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Friday, August 25, 2006

Hiatus

So - little L is much improved and out of the hospital (yay), and some of us are heading for the Adirondacks - to the house my grandfather built in 1920 - tomorrow. Much more to come about that. Blogging may be erratic or nonexistent for a week or so. Have patience.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Day of Fashion and a Sick Little Boy

It's Wednesday, and Z wants to watch Project Runway so we have to go to H's house to find a working TV set . For my benefit we first play last week's episode which is on tape. From the blogosphere I already know who lost, and that the challenge was to create dresses out of trash. Still, I am impressed to see the creativity of the designers and I take it all in with great interest.

Tonight's episode requires the designers to make dresses for each other's mothers and sisters, most of whom are closer to size 2x than to size 0. Quite a lot is made of the argument between the designer with the tatooed neck and his model who realizes early in the game that the dress he is making is not going to be flattering. She's old enough to have figured out what works for her and what doesn't. He won't listen. I side with the model. I can see why the show is popular, but I don't feel a strong need to know how it will all turn out.

Immediately afterwards there is another reality show to watch. This one is called "Work Out". It follows the narcissistic activities of a group of uber-fit spa workers and trainers in Beverly Hills. Z knows Jackie's (lesbian spa owner) hairdresser and tells us a funny anecdote. It's not a world that I can relate to or care about. What can I say?

Earlier in the day I have driven to the Short Hills Mall with H and Z. I always love these expeditions - seeing things from a younger perspective. We spend a lot of time examining Crocs; H buys a pair for herself in navy. They will be good commuting shoes. Z tries on and ultimately rejects a DVF dress because it has in-seam pockets that create unwanted lumpiness. I am interested to learn that DVF (Von Furstenberg) is once again a hot name in fashion. I remember when her wrap dresses were such a sensation the first time round, in the seventies, and wonder what became of the one I had. They were cotton jersey then; now they are mostly silk, and the styles are more varied.



But all this focus on fashion is really just a diversion - a red herring. The true object of our attention is a small boy in a hospital in Pennsylvania. We can't for a minute stop thinking of L, my five-year-old grandson - their nephew , who has suddenly, out of the blue, turned up with a rare condition - one none of us has ever heard of. There have been many telephone calls. He's getting fine care. He's being so brave. We are told that the prognosis is excellent; he's doing well, and should be home in a couple of days. Still, how can we not worry? Little boys do not belong in hospitals.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More NYC photos

Ah - now I get it. I think it's best to put in all the photos first, then type the text in between them. Above are the beads I went crazy for in Takashimaya. They're by a German artist - Axel Russmeyer. Only $4000 a strand - almost a bargain for something so beautiful. The actual jewelry images are from elsewhere on the web, since Takashimaya, like most stores, doesn't welcome random photographers.


This is one of the Lalique windows at Bendel. I believe they were rediscovered when Bendel took over the building and renovated it in the 80's.


These little biker cab things are all over the place these days. This one had to be snapped in motion so it's a little blurry.


Here's another kind.



And, finally, an aerial view of the aggressive makeup-mongers. They create quite an obstacle course for anyone who enters the store.

Monday, August 21, 2006

MOMA etc





Today is a New York day. Z and I make the 1:28 train that leaves from my corner (5 minute walk) and takes half an hour to get to Penn Station. We hop the E train to the MOMA which is our primary destination. We use H's borrowed corporate pass to get in free, allowing us to splurge on panini (Z) and raspberry mango tart (me) in the cafe later. We both enjoy the art and the people-watching. A security guard shows me (politely and cheerfully) how to set my camera to not flash; I am grateful to learn this. It will expand my photographic horizons considerably.

It's a beautiful day to be in the city. We wander through Takashimaya, Henri Bendel and Prada, near-museums of another order. On the ground floor of Bendel, super-aggressive cosmetics salespeople and makeover artists assault Z; they all ignore me as I shuffle along in her wake. On the fifth floor we notice for the first time the historic pre-WWI Lalique windows. It's six now, and we decide to head home. We are on the 6:40, in the door at 7:15. An easy trip overall, but Z remarks that she prefers commuting the LA way - on the freeways. Time spent stuck in traffic (but in one's own space surrounded by one's own music) seems preferable to time spent waiting on a crowded subway platform. Still, she will be up for more tomorrow.

And now I blog. I am annoyed because I can't seem to get photos to appear in the middle of a post - only at the beginning. How is it done? The position of the BLOGGER cursor seems to be irrelevant. I guess I will do another post just to accommodate some of the photos I had intended to insert in this one.

Second Cousins




Originally there were nine of us first cousins, all born between 1939 and 1949. Six remain. I'm the second oldest. We have among us thirteen children - the second cousins. They were born between 1964 and 1977. This weekend brought many of us together for a happy occasion - the wedding of M, one of the second cousins.

The bride is Russian. In this generation we have also added Chinese, Cuban, and Pakistani blood to the cousinly gene pool. It would have been relatively unusual (though not out of the question) for any of us first cousins to marry someone of another race or nationality. No longer is this the case. How many generations will it take for all these already blurring national distinctions to disappear entirely? This must be happening in families all over the United States.

The wedding took place in a beautiful part of Long Island. Z and I, along with daughter #1 (G), her husband (B) and daughter (C), who was the flower girl (groom's second cousin once removed), were guests in a 200-year old house with championship spaniels, ancestral antiques, and a free-form pool that had a waterfall, a natural stone diving board, and low-growing junipers cascading into the deep end. The reception was held at one of the oldest country clubs in the United States. We were entertained by costumed Russian dancers, and we dined on exquisite Russian fare: a complicated caviar appetizer, individual salmon coulibiac, perfect rare lamb chops.

Now Z and I are back in NJ. The newlyweds are honeymooning on the west coast. Cousins and second cousins have returned to Arizona, Vermont, Washington, Connecticut, and Massachussetts. There will be more togetherness next week.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Soopa!




Another new word, this time from today's NY Times crossword. Definition: Tiptop in hip-hop. Answer: Soopa! Makes sense.

Go Blog

Daughter #2, we'll call her Z, has just arrived on the red-eye from LA. She's napping now, needs to catch up. "Go blog, Mom", she tells me.

Well there's not much to blog ABOUT right now. It can't just be done on demand. I think we'll have lunch at H's. Z has never met the in-laws, and they will be leaving tomorrow, flying back to Islamabad. It's a very long trip - 14 hours. It would be more comfortable, next time, to plan to stop over for a day or two in London, they think. But this would require getting visas, an extra complication. It's not easy for Pakistanis to travel freely, as we do. Packing has already begun in earnest. The new "no carry-on rule", put into effect after they arrived, is causing a lot of consternation since they will be returning with many gifts for friends and family there. I'll be sad to see them go.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Coming Home with Adlai




It's August 1952, and my entire family is on the train, heading home from our annual vacation trip to my other grandmother's house in the Adirondacks. I'm almost twelve. My sisters are seven and three. We take the train because there aren't any superhighways yet, and because my father, the official Bloomington doctor for the Nickel Plate Railroad, gets a free pass for one leg of the trip.

It isn't very convenient. We first take the Gulf Mobile and Ohio from Bloomington to Chicago's Union Station. Then we have to get in a taxicab (think five people and tons of luggage, including golf clubs and fishing gear) and switch over to the LaSalle Street Station, where we pick up the Nickel Plate RR (the free part) for the next leg, from Chicago to Buffalo. We wait for several hours in the middle of the night to begin the final leg on the New York Central from Buffalo to Schenectady, where Aunt Lucy will meet us and drive us all to Northville.

We are on the return trip now, all of the above in reverse, heading back to Bloomington. Adlai Stevenson has just won the Democratic presidential nomination. Adlai grew up in Bloomington, on our street, in the stucco house where his sister, Buffie Ives, now lives. Even though he lives on his farm in Libertyville now, and, most recently, in the Governor's Mansion in Springfield, he will always consider Bloomington to be his home.

Before boarding the train we had all noticed the unusual activity in Union Station. Policemen everywhere, milling people, buzz, a sense of excitement. It is only after we are on board that we find out from a conductor that Adlai is on the same train, making his first trip "home" after the nomination.

As the train pulls into the Bloomington station we look out the window and see crowds of people lining the platform. My father announces (several times, in case we didn't get it the first time) that he had no idea that WE were such important characters. Usually it would be just Fafa at the station to pick us up. Look at all these folks who have come down to meet us!

Welcome home.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bulletin from the Kitchen

Dinner will be at H's again tonight. The in-laws, including younger sister M, are still here, though F and V and the twins have gone back to Albany. In their stead there will be some other guests. I said I'd bring some food, so I'm making potato salad, cold sesame noodles, and beet salad with mint (inspired by some I saw in the deli case at Whole Foods). I just need to go pick the mint now. It's the one thing in the garden that hasn't burned to a crisp in all this heat. Oh, and remind me not to buy mayo in a squeeze bottle again. It is impossible to get the last of it out.

Phone Faces

Some of you, and you know who you are, already know my views on driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time. I was taught to drive with my hands placed firmly at ten and two o'clock, and any deviation from this was considered to be dangerous.

Here's a new study that casts a different light on the subject. It's not just about the hands on the steering wheel. It's all about the role of the imagination in speaking to a person over the phone; how you have to use a part of your brain to visualize the person you're speaking to, or, in the words of the inestimable Ann Althouse, create a "phone face". Whatever part of your brain is busy with this visualization process cannot simultaneously be busy looking at the road. This makes sense to me.

"Big Sale"



So I was just heading outside to do some much-needed mowing and weeding. But you know how it is, you check the email one last time. Uh-oh. Here's a SALE - "thousands of items, 85% off". Who can resist? I click on five or six different articles that look appealing. Each time I get this message. Is it all a scam? Please. Would it be so hard to just DELETE the stuff you're out of? Don't you have COMPUTERS? Enough of this.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Comparing Numbers

My son-in-law has sent me a link to a special Dell site that explains how to tell whether you have one of the suspect batteries. My number is 02P692. Not on the list. Good, I suppose. On the other hand, this does NOT bode well for getting the new battery I ordered (would now link to earlier post if I knew how) in a timely fashion. Maybe it will arrive today, I muse hopefully....

Keeping up with Pop



Modern crosswords contain a lot of pop culture references. Today, for example, the NY Sun asks for "Fox Series on opposite CSI". From the crossing I gather the answer is "The OC" or ("Theoc"?). When these things come up I always google to find out more. I learn:

The O.C., otherwise known as Orange County, California, is an idyllic paradise - a wealthy, harbor-front community where everything and everyone appears to be perfect. But beneath the surface is a world of shifting loyalties and identities, of kids living secret lives, hidden from their parents, and of parents living secret lives, hidden from their children. Ryan Atwood, a troubled teen from the wrong side of the tracks who is thrust into this world, will soon learn that nothing is what it seems. He moves to the O.C. when Sandy Cohen, an idealistic pro-bono public defender, invites him to stay in his guest house. Sandy's wife, Kirsten, wealthy and beautiful, former homecoming queen, perfect spouse, mother, and business woman, isn't happy that Ryan has moved in. And she's worried about how it will affect their teenage son Seth, a soulful dreamer ostracized by his peers. Making the whole situation more interesting is Marissa Cooper, the heartbreakingly beautiful girl next door who seems to glide through life effortlessly. That is, until the indiscretions of her wealthy father Jimmy, threaten to break her world apart. The O.C. is a story of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and the coming of age of three young people. Ryan's arrival is the catalyst for new alliances forged, old flames rekindled, and unlikely friendships born.

OK. I think that's all I need to know. I make a note that "Mischa Barton" starred as Marissa, her role ending abruptly in "a fatal car accident". This I may need to know for a future puzzle.

Dell Redux

Just came across this. Dell is recalling laptop batteries. They're causing fires, it seems.

Monday, August 14, 2006

We're Number #2 and Trying Harder



I'm not sure if this is good or bad. Still getting my sea legs, and I have no idea what kind of audience, if any, I'm looking for. I guess this just proves that I'm official now. I exist.

Annals of Cybergifting




Dear Bloomingdalesregistry,

Once again, I want to confirm that the correct item was sent. I ordered a CONVECTION OVEN, not a toaster. When I telephoned the 888 number below after your previous "confirmation", I was assured that it was just a computer glitch and that, in fact, the order was being correctly processed. So why are you telling me AGAIN that a toaster is being sent? This is very unsettling.

Bloomingdalesregistry@FDS.Com wrote:
>> Thank you for shopping at Bloomingdales.WeddingChannel.com.>> This is to confirm that the following item(s) from your order#> W000213068892-xxxxxxxx, shipment# 001, were shipped on August 9, 2006.


>> PRODUCT DESCRIPTION Delonghi 6 Slice Stainless Toaster

Well, the wedding is this weekend and I'm looking forward to it. I better not hear anyone say "thanks for the toaster".

Comments

For some reason the "comment" option isn't showing up at the end of the posts, except for the very first one. Trying to figure out why. I just changed a setting that said "Show comments in new posts" from No to Yes. Let's see if that helps.

One minute later, after checking: OK, that seems to have fixed it. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work retroactively. Anyway, from now on: comment away!

Showing off and reminiscing


Those last two posts were mostly just experiments to see if I could get links to those clips to show up here. Because I am using Blogger I can take advantage of a special Blog This button since it's all part of the Google system. I think I might want to learn to fine tune this somehow, and be able to paste a YouTube clip into a post more like a regular graphic. There's something odd about the way the titles are formatted when it's done this way. Oh well. I'll figure it out in time.

It's true that I used to go to the movies all the time with my Bloomington grandmother. My grandfather (Fafa) never came with us, though the three of us would often go out to dinner together afterwards. Most often it would be to the Jefferson Cafeteria, but sometimes we'd go to the Village Inn (a rathskellar-y sort of place with a lot of murals, stairways, and little private nooks and crannies for seating) or the YWCA, or, less frequently, the dining hall at Illinois Wesleyan which must have been open to the public. And then I'd pester them to take me to buy a fresh batch of comic books in the tiny newsstand next door to Walgreen's: Archie, Little Lulu, Donald Duck, Nancy and Sluggo, Katy Keene - those were the favorites, especially Little Lulu. I must have had hundreds of them.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Oscar Peterson Quartet

And here's a long clip of Oscar Peterson doing "Cakewalk". I could spend a lot of time poking around here. It's way better than TV. Oh right - I don't HAVE TV. Anyway, this is better.
Benny Goodman

Have you discovered YouTube yet? This clip is from the 1948 movie "A Song is Born", with Danny Kaye. I was eight then, and probably saw it with my grandmother at the Irvin Theater in Bloomington, Ill. Children's admission was fourteen cents. Mel Powell on piano. Just click on the arrow to get it started.

Bubble Sitting

F and V need to move. They live in the small townhouse in downtown Albany that F bought and renovated before he met V. Now, with the twins, the space doesn't work. There's not enough of it, and it's on three impractical levels. It appears that they will be able to sell it for a nice profit and, remarkably, buy a much larger "regular" house for less money. I thought this odd until I remembered that it works that way here, too; a couple can often sell their bursting-at-the-seams one-bedroom condo in the city for more than they need to buy a nice house out here.

I keep wondering if I ought to scale down. I have the love-hate thing going on with the garden and the outdoor maintenance, not to mention the indoor maintenance (daughter #2 calls it the "whack-a-mole" syndrome) and the taxes. But it seems that all the nicer condos - at least any that I'd consider - will cost as much as or more than I'd get from the house. And now I read about this thing called "bubble sitting", meaning, essentially, that you sell NOW, while prices are still high, then rent for a while til all the prices come tumbling down. Sell high, buy low. If only it were that easy.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

If it's Saturday

it must be market day. The Saturday Farmer's Market in Montclair always draws a crowd. Truth be told, at this time of year I feel that supermarket produce is nearly as good, but who would admit to that? Walked around afterwards and took in the nearby Walnut Street scene. There are new loft condos available there but I checked them out on line and they seem awfully pricey. And probably too big. I bought a cheese scone at Gina's and some tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil to take to dinner tonight at H's (daughter #3 who lives nearby). Her in-laws are visiting, as well as brother-in-law F and wife V with adorable twin baby boys. I'm pretty pleased with the photos, which I would never have taken but for this new blog. Already I am learning new things. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 11, 2006

Starting with Sudoku

This is the first thing I do every morning. The colors add an extra dimension that I enjoy, and the puzzles are pretty easy. Wakes up my brain. I'm also a double-crostic and crossword fan. I work a double-crostic every day, and usually at least two crosswords (NYT and NY Sun). I've also constructed quite a few double-crostics for this site. I guess you could say I'm a bit of a puzzle fanatic. But I'm a speed solver, so it doesn't really take a lot of time. I can usually do the most difficult crosswords (Saturday NYT and Friday NY Sun) in about twenty minutes. Which is nowhere near good enough to place me among the top solvers. Still, I plug away. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dell Hell

I've always had Dell computers, and have generally been pleased with what little tech support I've needed. But this most recent brouhaha has changed my mind. I've had this laptop for about 2 years now. Recently, when using it on battery power (Wifi, and all that), it was shutting down after only thirty minutes or so with no warning. Time for a new battery, I thought. Fair enough. The Dell website makes it seductively easy to figure out what kind you need. I order and pay for it with just a few keystrokes. Two days later (I continue to be impressed) I find a package from Dell on my doorstep.

The nightmare begins. Does this look like a battery to you? Do batteries come with install software? Do they come with a manual entitled "Installing your Dell Mobile Broadband Card"? I think not. Still, it ought to be a simple problem to resolve, right? Just call Dell, explain that they sent the wrong thing, and ask them to send the RIGHT thing.

Ten days later, after speaking to four customer service reps, and posting twice on the Dell website I think we might be on the way to a solution. Why has this been so difficult? Why does a company like Dell make it impossible to speak to a human being without going through endless loops of recorded messages? Why do "customer service" websites provide no way to send a direct email? The reps (all women, all effusively polite, all in India, despite having names like "Janice" and "Chloe" ) were all hell-bent on identifying the mystery item pictured. They wanted to know its value . They wanted to know its "product number". I, on the other hand, wanted them to focus on sending me the battery I ordered. Now Chloe has promised that she will give this her personal attention and that I will receive the battery in "seven to ten days". (Was it unreasonable of me to ask why so long?) We shall see. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Here we go!

OK. I did it. I have a blog. It's been on my mind to do it for quite some time, but the catalyst was reading these words of a favorite blogger, Nina Camic http://ninacamic.blogspot.com:

One question that I have for you, the reader: so what has happened to all the women who are done with child-rearing? Are they too exhausted to blog? With one notable exception, every female blogger that I know is either prior to or in the midst of child rearing. And even if she decides not to have children – she is definitely under the age of fifty. Young voices permeate the blogosphere: they set the tone even as they write from a history that is very very short. ...Oh point me to the blogging woman who is a decade older than I am! Missing, she is missing from my list of daily blogs.

Here I am. I don't know yet how this blog will evolve. I'll be writing about how I fill my days: my family, my garden, my opinions, reading, cooking, bridge (are there any other bridge blogs out there?), maybe a little travel. I want to make photography a more regular part of my life, so I'll be providing ongoing graphic commentary where appropriate. And we're off.