Sunday, March 30, 2008

muffins & the kite runner

Spring break has sprung. Offspring #1 is already back at college; Offspring #2 heads up tomorrow. And it's back to work for Hub and me tomorrow as well. Sigh.

Tonight we baked muffins (chocolate with a cream cheese frosting) and watched The Kite Runner, a film based on Khaled Hosseini's epic novel. Set primarily in Afghanistan, it delves into friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and redemption. I thought it was powerful and definitely worth seeing.

USA Today review here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

and the related nyc slideshow link...

is here

this just in...

The "über tourists" are back from their whirlwind spring break trip to NYC! We arrived there on Saturday and came back home on Thursday. During that time we saw 5 plays, enjoyed 2 jazz performances, went on a city tour, took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, did the NBC Studio tour, and visited 3 museums -- Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Natural History, & the Guggenheim. We also tossed in a visit to the New York Public Library on Thursday morning and saw a Guttenberg Bible and the original "Winnie the Pooh and Friends" stuffed animals.


We had "Easter dinner" at the Hard Rock in Times Square with a classmate of Offspring #2. (He took a train from Connecticut to meet us.) I had hoped to meet and have coffee with Processing Counselor, but it just didn't work out due to our über schedule. (We talked on the phone and it almost happened! Next time, PC, next time!)

On our last trip (two years ago), Offspring #1 and I only saw plays on Broadway. This time we ventured out further with recommendations from one of her professors. We saw "Hello Failure", an excellent neo-realistic comedy by Kristen Kosmas, at non-mainstream Performance Space 122. We also saw "The Poor Itch" at The Public Theater. This play, focusing on the issues of a soldier back from Iraq, was left unfinished by the late playwright John Belluso. Director Lisa Peterson and a company of actors and designers used the final drafts of Belluso's script to create a compelling, powerful performance. The other off-Broadway play was Signature Theatre Company's "Paradise Park". (I didn't see that one -- Hubby and Offspring #1 attended that play while Offspring #2 and I went to the Iridium Jazz Club.) They weren't overly enamored with this work about a bizarre carnival of life. As for Broadway plays we saw Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf in Mamet's new political comedy "November" and the Tony Award-winning "Spring Awakening" (a musical adaptation of a controversial play about teens dealing with sexual awakening). So we had quite a varied assortment of plays and venues!

As mentioned, Offspring #2 and I went to the Iridium to hear the 14-piece Mingus Big Band. (They had an excellent pianist and some great trumpets.) The whole family went to the Blue Note to hear Spyro Gyra, the jazz-fusion group many of you probably know.

So that's the scoop! Jam-packed and fun. We did a lot of walking, so a Hiking Club slide show video could be in the works. :) It is interesting how deserted Seattle seemed to all of us when we got back (in comparision to Manhattan)...

And now I have a lot of blog reading to catch up on!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

the short report

So far: 2 days; 3 plays!
Pictured above: Offspring #1 and Nathan Lane

Friday, March 21, 2008


Packing for the NYC trip. Not sure when I'll be posting next. (Pondering taking a bit of a blog break, but ya never know!)

Take care, everybody...

needlepoint art from here

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

speaking of green things...

I just read that there is a new Muppet movie in the works! Woo hoo! (Full story here.)

This is especially good news for Offspring #1, Muppet Fan Extraordinaire.

Addendum for Presbyterian Gal:
(see her comment)

Monday, March 17, 2008

happy st pat's!

gotta love those savage chickens

Sunday, March 16, 2008


What I could have been doing this morning:
(a) Attending Palm Sunday services
(b) Doing "housework"
(c) Doing clinic work (charting, etc) at home
(d) Getting ready for NYC trip

What I did do this morning:
(a) Made Offspring #2's birthday video (To view, click here)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Friday Five: Time and Transitions

1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why?
Wow, if I had a time machine I would try to sample quite a few historical periods... But first on my list would be to zip over to South Dakota around 1920 or so and see my grandmother as a teen.

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see?
I'd like to see nanotechnology in medicine. Microscopic robotics would be used to enter the bloodstream, detect disease, and repair cells. Way cool.

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future?
I'm going to have to go with remembering the past. I suppose that's because it's a known entity.

4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent?
The most memorable thing about this year's Lent is reading Rodger's Portico Lenten Theoblog. Check it out!

5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most?
We're going to be in New York City this year for Easter! I'm looking forward to the "theatuh", jazz, and general tourist stuff. Woohoo!

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I thought my mom might enjoy a little impromptu road trip and Sunday brunch today, so I picked her up and we headed out to Cathlamet, a little town on the Columbia River about 20 miles from here.

It was a pretty day, so after brunch at the Riverview we explored the area a bit. (Snapped that picture of the tugboat down on the riverfront.)

I think one of the best things about Cathlamet is its name. It's pronounced "Cath LAM it" so you can use it as a swear word.

For example: "I locked my keys in the car! CathLAMet!" -- or -- "CathLAMet! I told you to stop that!"

So feel free to use the town as an expletive next time you lose your glasses or stub your toe.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

the friday night movie club

Those lovable folks who brought you the Empty Nest Hiking Club (that would be the Hub and me) now present... the Friday Night Movie Club! However, whereas the hiking club was intentionally planned, the movie club just sort of evolved into being. Friday nights have become a time to either go out to a movie or rent a film we've missed over the years.

Last night we decided to rent a movie Offspring #2 had been encouraging us to see: Cinema Paradiso, an Italian film which won an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language category in 1989. (We watched the original and not the newer, longer version.)

In short, I loved it.

The film takes place in Sicily, just after WWII and in the final years before television. There are two main characters: Alfredo, who runs the projection booth at the local cinema, and Salvatore, a young boy who is intrigued by every aspect of the movies. Salvatore (also called Toto) becomes an apprentice to Alfredo, who gradually assumes the role of the boy's beloved mentor and surrogate father.

I won't go into all the plot details (you need to rent it!)... but the film, which is visually stunning and has a beautiful soundtrack, depicts the interplay between film and life. I think it also has a lot to say on the topic of change. The reality one needs to accept is that inevitably times change and people change. Alfredo, in fact, advises Salvatore to leave the little village, because clinging to the past would keep the young man from moving forward.

Also of interest is the importance of (and treatment of) religion in the film. The story is revealed through flashback, and the earliest view of young Toto is as an alterboy. Later, Salvatore (Toto) as a teen woos his love interest in a confession booth in the church. Yet the church is not portrayed favorably. The priest has the power to censor what he considers carnal excess (usually a kiss) in the movies. The cinema rather than the church is actually the most religiously attended place by the villagers. Even the name of "Salvatore" suggests that movies serve as a type of salvation.

I think this film would be a great one to watch and discuss in a group setting. If you haven't seen it, here's a taste of Cinema Paradiso via youtube:
Note: I'm adding a SPOILER WARNING to the youtube as per Offspring #2's comment. The video does give a few things away, but go ahead and watch if you don't mind that.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

more about brains...

Just read in today's USA Today that scientists recently scanned musicians' brains and have located the region that lights up when they improvise. It's the medial prefrontal cortex. Turns out this is the same area we all use when we're talking about ourselves (i.e. describing who we are and what interests us). Charles Limb, one of the researchers who is also a jazz saxophonist, thinks this makes perfect sense. He said, "Because the person is spontaneously composing, they really are revealing themselves musically. It's like your own musical autobiography."

And... at the same time the medial prefrontal cortex lights up in the improvising musician, the portion of the brain linked to careful planning and self-censoring (the ol' dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) turns off. Interesting stuff.

I'd like to go on record as saying Offspring #2 (who plays jazz trumpet) has a darn fine medial prefrontal cortex.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

math 101...

and "Life 101"

(not that I did anything stupid today...)

Monday, March 3, 2008


Have you ever had a disagreement with a friend over something that happened in the past where you remember things one way and the friend remembers them another way? (Yeah, we've probably all experienced that.) And of course that usually begs the question: Who's right and who's wrong?

(Bonus points if you answered, "If it involves Barb -- Barb is always right!")

Well, according to Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, you're probably both wrong, at least to some degree.

Stumbling on Happiness is a book about how the mind works, and Gilbert points out (with the help of psychological experiments, etc.) that the brain takes some shortcuts in cramming the "vast universe of our experience" into the "relatively small storage compartment between our ears". He writes:

The elaborate tapestry of our experience is not stored in memory -- at least not in its entirety. Rather it is compressed for storage by first being reduced to a few critical threads, such as a summary phrase ('Dinner was disappointing') or a small set of key features ('tough steak, corked wine, snotty waiter'). Later, when we want to remember our experience, our brains quickly reweave the tapestry by fabricating -- not by actually retrieving -- the bulk of the information that we experience as a memory.

Gilbert adds that information acquired after an event alters one's memory of the event, and the tendency to "fill in the holes in our memories of the past with material from the present is especially powerful when it comes to remembering our emotions".

So I guess it's best to take our memories and those of others with a grain of salt, especially if they involve emotions...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

McSquirrel McSaturation

I know, I know. You are tired of the Saga of Nutty McSquirrel.

But I thought you might be interested to know Nutty (here on the right) has a new sweetie:

Yeah, they were acting all squirrelly today...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

from the news desk...

I managed to get in a bike ride yesterday before the rains came. Ran across this on my way home:

(For those of you familiar with my fair city, this is right across the street from Longview Presbyterian Church.) How does one tip a car like that in a 25 MPH zone? The driver had to be going at least, hey, 30 or 35. :)

Or course I couldn't tell for sure in the 20 seconds I was pedaling by there, but I don't think the driver was really hurt. (At least I hope not.) The ambulance left driving a regular speed and without the lights and sirens, plus there was nothing in the morning paper.

In Other News:
(or... The McSquirrel McUpdate):

It appears that Nutty McSquirrel is going overboard in protecting his few remaining peanuts...