Warm California Sun

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Well, it was warmer than 6 degrees, anyway. It got up around 60 in Sacramento, we saw some sun, and there were oranges in the Capitol park, but I couldn’t figure out how to free them from their bondage without having to explain myself to The Man. There are some things state agency executives Just Don’t Do, and rustling oranges at another state’s capitol building is probably one of them.
There’s a certain agreeable rhythm to a cross-country flight — takeoff, movie starts (Spy Kids 2. Seen it. Twice.), drinks, food, drinks, bathroom/leg stretching break, drinks, end of video, last break, and then just as you’re getting restless and tired of listening and reading and solitaire on the Palm Pilot, you touch down. Of course, you touch down in Philly or Pitt, so you’ve got another hour of this nonsense before you’re home, but right now, it’s okay. I think this is the seventh cross-country trip in the past couple of years, one of the few perks of the job. If it’s a perk to worry about being stranded, having to reroute from Philly to Pitt, and spending hours in the nearly abandoned USAirways terminal at SFO with zero food or drink options. Oddest thing ever : in order to balance our unusually empty Airbus 321, which had a cargohold full of lettuce, we all had to sit behind row 18 until we’d hit level flight. Odd, no? Never heard of this on a jet before, but we did it, and I took my patented takeoff nap so it wouldn’t matter much whether they’d really managed to make the right calculation based on “average passenger weight for wintertime.” They really told us that. Anyway…
Not much play on this trip. Stayed at the new Sheraton Grand in Sacramento, nice but still ironing out the kinks. Didn’t even try out the pool. But Thursday afternoon we took the Land Shark (Lincoln Town Car, The Car That Doesn’t Feel The Road) up to Napa, via the back roads, and had a nice time touring wineries and an olive oil tasting place. Shipped home a bunch of stuff for Christmas, flavored oils and so on. Weather was agreeable (especially considering back home was getting socked). Up around 60, but cool at night. Got in one run, and hit the ileotibial band wall right away. Not happy about that. Adjusted badly to the time change, and now I’m having a hard time adjusting back. Didn’t even see the ocean this time.
Newly discovered old Zevon:
“We made mad love, shadow love,
Random love and abandoned love
Accidentally, like a martyr
The hurt gets worse
And the heart gets harder”

Pikachu Eats Times Square<

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Pikachu Eats Times Square!
New York Thanksgiving
Pikachu eats Times Square, yes?
Bright pink tongue, happy.
That’s my haiku for Thanksgiving in NYC, which was fabulous expensive fun. Now I’ve done New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving in New York (albeit 22 years apart) — what else could there be?
The girls were wonderful, the room at the Dumont Plaza sparkling (though overheated), the weather chilly but not frigid. We saw the inflating of the balloons, a very enjoyable little stroll around the Upper West Side. Got up not so very early on parade morning and made our way to Times Square (where potties were available, if necessary, in the hotels), and after a while, through some attrition among the underdressed, and some good will, Lee was able to squeeze Hannah up to the front where a batch of kids was sitting. I held Bekah, all 60 pounds of her, up for a while, and then there was space for her, too. I am not a person for crowds or mass spectacles, but if you’ve ever watched the parade on TV and thought it would be fun to be there in person, all I can say is, save up all your bread and fly TransLove Airways to [END outdated Animals reference] New York City. There was such energy, such a friendly, joyous buzz in the crowd, spontaneous bursts of applause for New York’s Finest and New York’s Bravest (though the real heroes of an event like that are New York’s Strongest, the Department of Sanitation — and yes, that’s really what they call them), and the balloons. The balloons are huge. Gigantic. Just amazing. The day was fairly windless, so we didn’t have any dangerous excitement, but even so, when a giant yellowish mac-and-cheese-box dinosaur starts drifting over your head . . . well, that’s a New York experience.
Lovely dinner with sister-in-law in Brooklyn, who put on huge amounts of food, and it was all good. Friday was spent on the tip of Manhattan — over to the Statue of Liberty (cold and windy!) and Ellis Island (lovely, and coincident with Hannah’s school unit on immigration, so she was thrilled). Then we went to Ground Zero, partly to show some of what I do, partly to show the girls that I could be involved in a response like that and I’d be okay. Bekah was very interested and had wanted to see it all along. Hannah was very skittish about it. Then we went to the Winter Garden, which I’d never been in. A very special space to a lot of New Yorkers, and nice, though not all that much of a garden. Still, palm trees in New york, and beautiful. Plus, there was ice cream. Then we went up to Union Square and walked through the Christmas flea market, which was fun. And on Saturday morning we went to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, strolled through Macy’s, had lunch at Grand Central and were on our way home. I’ve never been such a tourist in my life.
And all these things were fabulous, they’re all New York, but they’re not all that makes it so magical. There were so many little moments, such as all the subway and street musicians. Bekah had a ball dancing along to a pair of roots blues players in the subway. There was a man dancing with a doll in the 14th St. 4/5/6. There was a delightful busker who could speak snatches of numerous languages, to the delight of the Japanese and Germans in line for the Liberty Island ferry. Rebekah marvelled at the windows of the button stores on Broadway, oohing and aahing over the variety of buttons and trim and plastic tiaras. Just a delight, and truly, so much city they had to name it twice.

Always come back to The Church

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The band, that is. Way back in the earliest days of MTV, we caught a late-night video (the only time I can remember seeing it, in fact) for “The Unguarded Moment,” and we were hooked. For years, I bought everything I could find from The Church — this was back in the days when I had time and energy to scour independent record stores for import EPs. They even had a little bit of a hit maybe around 1990, but it wasn’t their strongest stuff and my interest started to fade at around the same time I was rejecting my compulsion to own everything my favorite artists offered. Then a few years back the reviews for their aurally stunning cover album “A Box of Birds” were so strong that I gave them another try. This time, the reviews and MP3 snippets for a new slew of Church albums brought me back again. “After Everything Now This” is something that, as the reviews say, any even slight Church fan must have. Then, in addition to that album, they put out a 2-CD set of remixes and live tracks and other stuff from “After Everything Now This,” so now I’m completely absorbed into a Church cocoon once again.

We’re Googling our lives away, people!

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Listen, if you’ve somehow come to this site because you did a perfectly innocent search on “glycerol ester of wood rosin” or, my most recent victory, “iliotibial band,” all I can say is, thanks for visiting and I hope you’re easily amused. I would think it’s perfectly obvious that I have nothing useful to say on either of these topics, but they generate a lot of traffic! Apparently there are a LOT of people like me who will search for a topic and hope to find something that is only tangentially connected to what they were looking for in the first place. (For the person looking for “pictures of Whipple Truss,” I’m sorry. But I’ll try to fix that deficiency.) (And for all of you who have searched for “Bennington College Photos,” my apologies. I have photos of Bennington, and I have photos of college (and even one of Southern Vermont College), but I don’t have photos of Bennington College. The shame of web deception….)

James Coburn

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One of the great things about Turner Classic Movies is that when someone notable dies, TCM will often schedule a block of movies to honor that person while he or she is still in the mind. So with James Coburn’s passing, I was treated to a lazy Sunday of folding laundry, playing Quidditch (the Harry Potter cardgame – no broomstick skills required), and three great movies that featured James Coburn: “The Great Escape,” “The Magnificent Seven,” and “Charade.” (Of course, this also gave me two glimpses of Steve McQueen, star of the best song of this past summer.) Coburn didn’t have too much of a role in any of them — he did the most work in Charade, which works well as a who’s-doing-what and less as a romantic notion; the least in Great Escape, where he struggles with an Australian accent, builds an airpump for the tunnels, and in the end escapes to Spain. His greatest asset was his determined visage, on the edge of menace, always leavened with a sign of humor. I haven’t seen “Affliction” (the atmosphere of the book was really enough), but I imagine he played the abusive father simply by turning off that little light of humor, becoming pure menace. TCM could have put on “Hell Is For Heroes,” but then we would have been even more confused as to whether it was McQueen or Coburn they were honoring.
Miracle of miracles, I didn’t leave the house this weekend. Never got behind the wheel. Lee is able to drive enough to get the girls around, and offered to do their rehearsals on Saturday, which offer I gratefully accepted. Did some scanning work, some cleaning, a little vacuuming and mopping, and generally lazed about the house with the TV on much more than normal. It was heaven.
New York awaits!

Encouragement / Discouragement

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Much encouragement this week, for a rare change. We had an event of the sort that I usually hate, where we bring in a bunch of “great thinkers” and watch them tug at their elbow patches and pontificate on how we could do things better. Normally, these thinking sessions are so far removed from the political/Political realities that we work with here in the The Entire State that they can only be seen as endearingly naive (if I’m in a really generous mood), or (if I’m more bitter) as dangerously stupid. So I avoid these sessions like I avoid rats with rayguns. But this one was stunningly good, full of people with real ideas that I could really use, presented in a completely non-threatening way. In fact, I think that I was the only person who said a negative thing about the Department all day, and I was just being honest about our historical shortcomings and our seeming inability to get out the message on what we do for the people of the State. And I walked away from the session with some very solid ideas on how to achieve some of the things I really want to get done in the next year or two, things that I’ll really be able to point to as my contributions to public health and the environment. In addition, I met someone I’ve wanted to meet for a very long time, who once sat in my seat (not literally; this seat is brand spanking new), and who is a very respected thinker who gives me hope that there is life after this, and he was warm and receptive and invited me to visit him any time I’m in DC, which I certainly will do at the earliest opportunity.
And then I got home from that heady session to find the girls’ first report cards of the year, and they both did unbelievably well. They’re both quite smart and hard workers, so I expect them to get good grades, and I praise them for what they do well and try to offer support or suggestions in the areas where they need some improvement. Except that in this marking period, there weren’t any. Well, one: the younger one needs to either sit on her bottom during circle time, or sit in the back of the circle. Not because she’s disruptive when she’s up on her knees, but because she’s too tall, and blocks the other kids’ view.
That’s it. The major academic challenge my daughters face. And Hannah, who sometimes agonizes over math but does it quite well, actually did better in math than anything else (A+ instead of poor old A’s). Fantastic.
On the discouragement side, I thought my foot sprain and iliotibial band issues were finally over, and I’ve been better again about my stretching, but I went out at lunch today, first time this week, and went right back to where I had been. Hurting left foot, f’d up right ITB. Run, walk, stretch, repeat, all the way back from the 2 mile mark. Never gonna get to First Night this way.

Googlism

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Apparently, I’m defecating in my food tray. I couldn’t be more alarmed. On the other hand, perhaps the seismology thing will really work out for me. http://www.googlism.com
Googlism for: carl johnson
carl johnson is a republican serving his fourth term representing district 3
carl johnson is now dean of the division of college extension
carl johnson is an award winning fine artist hailing from worcester
carl johnson is an enthusiastic teacher who inspires his students and improves learning through hands
carl johnson is expected to spearhead pre
carl johnson is the director and co
carl johnson is in the front position
carl johnson is a licensed clinical social worker
carl johnson is entering his secret recipe in the chowder contest for next month’s autumn gold days festival in ellsworth
carl johnson is employed at the army installation in heidelberg and has for the past few years has functioned as the bishop’s warden for the annual conference
carl johnson is prepared to fly in the great wadsworth festival
carl johnson is a native of richland center
carl johnson is the right man for district three
carl johnson is to them in concord and will turn out to support him for a third
carl johnson is an emmy
carl johnson is a gifted planner and it was a pleasure to work with a ‘master’
carl johnson is a hard
carl johnson is a multi
carl johnson is the president and co
carl johnson is president and co
carl johnson is giving local citizens
carl johnson is in the center
carl johnson is
carl johnson is a seismologist by training
carl johnson is now director loss prevention
carl johnson is the test
carl johnson is holding the plane for me
carl johnson is a six
carl johnson is now opposed to the bill
carl johnson is profiled in connection with receiving a 2002 cope scholar award;
carl johnson is a great guy
carl johnson is the new acquisitions assistant
carl johnson is temporarily stepping down
carl johnson is also interested in the position
carl johnson is looking forward to this weekend’s minnesota twins
carl johnson is on acoustic guitar
carl johnson is featured in woodwork magazine showing his built in kitchen cabinets
carl johnson is a nice man
carl johnson is working this with hopkins
carl johnson is expected
carl johnson is arrested and antagonizes the feds even more
carl johnson is looking for comments on themitsa web site which he has been updating
carl johnson is looking for comments on the mitsa web site which he has been updating
carl johnson is not the only one with the key
carl johnson is working on another case as well
carl johnson is finishing up a new display case and david thurston is working on the next
carl johnson is in compliance with the
carl johnson is represented by air
carl johnson is de zoon van een mijnwerker
carl johnson is vice president
carl johnson is a junior in political science
carl johnson is a sad testament to the courts’ lack of commitment to implementing gideon
carl johnson is unopposed
carl johnson is just some random arrestee
carl johnson is alia’s brother is truthmonger and so on is not very profound
carl johnson is a director and co
carl johnson is well aware
carl johnson is facing the federal government for threats he made against various federal officials online
carl johnson is the only reasonnable choise
carl johnson is heading an informal group to determine a format for exchanging raw phase picks via tcp/ip
carl johnson is very ill with pneumonia
carl johnson is in a
carl johnson is hereby approved
carl johnson is a product safety expert
carl johnson is an experienced practitioner in computerology with over 20 years of training and experience with local
carl johnson is looking into running for governor next year
carl johnson is defecating in
carl johnson is defecating in his food tray
carl johnson is president of beauty pageant
carl johnson is apparently our mole”
carl johnson is lake friendly and deserves our support
carl johnson is unconscious and christopher picks up the 1
carl johnson is convicted of threatening public officials

An off day

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Too difficult to explain, but mornings that begin with screaming, fighting children tend not to go well after that.
Warren Zevon is my constant companion these days. Just got the two-disc set, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” The liner notes are skimpy, but hell, the songs speak for themselves. I’d love to hear updated versions of some of the older stuff, which suffered a bit in production but came crackling to life on the very raw “Learning to Flinch.” I guess that’s not to be.
Can someone explain to me how Henry Rollins, punk prince of angry poetry, came to be co-hosting a Learning Channel spin-off from “Junkyard Wars”?

Okay, maybe it WAS the last great sunny day

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I’m not complaining, because I’ve got a serious skiing jones, but how is it possible to go from a high of 59 on Friday to snow, sleet and freezing rain on Saturday, all without gale-force winds or skies of death or anything other than that deep, charcoal gray sky of winter? It was appropriate that it started to snow and get slippery as we were driving to Schenectady to see our first Warren Miller ski movie. There was a great festival atmosphere there at Proctor’s, everybody was having a good time and getting stoked about the season to come. This year’s movie (“Storm”) was really kick-ass, huge fun, scary thrills and scenes of physical accomplishment that are so close to perfection they can bring me almost to tears. Really. Sometimes I watch these movies, the Olympics, mountain-climbing, anything where tremendously gifted, highly trained people are really giving their all, and the sheer physical beauty of their effort just washes over me. Watching some of these skiers carving beautiful turns down nearly vertical faces does that for me. (And there are some days, in some conditions, when my skiing is going just right, when I can feel just a little bit of what they must feel — and it feels good.)
Then it was a long drive home on Route 20 in the snow . . . decided to skip the Thruway because I knew people would just be pinging off the road left and right. We saw several cars off the road right on 890, so it was only going to get worse. Took the local roads and things went slow but fine. Yesterday was a lazy day of work around the house while the girls went out in the very wet snow and got soaked to the skin. Today, a snow day, although the second storm of the day never materialized. Tomorrow, back to normal. Hopefully.

The last great sunny day

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I keep thinking that this is the last great warm sunny day of the year, but they keep on coming. It’s been great for midday runs, which I’ve been lucky enough to fit in a couple of times a week for the last few weeks. That’s a good thing, because I fell off the morning schedule when Lee broke her arm. I’ve been able to sneak in midday runs for the past few weeks, though, and it’s mostly been beautiful (too beautiful, because the locker room gets really crowded on nice days). I want to run the First Night Saratoga 5K, so I’ve got to get serious about training again. After the Race for the Cure, I wanted to pick up some speed and started training faster, and immediately ran into problems with a sprained left foot and ileotibial band problems on the right leg. The sprain feels 95% better, though rest alone really wasn’t enough, and now I’ve got a good stretch for the ITB that seems to have ironed that problem out. It’s always something, and you can’t stretch everything every day — after a while, I stop doing a stretch entirely and then I get hurt.
Christmas shopping is advancing nicely. Big Amazon order coming, with a couple of things for Lee. Picked up some stocking stuff for the kids at Kate’s on Tuesday. Need to find things for the difficult people (read: no actual interests in life).
Totally jazzed about Thanksgiving in New York. I got nervous over the inability of the Marriott to guarantee that we would have two beds, and I’m sure the room was a closet, so I switched us over to the DuMont on the east side. Less central location than Times Square, obviously, but that’s probably a good thing. Plus, it has a kitchen, so we can buy and eat normal food. We were shut out of just about everything that would require a ticket, but I’ve found a bunch of things that don’t (I mean, this is NEW YORK CITY, f’chrissake — there can never be a shortage of things to do). Kids want to go to Ellis Island, which I’m very iffy about, but if we could get down before the lines on Friday morning, maybe. Otherwise, we’ll take the Water Taxi from the west side down around the horn to Fulton Landing, and walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge, and that should make them happy. Bring comfortable shoes, everybody!
But most of all, we get to see the parade, live and in person. Got to figure out the best vantage point. The BEST vantage point would have been one of the rooms I regularly enjoy at the Mayflower, but those come at something of a premium on the morning of the parade, as they put you at eye level with the balloons.