Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Princess and the Pee

If you haven't guessed by now, we have a dog. I have had girlfriends who were high maintenance, but not like this.

She has settled down a bit, so she's not continually following me around, licking my face whenever it's almost in reach. She has her places, her duty, her role. She watches over the house and those precious people in it. That's where the bark comes from.

The first few weeks, she wasn't so. She was barely there. Oh, sure, she followed us around a lot, but her real personality and, well, obstinence finally began to come out.

For instance, an example about her insistence on having her way: when I get up in the morning, I am very cognizant of the fact that she's going to need to pee. Soon. So I take her down the back stairs in my sweat pants and slippers, trying not to slip on the wet stairs with this precious cargo. And when we get down there, I put her on the grass. She doesn't like wet paws, so she runs to the brick. But mostly, on the way to the dry brick, she pees. And then looks at me. And then runs upstairs.

But now she's refusing to pee out in the backyard. So I take her out front on the leash. She looks for her spot, smells for her spots, and then releases. However, I hate it, because I have to dodge the cars, protect her while doing so, and be out there either in my almost-jammies or get fully dressed. Sheesh.

So it's a constant battle. Soon, we will have disciplinary lessons! For both of us.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Disney World 2009: You Say It's Your Birthday

I just returned from visiting Disney World for 7 days plus a day of travel. We had a wonderful time, and the weather treated us well.

A lot of planning went into this trip. What helped, though, was the fact that the Food & Wine Festival was still going on in Epcot, so we could grab some delicious snacks of our choice, and not pay too much. The rest of the food bill was a bit up there. Food costs in Disney World.

Mark flew in one day early and rested, and then met us at the airport so that we could all go in together. I had to upgrade our rental car so that it would fit 5 people and their luggage. I picked the Chrysler 300, a large car, over a minivan or SUV, and, as the only driver, I can say it worked out very well.

My favorite part of the journey was when we entered the park at 7pm on Sunday night for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, for which we had bought separate tickets. The monorail was closed between the TTA ticket center and Magic Kingdom, so we caught a ferry full of hundreds of costumed families, and drove over during the magnificent sunset to the MK. The cold wind abated when we entered the park, and we had a magical time as Ricky led us around to every single trick-or-treating stand so that we could pick up every bit of offered candy in the park. What we found were little containers of milk duds, whoppers, Hershey's candy bars, even raisins. And taking the Haunted Mansion ride seemed like the appropriate thing to do that night. It was scarier than usual, as the cast members were dressed up more ghoulier than ever, and they had dead expressions on their ashen-grey faces. Ooooh.

My birthday was celebrated in Epcot on Thursday. I had a free day, thanks to Disney's birthday gift. I found the right booth to present my certificate (Will Call), and received not only my free plastic pass but a birthday button. I counted all the birthday greetings I received that day as people around the park reacted to my birthday button: 41.

I was standing in line at Soarin', when the couple ahead of me told me 'happy birthday!," and told me that the guy ahead of them in line ALSO had his birthday today! It was birthday-o-rama! And, obviously, we all chose to spend it at Disney World.

I spent the entire day in Epcot, riding my favorite rides by myself like Mission: Space and Soarin', and then met Dawn and Elly when they came over to Epcot early at 3pm so that they could revisit the Seas, especially the Nemo ride and its splendid aquarium. Then, at 5pm, Rick and Mark joined us. We had an early dinner at the Rose & Crown Pub in "England," and for the first time, I got to sit out on the patio on the water. It was just warm enough for that, and we got to view the constantly approaching storks and ducks as they patrolled for human food droppings.

After that, we knew our visit to Disney World was over, and so we drove back to pack and relax for the trip home the next day.

It helped that we took frequent breaks after the 2nd day, and would usually drive back early from whatever park we visited, back to the timeshare to catch a nap. At one point we went out to a local International Drive, non-Disney restaurant -- it had "Bahama" in the title -- and although we had a wait, the food was worth it. Another adventure!

I'm not sure I'll ever make it back to Orlando, but I know that WDW is my favorite Disney park. You never run out of things to do, even on your birthday.

It Came Around Again

I had a flu shot on Monday. Today, on Wednesday, I have the flu. If it's a reaction to the shot. it should be temporary and minimal. Right now, it doesn't feel minimal.

It was actually the H1N1 vaccination I got this time. It looks to be approaching an epidemic in the state.

As for me, personally, I'm losing my voice. I already cancelled one appointment today. Better rest.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Those Clergy Sure Put on a Good Show

I've been to, let's see.... three services so far this week. No, four counting Tashlich. Another one tomorrow morning.

Ner Tamid really puts on a rousing show. The music is spectacular. The choir really knows its stuff. Occasionally we get the kid choir, and they're not bad either. There was even a "shofar choir" today, with three kids blowing. They weren't spectacular, but were lots of fun. Tekiyah!

It's amazing to me how hard the clergy and staff work. All the security was in place, starting Friday night. We had to have a pink glowing badge to park the car, and her name had to match names on a clipboard. We entered a side door because Ruth has a key for that. Cool. And people would stop by to check in with her.

Got your cue sheet? Check. Got your machser? Check. White robe? Oh, yes. And they all meet in a circle before they go out there, like a football huddle, only, instead of plays, the head rabbi says a prayer. But then they put their hands on top of one another's hands, yes, like in a football huddle, and yell at the end. Hut!

It took us half an hour after the RH service this morning to get out of there. And then someone asked about the Torah scroll to be used the next morning just as we were leaving. And then someone called her on her cell phone just as we had made the first turn out of the parking lot, again about a Torah scroll.

They have six Torahs! All sizes and weights. One person told me the heaviest one is 35 pounds. I no longer envy those who get to carry it around in the Rosh Hashanah service for all to touch.

Tashlich was a hoot, just like last year. Once I got over the fact that it wasn't going to start on time (I learned that last year), I was fine with everything. Passing out crushed matzoh, service booklets. Saying the prayers. Tossing my sins and bad habits into the lake, and watching the stream carrying it (them) away. Watching the ducks devour my sins with feathery gusto.

Tomorrow the last RH service. Then we pack and get on a plane Monday morning.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rosh Hashanah, Year 5770

I'm sitting here in the synagogue in Henderson, Nevada, typing away on a borrowed computer. It will be Rosh Hashanah in a few hours.

In trying to figure out what Rosh Hashanah means to me, I've spent the last week wondering, sometimes aloud, on that very topic, all the way carrying on all the daily tasks one does. It's 95 degrees out. What do people here do about the heat? Why aren't there more people out and about in this neighborhood? Is it simply the heat, or is it because many of those people lost their homes and are no longer IN the neighborhood?

And then I heard about one congregant, whose name I don't know and will never know, who has had a frightfully bad time of it. Her husband died several years ago, and she not only misses him but the life they used to have, when they had money. He ran his own business, apparently well, but after he died, she leaned upon some friends of his who gave her their bad financial advice. As a consequence, she has lost her home, her car, her way of life. Friends wonder if she's thin because she's getting older - she's in her late sixties. Or because she can't afford the food.

There are many more stories like that. You know the stories. Some of them involve friends of yours, relatives of yours. The last two years have been financially devastating. I don't have to tell you that such a bad economy preys upon the elderly moreso than the young. The young have time to recover, resources to plumb. The elderly rarely do unless they've socked a lot away.

But I don't have to go all that far afield from my (extended) family for some hard-luck stories. I have a relative who is struggling not to lose his house. I have another relative who is living with a friend, thank goodness, but is just several inches away from homelessness. I have a young relative who is lost and separated from us, and doesn't know what to do. I have two close friends, probably more, who are struggling with day-to-day depression, some on medication and under doctor's care for that malady. I have a relative with an illness he was born with, one that every day denies him a normal existence.

So what does Rosh Hashanah mean in regard to this rather depressing topic. I think it means that we need to find our own meaning to life. What does life mean to us. I don't expect God to help that first woman I referenced, just dump a barrel-full of money at her feet. I expect humans to wade in there and give her a helping hand. If they can't themselves, perhaps they know of some social organization who can.

And the inevitable conclusion is that I need to wade in more and help my relatives, first and foremost, to deal with the lousy cards they've been dealt. And then, if I have anything left, I can help those people, like that aging congregant who lost everything.

I think the only meaning I'll get out of my remaining decade (or possibly two) will ooze out of the relationships I form. And the care I give to them.

L'shanah tovah. A good year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Slot Heaven

I've been spending a small section of each day at my new "home," Sunset Station casino/hotel. We briefly went to another Station casino last night, Boulder Station, and my God, I hated it. There were too many people, the aisle ways were narrow, and they didn't have the games I liked. (And the ones I liked were taken.)

But they did have a bank of my new discovery: community gambling with Reel 'Em In.

Anyone who knows about my gambling habits knows that I love Reel 'Em In. I discovered this fishing slot game at least 25 years when the old Frontier hotel/casino was still around. It was a nickel slot machine in those days, and I would play multiple lines at tremendous cost, but then win quite often. I was enchanted.

And then the cascading slot machines came along, just recently. My favorite is Invaders from the Planet Moolah, which allows you multiple chances for one pull, and a chance to get to their bonus round (which is actually the same thing, just over and over). But now there's another enchanting slot machine pulling at me.

"Community gaming" is what they call it. It's based on Reel 'Em In, at least that's the bonus round, but (unfortunately) the four single machines underneath the massive video screen are other games. They're horrible, but what are you gonna do. But the bonus round, which shows up almost randomly, is one of three games, and you compete with the other 3 during those games. The games are Best Fish (the biggest), most fish (the most and the biggest), and the Boat Race (who comes in first, towed by their fish). You don't know when the bonus round is going to hit, and the timer on your individual screen tells you how many seconds you have to play. If you don't make it, you won't be eligible for the bonus round. You can't even sneeze in case you'll miss it.

So the adrenaline is pumping the entire time. And each pull on the individual machine is 50 cents at least, so even though it's a penny machine it's expensive. I've seen many people lose all their money just waiting for the bonus round. So it's one to be approached carefully.

The Station Casino has one of these. Three Invasion of the Planet Moolah. And two Reel 'Em In. Almost heaven.


We both attended Selichot, and, I swear, I don't remember ever having attended this before. We had our choice of four teachers for an hour: Rabbi Achselrad, Rabbi Adar, Rabbi Chester (visiting his family in Las Vegas), and an educator. I decided to sit with Rabbi Chester because I wasn't sure anyone else would and I didn't want him to think that he had wasted his time by coming. I needn't have worried.

While I was standing around, waiting for something, anything to begin, a couple of women recognized me and said hi, and asked me which one I was going to attend. I explained, and one of them, oh, we should do that, too! Rabbi Adar would want us to. But the other one said, but I adore Rabbi Adar. Can't I go to hers? The other told her no. It was very funny. And, yes, we found ourselves with about 12 others huddled around Rabbi Chester in a very small room in the synagogue. We had a rousing discussion of the Book of Life and whether we're really inscribed.

Afterwards we gathered in the sanctuary for the Selichot service. I noticed that only about one-half stayed for the service. Rabbi Chester noticed me sitting all alone way off to the side -- I never know where to sit in the large room, mainly because there are designated seats, the comfortable ones, for donors. So he joined me.

It was interesting to watch him. The Selichot service pamphlet was composed by their student rabbi of a couple of years ago. He perused the entire thing during the opening remarks and songs of the service, just like a professional.

One thing about Ner Tamid: a lot of the arrangements of the songs don't encourage participation. What I mean by that is, they have a choir who sings, and most of the congregants just listen. This did not stop Rabbi Chester from singing along. He sang every one of the songs. I took encouragement from this, and I started singing along, too, at least to the songs I knew. The songs of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the most beautiful and stirring, and I just love them. I got a little taste, and then the short service was over.

While we had been waiting for the service to start, a congregant named Julie, with whom I had had several conversations, brought one of her standard poodles with her, Simon. Simon had just come from the beauty shop. He's in training for being a caregiver dog, and was just gorgeous. I don't think he showed up in the photos because of his immense blackness. He was very well behaved. And since he attneded services, too, I was glad to see that he also did not choose to sing along with the choir.

Road Trip to a Very Familiar Place

It took us two leisurely days to get to Henderson, Nevada. Sweetie is the Visiting Rabbis during the High Holy Days, and we'll be here for three weeks (with a break in between to return home).

Our one-night stop was picked because Sweetie thought I might like to experience a casino/hotel just inside the Nevada state line, and she was right. So we pulled into Primm's Whiskey Pete hotel and casino, only to discover that it was the wrong Primm hotel. The one we made a reservation at was across the highway. But we were tired, and so the desk clerk quickly cancelled the original reservation and offered us a double room at ..... $15 a night. Oh, yeah.

The little cafe in the small casino had so-so food, but offered this so-so food 24 hours. And so we found ourselves eating dinner at about 9pm. There was one waiter at that point, and I unfortunately didn't catch his name, but he was very good. (The waiter the next morning was overwhelmed and her inherent talent wasn't up to the task at all.) So at that point, about 3 hours after arriving, Sweetie took a break from writing, and I took a break from gambling, and we shared a meal. Then we returned to our respective tasks.

We left at about noon the next day, pulled into Ner Tamid synagogue parking lot at about 1:30pm and got the keys to the company car as well as the private house at which we'd be staying.

The house used to be the home of an elderly congregant. She has since passed away and the owners, also members of the congregation, can't sell the place in this economy. So they very nicely lent it to Sweetie during the High Holidays so the congregation wouldn't have to pay the motel she usually stays in.

The house is very nice: a two-bedroom with a walk-in shower and a gigantic living room. There are a few things, however, which make it less than ideal -- a broken dishwasher, a washer that appears to have issues so that we can't use it, no internet, and no TV reception (because, after all, why would you continue with the last two if no one lives there?). But there's electricity - Thank God for air conditioning - and working water.

Every day Sweetie gets up early so that she can get some work done before going to the synagogue. Every day I get up not knowing what her schedule is, and drive over to the nearby Sunset Station casino because it's close. If she's free for lunch, I'd like to join her. But she never knows when that will be. Somedays it's 1:30pm. Other days, like yesterday, it's 5pm. I would like to drive off and discover some of the other casinos in the area, particularly the ones mentioned in my Las Vegas Advisor coupon book, but I'm not sure when that will happen.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More Musings about the Star Trek Convention

Here are some comments about the Star Trek Convention:

There doesn't seem to be a future for the Star Trek: Experience. We went by Neonopolis, and while there was a building, there was absolutely no activity or construction.

Stephen Collins (Seventh Heaven, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture): "I did see a Klingon at a slot machine last night." No kidding. They were all over the place, particularly on Thursday when Martok and Gowron were in full regalia. Stephen has joined the twitter world: bassisland. I think I'll follow him. I just hope he doesn't talk too much about fish.

I was really impressed with "young Spock," a 10-year-old actor named Jakob Kogan. I think I'll watch his movie from 2008, "Joshua."

Leonard and Bill were quite funny on stage together. They really are good together, and you get the feeling they are close friends. I was quite taken with emotion, though, when Leonard said he was worried about losing his memory. I have a feeling it's why he "retired" a few years ago, only to be offered more and more parts. He was on his way to Vancouver to do "Fringe" a few months ago, and they got him his lines while he was in the airport. The airline printed it out for him. He was sweating that he wouldn't be able to get the mouthful of speech he had to make. How interesting. How heartwarming and understandable.

Christopher Lloyd was terrific on stage. I really enjoyed the story he told about how Eric Stolz lost his part in Back to the Future to Michael J. Fox. I had always wondered what happened. And hearing Lloyd's take on why was the interesting part.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Can't a Klingon Get a Buffet Around Here?

The three Klingons strolled quietly into the Las Vegas Hilton buffet line, each grabbing a plate as they went. We didn't pay any attention, but several tables full of people stopped to stare, laughing and pointing. It's new to them, but not to us. We've been watching Klingons try to get something to eat for years.

When Debbie and I decided to go to the big Creation convention at the Hilton in August, we knew there would be changes. For instance, we said goodbye to the Star Trek: Experience last August, and knew we would miss it. There is nothing to replace it, despite Creation's efforts to move some of their events to the nearby Stratosphere hotel and include their roller coaster rides in the gold ticket. But we were more interested in living in the land of Star Trek one more time. And we wanted to take note of the changes. Some things were the same, and some things were definitely different.

Thursday started out pretty much normally. In 107-degree heat, we made our way on the monorail to hear those on the stage, and to attend the Klingon lunch. For the first time, Creation had two of the actors -- J.G. Hertzler and Robert O'Reilly -- dress in makeup and costume to assume their Klingon identities, "Martok" and "Gowron," respectively, each of whom had been Chancellor of the Klingon Empire in Deep Space Nine. In truth, neither one looked like the roles they played, as Michael Westmore certainly wasn't applying their makeup, but they indeed look like menacing Klingons. J.G. and Bob good-naturedly visited with each table and made disparaging comments about our "live" food, and then the rest of the actors came in: Tony Todd, Spice Williams-Crosby, William Morgan Sheppard, Michael Dorn and Suzie Plakson.

I was shocked at Michael Dorn's appearance. Yes, he's bald now, but even more than that, he's many pounds lighter, and almost appears frail. He noted when he sat down at our table during lunch: "All the things I can't eat," pointing to the pizza and pasta. He told us that he became a vegetarian three years ago. More importantly, he related that he's writing now -- he has something on YouTube that he hopes to expand -- and that he wants to go back to directing.

I had attended Borg Bingo last year, but found that resistance to bingo was not futile when I discovered that the ticket was a whopping $169. So we skipped that event and every other breakfast and luncheon. The prices have just about doubled.

It was great seeing a lot of the Trekkies wandering around -- JoBeth, Freddie, all of the A and B row people that have been coming for years. I heard from someone who attended the parties that the parties are getting to be a bit late for those of us who have been around a bit. We're getting older, and we can't stay up that late! Some of the parties, I noted, didn't even start until midnight, and at another hotel, which means travel time.

But while we're on the subject of age, we were entirely shocked on the weekend. We entered the convention area and were astounded by the long lines to get in. In fact, Creation had so much walk-up traffic on Sunday that they had to delay Zachary Quinto's appearance on stage. And these folks were dramatically younger. And in general admission for the most part. The place was absolutely packed, the first time I have ever seen that at the Las Vegas convention. Is it the new movie? Yes, I think so. Many of these folks said, also, that they're watching the TV series -- classic, Next Gen, Voyager, Enterprise -- for the first time just because of the new movie. My God, this franchise might actually survive! And with a whole new fanbase.

I liked what Christopher Lloyd said to us as he greeted us conventioners for the first time: Perseverance is the key to acting. It's also the key to being a fan for more than 40 years. We have faith the ideals of Star Trek will survive. It also helps to have a kick-ass movie bring in more like us.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hail to Rickey!

I went to the Coliseum today, 3 hours before the game, to get there to say farewell to Rickey Henderson. I think he's finally realized that he has to retire. After all, he joined the Hall of Fame of Baseball last week. It would be rude to try to play again.

He mentioned the word "humble" a couple of time, but gave us a passing Rickey-ism, a poem that wasn't a poem, but one that mentioned himself in the third person a few times. That is absolute Rickey.

One wishes one could distill his greatness, use it in the present-day A's team. They could use his spark. His will to succeed. His overwhelming confidence.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Recovering from Comic Con

Last night I drove 8 hours, stopping for a quick sandwich, to get back to Oakland. I unpacked the car, and then fell into bed, exhausted.

I am still recovering and mailing off eBay stuff. Lots of stuff. Tomorrow I might list some more.

The best things on eBay:
District 9 posters
T-shirts - Nightmare on Elm Street & Astro Boy
Tron replica coin
Green Lantern comic book, if you can believe that.

After all my whining, the giveaways were pretty darn good.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Comic Con 2009 Sunday - Still Standing in Line

We were here at 7am this morning, standing in a lonnnng line for about half an hour, only to be led into another line within the building. The line was much longer than the one I sat in on Friday, going into the same room. But, three hours later, here we are finally in the room, waiting another hour before the Smallville panel begins. And the rumor I had heard via Twitter was true: Tom Welling will be here for the first time. AND we got a Smallville hat handed to us when we came in the room!

There are two guys in costume standing in the aisle while others clap and take photos - Batman and Superman. The Batman is dressed in a stunningly realistic costume.

We have seen some amazing costumes along the way, but I'm usually in such a hurry to get somewhere that I can't take a photo. The masquerade was last night, and it sounds like 6,000 attended. I'm sure several hundred costumed fans paraded on stage.

The worst part for us for Comic Con is standing in line, and hoping we'll make it in. Room 6ABF, which we're in now, holds only 2,000. Apparently we were at the end of the first 1,000 or so, because we're halfway back. But for three hours of waiting in line, we will only be here an hour.

And the problem with walking and standing in line, for me, is all the stuff I'm lugging around.
1. My blue bag, filled with water, food, medication, toploader for fragile items, badge, and small Aspire computer (on which I'm typing).
2. My poster tube. I hate this thing, but I've gotten a lot of neat posters, many of which are still destroyed by the time I get back to the room.
3. Jacket, fanny pack, phone.

Try juggling all that and dashing to and from.

As a consequence of the crowds (over 125,000), the idea of picking one thing to do and sticking to that, as far as programming is concerned, is still a valid one. We didn't do that yesterday, as there was only one thing we wanted to see in Ballroom 20: V. So we woke up late, took our time getting there, wandered the convention floor, and then finally got in line 3 hours before the panel. We needed all of that time.

This is our last day, and this is my last post. We saved a bit of money this trip: we stayed in a timeshare, we took the trolley the 2 miles to the convention center at about $4/day; we tried to grab something cheap at the convention center, or, when we could, at Subway on the way.

And I've already booked the timeshare and my convention ticket for next year. I had a good plan for this year, but most of it didn't work out. There's always next year!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Comic Con 2009 - Saturday Night, Preparing for Oh-Dark-Thirty

I spent the evening placing new items on eBay, putting photos to my blog and Facebook. And throwing out some items I didn't want at all. Rick will take most of them to either his niece and nephews or the Senior Center to see if they want them. I have no use for six Sorority Row bottle openers.

We have to get up early again tomorrow for the Smallville panel. I don't watch the show, but there's nothing else to do on Sunday, so I will go with him so that we can get into the 6BDF room. We have to be there at around 7am in order to do that, so up at 5:30 or so (earlier for me).

So for the rest of the evening -- it's closing in on me, I can feel it in my eyes -- I will sort things into boxes and continue separating out the damn posters. I hate posters. It's just that they're so often lucrative.

Comic Con 2009 Saturday Still, on the Fringe

I talked Rick into staying 10 more minutes past V, past the Visitors trying to take over the Earth, to Fringe, which is every alien for him- or herself.

V looks very interesting. As Rick reminded me, they took 2 hours of the old story and distilled it into 45 minutes for the modern version. And they injected some modernism, aka terrorism, into the mix. So we have aliens among us, those who have lizard scales under human skin. And some are good, meaning they like us and will help us in our resistance, and the others want to use us for their food supply. I think I'll continue to watch it.

And after our 10 minutes of Fringe, we'll head to 29A again to the Fulfillment Room to pick up whatever free item we got during the Simpsons panel. What could that be?

Comic Con 2009: Saturday - In Search of Ballroom 20

I'm finally sitting in Ballroom 20 after spending two-and-a-half hours on my feet. Rick and I wandered from tent to tent in a tightly-controlled line in an effort to get into see "V", the first full episode of the new series. The show was going on at 2:45pm, so we got in line at 11 to make sure we had plenty of time.

Before that, we trolled around the dealer's huge room for freebies, and found quite a few, including Twilight posters and cards, Gamer posters, a Coraline piece of memorabilia to promote the DVD release, Stargate posters, and more. We roamed around and found Jeff Conaway (Babylon 5 and Grease!) and Nichelle Nichols signing autographs at the Wizard booth, Leonard Nimoy signing at another autograph booth, and many more I didn't recognize.

We got caught up in the moment at the Stargate booth when they were giving away an Amanda Tapping autograph. I thought it was a pre-autographed photo, but when I won one, I realized I get a wristband, have to return at 3pm, stand in line for an hour or more for her to sign 100 autographs, and then have something for her to sign. I couldn't do any of that, so I pointed to the guy next to me in the big crowd, and he got it. We were actually hoping to win some DVDs, but that didn't happen.

We keep going by the Paramount booth to see what they're giving away. We actually tried to get in line this morning, which loops over by the Cafe and on down by the wall for several hundred feet, but had to give up when we realize that all those wristbands had been given away. Oh, well....I didn't want a foam Vulcan finger anyway.

It's now close to 3pm and we still haven't seen any programming yet, but that's about to start. We hope to see the entire first episode of "V".

Friday, July 24, 2009

Comic Con 2009: It's still Friday and I'm Trying Not to Get Trampled

I'm currently sitting on the floor in the lobby of the convention center itself. My back is to the wall, but my torso and feet are still exposed to people walking by who are texting or generally not paying attention. The WiFi isn't bad here.

I sat through the Prisoner to get to Spartacus. The Prisoner is a remake of that Patrick McGoohan TV show, only this one will be a 6-hour miniseries this fall, playing on three consecutive nights. It's the old question of who's a prisoner to whom, why, yada yada yada.
The difficulty with the first TV show, which was one of my mother's favorites, was that it was boring. I have no doubt this one will suffer the same fate. At least it ends after three nights.

Spartacus looks a bit more interesting. It's too bad it's on Starz, a premium channel I don't have. Lucy plays Lucretia. I'm not sure what role she plays, but she's a devil and obviously enjoys gladiators a great deal. The hero of the piece, Spartacus, couldn't make it to the panel, but sent the usual video greeting. It was nice to hear Stephen DeWright and Rob Tapert talk about how they put it together, the training camp they made everyone (except Lucy) go through, and how they've put some bucks into the production of this show, which is filmed in New Zealand.

Lucy said she almost didn't take the part, as she would have to return to Kiwi Land after living in the States for 8 years. But then she finally figured out that Rob (her husband) wouldn't be returning from New Zealand any time soon because that's where he works. So she joined up, and said that everything has worked out very well for the family. I assume that means the kids are happy, etc., there.

It took me half a mile of walking, and giving advice to other fans who wondered where to cash in their giveaway ticket, when I finally found Room 29A and got my Spartacus goodie bag. Without looking inside, I grabbed it and went off to lunch at the new Hilton, very near the line-up to Hall H. I saw in passing that I would never get into Hall H with that line, so I messaged Ricky that I wouldn't be joining him.

I should mention that I talked at length with one of my seatmates. She was seated in the disabled seat next to me in the middle of The Prisoner panel, and toward the end asked me if I could tell her anything about the show. She told me during the break that she and her boyfriend are splitting up most of the time to see different panels. She follows various shows and wants to see those, like 24. "I watch a lot of TV," she said, almost apoligizing, as she asked me if I watched Dollhouse, Burn Notice, and on and on. She tells the Elite Squad she's disabled -- she has a pacemaker, a bad back, and hearing loss (and forgot her hearing aids today) -- so they seat her in one of the chairs for the disabled, usually near the front. So she doesn't have to stand in the ridiculous lines like the rest of us. After Spartacus, she had five minutes to make it to the 24 panel, and so she said goodbye and left.

As I sat at my table at the Hilton Bayfront in their Grill, waiting for someone, anyone, to notice I was there and take my order, a woman at the table next to me came over and said hello. She said she had noticed I was carrying the Spartacus bag around and wanted to see what they had given me. All the women at the table worked with Starz, but hadn't been able to make it to the panel. As I showed her, she helped me figure out who the autographed photo was, and I still don't remember what she said, but he's not one of the major characters and wasn't at the panel. How interesting!

A brief note about giveaways: In my discussions with several fans at the convention, we all agreed that this convention is well short of giveaways in comparison with years past. Yes, some of the booths are gone, like Inkworks and Sci Fi, but that's no excuse.

Comic Con 2009: Friday, and Bring on the Swag

Ricky and I split up today, probably the only day this will happen. I want to see Lucy Lawless on the Spartacus panel in Room 6BCD, and he headed off to view more movie stuff at Hall H. So we each got in separate lines. I know that I got in before he did, took the escalator upstairs, asked directions, went through the autograph Sails Pavilion where people were already lining up for autographs, and got in line to get in line. I.e., there was a line for all 6-labeled rooms, but I found other Farscape fans (that program starts the day in 6BCD), and after an hour of trying to find an internet connection, we were led through the cavernous halls to the other side to wait in the "real" life for 6BCD.

One of the guys in line -- he looked to be in his mid- to late 20's, told me that he hung around with the Farscape actors some 7 or 8 years ago because his mother was involved in production. He got them all into Disney World for free somehow, and had some stories about Gigi Edgeley that were very funny. She's quite funny and sanely insane; I met her before a couple of times, briefly, at the Farscape convention and Comic Con Sci Fi Channel autograph sessions. That's when it's a lot of fun while you're waiting in lines: talking to the other fans. Truthfully, I couldn't get into much of a discussion about Farscape because I stopped watching it after the second year when they killed off too many of my favorite characters.

So I am now sitting in Room 6BCD -- we've been here a little over an hour. The internet connection is much better in here, and so I'm blogging away. Got a good seat in front of the panel. And to the side of the screen so that I can see The Prisoner when they screen the entire first episode, the programming after Farscape. And then there will be Spartacus, Lucy, and lots of giveaways for those 2,000 of us who got here early, gave away our sleep, and worship the pop culture devil.

It's getting easier to blog, except for the people who are constantly coming and going in the row. But I'm getting the hang of it.

We just had the hour-long Farscape panel, and it was great to see Brian Henson, whose company handles the visual effects and puppetry, Claudia Black, Ben Browder, and producer Rockne O'Bannon, who started the whole thing some 10 years ago. There is so much fandom surrounding this Farscape phenomenon that products keep coming out, like repackaged DVDs and miniseries.

So, now I have to sit through the new Prisoner treatment, which stars Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel. And then Spartacus.

Comic Con 2009: Thursday - Johnny Depp and All Kinds of Strange Things

We got off the trolley Thursday morning just before 7am, and walked the long walk along the front of the Convention center to where the ultra-long line for Hall H would be. Hall H holds 6500 people, the largest room, and is the site where the major networks and movie houses -- like Summit, Sony, Paramount, etc. -- show what they're going to release soon. It's major.

They changed a lot of how we line up for Hall H, and we had to walk about half a mile through stanchions quickly raised. We noticed the tents in front where the Twilight people had set up shot the night before -- those were gone and replaced by standing, or sitting, or sleeping, teenaged and young adult women, talking eagerly among themselves.

We waited over 3 hours, sitting on the grass outside -- thankfully the fog helped us by keeping it cool -- and then filed into the3 massive Hall H. Everybody rushed for the bathroom.

There are only about 20 stalls in the women's restroom, although we are thankful we don't have to leave the hall for the restroom -- which is ridiculous when you consider it seats 6,500 people. So, I don't need to say that there were long lines constantly. And a dearth of supplies, although the workers did the best they could.

Hall H features movies, movies, and movies, and that's what we were there for.

First up was Disney, Disney 3D. We were given plastic 3D glasses when we walked in, along with a Tron movie giveaway. We put the glasses on at each 3D presentation during the day, and I'm very glad to say I did not suffer any headaches. When I looked at the screen to the right and above me, though, I couldn't see the 3rd dimension, so I had to watch the faraway screen. We watched trailers for Disney's A Christmas Carol, and talked with director Robert Zemeckis. The effects and sound were spellbinding, and it was actually a very scary combination when Jacob Marley insisted we were going to meet our past and our future. Comedian Jim Carrey plays 8 parts in the film. He wasn't so funny here.

Then Tim Burton came out to show us some limited footage of his Alice in Wonderland. Patton Oswalt, funny man and voice of Emil in Ratatouille, pressed him to see if he had anything else to show us. Tim kept saying no, no, but then he brought out a friend of his: Johnny Depp. The crowd went wild, as you could expect. He was dressed very nicely, with longish hair, and only said hello, goodbye, and trumpeting, "This is Tim Burton!" The footage we saw, yes, in 3D, was simply amazing. We all know the story, of course, but it sounds like, from Tim's answers to fan questions, that he tinkered with the story a lot. The characters were bizarre-looking for distinctly recognizable. Johnny plays the Mad Hatter. Of course.

Disney ended its presentation with footage and some drawings from Tron. Tron has just begun principal shooting, and won't be finished until at least summer 2010. The motorcycle race they showed us was thrilling, and it stars Jeff Bridges, who starred in the original one -- and he was there on the panel -- but it doesn't look terribly spectacular. There was simply no buzz in Hall H. Time will tell. We'll probably see them again next year.

Next we saw a 3D presentation of some footage from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The title makes perfect sense when you see the trailer, as an inventor changes the weather to feed the homeless to very funny results. The pizzas really popped off the screen.

The Hole is another film presented, also in 3D. Cheap, stupid, horror film. The entire hall thought this was a great miss.

And Final Destination. New ways to die in 3D. This is the 4th film, I believe, and a lot of money has been poured into this one. I saw the first one, and it was cheaply made but with some good ideas. But I don't like horror/slasher films. The extended footage killed off at least 20 good-looking coeds.

Next was Summit Entertainment: Astro Boy, Sorority Row, and the new Twilight film, New Moon. Astro Boy brought out stars Freddie Highmore and Kristen Bell to say hi and then disappear. The trailer looks promising, but it's still a kid's animation movie.

Sorority Row features about 8 gorgeous women in college who have to cover up when one of them is killed due to a practical joke. The audience recognized several women from previous low-budget films, but I only knew Rumer Willis, daughter of Demi and Bruce, who seemed to hold her own; she has a unique look apart from the other model-looking Barbies.

Half the audience had been waiting for this moment, which came at about 1:45pm: the debut of Twilight: New Moon. Cast members were: Taylor Lautner (Jacob), Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and the woman who plays Alice Cullen, his sister. Taylor has obviously changed his appearance, as there had been rumors he would be fired. Apparently Jacob in the 2nd book gains in height, weight and muscle.
At least the Jacob we saw gained some muscle. They showed two clips. At least the screaming stopped for the clips. Not sure I'll see this one, although I did vaguely enjoy Twilight (the movie).

Somewhere in there I walked outside to get hot dogs for us. They'll allow you to go slightly beyond Hall H doors to get food, but that's it.

Finally, Avatar. Most of the people in that hall knew something about the movie, but not awfully much. They knew, though, that wunderkind James Cameron had been making this film for over 4 years, waiting for the technology to catch up. The star, Sam Worthington, who was in Terminator 3, couldn't be there, but we viewed a little video from him on set of his next film. He wore those little things on his body like Andy Serkis did to make Gollum real in Lord of the Rings. Jim mentioned that Gollum was an inspiration, so he took his dusty manuscript out of the drawer and went back to work, knowing that the technical aspects of combining human with technological image could now work for this film.

Much to my surprise, Sigourney Weaver walked on stage, and received a rousing ovation from the fanboys and -girls. She stars as a botanist in the film, and appeared in a couple of the shots Cameron showed us. I have to say, the 3D in Avatar popped like nothing else! The colors of this new world they showed us were real and unreal at the same time. And the creature that Worthington played had little floppy ears and a tail that moved independently. Zoe Saldana, she who plays Uhura in the new Star Trek movie, came out to talk to us, and she plays one of the indigenous species who helps this new avatar.

We stayed for one more, because who could resist Terry Gilliam? It seems like he spends his entire career finding financing for his next movie and then finally makes it. His movies are so dark they don't tend to do well. However, this one, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, is Heath Ledger's last role, and he wasn't able to finish it. However, Gilliam is obviously working around that issue. He showed a lot of footage to us, and it looks just amazing.

The trick of all of these films, especially the three I liked seeing footage the most -- Avatar, Dr. Parnassus, and Alice in Wonderland -- will only work if there's a decent story, a good script, and we have no idea if that's true. But I will be there to find out when they open.

Comic Con 2009: Preview Night and Preview Night

I am so far beyond the Padres game that I can't really talk about it. The Marlins' pitcher was on. There was very little hitting on either side. The park is absolutely beautiful, perched near the bay, but with a design that sometimes makes it hard to find your way, or even your way out.

At 3:30pm, I found Ricky near the stairs of the convention center, and we got in line for registration. Registration was really easy, but registering for 2010, something we wanted to take care of, was difficult. That was so easy last year: just step up to a computer, enter your information, and you're done. The computers were done. But that gave me time to call Debbie at home and ask her some questions. By the time the computers were up, in about 15 minutes, I registered for her, too, for next year.

There are a couple of things I wanted to definitely do at the convention. One of them was pick up the Joss Whedon Dollhouse DVD that I had pre-ordered. It has a letter from Joss, numbered within 2500. And I wanted to sell it on eBay.

For the first time ever, they offered programming on Wednesday night. We wanted to see the entire first episode of V, the remake of the TV miniseries from the '80's, but I insisted on going into the convention floor vendor area to get that DVD. Two hours later, I had the DVD and we had trolled up and down, trying to find free stuff. I did collect some, but I noticed that some booths that were great for that are no longer there, like Inkworks or the Sci Fi Channel.

As we always do on our first night, we took the free shuttle over to the Ralph's store, got our provisions, and were about to get back on the shuttle to take us back to the convention center, and then on a trolley to take us to the Worldmark (WM) unit when I noticed a cab. We took the cab. It cost $6.50. We were tired.

We had to get up at 5:15am the next morning. So I posted a few things on eBay and then we hit the sack.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

San Diego, Day 1: The Padres and Checking In

I made it here, and I'm safely in the Worldmark unit at the corner of A and 11th Streets. Right across the street from community college life, which means lots of transients and fast food restaurants. So, dicey neighborhood. But otherwise a good location.

I am going to the Padres game (Who are they playing? Who cares.) this afternoon. Then, after that, meeting Ricky by the stairs at the convention center around 3pm. Registration starts at 3pm and continues to 6, and then programming (like the full first episode of "V") and the vendor's room opens at 6.

Even on preview night, I'm not sure we can do it all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Road to San Diego

I'm driving to San Diego tomorrow, and the plan is to get there and check in before it gets dark. That means I have to leave at oh-dark-thirty.

The car is packed with boxes to hold onto all the swag I'll pick up. And tubes for posters. Ugh. I hate posters.

I printed out my directions (once I got the printer to work), but I'm really relying on my GPS. I'm sure it'll find the place.

Then, on Wed afternoon, I'll catch the Padres game. Then meet up with Ricky by about 3pm.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The A's, the Boosters and the General State of Things

The Oakland Athletics come back home for the 2nd half, which begins tomorrow night. The season is already over, save a big 40-game winning streak. And I expect that, by the time I get back from Comic Con, Matt Holliday will be playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Or some team like that.

He is definitely not worth keeping at this point. Blame it on the American League pitching staff, or the Coliseum itself, with its long lines to the fence and a lot of foul territory. Whatever it is, this is not optimal for the likes of Holliday. He is not failing miserably, batting above .275 currently, but he is certainly not living up the All-Star that he once was.

I just got through reading his blog. I'm reading between the lines here, but I think he's looking forward to a move away from Oakland.

The Boosters are having a luncheon on Friday, two days from now. I will endeavor to be there early so that I can help out if needed. Marty Lurie will be the MC and I always enjoy him.

At a recent board meeting, I asked those present (about 13) what they thought of Matt Holliday, and every single one of them wanted him to move on. So we get a draft pick or, if Billy can trade him before the July 31st deadline, a shortstop or something like that. Nobody is sorry to see him go. It goes beyond his average, which is solid. It's hitting in key situations. It's the fact that he's not a cheerleader.

We also thought about the fact that there used to be 1,000 booster members, and now there are barely more than 300. It's the fact that Lew Wolff keeps coming out publicly to shoot himself in the foot. The A's are moving. We just don't know where. And people are angry. And the fact that they're playing below .500 (maybe .333?) doesn't help.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Got a Condo Made of Stone-a

I finally got to go see the King Tut exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco last week.

Some friends and I went, and thank goodness we all agreed to go early. I got the tickets for us to go in at the earliest time available on a Tuesday morning, and we were there 45 minutes before they even opened the doors. Once we got in, we each bought headphones for the audio tour, and wended our way through the maze of artifacts.

The Tutankhamun exhibit from Egypt is so small, only 50 pieces, that they filled it in with artifacts from other royalty. Some of those pieces (particularly regarding his father, Akhenaten and stepmother Nefertiti) were outstanding. But the piece de resistance, the pieces of the Tut exploration, lay at the end of this maze, and were truly awesome.

Of note:
Inlaid Pectoral with Winged Scarab necklace
Coffinette for the Viscera of Tutankhamun

Chest for jewelry made of ivory
Box in the shape of a cartouche (ebony/ivory)

And my favorites:
Child's Ebony/Ivory Chair with Footrest
Inscribed ivory Game Board with 20 squares.

I kept staring at the pieces, some of them laden with gold, shining in the carefully placed spotlights, wondering how such artifacts could have survived more than 3,000 years. Many of the artifacts are just wood. It is truly amazing. And piecing together what the Boy King was like during the ten years of his reign -- king at the age of 9, and dead by the age of 19 -- is a mystery unravelled.

King Tut (song by Steve Martin)
King Tut (King Tut)
Now when he was a young man,
He never thought he'd see
People stand in line to see the boy king.

(King Tut) How'd you get so funky?
(funky Tut) Did you do the monkey?
Born in Arizona,
Moved to Babylonia (king Tut).

(king Tut) Now, if I'd known
they'd line up just to see him,
I'd trade in all my money
And bought me a museum. (king Tut)

Buried with a donkey (funky Tut)
He's my favorite honkey!
Born in Arizona,
Moved to Babylonia (king Tut)

Dancin' by the Nile, (Disco Tut)
The ladies love his style, (boss Tut)
Rockin' for a mile (rockin' Tut)
He ate a crocodile.

He gave his life for tourism.
Golden idol!
He's an Egyptian
They're sellin' you.

Now, when I die,
now don't think I'm a nut,
don't want no fancy funeral,
Just one like ole king Tut. (king Tut)

He coulda won a Grammy,
Buried in his Jammies,
Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia,
He was born in Arizona, got a condo made of stone-a,
King Tut!

Preparing for Comic Con 2009

Comic Con is in less than 2 weeks, and I have started preparing. There are many challenges inherent in the largest convention in the world. Those who have been know what I mean.

1. There is too much to do. I know, having all those choices is a drag, right? The only solid advice I can give to Con goers is to find one thing in programming, and stick with that. That's if your beloved so-and-so panel is in a large room, like Hall H. For Hall H, or some of the other large rooms (Ballroom 20, for instance), getting there at 6 am, and having a seat outside on the grass is not a bad plan. Particularly if it's Twilight Day.

My plan is to let my nephew Rick decide which programming hall we're going to go for, and get in line with him. EVERYthing at the Con is just easier if there are two people.

Why Hall H? All the movie programming. Why Ballroom 20 ? or 6ABCDE? All the TV programming. And the best giveaways at any convention.

2. Lining up for Hall H at 6 am. No food. No toilets. No chairs. Cold. Need I say more?

3. Making your way through the vendor's room. It's massive. My legs will be sore on Friday, if not Thursday. They will be downright dead on Saturday. The good part about sitting in Hall H all day is that your legs and feet can rest. However, your butt will hurt.

4. Making your way through the vendor's room on Preview Night. On Wednesday night, all the 4-day pass people can get in. It used to be that all you could do on Wednesday night was wander through the room, picking up a freebie here and there. But now there is programming at night at the same time. There are also freebies galore, but some items disappear quickly. For instance, the big bags for Warner Bros. went within minutes. And you need a big bag to carry all your freebies from the vendor's room.

5. Making your way through the vendor's room: worth repeating one more time. Because on the busy days -- Friday and Saturday -- people upon layer of people will be in the aisles, pushing and shoving. The worst will be people with backpacks, who, when they turn, can take out a whole row of Hobbits with one swish. Those are probably the only days in my life I'm thankful for large girth.

6. Gathering up all the freebies on the vendor floor. Each booth has its own giveaways. Some have great ones - the major studios like Sony, Warner Bros., and the Sci Fi Channel (now the SyFy Channel) - others give out crap. I try to determine immediately what's worth keeping and what isn't, especially since that bag gets heavy after awhile. Then we make the circuit time after time again.....all in the same day.

7. Collecting the freebies and putting the best on eBay. I used to take it back to my hotel room, which was across the street from the convention center. Now my room is 2 miles away. So, I'm going to try something new this year: posting eBay items there at the convention. There should be WiFi all around the halls. I'm bringing my little computer, which weighs just a couple of ounces. And today I practiced posting photos I had taken with my camera on eBay (a totally different system than I'm used to). I also discovered last year that the first people to post stuff will get the most watchers, the most bidders, and the most bids. And it will mean that I can fill dead time during programming with posting.

8. Going to and from the hotel. I'm not sure how this will go. I'm hoping to take the free con shuttle, which stops about 3 blocks from where we're staying. But I don't know how the hours will work. It will certainly be a challenge.

By the time Sunday gets here, I will most likely be sick of the place and wanting to rest. That has happened every year. But by then we're already planning our trip next year.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Visit with Joshua Roberts, Professional Actor

We got up rather late on Wednesday morning, and called Josh to set up a meeting place. As it turns out, he doesn't have a car -- he's a poor, starving student, remember -- and so we had to meet him at his dorm room several miles south of the playhouse.

It took some doing, but Sweetie can find a needle in a mapless haystack, and we indeed found him at the end of the dorm construction zone. We picked him up and he suggested a little place in Sonoma, yes, several miles from there, called Hank's Creekside Cafe. We settled in, ordered breakfast, and stayed for over 2 hours chatting about the play, his process, politics, etc.

He explained The Method to me as Lee Strasberg interpreted Stanislavski, and that Daniel Day-Lewis may be the last user of The Method in modern acting. But Josh doesn't believe in it. He did say, though, that the physical blocking of scenes helps form his character as much as memorizing the lines. Some directors don't even want you to memorize your lines, preferring instead to work out the character with you as practice progresses.

We went to see Josh play "Gooper" in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that night, getting even better seats this time, as we were right in the middle, right behind the liquor cabinet in Maggie and Brick's bedroom. That liquor cabinet is visited by almost all the players, so we got a good look at them. I thought about putting something else in the ice chest, but obviously tinkering with the objects on stage is forbidden.

It was a really nice treat after the play, too, when I got to meet informally several of the actors. They were all very good. This was one Cat that sizzled.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Plays in Santa Rosa

Yesterday we drove up to Santa Rosa to see a professional actor, Joshua Roberts, in two plays at Santa Rosa Junior College.

We saw the first one, Barefoot in the Park, last night. It was sold out.

It's a small, modern theatre, maybe about 150 seats, about the same size as the Altarena, but in a different configuration. All of the seats are stadium, meaning each seat behind us was raised, and, as you can imagine, every seat is a good seat. We were in the front row.

Josh is an old family friend. He and Jamie were in several high school plays together, usually musicals, as both have fine voices. Tonight was not a musical but a comedy, and we were anxious to see how he'd fare. We found with much deligh that the program said he would play the lead in Neil Simon's play, the Paul Bratter character, the one that made Robert Redford famous.

He was absolutely splendid. He got every beat of the comedy, as this character actually has most of the clever lines. We're meeting him in about half an hour for brunch, so I'm sure we'll talk about the play. Much fun.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fireworks at Home

We had a great 4th of July bash, this after Maryann and Aaron got together and decided to have one. At my house.

Well, that's fine, because we can control most everything here, including what to eat and drink. And I was quite surprised when a couple of guests pitched in when the party was drawing down and washed dishes and brought in all the food. Then Sweetie figured out where the leftovers would go, something I can never decide.

So, after the picnic table outside and the kitchen table inside was cleared off, I could take over. I just loaded the dishwasher at 10pm last night, and then mopped the floor.

Another hassle, of course, was taking out the trash and recycle. The recycle pile is HUGE outside, and some of it is covered with ants. Damn things. So I took the stuff that would cause the most ant drool and tossed that into the trash can. (The trash can isn't full.)

Great food - kosher hot dogs, BBQ'd chicken, salad, vegetarian baked beans, potato salad. And Dawn & Mark brought ice cream, which was the good stuff. Plus, I drank Splendafied lemonade, sun tea, a little wine, and a little of the mint julep. The mint julep was the culprit for the sticky floor. Yechh.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cough, Cough

After one week of feeling lousy and getting worse, and prompted by media accounts of new cases of Swine Flu, I called the Advise Nurse of my clinic and gave her my symptoms.

She advised me to take long, hot showers, and drink hot tea. Oh, and also to breathe in the tea fumes. She also made an appointment for me with my doctor the next morning.

I am wayyy beyond tea fumes at this point. This morning, my wheezing tunes woke me up. Several times.

So, Dr. Heath said I either had bronchitis or pneumonia. She listened to my back several times, and said she could hear things in the lower right lung, and then she mentioned something about the lung being collapsed. So, half an hour later, I was sitting in the x-ray place on Telegraph - yes, the very one I go each year to get those lovely but painful mammograms.

A woman wheezed her way into the seat across from me when I sat down. Her husband stormed in a minute afterwards and bellowed at her, "Give the man your paper!" After fussing with her for several minutes, she not responding, he snatched it out of her hand and gave it to the clerk. When I got to the window, I watched the clerk stamp STAT on my paperwork in big, red letters.

Gosh, I could get a stamp like that! I could mark everything medical. "URINE SAMPLE NEEDED. STAT!"

I was shown to the change room, and told yada yada yada, yeah, I know the drill. While I was sitting there, waiting for the x-ray tech to call me, the man next to me, who really didn't want to give me the seat next to him, was really non-plussed about being in a hospital gown with his pants sitting next to him. So he got up and wandered around, carefully holding the gown behind him. I should've told him that he could've placed another gown on backwards so that he'd be fully covered - like so many of us mammogram patients have learned - but I didn't know what reaction I'd get.

The x-ray itself, all 3, was uneventful. I didn't have to take the gown off, so I wonder why they couldn't have just shot the x-ray through my shirt and bra? If it goes through skin AND hospital gown, why can't it go through shirt, bra and skin? You just wonder...

Anyway, after all that, I have bronchitis, not pneumonia.

I went to Long's, where the doctor said they'd call in my prescription inhaler, and wouldn't you know, no call. Maybe they called another pharmacy. Well, that's what direct dial is good for on my cell phone, and why I programmed the number in.

I was hoping I'd get the inhaler before another wheezeful night, but it doesn't look like it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Big Disappointment...

As it turns out, the Pres. Obama pronouncement for same-sex partners is ONLY for children of domestic partners. Not the domestic partners themselves, many of whom suffer from ailments they can't pay for, AIDS, huge financial bills caused by health issues, etc.

This is very disappointing.

They say that this is "just the beginning" of changes his administration will make. It's not a very promising beginning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A BIG Step Toward Equality! Woo-hoo!!!

I like this short article so much, I'm reprinting it in whole. An Executive Order means immediately. "Domestic partner" means MY partner. I can finally let her share in my health care program. Finally.

Obama Intends to Extend Federal Benefits to Unmarried Partners
Updated 9:23 p.m.
By Scott Butterworth

President Obama will announce tomorrow that he is extending federal benefits to include unmarried domestic partners of federal workers, including same-sex partners, White House officials said tonight.

Obama will sign an executive order implementing the change in the Oval Office, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the president's announcement.

The move would give partners of federal employees access to health care and financial benefits such as relocation fees for moves. The State Department announced a similar extension of benefits last month, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling it "the right thing to do."

The action will come as welcome news to gay-rights activists, who have voiced loud disappointment with Obama's handling of several issues important to their community.

Obama has signaled his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying that he instead supports civil unions for gay men and lesbians.

Most recently, the Justice Department argued in court that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples, should be upheld. Gay-rights groups were infuriated by the administration's linkage of same-sex marriages to marriages between cousins or of an underage girl.

The administration's reluctance to reconsider the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay service members -- after Obama promised during the campaign to repeal it -- has also been a sore point among these activists.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Get Me to the Play on Time

I'm still dazed from our whirlwind trip to New York. It was a wonderful trip. I was still talking about it today.

We went for five days - but two of those days are total travel days. We arrived at Long Island's Islip Airport at about 5 pm, but had no idea that it's such a long drive from there to Manhattan. A car was there to meet us, and helped us retrieve our luggage off the carousel. So we drove through the rural-looking towns to get to the bridge which would take us to Manhattan. I was kind of surprised that everything was so green.

Debbie and Ralph were there at the Belvedere Hotel to greet us, and talked us into walking a block and a half to a Thai restaurant, where we talked about all kinds of things. Ruth and I were a bit in a fatigued stupor, so I hope most of it made sense.

The plays we saw over the next three days:

Accent on Youth, an old chestnut starring David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier), plus the actor who played the anchorman on Murphy Brown. There was no real impact to the play, as all the risque things they did aren't risque at all to us. Still, it was great seeing Pierce. The plays after that would pick up in pace, intensity, and we could relate to their themes more easily.

The next morning was leisurely because, remember, we were jet lagged, and so a 2 pm matinee seemed like late afternoon to us. So, two blocks away from the hotel, we found Exit the King, the Ionesco play starring Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon. We entered early and kind of established a routine. As in most of these theatres, the restrooms are inconveniently located downstairs, but so is the bar, so we'd have cokes while waiting for curtain time to arrive, then find our seats.

We had a very leisurely dinner at a restaurant across the street from our first play, and a terrific bottle of Chianti Classico. Our seats for Exit the King were about 4 rows back, and so we could everything perfectly. At one point in the 2nd act, Geoffrey Rush as the king comes up and down the aisles, and we were right next to him as he mourned the loss of life. Rush himself co-translated the play, and added "1 percent" of some new stuff to update it. And it was obvious that Rush and the director came up with some real physical comedy that added to our ability to sit through a 2-hour play on death. I would say that King was the best play we saw in our time there. It was just brilliant. And its relevancy can never fade.

After the play, at about 4:30 pm, we stayed standing around the stage door, hoping to see some of the stars depart. Suddenly, William Sadler, who played the Doctor, came out, and laughing along the way, he signed autographs and posed for photos. We didn't want to partake in this activity, as I must admit I'm always shy at doing such things. I met Bill several years ago at a charity dinner where many Deep Space Nine actors appeared, and I had won one of Bill Sadler's photos, so he promised to sign it for me. It took at least half an hour to get him to sign it, because he kept telling stories about the photo. Just a hilarious, personable guy.

That night we continued on the absurdist/death theme and saw Waiting for Godot with the brilliant actors Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin. John Goodman was also in the cast. It was very repetitive, but you don't really notice that because of all the humorous bits Irwin, Lane and Goodman add. Another brilliant revival.

Before we went to the second theatre, we went back to the Pigalle restaurant, where we had breakfast the first morning, and had some cheese and grapes so that I could make it until dinner. Then we walked into the rain, suddenly turning serious, and walked the 4 blocks or so to the area where the next play would be. Our dinner was at an Italian restaurant, and it was very nice.

Our last play, on Thursday night, was a musical. We went to a rather listless Thai restaurant first, and then got over to wait in line for In the Heights, the 2008 Tony winner for best musical. The place wasn't packed, but the audience's enthusiasm made up for any vacant seats in the expensive rows. And the audience was also diverse, skewing young. The woman next to us was very young, telling us that she was there with a bunch of young actors from her workshop, and they had seen several plays within the week, including Billy Elliott, which she highly recommended.

In the Heights refers to Washington Heights, a rather poor section of Manhattan, and the story was about several young people and how they were trying to earn a living in tough circumstances. It was full of upbeat songs and a lot of Latin dancing. I really enjoyed the dancing, and I liked the storylines very much. And what a wonderful set!

This last play was the longest of all of them, lasting a full two-and-a-half hours, so we got out at 10:30 pm. We walked quickly back the two blocks to the hotel, packed and tried to get to sleep as soon as possible, as 5 am came very early the next morning.

I think next time we do this - and I hope there is a next time - I'll do more research into the plays available. But I can't fault the four we saw. They were terrific.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Disneyland Overview

There were several reasons why this was a great trip.

We spent 4 days in the park(s).

We saw all the new things that have been done to the park, like the restored Sleeping Beauty walk-through in the castle itself, the new It's a Small World Ride, with Disney characters sprinkled throughout. The new Toy Story Midway Mania, which is a shooting gallery that is interactive.

We also took the time to visit old things that neither of us had seen a lot of in the past decade, like: riding Dumbo, riding the Carrousel, riding some of the other Fantasyland rides like Snow White and Pinocchio. And we rode the double-decker bus a couple of times when our feet were tired. Such things kind of force you to slow down.

One big highlight was stepping into Club 33 with our guide. She could only show us the lobby, of course, but we really enjoyed finally getting behind the big Club 33 door. Membership is quite expensive, and there's a waiting list (but none of us will be on it soon).

Our guide had been in the other two rooms above the lobby, but had never had a meal there. (How convenient that it's all connected to the kitchen in the Blue Bayou, downstairs.) She opened the elevator for us so that we could take pictures. It's one of those old-fashioned ones, with iron bars and grating, much like the one in the Hotel del Coronado.

And we took in the parade in DCA - the same 'ol Pixar one, only this time, UP is leading the way! - and the parade in Disneyland as well - very small, surprisingly short. And then we got in place, sitting on the curb in the Disneyland Hub, to see the fireworks. People nudged us, walked on us, whatever they could do to get by us into the street. It was rough-going, but the fireworks were fantastic. They launched them from all around us, and I still don't know how they pulled that off.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Disneyland, 4 Days Later with Sore Feet

This is our fourth day, and my feet officially hurt. On the positive side, we walked 6 miles the first day, 5 miles the second, and 6 miles yesterday. Whew.

We just got out of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon. I don't remember ever being in a show in the saloon, but I must have, when I was younger. But we were determined to see it, whatever, and finally found two seats in the balcony. We moved our table out of the way so that we could both sit right next to the railing in order to better see the show.

We were delighted. Billy Hill and the Hillbillies were terrific. Lots of music and humor, and they even had us singing along, finishing rock n' roll songs to point out how we're all connected. We agreed we'd have to see them on our next trip.

This is the clean-up day, getting to everything we haven't seen yet. So we first hit the Fantasyland rides today - Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Snow White, Pinocchio. Peter Pan is still being refurbished - gosh, so much is here - that we had to skip that.

Then we went into Innoventions to see the modern house, and the whole house is all about electronics. Some of the pre-teens were singing karaoke and having a wonderful time in the "game room." I played a race car game, and the narrator kept telling me how much I had wrecked the car. "Your brakes are all shot, and your left wheel is hanging on by a thread..."

We still hope to make the parade and fireworks tonight, plus fit in some shopping.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Disneyland, One Year Later

It has been exactly one year since I've set foot in Disneyland, and a few things have changed.

We used the shuttle after flying into John Wayne Airport, and it took us right to the motel at about noon. Very nice. We discovered that there are, indeed, lockers in the Desert Inn & Suites, and they're huge and only $1 for the day. So we stowed our luggage away, to be picked up when we checked in, which was around

Actually, we only visited one attraction after having lunch at the Carnation Cafe -- Pirates, and, yes, Johnny Depp is still in it -- and then went back to the motel to check in and take a nap. Well, Dawn took the nap. We got out of there in plenty of time to take the monorail to Downtown Disney. However, the monorail wasn't working, so we had to practically run to Rainforest Cafe.

We had a delightful dinner at Rainforest Cafe, and walked back in the now cooled-off Downtown Disney back to the motel. We went to bed early, knowing we'd have to immediately check in tomorrow upon the park opening for our tour.

I have always wanted to take the Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour, but had never known how to do that. Dawn and I talked it over, and decided to do it, and I called to sign up. When we got to the tour kiosk, which is right inside the park, they told us to select our lunch. He entered that into the computer, and we knew it'd be waiting for us when we returned.

Much of the tour was about telling us how the park started, the obstacles Walt Disney faced into getting it funded, and getting people to believe in him. And then she'd play a little of a speech or talk he had made to illustrate a point. We listened to these on our headsets, which handily set on the back of our heads, not the top.

I enjoyed hearing such trivia as the difference between a merry-go-round and a carrousel. It seems that Walt wanted his to have all horses, not other things in it, so that everyone could have a horse. And a carrousel rides counter-clockwise. A merry-go-round has other things besides horses and rides clockwise.

The guide took us only on two rides: the railroad and the Enchanted Tiki Room. She explained to us that the Tiki Room is still named Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room because Walt had to fund it out of his own money. Apparently, getting enough money together to complete projects was a real ongoing hassle for Mr. Disney. It's hard to believe that in 1959, he opened three major attractions in Disneyland, a mere four years after he opened the theme park itself.

We walked back from where we'd begun, and found our packed lunches on picnic tables, each with our name written on top. We chatted a bit with the mother and daughter team with us, and more with Brittanie when she stopped by to give us condiments. It seems that Brittanie is an expert in candy and all things sweet at Disneyland! She told us a lot about other tours she's led, including the holiday one which gives you prime seating for the parade at night. While that sounded like a great tour, I wanted one led about the candy in Disneyland - what is and what used to be!