household fixes

When we had the ceiling fan installed in my office I asked our handyman to check our doorbell. Since we had arrived here it gave out one lonely ding, not even a dong. In preparation for his arrival I did some investigation, and pressed and held the doorbell. Turns out that it was supposed to play the full Westminster chime, just like the doorbell I installed in Gilroy. Our handyman discovered that the doorbell was loosely wired and missing the required diode to play the full chime. He happened to have a doorbell on his truck with said required diode. Now the bell rings properly. And now it’s lighted to boot.

cordedswitchThen there are the lights in my office. I wanted the two floor lamps to run off the wall switch, but I couldn’t find which plug in my office the wall switch supported. As far as I could tell, the switch didn’t operate any of the plugs. So when we moved in I plugged the floor lamps into a plug attached to a switch via a long cord. That plug went into a power strip. I have made great use of these things on my various 900 mhz audio transmitters.

Our handyman pointed out which outlet supported the wall switch. It was the one that was upside down, just like at our house in Gilroy. Duh. I guess I had only tested the bottom plug, but it was the top plug that the wall switch supported. So now both floor lamps are operated from the wall switch. Much better.

All good stuff, even if I feel silly more than a year after moving in for not having figured out the plug thing in the first place.

Food Network Star

I know, I have complained a lot about all the reality and competition shows on Food Network. But really, over the weekend I can DVR plenty of actual cooking shows to get me through the week. And then, I did admit here to enjoying Cooks vs. Cons, hosted by the dapper Geoffrey Zakarian.

FoodNetworkStarNow Terry and I are getting hooked on the twelfth season of Food Network Star. It doesn’t hurt that the hosts are the likeable Bobby Flay and the alluring Giada De Laurentiis. Nor does it hurt that they bring on other Food Network hosts as guest judges. Yes, it’s slick and highly polished. I suspect that parts of it must be scripted. But I find myself caring about the contestants. There are the ones I like and am rooting for and there are those that I find annoying wish would get booted off the show. And when they’re not, I have to admit that while annoying they seem to be a very good cook.

It’s a guilty pleasure, but a mostly harmless one.

Writers in America

WritersinAmericaWriters in America: The Four Seasons of Success
Budd Schulberg
Publisher: Open Road Media (July 31, 2012), 224 pages
Amazon Kindle edition $7.99
Purchased during an Early Bird Books sale for $1.99

Writers in America was an enjoyable diversion. This is not an academic discussion. Rather Schulberg describes his personal encounters with some of the country’s major twentieth-century authors. Schulberg was the son of a Hollywood studio mogul and as such had an in into that world.

The first essay describes his encounter with Sinclair Lewis. Schulberg was a college student at a time and Lewis was reaching the end of his career. He was warned that Lewis had a hoard of assistants to keep fans away, but he went to the Lewis home anyway, not far from his Dartmouth campus. Lewis was home alone. No assistants, and his wife was away on a lecture tour. They sat together, talked and drank.

Schulberg met F. Scott Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald was brought in to fix a movie script Schulberg was working on. The two got into a lot of trouble together and the eventual movie was universally declared to be awful. Then there was his friendship with William Saroyan and Saroyan’s addiction to betting at the race track. He describes a one-time meeting with Thomas Heggen, author of the original Mister Roberts novel and his struggle with success. Sadly Heggen committed suicide shortly thereafter.

Schulberg writes from a unique perspective, and despite (or perhaps because of) his being a Hollywood studio brat, his description of these encounters makes for a great read.

an unexpected departure

From the first Sunday Eucharist I attended at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd here in Hemet over a year ago, I felt welcome and comfortable. That was due in large part to the rector, Pastor Kathleen. She was very cordial and made me feel at ease in the church. Though I have to say I’ve reached the point where I would feel comfortable walking into just about any Episcopal church.

GoodShepherdHemetKathleen is amazing at becoming familiar with people’s strengths and interests and turning those into volunteer opportunities for the church. She very quickly had me writing a couple of articles for the church newsletter. Her energy is unbelievable. I can’t believe how much she accomplishes in the course of a week. Then there are her sermons, which are down-to-earth, practical, and hit close to home.

So what came in the mail last week was completely unexpected. When I saw the envelope from Good Shepherd I didn’t open it right away as I assumed it was simply a giving statement or some such thing and I was busy with other things. When I did open it I discovered a letter from Pastor Kathleen saying that she was retiring and that her last Sunday would be 11 September.

Good Shepherd will be fine. It is a strong, healthy church that has changed rectors before. But I will greatly miss Kathleen and all of her unique qualities.

Sacred Music Friday: Look at the World

John Rutter, Look at the World, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, February 17, 2008, The Mark Thallander Foundation Choir Festival

making berries last

You no doubt know that Terry and I are big fans of The Kitchen on the Food Network. On a recent episode they described how to make your fresh berries last longer.

TheKitchenlogo It works like this. Use one part white vinegar to three parts water. Put your berries in a colander and pour the vinegar over them. Then pour the water over them. Toss the berries with your hands to ensure equal coverage. Rinse them with water under the tap and then let them dry out on something flat such as a cookie sheet. Once dried, refrigerate them in a glass, not plastic, container.

We tried this with a large container of blueberries we bought. They lasted a good ten days. We used the whole batch without any of them going bad. Likewise, our current containers of raspberries and blackberries are holding up nicely.

Thought I’d pass this along.

our amazing child

I wrote at the beginning of May that our beagle-border terrier mix Tasha had Tasha2016turned twelve on 1 May. That was based on a reasonably logical calculation that you can read about here.

Last week Terry took Tasha in for her annual checkup. The vet was amazed that Tasha was twelve. Terry said that she had to look twice at her chart to confirm that. Tasha had gained a pound and-a-half since a year ago, but as the vet felt her she was impressed that it was all muscle. She only has one small spot of fat.GreatRoom Tasha does get a lot of exercise in our one-story house. She got plenty of exercise in our two-story house in Gilroy, but being in a single story house here, she can build up an amazing head of steam as she tears through the great room. And blast through the great room she does.

We’re so delighted to have such a healthy, active, loving child.

Classical Mythology

ClassicalMythologyClassical Mythology
Elizabeth Vandiver, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $34.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back – the sale price will come around again

Perhaps being back in Southern California has enhanced my longing for my Pitzer College days as a classics major. In any case, this is the second course in a  row that I have listened to about the ancient Mediterranean world. Right before this I listened to a course on the Etruscans.

Classical Mythology was a subject I studied a lot in college, both in my Classical Mythology class as well as other classes. I read both Ovid and Vergil in the original Latin. Certainly much of the material here was familiar, but I was reminded of things I have forgotten and got some new perspectives as well.

Professor Vandiver describes how many stories in Greek mythology suggest that it is unfortunate that a man needs a woman to produce a son. She says that is reflective of the perception of men in classical Athenian society. While my studies taught me that men in that society preferred each other’s company to that of women, it was never taken to the extreme that women were an unfortunate necessity. In fact, my gay friends did push that perspective when they learned I was a classics major, and it seems that their view was more accurate than I believed at the time. I knew women were marginalized in classical Athens, but Vandiver emphasizes this much more than my professors in Claremont ever did. But then they were all men, and Vandiver takes a distinctly feminist perspective. And of course when I was in college in the early 1970’s it was just the beginning of the modern feminist movement.

In the final lecture Vandiver describes science fiction as our own mythology. She says the difference is that science fiction looks to the future while Greek and Roman mythology looks to the past. Aside from that, however, she sees many striking similarities.

Vandiver is a great lecturer, and these sessions are engaging. I also watched her course on Hesiod on DVD, which I very much enjoyed. This course works very well on audio. If this is a subject that is of interest to you, I recommend it the next time it comes around on sale.

ceiling fans

I have loved ceiling fans for more than thirty years. Ruth and I had ceiling fans in our house in Oklahoma City (Moore America, actually – about fifteen minutes south of the southern border of OKC).

ceilingfanWhen we moved to the Bay Area, our first couple of residences were apartments, and we couldn’t do much on the ceiling fan front. But when we rented a house we installed at least two ceiling fans, maybe more. After Ruth’s untimely death I installed a ceiling fan in the Los Gatos cottage I rented for a year. When I moved to Mountain View there was a ceiling fan in the dining area of my apartment, which I loved.

After Terry moved up to the Bay Area with me and we found a house to rent, we installed ceiling fans there. When we bought our house in Gilroy it came with a ceiling fan in the dining area, but we installed three more.

When we sadly had to leave our Gilroy home with its marvelous remodeled kitchen and arrived here there was a ceiling fan in the great room. We quickly added a ceiling fan in the bedroom, which was easy because there was already a light fixture there.

Several months later Terry got a ceiling fan in her office, which was a priority because she has an outside wall facing west, which generates a lot of heat in the afternoon. I put off getting a ceiling fan in my own office as we weren’t producing any income and the office was generally comfortable as it was. But after my first paying gig I decided to indulge. After all, the idea is to get more paying gigs, and if I have a pleasant, comfortable office environment, that makes the process easier. So I indulged.

I love it. There is something relaxing and soothing about a ceiling fan. It was money well spent.

Sacred Music Friday: In Christ Alone

In Christ Alone