July 29, 2003

Two Book Reviews

The La Cucaracha Ice Cream Man is making his second circuit of the neighborhood. The Fur Elise guy came through about a half an hour ago (also his second circuit). I can't believe my neighborhood really supports that many Ice Cream Men. There's a major construction project a block North of us (one of Scout's favorite sniffing places!) and I suspect that the construction workers are contributing to the Ice Cream Man phenomenon.

Well, after two blissful quiet mornings, the neighbors are back at it again. The problem is that around 8:30 they let all 14 kids outside to run free, free, free. This morning, in addition to the insipid album (the weird Hokey Pokey one), they were bouncing balls, and playing something that sounded like a bongo drum or an overturned bucket being used as a drum. In addition to the noise, they've also revived their habit of parking their giant Suburban in front of our house, forcing Kevin to park elsewhere on the block, while leaving their own driveway completely free and clear of cars. They have a defunct, oil-leaking minivan in the spot in front of their house, so obviously they can't park there. Our house is the next logical place, right? I have to say that if we are still around for the hearing to determine whether they can change into a 30 child facility, they'll be hearing from us.

But enough complaining. I've also been reading. And I realized I'm a little behind on my book reviews so I have two for today. The first book is Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand (who was interviewed on Fresh Air today). Seabiscuit was an exciting, fast-paced biography of Seabiscuit the racehorse as well as an introduction into the world of thoroughbred racing. The story follows Seabiscuit's owner, trainer, and primary jockey and outlines his career. It was interesting and a great insider's look--I learned a lot. The only problem I had with the book was the author's repeated use of superlatives. For example, "it was the largest crowd in North American racing history" and "it was the largest crowd in North American racing history" and "it was the largest crowd in North American racing history" for three consecutive races. Now while this may be true, it kind of loses its impact when repeated. Don't quote me on this example, it's not a direct quote from the book. But you get the idea.

Seabiscuit is also, as the book cover points out, a Major Motion Picture. I haven't seen the movie yet but intend to--if not on the big screen then on DVD. What cracks me up is the use of the term "motion picture." As if anyone calls them that anymore. But somehow the phrase "Now a Major Movie" just doesn't sound as good on a book jacket.

The book I just finished today is Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. This book is a memoir of Burroughs' bizarre childhood at the hands of a mentally ill mother who signs over legal guardianship of her son to her unorthodox psychiatrist. A funny story, it has been compared to the work of David Sedaris, though I think Sedaris is better. Scissors was a quick and entertaining read with unbelievably strange characters and an equally strange environment. I recommend it for a light, funny read.

Posted by Shelby at 04:53 PM

July 27, 2003

All Scout, All the Time

It's here! A page of pictures from my birthday trip to Carmel. Click without fear, there's a link back to my blog at the bottom.

Posted by Shelby at 10:32 PM

The Ice Cream Man

I have very good childhood memories of the Ice Cream Man. In the summer he used to come jingling down our street, which was rare because our street was kind of hidden, and we'd go running out and get Bomb Pops or Drumsticks. Ah, those halcyon days of the Ice Cream Man.

Now the Ice Cream Man haunts my worst nightmares. Why is this? Because they're ALWAYS HERE. There are not one, not two, but THREE Ice Cream Men who come around at LEAST twice daily. How can I tell them apart? They have 3 different jingles--one plays Fur Elise, one plays La Cucaracha, and one plays Turkey in the Straw. And they're here YEAR ROUND! So much for the Ice Cream Man who only comes in the summer. What's worse, there are not one but TWO hand cart ice cream men who mercifully do not play a tune but who incessantly ring their bells to attract customers.

I do not know why this neighborhood is such a magnet for Ice Cream Men, but I wish my neighbors would quit buying so they'd go away.

Posted by Shelby at 07:59 PM | Comments (3)

July 26, 2003

Good Day for Humans, Bad Day for Dogs

Today was a nice, relaxing day. I basically spent the whole day reading. Scout, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. Today she got the dreaded bath. Once in the sink, she resigned to accept her fate, however. Now she smells like a rose. Well, not exactly, but she smells clean.

Speaking of things smelling bad, yesterday while reading on my bed, I detected an odor. It smelled distinctly like stinky feet. I tried to find the source of the smell (the sheets? no, they're clean. the blanket? nope, not there either.) but to no avail.

Today, there it was again. The odor of stinky feet. Where was this coming from? I finally discovered the source when I sat down on the floor to pet Scout. The stinky feet smell was coming from...are you ready...my tennis shoes. Duh! I moved those further from my bed and have experienced no stinkiness since.

Posted by Shelby at 09:51 PM

July 25, 2003

Keeping Busy

Last night was the first meeting of my new Writer's Group. This group is led by Cathleen Rountree who was my instructor at UC Santa Cruz Extension Writing Workshops. The group has 8 people including a woman who commutes from Lake Tahoe (3 hours!). All of us are serious writers and had to provide a writing sample to be accepted to the group.

The meeting went really well. We meet in San Mateo which is just South of San Francisco and about 45 minutes away from me. We all got to share our work (as we will do every meeting). My work was well-received. People laughed in the right places, cried in the right places...okay, there wasn't any crying, but it went over well. I got some good suggestions for my piece (which happens to be Chapter 1 of my novel). Our group will meet every other Thursday for 10 meetings (5 months) so I really think this will be a good opportunity to make some real progress on my book and get a lot of good feedback. I was lamenting the fact that I didn't have such a group when this opportunity came along--very serendipitous!

Men, ignore this part: I shaved my legs this morning and missed a strip of hair. Don't you hate it when that happens?

We found out that our neighbors have a webpage for their daycare. I'm not going to link it here, lest they come back and read the not-so-nice things I've said about them. They were much quieter this morning so hopefully things will continue this way. Their page said they have one dog, but we always hear two, a big dog and a small one, in their yard. Hmmm. Their webpage does NOT mention that Duke, the German Shepherd, is an ex-police dog. He seems like a very nice dog though. They're always saying things like "Duke, sit! Siiiiiiit! Siiiiit!" and Duke is whining like "Sit? I could build you a nuclear power plant. Can I? Can I?" I don't think they're taking full advantage of Duke's training and potential.

Scout is, of course, very good at "sit." It's really the only command she follows, but she follows it VERY well.

Kevin promises that this weekend we'll have some vacation photos online so look for links soon!

Posted by Shelby at 06:37 PM

July 24, 2003

Us vs. The Neighbors

Well after a particularly loud early morning (8:30 or so) where the day care neighbors not only had screaming children but insisted on playing their records outside (the one with the weird version of the Hokey Pokey on it, also featuring the Itsy Bitsy Spider), Kevin decided to go speak with them about quietness issues. Apparently it went well. Kevin explained that I'm forced to stay home with a health condition that requires me to sleep at times during the day and that their noise level was often not conducive to that. Then, apparently, the neighbor said "Legally we're allowed to make noise at 8:00" and he responded that there's a difference between what's legal and what is considerate. Good answer Kev-Man!

Then Kevin does some research on San Jose and noise ordinances and learns that there is no such law that says you can make all the noise you want after 8:00. Ha! Further, the municipal code prohibits "disturbing the peace, quiet, and comfort of any neighborhood" and includes a section specifically related to music and one related to screaming, shouting, or other vocalizations that are disturbing or unreasonably loud to any reasonable person outside the unit.

Anyway, hopefully Kevin's little chat will have the desired response. He also learned that they are trying to expand their daycare from a 14 child facility (they have 14 kids there?!?! No wonder they're so loud!) to a 30 child facility. However, in order for them to do this, there has to be a hearing, at which neighbors like ourselves can protest. The neighbor also mentioned that they want to build a 7 foot wall between the two back yards, but that Jose, our very strange landlord, was for whatever reason hemming and hawing about the issue. I think Kevin is going to send him an email saying that if he ever wants to sell this house or rent it out again, he'd better let the neighbors build that fence. Better on their dime than his! But our landlord is very strange.

Anyway, enough complaining. If you want a good laugh, go check out Cows With Guns. Make sure to turn your speakers up.

Posted by Shelby at 02:11 PM

July 23, 2003

Wednesday Whatnots

Today was a busy day. There was some scheduling confusion at Kaplan and I wasn't sure if I was teaching Math 1 or Math 2 (the first day of Math or the second, out of four) so I prepped BOTH, which took almost 6 hours total. On Monday I taught a Verbal session which is much easier for me (surprise!), so the math took longer to prep. I was worried about the students asking me questions I couldn't answer but luckily that didn't happen. We got the schedule worked out too so I'll be teaching Math 3 and 4 next week. I was glad I did all that prepping because I ended up going too fast both hours and had to do some of the "try these at home" questions again. If I hadn't prepped those I would have been flying blind and when it comes to math that's REALLY not a good idea. Anyway it all worked out well and I'm feeling much more comfortable.

I'm also glad that I'm not having any problems with exhaustion. The classes are 2 hours and I was concerned about becoming fatigued but that hasn't been a problem. Yay! Surely a sign of improvement. Last year at this time there was no way I would have been able to do this. The only symptom I get is that my feet get sore from standing so long (bad circulation). But it's really manageable.

Posted by Shelby at 09:56 PM

July 22, 2003

Shelby Kicks Butt

I had my first session of teaching for Kaplan last night and I have to say, I kicked butt! The first hour was a little nerve-wracking. Out of nervousness I sped through an hour's worth of curriculum in 1/2 an hour. But my students all followed very well, and I filled the rest of the time working with them on the "try these at home" questions. The second hour I was on a roll. Of course the subject was essay writing, a particular favorite of mine :). Anyway I'm on a Monday/Wednesday teaching schedule so I'll be up again tomorrow. It's nice to be back in the classroom and I know it will get easier as I gain experience. As it is now I spent over 2 hours prepping, but that time will be cut down as I get more familiar with the material.

Finished another book: Lucky by Alice Sebold. This is Sebold's memoir of a brutal rape and beating that happened to her as a college freshman. The story is told unapologetically and with courage as she outlines her recovery and the trial and conviction of her rapist. An empowering read. If you haven't read Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones, you need to get yourself to a bookstore or library ASAP.

Posted by Shelby at 09:56 PM | Comments (1)

July 20, 2003

The Cool Room

Ah, our air conditioner is working perfectly and we now have a cool room. Unfortunately it makes a bit of noise which I think frightens Scout. She hasn't wanted to hang out here, preferring her old safe spot (under the bed).

Not much else to report today. I prepped for my first Kaplan course tomorrow and feel good about the material.

Having finished my last book purchased in New York, I had to head to Borders to stock up on my reading supplies. Look for new book reviews soon!

Posted by Shelby at 08:27 PM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2003

We Are Cool

My wonderful husband Kevin bought and installed our new air conditioner today! Just in time for the weather to taper off to a nice but not hot day. That's okay, there will be more hot days ahead and we'll be prepared! We installed the ac in the "back room" which is where the computers and TV are (also a couch and a couple of unpacked moving boxes). This will allow me to work on my writing in cool comfort.

I just finished Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner. It was a funny, light, good beach read kind of book starring Cannie, a 28 year old overweight woman who dumps her boyfriend only to find she wants him back (but he doesn't). Her trials and travails make up the rest of the book. If you're looking for an easy to read but entertaining novel, I recommend it. This book was loaned to be by Cari--thanks Cari! I'll get it back to you, I promise :).

Posted by Shelby at 09:22 PM

July 18, 2003

The Heat Goes On

With a high of 91 we're still having fun in San Jose. The good news is that we are on our way to air conditioning. First we need to ground an outlet (none of the ones in the house are grounded right now), then buy the air conditioner, then install it. Apparently a small window model (with remote control!) costs around $150.00 at Sears. That's cheaper than I expected.

For those of you waiting on an update about my heart, there's no news. I was supposed to have my appointment Wednesday, according to the card they gave me at my last appointment. But Tuesday evening the nurse called and asked why I missed my appointment. "It's tomorrow" I say. "Oh the doctor isn't in clinic tomorrow. It was today." "Well what should I do?" "Well the doctor is going on vacation and won't be back til the end of August." Hello?! The end of August? The nurse said as long as I'm feeling fine (and I am) it should be no problem to wait until then, and if I have any problems I should go to the emergency room. Great. I guess the good news is that I am doing well, but I was pretty mad about the mixup. Usually the Stanford appointment computer calls with a reminder a couple of days before your appointment but apparently they have discontinued that (I'd say I might have missed the call but the computer leaves a message on your machine). Anyway, that put me in a bad mood for the week. And this heat isn't helping!

In other news, I start teaching for Kaplan on Monday. I'm teaching a GRE prep course, which is identical to the one I took last December. I'm a little nervous but I have confidence in my teaching ability, and how bad can it be? :)

Oh, and Finding Nemo was really cute. If you haven't seen it, do so :).

Posted by Shelby at 07:44 PM

July 17, 2003

Another Sweltering Day

...here in lovely San Jose. We have ceiling fans but when the temperature is so high (high of 95 today) the fans just blow around hot air. The heat really sucks energy from me and has aggravated some of my heart symptoms, so we're looking into the idea of getting a window air conditioner for one room. It would suck to be stuck in one room for most of the day, but at least it would be cool. We'll have to see about that.

I've made another Frosty Paws convert. Sherri reports that her dog Daisy just loves them. Scout just finished one and it was so good she had to rub herself on the carpet where she'd eaten it. No, there wasn't any on the carpet (it comes in a little plastic tub), but Scout is weird sometimes.

Last night we beat the heat by going to Ben and Jerry's. We're depressed because both of our favorite flavors have been relegated to the Flavor Graveyard. My favorite, Triple Caramel Chunk, featured caramel flavored ice cream, a caramel swirl, and chocolate covered caramels throughout. It's been replaced by Dulce Delicious, a caramel ice cream with caramel swirl but it's not nearly as good. Kevin's favorite was one I suspect was never very popular: KaBerry KaBoom! That one had berry flavored ice cream and Pop Rocks. There doesn't seem to be a replacement for that one.

Tonight we're getting away by going to see Finding Nemo. It's supposed to be pretty good, so I'll let you know.

Posted by Shelby at 07:49 PM | Comments (2)

July 15, 2003

The White Menace

Well, Scout seems to have fully recovered from the visit of Harry, whom we now call The White Menace. At first she refused to play with any toy The White Menace had contaminated, but now she's back to her old self. Ironically, one of her stuffed toys looks just like Harry (we call it the Harry dog, as in "Get the Harry dog! Get it!"). The Harry dog was a gift from my in-laws, and one that The White Menace liked playing with when he was here. I'm not sure what that means but I bet Freud could run with that.

While we were in Times Square we saw the cutest billboard in the universe. Naturally it featured a beagle. We have a picture of it, which is in the process of being scanned (along with the rest of our trip photos). But anyway, you too can witness the cuteness by visiting The Dog Club website. Apparently this is advertising a set of products from Japan (beagles are very popular in Japan). But you've gotta see the dog pictures.

Posted by Shelby at 01:58 PM | Comments (4)

July 14, 2003

Happy Bastille Day!

Let's all celebrate by drinking some French wine!

I finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (by Betty Smith). Wow. This book is a classic for a reason! Reminiscent of Angela's Ashes (by Frank McCourt), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the childhood and coming of age of Francie and her dirt poor family in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. You'll fall in love with Francie, her favored brother Neely, her imperfect but unapologetic father, her resourceful mother, and a variety of aunts, uncles, and other influences. I highly recommend this book.

God it's hot today :(. Lucky Scout just got a Frosty Paw. Frosty Paws are doggie ice cream. They come in little tubs just like the ice cream you used to eat with a wooden stick. Scout LOVES Frosty Paws. When I give her one, she very daintily picks up the edge of the container with her teeth and carries it off to another room to eat (she's afraid we'll try to steal her tasty treat). If you approach her while she's eating it, she'll give you a dirty look and then take it somewhere else. Some dogs like ice and like chewing on ice. Scout is not one of those. But she loves her Frosty Paws.

Posted by Shelby at 03:38 PM

July 12, 2003

Summer Days

It's been a hot, slow day here in San Jose. This afternoon we walked down to Japantown to the Buddist Church's Obon Festival. We had some mediocre teriyaki chicken and some potstickers (my favorite!) and then came home. It was too hot to stand in the sun watching the entertainment. Then I spent most of the day reading. My current book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, our latest book for book club. This weather is perfect for a lazy reading day.

Posted by Shelby at 08:13 PM

July 10, 2003

The In-Laws

Last night Kevin's family stopped by on their way up the coast for their annual camping trip. It was very nice to see Mom, Dad, and Zach. It was not-so-nice to see Harry, the 7 pound Maltese. Harry is deceptively cute. He looks like a little stuffed animal. But he's got an attitude and that attitude does not include liking other dogs. Scout is the world's most submissive dog and gets along well with other dogs, but doesn't like to be growled at in her own house. Last time Harry stayed on his leash after lunging for Scout, and Scout gave him a wide bearth. Mom and Dad claim that Harry is all bark and no bite, however, so we decided this time to just let them go and have the Scout/Harry Smackdown.

Things went well at first. Harry growled and Scout shied away, they avoided each other. Scout hid behind chairs and legs. At one point Scout decided she'd had enough and she growled and bared her teeth to a very surprised Harry. That put Harry in his place for a while, but there was to be one final insult. Scout was up on the couch with Zach on one side and Kevin on the other being lavished with attention. Harry was jealous. He kept trying to jump on the couch, and at one point he succeeded and tried to bite Scout on the snout. Scout retreated immediately with a surprised whine, and that was it. Harry went back on the leash and Scout got to sit in her sanctuary (the crate). So goes the dog story.

My haircut went well yesterday and I look stunning, if I do say so myself :).

Posted by Shelby at 07:15 PM

July 08, 2003

The Triumphant Return of the Blog!

Sorry, we had some technical problems for a little while there and my blog was unavailable. But we're back in full force!

These past couple of days of post-vacation have been very relaxing. I've been sleeping a lot, catching up on my email (5 real messages, 256 messages regarding penis size), and reading.

Tomorrow I'm getting my hair cut, which I desperately need. Jennifer at Faux Salon (408-378-FAUX)! I cannot plug her enough.

Don't have much else to say today :).

Posted by Shelby at 09:47 PM

July 06, 2003

The New York Portion

Recommended: Read the Boston Portion below first!

After Boston we took the high speed train into New York. Since this was my first trip to New York (and Boston) I was very excited and was not disappointed. Our hotel in NY was much nicer, the Metropolitan. This one had a very nice room with a comfy king sized bed, and was conveniently located by a main subway stop.

As it turns out though, the subway system almost killed me. Stairs, everywhere! I never realized how inaccessible the world really is until I had a problem with accessibility myself. Many times the subway transfers sapped all my energy before I arrived at our destination. I did okay walking but the stairs really got me. It's the first time all year that I really felt the effects of my heart condition. Luckily we quickly discovered the concept of the Taxi and planned our outings to be a mix of subway and taxi that got me there and back intact.

Our first night in NY we headed to the Empire State Building. It was exciting to see this landmark in person and of course the view was incredible. I'm glad we went at night.

Other highlights of our trip included the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (a subway detour due to "police activity" in one of the stations nearly wiped me out). On Ellis Island we got to see the wall/monument/thingy of names of people who came through Ellis Island who donated money to its restoration. Kevin's relative is on there--and through a very funny family fluke actually appears twice. So we got to see "Gerrit Bakker, Gerrit Bakker" and take a picture.

We visited two museums: the Cooper Hewitt museum, a museum of design, and of course the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I got a t-shirt. We saw Central Park, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center.

We also did some shopping. We went to Kate's Paperie, the Fountain Pen Hospital, and the Strand Bookstore (8 miles of books!). I couldn't resist purchases at the paper store and the book store :).

For my birthday my mom treated us to tickets to The Lion King. This is my favorite Disney movie and I have been wanting to see the musical ever since it came out. It was fantastic! The costumes were incredible and the music was really good (I already own the soundtrack, which has some new songs that weren't in the movie). I got a t-shirt there too, and a stuffed Simba that was on sale for $3.49. Just about everyone in the theater had that stuffed Simba.

On the 4th of July we headed to Grenwich Village to visit Kevin's cousins (also relatives of the Gerrit Bakker of Ellis Island). We had a fun chat and dinner and then we headed to fireworks at Roosevelt Island. The fireworks were sponsored by Macy's and were very impressive. It's probably the best fireworks display I've ever seen. The only thing that wasn't good was the accompanying music. But other than that, the fireworks were awesome and there were even some new fireworks that I've never seen before. It was really cool to see them reflected in the UN building too.

I think that's about all we saw in New York, unless Kevin remembers something that I don't (I'd ask him but he's at the grocery store right now). My fatigue and daily 2-3 hour naps really cut into our touring both NY and Boston but overall I did pretty well and thought we were able to see a lot of what we wanted. Like I said, we'll just have to come back to see the rest of it!

Posted by Shelby at 05:33 PM | Comments (2)

I'm Back! The Boston Portion

Kevin and I are back from a 10 day vacation to Boston and New York. Sorry to leave without a warning but it feels weird to announce on my public blog that I'm going to be out of my house for 10 days. Not that I think local criminals are reading or that we have a whole lot to steal, but it just seems like a bad idea. At any rate, we have returned.

We had a wonderful trip. The reason for the trip was the wedding of David (Kevin's Best Man) and his new wife Rebecca. The wedding took place on a boat in Boston Harbor followed by a nice harbor cruise. I wore a sundress I got at Old Navy. Unfortunately, I should have worn sunscreen as well--it was a very hot day and in the direct sun I got a bad sunburn on my shoulders and chest. This sunburn would continue to plague me (primarily the itching) throughout the whole trip--and even today I'm still itching and peeling (gross). But let's talk about something more pleasant...

In Boston we stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel, an establishment I don't recommend. It suffers from the same problem many historic hotels do--great location, great lobby, crappy rooms. We had a room fiasco to start out with: the first room they gave up was dumpy with a queen sized bed. I was disappointed, but quickly became horrified when Kevin went to use the restroom and discovered a wet towel on the sink and a dirty diaper in the trash can. Oh my gawd! So we called down to report this and they sent a bellman up with keys to another room. That room was on a smoking floor and the room stank with the smoke of a thousand years. Nope, sorry. So we went downstairs again and they reported they didn't have any king sized nonsmoking rooms, but they offered us a queen suite. Fine, fine. They sent a different bellman up with us this time, no doubt to collect another tip, which we did not give (we tipped the first guy, and it's not our fault we had to run around like that). Anyway, we settled in the queen room. It wasn't great--some peeling paint, stains on the carpet, a mysterious lack of electrical outlets, but it was okay. The funny thing is, when we got there, there was a bottle of wine and a fruit and cheese platter on the desk. With a note that said "Ms. Katherine Kennedy." Hmmm. When we pointed that out, the bellman called downstairs, had a brief conversation, then snatched up the notecard and said "It's for you!" Okay, whatever.

Aside from the wedding, we got to do some exploring in Boston. Our hotel was right across the street from the Public Garden, which was gorgeous. We took a couple of walks there, and of course rode the Swan Boats. The Public Garden is the location of one of my favorite children's books, Make Way for Ducklings and we had to visit the commemorative Make Way for Ducklings statue. We even saw some live ducklings of our own!

Speaking of ducks, we also took an official Boston Duck Tour. The "duck" in this sense is a combination auto vehicle and boat used in WWII and now used in various tourist traps--er, attractions--to give tours. This was a nice view of the city.

We simply had to visit Boston's oldest jewelry store, where I drooled. We ate at Legal Seafoods, a famous Boston restaurant. Due to my fatigue, we didn't get to any museums or other sites, so we'll have to make a return trip (too bad, hunh?).

Posted by Shelby at 04:51 PM | Comments (1)