Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't Go, Mommy . . .

Cats know when you're going to go off and leave them again. The biggest clue is when you take out the suitcase, which I do a few days before departure. The two boys, Henley and Jean-Luc, shadow me everywhere I go. Jean-Luc will throw himself down on floor and roll over on his back right in front of me, blocking my way, and he's lucky he hasn't been stepped on, especially when he's on the dark rug in the dark hall.

They were oddly missing for a period on the day I buckled down to folding things and putting them in suitcase and carry-on (as opposed to rearranging piles), although I hadn't noticed their absence. I just happened onto them in the actual computer room, two sheepish kitties cowering midst a mess of their making. One of these culprits had managed to knock an old shirt box full of memorabilia from a trip of about 30 years ago off a shelf nearly eight feet high. There were pre-euro coins from Germany, Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia, post cards, brochures, tiny Mexican sombreros (ask how we got those on a ferry from Yugoslavia to Italy), maps, all cascading off my office chair, on the carpet, under the desk.

"BAD CATS!" (Repeat until pickup is completed.) They hung around watching, suitably chastened.

A little later I returned to the bedroom to resume packing. Subdued kitties cuddled together in a kitten nest on the bed, near the clothes awaiting me. Not on the clothes, as would be normal. Two sad-faced kitties.

Sad kitties  :-(

I proceed with packing.  Henley begins to take measures.

Wait a minute, Mommy


I'm not letting you do this.

(Whirling dervish gambit)

Not that one either.

Pack me, too

People ask me why I didn't just stay in France between the May quilters tour and this upcoming tour.

"Because my kitties miss me," I answer.

And I miss them. They'll have caretakers and visitors, but it's not Mommy.

(A month extra stay in France would not have been less expensive than airfare, which seemed to be the concerns of most, but it would avoid the extra flights.)

See you tomorrow, depending on how time zones align.


Plan B Already

Before we even get breakfast, we receive this email:

Information regarding your flights / Modifications concernant votre voyage

Attention LEORA MS                    Booking reference : 5D4321

Dear Madam, dear Sir,

We inform you of the schedule change on flight AF083A 23/06 departure SAN FRANCISCO SFO I 1810 arrival PARIS CDG 1335

You have a new connection on flight AF7666 24/06 departure PARIS CDG 2F 1550 arrival MARSEILLE MRS 1715

We thank you for your understanding and wish you a pleasant trip.


In other words, our flight will depart two hours later than originally scheduled and that connection to Marseille has been missed and we are rescheduled on the next flight for that.  My pickup ladies have been advised.  Stand by!

Sigh.  See you later.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Conversation with the Credit Card Company, Saving Money on TP, and Other Trivia

Scenario: Making notifications to credit card companies online about travel abroad. On the second card for one company, I neglect to re-enter the dates of travel. The dates on the notification default to the current date. I redo the notification with the correct dates. "A second notification cannot be placed on your card while another notification is still on it. Call 1-800-xxx-xxxx for assistance."

Action: (I hate to make phone calls, which is why I prefer online notification.)

(I call) I put a wrong date on my travel notification.  It said to call this number for help.

I can take care of that for you.
(He takes the information.)
Is there anything else I can do for you?

(Normal answer, not today, thank you, but a light bulb goes on. Heh, heh. Something I'd just been doing a lot of reading about.)

Why, yes. I want to tell your management that we who travel internationally need the CHIP and PIN credit card (used in Europe). (Litany of situations recited where, despite all assurances that a magnetic strip card must be accepted, it can't be and isn't.)

Thank you.

Thank you. And for future reference you can make your travel notifications on line.

Yes, I know. That's what I did and I ended up talking to you.

Oh, that's right, you did.

Afterthought. If I'd just waited until the next day, the erroneous notification would have expired and I could have submitted a new one.  Online.

Scenario: Stopping first in the ladies' room on the way to lunch at (well-known fast-food eatery). Finishing up the simplest function, I tear off a piece of TP. It's see-through! I could read through this piece of paper. Have you noticed, ladies, that through recent years, "they" have been making those big TP rolls for public restrooms narrower and narrower? (Leading me to refer to it as dental floss.) I expect they charge the same price as for former wider paper.

This was a new thin in thinness. A moneysaver? I needed about five feet of it to avoid the, um, unpleasant soak-through. Just visualize.

I took a piece home with me to demonstrate its see-through qualities. It got a little wrinkled en route -- but I was afraid that ironing it to flatten it might ignite it. But here it is.

"See-thru" TP

Yeah, this has really got to save the well-known fast-food eatery a lot of money.

And trivia. In a similar vein, have I mentioned the shrinking bags of cat food? Back when the large bag weighed 24 pounds, the people at the feed store would put it in my car for me. For the same price, I can now carry the 14 pound bag under one arm all the way across the shopping center parking lot. I suppose that's the consequence of having to feed premium cat food to premium cats. Sigh.

See you tomorrow.


Sunday, June 19, 2011


The trouble with being a nighttime blogger is that I'm coming late to this party. Things have been beautifully said about fathers generally and specifically in blogs all day long. But I still want to give a nod to my Papa and my son, who is a Papa too.

I'll start with one of my favorite photos of my Papa, because it shows his warm, genuine smile. He smiled a lot, because he liked to joke and tease, but when it came to pictures, well ... you should see the gallery of sober expressions my Picasa face recognition page has assembled of him. Here he is here at 89.

Smiling Papa

He was a serious lad at 8, in his shirt and tie and bare feet.  Although I don't think he ever lived in the snow, you can see the old tales about walking barefoot to school were true.

Barefoot boy

I think it was love at first sight when he and Mom met. It was during the depression and times were tough. Here are he and Mom on an early date, picnicking in the mountains, along with Papa's cousin.

The suitor, the girl and his cousin
 They married in the depth of the depression and in due course, along came me.

Mama, Papa & Baby Lee
 He apprenticed in the family stained glass business as a young man, becoming a master craftsman and working at it his whole life except for a period during World War II when he worked at Douglas Aircraft doing war production, then at Caltech doing something secret. (We could hear great roars all over the city from whatever they were testing; I think we can guess what from the fact that "Caltech" became JPL -- Jet Propulsion Lab -- in later years.)

These traditional stained glass windows were among his photos, so I'm guessing they were his windows. By the time I became aware that stained glass wasn't just another ordinary occupation, I'd moved far away and, alas, didn't keep track of his specific accomplishments, which include windows in churches and residences all over California, in Nevada and other states.

Toward the end of his life, I finally saw stunning example of his work of more recent years. He designed and fabricated, with Mom's assistance, all the windows for St Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Concord, California. These are contemporary faceted glass windows, and the dedication of the windows was celebrated with (ta da), these T-shirts.

T-shirts on my sister, Mama and Papa
 He played in life as well as worked, tennis as a young man, golf in later years. He and Mom attended the Episcopal Church throughout their 67-year marriage.

He worked at his art, still designing and producing until mere months before his passing at age 94 during which he was more in than out of the hospital as we tried to prolong his life for longer than we should have. He hung on so long for his most important job, taking care of the love of his life. Sweet Momma lived for five more years, reaching 95-and-a-half, as she told everyone, to her great surprise.

As for the other Papa, my son Ben, who is such a loving and nurturing father to his two "kids," Chris and Ashley, is now parenting on his own after losing his wife six months ago.

Ben in family photo as a little squirt

Ben (r.) with his "cuz" (I like the beard)
 My son lost his own dad when he was twelve. His dad was nurturing as far as he was able, although overwhelmed by many pressures in his life. The other man in my son's life, my second husband, whom I didn't encourage to play a father role, was more of a "man's man" influence, and they got along well. I think as a result of this absence in his life, he's especially cognizant of the role a father can play in the life of a child. Ben is an engineer by profession but a musician by passion and he's instilled the love of music into his kids (they're adults, by the way), who play with him in his bands when they're available, even as they launch themselves off on their own careers.

My daughter, me, my son
this spring
 With the strong love among them, my son's little family will continue on, cherishing the memory of their wife and mother, even while missing her.

Love to all my kidlings.

See you later.


Friday, June 17, 2011

How to Get Nervous About Your Flight Connection

A new aircraft, the Airbus A380 (great big airplane), made its maiden voyage on June 6, the same flight we'll be taking from San Francisco to Paris in a few days. We will have 1 hour 40 minutes to debark the plane, clear immigration, change terminals from international to domestic, go through another security check, line up and board our connecting flight that will take us to Marseille. Our tour leaders are arriving earlier in the day and one of them is planning to pick us up at the airport. All things going according to plan, of course.

So I casually looked on the Air France website a couple of days ago. There's an advisory about a Maintenance Staff Industrial Dispute on the airline's website. The union called a strike starting June 13 for an indefinite period. How can I get a handle on the possible effect? Look at the brief history of these flights?

BEWARE. Numbers resembling statistics ahead.

Please note I accidentally omitted "Marseille" at the top of the right hand column. The scheduled arrivals and departures for the two flight segments are listed in the top row of numbers. This is an overnight flight, so everything but the SFO departure time occurs one day after a departure date.

I got the departure and arrival times from the Flight Stats website.

Before and including June 13, six out of eight transfers were doable, another was a "maybe." But wha' happen on June 9? That's one thing I couldn't tell from the Flight Stats data. That half hour on June 14 might be doable with absolutely no impediments along the way, and there's a fair chance for the 55 minutes. I always wonder whether the connecting flights wait for the big guys to discharge their passengers. I think they do, but there must a limit.

I sent a heads-up about potential, er, alterations in schedule to the ladies picking us up. We can all start thinking about Plan B. She answered, "Well now Lee, you didn't expect things to go smoothly did you?? :) What kind of adventure would that be!"

Guess I shouldn't. That is the motto of this blog, after all.

In Spring, 2010, Jeanne's quilters tour was on tenterhooks due to the massive shutdown of European airports as a result of the ash cloud from last year's Icelandic volcanic eruptions. We got there, but didn't worry so much about getting back. (Stuck in Paris? What's not to like?) In October, 2010, when I went to a writers' workshop in Essoyes, there were transportation strikes, demonstrations, and fuel shortages. I had to use Plan B (or maybe I'd dropped down to Plan C) for that one and had my first driving experience in France. Again, for the trip I just got back from, another Icelandic volcano blew its top and a few airports closed, causing at least some talk amongst us about how long closures would last and where they might spread to.

I've Plan B'd it before, I can Plan B it again.

In local news, the motel bulletin board announces the birth of my manicurist's baby. It's a boy. (Actually, she hadn't kept that a secret. However, last time I asked, baby's name hadn't been fully decided so I can't tell you that.)

So I start off on a trip with a Plan B manicurist.

The motel is already decked out in Red, White and Blue for the 4th of July.

See you later.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quick Notes for Thursday

Too much to do, so little time. This evening I ironed for the first time in ages. This evening I've been setting up bill payments for July. Crimeny. The June bills haven't even run their course yet!

Today, being Thursday, was NeedleCrafts at the Little House. We were nine of us for sure this week. I forgot my camera, alas, because Rose brought her entire colorful collection of Sock Club socks. Today was Rose's birthday. Sock Club participants get a new and exotic method of knitting a pair of socks at intervals, two months, I think.

I did take a couple of photos last evening. Tory (sister-in-law) and Brother-in-Law (to keep this straight, this is Sister's husband) and I went out to dinner at the Grill, in the nick of time before my free birthday dessert coupon expired. Sister was stuck in the City for medical appointments. She has inconveniently broken, or cracked, a bone in her leg, but pledges this will not keep her from our trip.

Here is my dessert, the tiramisu. I consumed the whole thing, short of licking the plate.

BIL had this boysenberry cobbler with ice cream. I know from personal experience that these are good, too.

Now I'm going to bed to get a little more sleep tonight than usual. I need to elevate sleeping as a priority.

See you later.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Visiting the Guggenheim in Bilbao

On May 17, having been assured we wouldn't need our passports to go into and out of Spain, we departed our hotel in Saint Jean de Luz at 7:45 a.m. for our walk to the bus that would take to the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

I have delayed reporting on our Guggenheim visit because I'd heard that no photos were allowed. To avoid having a camera dangling uselessly around my neck all morning, I left it on the bus.

Bad idea!

In any case, after returning home I solicited photos from my fellow travelers, and Jane, Jeanne and Kathy graciously sent some for me to use in my blog. Kathy has additional shots from the Guggenheim here.

A post by blogger Sion Dayson, Paris (Im)perfect, who had visited the exhibit "Monumenta" at the Grand Palais in Paris and had photos of this unusual installation art, finally inspired me to pull the photos together for this post. (The Monumenta exhibit will run through June 24 if you'll be in Paris.)

Denis, our bus driver, was waiting, double-parked, for us on a main street and we headed south for the border.

                                            Spain, coming up                         Photo by Kathy
 At the end of the previous day's sightseeing, Iban, our Basque guide had explained that Denis would drop us off under the Poppy.

     Will that be easy to find?
     Yes, the Poppy is very big, with flowers.
     (Light bulb goes on)  Flowers. A big poppy.

We also put Denis' mobile number in to my phone and we tested the connection. When we were finished with our museum tour, I would ring Denis briefly to signal him to return from bus parking to pick us up under the Poppy.

It wasn't until we'd left the bus and walked out from the lower level drop-off point that we saw the PUPPY! Turns out the Puppy is a major meet up spot and he wears a new coat of flowers seasonally.

                                       Puppy                    Photo by Jeanne

As soon as Denis pulled away I realized my mistake with the camera, because the museum itself is a work of art and much of it is photographically accessible from the outside. We immediately set out to find the group entrance where we would find our English-speaking guide, not as easy as one might think, particularly since we got conflicting advice from passersby. We set ourselves out at intervals so we could inform by hand signaling down the line if anyone found something.

                                                                     Photo by Kathy

                                                                 Photo by Kathy
                                                                 Photo by Kathy

                                                                                             Photo by Jeanne

There are art pieces inside and out. It's principally inside where the photos aren't officially allowed but at some kinds of inside installations, a discreet picture might not be noticed.

                                    Our group with our guide                  Photo by  Kathy

Our guide provides a history of how this Guggenheim came to be located in Bilbao, how it was designed, what it's made out of (limestone, glass and titanium).

                                                                                                  Photo by Kathy

                                                                                                Photo by Kathy
Like ships in a harbor. Or surging in close formation over the sea.

                                                                                              Photo by Kathy
 Ramps and slow-rising steps lead the visitor from level to level.

                                                                                              Photo by Kathy

We visited several installation exhibits within the museum. We did see a few head-scratching exhibits there. I know art should be thought-provoking, but I'm not sure that some of the thoughts provoked were what the artist had in mind. I think most of us enjoyed Richard Serra's series of sculpted forms, known collectively as "The Matter of Time."

Photo Postcard emailed to me from Jane

The museum website says of this exhibit:
The Matter of Time enables the spectator to perceive the evolution of the artist's sculpted forms, from his relatively simple double ellipse to the more complex spiral. The final two works in this evolution are built from sections of toruses and spheres to create environments with differing effects on the viewer's movement and perception. Shifting in unexpected ways as viewers walk in and around them, these sculptures create a dizzying, unforgettable sensation of space in motion. The entirety of the room is part of the sculptural field: As with his other multipart sculptures, the artist purposefully organizes the works to move the viewer through them and their surrounding space.

 Photo from Museum website

Just to give you an appreciation of the scale of these works, see the two people in Jane's photo of the same scene.

                                                                                               Photo by Jane
We had enough time to go through two of these forms and the paragraph above accurately describes what is disorienting and evocative at the same time, as we pulled something from our memories while moving through them. I went first through one side of the Snake and back through the other. My balance is terrible and I had to trail fingertips along at least one wall to stay on my feet. Then I went through one of the Torqued Spirals, I think the one toward the front of these views. As to what this short journey evoked, I felt like I was drifting in a boat down the Colorado River between high red canyon walls.

                                                           Photo by Kathy

I think this is the Torqued Spiral we walked through:

                                                                                        Photo by Kathy

                                                                                             Photo by Kathy

The water adjacent to the building is a water feature, to the right of the walkway I believe it is the river. The water feature is kept at the same level as the river to make them appear as one. Jeanne's view from a little farther away also shows the mammoth sculpture,  "Maman," or Mommy, in the form of a spider. The spider cares for its young by protecting them in the shelter of the legs, and it is said that the visitor is enveloped in a sense of love and protection when standing in that enveloping space. As an arachnophobe, that's a hard story to buy, and I couldn't bring myself to go anywhere near it. I'm even uncomfortable with photos of the sculpture, since the artist has really hit the angles in the legs with so much truth.

Below this overall scene, I have included a solo picture of Maman, but I have left it small, for the comfort of those of us who don't want to be startled by a spider in their face. Those who want a closer view can click on the photo to enlarge it.

                                                                                             Photo by Jeanne

                                       Photo by Kathy

                                  Back to Puppy as we depart                 Photo by Kathy

There must be many more exhibits here that we did not have time to see. To see the museum itself is well worth a visit, and a longer visit to Bilbao would be in order.

See you tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Excitement! I took the little pocket itinerary in to be plastic-covered and spiral bound. It's a little too thick to hold together with small binder clips, so I carefully wrapped a piece of paper around it to protect the photo cover from the rubber band I secured it with, then put a Post-It™ on "Front" and "Back," labeling the side that the spiral should be on.  I told the clerk I didn't need it until after my evening French class but gave her my number "in case." I had a free birthday beverage from Starbucks, so stayed for a sandwich to eat with it before class. I finally recognized that the funny beep I was hearing midst all the computers in the room was actually a voicemail on my phone, telling me my little PI was ready already.

So I picked it up before class, took it out of the envelope once I got to the car, and . . . what's wrong with this picture?

Furthermore, the plastic covers weren't on it and those are vital, as the inkjet photo covers melt in contact with water. But the Post-Its were on it and the spiral was on the side indicated. Whether I put them on wrong in the first place, or they got removed and reapplied incorrectly during the binding, I don't know. But there was no point going back then for the plastic cover. It would have to be reprinted, recut and reassembled. A backward binding had happened once before and a "lefty" adopted it without much difficulty, but I thumbed through it and I just can't do it. So tonight I reprinted.

Another cosmic question. No, really. Why is tonight's full moon, while driving home from French class, so high above the horizon, yet when I arrive home half an hour later at a higher elevation, it hasn't even come up yet?

Moon from down the hill. No photo at home. It hadn't come up yet.
 While I was stopped at the roadside, I liked the view of the highway stretching in both directions, courtesy of my mirror.

This is Tuesday, so it was Tuesday Out all day. Earlier, Soroptimist held a Roast for outgoing President Sharon. She had been warned not to do her hair, to wear old clothes, to beware the possibility of water.

We gathered for the festivities at Jeanne's lovely home.

The Roast Mistress took the stage.

President Sharon was convinced that all the warnings were just to scare her. Nothing bad had ever happened to previous outgoing presidents. She was still confident, even though she had been seated on a beach chair in a kiddy wading pool. An elaborate story was told. Various characters took the stage, enacting incidents from herlife. When I saw people sneaking up with plastic buckets and mention was made of two watery incidents in her life, I was so convinced they were referring to the fact that on her and her husband's last two trips to Hawaii, they'd had to evacuate their hotel due to tsunamis that I failed to hear the real reason why a bucketful of styrofoam peanuts was thrown on her. And I also missed snapping a photo of the real bucket of water as it landed seconds later. No one knew that one was really coming, even the cast of the roast, except for the shadowy party who threw it.

Here's President Sharon, still smiling as she finishes her soggy term.

Then we got down to tasty sandwiches, fruit, orzu salad and dessert provided by Dori's Tea Cottage.

See you tomorrow.