Saturday, November 1, 2008

College football and death by elevator

Notre Dame lost to Pittsburgh today in...get this...FOUR overtimes. Ken and I were trying to remember if we've ever actually watched a game that went into four overtimes, and we don't think we have. I'm not upset about it, because Notre Dame had every chance to put the game away and win the thing, but they were unable to do so. Pitt won fair and square. Next week's game is at Boston College, and anyone who knows anything about Notre Dame football knows that Boston College ROBBED US of a championship several years ago, and of course, we've never forgotten it! And there is no way in hell I'm tagging this entry with Boston College, because I just don't want to hear it! Ha ha!

On the upside, Illinois beat Iowa, so one of our teams (Illinois is Ken's alma mater) won! And my Ball State Cardinals are still 8-0, and currently ranked #18 in the country (although they didn't play today)! I am sitting here proudly wearing my new Ball State sweatshirt that I picked up this week when we bought the exercise equipment. They had a table with kid-sized sweatshirts, and I found a Ball State one. While there are certain disadvantages to being of small stature, I've learned to embrace my small size and enjoy being able to buy a few things in the kids' department! We're talking a $10 difference in price when it comes to sweatshirts, so viva lá miniscule! (I know that's not a French word. I just liked phrasing it that way.)

Last night we watched "Thirteen Ghosts," and I have to say that I was a little disappointed. It had its creepy moments (and the Cagehead ghost running down the hallway sort of gave me the willies...okay, that definitely gave me the willies!), the house itself was very cool, eerie, and masterfully engineered (I loved the mosaic mechanism in the floor--great visual), but I just didn't find it all that scary. Maybe I'm inured to mildly scary and need really scary in order to feel that I've gotten my full fright's worth.

But I have to give "Thirteen Ghosts" a big thumbs-up (if not for the entire movie) for the guy who gets...well, how shall I put this? Imagine stepping part way out of an elevator, and before you can get all the way out, the doors slam shut. There is no sensor, no bounce-back...they just slam shut. Forcefully. While you are halfway through the door. Are you getting me? It took me a moment to realize what had happened, and I looked at Ken and said, "WHOA!" Yep, that was a good one. Nicely done! It rivaled the split dog scene in "Return of the Living Dead." (If any of you know what I'm talking about, you get double bonus points!) My friend Marty had a recent brush with a killer elevator. It could have been much, much worse, Marty! If you've seen this scene, you'll know that you escaped with nothing less than your back half!

So tonight's movie--which was already next on our scary movie queue--is "Hostel II." I suspect that might be a little more...intense, shall we say? The first "Hostel" creeped the hell out of me. Let the fright begin! HahahaHAAA!

"You couldn't write it, could you?"

First things first: Happy Birthday to Karen! Go over and wish her a good one!

Notre Dame and Pitt are tied up at 3 at the start of the second quarter. It's a home game, so Ken and I got to see the fighter jets (I think they're usually Navy jets out of Chicago) that do the flyovers at the stadium fly over our house! For those of you that live on base, it's probably old hat, but I find it an awesome sight and sound to have these jets fly over, and to hear their afterburners kick in. Wow!

Last night, we were watching Keith Olbermann's show. John Cleese was on, and I was so excited! As some of you may know, I love Monty Python, and it was great to see him. (I also love "A Fish Called Wanda." Michael Palin [no relation to that Alaska woman] is great in that. "Cathcart Towers Hotel!" Ha ha!) Those of you that are firmly in the McCain camp can skip this, because you won't like what is said. For the rest of you, it's a little long, but Cleese is always so funny. I just love how he completely cracks up over some of the things that have been going on in the campaign! How can you not? Oh, and if you want to find out what a "berk" is, look it up in the Urban Dictionary. My apologies to my readers from the U.K.--I know it's not a nice word, but sort of interesting that it can be used on U.S. television, isn't it? I actually learned this word the other day in my Yahoo group about The Godfathers, when it was used by one of the posters. It's always good to learn new vocabulary, isn't it?

More later! Here's the John Cleese interview.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A short conversation

While watching CNN, Ken and I watched as McCain said this on a campaign stop:

McCain: We're going to change Washington, and I'm taking Joe the Plumber with me!

Me: WHAT?!

Ken: Secretary of the Treasury!

Me: [snort!]

Hahahaha! I'm still cracking up!

Ghouls, and ghosties, and long legged beasties

I hope everyone had a good day, and has all kinds of ghoulish fun planned for tonight! I anticipate that we'll be watching a scary movie tonight, and next up on our playlist is "Thirteen Ghosts." I hope it's good and creepy. We don't get trick or treaters out here, so we won't need to worry about that. If a stray one shows up, we'll just give them a bottle of wine. We have a little stash.

As Mark would say, I keed, I keed.

Wow, what a gorgeous day! I didn't even have to wear a jacket when I went to the store. I got my errands run, arranged for a delivery, then spent a little time getting some bulbs planted. Some hyacinths and some little ones called...snowdrops? Not sure, but they come up pretty early. I remembered! Glory of the Snow! I don't know if any of them will make it--I should have planted them last year, but for whatever reason didn't get to it. I only planted a couple of dozen, so it wasn't too bad. One year, I got a whole bunch of bulbs free from some bulb catalog and ended up planting 150. That about did me in, so I'll stick with the lower number!

Back to the horror thing. I got an email from my uncle today. (sigh) I love him to pieces, but I'm at a loss. This is the uncle who sent me some stuff a while back about Obama, and I wrote back and responded to some of the erroneous information in the forwarded email, and asked him to not send me that stuff anymore. He seemed okay with that, but I got another one today about...get this...the false story about Michelle Obama chowing down on expensive room service items at the Waldorf-Astoria. I found the Snopes article that debunked that lie (she was in Fort Wayne, Indiana on the day she was supposedly stuffing her face at the Waldorf), and the article included the statement released by the New York Post (always a bastion of truth) that their report was a complete falsehood. I sent the article to him and asked him to read it.

His reply was that he doesn't know what to believe anymore, that he is trying to figure things out, that this election is part of Biblical prophecy, and that Obama is a Muslim. (heavy sigh) I wrote back and said that no, he's not a Muslim, he's an evangelical Christian...just like you. I went on to say that I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but in the meantime, please don't send me more forwards about this, because I have already cast my vote.

I made the choice to not pursue the subject and not argue with him. I provided the information that it was a false report, I stated how I felt, and if I did pursue it, neither of us would manage to convince the other in the end! Sometimes you just have to let things go, right? It makes me feel sad, though, that there are some who are so ready to believe such lies about a person.

We're getting close to the Big Day. It looks like McCain-Palin are concentrating on Ohio at the moment, and the Governator is with McCain in Columbus right now. He's actually talking about how Obama needs to beef up his scrawny legs and build up his skinny arms. Hahaha! That's pretty stupid. I prefer mental muscle! Okay, I can't listen any longer. Sorry, Governator.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Ohio. Based on what my friend LJ says, and from what I'm reading, things are tough all over, but they're getting really tough in Ohio. She knows people in her city who are getting laid off, and unable to pay for heat, food, and medical bills. It's a fairly industrial state, and industries are suffering right now (but she also says that she knows a lot of people who won't vote for Obama because he's black). Here in Indiana, we're seeing layoffs at places like Whirlpool. Our next-door county, Elkhart, has an economy based mostly on manufacturing, including RV's. As you can imagine, they've taken some huge hits. I heard recently that their unemployment rate is up to 11%. THAT is scary. It's not as bad where we're at, because our county is more service-oriented than manufacturing-oriented, but we're taking hits, too. Ken and I both feel fortunate that his job is secure, and if I ever had to, I know my job would also be a hot commodity. But I think about how it must feel to have that uncertainty hanging over your head...wondering if your hours will be cut, or if you'll come to work one day and find out that your plant is closing down or your job is being eliminated, and to know that hardly anyone is hiring, so your chances of finding another job are not good.

When I was driving home from the store today, I saw that gas was down to under $2.50. I had a moment where I thought, "Cool!" and then I thought about why it's down so much: the economy sucks right now. I know it will recover eventually, but in the meantime, we've got some people who are in dire straits right now. It bothers me greatly, and I hope that we choose the right person to lead us out of this mess, and that those who are struggling can get some help.

But for now, just have fun with faux scary stuff, not genuine scary stuff, and enjoy hearing things that go bump in the night. Watch out for a cold hand reaching up from beneath your bed, caressing your ankle with a bony finger....

Good pumpkins gone bad

Visit Extreme Pumpkin! Lots of fun designs!
And Happy Halloween!

I pulled the plug

At midnight, I went over to the previous incarnation of Nutwood know, the one at AOL Journals. My last entry there was a repeat of a post in September that included the Semisonic song "Closing Time." I watched the video again (it is such a great song), then I went to Edit Journal and pulled the plug. It's probably silly, but I wanted to be the one to do it, rather than let AOL just shut the whole thing down.

It was surprisingly hard to do. I suspect many of my AOL friends felt the same way. It made me feel rather blue.

However, there is much yet to be written! There are paths yet to travel, ideas yet to explore, and friends yet to meet. Our community is relatively intact, and we can continue to enjoy each other's writings and friendship while possibly finding a few others at our new home who are simpatico.

If I had a glass of champagne in hand, I would raise it and say:

Love to one, friendship to many, and good will to all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

'Tis the season

As the cooler weather sets in (although we have some nice days coming up), I tend to start thinking about things to cook. Part of it is wanting comfort food, and part of it is because it feels good to be in a warm kitchen! (It doesn't feel so great in August, when it's 85° and above! We don't have central air conditioning, so I don't like heating up the kitchen.) I rarely make desserts, because it's just too much for us after we have dinner, and neither of us needs the extra calories! So I focus on dinners.

I'm also in the mode of wanting to use up things that are residing in the freezer. I still buy things on sale, but I need to start using other things up. So last night I used a bag of ravioli I'd had in the freezer for a while and made a casserole. I cooked the ravioli, then layered it with spaghetti sauce, some fresh mozzarella, cottage cheese, and some shredded mozzarella, and baked it. It was pretty tasty, and some garlic bread with roasted garlic went well with it. We'll have leftovers tomorrow night.

Tonight, I thought I'd do some stuffed chicken breasts. Pound them thin, then roll them up with...I'm thinking spinach, mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes. A little bit of sour cream to hold it all together. Then some bacon strips laid on top, and the whole thing baked. I like finding recipes that I can tweak a little and use stuff I have in the fridge, and those of you who have been reading for a while know how much I love a chance to use my meat mallet!

For the weekend, I want to try some black bean soup. I found what sounds like a good crockpot recipe. I saw lots of recipes that use canned black beans, and that would be easy to whip up, but I have a bag of dried black beans downstairs, so I might as well use those. I love having black bean soup in restaurants, so it will be fun to try it at home. Some ham, onions, a little bit of tomatoes, spices...I've never tried it before, so I hope it turns out okay!

It's not just the cooking's also rutting season, and the deer have been hanging out in the back yard all day! A little bit ago, I looked out and saw 5 does. Suddenly, a young buck came charging up and started running after all the does! Everyone settled down, and the does were hanging out by the small pond in the middle of the yard, while the buck was at the far pond. He finally came strolling up to all the does, real casual-like. "Hi Ladies, lookin' good, don't worry 'bout me, I'm cool." Then BAM! he started chasing them again! It cracked me up!

Of course, for any of us that are fortunate enough to live in rural areas, rutting season also means an increased chance of hitting a deer on the roads. They're on the move, looking for a mate, and auto-deer collisions cost millions in insurance claims every year (and some people get killed in the crash). Not to mention the poor deer who don't exactly enjoy the encounter. I've been fortunate to have stayed safe so far (knock on wood!), but Ken hit one a few years ago. So everyone be careful out there, use your high beams when you can, and keep your eyes peeled for glowing eyes in the roadway ahead.

Oh, and for all you bird watchers out there, I saw a Dark-Eyed Junco today. It's official...winter is on its way.

A new Spice Girl

Since tonight is the season premiere of "30 Rock" (Yippee! I know Mark is happy, too!), I thought I'd share this clip from Letterman last night. Alec Baldwin was the guest, and the guy is one of our favorites. I love Tina Fey, but I think Baldwin makes the show. I watched this last night when it aired, and I was cracking up!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Want to see something REALLY scary?

Imagine if you will....

A woman alone, driving on a back road, in the pouring rain. She is running from many things...her crime of embezzlement, a love affair gone wrong, her dissatisfaction with her own life. A distant sign beckons, a bright and garish splash of neon in the dark, rain-washed night. A haven of light and warmth. A motel. She pulls over, and rushes from the car into the office of the small, shabby, but clean facility, trying in vain to run between the raindrops. She arrives in the office, panting and soaked, and welcoming the warmth.

The proprietor of the motel greets her. A nice young man, she thinks, but a little odd. Skinny as a rail. A little too eager to please, his shyness almost painful, but somewhat ingratiating. She appreciates his kindness, but after he shows her to Cabin 1, she is relieved to close the door behind him. Left to her own thoughts, she is plagued with doubts, replaying the day's events over and over in her mind: the tryst with her lover, the humiliations suffered at her job, and her impulsive decision to take the money and run...just get in the car and run. Which has brought her to this place in the middle of nowhere, a deserted motel--except for her--in the desert, with a kind but strangely unsettling young man her only human contact.

Her thoughts get the best of her, and she decides that a nice hot shower might help to wash away the dirt of the road, as well as the dirt of her thoughts. She turns the faucets, and the steam begins to bellow. She steps in, pulling the curtain shut behind her. She relishes the heat and feels the pounding spray begin to wash away the stresses of the day and of her life. Her initial thoughts are of whether or not she can extricate herself from the mess she has made of her own life, but as the warmth of the needling shower works on her muscles, the tension leaves her and her mind goes blank.

A shadow appears through the curtain behind her. She is oblivious, turning under the spray and finally feeling a slight sense of peace, if only temporary. Suddenly, a hand reaches up and snatches the curtain back. She whirls around, her peaceful reverie rudely interrupted, and her initial shock turns to horror as she sees what is before her. She lets out a piercing scream as the weapon descends, over and over. No no no not this! she screams inside her head. She looks up and sees her attacker in the harsh glare of the overhead bathroom light, the reflection bouncing off of the porcelain tile on the walls. Her last sight as a living, breathing woman is of the bald pate of Joe the Plumber, wielding his plunger with evil and malicious glee. Joe whirls out of the room, and she collapses onto the cold tile, pulling the shower curtain down with her. Her last coherent thought is, "But he's not even licensed...."

(With worship and apologies to Robert Bloch and Alfred Hitchcock)

Linda Richman says, "Today's topic. Why Joe the Plumber is neither a Joe nor a plumber. Discuss amongst yourselves."

Today, "Joe the Plumber" called a press conference in which he not only endorsed John McCain, he also went on to explain his thoughts on foreign policy, specifically our relations with Israel. Now that he has actually "endorsed" a candidate, it means that he is not just a private citizen with thoughts and views, he is campaigning for a candidate, and open to investigation by news agencies. Nothing really new here--just the previously reported facts that he is not a licensed plumber, that he owes back taxes, that he also has a lien against him...just another fine, upstanding citizen on the brink of buying his own business...HARDLY!

It cracks [hey...get it?!] me up that McCampaign keeps talking Joe the Plumber this and Joe the Plumber that, even using it in ads. Joe the Plumber is a FRAUD, in case you missed it. I suspect that he might be sorry for what he's brought upon himself. Beth the Microbiologist finds his media-whoring ways endlessly amusing, and The Plumber That Wouldn't Die (and who seems ready to run for public office) has got to be one of the scariest things out there this Halloween season! AAGGGHHHH!

Enjoy one of the finest cinematic horror scenes ever made. Don't let this be YOU on election day!

The Flower of American Youth

I'm sure you've all heard about the plot that the feds busted...the plot that a couple of fine young skinheads devised, in which their goal was to kill a bunch of black high school students and then kill Barack Obama.

Daniel Cowart (pictured here) and Paul Schlesselman were arrested a week ago on numerous charges, including possession of an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer, and threatening a candidate for president. This is a picture of Coward Cowart. Notice how he is so proud of his large gun, and cradles it in his arms. I guess the bigger the gun, the smaller the...

But I digress. Be sure to check out his handsome swastika tattoo!

I'm waffling between horror and laughter on this, and if you think I'm crazy for finding any of it in any way humorous, I present to you their plan.

They had a few firearms with which they planned to rob more gun shops to get more weapons, and they were going to do a few home invasions to get some easy cash. They bought nylon rope and ski masks to aid them in what was planned to be a state-to-state spree. And here's where their plan really comes together, and we see the sheer genius of these two. As the culmination of their plan, the two white supremacists were going to drive really fast towards Obama while shooting at him from the windows. Oh...and when they did this, they were going to be clad in white tuxedos and white tops hats. I guess they had to add "Rob Louie's Tux Shoppe" to their to-do list.

Hey...I suppose you have to give them credit for having a little bit of a sartorial flair, or at least the aspiration to it. I'm sure they would have been playing David Lee Roth's "Just a Gigolo" on the cassette player in their monster truck as they put the pedal to the medal.

It might surprise you to know that the 20-year-old Cowart did not graduate from high school, and was living with his grandparents. Astonishing!

I suppose I'm focusing on the absurdity of it all, because the reality is almost too painful to confront. But I'll get there in a moment. Hannah Arendt spoke of the "banality of evil" when writing about the trial of Adolf Eichmann. I think we need to add to that the "complete and utter idiocy of evil." I wonder if the combined IQ's of these two bozos breaks 100? When part of your plan consists of "driving really fast," you'd think you'd realize that you've got a little more planning to do. Not only were these guys filled with hate, they were also dumber than a box of rocks.

And you know what? I'd be willing to bet that Barack Obama would be the first person to say, "We, as a nation, have failed these young men." What sort of atmosphere did they live in that fostered so much hatred towards another race that they planned on killing dozens of innocent high school students, some of them by decapitation? What kind of extremism led them to believe that killing a man with a wife and two young children was a solution? Knowledge and education can help nurture a tolerance and acceptance of other cultures, races, and religions; why were these kids not given that opportunity for the education and encouragement that might have resulted in a tolerant, productive member of society rather than another life wasted?

I'm big on personal responsibility, too, don't get me wrong. These kids made a decision to go to the dark side rather than break out of whatever noxious atmosphere they were living in. But ignorance and hatred had to have been part of their surroundings, and I am disgusted and appalled that there are people out there that would happily kill multiple people because of whatever twisted dogma with which they've been indoctrinated.

Ken wrote a great entry the other day about change. He wasn't talking Obama change, and neither am I. We need a fundamental change within each of us, a core values system that tells us that every person is valuable, that we are part of the world at large, the "family of man." Part of the solution is for each of us to stand up to such hatred and condemn it. Condemn it for the narrow-minded ignorance that it is.

Every person deserves a chance at a life of happiness, rather than one of murder, disease, and starvation. These two would-be assassins were unable to see beyond their own narrow scope of vision, to understand that the lives of those who they were planning to murder were precious, that they were people with parents, siblings, and friends who loved them. It's incomprehensible to me.

As Marge Gunderson said in "Fargo," as she was driving one of the kidnappers off to jail, "And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shining chrome

Ken and I just got back from a meeting with Peggy, the Assistant Director of the Studebaker National Museum. Ken's PAC dinner is November 15, and we're having it at the Museum. We had it booked already, but needed to meet with her to get everything squared away, and discuss final plans. Despite my fascination with all things Studebaker, I had yet to get to the new Museum. What did I think, you ask?

WOW! It's absolutely beautiful! They did such a great job on it, and as Peggy put it, it really is one of the "jewels of South Bend." More about our brief tour in a moment.

I am so pleased with the facility, and how nice I believe this event will be. The tables will be set up in the Atrium, and they'll have a podium for us; she told us where they'd put the buffet tables; they'll provide a registration table and she showed us where they'd put that. They have events there all the time, and I felt very confident that they'll do a nice job. I think it will be a perfect size for our event, and we'll be surrounded by memorabilia even while we're eating.

After we'd talked about everything, Peggy invited us to take a walk around. On the main floor are their earliest collection pieces, from the mid-1800's (Conestoga wagons, etc.) through about the 1930's. That is also where their Presidential collection resides, including Studebaker carriages made for Harrison (from Indiana) and Lincoln. Upstairs is their special exhibit room, and the current display is British Steel--some beautiful MG's, Jaguars, Austin Healeys, etc. There are also Studebakers from the 30's through the 60's, which is when they closed. On the lower level is their military collection and their storage area, which is a nice treat, because in the old Museum, the cars in storage were upstairs and it wasn't safe for the general public to go up there to see them. (The old Museum was in the building that housed the original Studebaker car dealership, and it was in pretty bad shape.)

I didn't take my camera with me, drat it all, because this was going to be such a quick run-through. But I found a picture online of one of my favorite pieces in their collection: the Packard Predictor. Towards the end of Studebaker, they teamed up with Packard, so there are a few Packards in the collection. The Predictor is proudly on display, not in storage, and it has to be one of the freakiest cars ever. The thing is a monster! Very innovative in some ways, though. The roof had retractable sides--early T-tops! It had retractable headlights. It had an "Ultramatic" transmission. I'm not sure what that did, but I love terms like "ultramatic." The windshield curves up and around, so that part of the roof is the windshield. The fins are huge! It's one of the most bizarre vehicles I've ever seen, but for whatever reason, I've loved the thing ever since I first saw it a good 10 years ago. It's so ugly, it's cool! On the night of our dinner, I'll have my camera and get lots of great pictures. I don't know if any of you are into cars as much as I am, but I'm fascinated by classic cars.

On our way out, we stopped in the gift shop, and Ken got a very nice polo shirt, and I got a hefty book on Indiana history, both very reasonably priced. Soon, I'll be able to regale you all with fascinating tales of the Hoosier state! Don't worry, you can thank me later. Totally kidding...I know that it holds limited interest for those not of the Hoosier persuasion. However, if I do come across an interesting story, I'll tell you about it. I'll definitely write more about Studebaker eventually. It's of interest to car enthusiasts worldwide, to people in this area, and to my family, because I had several family members who worked there over the years. My Aunt June was one of the very last employees--she did payroll. I have a Lark hood ornament that belonged to my Uncle Buck (who passed away a year or so ago) hanging on the wall in the basement, as well as several framed Studebaker ads from magazines. So it has a special place in my heart. (Cousin Shane's, too. We're both fascinated by the history of the place, and his Dad worked there.) The Studebaker motto was "Always give more than you promise." I think that's a pretty cool motto, and one that is rarely practiced in businesses these days.

Anyhoo, the history will be for another day. For today, it's enough that I'm really impressed with the Museum, and I'm really excited about our dinner. I think it's going to turn out to be a very nice venue and something that people will enjoy. It suddenly strikes me that some of the wives of the guys might not be as thrilled with it...I don't get it, but I supposed it's possible. However, many of the displays are connected with history (military production during war, for example), so maybe that will interest them. How could you not love a beautifully restored vintage automobile, all shining chrome and gleaming paint? That's a thing of beauty, in my book!

Monday, October 27, 2008

I was a good citizen today!

Whew, it feels good to sit down after an afternoon of running around!

Guess what we did on our first stop? We voted, baby!

And we had to wait in line for a while! I was so excited to see that many people there, and we didn't mind waiting at all. Things moved really quickly. I asked the lady that I checked in with about the turnout, and she said it's been that way every day. Ken said that his lady told him it's been that way since October 6. I told my lady that if this is any indication, there is going to be a huge turnout for this election. She agreed, but said that she read in the paper that they are anticipating that one-third of voters will vote early.

So is that cool, or what? I know this might sound weird, but I actually got verklempt when we were there. We are so privileged to be able to vote this way, and I love exercising my right and duty, and being a good citizen! After I filled in my ovals, I looked at my ballot for a moment, and got verklempt again. What an amazing and historical election this has been, and it's not over yet. We're going to see history made.

I suspect that our county (St. Joseph) will break for Obama. We have a fairly large black population, and there were plenty there today--I'd say about half of the folks voting were black. Maybe not quite that many, but close. The county also leans Democrat, and the city of South Bend is definitely Democrat. Around us, I've noticed a lot of McCain yard signs, but in town, there were plenty of Obama ones. In the primaries, St. Joe county went for Obama over Clinton by a narrow margin.

Anyhoo, it felt great to vote today, although I'll kind of miss our usual polling place--a former elementary school that is now a church. We vote in the tiny gymnasium, with its brick walls, and the booths (all three of them) are out on the basketball floor. It seems kind of appropriate for Indiana!

Then it was on to our other errands. Our main goal was to find exercise equipment for our new workout area, and after looking at a few places, we went back to the first place we stopped, Dunham's. We got a weight machine and an elliptical machine. Ken also got an incline bench, but we got that at Dick's. All I can say is that I hope I get as much exercise using the equipment as I got when we unloaded the elliptical from the truck! Yikes! That was not fun, but we got it done. (It reminds me of when I had a townhouse in Indianapolis...I had an exercise bike, and I always said the most exercise I got with the damn thing was when I carried it from downstairs to the spare bedroom upstairs! I'll do better with this, because I don't want to "puff up" now that I'm not working. So far, so good, but I know I need to be more active.)

I'm not going to get all muscular, because that's not my goal, and it can be hard for women to do that. Although when I was in college, I built up enough muscle that my friends would say, "Do the shoulder thing!" and I'd flex like bodybuilders do...arms curled in front so that the muscles in your neck pop up. It cracked 'em up every time!

We did have a bit of difficulty finding a weight machine that would work for both of us. On many of them, the bars for chest work were just too high up for me! I told Ken it makes it kind of hard when there's a foot difference in height between us! But we found one. It's not the exact one pictured, but close enough for rock and roll.

So it's nice to be home. I have no idea what I'm going to do for dinner, but it will be something involving ground beef. Ha ha! Hope you all had a happy Monday.

Oh, and we watched it snow a little bit a few minutes ago. Yuck. But it's not cold enough to stick yet. It feels good to be cozy inside!

Checkout time is at never o'clock

We started watching "1408" last week, but got sidelined by other things (like sleep) so we finished it last night.

I liked this one a lot. It is based on Stephen King's short story by the same name, and it is not really a horror movie, and definitely not a slasher movie. This is just a ripping good yarn about a haunted hotel room. No real spoilers here, just a short synopsis.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a writer who pens books about various haunted places...and usually debunks the myth. He has an air of cynicism about him, and when asked at a book signing if he's saying that there is no such things as ghosts, he says no, he's not saying that...but he's never seen one. He gets a lead about The Dolphin Hotel in New York City, specifically Room 1408 (note that it adds up to 13), and when he calls to book the room, he's told repeatedly that it is not available for booking. He makes arrangements to meet the hotel manager, Mr. Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), and heads to New York.

Mr. Olin refuses to book him into the room, and reluctantly tells Enslin some of the history of the room. In the history of the hotel, there have been over 50 deaths, some of them quite gruesome. When Enslin wonders what kind of phantom resides in Room 1408, Olin tells him he's never said there was any kind of's just an evil f***ing room. Olin tries to bribe Enslin with some superb whiskey, as well as the complete files on 1408, but Enslin is determined to stay in that room, and after he threatens legal action, Olin relents, although he says he doesn't want to have to "clean up the mess." He tells Enslin that no one has lasted more than an hour in the room.

At first glance, the room is completely innocuous, and Enslin is not impressed. When he looks into the mini-bar fridge, he says, "Eight dollars for beer nuts? This room is evil." (One of the best lines in the movie, in my opinion!) As he describes the room into his voice recorder, he says, "Hotels are a naturally creepy place... Just think, how many people have slept in that bed before you? How many of them were sick? How many... died?"

The first sign of trouble comes when he gets turndown service while he was looking out the window...but no one was in the room. It gets worse when he's relaxing on the bed, and the clock radio begins blaring "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters (horrific, indeed!) and a 60-minute countdown commences. It gets worse from there, and it becomes obvious that the room is able to prey upon universal fears, as well as some that are very personal and damaging for Enslin. He struggles to maintain his sanity while in the grip of the evil room, and is successful...sort of.

I also enjoyed "Vacancy," the movie about a hotel off the beaten path and the psychopaths who run it, so apparently I have a thing for creepy hotels! "1408" was an all-around good, spooky movie that scares you more with psychological terror than anything else. One of the scariest scenes for me was when he's trying to escape the room and decides he will walk the ledge outside (13 stories up, remember) to the next room and get in through the window.

Spoiler Ahead

He paces off the distance to the adjoining room's wall, and estimates how far he will have to walk to get to the window. He makes it out to the ledge, begins edging along, watching his feet but trying not to look down to the street, and when he thinks he should be getting close, he looks up to see the window...and there are no windows at all. Just an endless brick wall as far as he can see. Creepy!

End of Spoiler

I also love the line about wondering how many people have slept in the bed, how many were sick, and how many actually died. If that doesn't give you the heebie-jeebies the next time you stay in a hotel, I don't know what will!

John Cusack is one of my favorite actors (this made me want to watch "Grosse Pointe Blank" again), and he doesn't disappoint in this one. And Samuel L. Jackson always has that slightly evil look to him, and that works well here. If you're looking for a good scary movie to watch for Halloween, one that isn't really gory, I think this one might work for you. Turn out the lights and enter Room 1408. Enjoy your stay.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cleansing the palate

Okay, I need a little break as much as you all do. (Although I am watching the replay of "Meet the Press," which I missed this morning. John McCain just called Tom Brokaw "my friend." snicker)

Ken just got home, and we're looking forward to a couple of days off together. (We have things to do, including casting our early votes! Yay!) I've got a chuck roast in the crockpot (with tomatoes...sounds weird, but it makes a sort of tomato gravy), and I'll make some mashed potatoes.

Good grief, we've had some crazy winds here this afternoon! It seems to have calmed down now, but things were really whipping around for a while. (Note to self: take down the wind chimes for the winter.) There are still a lot of leaves on our trees, although there are some that have dropped them all. I took a few pictures of our place yesterday.
This is one of the paths that lead from the house to the driveway, and up to the road. Fall and winter aren't my favorite seasons, because I love warm weather. In the summer, this path has a nice cushy carpet of moss. I have to admit, though, that it's really pretty to see a different carpet (a throw rug?) on the paths in the fall. There are several small sassafras trees along here, and I notice their leaves the most. They're mostly bright yellow, and I like to think of the tri-lobed ones as Vulcan leaves. (My fellow Trekkies will get it!)
This is our driveway. It curves around to the right, which is where the new garage and the house are. No, it's not paved, and we're reluctant to do so. It reminds me of a country lane, and I like the lack of concrete or asphalt.
That's caused a problem or two, because rocks can get up into the snow blower and cause the shear bolts to break. Ken's learned to adjust, and not run the snow blower so close to the ground. And he makes sure to have a supply of shear bolts on hand, just in case! If there's a couple of inches of snow left on the driveway, that's okay--it's just the 8 inches and more that cause a big problem!
This is our driveway from out by the road. You can just barely see one of the sheds that Ken built, over on the left. That's where he stores the big lawnmower (the smaller one is in the new garage).

It looks very harmless now, doesn't it? Pretty little tree-covered driveway...believe me, there were a couple of times when I was trying to get to work (after Ken had left already) that I got stuck in this driveway, and it wasn't much fun! I got dug in so deep a few times that Ken had to pull me out with the truck. There were times when I wasn't able to make it into work, but most of the time, Ken was able to take me in the truck. Our country road isn't at the top of the list when it comes to getting plowed, so it isn't until 10 AM or later that we get dug out. Snow days still exist at Nutwood!

We're very fortunate in a lot of ways to live where we do. We aren't annexed as part of South Bend city limits, so we have our own well. We don't live in the city, but as part of the county, we have curbside recycling, even out here! This is a rural area, with plenty of wildlife, but in 5-10 minutes, I can be at a shopping area. I hope the city never annexes us, but I suppose we'll deal with that if we need to. At least we know that no one can build right next to us, or behind us, because it's our property. (Although as I like to say, we're only temporary caretakers of this land.)

I've lived in apartments and subdivisions, as has Ken, and after finding this place, we both know that we could never stand to do so again. I shouldn't say that...everyone does what they need to do, and I believe we'd be happy wherever we were. But here is where we thrive. We researched a few houses when we started looking, and did several drive-bys. We actually walked through only four. There was a century-old home on 2 acres, and that was such a neat place in so many ways. Gorgeous high ceilings, big huge rooms, a spooky old basement...but it needed a lot of work, including on the bathrooms, and we knew it would have been a money pit. (That's for you Indigo! wink) There was a smallish home a couple of miles away, on 2+ acres, and that was pretty cute, but there was a lot of moisture in the basement, and it was fairly close to the highway. We looked at a house down the road from here, also on 2+ acres, and it was kind of neat, too (Cousin Shane looked at it independent of us, and we both loved the 50's-era oven built into the wall!), but it didn't have a basement, just a small cellar that was filled with water when we looked at it. (In tornado-prone Indiana, I'm big on basements!)

The fourth and final place we looked at was right here. We parked close to the road, and as we walked down the driveway, it was one of those "This is it" moments. The house itself had mauve walls in the living and dining rooms; dark wallpaper in the kitchen; Barbie pink walls in one of the bedrooms (the one that became our bedroom); and stained carpets. But we saw the potential. Sometimes you have to look beyond the surface and see what can be. We had to do a lot of work here, but we are very grateful that we looked at this place and found our home. There's no place I'd rather be.

Et tu, Brute?

Check out the Anchorage Daily News.

I had a dream

It occurs to me that I may be dwelling on politics too much, because last night I had a lengthy dream...or maybe it was several short dreams...about politics.

I was attending a function and seated at the head table with Michelle Obama. She gave me a cookie, which was very kind of her, and it was also delicious. Barack Obama arrived, and as he shook my hand, he said, "I remember you! Last time I saw you, you were wearing those really cute sandals. I like the ones you're wearing tonight!"

Brian Williams seemed to be the emcee, and while Brian was speaking, I watched Sarah Palin at the next table as she shoved her purse under her chair. I whispered to the person sitting next to me, "I need to ask Brian what he thinks of that woman." This must have been some kind of fashion show as well, because then I was in front of the crowd and Brian was saying, "Beth is modeling a lovely blue gown...come on out, Beth." The gown WAS lovely, too, a strapless number with a full skirt, an intense shade of sapphire blue, something I would definitely wear. As I walked out and modeled my dress, I gave the crowd a big Sarah Palin wink.

So maybe I'm a little too involved in all this.

That being said, let's get to the latest! You didn't think you were getting off that easy, did you? Nine days to go...then I'll give it a rest. As I mentioned recently, feel free to take a break from me for a while if you don't enjoy reading my opinions. I won't be offended, I promise, and I hope you'll come back and visit after it's over. I've given you fair warning...the gloves are off. And I feel free! So free!

The reports started on CNN yesterday about Sarah Palin "going rogue." Milwaukee Dan #2 (of three...I asked Milwaukee Dan #1 [Guido] what was up with the name Daniel and Milwaukee) sent me an article about Palin the rogue, that also included commentary from certain McCain aides (anonymous, of course) who said that she is a "diva." Uh oh...dissension in the ranks. Not a good sign. There is speculation that Palin is protecting her own interests for her future political career. I don't know about that (I doubt if she has much of a national career ahead of her), but this is some odd behavior. I did appreciate the "going rogue" phrase, because it makes me think of what happens in science fiction stories with friendly robots. A corroded relay switch, a faulty circuit, or a little too much dampness in the air, and next thing you know, you've got yourself a rogue robot. Or think of computers like HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey." You have to be really careful with that artificial intelligence stuff, a basic concept in science fiction, and something that Palin's handlers seemed to ignore. Zing!

Our friend Dirk (He and I definitely do not have the same views on many things, but he is always such a good sport about it!) left a comment on my entry about the fruit fly research, stating that it was about earmarks, and that it was not targeted towards autism research. That may very well be, but there's a broader picture to me, that I went into on a subsequent post. It's the fact that she ridiculed this research automatically because it involved "fruit flies in Paris, France." I'll say it again: that is a dangerous lack of understanding of how something that superficially seems irrelevant can sometimes end up being vitally important, and have an impact beyond the original research project. As Ken wrote about a while back, a means of communication developed by nuclear engineers in order to share information more easily became the World Wide Web. There is always a bigger picture...ALWAYS. Let me use a phrase that everyone loves to hate: we have to think outside the box. [drawing imaginary box in the air] Palin has shown that she is incapable of seeing the bigger picture, or of understanding how something outside her immediate frame of reference can possibly be important to anyone. I stand by my opinions on this.

And finally, she has already begun winning friends and influencing people around the globe. In today's news:

Venezuela's Chavez: Palin a pitiful 'beauty queen'


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin a "poor thing" who didn't know what she was saying when she called him a dictator.

Friday's verbal attack was the latest in long history of creative insults by Chavez — but was not unprovoked.

In an interview with the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision aired Tuesday, Palin remarked that "through negotiations or sanctions, if necessary, we can pressure dictators like Hugo Chavez to make it clear that they cannot mess with the United States whenever they feel like it."

Speaking at an event to inaugurate a thermoelectric plant, Chavez said he had heard of Palin's remarks.

"The poor thing, you have to feel sorry for her," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. Palin, he said, is "a beauty queen that they've put in the role of a figurine."
Chavez said one must do as Christ did: "Forgive her, for she knows not what she says."

OUCH MAN! Wow, Hugo 1, Palin 0.

Believe me, I don't like Hugo Chavez anymore than the next person. But if this is the attitude that he and others around the world have about Palin, we'd end up a global laughing stock if she gets into office. I've also been hearing things from family and niece Jen in San Diego recently worked with a group from various countries, and she wrote to me the other day that they all said, "You're kidding, right? No way!" about Palin as potential VP. They see her as a joke. We've got some major work to do in repairing America's reputation around the world, and having Palin in an executive capacity will not help matters one iota. Except maybe for that Pakistan guy who seemed to want to jump her bones. He'd probably be pretty happy.

Is that really the message we want to send to the rest of the world? Really?