Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tornado in the Southland

I turned on television this afternoon to watch People's Court. (I am addicted to judge shows, but particular about which 'judges' - Marilyn and Judy my top choices.)  Instead, for me a surreal experience - across the bottom of the screen "Tornado Warning" - so surreal it didn't register at first - I don't recall ever hearing or reading onscreen "Tornado Warning" in the Los Angeles area.  The newscasters are warning everyone to stay indoors away from windows, and clearing all public areas.  They are using loudspeakers to warn people, and I know that my reaction is the result of all the years I spent in Oklahoma and Texas - where thunderstorms, tornados, winds, hail, frost and snow went with the territory - along with extreme heat, dust storms, flying insects, and slithering reptiles.

I am not as concerned as the warnings warrant. Technology with radar, doppler weather, etc. has advanced exponentially since I left Dallas in 1977 - last century!

Sunshine for a moment, then clouds again, and the telecaster continues warning 'stay indoors' -

Darby looks like he has dreadlocks.  MaeRose, clipped two weeks ago, is almost curly as a poodle -
and my thin hair thins.

A car flipped over in the wind somewhere in Seal Beach - boats tumbled in the water, the newscasters are over the top with their reportage.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sunday - parching and eventless

Here is a blog I began months ago - before the fiasco with a lost password and my confrontation with Google -
I have three double-spaced typed pages of passwords - tried to have an all-purpose one, but some require numbers, punctuation, varied lengths - and I wonder - are they really necessary -

Took the doodles for a walk - returned at 9:30, already warm and drippy. Our groomer is going to scold me when we see her Thursday. Both dogs look like wooly mammoths- and no matter how hard I comb, their fur is still matted. I have yet to confirm or negate the notion that a fur coat insulates an animal, no matter the temperature. In other words, shaving them in the summer is not advised. But, look at all the down-to-pink-skin dogs out and about.

Continuing on Tuesday, September 29 -
our critique group became a trio Sunday afternoon - Susan, Diane and I talked about how the future of our meetings should be shaped. We admired Diane's elaborate sketches of the queens, which will be part of her picture book in progress.

Last night Erika and I attended an event featuring four authors/illustrators of children's books. First, it impressed that they were all men,  My impression of the gender of writers for children has been they are mostly feminine with a sprinkling of brave men around the edges, or at the ends of the aisles, ready to flee. Those whose works I've heard/read write some of the best -
funny, strong, insightful.

The audience brimmed with early grade children - wildly enthusiastic. A gap-toothed boy in the front row leaped up signaling "touchdown" every time the author paused for the page turner.

More thoughts on library visits

Little girl readers who come to Barks and Books, ages from four up to eight or nine, vary in appearance, and I  wonder if it has to do with their cultural background.
Those who have chosen their own attire wear a delightful mismatch - clashing colors, tattered skirts, sparkling ballerina shoes, layers of tees, and often have leftover paint splotches, chocolate syrup or chewed pencil on their cheeks.
Those, whose mothers no doubt chose the attire,  are fashionable top to toe, scrubbed faces, combed hair, quiet demeanor.
Then, there are the boys - exuberant, spirited readers with over the top expression, charming and rarely messy.
And, the toddlers - whose approach to a dog could be an ear shattering screech, a tug of fur, a vigorous pat,
a launch onto the dog's rear end.  Some toddler moms or caretakers don't monitor this as well as they could. But, it is a learning process for everyone.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lots of speculation about the future of Conan O'Brien, NBC, etc. But, the earthquake in Haiti is a much much more serious news item. I was in a 5.9 earthquake (among others) in 1991 - the fright lingered for months - every time a truck drove by and shook the windows - or a floor creaked underfoot - almost as nerve wracking as the aftermath of the time I was mugged -
looking back, I count several dramatic events in my past - the death of my mother when I was 21 and just married,
my divorce, death of a partner in a drowning accident, a robbery, a mugging and robbery, moving nine times in ten years - coping with 17 regional managers during my 27 years in publishing,

Friday, January 8, 2010

I have to sound off on recent new television shows

I can't believe that I am finally seeing a news feed about the content of the Jay Leno show - as if this was not apparent from the first weeks - a bunch of boring, repetitious segments - stale -unimaginative after one or two airings. Who wants to hear stupid headlines time after time? Who needs to hear ten questions mumbled to deer-in -the-headlight on-location celebrities?
Who wrote the inept skits? I can't believe Leno isn't embarrassed by the material - where did it originate? Why?

It's no doubt hard to find another hit which appeals to the ten o'clock audience - look at the trials/failures - among the most recent (admittedly aired earlier than ten) - Kelsey Grammer's absolutely inane attempt at suburban renaissance. And, he had the gall to say he took it off because it just wasn't taking off - instead of saying the scripts were bombs, and the "cast" was equally mis-.
Another ten o'clock show which lasted barely two seasons - on cable -The Riches - it was well cast, and had an intriguing premise - "travelers" (hometown gypsies) - out of their comfort zone -
and, other cable shows - some to return, others probably gone forever - The Closer, Saving Grace, Damages, In Treatment, Deadwood, The Wire - their common denominator - good writing - skilled actors - ability to intrigue intelligent viewers.

I will continue - have more to say

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dog maintenance - parks and grooming

Today I had MaeRose professionally groomed - she looks like a black velvet plush toy - soft, clean, cuddly. I used to think that black dogs were boring (although I have had two - Trudi, a standard Schnauzer, and Tar Baby, a mini Schnauzer) - but their care is easier - they don't show dirt the way lighter colored dogs do. If Darby, cream-colored, runs across a dusty park, he smudges immediately - and a week after a bath he looks like he had been attacked by a dirty mop - for that first week he is stunningly handsome. Then reality sets in. I found out that a four-doodle owner scissors his dogs' coats himself - no electric clippers - just a day-long scissoring. I am thinking about trying. I love having my dogs look spiffy - but the cost of grooming is outrageous - and their fur just won't stop growing, tangling, and attracting dirt.

But, that is a lot better than having a dog which sheds. We don't have bits and pieces of fur all over the house.
I wanted a dog with a waggy tail, a nice disposition, and non-shedding - I got just what I wanted. Every now and then I drool over the labradoodle breeder websites - the puppies are so cute, and there are soooo many available nowadays - tho' still costly - I lucked out because my two are perfect specimens, and extraordinarily good looking. Plus, they are friendly. Especially Darby, who is a kisser who never met anyone he didn't like.

Our town has a large dog population - all sizes, some quite exotic - Portuguese Water Dogs, Great Pyrenees, and probably
every popular breed - plus many rescue combos. Sad to say our local dog park has been neglected for years - nothing but a dusty surface, shabby shrubbery, weeds. Another victim of the economy - whose neglect began long before the collapse.
Like many things, it will be a long time, and much harder to restore than the time it took for it to deteriorate.

I love walking here - we see lots of familiar faces, have hills to climb, almost enough sidewalks, trees to shade us.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Barks and Books - Arcadia - December 2009

The last Saturday before Christmas - at the Arcadia library

Heather, the children's librarian, was delightfully cordial, and explained that there would probably not be too many readers this morning because of the pending holiday. She was right. We had one toddler, who loved petting MaeRose, and two readers - an extremely shy Chinese boy who read in a whisper, and Anika, an amazing six year old girl, born in Singapore, of Indian heritage. What a brain - she announced that she is six, and had been to Barks and Books before. She confided that her sister is 11, and her mother is 34, and both of them are afraid of dogs, although she herself loves them. She knew that a "masterpiece" was something big and wonderful, and she used the word "carefully' correctly - something adults don't always do -

Her father told me that she learned all the lyrics to Miley Cyrus songs, and sang them at a So. Cal Edison party in front of several hundred people. She has already lived in New York, and Belgium.
I am certain that she is going to be a super star someday - her vocabulary and her poise far outdo her young age. And, she has the benefit of the tiniest bit of an English/Indian accent - quite polished.

The number of enthusiastic Asian adult library patrons is inspiring - and daunting in a way - where are all the Anglos who should be using the libraries?

Barks and Books - one of many posts - South Pasadena, and others

Another note to Elana about substituting at the South Pasadena Library with MaeRose, and at La Pintoresca in Pasadena

Today at the South Pasadena Library the last reader looked quite familiar. Turns out it was Nathan - a young boy I met at Dr. W's. office last week - who has been on the waiting list for Barks and Books.

His mother said they got a call from the library saying there was space, and came right over. It was such fun to have him as one of the readers after our meeting at the vet's. They have two elderly cats (17 and 14 yrs. old) and an 11 year old dog who, they say, looks like MaeRose.

There were six readers in all. One was a four-year old girl who says she is trying her best to get her father to buy a dog. Twin sisters, who seemed identical, but one was blonde, the other with light brown hair.
A six year old boy who got to read twice when there was an interlude with no one waiting. Twice, I have to admit, I have met a reader whose sex I mis-read. The first was in Sierra Madre - a plump child wearing dirty sweats and a baseball cap - with short blond hair. Thankfully, she did not find out that I thought she was a boy. She has been at each of our visits. We have also met her on our walks.

Back to my mis--reading the sex. Today the mistake was with a child wearing khaki jeans and a tee shirt. Straight black hair below shoulder length, olive skin, eyelashes to die for, beautiful smile.
I asked her/turns-out-to-be-him her name. The response was indecipherable - long, probably first and last names slung together, and maybe Tagalog for all I know. If his mother hadn't been sitting nearby and said "he has to hurry, he's meeting someone" I would never ever have know this was a boy. His mother has dark short hair, and a very pale complexion - hard to tell whether they are blood relatives.

Brian Lee appeared at the Sierra Madre library Saturday afternoon. He is a "canine counselor" who calls his method "The Way of the Dog" - an approach with stern practices, and, according to him, remarkable results. He was interrupted so many times during his talk that it wasn't as comprehensive as I would have liked. Each interruption was from a dog owner with a specific problem or question - which took him off track from presenting his dog training philosophy.

We had three girls and two boys who read. Sweet children. One, a five year old named Gracie, twinkled when she smiled. She loves Halloween, and looks forward to being a witch.

I put little ghost stickers on the Barks and Books stickers when I went to Hastings, and had some left for today. I go to Five Acres October 30 - and will take something Trick or Treaty. I like Halloween, too.

Barks and Books - one of many posts - San Marino

My regular Barks and Books visits are monthly at the Sierra Madre Library, but we love filling in for someone else on occasion. I enjoy reporting my adventures to Elana Blum, our Humane Society coordinator. Here is one from a visit to the San Marino Library on a Saturday morning in 2009 -

We arrived in the midst of their first Chinese/English story telling. Tera, the children's librarian, and a Chinese speaking woman were reading Goldilocks - taking turns in English and Chinese, using a felt board to illustrate the bears, bowls of porridge, chairs, beds, etc. The story hour ended with a craft - cutting a Chinese lantern from construction paper. The group consisted of about ten very young children with mother/father/grandmother. All were Asian, except one African American family.
Our first reader was an amazing two year old who told a story with delightful flourishes, big smiles, and the brilliance we have come to expect from Chinese toddlers. The next reader was an extremely shy fidgety blonde, whose parents remarked that she sat still with us longer than usual (all of three minutes) -I'm guessing she was two or three -

And our next, and final two, were sisters - Madison and Kaitlin - whose Golden Retriever had died recently. Their father says they are considering a Newfoundland. The girls were in their white Tai Kwan Do uniforms. Madison read, and Kaitlin told us the story of Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug. Their interpretations were, as expected, filled with smiles.

Walking my dogs

Last week on our walk we stopped to peek through a fence at a little cream colored dog (Fluffy) and his companion black cat. MaeRose is absolutely hypnotized by cats
Fluffy was busy licking the cat. Darby was indifferent, but I literally had to drag MaeRose away forcefully -scraping her toenails on the pavement -
I am not sure what she would do if we had a cat - chase it, try to kill it, or love it to death. Anyway, wishful thinking - I am limited to two animals, under 20 pounds by my condo association -
and have already exceeded that regulation twice over.

Yesterday as we reached “Fluffy’s corner” (that’s how we identify it these days) all 34 pounds of MaeRose yanked so hard on her leash she almost pulled me over. The reason – Fluffy was outside of the fence – heading for the street.

With mail in one hand, two leashes in the other, I had only one choice – drop everything and catch Fluffy. I plunked his soft little body over the fence back into his yard. At first I couldn’t figure out how he had gotten out – til I reached the unlatched gate. No telling who opened it. No one was home, and I was without paper or pencil, just scuffed envelopes filled with after-Christmas notes. Next time we walk by I hope to see the owner, who is often sitting at her computer by the window. We just hope Fluffy doesn’t try any more escapes. His home is on a street with lots of traffic.

Volunteer anecdotes - first of several

When Darby, now seven, reached his first birthday, making him eligible for Companion Animal volunteer work, we began participating in the program sponsored by the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA. Every month for four years we visited convalsecent homes, retirement communities, and the playgrounds of residential foster homes for children. Nowadays Darby, MaeRose and I visit the children’s foster homes, and MaeRose and I participate in two or three Barks and Books events every month. We spend an hour in the children’s section of Pasadena area libraries. Young children take turns reading to her, patting her, asking dog questions (will she have babies? do you put her in a car seat? does she bite? does she lick faces? will she jump on me?)
The reward is a sticker “I Read to a Dog Today,” along with lots of pats and pokes on a furry black dog with pearly white teeth, a pink tongue, and a totally lovable personality.

The longest day of the year

I love the summer solstice - twice I have been in Europe shortly after the longest day -(how can a day be short or long when it is always 24 hours?) - anyway, Munich at 11:00pm, Stockholm at 4:00am - Helsinki all night long - the locals never slow down - and they don't believe in blackout curtains in their homes, or in hotels - the only place I found with a thought for those who might want to sleep in "the dark" in the summertime was a luxury hotel in Helsinki - courtesy of Finnair - the last night of my stay. But, as I said, I love the summers in Europe -
One memorable holiday was a ten day walking trip in Italy around Lake Como - amazing food courtesy of young guides with big appetites, group of 20 with only two smokers (mother and daughter) including a judge from Canada, a retired couple from St. Louis, the mother of a famous movie director before his rise to famedom (Michael Bay) and her friend an artist from Malibu, a couple whose behavior intrigued - loving during the day, separate rooms at night- did one of them snore? was this an affair? or an experiment?