to Alaska. Your mother wouldn't be up to it."

In the meantime, they've been spending money like there's no recession: getting the house painted thanks to their IRS refund, fixing small things inside the house like new faucets and re-caulking the showers, upgrading their computer after it conked out. "We even used the rebate check from American Express to buy new flatware for the house. The spoons are huge!" I commented that perhaps they were big enough to keep his food on the spoon. And then he dripped some salad dressing on his shirt.

Parents these days....

UPDATE, 3/7: I spoke with my Mom yesterday, and let's just say she wasn't in the best of moods. Because she has a new docotr to perform the hysterectomy, the hospital has to coordinate his privileges so her surgery has been pushed back 3 - 6 monhts. My Mother is furious. Her health insurance provider is furious. And the hospital could care less, it seems. She's been in pain since the end of January with promises that the surgery would be at the beginning of March, and yet she's forced to wait much longer thanks to bureaucracy.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Upside Down, Blog You turn Me

Just found this nifty little tool...

Flippin Sticky.

Check it out....You know you want to....

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Magic To Do, II
Early Saturday afternoon, CM and I fought the unusually heavy traffic, making it to the Mark Taper Forum with only minutes to spare before Deaf West Theatre's production of Pippin began.

We both had seen Pippin before, most recently way back in January 2007. CM was fortunate enough to see their production of Big River before it headed to Broadway, but seeing a troupe of combined hearing, non-hearing, hearing-impaired and signing actors perform would be a unique experience.

As the show began, pairs of hands popped up in various places from the stage while the Lead Player sang and signed the introduction of the story of Pippin, Charlemagne's eldest son who struggled with trying to find his purpose in life. Pippin immediately began signing to the audience once on stage, but the Lead Player felt that to better understand what he wanted said, some Magic needed to happen so with the help of the other players, the Lead Player guided Pippin to a metal box and proceeded to saw him in two. A standard magic trick, but when both sides of the box opened, two Pippins appeared, the original (Tyrone Giordano) and his new counterpart (Michael Arden) who gave voice to the original's thoughts and songs.

By using unique staging and choreography, and by adapting the campiness of the original show, Deaf West presented a wondrous show. Some of the actors signed and sang/acted; others signed with voices of the players singing/speaking for them, and one thing that amazed me was the speed of the signing, at times coming across more as a dance movement rather than a language. Ty Taylor sang/signed the role of the Lead Player, and during the Finale, his hands became a blur as he performed without missing a beat. Same thing for Troy Kostur who signed his role as Charlemagne while Dan Callaway, as a Player, kept up the pace during War is a Science. Both Pippins were amazing as well. And as I mentioned a few lines ago, even the staging made the show a great event. At one point, the Pippins are learning about the wonders of love, and while singing on a makeshift bed, the Players appear and disappear throughout the folds and curtains of the bed, seeming to swim around the two Pippins.


And they performed without an intermission. CM told me that many people complained about that, but honestly, I felt it ran much smoother without the intermission. The momentum that lead into Morning Glow carried over seamlessly, and the show never dragged for me. For either of us, as a matter of fact.

Monday, March 02, 2009