Sunday, March 25, 2012

Friends and neighbors

The Dauphins were here last night for pizza after a day at the railroad. It gave us a chance to show Matthew the Skype set-up. I am not sure if he or John had more fun fooling around with it.

This morning Peggy and Rich came by with some gifts from their trip south. Among other things, Tom got a t-shirt, and I got a YooDara doll: (think voodoo doll crossed with trolls and online game). Mine is Zen, a member of the Wisdom Tribe. According to the website, "Members of the Wisdom Tribe are considered to be the tribal elders and educators. They act as counselors to the YooDara Chief and spiritual leaders for all the people." Zen is supposed to give me the wisdom to balance my life with harmony and peace. Thanks, guys!

Okay, everyone, take a deep breath, let it out slowly and think peaceful thoughts.

All better?

Doctor's visit

I had my annual checkup on Friday and that went well. The doctor was particularly pleased that I have kept my weight steady. I lost 30 pounds between my checkups in 2010 and 2011, and I have maintained that. He had put both of us on a low glycemic eating plan, and since Tom does almost all the cooking (except for my breakfast and lunch -- lunch normally being leftovers from dinner the night before), his wonderful and carefully balanced meals have made it much easier for me to be good.

The better news for me was that this led the doctor to take me off a blood pressure pill AND to take me off another pill that I was taking to counteract a side effect of the blood pressure pill. He took me off a third as well, which made me very happy. I had been intending to ask him what I could do to reduce my reliance on meds, but he did it before I had a chance to ask.

I also got some shot they give people my age to prevent shingles. This is a one-time deal, I think.

I will get a report next week on my lab work. If the numbers there are good, I will see if I can get off the cholesterol med next go-round. The thyroid (my thryoid gland is practically dead in the water) and gout meds I will be stuck with forever, I guess.

Hunger Games movie

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The feast is on: "The Hunger Games" has taken in $68.25 million domestically in its first day, a record for a non-sequel.

The Friday total for Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games" was the fifth-best opening day ever and puts the movie on track for the best debut weekend ever in March. That record is held by "Alice in Wonderland" with $116.1 million.

The big start should translate into an opening weekend of as much as $140 million domestically, according to Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker

"The Hunger Games" stars Jennifer Lawrence as a teen forced to compete in a televised death match against other youths in a future North American society where a privileged capital city oppresses the people of 12 outlying worker districts. The film is based on the first book in a best-selling trilogy by author Suzanne Collins.
These books are ginormously popular. The holds list at the library (people who are waiting to get a copy) is over 850 names. You don't have to read the books or see the movie, though, to realize that hunger even in America is not a problem for a post-apocalyptic future.

According to Feeding America,
Hunger Study 2010

Hunger in America 2010 is the largest study of domestic hunger, providing comprehensive and statistically-valid data on our emergency food distribution system and the people Feeding America serves. Hunger in America 2010 is extremely detailed, drawing on data from more than 61,000 interviews with clients and surveys of 37,000 feeding agencies.
The report shows that hunger is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States, and our network is expanding its reach in response:

Feeding America is annually providing food to 37 million Americans, including 14 million children. This is an increase of 46 percent over 2006, when we were feeding 25 million Americans, including 9 million children, each year.
That means one in eight Americans now rely on Feeding America for food and groceries.
Feeding America's nationwide network of food banks is feeding 1 million more Americans each week than we did in 2006.
Thirty-six percent of the households we serve have at least one person working.
More than one-third of client households report having to choose between food and other basic necessities, such as rent, utilities and medical care.
The number of children the Feeding America network serves has increased by 50 percent since 2006. [Emphasis added: Michael]
I know we sometimes wonder about financial appeals from large groups. So I am not suggesting you send money to Feeding America, unless that appeals to you after you look at their website. I do suggest, however, that we all take the opportunity to donate something to our local food pantry or other local organization that reaches out to the hungry in our area.

SomeOne once said something along the lines of "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The night before I see the doctor for my annual checkup ...

So I ran across this article online, misleading as most such reports are. Read it carefully:
Seaweed toast can help you eat less: Study
By Mike Krumboltz | The Upshot – 2 hrs 52 mins ago

Enjoy a nice piece of seaweed toast in the morning? Today is your lucky day, weirdo! A new study has found that eating a slice of toast enriched with seaweed could help burn more calories than 30 minutes spent on the treadmill.

During tests conducted at Sheffield Hallam University near South Yorkshire, England, nearly 80% of overweight men who ate a scrambled egg on seaweed toast said they felt so full that they consumed, on average, 179 calories less each day than men who ate regular toast.

According to an article from The Telegraph, none of the men tested could tell the difference between the toasts. The men who ate the seaweed kind reported they felt more full due to a particular agent in the seaweed that acts as a "bulking agent." It gives the stomach a feeling of fullness.
I suppose you noticed that the author says, "A new study has found that eating a slice of toast enriched with seaweed could help burn more calories than 30 minutes spent on the treadmill." Now the study may indeed have found this, but that is not what the information cited says. All it says is that they consumed, on average, 179 calories less each day than men who ate regular toast. This is not at all the same as saying they ate the toast and then burned 179 calories, It just means they did not EAT 179 calories. The article implies the seaweed had an impact on the metabolic rate, whereas the citation only says that the seaweed had an indirect impact on the number of calories consumed, an impact caused by the feeling of fullness.

At any rate, I have eaten seaweed before -- having friends who follow a macrobiotic diet or an Asian one -- and I have to admit it probably made me consume fewer calories. I would not attribute that to the feeling of fullness, though. I think it just ruined my appetite.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What the warm weather brings ...

These warm days are bringing plants and other things to life. Lots of bugs now, including ants in the house and a butterfly out back. (Maybe it is because I did not grow up in Wisconsin but in Texas, but it seems to me there were a lot more butterflies around when I was a kid.) Also, note to Tom and self: Ant traps!

And we saw our first garter snake of the year. We were looking over the side of the deck trying to decide where to plant something and a foot-long snake slid by. Usually we deal with snakes that the cats bring in the house, small ones that they catch on the rocks that line the flowerbeds along the front sidewalk. This more sizable specimen hung around briefly before heading to the back of the property. Cassidy went down to investigate, but by then the snake had moved on.

At any rate, the very warm days are about to cool down later in the week. And we may have some thunderstorms and showers most of the week. Today though we still enjoy dry, sunny and warm.

As apparently do the snakes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


These seem to be family-connected days.

The sad news first. My cousin Linda, only a few years my senior, died of cancer this past week. She lived with us for a short period while she was in elementary school, which always made me think of her as a semi-sister as well as a cousin. (This is how I feel about her sisters LaNelle and Kay who spent some time with us, too.) This is the second cousin I have lost within the past 13 months, as well as losing my father last summer. It has been a rough patch, but I guess this is what happens as we grow older. I think I lost some other, more distant relations, but they were people I knew only as names.

On a livelier note, Peter was here this past week on his spring break from teaching. Helen came down for a few days to visit while he was here. They each took off this morning, Peter heading south and Helen north. Tonight Tom and I go to Madison to see Lucy. She is participating in a roller derby bout at the Alliant Center.

The cats are readjusting to a less crowded house. They grew up with Helen and Peter, so they are not strangers. But you know how cats are about any change in the environment.

Weather is glorious: sunny, highs around 80 (26.6 C).

And happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all! May you find your pot of gold or at least see a rainbow. ;-)

On another note, I broke down and got a web cam and opened Skype and Logitech Vid accounts. I may break down further and reactivate Facebook. I am being dragged reluctantly into the present. But as Calvin said when being dragged off kicking and screaming to the bath tub, "They can make me do it, but they can't make me do it with dignity!"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Think we're all equal?

You can be fired just for being gay. Not because you did anything wrong, not because you are not doing your job, not because being gay in any way causes problems at work. But just because you're gay. In more than half the States in the Land of the Free.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Next Big Thing prediction

Tom and I watched 45 minutes of the pilot for ABC's GCB last night. I am going to go out on a limb and predict this will be a big hit.

Why? Because we both decided after 45 minutes of the hour-long program that
a) we would not be watching it every Sunday night; and
b) we had no desire to watch even the last fifteen minutes of the episode we were watching.

My experience has been that when I think a show is terrible, it is likely to explode across the dramasphere. (This does not mean that shows I like are doomed. Some of them do quite well, some implode. No predictive value there based on previous experience.)

The classic example of this in my case was the pilot for Dallas. Brother Michael Tiernan and I watched in in DC and I remember telling him confidently, "This won't be back next week."

Was I wrong or what?

Anyway, if you saw and enjoyed GCB, more power to you. As I say, I am not good at picking hits.

On a side note, why is it that shows set in Texas rarely get the accent right? It always sounds false. Reba was a notable exception, but she grew up in Oklahoma and knew whereof she accented.

Mama would remind me that Texas is so big there are different accents in different parts of the state. This is true. But that accent actors seem to think is Dallas leaves me cold. I didn't grow up in Dallas, but I lived there for almost a decade.

But I can't complain about any of this, can I, it still being Lent? So pass these off as mere observations, please.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nice shirt?

I was reading the news online this morning and noticed a link to a men's clothing site. Some of the things in the ad looked good, so I hopped on over.

Lots of good stuff, some dressy, some casual, mostly looking like things you have to be 25 and skinny to wear. I picked this shirt to show you because it is pretty normal. It is a dress shirt and the checked pattern is in subtle blue and yellow.



The good news: It's returnable if you don't like the fit.

Like the fit? I'm having one just thinking about that price tag.

On the other hand, it may not be as bad as one polo shirt I liked. That one cost less, only $375, but it is, after all, just a polo shirt, not a polo pony!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Must see, must hear

I happened across the soundtrack from this movie today online, and listening to it again brought tears to my eyes. I excerpted these remarks from an article by Brian Vaszily on The article is about the music, and I have cut out much of the heart of his message, which is get the music and hear it before you see the movie. Whatever. If you have not seen this heartbreakingly beautiful movie, run out and get it. When I saw it during its original theater run, at the end of the movie, no one got up and left during the titles. We all waited until the last credit had run and the last note in the music had ended. Then we sat in stunned silence for a few minutes until people began to drift out quietly.

See it and you will understand why.

The Mission Soundtrack:
The Most Powerful Music of the Last 21 Years?

by Brian Vaszily, founder of

If you seek hope, peace, beauty, and clarity -- especially during a time of apparent confusion, ugliness, strife or hopelessness – there are few things I recommend as much as music. And there is absolutely no music I recommend more than this:

The Mission Soundtrack by the great film score composer Ennio Morricone.

If you appreciate music and how it can move through you like nothing else can (aside from possibly nature itself), how it can transform you so completely, do your heart and soul a favor and let them experience this uplifting masterpiece.

The late Italian Ennio Morricone, who composed more than 300 motion picture scores over his 45-year career including the soundtracks for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Bugsy and Cinema Paradiso, and who received an Honorary Award for his lifetime of work at the Academy Awards in February 2007, composed this 47-minute score for the 1986 film, The Mission.

The Mission movie was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Directing, Costume Design, Film Editing, and Musical Score in 1986, and it won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

That film, about the physical, emotional and spiritual experiences of a Spanish Jesuit missionary in eighteenth century South America that stars Jeremy Irons, Robert De Niro, and Liam Neeson, was excellent and is definitely worth watching. But in its power, beauty, and timelessness, The Mission Soundtrack-- which many consider Morricone’s crowning achievement to date, and which itself was nominated for an Academy Award in 1986 -- far transcends the movie it supported.


Like only the immortal music can, the soundtrack’s Spanish guitars, chorales, native drumming, solo oboe and other perfectly woven sounds, and its softly recurring themes, will plumb to the depths of you and gently pull forth the hope, peace, beauty and clarity that, though they may be hidden, are already yours. Every time. This is the type of music through which you endlessly discover, forgive, love and glimpse the greater glory in everything.


With a positive force that few other works of art can match, ... it still moves me now. In its strange and wonderful mixture of sorrowful and uplifting sounds, it moves me when things feel bad to a bigger and beautiful place. And it moves me when things feel good to an even better place.

Will it be that profound for you? Well, that’s hard to say for sure as music is such a subjective thing, but that said I still think so. This one, The Mission Soundtrack, feels about as universal as it gets.

Thursday, March 1, 2012