Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 28

Today is the day called "Let's Find Out if The Home Warranty We've Been Shelling Out For All These Months Will Actually Help Us."  A home warranty is essentially insurance.  You pay a set fee (about 500/year) and in return, when anything breaks in your house, the home warranty people fix or replace it.  At least, that's what they say.  We've never used it.  Today, though, I have people coming to look at the garage door opener and the kitchen vent.  The garage door opener has been spotty since we moved here (I can usually get it to work but I sometimes have to wait outside the garage pushing the button for a long time to make that happen).  The kitchen vent does work, technically (it blows air) but its power is so limited that it's effectively impossible to cook anything that produces any kind of odor or aroma.  That's why I almost always either grill outside or make chinese food.  I'd like to start pan frying fish, or roasting stuff in the oven, as I did in our old apartment.  But right now doing so involves smelling up the whole house.  A new vent might change all that.

So it'll be a morning of service men, not at all the kind of morning I enjoy.  At the same time, our gardener and our cleaning lady are coming.  So Eliot should be utterly and totally insane.  All these invaders!  They must be fought off!  And what better way but by barking at them or, better, by taking his blanket in his mouth and shaking it back and forth with extreme vigor.  That will show them!  Or something.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27

Watched Hobson's Choice last night, a David Lean movie set in the 1890s.  Story is about a buffoonish domineering merchant who tries to prevent his three daughters from marrying.  The heroine, his eldest daughter, contrives a way to escape the house by proposing to one of the cobblers who works in her father's shop.  Cobbler is unwilling and confused but the eldest daughter is not to be denied; a force of nature, she succeeds in wrenching the cobbler out of her father's shop and ultimately setting him up in his own business.  For me this is the best David Lean movie ever made.  Highly, highly recommended.  Dickens meets Balzac meet Daumier with top-notch performances by all involved (Charles Laughton as the blustering, bumbling father was particularly good).

More than halfway through Part I of Tom Jones on tape.  Have to admit my appetite to keep reading has diminished.  Not sure I'm ready for 20 more hours of this stuff.

Very difficult day of work.  Am at the glowing core, where all the electric lines run together.  Had one great idea and many bad ones.  Blargh.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26

New recipe for sauteed mustard greens quickly proving a favorite.  Ate mustard greens, brown rice, and a bit of marinated grilled pork tenderloin last night (marinade is sirracha, worstershire, olive oil, garlic, brown sugar, salt, pepper).  Healthy-ish and pretty tasty.  No wine, despite the urge.  Which is strong.

Per my recent exchange with JMW about Kurosawa (see below) I investigated his discography.  Turns out he directed in the neighborhood of thirty films.  Of those, I've seen about half.  So I was wrong.  I haven't seen near to all of his films.  Nor am I likely to any time soon.

Today will be a day of work.  Yesterday was a day of plumber.  The plumber has come and fixed our sink.  He has fixed my shower.  He was explained to us the nature of the valve above our water heater and how it can be activated to release pressure in the system.  Or something.  I don't know, really.  I think my wife and I together understand maybe 25% of what you need to know to own a house.  Less, maybe.  Now the wife wants to get a water softening system.  Our dishes don't get clean when washed.  She thinks this is due to our water being too hard.  Our water is mean. It's tough, bitter, prison-yard water.  It must be reformed.  I needs schooling and Bible study.  Love too, maybe.  Presumably that now will happen.  Well actually no it won't--not exactly.  Water softening systems cost many thousands of dollars; installing one involves banging around in the pipes and maybe ripping open our walls.  This we are not up for.  Instead we will get a filtration system installed on the main line.  This will filter all the water coming into our house.  The virtuous water will be allowed in.  The drug dealing water will not.  That, at least, is the plan.

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24

Watched Kurosawa's Sanjuro yesterday.  As my wife said, I must be at a point where I've seen nearly all his films.  Funny thing is that the movies of his most people recommend have turned out not to be the ones I most prefer.  Seven Samourai, Ran, Rashomon, High and Low--I've seen and enjoyed them all.  Still, I think that Yojimbo, Hidden Fortress and Ikiru (movies typically not recommended to interested viewers just coming to K) are, in fact, his three best films.  Also realized, watching Sanjuro (which was excellent) something so obvious it's probably not even worth stating: the Jedi Knights of Star Wars ARE samurai.  Forces of good in a chaotic world moving from place to place trying to right wrongs, armed with only a sword and the power of their code.  I know Lucas got the ideas of R2 and C3P0 from Hidden Fortress.  I wonder how many other ideas he took from Kurosawa.

Fantastic day of writing yesterday.  Maybe my best ever, in terms of the number of problems I solved.  Possibly due to my new diet (oatmeal with fruit in morning, light snack at 11 am, no food till light dinner) and new walking regimen, but I feel physically as good as I have in years.  Probably not drinking a bottle of wine every night helps but I think undereating slightly is also a plus.  I'm more cheerful, more motivated, and more energetic.

Also want to talk about a fantastic Chekhov story I read last night ("The Student") but I'll put that for later. I've almost finished my book on cell biology.  Next I'm starting a book I read about on John's Second Pass site--On Growth And Form.  Should be interesting.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 23

Just got an email from amazon recommending I buy Yes's "Close to The Edge."  In college, my freshman year, I listened to that album almost every day, turned up as loud as my roommate's stereo could go (well not that loud.  But very loud).  The whole dorm came to know it.  But amazon is right; it is the definitive prog rock album.  One I haven't heard in a long time.  Time to rectify that maybe?  Chris Squire's bassline is the crucial element.

Yesterday a long wasted time of waiting for a plumber who never arrived.  Took Binks to groomer and read my book about cell biology.  I should write more about it later.  Right now I have to go take the wife's car to have its oil changed.  So much time in my life and yet the errands seem to devour it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21

Well vacation's done and I'm back at work.  The wife is now in DC, at a conference.  I'm pushing the boulder back up the hill again, after a long time ignoring both boulder and hill.

Yesterday a long work day.  After a week or so away it went slowly.  So much I realize is kept in my head usually--about what's going on, what's supposed to happen at set parts--that coming back after a time away involves not just going back to the problem(s) to solve but refamiliarizing myself with the whole contraption, as it were, of the play.

Bink has been exhausted since we got him from the vet.  Yesterday I started to be worried that he was TOO tired--even he usually doesn't sleep all day.  Without the wife here to consult with my paranoia tends to grow.  Another of the many benefits of not being alone--keeping you grounded in reality.  In fact, the Bink was just tired but I couldn't help checking up on him as he slept in various points and positions throughout the day, making sure he was still breathing.  Which is somewhat odd.  Strange that I would worry about him sleeping, something I usually wish he did more of (especially when I work).  Any variation from routine seems ominous, I guess.

Have joined audible.com and am enjoying the new frontier of books on tape.  Walking about 45 minutes a day, it's astonishing how much 'reading' you can get through.  My first book was Jeeves in the Morning; now that I'm done with it I've moved on to something more ambitious (and much longer)--Tom Jones.  So far, it's been excellent.  It's also something like 60 or 70 hours long (in three parts) so it should last me the better part of the summer.  And it's a book I've never read.  Nor really ever wanted to (strongly).  I picked it to listen to because it came highly rated on the audible web site.  So far, I'm not disappointed, although I do miss Cecil Beaton imitating Jeeves' voice.  One benefit of listening to a book (not reading it) is that it's impossible to skim.  I realize, as I walk, that I have a tendancy to not attend too carefully to passages I either find difficult or tedious.  Listening that's not possible.  You 'read' every word.  With Wodehouse that was an undoubted benefit; he puts so much care into his language that missing even a word or two really matters.  I think it will hold true with Fielding as well (though I've already noticed a tendency to repeat himself and overlabor certain ironies--something more common in the 18th century, it seems to me.  It's as if irony needed to be more explained because people weren't so used to it.)

No tutoring for the next month at least so it's time to really work.  And diet.  Those are two big agendas for the next few months.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8

This will be my last post for the next week.  We're going tomorrow to Houston, for a wedding, after which time we're going to Puerto Rico for a vacation.  The vacation will involve lying in the sun, drinking things with Rum in them, playing low stakes roulette and, undoubtedly, bacon.  (The breakfast near where we stay is one of the main attractions of the trip).  My nascent diet will have to be put on hold for the next week.  But that's okay.  I've already lost a few pounds and I'm confident I can return to LA and get back to it without any hiccups.

Sadly, the Binks is going to have to be boarded during all this--at the NEW KENNEL.  We've been acclimating him by taking him to the new place once a week for the last month.  Hopefully he'll be able to bear it without being too upset.  We are already the both of us fairly upset.  He's so small and helpless!  How will he hold up with all the other dogs?  What if one of them picks on him?  What if he forgets to drink water?  What if he gets lonely in the night?  What if he thinks we've abandoned him forever?  What if the kennel where he's staying is invaded by an alien race and it's up to him to push the one button that will send them back to their home world but he hasn't gotten enough sleep and he pushes the wrong button, the one that lets them take over our planet?

It's all very worrying.

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6

Watched The Long Good Friday last night, starring a young Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren.  A british gangster tries to go legit by interesting American investors in a project to turn parts of London into a site for the '88 Olympics.  The story and style were hit and miss for me (great late 70s keyboard parts, however) but the acting--especially that of Hoskins--was spot on.  Something about watching a British gangster movie makes me want to start calling my phone "the blower."  "Get on the blower to Tommy and tell him we need shooters," is the kind of thing one wants to say, having seen a movie like that.

Listening to Jeeves in the Morning on my walk right now.  A long-ago gift given by Johannes.  The older I get the more I admire PG Wodehouse's prose style.   The high tone and convoluted diction is meant as a joke, of course, but that doesn't make accomplishing it any less difficult.  Wodehouse gets it right every time; he's a great crafter of sentences, among his many other virtues.

Our tecate tile back patio is currently being cleaned and treated by a workman.  How does the Monster feel about this, you might ask?  Not good.  He is yowling and whimpering vociferously from the other room.  It's a hard life, being a small bear.  Only you can detect the danger that lurks in the hearts of the people your foolish owners let into your backyard.  The price of freedom, as The Binks reminds me often, is eternal vigilance.  Also, huge amounts of sleep.  And treats.  But mostly, eternal vigilance.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday June 5

Twice in the last two weeks the wife and I have spent close to 300$ on dinner for two.  Last night it was at Providence, a highly rated and regarded LA seafood restaurant.  (Seems like it maybe aspires to be the Le Bernadin of LA?)  And like last week, the meal did not come close to living up to its billing.  Was it good? Absolutely.  Were there moments of brilliance?  Yes: there were moments.  But for that amount of money, I don't want moments of brilliance: I want only brilliance.  I don't want dry duck or octopus that's rubbery.  I want perfection.  And this was not perfection.  Not even close.

So, that makes me kind of grouchy.  I feel like I've been suckered, slightly.  But oh well.  What can I do?  And the service, I must say, was impeccable.  As you would expect.

I want to write about the moving and fascinating This American Life I listened to yesterday while walking (4.5 miles) but I don't have energy now.  If you go to their website, where you can download all their episodes to listen to, it's called something to the effect of "If Kids Ruled The World."  It was put out in the last year and was absolutely first-rate.  Highly highly recommended.  Moving and funny and thought-provoking.  Great great stuff.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 88

Listened to a fascinating "This American Life" yesterday (part of my walking regimen: walk a few miles, and listen to TAL).  The subject was tenacity; people who don't give up, who refuse to give up, even when all available evidence suggests that they really really should.  The most interesting story was about a guy in Orange County who thought, when Conan O Brien left NBC, that he might try and be his replacement.  To get the job, he decided to start his own talk show.  In his house.  (His bedroom, actually).  Which he did.  It ran for more than two years, and involved a house band, writers to do monologues, guests, a sidekick, and, eventually, an audience numbering as high as 70 or 80 people.  (They eventually moved from his bedroom to a Veteran's Hall).  He quit his job, depsite not having much savings, and dedicated all his time and energy to the talk show.  In the process, he almost wrecked his marriage, went heavily into debt, and, as you might guess, did not end up replacing Conan.  Insane insane stuff.  (The show by the way was called The Duke Finemaster show, and apparently exists on YouTube).

Watched Fassbinder's "The Marriage Of Maria Braun" yesterday as well.  A bit too random in structure for me--biographical obviously, but still--but still worth the time.  Fassbinder is a director I know very little about.

How the Mavericks managed to win that game yesterday I don't know.  All I know is that it made me excited enough that I was actually shouting inside our house, at ten in the evening.  I'm not even that big a basketball fan.  It was just a great game.  And it at least gave us all in the good part of America hope that the Heat might have a chance to lose.  And suffer for their sins.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 87

Woken by prolonged and unsettled howling.  Thought for sure the house was being broken into.  Of course it wasn't.  Apparently another dog a few blocks off had started barking and Binks, in a show of solidarity, had thought it best to bark along with him.  For twenty minutes.  Loudly.  I was in the middle of a vivid dream involving training to teach middle school at my old Houston area school.  For months I had been trailing around a middle school geometry teacher, helping her in the classroom, and trying to learn how to be a good teacher.  Then, when filling out my evaluation, my mentor teacher informed she had debated between giving me "twos or ones" but decided to give me all ones.  She THEN told me that ones were the worst rating there was.  I had no future as a teacher, that was the basic gist.  It was very unsettling.  A large amount of my dreams seem to involve failure.  Is this common?

The Stephen J Gould book (The Flamingo's Smile) continues to be excellent.  Fascinating essay last night about the way flamingos eat by turning their heads upside down to dip them in water.  Upside down eating posture explains their strange smile, in which the lower and upper jaw seem to be reversed.  I also learned that flamingos eat in much the same way as great whales, by using filters in their mouth to remove tiny particulate foodstuff from the water.  Their tongues are thick and fleshy (unusual for most birds, who tend to have thin, stringy tongues) in order to aid in the filtering process.

Long day of errands yesterday will give way to long day of work today.  Doctor went fine (although I learned I now weight close to 200 pounds!), tux place went fine, it all went fine.  Now it's time for TCOB.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 86

I've gone to an every other day type posting deal as some may have noticed.  Try and contain your sorrow and despair at not reading me every day.  It's hard but it'll get better.

Doctor's appointment today to get me some more of that good thyroid medicine I love so much.  That means today will be another day of errands, since I do have other things to do (get contacts, pick up tux alteration, buy new mustache wax) and since the doctor's thing already comes in my sweet spot for writing.  It's my 2:30-5:30 work, after I've run, when I've got some endorphins when the morning's thinking starts to yield results.  Sometimes.  So today is another day off, of which I've had too many.  But it must be done.

Heat's win seemed inevitable last night.  They played the same as in Chicago.  They hang around for three quarters, doing nothing spectacular but keeping close enough to prevent a blowout.  Then, come fourth quarter, they unleash their superstars.  Dallas had all kinds of chances to put the game away before then--for all the talk about the Heat's stifling defense the Mavs had a TON of open looks--but it didn't happen.  Too many turnovers and too many missed shots.  I'm starting to worry it's going to be Heat in four or five.  At least give us a series, Mavs!

I wonder if LeBron genuinely regrets "The Decision."  If he could do it all again, would he do the big public announcement?  And if the answer is 'no' is it because he actually gets why people found it so galling, or just because, having seen the negative reaction, he doesn't want to repeat it.  Like a small child who touches something hot--he may not understand why he got burned but he knows he doesn't want to do it again.

Also let me say I really like the Breen/Jackson/Van Gundy announcing team.  Their personalities mesh very well.  Van Gundy can be ridiculous--the lengths he'll go to apologize for or otherwise excuse star players never cease to amaze--but he knows the game and he's funny.  Mark Jackson always seems to be auditioning for a coaching job with his commentary but oddly I find that endearing.  And Breen does a nice job of mediating between the two, occasionally provoking and sometimes conciliating.  I wish they called baseball too.  Maybe I'd watch more games.