28 October 2006

A little visitor

Had a nice birthday dinner with mom & dad tonight, then went over to Dad's House o' Movies to watch a movie of my choosing. Birthday girl gets to pick.

Mom & I went this afternoon to run some errands (buy me birthday presents YAY!) and check out Blockbuster's selection. It reminded me why I rarely bother to go rent a movie. I would have liked to see Over the Hedge, but it was out of stock. The Break Up would also have been a good choice, but -- yeah you guessed it -- out of stock. By the time we were thinking about our fifth and sixth choice for movies, I thought, "This is dumb. Why not just look at something I already have at home?"

See, when I bought my (at the time) huge 52-in. tv, I went a little crazy and bought some movies. This would have been, oh, two years ago or so. And I still have not watched some of them. Like tonight's ultimate birthday movie choice: Gladiator.

OK, I know you're thinking like my mom, "Gladiator is sort of bloody for a birthday movie." But I can look past the blood because, nod with me ladies, Russell Crowe is a hottie. Sensitive, heroic, tragic, sweaty, manly hunk o' meat. Oh, and there's also some tasty little allegorical flourishes, something about a fella who is trying (badly) to follow in his daddy's footsteps but not noticing the masses slowly slipping away and hungry for a new hero....

Anyway, after a couple of hours of blood, gore and prurient hunkonomics, I came home to find a little black and white critter chasing me up the driveway, up the sidewalk, right to the front door. I RAN inside, thinking it was a skunk, probably rabid. But no, it was a little dog thing. Well, one of those small yapping things that people call dogs, but which are actually closer to cats than dogs. Being a total anti-small-dog person, I left it out on the porch. Then the angel voice whispered, "Do unto that doggie as you would have its owner do unto your dog if it ever digs a hole under the fence and runs around the neighborhood." (sigh)

So I brought it inside & it did have a tag. Now, understand, it's after 11 (not counting Daylight Savings change), but as before, I thought if my dog were missing & I had been looking for it for the last 3 hours, I'd be frantic and waiting by the phone. So I called the phone number on the tag. The woman who answers is at a party & can barely hear me. Better yet, it turns out that 1) she didn't know the dog was missing, 2) she is quite a ways away from here, and 3) the dog is supposed to be with her daughter, who is staying with her dad (this woman's ex) this weekend in my neighborhood. Oh boy. Anyway, someone will come for the dog.

A minute later, another little voice is calling me back. It's the daughter, and she is just in the next block so they will be at the house in 2 shakes. Everybody is very apologetic about bothering me, but meanwhile, Lakrids and this little cat-dog thing are scampering happily around the house as if they have been best pals forever. Lakrids is fairly fascinated that the other critter can jump basically straight up in the air without any running start. This earns the little dog thing the right to drink from Lakrids' water bowl. Soon thereafter, the gal shows up for the dog, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Except... Blogger doesn't seem to want to publish blog changes today. So You may not read this entry until next week. Ah well.

So many movies....

What a great list of movies we have on the list! The Martian notes that he has seen a number of them and has 'heard of' most. Some of them, I hadn't even heard of, so it will be fun to look them up.

The funny thing is that seeing the list was like seeing a list of favorite music. Just seeing/hearing/thinking the name of the movie (or song) evokes some memory of where you were, who you were when you first saw it, or how you felt after you saw it.

Some of those "Great American Movies" are films that I saw in history classes. The older movies made you *feel* something: Pride, often; shame, sometimes, or maybe just a wish that the world was not such a cruel place. Even when a movie ends with ET waving good-bye and promising he'll always he in a little boy's heart, you wish, you wish, you wish the world had not chased him away. You wish nobody ever had a reason to make American History X or Birth of a Nation. You wish the world were a different place. So we make movies where we may struggle a bit, and some may not live to see it, but in the end, everybody lives happily ever after.

I like our optimism.

Blockbuster has extended my "Rewards" membership for six months, free! Because I'm such a good customer (who has not rented a movie in ... a long time). This special add-on to a normal Blockbuster membership gets you one free movie a month and then some specials for rent-one-get-x-free and some other random, occasional discounts. When the Danish hordes descended on my house last summer, it was a great deal because everybody seemed to like to watch movies in the evenings. But I don't really watch all that many movies alone.

However, the 'media room' in mom & dad's new house, with its 92-in. high-definition monster screen and leather recliners with cup-holders, is pretty awesome. And as long as I bring over a new movie every time I visit, I might be able to avoid seeing "Top Gun" for the 200th time....

22 October 2006

Movies that Made Americans the Way We Are

You could argue that movies are the real Great American Medium. More than television, we export our movies around he globe, dubbed and subtitled into a gazillion languages and spreading American idiom and values (or lack thereof) to the world.

American movies are so ubiquitous in Europe that it always surprises me when The Martian has not seen some movie that I consider a classic that helped shape Americans into what we are. Upon consideration, it probably shouldn't surprise me because most of those 'classics' were made before we were born, or before cable TV and the media octopus had extended its international reach to every corner of the Earth.

This subject returned last week when mom and a couple of gals came over to (finally) see the house and then go out for dinner (cook? Oh no, not me). At dinner, one of the gals was talking about Old Yeller, and we had a small discussion about whether it's an appropriate movie for children. One of the gals said it teaches a lot about Americans: We can overcome losses and get on with our lives, start over. Just put your pain behind you and move on.

And so I brought it up with The Martian -- who had not seen the movie but sort of vaguely knew it was about a dog, and something bad happens to the dog. Thus was born the need for a List of Movies That Made Americans the Way We Are

The list started a few trips ago, when we saw The Wizard of Oz. I had not seen it for some decades, and, to be perfectly honest, does not age well against modern movies and special effects. I remember it as being awe-inspiring and scary, followed by bad dreams about flyng monkeys for weeks. But Dorothy was so brave and honest and true, and ah, there *is* no place like home.

The Unnamed Male Relative introduced The Martian to his second great American classic, "It's a Wonderful Life." There isgood George, taking care of people without a smidgen of greed in his soul, and yet the nasty, mean banker prospers. But in the end, George shows him: It's all about people. There's no place like home, after all. (Ignore the fact that nowadays George would still go to jail or at least be pilloried in the media and right-wing blogs. Similarly, think about "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" in a modern context... Is the innocent "Happy Ending" extinct?)

Others on my list, which The Martian has already seen: Independence Day and its funny relative, Mars Attacks (American ingenuity always wins, yay us!); Citizen Kane (which neither of us particularly liked); and the original Psycho (don't want to think about the values we learned there...)

With The Martian heading here Dec. 15, it's time to start making a list of classics he should see in case of inclement weather. Old Yeller is on the list, as is a classic Daniel Boone film (a family thing because our ancestry charts go through Boone). He can't remember whether he's seen Miracle on 34th Street, so we'll probably catch that on TV.

As parameters for the list, let's aim for American movies -- e.g., Lord of the Rings could be considered a classic that teaches important values, but it's not very 'American.' Let's also aim for movies that are widely known: I'd argue that "Brother From Another Planet" *should* be a classic, but I don't know anybody else who has seen it, so it doesn't count. And finally, let's look for a variety of 'values' and time periods.

So... what does The Martian need to see to understand what makes us Americans??

16 October 2006

Weather Delay

The alarm clock woke me with one of those typical Houston weather forecasts today: Rain, street flooding, etc. The radar picture is bleak, and so I began the search for the two umbrellas I *know* I had at my previous house. I had found one a couple of weeks ago, and I remember thinking, "I should put this somewhere safe." I can't find it, which means I probably took it to the office and put it somewhere safe *there.* Which will not help me walk from the car to the office. (sigh) Thus, I'll wear my extremely lovely & fashionable (but amazingly waterproof) Gore-Tex to work today.

It's been raining off & on since yesterday, and overnight and this morning we have received some hella heavy rain. The very distressing thing about the rain is that it makes me close the Mini's top, and the Mini is really a topless kind of gal. Since I got her in May, I've driven with the top closed fewer than 10 times -- more like six. It was a very dry summer, and Mother Nature is apparently going to make it up by giving us a wet fall. I'm feeling good about having cleaned the gutters.

I leave the house for work at 7:00 a.m. Today I headed out at 6:55 a.m. to give me a few extra minutes for the rain. Before I put the convertible top up, I went out to empty a 10-in.-tall metal pot that's home to a couple of last year's poinsettia plants. Typically on a rainy day it fills with 1 to 2 in. of rain (because I am too lazy to drill holes in the bottom). I emptied it yesterday just before dinner. This morning it was full to overflowing.

While I was emptying the water, I saw some cars down on the neighborhood road where I turn to get out of my cul-de-sac. They seemed to be driving unusually slowly, and I was thinking negative thoughts about people who overcompensate for a little rain by driving so slowly.

Thus, I jumped in Sunny, closed her top and headed out into the wilds. About two houses down (literally) the street, I saw why everybody was driving so slowly. The intersection is a bit flooded. Up-over-the-curbs flooded. Up-higher-than-the-Mini-wishes-to-swim-today flooded. Put-the-Mini-in-reverse-and-go-back-to-the-warm-dry-house flooded.

When I lived in Arizona, we had gully-washer storms during "monsoon season." They would come out of nowhere and dump some ungodly amount of water in a short time, creating some heavy flooding that would go away after an hour or so. Everybody with a brain knew not to drive onto a flooded section of road, because you never quite knew how deep it might be. And yet, every rain storm, there would be footage of a brave rescue of some moron from the car they drove into a flooded road section because they could not wait 60 minutes for the water to go down.

The fun thing you learn about Arizona, tho, is that they turn around and mail those idiots a bill for the cost of the rescue. I love that: You were stupid? You pay for it. Then maybe you won't do it again, and maybe you will tell your dumb friends not to do it, either.

My momma didn't raise no dummies. Thus, it is 7:35 and I'm still home, waiting for the water in the street to get below the Mini's bumper.

Addendum: We had a lull in the rain just after I finished writing. By 8, the street was clear, so I got out just fine. I hope I can get home.... Oh, and my office is a ghost town: They can't get through the flooded streets!

08 October 2006

Minding the Gutter

Since I moved in here, I have been pretty sure that my neighbor on one side has his 'mind in the gutter' altogether too much. I don't mean he's a dirty old man, but rather that he seems to be on his roof twice a month cleaning the pine needles & leaves off the shingles & out of the gutters. I've surmised that he likes it up there because it gives him a good view of everybody else's backyard, but he does always seem to be actively working and not just spying when he's up there.

I moved here because I love the trees, but I do appreciate the downside of trees, especially in fall. When we did the inspection on the house, it was clear that the gutters needed some attention, but I didn't think they were so bad as to require 'cleaning the gutters' as a condition of moving in. And they were not a high priority fix, which is why I ignored them until yesterday.

We finally have a real fall weekend here, with low temperatures in the low 60s and highs 'just' in the mid-80s and humidity around 50% (compared with the usual mid-90s and 90%. This may sound like 'summer' to those in heat-challenged climates, but trust me, it's quite cool here, which has the added value of keeping the skeeters away.

So after totally wearing out the dog, I decided cleaning the gutters would be a good, useful activity that would allow me to continue to enjoy the great day. I grabbed the ladder, some gloves and a determined look, and headed up onto the roof.

I'm not afraid of heights/ladders, but that transition from the ladder onto the roof is a mental challenge. I also don't much like critters crawling on me or goo on my hands. But hey, I dug in.

Having never done this before, I don't know how much gunk accumulates in an average gutter per year, but if what I found was a mere year's worth of gunk, then I begin to understand my fastidious neighbor. Because I'm pretty sure that water has not actually flowed in any of these gutters at least since I bought the house and probably much longer than that.

That said, I have a wonderful pile of the most gorgeous mulch any gardener ever made. Because essentially, the gutters were a long, tubular compost heap.

I also have a new appreciation for the guys who do this for a living. Although I did not encounter any crawling critters, I did have to sidle up some fairly steep -- even for Monkey Girl here -- roof sections to clean off accumulations on the shingles. I also had to engineer a solution to reach the gutters on the front of the house, since the gorgeous landscaping & huge tree/bush things pretty much don't leave a lot of room for such plebian concerns as ladders and gutter cleaning. (This would be, I think, the reason those front gutters were totally packed with silt: Nobody could get to them.)

01 October 2006

Science Update + Bonus Adventure

OK, its a little blurry and sort of dark, but you can see the aftermath of the convertible experiment. I tried taking a couple of those shots where you just hold the camera in front of your face and hope for the best, but the flash was so bright you couldn't even see there was sunburn.

The most surprising development of the experiment is that I have not peeled. Based on extensive experimental evidencew from my childhood, I expected that to start pretty much immediately. Apparently old skin reacts differently to such abuse?

Nearly as surprising: Much of the burned area is still tender four days later. (pout) The edge of my neck itches/burns like crazy, and the formerly very white insides of my arms still sting quite a bit. But mostly the burn has turned into what appears to be a very dark tan. Go figure.

Today's bonus adventure, though, was not sunburn-related. I opened the door to let the dog in after her morning toilette, and a little toad decided to come along. Brave dog that she is, Lakrids looked up at me and said, "Uh, is that a toy or is it something scary? I'm not touching it until it stops bouncing around and lets me sniff its butt." After one trip around the kitchen island, the poor little amphibian decided he would accept my kind offer of a ride on the kitchen spatula back out into the rainforest/backyard.

The little visitor and my reaction to him (it must be a male, barging in where he is not wanted...) made me think about critter-visitors, in general. I'm very gentle with lizards & toads because I think of them as bug-eaters. I am not at all gentle or patient with Periplaneta americana or her annoying relatives.

(Note: See on that photo where it purports to show you 'actual size' at about 1-3/4 inches? In real life when they are staring you down from a corner of the bathroom floor, they are about 6 inches long with scary fangs dripping poison and blood from their previous victims. This may be a brain-induced exaggeration, but I'm pretty sure all female Texans see exactly the same thing in that situation; even my female Texan dog will not go near a roach in defensive stance.)

With frogs & lizards, I have a sort of "live & let live" philosophy. Same with spiders. If they don't crawl on me, they are free to go about their skeeter-eating. (Even in Arizona, where the spiders are as big as your head, occasionally eat small children & can poison you with a sidelong glance, I never had a problem with them.) But with roaches, there is but one possible philosopy: Live & Let Flip-Flop. The flip-flop is not only a fine utilitarian shoe, but since I typically have at least one pair in any given room of the house, they also are useful and produce a very satisfying *SPLUT* when they contact a cockroach body at an appropriately high rate of impact.

But we had no roaches today, just a cute, scared little toad, who is now back in the yard -- or perhaps by now already a little brunch-bite for some big bird. (sigh)