Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

While I was engrossed in the intensive four-day D-65 Workshop this weekend, my husband was off to Phoenix to be a guest of honor at a relatively new comicbook convention. The Arizona Republic did a nice interview with him which can be read at

I met Len when I flew out to California to photograph Harlan Ellison back in 1989. Like many relationship beginnings (I know this from watching "Stranger Than Fiction" last week), there was some friction at the beginning (due to something Harlan Ellison said at his usual stage whisper), but it is hard to resist someone with a great sense of humor. As Jessica Rabbit said when asked what she saw in Roger, "he makes me laugh."

I want to recommend "Stranger Than Fiction." I'm not a fan of Will Ferrell, but he's terrific in this film with the always wonderful Emma Thompson. When Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer of D-65 described their first meeting and dislike at first sight, I kept thinking that they needed to see "Stranger Than Fiction." So if either Jamie or Seth, who are now married, happen to be reading this, do go see the movie. You will definitely get it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Farewell to Barbaro

Like many people addicted to horses, I've been following Barbaro's valient fight to live, which ended yesterday. I am heart broken over his death.

I'm not particularly fond of Thoroughbreds or their breeding. They should allow some more Arabian blood into the breed to add some substance and to make up for the fact that every single one of them can be traced back to just three stallions--all of them Arabians, mind you. Not a great deal of diversity in that 300 year old gene pool. They are terribly in-bred, which leads to all kinds of problems. Not, mind you, that that had much to do with the terrible miss-step at high speed that Barbaro took in May.

He was magnificient in the Kentucky Derby and I was convinced he'd take all three races. He clearly tried to save himself (and bless the jockey who immediately realized something was wrong) by getting off that leg.

Knowing that racehorses are often euthanized for less damage than the shattered leg, I was amazed that the owners took the steps they did to save his life. I really admire them for doing it.

I checked in on the website that had been set up at the hospital in Pennsylvania to see how he was doing on a regular basis. There were ups and downs, but yesterday morning I heard a report on NPR which did not bode well: the surgeons had to do more work over the weekend.

In retrospect, the report was on the air about the same time that Barbaro was put to sleep, but I didn't learn that until about 10 hours later as I drove home from Hollywood. I felt like I'd been suckerpunched and started crying. I cried pretty much the whole way to the barn to see my own horse and I start crying whenever I see another article or talk to someone about what happened.

Barbaro was never going to have a come-back race like Depression era hero Seabiscuit, but I think everyone wanted him to have a good life at stud, which would have been the happy ending. Unfortunately, he joins the ranks of racings' great tragedies, like the filly Ruffian or the Australian Phar Lap.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

These Old Eyes

The Mac and I are getting used to each other, but would someone please tell me how to increase the size of the type I'm looking at? My eyes are too old to be reading what looks like 6 point type on this screen and I can't figure out how to increase it. I'm sure there's some simple solution, but the Mac maven running the seminar I'm taking couldn't find it either.

The D-65 work flow seminar I'm taking is great. I don't understand everything, but at least I'm getting some of it. I actually figured out how to do a custom white balance with my camera tonight. Of course, shooting at 1/4 second is a little iffy, but the object is just to go through the work-flow procedures again tomorrow, not to make award-winning photographs.

It is so great to connect with members of the photographic community again. There are 35 people in the workshop and some have come from as far as Singapore. There are four people from Nebraska and someone from Ithaca, a doctor, the photographer for UC Davis, the creator of the Day in the Life projects (like me, trying to learn to do digital right), the head of photography at an Inland Empire community college district, and a number of photographers from here in Los Angeles. For some of the folks, it's their second time through the course and I'm told (by them) that the material has changed tremendously in the three or four years since they last took it. God knows the technology keeps changing.

At least I'll have a clue as to what I'm going to teach this semester. I'm really convinced that we've got to get our students shooting RAW rather than jpegs. I'm sold on the format after just a little bit of shooting and processing in it. It makes much more sense for long-term accessiblility.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

We've Achieved Mac

The MacBookPro arrived yesterday, and so did the Adobe CS2.3 package, complete with Acrobat 8 and the latest version of Dreamweaver (the new Adobe configuration.) I got the battery charged and looked at the set-up instructions. The computer has to be on-line for the initial set-up. Therein lies a problem. My spousal unit doesn't like to share his high-speed line (why he didn't have the installers wire the other two rooms with computers, I don't know) and the MacBookPro doesn't come with a dial-up modem.

What was missing from the software delivery was iView Media Pro 3. Why weren't they in the same box? They were ordered with expedited delivery. Do you suppose I'll get a refund for the shipping? I doubt it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Prepare to Say "Arrrgh"

I'm home feeling a little off today. Yesterday, we went off to "Pirate's Dinner Adventure" an interactive dinner theatre extravaganza near Disneyland, courtesy of our friend Sandy. The combination of dinner and loudness didn't quite sit right with me.

About three years ago, Sandy decided that we all needed fewer things and more experiences in our lives and, instead of Christmas presents, began paying for one big event to occur in the month or so after Christmas. The first year was a picnic lunch and tour of Descanso (someone correct my spelling) Gardens, famous for their gardenias (I think it is gardenias) followed by bowling at a small alley in Montrose (again, I think it was Montrose), after which everybody went Dutch for dinner though Sandy paid for everything up to that point.

Last year, it was a trip to a go-cart type place. I didn't go, but my husband and son had a great time.

As I said, yesterday was Pirate dinner theatre. I admire Sandy pulling this all together and paying for it (including chits toward the cocktail hour drinks.) I have no idea what the event actually cost, but Sandy had about 40 guests. The place did make a decent margarita (at a hefty price, but I got to keep the glass) and I will say husband and son had a rousing time. My son, who tends to be a bit shy, got truly into the shouting and booing. I thought the acrobatics were very impressive. The cocktail hour food was o.k.--especially the all-you-can-eat chilled shrimp--while the actual dinner was slightly better than that at Medieval Times (which has horses to make up for the mediocre food.) I will say that this event would be a huge experience for small children, who got to be part of the rescue of the princess.

We're betting that next year it will be a trip to newly renovated Griffith Observatory, which Sandy wanted to do this year but its reopening had it booked into the summer.

I think it's time for another trip to the medicine cabinet.

Friday, January 19, 2007

How Quickly Things Change

I ordered a MacBookPro from the on-line Apple Store after I got directed to the refurbished link. It should arrive any day now.

I was really glad to make that decision (even though it opens me to credit card indebtedness for a few months) after I attended a day and a half workshop on Digital Asset Management this week. A number of things worked better for those working on Mac than the few of us on PCs. Peter Krogh taught the class and did a great job.

Since I teach at a community college, I can get education discounts and I've already ordered Adobe Creative Suite 2 and iView Media Pro 3 because of the DAM workshop and because I'm taking a 4 day digital photography workshop over next weekend. I expect to be fully exhausted on the night of January 29 and that my horse won't remember who I am.

The workshop was held at a place in Los Angeles known as The Big Blue Whale. It's real name is the Pacific Design Center. It is a monster of a building and I would have loved to actually visit the many businesses in side to look at furniture and accessories. I did walk by a bookstore which specializes in books about architecture. Who would guess there were so many books on architecture! I also looked through the window at a lamp shop and a place selling what looked like early 20th century silver and other things to place on display at one's home. My place is mostly decorated in late 20th century comic book. That's what happens when your spouse's characters are exploited in film and merchandise.

I had only enough time to grab take-out at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant there on Thursday. I would have like to sit down and be served. Several of the photographers were disappointed that none of Puck's pizzas were on the menu. Being from New York, I'm not enamored with Puck's pizza. Give me a greasy slice from some place on 7th Avenue any day. It was the last meal I had in New York before we caught our plane home on September 7, 2001. Haven't been back since and it doesn't really work to say to someone "oh, bring me back a pizza when you come to L.A." although we do ask for Breakstones Sour Cream and stuff from Zabar's on occassion.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gastronmic Cowards

My husband has very peculiar rules about eating: nothing that looks like itself. So a steak is fine, but cornish hen is definitely out. He won't eat most fruit and certain vegetables and he hates lamb. He'll eat shrimp, but only if it has been beheaded and shelled. I can feed him pieces of lobster, but he won't go digging for it himself. Turkey is fine if it has been carved. He doesn't do wings at all (food like that is "scary.")

My son, who went to his first sushi restaurant when he was three weeks old, shouldn't have these qualms but he can also be a finicky eather.

Last night, I put together a lovely vegetarian chili, built on a recipe from the Silver Palate authors, but which I enhanced with eggplant, mushrooms, corn and extra tomatoes. The spousal unit wouldn't try it because of the eggplant and neither would the kid. More for me, I guess, so I'll be packing it for lunch the rest of the week.

It could be worse. A friend of mine has a husband who will eat nothing but chopped meat or canned tuna in various forms. She long ago said his mother should have drowned him at birth, but apparently condoned it.

I consider myself an adventurous eater. I'll try almost anything once. I recognize that lobsters and prawns come from the same part of the evolutionary scale as spiders and ants, but I won't eat either of those or worms, but I'd be willing to try snake or alligator under the right circumstances. I've stopped eating octopus because I am now convinced they have a level of sentience that should not be ignored--I spent a long time looking at one at the Monterey Bay Aquarium this summer and I read about how they were caught sneaking out of their tanks and opening containers to eat the fish within at another facility. I still eat pork on occassion, but I can't bring myself to eat beef or lamb anymore because I looked too deeply into the eyes of some of the baby farm animals last year at my college. Temple Grandin is working hard to make slaughter humane, but the more I think about it the queasier I get.

I'm eating a lot of fish these days, but my husband will only eat a few kinds. Those pins are scary.

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's a Guy Thing

I went to the b & m version of MacMall on Saturday with the intention of purchasing a 17" Mac Book Pro with the 2.16GHz processor which I saw on clearance sale in the catalogue. I'm teaching a photo class which is going to be using Macs rather than PCs. Now, the software isn't that different, but the computers are. In stead of simply selling me the computer I went in to buy, the salesman insisted that I should buy the latest and greatest, which is about $1000 more than the clearance model.

First of all, I've been a PC owner since the mid-80s. I took my first computer programming class in Fortran in 1968 and I edited a book on COBOL when I worked in publishing in the early 1970s. My spouse and I have a mixed marriage. He chose an "idiot friendly" Mac back around the time I was making that all-important PC decision. In the intervening years, my subsequent computers have always cost around a third of what I paid for that $3300 IBM XT with a 20 MB hard drive and a whopping 256 K of RAM. Having this salesman try to convince me to spend close to $3300 for the new Mac Book Pro simply sent me into a place where I left without buying anything.

Guys seem to want to buy the latest whatever gadget. It's all about measurement. Women generally don't go there. The photo instructors had a meeting last week and the three men went on and on with technobabble and the three women instructors looked at each other as if to say "what does this have to do with setting up the new curriculum where I don't have a wet room?" My brain started going to that flat-line place it finds when I hear individual words I recognize strung together in a way I can't comprehend.

I've purchased very nice top-of-the-last-line equipment over the years and I've been happy with my purchases. They do what I need them to do and if it's a little slower--well, slower compared to what. They're generally faster than my last purchase, and that's what I care about.

All of the software I need to teach is available for the PC as well as the Mac and I already own it for the PC. The only advantage to the Mac is that they are less pron to malware attacks. I just ordered a refurbished Epson Photo Stylus R2400 so I'll be ready to lecture competently about printing when that time comes. So, of course, the department ordered new Canon printers. Sigh. Unless something extraordinary happens, I'll just muddle through with the old Toshiba. It's a little sluggish, but it works just fine.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tea Time

I think it is time to take a break and go to a nice tea shoppe for a few hours of R & R. Here in the San Fernando Valley, there's a lovely place in Granada Hills called the Gilded Rose. The rooms are decorated in a Victorian theme with lots of chinz. It has a very nice gift shop. There are common rooms and rooms for larger parties. We've often seen bridal showers or baby showers going on. There are theme teas during certain times of the year.

Going to tea became a tradition soon after I started attending San Diego Comicon for the first time in 1992. We stayed at a Victorian-era hotel in the Gas Light District called the Horton Grand which was frequented by Wyatt Earp, reputed to be haunted, and where tea was served most afternoons. The waitress looked and dressed like Jean Marsh in Upstairs, Downstairs and the food was terrific. The wives-and-girlfriends-of the comic book pros would pick an afternoon to put on hats and act like ladies. Many a time, Comicon occurs on my birthday, tea with the ladies is my only celebration.

The tea experience at the hotel went down hill, so we've tried the U.S. Grant, the West Gate, and any other place we've been able to locate. Last summer, we discovered a new place called Tea on Chatsworth, located between the Newport Avenue antique row we like to visit and the Convention Center area. We certainly hope it is still there when the end of July rolls around this year. The six of us had a delightful time, the food was very good, and the tea selection memorable.

The very best tea shoppe we ever went to was called Ticky-Boo (probably not spelled correctly) and it was in Carlsbad, California. The Victorian theme was carried as far as the clothing worn by the owners and service people. There was confetti all over the place, hats on the wall, a fairy garden for parties, and cozies on the pots. It had the best scones ever. Fortunately, the day my friends and I attended was my birthday and they bought me a copy of the the shoppe's cookbook which had the recipe. I got to go there one more time and then it disappeared. An antique shop owner down the street said it disappeared almost overnight. The scones are an important part of any tea party I host and I'm often asked to bring them to parties elsewhere. I am partial to the lemon curd recipe and the savory stilton cheese cake recipe also found in the cookbook.

I like to host tea for the third race of the Triple Crown, if there's a possibility of a Triple Crown winner. I'm convinced that Barbaro had it in the bag when the tragedy occurred at the Preakness. I had a run of about three years for it, but it's been a three years since I've held it. I've got hopes again for this year and I've been busily collecting teapots, napkins, and other accessories in horse themes for decoration. I now have a set of horse-related cookie cutters, one of which should work for the Ticky-Boo scones. It is four months before the Run for the Roses, but I have started looking at the sports pages to see just which horses may be in the running.

I'm told the Bel Air hotel has a chocolate tea at Christmas time, and that intriques me, although I've never gone. The Four Seasons in D.C. used to have a nice high tea when I lived in the area 20 years ago. The Huntington Gardens serves tea each day, but it is a buffet, which isn't quite the right atmosphere. The Rose Tea Garden in Pasadena is another lovely, traditional spot. Like a number of places, reservations are required.

The Internet has made locating tea shoppes a little easier, but it pays to look at the descriptions and evaluations before you go. There's a place in Old Orange I've thought about visiting, but it recently got scathing reviews on-line.

I ought to give a few friends a call and make a date at the Gilded Rose. That would be a lovely way to spend Saturday afternoon.

Monday, January 8, 2007

In the Kitchen

I'm recovering from holding our annual Twelfth Night party. It is the last party of the holiday season among our friends. This year it actually fell on January 6, which is the Feast of the Epiphany--the day the Magi arrived to see the Christ Child. Today, with a 48 hour limit on hospital stays, Mary and Joseph would have been long gone from the manger. Most years, we hold the party the Saturday after New Year's Day, unless it is simply too close (January 2, for example) to contemplate. The party is a relief for most of our friends because it means the party season is finally over.

I spent a good chunk of Saturday night in the kitchen, because clean-up of the house, as usual, went up til the last minute. For a change, the place was clean and some food was even out, and the drinks were all chilled, before the 7 p.m. start time. But my husband was out making a last minute run for party plates and napkins when the first guests arrived. Mercifully, they came early to make sure that they could lend a hand getting stuff out. Our friends are familiar with the chaos preceeding all of our parties.

I am incredibly happy we got a new range just in time for Thanksgiving, because the handle on the door of the wall oven gave up as I was about to load it with a tray of finger food for the party. There's now a screw rolling loose in the door and it isn't sealing properly. Fortunately, the new oven is much larger and I was able to do all of my hot appetizers and the cookies I didn't get around to baking until about 8:30 that night done. I did forget about the mini-pizzas, but my son is happily heating them up for snacks.

The kitchen was far less crowded than the other rooms, so I enjoyed having people come in to talk to me while I worked. I had a nice long visit with my former department head, who is now the vice president of administrative services at Crafton Hills College. And another friend who works for Conde Nast publishing and is a fabulous cook lent a hand with rolling Mexican wedding cakes in powdered sugar so I coud get them out to the guests.

I finally went looking for a chair around 10, and found it in a room with the always entertaining Michael Cassutt. Michael's written about who's who in space and is a fine novelist and television writer. He would have been right at home at the Algonquin Round Table, and I always try to sit next to him at any dinner we're both attending. He is wickedly funny, and he looks a lot like young Robert Kennedy. Larry and Fuzzy Niven were also in the room and Michael was able to bring Larry into the conversation by talking about the old editor of Galaxy Magazine.

About mid-night, most of the folks in the room decided to head home, so I went into the living room where about a half-dozen more guests were still talking with my husband. Most of them are familiar enough with my m.o. to know that even if I fell asleep on the couch, they were welcome to stay and carry on, which they did for about another half hour.

About 51 people actually showed up for the party this year, not the largest number we've crammed into our less than 1300 square foot house. We always hope that it will actually be warm enough for people to sit out on the patio when we hold the party, but it wasn't this year. The worst was two years ago when it poured outside and we had a huge attendance because Jerry Robinson, a famous comic book aritst, came and Harlan Ellison came (it is so hard to get him to come down from the mountain) because he was dying to meet Jerry. D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold were both there as well, so it was an A-list of original Trek writers in our living room.

A sign of creeping age is that I could barely get out of bed on Sunday, not even to go and check on the Arabian prince. I was totally drained. My husband noted that the same thing had happened on the day after Thanksgiving, although we had to get down to the Airport Marriott for panels we were on at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Convention.

Our next big party will be in the summer, and that's outdoors, so I'm not trying to invent a black hole for storage. We host a smaller group for the Oscars, but I do that as a pot luck, so I don't spend the night in the kitchen. The weekly Amazing Race gathering is only four friends plus us, so it doesn't matter how bad the rest of the house looks!

I'd go back to sleep now, but I've got to get some work done. Melinda Snodgrass, who bred the Arabian prince, is on her way in from New Mexico and we'll do dinner tonight. She's the A-list of Star Trek Next Gen writers all by herself.