Sunday, December 21, 2014

How a Check for $6.36 Brought Down the Nixon Administration

Well, it's not quite that simple, but still...  I've just finished reading John Dean's latest book, The Nixon Defense.  He and a group of students working under him, listened to all the thousands of hours of Nixon tapes and that led to this book that explains what Nixon knew and when he knew it.  The book is a big one, the narrative is over 600 pages, plus appendices and lots of end notes.  I ended up having to check it out from our local library three times before I got it finished.

The book is very interesting, and well worth reading.  It's amazing that anything else got done following Watergate as Nixon and his staff were spending several hours a day, up to five hours a day, on the cover-up.  And, once the cover-up started to unravel, they began a cover-up of the cover-up.

Anyway, back to the $6.36 check.  This check, drawn by Howard Hunt, was found with the Watergate burglars.   He didn't want to pay the expensive in-state dues for his local country club, so wrote a check to pay for the cheaper out-of-state dues, even though he lived in-state.  And he gave the check to one of the Watergate burglars to mail from Miami.   I hadn't known about this check before, and I think it's symptomatic of what was wrong with the Nixon administration.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Is it Congratulations or Commiserations?

Well, I've been elected President of our Condo Owner's Association.  Lest you think that's some sort of high honor, let me explain.  Our board is supposed to be composed of four members.  At our annual meeting, we only had two people willing to even run for the board.  And, not enough owners showed up to have a quorum, so we ended up having to reschedule.  By the rescheduled annual meeting, a third person had agreed to run.  Which still left us one short.  Finally, due to a write in vote, we ended up with four board members.

Then came the first board meeting, and the need to elect officers.  No one else was willing to step up to be President, so I reluctantly agreed.  We'll see how things go.

A trip to Dubuque for Thanksgiving, where we had turkey dinner at the assisted living center where Mom and Dad live.  Mom and Dad are finally in a double room, after some months in separate single rooms.

As for stitching, here is my latest finish.

Samba by Kathy Rees, Needle Delights

The Quad Cities Aren't the Same Without Cher

Originally, Cher was scheduled to give a concert in Moline in October.  Reservations made, cat sitter engaged, and then due to illness, Cher rescheduled, and finally cancelled her appearance.  Since everything was already in place, we made an overnight trip to the Quad Cities anyway.  And had an enjoyable low-key stay.  We did some shopping (the JoAnn's store in Davenport is so much bigger and better than our local store) and visited the Putnam Museum.  The Putnam used to be a museum with an IMAX theater attached.  It now seems to be an IMAX with a museum attached.  There is very little museum left, and room after room seem to be turning into children's activities centers.

We also visited the Figge Art Museum, which was the highlight of the trip as far as I am concerned. The Figge has much of the University of Iowa Art Museum on "loan" since the flood of 2008 flooded the UI Art Museum.  So it was fun to re-visit the UI pieces.

Earlier in the month, we saw the play "Xanadu."  The play originally scheduled was "Around the World in 80 Days," which we were looking forward to.  We kept our tickets since the reviews said that the play was much better than the movie.  Unfortunately, that's not saying much.  This is the one and only play I've seen so far that I would not attend again.   And unfortunately, the next season for our community theater doesn't look that good, so we may not be attending many plays next year.

Monday, October 27, 2014

We Speak Russian!

Rather than pay $50 to $60 a day for parking in Chicago, we took the bus to and from the American Needlepoint Guild Seminar.   I bring this up because when we took a cab from our hotel to the bus depot, Dennis asked the cab driver where he was from.  The cab driver said, "Kazakhstan."  Dennis heard only the "...stan" part and said, "Oh, Pakistan?"  The cab driver in an offended tone said, "No, Kazakhstan.  We speak Russian!"  That, I think, in a nutshell explains the differences that arise in the former Soviet republics (such as with Ukraine) where some people relish their ties to Russia and others do not.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Who is Rosetta Stone?

Starting September 19th, Dennis and I are attending a four-part class on "The Archaeology of Palestine," taught by a retired University of Iowa professor.  Session One was an overview, starting with the very basics, like "what is archaeology."  Some of the class time involves the professor reminiscing about several digs he was on in the 1960's, and some highlights of his teaching career. One story that I thoroughly enjoyed involved a student who had not done the required homework reading and thus thought Rosetta Stone was a female British archaeologist.

We've learned about Tel Gezer, Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and next week, our last class, we'll learn about Masada.

Quick - What do the American Needlepoint Guild and the National Guard have in common?

The first two Thursdays in September, I had cataract surgery.  I wasn't sure what to expect for the first surgery and ended up desperately clutching the surgery chair like a white knuckle flyer.  And the nurse kept having to remind me to breathe!  But the surgeries went fine, although both were all-day affairs, with the surgery in the morning, then hanging around for four hours until a quick check-up before being released to go home.  At the four-hour check-up on my first eye, I exclaimed to the doctor, "Oh, the wonders of modern medicine.  I can see, I can see!"

The week between the surgeries was odd - while I could now see fine out of left eye, I still needed my old glasses to see out of my right eye, so I pretty much had to close one eye and use the other, and ended up just watching a lot of TV.  I am now using basic reading glasses for doing anything close up, including stitching, but am not using glasses otherwise.

Once I have my one-month check up in a few weeks, I'll get a new prescription for glasses.

It was a good two to three weeks until I got back to stitching.  My first project was stitching six "Kissing Pillows."  The Kissing Pillow project was developed by the Embroiderers Guild of America, and the American Needlepoint Guild is now participating.  Kissing Pillows are small (4" square) lightly stuffed pillows that are given to service men and women being deployed.  Initially, each solider was given two Kissing Pillows, one he/she kissed and left with the family and the other pillow the family kissed and gave to the soldier.  The pillow is small enough to fit under the soldier's helmet. I think the distribution may have morphed a bit since the beginning.  There was a table at the American Needlepoint Seminar asking people to pick up kits to stitch pillows, but I somehow missed that entirely.  But, fortunately, an email came to our group list shortly after seminar saying there were some kits left over and did anybody want to stitch some.  So I asked for 5, and ended up getting 6 kits in the mail, which I stitched up and sent off to the person overseeing the finishing and assembly.
One of six Kissing Pillows I stitched

Door Prizes and Political Ads

I spent the last week in August attending the American Needlepoint Guild (ANG) national seminar in Chicago.  An earlier post has information about the two classes I had signed up for; both were very good.  I ended up winning one of the many daily seminar door prizes: my choice among a variety of donated charts and patterns.   (Just what I need - another needlepoint pattern to work on!)

In my first class, I sat behind someone from Iowa City!  We were both amazed that there were two of us from Iowa in the same class.  There are no ANG chapters in Iowa, so I'm a member "at large." ANG does have an on-line chapter, "CyberPointers."  The CyberPointers had a get-together one evening at seminar, so I went to find out more information about the chapter, and guess what, I won a free one-year's membership in the chapter as a door prize.

But what do door prizes have to do with political ads?  We have a very hot Senate race going on and have been inundated with ads since before the primaries.  Every commercial break on TV carries at least several ads from the two candidates and the various PACs, most of the PAC ads are very negative. Anyway, we landed in our hotel room, turned on the TV, and I exclaimed, "Oh, an entire week without the political ads we've been inundated with!"  There were a few ads for Chicago candidates, but those were new to us and few and far between.  Our local newspaper reported that 239 ads per day are running about the Senate campaign alone!  And most of those ads are negative ones.  Boy, will I be glad when Election Day is over.

On the home front, I am now on the Board of Directors of the homeowners' association for my condo building.  I've been appointed to fill a vacant seat until our annual meeting in October, at which time the new Board members will be elected.

I rarely complete projects from needlework classes since I attend primarily to learn new stitches and new techniques, but every once in awhile a project catches my fancy.  Such was the case with the "Whitework Sampler," which I continued to work on at home.  I switched out one color; the color the teacher used was really beige and I chose a color that has just a hint of gray and pink in it.  I had to set the piece aside in early September as I headed to the ambulatory surgery center for my first cataract surgery.  Here's my progress up to that point.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hair and Things

I suppose, since I just recently finished stitching a Hippie design, it only made sense to go see "Hair" at our local community theater.  I had been so looking forward to it and had been singing to myself "this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius," for several days.  The play did not disappoint.  There was a disclaimer outside the door that this was intended for mature audiences, which I thought kind of funny since I don't think anyone except those of us "of a certain age" would even be interested in seeing the play.  The younger generations would not know about The Draft, and draft cards, and the significance of burning draft cards.  Not to mention the reference to Green Stamps!

And while I was singing "Aquarius" to myself, I had forgotten some of the other great songs: Donna Oh Donna Oh Oh Donna Oh Oh Oh, and Manchester England England.

I had not seen the play before but had seen the movie.  Thinking the play couldn't be that different from the movie, I filled Dennis in on the plot, only to discover all I did was lead him astray.  In the play, the Claude character is one of the tribe and is struggling over whether to report for duty or whether to flee to Canada,  In the movie, the Claude character is a straight-laced outsider who comes across the tribe when he's visiting Central Park before he reports to boot camp.

After the play, I hunted for my CD of Hair, which I couldn't find, so I ended up ordering another one. And I dug out my Sony Walkman portable CD player - I know, really old technology, but it still works!

And I've got a stitching finish to report.  I've finished the Sudoku Delights needlepoint on-line course. It was very enjoyable.
Lagoon Colorway

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Critics and I Disagree

I mentioned earlier that we had seen the movie, "Monuments Men."  I had been hesitant to see the movie since the reviews had not been good, but thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  I enjoyed the movie so much that I read the book afterwards, then watched the movie again when it became available "on demand" on TV.  It's a great story, and I'd be happy to read the book and watch the movie again!   So, my first disagreement with the critics.

Then, several weeks ago, we went to see "The Jersey Boys."  That has gotten terrible reviews, and I had not intended to see the movie, but Dennis really wanted to go.  So, give me a big bucket of popcorn and I'm happy to sit through even a bad movie.  But the movie was fine.   So, my second disagreement with the critics.

And on Wednesday this week, our local library had another free movie night, showing "Gravity."  That had gotten such praise and won some Academy Awards, so I was really looking forward to it.  But, it left me cold.  The special effects were interesting, but not much of a plot, and not much suspense. Some scenes were obviously in the movie to show off the 3-D version, but they left me flat.  (Get the joke?)

Anyway, I guess the moral is I should attend movies that get bad reviews and skip the ones that get rave reviews.  We'll see...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Hippie's a Hippie No Matter How Old

My latest finish is a design by Barbara Ann Designs, "Be Hippie."  The saying originally said, "Don't worry, be hippie," but I didn't care for that for a number of reasons, including the fact that, at the time, we hippies were worried about a lot of things. I decided I wanted to change the hippie's hair color to gray and focus on something about aging.  I toyed with a number of different sayings, including "Hippie Power Lasts," or doing a play on the '60s (the 1960s and the 60's in terms of age) but finally decided on "a hippie stays groovy."

My next project is a Shining Needle Society on-line course, "Sudoku Delight."  It's composed of nine different stitches set in a Sudoku pattern.  Instructor is Kathy Rees, who taught the "Inchies" class I took last fall.

Beginning of Sudoku Delight
The American Needlepoint Guild seminar in Chicago is coming up the end of August.  I'm taking two classes, one of which has some "pre-work" required.  That's homework that needs to be done before class starts.  I'm waiting for the canvas and instructions to arrive in the mail, and will have to set "Sudoku Delight" aside for a few days.

"A Study in White" Whitework Sampler, by Pat Donaldson, for which pre-work is required
The other class I'm taking at ANG: "Bejeweled Tree Trio" by Libby Sturdy

More Plays

In early June, we attended an open rehearsal of "Othello" at our local open-air Shakespeare in the Park theater. It was very interesting watching the director's "take" on the staging.

We attended a "Lunch and Learn" session sponsored by the University of Iowa on the Voyager space probes which was unfortunately poorly attended.  It was very interesting and went overtime because the audience had so many questions.

As for plays, we attended "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" at our local community theater.  This was unfinished at the time of Charles Dickens' death, and there is no clue as to how he intended to finish the story.  So, at the point in the play where we reached the end of Charles Dickens' writing, the audience got involved.  First question: is Edwin Drood dead?  The cast was given that question, and they decided he was.  Next question: who killed him?  This was put to an audience vote, and we decided the uncle was the killer.  I'm guessing that the play ends differently depending on the audience, so the cast has to be prepared for any eventuality with regard to audience voting.  It was quite fun.

Most recently, we attended the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, "Patience."  I was not at all familiar with that play; it was quite funny.

We've also experienced flooding in town after many inches of rain fell on already saturated ground along the Iowa River basin.  The Corps of Engineers announced they would need to start letting more water out of the reservoir, and the local communities and the University took quick flood preparation action. Due to multiple flood protection projects in place since the flood of 2008, and due to the use of HESCO barriers and portable flood walls, flood preparations can be put into place quickly.  What's a HESCO barrier you ask? Those are big cells, each holding the equivalent of 200 sandbags, that can be filled with the use of heavy equipment.  So no more do we need thousands of volunteers filling individual sandbags over the course of many days.  The river was over its banks for some weeks, but outflows are now being reduced and the river is gradually returning to its banks.

Life Stages

The Sunday after Easter we headed back to Dubuque, to help Dad empty the apartment, in preparation for moving into assisted living.  Mom moved into assisted living right before Thanksgiving, now it's Dad's turn.  The highlight of the packing and sorting was finding Mom's krum kage iron.   I had been hunting for it for some time, and Dennis was the one who found it, buried in the very back of a bottom cupboard in the kitchen.  I have Mom's recipe, so now it's time for me to try my hand at making krum kage.  Unfortunately, the iron won't work with my "new fangled" ceramic stove top, so I'll need to buy an "old fashioned" hot plate.  And, we're missing the wooden dowel to roll the cookies around, so I'll have to improvise in that regard.

Our local library holds free movie nights periodically, and in mid-May they sponsored "Argo," which I had not seen before.  The movie holds special interest because a long-time family friend was one of the Iran hostages.

Next on the schedule was a visit from my two brothers and sister-in-law on May 31st.  First up was a trip to the big Mennonite Relief Sale at the fairgrounds where we watched the quilt auction for a couple of minutes before heading to the plant sale and the food tents.  I purchased some fresh cheese curds. The purpose of the visit, besides getting together, was for us three "kids" to look through the memorabilia Mom had collected over the years, including her baby book, a scrap book from her trip overseas as a church youth leader, Mom and Dad's wedding album, lots and lots of photos.  Here we are, looking through the material.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Literature in various forms

Starting March 31st, I'm participating in a six-week (two-hour) class on "Othello."  We discuss the play, and watch clips from various films and stage plays, to see how different actors portrayed the same scene, often quite differently.

We also attended an evening of Poe, during which students in a literature course read various Poe short stores and poems, most notably "The Tell-Tale Heart, "Masque of the Red Death," and "The Raven." The session made me want to dig out my "Poe's Complete Works," and do some re-reading.

On Palm Sunday, after church, we went to see the local community theater's production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," which I had not seen before.  It was outstanding!!  The actors received a standing ovation and applause that went on and on.

The play was updated to include people tweeting and taking "selfies" with Jesus, and King Herod conducting an on-line survey about Jesus.

My latest finish is "Spring Fling" by Laura J. Perin Designs.  Do you get the feeling I like her work? This was a free pattern that Fiberworks in Waverly, Iowa, sent with their latest newsletter.

Winter drags on

More wintery weather, more snow, so guess what - more stitching!

Floral Ribbons, by Laura J. Perin, from Needlepointers magazine

Four different colored versions of Diamond Elegance II,
by Barbara Richardson from Needlepointers magazine
March was also a month for movies.  We saw "Monuments Men," which I thought was very good.  I had held off on seeing the movie because the reviews I read were that the movie could have been great but was not very good.  But I enjoyed it.  We also saw the "Lego Movie," which was fun.  Neither of us guessed what the "piece of resistance" was before they revealed it at the end.

We also saw the stage play, "Absurd Person Singular."  What a play!  It was ostensibly a farce, and had lots of funny dialogue and scenes, but underneath all the farce was a pretty heart breaking story.  The play follows three couples (an architect and his wife, a banker and his wife, and a contractor and his wife) as they get together over three successive Christmas Eves.  First off, the contractor couple is hosting the architect couple and banker couple, who really look down their noses at the contractor.  The next Christmas Eve, the hot-shot architect's building has collapsed, so he has to go begging to the contractor for work,  while he's still looking down his nose at the contractor.  The third Christmas Eve finds the banker pretty much without funds and relying on the contractor to run his business through the bank, and still (guess what!) looking down his nose at the contractor.

Winter stitching

Winter weather was pretty horrible, lots of snow, bitterly cold temperatures.  First, the "polar vortex," then later the "polar plunge."  I'm sure glad I'm retired and don't have to go outside every day to go to work!  I spent February stitching a lot of little things. Some Christmas related, some not.

Two versions of "Christmas Tree Ornament" by Pat Mazu from Needlepoint Now magazine

Elegant Simplicity, also by Pat Mazu 

Medieval Flowers bookmark from Textile Heritage, Scotland

Sparkling Star ornament, by Laura J. Perin Designs
This pattern and canvas was a "freebie" with purchase from Nordic Needle in Fargo, North Dakota

Lily of the Valley, by Textile Heritage, Scotland

Toward the end of the month, I went to see the movie, Frozen, which was very cute.  Our local theater offered free popcorn on Tuesdays in February, which I couldn't turn down!

A milestone is approaching

I turn 65 in May, and in January I received my Medicare card, followed by an assortment of mailings from CMS and Social Security.  That hasn't been too bad, but I have also been inundated by telemarketers and junk mail from private insurance companies offering Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplement plans.  All I can say is that Medicare insurance plans must be very lucrative, as eager as they are for my business!

As for stitching, I'm still in the Christmas spirit and spent time in January stitching the twelve "'Twas the Night" ornaments by JBW Designs.  I decided on different embellishments than the designer used (each ornament has a button or charm added to the stitching).  Here they are, stitched and ready to be finished into ornaments.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Three Christmases This year

We normally have two Christmas celebrations each year, once when brother Robert returns home from abroad, usually in the fall.  And then again at Christmas.  This year we had three celebrations, the first one when we exchanged gifts with Robert, as usual.

The week before Thanksgiving, Mom was transferred from the retirement apartment she shared with Dad to the assisted living wing in the same facility.  So we celebrated Thanksgiving at the nursing home, with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings.  Then we celebrated our second Christmas of the year, by exchanging gifts with brother John and his wife Renee.  They were planning a cruise over Christmas, so we would not see them then.

And for the third, and final, Christmas of 2013, we had Christmas dinner and exchanged gifts with Mom and Dad on Christmas Day.

One of the gifts to my Mom was a hand stitched sachet, filled with  lavender potpourri.   The pattern is from The Victoria Sampler, "French Lavender Pillows," by Linda Rosser.  I found some "vintage" lace on Etsy that matched the colors perfectly, and also found the lavender potpourri on Etsy.
Empty sachet awaiting lavender potpourri stuffing
I did stitch a second sachet, though it is not yet assembled with the lace edging.

I have a friend who is not much into gift-giving on any occasion.  A couple of weeks before Christmas, he stated, "Don't get me anything for Christmas."  (If he doesn't get a gift, he won't have to give a gift...) To which I responded, "Of course I'm getting you a gift!"  Among my gifts to him were stitched ornaments from the Bent Creek "The Bugs" patterns.  One ornament was the "Humbug," and the other ornament was designed to be a Y2K bug, but I changed it to a "Bah!" bug.  Unfortunately, I didn't get photos taken.