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» Monday, May 30, 2016Taking It Easy
That makes me so mad. Two nights in a row, I slept like a rock, but had to be awakened before I could get eight hours sleep because we needed to be up for the convention. Last night and this morning, when I had many hours I could sleep? You guessed it! First I seem to have gotten Clay's complaint, then I was too warm, then I had to go back to the bathroom...grrrr! So we were up a lot later than we expected.
First we stopped at CVS, with a great 30 percent off everything coupon. James got saline solution, BreatheRights, and Flonase.
James had really taken a shine to that Chinese Cashew salad, so next we went back to Panera for lunch and we both had a "pick two" with chicken noodle soup and the salad. I didn't quite love it the way he did (I'd prefer it without pineapple), but it really is good, with lots of crunchings, slices of chicken, and a nice dressing. I certainly wouldn't complain if I had to eat it again!
Following was a stop at Barnes & Noble. Right off the bat I found a hardback Longmire novel on the remainder cart. Then, with my coupon, I got Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing because it really sounds interesting—especially the bridge between painter and scientist. James got a few magazines, Glenn Beck's Dreamers and Deceivers from the remainder pile, and a book about how to fix everything with his coupon.
Our last stop was Kroger, for the missing milk. We went to the Vinings Kroger, and they still didn't have any gallons of skim milk. Thankfully the half gallons were of equivalent price, so we got four and headed home. Unfortunately, four half gallons do not fit in the space of two gallons, and we had to find a place for the fourth jug.
James grilled a yummy steak we had found on the managers special shelf for supper, and we had ice cream for dessert. Fireworks started popping outside, but luckily they were over with by the time I had to take Tucker outside, or I would have had to drag him down the stairs.
For hundreds of years, men and women have given their lives so we could live our own lives in peace, so we could grumble at the market and rejoice at the bookstore and eat whatever we please. Our thanks, ladies and gentlemen, for the gift of freedom. Thank you today and every day.
» Sunday, May 29, 2016So Much to Do, So Few Selves
This morning was the same as yesterday: up early, prep, and out the door. We told the fids we'd be home earlier. Not much, but we were.
I'd popped in the dealer's room for several short periods, but this morning had a chance to peruse more slowly. There is a nice variety of vendors this year, including The Corner Shop from downtown Marietta, and lots of CDs from Big Finish. I did buy James some Thunderbirds pins and he bought himself a SHADO one, and he bought me a Prydonian pendant. James also got a Starfury patch for his backpack and I bought Twilight a magnet that says "bigger on the inside."
I sure could have used something to split me into parts today. I missed "Literary Comfort Food" and "Ask a British Person!" and "How to Ruin Your Franchise," plus panels on Indiana Jones and Gerry Anderson, among others, to see the panels I did. That's the trouble with Timegate—[sarcasm alert!] just too many things going on!
Anyway, I went once more to the Big Finish Q&A because I just like listening to Nick Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery. Briggs is excited to be able to do an audio season of The Prisoner to add new stories to the canon, although I wonder if Patrick McGoohan would feel the same way, as that was always his baby.
Next, James was moderating (along with Scott Vigiue) a panel on Time Travel. We discussed time travel methods (machines, magic, disassociation with modern times) and the problems of traveling in time, where changing one tiny thing (as in the Bradbury story) changes the entire course of history. Not to mention what happens if you meet yourself in the past, or why you would want to time travel. (I don't want to change anything; I just want to see what it looked like really: the Library at Alexandria, ancient Rome and Greece, if there truly was a King Arthur, Washington crossing the Delaware, real pioneers crossing the plains, Perry in Japan, etc.)
I had a free hour, so I first went back to the restaurant where James was having a late lunch with Clay and Maggi, and Sue Phillips had joined them. Sat down to talk (but was a little pissed that the waitress came by several times and never once asked me if I wanted anything—I think if she had asked I would have ordered some potstickers, but she never did, so they lost that sale). Then Sue went back "on duty" for the Lit track and Clay and Maggi hit the road (they are planning to be back next weekend, so we might get to do dinner or something). I bought memberships for next year as well.
The final big panel was "The Worlds of Doctor Who" with all the guests (except for Louis Robinson, who left early). The panel was "thrown open" to any question, so there were some funny ones as well as serious ones about what types of stories they'd like to do on CD in the future. An unexpected guest turned up as well: a young man named John Moore who has done prosthetics and makeup on the new series and who is here in Atlanta working on Guardians of the Galaxy II. He'd seen the notice of the convention and called Alan to see if he could appear as it will help him get a green card to work here in the US.
We thought about seeing the wrapup panel in the British Pub track, but instead we stayed behind to see the Felt Nerdy Puppet Show, just for a lark. These are puppets in the Muppet sense, and the scenes alternated between Daleks telling bad jokes and a humorous continuing sequence where "Rose" wished for the Doctor to be more serious, only to have him turn into Mr. Spock and driving her crazy with his logic and sobriety. She was much happier with her good old Doctor in the end! After the show, the puppeteers came out and showed us how they worked and what they were made of, and introduced the puppets to the children.
Finally, it was time for the wrap-up panel, talking more about the change of name to WHOlanta and the change of weekend before "giving credit where it was due," to the track organizers, the con suite people, the panelists, and the guests, and then asking questions about how things went. We did complain about the restaurant rates!
And then it was seven o'clock and time to leave Paradise and go back to the world. On the way home we stopped for supper at Panera: I just had soup, but James had a pick two and fell in love with their new Chinese Cashew salad. It looks really good.
Then a dog walk and finally a chance to rest! Can't wait to sleep late tomorrow!
» Saturday, May 28, 2016Panels Every Hour on the Hour
Let's say 7:45 came too quickly, but at least I slept well. Good thing, because it was a flurry of a morning: dog walking, backpack stocking, and then zipping off on the freeway to get to the hotel in time for breakfast. It's a great buffet, but oi, the price! $41 for the two of us. So we eat as much as we can and tuck away some for later.
My first panel was "The Wonderful and Ever Expanding World of Disney." I was delighted to find Zootopia fans here, including author Debbie Viguie (I ran into her later near the dealer's room and we talked Judy and Nick for five minutes)! We also talked about the "sequelitis" that plagued Disney for a while and if any of them were any good (personally, I liked Bambi II and Patch's London Adventure). There was a bit of chat of how beautifully Brave was animated, but how the plot vacillated. Surprised no one mentioned Jungle Book.
The following panel was about the current season of Doctor Who, with much discussion about Peter Capaldi's tour-de-force in "Heaven Sent." Like others on the panel, I'd been skeptical of 40 minutes of nothing but the Doctor, and remember how astonished I was that the 40 minutes were over so quickly.
I returned to James (and Clay and Maggi) in "Remembering the Classics" in the literature track. As well as speaking about Heinlein and Asimov and all the rest, going back to H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, we tried to define a classic and what made it classic, and what made it worth reading vs. "required reading." What works for one, we all know, doesn't work for others, and mention was made of Asimov's Foundation series. My best friend read this in high school and loved it, and gave me a set for Christmas. I read three pages and never could manage the rest.
Next was a great panel given in the British Pub track: "British History, the World Wars." Mark Heffernan said he originally wanted the panel to be about the Battle of the Somme, since it is the hundredth anniversary, but this was a more general chat about both wars, and how the first led to the second. We even talked about things that were kept secret about World War II for many years, like the facts about Bletchley Park. Louis Robinson revealed he once met Albert Speer in the BBC studios!
And finally, time for Paul McGann! After seeing people like Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, McGann seems quite reserved. He does talk with his hands, though! [girly reaction warning!] Goodness, his eyes are so blue! [that's it :-) ] It turns out he appeared in a film called Withnail and I, in which he played opposite Richard E. Grant, who has also played the Doctor. The majority of the discussion was about the television movie, but not many details "behind the scenes" were revealed. He did love working with Sylvester McCoy and loved the TARDIS design: that was a real set, and not CGI as it would have been today.
Next, a panel devoted to this year's NewYear's Sherlock special, "The Abominable Bride." Some folks wished it had been an actual, standalone Victorian mystery as opposed to a fantasy happening in Sherlock's mind as he tried to solve a mystery. Most of what everyone liked was the in jokes, and the homages to the Holmes canon.
Nicholas Briggs, Jason Haigh-Ellery, Terry Molloy, and Paul McGann joined forces for "The BIG Big Finish Panel," in which all things audio drama were on topic. McGann's lengthy tenure as the Doctor in audio was discussed, of course, and how thrilling it was to have all his audio companions mentioned in the seven-minute video "The Night of the Doctor," but the different alternative adventures were also in evidence: the use of classic Doctors in new adventures, the companion stories, the tales set on Gallifrey. (Colin Baker, whose tenure was cut by a strike and then dismissal, also has had his sixth Doctor career extended via Big Finish, and the seventh Doctor and Ace had more adventures as well.) I only have a few of their CDs; I just can't afford them. And I never will catch up now! But I'd love to hear more. Their 50th anniversay special, "The Light at the End" was fabulous.
James had a panel at five, which I went to, a Book Club discussion based on the novel Ready Player One. He bought it just to read for this panel, but he said he enjoyed it because of the videogame theme. It sounds like it's sort of a Hunger Games riff, with an evil corporation and people trying to win a big prize by playing 1980s video games. The many 80s references in the story are due to the fact that the author is a 1980s junkie. Sue Phillips, who was conducting the panel, liked the story less, but admitted she was not fond of video games and could not relate to the character. However, at least once person in the audience said he identified with the protagonist and really loved the book.
"I Feel...Young: Star Trek at 50" was the next port of call, where Alice was in the front row. She has been a Trek fan since the series began. But we didn't discuss just the original series; we talked about Next Generation and the rest of the spinoffs (and how Enterprise was just getting good when they cancelled it). They clued us in to a interesting-looking set of books: These Are the Voyages, one book for each season! (Just FYI: they're cheaper at Barnes & Noble.)
Our final panel was "Why Fandom?" Well, because people of like interests have always gotten together. But, if because of those interests, people were thought of as outcasts, why then do fans fight against fans? So part of the discussion was about tribalism and exclusivity. Basically, even in fandom there are people who wish to be exclusive, but each fan should just accept everyone's interests so long as they do not hurt others or interfere with others' enjoyment.
I'd slipped out to use the bathroom about 7:45 and discovered the cabaret line forming outside the door. There was quite a long line for the cabaret, and people buying tickets up to the last minute, and soon we joined the queue.
Finally the traditional cabaret ending, a raffle giveaway, commenced. James won a spiffy poster and others received Who figurines, a stuffed TARDIS, a Who Yahtzee game, etc.
There was a "Gallifrey Game Night" and a Prince/Bowie singalong following, but we had to head home to our puppy, and pretty much straight to bed one more time. I miss the "pet friendly" hotel.
» Friday, May 27, 2016Long Day's Journey Into Time Travel
Who knew when we woke up this morning that by this evening we would learn we would be attending the final...
Wait, wait—as Father Mouse says in Twas the Night Before Christmas, when you're attacking a piece of cheese, best to start from the top!
We had slept in until nine, and then had a quick breakfast. James' service engine light, which means he needs an oil change, came on last weekend, and he also wanted to finally get the cab of the truck vacuumed out. So we emptied the contents into two Xerox paper boxes and went off to Mr. Clean Carwash where you can get both. They had to hand wash the car because of the chair lift on the back, and I wasn't really happy with the vacuum job (there are still crumbs in the footwells), but anyway it was cleaned out and the oil got changed. This took a while, and then we had to go home and get the essentials, like the GPS and the water bottles, back in the cab, and then we had to go to Kroger, too, to get sandwich fixings because the restaurant at the Timegate hotel is very expensive (if you order enough appetizers to make a meal, it costs as much as a meal; the cheapest entree is $18!). So we decided to do all the shopping so we didn't have to make another trip on Monday. This also went very quickly as shopping trips go, but it turned out they had no skim milk at all. WTF?
So by the time we got home, I got Tucker walked (a long walk because we wouldn't be home until at least 11:30), I topped off Snowy's seed and got him watching television, we got the sandwiches done and packed the ones we ordered at Kroger and other things in the backpack, we had no time for a sit-down lunch. Instead we grabbed burgers and had to take surface streets to the hotel because rush hour was in full, crazy swing.
We shuffled through the line while I fired off a text to Clay, who said he and Maggi were aiming to be here by four. Unfortunately Clay had been sick this morning, so they were just getting off the freeway. We got our badges and other items, then I walked down to the Timegate Store (being greeted by Mike on the way there) to buy tickets for the cabaret, then waited for them to work through the line. And then because they hadn't eaten, we ended up at the restaurant anyway. I just had potstickers, which are very good. About halfway through our meal, Alice, Ken, and Aubrey came to sit with us and chat.
As we were eating, Paul McGann walked by!
Once we'd finished supper I was off to my first panel, "The Best Who," basically a chat about favorite doctors, companions, and antagonists, and the classic series as opposed to the new series (or "the Welsh series" as I've heard it called). For those who've only seen the new series, what old series episodes would you recommend? Nice to see everyone after a few months; haven't seen Alan since Anachrocon and Kathy Sullivan since last year. Next we went to opening ceremonies, where we learned to our surprise that this is the last Timegate!
But not to fear; it's just regenerating! Since there are no longer Stargate panels (which is the "gate" component), the convention will henceforth be named Wholanta. The weekend is also moving because Momocon is going to be downtown on Memorial Day weekend from now on, and there is a new convention in Florida on this weekend (which is why Ken Spivey isn't here). Gosh, what are we going to do on this weekend now?
Next the guests were introduced: Jason Haigh-Ellery from Big Finish Productions, who do audio drama (mostly Doctor Who, also Torchwood, Dark Shadows, and The Prisoner) that number into the hundreds now; Nicholas Briggs, who performs Dalek voices on Doctor Who and on Big Finish tapes and who works on BBC Radio 4 Extra; the previously mentioned Paul McGann (who actually has more audio adventures than the other Doctors have broadcast ones); and Terry Molloy, a mostly-voice actor who is the modern voice of Davros and who also played in a radio series called The Scarifyers opposite Nicholas Courtney (Doctor Who's Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart). Terry came on in a kilt (his outfit for the entire weekend, carrying a teddy bear—more about him in another entry)! James is wearing his this weekend, too.
Aubrey Spivey was one of the panelists in "Young Adult, Old Adult" to try to answer the question of why many adults read young adult fiction. Some of the answers were that young adult problems are more black and white, or that it addresses problems that are softened rather than the brutality of adult fiction. My answer: I read anything that's good! I don't care who it's written for. I just finished Sweet Home Alaska about Depression-era pioneers in Alaska. It was a great read, so who cares if it's grade 4-6? They were also thinking that the dystopian kick was finally drying up. Oh, God, I hope so. How depressing.
James was on the panel of "How Hard is It?" at ten, about "hard" (a.k.a. scientific) science fiction, defining what it is, and why some people prefer it. There is a Russian gentleman who has been coming to conventions here for a couple of years now, and we learned just this weekend his name is "Yan." He has a unique viewpoint of SF that is fascinating. Maybe someday he can do some panels.
Once this panel was over, we had to hurry home: basically we got in and I walked Tucker, and then we were off to bed! Up at 7:45 tomorrow!
» Sunday, May 22, 2016Tick Off that List
James was supposed to telework today, but when he tried to log on last night with his new computer, it asked him for the VPN password. This was already on his old laptop, but not on the new unit and there was no one he could call on the weekend. So he had to get up and go to work this morning.
I don't know what was the matter, but I could not sleep last night. My left leg was jerking and twitching and I could not get comfortable. At 3 a.m. I was already exasperated about being sleepless. Only after James left, which was around seven, did I finally fall asleep to make up what I lost overnight. Except it was almost eleven when I got up and I had stuff to do.
I stripped the bed and stuffed the bedclothes in the washer, then took Tucker, his soap, a towel, and a plastic bag full of plastic bags and hustled him out in the car. He sat on the towel, as always mesmerized by the world going by in the window, his forepaws on the door armrest, and I stopped a moment to drop the recycling off at Publix, and then I took him to the dog wash. Another woman was scrubbing a big greyish floppy-eared dog in the opposite tub and we chatted to each other or talked to our respective dogs through the wash.
He practically towed me out the door when we were finished. :-)
I brought him home, put fresh bedding in his crate (finding more shredded napkins and a souvenir I brought home from Quonset Point in November and which was perfectly okay on Thursday night...grrrr), gave him his breakfast and put up the gate, and sadly, had to go out again: we had two coupons for Bed, Bath & Beyond that were expiring tomorrow. We needed Plinks and I bought more "doggie doo" bags, and, finally, a new glass for the hall bath. I have always hated that glass in there; you can't get your hand down it to scrub it properly.
Was planning to get gas at Costco, but the saving was so minimal I just skipped it. I did get some money for the week, and stopped by Panera intending to have some soup. It was so crowded I just bought two rolls instead and brought them home to have one with butter. I figured we'd be having dinner soon anyway, it was so late.
I spent the rest of the afternoon changing the bed and washing the bedclothes, cleaning out under the bed (apparently on his last foray through the unclosed gate he not only got my Quonset souvenir, but raided the wastebasket in the bathroom and shreded his bounty under the bed), washing Tucker's bedding, and re-making the bed. By then James was home. We had chicken and salad for supper while watching old black-and-white game shows on Buzzr.
And then it was time for the season finale of Call The Midwife. Needless to say, both of us were in tears, what with the death of Sister Evangelina (after she had held a baby one more time despite her paralyzed arm) and the revelation about the thalidomide. I didn't realize they still used a coach and horses for funerals back in 1961! A fitting sendoff for a formidable woman.
» Saturday, May 21, 2016The Graduate and the Guys
We had a couple of errands to run before going to have fun, so after getting up at a time that still seemed too early and having breakfast, we went to Batteries Plus to get a new battery for James' OneTouch meter and the light on his cane, and also for my sonic screwdriver and James' cookie jar TARDIS. (This wasn't exactly a successful expedition. The cane worked at the store but not afterward, and although the batteries fit the TARDIS, it still doesn't groan when you open the lid.) Then we stopped at the bead shop. The man who runs it is going out of business and is still not doing very good business. He also sells models and James got two from him at 30 percent off, and I bought a couple of jewelry findings and a pretty stone to use in a project.
Then we went on to the fun: Aaron Lawson's high school graduation party. There's not much to talk about; we just had fun chatting with each other for a few hours—mostly about retirement, or wanting to be in retirement, or trips people are taking in their retirement. We snacked on finger food and told funny pet stories and funny Senior Prank stories (I don't remember having a Senior Prank in high school; is this a southern thing?).
We had to stop at CVS on the way home, but we decided to have dinner first; by the time we decided on where to go for dinner, it took us 45 minutes to get there. :-) We went to the West Cobb Diner and both had a turkey dinner, then stopped at Kroger to do the rest of the shopping, and finally ended up at CVS, as James wanted a new diabetes meter.
That was really it for the day. Low key with some fun in between.
» Friday, May 20, 2016Sleep and Other Important Things
Today actually began last night.
James has been having some trouble sleeping for a while and we have been wondering if it is his C-PAP machine. Accordingly, the doctor had ordered a new sleep study; he hadn't had one since his first in 1991 and they're supposed to be given periodically. He had one instance where they sent him home with a machine that was supposed to record his sleep, but it was a disaster: it was noisy and it didn't work properly, so James kept waking up. Anyway, there were two places James could take the test, and he asked to go to the one closer to our house.
There are other confusing geographical things about the Atlanta metro area than around two-dozen streets named Peachtree. One is that there is a town on the west side, Lithia Springs, and there is a town on the east side named Lithonia. James thought the test was in Lithia Springs, and we didn't realize it wasn't until I started to program the GPS on his phone while he ate supper. So he had two hours to eat, pack his stuff, take a shower, and drive all the way out to Lithonia (which, if the traffic reports were correct, was at least 45 minutes out, and that was if a accident didn't happen in the interim).
So, yeah, it was crazy for awhile, and then he was still late, because the GPS on his phone blatted out and he had to use the GPS in the truck, which directed him through Covington Highway rather than I-20, even though there was an accident on Covington Highway (at Young Street, ironically). Thanks heaps, Garmin. Plus he was so in a rush that he forgot his phone in the truck, so we couldn't say good night before they wired him up and sent him off to bed. The nurse did call to let me know he got there safely.
Me, I cut out the coupons, gathered the trash, cleaned out Snowy's cage, and put the trash can at the curb, then spent the rest of the night watching Get Smart after seeing "The Groovy Guru" on Decades. Tucker, who usually harasses me from 9 p.m. onward to go outside, curled up unhappily on his blanket and looked grieved.
I slept fitfully, and finally awoke around seven to totter into the bathroom. As I tottered back, the garage door opened. I went back to bed, and a few minutes later James came into the bedroom, pulled off his clothes, and crawled into bed. We went back to sleep until 9:30.
This morning we treated ourselves to breakfast at Douceur de France. This is a lovely patisserie that used to be in an old house, but which is now on the main street outside of downtown Marietta. We hadn't been there since we took Shari for breakfast the weekend of Juanita and David's wedding. We ended up having lunch since it was almost eleven anyway. James had a chicken pot pie which was made in a croissant instead of a crust, and I had chicken salad and goat cheese on crispy toasted wheat bread on a bed of salad. Excellent. For dessert we had a "black panther": a chocolate brownie in the shape of a ladyfinger with a chocolate truffle filling. Equally yum.
By the time we left, it was raining. The weather today has been totally uncharacteristic for May in Georgia—who would think of it not even being 70°F in May? This morning when I took Tucker for his walk, there was a faint whiff of brine in the chill breeze coming from the south, and on the news they mentioned wind coming in from the Atlantic, with the sky a stolid silver grey. The rain continued off and on as we did our errands: a stop at Hobbytown for James to pick up a model, another at JoAnn where I picked up drawing pencils, metallics, and magnets, then a stop at Publix for twofers, and finally Walmart. James needed pocket t-shirts, I wanted another pair of shorts, and he needed new car mats and a new tarp, as somewhere on the way home from the sleep clinic he lost the one over the power chair. He hadn't gotten much sleep during the test and probably didn't tie the rope tight enough this morning.
Which is probably why when we got home, I gave Tucker his afternoon walk while James put the groceries up, and then we both crawled back into bed until 5:30. Had some "German chicken soup" James bought at Bernhard's Bakery (it had potato in it and was herbed in a tasty manner) for supper and some chocolate loaf cake for dessert, and I spent the evening watching the last three Elementary episodes of the season. I wasn't totally thrilled with the Morland Holmes plotline taking over the stories this year; the machinations in the final three just about made my head spin. Good work from all the principals, though. Hopefully back to some nice juicy mysteries next season.
Finished up by watching NYPD Blue on Heroes & Icons.
» Tuesday, May 17, 2016Final Thoughts on the Castle Series Finale
These things never turn out as well as I write them in my head, but here goes anyway:
I was with Castle from the beginning. A super-successful mystery writer who works with the police force, solving crimes, and adopting one of the police officers, a smart, ambitious female detective, as his muse (falling in love with her in the process)? Let me on that boat! The series was never great art and sometimes improbable situations popped up, but it was a television series, not a documentary. It was fun, yet had some incredibly dark episodes (the final confrontation with 3XK for example, although I tend to flippantly refer to him as Y2K). The leads were smart, funny, and likeable. Plus we got supporting characters like the writer's intelligent (and not vapid) daughter and eccentric mother, the police detective's two male associates whose "bromance" worked well, a sharp and classy medical examiner, and a perceptive police captain (eventually two of them) willing to give them enough leeway while tenuously holding them in line. You always waited in anticipation for next week's episode and mourned a little when each season was over. Castle even actually broke the lifelong curse of "when the characters get married, it ruins the romance." With a perplexing pre-ceremony cliffhanger thrown in (season cliffhangers used to be a novelty; IMHO they're now just a fat pain in the ass) that held off Castle and Beckett's wedding for several episodes, the show managed to continue without really breaking the stride of the original series setup.
The nicest part about the series was watching the characters grow. Alexis Castle, the schoolgirl-going-on-forty, who initially viewed her father with sweet exasperation, finished high school, got dumped by a boyfriend, and had her own wild child experience, moving in with the amiable Pi (a series non-favorite) until she realized he drove her crazy. Martha Rodgers started out as sort of a restrained Auntie Mame type, then regained her confidence in the last few seasons. She dated again, started her own acting class. We watched Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito's friendship and partnership deepen, through Kevin's marriage and fatherhood and a perilous undercover job, through Javi's on-and-off romance with ME Lanie Parish, and through ordeals that tested their friendship, including being tortured and being trapped in a fire with little hope of rescue. Sometimes their exchanges were humorous, and always fun. Ray Montgomery's story arc, with revealed secrets from his past having to do with the murder of Kate Beckett's mother, played to a sad but appropriate conclusion; sadly the strict but canny Captain Gates never really got a sendoff, but disappeared into the fictional world of "promotion." Kate Beckett softened much through her eight years, but she was never less than professional throughout them. She did not go all simpery and soft once she fell in love, instead becoming tough and tender in one dynamite persona.
But it was Richard Castle's emotional growth that we watched with the most pleasure. From a ne'r-do-well celebrated author who, it was strongly shown in early episodes, was more childlike than his teenage daughter, Castle matured through his relationship with Kate Beckett. His first two marriages were driven by sex and juvenile attraction; his relationship with Beckett was one eventually full of maturity. Yet Castle never lost his sense of fun or of wonder or his belief in the unbelievable: the man who could devote his soul to Beckett and see the sobering reality of police work could still fan-squee over favorite actors and classic television shows and believe in the supernatural. First season Rick is someone no woman would go to for a deep, long-lasting relationship; seventh season Richard was a responsible adult who still held surprises in his soul.
Characters like these get under your skin; they live and breathe as surely as the guy next to you on the bus and the gal who occupies the cubicle next to you at work. They embody that part of the Richard Bach quote which states "...fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats." Even with the wedding bobble, Castle slid to a beautiful season finale last year, and had the series ended there, it would have been fitting and good.
Instead, we were "treated" (if I can use that word without a sour taste in my mouth) to an eighth season exasperating in the extreme, with new show runners who seemed to have no conception what made the later-episode characters tick. We had Kate separate herself from Rick on some bizarre excuse to cover up that she was on another crusade (a heretofore unknown leftover threat called "LokSat" stemming the conspiracy surrounding her mother's death) that might endanger her husband—as if their separation actually made Rick or his family any less vulnerable. The Hayley Shipton character introduced at season beginning became a regular having clichè-ly "found a family" with the Castle/Beckett entourage, and Alexis' college career disappeared in favor of her "girl Friday" role at Castle's newly-tarted-up PI agency, reduced to popping in with a online clue when Dad needed it or looking concerned when someone was in danger. Ryan and Esposito turned into comic relief, including a godawful mini story-arc with Espo being angry at Ryan for mistakenly shooting him in the ass. Not to mention an episode called "Dead Again," which has to go down as the worst episode of Castle ever (perhaps as the worst episode of any one-hour drama period). The producers chirped that they wanted to "recapture the fun of first season." First season was over, fellas. The Castle characters were no longer what they were in first season, but apparently you couldn't see that.
Personally, what made this worse was that eighth season Castle felt like deja vu because I'd been through this with The Waltons in 1980s. If you didn't watch that series, several of the cast, including Richard Thomas' iconic John-Boy, had left by this time, but it was a CBS favorite, and the stories were still fairly intelligent while following the family through World War II. One character introduced in fifth season, as the children grew older, was Curt Willard, a doctor who later married eldest Walton daughter Mary Ellen. Curt came to Waltons Mountain having already been a doctor for coal miners, and had fought for mine workers' rights against goons with clubs. He was a strong character matched with the strong-willed Mary Ellen. Unfortunately, in seventh season, Tom Bower, who played Curt, felt the series didn't give him enough to do. In most episodes that season he'd been with the Army. So the producers gave him a brilliant, wonderful sendoff in "Day of Infamy," where, after being transferred to Pearl Harbor, he was killed treating the injured. The episode was, based on the memories of my mother who was an adult at that time, a microcosm of the Pearl Harbor attack homefront experience.
CBS made an early decision to cancel The Waltons at the end of its eighth season; unhappy fans (including myself) protested and CBS relented. Season nine became a tired retread that reached its nadir before Christmas, when a plot straight out of Bad Soap Opera revealed that Curt was alive! He had been mistakenly declared dead and was actually living in Florida under an assumed name! Why didn't he contact Mary Ellen? Well, he knew she wanted children and his injury had emasculated him! Curt, the guy who had fought guys with clubs, who'd braved the mercurial Mary Ellen, who ran out under gunfire to tend wounded men, felled by a downed dick—a mockery of a good character and an outstanding episode. "Be careful what you wish for," indeed.
So if you ask me if I'm unhappy Castle has been cancelled—actually I'm not. It reached its end for me in the season seven finale at the awards banquet, and this year was just Bizarro Castle, with everyone acting out of character, an alternate universe where nothing quite made sense anymore. The producers couldn't even bother to give the series a decent concluding scene; it was just a made-over quickie happy ending for what was supposed to be a cliffhanger ending leading into a Beckett-less season nine. (Some fans are still saying "the series was called Castle and could have gotten along without Beckett." But the story was never just about Richard Castle; it was how his respect and love for Beckett made him into a better man, how he'd found his soulmate.) Like a Curt who came back from the dead, the protagonists had turned into people I not only didn't recognize, but was starting to dislike. Frankly I wish Castle and Beckett had stepped out of a shower ala Bobby Ewing in Dallas and let us know the whole season was a dream. As far as I'm concerned, there was a banquet, Beckett made captain, and seven—no, eight—years later, as predicted in "Time Will Tell," Beckett's a senator and they have three kids of their own.
Farewell, guys. I wish you the best. It was a great ride while it lasted.
» Sunday, May 15, 2016Art in the Budget
I ought to call this one "weekend without James," because he was not home for about half of it. This was no fault of our own, and we did the shopping at Publix after dinner Friday night, so the bulk of the shopping was done and what time we did have together was maximized.
On Saturday we woke up after getting a full eight hours sleep, and after breakfast and some dog romping, James went off to his monthly club meeting. (He brought last year's Hallmark jet ornament, which was 72nd scale—"his" scale—and which he'd decorated in appropriate decals. Apparently it was a hit with the guys and he wants to do the same with this year's F-16.)
I am hoping to get back into both my art and my calligraphy, and have been assembling new supplies piecemeal with coupons. I already had the Sharpies I'd bagged at a Really Good Sale at Office Max and a few coloring books to whet some creative movement, and then had bought a set of fifty Crayola colored pencils with a coupon last weekend. Today I went to Hobby Lobby intending to get some sepia pens, but the only package they had had been opened, so I settled instead for watercolor pencils and a clever brush with a water reservoir. I have never had patience with watercolors and end up making my paintbox cakes all muddy, but I love Susan Branch's work and hope the watercolor pencils will give some inspiration. They have a nice paintbox if I want it, but not as good as the British one Mother bought me so long ago with all the fascinating paint names—wonderful names like "chrome yellow," "red ochre," "vermilion," "crimson lake," "burnt sienna," etc.! Got a good eraser, and two tiny cross stitch kits as well.
Had a $10 off $30 coupon for Petsmart, perfect for a 33 percent off bargain, so I made my way across the street to the next shopping center. Got two bags of Tucker's food and some puree to reach the $30 limit, said hi to the budgies, including the wide-eyed babies with stripes lined down their forehead, and met the cutest Boston terrier puppy (brown and white rather than the usual black!) named Champ.
I thought there was a 40 percent off coupon to Michael's, and since I was almost closer to Hiram than to any other Michael's location, I just went there. Turned out it was a 20 off all including sale items, so I just got a pencil sharpener, but finally found buy-one-get-one free frames for the two Sherlock prints I bought last year at 221B Con. They are an odd size, 11x17. Came home by Barnes & Noble, but no clearance goodies left except small games, and stopped at Dragon 168 to pick up lunch.
Lunch was great, but I had to roll my eyes at myself. I'd forgotten 11x17 frames are actually 10 1/2 x 16 1/2. The prints are exactly 11x17, so the frames were too small. Luckily, James was wanting frames, too, for some prints he received at Christmas, so, after he arrived home from the meeting, we went back out to Hiram, exchanged my frames for the right size, and James got some of his own. I also picked up some cheap brush pens. Figure they won't last long but I can practice with them. Then we had supper at the IHOP and saw an absolutely spectacular sunset on the way home.
I started one of the little kits tonight while watching Britcoms. I'd bought it because it reminded me of someone, so I wanted to work on it to send to that person. Much later, when my stitching hand got sore, I wandered into my craft room, intending to finally put the prints in the frames.Arrgh! One of the frames was broken! It was not broken at Michael's, so all I can figure is that on the way home (my frames were sitting between us in the truck) one of us messed it up while buckling seatbelts. The frame had split at one corner and the plastic was cracked in two places. I fixed the frame up with superglue to use anyway; they're worth $16 each and I can't afford to replace it. I'll have to live with the cracks. (The second print I left to frame until Sunday. That frame was fine. Disappointing.)
James was working at home on Sunday, so he set up the computer before bed and it worked fine. But this morning, as I was getting up after a rather sleepless night with one of those nagging dreams, he came in the room disgusted—now he couldn't get it to connect to his work network, so he had to go in. The stupid dreams had made me very foggy. (I can't explain these stupid dreams because I never remember them well when I wake up, but this one involved two items with very similar serial numbers that did two different things. I kept getting them confused and doing them the wrong way.) Anyway, I wanted to get to Kroger early and was delayed by a trip to the bathroom, so I skipped breakfast altogether. Yeah, I know, that didn't make the foggy any better. Picked up the milk and some pork for dinner tomorrow night and the usual burritos and a newspaper and two Flonases for James since they were on sale plus I had a coupon, too. It was a beautiful, cool morning—I even had to put on a flannel shirt to walk Tucker—so I just stuffed everything in an insulated bag and went on.
By this time it was 10 a.m. and Office Depot was open, so I stopped there for a flash drive to back up photographs, checked out the Goodwill next door (mostly clothes and junk), then went across the street to Michael's. Today was 30 percent off everything, no sale items. I picked up the bright metallic pens I saw yesterday, a children's drawing pad (for scribbling) because they were half off, and some fluorescent pencils (also half price). I think I have my art kit topped off now! And, I confess, I stopped at Best Buy to check out the phones (the Droid Turbo 2 is very pretty) and the Surface Pro 4. The paint feature is fabulous. You pick a tool, a texture, and use the pen, and it is pressure sensitive. I was oil-painting a picture of a red panda.
Came home and re-watched the season finale of Big Bang Theory (like Penny, I am tickled with the idea of Leonard's father and Sheldon's mother hooking up) and finally watched the season finale of Sleepy Hollow. Bit of an anticlimax; Abbie got axed less than halfway through (the takedown of the Hidden One was pretty blah), then we got a "great beyond" sequence right out of the series finale of Quantum Leap, the Headless Horseman was resurrected just to kill off Pandora, and now Ichabod is being pursued by government types because George Washington set up a super-secret paranormal defense organization way back when. Hmmm. Well, I'll keep watching because Tom Mison is very, very cute. But I wonder which way they are going now. The show was really about the chemistry between Ichabod and Abbie.
Finished the cross stitch kit this afternoon, as well as a project for a gift and tidied up my craft room yet again—there are so many things in there I just have room for nowhere else, like a shape cutter for scrapbooking, and a gift someone sent me that I want to use, but we don't eat that kind of food anymore, and I wish I could put them anywhere else!—and got the new pens all corralled.
When James got home we had the leftover chicken stirfry for supper and watched the last three Hawaii Five-0 episodes of the season. The Steve and Danny bromance reached its peak when Steve got shot and Danny donated him part of his liver. I'm wondering of they ended up with this episode because they didn't know if the series would be renewed or not. At least Gabriel Waincroft is dead! Now I just have to catch up on Elementary.
Wonder if Alaska: the Last Frontier is coming back. Usually it has started up again by the time the network series are having their finales.
And finally the penultimate Call the Midwife of this season. I know the spoiler, so I am doubly sad the season is coming to an end.
» Sunday, May 08, 2016The Best Gift: Sleeping Late
So did we learn anything from last weekend? No. Up till almost three, but that was because I was trying to finish Harvest of Time, a corker of a Third Doctor-and-Jo story that featured the Master and sinister invading crab-like creatures. I didn't finish it until around noon today, though. Therefore, my biggest wish on Mother's Day was sleeping late.
And, oh, goodness, was that sun bright when we got up! Another warm day, with the saving grace a nice breeze that kept it from being terrible in the sun and made it comfortable in the shade.
After a regular morning's breakfast and the walking of one of my "fids," we ran out to do errands. James' sinus infection was really bugging him, and I needed to get gasoline anyway, as Twilight's low gas warning was very persistent, so we took the car and stopped at Costco to fill up. Then I wanted to stop at Barnes & Noble just to check the clearance tables and we hit the jackpot: found two very nice gifts to put away. James and I both got containers for the drawing and colored pencils we bought as well.
We stopped briefly at Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up two things (a new one-cup measuring cup, the old one having been dashed to bits falling off the counter, and one of those Vegetti things which James is hoping will be useful in making stir fry) using the two coupons we had, then I picked up a lunch at Tin Drum and we went on to CVS with a 30 percent off coupon to get James some Flonase. Finally we stopped at Kroger to pick up milk, yogurt, burritos and sandwich bread, along with a couple of other things on sale.
I split my Tin Drum order to share with James, but the infection has everything tasting bad to him, so he had a little bowl of soup instead and I put his portion away for a lunch for me. Then got things ready for work: sorted my pills for the week, put out my clothes, packed my wallet back into my work bag, put out a hair towel, then made the bed.
I spent the end of the afternoon with my nose stuck in the MASH FAQ, which starts with a pocket history of the Korean War and then a history of the novel. By the end of the night I was just getting to the television series. Many typos (but, amusingly, there is a comma correction inserted directly in the margin of one page!), but lots of revelations, like how Robert Altman livened up Ring Lardner's movie script, how Richard Hornberger (the real name of the novel's author, Richard Hooker) hated the television series, etc.
In the meantime had Wild Wild West on on Heroes & Icons, followed by the news, AFV, Call the Midwife, and then back to Heroes & Icons for Hill Street Blues, and ate the Sprouts chicken soup with its thick noodles, big chunks of chicken, and bright carrots for supper.
Sigh. Took Tucker out for his night walk and there are lurking mosquitoes already. Have I mentioned today how much I hate summer?
» Saturday, May 07, 2016The Meat of the Matter
Why is that alarm going off at eight on a Saturday morning? Because we had to be somewhere by nine.
The Butlers and the Boroses are always talking about this small meat market in Austell called Patak's. It's open during the week, but also one Saturday a month, the first weekend. We decided to finally go check it out this morning after a quick breakfast and a dog walk.
Next time we'll be there by 8:30...there was a line outside the small building and parking was at a premium; James almost had to park in the street then noticed a handicapped space was available. It took us about 45 minutes just to get inside; people were coming out with big, big bags full of all sorts of meat, and it's said people drive two and three hours to shop here once a month.
Inside, two walls are lined with meat cases, and there's a big freezer on the right as you walk in with pierogies, liver sausage, and other items. To the left are shelves with different ethnic foods. They even had flavored vinegars which I want to try next time, and lemon butter; lots of interesting things, plus big loaves of bread (ones I couldn't finish before they went stale). Once you get to the counter, one attendant serves you through the whole process. We bought a pound each of ground pork, mild Italian sausage, pork schnitzel, and thin-cut round steak; also a half pound of gypsy ham and a half pound of mortadella. The freezer is full, so we passed on the huge chicken drumsticks. They also had lots of different types of sausages and salamis and some of the fattest hot dogs I've ever seen. Made it out at less than $30.
Then we shoved it all into the insulated shopping bag and headed to Titan Comics for Free Comic Book Day. I couldn't look around much because of the lines through the store—graphic novels were 25 percent off and something else was half off, and unless there's more Elfquest out or they've done another adaptation of Bryant & May, I'm not much into graphic novels anyway and I don't game. I did get what I wanted: the Doctor Who comic, the comic book in which there was a new Owly story, and the Serenity comic.
We took the meat home and each had a sandwich of our respective cold cuts (nice mortadella). Tucker's eyes got really big when I brought the bags in the house; I couldn't blame him as I could smell the mortadella outside the bag. It made a nice sandwich in the baguette I got from Publix.
We went out to the Forum this afternoon, intending to stop at the Barnes & Noble (James still has a coupon left) and then go to Trader Joe's. The weather was 51°F and beautifully cool this morning, but by the time we left Patak's it was already hot and had crept up to 80 by the end of the afternoon. Some people are energized by the sun; for me it's like the sun takes a great big straw, sticks it in my neck, and sucks all my energy away through my spine. By the time we'd gone through the clearance items and I'd picked up A Front Page Affair (pre WWI mystery), "Just Cross Stitch" and a coloring magazine, and James had picked up a bunch of modeling magazines and "Cook's Illustrated," I was wiped out. We headed for Trader Joe's, but I couldn't bear the thought of standing out in the sun cranking the power chair down again and then back up again when we came out.
So, since it was 3:30, we just went on to supper at Williamson Barbecue. I'd been jonesing for riblets. They were good (lots of cartilage, which I love to crunch), but they always recall better than they taste. These were a bit overdone, too. James just had the appetizer sampler platter and took 2/3 of it home (it's a big "appetizer"). He went to the doctor on Wednesday and then Thursday, and it turns out he has two infections, including a nasty sinus infection that is making it hard for him to taste anything. What he does taste tastes mostly "off." Hopefully the antibiotic will kick in soon.
We got home way in time before the Kentucky Derby to see them run a turf race on an inner track at Churchill Downs. I didn't even know we did turf races here; I thought that was solely a British thing. Two horses fell in the turf race, but neither they nor the jockeys seemed to be seriously injured. The Derby favorite, Nyquist—people keep making cold medicine jokes—won by a length, the jockey keeping him up front for most of the race, but reined in, and then putting on the "gas" after the final turn.
Spent the evening with Father Brown and Rosemary & Thyme (I confess I napped through most of the latter) and Britcoms, did two other dog walks, and finally put TuneIn radio on. I've been itching all night, probably from being in the sun. Stupid thing.
» Friday, May 06, 2016Coupon-O-Rama
I had a nice tidy pile of coupons this morning and a route worked out in my head. I walked the dog, but didn't bother to eat breakfast, figuring I would have lunch in an hour or two. Well, that was the plan, anyway. In the end I had a very successful day, having found several clearance sales that added several items to my gift stash (items, of course, that will not be mentioned here).
I worked through the first two stores pretty quickly. I had JoAnn coupons and bought some new drawing pens. At Michaels I bought calligraphy pens in different colors. Then I cut under the freeway to check out the Hallmark store near Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately they didn't have the sign I had seen at the Dallas Highway store, but I found a Marjolean Bastian coloring book on sale. It flipped opened for me and I was sold by the chickadees on the bird feeder. :-)
I stopped at Publix to get the few twofers for this week, some cranberry juice for James, and a baguette to stop the "rumblies in my tumblies" until I could get on to lunch. From there I stopped at Barnes & Noble to use the rest of my coupons. I got the newest Sarah Brandt mystery in paperback, as well as the newest Molly Murphy, and also found a new Elementary novel! Found some goodies on the remainder table, including one about fonts.
By now I was ready for lunch and thought I'd drop in on the Tin Drum across the street. Surprise! it's gone! Must have been the competition from the noodle place. I toyed with going down to Akers Mill on the way home and decided I didn't want to go that far out of my way and jockey with the traffic.
It was on my route, however, so I did go back to the Hallmark on Dallas Highway and got the cute sign I liked so much last weekend, using some Gold Crown rewards coupons: "Because it makes me happy. Next question." I want to mount it over the library door. :-)
Came home, put up the soup I'd bought at Publix, then gave Tucker a nice walk around the neighborhood. It's been so nice today that it makes me want to weep that it's going to be in the 80s by Sunday: mid-sixties with a delightful breeze. I let Tucker out on the deck and he stayed out happily all afternoon.
Put things up and watched all but the last episode of Sleepy Hollow. Really was bummed by the news that they killed Abbie off. I'm sorry to hear that Nicole Beharie felt she was being marginalized by the storyline in season two. I thought they just had to take the Katrina and Henry storylines to their logical conclusions, thought I do admit Katrina got to be a nuisance after a while. She was a powerful enough witch that she managed to keep Ichabod in "suspended animation" for over two hundred years, but she always needed bailing out. Apparently that's why they introduced all the new characters this year, because Nicole was planning to leave. I was never an "Ichabbie" shipper; I liked the fact that they were close friends rather than doing the love thing (it was lucky it worked out for Castle, at least until this lousy season). But they did have great chemistry together. If the show goes on, how will they replace that?
James arrived home after cooling his heels at Kaiser for a half hour waiting on prescriptions and we just had our chicken and wild rice soup (Publix's chicken and wild rice is so thick I had to thin it out with chicken broth; it's practically a stew) for supper and watched television (the "Made In America" segment of Aerial America and Hill Street Blues on the Heroes & Icons channel).
» Sunday, May 01, 2016Kid in a
Up late last night reading while James worked on John Campbell's Flying Wing downstairs (watching "The Antimatter Man" on Lost in Space and a black-and-white–read: decent–episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), so was dismayed when I awoke at eight and then couldn't go back to sleep. I just lay in bed, eyes closed and mind working, then James stirred. Aha, he couldn't sleep, either. So I asked drowsily, "What time is it?"
10:45? Nope, couldn't go back to sleep, could I? Heh.
So, the usual: dress, dog walk, breakfast.
Then the good stuff: we were off to Buckhead. Had a nice ride through Paces Ferry Road, which is mostly residential and borderline posh, except for one shopping center near the old steel bridge, and lined with big, old trees until you get to the turn at the very end, when it turns back into commercial blah. Apparently they had some hard rain and wind through here last night as West Paces Ferry was smeared with leaves and had the occasional branch scattered at the side of the road.
We decided to go to Binder's first. Now, neither of us has been to Binder's since it was in the no-longer-existent Lindbergh Plaza (now a yuppified residential/business glom boxy with high rises). We followed the GPS directions and it turns out it is now right next door to what we used to call "the disco Kroger" (because there used to be a disco in the shopping center, natch). You actually enter at the Kroger level and have to take the stairs or the elevator down to the store proper.
I'd forgotten how much I love wandering around art supply stores and flitted in and out of the aisles happily looking at all the goodies. They had handmade paper in the most gorgeous colors—peacock and pale blues alternating in wavy stripes, vivid purples deep enough to drown in, shades of green to rival the leaves on the trees, fire reds and oranges, even luscious pinks (and I hate pink!)—and paper mache animals, gorgeous frames which were just what I needed but too expensive, rows of calligraphy pens and India ink (which is really Chinese) and even a bottle of walnut ink, one row full of colored pencils alone (Prismacolor mostly, but other brands as well) with the opposite side lined with differently colored markers, plus hundreds of paintbrushes, stands of canvas, scratchboard, highlighters, paint, Modge Podge, paper for decoupage...it was delightful.
Barnes & Noble was less magical, but I did get a "This England" out of it, plus I bought a sketch pad with the coupon I had. James bought a trio of magazines, and we had a nice look around.
Neither of us had eaten lunch, so we decided we were adults and could have dessert before dinner. We drove home past the stately homes of Buckhead, past electrical trucks working on a power pole that had lost its crosspiece, and up Cobb Parkway via Bruster's ice cream and each had a small cone, watching the steely black-grey thunderclouds boiling up from the north. Bruster's was crowded and the street noisy, but you could still hear the low growl of thunder over the usual street racket. So made tracks home after a stop for a Sunday paper, but got caught in about ten minutes of Georgia Monsoon Season. We'd covered the power chair and it stopped before we got home, so no problem.
This afternoon we watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Unfortunately we had to watch without benefit of surround sound, as our wheezy old receiver (it's about 20 years old and hasn't worked properly since we moved into this house; the volume numbers go backwards to zero when you increase the volume instead of the proper way, and for the past year the display numbers don't show up for the first five minutes the unit is on—plus any time there's a loud sound in the movie, like a boom or a crescendo in music, it shuts off) quit working during the first scene when the music swelled. I put the TV on "movie sound" and it was adequate. Looked great, though, and got to pause during Rey's flashbacks. I notice they play "Luke's Theme" every time she has a revelation; is that a clue to her identity?
We had Asian chicken salad tonight for supper with a chaser of Call the Midwife and an episode of Hill Street Blues showing on the newly acquired "Heroes and Icons" channel. This was a seventh season episode and you could tell the show was losing steam; what was crackling and fresh when it premiered looked tired by the time this episode aired. Amused by seeing Peter Jurasik (Londo Mollari on Babylon 5) in his recurring role of "Sid the snitch" opposite Dennis Franz as Lt. Norman Buntz. Noticed a familiar name in the credits: Cuba Gooding Jr as "2nd gang member." It was his third credited role.