Tuesday, January 31, 2006

University of Illinois Mascot Battle

I read today that the U of I is appealing the NCAA committee's ban on the use of Indian mascots and nicknames which it deems offensive. U of I's mascot has been controversial for years. Continuing to use the Chief, as he is affectionately known, means the U of I cannot host any post-season tournaments. The U of I has long limited their use of the Chief Illiniwek mascot to home venues only--he doesn't travel to road games. They've removed him from their uniforms, equipment and banners and they now use the big orange "I" seen to the left. They do continue to have the Chief dance during half-time at home games. With all those concessions to those who are offended by the Chief, one has to conclude that the NCAA is still not satisfied and feels it can sanction universities into complying with their particular view of political correctness. That seems a bit over-reaching to me.

The battle over Chief Illiniwek and the use of the Indian Head with Headdress seen in the right of the blog, has been ongoing on the U of I campus for years . For people who don't care one way or the other, it's a ridiculous fight. Personally I've never been interested enough in the argument to have a side. I would compare the passions on either side to how Democrats hate Bush and how Republicans hate Clinton. Neither side is willing to give in and so far there have been an even number of trustees who fall on each side so they University has done nothing but postpone voting on the issue over and over. Just to add more detail, the Illini Indians don't actually exist anymore, as I understand it. They died out long ago, but they originally populated the area of Illinois where the U of I is located.

In happier and less contentious news, I noted that Illinois is now ranked number 6 in the AP and Coaches' polls. Our record is currently 19-2 which is the same as Duke's record. I'm not making an assertion that we are as good as Duke. I can't know that unless/until we play them. I was surprised to see Duke drop to the number 2 spot, I need to read more sporting news because I have no idea what caused UConn to pole vault into the number 1 spot in the polls over Duke.

**Update** Illinois beat Wisconsin at Wisconsin. Woohoo! That puts Illinois in first place in the Big Ten and that's the second time Illinois has beaten Wisconsin in their house in two years. Illinois is the only team to beat Wisconsin at home in the last five years! Yippee! The only aggravating part of this news is that ESPN showed the darn game and I missed it because I didn't know it was coming on until I opened up this week's TV Guide. I couldn't find the stupid magazine at the grocery store on Saturday and so I bought it today at Target--too late to kknow about the game so that I could dvr it. Rats and mice! Oh, I wished I'd sprung for Full Court. I was too cheap.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Book Reviews

Yesterday I read Suzanne Enoch's Don't Look Down and Sylvia Andrew's A Very Unusual Governess. I enjoyed both, although they were very different books and one was a more compelling read than the other. I'm not going into the review business, probably, but here's the low-down from my perspective:

I read the regency period book AVUG during the afternoon and I picked it up and put in down several times. I didn't feel the need to race through to the finish and I had laundry to do after all. It was a charming book published by Harlequin Historicals. I don't usually read many of their historical line of books (for no particular reason, just not my habit) but the back cover caught my fancy. The gist of the story is about a bachelor caring for orphaned nieces and the governess he acquires who's really a well-born lady in disguise. Throw in charming secondary characters and a magic house and you have a pleasant read for a Sunday afternoon. I liked the hero and the heroine and the children. I thought the book ran out of steam toward the end when the only impediment to the hero and heroine getting together was just that the hero stubbornly didn't want to give up his bachelor-hood. Guess that reads somewhat true to life, now that I think about it which is a good reason for not using it in a, ahem, romance. The hero comes to his senses and alls well that ends well.

Later in the evening, (too late really) I started DLD. Now, in my typical OCD fashion, I like to read books in chronological order. So the fact that I broke this rule for this book is telling. I was just looking it over--it was late and I just wondered whether I should try to get the sequel from Amazon or if I could just meander to Borders later this week and see if the had Flirting with Danger on their shelves. Inconveniently, (it really was late) I was hooked from the very beginning.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the hero is a British billionaire (my personal weakness) but the heroine is a 'former' cat burglar/thief (my personal bete noire). I don't like to read about thieves. In fact, I detest reading about law-breakers because I spend all the book worrying that they'll be caught which kinda takes away from the story. Nora Roberts wrote a book years ago, Honest Illusions about magician/cat burlgar/thieves and I've never been able to get past chapter 1. I've tried--heck I bought the dang book in HARDCOVER and yet I haven't been able to read it. Nora Roberts actually signed the book, can't make myself read it. My niece swears it's her favorite Nora book--and still I can't read it. I just don't do thieves.

To get back to the point I left about 200 words ago, GREAT BOOK! I read and read and read and would have finished the thing in my younger days. But I can't really function on less than five hours of sleep so eventually I forced myself to stop reading. After work I picked it up again and finished it off. I liked Samantha Jellicoe and adored Richard Addison (did I mention he's a billionaire?). They have a great love story and I don't even know how it started! What fun reading is still ahead? The potential for many more books in the series is phenomenal as they figure out how to make a relationship between a former thief and still-addicted to adrenaline heroine and a billionaire control freak hero, who worries she'll end up in prison, work. I will definitely get the first book in the series and be on the look out for more.

Note to bookstores--you really would sell more books if when a sequel comes out you have the previous books in the series available on the shelves. It's annoying not to be able to buy all of them at once. I would think that idea was Selling 101, yet, time and again I'm annoyed by the failure of bookstores to stock backlist books. If I can find out a book has a sequel--surely bookstore employees can found out and order accordingly. Maybe this is a sympton of the fact that bookstores are wasting all their shelf spaces on "literary" sludge that hardly sells. I mean, seriously, romantic fiction supports the book publishing industry. It ought to be given more shelf space than "travel books" or "fiction" otherwise known as the books that win awards and which all the snobs think people should read but nobody really does read. Hmm, that's a bit intense. I think I'm not hiding that this is kinda of a hot button issue for me. I'll go lie down now. ;o)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Thoughts on Winter

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
Anne Bradstreet (1612 - 1672), 'Meditations Divine and Moral,' 1655

Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.
Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885)

One kind word can warm three winter months.
Japanese Proverb

Vera Bradley Purses

I was thinking about my handbag dilemma again this morning. Ever since we moved to Maryland, I've been getting ecstatic compliments about my collection of Vera Bradley purses. It's a little ironic. Everyone here seems to envy my purses while I pine with unrequited love for a Cole Haan.

Let me provide some backstory here. I'm a Navy brat and for the first 11 years of my life, my family moved all over the US because my dad was transferred to various naval bases or ports or whatever they call 'em. Hey, I was a kid. Anyway, eventually he retired (Chief Petty Officer, E-9 for those who care.) and we ended up in Indiana which was his birthplace. Those of you who are familiar with Vera Bradley purses just made the connection, right?

Vera Bradley is famous in Indiana. Their factory is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana and you can easily find VB in Indiana. It gets a little harder when you leave the state. Their gorgeous bags are made of fabulous quilted fabrics. Every year they add new fabrics and retire old ones. My twin and I have about...30? 40? I've never counted. They do fill one long shelf in the walk-in closet though. In the spring, VB has a trunk sale which is amazing. People wait in line for HOURS, although I didn't because I'm lazy but that's another story. Anyway, they fill the floor of an arena with their seconds and overstock and you can pretty much go into a coma buying everything your heart has every desired VB. That's why I have so many purses, and totes, and duffle bags and wallets, and well, you get the idea.

Anyway, I had a Carrie Bradshaw moment this morning because I realized that the average cost of one of my VB's is $60 bucks--so for ten and a half VBs I could have had one Cole Haan. Hmm...should I regret my Vera Bradleys? I can't imagine it--they're gorgeous. They're art. I only wish Vera Bradley would somehow set up a program so I can send in my purses to have the handles replaced because they do take the hardest wear on the purse. Other than that little detail, I do adore my Vera Bradley purses. The second thought I had (whoa, two today--that's my limit!) was that even knowing the math, I still can't buy ONE purse for $650.00. I mean, I have more than 10 DIFFERENT purses for the same money from Vera and I get lots of praise for it as well as having variety galore. One purse for $650.00? Sigh. I am just too middle class.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Barnes & Noble Book Buy

After spending the morning working, my twin and I hopped in the car to have a late lunch. Always trying to work an angle, I suggest a trip down Reisterstown Road toward the B&N by proposing a visit to Trader Joe's and lunch at Panera Bread. (Gentle reminder, I have a fatal fascination with bookstores and am addicting to buying books which I do not necessarily read right away. This sometimes causes conflict with my sister's sense of economy.)

My sister--"Don't you already have all the books on your list? Is something new out?"
I reply--"Yes, that's just it. It will be a cheap trip because there's nothing I need to buy."
Yes! Score! Inwardly, I exult. I have convinced the poor patsy to hit the Barnes and Noble. As if I would ever visit a bookstore and come out without any books. Hah! I laugh with quiet glee, very quiet so she cannot hear me--we haven't actually gotten to the B&N yet and she is driving, after all.

In the parking lot, walking up to the cathedral of books, she says, "Here are the rules, you have to justify anything you buy and if you buy anything then I'm getting the Doris Kearns Goodwin book I've been wanting about Lincoln."
Casual me--"No problem. I already told you that you should just buy that." Hmm, I recognize that she hasn't really been fooled by my assertion that there's nothing to buy, maybe she's smarter than I think.

Inside, I hit the romantic fiction aisle after a quick trip down the Just Arrived aisle. I'm looking for the new Susan Kearney, "The Ultimatum". No luck. It's not out yet. I find the Georgette Heyer I've been waiting for the reissue on. As I stand there rather mournfully checking up and down the row, a lady with an armful of books approaches me. "So many books to buy, " she smiles. "Yes, but not the ones I want." With that comment she's off and running, suggesting authors that she has read and asking me for my opinion about authors. We feed off each other and I end up with an armful of books where moments before I had only one.

They were:

Georgette Heyer's The Quiet Gentleman. I discovered Heyer last spring/summer and her books are excellent and timeless. She is, after all, the originator of the modern Regency romance after Jane Austen.

Suzanne Enoch's Don't Look Down. I'm sold on the book the minute I read about the heroine's British billionaire boyfriend. The 3's bees that are best, imho--British, Billionaire, Boy. I'm suspicious though that this may be the second in the series. I check the flyleaf--the previous contemporary written by Enoch is Flirting with Danger. Barnes & Noble doesn't have that one the shelf. I'm aggravated because I'm convinced that that has to be the first book. Most romances just don't start with the heroine already involved with the guy she ends up with. (At home I check on Amazon--I was right. My instincts didn't fail me.)

Susan Mallery's Delicious. I read an excerpt of this in another book last month and I've been waiting for it. It's a romance and it's about a chef. Food and romance--another perfect matchup to my way of thinking.

Cathie Linz's Good Girls Do jumps into my hand when I read the cover quote by Jayne Ann Krentz, "The author that readers of romantic comedy have been waiting for." If Jayne thinks this one is good and funny that is good enough for me.

When I finally run into my sister again, I'm expecting a lecture about not buying books on speculation. I get nothing of the kind, however. She justs hands me two reprints by Betty Neels. Betty Neels wrote for Harlequin for a kajillion years and all her books are practically identical. They are littered with nurses, doctors, and the Dutch. I protest the purchase. (I know, hypocritical of me, but we have, like--a hundred books by Betty.) My sister insists she doesn't have these two--she doesn't remember a book with a nurse in Norway. She can't give me that same assurance about the nurse in England--trust me but I stop fighting the inevitable.

I'm still expecting her to pick up the DKG book on Lincoln, but another book has caught her eye. Striking Back The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response by Aaron J. Klein. Okaayy--not in the romantic comedy theme but with Speilberg's new movie, Munich out there, it's timely I guess.

Final score-- Robin: 4 books at $26.96 Sister: 3 books at $34.93. Winner? Barnes & Noble.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Same Same Santino

I have been surprised that nobody has called out Santino for his persistent use of the same style of bodice with skirt and adornments in several of his designs. Wondering if my memory was not serving me well, I reviewed all of Santino's designs. It appears to me that Santino can't make a dress unless he makes a fitted bodice and adds a gathered skirt.

Week One-the muslin dress. I don't know all the dress terminology but I see a 'baby-doll' or empire waisted dress with some kind of ruched trim making up the decoration of the bodice and acting as straps for the dress. The rag things hanging of the sides of the skirt are kinda different.

Week two: the clothes off his back became a leather skirt and a bustier-type top made out of what was his shirt. The bodice is heart-shaped and there is ruching down the front panel. This might be the most original design of the set for my money.

Week three: the Barbie dress in shades of purple. The bodice is accented by a tie in the center--a decoration which is repeated twice. The dress gives an impression of ruching although that may be a fit problem. Note the way the skirt is attached to the dress, with the seaming out and visible rather than hidden. The trim is in the shoulder straps reminds me of week one dress but the Barbie hair hides it somewhat. The skirt is point-y like a handkerchief skirt but not floaty.

Week four: Painful deer tormenting week. The trim lavishly applied to the bra and panties seems to again duplicate whatever trim Santino learned how to make back in the day when he learned to sew. It could be actual lace though. Maybe.

Week five: This week's dress is pretty but the bodice brings back memories of the bodices from week one, two, and three put together. The center gather provides form-fit and the trim has gone wild on top, although admittedly, the cord is a new touch. We see the heart-shaped neckline in its asymetric form for the first time here. The little knotted bow thingy in the center is just like the Barbie dress. Seriously, am I imagining that seen in a sequence the designs are not that fantastically different from week to week?

Week six- we will not include because it was collaborative with Nick which is the only reason the bodice is a halter, I believe.

Week seven: also known as weeping turkey week. Turkeys who gave up themselves--their feathers--only to be disrespected for their sacrifice. Note the ruched or gathered bodice. The skirt attached so that the seam and it's gathers are shown. It's also the third pointy-type, hankerchief hem if anyone's counting. (and I am.)

Week eight- Inspiration week. And Santino's inspiration is a dress that looks like it was inspired by all the things that had previously seemed to work in his other designs. The gathered skirt with the seam attached so that it showed. The bodice is practically right of the silver dress from week five. Asymetrical bodice--cups off-center, twisty scarf like trim wrapped and pinned down.

Now if I were more energetic, I'd do this very same thing with all the other designers sets. I am lazy however, and I still haven't written my synopsis of the Inspiration week show.

Project Runway--Inspiration

Sorry to be slow slow about blogging the Inspiration episode. Work. Sheesh.

Our show opens with a confident Zulema telling us that "anyone could be eliminated." One senses she doesn't really believe it. Too bad. Santino, meanwhile, concedes that his outfit for Sasha Cohen was "ridiculous and horrible". He's not going to take any chances in the new challenge and see where that gets him.

Heidi comes out to explain the challenge. Wow! She looks gorgeous. I love her hair and makeup. "What drives your creativity as a fashion designer? What's your inspiration?" They'll be visiting Michael Kors at his shop to learn about his creative process but first the moment we've all been waiting for, Zulema wants a walk-off.

The reaction shots to Zulema's request are hilarious. Heidi, Rachel-the model, Andrae all could be in the movies based on their ability to convey shock, amazement and anger. Who made up Rachel? Ew, she can barely hold her eyes open she's wearing so much makeup. I've seen hookers in less blue eye shadow. Everyone is upset by the possibility of losing their model. I hadn't realized until now how interdependent the model/designer teams had become. After the walk-off, Zulema steals Tarah from Nick who is upset. Rachel is furious at being dumped but happy to go to Nick who is her favorite. Now we know the models discuss the designers. Zulema sums up her attitude to the whole thing, "I can't be concerned with Nick. Do a good job, win next week and take her back." Well, okay--maybe he will. So there.

We head for Michael Kors and hear about his process and Doris Duke then everyone gets digital cameras and an hour to take photos from which they will select one for their inspiration. One hour to take photos of anything you want in New York. That's not really enough time to go that far what with traffic and the limitations of walking. Guess everyone better hope their inspirations are close by.

Oh but, Daniel V. finds his inspiration while still at Michael Kors. He should win a prize for efficiency. Chloe focuses on buildings. Nick can't focus on anything but his sense of injury. Andrae shoots gutter water. Santino shoots to excess--would we expect anything else from Santino, whose name is now being used as an adjective in the show? Zulema struggles and finally takes a pic of an African woman in a red dress. Kara shoots signs.

The show spends a great deal of time with Nick who is nursing his sense of ill-use regarding the model switch. "If you're not kind, you're not going to get kindness back." He can't understand or respect Zulema's decision. He was inspired by his model....whine whine bzzz bzzzz....only now he has a different model....shouldn't that make it easy to be inspired anew? Apparently not. It was the OTHER model that inspired him. Nick, Nick...as Cher said to Nicholas Cage--"Snap out of it!"

We buy fabric we go back to the workshop. Now Tim Gunn brings in the big guns so to speak--he wants to have a come to Jesus talk with everyone. "Wake up! The work has been lack-luster!" Then he zeros in and gets personal.

Daniel-you excite early, lose momentum, fall short of potential. Ouch.
Chloe-push the envelope, step out of comfort zone, don't risk being a one-note. Okeydokey.
Kara-you haven't won anything yet, step away from work that we could buy on Madison Avenue. She didn't listen to that at all!
Zulema-take risks. She argues about time management. I thought she had great sewing skills--where's the time management problem coming from?
Santino-you're in serious jeopardy. Ya think?
Andrae/Nick-Be More Ambitious. Andrae handles that advice well'; Nick...not so much.

Tim reviews the designs with the designers. Dan's going for Japanese sleekness. Maybe I don't understand Japanese sleekness but that is not how I would describe what he ends up with. Santino thinks he'll try something tasteful and beautiful. That would make a nice change. Tim gets to Nick and suddenly we get a hilarious inside view of modeling that I didn't know was out there. Tim is horrified that Nick is stuck with Rachel and her "gumby legs" because she's an "elongated marshmallow" who walks stiffly. Strangely, Nick is not encouraged by Tim's reaction to his misfortune and continues to spiral downward mentally. Nick is "over it" and wants to "be done with it." Daniel, however, snaps him out of his lengthy funk and Nick resolves to go for it.

Zulema, meanwhile, spends some time sulking because she senses the dismay her actions have brought into the show. She thinks people aren't being nice even though they are being cordial. They are looking at her funny. She talks herself into defiance. She'll just keep switching models everytime she wins. Yeah. That's what she'll do. You know, if she wins again...
Santino's impersonation of Tim is hysterical. Dead on.

Tim advises Dan, "Don't get seduced by the Santino effect or we'll all crash and burn." Oops, Santino is right there! He overhears. He's bitter. "Now I see how you talk about me when I'm not here." Ahem, Santino--you do realize you've been impersonating Tim when he's not there, right?

At the end of day one Zulema has nothing, or nothing she likes anyway. Karma is quick, I'm thinkin'.

When the models arrive we see that Tarah is unhappy to be stuck with Zulema. She must sense this move is not going to lengthen her time on the show. She doesn't like the dress, it's unfinished and Z stuck her with needles while she was sewing her into the dress. Muy mal, si?

Rachel, meanwhile, has a giant-size grudge against Z. now, so she's going to model "extra-hard" for Nick. Hmm, model "extra-hard". I pause my dvr to consider what this can mean. Nope... still don't exactly understand it, so I proceed with the show.

Tarah, on the other hand, is jealous. Take heart, Tarah, Tim didn't say that you had gumby legs. That's gotta be a comfort, right?

The show proceeds:
Andrae-Love it, beautiful. The beading perfectly captures the inspiration photo.
Kara-simple dress with yellow diagonal stripe going around the hip.
Santino-I've seen the bodice before, the skirt looks like a garbage bag belted around her ribs.
Daniel-very couture. The collar comes up really high, the top is very pouffy. I don't like it as well as Andrae's but I recognize that the judges will love, love, love it.
Chloe-very cool dress with what looks to me like, complicated pleating vertically and horizontal ribbons of alternating colors. She has used her favorite blue again.
Nick-he talks about his model's walk the whole time. The outfit is a two piece; halter top with ruffle in a print and a solid navy fishtale skirt.
Zulema-she talks about Tarah's body and walk the whole time too. She thinks Tarah's look will complement her design. The dress is red, with a layered chiffon skirt and overskirt with a print.

When the models join the designers on the runway I can't look away from the sight of Chloe's model next to her. She looks like a red-haired giantess next to tiny Chloe. The effect is comical.

Dan-Beautiful, well-executed.
Chloe-Not geometric enough according to Jay. Nina likes the juxtaposition of soft and hard.
Kara-big talk which the dress doesn't match. Kara thinks her dress speaks volumes. Michael thinks the dress is very literal.
Andrae-Jay offers the opinion that this was the most inspired dress. He totally got the inspiration photo. Taking ugly and making pretty. Heidi thinks it's expensive looking. Michael thinks it's pretty great looking.
Nick-Paris Hilton? Mikonos? Oy, what's that about? Michael thinks the top is pretty great looking.
Zulema-Poorly executed for the THIRD time according to Nina. Z tries to explain the dress' relationship to the inspiration photo by saying she used a "western cut" and other elements like color...to get from there to here. Nobody's listening they are still to caught up with what a crappy job she did sewing the thing.
Santino-Jay says "Austin's scarlet Grammy dress". I haven't seen season one yet (still holding on to it.) Santino says, "oh my god" I am unconvinced, however, that he didn't know full well that he was using the same fabric. His reaction was so flat. He displayed no surprise. Heidi thinks the skirt is perfect for hiding a big butt. Michael compliments Santino for pushing past his usual thing.

In private the judges makes the following remarks which I'll follow with the end result:
Chloe's dress was pretty. Not fully fleshed out or finished, but pretty. She's in.
Kara's dress was a tube dress with a piece of tape. She's in.
Nick's dress was not memorable and just another fishtale skirt. He's in.
Andrae's dress is Jay's favorite. Finished, sophisticated, well-made, expensive looking and translated exactly from the picture. He's in. Did they edit out extra compliments for Andrae? The judges said nothing about how much they liked his dress and how he almost won.
Dan's dress is Heidi's favorite. Well-executed, sophisticated. Michael is a FULL DAN FAN. The dress is chic and great-looking. Dan changed our eye, it was unexpected. Dan is the winner!
Santino's dress is unfinished, not part of his usual shtick. He's in.
Zulema's dress is a nightmare. No inspiration from the picture, no energy and poorly executed. She's out.

I wonder if in hindsight Zulema wishes she hadn't introduced the model changing tension into the process because one has to wonder how much the opening of that Pandora's Box--so to speak--affected the outcome of the show. All the tension draining away creative energy and causing distraction. Zulema caused the upset sure, but she suffered from it as did Nick.
The other thought that I had was--if execution by which I assume they mean, sewing--meant so much. How did Z stay in so long over people who executed better and were equal in design ability. I'm thinking of Daniel Franco.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's not personal, it's just business

No time to post more on last night's eppy of Project Runway--so the key quote of the night will have to do for now. Zulema seemed surprised that karma came back at her so quickly. Needless to say, this episode rocked and I'll enjoy posting more tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Memory in Death

I spent last evening reading Memory in Death by JD Robb the latest Eve and Roarke adventure . I'll warn those who don't want to know any details, avert your eyes because I'm going to give some away.

I enjoyed MID, which was no surprise. As I've previously mentioned I really love all the characters who inhabit the world of Eve & Roarke. I could spend more time with the secondary characters and not mind a bit--Peabody & McNab, Mavis & Leonardo, Dr. Mira & Mr. Mira...they're fabulous. This book will be a particular favorite as time goes by, I'm sure, because it is quite a bit lighter on mystery and mayhem than some of the others in the series. I'm kind of a wimp, with respect to violence and suspense. I worry something bad is going to happen to a secondary character, it makes reading a little tense-making sometimes. MID, compared to the heart-wrenching Survivor in Death, (the scene in the morgue--I could cry thinking about it right now!) is a walk in the park. A lovely chance of pace--no serial killers--no injuries among our near and near--and more of Eve & Roarke at home, which I especially liked. For once, Eve & Roarke gave a party and murder didn't interrrupt it. We also got to enjoy Christmas at home. Usually the book ends with Christmas or weddings or vacations which then happen off-stage, so to speak. Not this time--yea! We get Christmas! We do learn more about Eve's backstory which, as always, has its painful moments. But whatever the woman suffered in her past, her present more than makes up for it with Roarke! (Yeah, yeah--I know it's fiction.)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Latest Reading and Women's Lib

In spite of all the new books I purchased just a week or so ago, I have once again been glomming an author. (For an explanation of glomming, go here.) A few weeks ago I discovered Anne Weale's blog "Bookworm on the Net" and was inspired to get out my collection of her books. I also discovered there were a few of her books that I didn't have yet. I don't understand how that can happen, since I carefully review lists of "coming" books online and in a magazine. It's a mystery. Whatever. So I ordered three of these books online and I'll keep looking for the one I could get. (Man, I love being able to order online--it's so convenient.) I was then further inspired to re-read some of my favorites.

Strange, perhaps to some, I have owned 10? or so books by Ms. Weale, some for years which I have never read. I like to think of that as both an example of my ability to delay gratification and as a way of stockpiling reading material against the possibilty of a disaster. Maybe the book industry will go belly-up, for example, and then I'll need all these books I've been hoarding for years and years. It's not as crazy as you might first think, with book readership down, that worst case scenario could happen! The books that I have been reading for the first time, are all early novels, written in the 60's. Reading books from this era has reminded me of the Dell Shannon 'Luis Mendoza' mysteries which are set in the 60's. I might have to start re-reading them next. I love when the book references the cost of things. For example, in a Luis Mendoza mystery--really wealthy widows (they're frequent characters for some reason) make like 600 bucks a MONTH. Whew. That's livin' the high-life, isn't it? I also like it when the books have the characters wearing hats or gloves it such a contrast to our current casual style. I digress, as usual. Anyway--reading these early romance novels by Ms. Weale, with their references to women's liberation have made me wonder. When did the women's movement start? I thought it was the late 60's at the same time as the sexual revolution. But even the book written in 1960 makes reference to women's equality with men. Oh, rats...I'm going to have to look this up.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

University of Illinois Basketball

Happy news, today, although not happy watching since I am living in the Big Ten basketball desert. Illinois beat Northwestern at Northwestern. That may seem like no biggie--Northwestern isn't known as a basketball powerhouse after all, but they can be tough on their home court. Two years ago, I think, they did beat us. It was mortifying but inspired greater effort after. Here are some factoids about Illinois basketball:

• Illinois is the second-winningest team in the nation over the past five-and-a-half seasons. Illinois has won 157 games since the beginning of the 2000-01 season, which trails only Duke (167 wins).
Bruce Weber is the second-winningest coach in the nation over the past four-and-a-half seasons. Since the beginning of the 2001-02 season, Weber has won 131 games, recording 52 wins in his final two years at Southern Illinois and 79 wins in his first two-and-a-half years at Illinois. He trails Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (132) by one win over this time period.
• Illinois and Duke are the only two schools in the nation to win at least 25 games each of the last five seasons.
• Illinois, Duke and Oklahoma State are the only three teams to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 each of the last two seasons.

In other basketball news, Georgetown beat Duke--thus ending speculation about Duke's potential undefeated season. Take it from me, Duke fans, better now than the last game of the regular season which is what happened to Illinois last year. By then your run is BIG news and the team that takes you down is really obnoxious. Ohio--ick--they reaaalllllyyy enjoyed beating us. Georgetown was over the top happy today, I gather they stormed the court, but it would have been worse later in the season.

Meanwhile, I am interested to note that we played Georgetown earlier this season and beat them by 10. Does this mean Illinois would be a contender against Duke, the monolith? I can't say, but I can dream, can't I?

Thoughts on Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase;
if you pursue happiness you'll never find it.
C. P. Snow
I think this is very true. Trying to be happy usually involves thinking about yourself a lot. What will make me feel better? I need to give myself something or do something just for me. Actively trying to be happy is the ultimate selfishness, thinking about me-me-me.

I do believe that people are mostly self-absorbed and at any given time their inner dialogue is about their place and comfort in any given situation. So consider that the baseline of the human experience, to think only of self. Now consider this question; how are people who are more highly developed in their humanity or personality (insert whatever word you think fits best here) going to show that they are more highly developed? That they are more than they started out being, that they have raised themselves from the baseline of me-me- me thinking. How is this demonstrated? By their ability to NOT think of themselves only, but by their ability to subsume self and think of 'other'.

So to become involved in something outside of, and perhaps greater than self reveals greater personal development. That something may be another person or people; lover, children, friend, the homeless; or music, art, quilting, blogging...whatever shifts your attention from the me-me-me to the outward.

As a society we make value judgements about the 'other' that people choose. We praise those whose 'other' is charitable or artisitic. We condemn those whose 'other' is trivial. So does blogging make me a better person? I'm taken out of self and into other. But wait, I blog about self. Rats. I'm the trivial...the less developed of my thesis. Maybe I should have taken a philosphy class in college and I wouldn't have written myself into this corner. Dang it. How do I get out of this trap? Well--it started out about happiness, right? So my opinion, when we have the 'other' we have happiness. And that happiness will be ours even if the 'other' is a toy train collection or volunteering in a Habitat for Humanity project. Society will think more of the volunteer, sure, but both will likely be happy. Maybe being happy ought to make us want to share happiness through charitible efforts but that's really taking me further in my post than I intended to go. Here's the big finish:
Happiness isn't something you experience;
it's something you remember.
Ocar Levant (1906 - 1972)

This n That

I worked late Thursday and Friday of this week, and now I'm heading off to put in a few more hours. This information is for those who think educators work a shorter day than the rest of the population and never put in overtime. Paperwork, documentation, reports; those are things every professional can never keep up to date on without extra effort, I suspect. After I put a few hours in on lesson plans and averaging scores and documenting service provision, I'll be heading to Target to return my dvd of House. Think I can't return a dvd that's been opened? I'll bet they let me when I show them that my box contains two disk 1's and no disk 2, along side its disk 3. Thus, was ruined my ability to view the House episodes in order. Yes, I could have waited to watch disk 3 until I had exchanged the faulty set for the new hopefully perfect set, but I'm addicted to House and I couldn't wait. I mean it, I couldn't wait.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Project Runway-On Thin Ice

The key phrase heard in this episode uttered by the redoubtable Michael Kors: "What's worse, not going far enough or going too far?" That tells you everything you need to know about the outcome and the rationale for this episode of the show. It also covers nicely the reality show imperative of good tv with dramatic participants. But really, I'm skipping to the end when the journey was so delicious. I wasn't intending to post about PR before the episode had barely finished airing. I have work in the morning after all. (Oh yeah, I'm an insomniac so I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway.) I also wasn't intending to make notes about the episode as it proceeded either. My absent intentions don't seem to matter however. Here is some background, and events or quotes that struck me as interesting throughout the episode.

As we expected our task was to design a figure skating dress for Sasha Cohen. Designers had 30 minutes to sketch, $150 dollars to spend and two days and a little more before the runway. While shopping the designers were expected to wear ice skating outfits. Emmett, in particular, looked hysterically funny as he added his little trademark hat. Santino's fur Cossack-style hat gave his outfit added flair. He was the luckiest of the men because his shirt was white while Andrae, Nick, Emmett and Daniel V. were arrayed in not flattering rainbow shades. Of the ladies, Zulema looked best in her skating dress but the gold eye shadow was reminiscent of Mimi on the Drew Carey show. Chloe, cute as she is, was not flattered by the outfit she was given, as it made her look stocky. We visit our usual fabic store and also get to visit ? (didn't catch the name) to purchase trims, sequins, feathers, and beads for the costume. Daniel V. notes he spend 2/3 of his budget on trim.

As the show progresses, I note Daniel V. makes a couple of negative comments about people. I don't have any specific recollection of him saying anything remotely mean before. Is the pressure building or are people just getting more on his nerves as time goes by? Of Kara, he remarks that her dress looked basic and not in a Calvin Klein kind of way but a JC Penney basic kind of way. I think we can safely assume Daniel V. will not be getting a job designing for Penneys in the future. He also said something negative about Emmett, along the lines of; Emmett doesn't have the skills needed at this point in the competition but I didn't write down exactly what.

Andrae was a hoot with his over-dramatic, fake English accent. He wastes valuable time fixing overlock machines for people who are his competitors and who won't thank him for it. His "inordinately dreadful" comment about the overlock machines breaking down was a gaffaw-inducer at my house. His self-critique that his dress is "bad valley of the dolls" also sparks amusement and agreement. A boa? A boa? I can't quite get my head around that.

Nick's starting to think about the win--"I'm not teaching today." He responds to Kara when she solicits his help. Good for you, I think. Then moments later we see him critiquing and helping Kara. No, no, Nick, don't help others. This is a competition!

Santino states the obvious when he explains that his design philosphy is "to make the biggest statement I can". Duh.

Now for the runway--

Nick -Beige/white with an assymetrical bodice. It's pretty although one of the cups of the bodice looks skimpy to me.

Andrae- much better than the views in progress suggested. He limited the use of the boa to one shoulder. It is dark, maybe black.

Kara- black with a fringe skirt which I liked.

Chloe- very different from all the others. Tiers or ruffles of turquoise (Chloe blue?) with a halter top. The dress is shaped like an inverted V. This could win because it's original and pretty.

Daniel V. -burgundy, modern design, unusual skirt with triangle shaped panels--very dark, looks sort of like lingerie and too old for Sasha.

Zulema- ivory with a lacy pattern created by the sequins. The bodice is awfully low. I'm worried if Sasha raises her arms her nipples will be exposed. The pleated skirt is nice. No rear exposed in this dress.

Emmett- a navy spangled dress with a web-like design of sequins in the neckline and back. A simple ruffle skirt. The skirt appears to be straight although I thought he was going to make it asymetrical. Maybe Chloe and Kara talked him out of that, they didn't seem to like the look when he asked their opinion.

Santino- what can one say. It's an odd cross between a turkey and varigated red rags that someone threw up onto a dress. It's so ugly words almost fail me. I'm not sure he could have added another detail to the dress with the ruching and the crap hanging off of the front and back. Sacha would be overwhelmed by this dress. I'm not sure she could walk in it as it must also be heavy with 50 pounds of junk hanging on the rear end. Kinda hard to land a triple jump in this.

Nick, Daniel V. Andrae, are allowed to leave immediately. The discussion on the runway commences.

Kara says she was inspired by the 1920's and All that Jazz. Our panel of critics think the dress screams Vegas, and the fringe is unflattering to the thighs of a figure skater (which do tend to be bulky) and the dress would have no flow or shape on the ice.

Chloe gets compliments for her unusual color and style. Sasha is concerned the shape is not right for her figure and Chloe says that she did consider that and modified something about the ruffles to account for that. The panel think Chloe's designs are modern and woman-friendly. She is a contender for winning the challenge.

Zulema gets many compliments as well. Nobody seems concerned that the front is skimpy so maybe I'm worrying about nipple exposure for nothing. Sasha likes the color and the pattern of the sequins that almost looks like lace. It's sexy without being vulgar. Chic and elegant are also descriptors. Zulema goes on to win, thus fulfilling all our expectations because of the model walk-off comment. Winning today fits in with my view of the exit order of the remaining designers mentioned here.

Emmett gets no credit for this outfit. The skirt is too short, it's "old lady ice skater'. The panel feels he showed no imagination and it's dowdy and vulgar at the same time which is a trick to accomplish.

Santino gets the worst of the comments. Sasha is hard-pressed to say anything nice. She likes the ruching on the stomach but thinks there is "lots going on" a masterful understatement. Carmen Miranda on acid, something you'd see in a Thanksgiving pageant--worn by the turkey with pilgrims in pursuit, not flattering. Heidi is quite annoyed that Santino willfully ignores the client's wishes. Santino's hauls out his tired excuse that he was "taking a risk". They discuss whether or not Santino will ever be able to rein it in. Heidi would like to say good bye to Santino today. Well she said she wanted to say 'auf weidersen' but I knew I couldn't spell that properly so I was trying to avoid using it. Presumably fans of the show will know her catch-phrase despite my pathetic spelling attempt.

Once I heard Heidi say she wanted to send Santino home, I was pretty sure he wouldn't go. Which takes us back to the start of our post. As Michael Kors said, "What's worse, not going far enough or going too far?" Emmett was unimaginative but he did provide the client with a dress she could actually ice skate in. It wasn't spectacular but she wouldn't have been laughed off the ice either. Santino provide a dress that looked like someone vomited ruffles and feathers, it also couldn't be skated in and would have been laughed at if actually worn. Other considerations: Emmett is too low key and dignified to warrant much air time relative to volatile Santino. Santino has had some spectacular highs and lows while Emmett has stuck to the middle of the pack. This was Emmett's first appearance in the defend your design portion of the show, I believe. All that considered, I don't mind that Emmett went home but I don't want to see Santino end up in the final with such an uneven body of work behind him and after his repeated disregard for the clients wishes. I'm still having nightmares about the lingerie challenge frankly. PR does have to balance good reality show television with good design. Now my thoughts turn to who will go next.

Update: I've added links to the actual outfits on the PR website. It's amazing how differently the dresses look than I remember from viewing the episode in realtime. I need to pause and study the outfits more before I blog. I noticed in the blogging that so far, Daniel V. and Emmett have the number 1 & 2 spots in voting. Interesting but it's still early in the process. I'll have to check in after some time has passed to see if the publics opinion is holding steady.

Border's book run

As you know I'm waiting impatiently for the new JD Robb. I didn't really have any particular reason to go to Borders other than I just really, really like buying books. So here's the latest list:

The Lion's Daughter by Loretta Chase: a reprint from '92 which I've never read by a great author.
Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen: a new author for me with a complimentary cover blurb by MaryJanice Davidson and its about vampires. (I have a weakness for vampires.)
Blessed is the Busybody by Emilie Richards: a mystery by a well known romance author--the first in a series.
Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris: famous for the Dead as...vampire mystery series, this is the first of the Lily Bard mysteries.
Billionaire's Proposition by Leanne Banks; Banks is a guarantee good read and I like the idea of hooking up with a billionaire. Be honest--doesn't everybody?
Valentine's Day is Killing Me by MaryJanice Davidson, Leslie Esdaile and Susanna Carr: an anthology of stories about Valentine's Day (duh) and crime and bad boys.
Much Obliged by Jessica Benson: an historical/regency. I think I've read Benson before and liked her (hey, I read ALOT of books, sometimes its hard to keep track) and the back cover sounded fun.
Everyday with Rachel Ray: the second issue of her new magazine. I love Rachel's 30 minute meals and I've actually made one? of her recipes which is amazing considering how little I cook. To give some context here, I actually have an Arch card for McDonald's.

Blog Frustrations

I'm slowly but surely adding skills to my repetoire of blogging. I've learned how to link to other sites. I managed to put my favorite sites in the side bar. I've even learned to upload pictures. Today I changed the font size and one color of the font (although I'm not actually sure which one changed color..I think it's the darker green one). Since in Robin-world, were I am both Queen and President, bigger is better, the text has been upsized. It seems to make the blog load a little slower though, which I totally don't get. The majority of the blog is still text afte all.

Skill-wise, I'm not where I want to be yet though. I want my blog to look different and unique from others. I want to change the photos in the header and at the same time personalize them. Not that I have a digital camera yet, but that's next on my list. I don't really understand code though. That's kind of a barrier, I'm thinking. I go into the template I change things...I regret it. You see how this is going, right? I'm like those doctors on House whose cure is worse than the original illness. But I'm finding that blogging is satisfying enough that I want to keep trying to improve my skills and knowledge even if it's frustrating and time consuming so that my blog will be read. There, I admit it. I want people to read my blog.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Thoughts on winning and losing

If you can react the same way to winning and losing,
that is a big accomplishment.
That quality is important
because it stays with you the rest of your life.
Chris Evert

Alas, I'm a lesser being and when my beloved Illini are beaten by Indiana, well, it ain't a happy moment. Is it just me? Or do people just celebrate in an unseemly way when they beat Illinois? ::sigh:: Winning feels very good. I'm just being selfish because I don't want any of the teams who play Illinois to have that feeling. On to Northwestern with a 16-2; 2-2 record.

Memory in Death

Seven more days till the latest JD Robb , the alter ego of Nora Roberts, arrives in bookstores. I'm eagerly awaiting Memory in Death, the latest in the continuing story of Eve Dallas and Roarke. I read a review somewhere...All About Romance, maybe? that gave some great hints about what 's coming. Roarke's take-no-prisoners approach to protecting Eve shows up. Yeehaw!

Last year my twin sister moved to Maryland ahead of me and I lived alone for six months for the first time in twenty years. It was a difficult time. Part of my coping strategy was re-reading the In Death series. I started with what was then the latest release and then I read the series in reverse, backwards. Now that was freaky! Reading about things that were past but in the current book were future events. I've never done that before what with my need to see it, and read it, in sequence- OCD- thing. Anyway, finally I got to the beginning of the series but I still wasn't ready to let the characters go and so I read the series forward to the end again. This, admittedly, odd behavior got me through two months of deep winter and living alone but for my sick cat. Re-reading a book series like In Death, it really is like visiting old friends, you open up the page and suddenly you are hanging out with people that you know well from all the hours spent with them.

So, seven days to go..wish I didn't have to wait.

Beth Nielsen Chapman

A few posts ago I mentioned the new cds that I purchased at Barnes & Nobel. My mini-review is a thumbs up for Beth Nielsen Chapman's new cd Look. I've been listening to it all week and I enjoy it more each time.

I've liked Beth's music since forever. I saw her in concert as an opening act for Dan Fogelberg once back in the day. I don't think Dan Fogelberg even tours anymore so that tells you that it was a while ago. She was wonderful and I desperately wanted her to sing "Emily" still one of my favorite songs by her. I was too shy to shout out the suggestion to her.

I remember the concert well, partly because I was incredibly annoyed by the rudeness of the audience during her act. I try to be polite to opening acts in general, since usually they're not who the audience came to see specifically. The man behind me talked to his girlfriend throughout her set, heedless that others might have come to see BNC as well as Dan. The same guy also sang along with Dan which frankly, is a serious offense at a concert. I was too nice, being a mid-westerner, to turn around and tell him to shut it. I regret that now because even years later his inconsiderate behavior is irritating to me. I'd probably be philosphical about it if I had vented properly to him at the time.

For the uninitiated, though, Beth's finest cd is Sand and Water. There was a long delay after her first two cds came out, both of which had hits you'd probably recognize if I had any clue how to attach a music file to this blog, which I don't and if it probably wasn't illegal, which I'm not even sure about. Anyway--I was checking in the the record store regularly to get her latest and years went by, to my great frustration. I'm afraid I was a bit unkind about her artist process while waiting for my gratification. Did I ever feel like a HEEL when I read in her liner notes that the long delay was because her husband had died of cancer. Now I check in at her website and avoid those kinds of faux pas. That said, what a tour de force Sand and Water is. That cd is so gorgeous and moving I can't imagine anyone not being blown away by the music. Add to that its theme of grief and anyone who has lost a loved one would be deeply affected. Seriously, it is that good.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cost per Wear and other fashion thoughts

In the early..well, never mind what decade--some time ago., I read a book which referenced the idea of "cost per wear" which I found to be brilliant. (To give credit where credit is due, I read about this idea in a book by Anne Weale, an author who I imagine to be nearly perfectly groomed at all times based upon the books she writes.) Anyway, cost per wear is an way of looking at clothes/accessory purchases with the idea that spending more on classic, long-wearing and well-made fashion items makes better sense financially than buying cheap items which are faddish and must be replaced more frequently. Say you buy a winter coat for $300 dollars. (I'll remind everyone, I work in the public schools, that's a lot of money to me.) How many times in one winter season will you wear the coat? 90 times, in a cold climate? And how many years can you wear a good winter coat? Three or four? The cost per wear of such a garment is less than a buck over time. See? Now take a special occasion dress, something you might wear at a wedding. How many times might you expect to wear such a dress? Once, three times? If you spend $300 dollars on such a dress the cost per wear is around $100 dollars!

I try to apply cost per wear to almost all of my purchases. It is why I buy good leather shoes which last forever, even though they cost more than leather-looking shoes from Walmart or Target. I also pay more for purses.

In the fall, while going through my In-Style magazine I fell in love with a Cole Haan purse. It was gorgeous and keeping in mind cost per wear, and my new higher salary I was contemplating splurging on this purse. You carry an everyday purse EVERYDAY and you can put them away as the seasons change and bring them out again year after year. It's good cost per wear calculation. Here's the purse, Cole Haan's Stud hobo:

I love it. Everything about it appeals to me. Then I found out it was $650.oo dollars. It was a dagger to my heart. Even with cost per wear I can't justify buying this purse. ::sigh::: I've looked for cheaper look-a-likes. I haunt e-bay. I've even tried to put the purse out of my mind. It has a hold on me though. I haven't been able to buy another purse since I first saw this one. And you thought unrequited love was something people felt for other people. How I wish I was still so innocent.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rupert Brooke

Back in college, I read a book which used the poem "The Call" by Rupert Brooke. Romantic that I was, I was inspired to check out a book of Brooke's poetry and in the front page was this photograph. I fell in crush, mesmerized by this beautiful man with a tragic story. Here's the beautiful poem that inspired me to read more.

The Call

Out of the nothingness of sleep,
The slow dreams of Eternity,
There was a thunder on the deep:
I came, because you called to me.

I broke the Night's primeval bars,
I dared the old abysmal curse,
And flashed through ranks of frightened stars
Suddenly on the universe!

The eternal silences were broken;
Hell became Heaven as I passed.
--What shall I give you as a token,
A sign that we have met, at last?

I'll break and forge the stars anew,
Shatter the heavens with a song;
Immortal in my love for you,
Because I love you, very strong.

Your mouth shall mock the old and wise,
Your laugh shall fill the world with flame,
I'll write upon the shrinking skies
The scarlet splendour of your name,

Till Heaven cracks, and Hell thereunder
Dies in her ultimate mad fire,
And darkness falls, with scornful thunder,
On dreams of men and men's desire.

Then only in the empty spaces,
Death, walking very silently,
Shall fear the glory of our faces
Through all the dark infinity.

So, clothed about with perfect love,
The eternal end shall find us one,
Alone above the Night, above
The dust of the dead gods, alone.

I've always seen this as the ultimate love poem. Over the top in its imagery. I can't imagine that you could read this to a lover nowadays, because it would seem too much...something. I read Brooke's biography, more than one actually, trying to figure out who he wrote the poem for--what great love. The answer to the mystery was a little freaky because apparently, Brooke wrote it about a brother who had died. Is it just me? Does that seem normal? It was the turn of the century but still...

Occam's Razor

After an early morning run to Target (early for me which means noon-ish) the afternoon has been spent watching the first three episodes of House. I'm beginning to see, with serial viewing, a template for episodes in which patients get worse before they get better and House prefers to treat illness diagnoses (oy, what is the plural of diagnosis?) in order to prove the diagnosis by its response to treatment. Thus, nearly killing the patient by causing the aforementioned 'getting worse' and finally, House is given some tiny inconsequential bit of information which allows his brain to connect all the dots and cure the patient. I'm basing this opinion of the template on viewing around ten episodes, so the show may not always stick with that model. Even knowing the template, however, I adore the show. That said, episode three was titled "Occam's Razor". Mentally curious as I am, in all the potential meanings, I looked up the definition or background of Occam's Razor and I'll generously share what I learned with my single, unknown reader out there. ;o)
Occam's Razor

one should not increase, beyond what is necessary,
the number of entities required to explain anything

Occam's Razor is a principle of logic. Well, that explains why I'd never heard of it. Logic and I do not have a relationship. I'm a go with the flow, intuitive leaping kind of thinker...when I think. It is the basis for scientific modeling and theory building. It is associated with a guy from medieval times named, you guessed it, William of Occam. I'm taking a leap here, as I am wont to do, and guessing the razor references the cutting away of extraneous junk which muddies the waters when attempting to compose an explanation for something. Hmm, there you go, now the day is not wasted because we've learned something. Someday this bit of trivia may win someone money on Jeopardy! or...or...a radio call in program. You just never know. Wonder what that principle is called? Uh oh...now I'm going to have to do another internet search.

Update: In quantum physics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that one cannot assign with full precision values for certain pairs of observable variables, including the position and momentum, of a single particle at the same time even in theory. I looked it up, I shared it with you, I'm stopping now. This isn't Numbers after all.

Insanity & Consequences

Quote of the day...

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

Thought for the day...

When you choose an action, you also choose the consequences of that action.
Cordelia to Miles, an inexact quotation from one of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series which I believe is profound.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

U of I Win Number Sixteen ;o)

Well, (an overused word I agree but euphonious) Illinois has moved to 16-1; 2-1 in conference play, I believe. Whew. The game against Michigan just finished with a squeaker. When you consider how the Illini typically dominate in home games, a 79-74 final score squeals like a pig about to be slaughtered. Not that I have any personal experience with pig slaughtering, but it's a colorful metaphor. Speaking of colorful, a home game in Assembly Hall when almost 17,000 people are dressed in bright orange and the Orange Crush is chanting and standing through posession after possession and bouncing rhythmically is an overwhelming experience for opposing teams and a thrill for fans. I highly recommend it.

Since moving to the mid-atlantic region where Duke, Maryland, and North Carolina (ptew, ptew, yep--still holding a grudge) are the teams of interest; seeing Illinois on tv is a rarity. Toto, we're not in Big Ten country anymore. This is ACC ground. Sigh. National interest in Illinois being low, I followed the game on the internet after virtuously paying my bills. I have considered paying for Full Court, but I've been feeling cheap. A feeling particularly unchanged after paying bills. It's an indulgence, after all, and I already indulge myself plenty in books, music, and clothes. Hey--an educator's paycheck only goes so far, darn it, which takes us full circle back to my post on winning the lottery.

Back to Illinois basketball, I'm still convinced that losing at Iowa was a good thing. I noted in the sports commentary after the loss that the phrase "undefeated no more" and its ilk were used in excess. Considering that any reasonable sports interested person knew that Illinois had seen limited conference play and hadn't played any particularly super-ranked opponenets in pre-conference play--the impression given was of knocking off a goliath and that's just not consistent with the facts. Or maybe I'm just paranoid about the way Illinois is perceived by the sports media. Whatever.

In other basketball news, I enjoyed reading that Kansas State beat Kansas and ended an extremely long 30-something winning streak by Kansas. Heh, heh. Yep, still holding a grudge against Self. I was holding the grudge when Kansas was playing well, but not surprisingly, I enjoy my grudge much more now that they are tanking. Hey, human nature, whatcha gonna do?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Project Runway Redux

I keep thinking about how few designers are left. I hate that we lost two in one week. What a waste! It's not like the Apprentice where multiple firings are a relief because you are starting to dislike so many of the candidates. This is a cool show! More designers means more designs to critique. Duh! Oh, why didn't I become a tv producer? Seems like the people who make shows don't actually watch tv so they don't understand what the tv viewer is looking for in their entertainment.

(Believe me, if they did there wouldn't be all these dreadful final episodes in series. I'm still scarred by the finale of Quantum Leap. I shouldn't let myself get started, but I'm still sick about poor Sam leaping from lifetime to lifetime and never getting to go home and the leaps getting harder. Oy, what a crappy ending that was--I cried for hours. But I digress, as a warned you I often do.)

Anyway, returning to my point...I keep remembering how Zulema was shown in a clip at the beginning of the series asking for a model walk-off. That means she wins one of the remaining episodes and one of the following: Nick, Santino, Emmett, Chloe, Daniel, Andrae, or Kara will be eliminated instead. (Is that everyone?) That's kind of amazing to me. In my guesstimation, the elimination order would be the following: Next, Kara-she seems to be losing it; Emmett--his reputation is the next weakest OR Zulema--I haven't forgotten the show your keister dress; Santino--purely wishful thinking; Andrae--he seems weaker than Daniel V.; and a toss up between Chloe, Nick or Daniel V. for the final two designers. That's how I feel right now, anyway--it's subject to change with each new tidbit revealed.

So, will Zulema win the ice skating challenge? "On Thin Ice" is next, that doesn't really seem like Zulema's forte, but I can't really see her outlasting more than just Kara or Emmett. I wish I could remember some of the really nasty comments made by the panel about the ice skating dress during the runway Q & A in the previews. Someone made a really vulgar dress--Santino? Ordinarily I'd pick Zulema (yep, the bare butt thing still) but I know she still has to win one before she goes. According to my cable info button the next after next episode is called " Inspiration" and the description says that the remaining designers find inspiration from their surroundings. That gives no clues as to who might be stronger competitors in the challenge because it is still pretty barebones.

Ah well, thus is my drive-time entertainment, pondering the mysteries of Project Runway. Btw, I've decided to hold off on watching Season One of PR, so as to not confuse the two seasons and to extend my viewing pleasure timeline.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Jayne Ann Krentz-All Night Long

I finally got my turn to read the new Jayne Ann Krentz, All Night Long on Sunday. Usually I read new books first because I read faster than my sister. Unfortunately, she found the book in Barnes & Noble first, so that gave her dibs. It took her forever, too. I think we bought the book Thursday night and she didn't finish it until late Saturday. That drove me crazy. Anyway--I enjoyed it. The heroine was a journalist on a mission to solve a mystery that seemed related to a tragic event in her life. She had a serious phobia about the dark which was different. The hero was an alpha male, former marine and a philospher. Just the kind of hero I like, complicated. It was a fun read and I devoured it quickly. I started Sunday morning and finished by early evening and that's with some blogging in-between. I'm still a little peeved about not getting to read it first. Slow readers, like slow drivers, should allow faster drivers and readers to pass instead of hogging the road.

House-the continuing obsession

I dvred two episodes of House either Monday or Tuesday (who can remember exactly when, it's Thursday already) and then the latest new episode as well, which meant, to my joy, that I got to watch House for three straight hours, less fast-forwarding through the commercials. I love this show so much, especially the character of Gregory House that I watch in spite of my hypocondriac tendencies which should send me screaming to the doctor with symptoms that I see on the show AND in spite of the fact that the actor who plays House (I'm too lazy to look up who it is) has a slight speech impediment. We speech language pathologists just don't do well when watching adults with uncorrected speech errors. I ordinarily would notice it everytime he says a word with a ch or sh sound. I usually would yearn to fix it. But yet, I love that grouchy genius and smart-mouth doc so much that I turn a blind eye to it. That's obsession, folks.

Now my big problem is that I'm seeing the show episodes out of order and if you've read my profile you know that something I just don't like. So--I'm gonna have to buy Season One on dvd. I'm trying to be good but it's just a lost cause. Obsessions rule, that's why they're called obsessions. I'm confused about too many elements in the show to tolerate it anymore. For instance, when did the new chairman of the board come on the scene? Is he still around? Why is Foreman being called House's boss? These are questions I need the answers to and I'm not waiting for the once a week episode on the USA network to give them to me. They should have House on every night like they do Law & Order. I wonder where I can write that suggestion to USA network?

Project Runway-Window Shopping

I was pretty tired last night, and I intended to go to bed and watch Project Runway on dvr today. My sister, however, had different ideas and once I saw the start of the show I couldn't leave. I was in a state of nervous tension at first that Chloe and Emmett would go but as the show proceeded I began to see that they were doing fine compared to the train wrecks happening with the other teams.

My first favorite outfit was Daniel V. & Andrae's dropped waist dress and white jacket combo which was very pretty and perfectly appropriate for both work-wear and an evening event. My second favorite was Chloe and Emmett's reversable jacket and halter/skirt combo, which was lovely and clever! Their model did a great job showing the jacket too, she was very smooth in the transition. It was dressier than Daniel and Andrae's outfit so perhaps that's why it wasn't as popular with the BR crowd. (I do wonder how many votes they actually got altogether, that box looked kind of empty to me.) Next, I loved Kara and Zulema's dress, and agreed with the judges that the jacket thing was just wierd-looking. I was appalled by the latest from the duo of Santino-I'm-the-king-of-the-world/Nick-I'm C.O.A. because I told him it was too much. That outfit was just odd looking. What's up with the bat-wing things. Don't be insulting Japanese fashion by saying they inspired you to throw flaps of fabric on the skirt! Finally, Diana/Marla never really had a chance. Diana just never seemed capable of working outside her wierd math/science inspired fashions to do something that would work for BR and Marla didn't bring anything to the table at all. Why did they do Diana's design if Marla was never on board with it? Could it be that Marla had NO idea, so any idea of Diana's was better? Diana needs to develop some certainty of vision. She became wishy-washy in the end and that didn't fix the problem Look how being full-steam-ahead pulled Zulema and Kara out of the line of fire.

I'm pleased with the outcome of the show because I think the right people went. Some faith has been restored in the integrity of the show in the last two weeks. I took delight in Santino's humiliation, especially after all the mean things he has said about others. I don't understand why Nick thought he'd be better off with Santino than with Emmett. Especially since he'd already worked with Santino and knew his limitations in collaboration. Was there some kind of strategy behind it? I suppose Nick may agree that Emmett is one of the weaker designers but that really hasn't played out on the runway. When has Emmett had to suffer through defending his designs? He's always been solidly in the middle of the pack.

Blogging by remote..

I wondered as I drove home today if blogging by remote from whereever you are would be a good thing..I'm driving...I'm thinking...what if my thoughts could just appear in my blog through some weird telepathic connection? How cool would that be? So I begin the ponder my potential blogs...the Alito hearings....Project Runways latest episode...my obsession with House and the mini-marathon I watched of it on Tuesday night....why do people keep their Christmas lights up so long, it's January for pity's sake...I need to fill up the car, when should I do that now or tomorrow morning?..it's dark now, I'll wait till morning...starting a new job in a new town is a lot of work, I'm actually working longer hours than in my old job even though I'm doing the same thing....if you're at a four way stop and there is no traffic to the east or west, can't the north-south traffic just go without waiting on each other...if nobody is turning left then there's no way to have an accident...people are such stupid drivers...is it cellphones?...what about the last few books I've read...I could blog my review of them..the Jayne Ann Krentz was good...I can't wait for the new JD Robb...why can't they just release books whenever...I hate waiting for a certain date....

And then I had an epiphany. I realized that remote, telepathic blogging is a bad, bad idea. My brain is a mess! I'm a go with the flow, this makes me think of that, kind of person. My thought patterns are utterly disorganized and that's not even getting into the catty, nasty stuff that floats across the surface. No--thank goodness technology cannot yet transfer my thoughts directly to the blogspot. My blog's not the most interesting thing on the planet, although I'm givin' it the ole college try, but the detritus(I learned that word watching CSI in case you're wondering) floating through my brain unedited is much, much worse.

Monday, January 09, 2006

St. Bernadette-- or an example of my odd interests...

I finally finished reading The Song of Bernadette, the fictionalized biography about Bernadette Soubirous which I started before Christmas. It made me teary at the end because the poor girl suffered so much. It's a fascinating book upon which the movie is very closely based. In general I don't like fictionalized histories or biographies because I am always left wondering what was true and what was added to spice up the story. With that in mind I wandered some websites looking for more factual information. This website on Catholic saints includes lots of interesting information and pictures of Bernadette, also known as Sister Marie Bernarde. I note Amazon.com has several books available, one St. Bernadette Soubirous , by Francois Trochu, by which I was very tempted but I'm trying to control my compulsive book buying.

I don't consider myself of morbid bent but I was curious about what actually killed Bernadette since she died quite young (age 36). My impression from the movie was something like tuberculosis of the bones of which I have never heard. I think perhaps it must have been bone cancer. The websites I've browsed refer to her asthma and ill-health but aren't really specific. The movie makes her illness and suffering quite mysterious because Bernadette lifts her habit to show another nun something which causes the mean nun to gasp in horror and dismay and results in a complete change of heart in the other nun. (Spoiler--apparently it was a tumor on Bernadette's knee which was quite large.)

In the last chapter of the book there are some fascinating tidbits about the fact that Bernadette's body didn't decay normally. Presumeably this was considered further evidence of her sainthood. . The Catholic Saints website I mentioned above, has several pages devoted to the examination of her body on the three separate occasions. The Incorruptibles: A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati by Joan Cruz got good reviews at Amazon as being a through examination of the phenomena. Not being Catholic I had never heard of such a thing and am having to resist mightly not to order the book. I also didn't know that the word "beati" was the plural for the beatified either, or so I'm guessing. Beatified adj : Roman Catholic; proclaimed one of the blessed and thus worthy of veneration [syn: blessed ]. So hey, this day was a success because I learned something new. (Useless, but new.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Morning Meanderings

I check the blogs that I read everyday, most of the time after work. On the weekends, I might check the blogs I read several times a day depending on whether I'm on the go or just hanging out. I like the blogs I read. I like their authors even though I don't know them personally and I'm always on the look out for more blogs to read. Something about reading blogs feeds some inner curiousity of mine about the internal mental workings of others, as well as, how they spend their time. Blogs give us some insight into that by what topics people choose to write about and the things they share about what they do in their "real" life.

Following that line of thought, I try to blog something most days because hopefully someone is reading and I don't like to disappoint them when they visit by having nothing new to offer. That would be like someone dropping by your house unexpectedly and not having any refreshments to offer. Of course, blogging daily means sometimes the topics are frivolous, but since that's the stated objective of my blog, it would be stupid to obsess about it whether that makes me seem like a doofus.

This morning while I sat in the drive-thru at McDonald's waiting for my morning diet Coke, I noted the presence of seagulls. That is an unusual sight for a former midwesterner. I was charmed. Then I pondered how people who live by the water probably detest seagulls because they are a very aggressive bird. Still, I was charmed. Perhaps in time I, too, will dislike the seagull but for now, it's a very pretty bird that is graceful in flight.

My thoughts continued to meander down the path of the differences between Maryland and Illinois. Geography: Illinois is extremely flat in the central portion; Maryland seems to be a rug someone forgot to flatten the ripples out of. Population: I previously lived in twin cities of over 100,000 people, spread out over a flat space there was plenty of room for all; now, in the outer reaches of Baltimore County there are people everywhere and traffic is a phenomenon of significance. Weather: January used to be sub-zero temperatures and dread for the next snow; here, I've only scraped my window of frost once and I wore a courderoy jacket to work the other day.

What do I miss the most? What do I miss the most? Sonic Drive-In Restaurants. Ahh, let me wax poetic. Sonic has the best "fountain pop", as we call it in the midwest, of any restaurant. Lovely crushed ice, styrofoam cups that keep your drink cold longer and flavorings like vanilla. Oh, how I wish there was a Sonic in Maryland. Please Sonic people, build one? I miss Sonic so much, it seems perfectly reasonable to me that I should take a vacation just to go and stay by a Sonic indulging in my drink of choice, Vanilla diet Coke.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

University of Illinois Basketball

In my life I've have obsessively followed only two college basketball teams as a fan. I do watch other teams, but I've only been emotionally invested in two teams. The first, back in the day, was the Indiana State University basketball team which began with the 1977 NCAA Championship Runner-up team with Larry Bird. That magical season with Larry Bird (who has never really gotten the credit he deserves for his talent, in my opinion) ended in a crushing disappointment. I've also had a lifelong grudge against Magic Johnson since. Still, I went on to follow the team for the rest of my college-life in spite of their subsequent poor performance. I confess I was motivated in part by the crush I had on point guard Steve Reed at the time. I learned a lot about basketball though.

My second committment to a team came when I moved to Champaign/Urbana Illinois, the home of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. After Lou Henson left I began to follow the team. The coaching carousel caused some problems. We (note the use of the possessive here, I'm fully invested in mental ownership of the team) hired Lon Kruger but he left after two? years to go to the NBA. That didn't work out too well for him, but we did great out of the deal because we got Bill Self.

Things were looking up. Our team was developing into a nationally ranked and respected team. Our recruiting was competitive. Bill Self is and was a very successful recruiter. Then, diasaster as Bill decides to jump ship for Kansas. Hmm, a pattern is developing..that hasn't worked out too well for Bill Self so far. Since he's been at Kansas things haven't been great for him. I'd be lying if I suggested that I feel badly about that. I hold a grudge. Being a fan of a team is comparable to partisan politics after all. Somethings you just don't get over, forget or change your mind about.

But the good news...we got Bruce Weber. Ron Gunther, the U of I AD is brilliant. Bruce Weber is an extremely talented coach and a man of character. What follows next is a steadily improving program which culminates in a number one ranking and a nearly perfect season. The disappointment of our loss to North Carolina in the NCAA 2005 Championship cannot be understated. Like all partisans, I can only look at the loss from our perspective. Sean May cheated. ;oP His under- the -basket bumping with that massive body should have been called as fouls. I'm not required to be objective about this. (I was so saddened by the loss I had a serious case of hives for a week after, it was awful.) Still--what a team, what a season. It could have ended better but wow, what a ride. I'll forever love that team. Deron Williams, Dee Brown, James Augustine, Luther Head, Roger Powell, Nick Smith, Jack Ingram--they were the best.

This year's team is off to a great start 15-0, which is something nobody imagined in a rebuilding year. As I post this, I hear the away game at Iowa is turning into a loss. That's disappointing, but maybe not a terrible thing. Last year all anyone could talk about was our perfect record until when we finally lost at Ohio, it had assumed a huge significance. An early loss will shut up all the comparisons and allow this team to create its own story. I-L-L-I-N-I! Go Illini!

Basketball like politics is entirely partisan.

Star Trek Voyager

Continuing my frivolous posts, let us discuss Star Trek Voyager. I am currently watching season five. As I mentioned in my profile, I like dvd collections of televisions shows because I enjoy watching shows in chronological order. I didn't watch Voyager when it was a first run show. I did see many episodes in reruns and got hooked, however, I was frustrated by the way they jumped around in time in the series. I could never figure out what had happened to Kes and where Seven came from. Thus, I started to collect the dvds of the seasons. They are pricy being around a hundred bucks a set, but that's reasonable when you considered the higher production cost of the series.

There's been a long pause in my viewing of my Voyager dvds. I finished season four last spring while living alone for the first time in almost twenty years. It kept me busy and occupied my mind. Then I got busy with the move to Maryland and...well, time passes. One of my christmas gifts this year was season five however, and I'm settled in my new home, time is once again on my side.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy the characters of Voyager. I think the series improved with the addition of Seven of Nine. Her conflicts with Janeway (Not my favorite captain in the ST franchise that is Picard forever, amen.) add something that was missing to the show. I know most of the ST series have had a limited core cast, and the added element of being lost in the Delta quadrant and having no support from Star Fleet gave this series a tenuous setting which made compelling viewing. Once the Maquis and Star Fleet angst settled down the lack of internal conflict within the crew however, (everyone had to stick together in the dangerous situation, after all) the show got a little flat. Chakotay supported Janeway no matter how wrong she was, so, when Seven came along and began to butt heads with Janeway things just got better.

My favorite episodes so far, have been Night and Drone. I love the episode Night because the plot focus was on Seven and her personal growth. Her understanding by the end of the episode that she needed relationships and interaction with the crew was very well done. A masterful episode when you think about how much of the episode Seven carried and how little dialogue they used to develop the audience's understanding of Seven's internal transformation. In Drone, we are shown that the Borg are not inherently evil and selfish. One makes a Christ-like sacrifice of self to save the crew, after all. Shades of the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. (A classic line everyone should know.) The episode begins to set up the idea that the Borg queen is the author of Borg evil, so to speak, in the Borg universe. I loved the character of One and wish he hadn't had to die to prove his point.

People roll their eyes about Star Trek and the various series have been virtually ignored for awards or Emmy's since the very first. It's too bad because the shows are written and acted so well that they've deserved recognition. It's the weird fans that give the whole franchise a bizarro world slant. Frankly, I'd place an episode of any Star Trek Next Generation or Voyager up against Desperate Housewives or West Wing for writing and acting anyday.