February 28, 2006

Back to School

and back in the groove of getting up before the animals. As my friend Beau says, 'it's bloody uncivilized". Couldn't agree more.

Showed my students a Bill Nye (the science guy) video on momentum today, and our discussions were quite fun. Plenty of death and dismemberment for everyone to stay engaged. My evenings this week are mostly slated for studying so off I go.

Happy Mardi Gras!

February 26, 2006

Model of King Tut

How awesome is this?

This photo released by the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the National Geographic Society on Tuesday May 10, 2005 shows a model of King Tutankhamun made by a French team based on facial reconstructions from CT scans of King Tutankhamun's mummy. Three teams of forensic artists and scientists, from France, the United States and Egypt, built models of the boy pharaoh's face based on some 1,700 high-resolution photos from CT scans of his mummy to reveal what he looked like the day he died nearly 3,300 years ago. The three teams worked separately in creating their reconstructions, the Americans and French working from a plastic skull, the Egyptians working directly from the CT scans.

Self Portrait Sunday (SPS)

SPS is part of a new project I am working on.
If you are interested in participating, let me know!

(PS: For those of you who are wondering, that is the shower curtain in the background :-))

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meaness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of it's furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
becuase each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

**From "Rumi - the Book of Love" (translation by Coleman Barks)

February 25, 2006

The Debt Diet

I was watching the Oprah show yesterday - my favorite activity while cleaning the kitchen - and caught part 2 of a series called The Debt Diet. Ok, I know that our culture is diet crazy, what with Atkins, low carb, no fat, etc, but what is the Debt Diet? It's a diet to help people reduce not fat, but debt.

I was stunned to hear that 70% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. That staggering number must account for a lot of the working poor in our country I think - which in itself is disturbing. But wait! The 3 families on the show would certainly not be considered poor (unless you happen to be Oprah), and would in fact be considered rich by many of the working poor. So what is the problem?

It seems to be spending more (way more) than you earn. It's the belief that stuff will make you happy, fill your hole, make you whole. Now, I certainly understand the restorative power of a good shopping trip. The high alone is worth the price tag. But spending what I don't have? That is a little beyond me, since the high fades rather quickly, while the debt stays and grows. And remember that we are not talking about spending on necessities like food, shelter, warmth, etc. One family owed $2,300 on a humongous tv. If that's what they owed, what did it cost?!!

Corporations spend billions of $$ to make us feel inadequate, less than, not sexy enough. In the end it is up to us to take personal responsibility for our choices. Turn that TV off! I am so glad that Susan and I look at this issue in a similiar way - stuff is only stuff. Creating memories is always a better bet.

While I found the show fascinating - if only to see the choices some families make, I would have found it more interesting to hear the stories of the working poor, whose debt problems are not as easily fixed with a debt diet.

February 24, 2006

"Productive" is my middle name

Well, it can also be "procrastinate" - as in not studying for my teacher certification science test, or not keeping up with my mail or cleaning up my study. Well, my friends have I have done all the above this morning, and it's just 11am!

I decided to start by tackling my study - which had gotten rather cluttered and untenable. What do you expect from one with so many hobbies? After I rousted Rafiki from his "sandy beach" (aka thick towel on my desk by the window), I started dusting, vacuuming and purging - amazing how much junk accumulates in one small room. I started this yesterday actually - but am still on that high, so it counts!

The next Everest in front of me was the several feet high stack of mail awaiting my attention. Does anyone really stay on top of all those credit card offers, etc? Decided to be merciless and purged and purged and purged. Good thing tomorrow is recycling day - got bags and bags of paper headed out the door. And my space (aka studio) feels wonderful this morning, as do I. Rafiki had to explore and make sure that I had not altered any of the things that contribute to his wa. When he was satisfied, he was back on the "beach" - patiently waiting for spring.

What about the science test you ask? Well anyone recall what a Cephalopod is?

They are mollusks with tentacles - your average octopuses, cuttlefish, squids, etc. My cranium sure is tingly!

Must be time for lunch.

Art Journal

I went in search of several art journals, and did not find any that I liked enough to buy. Decided to create my own.

I decided to make the journal 8.5"x5.5". Opted to use colored pages (cardstock), as opposed to plain white, which can sometimes be daunting to look at. Where does one begin? The journal covers are made of cardboard covered with wallpaper samples. Blue ribbon threaded through the back cover create the closure. I might decorate the cover further, but like it as it is at the moment. I love how it turned out and cannot wait to start playing with it.

Front cover

Star brad detail

Back cover

Inside pages

February 23, 2006

Praying to Candy Gods

My nieces by the candy machine.

A mall we had stopped at had one these candy stations placed every several feet. Brilliant marketing that generated blinding parental headaches.

As a aunt, I found it all hysterically funny. Every child in the place, all speaking different languages (we are in Vegas after all), bowed and paid homage to the candy gods. They climbed, touched, banged, turned the switches - never know what might fall out - begged, pleaded, whined, and had to be dragged away. Success! Until they spotted the next station barely 10 feet away :-)

February 22, 2006

Daily Quote

"Introspection can be very powerful if you do it in the right frame of mind. Otherwise it can get you down."

From "Bait and Switch - The (Futile) Pusuit of the American Dream" by Barbara Ehrenreich.

February 21, 2006

Daily Quote

"Telling the truth is the most anticonformist act I know. Hypocrisy is the constitutional basis and foundation of society."

From "The City of Falling Angels" by John Berendt

The Shadow of The Wind

Thanks Sheila for being such a gracious host for our Feb book club.

"The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was our Feb selection. Lisa and I loved the book (except for when Nuria wrote her letter), and savored every word. The others who attended the meeting liked the book, but thought that the author was too wordy and the book too long, though all did enjoy the story.

I loved this book. The words were fantastic. "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books" - does not this chapter title send shivers down your back? As a translation, the book read remarkably well, except for certain sentences. Sometimes translated books do not read as well in English.

Everyone agreed that Fermin was our favorite character - and his pearls of wisdom we all savored while reading the book. The only complaint I had with the story was the shallow, one-dimensional women characters. A feminist book this is not. But the story is compelling, the language beautiful, and the imagery stays with you.

I would highly recommend this book.

Creative juices....

are flowing. I've had a very creative time these past several days.

I've sorted through my pictures from my last trip to Vegas, and got them uploaded to Snapfish for friends and family to look at. It's hard to pick which ones I like the best - my nieces are so adorable.

I've also created new scrapbook pages - check out the Scrappics link on this blog. Really enjoy creating layouts in PSE4. Read the latest Creating Keepsakes magazine and learned some nifty short-cuts that have already come in handy.

Finally started studying for the Science test that I have to take for certification. Did you know that the earth's magnetic poles reverse every so often (about 200,000 years or so)???!! Now that is amazing! Wonder why? Will let you know when I find out.

February 20, 2006

Robins are back...

I think the warm winter we've been having has faked everyone out. On our evening walk today, Susan and I saw at least 6 robins and 1 cardinal. There are no worms for the poor robins to eat. What will they do? Some of them have started chowing on the holly berries in our front yard.

Beautiful birds that herald spring.

Broken Flowers

Susan likes Bill Murray, so we watched this on DVD. Should have been a good movie - check out the cast! But in the end, it was not interesting, entertaining, or enjoyable. Bill Murray played Bill Murray with a dopey look through out the movie.
Watched the movie through to the end to check out the actresses - Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, etc. All the women were great in their little bit part.

This is a story of a middle-aged, wealthy, emotionally bankrupt man who gets an anonymous letter telling him that he has a son (one born 19 years ago). Wilson, his amusing Ethiopian neighbor (and really Murray's surrogate family) comes up with a plan to have Murray go back and visit his girlfriends of 20 years past.

While revisiting the past could prove interesting, the movie did not do a good job holding one's interest - in spite of meeting the animal communicator. Some parts are funny, but mostly this is not a movie to rush out to see.

February 18, 2006

Power Lines

Amazing how quickly the weather changes in New England. The balmy spring-like days are behind us, and winter has bared her fangs again. It was zero degrees last night, and that does not take into account the wind-chill. Brrr! More of that expected for today.

Strong winds heralded the change in weather. Gusts were clocked at 60mph! At one point yesterday afternoon it got dark and scary looking outside with wildly failing trees. Susan called about 1pm to tell me that the huge tree in the neighbors yard had been toppled and had brought down the power lines, and there was no sign of work crews yet. Since I was to bring my nephew, Luke, over for the evening, she was giving me a heads up that we had no power - lights, heat, etc.

We checked out the fallen tree and the work crews and cops on the scene. Had to drive in the back way as the road was blocked. The crews asked us to move our cars around the corner to give them room to work. All the activity and flashing lights fascinated Luke.

We hung out, played with animals, read books and had snacks – our favorite activities. It started to get chilly upstairs, so Luke and I headed downstairs to continue playing by the gas fireplace while Susan got dinner started (fish tacos for us, and Mac ‘n Cheese for him). Rafiki was hunkered down in front of the fire – that cat sure is a smart one.

As the light faded, we lit candles, and used flashlights and reading lights to continue our play and to have dinner. I love the mood created. Give a child and flashlight and they can entertain themselves for hours. All to soon it was time to take Luke home, so we bundled up against the cold and set off. He was asleep as soon I got him home. Hung out and chatted with Sohan and Romana for a bit.

Came home to a dark street, and snuggled into our warm futon bed downstairs in front of the fire. Lovely. Power is now back – but it was a nice reminder of what we so often take for granted.

February 16, 2006

Airline Mergers

USAir and America West have changed their websites and their phones to state how the merger is a great one for their customers.

It does look good on paper:
- combined they service many domestic destinations I like to visit (without having to connect via all those US Airways hubs!)
- frequent flier miles from both programs can be combined
- one call and they can check availability on both airlines

However, my experience has not been great. On my return from Vegas last weekend, the AW did not even check out available USA flights. I walked over to the USA counter and the friendly guy did in fact help me out and move me to the next available USA flight.

And then there is the situation with using frequent flier miles. No. Nada. Nope. There is simply nothing available from today through Jan next year! To anywhere! On either airline! What???? Never had this problem before. Are they simply not allowing FF travel until they figure things out? In the meanwhile, it's a real pain.

And Susan found out that her USA FF miles are expiring. After endless phone calls, discovered that both airlines use www.points.com, and I could transfer her expiring miles elsewhere. At least that problem solved. Now if only I could find a flight outta here.

February 14, 2006

Vegas Trip

Flew in to Vegas last Wed night, and tried to fly home on Sat (more on that later).

My nieces are getting so big! It's hard to believe how much they have grown since I saw them last August. They are just so adorable and fun to be around.

Getting to Vegas was a breeze. Getting home was not as easy. The 4-hour direct flight became a 30-hour journey via airports and plane rides. I tried to get on an earlier flight on Sat (4pm) to avoid the problems that the nor'easter that slammed the East Coast on Sunday was sure to cause. When I got to LAS, found out that the direct America West flight home was canceled, as was my later flight at 10pm that night. Why, when it had not started snowing yet in Boston, I still do not quite understand. The earliest flight that America West could get me on was a 4pm on Monday!

After thinking things through a little, I got talking to the US Airways folks - after all the 2 companies are now one no? They could get me on a flight to Philly that left Vegas at 11pm and then I could connect to Manchester, NH the next morning at 7pm. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but I was ready to try anything.

While waiting at the airport and losing hope as flight after flight got canceled, a man sitting 3 chairs away from me suddenly started drooling and not breathing. Several people tried to revive him and called for airport EMT help. He was lowered to the floor and an airport staffer took out a Rambo-like serrated knife (!) and started to saw away at the man's undershirt. He neglected to tell anyone else of his plans, and the cardiac nurse who was performing CPR on the man got her hand sliced open - now there was also blood everywhere! Finally the EMT folks arrived and took over - while the nurse calmly walked to the Starbucks stand and asked for napkins to stem the bleeding. The area was cleared, and as I walked away, I suddenly did not feel too bad about canceled flights - puts things in perspective.

Inspite of all airports being closed on the East Coast, and most other airlines canceling their flights, our flight to Philly took off after a small delay. We had a maintenance problem that turned out to be antifreeze fluid and not hydraulic fluid as initially feared. An uneventful flight later (are not those the best kind?), we started our descent into Philly. Nothing to see out the windows - thick dark clouds everywhere. The pilot comes on and tells us that due to heavy icing and strong crosswinds, we cannot land in Philly and were being diverted to Charlotte, NC instead. OK. The descent was so rocky that I was beginning to think that the late Monday flight might not have been such a bad idea after all!

An hour later we land in sunny Charlotte. All flights to Boston and Manchester continue to get canceled for the next 9 hours. Good thing I had a good book (The Shadow of the Wind), my iPod, and snacks. I got to know the different terminals rather well. By the luck of the draw, the flight I was confirmed on to Manchester took off on time, and landed without a problem on time. There was a weather window and we just dropped in.

Susan who had gotten a call from me almost hourly as the flights got canceled and re-directed, shoveled out and drove up to Manchester to get me - a scary ride as the roads had not been ploughed. It took her 1.5 hours to drive a distance that would normally take 30min (almost as long as my flight from Charlotte). We arrived at the ariport at the same time. Was I ever glad to see her and get home.
Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

February 7, 2006


by Signe Wilkinson

Okay, I'll be the first to confess that I'm not really sure what all the controversy is about. The best cartoons make us think, make us laugh, mocks all that we hold up as “sacred cows”.

Can it really be that there is absolutely no humor that could be gained from these cartoons of the prophet Mohammad? I have been trying to get my hands on them to SEE them for myself, as opposed to reading what others say about them. No luck so far.

Can we really not laugh at our beliefs, our human follies, and ourselves? Does everything have to be a slight against us? Do we not forget that we are more similar than we are different?

February 6, 2006

Superbowl XL

Once the Patriots were eliminated, I was rooting for the Steelers, and was happy they won last night. However, was not impressed by either the quatilty of play or the ref calls against the Seahawks - what a tough break they got on almost all the calls.

The Rolling Stones - can you believe these birds are still around and playing together?! Even though I do not like them, have to admire their staying power.

Now for the ads. The ones I liked the best:
- Soap maker Dove aired a spot from its "Campaign for Real Beauty" advertising effort aimed at debunking stereotypes about beauty. The ad featured close-ups of several young girls with captions like, "Thinks she's ugly," "Wishes she were blonde," and "Afraid she's fat." The inspiring images, set to the Cyndi Lauper song "True Colors," encouraged young women to feel good about themselves: About time!

To see it and click on watch the video on the bottom right.

- Magic Fridge: Funny
- Superbowl/Dr Suess ad with Harrison Ford: Awesome

February 5, 2006

Daily Quote

"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely on her shoulders now. She was twenty-five and looked it, and so there was no longer any need for her to try to be attractive."

From "Gone With The Wind" by Margaret Mitchell.

Susan and I are reading GWTW aloud, and I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the story.....it's not your usual bodice-ripping saga. The book paints a vivid picture of the South and Southern values in the era before and after the Civil War, and I love the strong characters of Scarlett and Melanie. Delightful.
Am looking forward to seeing the movie when we're done with the book.

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name : News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende

I found this book recommended @ Book Sense and thought I'd give it a try.
The author is a wife, mother and obituary writer living in Haines, Alaska (pop. 2500). Each chapter is a stand-alone vignette of small town life, where everyone knows everyone else's business. The stories showcase people and their relationship with others, wildlife, the outdoors and death. I laughed out loud and shed a few tears. It felt very much like reading the letters of a longtime friend, and makes me want to visit Alaska.

Would recommend it as a quick and interesting read.

The Third Secret by Steve Berry

First book I've read by this author.

There are forces at work that want the Catholic Church to be more progressive, and those that want to go back to the good old days of the dark ages. The timing of this book, released just after the appointment of Pope Benedict XVI, is interesting. The current pope when the story starts is also German. The third secret of Fatima is a closely guarded secret at the Vatican.

A church that sanctions a women's right to choose, gay marriage, women priests and optional celibacy for priests! Not in my lifetime, though I love the vision. I particularly liked the author's reference to the Immaculate Conception as proof that women have the right to choose - after all Mary had a choice!

I enjoyed the background and the inner workings of the Vatican, but all the characters were two-dimensional with no depth. The book started out well, but the ending was rather lame. Comparisons to Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" are inevitable, but Brown's books are faster paced and better written.

I was looking for a quick summer time read, and that it was.

Jonah's First Solo Visit

Jonah (1 year old) came over for his first solo visit yesterday. He walks and can get around really well.
He was a little confused by where he was, and every now and then would have a whining fit when he did not get his way. These pics capture the essence of the visit. What a cutie pie.

Memoirs Of A Geisha

Loved the book; Disappointed by the movie.

Could the producers really not find any Japanese or Japanese American women to play these roles? And as beautiful as these Chinese actresses are, could they be any more Eurasian looking?

Things I loved about the movie:
- Beautiful cinematography
- Colors and moods
- Fabrics
- The sensuousness of the women

Things I hated about the movie:
White frat boys version of Asian women
- Spiteful women and “catfights”
- Did it really have to have a Hollywood ending?

I loved Chicago – but the director was not able to pull me into this story.

February 4, 2006


'Heights' follows five characters over 24 hours on a fall day in New York City. Isabel, a photographer, is having second thoughts about her upcoming marriage to Jonathan, a lawyer. On the same day, Isabel's mother Diana learns that her husband has a new lover and begins to re-think her life choices and her open marriage. Diana and Isabel's paths cross with Alec, a young actor, and with Peter, a journalist. As the interrelated stories proceed, the connections between the lives of the five characters begin to reveal themselves and their stories unravel. Isabel, Jonathan, Diana, Alec, and Peter must choose what kind of lives they will lead before the sun comes up on the next day.

Glenn Close is amazing in everything she does, and this movie is no exception. The acting is wonderful and the story well told.
I loved this movie.

Daily Quote

"A great number of people are running around thinking that they are depressed when it may be that they are simply disappointed."

From an article by Michael Vincent Miller, PhD in the Feb 2006 Oprah Magazine.