Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ten Things...

I've been inspired by Bridget to write a list of Ten Things That I Am Afraid Of. She has some pretty creepy things on her list. We will have some overlap.

1. Getting stuck on a railroad track. When I was in high school, I was on a date with my then-current boyfriend. He was driving me back home and we were about to cross the railroad tracks in my hometown. I was yakking away about something, not paying much attention, when he stopped on the tracks and looked to the right. I turned to see what he was looking at, and had the bejeezus scared out of me when I saw the train, with its headlight on, not fifty feet away. The train was stopped, but that is beside the point. We're talking upwards of 200 tons of steel and a braking distance of far more than fifty feet. Ever since that night...

2. Aquatic creatures with teeth or stingers. As I've said before, I'm a great audience; I readily suspend my disbelief. I went to see Jaws when it first came out and that first scene when the shark attacks the girl swimming at night really gave me nightmares. I've seen snippets of Jaws since then, and I see just how fake the shark looks, but still, ankle deep is about as far as I go into the ocean.

3. Clowns. I'm with Bridget on this one. When I see a clown, I think "serial murderer of children." Creepy.

4. Snakes. Another one I have in common with Bridget. I don't think snakes are creepy, but I do try to avoid them. We had one in our garage one day so I couldn't get to my car. I still think about that snake sometimes when I go to the garage. Richard said it was harmless, but a snake is a snake.

5. Walking/standing on a surface I can see through. I'm not afraid of heights, as long as I'm standing on a solid, opaque surface, but I could not walk on a glass floor. I don't even like walking across grates in the sidewalk. I can be on tall structures and look out over railings and enjoy the view, as long as that floor is solid. You'll never catch me on that new Skywalk at the Grand Canyon.

6. Big spiders. Little spiders don't bother me much, but big ones, especially black ones with red hourglasses on their stomachs, creep me out. I am really afraid of them. I don't care for those large ones with furry legs, either.

7. Scary movies. When I was a child, my father worked in our town's movie theater. Sometimes he would take my sister and me to work with him. This particular theater ran a lot of those low-budget horror flicks, and I was a very impressionable little kid. I usually didn't sit in the theater when one of those movies was playing, but the lobby and auditorium were separated by only a curtain, so I could hear everything that went on, and sometimes my curiosity got the better of me and I would go look. Big mistake, because then I would have nightmares that night. I swore off scary movies at an early age. I have seen a few in my adult life, though, like the version of Dracula starring Frank Langella. That was a pretty classy movie, but I wouldn't watch it again.

8. I agree with Bridget on the Tea Party movement. Lord have mercy! Those people are scary.

9. Car trouble. I had a car one time that liked to eat alternators. I think it went through three of them while I owned it. I always feel so helpless when something goes wrong with my car. AAA and my cell phone are my friends, but I still have a feeling of panic.

10. Political attack ads. Both sides lie, or at least twist the truth, and it's not good for the country. Campaigns should be run on the issues and a candidate who has no useful ideas for improving things should not win elections. Politics is just a power struggle, and few of our politicians actually care about the people. We should have term limits so that we don't have career politicians lining their pockets with special interest money, and special interests should be banned from funding those attack ads. I could go on...

Well, that sort of turned into a rant, didn't it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Days, Three Books

I order to get to my goal of reading 52 books this calendar year, I have read a few relatively short books. When I get really involved in a story, it find it hard to put down, so I was able to complete three books in three days. That wasn't necessarily a goal but it worked out nicely. I am now reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire. This is book #52. I will probably exceed my goal this year (or I could quit after this book and concentrate on knitting).

The three books are:

Compromising Positions, by Jenna Bayley-Burke. Well, this was something different for me. I've been reading a lot of things classed as "romance" lately, and this one was an Amazon recommendation. I read the blurb, which warned that this book was "not for the prudish or faint of heart," and I felt challenged. No damn review is going to deter me if I can help it. Actually the review was pretty good. While the book falls somewhere between erotica and soft porn, it actually has a believable story. There is a lot of sex, but nothing you wouldn't expect from two characters who are falling in love. It is, however, vivid. There is a mystery, but nobody is murdered. It has humor, which any good love story should have. Sophie has been fantasizing about David since she was in her teens, but David is good at not forming emotional attachments. He meets his match when he is recruited to help Sophie teach a couples yoga class. It seems to take forever to get them into bed together, but when they finally make it, David is smitten, although he refuses to admit it to himself. David is also rich and pisses Sophie off by buying her expensive things and making decisions for her. She doesn't want to be his "kept woman." The story goes on pleasantly and, I will spoil it, but it has a happy ending. Of course, all romances have happy endings. If you're not especially prudish, you might enjoy this novel.

Painted Ladies, by Robert B. Parker. Spenser is hired by an art professor to protect him while he delivers a ransom for a priceless painting. The people who stole the painting were very clever and set up the exchange so that Spenser was neutralized. The professor, and supposedly the returned painting, are blown to smithereens as he's returning to Spenser's car. This does not sit well with Spenser, because he failed the professor. Of course, he has to investigate to find out who killed the professor. The investigation takes unexpected turns, but it also has a few "aha" moments. Very readable, as Parker's books usually are.

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway. This is a partially fictionalized account of Hemingway's early days as a writer in Paris. It was very compelling reading. We learn about his friendships with such famous people as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Beach. I bought the restored edition, which has a very long introduction and an equally lengthy foreword, which I skipped. I wanted to read Hemingway's writing, not some analysis of it. And when I say long, I really mean it. This edition also included some writing from later in his life, and you could tell a difference; I liked the early stuff better. It also included alternate beginnings and endings, of which he wrote many. I skipped those, too. Aside from all that unnecessary stuff, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I may try some more of his novels. I read The Sun Also Rises, but I was disappointed by a lack of plot. Memoirs don't need plots, just some indication of change in the subject of the memoir. I may try A Farewell to Arms next.

I'm rather proud of myself for being so close to reaching my goal. The Girl Who Played with Fire (#52) is, as expected, good reading, so I have no doubt I'll finish it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Retirement Fantasies

I'm getting to that point where retirement is the light at the end of a lo-o-ong tunnel. I'm looking forward to it and occasionally counting the days, although really it's several years off yet.

In the meantime, around this time of year, I get to have a few short pretend retirements: the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Because I work in a state-supported academic institution, I get the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week and about a week to ten days (counting weekends) at Christmas. I look forward to these holidays, for reasons more than that I'm a child at heart.

It's a time to imagine what retirement will be like. I've been looking forward to it for so long. I'm a little burned out on my career as a librarian and I'm looking forward to being a part-time sloth. There are books to read and knitting to get done; cats to cuddle; and the possibility exists that I may want to go back to writing some.

If I don't have to sit at a reference desk for most of the hours in any given day, then I'll have the energy to accomplish some things at home, run errands, take walks, go shopping just for the fun of it. I haven't strolled around a mall with no purpose in years. I'm always there to get something and get out.

I keep thinking of things I won't do when I retire, but I'm not carving anything in stone. I may develop whole new attitudes toward things. I repeatedly tell people, "You couldn't pay me to go back to school," but who knows; I might find something else I want to learn about. I've done enough traveling alone, but I might like to take some weekend trips with Richard. (A friend calls him "that pig" because he didn't take me to Australia when he went there for an international scientific meeting; but it would have been like traveling alone again as he was busy in meetings and conferences every day.) I still want to see New England, preferably not in the winter. I'd also like to see the Grand Canyon, maybe ride a mule down into it and back.

Richard's father, when he retired, took off his watch and doesn't bother much with what time it is. I can see me doing that. In fact I take my watch off now (for practice) when I get home from work on Fridays and if I need to know what time it is when we're out somewhere, I ask Richard.

It's going to be a frabjous day in my own personal La-La Land when I retire.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weekend in Athens (Georgia, not Greece)

Well, we did have dinner on Friday night with a Greek. Takis and his wife Judy are two of our dearest friends, as is Diane, who was also at dinner. Diane is a fellow librarian. We all got together at one of my favorite Athens restaurants, DePalma's, a wonderful Italian place. For an appetizer, we got some of their spinach and onion breadsticks to share. A full order was just right for the five of us. For my entree, I had the Pasta DePalma, which is capellini with a rosemary cream sauce and artichoke hearts (and of course cheese). It was very tasty. Dessert for me was canolli. We spent a good two and a half hours talking and laughing (lots of laughing). It was a good way to start off the weekend.

On Saturday, we drove out to Winterville to have a look at our old house. The new owners have made some changes, but at least they haven't chopped down any of those nice hardwoods. We also visited a bookstore (Barnes & Noble). Because Tifton has no bookstore, wandering around in B&N was a real treat.

Next we went to Main Street Yarns and Fibers in Watkinsville. I bought some Ella Rae superwash wool in a nice rust brown to make a sweater or something, and some bright red tweedy stuff to make a scarf. Richard sat in a rocking chair while I fondled yarn and shopped.

For lunch, we were going to go to Gautreau's, a rather wonderful Cajun restaurant, but at the yarn shop we found out that they had closed. The owner's wife died, so he closed the restaurant and moved back to Louisiana. I felt very sad for him. We did eat at another "Cajun" place, The Big Easy Cafe, and I wasn't impressed. I ordered the shrimp and grits, and while it was technically shrimp and grits, it still missed by a mile. They used those little baby frozen shrimp and I think all they did was to thaw them out and throw them on top of some plain grits. Yuck. Richard had a fried shrimp po'boy. I snatched one of his fried shrimp and it was nowhere as good as the ones he makes at home. What a disappointment.

After lunch we went to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. What a lovely place. Richard is more interested in plants than I am, so I sat outside the visitor's center and read my book. I had a nice shady spot near a fountain and it was so restful. Richard wandered around the grounds and collected a few seeds. Afterward, we went inside the visitor's center where they have an interesting tropical garden. It's very lush and beautiful. The garden is divided up into areas such as spice plants, medicinal plants, food plants, etc. They even have a breadfruit tree. Here are some pictures I took.

The fountain outside the Visitor's Center.

A cone flower near the fountain.

The Tropical Garden path.

Don't know what this is, but it's awfully pretty.

Sadly, because of all the budget cuts for state government institutions, they have had to let a few of the collections go. Richard was telling me that the rhododendron collection is all overgrown and some of the bushes are already dead. That's really too bad.

Late Saturday afternoon, we went downtown and had us a little pub-crawl. We stopped in at the East West Bistro and had a little refreshment. We looked at the menu, but nothing really jumped out at us as something we'd like for dinner. Just our mood, I guess, because that place has really good food. Next we wandered over to the Copper Creek Brewing Co. and had a little more refreshment. This place has a 30-foot bar that is covered in pennies. I asked the bartender how many pennies were imbedded in the acrylic bar top and she said it was about $300 worth. They were all heads up, and Richard and I were discussing just how anal a person would have to be to arrange 30,000 pennies all heads up, facing in the same direction, and in order by date. We decided it would have just been too OCD to do all that. I thought it was amazing that they got them all heads up. I think I would have placed just one tails up and whoever spotted it got a free beer.

On our way to Copper Creek, we encountered a young man with his solid white bulldog puppy. The little thing was so adorable I couldn't resist petting her. She was as soft as a bunny. The guy seemed a little abashed that so many people, especially females, were stopping to admire and pet his dog. When Richard and I started to walk away, the puppy fell into step right beside me. What a cutie!

We moseyed back to our car and went back to the hotel to freshen up. Dinner was at the Olive Garden. I know it's a chain, but they have awfully good food. We sat at the bar while waiting for our table and had a little more refreshment. For a Saturday night, we didn't have to wait too long. I had portobello mushroom ravioli and Richard had the chicken Marsala. One thing I like about Olive Garden is that they don't overfill your plate. It's a reasonable amount of food. It leaves more room for dessert. I had the tiramisu and Richard had a chocolate cake concoction that looked just yummy.

Unfortunately, neither of us slept well that night, even though we had the World's Most Wonderfully Comfortable Bed to sleep on. I'm sure the "refreshments" had something to do with that. They (whoever "they" are) say that alcohol disrupts your sleep. Also, other hotel guests kept coming in at all hours and talking loudly in the corridor. And about 3:00 am, there was a fight brewing out in the parking lot (and we were in a nice hotel!). One guy was offering to rearrange the face of another guy, and we could hear much of the conversation. We finally crawled out of bed at 8:30, or at least Richard did. I stayed where I was until after he took his shower. When we finally got up and going, we went to an IHOP for breakfast, then we hit the road for home. When we got back to Tifton, I helped unload the car and then I settled in the recliner with the footrest up and slept like a log for a solid three hours. We had planned ahead and only had to heat up our dinner.

Even though we enjoyed the hotel mattress's comfort, we were glad to get back to our own bed. All in all, it was a great weekend and I think we should do it more often. I love Athens.