Last weekend in July 2011

This zinnia on my Mom's back porch seemed to have no problem with the Edisto heat

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Friend from the Augusta hood Steve Tomlin and his brother-in-law Mark docked their boat behind the house. We were telling them stories of famous local fisherman friend Jim Rooney and guess who appears out of nowhere. Rooney even divulged the location of some of his favorite fishing spots

Sunday we headed to Savannah where Sandy and T fed us some fantastic shrimp, salad and blueberry-peach crisp. Sandy bought extra shrimp so we sat around the table afterwards and helped her peel just like an old fashioned quilting bee. Unfortunately Little T did not join us as his sleeping cycle was not in tune with ours, except maybe Dad's.


Mr Pin gave us a tour of the several varieties of grapes in his grape cage.


The Pinholster's back yard is a magical place.

Recent History (October)

I went to a board meeting at the country home of one of the other board members. It was about one and half hours outside of DC. The drive got prettier and prettier and ended on a large piece of farmland on top of a hill. Lovely home with lots of glass and beautiful views. We passed a road called Snikersville Parkway and I made Dana pull over so I could take a picture. Snickersville is what we call the street where my mom grew up. The real street name is unpronounceable by humans. Anyway this Snickersville was named after William Edward Snickers (born about 1735 - died 1790) who owned land in the area and operated a ferry and a tavern on the Shenandoah River.

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bluemont driveway with trees bluemont garden

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Here are some late fall flowers that were hanging in there on my balcony

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Several family members and high school friend Karen were in DC for Dana's concert. We went to the National Gallery East Wing to see a Munch exhibit and then had lunch at the American Art museum.

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This is a magical little causeway going from the backstage area of the dance theater to the front entrance. It seemed like a secret.

dance place alley

Have you given up on me?

It's been a while so let's catch up.

Austin and William hosted a wonderful Fish Fry at the end of July. Graeme was here for Camp DC and Lenore and my parents came for the event.

We had a wonderfully special dinner the night before with Woody and Patrick at Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca, an Italian restaurant downtown. Word got out that I had a recent birthday and I was surprised by a fancy dessert. I can't remember if the waiters sang or not.

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Austin's Fish fry was fun. Tracy's son and his family, Ellen and Sam, Mark and Allen, Earnest and Pam, Craig were there for the great food and fun.

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Tracy, Justin and Austin frying. Sam and Ellen pose with the dishwasher.

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Ellen knitting and Ingrid rocking

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Fun kitchen scene. Talking movies.

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Pam and Ernest

Rachel and Ethan


Shortly after this party Kevin's seizures became more frequent and he had to be hospitalized. He is currently in a coma. The family is as hopeful as possible. It is truly heartbreaking. We are keeping Kevin in our thought and prayers.

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Museum of Medicine at Walter Reed
One of the first electron microscopes and creepily wonderful child skeletons

Below are some sites in the neighborhood and around town

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kickin chicken in rockvilleBeltway apples

A week in July Part 1

I set off on a Saturday to spend a week in the South. My first stop was Columbia, SC to visit Karen, a friend from high-school who I had not been in contact with in 30 years (thank you, facebook). She had invited me to spend the night whenever I was heading down that way and I happily took her up on her offer. Karen and her husband Zach both teach at University of SC and live in a lovely renovated old house near the campus. They have a wonderful little urban farm with a garden and hens, quail, ducks and a rabbit (who sadly passed away this week).

It was a wonderful visit. Karen and Zach are wonderful hosts. We talked about then and now and everything in between. Karen and I looked through year books. When you have not seen somebody for 30 years most of the details go away but the defining memories remain. I remember Karen's smile, I remember that she drove her dad's old mercedes. I confessed to her that I thought I wasn't as cool as she was in high school and she said the same thing about me. Ahh, teenagers.

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We had a nice mexican dinner at Tios near the campus where the waiter was from Mongolia

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Where the ducks and hens hang

Karen with fresh eggs and their cat Smoke

Sunday morning Zach and Karen fixed me fresh eggs from their hens and ducks and sent me on my way. i headed down I-95 to Savannah to visit Tommy, Sandy and Little T in their newly renovated place. My parents, Lynda and Graeme were also there. We all agreed that rhe changes made their place remarkably more spacious and filled with light. We ate warm chicken salad, bean casserole and Sandy's famous pound cake and watched a live video feed of the robots trying to plug the leak 1 mile below the surface in the Gulf on Mr. Pin's computer. We headed to Edisto early evening and got there in time to watch the sun set.

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Welcome to Savannah
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A great gathering!

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Cloud spotting

Multi-Purpose weekend

The first week of May we all gathered in Ediso/Charleston to celebrate/attend Lenore's birthday, Lynda's Dragon Boat Festival, Graeme's starring role in Hello Dolly and Mother's Day. Friday we hung out on the beach. Lyla almost went in the water but saw a jelly fish and that was that. It was T's shepard's pie for dinner which was delicious.

Saturday we went into Charleston to check out the farmers/craft Market at Marion Square and attend the Dragon Boat Festival. It was hot but at the river the breeze made it bearable. We ate chili at the George (my parent's in-town condo) and then went to see Graeme starring as Cornelius in Hello Dolly. Very enjoyable. Check out the videos on youtube.

Sunday we made potato pancakes for all the mothers - some with and without onions, some cooked in bacon grease, some in vegetable oil - all delicious. Sunday dinner was Lenore's birthday celebration with steak and poppy seed cake.

At some point we had a beer tasting with a selection from the local Piggly Wiggly. I think the New Castle Ale was the favorite

beer seleection

And we saw a squirrel resting in a tree and a chameleon.

chameleon resting squirrel

Check out more pics.

Lenore thinking of her wish

Shrimp fries!

Actually I only ate one shrimp fry (or shrimp chip as the company that makes them seems to want to call them - they look like fries) but was thrilled that they were on the table. Austin, William, Lyla Tracy and I headed to Arlington to have dinner with Ellen and Sam. Ellen and Austin did all the cooking and Sam played bartender.

Ellen and Sam's friend Arthur joined us as well. And it was during dinner when Lyla and I were explaining to Sam about how our mother was Latvian and our father was Irish that Arthur stood up and quietly walked around the table to where Lyla and I were sitting, stood between us and asked if we said Latvian. After we turned, gave him a puzzled look and said "yes" he kissed us both on the cheek and said "Sveiks". As you can imagine we were amazed that someone knew the official Latvian greeting. It turns out Arthur used to date a Latvian girl. Alas it did not work out but he gained a clear understanding of what is important to Latvians. It also turns out that Sam and Arthur know another Latvian that swims at their pool.

After dinner we stood around and re-arranged T-shirts on the floor to help Tracy plan his Grateful Dead quilt that Austin is making. We also watched Apolo Ohno win a another medal. Ellen and Sam have a big rottweiler named Pepper who was very friendly and joined in the fun while we were there but started growling when we left. This was quite odd. I can only think that as a rescued dog he has abandonment issues, even with relative strangers.

But it was another wonderful event with Sam and Ellen.

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Shrimp fries!

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Ellen knitting and William taking a photo for his contacts list

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Sam serving a nice bottle of wine. Lyla and Tracy with tulips.

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Austin's veggie dish. Lyla points her chopsticks at Arthur.

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Planning Tracy's Grateful Dead T-Shirt quilt. Pepper the friendly rottweiler with a pal

Ellen's frog collection.

Chicago Lights

I recently made a sunset landing at Chicago O'Hare to visit Lenore and Paula in East Dundee, IL. Lenore had just had her surgery that removed a tumor and 8 inches of her intestine. I was supposed to be there to help out but Lenore was already doing well after her week of excellent post-surgery care from the nurses, doctors and Lyla . And Paula and their favorite neighborhood cafe - The Measuring Cup - did most of the cooking.

Lenore was well enough to take walks so we did just that. We walked to The Measuring Cup to eat a breakfast pizza and pick up chicken dumpling soup, ginger cookies, and apple and chocolate pie. We walked the nice trail behind the library and the deer posed for us. We walked with Paula around the neighborhood to take pictures of Christmas lights. And I heard the cackle of and saw a flock of cranes for the first time.

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Full Kee

Recently Lyla, Tracy, Austin, William and I met up with old friend Ellen Law and her husband Sam at a Chinese restaurant of Ellen's choosing called Full Kee. We had all been to the DC location of Full Kee but this was special because Ellen is a regular customer and can order "off menu". There is a movie called The Corruptor about a chinophile NYC cop (played by American action star/underwear model Mark Wahlberg) who is sent in to help Chinese cop (played by Hong Kong action star Chow Yun Fat ) deal with a dangerous Asian gang in Chinatown. Here's some dialog from the movie:

Nick Chen: Beef intestine noodles, want some?
Danny Wallace: Uh, no.
Nick Chen: You wanna be a Chinese, you gotta eat the nasty stuff.

Well, Ellen did not order the nasty stuff for us but we were thrilled to know she could have. What she ordered was delicious. The only odd thing was the dessert - a sweet thick concoction made with pea green soup and tapioca.

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Dancing Fools and Ornaments

I finally got my hands on the little performance that the non-dancers did for the dancers in Peru. Sara, Susan and Richard (from MIT) and I put together a dance, mostly based on dance movements from Dana's choreography. We put it together in about an hour which is obvious but the dancers loved it.

Also if you missed it as the Picture of the Week, the 2009 McDonald Family Christmas Contest has been announced:


The theme is Christmas ornaments! How fun is that! It has been on the list of suggestions for a while and we've had a lot of literary themes lately so I thought it was the right time. This year is a big anniversary of the contest. I started the contest 20 years ago to try and climb out of a pit of depression. I never would have believed we would still be doing and that it could be so challenging, frustrating and stressful yet so ultimately fun and creative. 20 years, can you believe it?

So as we say to each other every year: Let the procrastinating begin!

1957 and 1967

So Lynda went up to Montreal for a Dragon Boat Festival race last weekend and visited the site of one of our childhood experiences - Expo '67. She, Lyla and I sorted through our memories and even though we remember having fun we could come up with only a few solid memories. We all remember camping and buying amber. There were a couple of pavilions we remember including the US geodesic domed pavilion, which is still there. Even this very comprehensive web site did not jog many more memories. Lynda took this picture of the dome on her trip.


Now let's talk about other memories. For my birthday my dad sent me a very nice email about what he remembers about the time I was born until I was about 5.


Just a follow up to the card we sent for your birthday. In thinking of all the other things that were going on at that time it occurred to me, yes it was your birthday but it was also our birth day for mom and me.

You were our precious newborn, our second child and we continued on our way to becoming the family we are.

We had just moved into a renovated army barracks on the campus of Lewis College, a lay run Catholic College. It was a comfortable place: rugs over the cement floor, 2 bedrooms, a good sized living room and a small kitchenette with stove, sink, refrigerator and a combination washer/dryer. The window of the living room looked out onto a large grassy field. Looking out the kitchen window we saw our little neighborhood of barracks each with a small plot of grass and flowers between the house and a small sidewalk.It was a nice place to live.

Your baptism was at the church in Lockport. We had a nice reception in the house and on the grassy area outside. Guests were:
Omite and Opapu, my mother and step dad Hughie and Olita and Juris Valainis.
I can’t remember who else. We had just moved there and didn’t know anyone.

As we soon found out the barracks was a duplex separated only by a relatively thin wall. Dr. Judy Mendels and her elderly mother lived on the other side. They obviously were very close and commonly harmonized on Dutch songs while they were doing their supper dishes. Judy is the one who took care of you one time while mom and I (and probably Lyla) went into town, probably Joliet, for something. When we went to pick you up Judy, who was very much like Zita, was typing out her class notes (she taught French and German). She had one end of a 6 foot ribbon tied around the back of her chair and the other around your waste. You didn’t seem to mind it at all and Judy knew she could concentrate on her notes.

It was a good time for us. We had had a good income because I had been awarded a summer scholarship to work with Dr. Wasserman at Argonne Laboratories which was an easy drive away. Dr. W. was a wonderful person. He was Chairman of the Department of Anatomy at the University in Munich before he had to leave Germany being Jew during Hitler’s rule. He was immediately accepted onto the faculty at the University of Chicago and wound up at Argonne with faculty status at the U. of C. We had tea at mid afternoon and he would tell me about his time growing up in Germany.

I believe we only lived in the barracks about 2 years and moved just after or before Lynda joined us into a very comfortable and roomy brick house, still on campus. We were one of the few faculty members who qualified to live there I think it was because we had children. Actually ours was one of a string of 6 of these houses (sometimes alluded to as fertility row). During the war they were probably occupied by military bass.

There was a large grassy field in front to the house and a spacious grassy yard in back. The back was the area where mom and I often reminisce about seeing you frolicking, half dancing half running completely naked in the rain across the grass. Mom says you were like a gazelle, I pictured you as a fairy in Mendelssohn’s Midnight’s Summer Dream. Mom says she knew then you would become a dancer.

Just after Lenore was born we moved to our the old house in Lockport. Its address was 1812 State St. and it probably was built in the late 19th or early 20th Century. The areas where light fixtures were in the ceiling still had gas lines running to them, the floors were slanted. Lyla will remember her upstairs bedroom where she watched out her window as the house across the street almost burned down. We had an old barn in our backyard. It was a cute old house, comfortable enough for the time and now I had a full Fellowship to do research for my Doctorate with Dr. W. at Argonne and Dr. Jones at Loyola, Stritch School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy as Joint Advisors. The stipend allowed us to live comfortable enough and I spent most of my time during the week in the lab. On Sat. I listened to opera and scrubbed floors (a form of excersise), yes hands and knees, a bar of FelsNaptha and a strong brush. John Kennedy was running for nominatrion. You children watched Capt. Kangaroo and Yogibear and Boo Boo and had a neighbor friend named Movi.

Well, this is a kind of stream of consciousness, but things you may not remember when you were very young. I guess you can tell it was more about me than you, but then I do read your blog.

Love ya

I know that's a lot to read but what you should come away with is that I was one of those little kids who once ran like the wind outside buck naked while being chased by my embarrassed parents and that a neighbor/babysitter tied me to a 6 foot ribbon so I would net get into mischief. But what I came away with is a flood of memories.

I remember most the house on State Street.

  • I remember the long driveway with our Rambler parked near the concord grape vine that divided our driveway from the neighbor's.
  • I remember picking and eating those grapes and petting a cat near those grapes when I was supposed to be inside.
  • I remember the screen door that was hooked shut to teach me I shouldn't continue to pet the cat when I am supposed to come inside.
  • I remember my mother putting us all in the bathtub to distract us when the police came to the house because someone was found sleeping in the barn.
  • I remember wood interiors of the house and a basement where we once went when there was a hurricane warning
  • I remember us kids all getting measles and mumps and a doctor that made house calls.
  • I remember stomping on bees in the big gassy yard after one stung either me or Lyla.
  • I remember watching Captain Kangaroo and Saturday morning cartoons.
  • I remember the house across the street burning and the poor family standing outside helpless.
  • I remember the Texaco station nearby with its Texas star sign.
  • I remember there was a candy store nearby but I cannot picture it.

Some of these sound like not so pleasant memories but they really weren't. They were more observations as I started making sense of the world around me.

From Google satellite images there is now a car dealership where the house was.

This picture was taken in the yard. The barn is on the left. I am in the middle on Omite's lap


June 2009 events

Catching up with family after my vacation. Graeme was in town for a visit and to visit colleges. Zita took care of the colleges and Lyla, Austin and I took care of the entertainment.

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Crab Cakes, steamed shrimp and banana splits at Austin & William's place last week

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Fun at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival over the weekend

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A nice visit with Chris and Gail this week.

Early Summer

I am sure it will cool down again before it gets really hot but the last two days have been very warm, in the 90s. The air-conditioning has not been turned on yet so these last couple of days remind me of my high school days when my parents decided that an attic fan was enough to cool a big house full of sweaty kids. Actually I am liking it. I could not live without air-conditioning but I would like to live with less of it.

And most of the time I love sleeping with the windows open. This morning though, not so much. At 6:30 am a honking duck woke me up. It went on and on. I finally got up and looked out of the window. The pool 15 floors down had just been uncovered this week in preparation for a Memorial Day weekend opening. In the yucky murky green water of the pool were two ducks and on the deck was a black cat, probably licking his lips although I can't be sure. The one duck was very alarmed. It was a great "Peter and the Wolf" moment. I wanted to yell down "Hey, the cat can't swim and you can fly" but I suspected that would have little effect so I went back to bed and covered my ears. The honking eventually stopped. Joe was up already documenting the situation.


Family Update from the Midwest:

Dianne sent me photos from the Sheridan Family. Here's Emma Skye and her younger brother Leo and Dianne's lovely Easter dinner table.

Dianne, anytime you are with Austin and you see a antique store Austin is already in there checking out the Fiesta ware.
Thanks for the pix!



Last weekend my friend Gail married Chris her fiance of 6 years (he asked her to marry him on their second date) in a beautiful ceremony in a historic home in Georgetown. The best moment was when the familiar "Here Comes the Bride" music faded out and Etta James' "At Last" faded in as Gail walked down the aisle. I know all of Gail's friends have said "At last" at least once since hearing they had set a date. It was great to see old friends and family. Gail and Chris as well as Austin, William, Lyla and Tracy were featured in last week's Picture of the Week. Here are some more pictures.

For the rehearsal Chris brought a bird decoration to represent the real birds that live with them. Nobody would have been surprised if the real birds had shown up at the ceremony.

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A wonderful singer sang "At Last" again for the first dance. Lyla and I gave a toast from the entire McDonald family (photo taken by the wedding photographer).

Recent Past

Well, Austin updated his blog before I did so I must have been gone a long time. So hopefully I'll make up for my prolonged absence with lots of content.

First, I added pictures from Lynda's party on the main Web page. Austin was responsible for some of those pictures. Lynda's party was a blast. She and my mother planned a perfect 50th birthday party and us worker bees did a great job with the furniture moving, cake, drink, music, entertainment. BoBo, a local Edisto caterer, did the party food (he and his wife are sleeping in the Photo Booth video). Here are some pictures that Dell took of the fun.

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Note the fingernail polish. I had my first ever professional manicure that morning.

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And now, going back in time, here are pictures from my Christmas at Washington Hospital Center and Williamsburg. It wasn't clear at first whether Austin would be able to join us after his quadruple bypass surgery but he managed to get out on good behaviour. And it was a treat to have William with us. Lenore's and possibly Austin's pictures are included.


Next I would like to document a weather and time related disaster that occurred on my balcony. Sad.

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Before and after.

And here are some recent pictures. I took some during our walk today in the very light snow. We are supposed to get a lot more snow tonight.

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A new fountain at the condo building next door and some pretty blue pots with matching shutters a couple of street over.

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Again from the condo building next door.

From Dana's party at a bar near his house. Lots of fun.

Tough Times

Lenore had a rough week. She had been experiencing some stomach pain the past month and the doctor said she should get a CAT scan ASAP. She went to the emergency room and despite some incompetence that resulted in her waiting FOREVER a CAT scan was done and a mass was found. She had surgery on Monday to remove two tumors, one small, one the size of a orange. The pathology results are somewhat still a mystery but it is pretty clear that she will have to go through chemo again. The only upside to all this is that we get to add another picture to the family Scars & Scabs page (Viewer discretion advised, seriously). Get well soon, Lenore.

I had a busy Saturday. Dana performed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and so I tagged along to make sure my audio and video worked and to participate in the post-performance discussion. I had to speak into a microphone and everything! Nam June Paik's nephew Ken Hakuta (some may know him as Dr. Fad and the inventor of the wacky wall walkers) was there and he very casually told stories about his uncle (whose videos we used in the piece). After the talk someone actually came up to me to talk about the video and music. I almost felt like a professional.

When we got to the theater the museum had put down a floor covering for dance but it was in terrible shape - dangerously loose and rumpled. So the dancers and the crew got busy to smooth it down and tape it. No lighting person was provided even though they have state of the art equipment so Dana ran the lights on (he's taken a lighting course so he knew somewhat what he was doing). Despite all these difficulties it all went well and we had an audience of about 200 people. Most stayed for the talk.

Here's some footage of the dancers at work:

My dance friend Brooke and I went by Dana's house for a little get together with Ken Hakuta (he told more stories of his uncle and some of the famous people he has met like Yoko Ono) and then headed out to the far suburbs of Virginia to the ladies -only dance party organized by my Pakistani work friend Saima's sister and some of her friends. Many of the women (who were predominantly Muslim) arrived all covered up in scarves but within minutes of arriving were on the dance floor shakin' their groove thang. The shades of the rec center were drawn, the french doors were covered with black plastic, no cameras or alcohol was allowed. The dress ranged from conservative traditional to modern "western" cocktail dressy. There were women from ages 12 - 70. They played American, Hindi and Arabic music. The DJ was actually the girlfriend of a real DJ who specialized in World party music. The party was OK. If there had been other rooms at the rec center or a break in the music Brooke and I would have been able to talk to the women that Saima tried to introduce us to. It was just too loud to make any sort of personal connection. Brooke and I tried to do some of our Bollywood dance moves but were had trouble remembering them and no one else was doing them. It was still interesting though.

2008 Oscars

So I think everyone knows by now that No Country for Old Men was my pick for best movie at the Oscars. I am usually more interested in the Oscar outfits than in the actual movies. I think I became disillusioned after Shakespeare In Love and then A Beautiful Mind got Best Picture. Those were not good movies but maybe there were no really good movies those years. Around that same time Gladiator and Lord of the Rings rightly won so I should not have been quite so disgusted. Many of the movies this year were quite good so it was an interesting contest. Atonement was the only one I thought should not be on the list. It was more fluff than substance and the music was used way too heavily to make me feel what I should feel. It was interesting that No Country hardly used any music at all.

There are some directors who in my mind can do no wrong. The Coen Brothers are almost on that list. Their movies are always good but they can get sloppy and lose track (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?). "No Country" was probably their tightest and best acted. The top two directors on my list right now are Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. We just recently watched Darjeeling Limited and Broken Flowers. Wes Anderson makes dysfunctional families look like such fun and Jim Jarmusch is so good at portraying personal journeys. They both use casts of quirky characters. Their scenes are stuffed with weird little situations and details, a well thought out color palette, great dialogue and meaningful, interesting music. Wes has used the same techniques in his commercials for American Express, AT&T and this little gem for IKEA (Qicktime movie, 4MB).

OK, enough looking down my nose at movies other people like. Here are some fun pictures from a recent trip

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Tommy and Mickey's contribution to breakfast. Mickey has on fabulous pajamas.


Lynda and Grandee, who is right out of a Ellen Gilchrist novel

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Some goodbye waves


It was definitely a vintage wool bike jersey morning. 12 miles in 58 degree coolness.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Annapolis. Lyla, Zita and I met up with Lynda at the Wye Island Regatta. Lynda and her teammates - Edie, Tara, Patty, Louise and Joy, raced their 6 man outrigger canoe to victory. We hung out after the race next to the kayak, eating hamburgers on bagels made by firemen and drinking champagne. Some ate watermelon. There are pictures, of course.

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Car talk

Today Joe and I were doing our Rockville shopping run - bike shop, container store, frame store, grocery shopping. We get in and out of the car a lot on these trips. In one parking lot I chatted for over ten minutes with a nice Chinese woman about my car. I gave her the usual information - price, MPG, and showed her the trunk. She is a journalist for a newspaper published for the DC Chinese community. Before we said goodbye she gave us some tips on getting discounts at local Chinese restaurants. She says she really wants a Mini but her husband is very skeptical.

Shah Rukh Khan appeared on the front page of the Washington Post Arts section in a bathtub. Apparently there is an unauthorized biography out about SRK. I am there.

My uncle Austin sent me an drawing for my birthday. I am honored.

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When I was on vacation on Edisto my parents' car was hit by a flying tire that flew off a truck that passed them. My parents missed their party and they will be without their "good car" for a while but other than that everything turned out OK.

Here are two pictures. The fireman that was directing traffic reminded me of Vito of the Sopranos.
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And we've been doing 4-way video chatting on Sunday nights. It's not perfect - there are echos and audio sync issues - but as you can see it is still fun.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise and Then Some

So I stopped by Lyla's Friday night and no one answered the door so I let myself in. There sat Lenore, Paula and my parents. What a surprise! Brooke stopped by which was great. And then after birthday pizza, Austin's red velvet cake and Mom's poppy seed cake Lynda appears. The next day when I think there can't be anymore surprises Tree from Long Island shows up on our trip to the Torpedo Factory art galleries in Alexandria. Sunday there were no surprises but we had a very nice day at the pool with Lorella and a wonderful dinner at Equinox with Woody. Take a look at some pics.

Some highlights:

  • A refrigerator full of Brooklyn lager at Lyla and Tracy's house
  • Entertaining the pool-goers with synchronized swimming with Lynda and Tree. It was fun to play at the pool - a nice change from just doing laps.
  • Chatting up an artist at the Torpedo factory even though I had kind of insulted her by asking if she had a connection to another artist in the building. Some of her work was quite nice.
  • Watching the sad but highly entertaining final episode of Season 2 of The Wire
  • Austin and Shelly's song about ME

Catch Up

I am slowly reconstructing my blog. You'll see that May is there and Feb, March and April will be there soon.

So what did we miss? Joe and I went to the CSC Invitational Cycling race that was held June 2 across the river in Arlington.The riders do a 1km circuit 100 times. The beginning and the ending circuits are very exciting but the 50 or so in the middle, not so much. So we went walked around a bit and ate lunch at Baja Fresh. Here's a movie of the cyclists going by. The sounds of all those fast bikes traveling so close together was pretty cool.

Last weekend was Spoleto and the big birthday party. Mom, Lynda, Graeme and I went to see Philip Glass's latest work Book of Longing which was marvelous. We met Glass and several of his musicians and singers at an after-performance party - didn't talk much with Glass but had nice conversations with the other performers.

Before the performance Glass talked with a local critic on the set of his new work. It was interesting to hear about his background, his teachers (Ravi Shankar!), his work with young musicians and the artistic development of Book of Longing.

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Here are pictures from the very elegant after performance party.

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Now to the party. I made a little video and for now you have several choices. Below you should see a small 2.9MB version.

Your other choices (all Quicktime) are:


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


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.

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

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.

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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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.

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.

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.