Monday, January 9, 2012

Thinking about New Year's Resolutions

I’d been planning to write a little something about my own New Year’s resolutions when I came across a piece in this past Sunday’s New York Times Sunday Review section. John Tierney, the author of the article, “Be It Resolved”, wrote: “… you’re much more likely to make improvements than someone who hasn’t made a formal resolution.” I guess that means making an actual written list of the resolutions, not just thinking about it when I wake up in the middle of the night.
 The article starts out with people’s most common resolutions: to lose weight, to exercise more, to spend less money.

So far I had not made a list of my own 2012 resolutions, so I’ll do that here:

1)      Take off the 5 pounds I recently put on, after losing 12 last year. How did that happen?
2)      Work on Rosetta Stone Spanish at least an hour a day.
3)      Spend at least an hour a day playing the piano.
4)      Spend less time on Facebook so I’ll have more time for #3 and #4.
5)      Call, not just email, my grown-up children more often. They live all over the place.
6)      Get back to pursuing some genealogy.
7)      Scan slides of family activities. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of them.
8)      Blog more often. It gets me writing, which I need to do.

Weight: Those pounds snuck up on me. I don’t think they have anything to do with holiday celebrations. I think I’m just back into my old eating habits. I exercise as much as I ever did, so I don’t think that’s a factor. I just need to be more careful about what I put in my mouth, both liquid and solid. Wish I didn’t like Scotch and brandy so much.

Spanish: I’ve recently taken classes in conversational Spanish. They  got me basically nowhere. I’ve stuck little labels all over the house: “el horno” on the oven, “la ventana” on a window. A little of it stays with me, but I still go into a “deer in the headlights” mode when I have to come up with a word or phrase. So I need to practice more if I ever expect to hold a conversation. I’m hoping that a greater commitment to Rosetta Stone will help.

Piano: We got a nice little spinet from our friend Lynn who had no further use for it. We’ve had it tuned several times to get it up to pitch. It sounds pretty good. Bob plays it off and on, and I do too, except that, for me, it’s mostly “off.”

Facebook: No explanation needed.

Phone contact: I really don’t like to use the phone. I can’t understand why I think I need an iPhone; I don’t think I’ll ever turn it on, but we’ll see. But I do like talking with my sons and daughters, grandkids, and sons and daughters-in-law. So I plan to get around the time zones and do more of that.

Genealogy: My daughters are asking questions about who came from where. That should motivate me. I have to get back to a somehow removed cousin to find out more about my father’s family. Mother’s data is much more difficult to access. I think I might have to travel to Prague, or at least the courthouse in Cleveland  to find out more.

Scanning slides: I just have to resolve to do it. A couple of years ago I scanned all the black and white photos (hundreds of them), copied them to my external hard drive, and sent CDs to all the kids. So now I have to attack the slides. I need to find out about slide scanners and buy a decent one.

So maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew (no reference to food). I’ll just have to see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Looking Back on Some Memorable Readings, Movies, Plays, Operas, TV Shows

Maye’s Request, by Clifford Henderson
The Feast of the Goat, about the Trujillo regime, by Vargas Llosa
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson
La’s Orchestra, by Alexander McCall Smith
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, by P.D. James
The Right Attitude to Rain, Alexander McCall Smith
The Darkest Jungle, by Todd Balf, about finding a way through the Darien to the Pacific
Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez
The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
Innocent, by Scott Turow
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens,  for the 2011 Dickens Universe
Unbroken, by Lauren Hillenbrand
The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross
The Border Trilogy and The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot  
Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose
Frankenstein, by Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
Supposing Bleak House, by John Jordan, for the 2012 Dickens Universe
The Help, by Emma Donoghue
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez
Alma Rose, by Edith Forbes
Darwin’s Armada, by Iain McCalman
The Room, by Kathryn Stockett
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean
The Ape House, by  Sara Gruen
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eumenides
A Good American, by Alex George
Code of the Woosters, by H.G. Wodehouse
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Darwin and the Novelists, by George Levine
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak 
 Verdi’s Shakespeare, by Garry Wills
Catherine The Great, by Robert Massie
and, into 2012, Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eumenides.

Movies (in theaters and on TV):
True Grit with Jeff Bridges; Letter to Three Wives; The Siberian Express; Pollock; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; The Bourne Ultimatum; Social Network (my favorite for the year, should’ve won the Oscar); Gaslight; The Graduate; Born Yesterday (with Judy Holliday); Not the Messiah;  Reduced Shakespeare; Charade with Audrey Hepburn; Annie Hall; Major League (an annual favorite); The Fighter; While You Were Sleeping; The King’s Speech; Easter Parade; Tell No One; The Wedding Planner; David Copperfield; The Best Years of Our Lives; Emma; Get Shorty; Bringing Up Baby; City Lights;  The Soloist; Great Expectations (David Lean); Harry Potter II; The Lincoln Lawyer; Midnight In Paris; The Big Year; Moonstruck (again); My Week with Marilyn; Hugo; The Front (Woody Allen); The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (American version); the new Muppet Movie.

Plays (at the Arden and Act II Playhouse):
Superior Donuts, Wanamaker’s Pursuit, Art, The Male Intellect, Sylvia, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Romeo and Juliet (Severna Park High School production)

Operas (all HDTV productions):
Iphegenie in Tauride, Nixon in China, Lucia di Lammermoor, Capriccio, Le Comte Ory, Die Walkure, Anna Bolena, Siegfried, Don Giovanni, Satyagraha.

Classical Music:
Philadelphia Orchestra, three concerts. Highlights: Brahms Requiem;  Higdon’s  Concerto for Orchestra, both conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin; Copland, Clarinet Concerto with Ricardo Morales, conducted by Marin Alsop.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Our Holiday Letter -- A Summary of the Year's Activities

Dear Friends and Family,                                         

We’ll best remember the winter of 2011 for the snow. It seemed as if we’d just finished shoveling the driveway and cleaning off the cars in time for another blizzard.

But, for more fun things, we started off 2011 with a visit to Biz and Tom and the boys in Severna Park for our traditional late holiday celebration. Soon after that we left for a couple of weeks in California to see Adrienne, Judah and Zoe in San Francisco; Cliff and Dixie in Santa Cruz; Kaaren and Steve in Morro Bay; and West and Dani in Winchester. We’ll do the trip again in January 2012.

In February we drove to Florida, stopping in Salisbury, NC to see Jerry Cochran, and in Decatur, GA to see Rafe and Ilze. We spent a couple of nights with Ann and Mac Scott in Sarasota, and three nights in Naples with Tom and Mary Cush. Then across the state to see Alvin, and the long drive home.

March brought our second trip to Panama. I had put the trip together, along with Hernan Arauz, our guide from our previous trip. All of the participants were good friends of ours. We visited several different parts of Panama, from the resort at Gamboa to a native Embara village where we stayed in an elevated hut. One highlight was a long, muddy hike to see the Harpy Eagle, a truly awesome bird. Hernan and his fiancé Rebecca visited us at Christmastime, and we took them to Longwood Gardens.

We drove to Boston in early April to attend Andy’s pre-graduation concert. He and classmates had composed several pieces, which were performed in a concert hall by professional musicians. As part of that trip we visited Linda Hoffman in Harvard, MA and Carol and Don Scott in Chatham.

In May we met friends Susan and Jack at Magee Marsh in Ohio to see migrating warblers. In late July we returned to Santa Cruz for the Dickens Universe and Great Expectations. Then to Katy, TX in early September for a few days’ visit with James and Sharesa. Back to Santa Cruz in mid September for our annual dog-sit on Monterey Bay.

Clifford and Dixie visited us in October, as part of their East Coast trip. We all went to NYC to meet friend Fred Huber at Penguin Publishing. We ate a memorable lunch at Ear Inn in the financial district. Later on that month we saw Sam perform in “Witches” in Annapolis.

In the midst of all that we managed to get to see several HDTV Met Operas, some PhilOrch concerts, a few plays at Act II Playhouse in Ambler, and went to PMA for some special art exhibits.

I continued as program chair of our local Audubon chapter, and went out birding with friends at least once a week. I also did some NY trips with Cheltenham Adult Education School. I post some ramblings at Bob continued with his golf and tennis. We had our kitchen updated, with new counters and a new floor. It looks nice.

We’ve been discouraged with the way financial markets continue to operate, and with the current political scene, but all in all, it’s been a good, busy year for us.

We wish you all the best in 2012.