Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Week That's Not Over Yet

Jean-Luc in the crinkle grooming tunnel

 Here it is, another unanticipated blog post late at night, because I was reminded that Leap Day is upon us by Renee over at Writingfeemail's Blog. It -- today by a few moments -- feels like the end of the week, not hump day. The main effect February 29 has on my life this year is that it puts off my Social Security check for a week, since I receive it on second Wednesdays. I don't anticipate observing any of the traditions of Leap Year, such as running out and proposing to someone. I have no plans beyond sorting and filing papers, which all the paper shuffling I've been doing for for weeks, or so it seems, is preparation for.

Dark clouds moving in

 Or, if it snows, which it might, I'll go out and take some snow pictures. A friend who drove into Yosemite Tuesday morning said she was driving through snow. It looked ominous when I went down the hill to the little city Tuesday afternoon.

Even darker to the east (or maybe that's north)

 I'd gone to the dentist to see whether it's time to do the tooth implant yet. Alas, no. There is still healing of the bone graft to be done. We'll check progress in another month. I'm getting darned tired of trying to chew food with too few chewing surfaces.

Then I went to the new PetSmart looking for "cat toys, indestructible," which had been a major Google search last week. I found some of the things on my list and others that I hope Jean-Luc will not eat. I filled a shopping cart with cat toys, treats and Chloe's special food. These will be doled out sparingly. Tonight when I finally got home after French lessons, I gave them a Kickeroo, which Chloe immediately grabbed from the boys, a crackle grooming tunnel and a mylar ball. Looks like they'll enjoy!

Chloe engulfs the Kickaroo and rolls around on the floor.

See you soon.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thursdays out, Cheetos, Horsetails and fire falls

The little sun icon on Friday's weather forecast for Yosemite Valley showed a few clouds drifting over it. Sister-in-Law and I had our fingers crossed for a nice day, with extra hopes for a clear evening to take a shot at this phenomenon:

For a few early evenings in February, the sun hits an area of the cliffs beside the well-known climbers' challenge, El Capitan, and gives a particular luminescence to a small waterfall, Horsetail Fall, that fragilely flows over the edge, giving the illusion of a firefall. Any clouds drifting over the sun extinguish the effect. Sunset would be at 5:45 on Friday. We were cautioned to allow plenty of time to park, walk, and get set up.

I had another photo goal as well. I wanted my own picture of the temporary repair to the road that had been damaged by a rockslide in January, before the road closes next Wednesday for six weeks to make the permanent repair. That was another part of choosing a Friday visit, rather than get into a higher-traffic weekend.

That theory seemed to be working. There was scarcely a car on the road.

Until we came to the road repair. At which point a small car traveling at a high rate of speed came screeching up behind me. The good parts of this road are a conservative two lanes wide; the repair area much narrower. There is nowhere to stop, except mid-lane, and an upward-bound car to discourage passing. So I stopped -- briefly only, as I could see steam coming out of the ears of the driver behind me -- while Sister-in-Law thrust her camera out the window and clicked. (One day I should try to PhotoShop the ugly antenna out of the center of the photo!)

Kind of small-looking for something that will take six-weeks to fix, huh? I'm taking it that there is a lot of vertical damage to the right-of-way, more than just this little piece of roadway. Then Mister-in-a-Hurry continued to follow along behind even when we got to the valley floor where both lanes are inward-bound. Passing zone, Sparky. (Not the last driver enigma of the day.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself on this journey.

There's a pullout on the trip into the valley with a first-good-view of Half Dome. With as many trips as we've made to Yosemite over the years, you can guess we have a boxload of Half Dome photos. Nevertheless, it was so clear and beautiful that we pulled out. Just one more, n'est-ce pas? I tried one of those self-photos with Half Dome in the background. I missed us both. I did better with the traditional Half Dome photo.

Just another picture of Half Dome

We were both rubbernecking to see whether there was water flowing in Tamarack and Cascade Creeks as they pass under the roadway. Not much water seen in Tamarack but there was quite a bit in Cascade. We backed up to a parking area for these pictures.

Cascade Creek, upper fall

Cascade Creek, lower fall

The creek goes under the road and out there ^^^

It's shortly after this stop that we pass the patch in the road, then it's just a short distance farther to the intersection with Highway 140 entering the Valley. We still have a bit of a drive to get to the populated portions of the valley.

Where shall we go when we get there? we ask each other. We decide in favor of the Ahwahnee Hotel . . . it's nearly lunch time and we might try the Ahwahnee Bar to see if any of the menu choices appeal.

There's new signage in the parking lot. It gave us pause . . .

We split a Chicken Waldorf Croissant and each had a cup of fish chowder.

We spent at least an hour of the glorious afternoon in wicker chairs on the patio, watching the world go by and warming ourselves in the sunshine. (Just like our cats do!)

Serene view

Creative downspouting may not provide optimal
water flow but preserves the big stones in the columns.


Future footballer. This little dude can't be more than
2½ but he can already dribble (is that what
they call it in soccer?) down the patio.

Last closeup of the craggy walls behind the Ahwahnee

We finally stirred ourselves off our comfy seats to make the rounds. We went on to Yosemite Village, checking out the Village Store first. It is undergoing a makeover. SIL immediately missed the giant bear (yes, I think it's a real one, although stuffed) that has graced the store from time immemorial. "He's off having some relaxing spa treatments and enjoying himself," explained an employee. (That's their story and they're sticking to it after one employee told a child that the bear was in the hospital, at which the child burst into tears.)

Not too much chance of getting lost in the Village

More new signage

We also took a turn through Yosemite Lodge, since it was en route to the day-end photo shoot. We took the time to savor our favorite Haagen Dazs ice cream bars. (It's a Yosemite tradition.) Yummmmy.

Then it was off to find a parking place for the photo shoot. We found one and took a short tramp through woods to find a clear view of Horsetail Fall. Old time aficionados were already staking out their spots as we arrived at 5-ish. Sunset was due at 5:45 and the window for best viewing can be variable.

What we're all looking  at . . .

Before the lava effect  Authoritative voices in the crowd were pointing to the horse's rump -- the right rump-cheek is in light shadow at the top-right of the sunlit area. There was not much water flowing over Horsetail Fall, but a little trickled through an indentation to the left of that cheek. At full flow, it would look more horsetail-like.

"Snapshots" of our photo-seekers

SIL's photo of the photo-seekers.
That's me in the blue jacket, being held up by the tree.

The light is right and the auto set on my camera picks it
 right to get the firefall -- or lava -- effect.
(And my low-battery light begins to flash.)

Fading now, with only three more minutes of sun to go.

Sister-in-Law's photo at 5:45:35 (sunset)

When we got back to our car, we could see that the right lane of the road ahead of us had been closed down for parking for quite some distance. Crowds were returning to their cars, crossing the road, opening doors in traveled lanes, and making other unexpected moves. I was trying to proceed slowly as befit the situation and was almost hit twice by cars that came barreling up from behind, lane-switching, not even slowing down. (A$$holes!)

We made it home intact, thank goodness, and by that time, sleepy.

*     *    *

Going back to the most recent Thursday Out, we had a good group at NeedleCrafts. Sandy had this almost-done baby bunting for a grandbaby.

Darn. I neglected to get a picture of the big pile of colorful fabric wallet/cardholders Barbara is making for an upcoming craft faire. A few of our regulars were missing for various reasons such as travel, surgery or family matters. It's amazing that a few months ago, we would have said, "Wow, we have NINE here today!!!" How times change. This week we said, "Only nine? Where is everybody?"

For those of you holding your breath about what happened at my visit to the doctor on Wednesday: My cholesterol report was mixed. Overall cholesterol has improved. One part of the cholesterol score has improved but two parts worsened. I forgot to get a copy of the report, so I can't tell you which ones. This result prompted me to study the Nutrition Facts on stuff I was consuming that day.

Cheetos don't have any cholesterol. That's good news.

Archival photo

I guess I'll have to eat more Cheetos and less . . . well, I haven't figured that one out yet. My vitamin D is too low. I've already been taking a bunch of it, but now I'll toss another of those cute little capsules from Costco into the handful I take. The doctor provided a third opinion on how long I must remain upright and unfed after taking a bone-strengthening med, which is supposedly en route from the mail-order pharmacy. Opinions I have received range from ½-hour to an hour. It strikes me that this should have a factual answer, not an opinion.  (Hello, manufacturer's voluminous insert.)

I can do this. Just stick a computer in front of me and I'll be lost in time.

See you soon.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sunsets and Facebook

I just went out to pick up my newspaper at the end of the driveway. When I turned around to return to the house I saw red streaks in the sky, largely hidden by the bulk of the house. I'd been oblivious to the glorious skies unfolding outside my little cocoon in front of the computer. I gave a quick pat to the friendliest feral cat who followed me to the back door, raced for my camera, and quickly exited to the front deck to capture the red light before it faded.

How many of these do I miss?

I hadn't planned a blog for tonight. It seemed as if it had been completely quiet around here, nothing happening, a long stretch of nothing for days on end. Sheesh! How quickly I forget. Off-loading my sunset photos was a memory-jogger. Earlier today I'd been at a lively Soroptimist meeting, where, for example, there was momentous news that the hotel where we hold our meetings has been sold, and rather quickly at that. Lynn, the current owner, said that when she and her husband decided they wanted to move on to something else in life, she figured it might take three to 25 years to sell it. But it didn't! For six weeks this news has been a closely held secret, but now there's a legally-required 30-day change-of-ownership notice hanging in the window. Wowser!

Here's a picture of Lynn and the Honorary Mayor of our community, Goose, just after he had been elected for the second time last fall. (The candidate with the most bribes wins. Should I cynically say "just like normal?")

Our relationship with the hotel will continue as before. I'm not sure about Goose's. He plays piano there for the entertainment of the guests. Today's plan for the about-to-be-former hoteliers is to start a blueberry farm. Someone helpfully pointed out that our Soroptimist prez has a ranch/farm for sale. Gosh, could it be any more convenient?

I've stopped by my Sister and Brother-in-Law's place a couple of times in the past few days to take photos of the Great Car Barn construction project's progress for them. They've been out of town this week. In case she wants to blog it, she has first dibs on publication.

And it was just yesterday that I helped Barbara with a class on Facebook held at The Little House, our local senior center. I took pictures. If you recognize any of your friends here, you might try Friending them in a while, after they've had time to absorb information from the class and follow the series of tutorials they can do for additional self-study on the how-to-do's.

This is our fine group of folks. I checked that none of them is in
witness protection before posting their photos. Facebook seems
to be a little livelier computer topic than, say, Excel.

Barbara shows her own Facebook page to the assemblage.

And now everyone gets a turn at how to look up the tutorial online.

The rest of the week does not lack for excitement. Tomorrow, I will find out whether my cholesterol is up, down or indifferent. Thursday I'll be back at The Littlehouse with my NeedleCrafts group. Friday's plans are somewhat weather-dependent.

Back on January 22, a big rock slide closed our direct route into Yosemite Valley. A lot of photos were published on Facebook and elsewhere, and it looked like we were in for a lengthy closure. Then to everyone's surprise, reopening occurred on January 28, albeit with temporary repairs.

It's time to pay the piper. We're in for a six-week closure, starting next Wednesday (this is a corrected date). That takes it until early April, subject to happy weather or delays. Our little town relies on the tourist industry and this is not a good thing to have happen, but the intention is to have it completed when the tourist season picks up for the season. There are longer ways in, all around Robinhood's barn. Does anybody know that expression? It's been with me my whole life, from the Canadian side of the family. I get puzzled looks when I use it, and I must admit, it doesn't make much sense if you stop to think about it.

So Friday, Sister-in-Law and I plan to drive over the repair zone and into the Valley, kind of a last shot for the next six weeks. We're hoping for good weather -- it's much more scenic when it is. We have a Sisters-in-Law trip scheduled for early April when we'll stay there for a few days. We'll be hoping we won't have to go all around Robinhood's barn to get there.

See you soon.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

"To be, or not to be . . .

. . . that is the question."

Ring a bell?

What about "Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry"?

Whether you knew they are from William Shakespeare's Hamlet or not, they're certainly familiar, and during the performance playing now through March 18 at Stage 3 Theatre Company in Sonora, California, there'll be many more "aha" moments when you say to yourself, "so that's from Hamlet." I wonder whether there is another work in the English language with this many familiar passages?

Robbie Smittle ROCKS IT as Hamlet.

Photos from the Stage 3 website
Information from the Weekender (Union-Democrat, Week of February 9)

When asked for one word to describe his experience playing the title role, he answered "Passionate. It's also romantic, surprising, antic, athletic and harrowing. I've been studying this play for 10 years and until I'm 80 I'll find something new."

Stage 3 has boldly presented Hamlet as it 2012 season-opener, described by Artistic Director Don Bilotti thusly,  "This is our first foray into Shakespeare. 'Hamlet' is the big fish and we're going out to deep water to get it. It's an exciting opener to our 2012 season."

Director Steve Coniglio set himself the task of presenting a production which is lean, muscular and above all, fresh, clear and moving. "For those familiar with the play, we will provide interesting twists of perception, time, and motive; without altering the core or the words of Shakespeare. Guaranteed: moments of 'I've never seen it that way before and 'I've never thought of it that way before.' For the uninitiated, we've designed these moments not to confuse but to serve to enlighten the understanding of the play."


I recommend this interesting production, but unless you're flat-out up-to-date on the characters and intricacies of Hamlet, I also recommend taking a look at a summary before going (wish I had thought of it), such as this one at SparkNotes. And I'll remind you that this is one of Shakespeare's "tragedies," so don't expect a happy ending, although it may be considered "justice done."

Up front, I like Shakespeare, with no expertise in the subject, in theatre, nor, for that matter, in literature. I'm not sure whether I've seen a live theatre performance of Hamlet before this one -- I probably did back in the mists of time -- but I have seen various productions on the small screen.

How did this "like" happen? Merchant of Venice and Julius Caesar" were obligatory works to read in California high schools back in the day. Being a bit of a contrarian as a teenager, I liked them.

Then I went off to a college with a noted summer Shakespeare company and festival.* The staircase to the main entrance to the college's main building was converted to a stage each summer. The boy I started seeing (who became the man, my husband) had a part in Macbeth as a tree in Birnam wood.


"As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look'd toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move."
. . . .


". . . 'Fear not, till Birnam wood
Do come to Dunsinane' . . ."

I was hooked.

For the summers I was on campus, I attended those Shakespearean plays. Once we moved away from our college town (I managed to linger there for nine years), opportunities to see Shakespeare in live theatre haven't been exactly plentiful. Being the saver (hoarder?) that I am, I have all my calendars since 1983, plus 1975 and 1976 (where oh where are 1977 through 1982?). Although I attended many plays by the San Diego Repertory Theatre company between 1978 and 1988, I only noted two play titles in the calendars, "Quilters" (not Shakespeare but notable for spurring my interest in quilting), and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I know I also saw Coriolanus there, having persuaded my husband (the second one, not the Birnam wood one) and several friends to go together for an evening at the theatre. Husband and friends bailed at intermission. I stuck it out. Although I was grossed out at the free use of severed heads in this play, I was (and am) still the contrarian I was in high school English. I wonder now whether, after watching maggoty and dissolving corpses and lots of severed body parts over dinner with the likes of Bones and the CSIs, my sensibilities have been somewhat dulled, and I would spend less time looking between my fingers at faux severed heads?

At least after retirement I recorded play names in my calendars. My poor second husband, never a theatre fan, who had attended with me over the years to protect me from any seedy characters that might be lurking in parking garages or gritty city streets while walking to the theatre, begged me to excuse him from theatre attendance in our smaller and safer towns. To tell you the truth, it's more fun to go to a play on your own than to worry during the play that your companion is hating  it.

I began attending performances put on by several theatre groups in my new area, which, without going into a complex family tree, have included Columbia Actors Repertory in Columbia, Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora and Columbia, Mountain Actors Conservatory in Sonora, and Stage 3 Theatre Company in Sonora, during which I have seen perhaps three other Shakespeare productions. More, certainly, were offered, but not always at times I could attend.

During some turbulent years, my college fell on hard times and was ultimately closed down. But more recently, a determined group of alumni has brought about a renaissance of the college and students are now in residence. I attended a reunion during the early years of this effort and saw a lively and bawdy presentation of Romeo and Juliet there by young actors. Although it (still) didn't end well for the lovers, I suspect it had a more Elizabethan sensibility than many productions.

*Meredith 'Dal' Dallas and Arthur Lithgow founded Antioch College’s Shakespeare Under the Stars in 1952, where they both acted and directed on a stage constructed against the massive stone steps of Main Building. Between 1952 and 1958, a company of professional actors, students and villagers presented all of Shakespeare’s plays. This was the first time in the United States that all of Shakespeare’s plays had been presented one after the other in one location. See a 1955 account of this, in the era of my first year at college, in the final photo.

More quotes and pictures: Quotes from various online sources and pictures from Stage 3's website.

"In my mind's eye".

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."


"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."


"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."


"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio:
a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.
He hath borne me on his back a thousand times . . ."

Grave Digger and Yorick

"Brevity is the soul of wit."

Ophelia and Polonius

Hamlet and Laertes

Hamlet and Gertrude

"That it should come to this!"

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't."

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks".

"To be, or not to be . . . "

Ophelia and Hamlet

"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
thou shalt not escape calumny.
Get thee to a nunnery, go."

Player Queen and Hamlet

"The play 's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Hamlet and Claudius

Claudius, Ophelia and Gertrude

Hamlet and Laertes

"Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

"The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him his commandment is fulfilled,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead."

"The rest is silence."

The milieu of my freshman year

See you soon.