Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Real Simple?

Near the check-out stand in a supermarket the other day I noticed and was intrigued by the cover of the January 2012 issue of "Real Simple" magazine. It promised the answer to all my problems was inside:

"How to Break Bad Habits"
"Reduce Your Debt"
"Lose Weight Faster"
"Clear the Clutter"
"Learn to Say 'No'"
"Cook Smarter"
"Re-energize Your Style"
"Be Happier Now."

 I have seen promises like those on magazine covers all my life, and bought the magazines, and I'm still not perfect. Also, doesn't a glossy magazine called "Real Simple" seem like an oxymoron?

Worst of all, I already know how to fix some of the the problems. I'm just not doing it.

"How to Break Bad Habits" -Identify bad habits and work out a realistic plan to change them.
"Reduce Your Debt" -Stop spending so much. Save more.
"Lose Weight Faster" -Eat less. Exercise more.
"Clear the Clutter" -Spend more time cleaning up than making the mess in the first place.
"Learn to Say 'No'"-Just say 'no'
"Cook Smarter" -Quit trying recipes whose ingredients are hard to find.
"Re-energize Your Style" - What style?
"Be Happier Now" -Quit wanting what you can't have and appreciate what you can have.

Free advice. Gratis. See if you can find a used copy of this magazine at your local library's bookstore for 25 cents. That's what I'm going to do. And afterwards, I can make a Christmas Tree out of it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Memey Christmas

By the light of the silvery meme....
A meme is, according to the dictionary, "an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture". I found the Nyan kitty internet meme while looking for something else entirely. I merged the graphic with an idea from a Christmas card drawn by Eva Melhuish called "Star Gazer". The card was sold by the Smithsonian and the illustration was one page from a book called CHRISTMAS MAGIC. My apologies to everyone concerned.


At the first of the month I planned to make seven angel pins. So far I've only made two.
Pattern by Sally Lampi

Free pattern from Blue Heron

Highlights of LosCon 38, November 25th to 27th, 2011

LosCon is a science fiction convention put on by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS). We started going to it back when it was held in Burbank (it is now held at the LAX Marriott) and it is probably our favorite local convention.

Please accept this review as opinion rather than fact. Your mileage may vary. You may be holding another part of the elephant.

Friday the 25th:

The Convention Hotel had the usual parking problems, but the room contained a phone book and a hotel guide and a mini-fridge. The Convention packet also contained a map of nearby restaurants, shops, and urgent care facilities. This was great!

Programming and Diversions:

"Feynman, the Graphic Novel":  The artist Leland Myrick talked about doing the artwork for the biography. (Jim Ottaviani wrote it, and Hilary Sycamore colored it). I am looking forward to reading the graphic novel, and I'm told it contains a good explanation of the QED theory.

It is always a pleasure to go to panels given by Carole Parker.  She is a costumer and fabric experimenter whose enthusiasm is catching. Grout resist? I've got to try that.

The panel "The Wonderful Future That Never Was" was given by Greg Benford and John Herz. They discussed the book of the same name which contains excerpts of Popular Mechanic's articles from the past. Very appropriate, as the theme of this years convention is "Where's My Flying Car?"

Saturday, November 25th

The panel "Hair, There, and Everywhere" presented by noted costumers Arabella Benson and Kate Morgenstern had a lot of good information, including "If you have a large head and are having trouble finding a wig that fits, try going to a shop that caters to transvestites." ( Men, on the average, have bigger heads than women.)

 "A Conversation With Louis Charbonneau" had the author being interviewed by Nick Smith. From the 50's through the 90's Louis Charbonneau wrote numerous books and the stories for two Outer Limits episodes.

David Gerrold's Auction to benefit Aids research is addicting.  If David Gerrold hadn't become a writer, he would have made a great auctioneer. I think he could sell snow to eskimos, and I know he can sell books to people who already have too many of them, because I bought some.

 I enjoyed the music of Marilyn Miller, Allison Lonsdale, and Eben Brooks.

Sharon King's presented "Unusual Behavior in Household Appliances". In doing further research I found out she also participates in the International Association for the Fantastic in The Arts. (IAFA) Conference. This is a serious convention with academics presenting serious papers on subjects like "The Decomposition of the Contemporary Family: Zombie's Role in the Transmogrification of the Nuclear Family." Wonders never cease.

At 8pm there was the traditional Masquerade, with fantastic intermission music by Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff, followed by room parties.

Sunday, November 27th

I attended "Making Your Art Work: The Right Medium for the Right Job" with panelists Dr. Laura Brodian Freas, and Julie Sczesny. We had a field trip to the Art Show and Ellen Shipley showed us her wonderful woodblocks and talked a little bit about the process of making them.

"Costuming Techniques" with several panelists. They discussed the do's and don'ts of presenting your costume on the stage with much practical advice.

Some unusual aspects of this convention.

The bad: The Con Suite: There wasn't one.  The Con Suite had been a large room where you could pop in and grab a soda or just sit and talk to people. I found out later that not enough people had reserved a room at the convention rate so the hotel did not want to provide the space. The Convention would have had to pay the hotel a $7,000 penalty because they had fewer rooms at the convention rate than contracted for, but they compromised by buying $5,000 worth of food from the hotel, which was served at an undisclosed time and location. Apparently a lot of people booked rooms online or through the 800 number at a lower rate than the "special" convention rate.  I also suspect some people also decided to stay at other hotels in the area because of the perennial "no parking" problem at the LAX Marriott on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Newsletter: "The Cartouche" had a weird distribution schedule.  The explanation given for it was that the printing service wasn't available.

The good: The Maker Room featured a wide variety of exhibits and demonstrations on subjects from cheesemaking to rocket making.

I've been trying to filk "A Con With No Suite" from Tom T. Hall's "The Bar With No Beer" (filking is to write new words for old songs - usually with science fiction or fantasy themes)

The Con With No Suite

There's lots to do at LosCon: shop, party, and play
But it's nice to relax and have breaks through the day
When you're thirsty and want to get off of your feet 
It's a blow when you find it's a Con with no Suite.

Forget hotels restaurants - you'll need a big loan
And you've left all the turkey and leftovers home  
And you don't want a lot, just a coke and a seat
But there is no such place at a Con with no Suite

There's a Green Room with snacks where the VIPs roam
And the volunteers, smofs, and staff all have homes
But the regular fan has nowhere to retreat
When he's attending a Con that's a Con with no Suite.

You can go to the lobby and freak out mundanes,
Get a $5 latte from 'Bucks for your pains
But there's no place to rest and get something to eat
When you're at a convention that has no Con Suite.

Now our hotel room's restful, but just has two seats
And there's parties at night if we just wanted treats
For main meals a Denny's is just down the street
But between tracks we're stuck in a Con with no Suite

If I'd known 'bout the hotel room quota in time
I wouldn't have booked my own room through Priceline 
I enjoyed the convention, but it seemed incomplete 
Because this year at LosCon they had a Gone Suite. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trip Report - Houston International Quilt Festival - November 2011

The trip itself was in the nature of a pilgrimage.  I had been to four previous quilt shows, and everyone was telling me "You have to go to Houston." so I went.

The trip started badly. We were scheduled to leave San Diego at around 11am and arrive, after a transfer in Denver, around 6pm, but the departure from San Diego was delayed because they wanted to do some mechanical inspection. We finally actually boarded the plane in the afternoon, only to be asked to deplane because "you won't be able to make your connection" and put on another airplane to go to Dallas and then, finally, to Houston.  In the "It's a small world" category we ran into people we knew Dan Haslam and other people from Walkabout in the Dallas airport. They were on their way home from Nashville but had also had their flight plans changed by the same airlines.

We arrived in Houston after midnight.  My first class was at 9am the next morning.

The Convention Center is huge. Everything is red, white, and blue.
Sculpture with Convention Center in Background

It is a large show with nearly 1,000 vendors, plus days of classes, and hundreds of exhibits.

A tiny bit of the vendor space. In two hours, you couldn't see everything, even if you walked very fast.
A quilted car cover

Classes were in session before the vendor space and exhibits were open. The first class I took was Robbi Joy Eklow's Fabric Fusing.  Robbi writes a column "Goddess of the Last Minute" for the magazine Quilting Arts.

Part of the class fee included our choice of one of her quilt patterns. I chose a Steampunk design:

Steampunk by Robbi Joy Eklow

After she demonstrated her technique I considered my talents and bought an additional, easier, pattern.
Pattern by Robbi Joy Eklow

My next class was Creative Faces with Shiva Paintsticks with Patty Culea.  This was a half-day class and a lot of fun. I went out afterwards and bought a set of paintsticks so I could try it on my own.

My last class was on making a Sashiko Hanten Jacket was taught by Carroll J. Jones. She was a good teacher who inspires her students.  A young lady who had taken the class from her last year came in during the break and showed off her finished jacket.

Up to this time my husband had been being a tourist on his own, but he joined me for the Quiltapalooza. This was a big party with a "fancy shoe" contest and lots of prizes.  I didn't win a prize but I got some fat quarters, a calendar, and a free magazine. Cool! Here are some great photos of the shoe contest taken by Susan Brubaker Knapp.

As a general rule, I would recommend against taking your husband or significant other to the Houston International Quilt Festival if they are not really interested in quilting and you don't have a car.  There is not that much to do around the Convention Center.   Although there are many things to see and do in Houston, Houston is so huge and attractions are so far apart that you need a car to get around.  There is public transportation, but it seems geared towards bringing workers into the city during the week and taking them home afterwards. Many routes did not run during the weekend.

On Thursday we took the light rail to the Museum District and visited the Museum of Fine Arts, which was free that day.

Pedestrian walk near the museum district.
Art car in park near Convention Center

Mounted patrolman near Macy's

Entrance to underground shopping area. Only open Monday to Friday, and most shops closed around 2pm.

Unfortunately, on Friday night my husband came down with a very bad case of stomach flu or possibly food poisoning. On Saturday we spent several hours in an urgent care center, and the rest of the trip was pretty much spent in the hotel room. By the time he recovered, it was time to go home.

View from our hotel room, Houston

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making Things

Just a recap of recent projects.

This was the last week of an online class with Pamela Hastings on 3D Doll Construction.  It was not easy, and I didn't complete all the projects she offered, but it gave me quite a different perspective on doll-making.  I have printed out all the lessons to read and study later.

For now, this is my version of her doll "Emerging".  My goal is to alter the doll's head to symbolize the sun, and then paint the body with clouds. Not there yet.
The sun's rays are made of Perler beads

Last Saturday I took a polymer clay class with Christi Friesen at The Bouncing Bead. This was my first time using resin. I confess, even though I did fill both ponds with water to test for leakage, they both leaked when I added resin. Good thing those are polymer clay fish!
Two tiny ponds with goldfish and water lilies
This little frog just hopped in.

And, last but not least, last night my doll making group, Imitation of Life Construction Company, met and discussed making doll hats. Some members brought their dolls and hats for Show and Tell. The hostess, Patti Smith, showed us how she makes doll hats and she had made one for each of us to embellish.  I left my hat pretty plain, so I can add decorations when I have made a doll it will fit. Thank you, Patty!
Patty Smith made the hat, I added the lace.

Three great classes, three great teachers - I have a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reading Frederick Buechner

Recently it seems things have been falling apart. Looking for comforting reading, I started Frederick Buechner's SECRETS IN THE DARK, a collection of this Presbyterian minister's sermons from 1959 to 1998.

The first of his books I read was his fictionalized account of the life of St. Godric, simply called GODRIC. Who could resist a book that started "Five friends I had, and two of them were snakes."

Later I read his THE SACRED JOURNEY, the first part of his memoir.

I recommend Frederick Buechner's books and hope that I will be able to read more of them in the future.

"Thus, when you wake up in the morning, called by God to be a self again, if you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are. 
 Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trip Report - France 2011 - October 9th to 11th, Back Home

We had arranged to stay two extra nights in the hotel after the end of the tour, hoping to have some time to re-visit Paris on our own.  On the 9th I got tired of sitting in the hotel room watching t.v. (Wonderful reception, lots of channels, nothing in English).

A French shopping channel

On my own, I took the Metro to the neighborhood near The Pompidou Center to visit the Doll Museum, which was charming. The young lady at the counter, ever so tactfully, asked my age, and I was able to get in at a senior rate.
Only two of hundreds of antique dolls

Back in the neighborhood of the hotel I visited the open-air market on Rue Daguerre and got Harry and I some dinner.

On the 10th Harry felt better so we took the Metro heading back to the Pompidou area. The day before I had been bragging about how easy the Metro was to use so I was dismayed when part-way there we stopped and there was an announcement in French and the train started to head back the way we had come. We got off at the next station and eventually found out that there had been a Metro accident and we would have to take a different route.

After Harry and I went to see the animated sculpture done by Niki de Sainte Phalle and Tinguely at the Stravinsky Fountain, we had lunch at Flunch and just strolled around Paris for several hours.

On the 11th, after breakfast, I took a last walk through the neighborhood and down Rue Daguerre. We had planned to take the RER back to the airport, but one of the unions was on strike so we had to take a cab. There were further problems at the airport. When it was time for our plane to leave we had to climb down stairs, get into a bus, go to the other end of the airport, and climb up stairs to get into our plane. So our trip ended, as it had begun, in confusion, but it worked out all right.

All in all it was a good trip, and I would recommend this particular Road Scholar tour to anyone who would like to get a taste of Provence and the cities along the Rhone but doesn't want to have to drive or use public transportation. The negative is that you can't spend more time at a place that really interests you, but the positive side is that you see a lot and you don't have to worry about all the details of getting from place to place.

Our guides were all great, especially the main guide, Cherifa.  The French people I met (with the exception of the lady from Laduree*) were very kind and patient. If I had to do this trip over again I would take mosquito repellent (for the Camargue) and make more of an effort to speak French, even though just about everyone I met spoke very good English after they heard my French.

*Laduree sells very good desserts, but they are very expensive.  If you like sweets you might like to try Kinder Surprise and related items like KinderJoy, which you can find in most supermarkets in Europe.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trip Report - France 2011 - October 8th: Paris

tThis was our last full day of the tour with the Road Scholar group. In the morning we took a bus to the old part of Paris area where a guide, Brad, showed us some of the sights. I especially liked the visit to Notre Dame, because some deacons were being ordained, and the church was full of ceremony and music.

If you don't have a clear view, there is video...

Fishing and some kind of martial arts...
A pan-handler and her dog and puppies.
Another interesting stop was a bridge covered with "love locks" and "love knots".
A "love-lock"

If you don't have a lock, use a rag or bag...

After the tour we had the option to return to the hotel by bus, or  to go back on our own. We chose to walk back to the hotel. stopping for a snack, window-shopping, and sightseeing.

The last group activity was a ride through Paris by night, a farewell dinner at a cafe, and a view of the Eiffel tower.

Unfortunately my husband had picked up some kind of bug and decided to stay back at the hotel for this last night.

I took eight shakey pictures of the Eiffel tower blinking, but they were all blurred, so I blurred the last one on purpose.

The next morning, October 9th, the members of the group went their separate ways.

Trip Report - France 2011 - October 7th: Chalon, Beaune, Paris

After breakfast we left the boat for the last time.  I was sad to leave the boat, but I was excited to finally be heading towards Paris.

Last sight of boat

Mannequin of nun
Our first stop was the famous Hospices of Beaune, set up as a hospital for the poor which was truly luxurious in its day with no more than two patients per bed and nursing care by the nuns. The poor ward was designed not only to care for the body but also the soul. Patients could look up at a ceiling with colorful carvings, and listen to sermons from their beds.

View from courtyard

Row of beds

Part of decorated ceiling

Detail of stained glass
Afterwards we bought sandwiches and pastries in the tourist area to eat later at a truck stop part-way to Paris.

Paris! Our hotel, the Villa Montparnasse, was near the Montparnasse cemetary and Rue Daguerre, a small pedestrian shopping area. After the tiny cabin on the boat it felt spacious!

Our room at the Villa Montparnasse
That evening we had a meal at a cafe next door to the hotel.

Trip Report - France 2011 - October 6th - Tournus, Burgandy

In the morning the boat was docked at Trevoux, but sailed at 7am.  After breakfast we listened to a lecture on the wines of Burgandy. As we moved north some of the foliage was starting to change color.
The foliage is changing
We see swans all along the Rhone and Saone.
A herd of swans. Usually we only see one or two at a time.

After lunch we take a bus to visit St. Philibert.  Some of us go down into the crypt.

In the crypt
Afterwards we visit a family vineyard and taste wines from the region. We re-board the boat at Chalon-Sur-Saone. 

Tonight is our last night on the boat and we are offered a cocktail in the lounge and there is a gala farewell dinner. I would like to continue sailing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trip Report - France 2011 - October 5th - Vienne, St Roman en Gal, Lyons

The ship left Tain L'Hermitage at 2am. This was the first night sailing.  In the morning we docked at Vienne. After breakfast we left the ship to visit Vienne on foot.  We walked past the Cathedral and viewed the Temple of Augustus and Livie,

Temple d'Auguste et de Livie

Then we took the bus across the river to the Saint Romaine en Gal museum. This was constructed on the site of part of an old Roman settlement that was discovered in 1967 when they started work on a new school.  The museum held a wealth of ancient mosaics and had many models showing how life had been in the old settlement.  Outside the museum there were the remains of a Roman roadway and the outlines of buildings.

Part of a Roman mosaic

The next stop was part of the ruins of the Gier Roman acqueducts at Chaponost
Part of Roman Aqueduct at Chaponost
Considering the original scale of the acqueduct  (perhaps 85 km long ) not much remains. According to what I've read, when the Romans left they took most of their skilled technicians and administrators. Populations in former settlements dwindled, and with no central government to prevent it, Roman structures were plundered to be used as stone quarries; iron clamps and nails were removed and reforged; lead pipes were removed from the water systems; and graves were robbed for their pottery and kitchen utensils.  Some of the structures that remain were saved because they were useful: for example, an old villa might have a church built on it, or a coliseum might have become a fortress, or a theater might continue to be used as a theater.

From Chaponost we went to Lyon. The bus let us off near the Basilica Fourviere, which we visited, and then we had lunch at Restaurant Fourviere.  The restaurant had a magnificent view, but the food was so-so, and service was so slow that by the time the first course arrived I had already filled up on bread.
Salad Lyonnaise
After lunch we took a branch of the funicular down to the Old City.
Funicular cable wheel
Funicular car at bottom

In the old town we visited the St. Jean Cathedral, which had recently been cleaned. Workmen were still patching the outside. 

Patching St. Jean
Something that I did not know* until I started looking for links to Saint Jean Cathedral, was that there is a new gargolyle on the Saint Jean Cathedrul which was put up in honor of the Muslim worker, Ahmed Benzizine, who has spent nearly 40 years helping to restore the ancient cathedral. Next to the gargoyle is the inscription "God is Great" in both French and Arabic. While it is an old tradition to immortalize workers and benefactors as statues and gargoyles on church buildings, the fact that this one portrays a Muslim and part of the inscription is in Arabic has excited some controversy.

Further on, we traversed the Long Traboule, one of many covered passages in the old city.
Looking up

Interior stairs

After some more walking the group separated so that we could travel on our own or return to the boat by bus.  Harry and I walked east across the river to where the boat was now docked. It was a long walk, because there was much to see, and there was a detour because Harry wanted to get a picture of the Mistral from across the river.
A puppet watches in the Old Town
Harry takes a picture of an outdoor sculpture near the river
Although Lyon is famous for its Festival of Lights in December, the ordinary night views were still spectacular, and after dinner the ship departed the city to sail up the Rhone past lighted buildings.

*Possibly I was not paying attention. This happens.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trip Report - France 2011 - October 4th - Viviers to Tain L'Hermitage

Last sight of Viviers
We had an early breakfast and boarded the bus around 8am for a trip through the French countryside. I took a last photo of Viviers through the bus window.

 In the Garden of the Bees

Our first stop was Le Jardin Aux Abeilles (The Garden With Bees?).  The farmhouse and garden are usually closed at this time of year, but Marie-Paule, the owner, is a friend of our co-guide, Laurence, and has taken time off to show us around.  Surrounding the converted farmhouse and outbuildings Marie-Paule has done extensive planting, and created winding paths leading to lovely small gardens. It is a work in progress. She provided information, in english to explain how the French farm gardens have changed over time.
Old farmbuilding

A garden path

Reproduction of antique watering pot

Cat by a farmhouse window
After the tour, Marie-Paule offered us walnut wine, bissap, and chocolate cake. I was sorry to leave because the house and garden were so lovely and peaceful. The bees were no problem.


The next stop was the tiny village of Cliousclat. We first visited The Poterie of Cliousclat (I'm sorry, Google won't translate this page into English for me).
In through an obscure entrance
To the sunny courtyard:
The courtyard
A young potter at work:
A young potter at work

Grapes on the wall

A stroll through the village:
A doorway

We rode back to the ship, which was now docked at La Voulte,  and had lunch. After lunch, while the boat sailed towards Tain l'Hermitage, our guide Cherifa gave a lecture on the wine of the region.

Tain L'Hermitage

In Tain L'Hermitage (the ship's home port) we had a wine-tasting at a cellar next to one of the Valrhona Chocolate Factories. The chocolate factory was closed, but they had free samples in the wine cellar's gift shop.
Wine-tasting in Tain L'Hermitage

We took a foot-bridge from Tain L'Hermitage across to Tournon-sur-Rhone.  In the dark I did not at first realize that the outside of the bridge was covered with spider webs. 
Spider on the bridge, captured by flash
Perhaps it was appropriate that an art installation, les peuple des ondes, on the bridge, consisted of life-sized figures that looked as if they had been wrapped in spider webs.

Top part of an art figure from "People of the Waves"
After our walk, we went to an entertainment in the lounge area of the ship. It was a long day, but the crew members who participated seemed as peppy as ever.