Saturday, December 22, 2007

Imminent Domain

When I got back from San Diego, I discovered that my personal safe wouldn't open. It was obviously the battery. I didn't know it had one.

That was a week ago. I was serenely reading my Travel and Leisure magazine for the month, when I suddenly realized what was in the safe: my passport. I have to rescue my passport! Otherwise I'll be stuck in Hooterville for the rest of my life!

So, I went to my files and actually found the Sentry safe information. After about an hour of perusing the information I received, I discovered that I should have replaced the batteries -- four of 'em -- around two years ago. The hard part of this rescue was that I couldn't figure out where the batteries were.

Nicely enough, they're located in a little secret compartment that you can't see from the front of the safe, right under the key combination. I had to insert a eyeglasses screwdriver to release the mechanism, and then slide the plastic door open. There they were. One of the batteries was even corroded on the bottom.

And, after I replaced them, I had to re-program my code. My code is the original Inspector's badge I was issued in 1979. I figure that, after all this time, only I know the code.

Gosh, once Alzheimer's hits me, that code will be gone. By then, so should this fresh new set of batteries.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Elusive Spring Training

I stayed home past 10 am this morning, even though I knew I had to get to the mailbox to pick up all the packages that had arrived in the week I had been gone. 10 am was the time that the Oakland A's website opened for spring training tickets.

So, exactly at 10 am (as reported by my cell phone), I logged on, and promptly found that the first date I plugged in was sold out. Whaaat? There must be an error. I tried a second date and found that the same was true, no matter what seats I tried.

I was trying to fill in Oakland A's tickets from March 16 through March 19th. I had already bought a few on two different websites, non-A's games.

I did find one game that offered tickets: March 17th, Monday, Kansas City vs. Oakland. I bought the best seats offered, which were actually good seats behind the dugout. I was looking for box seats -- which are just beyond the dugout and which would offer the best autographing opportunities -- but beggars can't be, yeah, you know the ending.

At 10:20, I headed for the mailbox. First, however, I went to breakfast. (There was no meaningful food in the house unless you count shredded wheat without milk.) My waiter happened to be the A's fan with whom I've had many a conversation. He didn't know Dan Haren had been traded. But he did know that today was the day that Oakland A's spring training tickets opened up.

He was going today after work, driving over to the A's Coliseum to see what tickets he could get. I told him that the days I had gone for were mostly sold out. His face changed to a rather unbelieving sour stare. "I don't believe it," he said, and we both wondered why the A's would sell out. My own particular theory has to do with resale. I mean, everybody wants to go to spring training even though most of those people won't attend a single game in Oakland. He told me that the Cubs games in spring training, followed by the Giants, are the first to go. But....the A's???

I wished him luck. I'm tempted to go back there tomorrow morning for breakfast, just to see how he fared. In the rain. At least I'd avoid the shredded wheat.

Biennial is Only 5 Times a Decade

It's good to be home. Whew.

The week started off well. I met Val the first night after driving 7 hours to get to Marina del Rey. We met at the Bowling Alley, of course, and then drove around to the Custom Hotel, which was in the same shopping center. It's a new hotel, ideally located, and we wanted to see if it would be a good fit as the ordination hotel in May 2008.

The little hotel is a bit out of Europe. It's not yet finished -- the restaurant still has to be completed -- and there are halls that go nowhere. It's very unusual. When the valet car guy came to our room to pick up keys, he fairly shouted, "Did you hear the elevator?!" It seems the elevator talks to you, but most of it doesn't make any sense. So don't go rushing down there just to see what it has on its tiny little mind.

And there are sheep in the lobby. No, not kidding.

We think we're happy with it, and so will seek to negotiate several rooms when the event gets closer. I'm wondering if the invitation should contain word about the sheep. Or the elevator.

The next morning I set out for Disneyland. Against my better judgment (read: the old way of doing things), I followed mapquest's suggestion of using five different freeways to get there. Lo and behold, it only took 45 minutes to arrive! And I skipped the deadly traffic of the 10 East and most of the 5 South.

We had a very nice time at DLand. I met Ricky and Joel there. I'm always kind of amazed that these two guys spend a lot of their time in Fantasyland. Peter Pan is de rigeur, for example. I had my own agenda list: I got to see the castle lit up for the holiday season.
And the Haunted Mansion decorated in The Nightmare Before Christmas style, which is always a treat. My only mistake, I think, was making Indiana Jones the last ride of the night. It took me an hour to stop shaking.

Rick and Joel said farewell and I stuck around to watch the parade and do some final shopping. I then walked with my oh-so-tired legs over to the Desert Suites, spent the night there, and then the next morning walked back over to the park to have breakfast at the Carnation Cafe. Then I climbed into the car and drove down to San Diego.

We started out the biennial day by registering at the San Diego Convention Center, and then going across the street to my favorite restaurant of the area, Lou and Mickey's, for lunch with a crowd that included Dawn, Mark and Rabbi Berlin. Then we walked back to the convention center for the first of the workshops. After the workshop, I wondered how I was going to survive four-and-a-half days of a world of which I know very little.

But I had little to fear about that. Val became rather ill, and holed up in our hotel room. I saw very little of the event itself.

Things I Learned at Biennial:

San Diego has the best weather on earth in December.

The convention center is too damn large.

A bunch of Jews come to biennial, which is the largest gathering of Reform Jews in the world. However, we're only talking 5500 here. Comic Con attendance dwarfs those figures.

The new siddur (prayerbook) is much easier to use, for me, than the old one. 5,000 of us used it in Hall A at shabbat services.

It is possible to completely run through the entire room service menu at the Marriott.

Okay, that's about it. I attended two workshops. I'm not counting the one that Dr. Adler gave; I attended 5 minutes of it, to see how she was doing, when I realized I didn't understand a single word she was saying. She did seem very enthusiastic, however. Instead, I went over to the conversion workshop. That one was rather contentious. I enjoyed that part of it very much.

Will I attend the next biennial? I'm not sure. Thankfully it's two years away. But it's in Toronto, a city I've always wanted to see, always been curious about. Maybe I could do what some spouses do, see the city and meet their partner for shabbat. At this point I'm not sure the pull of Toronto could get me there.

But maybe I'll forget everything I learned this time around. There's always hope.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hanukkah or Chanukah

Anyway you spell it, it's kind of new to me, and it's been something I've done alone.

I have a bunch of decorations for the 8-day holiday, but I haven't put them up. It takes two to string a 6-foot banner.

However, thanks to my friend Dawn, I haven't spent it completely alone this year. I've been over to her house with my hanukiah (shaped like a tree) twice to light the first and the third candles. I discovered in our conversations about Hanukkah that my shamash holder is lower than it should be; the shamash should be the highest candle. (You light the other candles with it.) I'm not terribly concerned about the fact that mine is slightly incorrect, but it's good to know.

Last night we went to the Hanukkah potluck and service at Temple Sinai in Oakland. I had forgotten what it was like: a hundred little kids running around. Anybody even within hormone reach of teenage-dom wouldn't be caught dead at this celebration.

We did a short (very short!) service in the Sancutary. Rabbi Chester said that it was the shortest service he had ever done for shabbat. And then we went back to Stern Hall for the blessings and Hanukkah songs. The tables were laden with miniature dreidels, M&Ms, and chocolate gelt. I watched one little boy who was briefly at our table (everything you do with these little ones is brief) search for the M&Ms. I was watching while I searched for the gelt. More chocolate.

So I have made an effort to spend this holiday with friends and community. I will be lighting the fifth candle tonight, the sixth candle on Sunday night, probably after the Out-and-About Hanukkah party, and then I won't be lighting any more this season because of travel. I still have many candles left from when I bought a box at Afikomen two years ago. I may do Hanukkah mostly alone, but I don't do the whole eight days without ducking out of town.

By the way, these photos are actual pictures of Dawn's and my hanukiot, lit for Hanukkah. Or Chanukah.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mac Davis in My Head

I woke up at 7 am this morning, a full hour or more earlier than I usually do. In my head was the refrain to, "Baby, Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me."

Remember that song? You might if you are older than 50, but not if you're in your 20's. (Who am I fooling...nobody in their 20's reads my blog!) It's the big hit song for Mac Davis, a folksy, friendly singer who had his own variety show in the mid-'70's. A less-talented version of Glen Campbell.

Well, in my dream Mac and I were talking, and every now and then Mac would start singing a number of his songs. He wrote In the Ghetto, you know, which was a hit for Elvis. Well, during this conversation, I kept telling Mac that he needed another hit. You can't survive on one hit. I challenge you: name another Mac Davis song. You can't. So I guess I was telling him the obvious.

Thankfully I woke up before his career was over and I was feeling really bad about that. I caught myself wondering what he looks like now as I brushed my teeth.

Anyway, it's a good thing I got up early, as Earle the electrician called me. This is a painfully long story, mostly about how he didn't call me back and couldn't get out to the new house until much later than I wanted. But since Martinez Construction never returned my call, I figure I had better jump at Earle's suggestion that he start....tomorrow. Which is good news. I just have to make sure he is doing permits. They weren't mentioned in his estimate or any discussions we've had.

Yesterday was a busy day:

Cleaning crew at Earl @ 0900
Meet plumber and dry wall guy at Circle Hill @ 10:30 where we had discussions on the continuation of the job.
Talk to Nancy about getting the electrician to return phone calls.
Set up dinner with Shawn for Wed so she can give me Marvin's Xmas present.
Talk to BofA in Nashville, and arrange to fax info.
Write the beginning of February's Outtakes newsletter, recalling what happened during yesterday's 'Ol Timers luncheon.
Email several former Customs workers about an old organization pre: NTEU taking over as their union; the purpose is introducing several of their newsletters in future Outtakes editions.
Watch the 1st half an hour of newly-received Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and try to discern a plot.
Go over to Dawn & Mark's house to light the first Hanukkah candle on our hanukiot.
Pick up takeout with Dawn at Chao Thai, but in the middle of that, pick up Jesse at the Paramount Theatre (and wonder why he's not there when I get there).
Go home and watch the last part of Part 1 of Tin Man, and wonder why I'm still watching.

So, this morning I was out by 8:30 am, willing the commuter traffic to disappear into the fog, at the UPS mailbox in Montclair by 8:45 in order to fax Nashville the letter and fax Earle his original estimate with some added on instructions.

All of these things have to be done or on their way before Friday afternoon, when I fly down to Burbank for the beginning of being gone for about 10 days.

I think at some point in the middle of all this I'm going to have to find a photo of Mac and find out what he's been doing lately. I don't know if I was his agent, but if so, I was doing a lousy job. Oh, and I also have to get that damned song out of my head. I never liked it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Forget Seven Come Eleven, Double Down Instead

As we had arranged, Debbie and I found each other in the bustling baggage claim at McCarron Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. We easily found the taxi line, and took our cab to the Trop.

The Tropicana Las Vegas is not the prime piece of real estate it used to be. However, it is actually better than it was a scant few years ago, having done a bit of remodeling and replacement of their slot machines. Our room was nice enough, always decorated with the pinks and blues of the '50's, and rather large as hotel rooms go, but in truth we didn't spend much time there.

We had already done a few of the things we had planned, things we always did when we arrived in Sin City: We had lunch at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris Hotel/Casino. We paid homage to Star Trek: The Experience at the LV Hilton. We had breakfast at the Luxor. And we walked up and down the Strip, ducking into casinos from time to time.

But on our last day there, we decided to do something different. Debbie wanted to play craps, and she just didn't understand my drawings on napkins at our meals when I tried to explain it. Actually, I only tried to explain three games: the pass line, the come line, and placing bets, as the rest is crap. So we agreed to attend a morning lecture on how to play craps.

We wanted to go downtown to do this, but we didn't get out of the room fast enough. But every casino, more or less, has these lessons. I figured the Trop probably did, too. Sure enough, once we got downstairs at a quarter to 10, we found an empty craps table with a little sign on it, advertising the lessons at 10.

About 10 people showed up, crowding around the half-table to listen to Lou explain how to play. The lesson was supposed to last half an hour, but when left, at a good hour and 10 minutes after he started, he was still going on. What impressed me about him is that he actually plays. Not at the Trop, I'm sure, but he plays. And he only plays one game: Place.

He had some great advice, and I came out of the session with probably more than Debbie, as she still found it confusing. Perhaps one reason for the confusion was that he spent a great deal of time explaining why he doesn't play other games, like the Come line, or Field. And that may be confusing for some. And then, after he got through talking about all that, and why he only places bets, he talked about money management. It was all so fascinating.

So, armed with our new knowledge, her $20 and my $100, we went to the Four Queens downtown and, chasing the two men away who were already there (I had no idea why they left, but I can guess...), began to play, all by ourselves at the big, green $5-minimum craps table.

And five minutes later, we walked away. Completely broke. Er, not broke, but having lost the money we had planned to play.

So then we went to the blackjack tables to sit down, get a drink on the house (soft drinks in our case), and lick our gambling wounds.

We played for a few minutes at the single-deck blackjack table, but I was miffed at the 6-5 payoff for blackjack. I remember the Las Vegas Advisor reporting that this was the new rage in Las Vegas. We left, and walked around, looking for a shoe and another $5-minimum table. We sat down and didn't leave for another hour.

I won $300 there. There were times we'd lose, certainly, but I was looking for streaks where I could use the house's money to double up on my bet, and keep it going. I had two such streaks in that hour. So I got the money back that the craps demons had taken so quickly. In fact, I got back all the money the slot demons had taken over the last three days. Gosh, there are a lot of demons in Vegas.

I gave up on craps quite a few years ago because of the quickness of the losses. Because of the wallowing depression that inevitably accompanies such losses, at least for me. And I gave up on blackjack because it's a slow game, and if you're by yourself, not a very exciting one. I took up video slots (like my favorite Reel 'Em In) because it was a slow outgo with an exciting bonus round.

I still like the video slots. But I now have two other games I'll pursue. Again. As long as I set a limit for what I can lose I'll be fine.

So, Debbie and I had a good time, we ate some really nice meals (although no buffets this time), and had a great time gambling together. I hope we get back on the annual habit of meeting here. And, who knows? Maybe we'll try the 'ol craps game again.

The Other Side of the Razor

I haven't posted lately to my blog, because I've been damn busy. However, I feel guilty that I haven't posted anything about my recent Battlestar experiences. So here is the blog.

This convention was in Burbank, and was advertised as the BIG one, an advertisement that actually started a year ago when Adam Malin of Creation announced that they timed the convention so that the producers could give more content, and more actors could attend.

Well, that didn't pan out. The convention was small. Very small. But that sort of worked to our advantage. Even though small, we were pleased with the actors we got: Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), Jamie Bamber (Apollo), Tahmoh Penikett (Helo), and Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh, ruthlessly strangled by her own husband because...oh, never mind). And Bear McCreary, who does the music. Actually, it turned out Bear's presentation was one of the best of the convention.

I didn't know it when I bought our tickets, but Creation decided at the last minute to allow the gold ticket conventioneers to "crash" the nearby Stargate convention, and sit in on their stage presentations when nothing was going on in our hall. I made note of that for next year.

Every actor talked about the writer's strike, which affected them immediately. Only part of the season has been filmed, and there was some doubt that the last 9 episodes to the four-year series would ever be completed if the strike went on too long. But each actor found a way of filling the void. Tahmoh was going snowboarding. Jamie was intent on getting other roles in Hollywood, and was working on that with his new agent, Erin Grey. And Katee was actually pleased to be off work. "My first Thanksgiving off in 9 years!" she exclaimed, and added that she thinks they'll all be back to work by January.

It was great to see Erin Grey. She waved to the crowd when Adam introduced her. When I saw her during Jamie's autograph session, I said to her, "Not to be presumptuous, but can we assume you're now an agent?" She nodded, and added that she still works at acting jobs occasionally. As always, she was very friendly and gracious. I've seen her at conventions for maybe 15 years now, having enjoyed her work since Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as "Colonel Wilma Deering" circa 1986. I added to her, "You know, Colonel Deering was my hero," and she replied, "Mine, too."

Debbie and I enjoyed our time at the convention, but it doesn't look like we're meeting up here next November. However, we did agree that November is the perfect month in which to "do" Las Vegas, and I hope we'll meet up there in 2008.

When I got home, I received an email from Jennifer, a local whom I met at the Grand Slam in April and saw again at the Sacramento con a few months later. She invited me to their house to watch Razor, the two-hour show Battlestar produced to keep the fans satisfied until they could get back on-air.

I loved the show, particularly the storyline concerning Admiral Cain, the hardened commander played by Michelle Forbes, who played Ensign Ro in Star Trek: The Next Generation. "Razor" comes from the pocketknife Admiral Cain used to carry around, sort of a signature piece, and passed on to her new lieutenant, apparently, when Cain met her ill fate. I found the story quite compelling.

My hosts found the fact that Cain was disclosed as a lesbian (kind of tossed at the audience in just a few minutes, having a love affair with the Cylon on board, no less), and a murderous one at that, rather off-putting. And that that fact reminded them of the stereotypical Sharon Stone role played so venomously in the '80's. I can certainly see that point, and I wonder why the writers and producers decided to even bother with that add-on. Kind of a stupid decision.

So, at this point, we have no idea when Battlestar will come back on the air. Maybe March. Maybe later. Maybe never.

But in the meantime, there's the Razor DVD coming out in a few days which has about 40 minutes of added screentime. Fascinating.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Le Creuset in my Home

A long, long time ago, when I thought I could learn how to cook by watching QVC and Bob's Cooking Show, he and every chef I heard from told me I had to have one of those Le Creuset pots. Heavy. Heavy orange. And, yes, I thought orange was required. But, whoa, the expense. Never mind.

It's more than 10 years later, and Sweetie walked in the door yesterday with a big, heavy box labeled "Le Creuset." Yes!!! And it's not bloody orange! (It's beautiful royal blue.)

Today I made apple-pumpkin soup in my new Le Creuset. I was amazed (!) at how fast it heated up! Wow!! It's like taking a shiny new Corvette out on country roads!

No photos of the pumpkin soup yet. I made a rookie mistake of not reading through the entire recipe (actually, I had read through it, but that was 3 days ago, and I forgot about this one little requirement). You have to chill the soup for 8 hours.

So, the soup is in the 'fridge now. When it comes out, I will add half-and-half cream, salt and pepper, and a little apple juice right before serving.

Welcome to my household, Le Creuset, after many years of yearning.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Writers' Strike

The writers' strike commenced on Monday, as promised. It's been very interesting to hear about and read what writers for my favorite shows (e.g., Battlestar Galactica and Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Firefly) have had to say about it.

Writers are asking for two things (quotes and titles from the WGA blog, and thanks to Justine at for posting this):

1. Residuals for reuse of content (like replaying tv shows) on the internet.

"We're asking for residuals of 2.5% of revenue -- that means for every dollar they get paid, we'd get 2 and a half cents. It's a flat percentage, so if they're right and they're never ever going to make a penny, well then, we won't either. No harm, no foul.

"Since 2.5% is our starting point, in any normal negotiation we'd end up somewhere between what they want to pay (.3%) and what we're asking for (2.5%). I'd guess 1 to 1.5 %."

2. Coverage and protections for original content ("new stuff we create for the internet").

"We're asking for basic protections so that when we write original stuff for the internet, we have rights -- health and pension, minimum amounts, credits and separated rights (so if we make some amazing character or show, we get the right to share in its success.)

We're just asking for the same protections we already have for writing in tv or film. Nothing new or weird. Just the basics."

In other news, Michael Eisner announced that the strike is "stupid." That's a bleepin' quote. And he added that studios don't know why the writers are striking, and that they have nothing to offer or give. God, I'm so glad he left Disney to more qualified people.

We, of course, support the strike. Most actors support the strike, as they realize that, whatever happens, so go the actors in 2008 during their contract renegotiation.

I, selfishly, am not worried about T.V. programming, or new movies, etc. I am worried about the Battlestar Galactica convention next weekend. I'm hoping BSG doesn't have to suddenly film that weekend to get material in the can. I really believe, though, that the actors will show up, perhaps more willingly than before (money that may not be coming in, plus a chance to talk about the subject), and give us their view of what's going on. That will be very interesting.

This will be a long one. May the most erudite win.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Moroccan: The Cooking Class

If you're following the blog, you'll know that a few nights ago I went to my first Moroccan meal. Well, I ate Moroccan once before, but I was in my twenties, and you know how long ago THAT was; I don't remember a thing about it. At this latest try, in tasting the meal in between the belly dancing, I was aware at how much I was not wowed by the food. My friend agreed. I was astonished that she had had the same reaction.

Unbelievably, two days later, we found ourselves at a Moroccan cooking class given by Dara of The Sage Table. This is my 3rd class with Dara, given in her home, in her aging but quaint kitchen.

It's mostly observing. If you cornered me, I would say that hands-on would be better, except that I might actually have to work. As she does the work, I can imagine myself doing it, and I've had enough practice now to know what I can do. And I can do this.

But I didn't see myself here this night. Dawn talked me into this one. And it's a good thing we booked this a month ago, as I never would've committed to this, really, after tasting the food the other night. But tonight, after eating all of what Dara had to offer us, I must say, I enjoyed it all.

Our menu:

Colorful Cabbage salad with citrus-honey dressing.
Aromatic Vegetable Tagine with Olives and Figs
Barley and Quinoa Pilaf with mint
Chicken with Lemons and Olives, Moroccan-style

No dessert. But who needs dessert with such a flavorful menu? I have to admit that I mixed all the portions on my plate together, finding that it all worked really well mixed up, especially with the crunchy barley/quinoa.

I hate (and let me make a list): Onions (at least those so strong and present as to be individually tasted). Quinoa. Olives. Figs. Zucchini. Eggplant. But cooked -- not too much, but enough to allow them to be soft but still hold their shape -- it all was divine. These dishes changed my mind about many of these ingredients, these vegetables, grains, and, yes, Moroccan food.

This is good stuff. The proof, I guess, will be when I cook it myself. My Sweetie will love it!

Who knew?

A House By Any Color Would Smell as Sweet

It's a fabulous house. Oh, sure, a lot of work needs to be done to it, but not as much as I figured. And not as much as my house did seven years ago.

We have a little argument going as to whether it's purple or blue. I now know it's blue. It's not a color I would originally have chosen, but you can pick it out easily as you turn the corner. It kind of fits the house.

Bob the inspector did his thing today. The same inspector I had seven years ago at Earl! The same irascible guy, brutally honest, schoolteacher demeanor, really a pleasant guy to listen to and learn from. He went on top, underneath, briefly into the attic, and turned on every switch he could find. Many of the switches did not work, just a hint that the electrical needs upgrading. But the plumbing, which I figured would take just as much maintenance to correct, is not bad at all.

This little two-bedroom place with the big backyard is solidly built. They used to say they don't make them like they used to. In this case, they'd be right.

Something will happen on this house in the next two weeks. We hope it works out.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Temple Sinai: Land of the Belly Dancers

I went to a Moroccan restaurant tonight, along with a friend. It was a fundraiser for Temple Sinai.

"Why do people come to these things?" I earnestly asked Dawn. She replied, because the rabbi wants us to. And we would never disappoint the rabbi.

And so we found ourselves, 50 of us, all middle-aged whatevers, huddled under a tent on a cold winter's night in Oakland. Waiting for the five courses and, of course, the belly dancer.

Rabbi Chester made a point of telling us that there would be prizes for the best male and best female belly dancers, amateurs all. "And the prize," he chortled, "is from the Temple Sinai Gift Shop, of course!"

Food kept coming, brought in by the largely Oriental staff. They were very nice to us, eager to please. Red wine? Of course. White wine? Of course. Coke? Sure. And lots of food I couldn't identify if my life depended on it. The bread was good. The vegetables, surprisingly, were spicy but not too much, and were very good. I found myself saying something I never thought I would: this cooked carrot is delicious!

I tended to find the chicken and stick with that, although I did have one of the pieces of lamb off the skewer. It was okay.

The woman next to me was the editor of the Sinai bulletin. What were the odds? Seeing as how I had a camera, she practically ordered me to take photos. I did, gladly. But then at one point, she wrestled the camera out of my hands, jumped into the fray, and took more photos, yelling, "Closeups! I need closeups!" Hey, I understand. I'm a newsletter editor myself. I transmitted the photos to her as soon as I got home. I was pleased to see that I got one photo of her out there dancing.

Sure, we go to these events because the rabbi wants us to. But, obviously, there's a feeling that we'll have a good time in this, our safe community.

And the belly dancer wasn't bad, either.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ohaio Gozaimas

After reading some baseball-related news posts, I finally figured out why the A's haven't posted part of their spring training schedule, especially during the part of March during which my trip is scheduled in Phoenix: They're negotiating to play in Tokyo that weekend against a Japanese team.

The season-opening two-game series at Tokyo Dome, in which the A's would play the Red Sox, would take place March 22-23. And then there's travel time, practice time, getting to know a new stadium time.

Wouldn't you know. It'll be thrilling to watch on T.V., I'm sure. But it sure messes up my schedule (as well as the schedule of many A's fans, I'm sure). We won't know for sure until after the owners' meetings in mid-November.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Baseball Season Right Around the Corner

So, tonight is Day One of the World Series, where...

Oh, who cares. The only reasons to watch the Fall Classic this year is to (1) enjoy High Definition, where I can see the grass on the cleats, and (2) to continue my hatred of Tim McCarver, who states the patently obvious too much to get paid for reporting on baseball.

I read today where Lew Wolff, the very patient owner of the Oakland A's, was trying to explain for the 1,000th time why the team can't stay in Oakland. Get over it, folks. The team either goes to Fremont, or it goes to Omaha. No, we don't know the title yet. No, we haven't made any headway on environmental issue. I don't know why he bothers to take questions. Maybe so he can convince the doctor to increase his blood pressure medication.

The A's haven't made any player trades, at least anything since the end of the season. They have hired some coaches, but those weren't any surprise: they're all friends of Bob Geren, the manager. I am hoping for some really big moves in the offseason. Otherwise, I have to say, I don't think we have much of a team in 2008.

But that doesn't stop me from making my spring training plans. However, and this is just an aside, I don't understand why it takes the Oakland Athletics so frigging long to put their spring training schedule together. They are the LAST of any team to do so. I know 90% of the Atlanta Braves' schedule, which helps me set up my plans for the first week in March at the Disney World of Sports complex. It'll be a great long weekend there, as they're playing four great games at home (WDW) against some terrific teams (e.g., Detroit, Chicago Cubs).

My weekend in Phoenix is less sure. It looks, however, as I am going to have to pass on the Tucson game, which is Friday, I believe, in the only game that weekend they have scheduled, and substitute a San Francisco Giants game at Scottsdale instead. It's the same thing I was forced to do this year.

In the meantime, it sure would be nice for Billy Beane to work some beaneball magic and make some trades. Shake up the team. Do I think any player is untouchable? No, not in BeaneLand, but in my mind I would hate to lose Dan Haren or Joe Blanton or Mark Ellis. I actually think only one of those is a possible trade.

The spring of 2008 can't get here too soon. First, we have to get rid of 85-degree weather we're having in the Bay Area. And also get rid of McCarver's whiny voice telling us all about how the delay may affect the Rockies. Sheesh, who cares.

Bring on 2008!

Sunday, October 21, 2007


There are moments in life where you have to take a chance. Jump into the chasm of darkness where snakes may be.

No, I'm not talking about gambling or love. I'm talking food.

My Sweetie took me to Ortolan the other night for the most amazing gastronomical experience I have ever had. The "ortolan" is a small bird much like the bobolink. Believe me, if the little ortolan had eaten at Christophe Eme's Ortolan, it would be dead by now, its eyes bulging with excess, but with a happy little smile on its expiring face.

It was a birthday celebration, a quiet one, and, I thought, only she and I knew about that. Except that strange and wonderful things kept happening.

I did not spot owner Jeri Ryan as hostess, knowing that she was probably working late on Shark in order to beat the writer's strike as well as her increasing waistline (she's pregnant by husband Eme'). But next-best-thing Christophe, genius that he is, kept looking in on us.

This happened for about the first four (out of ten) courses. We chose the chef's menu, which are small plates - mere tastings, on the most part - of the most wonderful food and imaginable pairings thinkable. M. Eme' would say to us: " (French) (French) ....smoked with charcoal and (French)." I couldn't understand most of what he said, as I leaned in closer on the butter-colored leather lounge, but it was charmant just the same. And he would come back several times, and start by saying, "Me again..."

He offered us oysters. I demurred, and he told me he would give me all things tomato. At least I think that's what he said. Sure enough, it was heirloom tomato five ways: consomme', coulis, carpaccio, emulsion, and parfait. Very red. Very small. Very tasty.

We would finish one course, wait about 15 minutes or so in lazy conversation, and the
next course would arrive. We tasted our one glass of champagne, knowing that we didn't want to confuse this feast with too much alcohol, and I was very much glad we had decided on that early on.

My favorites? Ah, where to start. Let's start with the course I did not care for as much. I say "as much" because I still ate them. There were a few I did not finish, however. The duck. I think it's safe to now say I do not like duck -- and yet, gosh, I loved the duck confit, rolled together with rhubarb in a cigarette, mixed with the peach. I did not care for the crayfish, but I could still appreciate its succulence, and the clever way the spaghetti was rolled around it. And I did like the watercress cream in a pool beside it.

What did I like. Ahhh. Every course came with its own silverware, mostly with more than I needed. On its own specially designed plates, very functional, usually on platforms for display. Presentation is so much a part of the pleasure here. Even if you didn
't want it, you could admire it.

The first thing they brought us was the soup. The soup was in test tubes. Two, in test tube holders, just like in a lab. Not on the menu, but brought to us to enjoy. Two soups in each tube. One had cauliflower soup, very smooth, and the other pumpkin. Smooth.

I don't like fish. What a laugh....the smoked sea bass with turnip was very special. The roast scallop with ricotta ravioli (with fig and blood orange reduction) a revelation.

I have never had foie gras -- truffles -- until now. With a quince gelee, an apple compote. It tasted like the best dessert I've ever had.

But the best was something I had never tried, would never try, until now. And if
I had seen it beforehand and had time to ponder, I might not have taken the step. "Egg and caviar cooked in hot ash." Big black rock, cut open to reveal a cracked egg filled with whipped cream, vanilla, and a touch of caviar. You eat past that cool delight to discover the hot, freshly cooked yolk of the egg. I can't describe the way my taste buds finally came to attention.

At the end of dinner, the dessert courses started. First, the herbed goat cheese with olive oil. Then the apple thingie: Sweetie described it as a deconstructed caramel apple. And so it was ... sliced apples, salty caramel ice cream, crumble. Then the chocolate torte and coffee ice cream.

And then we started to breathe. But....not yet.

We looked around and nobody else was getting the same treatment. Sure, the French sommelier would visit tables and chat up his wines, but no chef visits. We finally figured out that Sweetie must've tipped them off when she first called.

And what really clued us in was the last thing: a display of chocolates with "happy birthday" written on marzipan poster board. The chocolates had long plastic toothpicks with which to enjoy them. One small candle begged to be blown out as I made a wish. I did.

I had wished for "chocolate." I got so much more.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Volunteerism - Raising the Bar

I have three friends, three former co-workers, who
are on meaningful volunteer paths. One is a senior
ombudsman in the Vallejo area, meaning, he helps advocate
for seniors who are being abused, etc. Another helps
give his time towards the Make-a-Wish foundation in
Georgia, and is also helping out with the Combined
Federal Campaign by raising funds. And still another
is volunteering her time by helping teach kindergarten
kids at one of our Bay Area schools. And she just

So, three of my friends have challenged me. Oh, they haven't pointed to me and said, YOU! They wouldn't do that. They lead by example. I admire them greatly.

We've all worked at least 30 years at a job that absolutely drained us. Obviously, my friends are applying the same dedication and energy to this new job that they've each found.

I'm not sure what will happen with me. I've having the time of my life already. And yet, there might be room for the right kind of volunteering job. We'll see what develops.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Walk for Hope 5K on Oct 13th - Help Me!

I am $120 short of my goal. If you'd like to help me reach it, go to:

Look for Linda Burnett in the San Francisco 5K.

The Walk for Hope is sponsored by the City of Hope for fighting breast cancer. October is our month to rally the cause.

And thanks to all of you who have already donated!!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Drive, She Said

I would drive an hour to see Marina Sirtis. Except that it turned into two-and-a-half hours because I couldn't find the damn hotel in Sacramento. I finally took surface streets, and, armed with a woefully inadequate little map from mapquest, finally found the back way into west Sacramento, past the American Indian river, and into the parking lot of the Doubletree.

These are the little conventions. I love the little conventions. Not necessarily for the photo ops, because I was still 'way off to the side and the lighting on the stage is too poor for my Lumix to make decent shots. But the other events -- the autograph lines, the dessert party, the charity breakfast (if there is one) -- are a lot easier to negotiate.

I saw Marina and Jonathan Frakes on stage today -- Counselor Troi and Commander Riker -- and they were just wonderful. Terribly hilarious, of course. Marina is the consummate Convention Queen, and at the end of each appearance, she thanks us for her house, her car, etc., everything we the fans have given her by supporting her show, The Next Generation.

I would never tell her this, even when I had the opportunity tonight, but she was my favorite character in all the Treks. Not the first two years, when the writers didn't know what to do with her, but the last three or four years, when Marina's personality outlined Deanna Troi's. And especially when she got to wear the uniform and go for rank. Marina could play drama, but she was especially deft at comedy. And she is certainly comedic onstage, and often brutally honest.

At the dessert party tonight, there were only 50 of us, scattered throughout several tables in a room a little too large for us. The desserts were placed carefully on the buffet tables by the staff, and before they were done, several Trekkies swarmed over them. Host Richard Arnold called us off until he could explain the rules -- you know, only one pastry per person, but you can have all the ice cream you want. Then he let us go. After a few minutes, the actors came in and stood on the small stage: Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca from Star Wars), Jeremy Bullock (the original Boba Fett from Star Wars), Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris from Star Trek: Voyager), and Tahmoh Penikett (Helo from Battlestar). We took photos and then retreated back to our tables.

I sat at a table with Jennifer and Amy, two young women I recognized from the Burbank Grand Slam event. The three of us are from Oakland, and we found ourselves sitting together at the same table during the Battlestar Galactica charity breakfast back in May. I had emailed Jennifer some photos from the event at her request, and was delighted to see her by chance at the Lakeshore Cafe during lunch one day. She recognized me instantly. We were all looking forward to our visit from the stars. The other two people there were young men who seemed very eager to share the experience. One of them could cite Star Wars and Star Trek trivia like an expert, a true geek.

Marina finally came into the room a bit late. Unfortunately we weren't given an opportunity to take a photo of her. She immediately went over to the dessert table and grabbed a piece of cheesecake, obvious oblivious to the pastry rules. I'm guessing that she never had a chance to get some dinner between the autographing and the dessert party appearance.

A woman appeared around the actors in a rather protective stance, and stood taller than all of them, except for Peter Mayhew. I told the members at our table who she was, and the guy at the next table wanted to know more. That's Julie Caitlin Brown, I answered. She used to appear on several Star Trek series as aliens. And she was a key character on Babylon 5. She now handles talent, among them Katee and Tahmoh.

The actors started circulating. Marina was first at our table. She was exhausted, she said. We offered her a chair, but said she needed to keep moving. I really don't remember what else she said, because it was rapid-fire.

Katee came over, and I immediately asked her what it was like to work two jobs at once (Battlestar and the new Bionic Woman). She replied that she was exhausted, working 15-hour days. She keeps herself awake by stuffing her face with food every minute. She talked a bit about her boyfriend, who is 14 years older; he had seen the classic Bionic Woman series and bought the DVD so she could watch it. He kept making the irritating slow-motion running sound, and Katee didn't know what it was until she finally watched the DVD. Since Katee is playing the villain rather than Jamie Sommers, she doesn't feel she has to model behavior for little kids. (My autographed photo of Katee's character on Bionic Woman, "Sarah Corvis," is shown to the right.) Therefore, her character can smoke. She wouldn't let Starbuck smoke on Battlestar. And she has asked the Bionic Woman producers to put in some public service announcements about smoking.

Jeremy came over and asked us how far we would travel to go to a convention. Peter came over after that, and told us about the Wookiee Christmas special and how bad he thought it was, because we at the table had been wondering about it. I noticed how massive his hands were as he reached across the table to illustrate a Wookiee point.

Robbie McNeill came by wearing a "Chuck" hat, and when I asked him about it, he replied that he is directing (3 of the first 6 episodes) and producing the show. So he's very involved with it, including the casting of a lot of the lesser roles. He loves that he can find extraordinary people for these roles, not just the "beautiful people" you normally see on T.V. While we were talking, he received a call on his cell from his daughter. He promised to call her back. We'll see him early tomorrow on stage, so we said goodnight.

Tahmoh Penikett is a nice young actor who is wondering where his next job is coming from. He's so friendly you feel as if you're a great conversationalist because he never stops talking.

As I watched Peter Mayhew cut out early from the affair, I thought about how tired I was and how bed was going to look really good to me. I watched him duck under the threshold as he walked out the door, limping with very tall cane in hand, and wondered how debilitating it must be for a very tall man to be reaching old age.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I've been going to see Dr. Schweitzer at Lifelong Medical for maybe seven years now. Whenever I see her, she has a wry smile for me. And she seems to love the challenge of solving the latest puzzle of whatever ailment I have at that visit. In fact, I know she takes delight in solving the mystery. Make that mysteries, as my ailments are coming faster, a seeming tidal wave of health issues within the past few years.

Still, it's been hard to get in to see her. She never came to our weight loss classes. Dr. Towner did. Dr. Miller, even Dr. Chinn. And when I'd call, even when it wasn't urgent, I'd be pushed back a few weeks because she only came in twice a week. I began wondering if I shouldn't switch doctors, just because of the availability issue.

But there was one thing in her favor: She had saved my life.

Her sleuth skills were challenged one summer, when she kept getting test results back on me that showed I was low in iron and losing blood. She set me up for several more tests, including a colonoscopy. I was 51 and had never had one.

The gastroenterologist called me on a Friday night, telling me that they got the test results back from the rather large tumor that had attached itself to the colon wall. It was cancer. I had surgery within a week to remove it.

I must admit that I still wonder how, in all of those years the polyp has been growing into a rather sizeable Stage 2 growth, nobody caught it until then. I've had blood tests, all kinds of tests, in the last 10 years, which is probably how long the thing was growing. If it had kept on growing, without that colonoscopy, I wouldn't be typing these words, that's for sure.

So, that's it. I feel guilty that I wanted to leave. That, plus the fact that her bedside manner is terrific, she cuts right through the b.s. that I often throw out, and gets me to go back to diet and exercise, over and over again.

I was just there again yesterday, checking in about my thumb ("trigger finger," they call it) and also this horrible cold. She diagnosed the cold as bronchitis, gave me samples of antibiotics so that I didn't have to go to the pharmacy, and added an inhaler. Also, because of a missed step (I don't know what else to call it) in May, she set me up for three more tests, including the dreaded treadmill. Oooh, I'm not looking forward to that.

On the way out, I set up my fasting blood draw, and the receptionist asked me, "Did she tell you?" I said yes, not knowing what she was talking about. And then I paid attention and said, "What?" "She's leaving. Her last day is October 2nd. Well, actually, she's going back to one day a week -- Saturdays -- but not everyone will be able to get in then," she said with a pitying frown.

She's leaving. She didn't tell me. Scaling back more than leaving, sounds like. The receptionist added one more thing before giving me my appointment slip: "She's not good at saying goodbyes."

Neither am I.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Angel's Camp: Shana Tova

We took a leisurely drive through 4 different highways to get to Angel's Camp on Tuesday. We had originally planned to go on Monday, but we decided to put it off one day due to the heat up there and some remaining things to do locally.

We finally made it up there -- after a lengthy traffic jam above Tracy -- at about dusk. We checked in at our Worldmark resort, and found that the two-bedroom place I had reserved was a virtual palace. It was a corner unit, and immediately offered us a beautiful view of the sunset from two sides of the unit.

The next day we had a casual breakfast at Perko's Cafe, picked up some groceries, and then went back to the WM unit to just relax until 6 pm. I sat out on the patio in the pleasant 70-degree air, and watched the squirrels scamper below, the golfers drive around in their golf carts while I listened to Disney updates on my iPod. It was a very pleasant afternoon.

At 6 pm we drove over to Murphys, which is another little town a few miles away on 49, and drove up the short driveway to the massive home. We met the family there, as well as their 3 dogs, and waited for the rest of the congregation to join us for erev Rosh Hashanah services. In the meantime, as I petted the dogs, I could hear the blast of the shofar. Each kid had to try it, apparently, and every adult male had to blow on it. It punctuated the conversation as we waited for everyone to arrive.

It was a very nice service -- about 25 of the local Jews attended -- and a nice little potluck at the end. Apples dipped in honey. Challah. Grapes. Wine and grape juice.

The next morning we got up early because we knew this journey would be a long one. Sonora was a good 26 miles from Angel's Camp. So we climbed into the car and drove until we got to Sonora, found a Starbucks, and relaxed for an hour, knowing we could find the house from there.

Just a note here: the Starbucks woman helping us commented on Val's hat. She said, gee, it almost looks like a yamulke. At the end of their conversation we discovered that she is a Jew, too, and Val wrote out information for her to find the congregation if she felt the desire later.

We drove on to the house. But it wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. However, we made the correct turn and then went up and up on a small paved road, all the way to the top of the mountain, 11 miles. When we got to the top, we saw the house with the largest windows I've ever seen. And a small, energetic woman and her smaller dog came out to greet us.

Arlene is very proud of her house, and showed it off to us before anyone else arrived. And we took the time to meet the other seven dogs. I only learned the names of four of them, including the adorable Spaniels (Wanda and Olivia), the boxer (Patty), and the Newfoundland (a monstrous black lump named Sherman). I discovered that the dog hair (and drool) stuck to my clothing on a regular basis. Arlene loved the fact that everyone could meet and talk to her dogs. And she loved to entertain. What better entertainment than Rosh Hashanah services?

We had the services in the raised, oval part of the house. This was where the floor to tall ceiling windows were. It was a beautiful area, normally hot as hell, Arlene told us, in the summer. But today was nicely moderate, and it was a perfect temperature during the service, even for me. I was quite amazed that 16 people made it out to the house. Some of them had to drive one to two hours to get there. And most of them did not know each other! They do now.

This is my second Rosh Hashanah at a small community. It's always a different kind of experience. The Temple Sinai Paramount service is big and grand with glorious music. But the small congregation service is...well, it's always different, depending on the need of the congregation. This one was intimate, personal. I wouldn't trade it.

Free Until 2012!

The new driver's license came today. Here is a scan so that you can compare 2002 to 2007. I've aged and my hair is shorter. My chin has disappeared completely....but that might be a good thing.

We went to Angel's Camp over the last 3 days to attend Rosh Hashanah services in the foothills and the mountains in Calaveras County, home of the Mark Twain frog. (And they never let you forget that.) But I drove maybe one block. Sweetie behind the wheel!

Hopefully I'll blog more about that experience later.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The DMV and I Have a Chat

I went to my appointment at the Oakland Coliseum DMV yesterday, hoping to renew my driver's license without a written test.

I got there early and stood in line. This DMV isn't the hoity-toity DMV you would find near Rockridge. This is where everybody goes. They may not want to go, and most don't have appointments, but we all gather nonetheless. We have to have that license.

The receptionist gave me a number, and I had a seat. About 10 minutes later, my number was called, and I went over to the window. The woman looked at my records on the computer, and asked me, "Are you in law enforcement?" She then gave me a long, hard look, as her eyebrows met in the middle of her face.

I told her that I used to be, but now I'm retired. I invoked that privilege about 15 years ago. DMV records are available to anybody, unbelievably, even drug smugglers and criminals. I didn't think it wise for a Customs inspector to have DMV records -- including my address -- easily available.

She then looked up and asked me, "Do you know that postal facility across the street?" She pointed. Yes, I replied. "I worked there." Her face changed, as she brightened toward the subject. She told me all about the way the lot used to look, unkempt with weeds, and how they used to make steel parts there. "And then they turned it into that beautiful facility!" She didn't mention the imposing steel fence that now surrounds it.

After we talked some more about what work was done across the street, she smiled and handed me my form and sent me to the camera spot. "You know where that is?" she said helpfully. Oh, yeah. I had seen it earlier. I hadn't thought I would have to have my picture taken.

So, I went over there and smiled at the guy while he shot the digital picture. I put my thumb on the little cup, and it didn't get dirty. Amazing! This is all nicely mechanized and very fast. He said in three weeks I will get my new license.

I wonder if the photo on the new license will be as bad as it is now? Not possible. I had dark hair with wild streaks of gray, sort of a Texas Big Hair look. And the expression on my face is akin to the deer in the headlights look. So it's bound to be better.

And in the back of my mind is the thought that I really don't know what would happen if I had to take the written test, or -- shudder! -- the driving test. OMG. Remember in the old days when you had to parallel-park the car? I never had to do that (that's how old those old days are). But, still. Scary.

Yay for modern times, modern conveniences like getting a computer appointment and having my thumbprint shot digitally. It's just amazing that such an inconvenience as going to the DMV would not be so damned inconvenient any more. And that sometimes you can make the clerk smile. That's the real payoff.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Put the Watch Down and Back Away from the Table...

I've moved from apartment to apartment, never saving much of anything. The microwave my mother gave me. Some photos. Some collectibles. But I don't think I've ever saved anything for a long time. But this watch I own: I've had it now for 25 years.

I bought it in 1982 with my first overtime money. I planned a tour of Switzerland and Italy, and while I was in Switzerland, I went to Bucherer's and got the royal treatment. I became a member of the Rolex club. There were about four "members" in Customs, and Frank and I used to make jokes about it. We wore our watches every day. Others would laugh at us, joke that the Rolex doesn't keep good time. It's not a timepiece, after all. It's a piece of jewelry.

It's an Oyster Perpetual Lady Datejust. I still remember looking at it for the first time, as its undying crystal gleamed in the light. It's a two-tone band, meaning half stainless steel, half gold. I don't even know if you can buy those any more.

Today I took my Rolex in to the shop in San Francisco. It's up 7 floors behind an unlabeled door on Post Street. The doorman there told me where to find it. It had been, after all, about 7 years since I had been there. I braced myself. Here it comes.

The lady greeted me at the counter, saw the watch, and called for the Watch Repairman. He spoke to me in clipped tones, an elegant trace of a Swiss accent apparent. And then he started to scold me.

It happens every time. I've been here three times since I bought my Rolex. I may not remember exactly where the place is. I may not remember which floor it's on. But I remember the scolding.

I explained to him that the stem was broken, the same thing that was wrong when I brought it in five years ago. I couldn't change the date, and changing the time was difficult. He took it away for several minutes and then returned. He looked at me solemnly, lowered his head, and began. "It's not the stem. It's the mechanism that the stem drives. It's been longer than five years."

I lowered my head in shame. I hadn't been a very good parent.

He continued. "You need to bring the watch in every three or four years for maintenance."

Yeah, yeah. Seven years ago -- or whenever I had brought it in last -- it was $300 for the cleaning. And their cleaning means that they fix anything that's broken inside, except for replacing the crystal. Today it was more than $500. Who could afford to bring it in every three years?

I guess the answer to that question is the obvious: if you have to ask about the price, you can't afford the watch. I love that old watch.

He asked me if I wanted to replace the crystal. It has a few nicks in its once-indestructible surface. No, not yet, I replied. "Next time," he smiled.

Sometime after 2010.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Linda in a way you've never seen her before: Down in the Dirt

The day started off early, as usual over the last two weeks. I get up at 7. I'm retired!! Don't they know that??!

But the construction guys never came. So I drove off at 8:20 am, drove past an accident (watching a woman nearly coast her car into mine because she was watching the accident -- I hate that!), went to the Lakeshore post office to mail a damn eBay poster, and then to Dawn's house. Belle forgets who I am, barks, and then acts embarrassed when the door opens. Oh, you! You practically live here!

We went for our walk around Lake Merritt, discussing the vagaries of our lives. Career decisions. Home decisions. The Stuff that is life.

Then, after 3.3 miles, and dripping with sweat as the temperature in Oakland rises steadily, we drove off to Long's (aka Payless), and looked at flowers. Well, Dawn looked at flowers. I followed along, thinking secretly that they all look alike.

I warned her that we don't have any tools, so we bought two trowels, a big and a small one. And one big plant and several little plants. I've forgotten what they are. The tags described them as sun-something, mums. Dawn said they weren't mums. Val will know.

We didn't buy enough for the two big beds, whose soil was put in by the construction crew just days ago. I had described the soil as "wood-chippie," which didn't sound appetizing to Dawn, but when she got here, she said it was great. And when we started digging holes with our trowels, the soil parted like the Red Sea. It was pliable and soft, a dream for a gardener who doesn't want to stay out there in the sun too long.

While we were doing that, Ernie came by in the truck, and took a final check from me. Actually, I'm not sure if they're done below. I think so. I forgot to ask! It seemed more important to ask about the heat duct system.

He brought in a ladder and took a look through the attic hole, saying at once how hot it was up there. He took my flashlight and looked all around, and immediately spotted two or three connections that weren't being made (the heating duct to the furnace). So, problem is diagnosed!

We'll coordinate next week on a cool morning for the crew to come out here and get that done. A couple of hours, he said. Is it free? I don't sounded free. But year-long problem will be solved BEFORE winter gets here!!

In the meantime, about one-third of the flower beds are done. We decided to concentrate on the strip next to the sidewalk. And when I find one, I'll put in a stepping stone so that we don't have to leap over the sprouts.

We hooked up the new fertilizer spread nozzle to the hose and watered the plants after they were finally in. I am supposed to do this every seven days. I think I can handle that.

In the meantime, the front yard is shaping up quite nicely, thanks to Dawn's labor and Val's input.