Two Photos Today

Sometimes I’m surprised by how little I notice of my surroundings. I think part of it is age/experience, as my weary body feels like I’ve seen it all. Or maybe I got tired of being called Sherlock Holmes all the time.

But today was different. Maybe it was the weather, as it was a relatively balmy 85 degrees compared to the high 90s of the past couple of months. On the way to the physical therapist I saw this:

Have no idea who she is, but looks cute in a fairy with horns kinda way. When I left a couple of hours later to visit my mom at the nursing home, she was still there. (And I was totally shocked that my mother got into learning basic Italian with me.)

Then, leaving the grocery store to grab lunch at my second favorite Mexican place, I caught this at a nearby bus stop:

When your favorite actress gets top (or only) billing, as a fan you should share it with the world. (And yes, I’m sure there are ads with the names of the other actors, but I got the one with my favorite, so it counts.)


So. . . What A Lovely Weekend It Turned Out To Be

Here’s hoping you had more fun.

1:00 P.M.
About a week ago I got a notice popping up on my computer that Window/Microsoft/whatever needed to make a download that would take a while, so did I want to do it then, or hit the snooze? (Yes, it had a snooze button.) Since I was in the middle of a hot writing session, I postponed, but when I was ready I looked for the program that had popped up—assuming it was right there on the task bar, or maybe in settings—but couldn’t find it. Oh well, no big deal, I figured, I’ll do it myself.
But that rebooting didn’t do it after all, as today at around one o’clock it popped up again. This time I set it to do its job at 2, but I finished quicker than expected and this time the settings program stayed open, so I clicked on “Start now.”
They weren’t kidding when they said it was a big one. I have pretty fast internet and at the very least ok computer RAM, but that sucker took FOUR HOURS!
5:30 P.M.
Finally done, I tried to get back to work. . . except my writing program wouldn’t open, or at least it opened a little and then asked me to log in, only to report an error. It told me to fix it by going to my Office program, except it deleted it instead. So on to downloading it again, only that didn’t fix the problem. So, not able to do any writing, which is at least half my work, and the other half—working on photos—wasn’t available because at the moment I had no photos to work on, I read a lot, even more than usual, and watched two hours of Katherine Heigl on TV before going to bed early. . . on a Saturday night.

11:30 A.M.
Things got off to a late start, so I wasn’t able to get onto Microsoft’s chat help until 11:30. Wasn’t sure if this was a smart thing to do, as I had to shower and get ready to go to the monthly Sisters in Crime meeting soon. But I did it anyway. First I got Rajesh—I remember because it’s the same name as the guy on Big Bang Theory—who did his best to get Word up and running, only to fail after about an hour.
1:00 P.M.
Once he ran out of options I was transferred to main support, in the body of a pleasant young lady named Adrianne. She told me there’d been a number of people with such trouble after the big download yesterday, and knew just how to fix it. By now I figured I’d be arriving late for the meeting, and possibly with only a whore’s bath instead of a shower. . .
2:00 P.M.
Not exactly a plot twist, is it? Not when you’re expecting it. That solution didn’t work, and she went away for a while to try to figure something out. When she came back a few minutes later, it was to completely remove Windows 10 and then redownload it. As you can guess, there was no Sisters in Crime meeting for me today; was gonna go to In-N-Out, too.
4:45 P.M.
By the time the download finished I’d lost touch with Adrianne, who probably went off to help other people. Luckily when I tried Word it worked. Relief is too small a word. The best I can say is that it was a cooler day than most in the past month, so not too bad spending it in the apartment. On the other hand, would have been a great day to go out, since tomorrow it’s supposed to be hot again and I have to go to physical therapy. . .


Make Someone Happy

Yesterday, in the middle of a hot muggy afternoon of running around Los Angeles—first bout of physical therapy, visiting my mother at the nursing home, groceries, etc.—I had to go to Union Station to reload my bus pass. There were three people ahead of me in line. One of them left, as though they’d waited long enough and had to catch a train or something. The guy right in front of me asked something of the woman before him, but when she couldn’t answer he turned to me, inquiring as to where he might buy an Amtrak ticket to Oceanside. Simple enough to give him directions, and he looked a lot less stressed out as he headed off.
A couple of minutes later I arrived at the empty middle window, where through the security glass I could see the lady sitting there, looking a bit harried and in need of a break. Starting out businesslike, I placed my TAP card and credit card in the tiny slot while asking for $50 of stored credit. After taking them and placing them on their spots, she turned back to ask me for ID. . . which I was already holding up with a smile as well as my hand. “I’ve done this before,” I chuckled, making her laugh and say, “I love it when everyone’s prepared!”
By the time I left she was sporting a huge smile and thanked me with a brighter tone than I expected. That made me smile too as I made my way up the escalator and out into the bus bay. . . until I felt the humidity trying to suffocate me like a boa constrictor.


Book Reviews: Foxes, Dogwoods, Spitfires, and Heartstrings

This is the second book I’ve read about the female grad student who went from Montana to Northwestern and supposedly solves crimes, but to my surprise there was another book in between the one I read and this one. Oh well, on to part three.
In this one Jessica wakes up freezing behind a dumpster, thinking she was raped. . . but that plot would be too easy, of course it’s something much more sinister. But all I could think of was here we go again! How many times was she roofied or drunk in the first book? Right at the start it’s happened again, and it’s not the only time it happens in this story. Everyone in this story, especially Jessie but even Lolita, the usually badass Russian superheroine, should be dead from stupidity a long time ago. Especially strange for a protagonist to be the victim over and over and over. At some point there has to be growth, learning. Or perhaps the author wanted to show philosophy students don’t have a grasp on the real world. For me, these issues with the main character, as well as others, overshadows the story, and particularly the issues raised, which would be important if the high-tech stuff going on is actually a reality now.
Just like in the first, the Russian subplot slowed the whole story. And I can’t help but wonder if I missed something early on where it was stated, but is Jack British? He talks like it.
There’s a line where Jessie is called the dumbest smart person ever, and it is right on the money. This book was better than the first, but I still don’t like Jessie, which is saying a lot, because she should be very likeable. And why is she listed as a detective? In the two books I’ve read, she’s never solved anything.

Dogwood Sprocket
A woman in the 23rd century has a quick visit from a time traveler. When he comes back she’s sucked into the vortex and goes back with him to 1887 Saint Louis, though a steampunk version that’s not the exact past of her world.
So, I don’t often get to write “Time travel romance with a steampunk twist.” Despite being a bit of a pushover, I liked Grace, the main character. Her best moment was likely being starstruck at meeting H.G. Wells, though you could see that twist coming. Most of all, I’m pleased the author didn’t feel then need to expand this, it’s completely Goldilocks at this length. The “horse” race was completely unnecessary but quite enjoyable. I do wish I could picture the hummingbird, though. But did I miss something or does the title not relate at all?

Suzy Spitfire
From the “trendy metropolis of Diego Tijuana” to outer space, Suzy tries to stay one step ahead of the corrupt “good guys,” the leader of which wants to either hire her or kill her, depending on his mood. Everyone is looking for the AI her father invented and stashed before being killed by the guy just mentioned.
Suzy’s an incredibly intriguing character, someone who would have been the happy person in any story had it not been for a family trauma that forced her to kill someone, which is the other reason everyone’s out to get her. Instead she’s one of those hotheaded idiots who can’t control her rage. Other than that she’s a fascinating young lady with an overabundance of snark, and plenty of guys after her even when they find out she’s on the run.
The most interesting character might be the by-the-book second in command who knows better than to trust his boss. But the best moment had to be Ricardo’s fakeout to save his ship from the not-so-infamous Captain Crush. Saw it coming, but still well done.
So, all in all an enjoyable romp through the solar system. The plot isn’t all that important, just a McGuffin getting her from one situation to the next. The fun is in the journey.

Classical Murder
A famous opera diva is killed and her tenor boyfriend suspected. The Opera journalist who is the protagonist sat next to her when she was incognito at a show the night she was killed and is now investigating at the behest of the suspect.
The action—though that’s not really the word for what happens—moves from London to France often, sometimes with her supposed boyfriend but not always. I like the witty repartee between the two leads, as well as some of the main characters. . . but despite—or maybe because—of that, some voices sound alike. Her boyfriend and her boss, for instance. And so many characters! Especially the French ladies; I had to go back to remember who Sophie was. On the other side of it, so many guys are fighting for Imogen’s attention—a little bit of Mary Sue there, I think—but she’s always jealous of the French girls. But the worst part is there’s a lot—and I mean a LOT—of description about what she chooses to wear, every single time she gets dressed. It didn’t take long for me to learn to skip those paragraphs. There’s also one point where she’s looking through the newspaper in what is leading up to a big reveal, only it was so obvious who it was going to be.
For the record, no one solved the crime; she stumbled into it as stupidly as possible by almost becoming the next victim.

Strings: a Love Story
A long-lost Stradivarius reappears after being missing for centuries, but rather than the story of how that happened it is merely a frame for the history of the violin examiner, all the way back to private school. This is where he first me the “one,” the girl he was destined to be with, but due to decades of misunderstandings and meddlesome parents, it was not happily ever after. His life and other loves are told, mostly his long career as a soloist, with occasional run-ins and a lot of thoughts of her.
I did not expect this story to sustain itself for an entire book, but it was surprisingly riveting; had this been a movie there would have been a lot of yelling at the screen, soundtracked by tears. The most unexpected thing was how nicely it all wrapped up. The violin’s history, despite it being fiction, is exactly the kind of thing I like to read in these sorts of books. And for once I felt like the couple deserved their ending.


History of Hugs

My parents never hugged me; they weren’t that kind of people. I didn’t think much of it; that was the normal for me.
When I was about 12 I went to visit relatives, and my slightly older female cousins hugged me. Since at that point I thought of hugs as something people do for romance—how much did I know about sex at that time?—I was quite shocked. But soon that became the new normal, at least for relatives other than my parents.
When I was in college I went on a field archaeology thing where we spent 3 months in Mexico. I made friends with a girl who was working at the local tourism office, and we hit it off so well we were instant BFFs. Most people thought we got romantic, but no, it wasn’t like that at all. At the end of the three months she came to visit me at the hotel as I was packing to leave, and that got real emotional, leading to—you guessed it—a hug. But then things really got strange. Here was Patty, who was curvy, and here I was, a horny just-past-teen boy, yet I never felt her body against me. Instead there was this warmth spreading through me, and when I closed my eyes I saw a yellow aura surrounding where she was standing.
Since then I’ve seen that aura and felt the warmth less than a dozen times in my life; every other time I felt the body.
Over the years I’ve become friends with many independent musicians, most of them who love to hug, even the first time they meet you. I’m thinking in particular about Marina V and Christiane Kinney, but there’s plenty others. One time Libbie Schrader hugged me from behind and I almost tossed her over my shoulder because my instincts thought I was being attacked; she never hugged me again.
Another hugging epiphany happened with Christiane’s husband Sean, since I’d never been hugged by a dude before. I must have looked surprised because Christiane went into heavy laughter, but after that it became normal too.
As I just mentioned, some people like Chris and Marina love to hug everyone. One of my favorite actresses, Daniela Ruah, hugged me when we first met, as did one of my favorite musicians, Lindsey Stirling. Another actress, Missy Peregrym, gave me a side half-hug, but that was because we were posing for a photo together. I suppose it depends on how you grew up, how your parents did it.
Which leads me full circle, as for some reason my mom hugged me today. And of course it felt weird more than anything else. . .

Could Be Worse, Could Be Better

So last night the microwave conked out.
This morning, really early, a tube behind the toilet burst, so that you don’t have to get into the tub to take a shower.
And for the last few days I’ve had a thumbnail going the wrong way, only to wake with a bump of red and white above the nail.
Gonna be one of those days, huh?
Luckily the apartment handyman turned up early, though it did take a while for the bathroom floor to dry enough for him to replace the tube. Then it turned out the microwave wasn’t to blame, it was the electrical outlet. That got fixed quickly too.
So feeling good about that, I walked for 45 minutes to CVS, only to find a long line at the Minute Clinic, and over two hours of waiting because of the doctor’s lunch break. Should have followed my instincts and taken the bus to Pasadena Community, but eventually did get out there—the JPL bus takes a long detour through the charming old-fashioned downtown of Sierra Madre, then another long walk—and in less than 15 minutes after arriving I’m in a room waiting for a doctor. I won’t tell you about how she sliced my thumb open to remove the bad fluids—mostly because I didn’t watch—but it hurt a lot less than I expected, and then I caught a bus right in front of the clinic that left me two blocks from home. And wow did this clinic look clean and modern, even having free coffee and a futuristic vending machine that had red vines!
So now I’m at the desk hoping the roof doesn’t leak, but feeling a lot better than I did that morning, when I was drenched from having to reach into the spray to shut off the valve. Sure, it’s basically first world problems, but when they come in bunches. . .