Sunday, June 27, 2010

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Just finished watching the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in Swedish. Loving the trilogy written by Stieg Larsson I wasn't holding out a lot of hope that I would like the movie but I was shockingly surprised.

Viewing only Hollywood movies for years I've forgotten how good a movie with minimal special effects can be. The audience was enthralled - watched it at the Modern Art Musem auditorium which is an intimate venue with a small screen. The explicit sex scenes were made more uncomfortable by the shared experience.

The casting was right on - Lisbeth was just as I'd imagined her. The other roles were played by age appropriate actors - wrinkles, acne scars and all. This "realism in casting" allowed me to be caught up in a plot; something sorely missing for me in most movies. This was all the more curious since I knew what was going to happen.

Can't wait to see how Hollywood screws up their version - you can bet there won't be spontaneous applause at the end.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

This was to be the year I started a Christmas letter with all the free time not working would allow me. Didn't happen. Probably for the best - a yearly letter seems quaint in the era of constant blogging. The New Year's cards I bought also didn't happen so please allow me to indulge in reminiscing about the past year.

A three week trip to Romania to visit Erin brought me to a deeper appreciation of the good old USA and of course, Texas. Things I took for granted but now appreciate:
  • traffic laws that drivers actually obey
  • street signs
  • colorful clothing
  • discretionary income
  • attentive waiters
  • my car
  • people who smile & make eye contact
  • drinkable tap water
  • my local gym
  • small bodied airline seat mates
  • television stations other than those offered on the Armed Forces Network
  • taxi drivers that speak English
  • cell phones

Retirement has allowed me to like children again! I actually sat by the playground at Central Market and reveled in watching them play. I also didn't mind the Christmas crowds. Not having to deal with the public every day and be responsible for the children's behavior in the library has allowed me to revert to the fairly nice person I used to be!

As your probably know by now if you've read any of my blogs, my children are spread out over the nation and the world. Justin's an FBI agent in Miami, Erin & Jon work for the State Department in Romania and Rachel, Justin's wife, is busy with a residency in ob/gyn in Charlotte. I always said I'd raise my kids to follow their dreams, even if that meant leaving the Fort and damn if they didn't do it. Lucky for me, they're all coming to visit at the end of January.

I've decided to focus on the positive in 2010 and note something good that happens to me every day. There's too little time to let other people's hatred bring me down and I of all people, after dealing with the public all those years, know that the vast majority of people are good and it's that small minority that cause all the problems. Two good things have already happened today - 1) the calming relief I felt after an extremely hard yoga class when I finally got to lay on the mat and breathe deep. 2) the smile and "Happy New Year" I received from a musician, playing practically for free at Potbelly's, when I tipped him and told him how much I enjoyed his playing.

My New Year's Resolutions:

1. This will be the hardest. Focus on the good traits of family & friends and not their annoying traits/habits/personality flaws/etc (I knew this would be hard, but I have one more night of sniping).

2. Make more of an effort to contact friends and to actually do something with them.

3. Improve my yoga moves! This should be the easiest - there's no place to go but up.

4. Find a rewarding volunteer opportunity. My goal was to be selfish for 6 months but that's harder than it sounds.

5. Join the local Audubon Society. I'm a bird nerd!

If you have any comments for my blog please let me know something good that happened to you today!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Joe Biden Visits VIPs in Bucharest

What can I say? Joe Biden came to Bucharest, invited the embassy staff to a meet and greet at the ambassador's house and the staff were allowed to invite family members. How's that for a round about way to meet the Vice President of the United States?
He was very charming, friendly - even asking me where my home town was. When the children of the embassy staff became restless he invited them on the stage. I'd definitely vote for him again!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Honey Bunny does Istanbul

4 Days in Istanbul:

Turkish Airlines managed to serve lunch for a 1 hour flight! It was not bad either, if you like tuna, which I do. Just don't try to step in the aisle during the flight attendants' lunch sprint. Checked into the Ferman Hotel in the Sultanahmet District of Instanbul's Old Town area. There was a problem with my room, something about the water going pfooosh! I was downgraded from an ocean room for 1 night and Jon & Erin were upgraded to a penthouse view of the Sea of Marmara to make up for it. They deserved it since I was basically tagging along on their Anniversary and Jon's birthday trip. The hotel was very near the Blue Mosque and was easily walked to be going straight up a narrow squiggly street, turning right where the fresh fish were displayed in artful, bizarre (prawn in fish mouth) fashion, walking to end of narrow street, turning left or right on another narrow street and breathing a sigh of relief when one of the minarets from either the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia popped into view. After counting the minarets to verify which one was the Blue Mosque I was sort of oriented as long as I was standing between the two. Thank goodness Jon was usually taking the lead. I guess my sense of direction only works in wide open spaces. At least I knew that walking down was to the sea and up was to something else. This logic could backfire however since there was not only the Sea of Marmara, but also the Bosphorous Strait and the Golden Horn to contend with.

Did I mention that 15 million people live in Istanbul, not counting the 10 billion tourists (that figure I just made up by counting the number of tourists inside of the Topkapi Palace while we were there, multiplying by 2 and dividing by the number of feral cats). There also seemed to be a taxi for every person living in Istanbul circling around and having stand offs in the one lane streets. The stand offs would be solved by self designated neighborhood traffic watchdogs standing in the middle of the alley yelling at drivers and pointing in various directions. The streets were not actually one way, but could only accomodate one car at a time. This was just in the Old Town. In other parts of Istanbul such as the New District there were plenty of lanes for the cars to altnernately standstill, cut each other off and gauge how close to pedestrians they could get without actually hittting them (lightly grazing pedestrians, especially tourists is an acceptable practice, even encouraged).

The 10 billion tourists moved about the city in groups following upraised umbrellas and flags. These groups of people did not flow in and out of the city nearly as gracefully as the taxis. They were more like connected train cars following their engine, making it very difficult to cut through the middle of them. It did make for very interesting people watching. In the New District the throngs of people were mainly Turks out for the evening, all dressed in black. We ate dinner in the New District but didn't hang around as there was a protest coming down Istiklal Street. We hopped into a taxi and asked to go to the Blue Mosque which posed a problem since the driver didn't know a word of English, never mind that the Blue Mosque is the most popular tourist attraction in the city. We managed to find it with the help of a few shouted questions to other taxi drivers.

We managed the major tourist attractions in Istanbul: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Harem within, Underground Cistern, Grand Bazaar, Archeological Museum and the obligatory Bosphorous Strait cruise featuring Turkish dancing. Highlights for me were the beautiful tile work everywhere, the harem, the Alexander Sarcophagus in the archeology museum and people watching at the outdoor cafes. All the cafes near out hotel seemed to have similar menus and frankly seemed interchangeable, but had much charm. The cafe employees worked the streets, encouraging everyone to try their food. Many of the waiters had limited English and were quiet endearing with their English phrases - one even called me honey bunny.

Honey bunny was an apt nickname for me when it came to bargaining. I bought 1 souvenir in a shop which had fixed prices. Jon did much better, sticking a minimal amount of money in his pocket and claiming that's all he had. Erin wasn't much better than honey bunny but at least she braved the bargain.

Back in Bucharest now. Yesterday had a True Blood marathon watching 6 episodes due to cold, rainy weather. Did manage to go to the local grocery store and get slightly lost on the way back. More of the same weather today so might just finish Season 1.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Metro, peasants & 1 naked lady

10-14-09 Braved the Metro today with no mishaps with the help of random Romanians and a prepurchased Metro ticket (Erina bought it for me). Hopped off at the Piati Victoriei - one of the very large traffic circles where the crazy drivers keep swerving in each other's lanes and there are no apparent street signs. I managed to find Sos. Kiseleff where the Peasant Museum is located - glad I had written down the Romanian name - Muzeul Taranului Romanbecause there are 2 other museums nearby. It looked closed but the front gate opened and I seemed to be the first visitor. With no help from the many employees guarding the exhibits by talking to their coworkers or their friends on the phone I finally figured out that most rooms had this laminated sheet you could take explaining what area and century the items were from. Well worth the visit - I've always thought that nobody paid attention to signs but when they are not available they are sorely missed! I'm tired of asking where the toaleta is.

Walking back from the Metro stop I spied a naked lady (not quite buck naked thanks to a pair of socks) across the street. After the classic double and triple take I watched for awhile to see what would happen. She failed to board a bus stopped nearby and was giving what I feel was a nasty gesture to passing motorists honking at her. She crossed the street and hung out for awhile, ignored by a passing police car. Not knowing whether this was normal crazy Romanian behavior I went back to Erin's apartment and she informed me that she has never got to see a naked Romanian lady. Aren't I lucky!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Romanian Ruminations

10-6-09 Flew on American from DFW to London to Bucharest arriving in Bucharest late afternoon of 10-7-09. Ate at Quatro Spaggiaano in Herastrau Park by Erin & Jon's apartment. Italian food is very predominant. Herastrau is the largest park in Bucharest. Next day spent catching up on missed sleep - I don't understand how anyone in economy can sleep, but I think I was in the sleepless minority.
2nd night Erin & I walked to Hard Rock Cafe on the north end of the park. We encountered typical Romanian logic after switching to a table with more light in order to read our menus. 20 minutes later the man who seated us came up and said we hadn't been waited on because we were sitting in a "closed section". I guess that meant we had lost our appetites.
Did finally manage to order and eat typical Romanian meal of cheese burgers and nachos.
3rd day explored Herastrau Park and visited the Village Museum which I actually thought was the Peasant Museum. No wonder the random person giving me directions to the Peasant Museum pointed me in the wrong direction! I realized this immediately and retraced my steps to the sign pointing to the Village Museum (in Romanian, thus the confusion about peasant & village). The arrows were ambiguously pointing to some bushes behind the sign. Having already taken the wrong direction I headed in the only other direction available to me and found the museum 20 paces away. I had actually already bypassed an earlier shortcut but of course there were no signs! As this was a minor entrance, there was no map available to buy that I could discern but i was encouraged by the availability of a toilet immediately upon entrance putting my mind and other body parts at ease. There were over 60 houses & a few churches brought in from various parts of Romania as well as many varieties of mills. Very interesting - I spent about 2.5 hours there and wilted about 3/4 through. Should have brought food & drink (concession stand closed right before I needed it) but I thought I was going to the Peasant Museum with a small cafe. Upon exit, finally found a Coke Zero - thank you for your world dominance Coca Cola! - and collapsed on the river bank. Romanians love this park and seem to be here all day and night - Erin said there used to be a problem with extreme public display of affection that no longer seems to be an issue.
3rd night Jon and I picked up Mexican food from El Torrito to bring back - Jon is amazingly brave to drive in this traffic with no apparent law abiding drivers. My chicken enchiladas with salsa verde was great; unfortunately, the Mexican food place is not doing well - if you come to Romania be sure and go there.
On Saturday morning we took off to Transylvania. First stop was Sinaia to visit Castle Peles. Built by King Carol in 1866. My gracious tour guides - Jon & Erin - know that to be polite in Romania is to always be last so we stood our ground near the front of the tourist throng - no polite British queues here. Our English speaking castle tour guide was about 5 feet tall and was rather soft spoken with a heavy Romanian accent. Therefore I can't really relate much of what I saw which is lucky for you since there is nothing more boring than a play by play of a museum, castle or church. Suffice it to say that the woodwork was German and very fancy with antique collections, mostly of weapons, from all over the world. Had lunch at a Romanian/Serbian restaurant named Taverna Sarbului. Wonderful inexpensive food - all the food here is inexpensive. I had an eggplant dish similar to babaganoush and bean soup - OK there is something more boring than a play by play of a castle - it's a detailed description of everything I had to eat! Too bad - this is my travel diary. On to Brasov!
By the way I failed to mention we are in the Carpathian Mountains. Very beautiful but a bit hazy at the time. Weather is unseasonably warm - another boring topic but I won't tell you what I was wearing. Brasov is a mid sized Saxon city with a wonderful medieval square (Piata Sfatului). We stayed across the street from the square at Hotel Bella Muzica which also has a wonderful restaurant (trout, mushrooms, greek salad and Ursus - a Romanian beer). Hundreds of people mill about the square - many shops line the streets (I broke and bought my 1st souvenir in one of them) with outdoor bars and restaurants. Ate Mexican food (located next to the KFC) again on the square the next morning and here I thought I would be without it for 3 weeks. Visited another very different castle further up the road - Braun castle, known as Dracula's castle for tourism reasons. The castle was first documented in 1377. Back to Bucharest that evening along with the other 2 million residents on a 2 lane road. Leaving the city on weekends is a national pastime.
Monday - rainy day in Bucharest on Columbus Day. Erin and I took a walk around the lake, joined by one of the 200,000 stray dogs. They are well fed and seem non threatening unless meeting another group of dogs from another territory. It's Jon's birthday and we're off to a Caru cu bere, an historical beerhouse. Here's an excerpt from their web page which is a great example of the translations encountered here so far.
Along with the beer made after a secret original recipe, Caru' cu bere is also famous for the tastiest culinary recipes. For a long time house specialty was considered to be hot dogs with horseraddish, of wich tonnes were consumed every day, and for the gratered horseraddish many waiters generations wiped. The Frankfurters, boeuf salad, black radish and olives offered for free along with the wine bottle created for many people a pleasant addiction. But no one complained, on the contrary!
The beer was good and could become a pleasant addiction!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Library Thing #16 LibraryWorm #117

LibWorm - I've had this as part of my professional bookmarks since it was started and use it as a source when looking for library information.

Library Thing I love you! It's hard to keep up with favorite authors and books when you read constantly, don't own the books and your library record is wiped clean every time you return a book. I was just having a conversation with two other librarians and none of us can tell you the title of the particular book we happen to be reading, the author yes, the plot yes, the subject matter, yes, but not the title. My problem is compunded when I'm reading a book and listening to another. Not only do I forget the titles, but am confounded for a moment or two when I start reading or listening expecting the thread of whatever I last heard or read.

I read about a book a week, yet could only remember about a dozen I'd read recently when entering titles into LibraryThing. The recommendations in LibraryThing following a book title reminded me of other books I have read and authors I love.

Can't wait to go home and add more titles. On to the next thing.