Friday, July 27, 2007

I think I have confirmation that Sam is half hound. I really like hounds, but when I go to the shelter to get a dog, I don't look for a specific breed. I just take whatever needy animal is waiting. I have now had three half hounds; Howie (schnauzer/beagle); Rudy (beagle/collie) and Sam (blue tick hound/border collie). Sophie is a full hound (bassett hound) and Penny was a poodle. (Edna is at least partially a Maine Coon Cat, if not a purebred, but she is labeled a domestic long hair). Howie's mix was definite, as was Rudy's half beagle, Sophie's bassett (at least mostly, if not all) and Penny's poodle. The collie part of Rudy was an educated guess.

Sam's previous owner said he was blue tick and lab. Blue tick is an unusual breed and so not likely to be a fabrication, but the shelter staff and my vet both disagree that he is lab. They say that when a black dog is surrendered to the shelter, the owner usually will say it is part lab because that is a popular, good natured breed. They don't want anyone to think it might be a dobie or rottie (not that him being either breed would have caused me to not adopt him. I love dobermans especially). I think border collies may have a negative reputation as well, in terms of being very active. Or it could be that the owner had no clue which male dog that was hanging around fathered the puppies.

Anyway, I think Sam could be a mix of 15 breeds, and very likely blue tick and border collie, but there is undoubtedly some hound in there. This morning Bob went to run errands, and Sam has been nervously pacing (that's the border collie, I suppose). Right now he is sitting near me, being a "scootch." (That means I have to keep one hand on him while typing with the free hand, or he tries to climb on my lap, paw the keyboard, and hit my hand with his head - not sure which breed that characterizes; I call it "scootch."). But the blue tick is displayed by what he does when he is not sitting here being a scootch: he stops pacing, throws his head back, and howls. What a mournful sound.

We're on three day weekends for the next five it's off to Samsonville once I finish watering the garden and plants.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

One more pent up post. Last night the news was doing its usual gushing about the Saratoga racing season opening. You know, the hats, the glamour, the fun of it all. Oh, how wonderful it all is, how classy, how "in!" Then at the end of the broadcast the sports report came on, and this tidbit: a jockey was thrown during one race. Oh goody, he wasn't hurt. The horse had to be euthanized. Bummer. (Actually that part was only a passing mention; "bummer" certainly wasn't the sentiment.) What's that, G? You don't go to Saratoga in August? But aren't the hats so beautiful, wasn't it a great day, didn't nature smile on us with such glorious weather for opening day?
I meant to write this yesterday, but procrastinated. The connections made over the Internet can be quite amazing. I had a nice surprise. The dogs were barking like crazy - a DHL truck was dropping off a package. I didn't remember ordering anything - but you never know, I order a lot of stuff or I thought maybe Bob did. There was a big box on the porch, addressed to me with an address for some company I'd never heard of in Brooklyn. I opened the box - inside was a large box wrapped in beautiful paper and a gift note from the company. It was a thank you from a guy who bought my reprinted booklet West Shokan: Eden of the Catskills a few months ago. At the time, he was searching for information on the location of a summer house that his great-grandfather had owned until the late 1930s. There was nothing really helpful in the booklet, so later I helped him to find out where it might be and sent him directions on how to get there, etc. Inside the wrapped box was a large can, like one of those holiday popcorn buckets but bigger. Also it was very heavy. Inside the can were 6 bottles of wine!! How unbelievably nice and generous.
Booking Through Thursday: Best Moustache Twirling

Who’s the worst fictional villain you can think of? As in, the one you hate the most, find the most evil, are happiest to see defeated? Not the cardboard, two-dimensional variety, but the most deliciously-written, most entertaining, best villain? Not necessarily the most “evil,” so much as the best-conceived on the part of the author…oh, you know what I mean!

I really had to think about this one. Maybe because I don't often read the type of novels that have villians? Now in true crime stories, there would be so many to choose from! But I came up with one: Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. Wow, was he creepy! And charming at the same time. I know there are several other books in the series, although I haven't read the others. The movie adaptation of the first book was decent, too; it raised my appreciation for Matt Damon's skill at playing the bad guy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In Castleton today, I picked the first tomato! Also some green beans. In Samsonville, we've been picking zucchini for almost two weeks.
I don't write much about politics, but as a Capital District resident, MPA holder and long time State employee, it is hard to pass this one up. I'm really shocked, although after seven months of his administration, I am less shocked than I would have been a year ago. I'm linking to The Record rather than the Times Union because after reading the full report, I have a lot of questions about the TU's role, and not a lot of confidence that their reporting is unbiased. I wonder how, or if, they will explain their involvement. Here's a link to the full AG report. It makes interesting reading, even if you are only slightly wonky. This lowers my respect for the governor, and really increases it for the Attorney General. And about Joe, well, I liked him already. It's great to have your Senator be the majority leader.
Here's a link for contacting the Falcons about that lowlife Vick.

Friday, July 20, 2007

HSUS has a link up for sending email to Nike about keeping Vick as their spokesperson.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I've been trying to ignore the story about the football player arrested over dog fighting - not because there is any love lost between me and football (I didn't even know who Vick, much less the Falcons were before this), but because it upsets me too much.

My mother always says, on animal welfare issues, that you can't have your head in the sand and be in denial. Right now, AOL has a picture of a starving Pitbull on a chain as the headline so there is simply no way to avoid it. Of all the terrible, heartbreaking things in this article, I found this sentence to be the most appalling:

"After a meeting involving NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the Falcons, the league will let Vick keep playing, the Associated Press reported."

Wouldn't want anything to get in the way of weekend beer sales, I guess.

If I was a Falcon - or even a football - fan, you better believe I would be taking action of some sort so they knew my views, and following it up with a boycott if nothing was done.

Update: I may not be a fan, but I am a consumer. So I did a little searching, and sent off my letters of protest. Here is the HSUS link, with information on how you can email the NFL to demand that they suspend Vick. And here is Nike's website, where you can email them about their sponsorship of Vick.

Update 2: Wow, Nike's spambot already responded. Here's my original letter, borrowed somewhat from the HSUS:

As an animal lover, I had to write to you to demand that you please immediately stop sponsoring Michael Vick for his alleged involvement in dogfighting. Vick's recent indictment by a federal grand jury for crimes related to dogfighting is a certain sign that you must treat this matter seriously. Reports of extreme cruelty to dogs who didn't "perform" to the fighters' satisfaction only add to the disgrace Vick brings to Nike.

Dogfighting is cruel and criminal, and football players must be held accountable like anyone else. Please drop your contract with Vick immediately--anything less would reflect very badly on your judgment, and on the Nike brand.

I was disgusted to read in the paper today that he was going to be allowed to continue to play, and that Nike was continuing to support him. I intend to boycott all of his, and the NFL's sponsors until he is suspended from the NFL, and until the sponsors drop him.
Thank you.

And here's Nike's response:

Response (Caryn) - 07/19/2007 02:33 PM
Thank you for contacting Nike regarding Michael Vick.

Nike is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick, and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent. We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen; therefore, we have not terminated our relationship. We have, however, made the decision to suspend the release of the Zoom Vick V and related marketing ommunications. Nike will continue to monitor the situation closely and has no further comment at this time.

We appreciate that you took the time to contact us and your feedback will be passed along to the proper department.


They give you the opportunity for more feedback, so I wrote back:

OK then. Plenty of people have had lucrative contracts terminated while waiting for "due process" to play out. Some even spend time in jail, without bail. I (and, I suspect, all other animal lovers) find your position unacceptable, and will simply vote with our feet (not Nike-wearing feet, I might add). What that means is we'll terminate our relationship with you immediately. That's not due process - that's called the market. Thank you Caryn.

And here's Nike's next response (btw, I sent that follow-up by hitting "reply" and typing into a specific area that was designated for my comments):

Your e-mail was submitted to an Internet address that cannot be processed.

Oh wow. Sometimes people at big corporations can be so stupid, PR-wise. Like they are so powerful and we are all clueless drones who worship their brand and will be brainwashed by television commercials into forgetting how much they suck. Newsflash: big mistake to piss off animal advocates, Nike.

So - it looks like the final message is boycott Nike, and all of the NFL sponsors! (And I never slip up. You know I still have not set foot in Target.)
Booking Through Thursday: Just Wild About Harry

1. Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it?


2. If so, right away? Or just, you know, eventually, when you get around to it? Are you attending any of the midnight parties?

No, no, and no.

3. If you’re not going to read it, why not?

Because I haven't read any of the other Harry Potter books (nor have I seen any of the movies). They aren't the type of stories I enjoy. Even as a kid I didn't care for magic, wizards, or that sort of foolishness (borrowing the term from my grandmother). I also almost always avoid anything that is surrounded by so much hype. (The alliteration in that sentence was unintentional.) However, I do think it is good that these books have encouraged kids to read.

4. And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? What are you most looking forward to?

I have no idea, but if I had to guess I'd say why would she kill him off? I know it is supposed to be the the last book, but why would she ruin her gravy train when she could just keep cranking them out, raking it in and the series fans will eat it up? It would probably be much easier to continue after taking a break, than coming up with new ideas and facing the risk that reviewers will compare them unfavorably to her past work. On the other hand, you'd think she'd have pretty much run out of new material at about book two. Of course, having read none of the books, my opinion on the subject isn't worth a lot!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I think this is a good year for petunias.

About yesterday's book rant: well, something bad did happen to one of the characters. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of the main characters.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On Sunday, I was finally able to fix all of my computer problems in Samsonville. I replaced the ethernet card, the graphics card, and the router, and I am officially back in business. (I was able to fix my mother's computer a couple of weeks ago.) It took a lot more time than I anticipated - it always does, so I'm not sure why I expected it to be easier. Netgear sent me a new router since my old one was still under warranty, and yesterday I sent the damaged one back to them. I can't say enough good things about that company!

I am reading The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks. I don't like it very much. It isn't completely awful - I enjoyed it at first. Aside from a few "telling not showing" episodes, and an occasional duplication of the same phrase (ie, "roll in the sack"), the writing is fine - he mostly writes well, so in that respect it is easy to see why his books are often bestsellers - but I don't identify with, or even like, the characters.

I took the book out of a box in my department on campus. When people retire or leave the job for another reason, often when the office is cleaned out some of the books wind up in the common area, free for the taking. I always go through them, and take whatever interests me. Usually they are academic books, or at least education-related, such as something by Kozol. But last time there were quite a few fairly recent popular novels. I took the Sparks book because I'd seen (and liked) The Notebook, and have read good reviews of his writing.

This has nothing to do with my frustration with the book, but it's pretty hard to believe that a man is writing this book, or for that matter, wrote The Notebook. I suppose that is kind of a sexist remark, I mean why can't a man write a romantic story?, but they are not simply romantic, they are the ultimate "chick lit" or "chick flick." (I hate those terms, BTW, and usually I am not thrilled with that genre either, at least not as done by a contemporary author. [Bronte, Austen, etc. are fine.] I also dislike movies such as "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle" so I am probably not the best audience for Sparks' books.)

Anyway, I am about halfway through this book and I'd like to reach into the pages and slap the main character because she is so whiny and "poor me," and then slap her love interest just for good measure. Not that he doesn't deserve a good slap for his own tiresome nature. It seems the reader is supposed to view him as heroic? I don't think so; I think he is a glory hog. I keep hoping something really bad will happen to one of the characters and the book will wind up surprising me and being worth the effort! I don't know if The Notebook read like this, maybe. But even if it did, the looking back through Altzheimer's Disease theme made the story much more charming. With this book I am so annoyed that the so-called hardships these two characters have faced are either 1) self-inflicted, 2) not all that difficult, yet they act like such martyrs or 3) sad, but get over it already.

One other thing that is bothering me is the issue of the little boy. Many of the choices the main female character makes strike me as harmful. And the things they eat, because they don't have a lot of money, would make her fat, not thin. Plus that sort of diet would not help the son's learning disabilities. If his mother is supposed to be making such sacrifices for him, and has researched his disorder so much, you'd think that would be a no brainer. Hey, but why be concerned - a man swoops in and magically the kid improves!

It's too bad this was the first book of his that I read, since it is possible the others are better, and now I am turned off. But at least I know why I found it in a box for free!

OK. Enough said on that. I took some more flower and garden pictures, which I will post eventually. We had wonderful produce this weekend, as I struggled with the machines: fresh zucchini from the garden, and fresh local sweet corn from the Hurley Flats.

That's a nice segue to something I wanted to link, but couldn't find again when I actually started writing: I read a story about how difficult it is to find food that is produced in the USA, and also that it is more expensive when you can get it. The article mentioned that sometimes bad weather means there are not enough California or Florida orange crops, and so citrus fruit has to be imported; there is no choice, regardless of price. I wanted to link to that particular story because the essence of buying local whole foods means that you have to make a lifestyle change. If the produce isn't locally grown in your area, or it is out of season, you just don't buy it. It was strawberry season, so we picked, and ate strawberries nonstop. Now they are done - no more strawberries for a year. It was cherry season, same thing. Now it is sweet corn season, and we are eating our fill. (And I must add that we grow the best around here.) Peaches are coming soon, zucchini is here now, and within the next couple weeks so many other things will be, too. I grow as much as I can, but I also visit farm stands and the co-op. If you want green beans in the winter, it's quite simple: you have to freeze or can them when they are in season!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Celluloid

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?

I don't know about "best;" I suspect if I thought about this long enough I'd come up with a lot of possibilities. So I'll go with the first thing that popped into my mind, the recent War of the Worlds. Now I know a lot of people hated that movie (I liked it), and there were some important differences between it and H.G. Wells' wonderful story, but I think the spirit of the book was captured in the movie, as well as in the amazing technology.

Another recent example that I remembered: The Freedom Writers Diary. I thought the movie The Freedom Writers did a good job at capturing the book. (And Hilary Swank even resembles Erin Gruwell.)

2. The worst?

Again, I'm not sure about the "worst;" and since I almost always think the book is way better than the movie, there would be even more possibilities for an answer to this one than there are for the "best" if I thought about it for a while. So - the first thing that popped into my mind: The Firm. Oddly, that is also a Tom Cruise movie!! Not that it's a classic novel or anything, but the changed ending in the movie irritated me so much! Why can't Hollywood leave such things alone? Or is it that movie audiences couldn't handle how the book ended?

In the interest of having two and two - another example of "the worst" adaptation that I am thinking of is not books and movies, but plays and movies. I just have to mention it because I think it really was "the worst." I thought Phantom of the Opera as a movie was so bad they should snap every DVD of it in half, and erase the master. What an abomination.

3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)

Yes, in all three cases I'd read the book first, and I saw Phantom on the stage before seeing the movie. I agree that whatever you are exposed to first probably seems best, although I'm trying to think of an example where I saw the movie first and liked it more, and I can't! Maybe because I almost always read the book first, and in most cases, may or may not see the movie. Even in the case of the two movies I listed as "best," I didn't like them more than the books - I simply thought the movie versions were respectable adaptations.

Added 1: OK, I came up with one. I didn't see the movie first, but I think I enjoyed it more than the book: Last of the Mohicans. James Fenimore Cooper's books are great - but they are also kind of difficult reads.

Added 2: Here's another great book to movie adaptation: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Though I still liked the book more, and so much had to be left out, the 1934 movie was very good (the 1982 TV movie wasn't bad, either).

Added 3: For a hilarious take on James Fenimore Cooper's writing, read "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences" in How to Tell a Story and Other Essays by Mark Twain (1897).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wow, it is hot (and humid) here! I had my first swim of the season on Saturday. I also went swimming on Sunday. The water temperature was in the 80s, the pool is crysal clear, and it was lovely. The flowers and veggies are thriving at both houses.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I visited the State Museum when the exhibit that this book is based on was on display. Powerful, interesting, sad stuff; good that it will be published.

Friday, July 06, 2007

I've been meaning to link to two stories from the Times Union. First, from July 4, these three essays on what it means to be an American. Impressive writing, especially considering they are kids. I am using the piece in my class, since right now we are discussing the meaning of culture.

Then, this bittersweet essay. Sniff. Reminds me of all the dogs I love (Sophie, Sam), and have loved (there have been so many! Rudy, Penny, Howie, Hobo, Pud, Pepe, Duke, et al) but especially Howie, since he was half-Schnauzer, lived to be 15, and he was the first dog I got after moving away from home.

Unrelated, but something that occupied some time this week: last week we had a terrific thunderstorm that must have struck near my house in Samsonville. It zapped my mother's ethernet card, and she thought it killed her monitor too. She was unhappy with using her old spare, so I got her a "new" one (really it is used, but it is a decent 17" Dell, amazing how cheap they are). When I was there last weekend, I replaced the NIC in her computer, and discovered that her monitor is fine (luckily my nephew needs the used monitor I bought), but that the lightening also burned out my ethernet and on board video, and it ruined two of the ports on my router. It's an old machine, but since I have a wireless laptop and the desktop is for light use only, I didn't want to buy an entirely new computer. So I took the CPU back to Castleton, and earlier this week I replaced the NIC and video card. Luckily, that worked, since I hated the idea of spending too much on that old machine. I also learned that the router is still under warranty, so I will be able to get a replacement. Luckily the wireless and two remaining ports are working, so we are still in business there. We both had surge protectors, but they aren't foolproof, so from now on my mother will unplug everything when there is a storm.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Great _____ Novel

What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel?

Since he is my favorite author, it just has to be one of Mark Twain's. I know the standard answer is Huck Finn, and that is a great novel for sure, but my vote would be for An Innoncent Abroad. It is laugh out loud funny ("but is he dead?"), and so American.

Tell us where in the world you are!

New York, USA.