Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fiction Friday: May 30, 2011: "W" Is For Wasted

Madame L finally had a chance to read this book, the latest in Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series, and she recommends it even more highly than the previous one, "V is for Vengeance."

More of the threads of Kinsey's life are coming together now. When another private investigator is found dead, and then a bum with her name on a piece of paper in his pocket is found dead, she has to unravel a huge mess. This involves finding members of her father's family---and she had thought there was trouble with her mother's side!

When she opens up the Pandora's box of trouble, she says, "It would take me another day before I understood how many imps had been freed, but for the moment, I was inordinately pleased with myself.”

Madame L loves the idea of a female "sleuth," even more than she loves the very word "sleuth"! And Kinsey Millhone exemplifies the female detective, apparently hard-boiled, and with good reason; but drawn to care for people, even people who don't seem to deserve her care. And that's what gets her in trouble every time.

Kinsey isn't the only likeable character. There's her elderly neighbor and landlord, who bakes the best  bread and cookies on the West Coast; his hypochondriacal brother; the Hungarian owner and cook at a neighborhood restaurant; some cop friends; and an old flame who shows up on the same trail Kinsey is following.

And then there are all those not-so-likeable characters, like various and sundry con artists, that P.I. who died, some corrupt cops, and those aforementioned relatives.

If you don't believe Madame L, here are some quotes from more "authoritative" reviews, from the page for this book:

“After three decades Grafton’s iconic detective remains a quirky delight. With the help of McDonald’s pit stops and her single no-wrinkle black dress, Kinsey is sure to keep up the good fight through W, X, Y and Z—taking punches for the little guys and keeping the bad ones at bay.” —People

“Millhone’s complexity is mirrored by the novels that document her cases: books that nestle comfortably within the mystery genre even as they push and prod its contours.”—The Wall Street Journal

“I’ve come to believe that Grafton is not only the most talented woman writing crime fiction today but also that regardless of gender, her Millhone books are among the five or six best series any American has ever written.”—The Washington Post

“Grafton purposively begins with a standard situation . . . and then sets about breaking every cardinal rule of the mystery novel.”—The Los Angeles Times

Friday, May 30, 2014

Women, Men, Fear, and Privilege

I was talking with another woman in the sauna the other day. She said something about how there is now a special car on some commuter trains in Tokyo, just for women.

A man also sitting in there, whom neither of us had addressed nor made any indication to that we wanted to include him in our conversation. He said, "Men never get any special deals. Men never get any privileges."

I gave him the look of death and said, "The whole world is built on frickin' men's privilege." The other woman laughed and gave me a fist-bump.

The man said again, "Men never get any special deals." We ignored him, and he shut up.

Lucky for him, because if he had said one more word, I would have said, "When women are finally able to sit and stand on a crowded commuter train in a big city without being worried about some guy pinching or fondling them, who has the special deal there?"

"When a man goes on a killing rampage in a college town because some women won't date him, what kind of privilege do you think he supposes he has?

"When women everywhere have to worry about going jogging in the early morning or evening or even walking in broad daylight on busy city streets because of insults and threats and actual attacks, what kind of privilege do you think those men suppose they have, and what kind of 'special deal' do you think women do NOT have?

"When women consider stepping out of an elevator every time a man gets on because they can't be sure of his intentions, who is getting the raw end of the social deal?

"When a woman can't even buy a book in a college bookstore about evolutionary differences between men and women without the male cashier telling her a long story about how women developed large breasts so they'll float better, who is the one enjoying a privilege of unpleasant and unwanted talk?"

Because, yes, these things have happened to me and other women lots of times, uncountable times, except for the college bookstore bit, which happened to me once. As if I cared what this immature lousy excuse for a human being thought he knew about humanity.)

And I could go on. Read what this mom wrote about how scared she is to go running sometimes and how she wishes she didn't have to worry about her daughters. "We have to live with fear every moment," she writes. "And what do we need to do to change that reality."

A couple more thoughts: Misogyny is rampant in our society. There is nothing fair or enlightened about a culture in which women who are raped or molested are accused of "wanting it," "dressing like a slut," "walking where they shouldn't be walking," and so on. Here's an enlightening article about myths about sex and women. 

Men are clueless about the harassment and indignities faced by women every single day because they don't experience it.

The conclusion of this article: "Some men are using this death count to claim that Rodger’s killings were not motivated by misogyny, but that is a simplistic account of how misogyny operates in a society that privately abides the hatred of women unless it’s expressed in its most obvious forms."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thank You, Lord

From Maya Angelou's poem "Thank You, Lord":

I was once a sinner man,
Living unsaved and wild,
Taking my chances in a dangerous world,
Putting my soul on trial.
Because of Your mercy,
Falling down on me like rain,
Because of Your mercy,
When I die I’ll live again,
Let me humbly say,
Thank You for this day.
I want to thank You.

Rainbow in the Clouds

Maya Angelou again:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sandra's Birthday

She would have been 67 years old today. We are riding in the Huntsman 140 next month in her memory and honor.

Laura has created a Facebook page for Team Sandra with photos, videos, and links to our Huntsman 140 page. You don't have to be a Facebook member to go to this page and see all that great content.

By the way, we're still accepting donations! Here's our team donation page.

And here's my personal page. Even though we're called Team Sandra and we're riding in her memory and in honor of another family member, Salvador, we're also riding in memory of others in our family who have died of this dreadful disease.

That's why I put that photo of Lerrys on my personal page, because he was/is one of the kindest and sweetest people I've ever known. And he died of a kind of cancer that didn't have to kill him, if the best care had been available to him. That's what we want to see happen: research and treatment and care that will benefit people all over the world.

Maya Angelou: Still I Rise

And then there's this, a tweet she sent on May 14:

"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cape Horn Trail

Why have we not hiked this trail in all the years we've lived here, and all the trails we've hiked?

I have no idea, but we finally did it yesterday. Here are some of the beauties we saw along the way:


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mada is 14 Years Old

He's a teenager! His hatch day was May 20, 2000. Val got him for Lisa's birthday, and he started staying with us in November of that year. Here's our little guy back then:

When he was a few months old

He was so cuddly!

Now, Dad is the only person he lets fluff him up this way!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mount St. Helens

Some of my best memories in recent years come from working on the north flank of this beautiful mountain. But I do remember May 18, 1980. My husband was working in the USGS National Center in Reston and called me to say they had all realized that David Johnston had died that day. These grown men, mostly unemotional scientists, were standing around crying.

One-third of a century later:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

WALL-E Learns About Love

How does a robot learn about love? From watching an old videocassette of "Hello, Dolly," of course!

I was wondering where that song "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" came from, so I looked it up, and here's what I found:
Thanks to WALL-E, we now know two things that will survive the apocalypse: cockroaches...and Hello, Dolly! In the Pixar hit, a videocassette of the 1969 movie musical survives centuries of decay and trash compacting to become the title robot's introduction to human emotion, if not a guide for living. Two fairly obscure songs from Jerry Herman's Dolly score, ''Put On Your Sunday Clothes'' and ''It Only Takes a Moment,'' not only bookend the animated blockbuster but reoccur at key thematic intervals throughout. 

Friday, May 16, 2014


They're all so close together in our family, I keep getting mixed up which one is which. So, today, just in case, I'm writing this:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all my Pratt siblings! If your birthday was yesterday and I missed it (Sorry, Ellen!) or tomorrow and I sent birthday greetings yesterday (Sorry, Reo!), what can I say, except, again, Sorry!

And then later this month is Sandra's birthday. She would have been 67. No more to say about that.

Thanks to Nancy Beth, who posted this photo on Facebook, I have it again (lost when my computer crashed a few months ago):

Where was this picture taken, anyway?

National Ride Your Bike to Work Day

Yep, that's it: Today, May 16, 2014: And Jason was already planning to ride his bike to work, when we heard that on the news this morning.

Fiction Friday: May 16, 2014: V is for Vengeance

Madame L has already reviewed this book, two years ago. And here she is, reading it again just because it happened to be in that section of the library where she had sat down to get some work done, work she was too distracted for at home.

Madame L has been looking and waiting for the next book in this alphabet series, and now that she has re-read the "V" book, she's going to check the "W" book out of the library: "W is for Wasted," which was published in September 2013.

Meanwhile, Madame L has enjoyed Sue Grafton's "Kinsey and Me," a collection of short stories about Kinsey Milhone, the heroine of the alphabet series; some stories about Kit Blue, the heroine of another set of Ms. Grafton's stories; and an essay about how Ms. Grafton grew up in a home with an alcoholic mother. That story doesn't explain everything about Kinsey Milhone or Kit Blue, of course --- Madame L doesn't understand how some people think knowing about an author's past reveals a lot about the author's characters --- but it's a compelling story and lets us feel like at least we know a little more.

Here's an interview with Sue Grafton which sheds more light on her as a writer and a person. The interviewer was wondering what Ms. Grafton will do when she gets to the end of the alphabet.  Like most authors, she's a little cagey about that, even in answering what the "X" book will be:
Q: Any clue what X might be?
A: Almost has to be Xenophobe or Xenophobia. I’ve checked the penal codes in most states and xylophone isn’t a crime, so I’m stuck.
And so, to answer Jeff's comment/question**  when Madame L wrote about this book two years ago, maybe she'll HAVE to switch to Cyrillic.

** He wrote, "Ummm. What happens after the 26th book? Does she switch to Cyrillic? She can get in another seven books if she switches to Russian. ;=)"

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How We Win: By Spirit

Maybe this should go in my training blog, but that would make it seem like I thought my training was anywhere near the level of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I don't. But I can learn from them.

Pres. Obama awarded the Medal of Honor on Tuesday the 13th to an army sergeant, Kyle White, for running to and staying with his wounded companions under fire in "Ambush Alley." You can read the whole story and see the video of the news story here.

Here's what Sgt. White said:

"Battles are not won by men. If that were true, the Taliban would have won on that trail in Afghanistan because they had every tactical advantage, including the numbers.

"Battles are won by spirit. And spirit is present in the relationships built from trust and sacrifice we share with one another in times of hardship, and, by that definition, cannot be possessed by one person.

"Without the team, there could be no Medal of Honor. That is why I wear this medal for my team."

Here's the whole ceremony:

Tara the Cat: "She's a Hero!"

(I chose this video, of all the possible ones, because it shows the essentials, without the idiotic commentary by the TV "news" announcers.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brad Paisley Sings About Rocks

From his new album, "Your Substrata Makes My Lava Flow":

Monday, May 12, 2014

BNSF, Part 1

Here is one of the videos of the BNSF train we saw that day last summer:

We watched for a long time while this freight train went through a huge number of ins-and-outs of that shed, hitching up cars, unhitching them, moving them around so they could get the next one on at the right place so it could be unhitched again at its final destination, and so on.

I've got a few more of these but can't post them, apparently because the files are large and my system is too slow. But at least this one works.

You don't even have to be a big fan of railroads and trains to enjoy watching this happen, and what made it even better, and what I'd love to show here, were the guys who were managing the operation, who came and talked to us, explained why they were doing it all in the order in which they were doing it, and even let us ride in the train. Just amazing!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Damper for Mother's Day, Because, Damper: Yum!

All I wanted for my Mother's Day breakfast this morning was damper and Ibuprofen.

Because, Damper: Yum!

So my sweet husband made the damper (biscuits, from a mix, and without the ashes, thank goodness, that would have made it more "authentic") and brought me the Ibu.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Best Jujitsu Video Ever!

This movie was made in 1947. We are still teaching exactly the same techniques in our women's self-defense classes.

Don't you just love the music, the clothes, and the way the woman sashays around? And most of all, even though it's obviously choreographed, the brutal effectiveness of the moves?

Check out our new Web site,, for more about who we are and what we do, with thanks to Jason Hirata for updating the site.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fiction Friday: May 9, 2014: Knockdown

Madame L loves the Dick Francis stories about heroic jockeys who solved crimes, putting themselves in danger while winning the hearts, and bodies, of beautiful women, kind of like mini-James Bonds.

So when Madame L spotted "Knockdown" in the section of her local library where a whole lot of paperback mysteries and romance novels are all shelved together to distract people (like Madame L) who have gone to the library with their trusty laptop computer to get some work done that they can't get done anywhere else because they're so easily distracted, she picked it up and started reading it.

And, sorry to say, Madame L finished reading it. Not "sorry to say" because it's a bad book,  but because Madame L should have known better. Same plot, same bad guys, same good guy (the 130-pound jockey with nerves of steel and a frankly incredible ability to get up after being knocked down and kicked around), same good guy's pathetic friends (in this case an alcoholic brother who messes up everything he touches, until, well, you guessed it, so Madame L doesn't even need to add "Spoiler Alert!" here, until the very end), same beautiful women, same motivation for good guys and bad guys, same sex scenes, same everything.

But Madame L kept reading it, just as she kept reading "Never Go Back" and all those other Jack Reacher books. Why? Because Dick Francis, like Lee Child and other mystery/thriller authors, is really a good writer. These books are all page-turners.

Solution to this mystery: Madame L will have to find a different section of the library to curl up with her laptop.

Because, Damper: Yum!

I'm always so relieved to find that others agree with me about the annoyingly sentimental and stupid ways that some people think of to celebrate Mother's Day.

Chocolate candies when Mom has been trying ever since New Year's Day to lose weight? A card with a picture of a rose and an idiotic poem written by a Hallmark hack? Flowers and a lot of talks about heroically self-sacrificing and now dear departed mothers at church? No, thanks!

And here's a new one, from Lisa in Australia:
Oh yeah, there's no forgetting Mother's Day (because unlike Father's Day, it's the same day in Australia and the U.S.) because here the Scouts have organised a whole bunch of activities to "honour" mothers, all of which involve work from the parents.

I can only assume that their goal is to honour the mothers of every non-scout in the community, and require the mothers of scouts to prove that they're really good mothers. So on Sunday morning, instead of sleeping in, I have to help the kids sell flowers for 2 hours, and on Monday night I have to pack, for each kid, a whole slew of things (camp chair, mug, plate, head-torch, all labelled) and help them prepare the raw dough to make damper, all so that my little scouts can make their mother damper*** and hot chocolate around the campfire.

(Because, damper: yum!)

Naturally, I'm going to be the one doing most of the work and cleaning up for this event. Of course, the instructions are to make your scout do all the work and clean-up, but really? Maybe other people have more capable kids than I do, but making the kids do the work is actually way more stressful for me than just doing it myself.

(It will involve not just telling them to do things but laying it out step-by-step and showing them where everything is located -- "Now go to the third drawer to get a piece of tape to put on the bottom of that plate and write your name on it. Now go to the garage and get a camp chair... it's on the right, next to the door. You might have to move the ladder to get it out. Then get the broom to brush off the spiders. No, don't knock over the ladder! Fine, I'll put it back, I  know it's heavy. Now put it in the back of the car... would you two stop fighting? You can't both put your chairs in at the same time! Well, you're going to have to figure out how to make them fit. Think  of it as being like a puzzle.")

As you can tell, I'm not into Mother's Day either...

***Damper: See Madame L's Weird Word of the Week (Because, damper: yum!)

Friday, May 2, 2014


A friend of mine once told me what he did when people asked him to tell them a "secret" he knew. He would lean in close and say, "Can you keep a secret?"

They would get all excited and say, "Yes!"

And he would say, "So can I."

So here's a Web site with quotes about secrecy. One of my favorites is this one from Benjamin Franklin: "Three may keep a Secret, if two of them are dead."

Fiction Friday: May 2, 2014: Never Go Back

Madame L finally had a chance to sit down and read the latest Jack Reacher book, "Never Go Back." If you like these books, this is as good as any. If you don't like them, or if you've read more than one and can't remember which one was which, you may want to pass.

Author Lee Child has created a fast-paced and readable formula with his hero Jack Reacher. The result is a series of best-sellers in which Reacher saves the world single-handedly, well, sometimes with a little help from his friends, who sometimes include a woman, who is always shapely but slender, capable and saucy, and with whom he almost always spends at least one hot night with.

No matter whether he chances upon a scandal, murder or attempted murder, hi-jinks in high places, in his hitch-hiking across America, Jack Reacher's your man. And this time, he goes back, even though he knows he should Never Go Back. Get it? Ha! Yes, you got it!

Madame L's Dear Readers may be wondering why Madame L bothered to read another one of the Reacher books, if she's so cynical and disillusioned about them. That's the thing, Dear Readers. Madame L gets sucked into the plots, implausible and improbable as they may be, and she wants to know what's going to happen next.

Thus, in "Never Go Back," when Reacher goes back to his old post near Washington, D.C., just because he liked listening to the voice of the woman currently in charge of the 100th MP, Madame L wanted to find out what was going to happen. (The previous three or four books had been leading up to this, so Madame L knew it was coming.)

Of course that woman wouldn't be there, after all (and she wasn't), she would be in need of rescue (and she was), but once she accepted Reacher's help she would be capable and sexy and she would want Reacher just as much as he wanted her and would be just as anxious as he was to disengage afterwards (all of the above, check).

One interesting plot twist that Madame L is sure will be exploited in the next book or two was the girl who people claimed was Reacher's daughter (but she wasn't). At least Reacher won't be having sex with her, or at least that's Madame L's hope, when he inevitably is drawn back to L.A. to rescue her and her tired-blonde-with-a-heart-of-gold-but-brain-of-pancake-batter mother.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day and Mother

Of course it's not just Mother Goose Day, but also May Day, which always reminds me of my mother. I remembered her throughout the day on April 26, her birthday, and wanted to write something about her, but I couldn't think of anything profound to write.

I still don't have anything profound to write, but I have this memory: picking flowers from our garden and putting them in little baskets which we had made ourselves, and bringing them to our neighbors and calling out, "Happy May Day!"

Unfortunately, I can't access any of my beautiful photos of my beautiful mother right now, but here's one from her obituary. When I have a chance to pull up some good photos, I'll post them here.

Mother Goose Day

Yes, the lady at the library assured me, it's really Mother Goose Day! They looked it up on the Internet, so that's how they know it really is. (:)

(They didn't really have to look it up on the Internet!---because it's a library thing.)

From the official Mother Goose Society's Web site: 
From The Only True Mother Goose Melodies, c. 1843

Mother Goose Day was founded in 1987 by Gloria T. Delamar in tandem with the publication of her book, Mother Goose; From Nursery to Literature (MFarland Pub.). The day is now listed in many calendars of events and celebrated throughout the United States. It has been noted by municipalities, a cereal producer, banks, etc. and has a particular appeal to Kindergarten-Primary grades, libraries, and nursing homes.