I don't sleep well when I am not home. It probably has to do with increased activities and strange pillows and the coffee that is constantly being made at my parents' house. Anyway, I think I have finally caught up on my sleep.

The trip was good. A photo page will be up sometime next week. The Christmas Contest went well. It was a challenge to us all and although I cursed William for suggesting it every year for the past 4 years or so until I relented I am glad we did it. I can now die saying "I wrote a sonnet and it wasn't half bad."

Here are a couple of pics to tide you over:

c2006__kitchen_t c2006_austin_len_t
intense kitchen work............Austin is keeping Lenore from finding sharks teeth

c2006_camo_t c2006_ctable_t
there is a little crab in this picture............the christmas table

Graeme in the driver's seat

Driving Miss Laura

Graeme is 15 and learning to drive. I think after about three more learning/practice sessions I will hire him as a driver. I see drivers every morning usually in large black sedans picking up the diplomats that live in our building or driving rich children to school. Rich people can have many things but I mostly envy them for their drivers.

Lyla was our driver yesterday on the way down to SC. It was a great drive - no traffic, relatively speedy. I worked on jewelry, re-knotting a necklace for Lyla and making some bracelets. South of the Border is tacky but it is usually welcome site. It means that there are less than 3 hours remaining and the landscape turns from huge billboards and drab fields to tall pine forests and bridges over large bodies of water.


Pet Food Bunny

We went on our usual 12 mile bike ride Sunday. It was a brisk 45 degrees but I am getting better at figuring what to wear. I have a couple of vintage wool cycling jerseys and I love wearing them. It's a bit cold at first going downhill to the park but it warms up really quickly once we get down to Rock Creek Park. Other cyclists are always commenting on Joe's bike which is a hard-to-find Japanese steel bike. My Italian Atala bike is also old and steel but it is not as popular. The last couple of outings though I've gotten comments too. One guy passed us a couple of weeks ago and said "Old school bikes. Cool".

My sonnet is coming along but I am still finding it very hard. I've changed themes a couple of times. I heard rumors that Lenore finished hers while lounging in her chemotherapy comfy chair and that Paula has already written 2 sonnets.

A neighborhood picture:


Some more movie/DVD reviews

Good Bye Lenin!
A nice little movie about a son trying to hide the fact that the Berlin wall has fallen from his mother after she wakes up from a coma. It is an interesting portrayal of that time and place.

Hectic Times

Things are fairly under control. The alliances set up with the siblings for Christmas gift purchases are underway and my other preparations are progressing. The Christmas Contest sonnet, however, is not going well. I thought writing my short little haikus for the 1998 contest was hard.

Joe was at a mall recently and saw this for sale. The picture on the right is something recovering Catholics know well. This one though has lights and a garish clock attached. I kind of like the lights. The clock, not so much.
guardian angel

Art Appreciation

The Museum of American Art was closed for renovation for a number of years.
It reopened this year and they did a great job.

One of the galleries

This is a creepy installation. I did not want to get near. I was sure she was going to move.

Fun chandelier

Leafless trees on the Smithsonian Mall

I did a bit of Christmas shopping in the museum stores. My Smithsonian
membership discount card was very busy.

What Do You Think?

So I decided to use software to write my blog, mainly to take advantage of the automatic archiving. After a short but sometimes frustrating learning curve I think I have it figured out. I will slowly add the old entries and links to the archived pages. I may play with some other themes (looks) as well.
Neighborhood Picture: Twister Board in the Trees

twisterintree   twister_close

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's a little turkey courtesy of the little girl on the 3rd floor.
I love the shadows. Cute and creepy. She knows what I like.
Have a great Thanksgiving

Cutthroat Competition

Austin is off and running with his new blog He's been very prolific - 11 posts in one week.

Lenore and Lynda are competing for the best scar from ovarian cancer surgery. Although Lenore's scar from her breast cancer surgery increases her total scarage, Lynda's stomach scar is longer and was cut into again for her second surgery. The prize is getting the most sympathy from the family. And you thought we only competed making puppets, writing sonnets and creating black velvet artwork. If you are squeamish, DO NOT GO HERE.

By the way, here is a list of our Christmas competitions:

  • 1990 Write a Story based on a Edward Gorey drawing
  • 1991 Make a 1992 Calendar
  • 1992 Make pages for a Alphabet Book for Graeme
  • 1993 Make a Mobile to hang in the Edisto house
  • 1994 Karaoke Gilbert and Sullivan
  • 1995 Puppets with a Purpose
  • 1996 Touchy Feely Book for Little T
  • 1997 Lawn Ornaments
  • 1998 Poetry: A Limerick and then one other poetry form
  • 1999 Mosaics
  • 2000 Photography (Photography By The Numbers)
  • 2001 Comic Strip
  • 2002 White Trash Cooking Show
  • 2003 Stuffed Toys
  • 2004 Dioramas
  • 2005 Black Velvet Art

Some more movie/DVD reviews

Kilnieks (Hostage) Lorella and I went to see this Latvian movie directed by Laila Pakalnina that was part of the European Union Film Festival. It is a story of a hijacker who forces a plane to land in Riga. He lets all the hostages go except an 8 year old boy who asked to stay on the plane. The story is about the hijacker and the boy's friendship as well as about a number of interconnected events that happen around the airport involving racing cyclists, farmers, detectives, biathletes, folk song choirs, bunnies, dogs, cats, cows, bees. The director manages to include many Latvian traditions and favorite foods in the stories. It was quite enjoyable although I am not really sure what happened at the end. Even though we see the hijacker and the boy sitting and talking in a tree it is not clear if they got away clean, died, or if they were just in the imagination of some children playing in the sand. The film was in English and Latvian. I recognized alot of words but unfortunately my grasp of the language has severely dwindled.

Another Blog

Austin started a blog today. Of all my siblings he was the third least likely in my mind to have a blog. But I think it is pretty cool. I'll post the address once he gets it looking the way he wants (colors, fonts, a picture or two).

Also exciting today was getting the latest version of Final Cut (video editing software), which has all sorts of add-ons for special effects. The box was at least 15 lbs, mostly manuals. We're watching a documentary about the CSC cycling team getting ready for the Tour so I am getting inspired. All I need to do is find 40G of disk space to install it

This week I was all "international" attending events (Dana's dance concert Tuesday night, an old movie Wednesday night) at the Embassy of Austria and one at the Organization of the American States (OAS). The OAS event was a silent auction benefiting Peruvian orphans. I went with Austin and William, their Panamanian friend Ralph, their neighbors, Shelly and Matthew and Matthews's father and his girlfriend Mary. It turns out Mary's father is Latvian. Like my mother his first impression of the US was the deep south. He landed in Tennesee, my mother in Mississippi. The OAS building is one of the most beautiful in the city. Here are some dark and fuzzy pics from the OAS event:

Wedding of the Century

So some pictures are up of Lyla and Tracy's Wedding. Currently there are 3 sections but I will add at least 2 more as I have time and get pictures from others who were clicking away. Thanks Lenore, Lynda, Cheryl and Dad.

Some memories:

  • Helping to turn my parents' place into a mystical magical wedding place
  • Making, drinking and sharing my beer - a German Alt that turned out fairly well

  • Goofing around with the family especially in my mom's great kitchen which was made for big cooking.
  • Cooking while listening to Allison Krauss and other tunes on our iPods via William's cool portable speaker system
  • Getting to know Tracy's family especially his grandkids who are as cute as buttons.
  • Realizing that Lyla's wedding hairdo, which was lovely, was very much like her hairdo for her eigth grade graduation
  • Graeme telling me I look like a rock star. Thanks to Tina for the great hair styling!
  • Norm's many visits in his pajama pants to the house from two doors down to help out or just to see what was going on
  • A beautiful female belted kingfisher flew into my parents' living room window and died. The kingfisher is one of my favorite birds and I feel lucky whenever I see one. Her death may have been an omen or a cosmic sacrifice or maybe her time was just up. Dad gave her a respectful funeral in the marsh. We took pictures because she was just so beautiful even in death.

Past Hauntings

So Lyla and Tracy's wedding went splendidly. Lots of hard work paid off. I will have pictures up soon. Austin went to Augusta GA for his 25th reunion and he took some pictures of my past (thanks, Austin!):

montclair sign
This is the entrance to the Montclair subdivision we lived in when we moved to Augusta in 1965. Across the street is a gas station where I got my hand caught in a big mouse trap when I reached into a box on a high shelf to get a candy bar. Lenore went to kindergarten at the church you see in the distance.
dairy queen
This was was our American Graffiti-like hangout. There was a pine tree strewn shopping mall parking lot across the street. We called it The Pines. Cars were always coming and going. I don't remember drinking there but I do remember driving by a lot just to see who was there.
tip top This is Squeaky's Tip Top - cheap beer, pool tables, a great place to hang on Friday nights and before Father Fitzpatrick's 1:00 history class.
This is the YWCA where I took synchronized swimming, gymnastics and taught ballet, modern and tap. I can almost smell the chlorine and hear the muted underwater speaker sounds of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Kraftwerk that Teresa and I used for our synchro swim masterpieces

Work Happenings

  • One of my ballet shoes spent the night in my work parking lot. I could not find it when I got to ballet class but the next morning there it was in the parking space I had parked in the previous day. It was nice that no one had parked there. It had a little goose feather attached to it but other than that it was OK.
  • One of the scientists in my work division is sharing the Nobel Prize for his work studying cosmic microwave background radiation. His results increased support for the Big Bang Theory.
  • I exchanged blog addresses with one of my co-workers. He makes model trains and describes his process in amazing detail.

Some more movie/DVD reviews
Kamikaze Taxi A Japanese movie about a young mob recruit whose girlfriend is killed by the ruthless boss. He exacts revenge but the thugs go after him. He hires a taxi driver to help him escape. The taxi driver was born in Japan but spent most of his life in Peru before immigrating back to Japan. The Yakuza story mixed with a message about acceptance of Japanese who have grown up in different cultures and returned was interesting. And the use of Peruvian music was quite unusual for a japanese movie. However, there were a couple of scenes that went on way too long and had little to do with the story.

Jazzercise and War

So my Jazzercise teacher is back from her eventful trip to visit her family in Lebanon. The bombing started shortly after she arrived but she managed to get out safely and her family is OK. She did not seem to want to talk about it much. She only said that it was hard to leave her family behind and that she feels selfish that she can just leave. While she was gone an aerobics instructor took her place but I did not like it - no real dance moves, just mostly jumping jacks, shuffling from side to side and running in place. And her music was no fun.

Here's another neighborhood picture, this one of a diving shop window:

It is that time of year again to start not working on the McDonald Family Christmas Contest.

Local Color

Thursday my aunt Zita treated me to a dinner at a cool-looking restaurant called Pazo. They serve tapas and other small dishes. The mushrooms and the ciabatta bread were my favorite. As I waited for Zita, her neighbor Caroline and friend Steve to arrive I had a drink at the bar.

Today Joe and I went to the National Building Museum and saw a documentary on the architect John Lautner (a student of Frank Lloyd Wright) and an exhibit on environmentally "green" homes. It made me want to live in a beautiful house made of concrete and glass in the hills overlooking Los Angeles with cork and bamboo flooring, solar panels, and recycled glass tiling throughout.

Here's what we saw on our walk from the museum to have some lunch and then to the Metro.

McGruff the Crime Dog making an appearance at the
National Policeman's Memorial

Interesting architectural styles
near Chinatown

A ceremony at the Navy Memorial

It's been a while since we've had masala dosas from the food court at the Old Post Office and they were as big and as delicous as we remembered them
A group on a segway tour of downtown
A lookout on the roof of the White House

He was probably watching these protestors.

Another Sighting

plastic car

Some more movie/DVD reviews

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy I think Will Ferrell can be funny but for the most part this was not a funny nor a well-made film. There were a couple of funny concepts but for the most part the jokes were juvenile which would have been fine if it had been marketed to juveniles. I hope this isn't the best he can do.

Morvern Callar A Scottish
movie about a woman played by decent actress Samantha Morton who claims she wrote the book written by her boyfriend wrote before he killed himself.
She is not a nice person and not really that interesting. She just takes advantage of her change in luck and does not think twice about her
dead boyfriend. It was a pretty movie but that did not make up for my complete lack of interest in what happens to her.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou I have liked all of Wes Anderson's movies and although this was messy and certainly not his best I still enjoyed it. Bill Murray is fun as a sarcastic and sour Jacques Cousteau type character with a crew of strange misfits and a bunch of interns trying to get class college credit. The dialogue and some of the situations are quite funny.

The Wire Excellent HBO series we are watching on DVD. The first season is about a group of Baltimore drug dealers and the cops who are trying to solve a series of murders that some of the dealers may have something to do with. The characters are all extremely interesting and the plot is complicated but rewards your attention. I am obsessed.


Thursday my aunt Zita treated me to a dinner at a cool-looking restaurant called Pazo. They serve tapas and other small dishes. The mushrooms and the ciabatta bread were my favorite. As I waited for Zita, her neighbor Caroline and friend Steve to arrive I had a drink at the bar.

Today Joe and I went to the National Building Museum and saw a documentary on the architect John Lautner (a student of Frank Lloyd Wright) and an exhibit on environmentally "green" homes. It made me want to live in a beautiful house made of concrete and glass in the hills overlooking Los Angeles with cork and bamboo flooring, solar panels, and recycled glass tiling throughout.

Here's what we saw on our walk from the museum to have some lunch and then to the Metro.

McGruff the Crime Dog making an appearance at the
National Policeman's Memorial

Interesting architectural styles
near Chinatown

A ceremony at the Navy Memorial

It's been a while since we've had masala dosas from the food court at the Old Post Office and they were as big and as delicous as we remembered them
A group on a segway tour of downtown
A lookout on the roof of the White House

He was probably watching these protestors.
I bought a little 1GB jump drive so I can carry data around when necessary.

OK, you're right, I bought it because it is cute but I am sure that someday soon I will find it very useful. I also could not resist the little outfit that has a clasp for easy accessorizing.

my mimobot

Thursday evening I went to my aunt Zita's house to help her install AOL broadband. It should have taken an hour or so but it ended up taking 4 hours. We had to run to Apple store to get the lastest version of Mac OS X and install it. That took about an hour and a half. The rest of the time was dealing with Verizon's crappy install software and annoying technical support. When I finally reached someone who knew Macs it was so much less annoying.

AOL tech support was fairly decent. I talked to a guy in India and he admitted he did not know Macs that well but he obviously had good step by step instructions. As we were finishing the call Zita asked me to find out his name and where he was. His name was Arun and he spelled it for me: A as in apple, R as in rock, U as in unicorn... I found the unicorn part to be quite entertaining so when he said he was in India I told him I might be visiting India at the end of the year. He invited me to come visit hime in Bangalore and told me how many kilometers and how many miles Bangalore is from Chennai (the only city I know we might visit). Anyway it all ended on a nice note and Zita can now have her email open all day without worrying about paying for every second she is online.

Camp DC 2006

Graeme spent his last week of summer vacation here in DC and Baltimore. From these pictures it looks like he had fun.

Vacation video

Yesterday Joe and I went to Rockville to have lunch and do some shopping. We first went to a pizza/sub place but it was unusually full of diners. We found out later that there was a pizza eating contest going on. We then headed across Rockville Pike where there is a noodle place and a burrito place we like. As we approached the row of restaurants there were fire engines parked nearby and firemen on the sidewalk. The restaurants seemed to be open but we decided it was a no-go since the burrito place was filled with smoke and the noodle place was crowded and the children to adult ratio was just too high.

So we drove back across Rockville Pike to the Chinese restaurant right next to the pizza place. Luckily this worked out for us and it was cool because two ladies speaking Latvian sat down at the table next to us. I had a nice little conversation with them in English. As Joe and I ate I tried to come up with the Latvian words to tell them I was in Latvia last year but I could not remember the past tense of the word "to be" so I gave up. I did say "See you later" in Latvian as we left. As we were eating I also realized that I had unconsciously ordered a Chinese radish pancake-like thing because it reminded me of Latvian food.

Here are two Quicktime videos from the Edisto trip. I am using a Quicktime conversion that may not work on PCs so please let me know if there is a problem and I will try a different conversion method. You gotta see these videos.

Paddling with the Dragon Boat team (4.5MB Quicktime)

Crab Collecting (3.3MB Quicktime)

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted.....

So I am back from a week and 2 days at the beach. It was great seeing my family and David, Susan, Lutz and their kids - friends I have had since I lived in Atlanta. It's great that we have stayed in touch.

Some things that made me happy:

  • Being able to watch the entire final stage of the Tour de France with Lynda and Mom and sometimes Dad.
  • Morning walks with Dad and then with the gang.
  • Renting a two person kayak and toodling around the tidal basin. It was so cool being low in the marsh with the herons and jumping fish and shrimp.
  • Watching our Assassin Film Festival - The Bourne Supremecy, Grosse Pointe Blank, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, The Professional (AKA Leon).
  • Having Andrea and Lane join me as guest paddlers on Lynda's Dragon Boat team practice. And knowing the rest of the gang were supporting us on land.
  • My philosophical discussion on the humor of comedienne Sarah Silverman with Lane and Andrea
  • Dinner at the restaurant Coast with Lynda after paddling. Great drinks, great food.
  • Watching old reruns of the TV game show The Match Game with Hunter and Andrea
  • Catching up and talking music with everyone
  • Hiking at the ACE Basin with David and Andrea. The mosquitos were unrelenting but we saw a beautifully vivid redheaded woodpecker, an unusual squirrel (maybe a fox squirrel), large lizards, wild pigs and white-tailed deer.
  • Bartering with Mom: I changed and calibrated the battery in her iBook in exchange for her doing the gross and brutal initial cleaning of the crabs we caught in the traps.
  • Cooking and eating and drinking.
  • Shopping the local Edisto tourist shops with Lynda, Lutz and Sandy and actually finding some linen pants that fit.
  • Lynda and I trying to get Lutz, Andrea and Hunter addicted to shark teeth hunting. We may have succeeded.
  • The perfect ocean water temperature

Some pictures present and past:

Scenes from Edisto Beach 2006 Scenes from Ocean Isle 2004 Scenes from Ocean Isle 2003

Heat Wave

God, it's hot. Walking outside is like opening an oven door.

There was some sort of incident at work and we have been cut off from any system outside of the domain since yesterday and it may continue through the week. It has been so hard for both work and play. Whenever I have a computer code syntax question or get some sort of error message I go to Google. I usually get my "home" email at work and that's not happening. And during the Tour de France I check the day's outcome in late afternoon. I still am not sure what happened today on the Tour's toughest mountain day ending with the legendary L'Alpe d'Huez.

We rented season 1 of Project Runway. It's a reality show like other reality shows but it seems to be more about the fashion and less about the bickering. I've been enjoying it. Season 3 has just started and it is being shown on NBC as well as cable which is great except for the commercials and the inconvenience of not being able to go on to the next episode right away.

More neighborhood pictures:

balcony pinwill little car

Spending Other People's Money

Dana is getting about $28,000 from the DC Commission on the Arts to buy hardware, software and spiff up the company's PR package. One stipulation is that board members have to attend meetings and be involved. I have attended 2 meetings, one to discuss our hardware/software needs and one earlier this week to network with other grant recipients about databases. It's been pretty cool, especially building a fantasy computer system. This week's meeting was in an art gallery and the antendees included others from theaters, art galleries, dance companies and the head of the DC commission and experts in fundraising. And there were coffee and bagels.

The Tour de France is going on and without Lance Armstrong (due to retirement) and other big names (due to suspician of doping) the race is very interesting.

A recent picture I took:

Ice Cream Update
The bread machine has been put away and the ice cream machine is out. We've made two delicious batches so far - vanilla and cinnamon.

To The Limit

I have a new employer. The contract I work on (about 350 people) is up for bid every 5 years and the competition is fierce. 5 years ago I switched companies. I liked the new company but they lost it this time around. I am not so sure how I feel about the new company. Only time will tell. It is somewhat disruptive and there is always the chance that the new company has someone already to fill your position but so far that has not happened.

Joe and I took a longer than usual (for me) bike ride this morning. It was great. The weather was nice and the trails were fairly uncrowded for holiday weekend (well, holiday for some. I have to work on Monday). We rode from National Airport to Mount Vernon, through marshes, under the Wilson Bridge, through Old Town Alexandria to the RV parking lot at the home of George Washington. Here are some pics.

Some more movie/DVD reviews
Initial D This is a nice Hong Kong movie about car racing based on a Japanese comic book series. It is a story about a tofu delivery boy who gets involved with professional and street racers. It is also a story about friendship, fathers and sons and first love. There is no testosterone-fueled violence, only testosterone-fueled car racing.

Highway Warning

I was driving home on the beltway last week and saw this entertaining warning on a truck. Luckily it did not say "Do Not Take Pictures".
do not tailgate sign

Some more movie/DVD reviews
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge A good Bollywood movie starring Shah Rukh Khan. It has just the right amount of melodrama and silliness and only a small amount of self-righteous gratuitous violence. Raj and Simran live in England and fall in love but Simran's father has promised her to the son of an old friend in India. When the father finds out Simran loves Raj he immediately moves the family to India to start the wedding preparations. Raj follows Simran to India and tells her that he knows they could run away together and elope but he wants to win the heart of her father and get his permission - a true challenge. The music and dancing are quite nice.

Hard Labor

The new Chinese Embassy is currently a huge pit surrounded by a compound that houses the multitude of Chinese workers that are doing the construction work. Joe and I walked the 3 blocks over to the pit to see the progress. Here are some pictures I took there and along the way.
intelsat singapore embassy
singapore embassy intelsat
crane chinese embasy

Statue Contest

My parents have a lot of beautiful art work. They are artistic people. My father paints and my mom does stained glass, needlework, knitting, sewing, etc. But every now and then they buy or create something that is just not to my taste. There is a particular painting of a scary ass clown that my dad painted and that I refuse to be in the same room with. There is also a vase that I actually was sent to pick up at a gallery in Charleston. I should have exchanged it right then and there.

My parents also have a small collection of outdoor sculptures and statues and, again, for the most part I like them. But there's this one statue of a little girl that is cloying. It obviously means a lot to them so I try to keep my mouth shut. Well, they bought another outdoor statue and, guess what, I felt it was of dubious or non-existent artistic value. But hey now I really like it because I won the contest that my father orchestrated to name the statue. Here is a picture. I'll let you judge for yourself.


Some more movie/DVD reviews
Better Off Dead A much more light-hearted view of a suicidal young man than Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself. John Cusack plays a high-school student who has been dumped by his girlfriend for a expert skier. He tries to become a better skier but eventually decides she's not worth it. Luckily there is a cute French exchange student across the street. This 1980s movie really set a standard when it came out back in 1980 something. It has all these quirky comic-book like characters and quirky situations like the two vietnamese brothers, one of whom speaks like Howard Cosel, who constantly want to drag race.

A Week In May

It started with Lyla's surprise birthday party a week ago Saturday. Lyla was surprisingly totally surprised. Some of her friends traveled from the northeast and midwest to be there which was great. I caught up with her friends, many of whom I had not seen in 5-10 years.

Wednesday Ben and Dennis came down from Secaucus, NJ to attend the reception of their artist friend Chakaia Booker. She is a very interesting person to look at and she does very interesting work with rubber tires. Her pieces are huge and amazingly graceful. Lyla, Tracy, Austin, William and I attended the reception and then went to dinner with Ben and Dennis at Tabaq in the U Street neighborhood.

This past Saturday Marcia, Brooke and I drove up to Baltimore for a cookout with friends I met through Brooke. The cookout was at the house of Jill and David who live in a beautiful 1950s house. It was a nice night. There were stories of celebrity encounters. Tanya met Paul McCartney and his now estranged wife Heather at an animal rights event in Canada. But even more intriguing to me was Jill and David's story of being at Hunter S. Thompson's memorial party and meeting Johnny Depp. He offered them cigarettes. Someone also knew someone who dated James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) in school. Apparently he was very nice.

Family News (where it's not all about me):

  • Lenore who was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer this past month will be starting chemotherapy soon. She'll be sporting that Melissa Ethridge look for a time. Maybe she'll take up the guitar.
  • Lynda finished her chemotherapy and is back at work. During her time off she learned Dreamweaver and became a web mistress. I think there's even an outfit that she wears.
  • Lyla and Tracy are getting married, sometime in the fall, somewhere in the US.
  • My parents have started their Spoleto marathon where they try to cram in as much culture as possible in a two week period. It's like a city-wide smorgasbord.
  • Tommy and Sandy will receive a grant to renovate their house with equipment that will help Little T get around
  • Austin made fajitas last weekend.

Here are three slide shows of pictures from my week. I experimented with some new formats. If you have an opinion on them let me know.

lyla with flowers tracy elbows

Some more movie/DVD reviews

Curse of the Were Rabbit Wallace and Gromit are now inventing for their new pest control business and making some money. There is a monster out there eating all the vegetables that may or may not win the Giant Vegetable Competition and they intend to find it and stop it. Very clever and funny.

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself

This movie is a little funny, a little sweet, a little sad. The look and feel is mostly bleak (it is filmed in rainy, cold Scotland) but there are wonderful moments in the film when color is used to highlight an event. And there's this German doctor that has a great face. Another good movie.

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New Mexico

So I traveled with Dana and his company to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. They performed at the University of New Mexico as part of a alumni reunion weekend. The performances went really well. At the after performance discussion several people asked questions about the images I created. That was cool. I stayed with Dana's parents in Santa Fe 2 nights and 1 night in the home of a local Albuquerque patron of the arts. Needless to say the accommodations were wonderful. I learned from my visit to Florence, Italy that you really cannot imagine how beautiful or interesting certain places are by just reading about them. Santa Fe is also one those places. The architecture, the weather, the landscape, the American Indian art were all so interesting. I traveled a lot between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and saw exit signs for various pueblos. It was neat to see jewelry and pottery from those pueblos at the stores and museums. I also learned that the word camino is the spanish word path or way. Some memories:
  • The mountains and mesas on the highway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe
  • Bright shiny colorful lowriders on the highway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe
  • Talking to and buying jewelry from the Navajo and Pueblo Indians in Santa Fe. Learning about Pueblo pottery at the Penfield Gallery in Old Town Albuquerque.
  • Discovering sopaipillas and eating a frito pie for the first time
  • Spending Lyla's money on turquoise jewelry
  • The bunny family in Anna and Joe's yard
  • A 5 minute rain, hail, wind storm followed by an afternoon of beautiful sunshine
  • The exhibits on sleep (pillows, beds, quilts, sleep rugs through the ages) and dichos on trucks at the Museum for International Folk Art.
  • Watching lightning across the prairie while sipping beer with Dana in his parents' back yard
  • The mariachi band playing in Old Town Albuquerque
  • Here are some pictures  statue part

Vintage Blue

For the last two years in June we've gone to a bike race nearby and I have bought vintage wool bike jerseys from one of the vendor booths. The first one I bought is long sleeved and it is easy to know when to wear it. The one I bought last year is beautiful with handy pockets in front and back but it has short sleeves. I have not worn it much. It seemed to me that if it's cold enough to wear wool it is too cold to wear short sleeves and if it's warm enough to wear short sleeves wool would be too hot. Well today was the perfect weather for it. It was about 60 degrees but the warm spring sun was out. It was a bit cold
heading down the hill to the park but after we got on flatter terrain and the sun warmed me up a bit it was perfect.

Joe took this picture when we got back so I am still somewhat red in the face and Cardassian headed.

The other picture is of me with my new laundry cart which has changed my life. The cart seems to also fit in with the new interior design of our building which is better than what was there before but it resembles a prison. It seems like laundry always plays an important part in movies and TV shows that involve prisons.

vintage blue wool jersey new laundry cart


My ankle is getting stronger but I still haven't been back to ballet class. I have gone to 2 jazzercise classes but done the low impact version of the moves and grooves. We biked 10 miles on Sunday and my ankle was a bit tender when we finished but it was not too bad.

This weekend Lyla, Tracy, Austin and I went to Baltimore to attend a birthday dinner party for my aunt Zita. It was a nice evening and it was nice to visit a new Baltimore neighborhood. The hosts live in a beautiful old row house in the Bolton Hill area.

Another highlight of the weekend was finishing a project. Joe asked me to make a cozy for our scanner so that it doesn't collect so much dust. Here is what I did:

scanner cozy

If you think it looks familiar you are right. It is the same material that I used for Running With Scissors Man.

scanner cozy

More Spring Things

I went to Lorella's for Easter dinner today. She served two lamb dishes - one Italian, one more traditionally American. Both were excellent.

On the way home I stopped at the carwash near my house to clean my very dirty car. I was the last car to be washed for the day and as some of the guys were wiping down my car the others were all taking off their red carwash tshirts and changing into other shirts. That was an odd sight but then after I adjusted my seat forward and started driving down the alley about 10 of the carwash guys had jumped on their bikes and were riding down the alley with me. I felt as if I was swimming with the dolphins. Or maybe it was the white wine and Italian grappa at dinner that made the scene seem so surreal.

Here are two signs of spring - a bunny found behind the garden nursery at the National Cathedral and our algae-tinted pool which I will be swimming in one and a half months from now.

bunny in a cage ugly green pool

Some more movie/DVD reviews
13 Going On 30 and Hellboy: Two movies dealing with the supernatural and in which the heros must overcome true evil - a bunch of hellhounds and an evil russian and nazi in the case of Hellboy and a back-biting fashion magazine editor in 13 Going on 30. Both are enjoyable movies.

Spring and Cherry Blossoms

There has been some new art work up on the 3rd floor that I enjoy as I walk to my parking space. First it was tulips and then yesterday the Easter-themed art went up.
tulips on the door a bunny welcomes

Last weekend Lenore and Paula visited from Chicagoland. They saw the cherry blossoms without me because it is just too much walking for my sprained ankle. We did all go to Eastern Market together though and to the National Cathedral.

Lyla, Tracy and my parents recently took a trip to Egypt and brought me back some great gifts - beads, jewelry, a beautiful Egyptian cotton towel and a small statue of the god Horus. Here is a little movie (Quicktime 3.7MB) of Horus in action:

TV Season Update
Sons & Daughters: This new show is as quirky as Arrested Development but a bit more real. It is a totally dysfunctional extended family comedy dealing with teenage isolation, stepparents, inter-faith marriage, single-motherhood, parents dabbling in community theater, marriage problems and fun loser ex-husbands. The dialogue is sometimes improvised which I did not think I would like but it fits with the comedy. The young 3 and 4 year olds have some of the funniest lines and the characters are all great. I am sure it will be canceled soon.


I sprained my ankle last night in ballet class. We were doing small jumps and somehow I landed a jump on the side of my foot and went down with a fairly loud bang. Dancers gasped, the piano player stopped playing and the teacher ran over to me. I hobbled to the side of the room and put ice on my foot. Everyone in class sympathized and several dancers who are physical therapists gave me good advice. This is particularly frustrating after a couple of weeks of increased exercise. I started going to a somewhat high-powered yoga class Saturday mornings and my italian friend Lorella talked me into going to a jazzercise class at work. I find jazzercise to be a little corny but it is a good aerobic workout, I like the teacher and it is very convenient.

Last weekend I went to Dana's house for a baby shower for my friend Amy who is on Dana's board and with whom I shared a hotel room in Latvia. We drank wine and champagne and Aaron made wonderful tea sandwiches and salads. Other than baby names Aaron's homemade mayonnaise was the most popular conversation topic.

shower goodies picking baby names
We voted on baby names. Some were names Amy and Stefan are thinking of. Others we suggested. I think Attila and Ildiko, both Hungarian names, won
amy and stefan amy and jimmy
Baby clothes are so cute! Jimmy gives Amy his opinion on the books he and his family gave as presents.

A couple weeks ago Joe and I went down the the Hirshhorn Art Museum to see a video exhibit we had read about in the paper. It was very interesting. A Japanese artist made these quiet little films when he was studying art in London. They are mostly films of animated objects or shadows in his apartment. In one had planes taking off from tables, going in and out of rooms, circling light fixtures. Another had shadows of camels and elephants roaming the corners and windows and staircases.

Some more movie/DVD reviews
The Returner This is a Japanese science fiction gangster movie starring one of my favorite Hong Kong action movie stars Takeshi Kaneshiro. He plays an assasin who must work with a woman who has come back from the future to prevent an alien invasion and drops into his life. They find that their jobs are intertwined and a lot of action ensues. It was quite good.

Reservoir Dogs A classic I have never seen, mostly because I heard it was so violent. After seeing Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill I figured I could handle the violence. I kept waiting for it to be funny like his other films but it really wasn't. But what it lacked in humor it made up in style. And of course I had to see it after meeting Michael Madsen's father and uncle. `

The Reviews Are In

There were two reviews of Dana's concert last week, one in the Washington Post and the other in a Dance magazine called Dance View Times. Both showed that the reviewers thought alot about the piece acknowledging the complexity of the piece and the beauty of the dance movement. My images were mentioned in both, which is cool. I have been asked to show some of the images so here they are. I am sorry they are so big. They will take a while to download.
ww2 couple ww2 telegram ww2 parachutes
These are the opening images that introduce the theme of love and loss and war (9.9MB). Dancers appear onstage with actual old typewriters as this sequence starts. (6.9MB) These are first and last images from the last section of the dance depicting war. (7.7MB)

So when we were growing up we had things we were identified with and that was what we got as gifts. Lenore's thing was pigs, lynda's was mushrooms, mine was owls but that somehow changed into frogs. So I still get frog-theme gifts and sometimes I buy them for myself especially cards. One morning this week I noticed, somewhat to my horror, a "gift" deposited next to my car. I have no idea how it got there. It seems to be made of plastic.

frog in garage

Something New For The Resume

For the last 6 months I have been working on a series of images that were to be used as projections during my friend Dana's new dance work. I have been editing fun home videos for the last 5 years but this was serious. I could ruin someone's 15 year career as a dancer/choreographer if I did not do it right. Well last night was the performance and as far as I know Dana's good reputation is still intact.

The process was interesting. The piece was partly inspired by a world war II love story by Marguerite Duras. I searched the National Archives web site for images of war and death and planes. I video-taped the dancers at one point and did a lot of Google image searches. I put together a lot of little videos for Dana to look at and eventually we decided to use the still images from the National Archives, images of telegrams I found on Google, and some film clips of war planes flying in formation and of typewriters being typed on. The images appeared at the beginning and then towards the end of the piece totalling about 7 minutes. The whole piece was about 75 minutes long.

A highlight of the process was going to the National Archives storage facility to scan and print the original photos. I am now an official reseacher and I have a picture ID that is good for 2 years to prove it.

Here are some fuzzy pictures of the performance with some of my images in the background. I took these during dress rehearsal.

image during performance image during performance
image during performance image during performance

And here's a fun picture from the snowfall a couple of weeks ago.

cute snow men

Bittersweet Reunion

My dear aunt Mary Anne passed away on February 1, 2006. Mary Anne helped me so much when I was setting up the McDonald family web site. She sent me tons of old pictures and typed up pages of family history. Mary Anne had such a great sense of humor. I was amazed at her interest in all new things and her mastery of the internet. She was one of my most faithful blog readers. My dad and brother Tommy saw her the weekend before she died and Lynda, Austin, Lenore, Paula and I attended her memorial service the following weekend. It was so sad but we still managed to have a nice time reconnecting with Mary Anne's daughter Dianne's family and meeting Mary Anne's friends. We also had fun romping around East and West Dundee where Paula and Lenore live and we spent a day with my second cousin once removed Susie and enjoyed meeting her fun husband Jeff.


  • Seeing Dianne, Brian, Kaitlin and Anna again and meeting cute little Emma Skye.
  • Meeting all of Mary Anne's friends
  • Meeting the family of Dale, Mary Anne's late husband
  • Minor celebrity elbow rubbings. Mary Anne's good friend Len is the brother of Cal who is the father of Michael Madsen (Kill Bill, Reservior Dogs) and Virginia Madsen (Sideways). We met Len and Cal, who are both very funny. Brian's friend John considered us celebrities because we went to school with his guitar hero Steve Morse.
  • Snow!
  • Friday night after dinner we passed a knitting store where some sort of after hours meeting/knitting circle was taking place. Austin had to meet the ladies and talk fabrics and quilts.
  • Having Hoops, the Wake-Up cat, visit me in my bedroom at Paula's
  • Good beer tastings at Emmett's and at Lenore's
  • Great breakfast at Benedict's in East Dundee with Susie and Jeff. Great potato pancakes!
  • Paula's mom's tour of her needlepoint. Amazing!
  • Shopping in Geneva - beads, housewares, chocolate.

Two little movies:

memorial flowers second cousins
Memorial Events
Quicktime, 2.6MB, 3 min
Romping Around East and West Dundee
Quicktime, 1.8MB, 1-1/2 min

Happy New Year

I celebrated the New Year on January 1 (well I managed to stay up past midnight), and then the Russian New Year at a party at Zita's on January 13 and now the Chinese New Year by eating candy with a Chinese friend on Friday and again today eating Chinese food at a little get-together. That's got to bode well for the rest of the year

I have mentioned before that Joe gets to see artwork by talented children on the sidewalks on his way to work everyday. As I drive to work I rarely have anything new to look at although once I did see a milk tank truck driving next to a Dunkin' Donuts truck. Well luckily there is now a little girl exhibiting her art work on a 3rd floor apartment that I walk past every morning on the way to the garage. She celebrated the New Year with a glitter snowman on a paper plate. This week she changed her artwork and I had to take a picture. It is both cute and creepy, my favorite combination.

hen with many eyes


Last weekend Lynda and Graeme came up for the long weekend. We went to Zita's Friday night for her annual Russian New Year's party. Saturday Lynda and I worked on her web site project (she volunteered to maintain a website for Graeme's school) while Lyla, Tracy and Graeme went to the Spy museum. Sunday Tracy, Lynda, Graeme and I went down to the Smithsonian Sackler Museum of Asian Art and the Freer Gallery to see the Ottoman Textile exhibit and anything else we encountered.
Sackler Gold Exhibit Kids with magnifying glasses
This small exhibit on Gold was conveniently located near the gift shop and bathrooms. Which may have been why there were so many noisy little kids running around. They were kind of cute with their magnifying glasses.
Tracy and Ganesh
Separated at birth?
Two of Lyla's favorite dudes
In front of the Sackler lovely sackler garden
In the garden outside the Sackler museum
lovely Sackler garden lovely Sackler garden
Some more movie/DVD reviews
The Limey
This thriller is about an ex-con who travels from England to Los Angeles to find out more about his estranged daughter's death. It has a very interesting look to it and the editing is unusual without being too gimicky. The story is not complicated so it is more about the characters involved. Terrance Stamp and Peter Fonda do a great job with the characters. I thought this was much better than some Soderbergh's more ambitious movies like Full Frontal and Traffic. As I was just now looking over Soderbergh's film list I saw King of the Hill, a bittersweet movie that spawned my interest in vintage Hamilton watches. I had forgotten he had done that. Another excellent film that seems to have slipped through the cracks. It is not on out on DVD.