Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

"Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble." — William Shakespeare, Macbeth

HALLOWEEN is my favorite holiday. Paul and I love dressing up for it and conducting business as usual in un-usual attire. 


One year I dressed up as a nun. On the way into work I needed to run a couple of errands. My first stop was dropping off some things for a friend who was in the hospital with a new baby. Her husband came to the door. My arms were full, so I walked past him into the house to reach the nearest table before I dropped everything, chatting the whole way about being on my way to visit Melanie and the baby at the hospital.

In my hurry I'd forgotten that I'd only met Dan briefly before, making it entirely possible that he wouldn't recognize me even in regular clothes, much less dressed up so convincingly as a nun. Oh yes, I was in full regalia in the black and white habit complete with crucifix, rosary beads, and Bible, and my conversation about hospital visitations lent even more authenticity.

Dan was utterly dumbstruck. His mouth kept opening and closing, but nothing came out. 

At my next stop two boys were running up and down the aisles of the store like little maniacs. I gave them a stern look, and the running came to an instantaneous halt. I'd forgotten what I had on. 

When I needed customer assistance at the desk, I was not just served with alacrity but accorded honorific, undivided attention as never before experienced at Staples

I ought to rent that nun costume again. I got a lot of mileage out of it unintentionally; just think what I could do on purpose.

I've also been Cher, a baseball player and Sarah Palin. A couple of years ago, Paul and I were Mr. and Mrs. Smith bearing evidence of our mutually-inflicted deaths — one shot to death and the other stabbed.


I've done the pajamas, slippers and bathrobe thing, but because of Helen's Pajama Party, nobody would bat an eye seeing me in that. It would be just another day at the office. 


Last year we were at Kit's in DC, and I was once again in pajamas, but this time not as costume. I was worn out from traveling to and attending Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. So it was a hot shower and jammies for me, topped by a crown chosen from Kit's collection of turbans, crowns and other exotic headgear.


Happy Halloween!!



Zombie, retro cheerleader.
That's my actual high school letter.


At Kit's house in pajamas and crown.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dunch

"I fell right out of the womb and landed smack dab in my mama's high heels." — Leslie Jordan, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet

WE WERE GRATEFUL to do nothing yesterday except recover from so much recent busyness. We had an abundant brunch while listening to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me — except at three in the afternoon maybe it's called dunch or lupper or linner. Scrambled eggs for Paul (but not me since I'm not an egg-eater) toast, turkey bacon, pasta with roasted red pepper marinara, almond crackers with cream cheese, celery, apples, grapes, fake Oreos and Earl Grey tea — an entirely gluten-free meal.


You could just call it a full Irish breakfast because that's what one is like in Ireland — basically tons of food. BTW I refer to them as fake Oreos because they're gluten-free, but I swear they're better than the real ones.


Later on we spent a couple of hours trying to put together a little last-minute vacay to celebrate our up-coming 18th wedding anniversary November 13. Because of Paul's teaching schedule at Drake, we needed to sandwich it in and make it a fast one.


We considered the usual suspects: Chicago and Kansas City, but we've been both places often enough that we're not of a mind to go back just for the sake of going. Paul found some cheap direct-flight air fares to Orlando and St. Petersburg, and we got excited about booking that and using it as a jumping off point for somewhere else since we've already been to Orlando and surrounds.


After poking around on the internet for awhile, I found this awesome park in the panhandle of Florida called Wakulla Springs State Park. It features a grand lodge built in the 1930s. Each room has a marble bathroom, antique or period furniture, and there are glass-bottom boat tours, hiking trails, miles of forest, kayak rentals with so much wildlife to be seen — in short, just our cup of tea!!


It was already booked-up for our dates, but a second check revealed one room magically available. We were in and SO excited! But then things fell apart.


The low-cost fare was only available on days that would have given us just three days at the park. A fourth day would have cost an extra $600 for the flight and room. We ended up thinking that one day wasn't worth that amount and that going for three days wouldn't be enough time to really get to relax enough to really enjoy our surroundings. We canceled. :-(  We want to go there sometime, soon we hope, and spend a full week.


We assuaged our disappointment by watching a one-man comedy special by Leslie Jordan called My Trip Down the Pink Carpet. It's great; he's great! We both recommend it highly — available online through NetFlix.



The talented Leslie Jordan.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy accidents

"I've just been really lucky to not be too much of a stereotype." — Marisa Tomei

IT'S A PERFECT title for this little/big movie because that's what it turned out to be. Last night after watching game seven of the Series, as part of our momentarily-caught-up-with-deadlines-cookies-hot-chocolate-kitten-snuggling party, we came upon this happy accident — called Happy Accidentsand watched it. 



Have yourself a happy little accident. Let your heart be light.


It's an Indy movie from 2000, and it's so good! As in really, really good — suspenseful, romantic, charming, captivating, and unlike most movies, you truly don't know how it's going to turn out until the last second. It stars Marisa Tomei and Vincent D'Onofrio and was written and directed by Brad Anderson, who's also the director and co-writer of Transsiberian, a completely thrilling, scary 2009 movie. I think we'll watch everything Brad's ever made.


Paul and I both think Marisa is seriously underrated and under-appreciated. There's never a second when she's not utterly convincing in any role.


The ever true, Marisa Tomei.

In that sense, she's in the same category as J. K. Simmons; there's just never a false moment with either one of them. I'm going to have to shine on here about J. K. We love him. I would watch him in anything; I'd listen to him read the phone book. No matter how mediocre the script or the rest of the cast might be in any given thing, he's always 100% believable. You may know him from the TV show Closer on TNT. He was also in the movie Juno and was so dead-on that it made me want to howl at the moon.


Love, love, love J.K. Simmons.
Okay, enough with the shininess. So this movie, Happy Accidents, is a total gem. Rent or download it on NetFlix or wherever. You'll love it. If you don't (but you will) send me a note, and I'll buy you a Heath Bar.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baseball's been bery, bery good to me

"Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical." — Yogi Berra

WE'RE WATCHING game seven of the Worlds Series and having hot chocolate and fake Oreos with a cat apiece curled up on both of our laps. I'm not sure it gets any cozier or more all-American than this.


During the regular season, Paulhopeless dreamer that he is, roots for the Cubs, whereas I favor the White Sox — a classic white-collar vs. blue divide if there ever was one — with me, need I point out, choosing the correct side.

Although we don't follow baseball much until the Series, that doesn't stop us from being really opinionated when we do. Despite the fact that Paul is a former Texas resident, we're unanimous in rooting against the STRangers (that's what Paul always calls them). Hey — George W. Bush is a former part owner, and it takes a long, long time for that stink to wear off.

So — with apologies to my Texas readers: GO CARDS. It would be such a blast to be there right now. 


Boo hiss.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Williams syndrome

"Our children have the ability to unlock the mysteries of the world." — Kimber Waldner, mother of twin boys with Williams syndrome 

WILLIAMS SYNDROME might seem like the exact opposite of autism, but some researchers believe that understanding this genetic disorder holds clues to understanding autism. Don't feel like the lone ranger if you've never heard of Williams syndrome. I hadn't either. From Today and MSNBC, it's way interesting.





Super-social gene may hold clues to autism, other disorders

By JoNel Aleccia

October 25, 2011

If they had their way, Tristan and Tyler Waldner would be friends with everybody. The 7-year-old twins from San Diego, Calif., have Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that makes them unusually social, so outgoing and gregarious that, to them, there's no such thing as a stranger.


At the library, on the playground, and even with surprise guests at dinner, the blond boys are charming and chatty, brimming with questions — “Where do you live? Did you drive here or fly here? Do you have kids?” — but with none of the shyness or social reserve you’d expect from typical second-graders. 

“They love to meet new people,” explained the boys’ father, Fabian Waldner, 35, who has to watch them carefully in public. “We’ll be in a grocery store and they’ll just say ‘Hi’ to anybody who walks by.”

Researchers have puzzled over that extreme friendliness for decades, pondering the causes and complicated traits that go with the syndrome that affects 1 in every 10,000 people, says Ursula Bellugi, a researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., who has studied the disorder for a quarter-century.

They've come to believe that Williams syndrome, which is characterized by unique genetic markers and distinct behaviors, may actually hold the secrets to understanding other better-known disorders — including autism.


Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Everything is so shiny

"Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese." — Billie Burke 

I HAVE ALL sorts of newsy bits to share, but with me nothing ever seems to be a short story cuz' I'm just so darn shiny . . . so I'm using pictures instead.


We've had six projects in development at Brainstorm for the past two to ten months that have all landed in the last two weeks, so Paul and I have pretty much been working 'round the clock.


Except for a little walk that Paul persuaded me to take with him, a brief stop at Mama Logli's and later on, an ice cream/Topper Returns brain cool-down, I wrote for 24 hours straight Sunday to finish a report for a client.


Here are the life lessons I have to share:


1) Ice cream tastes good. Paul bought some called Moose Trail or something like that, and I had quite a few bites. I hardly ever eat ice cream, and I thought, "Holy cats. No wonder people like this stuff."


2) You can always count on a movie like Topper Returns to make you laugh. Billie Burke is priceless.


3) Anyone who says cats aren't loyal is full of it.



The fabulously shiny Billie Burke in Topper Returns.


Billie was The Good Witch Glenda in the Wizard of Oz.


Our three furry kids (clockwise from top: Boy Boy, Shye and Shiva) kept me company
during the great 24-hour writing siege. I was under those covers at the time, when Shye managed to turn on the computer's voice-activation feature all by herself — which proved quite startling to us all.


Part of our installation at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.


More of the installation at IEC.


In the last two weeks, we made at least four trips to Muscatine to install graphics in 
the new Iowa National Guard/Army Reserve training facility.

Those are 16-foot ladders that Paul and Joe are on.

One of ten panels in the entryway. 
The entryway of the new building on ribbon-cutting day.


Congressman Dave Loebsack made the official cut.

We're really honored to work for the Guard and Reserves.
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autistic facial characteristics identified

"If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I would not. Autism is part of what I am. ― Temple Grandin

IF YOU'VE READ Hey Look more than a few times, you're aware of my interest in the autism spectrum. Below is an article from NBC News about new research that may allow doctors to identify the condition much sooner based on facial characteristic as well get a deeper understanding of its genetic underpinnings.



Three-D images like this may help identify autism.


Autistic children have distinct facial features, study suggests

By Kimberly Hayes Taylor
October 21, 2011

We may be a step closer in understanding what causes autism, say University of Missouri researchers after finding differences between the facial characteristics of children who have autism and those who don’t.

Kristina Aldridge, lead author and assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Missouri, began looking at facial characteristics of autistic children after another researcher, Judith Miles, professor emerita in the School of Medicine and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, mentioned, “There is just something about their faces. They are beautiful, but there is just something about them.”

“Children with other disorders such as Down syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome have very distinct facial features. Autism is much less striking,” she says. “You can’t pick them out in a crowd of kids, but you can pick them out mathematically.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The men's side

"Gymnastics is such a complex sport. It’s one of the best character building sports in the world." — Jonathan Horton

FOR SOME REASON the USA men usually don't seem to do quite as well as the women in gymnastics, but there are still plenty of reasons to cheer. This year the men took the team bronze behind China who finished first and Japan in second at the 2011 Gymnastics World Championship. Of course Olympic veteran and inspirational leader, Jonathan Horton (Houston, TX), was a big part of Team USA reaching the podium.


Jonathan puts in a successful floor exercise routine.


Danell Leyva (Homestead, FL) also took home an individual gold medal on parallel bars. It was the first gold medal by an American man at the World Championships since 2003. Paul and I have been fortunate enough to see both Jonathan Horton and Danell Leyva perform in person.


Danell Leyva brought home a gold medal for his p-bar routine.


Danell deserves to celebrate have broken an eight-year
US drought in gold medals at Worlds. 


All totaled the Americans won seven medals, four of them gold. Only China won more, with 12, and the US matched the Chinese gold for gold. The women claimed their third team gold, and Jordan Wieber became the sixth American woman to win the all-around.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

More medals

"I was two years old when my mom put me in mommy and me classes. I always had a lot of energy so it was the perfect fit." — Alexandra Raisman

THE AMERICAN WOMEN collected more medals on the last day of the World Gymnastics Championship in Tokyo. Jordyn Wieber earned a bronze on balance beam and Alexandra Raisman won bronze for her floor exercise routine. Jordyn had already won the gold medal in all-around, McKayla Maroney a gold on vault and Team USA were literally golden as the 2011 champions of the world.


Marta Karolyi believes Alexandra should have scored higher on floor exercise. Here's part of an interesting online ESPN news story written October 16 on location in Tokyo:

"U.S. National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi said she felt that the international judges didn't quite appreciate Raisman's tumbling ability compared to some of the other gymnasts who performed floor. Raisman does two of the hardest passes currently being done in the world -- a 1.5 twist through to an Arabian double front to an immediate front flip, as well as an Arabian double pike – getting some of the biggest hang time of anyone in the world as she does it."

"I think that routine was the most impressive routine and I feel that this code of points doesn't appreciate the height of the tumbling, the power," Karolyi said. "When somebody tumbles up here" -- she gestured above her head — "and somebody tumbles there"— gesturing lower — "I'm sorry but there's a difference. And the code of points doesn't differentiate that. But we're happy with Aly finally getting a medal, and we're very proud of her."

Alexandra performing her bronze medal routine on floor.
Sui Lu from China took first on beam, Yao Jinnan also from 
China was second and Jordyn Wieber was third. 


I ask you, do these Chinese gymnasts look of age, especially Sui Lu?!? Compare them to Jordyn who's not exactly old at 16. It's so much easier to perform tumbling moves when you're lighter, smaller and your center of gravity is lower. I admit it; I'm skeptical. The Chinese have falsified birth records before. 

Jordyn performing on beam.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

World Gymnastics Championship 2011

"Anyway I will go same road because I, I was born in gymnastics. This is my, how to say, my life and my duty." — Olga Korbut 

NOPE, we're not at the World Gymnastics Championships. Wish we were! They're being held in Tokyo this year where my brother David and his wife Tina live, but I doubt they were able to attend.

The American women are rockin' it! They took the team gold medal finishing ahead of Russia in second, China in third, Romania fourth, Great Britain fifth, Germany sixth, Japan seventh and Australia eighth. Team USA placed first on vault, second on uneven bars, third on balance beam and first on floor exercise to combine for the first place team finish.


Yay us — as in US!
Left to right: Anna Li, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Sabrina Vega
Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas.


American star Jordyn Wieber (DeWitt, MI) took the individual all-around gold medal ahead of Russian Viktoria Komova by the slimmest of margins — .033. Yao Jinnan of China was third and American Alexandra Raisman (NeedhamMAtook fourth. 


World gold medalist Jordyn Wieber on floor exercise.

Jordyn performs on the uneven bars.


Congratulations, Jordyn, for taking gold in all-around.


Alexandra Raisman, who took fourth in all-around,
performs her floor ex routine.


As of today, McKayla Maroney (Laguna Niguel, CAwon gold on vault with a super high-difficulty move. Unfortunately, veteran Alicia Sacramone (Winchester, MA) injured her Achilles tendon during a training session in Tokyo leaving her unable to defend her World Championship vault gold medal from last year.


McKayla Maroney performing on the vault.


More individual apparatus performances to come with more medal chances (fingers crossed) for our American women.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I knew it

"You can't look the other way just because you have not experienced domestic violence with your own flesh." — Salma Hayek

I'M SURE by now you've heard or read about the murder of eight people and critical wounding of a ninth person yesterday at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, California.


What makes me even sadder than it happening at all is that when the story broke, though the shooter's name and motive had not yet been released, I already absolutely knew it was going to be a spouse, ex-spouse or boyfriend of some unfortunate woman who worked there. That violence against women remains so prevalent makes me want to scream or curl up in a ball and sob.


Meanwhile in Topeka, Kansas, by a vote of 7 to 3, the City Council repealed the local law that makes domestic violence a crime. From The New York Times:


Facing Cuts, a City Repeals Its Domestic Violence Law

By A. G. Sulzberger
October 11, 2011

TOPEKA, Kan. — The startling vote came up at a City Council meeting here on Tuesday, provoked by a run-of-the-mill budget dispute over services that had spun out of control: decriminalize domestic violence.

Three arms of government, all ostensibly representing the same people, have been at an impasse over who should be responsible for — and pay for — prosecuting people accused of misdemeanor cases of domestic violence.


City leaders had blamed the Shawnee County district attorney for handing off such cases to the city without warning. The district attorney, in turn, said he was forced to not prosecute any misdemeanors and to focus on felonies because the County Commission cut his budget. And county leaders accused the district attorney of using abused women as pawns to negotiate more money for his office.


After both sides dug in, the dispute came to a head Tuesday night. 


By a vote of 7 to 3, the City Council repealed the local law that makes domestic violence a crime.

Click here to read the entire article.

I believe I'll boycott Topeka and write and tell them what I'm doing and why. I won't go there, pass through there, do business there or buy anything made there. This is, after all, the same town that's home to that despicable Fred Phelps, leader of a hate group masquerading as a church called Westboro Baptist. You remember them. They picket at soldiers funerals and desecrate American flags as a repulsive and inexplicable means of protesting against gay people. How can anyone be filled with so much hate?!


BTW: The Westboro Baptist Church is not affiliated with any known Baptist convention or association. 


They have no shame.

Phelps: All hate and mouth, no brains or heart.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Do tell

"In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." — Rick Santorum, speaking to a reporter in 2003, who said, "I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about ‘man on dog’ with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.”

THOSE OF YOU who've read this blog more than a few times won't have to guess how I feel about the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's about time.


I read in either an MSNBC or a New York Times report that there are 66,000 military personnel who will now be able to stop holding their collective breath. Frankly, I'm amazed that so many men and women were willing to serve a country that cares more about who they love than how much they love their country.

During the Republican September 22 debate, Stephen Hill, a gay soldier serving in Iraq, was robustly booed by members of the audience when he asked a question. How ironic that he has been putting his life on the line for Americans who, while haranguing about preserving individual liberty and getting government out of people's lives, want to curtail and legislate his.

Here's what President Obama had to say at the Human Rights Council's annual dinner concerning the Republican candidates' reaction to the debate incident.

"You want to be commander in chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it's not politically convenient."

Speaking of Republican candidates, what's up with this Rick Santorum's fixation on other people's sex lives?! He is SO interested in everyone else's that it makes me wonder about his. 

Note to self: Remember to write to Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr. to thank him for defeating Ricky (59% to 41%) in the 2006 Senate race.

Aside from his well-documented hysteria about the existence of gay and lesbian people in society, here are a few other interesting tidbits about former Senator Santorum provided by Wikipedia.

In 2001 Rick Santorum tried unsuccessfully to insert language that became known as the "Santorum Amendment" into the No Child Left Behind bill that sought to promote teaching 'intelligent design' and questioned the academic standing of evolution in public schools. In a 2002 Washington Times op-ed article he wrote that intelligent design "is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes."

In April, 2005 he introduced the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005 to "clarify the duties and responsibilities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service (NWS)". If enacted the bill would have prohibited the NWS from issuing weather data to the public if private-sector business (such as AccuWeather, a company based in Santorum's home state) are issuing it for profit!! If Santorum had had his way, data collected at taxpayer expense, would have been provided solely to private corporations that charge fees for access. Thankfully, the bill died in committee.

Speaking to Pittsburgh TV station WTAE on September 4, 2005 about Hurricane Katrina evacuation warnings Mr. Santorum said, "I mean people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving." Remember that this is the same guy who sponsored the aforementioned proposed legislation that would have prevented the National Weather Service from issuing those warnings because they would compete with private-sector weather services.

He's so very, very concerned about everyone else's morals. I'm thinking he should examine is own.


One scary dude.