Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Weather With You

DH is attending a conference in Galveston Texas this week, and I, feeling seriously in need of some sun and sand (and a decent margarita), decided to go with him. We left Seattle on Sunday, and for once, everything went right. We were upgraded to first class; the weather was clear; our luggage arrived with us -- intact.

It was such an auspicious beginning to a trip that I was lulled into smugness. I am not cursed. I can take a quick flight down to Little Rock to visit my aunt and my grandmother, and be back in Houston early on Wednesday, in plenty of time to take care of some important business. That has all been rectified now -- "Thank you very much," says I to the heavens, "for reminding me that everywhere you go; you always take the weather."

I might have guessed, when I stepped onto the airport shuttle in Galveston (where I'd arrived the night before). My reservation was for 10:15 am and it was only 10:10 when I got on the shuttle, but the horse-faced female half of the only couple on board jumped up and began to upbraid me because she and her husband were going to be late for their flight. Seeing as how I was not late -- I was actually feeling self-satisfied for being early (for once) -- I stepped back in surprise and looked over my shoulder, assuming she was talking to someone else. But no. The only one there was my husband who'd come down to wave goodbye. She was talking to me.

I looked at the driver and pointed at my watch, but he shook his head, rolled his eyes, and made a little twirling motion in the direction of his temple. Horse-face and her hubby were the only passengers, so I took a seat at the opposite end of the coach. It was not a large bus -- with seating for 12 to 14 people -- and it was divided into two sections by a luggage rack; Horse-face and hubby sat in the front section and I sat in the back. Horse-face then proceeded to spend the ENTIRE two hour drive to the airport bitching (loudly) about ME!

At first I tried to read, but even though I had a good book -- Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier, which I can highly recommend -- Horse-face was incredibly LOUD. Yes; it's true that I was wearing ancient Levis, a lime green polo shirt, and (God forbid!) loafers with NO socks, but sorry, Mrs. Horse-face, my hair is NOT dyed, I was NOT wearing eye shadow, and my handbag is NOT a Burberry knock-off! Also, for the record, I am NOT, nor have I ever been a prostitute. Just so's you know.

By the time we arrived at the airport, I was entertaining fantasies of sneaking up to the front and shoving horse-face off the bus! I would definitely have pushed in front of her when we exited, but she and her husband were on a different airline and so, got off first. The driver was so apologetic that I ended up giving him a huge tip. She was sitting right behind him for the whole trip, so the poor guy got an even louder earful than I did.

The rest of the trip went fine, however, and I had a lovely time (and some excellent oven-fried chicken) with my aunt and my grandmother. They now live in a neighborhood where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up, and I enjoyed driving around, seeing how much things have changed (and stayed the same). I had planned to take a couple of photos of the Old Mill, where the opening scenes of Gone With the Wind were shot, but the sky was starting to turn tornado-green, so I decided to cut short my trip down memory lane. I made it back to the house just in time to beat the rain, and to listen to a bunch of warnings of imminent doom from the TV weathermen.

Tornadoes are a fact of life in the South, and in spite of all the warnings, the weather didn't seem threatening enough to give me any concern about my flight, which wasn't until the next morning (today). Wrong. My flight, which was supposed to leave around 9:00 am today, was cancelled. So were the two flights after it. There were two flights before mine: one scheduled to depart at 5:15 am, which just took off at 12:40 pm, after sitting on the runway for more than 7 hours; and another scheduled to depart at 6:15 am. That flight managed to take off, but the storm forced the pilot to divert to College Station, Texas. That flight is now sitting on the runway in College Station. My original flight was sold out, and so were the flights immediately preceding and following mine. We all had to be shuffled, and I couldn't get another flight out until 6:15 am tomorrow.

I wish I had made it to Houston as planned, but if I had to be delayed, there's nowhere else I'd rather be than where I am right now -- watching the sun trying to take over its proper position in the still tornado-green sky. My rewards for this brief stranding were 1) my grandmother's gold watch that she doesn't want any more; 2) an antique inlaid box from Syria that Auntie doesn't want any more; 3) my grandmother's story about how much she hated making cakes for school bake sales when her children were small -- her solution was to find out how much money the school wanted to charge for the cake, and to give them the money instead. I said if I'd had children, I'd probably have done the same. She said of course I would; she sees a lot of herself in me. That was reward #4.

My grandmother also shared a bit of her wisdom of the ages: external circumstances aren’t important; it’s what you carry inside that counts (i.e., everywhere you go, you always take the weather).

Thanks Mama!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cover Art

Cover Cafe's 2006 Cover Art Contest is online. Vote for your favourite covers!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Good News & I Did NOT Make This Up!

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A fruity cocktail may not only be fun to drink but may count as health food, U.S. and Thai researchers said on Thursday.

Adding ethanol -- the type of alcohol found in rum, vodka, tequila and other spirits -- boosted the antioxidant nutrients in strawberries and blackberries, the researchers found.

Any colored fruit might be made even more healthful with the addition of a splash of alcohol, they report in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lights! Camera! Action!

Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be doing this, but I'm actually going to blog about a TV show today. This seems weird for a lot of reasons, but the one I'm most conscious of is that a lot of people have told me I'm a TV snob. This is because I'm apparently the only person in the US who has never seen American Idol, America's Top Model, or even Survivor (except for the last 15 minutes of the first season finale and only because I arrived somewhere too early and couldn't avoid it). I did see most of the first season of Apprentice (because I had surgery and spent many weeks stuck in bed), and I've caught a few isolated episodes of Dancing With the Stars, but in general, I avoid these shows like the plague -- because I think they're ... well ... boring (stultifying is probably a better way to put it). That doesn't mean I don't like TV; I just need decent dialogue and a plot -- and no; watching a bunch of semi-talented yahoos compete for (fill-in-contest-here) does not constitute a plot!

I do enjoy watching other types of shows -- like Scrubs and Boston Legal, both of which are a hoot, and Grey's Anatomy because ... I'm not blind. It's a man-anza (like the all-you-can-eat-buffet at Bonanza, but with men *g*). Today's post, however, isn't about any of those; it's about Friday Night Lights.

Today's post is also a (very very rare) acknowledgment to my husband (who will probably save this post to flaunt later):

You were right. I was wrong.

Oh the pain...

I'm making this concession because when DH tried to get me to watch FNL at the beginning of the season, I told him in no uncertain terms how repulsive I found the idea of watching some dumb-ass show about football. (That may be more polite than what I actually said...) In fact, my TV watching hierarchy goes something like this:
  • Rejection: I will not be present in the room when this show is on.

  • Tolerance: I'll remain in the room, but I won't watch (or hold back on disparaging commentary).

  • Grudging Acceptance: I'll hold back on the rude comments and watch occasionally, but I won't pay close attention.

  • Acceptance: I'll watch and sometimes even enjoy it.

  • Enjoyment: I'll make a point of watching, and almost always enjoy it.

  • PtRfMCDH: This is a special category in which maybe 5 shows in my entire life have fallen. Grey's Anatomy fits here (Hey! I did say that I'm not blind!). The acronym stands for "pry the remote from my cold dead hands."

DH worked for months to convince me to move FNL out of "Rejection" so he didn't have to watch it downstairs (because it's freezing down there). I gave in out of pity, and nearly every time it was on, FNL moved up my hierarchy to the point that the season finale tomorrow night is going to be -- Gadzooks! -- PtRfMCDH. In a (dumb) contest between FNL and Grey's, I think I would actually vote for -- Double Gadzooks! -- Friday Night Lights.

FNL may not be renewed for next season, but along with Ugly Betty, The Office, and Scrubs, FNL won a Peabody award. And a recent flurry of critical acclaim has given it some hope.

From Seattle Times critic Kate O'Hare:

Critics love it, a small core group of dedicated fans loves it, and reportedly NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly is a supporter, but the larger audience has yet to discover NBC's small-town drama "Friday Night Lights."

Challenging TV conventions has become a hallmark of "Friday Night Lights," under the supervision of executive producers Peter Berg, co-writer and director of the 2004 movie of the same name (based on H.G. Bissinger's best-selling nonfiction book), and Jason Katims ("Roswell," "My So-Called Life"). Shot documentary-style in real homes, schools and businesses instead of on soundstages, the show strives for authenticity in its portrayal of small-town dynamics and personalities.

Seattle Post Intelligencer Critic Melanie McFarland:

There's so much chatter about how trashy TV is these days, along with the tendency to reward the usual suspects like David E. Kelley and Aaron Sorkin with unyielding faith. Here is a series that trumps both shows these auteur producers coughed up this year in terms of content and consistency.

There's not a single element in "Friday Night Lights" that isn't a hard-won effort, from the scratchy, documentary realism of the cinematography to honest dialogue delivered in stumbles and spurts, the way conversations happen in real life.

It could be that people will only really discover this in its afterlife on DVD, where it would join other great series that ended too soon, such as "Freaks and Geeks" and "My So-Called Life" (which, like this series, was written in part by Katims).

But let's reward great TV while it's on for a change. Start watching and catching up with the story on Bravo. And let's all hope these "Lights" come back on in the fall.


Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune blogged about it (emphasis mine):

AUSTIN, Texas -- A dusty field in Texas. A ramshackle house in a cash-strapped part of town. The cramped, battered office of a high school guidance counselor.

They’re all unlikely places for a creative revolution, but there’s no other way to describe what’s happening on the set of “Friday Night Lights,” NBC’s acclaimed series about life in the small town of Dillon, Texas.

Far from the bright lights of Hollywood, in vibrant yet laid-back Austin, the actors, writers and directors of the show have created one of the most realistic, subtle, enthralling dramas on any screen, large or small. And they’ve done it on this first-year show by breaking many of the rules of television.

All scenes are shot in houses, businesses and stores in and around Austin, which is where you’ll find the gritty high school that doubles as the home of the Dillon Panthers, the tiny house that quarterback Matt Saracen (Evanston’s Zach Gilford) shares with his grandma, and the fast-food joint that doubles as one of the show’s hangouts, the Alamo Freeze.

But the question remains: In the usually risk-averse world of the broadcast networks, how on earth did this show, which has all the depth and uncompromising integrity of a top-notch cable drama, get made? And why hasn’t NBC messed around with “FNL’s” creative process, given that the show has struggled in the ratings?

So yes DH; you were right and I was wrong. It's a great show and I hope it comes back next year. In the meantime:

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Wearisome & Dole-full

I'd like to thank everyone for the good wishes for my kitty. Thus far, other than being extremely irritated with me for trying to get her to eat what, to her, is not food, she is fine. DH, on the other hand, in only just barely fine again after what appears to have been a pretty nasty case of food poisoning. That was more than a small nudge for me to refocus my attention. Especially because in nearly twenty years of marriage, I can count the number of days DH has admitted to being sick on one hand.

Funny thing about that -- i.e., being sick -- I've often heard of men who are babies about being sick, and men who are idiots and won't go to the doctor. DH isn't an idiot (well, not about his health *g*) and he isn't a baby. What he is, God love him, is a nice person who doesn't want everyone around him to feel crummy just because he does. That is a very endearing quality, and one I would like to do a better job of embracing in the future.

To help remind myself to try to do this, I think I may have to break out the big guns and adopt one of the more annoying habits my mother had when I was growing up: quotable quotes. When I was a kid, my mother used to drive me batshit with quotes. I would do a crappy job of making up the bed and she would say, "A job worth doing is worth doing well." While I was remaking the bed, my inner-adult would be screaming, "Argggh! Making the bed is not worth doing at all" while imagining myself violently beating my head against the wall. Once I was on my own, I gave up both quotable quotes and making the bed, with no regrets till yesterday when I worked out that my husband, who'd said nothing, was utterly miserable and he hadn't mentioned it because he didn't want to make me miserable too. That immediately reminded me of one Mother's Maxims (courtesy of Samuel Johnson):
To hear complaints is wearisome alike to the wretched and the happy.

DH didn't pretend not to be sick. He didn't deny it. He just didn't expend a lot of energy lamenting it. Of course that meant I took it very seriously indeed. (If I start whingeing about having a headache, it's probably a garden-variety headache, but if DH does, it's a lot more likely to be a stroke!) It was a good lesson in how to be a better person, not to mention a good reminder of the importance of differentiating between little woes and big ones.

Dang. Mother was right about something after all.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Chow Chow Chow

I am a pet lover and I have three pets. Two of them are dogs; the other is a cat. I have such deep and abiding affection for Kitty that it sometimes surprises me because I always considered myself to be a dog person.

Kitty (her real name is Tabitha, but we mostly call her Kitty) came to live with us nearly eight years ago after we found her as a starving stray on a deserted building site. It was around Christmas and it was cold and she was a pathetic little waif who let me catch her and put her in the car. I originally intended to get her out of the cold and then after Christmas, to take her to a shelter. She is pretty, with blue eyes and almost Siamese markings, so I thought she was likely to find a good home.

Kitty had other ideas, however, and within a few weeks, she was my permanent bedtime foot-warmer. She has moved with us to two houses in Houston, a house in Louisiana, another house in Texas, and now to Washington state. She has also endured a nightmare hurricane evacuation with me -- inside a carrier in a (barely) moving car for 26 hours -- without any stops (for poor Kitty). She was so freaked out, she howled like a banshee the entire time (and so did I, but that's another story). She survived, though, and on the trip back home, she was quiet as a purring mouse. She apparently decided that riding in the car was OK as long as terrifying things weren't happening around her.

But now Kitty has a problem. That means we have a problem too. Kitty's other nickname is PsychoKitty because her early life as a stray made her a bit flaky about some things. She's terrified of strangers, and she's terrified of most food. We think because she was hanging around a construction site when we found her that she must have been living on food dropped by the builders. When they disappeared for Christmas holidays, she began to starve. When we found her, we stopped at the store and bought some generic sort of crunchy cat food since we knew we had nothing at home. It must have been different enough to what she'd been eating out of desperation that it was comforting to her.

So, what's the problem? Well, that crunchy cat chow is literally the only thing Kitty will eat. She will not touch fish, or chicken, or anything else that isn't cat chow, and in fact, she literally runs away when you try to tempt her with it. The problem is that we have this pet food scare and we want to feed our pets home cooked food until we're sure their food is safe. DH whipped up meatloaf and hamburger and rice for the animals and the dogs are in heaven. Kitty, OTH, will only eat this stupid cat chow, so she stalked around the house for two days, wailing at the top of her lungs, until I conceded defeat and gave her what she wanted. So far, the specific food hasn't been recalled, but the list keeps growing and I'm worried that it will be. I really really don't want to give my cat food that is going to kill her and I'm afraid that I am.

Keep your fingers crossed for Kitty.