Saturday, June 20, 2009

Photo of the day: Attack of the New Zealanders

In trying out my wonderful new zoom lens the other day I caught several planes coming in for a landing at SFO. I was really impressed with the "image stabilizer" feature of the lens, which lets me capture moving targets with a sweet clarity. While this is one of the dullest photographs ever, I'm posting it because I'm pleased with how close this lens gets me. This weekend, I must go on a safari. (After I review at least two CDs for the station, clean the bathroom, do the laundry, go grocery shopping....oh fuck, I'm boring myself.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cat Burglar
A few minutes ago there was an attempted break in at our house.

I heard the sound of clawing at the screen door into the backyard and went to investigate. With a flashlight I found the culprit, sitting on the top step, trying to get in. It was one of the brown tabbies, caught red-pawed. He didn't run away and, in fact, when I crouched down to his eye level he just stared at me with this "well, are you going to open the door or not?" look. I talked to him through the door and did my best to discourage him from this life of crime. I'm sure he had the usual sob story. Mother with loose morals. Absentee father. Running with a tough crowd. But his response to my attempt to set him on the straight and narrow was to renew his efforts to claw his way through the screen. So I opened the back door and he made tracks so fast I didn't even see him leave. (Hmmm...maybe he was a ghost cat.)

It's a very windy night here and, as I discovered when I opened the door, quite cold for June. I don't know what he was doing because he obviously didn't want to come in (not that I would have let him, anyway). But it was a very odd few moments with me staring at our intruder through the screen door. Perhaps if I work with a sketch artist we can catch him. I know he had green eyes and pointed ears. I'm sure we'll see his photo soon, in the post office.
Pick Your Battles
The fine freaks at PETA are shooting themselves in their natural-fiber clad foot again by taking president Obama to task for swatting a fly. Yeah, way to pick your battles there, naked people. It's not like you need him on your side for important legislature regarding endangered species, lobbying for an end to whale killing, seal clubbing, and wolves being shot from helicopters. No you go right ahead and piss him off from the start about a fucking fly. You know, the kind that you kill by the dozens driving your eco-friendly car through a summer evening gnat storm. So what's the procedure? You've got naked supermodels painted with cuts of beef on their bodies and they're going to lay down in front of the NY Stock Exchange to protest the fact that McDonalds makes more money that the cereal company "Grist Mill". But as you turn the corner...oh no! A bug has just kamakazeed itself against your winshield. So, do you cite yourself for cruelty? Does one of the models have to cut off a limb in atonement, you know, to balance our karma with natureworldgoddess?

You come home from a hard day of standing in a bikini and a stuffed harp seal to find your apartment has been infested with cockroaches. Of course you don't reach for the RAID. You reprimand them for not asking permission to eat all your arugula nut balls and suggest they might be happier outside. You will leave the windows open for them to leave and they repay your kindness by inviting in all their rat friends. Eventually you will have to accept such coexistence is not working as you've now got a rat bite right next to your Brazilian wax. I suppose you can buy them all bus tickets to a nice farm upstate where there will be toys and other rats and roaches to play with and lots of land to roam. Or you can stop being a total shitfuck and kill the damned things.

Now anyone who knows me knows that I love animals. I support WWF, Defenders of WIldlife, local rescue centers, international organizations devoted to the ecology and vanishing species. But I eat meat, because it's tasty. I don't wear fur, because that's just dumb. But I do not put a high value on the life of a fly. It comes onto my turf, it's mine. And since I don't think they're in danger of extinction, I feel safe in knocking one silly with a rolled up National Geographic. So why in the name of all that has a brain, doest PETA insist on doing galactically stupid things like alienating the President over a fly. Do they really think the next time "a hey your fishing nets are killing turtles" debate crops up and they arrive naked, (Why do they always have to be naked?) but for turtle suits, that Washington will say "Oh yes, we must listen to them for they have changed the world view on killing flies." You see, people kill the fly because it's an annoying buzz. PETA is its own annoying buzz. They need to graduate up to something that more of a voice and less of a "hey, we interrupted our AP English class discussion of Animal Farm by running naked into the classroom with signs that read "Meat is Fear" so that should also work with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

PETA, behave yourselves! If you want animal rights, stop pissing off the ones that can help you get those rights. Stop the grandstading we-were-on-Entertainment Tonight tactics that just make you look like a bunch of illogical lunatics. If you want to make a change, then work toward it, don't just throw temper tantrums. Meet with Obama and say here's what we want. Ask for protection for the arctic wilderness and the Amazon rainforest. Tell him we need stricter codes on puppy and kitten mills. We need more funding for shelters to care for the animals that fill organizations all over the country. We need strong spay and neutering programs for cats and dog. Stop worrying about flies and try moving up the food chain a bit. Because I have a sneaking feeling that approaching reasonable individuals as reasonable individuals and not some hemp-clad shock mob you'll find them more willing to talk to you. And you'll get a hell of a lot more support if you talk dogs, cats, wolves, turtles, whales, that kind of thing than if you insist on demonstrating humane lice traps and kind ways to convince fleas to flee.
Photo of the day: The Judas Hole

I'll go out this weekend and take tons of new, beautiful photos with my new, beautiful lens. But for now, I've had 5 hours sleep in the past two days so you get a picture of the inside of my door. Fun!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Power of Song
I have just watched the PBS target="new">Great Performances production of Chess in Concert, a version of the hip 1980's musical that spawned the classic "One Night in Bangkok."

I am not a musical theatre fan, but I must confess that I love Chess. I played the original recording so much that I can still sing almost all of the songs by heart. This version was a bit disconcerting because they changed the lyrics, gave songs to characters that weren't in that number in the cast recording, and added some music I don't ever recall hearing. I even saw the musical in London in the 80s and remember loving it.

This version stars PBS's own velvet-voiced fair haired favorite, Josh Groban. He's one of those performers where I love his voice. (No, really I do.) But don't like any of his recordings. I think he has a gorgeous instrument but his over-the-top smarmy love songs just make me want to puke. So it was interesting to hear him sing songs that I like and, I have to confess, I thought he did a great job. In fact I liked pretty much all of the male cast, but was less enthusiastic about the females. (Idina Menzel, while no doubt having a lovely voice, is no Elaine Paige.)

But then Groban got to "Anthem," the show-stopping love song to a homeland that ends the first act. And that's where the melancholy kicked in. You see, my late, lamented friend Stephen Frugoli used to sing this song. It was a favorite audition number of his, a signature tune when he'd perform cabaret while touring with Les Miserables and the song he sang at the pre-wedding cabaret for some dear friends. I swear I can still picture him getting up on that stage. A bit frail as he'd been fighting pneumonia and overwhelmed by the clothing that was too large for his too-rapidly-shrinking frame. And then he belted out "Anthem" and I swear everyone in the room got tears in their eyes. Perhaps I'm romanticizing the moment, but I don't think I am. Even though he voice was obviously not at its best, he still managed to make the crowd erupt. It was one of my all-time sweetest, most favorite memories of him and so I cannot hear this song without thinking of him.

In many ways I think Stephen did it much better than Groban. Stephen's voice was a bit deeper and he managed to bring a sort of melancholy passion to that song that made it soar. Groban did an outstanding job and is no doubt a better singer. But Josh Groban never brought me breakfast in bed or helped me paint my bedroom. And while I miss Stephen and his partner (my best friend and brother, Steve Sutherland) every day of my life, it was sweet to be reminded of that one night when we were all together, happy, celebrating, and alive and Stephen made the room fall in love with him.
Remember me?
I got my hair cut today and ended up sitting next to a woman I went to high school with. She recognized me, which I can't figure out is a good thing or a bad thing. Her I wouldn't have known. Mostly because I had to wrack my brain just to recall that I had known her. Her name was familiar, but that was pretty much all.

She seems like a very sweet, very nice woman. But I was amazed at how many people from high school she was still friends with. I kept in touch with exactly two people from high school. One died of AIDS and the other lives in Saudi Arabia. So high school reunions are not exactly big on my to-do list. But this woman chatted about our upcoming reunion (to which I wouldn't go if I was forced to at gunpoint) and caught me up on a litany of people whose faces I couldn't recall and whose names were only a vague recollection. She knew that Mary Jones is a teacher and Ann Brown is a nurse. Bob Smith died in a jet ski accident, which I'm sure is a tragedy but I'm pretty sure I never knew a Bob Smith. Dave Shmultski has three kids and is an architect in Phoenix and Susan Flugelhoffer is a dentist and is working on her third marriage.

It was really weird sitting there talking to a stranger about unknown people while gunk on my head turned my hair from gray to brown and people around us were discussing summer vacations and home repairs. She knew so much about so many people that I have forgotten that it surprised me.

I don't have any friends that go back that far. For me my oldest friendships stem from the mid-80's. Everyone before that has either died or we just fell out of touch. My best friend for most of high school moved to Columbus, Ohio and basically disappeared. My friend Maria is really just a Christmas card pal as she and her husband and kids have made a life out of living all over the world (Japan, Peru, Turkey, Malaysia, and now, Saudi Arabia) and I haven't actually seen her in over a decade. So the concept of this woman having been friends for 40 years with someone we both graduated with is astounding. (No, I haven't been out of high school 40 years -- they met in grade school.) But it was a nice slice of small town life to run into someone from the past and both flattering and baffling that she remembered me.
Photo of the day: Pidge, Part Deux

I know I just did a pigeon the other day, but I took shitload of pigeon pictures so you have to suffer through another.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Photo of the day: Locked Out

Actually I guess it should be "locked up" as this was securing a picnic table and benches together. But what the hell, it's an interesting shot.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I took Caltrain down to see Husband this afternoon, with a connection to the light rail system to get me from Mountain View to Hell Central. I'd forgotten how fascinating it is to take the train. Not the train part, but the observation. Higher than ground level, speeding past lives, you get glimpses into little worlds. Sure, it's voyeuristic, but that's part of the charm. You look out through a window much in need of cleaning, and you keep your eyes open.

I passed low-rent apartments where people were hanging laundry out on balcony clotheslines and high-priced homes with a BMW in the drive and a gardener in the yard. I saw welding, towing, and carpentry. A woman pushing triplets in the world's largest stroller and a man riding one bike and holding on to another one that he was either taking home or stealing. Two dogs wrestling in a park, one cat staring out of a condo window, and three kids all wearing sports gear from a different team (Niners, Giants, A's). I saw tech geeks with uppity briefcases, iPod, iPhone, and laptops. I saw an obviously exhausted woman in nurse wear with three shopping bags and no front tooth. I was treated to a 3-year old's screamingly annoying rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and the thrumming beat of the hip-hop-hood behind me whose headphones were so loud I could even understand some of the words. I saw teenagers kiss goodbye with the desperate passion that only teenagers can the Palo Alto station, no doubt it would be at least 18 hours before they saw each other again and that last kiss has to hold them. And I saw, much to my amusement, how all the guys on the train looked up as the hot girl walked by.

I passed a guy in a wheelchair with a "Homeless Vet" sign and a scruffy mutt at his feet talking to a security guard who was eating an apple. And a huge guy in really skanky dreadlocks who was carrying what looked like a violin. Among my fellow passengers were observed the following items: two tennis rackets; a large sheet of poster board with photos of Hawaii on it; three huge suitcases that belonged to one small woman; a loaf of bread (no bag, no other groceries, just a guy carrying a loaf of bread); a red inflatable reindeer with wheels (I SWEAR I am not making this up!); a plastic lei, several computers, iPods, and cell phones; and a wok.

And all this passed by without me ever leaving my seat. Transit is heaven for someone who loves to people watch.
Insomnia is an odd creature. Sometimes I handle it better than others.

There are some nights where it doesn't bother me that I'm awake. I nestle cozily into a nest of pillows and blankets and indulge in a favorite old movie or good book. I'll have hot cocoa at 3 am or toast at 5.

Then there are the nights that feel 27-hours long and I feel 97-years old. Tonight is one of those nights. I feel all the well-earned aches and pains of working at the shelter (today I folded three barrels of towels). I'm exhausted and sleepy, but cannot sleep. I can't get comfortable or shut my brain off.

I know I'll fall asleep eventually tomorrow, I mean this, morning. And I'll be grateful to be unemployed and not have to haul my ass out of bed at 7 am even though I've only been asleep for an hour. If I'm lucky I'll get two or three hours before I wake up and get on with my day. Luckier still to have a day off to deal with being a zombie. I'm off at the shelter and not doing my radio show, so I don't even have to leave the house if I feel too tired to drive.

But with Husband snoring peacefully in the bedroom and Cipher curled up next to him like a loyal feline angel, I have to admit that I'm envious of everyone who manages to have a regular sleep cycle. And now, on to the next video.
Photo of the day: Pidge

My wonderful husband gave me a fabulous present for our 6th wedding anniversary yesterday. A zoom lens for my camera. Expect to see a whole crop of new and better photos. I went out by the bay and took over 200 photos in less than an hour. The zoom is great and quite versatile. I found that it also takes great close-up photos of things nearby. Such as this pigeon.

Thanks, Husband. For the lens and, more importantly, for 6 amazing years. I love you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pay Up
This article in the New York Times illustrates an increasingly-common practice in today's economy: credit card companies settling for less that the full amount owed in order to get delinquent accounts to pay something. You've probably seen the ads on TV for those credit counseling companies that offer to negotiate down your credit card bill.

Excuse me, but isn't that, well, stealing?

If you take something and don't pay for it, your a thief. If you charge $10,000 at Nordstrom and can't afford to pay it you get to negotiate so that you get that $10,000 worth of merchandise for only $6000? Why is that right?

Like most people, Husband and I have credit cards. And here's the thing, we pay our bills. Yes, I feel sorry for people who are out of work and in debt. But the thing is, and here's the hard lesson, don't buy things you can't pay for. I get the concept that if you have no money the idea of buying something and putting off paying for it is attractive, perhaps you might even see it as your only option. But you should have to pay for it eventually. And waiting until you're $10k in debt before you admit you can't pay for it is just wrong. But now it seems to be legal. Well I don't think it is. Nor do I think it's moral or fair. We pay our bills and I know we're lucky to be able to. If we couldn't pay them we'd stop charging things and find a way to pay the rest of the account. We wouldn't buy clothing we can't afford or trips we could live without. Yeah, if we were starving we might want to charge groceries. But I think we'd probably go to a food bank first because we would know we wouldn't be able to pay the bill once it came in.

Forgive my high horse here (what the hell does that expression mean, anyway?) but I'm tired of the sheer unfairness of it all. And it doesn't make sense. If you negotiate with a credit card company to pay, say $5k of a $7k debt it means you've got $5k to pay them with. Well why didn't you pay them the $5k in the first place so your account wouldn't be overdue? And why, when you're that much in debt and know you can't pay, do you continue to keep charging? Cut up your Visa card for fuck's sake.
Photo of the day: Liar, Liar, House on Fire

Playing with fire effects again. Don't tell my brother the fire chief.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Overheard at the grocery store 1:
Man on cell phone: I was watching the Giants game, but I think she said he died.

(Wouldn't that be something you might want to be sure about?)

Overheard at the grocery store 2:
Woman to man, in produce section: Get some carrots and some apples.
Man: Aren't we out of bread too?
Woman: Did I tell you to get bread?

(Well that's a happy marriage.

Overheard at the shelter:
Little girl: Look mommy, kittens!
Mom: Don't touch the kittens, Imelda.
Little girl: If I don't touch them how will we know which one alive?

(Um, they're all alive, genius girl.)
Photo of the day: Playing Around

Now that I've recovered the completely incomprehensible manual for the camera I'm hoping to learn how to use it to take better photos. This is not one of them, but it's an accident that I found pleasing.