Friday, December 30, 2016

True Facts

This was from Thursday's edition of The New York Times. The truth and the facts have been the subject of much discussion lately. The truth is so elusive, though. Even if you see it in print in a reputable publication it may be overridden in subsequent editions with corrections. I found these particularly amusing for some reason. The beautiful part of the online world, of course, is that, while it is guilty of spreading lies, the wonderful obituary of Vera Rubin can be subsequently corrected there whereas a clipping would rarely be matched with a clipping of the corrections.

This charge to write every day leads to some interesting choices, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Social, Media and Social Media


Seven years ago I had been in a protracted period of fighting my Dad's health and maintenance problems. I posted some tweets (which got sent to Facebook) and today they are in a stream on Facebook called 'On This Day.' So seven years ago I was dealing with lots of issues that, I guess, I can now look forward to in my own future. (Unless I get the bus hits me, instantly killed, death. One never knows.)

Social media keeps us informed of the drumbeat of normal folks. There are friends and acquaintances who end up in the emergency room or having surgery or suffering at home. I'd never know about it but for social media. People create art and plays and music and pictures and snippets there on social media are all I ever know of it. There are lots of real stories there, too, Links to genuine news media. And links to junk and lies. I skip most of it. (Yes, Carrie Fisher is dead. Her mom, Debbie Reynolds, too. No, I don't think that there is a war or Christmas or cops.) I read three newspapers and dispatches online from a couple more. I read The New Yorker. These publications employ fact checkers. 

But I'll keep reading social media. Because I want to know if you are sick or hurting, lost a loved one or are just enjoying life by eating, drinking, going to shows or movies, and visiting with family. It is a pulse for my family, friends and acquaintances. The other day I realized how much some people rely on my feed for a pulse of what I'm doing. I got an email from someone asking if we were all right. Because I hadn't posted in a day or two. 

I hope social media keeps going as a through line to people's real lives. But I hope we rely on real media produced by journalists to give us news.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Old Friends

I've been married to my husband (FFP) for over forty years. But I've known one friend I met up with today even longer. The other three ladies at this somewhat every year gathering (we couldn't figure it out last year) I have known for a long time as well. Decades.We all became friends somehow. I worked with two of them. The friend I've know the longest in the group was a workmate in the early seventies, before I moved to Austin and met FFP.


Yes, I met LG at work. (Her name is Linda, too. Hence initials. I go by LB a lot. Too much Linda confusion.) She and I went to the same college. I didn't know her there but met her when she interviewed for a job at the company where I'd landed after I graduated. She got the job and we became friends. She'd gone to Europe the summer after she graduated, I think. I was envious of this. We both made friends with a guy ten or fifteen years older than us who was a true Europhile and travel maven. I think these two (and the mind-numbing job with no future) inspired me to quit that job in 1972 and, armed with a three month Eurail Pass, a miniature camera and some clothes and a small amount of money, book a flight on Icelandic Airlines for Luxembourg. That trip is a long story for another day, but when I returned I got a job again, but at a new place. My friends at the other place and I stayed in touch. After I quit that next job to take one in Austin and before I moved, my friend LG and I went to Europe. Also, a story for another day along with the other trips and meet-ups I had with her over the years.

LG took this picture of me on a trip to Russia in, I believe, 1993.

Another friend at the meetup today, Pam, I met through LG. LG ended up in the LA office of the company where we worked together. Pam worked there, too. (They had escaped the era where this company never promoted women by sticking around.) They became close friends and travel buddies. They were both laid off from that company after years there, I think. LG ended up spending a year in Berlin and then, in a crazy twist, getting a job at the company I was working for in the last years of my career. So LG moved to Austin, but still spends time in LA with Pam and traveling with her. Pam visits Texas for the holidays, Hence this meetup we try to do each year between Christmas and New Yera's.

Another friend, Deb, I met on an airplane flying into Austin in the '80s. We were both on work trips and had seats next to each other. We determined that we both played tennis and that we only lived a couple of miles apart on the same street. She took my phone number but never called me. I told FFP about it and he determined her number from my knowing her name. He used the phone book. Remember phone books? We ended up getting together socially. After a while, we realized we had the same birthday and that our mothers had also had the same birthday although she was a year younger and her mother had been a year younger than mine. Her mother and father had died young and Deb became close to my parents. (Who never met a friend of mine they didn't like.) Deb wasn't married and her nieces and nephews kept coming to 'visit' and staying for a long while. Then Deb got married. in our backyard when we lived in the big house. Deb visited my mother in the hospital after her Multiple Myeloma was discovered in the few months between diagnosis and her death. Four years later Deb was diagnosed with the same cancer. She is a 10-year survivor, but it's been a long struggle. I don't think we've taken any trips together, but we've had many adventures around town.

The fourth friend at this lunch is my friend SuRu. (Letters from first and last name.) We became friends when a mutual friend was living in UK and sent a box of presents home to me but didn't want to send SuRu's gifts to her and included them in my box with instructions to deliver them. SuRu and I have been pals for years. We've done some traveling together, too.

SuRu took this picture of me at Lake Lucerne back in the 90's I think.

We've grown old in these decades. The oldest in 70 and the youngest is 62. Only the youngest still works. We told stories from our lives over lunch and worried about world events. It was good to see everyone. I took everyone one of my greeting cards and wrote a little note to go with it. I need to get together with them separately and catch up even more. I doubt I'll ever do any travel or meet-ups in distant spots with any of these gals again nor will we have any of the more adventurous activities of our past. But we have lots of memories.And I'll cherish them as long as I can remember them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Trivial Things

Pet Peeves? Trivial things that bug you when people are fleeing bombs and scrounging for food in other parts of the world. Yep, I've got them. And I bet you do,, too. I try to laugh them off, though. I read my newspapers. A story about a starving teenager who died after eating poisonous roots in Venezuela or a Middle Easter family trying to assimilate in the U.S. after fleeing and spending years in a refugee camp, that's the perfect antidote to the trivial things that irritate me. Still, I think I'll write about them!

Let's start with fashion, given the photo. It's a reflection of me in loose-fitting jeans, a jacket, and cap.The shop is a fancy one on West Sixth Street called Julian Gold. Look at those shoes! Here is my attitude toward fashion: I try to dress neatly in uni-sex style. I want to be comfortable and not look too out of place. Not to say that I don't like fashion. Just on other people. I like a great variety of clothing on others, men and women. Although...

Let's talk about purchasing jeans that are already ripped. I'm OK with ripped jeans, but wear them out and let the denim slowly fill the lint trap in the laundry. Personalize them. This is a really popular thing right now, the ripped designer (and no doubt expensive) jean. (Unless it's already on its way out. I hate the keeping up part of fashion.) I do like runway shows, though. Great theater. Just don't asked me wear 99% of what's shown. :)

Yes, I put a sideways smiley face up there at the end of that paragraph. A colon followed by a close paren. I don't really like emoticons. Even less do I like emojis which are actual pictures. Use your words, people. Type out pizza or merde. Oh, maybe it overcomes language barriers, but, on my phone, they are mostly too small for my old eyes to make out. So, if you are really on a car trip driving through saguaros don't put a car and a cactus emoji. Just say you are driving to Marfa or something.

Oh, Marfa. Oh, all the places that hipsters go where I don't really see the point exactly. Especially Marfa. But also Santa Fe and Aspen a little bit. Sigh. I'd actually take being in downtown Austin over a lot of these places. Where I lived for eight and a half years.

And, yes, I love living downtown. But I'm tired of being asked over and over: "Do you like living downtown?," "Where do you buy your groceries?," and "Don't you hate the traffic." I've been here over eight years. If I hated it, I think I'd find a way to move. I buy my groceries at (1) the deli in the building; (2) Trader Joe's which is 100 yards away; (3) Whole Foods (which is 1/2 mile away); and (4) all the same places you buy them (Costco, big grocery stores) when I'm out in my car which, thank you very much, I don't have to do a lot SO the traffic doesn't bother me nearly as much as it does others! I don't ask other people "How do you like living here and having to drive downtown in the traffic to see just about any live show?" I don't ask them if they mind having to drive every single time they want groceries because they cannot walk to any place to even get a six pack. But I might start asking these questions. Maybe just on social media, though, and not at parties and such so as not to make a scene.

Ah, yes, social media. I love Twitter and Facebook. But I don't love the attitude and baiting. But, also, more trivially, I don't love memes (I don't really like the word either). Especially memes that are just a picture that is really words. A poster with words to be big on the social media and get attention. I despise those memes that say "I'm about to drop some of you who won't read this to the end, copy it to your feed, etc." Oh, please do! Drop me, that is. I love it when someone expresses their own thoughts, takes a picture of the kids and dogs (even the adults) or generally marvels at what is going on around them. I am moved when you mourn your relatives or pets. However...

We all know Carrie Fisher is dead. Genuine news outlets have reported it. The year 2016 did not take her or any of the other unfortunate celebrities who passed this year. Leave it to the Academy Awards and such for the tributes. Unless you have a 'me and Carrie' story. That would be interesting. (Although, yeah it was too bad. She was only 60. And I just saw that my own husband shared the story. So there you go. He did so to say what a great writer he thought she was as well as an actress. So, OK)

I'm sure I have other pet peeves, little things which don't matter but, in the moment, make me forget that I'm well-off, well-sheltered, well-fed and don't hurt anywhere at the moment. There is the way millennials cross the street oh-so-slowly when I'm waiting for them at a stop sign (even when they aren't buried in their phones). There's the way, when I'm the pedestrian, that cars occupy the crosswalk I'm using even though I'm trying to get out of it much faster than the average millennial. (Granted these behaviors aren't every millennial or every car, but still, irritating.)

But, I'm off to a movie. I'm walking there, not driving. I'm sure I have some pet peeves about movies or their audiences. But I'm oh so lucky and who am I to complain.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Holiday Cards

As December (and Holidailies) began, I wrote about the tradition of sending snail mail cards during the season.

It's time to sum up the season. I'm sure I'll receive and send a few more. But here are the stats to date: I've gotten 45 cards in the mail, I think, that weren't from charities or businesses. I've sent just a few more than that. We put them all on the small cubby hole desk in the dining room or on the screen that hides (well sort of) our step stool, ladder, and vacuum when they aren't sitting somewhere else in the apartment.

We got every variety, pretty much. Pictures of the family and pets. Wreaths, trees, snow, penquins and all that. I checked my database for each address, made note of receiving the card and, usually, sent one in return. I saved the stamps off a lot of them. Just to make the pictures below, really. The post office seemed intent on obliterating most of them with a large, messy 'Seasons Greetings' stamp.

I have noticed, this year, scores of 'cards' that were actually emails or Facebook posts. I like these, but they are fleeting and they don't usually have the added benefit of confirming the address in the real world nor getting a little personal, hand-written note.

I miss when we did more communication like this although when I sent hundreds I had to automate and print labels and stamp or pre-print return addresses. I will stick all these cards in a box with my leftovers of the ones I sent and, next year, I'll toss them, maybe saving one or two really great ones. They made me happy whenever I glanced at them in the apartment. There was a time when we had more ephemera and it was fun to save it: letters, cards, ticket stubs, playbills, pamphlets, etc. In storage I have a ton of it but lately less and less gets created and less and less gets saved. I'm both glad about this and sad, too. Meanwhile, I'll be looking through the boring mail for the next couple of weeks hoping for cards and maybe replying with one of my own.






Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas is a Day of Rest

I missed writing anything yesterday. I was going to scoop up goofy pictures from facebook and put them here. Today will be a day of rest from many things. The picture was taken Friday of the long-suffereing husband (FFP) at Austin's Headliners club. They have a party on December 23 every year. It's from 11-2. I had several Bloody Marys. That's me in the mirror, post eating and drinking. We didn't do anything much after the party. Before the party we walked over to the bookstore (our local independent, BookPeople which is about a half mile away) and got a book we'd ordered. (Because we don't have enough books.) I think, after drinking in the middle of the day, I was pretty well finished. We read and watched movies.

Our Christmas Eve was jam-packed because we made it so. We went to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and heard a set from a band we like (Albert and Gage) and then we had an enchilada lunch at El Alma. It was a balmy day so we walked across the river to do this and, after lunch, walked up Doug Sahm Hill and through the dog park to say 'hi' to Stevie Ray Vaughn.

We read until time for our early reservation at Fixe. We had biscuits, steak tartare, pork roast,and barbecued beans. The roast was enough for six people (or more), but we knew going in that we were going to take a lot home. (If I ever get hungry again, it will be breakfast or lunch.) We had a bit to drink. A cocktail, some wine. We bumped into someone we knew who was alone at the bar and the three of us dined and dished.

It was still early when we packed it up. Fixe is a block from our apartment. We sat down and read a bit and were dozing, but, yes, we roused ourselves and went out again! We walked the five blocks to the Elephant Room and met up with our friends Butch and Linda. I drank a Guinness. FFP was down to diet Coke at that point. We lasted a set and Butch sat in for the final number and it was all we could do. The late show at the Elephant usually goes to 1:30 a.m.

By midnight, I was reading David Foster Wallace's "String Theory" (a collection of heavily foot-noted essays about tennis) in my bed. I fell asleep a few times squinting over the footnotes. And sleep.

Today is Christmas. And Sunday. I plan to publish this without editing and curl up in my chair with The New York Times magazine puzzles and CBS Sunday Morning. Maybe at the end of the day I'll write about my Christmas Day. I bet I don't get out as much as I did yesterday!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Movies

We are doing better than usual seeing movies that are being talked about this season. It's all due to the little cinema (Violet Crown) over on 2nd Street just two blocks away. So far we've seen:


Inspired by "Manchester by the Sea" we ordered DVDs of "Margaret" and "You Can Count on Me" from Netflix. (Yes, we still have a Netflix DVD membership.) The director Kenneth Lonergan made these. I'd seen "You Can Count on Me" before. It still seems to be missing something. Not resolution exactly. But "Margaret" is one I'm going to think about for a while. It's very complex although some of the characters seem to be loosely-formed, shadows and shapes.

"Manchester by the Sea" is gripping in its own way and, without giving anything away, I'll say that everyone punishes themselves in their own way. "Moonlight" is about people and situations that I could not completely relate to, but they seemed so real and human. Following a boy growing up (three different actors) it rang some true notes. "La La Land" is a musical, yes. But more than that it explores dreams and desire and the lies we tell ourselves."Jackie" is about the lies we live and the truth behind them. Would be fascinating to see a sequel or two. One could be "Jackie Onasis" and one could be "Jackie the Editor" and so forth.

"Nocturnal Animals" is directed and adapted by Tom Ford. Someone asked me if it was about the Pretty People. Well, there was that. More importantly and the opposite of pretty people there is a novel (brought to life as a movie) within the movie. Interesting conceit. Troubling novel and troubling how it dovetailed with reality.

All these are worth seeing. And worth reading reviews by better critics.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Retirement

Unsure what to write about today. So I looked through the raw images of pictures I took this month and decided to use this one. Given the caption, I picked a favorite topic: retirement.

It has been over fourteen years since I worked.That amazes me. Not that it seems like just yesterday that I had a job, but that I have really not accomplished many of the goals I had.

To quote a blog entry from almost seven years ago (so half way into the journey): 
I saw myself getting everything in my (old) house organized and working to a fault. I saw myself fit and active and achieving things, doing things for others. I thought my financial life would be organized and I'd have learned lots of new things. Of course, there were those books that I was going to write and entertaining and informative WEB sites that I was going to design.
I don't know when the vision shifted to downtown living. When I retired in 2002, downsizing was on my mind but the idea of living in 1200 square feet or so was not really something I'd considered.
So I spent a lot of time from my retirement in 2002 to 2009, not so much getting organized or learning things or being creative but, let's see, remodeling the house one last time before we would leave it. And then, around 2007, seriously downsizing to move downtown.

Something else that was on my mind early on was travel. Unconstrained by counting vacation days, how hard could it be? Turns out there are constraints. As I said back in 2009:

FFP was still working full time running his agency and wasn't ready to do much traveling. However, not too many weeks after I retired I was off to Colorado with my dad and then off to Berlin. Dad was doing better then. He could travel, drive even. My in-laws had quit driving but could still walk around the neighborhood and take cabs to go places. Intellectually I knew that they would become more feeble and have more needs.  
So, yeah, I got away a bit right after retirement (which was right after my mother's death). But in 2009, I could feel the implications of the age of my three remaining parental units we were responsible for. (My dad would have some serious health issues in 2009 and he would die in 2010 in the midst of a health scare for my husband. Both in-laws would die in 2010.)

As I summed it up in 2009, vis-a-vis travel:
I did get back to South Africa, had a trip to Dublin, a driving trip or two with FFP, trips to New York, two trips to France with FFP. It sounds like a lot but it's been seven years and we didn't go anywhere in the last twelve months except for a short trip to New York, a night in San Antonio and a couple of nights at Lake Austin Spa. 
We do seem to reliably get to the Northwest every year. We've made more trips to New York. Been a few times to New Orleans. I don't really count all the back and forth trips to Houston to follow up on FFP's health scare. We made it to France in 2015 and Dublin and Italy in 2016. But, no, in spite of not having accomplished all the learning, organization, and creative goals, I also have not traveled enough. We keep saying we have to do it while we can still comfortably travel, but we've become more and more convinced of the need for well-planned travel with first class accommodations.

I found while stealing the past ruminations on my failed retirement that I gave George Bush advice on his retirement.

Anyway, I'm always telling people who retire that I'll advise them. But, really, I've failed at managing my own.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Chair: A Documentary

I had this idea a few years ago. It will remain one of my many unrealized notions. I have offered it to others and you, dear reader, are free to purloin it, too.

It would be a documentary film. It would be called "Chair." One would interview people of a certain age or those who are disabled and must spend time in a small space with things within reach.

The interviews would be cut up and interspersed with others as the participants explored similar things nearby. Imagine me, in the red chair to the left, and my husband (the long-suffering FFP) in the yellow chair at the right.

Yes, I read a lot of newspapers in my chair. I will leave the days' papers on the dining table to my right until the evening although I'll often bring them to my chair, get the lap board down there between the couch and chair and work a puzzle. The ones I haven't read pile up on the little rolling end table to my right. I also have my water or coffee there a lot of times. Or, in the evening, maybe a Manhattan mixed by FFP. As I read them I toss them on the couch. We don't have a lot of company so we use the couch arms and couch for piling things up to have them nearby. Our lap blankets are there in the winter. (They go inside the rolling end table in the warm weather.) When the pile of papers on the couch gets voluminous I take it to the bin we use to recycle paper. On the arm of the couch, I usually keep a paper notebook, various pens, an iPad. There is a Flash connector charger plugged in behind the couch and I can easily reach the plug. I usually put my iPhone here when I'm in the chair. Shoes come off when I go into the chair so there are sometimes one or two pairs on the floor. When this picture was taken, there were a book and a magazine on the couch arm. I think FFP offered these as ones I should read. We have a universal remote for the entertainment center across the room. It is usually by one of our chairs. I often keep a box of Kleenex between the couch and the chair as well as a trash can.

Imagine FFP in his chair. Quite a selection of books queued up or in progress. Magazines, too. He has a lamp, a lapboard, Kleenex, and a lap board and will often have a cup of tea or coffee.

We really don't spend all our days ensconced in our chairs And the people in the movie who spend more time in their 'nests' will have even more things, won't they?. Prescription drugs, for example. A land line phone.

And it all tells a story, but, admittedly, not a very interesting one!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I Resolve


I gave up on New Year's Resolutions a few years ago. Then I made holiday resolutions. Then I gave up on those. When I did such things I even sometimes tracked my progress against them for a while after. (This is far easier to do for holiday resolutions than for those you track for a whole year.)

Why that picture? Because a lot of people (and possibly me in the past) often resolve to drink less. I'm not doing that. I may well drink less now than I did in the past. Maybe not. The Manhattan above (with a double cherry and smoked bacon garnish) is my special drink at Fixe, a restaurant close by. We will eat there on Christmas Eve. I will have one, I'm betting. I often go whole days without drinking. I didn't have a drink on Sunday. Last night I had a glass of white wine and then a couple of glasses of Burgundy. Some friends took us out. They drove us, too. I never drink and drive. I have in my life, but I avoid it assiduously now. It helps that I can barely see at night and therefore have trouble driving at night. Often we go out, I drink, the husband drives.

One can resolve to exercise more. Ho. Hum. I can't tell you how many times I did that. How many exercise, weight, food charts I made in an attempt to accomplish it. I could probably dredge up these old things, but I think they'd bore me. I think I resolve...to not bore myself. And so, I'll sign off before I bore everyone else, too.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bargaining With Myself

I snapped this picture in Old West Austin last month. The youth in the sculpture seems contemplative or, maybe, just sleepy.

I spend a lot of time inside my head. I think 'what should I do next?' and 'if I accomplish some task, what could I then do that's fun?' and 'how long am I going to sit here thinking instead of doing?'

Up this morning fairly early. It's Monday and the puzzles are generally easier and fun. It was chilly in the apartment. The thermostat said 70 degrees in the dining room and a thermometer in the bathroom said 71. It is freezing outside, though, and we have yet to turn on the heat. We watch our giant TV and it and the amp and satellite box and the computers in the office give off enough heat to keep the cold at bay. But the TV is off so I turn it on. (The temperature at the thermostat rises three degrees in the next few hours.) I am comfy in my sweatpants, long-sleeved Tshirt, and socks. I make coffee, copy the NY Times puzzle so my husband (FFP) can work it and settle into my chair to work the Ken-Ken and Crosswords and read anything that looks interesting in the Arts Section.  FFP points out an interesting article in the front page section of the Times about a gala in Houston in 1989 with John Connally, Trump and Nixon in attendance. So I read that and the whole front page section while eating some toast with butter, cheese and jelly; and a banana. The TV rattles on with stock indices and pundits talking about lower taxes, banks profiting from higher interest, etc.

I am trying to talk myself into cleaning. I need to post something for Holidailies, but what to write about? I read a few sections of older newspapers. I finally decide I will dust some shelves. Just half the shelves surrounding the bed I tell myself. I do get started on this. I hear FFP dusting and cleaning in the living room. Embarrassed by the small amount I've bargained with myself to do, I dust all the shelves in the bedroom and vacuum as well.

My reward for this small bit of cleaning? (Although in fairness I have to climb up and down the ladder to do it what with the 10-foot ceilings and the shelves or so crammed with books and art and artifacts and pictures that it is not trivial.) My reward is that I get to write this entry and have a snack and read some more papers.Meanwhile, I may be bargaining with myself to do some more cleaning or go across the hall to the gym.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Read More

I want to read more books. I want to at least make an effort to read the headlines and a few complete articles in the papers that arrive at the rate of over twenty a week. (Seven days of The Austin American-Statesman, seven days of The New York Times, six days of The Wall Street Journal and then throw in a weekly or two.) I want to read more magazines. The New Yorker arrives almost every week of the year. I should just read more. I read while I'm eating. I read papers while watching TV with one eye. I read a book (see bedside table above) before bed. It's not enough. The books pile up. The paper tower teeters, there are stacks of magazines I want to get to.
I've read some of these, others (most) are pending. Or maybe they were read by my husband and I keep intending to read them. Some I started and didn't finish. Above is "The Lives of Lee Miller." I asked for it on Amazon and my niece bought it. I read it. Fascinating. I like Roger Angell but the collection above (which I did read) was too much baseball. I read "Sometimes a Great Notion" years ago, but this is a new edition we got so I could read it again. But I haven't. I read "When Paris Went Dark" recently.

What do I do instead of reading? I work puzzles. (Why, oh, why did The New York Times publish a whole section of puzzles today? Including the largest crossword every published in that paper?) I write blog entries and take walks. It's hard to read and walk. When I first retired I rode an exercise bike a lot and caught up with a lot of reading that way.

Well, it's a cold day so I'm going to go get a cup of coffee, get in my easy chair, wrap up in the Polartec throw, and read. Unless I work a puzzle or get distracted by what's on TV.  Or, you know, take a nap.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Upon Reflection

My favorite kind of pictures involve shadows, mysterious details, reflections and such. Not straightforward looks at things, but asides, peripheral views, indistinct abstractions. I especially love reflections. I can't think of anything else to write about so I thought I'd explore this with a few interesting pictures. The one above has many levels. I took it in 2014 but I know where because of the reflection of that pitched roof (it's a church) across the street. (The window is in an antique and junk shop called Uncommon Objects on South Congress in Austin.) There is a mirror in the shop window that reflects me as does the window. I adjusted the picture a little in Photoshop to enhance the odd clown or jester and his odder friend.

Since it's the holidays, I'll add this one with a Christmas theme:
I do love this sort of picture. Perhaps it's because I prefer not to look at things straight on, especially myself.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Every Move You Make

Sometimes I like to shoot pictures from our balcony, looking down at the activity on the street.I caught a few construction workers headed home from work a few years ago.

We make so many movements each day, activate so many things. These guys poured some concrete or drove some rivets or at least held aloft the Slow/Stop sign and directed traffic. They made ten thousand little movements to get up, get dressed, drive to work, do their job, take a break with the contents of their cooler or something they bought from the food truck.

It fascinates me how many discrete things we do every day. Yesterday, I thought about this and sort of recorded it in my mind.

I tense my ab muscles, sit up and swing my legs out of the bed. I open a drawer and lift out some sweat pants. I grope in the dull light of pre-dawn for my glasses. After a trip to the bathroom, I pull on a polo, the sweatpants, a hat, a watch and pull my tennis shoes off the shelf. I open another drawer and find a pair of socks. I go to the kitchen, turn on the lights (flip three switches), push the on button on the coffee machine. The low water light comes on. I extricate the tank from the machine, grab a pitcher and fill it from the refrigerator spout. I fill the tank from the pitcher, replace the tank and push the button to grind/tamp/brew my cuppa. I unwrap the plastic from out newspapers, flip open the trash can with my food and discard the wrapper. I remove some ads from the papers and pick up a stack of paper and such to recycle from the couch, stack them up with the ads and go to the office and deposit them in the trash can we use for recycling. I check backups on the husband's computer, fire up mine and bring up my country club's page to get to the tennis reservation page so I can make a reservation for Saturday precisely at 8 a.m.

You get the idea. We type on our keyboards, punch on our phones. When I go to tennis, I find my wallet, phone and keys. I make more coffee, unscrew the lid of the travel cup, pour in the coffee. I unlock the door, step outside, lock it with the key from outside. I walk down the hall, punch the down button. When the elevator comes, I position my fob to activate and punch my parking floor. When I get off, I push open the door, and walk to my car, punch the unlock on my car keys, open the door. Inside I pull my seatbelt across and put it in. I put the key in the ignition, my foot on the clutch, and turn the key. I put it in reverse and ease out, looking at the mirror to see if anyone is racing around the blind corner. I drive carefully down the two-way parking drive, rounding corners to floor 5, 4, 3, and then 2 where I wait for the transponder on my dash to open the arm (and the gate if it hasn't opened). I drive to the club, shifting gears, looking for pedestrians, pressing brake and clutch and gas. When I arrive at the club, I slow at the guard house and wave at the guard if he's there, he looks up, maybe, waves back. I find a parking place, hopefully my favorite one just left of the pro shop door, and align my car, turn it off, pull out the key, pull up the emergency brake. I hit the open lever for the trunk with my left hand. I grab my commuter cup, open the door, swing my legs out, stand, shut the door, hit the lock button. I grab my tennis bag, swing it over my shoulder, shut the trunk.

On the court, one makes a hundred little moves besides the actual striking of balls. I twirl the racket a few times waiting for the serve, firming my grip as the ball will be coming. I trot over to a corner where an errant ball lies, nudge it with my racket next to my right foot, raise said foot and bounce the ball so I can grab it. I may find my partner and hand said ball to her, or stuff it in my pocket or use my racket to hit it in a low, soft arch so it will land in front of the serving opponent and bounce a couple of times so they can catch it and continue their serve. In actual play, of course, one performs conplex tasks of running, striking the ball, recovering.

Every day, every one of use, is performing tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of tiny movements. It's no wonder that mistakes are made. There are falls, car accidents, train wrecks. And, of course, all the while, within the bodies of all these people doing voluntary (if rote) action, hearts beat, blood courses, lungs fill with air, cells die and replenish, food digests and, for some, tumors grow.

And we perform, our bodies perform, on a whirling rock in a vast space. It's enough to make one sit quietly in the easy chair and try to work a Friday NY Times puzzle.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Housecleaning

It's hard to clean our place. One reason is all the books and stuff on all the shelves. I love looking at the arrangements of things and having the books around. But every once in a while you have to knock the dust off. And then, of course, clean the floors and baseboards. How do dust bunnies get born and grow? And then there are the sinks, the microwave, the refrigerator and the dreaded shower scrubbing. We used to hire a service to do some things at our 'big house.' With a tiny apartment (1200 sq feet or so) we figured we could handle these tasks ourselves. Plus we are retired and figured it would be inconvenient to get out of the way of a maid who would want to come at a certain time. Indeed, it's hard to find someone who will actually dust books.

So we do the housekeeping ourselves. But it gets out of hand sometimes.

I try to trick myself into doing a little bit at a time. I've used a random number generator to pick a task. I've started at one end of the apartment and tried to work my way through in an orderly fashion.

And, truthfully, I kind of enjoy dusting the shelves and handling my little artworks and artifacts and my books.

And I can always stop and read or write this blog and put the cleaning and straightening off for another day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Parties

Back in the day when we lived in what we call 'the big house' I would decide to give a party once in a while. I remember once giving a big Christmas party. Decorations, food, drink. Not that I had a big tree. We never did that. We don't give a party now, but we belong to groups or donate to groups that give parties or we get invited to private parties because we entertain folks some other way. (Usually little dinner parties throughout the year.) The picture below is from 2004 so I guess that was a big party. We invited enough people that we encouraged them to label their cups or put an id tag on their wine glass.

The bendy figures were providing comic relief.

Now we go to parties. We try to be festive. If we walk to the party, we might both have a drink. Nibble party food. Admire fancy and frivolous trees and other decorations. I think we are invited to a party in a week or so that is specifically to admire someone's lights. Hmmm.

Both of the private clubs we belong to give parties. We skip one because it is very crowded and while the food is free the drinks are not. And we'd have to drive there. We can walk to the other one. Free Bloody Marys and free food. It's during the day, though, so you have to plan a nap after.

Last night we went to a party given by the Austin Theater Alliance, protectors of the State and Paramount theaters. We met some new people. We heard a singer we hadn't heard. We couldn't get to the food, but I had a drink. I wore my red jacket and red socks with reindeers to be festive.

We might be invited to a Boxing Day party and a New Year's Day get together. I'm sort of looking forward to Christmas Day when no one invites us anywhere.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Travel Quests

I just finished reading "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. I know it's a couple of years old, but something made me include it when I ordered other 'books I don't need' from Powell's. This book was my 'before bed' reading for a few weeks. I almost always read a real book before bed and rarely take gadgets in the bedroom. Sometimes I read a magazine. Rarely a newspaper (hard to handle in bed).

This book invoked a travel quest. A lot of my travels include the ordinary things tourists do at a destination they choose because they haven't been there or want to return to, but often my trips are inspired partly by quests. After reading this book I wanted to go to Saint-Malo. I claim to have read a lot about WWII, European Theater, but I was ignorant about the story of Saint-Malo. (The city was needlessly flattened by the Allies who thought there were many more Germans holding it.) There were other locations in France and Germany, but it's really a story of Saint-Malo told with fictional characters and a bit of fantasy.

This sudden desire to go to Saint-Malo made me think "then I could probably get to Jersey (one of the Channel Islands) from there." Because another quest I have is to go to Jersey. I think some of my ancestors were from there. It looked on Google Maps like ferrys connceted the two conveniently.

Reading often triggers these travel quests. James Joyce's "Ulysses" triggered a desire to go to New York on June 16 (Bloomsday, the day on which the novel is set) and hear readings. And this last summer we went to Dublin on June 16. Ground zero for Bloomsday because the novel is set there.

The other day we were talking about going to London. (My husband has never been.) In 2005, I read an article in The New Yorker by Adam Gopnik entitled "Letter from London and Paris: Two Cooks; Taking food to the extremes." It was about Alain Passard and his Paris Restaurant Arp├Ęge and Fergus Henderson and his London restaurant St. John. Chef Passard was an advocate of more vegetables and Chef Henderson a 'nose to tail' meat aficionado. I'm happy to say that I have now been to Chef Passard's place on two different visits to Paris.

There we are with Chef Passard!
Well, if we went to London....maybe I could check out Chef Henderson, too! As luck would have it I saw a Fergus Henderson cookbook in the independent bookstore nearby just after I had this thought! I love veggies, but I love organ meats, too. A quest!

These travel with a reason (no matter how weird) deals have taken me to Berlin when Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped the Reichstag and to New York for their Central Park Gates and to Lake Iseo in Italy for the Floating Piers. We visited Roslyn, Washington this last summer because our favorite TV show "Northern Exposure" was filmed there. (Our friend instigated this but the fact that we carried DVDs of the show to their Oregon Coast house every visit made her think of it.) Once when my friends and I were meeting in Paris to go to the Loire, I read that there was an exhibit in Rouen of Monet paintings of the Rouen cathedral. Side trip! (Oh, Monet's Garden and Chartres are 'on the way' let's do that.) Many of our trips involve seeking out a special bookstore every time we go. (Crawford-Doyle and the Strand in NYC; Powell's in Portland, OR; and Shakespeare and Company in Paris.) 

Last summer (2015) we were planning to go to the south of France when I read about a special exhibit at MOMA when we were going to New York. It was the paper patterns for a chapel he designed in Vence, France. So we went to the exhibit and, you guessed it, then we went to see the chapel when we were in France. That trip south also took us to Menton because someone we'd only 'met' online lived there. When I discovered a Michelin-starred restaurant there, guess where we had lunch?

I could go on and on. (And perhaps I will as I run out of things to write about daily.) Many trips were to tourist spots but had the advantage of meeting up with someone like this.

Have you ever traveled somewhere just to see some event or one particular landmark or eat somewhere or, um, buy books?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gadget World

I read in an article the New York Times the other day that the age of gadgets, of people doing start-ups to make hardware stuff, is waning (as opposed to apps that work on the all-purpose gadgets we have). This picture is from three years ago. We went to a reception where you could try (and buy!) Google Glass gadgets. You can see that FFP is trying them out. I couldn't because they were for right-eyed people only. So, Google Glass? Not so much any longer.

I have bought so many gadgets, especially if you count cameras. There were calculators including one that did hexadecimal and octal and could be programmed. There were many cameras, different types of film and then digital. I bought many external drives, scanners, printers, special keyboards, mice and other input devices. I bought a little gadget that you could plug books into. (I specifically plugged in foreign language dictionaries and seem to remember one gadget that was, simply, a French translator.)  I avoided some standalone gadgets, though. I waited for cell phones to have GPS and didn't buy a Garmin. I never bought a portable DVD player (although I bought many VCRs and DVD players). I never bought a digital picture frame. At least not for myself. Way, way, back there I remember a special little calculator gadget for balancing your checkbook. I think I gave these as presents.I had a Palm Pilot, With that silly set of shorthand marks you made with your stylus to write.

I never bought a Go-Pro or a drone and think that ship has sailed. I think I bought portable game devices for the great nephews or my money did.

Now I'm going to go look for those language translator gadgets. How worthless is that when you could probably download slick stuff on your phone and tablet and computer and, of course, surf the WEB?

What's your funniest gadget story of the past or present ? Do you ever long for the days when we travelled with paper maps and a compass. (I have a couple of those, too. And not just the one on my iPhone.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Tennis

I've been playing tennis for about 45 years. When I was a kid, we had some old rackets and balls around but I didn't have access to a tennis court. I think my sister and mother both took tennis as P.E. in college. I couldn't get into tennis for PE in college and ended up with such delights as field hockey.

Right after college I was commuting to a job with a friend and we found a backboard at our old college and he showed me how to hit a forehand and a backhand. I played around from there, graduating to playing on city courts. I happened to live for a while in a cheap apartment in an expensive neighborhood. (It was right next to some railroad tracks.) This was Highland Park in Dallas. I met an older gentleman at a bar drinking with some folks from my work. He was wearing a warm-up. I casually asked if he played. Turned out he did play, enjoyed playing with women who couldn't beat him too badly and he and his wife lived in University Park. These two cities, surrounded by Dallas, had some fantastic public tennis courts. For residents only. I became good friends with him and his wife and we'd take turns getting reservations at fantastic courts. Seriously, these looked like private tennis courts on million dollar estates.

I didn't have lessons and wasn't very good, but I fell hard for tennis. When I moved to Austin, I rented an apartment at first that had courts. Someone I worked with introduced me to someone to play with. When I married Forrest and moved out of that apartment into his house, I continued to play at city parks and tennis centers. I played on and organized teams through the city. Some of these courts were nice enough, others not so much. I eventually quit playing on teams but continued to have casual games, before or after work.

I love tennis. When I finally got a color TV so I could see the ball, I loved watching it. I got a brief visit to Wimbledon in the '80s and saw a professional tournament in the '70s in Dallas a few times. My relatives started giving me tennis things: knickknacks, calendars. One time my mother, in a coup of gift giving, gave me a practice ball carrier. That was really handy to go practice serves when I didn't have anyone to play with.

In the '80s we joined a private club in a downtown office building with racquetball and a gym. I took up racquetball. I still played tennis, though.

In 2000 the club with racquetball closed and we were not going to have a gym to go to. There was a private tennis club about three miles from us. Nice gym and 18 tennis courts. No golf. We decided to join, got three letters of recommendation in a day and paid our money. I was still working, but I'd go to a few events they organized, bring friends there as guests to play. When I retired in 2002, I met a lady at a casual event who asked me to sub in her casual doubles game. This woman, 14 years later, is still playing. She is going to be 86 next month. Three times a week we play with an assortment of other players, weather permitting.

Tennis is one thing that persists through a lot of changes. I wrote recently about games and their roles in our lives. The picture shown on that entry is of my current tennis bag. Yesterday I surveyed the contents of that bag. (Today's picture is a detail of the Christmas tree in our club's pro shop.)

In that bag I have: two tennis rackets (I use one of them, which is probably 25 years old with several regripping and stringings, most of the time.) Inside the bag are band-aids; two knee braces (I'm not currently wearing either one); an arm band to stave off the tendonitis that is tennis elbow (not currently using), Two pairs of glasses with attached sun protectors and the magnetic sun protectors from my current prescription glasses; three terry headbands (I never wear these any more, relying on my hat to catch sweat); two new cans of balls; three towels (these belong to the club and I recycle them through their laundry service); a 2007 The New Yorker magazine; a out-of-date bottle of Ibuprofen with a few pills left; one dose of Benadryl; and some sunscreen. Yeah, we all carry around a lot of 'stuff,' huh? The good news is that I gave away the metal practice ball carrier. The club will loan you one of these if you need it so my mom's wonderful gift has moved on to some thrift store shopper. Tennis. Stuff. Two of my favorite subjects when I have committed to write something!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Total Stranger

This picture was taken in January 2004 (almost 13 years ago in other words). I'm not sure why I took it. But, I did.And there it is among pictures of my tour group from Ballet Austin in Washington, D.C. for a performance of the company and other fun. So from inside a coffee shop I shot through the window, across breakfast debris (ours, someone else's?) and caught a car going by and a passing stranger. A total stranger. Isn't that an interesting phrase? Redundant perhaps.

I'm intrigued by the appearance of these people I don't know in my photos. You weren't introduced, you don't know their history. But there they are in the moment. When people you know appear in your photos, you usually know what happened to them. Maybe they have died. Or grown up. Or become infirm. In this same series of pictures is one of an Austin couple dancing in a very lively way. I see them occasionally today and they aren't capable of cutting a rug. But what happened to the lady in the red coat? I will most likely never know. I have thought of making a blog called 'total stranger.' And just putting in pictures like this where someone accidentally appeared in my viewfinder and, usually without their permission, I snapped the picture. I explored the phenomena a few years ago here. That is an even more intriguing picture.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Depression

The picture above is a snap of my FB Profile Header at the moment. The skyline out of the window of our condo is pretty dramatic, but it also seems like a fair representation of depression. Now, I've never been to a psychologist or psychiatrist but occasionally I would describe myself as depressed. Not clinically, you understand. Just with a bit of a black cloud or with a black dog following along. Down and not up. Sometimes with a reason, sometimes not. It almost feels chemical as if something could somehow wash some different chemicals across my brain and I'd feel better for no reason.

I'm grateful. I'm lucky. I'm in pretty good health and can walk a few miles, hit a few tennis balls and put on jeans without grabbing onto something. I have a place to sleep, plenty to eat, plenty of discretionary income for travel and fun. I have a bit of money to give away which is rewarding. (Growing up poor I though people who donated money were simply generous. Really they are trying to control the world in ways they enjoy.)

When I feel down (and I frequently do this time of year) it actually makes me feel better to know it will pass. I will feel, in hours or days, better about it all. And I know it.

Sometimes it's bad enough that I am glad that I will one day die. I'm never suicidal. I'm just glad to know that one day it will not matter because I will be gone and, believing as I do, this means that these emotions will no longer course through a living brain. I'll be what those who remain remember, something far different from what I seem to be to myself.

As I write this I'm feeling just OK. There are many drags on mood for me this time of year. The overdone materialism I once joyfully participated in, the family members gone or grown old, My mother loved Christmas and it's hard to generate the kind of enthusiasm she was capable of. We spend the actual holidays alone although we go to plenty of parties and shows during the season. We see a lot of movies if we can, watch TV and start to worry about taxes and year-end tax reports. Tax season really takes the shine off the holiday in a hurry for me.

I have no reason to be depressed. But sometimes I am what I'd casually describe that way. And it passes. Then I have no reason to be upbeat, really, except for the fact that I am upright, don't hurt too much and have everything I want and certainly everything I need! I manage to overlook things in the outside world that scare me and savor my cup of coffee and the sunrise or whatever is in the moment.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Here's to a Random Slide Show

In 2000 I moved my parents to Austin. I say I "moved them" to mean I had purchased a house for them to 'rent' from me and encouraged them to sell theirs in a Dallas suburb and move into it. My mother had been bugging me about things that she wanted. A new VCR, cable TV in her bedroom, a computer, a CD player. There were probably other things, too. Things with user's manuals. But I still worked and they lived over 200 miles away. The thought of remote troubleshooting of anything felt like a lot of work. One way I encouraged them to move was by saying that she could have any of this if they moved. I lived fifteen minutes from the house I'd purchased and worked five minutes away. I can keep things running for them, I thought. (Of course, I thought I could look after them if they got sick. That's another story for another day.)

They did move and Mom even got a computer. She couldn't remember how to surf the web and got confused using her email but she learned to use paint all by herself by looking at the HELP tab. When I set it up, I loaded up a ton of pictures and made the screen saver a random shuffle of these. She loved it, seeing pictures of family and friends flash  But, I confess, I love me a random slide show, too. On the computers on my desk, I have hundreds of pictures. Most digital. Some scanned. Most I shot or my hubby did. But some are stolen from the Internet, particularly eBay. Some I scanned from my mom's collection.

As I type this the other two computers are displaying pictures from these big collections.

There's a picture of my husband taking a picture of some busking musicians in Central Park, there's a junk store window reflection (I'm very fond of reflections especially of shop windows), See below.


There's a picture from my sister's wedding. There's a picture of a young singer who used to be in Austin but now lives in L.A. There's a shot from the Davis Cup which was held here  in Austin a few years ago. There's a shot of the wares in a tiny cheese shop in Paris.

There's a picture taken by a local newspaper photographer of FFP's (the husband's) dad. There's a picture of my niece taking a picture of some of my cousins in Maine. There's a boat on Lady Bird Lake. There's a detail inside the dome of the Norman Foster redesigned Reichstag. There's a picture of our bedroom remodel at the old house.

There's a picture of a stack of books. There is a snap of a shelf with some collectibles I have (or once had).

And there's a picture of a woman reciting from James Joyce's "Ulysses" at the New York Bloomsday. There's Colum McCann. Ditto. There are oysters roasting on an outdoor fire at a house on the Oregon coast. And a picture of the Zilker Park Kite Festival. There's an image of one of the many Manhattan Cocktails I've consumed. There's a picture from high up in the current tallest building in Austin. There's FFP by the Ignatius J Riley statue in New Orleans.  There's a picture of my friend Scott at an AIDS walk kickoff. There's the Space Needle in Seattle. There's a picture of books in a Little Free Library.

Pictures of food. Bone Marrow, FFP eating a crepe. Tacos. A giant pretzel. Delicately decorated raw tuna. Giant prawns.Lobsters ready to be consumed in Maine. A lavender stuffed duck being carved at Eleven Madison Park in New York City. A veggie plate at the local comfort food place.

There are geese and ducks. Turtles, egrets, cormorants, swans.

An Elvis lamp. Murals and sculpture. The Barbara Jordan statue at the Austin airport. Graffiti. Marchers in parades, motorcycles in parades. That's obviously a New Orleans French Quarter scene. Sunsets and sunrises. Jazz musicians and backstage pictures at the "Nutcracker." Details of chrome on antique cars.

There's my dad (seven years gone) holding a baby who'd now be in her forties.My niece. There she is grown with her first child as a toddler (now 16). Large group pictures taken at holidays.

You get the idea. I can waste hours looking at these images. Randomly shuffled. Crossing years and miles apart. Challenging myself to remember where they were taken and why. Thinking briefly of the ones who have passed, people and pets, who appear for a few seconds. And the babies who are now grown and have had babies who are also grown or almost so.

I often feel better about it all when I consider life a random set of images and feelings instead of something we plan or control.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

It's Only a Game

That's a shot of some of the stuff in my car's trunk. Prominent is a tennis bag with a couple of rackets and a box of cans of new tennis balls. I'm intending to clean out my car including this packed trunk and write a short essay about what is in there. Not today, though.

Today it's about sports. The ones you play and the ones you watch. I only play tennis. And only in very, very casual doubles games with random people showing up to take turns playing one set each with each partnership. And, yet...sometimes one gets upset over a bad call, their own mistakes, the conditions. But it's only a game. 

Yeah, a game. The results of my tennis aren't written down anywhere. No one cares. We often don't remember five minutes after we walk off. And, yet, we play by strick rules. We try our hardest to chase down a shot.

I sometimes think we do this because real life, where things really do matter and sometimes are matters of life and death, is too complicated. We can understand the rules, play between the lines, get control.

Sometimes we are only spectators. We have a favorite high school, college or professional team. We exalt in their victories and die a little with their failures. And this is so silly really. We know it. And yet we feel a surge of emotion watching a winning basket or a goal line stand. 

I've boycotted football this year. I enjoy watching it, really. But the awful injuries and the way it has overshadowed academics at colleges makes me feel guilty. It's been nice not really paying attention to games and reading or going out with a friend while FFP watches. I've snuck a few looks at plays while he has the games on. And, obviating my boycott, I'll look up during the commercials for these games and watch them. 

Real life seems to loom large for me just now. But games are just games. Nothing I care about is riding on the outcome. Even if I'm the one playing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Getting in the Spirit

When I was a kid, I guess I believed in this guy although I don't remember going to a store to see him in person. I snapped this at the Four Seasons hotel in Austin on Sunday. These kids were having a fancy little tea party and Santa visited.

We were Christians so, growing up, there were carols and sometimes little home-done nativity scenes with cousins.

The anticipation of presents, the time off from school, the fun gatherings of relatives, my grandmother's giblet gravy and dressing and homemade rolls and cinnamon rolls: there were lots of things to get excited about. Maybe my heart would swell about the birth of Christ during a rousing "Joy to the World," too.

Things are different now. I understand my tribe's myths in the context of other myths. But I still get a little cultural push from the songs, traditions, pagan trees, etc. Usually.

Last night we heard a 'holiday' choral concert at the Butler School of Music at UT. It was festive. Portions of the Messiah. (During the Hallelujah chorus a certain professor I thought was firmly in the atheist camp stood with his wife and the rest of the crowd then did, too.) There was a reading with orchestra of The Night Before Christmas and a God Bless Us Everyone with a tenor solo and the whole huge choir and orchestra. Very festive. For a moment I was in the season.

We've also wandered the downtown hotels and looked at trees and decorations, noticed the decorated shop windows on Second. We'll check out the Capitol Tree soon.

Friday we will make our annual trek to see "The Nutcracker." We are heavily invested in Ballet Austin. (We are donors, FFP is on the board for 15 years, we financed a new costume for the mechanical doll in the party scene, etc.) I usually come away feeling like it's Christmas. And glad that many performances will be sold out and help finance the ballet's more daring work.

But this year seems different. The Christmas spirit is hard to come by. And I guess I don't really miss it.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Addiction

Over the weekend, we stayed two nights at the Austin Four Seasons. It's about ten blocks away. It's an interesting thing to do and we had one free night (charity auction) and another at a reasonable price. It's instructive to get away from the normal view of things and to see just how expensive things are. We watched some old movies and one of them was "The Lost Weekend." It kindled something I've been thinking about lately and that is addiction.

First, let's just say that I'm not an alcoholic. Now a perusal of my facebook page might lead one to believe otherwise as I have a habit of putting pictures of food and drink there, particularly Manhattan cocktails. But I don't wake up in the morning craving a drink. In fact, although I may sometimes say at 5 p.m. "I need a drink," that 'need' is more social and metaphorical than a draw of addiction. Seeing drinking doesn't trigger anything and I easily stop. (There is a scene in "The Lost Weekend" where the Ray Milland character sees a drinking scene at the opera and is overcome with the desire to drink. It's "Traviata" maybe?)

Which is not to say I'm not addicted to anything at all. I think we all have addictions. It might be drugs or alcohol or some classic thing like that. But, if not, there is something in everyone's life where resistance seems futile.

I'll talk about three things for me. I've indulged two already this morning and will no doubt dip into the third soon.

Coffee

The idea of my first cuppa is one thing that gets me up in the morning. Two or three cups later or maybe a cup of iced coffee taken to tennis and the desire is more or less satisfied until next morning.

This machine is one of my prized possessions. It is the third one I've owned (the first two were a bit more massive). It grinds, tamps and pressure-brews each cup. It was expensive but it's so worth it. I've probably made hundreds of cups with this one.



Crosswords

Another thing that makes me rise in the morning is my daily newspapers and, I'll admit it, even more the prospect of doing the puzzles. I like the Ken-Ken, too, but crosswords really call out to me. I worked one this morning before we left the hotel (accompanying the activity with a cup of coffee I got from the downstairs coffee bar).It wasn't the one below...this is just an example I found in my picture file.


So, yeah, I find the puzzles irresistible. The empty squares make me ache to fill them in.

Cheese

I like to say that I would consistently weigh 20 pounds less if I didn't eat cheese. I don't know if that's really true but hardly a day goes by that I don't consume some. Either on a salad, in a sandwich, with crackers or just a bite by itself. Or maybe queso or cheese enchiladas. If fact, the husband just asked if I'd like chicken chili for lunch. My immediate thought was, "yeah, with a bunch of cheese on top."

So, addictions. We all have some. Some people are addicted to exercise, I hear. I could use some of that.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Holiday Cards

That's it. A 4x6 print printed for pennies online, a collage of travel and eating and drinking. And the most positive sentiment I could muster.If someone sends me something in the mail, I'll send one of these back in a cheap Office Max envelope with 'Happy Holidays' written in red ink on the flap perhaps. I'll send a few people one without being prompted by receiving one from them.

I miss it, really. The many cards. When half weren't from a business or charity. I like the letters summing up the year. The pictures of the kids growing up. Or just the funny animals and Santas and tree and snow. But we send and receive less and less every year. I miss all the stamps and postmarks. I miss the hours spent updating the database and thinking of all the people, mourning a little the ones who had recently left us.

But change comes to everything. It's surprising anyone clings to tradition. I have only sent commercially purchased cards one year. We have made elaborate pieces some years, one year I handmade each one from canceled holiday stamps, I am often surprised to find some old ones in the closet. "Wow," I'll say, "I forgot we did that."

The years run away and the holiday card was a way to put a pin in each one and remember it.

Pen Sets

Remember pen sets? A lot of us of a certain age received 'pen sets' for Christmas, birthdays and, especially, graduations. These days I don't whip out a Mont Blanc or gold Cross Pen and use it. I do use pens: to do my paper crosswords, to write in the paper registers of a couple of checkbooks and write a few checks. (I also keep those balances on the computer and I write fewer and fewer actual checks since a lot of bills are resolved on the computer and online.) But when I use a pen I grab what's at hand, a giveaway from a bank or something. This time of year I often send a little holiday greeting, at least to those who send me something. I'll carefully select a felt tip, maybe, in a festive red or green to do a little personal note and address the envelope.

The other morning I cleaned out a taboret drawer under my desk  (yeah, I have a taboret, look it up, definition 3). The drawer contained dozens of felt tips, sharpies, mechanical pencils, regular pencils, nice ballpoints with refills, some refills. A couple of dozen didn't write well enough and ended up in the trash. I left the nice gold Cross pen and other nice pens with refills in the drawer. I think I was looking for something to write those aforementioned cards. Anyway, as you can see I have dozens of writing implements. (That's after dumping dozens in the trash!) So, no pen sets, Santa.


Saturday, December 03, 2016

Dear Santa: Not These Either

In further news of what is not on my wish list: no more gadgets! Please let me get control over what I already have. The pano below is my dusty desk, covered with computers and wires and external drives. (Not to mention a bunch of desk stuff, etc. I'm begging Santa for control over the gadgets I already have. (Many not pictured here.)
I fell out of love with that iMac. Actually, I never loved it. I ran Windows in VMware. But I did collect a bunch of tunes off the hundreds of CDs we still own in the iTunes on there. If I had any idea how to get them to another machine, I would. I did transfer most of them to an iPod. (Which is in another room connected to our AV system.) I'm afraid to connect that to the iMac because I've heard of newer versions of iTunes wiping out a gadget if tunes are from your own CDs and not purchased through them. Apple is full of surprises like that. Many I've experienced, most I just heard of online, so who knows??? The other two computers are working. One is WIN7. I'm trying to wean myself from it. The one on the left was in use by FFP until, a few weeks ago, I couldn't get it to boot and had to take it back to the beginning of its life as a WIN 7 machine, work half the night to get Microsoft to let me upgrade it to WIN 10 again, etc. I got him a new computer, reinstalled everything, set up his files from backups. Yeah, backups. I take them to the cloud. I take them to external disks that you see, to portable ones in the cabinet or safe. All I do I think, sometimes, is install software and make backups. That machine on the left taught me I should be making restore points, too. 

Last night I updated my current iPhone (a 6) with the software (ios 10 something) that it was incessantly bugging me to get. No great tragedies ensued although there are things I don't like. 

So no new gadgets! There are computers and our current iPhones (FFP's is a 5s I think). There are iPads. (I think there are four in the house? Two we use a lot.) We have three TVs. Satellite boxes, amps, DVD players, a gadget that gets one of the TVs some channels over the airwaves. 

If Santa brought a gadget, all I'd see would be maintenance, upgrades, etc. Enough is enough. Of course, upgrades will be necessary, things will break. But I'm not getting a gadget you talk to (I don't talk to Siri, I like communicating through words on screen) or a camera attached to a flying drone or a watch that lets you keep your phone in your pocket or a new game console (thankfully we've never had a game console). 

I know many of you will get a gadget for Christmas. Enjoy.


Friday, December 02, 2016

Wish List

I think most of the people in my generation (Baby Boomers) spent a large part of the autumns of their childhood finding things in a 'Wish Book' for their Christmas list. This magic book usually came from Sears in our household, but I think Montgomery Wards and J.C. Penney and others probably got into the game, too.

I ripped this picture off from eBay where these vintage catalogs go for lots of money these days. No doubt they are valuable references for set designers, toy and kitsch collectors and costume designers.

This one dates from a bit after my childhood, but note the fun construction stuff in this spread. The Erector Set picture at the top of this entry, though, is a snap of one in this very apartment and I received it when I was nine or ten years old, in the late fifties. I keep it as a reminder of the struggle to get toys that I wanted, Not only were they sometimes outside the limits of the family budget but they were also very specifically branded for boys. (See the cover art above.) I think it's nice that the spread from the catalog shows a girl building a skyscraper. This was from the '70's, though, and my time had passed. Of course, when I had some money and was grown, I bought and collected toys like Lego Sets and all manner of fun stuff for a while. Just a pent-up demand to have what was so hard to come by when it was age appropriate, I guess. The great downsizing of 2007-2008 eliminated most of this stuff although a few things like the Erector Set and several hundred bendable poseable figures survived.

This year, I've made a reverse wish list. On this list are things people usually wish for at Christmas. Instead of wishing for them, I have cataloged things I own already obviating the need for more.

  • Watches [I think I have seven. Three cost fifty dollars or much less and were purchased while on trips when the watch I was wearing had its battery fail. Two cost several hundred dollars. One, by Gucci, was a gift from my husband. A few years ago, he had it cleaned and reconditioned. Another, a Swiss Army stainless steel number, I bought years ago. A careless jeweler had messed it up trying to change the battery. My husband had it properly repaired recently. The other two areold, gold stem-winders. One is 18 karat gold, bought in 1975 in a Bucherer store in Switzerland. The other is 14 karat and is, I think, a Corum. I bought it at a charity auction. These last two are locked away in a safe. Gold is worth about 30 times what it was in 1975, I believe.] No watches in the stocking!
  • Mufflers [I have several. A favorite is made from soft lambswool and I bought it in Germany in 1972. Miraculously, I've never lost it.] So, really, no mufflers needed.
  • Sweaters [It seemed that cold weather was never coming here in Austin this year but as I write this it will be in the fifties when we go out tonight. I got the sweaters out from winter storage and they are aired out. I have a blue cashmere I bought in a thrift store for fifteen dollars, a very nice ultra thin black cashmere from Ralph Lauren, ditto a purple one, a cheaper red one and brown one (but still cashmere), an older black silk and cashmere and a hand-knitted ski style sweater made by an aunt who died in the 1990's. There are more, I'm sure.] No sweaters, Santa.
  • Socks [Classic gift. I usually wear black ones now or brown or white athletic ones. I rarely get into the depths of the two drawers containing socks. And up at the heights of the closet is a storage box with bright colors and patterns. From another time when I'd make a sock statement.] Yeah, no socks.
So none of the above. Give a gift to charity if you must remember me. 

Yep. And there are many other things that I don't need. That are unlisted. In compiling this, though, I realize that I've identified at least five doven things I own. (Lots of socks.) Out of the, what, 10,000?



Thursday, December 01, 2016

Ten Thousand Things

How many things do you (and your family) own? I'm betting we own ten thousand things. Or more. It depends on how you count, though. I put out this (very small) fake tree decorated with tiny flamingos, ladybugs, ducks, pigs and statues of liberty. I put these decorations on a drinks cabinet so the bottles show some scale. There are also some tiny Lego Christmas trees, extra little teeny ornaments, and three full-size ornaments. Back to how many things do we own...I bet there are fifty in this picture, depending on how you count. And, when you do this inventory in your own life, do you count the half-empty bottles of liquor (and, for that matter, that almost empty bottle of ketchup everyone has in their frig)? Why is this a question? Because this sea of things that we own, use, dust and take responsibility for has an enormous influence on how we use our time, energy and money.And on how we feel about ourselves.

This topic always occurs to me at Christmas when a lot of people (not me) are out buying things for other people that they may or may not care about. As we head into this year's Holidailies, I will try to present thoughts on many things, but I will probably keep a little running commentary on the issue of stuff as well.

By the way, about twelve years ago, I made an ongoing list of stuff that I owned and the estimated count at the end of that experiment was 4905. I have ditched a number of things on that list. The great move downtown over eight years ago was responsible for a lot of that. I notice that the list included 'shiny new Sharper Image Scales.' We still have those in the condo. They still look pretty shiny and I bet I've replaced the battery two or three times.

Anyway, welcome to Holidailies and we'll just see where this goes. Meanwhile, think about making your own list.