Monday, September 29, 2008

L’Shana Tovah - 5769

On the Jewish calendar, the year 5769 begins at sundown this evening. While it has been a good year for my family, there are thoughts of those who are no longer with us and live on in our memories

Repeating what I said last fall, each year is a new beginning and the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide an opportunity to cleanse the soul, ask for forgiveness for the collective transgressions of all people, and pray for a better year ahead. . .for everyone around the globe. In terms of what is happening on the world today, our prayers take on even greater significance this year. May all people around the world be inscribed for a year of peace, tranquility, love and freedom from want.

L'Shana Tovah. Have a good, sweet, peaceful year.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Grisham Without the Legal Stuff

Most fiction readers are familiar with some of John Grisham's 15+ legal thrillers. But he has also, on occasion, written books that are not related to the legal system. I just finished the latest such Grisham effort, Playing for Pizza.

The hero is Rick Dockery, a perennial 3rd string NFL quarterback, who seems to be hidden on a different roster every season. At the beginning of the book, he has called on with 11 minutes left in the Super Bowl, the starting and 2nd string quarterbacks out with injuries, and his team leading by 17 points. Somehow he manages to lose the game even though the defense played outstanding ball. Of course, Rick remembers nothing because he was flattened and suffered a concussion on the final play of the game.

Everything and everyone suggests that Dockery should retire from the game even though he is only 28 years old. But he wants to play. The only offer, which he finally accepts, is with the Parma Panthers of the Italian NFL. Off we go to Italy with Rick. We see him gradually make the adjustment in a league with no more than 3 Americans on each roster and where most of the local players are there for the love of the game, not money. That is the source of the Playing for Pizza title.

This was a quick, easy read and a lot of fun. We learn as much about Italian food, opera and churches as we do about football. Of course, I won't give away the outcome of the story as Rick leads Parma through the Italian NFL season. This is one of those stories that does not require any deep thinking as you speed through its pages. It certainly was a fine read for The Ancient One as he took his daily morning walk through the neighborhood.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Champions of the West. . .

I'm writing this while watching the Dodgers final home game of the season on TV. And it is a meaningless game. Thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals who defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier today, the Dodgers took the field tonight as the champions of the west. The Ancient One is feeling rather happy and content at the moment. Hopefully, that feeling will continue through the playoffs and World Series.

A historical note: As I recall from when I was growing up in Detroit several decades ago, the phrase "champions of the west" was a line in the University of Michigan fight song. It had great meaning to the population of southeastern Michigan. Tonight it a meaningful phrase again for those of us on the left coast who now wait to see which team from "back east" the Dodgers will face in the first round of the playoffs opening next week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just One to Go

The Los Angeles Dodgers closed to within one victory (or Arizona Diamondback defeat) of clinching first place in the National League West tonight. They started slow and then came back with a vengeance to defeat the San Diego Padres 12-4 at Dodger Stadium. Not only was it a great victory highlighted by home runs from Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez but it marked the return to play (in pinch hitting roles) of Jeff Kent and Rafael Furcal. I realize that this has little meaning to most folks who pass this way but baseball is at the core of life for the Cohanim.

The Ancient One did get to see about a half dozen games this season. Last night I was at the Dodgers-Padres game with son Seth and his friends Tony and Adam. We had great seats and much fun as the Dodgers cruised to a 10-1 victory highlighted by 3-run homers by Garciaparra and Blake DeWitt. Chad Billingsley was the winning pitcher and looked great. I even got a couple of decent pictures from the vantage point of our loge seat (section 158, row D) along the first base line in right field.

In the first, Nomar is heading over to cover first base on a ground ball toward second. Billingsley is turning toward the ball from the mound and Casey Blake is watching from third.

Second, we see the Dodgers congratulating each other as they head to the dugout after the victory.

Finally (but first in time), a view from the warning track in Center Field during batting practice. The Dodgers open the area to fans during the pre-game preparations.

Ah yes, the Dodgers rose to the challenge with a great finish to the season while my beloved Tigers continue to fade into oblivion in the American League Central.

As the 2008 regular season draws to its close this weekend, there is joy among the Cohanim. Seth already has tickets for the playoffs and World Series.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Early Morning Visitor

I went out to pick up the newspaper this morning and there was an early morning visitor. I went back in and grabbed my camera and returned. The young peahen was strutting her stuff:

Then she flew up on the roof and posed for me:

While the peafowl abound in out neighborhood, they do not often visit on our street. What a pleasant way to start the day. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oh What Webs a Spider Weaves

As I stepped outside my front door this morning on my way to pick up the newspapers, I spied a magnificent spider's web. I went back in, grabbed the camera and took this photo (which I have tried to adjust for maximum appreciation):

It's not a great picture and I hope it can be seen. Oh, what webs a spider weaves! On my front porch no less.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Harbingers of Fall – Banners 9

The first day of fall must be near. How do I know that? It's not because school has started, or football season has started, or even that the evening air is a bit more crisp. It was evident by the new seasonal banners hanging from houses in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, the pictures are only fair; the result of overcast mornings (or what is referred to in southern California as the marine layer).

In this part of the world, it's hard to tell that the seasons are changing without these colorful hints from neighbors. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back With Peter and Rina et al

You know that feeling you get when you see some old friends you haven't seen in a while and it seems like you just picked up the conversation where you left off the last time you were together. That's the feeling I had while reading Faye Kellerman's The Burnt House. It was like a family reunion. There was Peter Decker, now a Detective Lieutenant in the LAPD, and his wife Rina. Daughter Cindy (from his first marriage) was there as was Hannah, the now teenage daughter of Peter and Rina. Detectives Marge Dunn (now a Sergeant) and Scott Oliver were part of the story too. It was like old home week for me; a reunion with characters I have followed through about a dozen earlier murder mysteries in Kellerman's Peter/Rina series. And it felt so good!

As the novel opens, a commuter jet crashes into an apartment house. Out of this came the suspicion that a flight attendant listed as missing was not on the flight and might have been murdered. That possibility becomes more real as the search of the crash scene does not yield her body although she has not been seen since early on the morning the plane went down. And the search of the ruins of the building the plane hit does yield an unidentified female body. From one possible murder, we now have two murder investigations. The rest of The Burnt House covers the search for the body (and killer) of the flight attendant and the identification of what turns out to be a victim of a murder committed more than 30 years earlier and pursuit of her killer.

As in all of Kellerman's murder mysteries, Rina makes an observation that leads her detective husband to a key clue that might have been overlooked. We also get a glimpse into the Decker's family life as orthodox Jews in the San Fernando Valley. Ultimately, of course, good, solid, often painstakingly detailed police work leads to solving both cases. And, of course, it turns out that there is a connection between them although they are 2 very different cases with 2 different killers.

I admit it. I am a big fan of Faye Kellerman and the Deckers. This was a very well crafted, well written mystery. I recommend it knowing that not every reader will agree with me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quirky Internet Technology. . .

Occasionally I write about the lovely quirks in technology. For me, the latest example came over the past weekend. I'm still scratching my head.

Like many other bloggers, I am sometimes too wrapped up with wanting to know how many people actually find my site and, possibly, read what I wrote. To assist in managing my curiosity, I added "sitemeter" to the bottom of my blog in mid- 2007.

It is a nifty piece of whatever-you-call-it-ware that counts the number of visits to my site and even lists where they came from on a number of different statistics pages. Like many other tools we use in life, sitemeter is not fully accurate. I noticed, for example, that I would get a comment to a post from someone whose visit did not appear to be recorded by my sitemeter. It seemed that it was choosy about who it would list. Or perhaps, some referring sites had a way of sneaking in without being counted. Being a bit anal, I realized that when I would post about reaching a new milestone (or is it a thousand-visit-stone), the count was actually low.

Then, a couple of weeks ago whenever I would go to sitemeter to check my numbers, I would get a pop-up message about the "new" sitemeter to which all subscribers would be migrated on Saturday, September 13. It explained how much more accurate the new incarnation would be; visits would no longer escape the counters. Or something like that.

Sure enough, last Saturday sitemeter disappeared. Finally, sometime about midday Sunday (PDT), the site reappeared with instructions about reactivating accounts. The problem is, I couldn't get it to work. I drove myself crazy for about 2 hours trying to find the listing of visits and all the other statistics that were promised. There seemed to be no page with listings on it. And there was a wavy section in the middle of the screen that proclaimed "loading reports." The problem was no reports were ever loaded. I took a break for an hour figuring that resting my weary, aging brain might help me find some clarity about how to actually obtain statistics from the "new" sitemeter.

When I returned, I clicked on my sitemeter bookmark and up popped a new message. It said, and I paraphrase a bit, that sitemeter would be offline for a couple of hours while they migrated back to the original version. Huh?? It wasn't me that had the problem? It was the dear techies at sitemeter?

Sure enough, a few hours later the original sitemeter was back and I was smiling again. But how many visits were not recorded while all this immigration/emigration was going on? I assume I will never know. But once again I can reflect on how quirky technology can be when delivered over the internet.

Let's see, last time I looked, my counter read something like 6525. I'll settle for that even though I know it's low. Who knows, maybe sitemeter will actually come back with a new version that works. Now that would be something different!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Oh, Is My Face Red. . .

After writing in this space a couple of days ago about my imminent appearance in a comedy sketch on tonight's season premiere of Talkshow With Spike Feresten (midnight on Fox). It ended a few minutes ago and the sketch wasn't there. Apparently, I was given inaccurate information.

My apologies to those who might have stayed up to see The Ancient One's rear view. Those who recorded it, and haven't yet looked at the recording, can now ignore it.

I should know better. I do know that nothing exists in this industry until it exists. (It's sort of like the tree that falls in the middle of the forest with no one there to see or hear it drop. Did it fall?) I trust the sketch will appear in an upcoming broadcast. If not, it was still a lot of fun doing the shoot! I mean, I really did it and I got paid for the day. . .and the haircut. Honest!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Strolling With Peafowl

I had a pleasant surprise on my daily walk this morning. In an area where they generally are not seen, a pair of peafowl accompanied me. Fortunately, I had my camera with me and offer up, first, the peahen:

And her partner peacock:

I welcomed the company. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9-11

Seven years ago today! Where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news is burned in the memories of all of us.

In remembering that day, I only suggest that those who pass this way visit my first born, aka BillyBlog here to see what he wrote the day after he witnessed the planes flying into the World Trade Center. His poetry is far more powerful than anything I could say as I recall that day of horror!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Blatant Self-Promotion (3)

The Ancient One is scheduled to be on TV this coming Saturday at 12:00 midnight. But you will never see his face. As mentioned in earlier posts, the "back-only" view with "bald spot" will be seen in a comedy sketch on Talkshow With Spike Feresten (which follows Mad TV).

In advance of the airing, I cannot reveal the real person being spoofed in the sketch. However, I think it will be made very clear as it is played out.

Please pardon the blatant self-promotion but The Ancient One hasn't had many opportunities to appear on network TV (at any hour).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Go Dodgers!

I haven't posted much lately. I have spent an inordinate amount of time watching the Dodgers on TV. I did suffer through the 8 losses on the last road trip but then they won 2 in Arizona, came home to sweep the Padres and Diamondbacks, and now have split 2 in San Diego (coming from behind tonight to win 6-2).

After the losing streak, the Dodgers were 4 1/2 games out of first; after tonight's victory, they lead the NL West by 2 1/2 games.

Keep it up Dodgers!!! You have been a delightful diversion from the never-ending (or so it seems) blather coming from political candidates.

I see post-season play drowning out the presidential campaign. :~D


Friday, September 5, 2008

New to Me - J.A. Jance

Ah that wonderful counter of paperback books at the local Costco. I have been introduced to many writers there and J.A. Jance is the latest although her novels have been published for well over 20 years. I'm glad that I looked at her website before I started writing this. It helped me put my first venture into her writing in perspective.

As I started reading Jance's Justice Denied, I immediately liked her main J. P. Beaumont. I did not realize that this was something like the 18th mystery in the J.P. Beaumont series. And I like his fellow investigator and lover (which is stated in the blurb on the back cover of the paperback) Mel (for Melissa) Soames. And I liked the heart of the story and how a series of crimes came together as part of a conspiracy. The 2nd plot line concerning a cold case was a bit less satisfying but all in all, the mystery aspects were conceived and written well. But something was bothering me.

I was put off a bit by the amount of personal backstory about Beaumont and his family and how much of it intruded on the main storylines. And that is where looking at Jance's website helped. She stated there that, "I come to the task of writing with the understanding that my characters are people first and police officers second." As I read Justice Denied, I was more concerned with the investigation and the "police style" of Beaumont and Soames than I was with all the family matters that seemed to intrude. And I know that is not fair because there are other authors (e.g. Faye Kellerman and her Peter Decker/Rina Lazurus Decker mysteries) where I find the personal lives and backgrounds as fascinating aspects affecting the direction some of the investigations take.

All in all, I enjoyed Justice Denied although, at this point in time, I don't know if I will go back and read the earlier novels in the J.P. Beaumont series. We all have read writers whose style and prose excite us and others who provide an experience that is not so energizing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to School - Banners 8

Today is the first day of school in our area and in honor of this annual ritual, The Ancient One presents photos of some new banners of the season.

The first is in front of a house around the corner. I'm not sure whether it was hung to remind the kids that the day was here or if the parents were celebrating the end of summer vacation.

The following three banners were hanging outside classrooms at Vista Grande School, just a couple of blocks away. I think it is safe to say that the teachers are welcoming their new students on their first day back for a new school year.

Having spent my entire pre-retirement professional life on college campuses, the year always started when the new academic year began and not on January 1. So a Happy New Year to all!