My Reading List

I have not been in the mood to read lately.  By lately, I mean, since my Dad died.  I just veg out in front of the TV. But I miss reading.  I miss getting sucked into a story, and now I have a couple of reasons to crack a book.

First, Ted’s aunt and I are both fans of Dick Francis mysteries.  He died several years ago, and his son has taken over the franchise.  Auntie is much better than I am about remembering to watch for a new release.  Well, there is a new release, which she reserved at the library.  She read it and then gave it to me.  So now I have to finish it in the next few days.  It is due on Wednesday, but I’m about 3/4 through, and I expect I will make it.

Pulse is the story of Dr. Chris Rankin, an emergency room physician in England, who is trying to solve the mystery of a well dressed man who died in her care, but without any identity.  Dr. Rankin has demons she is struggling with…anxiety and an eating disorder.  She is trying to get better, for herself, and also for her husband and twin boys.  This is the first Francis book I can remember with a female protagonist.

Second, I heard an interview with an author on NPR, talking about his new book, which sounded interesting to me.  I put the book on hold at the library, not expecting that I would get it quickly.  What do you know, I got it, just a day or two after the other book.  So I have a couple of weeks to read this one.

Solo is a YA novel, about a young man named Blade.  He is the son of a washed up rock star and drug addict, who has his own interests in music.  A family secret comes out that may change his understanding of the world around him.

Third, I started a book that was sent to me by a friend, right before the mystery showed up at my door.  I had to put it aside, because of the time issues with the library books, but I’m enjoying it so far and look forward to getting back to it.

Through the Kaleidoscope is the story of a young woman who moves to San Francisco in the 60s, looking for her father, who she has never met.  (A little familiar maybe, huh?)

Last, Maya gave me a book for Christmas (or maybe my birthday) last year, and I’ve been meaning to get to it.  I think once I get through the other three, I will dive into this one.

Between the World and Me – I know nothing about this book yet.  Just that Ta-Nehisi Coates is very much in the public eye right now, that his new book is getting rave reviews, and that the book above received wonderful reviews and won the National Book Award.  And Maya liked it enough to give it to me as a gift.

Will I finish all of these by the end of November?  I doubt it.  I have the library pushing me to finish the first two relatively quickly, but the others are not a rush.  I am hoping that reading the first two will get me pulled into the second two.  Wish me luck.

Presidential Cereal

I had a dream last night (or was it a vision?) of a cereal box with Trump’s picture on it.  I know, what a horrid idea.  I told Ted, and he went and found this picture, likely in order to torture me.

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I mentioned it on Facebook, (which is where Ted put the picture), and my FB and prior bloggy friend V-Grrrl said that her nephew (founder of Air B&B) had presidential cereals back in 2008.  So I did a search for Presidential Cereals, and found these.  The Obama Os and Cap’n McCain’s are VGrrrl’s nephew’s.

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Good thing these aren’t around all the time.  I for one do not want to see politicians in the cereal aisle?

Do you have a favorite?  I’d try Clinton Crunch.

Such Sad News


I woke up to such sad news today, that David Bowie had died from cancer. Generally, I don’t feel anything when celebrities die. Especially since my mom died, I know how much the death of a real-life person you know and love hurts, and what an absolute hole it leaves in your heart. How can the death of a stranger truly matter.

And maybe it doesn’t.

But still, this morning’s news hurt. David Bowie was my first real celebrity crush. I remember when I was about 20, dreaming that he came to the hotel where I worked, and oh, by the way, he was my husband in this dream. I called him my ‘First husband‘ and ‘Maya’s step-dad’.

I think the first Bowie song I loved was ‘Space Oddity’, which could make me cry at almost any moment. So heartbreaking. My brother gave me his Bowie t-shirt with the picture from Changes One. My coworkers at Mr. Steak used to tease me for having a crush on him, saying, “Don’t you realize he’s gay?” As if that mattered in the least. I mean, what were the chances of me ever meeting him, and of him noticing me in any way and taking me away to be his wife? Zero. So I stuck by my guns.

I’ve not always been enamoured with his music. I love so much of it. But sometimes his more artistic works were not really my cup of tea. But sometimes they were.

I’m sad for his wife, Iman. For his children, the youngest who is younger than Maya. I’m sad for his friends. Mostly, I’m just sad that he’s gone.

I don’t know. What else is there to say? I found myself crying a little bit when this morning. Which surprised me, because as I said, why cry over a stranger? But my heart hurts for the loss today of such an artist, and my first husband.

A Day in the City

Kouign-amann

Kouign-amann

Yesterday found the three of us going into the City. For Ted, it was a work day, so we dropped him off a few blocks from his office, and then we went to have some fun. We met up with our friends, Marilee and Paul. Marilee is my dear friend, whom I met in Latin class while studying at San Francisco State back in the early 90s. Paul is her wonderful husband, who she met on an archilogical dig in Greece. We went to b. Patisserie on California Street, and enjoyed kouign-amann, the lovely pastry that you see above. I had never heard of kouign-amann, but it is similar to a croissant, though sweeter and a bit crisper. Delicious. The picture above I took from the Wikipedia page on kouign-amann, though it was taken at this same little restaurant. We spent a lovely hour or so there, catching up and enjoying our coffee and sweets. It was perfect.

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Then Maya and I drove to Grace Cathedral, which is actually only 2 blocks from Marilee and Paul’s house, and they walked back from the restaurant, but the arthritis in my feet would not have allowed such a journey. It’s almost 2 miles (from the restaurant to GC), which my feet can do, but I would have suffered the rest of the day for it, which did not interest me. Also, pretty steep hills. Anyway, Maya is taking a class in Art History that she is really enjoying, and one of her assignments was to go to Grace Cathedral, it being the closest Gothic Cathedral to us. Paris would have been better perhaps, but much more expensive.

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I’ve been to Grace Cathedral once before. Another dear friend of mine, Janet, was married in one of the chapels there, way back when Maya was a baby. I did notice how grand and beautiful it was at that time, but I was also busy being a bridesmaid and doing bridesmaid things, so this time I had more time to look around. The architecture, the pointed arches, the art on the walls, the gloreous stained glass. It was wonderful. We spent about an hour and a half there, really trying to get a good feel of the place. If I were religious, and if I lived in the neighborhood, I think I’d stop by from time to time. Heck, even if I just lived in the neighborhood. Really beautiful.

Fresco depicting the fire destroying the old Grace Cathedral, Grace Cathedral. San Francisco, California, USA

Fresco depicting the fire destroying the old Grace Cathedral, Grace Cathedral. San Francisco, California, USA

We were intrigued by the frescos on the walls, which depicted the history of California and of the Church. This one depicts the fire of 1906 that destroyed the old Grace Church, the predecessor to the current Cathedral. After the earthquake and fire, the Crocker family, which had had a mansion at this location which burned to the ground, they donated the land so the Cathedral could be built.

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I considered the labyrinth inside the Cathedral, and started to walk it, but found my mind wasn’t in the right place for it. Perhaps it was the $2.75 per 15 minutes I was paying to park at the garage across the street, perhaps it was the beautiful architecture and art surrounding me, that seemed a better use of such expensive time. It is supposed to be very calming, and to help one spiritually. You can read more about it, if you’re interested.

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We took a moment to stop in the Interfaith Aids Memorial chapel of the church, to remember the friends I had who died from Aids, back before the current medicines that are allowing people to live so much longer with the disease. Two of my coworkers from my hotel days, Damon and Shelby, both died horrible deaths. Ugh. It was a long time ago, and it was nice to reflect on their lives.

From there, we drove over to Nordstrom, so Maya could get her leather boots shined. She had been playing soccer in them with some kids at her work (She works in the after school care at her old elemtary school), and the boots were pretty dirty. That task accomplished, we shopped a bit, then voila, Ted’s work day was over. So we went to pick him up, and then we went to dinner.

We went to the Clement Street Bar and Grill, a sentimental favorite. My friend Janet first took me there, I think, or at least suggested it to me when I first moved to SF in 1987, I don’t remember which. It’s where I had dinner with my parents that same fall, the first day I had ever met my dad. It’s where Ted and I, with some friends, celebrated our graduation from college in 1990. It’s basic California cuisine. I don’t think the menu has changed much over the years, but that’s OK. Ted had a delicious steak, I had lovely crab cakes, and Maya had a goat cheese salad.

It was a lovely day, but by the time we got home at a little after 9, we were tuckered out, and ready for bed.

Doing Your Part

(Jesus the Homeless, by Timothy Schmalz)

Last Saturday morning found Maya and me (and her friend) in San Francisco, handing out meals to homeless people. We had done this once before, when she was in 7th or 8th grade. In that instance, it was for a class, Teens Around the World, in which they learned about kids in other cultures. A group of 10 or 15 kids, the teacher, and several parents went into the city and handed out bag lunches, which the student had assembled the day before in class. It was kind of an amazing experience, and I think it helped Maya to overcome her fear of homeless people.

Back when she was 5 or so, we were in the city for the day, and walking around Union Square. There was a very angry, confused, smelly, and LOUD homeless man, who was yelling profanities at people as they passed by. He was scary. From then on, Maya said she didn’t like San Francisco and didn’t want to go into the city. As time went on, she amended that to say she didn’t like downtown, but the park and some of the outer neighborhoods were OK. Finally, as she got older and had more good experiences in the city, she finally overcame her dislike of downtown, though it took engagement and interaction with homeless people in 7th grade to cure her of her fear. It helped her to humanize them and realize that they are people, just like everyone else.

So for her senior project in English class, she had to write a paper, work with a mentor, have a practical aspect, and give a presentation.  For the paper, she worked with her mentor, who is a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle who focuses on homelessness. The practical part was giving away sandwiches.  So she recruited some students from her Human Rights Club at school to assemble lunches, and then she and one other girl went to Civic Center and started handing them out. Again, it was really a rewarding experience.  Taking the time to stop and look at, talk to, the homeless amongst us not only reminded us of their humanity, but of course of our own as well.  Similar to volunteering at a soup kitchen or delivering Meals on Wheels, I think that when you do these things, do just a little bit to lighten the load of someone in need, you get more than you give.  Maya told me that not many of the kids in the club could come that day, but they were inspired by assembling the meals, and they may try to organize a bigger group and go in again.  I hope they do.

Jury Duty


Wednesday I was summoned to another part of my county to perform my civic duty and report for the dreaded Jury Duty. Jury Duty can be horribly boring, sitting in the Jury room for hours on end, and then perhaps dismissed. Bring a book. I once brought a notepad and wrote my friend a 6 page letter before being dismissed, then went to lunch and then some light shopping. It can be a nice diversion from your regular routine, provided that your company pays you for the time. I wonder if the reason so many people hate it is because they are losing pay or income by being there.

I generally don’t mind Jury Duty. (I feel that Jury Duty has earned the capitalization. I just do.) I like the break from work, I like reading books and writing letters to friends. If called, the process is interesting. But I wasn’t too thrilled about driving in heavy rush hour traffic, and hoped that when I phoned on Tuesday evening, I would be excused. Nope. Please present yourself at 8am, and leave your knitting needles (and other weapons) at home.

Happily, the drive wasn’t too bad on Wednesday morning. It took me about 40 minutes to go 30 miles, which in the scope of things is not too shabby. Then there was the sign in process, which involved answering a fairly detailed questionnaire. Right when we were preparing to watch the boring video about serving your country and what to expect, the deputy came in and called 60 names, and asked us to follow him. The 60 of us who had been called went upstairs to the courtroom, where we heard a bit about the case, and went through the process of voir dire, when the lawyers asked us questions to determine whether they want us to serve on the jury or not. The case was an auto break-in, where the suspect was on parole from serving time for other cases of auto burglary. So the questions tended towards, “if the suspect is proven to be guilty, will you have a problem declaring him guilty?”, and “can you set aside the suspect’s previous convictions and not assume that if he committed the crimes previously, he must have committed this one?” They went through almost 40 jurors this way, and by the end of the day, they had 12 jurors and 1 alternate. I found the process really interesting. I liked hearing the stories of the potential jurors, hearing where they were from and what they did for a living. What experiences they had had in the past that might prejudice them, what excuses they might come up with to try to get out of serving. One younger potential juror said he didn’t believe in the system at all, didn’t think the courts were useful, didn’t believe the police are useful, etc. He works as a security guard. The judge gave him a lecture about our civic duties and so on, and then sent him downstairs to start the entire process over again. (Ha ha!)

If Wednesday was a day of people hoping to get out of their civic duty, Thursday was a day of people who knew this was a serious job, and who were there to do their very best to provide a fair verdict.  It was interesting to me to notice the difference in how people dressed on Wednesday vs. Thursday.  Wednesday was very casual, maybe a sports team shirt, maybe a hat or a hoodie.  Thursday was business casual.  The jurors knew their job, and they dressed the part.

Thursday was opening arguments and the presentation of evidence. The police officer was driving by at 3:30 am, and saw the defendant standing behind the truck (next to a recycling bin) that had been broken into. The officer looked in his rear view mirror and saw the defendant crouching down next to the car. He thought that was strange, so he turned around at the end of the block and returned. Now the defendant was standing on the lawn. When questioned, he said he wasn’t doing anything, but refused to sit on the curb when asked. Then he took off down the street in a sprint. A chase ensued, other officers were called in, he was captured the next street over. He lied about who he was, hoping that they wouldn’t put 2 + 2 together and connect him with the warrant that was out for his arrest, due to him breaking parole.  After he was taken to the police station by the other officers, the original officer came back to the truck, and found that the recycling bin (the only one on the street) had tools in it, and that there were a few more tools on the ground where the officer had seen the suspect crouching.

The crux of the defense was that he did not break into the car, that he was walking down the street on the way to catch a bus, saw the police officer, and hid because he didn’t want to be brought in on parole violation. He ran from the police and lied about his identity for the same reason. No fingerprints were taken of the crime scene, he did not have any of the tools on his person, there’s no hard and fast evidence that he did the crime. We heard from the arresting officer, the people whose tools were (almost) stolen, the defendant, and the defendant’s girlfriend’s daughter. Again, the process was really interesting. The detail was much different than what you see on TV. Excruciating detail on what tools were in the truck, what they were for, blah blah blah. Lawyers objecting, judge overruling objections, differing and conflicting explanations for the same time frame. That was Thursday.

Friday we heard jury instruction, then closing arguments. We were reminded again that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. That the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. That we must not consider the possible punishment and consequences of our decision while determining guilt or innocence. That circumstantial evidence is admissible, and should be considered if reasonable. The bit that finally made the difference for us was this:

224. Circumstantial Evidence: Sufficiency of Evidence

Before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to conclude that a fact necessary to find the defendant guilty has been proved, you must be convinced that the People have proved each fact essential to that conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.

Also, before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to find the defendant guilty, you must be convinced that the only reasonable conclusion supported by the circumstantial evidence is that the defendant is guilty. If you can draw two or more reasonable conclusions from the circumstantial evidence, and one of those reasonable conclusions points to innocence and another to guilt, you must accept the one that points to innocence. However, when considering circumstantial evidence, you must accept only reasonable conclusions and reject any that are unreasonable.

Then we were sent off to deliberate. First thing (after electing our foreman) was to take a quick vote. 8 guilty, 3 not-guilty, 1 undecided. I was one of the not-guilty, because while I did think he likely was in the process of robbing the truck, I wasn’t convinced that the prosecution had proven their case. I was worried by some tools that had gone missing and not been found. Why? How? The prosecution had a possible solution, which was that the defendant had broken into the truck, taken the tools that were still missing, taken them elsewhere (perhaps his girlfriend’s house, a block away), and then come back to finish the job. We talked about it some more…about how the defendant said he was walking to the bus (though he went the wrong way for that), but he didn’t have bus fair in his wallet (according to the officer, the defendant said he did). About how if he were walking along as he had said, he would not have been seen by the officer. About how the officer’s story was much more reasonable. On and on and on.

And in the middle of this, we are not supposed to consider the punishment. Not supposed to consider that this is the defendant’s 3rd conviction, not supposed to worry about California’s “3 strikes, you’re out” law. Not supposed to worry about sending a man to prison. I mean, he may have earned it, but somehow, now we’ve been pulled into the equation. So of course we’re thinking about it, though we have been instructed not to.

In the end, we decided that the circumstantial evidence led to guilt. That it was our job as jurors to follow the stupid rules, and declare the man guilty. So we did. I’ll admit, I felt a little sick. I was not alone. We were all upset by the fact that we were pulled into this situation, that we had to be a part of sending a man to prison. That we had to follow the rules, whether we agreed with them or not. I think we all agreed with the rules in principal, actually, but the reality of our part in the process was upsetting. And really, shouldn’t it be? If you are part of the process that sends a man to prison, shouldn’t it weigh at least a bit upon your heart? I don’t think we did the wrong thing. I think we did the right thing. But while the whole process was really interesting, in the end, it wasn’t fun.

Merry Christmas to All!


It’s morning on Christmas Eve.  I was watching Tim Minchin sing “white wine in the sun”, my favorite secular Christmas song by far, so I thought I’d share it with you.   Gifts have been purchased, delivered, and wrapped. Cards and packages were mailed early last week. Cookies have been baked. The house is decorated. Our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of Cinnamon rolls (from a tube) is in the fridge, as well as the ingredients for our contributions to Christmas dinner. Ted is at work, and Maya is still sleeping. I’m not sure I can face the grocery store today, and I didn’t plan a Christmas Eve dinner, so it’s looking more like Chinese take out tonight. Sounds good to me.

I know I have other things I could be telling you, but for the life of me I cannot right now remember what they are.

Oh, I know! How about Utah??? Perhaps it is wrong of me, but I love that Same Sex Marriage is now (at least for the moment) legal in Utah. The Mormon Church there got all involved in California’s ban (since declared null and void) a few years ago, and I’ve always resented them for it.   And how awesome is this picture?
Boy scouts delivering pizza to county workers, workers who are working through lunch breaks in order to serve the thousands of people rushing to get married. In Utah. It’s a Christmas miracle, I tell you.

Also, Ted’s job requires that he join the SAG-AFTRA union, which means that he becomes a voting member for the SAG Awards, and we get to watch a bunch of nominated films for free in the comfort of our own home. Sweet, huh? So far we’ve watched a couple of depressing movies…1st was ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, and next was ’12 Years a Slave’. Both really well done, but not exactly your feel good films of the year. It’s interesting to me how they are delivered…’Dallas Buyers Club’ arrived as a DVD in the mail, while ’12 Years a Slave’ and several others are delivered via iTunes, which I don’t like as much, because we don’t have Apple TV, which means we have to watch it on the computer rather than the TV. Oh well. It’s still fun. I guess I know what we’ll be doing this winter break…watching movies.

I’m currently hooked on the ‘Divergent’ books. I finished the second one last night. The first (Divergent) I got from the library, but the waiting list for the second was months long, so I ordered it for my Kindle, which was actually really nice. I don’t have a lot of experience with the electronic reading, but I liked it. Now I want the 3rd book….I hope Santa’s listening.

I just made an appointment for Thursday to donate blood. Blech. I’m dedicated enough that I do it once in awhile, but I’m not dedicated enough that I do it whenever I’m eligible. Far, far from it. You can donate maybe 6 times a year, but I only muster up the courage once or twice.

Last and most certainly least, I was walking the other day and saw a big beautiful lemon tree in a neighborhood yard. I asked if it would be OK if I were to pick a couple of lemons, and they graciously said yes. While looking for one to shove in the cavity of the chicken that was that night’s dinner, I came across this mutant lemon, and I had to pick it and bring it home so I could show you. The tiny lemons are actually normal sized. Then there’s the one that’s about the size of a grapefruit. And then there’s mutant. Ted thinks it looks kind of like a bird, but I say it looks like it’s giving us the bird, so to speak.
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Merry Christmas to All, and to all a Good Night.

Batkid Saves Gotham!

SF got all giddy yesterday and went all out to help a boy with cancer to fulfill his wish to be a superhero.  The make-a-wish foundation hoped for hundreds of volunteers.  They got thousands.  The mayor was in on it, there was a Lamborghini made to look like the batmobile, city officials, actors, and tons of civilians on the sidelines with signs held up, thanking batkid for reducing crime by “1,000 percent”.   What an awesome day.  (I like the special Chronicle put out yesterday, with bylines by Clark Kent, Brenda Starr, Lois Lane, and Perry White…photos by Peter Parker….excellent)

Read more here, if you haven’t heard enough elsewhere.  I, personally, was charmed by the whole ordeal.

Harriet Tubman ~ Abolition Princess


Maya and I were talking about Disney the other night, and how, while the princesses are generally funny and clever and increasingly independent, the happy ending of most Disney movies is the ‘Happily Ever After’ wedding. When the protagonist of a Disney movie is female, the end is almost always a wedding. When the protagonist of a Disney movie is male (wait, are there any with a male protagonists in Disney movies, or are they mainly Pixar these days?), the happy ending is the success of whatever adventure or mission they have just experienced. They save the day, the end. Mulan saves the entire nation of China, but the end still has to have a romance for her. Blech. Maya did say that a very recent Disney movie has a female protagonist, and no romance involved, but she’s napping right now after taking the Literature Subject SAT, so I can’t ask her.

After our conversation, I saw this article, about an artist who finds the lens through which women are seen in Disney movies to be absurd, and he went on to render some of our female role models through this Disney lens. Click on over and see what you think. 1st, he’s right, it’s ridiculous. 2nd, he did a lovely job. I wonder if he could get a job at Disney and find a way to paint heroines in a more complex and varied light? And would the audience appreciate the change?

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

After having seen the kerfuffle on YouTube where Reza Aslan took Fox News host Lauren Green to task for her attack of his scholarship, and his daring to write about Jesus while he, Mr. Aslan, is a Muslim, I was intrigued by the book. Most of the interview is Ms. Green looking like an idiot, stressing over and over again that, gasp, he’s a MUSLIM, so how could he possibly write about JESUS? He upbraids her, and explains a bit about how scholarship works, and how as a scholar of ancient religions, he studies Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The most interesting part of the interview, to me, was not the argument between them, but instead when he talks a bit about the historical Jesus, vs. Jesus Christ, and the time and politics in Jerusalem while Jesus lived there.

A quick search will tell you that Dr. Aslan perhaps oversold himself. While he has certainly studied ancient religions, he has done little original research in the field, and is an associate professor of creative writing. I suspect he knew what he was in for with Fox News (you’d have to be stupid not to, and he’s not stupid), and decided to make the most of the situation. He succeeded, and we bought the book. (I’m too cheap to pay full price for a hardcover, but while we were in Portland, Ted discovered that he had a Powell’s gift card in his wallet that had enough on it for that plus another book or two.)

This is where I tell you that, if you hadn’t noticed, I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. I enjoy novels and literature mostly, with the occasional detective story and once in a great while, poetry. But I decided to try anyway.

I found Zealot to be an interesting glimpse into the world of 2,000 years ago Jerusalem. The structure of the economy, of the Temple, of the religion and its adherents, was all new to me. From there, we learn a bit about the life and death of Jesus, and last about the split in the beliefs of the followers of Jesus that lead to modern Christianity. I learned a lot about the history of Jerusalem and the struggle against the Roman empire, and a bit about what different interpretations of events and even phrases might mean.

I had two problems with the book. One is my own, and the other perhaps valid. My own problem was that it was non-fiction, and sometimes, I find that to be boring. This book was no exception. I sometimes found myself interested, and then other times, not the least bit. Sometimes the book would give me information early on, and then repeat it later, which made me wonder if I had imagined reading it in the first place, or if it had merely been introduced in an earlier chapter, but would be fleshed out a bit more later.

The second problem I had was that I found his reliance on the Bible and the Gospels to be frustrating. It seems somehow disingenuous to me that he started out saying, we know very little about the historical Jesus, so much of this was written much later and with specific religious and political motivations, so we cannot rely upon the Gospels much for facts.  But then a few chapters later, he quotes the Gospels again and again and again, and accepts the stories as fact. Which is it? I wanted to ask him to pick a side.

I wonder if my Christian friends would find the book interesting, insulting, challenging, reaffirming, or what. I hesitate to discuss it with any of them, however, because I’m more interested in the historical person, and I’m not sure how that meshes with the religious figure.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re interested in a historic lesson on Jerusalem in the days of the Roman Empire, yes. If you don’t know much about the historic Jesus, OK, this could be a primer. I’d check it out of the library, or at least wait for it to be released in paperback.

Remembering Edelmiro Abad, again, still, always

Reposting this, again. I keep seeing notes to “Never Forget”. How could we. The horrors of September 11th, and the wars that came after, have forever changed our country, and the world, in so many ways. Back in 2006, I pledged to take part in the 2996 project, in honor of the 5th anniversary of that tragic day. Everyone who signed up was given a name of someone who died, and we promised to find something out about them, and write a bit about their lives, so that people will never forget them or what happened that day. As if any of us ever could. The name I was given was Edelmiro Abad, from Brooklyn. I found a bit about this kind and loving man, and I copied it here. But as with so many who participated in the project, while writing about him, my own memories rushed to the front, and I had to write them down here. I’ll publish that post again today, in honor of him, in honor of all who have died on that day, and in the two wars we joined soon after.

Edelmiro Abad

Edelmiro Abad of Brooklyn at a wedding with his close-knit family: his wife, Lorraine, and in white from left, daughters Serena, 19, Rebecca, 26, and Jennifer, 23.

Beloved husband, proud father, loving son, brother, uncle and dear friend are words that best describe Edelmiro Abad. Ed touched the lives of all who knew him with loving words, a kind gesture, or his unique sense of humor. Ed lived a happy, fulfilled life with his wife of 29 years and three daughters. He also enjoyed a successful career with Fiduciary Trust for 26 years. His co-workers and clients became more than just friends; they became family. Although we have lost a beautiful person, we have truly gained an angel. We love you, we miss you, and we will meet again.

He was my mentor and friend. He was always there when I needed him professionally and personally. First and foremost always were “his girls.” He would always burst with pride when he told us about his writer, his dancer, his chef and Lorraine just being Lorraine. Ed was loved and respected by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Ed, thank you for your strength and kindness. I will miss you more than you could ever know.

-Michele Kearney


I Remember
Edelmiro Abad
Brooklyn, NY

Back in June, I read on Ally Bean’s site about this project, called the 2996 project, where you can volunteer to take the name of one victim from the September 11th attacks, and write a memorial to that person. I was assigned the name of Ed Abad.

This project seems far removed to me, far removed from my life in California, 3,000 miles from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania, where people suffered immeasurable horrors on that day. And yet, I thought, maybe I can do my part. Maybe I can write about how this loss, the loss of Mr. Abad and so many, too many, others has affected me. How it has affected us all.

September 11th, was, for me, supposed to be a day when I went into Oakland for a payroll conference, learning about boring changes to reporting requirements from the spokespeople from the Social Security Administration. It was a chance to get out of the office, maybe have lunch in a different place, learn some new things about my newish job.

I was in the shower, getting ready, when Ted came in and told me that his Aunt had called his mother, called from England since she knew we were so far removed, time wise, and might not yet be up and watching TV or listening to the news. Ted told me that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. By the time I got downstairs, the first tower had fallen…they were showing the second plane hitting, over and over again. I remember the horror that I felt, not knowing whether this was the work of foreign terrorists, or perhaps the work of another Timothy McVeigh type psychopath. I remember worrying about Ted and his family, about the fear that was felt by many people of color, of that certain color, during the first Gulf War, that they would be targeted for acts of violence and hatred.

Then the second tower fell. It was such a horrid time, such an amazingly horrid event in the history of our country. I remember thinking…this is what people in Northern Ireland, Israel, Kashmir, and London have been living with for years. Now it has come here.

My boss came to my house, not sure if what he had heard on the radio was true, or if it was a stupid radio stunt. He knew by my face that it was true. We left from here to go to Oakland for our conference, not sure that that was the thing to do, but oddly holding on to normalcy. We arrived in Oakland, went through maybe 15 minutes of training, before the Federal Building there was shut down as a precaution. So we went home. Then in to the office, oddly. In retrospect, I’m not sure why we went. Just habit I suppose, like I went into work the day after the earthquake in ’89. Stayed at work for a few hours, watching the news unfold, crying quietly in my cubicle. Finally the word came that we should go home.

I came home, hungry for more news. Turned on the TV, only to see pictures of people, desperate people, jumping to their deaths from the top of the twin towers. It was the most horrid sight I have ever seen in my life. I hope to never see anything like it again. I turned off the TV, cried, cleaned house, tried to get some idea of how to deal with this.

I remember the weeks following…the days of strange quiet in the air when no airplanes flew…knowing that there were no airplanes, from coast to coast, border to border. It was a very strange feeling.

I remember being told by my leader that we needed to act normal, that we needed to go shopping, to keep our economy afloat. This cut me to the quick. I wanted to sacrifice…to give up something, as the victims of the attacks had done. As our grandparents had done after Pearl Harbor, with their shortages and sacrifice, that you felt and knew were contributing to the greater good of America, the fight against evil. Instead, we were asked to go shopping.

I knew then that we would attack Iraq. Hoped in my heart that I was wrong. Hoped that our leader would not take this opportunity to settle a grudge against the man who shamed his father. But deep down, I feared that I would turn out to be right on this.

I remember the day my mother and I had chosen to go to an Afghani restaurant for dinner, and decided it was somehow wrong to change those plans because of current circumstances…that maybe if we went, we would be telling the people who ran the restaurant that we understood that THEY were not the Taliban. THEY were not Al Quaeda. THEY were not the people who had attacked our nation. The day we chose, sadly, was the day that the U.S. started dropping bombs on Afghanistan. Our waiter walked around like a man in a dream, a man in a nightmare. I felt like we were there to support him, but that maybe, he just wanted to be home, alone, to not have to serve food to strangers, white strangers, and wonder what we thought of him, if he even had those thoughts at that time. Any thoughts to spare save those for his friends and family at home.

I remember that there were songs that were not supposed to be played on the radio. One of those songs was U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday. To this day, the opening lyrics tie me with September 11th, with the pain and horror of watching those buildings fall, of watching people fall to their deaths rather than stay in such a toxic, horrid building.

I can’t believe the news today
I can’t close my eyes, and make it go away
How long, how long must we sing this song,
How long?

Now, 5 years later, how am I to put any sort of perspective on that day. On the many, many horrid days since that day. On the loss of American life, the loss of life for our allies from England, France, Germany, Australia, etc. The loss of Iraqi life, the loss of Afghani life in a now mostly ignored war….what to say about the more recent loss of life in Israel and Lebanon…what to say about the hatred in our hearts, that pits person against person so venomously.

I want to say moving, amazing words to remember them all. To remember Ed Abad, of Brooklyn, who I committed to commemorate this day. And truly, I don’t know how.

Cutting the Cord

We’ve noticed that most of our TV use lately is Maya playing video games, or us watching Netflix.  For awhile there, we were getting good use out of our cable On Demand service, but not lately.  Perhaps that’s because we don’t have a DVR, so when there’s a new show on that we want to watch, we seldom watch it live.

We keep hearing about people cutting the cord and getting rid of cable, so we decided to give it a try.  We can use the XBOX 360 for Netflix, Hulu Plus, whatever else.  But what about our local channels?  Nance successfully uses an indoor antenna to access local channels, which sounded like a good idea to me.  So we cancelled the cable, and I went out and bought an indoor antenna.  I hooked it up, programmed the channels, and the results was….3 channels.  If they had been PBS, CBS, and NBC (which is kind of what I expected), I would have been thrilled.  But they were three channels up above 400 on the spectrum, all Spanish language soap operas.  I don’t like soap operas, and I don’t speak Spanish, so that’s a no go.  There’s a website you can use to estimate which channels you might get.  It says 2 for us, neither of which came through the antenna.  Sigh.  So now, what to do?  Seems like we can watch our network shows on the internet, we can do à la carte viewing to download shows on Amazon when we want to see Mad Men or Downton Abbey (which we likely could also watch online…I just don’t really like watching TV on the computer.  It makes me sleepy.  Perhaps because the preferred screen is in the bedroom.).

So then there’s the channel surfing kind of thing.  Jeopardy, which I do enjoy.  CNN if something goes wrong, like an airplane crashes in SF, or a terrorist attack somewhere, or a gas line blows up a neighborhood.  Isn’t that strange, wanting to have a TV channel to turn on when something happens?  I guess we can look at the computer for that as well, but it’s not quite the same. I guess there’s always radio.  So we’ll see what happens.  For now, we’re happy enough without the cable, and figuring out what to do this fall when the new season starts, that will have to take care of itself.

In Defense of Charles

I know there are plenty of you out there who could not care less about the Royal Family, the Royal Baby, any of it.  Move along, I’m sure there are plenty of blogs out there talking about important things.  Or silly things.  Or interesting things.  Something that interests you while this does not.

For anyone that is still here, I have noticed a lot of Charles bashing in the American Press these last few days/weeks.  Everyone wants to know if William and Kate will raise Prince George in the method of dear departed Diana, or in the method of evil bad guy Charles, with the majority of support going towards Diana.  Of course, Americans prefer Diana.  She went against the royalty in so many ways, tried to push back as much as she could, much like the U.S. went against the monarchy back in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.   But look at Charles, who I think has more reason than anyone else to go against the monarchy in its traditional rolls, and try to move things forward.  In other words, I think that he and Diana were probably more in synch on parenting than anyone would like to admit.  Just because they couldn’t get along, that they were so ill suited together he couldn’t even admit to loving her on their honeymoon, doesn’t mean they couldn’t be at least a bit in synch as parents.  Charles really just wanted to marry Camilla.  Could he?  No, she wasn’t a royal.  He had to marry Diana, a 19 year old aristocrat he didn’t know that well, and with whom he had little in common.  He treated her like crap, from all we’ve seen, and they both suffered mightily.  But don’t you think that just maybe, he learned something from all of that?  From his affair, and from hers?  From the trouble they caused the monarchy?  From the pain they caused their families and their children?

I look at William and Kate, and how they dated for something like 10 years.  How they lived together before marriage.  She’s not a virgin, and didn’t have to pretend to be one.  She’s not a royal.  They have managed a great deal of privacy throughout the years.  They have done their best to make sure they were both ready for the onslaught of public interest that would come with their marriage and kids, before they had them.  Seeing the punishing amount of public interest, I cannot imagine treading into such a life lightly.  (Hello, people commenting on her figure one day after she gave birth?  Asshats.)  Somehow, I think that maybe Charles (and who knows, even Elizabeth may have noticed the times they are a changing, and may have been behind some of these changes…I’m not sure they could have happened if she weren’t at least looking the other way) is a fan of these changes.  Why would any of us want our children to suffer the same miserable failures that we have suffered?

I give full credit to William, for seeing what happened to his parents and for wanting something different.  I give full credit to Diana, for giving a warm, loving face to a monarchy that appeared cold and aloof.  But I also give credit to Charles, for seeing what went wrong in his life, and hoping to make it better for his kids.

Girl with a Pearl Earring


One of the benefits of membership to our local PBS station is that they sometimes have a ‘free member day’ at local museums. Several years ago, that took us to the SF MOMA to see a Picasso exhibit, and Maya and I spent a lovely day in San Francisco together.

This time the ‘free member day’ was for the de Young Museum, one of two fine art museums in San Francisco. They have several exhibits, but the current Special Exhibit is a collection of paintings from the Mauritshuis in Holland, which is a museum that is being expanded and is under renovation until mid-2014. While they’re tearing up the place, they sent some of their paintings on tour, the most famous of which was the Vermeer painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. I read the novel several years ago, and was excited to see the painting for free, so those of us who were willing to get up early and be there 1/2 hour before doors opened (I remembered how crowded the Picasso exhibit was, and that was on a weekday) hopped in the car and went. That means Ted and I. Maya is at that teen age when it takes something more important and exciting than a once in a lifetime chance to see a famous painting in person to rouse her out of bed and be out the door by 8am on a Saturday. We got there at 9, doors open at 9:30. As sometimes happens in a long line, we struck up a couple of conversations with those around us. I was actually pretty impressed that people will make such an effort to see art. The couple ahead of us had driven up from Cambria, spent the night in a fancy hotel, and were spending the day. They were also members of PBS. Then there was a guy behind us, who had flown down from Portland to see another exhibit, on famous ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, which is leaving in a few days. I was thinking about that, and about how people with certain interests and a certain income level are willing to spend a certain amount of money for such high minded things. If you don’t have the income level to see the exhibit ($25 per person), or to donate to your local PBS station, but you do still have the interest in art, many museums have free days, when you can see the exhibits for free, one day a month, though that won’t get you in to see the Girl and her fancy earring…that’s extra.

The highlights of the exhibit, for me, were Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which was so much more lovely in real life than online, and Rachel Ruysch’s Vase of Flowers.

We toyed with buying framed prints of these two paintings to display in our home, but decided that it might seem sort of weird. So I bought some magnets instead. Our fridge is getting arty.

We also saw the exhibit called Rembrandt’s Century, which was comprised of a few paintings and a lot of etchings, both by Rembrandt, and by his 17th century contemporaries. I was glad that I overheard the gentleman behind us saying he had flown down from Portland specifically to see the Nureyev exhibit, because it was well worth seeing, and I don’t know if I would have known about it otherwise. There were photographs and videos of Nureyev dancing, but the most spectacular parts of the exhibit were the costumes, which were dazzling.

There were tutus and costumes from many famous ballets…Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadere, and Giselle, among others. They were sumptuous and so detailed. Just beautiful. I would go and see them again, if they weren’t leaving this week. So glad I got to see them.


After our museum visit, we decided to go out for Chinese food. Just in time for Lunar New Year! Our first thought was to dine in our old neighborhood, Clement Street. The parking gods were not with us, however, and we left, discouraged. Not to be thwarted, we decided to drive a bit further out into the avenues, and get Dim Sum. When we lived just off of Clement, there was a tasty and reliable Chinese restaurant near us, Ton Kiang. They have a sister restaurant further out, that has good Dim Sum, so that’s where we went. We were able to park pretty quickly, and only 2 or 3 blocks from the restaurant, which any big city dweller will tell you is fine parking indeed. The good thing about Dim Sum is that, if you’re hungry, there’s no dilly dallying around with a menu and waiting for your food to be prepared. You sit down, and waiters start coming by with trays of food. You take what you want, and not what you don’t. We ate a bit more than we should have, because we were quite hungry and there was a lot of dumpling and starch involved, so we were pretty full by the time we left. I’m not sure of what all we had, but I do know we had bbq pork buns, shrimp dumplings, eggplant stuffed with shrimp, mushrooms stuffed with shrimp and chilies, asparagus, spinach, little riblets, shrimp and rice noodles, and maybe something else. If I could do it over, I’d swap out the ribs and get the salt and pepper calamari instead, but by the time that came around, we were far too full. That’s the down side of Dim Sum. You shouldn’t be greedy and eat the first things that they bring (like we did), and instead, bide your time a bit. Next time perhaps.

Now I’ll finish off this long winded post by telling you that when we got home, I had the overwhelming urge to re-read Tracy Chevalier’s novel, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring‘, which is a completely fictional story, supposing that the girl in the famous painting is a maid in Vermeer’s household, and what her life might be like. Luckily, my copy survived the loathsome book purge of 2007, so I curled up on the sofa and devoured it. I finished before bed, which pointed out to me the difference between a book that completely draws me in, like this one, and one that fails to do so, like ‘Lincoln’, by Gore Vidal, which is sadly not holding my interest. Now I kind of want to see the film version. I think I saw it when it came out in theaters, but I’m not positive, and that would have been about 10 years ago. Maybe time to make a stop at our local video store.

Overall it was a lovely day. It would have been nice if Maya had come into the city with us, but on the other hand, it was quite lovely to have a date with my handsome husband in our favorite city, doing things we love together, just the two of us. I’ll call that a success and not complain a bit.