Thursday, July 31, 2008

Balancing the Budget on the Backs of Workers

Boy, I just can't wait to find out if my salary is being slashed by 80% today in the Guvernator's attempt to get the legislature to present him a balanced budget. It is a good thing that it isn't going to affect the last paycheck of July so I can pay Ace's board and training for August.

To be honest, my job isn't about the money. I can make far more in less time doing legal work. It's about the health insurance, which we couldn't afford if we had to pay for it directly. (It is also about not having to pay for legal malpractice insurance, another thing which is totally out of sight for a sole practitioner.) Nevertheless, I do have commitments that need to be paid and I don't know how long we'll have to wait to get the back pay once this stalemate has ended.

It really bugged me that the Gov is more worried about paying bills to third parties than paying his workers who have far less recourse when dealing with their creditors.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kudos from Arlene

I am always grateful for Arlene's comments on my blog, which remind me almost daily that I'm not just writing to myself. Arlene, who writes one of my "must read" blogs at Grey Horse Matters, just sent me the Brillante Weblog Award, for which I say a hearty thank you. Arlene has good tips for creaky riders like I am and she recently rescued an Arabian mare and her (now gelded) son, both of whom seem to be recovering from extended neglect under her care and that of Arlene's daughter. Kudos to them both for the good deeds they have done.

Now I get to pass this on to seven other blogs, which I hope you will go and visit:

My friend Gillian Horvath recently started writing her blog about television scripting and other things at Athena TV. I think she's doing a fine job, but then, she's a fine writer.

Melinda Snodgrass is a terrific horsewoman and even better writer. She posts not often enough about her beautiful stallion Vento, but she's acutely tuned into politics and she's got a lot to say about the craft of writing prose and screenplays at her Musings.

We first noticed Bob Harris when he was a contestant on Jeopardy! and then realized he also did occasional commentary on KNX radio here in L.A. We met just about a year ago when Bob and Len shared a panel on What's My Line and even though we don't get to see each other often enough, I stay in touch by reading his blog on his website. He travels a lot, and he's a one-man cheering section for the South American deer, the pudu.

Another blogger who doesn't post nearly often enough is Maria Rodriguez, another television writer friend who is a whiz in the kitchen. Last month, she had a wonderful post about her father making eggs for breakfast which I found incredibly touching. I think Maria and I may have met at a sword class in Gillian's back yard, but we really bonded over horses. Her blog is madriguez.

It looks like I can actually give this award to Victoria Cummings at Teachings of the Horse. I love reading about her adventures with Silk and Siete.

I've known Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden since I was in law school. They're both editorial people in New York and their blog Making Light is well worth reading for their comments and those of their many friends.

And finally, my friend Adam Chester has started a blog which reminds us that, as my college adviser the late historian Robert Sobel once said to me, "every mother is a Jewish mother." Adam is a wonderful musician who provided the live musical accompaniment to What's My Line Live on Stage and has performed with Sir Elton John on occasion (and even more often rehearsed with the band instead of Sir Elton.) His blog is Please Don't Eat Sushi! Love, Mom.

To my friends that I've just tagged, pick up the award by copying it from here, paste it to your blog, put a link back to this one, and pass on the award and instructions to seven of your friends by letting them know about it. It's like a chain letter, but don't hold it against me.

Comicon in Motion

Caitlin sent this link to one of the videos on YouTube showing Hugh Jackman coming off the stage to shake Len's hand. I saw another one which had better sound, but Len is almost impossible to see because of the number of flashes going off and burning the video out. Thanks, Cait.

And here's another view of Hugh and Len, taken by someone from Empire Online who was sitting on Len's left side. I show up in none of these!

Although it is not the best video camera, I used my pocket Nikon S1 to record Len's acceptance speech at the Eisner Awards (this explains why I don't have any still shots.) These are actually the only full-body shots that give a sense of what his coat looked like. It's a little dark, but it preserves the moment.

I bought an actual video camera with low-light and digital still capabilities about four or five years ago. Unfortunately, it insists that there is moisture somewhere in the system and refuses to work. I haven't been able to get it to a repair shop and I've heard this is a common problem with the JVC minicams. I really wished I had it working and with me this time at Comicon.

That is the famous Mad cartoonist Sergio Aragones handing the Eisner Award to Len. They've been friends for about 40 years and Sergio is just a wonderful, funny man. Len likes to tell a story about tackling Sergio to prevent him from drawing on pastoral-scene wallpaper which had just gone up in Len's house in Queens. Sergio thought it needed people peering out from behind the trees. He was probably right.

I stayed up really late last night working on the still photographs, which I will probably be able to upload tonight. Hugh Jackman is a whirling dervish, and with low-light situations, it's hard to stop motion when using slow, long lenses. Nevertheless, there are a few shots I wouldn't dream of throwing out. Len's got a similar problem--he moves just as the camera goes off--and my friend Melinda Snodgrass likes to pick that exact moment to blink.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquake Update

The phones are working again and there's no discernible damage at the house, so we've survived the latest rocking. It does make me wish our carpenter had finally come back and put doors on the cabinets where my glasses reside and I'm hoping Len will run out for more Quake-hold.

It is the only topic of conversation here at the moment, and I think the television is having a field day covering nothing. So here's a possible story:

Today is the first day of the July 2008 California Bar Examination. Two of the locations, the Ontario Convention Center and the Anaheim Convention Center are a lot closer to the epicenter than I am. What happened? Were the students disrupted from the exam? Will they be allowed to make up time or will they be just as screwed as the five people who ran to help the guy having a seizure when I took the exam in Feburary 1993. That turned out to be embarrassing for the State Bar President when Jay Leno had a field day. I hope, if students had to abandon their exams, that the time will be made up.

In any case, on Saturday I'm having dinner with two recent graduates who are taking the exam this go round, probably in Ontario. I can't wait to hear their experience.


We just had quite a rattler. It's the first time I've been in an earthquake this big while I've been at work. My phone isn't working and neither is the cell, so I can't check and see what's going on at home until I leave for lunch. That's why the 1994 quake, which was pretty big, didn't scare me totally--all of us were home together and I didn't have to worry about where Len or Michael was and if they were safe.

The USGS says that it was centered near Chino Hills and it was a 5.8. That's on the other side of L.A. from us. Here's a map. The aftershocks have already been as big as 3.8 and there have been a number of them since this happened.

Home Again

We're back from San Diego, exhausted, but in a good way. There's little that can top what happened on Thursday and Friday, but Len said that Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance came up to him on Saturday and told Len that the coat he wore to the Eisners was the coolest ever. Imagine a rock star saying that to an old guy of 60. (Gerard Way took home a couple of Eisners on Friday, so he is no stranger to the comics world.)

Tonight I plan to get the digital images processed (if you shoot RAW, you actually do "process" the images) so I can get some pictures up tomorrow. I hear there is video with Len and Hugh Jackman on YouTube, but I haven't found it yet. My friend Kim has gone to New York for a week, so I don't expect to see the pictures of me with Hugh before then, but I do have Len with Hugh. The handshake shot, which I was not in a position to get, was caught in both directions by others and I've seen that all over the Internet. Here's a link to one on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood.

Here's the version of the photograph from the Los Angeles Times by Spencer Weiner, from the opposite direction. That's my hand on the chair and my blond hair behind Len's back. You can see why I wasn't in a good position to take a photograph of the two of them. I did much better back stage.
It took us more than two hours to pack out of the hotel on Monday morning. Let me correct that. It took me about half an hour. It took my son two hours. He's the one who did all of the shopping and had a small fortune in anime-related statues to bring home. He also did a great job scavaging the floor for swag--free stuff--and had an amazing number of these monster bags advertising different television shows and movies.

Ace greeted me when I got to the barn last night for my lesson. He was also not eating--there was a mass of hay in the stall. Gayle and I figure he doesn't like the taste of the new batch or he missed me. There was nothing wrong with the hay, so I sprinkled some vinegar over it and he was eating it when I left. My concerns about colic were relieved by the way he took carrots from me and that there was fresh poop around. Plus his gut sounds were just fine.

He looked very nice in his new saddle pad from Mary's Tack and Feed and I'll put the braided reins on his western bridle tonight, so I can move the black ones back to his dressage bridle. Yes, I spent most of my money in San Diego at the tack shop, not the convention or even Nordstrom's.

I did get a nice little statue of Wolverine on a business card or post-it holder base on Sunday, but it's not like the years I ordered the Sideshow statue of Aragorn on Brego charging the Black Gates or the replica of Eowyn's Sword that now hangs in the living room. My biggest shopping regret from past years at the convention is that I couldn't afford the statue of Sam Gamgee with Bill the Pony that Sideshow did the first year they had Lord of the Rings pieces. It almost immediately sold out. What would have cost me $125 goes now for thousands of dollars on eBay. Lesson learned: if you really love it, buy it. The grocery money will show up.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Long Days with Happy Endings

The longest day of Comicon is about to come to an end. I'm wiped out, but it's been just great.

I had breakfast with my friend Connie Willis and her daughter Cordelia after sleeping through my alarm. Fortunately, Connie called the room and I managed to get in and out of the shower and down stairs in 12 minutes. Connie is one of the other guests of the convention this weekend and it's been a couple of years since I've seen her since she lives in Colorado and I don't get to as many conventions as I did when I was the lawyer for the Science Fiction Writers of America. Connie is one of their most honored members, with a shelf full of Nebula and Hugo Awards to show for her career. I remember the night she won her first Hugo 25 years ago in Baltimore for Firewatch. She's a grand and very funny lady and had her audience in stitches today at her Spotlight panel. I recommend her book To Say Nothing of the Dog and her award-winning short story Even the Queen. Her most famous book is Doomsday Book, a story of time travel back to the days of the Black Death.

I managed to get to Nordstrom's today and bought a pair of shoes. The only time I shop there is during its summer sale when we are in San Diego and I usually go for shoes. These are a pair of Nike trainers that have what looks like red fishnet over white shoes. Very cool and I hope very comfortable.

This evening was the Eisner Awards. It's the Oscars of the comic book industry. Len was asked to give out the three awards for writing, so he had carefully planned his wardrobe. He was also nominated for a place in the Eisner Hall of Fame, which he didn't expect to win this time out. Much to his surprise, Len was indeed inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame. At 60, he's probably one of the youngest people ever inducted (60 with 40 years of professional comic book experience behind him,) and was one of only two living writers (of six) inducted tonight. He was the only one present for the awards. He looked great--and there will be pictures. He was quite the hit of the evening, in sartorial splendor with a coat that would not have been out of place in Regency England. I am so happy for him, and he did remember to thank me for putting up with "all his nonsense." Hey, it pays the rent and it is so much more interesting that most 9-5 jobs.

Also honored was DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz. Len met Paul when Paul was 12. Len was already a professional but he realized early on that "that kid is gonna run the business some day." Paul was honored with the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award for all of the things he has done to do right by comic book creators. Unlike Marvel, DC has gone back and righted the credit and royalties for its creators. He's done a great job and, frankly, one that helps pay our mortgage during times of little work. If Marvel would do the same, we'd be able to afford the horse property I want, but that is just not likely to happen. If you look in the dictionary under "corporate greed" there's a picture of Marvel's logo.

The Eisner Award, named after the wonderful Will Eisner, is a pretty hefty globe that does spin. Photographs will be posted when I get back home.

Like the Academy Awards, the presentations went on for over three hours. We didn't get back to the room until almost 1 and Len has now gone out for an after party on a yacht parked behind the convention center. My feet just couldn't take any more tonight--I've already walked close to 20000 steps today.

Tomorrow, I'll make my pilgrimage to Mary's Tack and Feed in Del Mar and buy Ace a present to make up for me being away so long. I'd love to find him a new dressage bridle with a noseband for an Arab, but I haven't had any luck so far. I'll probably pick a few things for me as well--they have a nice clothing department and I do need a new wallet.

I think sleep is in order.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Superhero Moment

Well, we've been in San Diego for 24 hours now. The weather, as always, is darned near perfect. Our hotel has a view of the bay and whatever battleship that is in dock across the water on Del Coronado Island. And Len says he may never come back again because how could he possibly top what's happened so far. It is truly lovely to be a special guest and actually treated as...special.

This morning was the Fox presentation of upcoming films. Unlike a number of people in the audience, we knew there was a special guest showing up for a few minutes after the panels on the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still and a game-based film called Max Payne. Len had a hot ticket to go back stage, but we both had Studio Guest seats in the front few rows. He had a signing at the DC booth that overlapped with the beginning of the program, which, as it turned out, wasn't a problem. The panel was delayed half an hour.

I got there first to save the seats and got tipped off about what was going to happen when the surprise guest arrived. When Len arrived, I told him to "de-Geek"--take off his cap and take the Bluetooth out of his ear. He grumbled a little and wanted to know what was up. I said "trust me."

To the screams of the audience, the special appearance of Hugh Jackman was announced and he came bounding out onto the stage. He had just flown in from Australia because they had finished principle photography for X-men Origins: Wolverine.

He started out by saying "I know what you are all thinking--he's just too tall to play Wolverine!" This has been a running joke because the 6'3" Jackman is playing a character who is only 5'3" or 5'5" tall, depending on which interview you happen to read. Len told Hugh the first time they met that he feels that Hugh does a great job of "playing short."

The audience went wild as Hugh thanked them for supporting the first 3 X-men movies and how he's grateful to have a career thanks to this character and the fans support of him and then he announced that there was someone in the audience without whom there would be no Wolverine and without whom he, Hugh, would not have a career (how generous is that?): Len Wein. He asked Len to stand up and before we knew it, Hugh was jumping off the stage to shake hands. OMG! Well, I'm proud as can be and can't stop tearing up. It was such a gracious thing to do. Entertainment Weekly Online and several other online news sources have done a good job covering the moment. As soon as I get ready, I'll have some pictures from back stage after the all too brief appearance. I should have brought the Mac with me, not the PC.

And yes, Hugh Jackman is even more beautiful in person than on screen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Horse Show

I'm not sure I get the joy of horse shows. Long dusty days waiting for a few minutes in the ring and not having the slightest clue what the judges are looking for I'm just not that competitive (unless playing Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit) and I've seen a bit of an attitude that's hard to take. Nevertheless, I went off to photograph the kids from my trainer's program at a schooling show on Sunday.

I enjoy the opportunity to practice action shooting. I didn't have as long a lens as I would have liked, but I still got some good photographs:
Leann and Charlie didn't have much of a chance against the bigger horses over the jumps, but later wiped their friends off the field in equitation.
Ashley and Curio won the timed jumping class and wound up as reserve champion for high point of the day.
Pebbles had a bit of an issue with an orange cone, but if you point her at a jump she's a very happy half-Arab. Very pretty, too.

The kids had a really good time, which I guess is the most important thing.

I rather thought I couldn't do much worse than some of the competitors, so we might take Ace to a schooling show one of these days. He has a lot more substance than some of the Arabians I saw. Too many of them looked incredibly unhappy at their fate. It was a long day for them, too,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Horsework before Housework

I spent Saturday morning rebedding Ace's stall. Since the shavings aren't put in as regularly as I supposedly pay for them, the bedding was getting sparse and broken down to dust. I'm particularly fond of a product called DryNest because the shavings are very fluffy and soft. It also seems to break down to dust more slowly than other pine shavings. It is incredibly absorbent as well. DryNest comes compacted to 3 cubic feet which expands to 12 cubic feet. By comparison, the American Shavings the barn uses comes compacted to 4 cubic feet and claims to expand to 12. I don't believe it.

Gina came out to let me into the locked shavings room and saw that I had swept Ace's stall. "Wow. You really did mean clean." I put my two bags of DryNest in and then added the two bags of American Shavings from the barn's supply. I knew Ace would have the high pile moved to all corners of the stall by the time I visited again. I was tempted to lay down in the new clean bed myself.

I also spent time cleaning up the feed room and I went out and bought two bushel totes for his hay. I marked one A.M., the other P.M., and added his name, stall number, the kind of hay, the amount of hay and that the totes were for hay only in large letters. Then I weighed and filled them for his next two meals. That left an unopened bale of hay, which I expected I would break open on Sunday afternoon when I refilled the totes.

I also told Gina that it takes two flakes of the three-way to make 10 pounds. She had a look of shock on her face because they've only been feeding one flake at a time. Which is, of course, why the poor horse always has an empty manger when I arrive at 5 and he's been fed at 4:30. It is also why Gayle and I have been throwing in snack flakes. The one advantage to paying for your own hay is that you don't have to feel like you are stealing to make sure your horse is getting enough to eat.

I shouldn't be, but I am always surprised when people act stunned that horses should be fed by weight 2-3% of their body weight a day at minimum, depending on their work load. For Ace, who weighs about 940 pounds, that's 18-20 pounds of hay a day. Also, different kinds of hay flakes can weigh different amounts at different times of the year. "One flake" is a lousy way to determine proper feed. It should be weighed at least once a bale to be reasonably accurate. At least, that's what I learned in Ron Weschler's and Dr. Betsy Connelly's lectures at Pierce College.

On Sunday I found the P.M. tote was empty but the A.M. tote was filled--and the bale was hacked open and only about a single flake gone. No wonder Ace was so vocal when he saw me. There was not a morsel of hay in his stall to be found. He's never been a fast eater, he likes to take his time and will walk away from his food frequently and go back and eat at his leisure. It lasts longer and keeps him out of trouble.

I gave him his snack of Safe Choice with vinegar and carrots and a small amount of hay for nibbling. Then I went back to the feed room, weighed out his hay for the P.M. bucket, and did my best to confine my three-way to a folded up tarp secured with bungee cords. I'm hoping I will lose less hay to waste (or other people's horses) this way. Finally, I put both totes on top of the remaining baled hay, with the hope that the morning feeder will read the friggin' bucket and get the right idea. Starting this three days before I go away to San Diego is probably not the best timing, but I hope it will mean he gets enough to eat while I am gone.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Horses in Need of Rescue

Accounts of people who can't keep horses and of horses rescued from animal cruelty are increasing faster than our "mental recession." Arlene at Grey Horse Matters recently rescued two Arabians (she was willing to take three, but a home was found for one of the two stallions) and Victoria at Teachings of the Horse wrote about attempts by BLM to start slaughtering horses again.

Here in L.A., I got an e-mail about a pair of Tennessee Walkers available for adoption and ETI Corral 36 sent out a newsletter with a notice of 70--yes seventy--horses in need of fostering out of an Animal Control shelter near Castaic.

The 70 horses were from a herd of 100 taken from Equus Sactuary in June, where they were found with no food and little water. The caretaker has been sentenced to almost 3 years in state prison after she pleaded no contest to felony animal cruelty charges. Applications to foster and eventually adopt one or more of the horses may be obtained by calling 562-658-2000.

If I had my own horse property, I'd be going out to Castaic to look at the horses this weekend. I wish I could afford to take on another mouth to feed, but I'm paying four times as much as I paid to keep the Arabian Prince in food and shelter two years ago and I don't think we've even begun to see the jump in hay prices I'm afraid will come with the push to plant corn for fuel rather than food crops.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Bat and Other Mobiles

My husband, Len Wein, was indeed on Batman Unmasked on the History Channel last night and we expect him to appear on Batman Tech next Monday night at 9 p.m., also on the History Channel. Len created Lucius Fox, the character who is Batman's "Q"-equivalent and who runs Wayne Industries. I don't think there could be a better bit of casting than Morgan Freeman.

We're getting ready for the trip to San Diego, so the car went in for servicing today. I love the vehicle--a 1998 Honda Odyssey. It's the four-cylinder model built on the Accord chassis. It seats 6--4 bucket seats and a bench seat that folds completely into the floor. The two back bucket seats come out, so I can put a whole lot of shavings and hay into it when I need to. Or, I can pretty much cart everything I need for a big photo shoot with lights into it.

Unfortunately, I'm pushing 140,000 miles on it and it's starting to show. There's hesitation when I step on the gas and some clunking in the front and squeaking in the back. It's got scrapes and dents. The mileage isn't as good as it used to be and Honda has never been able to fix the phantom reason the brake warning light likes to come on some mornings. I hate the idea of buying a new car, since this one's been paid off for five years, but when you start paying more in upkeep than a year's worth of car payments, it is probably time to bite the bullet. We'll see how much damage the service comes to. I'd like to get another Odyssey, even though I don't like the sliding back doors, making it more like a van than a tall station wagon. The new version is six cylinders and the bench seat in the back seats 3 small people, not just two. Having a vehicle that comfortably seats six adults is a real plus for carpooling to events, I must say, and I don't want to give it up.

This time out, I want a towing package as well. I didn't own a horse when I bought my current vehicle, and I'm still not crazy about the idea of towing a trailer myself, but I'd like the option. Also, the Honda's bike rack goes into the towing apparatus, and I am constantly dropping my son off with his bike somewhere. It would be more convenient. Especially since my bike doesn't fit in my Odyssey very well at all--the handle bars are too high.

I think Len would prefer to replace his car first--it's about 18-24 months older, but it has about half the mileage of mine. That's because mine gets taken on all the long trips because it is more spacious and comfortable. His really doesn't need replacing yet.

My previous high-mileage car was my beloved standard transmission Volvo 240 DL wagon. We bought it in 1983 and I drove it for over 200,000 miles, including a number of cross-country trips, until I plowed it into the back of a 1977 Volvo sedan at about 15 mph on Magnolia Avenue in Burbank about 11 years ago. The light at Hollywood Blvd. was green and there were no brake lights on the other Volvo, so I didn't realize it was actually stopped. He was able to drive away. My insurance company totaled my car. Sniff. That one, I'd still be driving.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Mark Evanier just pointed his audience to an illustration done in response to a piece he wrote on his blog many years ago about seeing Mel Torme over at the Farmer's Market in Beverly Hills. I had heard the story from my husband and it's just one of those heart-warming-with-a-zinger things I thought you'd enjoy. Check it out here. I'd save it for the Christmas season, but I'm so not sure I'd find it again.

More Barn Drama

Things are sadly approaching the enemy action stage at the barn. I got up to see Ace around 5:30 on Sunday afternoon and discovered he had a manger full of feed-room sweepings for his dinner. The sign on his door says "no alfalfa" and he had half a bale of his specified 3-way hay sitting in the feed room. It wasn't even good alfalfa in the manger, just dusty shattered leaves and some short twigs of oat, and pellets, and god knows what else. I cleaned out almost a full bushel of the stuff. Then, while I was being very upset and talking to another boarder who is also a lawyer, Ace went running after the mare Kathy had out in the arena and she went down, hitting the fence and skidding.

Kathy took over this mare a couple of months ago after caring for her at the barn down the street out of the goodness of her heart. She looks like a quarab, but we really don't know for sure. She's a flea-bitten gray and god only knows how old. Kathy can't ride her, she just takes her for walks. And she's got wounds which don't seem to heel and lots of scrapes all over her. She's the only mare at our barn.

Even though Kathy had told me it was o.k. to turn Ace out with her, I felt so guilty about the new scrapes and I was pretty horrified when she wouldn't get up at first. But she did get up and Kathy cleaned up her boo-boos and then we put some Bigeloil on the spot that appeared to be really sore. Nothing appeared to be broken.

I went home feeling pretty sick to my stomach about Reina and whomever decided to feed Ace trash rather than his food. On Sundays, there's only a small chance of catching anyone to talk to about problems. I don't know who actually fed. I called Gina this morning and let her know what I found last night. I can only be grateful that Ace had pretty much turned up his nose at what was placed in his feeder and there was that much left 90 minutes after he must have been fed.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to talk to Gayle about moving him again. I'm not about to leave my last month's rent behind, so the earliest I can be out is August 31. I wish Gayle could find a place for all of her students to be.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Batman Unmasked

The History Channel is running a program next week called Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight. Len was interviewed for it, so we're hoping he's in the final cut. It starts running at 9 p.m. on Wednesday and there's a number of other showings, according to the schedule. Tune in. You might get to see him. He's quite charming.

We are more than a little disappointed that the big premier for The Dark Knight is scheduled for New York, since we were invited to the last one out here and had a lovely time. Len's supposed to go to a screening early in the week, but I can't make it. As I said to him, it's not like I won't get another chance--the film opens next Friday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Barn Hazzard

Does anyone know how long it takes for baling twine to go through a horse's system? We're trying to figure that one out because Ace passed a length of it today. It had knotted itself somewhat, so the length of the mass was around 12- 18" and I am hoping there is no more left inside. Gayle noticed it dangling just as we were starting our lesson tonight.

All too often we find baling twine mixed in with the hay because someone is too lazy to remove it and dispose of it properly. The yellow and blue lengths seem to get lost pretty easily, especially if people sweep up the loose hay to feed to the horses.

It's scary--it could have caused a world of hurt. My stomach is still in knots.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Webster's Catches Up

According to the news I heard as I was driving back to work after lunch, the phrase "fanboy" has finally made it into Webster's Dictionary--almost 90 years after the first printed references the researchers found from 1919. The interviewee said it is mostly "used in connection with comic books and sometimes movies." I guess they've never met science fiction fanboy geeks. In any case, I am dying to find out what it was first used in relationship to, if not comics and science fiction.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

It's a Predator, Stupid

It's been pretty hot all weekend, but I got to the barn on Saturday morning to have my lesson a little later than usual since Gayle had gotten back from 4th of July festivities in Ventura quite late. I was making pretty good time on getting things together, but then I got to my bridle and discovered that the reins had been disconnected from the elastic rein extenders that keep me from being too hard on Ace's mouth. While I was fussing with them, Gayle showed up so I didn't get on early. This was probably for the best, in light of what happened later.

We got off to a good start during warm up. He was paying attention, despite the fact that a number of folks had shown up early that morning and were sitting on the patio watching us. We moved up to some really nice trot work and then headed for the hula hoop for a break.

Ace went into the hoop and I was praising him as Gayle came over with my water. All of a sudden, he twisted his head around and I could see white all around his eye. Then I felt him get really, big and ready to fly without wings. I'm trying to shut him down when the mother of a girl who has two horses in the barn shouted out "oh, he must be smelling the ferret."

These folks have a pet ferret, which is pretty much illegal in California. It's a very cute albino and they've brought it to the barn before and I didn't think too much about it. I didn't think too much about it that morning until Ace caught the scent of what is a member of the weasel family and 40 million years of conditioning set in.

Did the woman pick up the ferret and move him into the building or elsewhere? No. Everyone just jolly well sat there playing with the ferret while Gayle and I worked at moving Ace away from the source of the scent and getting his mind on something else.

Gayle tried getting Ace to do his trick of pulling the water bottle out of the hip pack for a peppermint treat. He gave her a really dirty look and grabbed the bottle and threw it. I mean threw it. He could not have been more clear that he was pissed off that we would not let him run to safety. It was a clear statement of his state of mind.

Gayle grabbed his lead halter and walked him with me in the saddle until he lost some of the tension in his body and he learned that just because he was pissed off, he wasn't getting me out of the saddle. Then I did get off and we made him run in the arena until he would go back into the hoop--at first he connected the smell with what had been his place of safety, a bad combination.

There was no apology from the woman. I guess the sign only says no dogs, so you can bring other things that might cause problems. I'm feeling quite resentful because I pay for those lessons and I had to pay for someone else's lack of consideration. I can't really expect too much. The daughter constantly leaves gates open or unlocked, she leaves the hose a filthy mess rather than cleaning off the dirt when she drags it through the mud, she doesn't wear her helmet (she's 13 and the rules require a helmet of under-18 riders), and her horses don't even stand still to be mounted. Her poor little Arab is totally upside down when she's on him, and he's pretty much out of control most of the time. A disaster in the making.

On Monday, I'm going to have to talk to the barn manager about this and I'd rather not. We just got rid of one problem boarder and I hate feeling like I'm Miss Goody Two Shoes. I pay my board on time, keep my space clean, try to mind my own business (even when I want to scream at people "the rules say wear a helmet), and I read and follow the rules and requests. It seems pretty futile to try and set a good example.

So, it was just as well I didn't get on Ace's back early and have to deal with him trying to get away from a domesticated wolverine. At least I stayed in the saddle, even though that was the last place I wanted to be.

On a somewhat more amusing note, I went to the barn on July 4 to give Ace his lunch and clean his stall. I turned him out in the arena for a while and decided to turn on the spray along the paddocks while he was out. Much to my amazement, it turned out that Ace's need to be near the other horses outweighed his need to stay out of the water and he stood along the fence as the mist went over him. Just stood there with the other horses (who like to stand in the artificial rain to cool off) until I turned off the water and went to get him inside his home. I guess I might actually be able to ride him with the misters on one day. We'll all be a lot more comfortable in this triple digit heat if that's the case.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Political Neepery

I am happy to note that one of the Turner channels ran 1776 last night, I hope you all decided to watch. I popped in the DVD when I got home because it was on at 8 and we were out.

It is now fewer than 200 days until George III will be out of the White House. Yesterday, as we drove to a friend's house to have dinner and watch the Studio City fireworks, I heard the news report about the protest when George III addressed new U.S. citizens at Monticello, Virginia.

At first I couldn't make out what was being said because of the loud, interfering, whirring in the background. I realized that was the sound of Thomas Jefferson spinning in his grave.

Then I tried to listen to what the protester(s?) was actually shouting. I swear to god, it was the list of grievances against the king from the Declaration of Independence. If anyone heard a better version of what was going on, I would dearly love to know if that was it. How very appropriate if it was.

Even the L.A. Times ran an editorial about how relevant the Declaration sounds to our country today. Maybe that's why 150 members of the newsroom got axed this week.

I am not, by the way, shedding any tears for Jesse Helms. Anyone who looks at him as a hero is not someone I want to know. He was a racist and helped keep alive that kind of hate.

I'm also tired of hearing how Wesley Clark's remark that being shot out of the sky does not equate to being ready to lead this country is a reason to jettison Clark from any short list for VP. How that quip, made in response to a proposition by an interviewer, can be construed to questioning someone's patriotism is just plain silly--I thought it showed that the General is mighty sharp without a speech writer in sight. That the main stream media is letting this be the story of the week shows a clear lack of journalistic responsibility. Getting shot out of the sky does not mean you know how to be a leader any more than having your PT boat destroyed does (although getting your men to safety despite your own injuries and then doing what needs to be done to get word out for a rescue of the survivors has a lot to say about leadership.)

I'd like to know why the MSM doesn't stop and evaluate the situation. The remark was a humorous one and has been yanked out of the context of the interview. Running additional material from the interview shows that there was nothing said to denigrate John McCain's service.

General Clark graduated at the top of his class at West Point after getting in on merit, was wounded in Vietnam, and made a career in the military, including being the Supreme Commander of NATO (a title that West Wing's President Bartlett called the one that was almost as good as his.) John McCain graduated near the bottom of his class at Annapolis (his admission no doubt was a legacy because of his father and grandfather), crashed several planes either before or after spending 5 years as a POW (I can' t remember those particulars), and can't seem to "straight talk" if his life depends on it. But I get it. General Clark is an "elitist" and John McCain is "one of the guys." The guys have got to stick together.

John McCain is not fit to polish General Clark's boots and I am mighty pissed that Barack Obama let the Republicans frame the story as one that questions patriotism rather than one that questions training, experience, and competence.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Celebrating Independence

We saw our first ad for Swing Vote on television the other night. Swing Vote is a film we saw at a screening several months ago. It stars Kevin Costner. If they haven't screwed it up after getting feedback, it's a terrific film. At least it was in February or March. It opens on August 1. Go see it.

Tomorrow is July 4. Len's off being a guest of honor at CONvergence, in Minneapolis. If you happen to be there, find him and say hello. It means that he cannot participate in our long-standing tradition of watching the wonderful film of 1776, which we always try to do on July 4. I love the film, the music, and the performances. I saw many of the same actors in the original Broadway production back when I was in college. Somewhere in those boxes I pay too much to store is the Playbill from the show. For me, no one has ever done John Adams as well as William Daniels and I always hear and see Howard Da Silva when I think Benjamin Franklin. If no network is running it, I'll play the DVD before the day is over.

The temperature promises to be be in triple digits, so I'm planning an early visit to the Arabian Prince tomorrow. A friend wants to come by and visit him--it's been several years since she's had a chance.

He was really good during our lesson last night, but Gayle said he was a real pain on Tuesday when she tried to do a dressage test with him (she wants to take him to a training show in August.) So she dropped by to do a little "join up" with him on Wednesday afternoon before I got there and he wasn't particularly cooperative. She made it even more annoying for him by turning on the sprinklers, which he hated. Apparently, it did convince of the benefit of following the program. Unfortunately, when Gayle turned her back to open the gate to the paddock when they were finished, Ace dropped and rolled. When I got there to tack him at 5, he had a lovely dried layer of sand on top and lots of grit underneath the surface of his coat. That's probably the dirtiest he has ever gotten voluntarily.

Gayle's taking him out on a trail ride today with a group of her students and expects to be out about three hours. He should be exhausted today and tomorrow.

In the late afternoon tomorrow, a friend is having a barbeque over in Studio City and, when it gets dark, we'll walk over to Ventura Boulevard to watch the fireworks. The Radford Studios, where shows like Grace under Fire and Dave's World were filmed does a big July 4 event. We can't really hear the music, but we can watch the light show.

During the 15 years I lived in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, I saw a lot of fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. The first year we lived there was the Bicentennial and we went to the Pentagon to watch the fireworks. Unfortunately, there were a lot of "groundworks" and the Pentagon, which is across the Potomac from the Mall, was not a good vantage point. The folks watching on TV had a better view. Another year I was on the steps of the U.S. Capitol shooting toward the Lincoln Memorial--one of the photographs was licensed by the DC Yellow Pages the next year. For a few years, I just sat on the stoop in the front of the condo where I lived and watched the local display in our suburban town. The last summer I was in D.C., I worked for a law firm located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The firm held a party on the roof of its building for all the employees and their families and we had a great time and a great view.

So enjoy your celebration and take a few minutes to read the Declaration of Independence. Or do a sing along to 1776. Happy holiday!