Sunday, January 4, 2009


It's sometimes difficult to measure what we have done in a year. I decided to start a list, actually several lists, that might measure some of the things I accomplish this year. I will return to this post often, to add to my lists.

Books Read
Title, author, rated 0-5 (perhaps a comment)
1. Shadow of Power, Steve Martini, 3.5, rather slow
2. Secret Prey, John Sandford, 4.5, This author is always a good read.
3. Unnatural Exposure, Patricia Cornwell, 4
4. The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell, 4.5 (nonfiction ---see #8 below)
5. The Broken Window, Jeffrey Deaver, 4.5
6. Death Match, Lincoln Child, 4
Incidentally, books #5 & #6 had similar themes of intrusive use of data
leading to murder. In addition, in #5 the main character's first name is
Lincoln, whereas the author's first name is Lincoln in #6.
7. Experiment with Death, Elizabeth Ferrars, 4
8. The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell, 5, This is history like you've never read it before. Vowell tells about the Pilgrims and Puritans of early America. The book is serious, but dead-on funny. Vowell connects events of the 1600's with more recent events. If I had had this as my history text in high school, I might have actually read the textbook. Of course the book would never be approved as a public school text since Vowell is an avowed liberal and atheist. Yet, she has a great deal of respect for the early American's religious teachings, while at the same time, thinking some of them were more than a little crazy.
9. The Whole Truth, David Baldacci, 4.5
10. The White House Connection, Jack Higgens, 3.5
11. Damage Control, J.A. Jance, 4.5
12. Dark Justice, Jack Higgens, 3.5
13. The Mighty and the Almighty, Madeleine Albright, 4 (non-fiction)
14. Gone Tomorrow, Lee Child, 5, Child's Jack Reacher series is always a good read. Too bad I can read them faster than he can write them.
15. Sudden Mischief, Robert Parker, 4, Spenser, Hawk and Susan at it again. This one was from the 90's ---somehow I had missed it.
16. High Profile, Robert Parker, 4, Jesse Stone police chief of Paradise, MA.
17. Mistress of the Vatican, Eleanor Herman, 5, non-fiction account of a woman who effectively ran the Vatican in the mid 1600's ---amazing story.
18. The Brass Verdict, Michael Connelly, 5, is always a great read.
19. Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 5, fascinating and troublesome true story of a woman born in Somalia to Muslim parents, lived in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and finally Holland. She was abandoned by her father, beaten ruthlessly by her mother, and finally forced to marry a man she didn't like. She eventually took refuge in Holland, rejected Islam, became an advocate for Muslim women and became a member of Parliament. She lives with body guards due to death threats.
20. Point Blank, Catherine Coulter, 4.5, FBI agents and local sheriff work together to solve several murders.
21. All the Dead Were Strangers, Ethan Block, 4
22. Cause for Alarm, Erica Spinder, 3.5
23. Dark of the Moon, John Sandford 4, (Virgil Flowers series)
24. Monday Mourning, Kathy Reichs, 3.5
25. Double Tap, Steve Martini, 4, this one had a rather clever resolution of the case.
Last year I was reading one or two books a week. I am not doing as well this year. I blame it on blogging.

Films, Videos, or DVDs Viewed (we belong to Netflix and borrow lots of library videos)
Title, rated 0-5 (perhaps a comment)
1. Rich and Strange, 3 (old black and white Hitchcock)
2. I Claudius - Part 11, 4.5 (30 years old, but still a great PBS series except for the snake during the beginning credits of each episode ---have I mentioned that I have a snake phobia?)
3. Dream Girls, 3.5 (disappointed)
4. I Claudius - Part 12, 4.5 (see #2)
5. The Bridges of Madison County, 4 (tear jerker)
6. Queen Mary 2 to Rio, 4 (documentary, fun for the rich and famous ---obviously not me)
7. Amazon (Imax), 4 (30 min. documentary, beautiful photography)
8. I Claudius - Part 13 (the last) 4.5 (see #2)
9. Cracker (British version), Season 2, Episode 1, 4.5 (I like it more than my husband does)
10. En La Puta Vida (Spanish with English subtitles), 4
11-12. Cracker, Season 2, Episode 2 & 3, (see #9)
13. The Best of Film Noir, 3.5 (mostly trailers from the 40s and 50s with commentary)
14-16. Cracker, Season 2, Episodes 4-6, (see #9)
17. Ontario (AAA travel film), 4
18. Quebec (AAA travel film), 4
19. Who Gets to Call It Art?, 4 (documentary on abstract expressionism and pop art of the 50s and 60s)
20-22. I Claudius Parts 1-3, 4 (you may notice that we already watched 11-13. But my husband watched 1-13 except for #3 which was not available at the library. So he ordered it on DVD from Netflix and we decided to start over since I hadn't seen the beginning.)
23. The Epic That Never Was, 4 (documentary about the filming of I Claudius starring Charles Laughton that was never completed, includes many scenes that were filmed before the project was abandoned and interviews with actors, directors, and others involved)
24. Africas' Dinosaur Giants, 4 (National Geographic documentary)
25-26. Dinosaur Egg Hunt and Sue the T.Rex, 3.5 (National Geographic documentary on same tape as #23)
27-28. Heart of Darkness, Episode 1 & 2, 3 (somewhat disappointing documentary about Vietnam)
29. Dear Frankie, 4.5 (I liked this very much)
30-31. Law and Order, Season 1, Episode 1 & 2, 4 (we didn't watch the first few years of this series, so we are going back to the beginning)
32-34. Cracker, Season 2, Episode 7-9, (see #9)
35-42. Bleak House, Episodes 1-8, 5 (BBC series)
43. Divided We Fall, 4.5 (foreign)
44. Paris, Texas, 3 (disappointed)
45-48. Law & Order, Season 1, Episodes 3-6
49. Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, 4, documentary
49. The Violin, 5, (Mexican black and white)
51-54. Our Mutual Friend, Episodes 1-4, 4.5 (BBC series)
55. Things We Lost in the Fire, 3 (this film had a lot of potential, but should have been better)
56. I Am Curious Yellow, 3.5 (oddly likable, but also very strange, and dated)
57. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, 5, (still holds up)
58. Behind the Sun, 4 (Brazilian film about irrational family revenge set in 1910)
59. Strange Days, 4 (I didn't like it at first, but it got better as the film went on, reminiscent of films like Blade Runner)
60. A Few Days in September, 3, (in this 2006 film, with her hair pulled back and her style of glasses, Juliette Binoche looks strangely like Sarah Palin two years before anyone outside of Alaska knew who she was)
61. Enduring Love, 4 (this film was extremely odd, but fascinating)
62. Wilby Wonderful, 2, (premise had potential, should have been better)
63. Bread And Tulips, 5, (Italian comedy with a middle aged woman as the protagonist, great acting, vibrant colors)
64-67. Law and Order: Season 1, Episodes 7-10
68. The Trials of Henry Kissinger, 4, documentary
69. Bonhoeffer, 4, documentary
70. A History of Violence, 3
71. The House of Mirth, 3.5
72. The Big Sleep, 4.5, oldie but goodie (this was the 1945 version, before release some scenes were reshot, so this version was never released to theaters)
73. Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero, 2, predictable, wasn't impressed with animation
74-75. Rome, episodes 1 & 2, 5, historical drama. (sexually graphic ---might not want to view it as a history project for the kids.)
76-78. The Tudors, episodes 1-3, 3.5, historical drama.
79. Adventures of a Young Man, 4, 1962 film based on several of Hemingway's short stories with his Nick Adams character (obviously autobiographical)
80. Keeping Score: Michael Tilson Thomas on Music, 5, although I like classical music, I am not as big fan as my husband is. This video shows how the conductor started to study a symphony and from there, how it came together for the performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, with the conductor doing the commentary. Besides being entertaining and fascinating, it also made me appreciate the final performance more than I would have without it. One thing I didn't realize is that months of preparation go into a performance, but the orchestra only rehearses together for a few days.
81. Vampire Secrets, 2, History Channel take on the history of vampires, besides seeming amateurish, it was too gory for me.
82. The Painted Veil, 4, well-acted but rather depressing.
83. Hard Times, 3.5, a Dickens' tale, again rather depressing.
84. The Signalman, 3.5, based on a Dickens' short ghost story
85. Soldier of God, 3.5, based on a crusader, too bloody for me.
86-89. Rome, 5, episodes 4-7.
90. The Buccaneers, 4, Edith Wharton tale. At first it seems like a soap opera about a bunch of silly well-to-do girls in the late 1800s, but it does improve.
91-93. Rome, 5. episodes 8-10
94-96. The Tudors, episode 4-6, 3.5
97. Wordplay, 5, documentary about crossword puzzle championship, sounds boring, but was interesting and funny.
98. Aquirre: The Wrath of God, 4, based losely on a group of men who searched for El Dorado in the South American jungles, and disappeared, the commentary by the director was as good as the film itself, actor Klaus Kinski is so strange, but perfect for this role.
99. The Fallen Idol, 4.
100. Bull Durham, 5, one of my all-time favorites which I try to watch once each spring.
101. Dangerous Crossing, 5, old film noir. My husband usually likes these more than I do, but I liked this one.
102-103. Rome, Episodes 11 & 12.
104. Adam's Apples, 4, Danish film, strange, dark and humorous.
105. Mrs. Henderson Presents, 4
106-108. All or Nothing at All, I didn't start liking this until the end of the 2nd episode.
109.-116. Rome, 5. Season 2, episodes 1-8
117. Becoming Jane, 3, based on Jane Austin's life, okay, not great.
118. Nuns on the Run, 4, Eric Idle (of Monty Python) and Robbie Coltrane hide from the bad guys by dressing up as nuns. Some great lines in this one.
119.-122. Dance to the Music of Time, 3.5, 4 episodes, long, British soap-operish saga that takes Nick Jenkins from a school boy during WWI to the early 60s.
123. The Sculptress, 4, based on Minette Walters' novel, made for PBS Mystery. Great story, a bit creepy. Pauline Quirke, who played Olive, was superb.
124. Four Brothers, 3
125. The Last King, 3, BBC production, Rufus Sewell portrays Charles II. This might have been great, but we couldn't hear much of the dialog and closed captioning wasn't available.
126. Midnight Express, 4, based on true story of a young man (Bill Hayes) imprisoned in Turkey for drug smuggling, I suggest reading a true account, as the film greatly exaggerated the bad conditions, corruption and cruelty to the dismay of the real Hayes.
127. Black Widow, 4, Ginger Rogers in an unusual role for her.
128.-135. DaVinci's Inquest: Season 3, Episodes 1-8, great Canadian series
136.-139. The Tudors, Season 1, Episodes 7-10
140. My Cousin Vinny, 5, one of my all-time favorites
141. 4-D Man, 3, old sci-fi
142. John and Abigail Adams: Love and Liberty, 4, documentary
143. Frances, 4, the life of actress Frances Farmer
144. Mystery of the Nile: IMAX, 4, documentary
145. The Visitor, 4
146. Operation Valkyrie: The Stauffenberg Plot to Kill Hitler, 4, documentary
147. Next Time We Love, 2.5
148. Thunder Bay, 3
149. The Glenn Miller Story, 4
150. You Gotta Stay Happy, 3.5
151. Shenendoah, 3.5
152-153. Rome, final episodes, 22 episodes in all. This was a great historical series, although not totally factual. However, it has much violence, lots of explicit sex and language, so it isn't an appropriate history lesson for your 12-year-old.
(Note: 147-151 were a part of a DVD set featuring 5 Jimmy Stewart movies. I always liked Stewart and I attended college in his home town.)
152-155. The Great Depression, 4-part History Channel documentary series, 4
156. Trouble in Paradise, thieves fall in love and scam their way to the top, 3.5
157-159. DaVinci's Inquest, Season 3, Disk 3, 4.5
160. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 3
161. My Man Godfrey, 3, screwball comedy
162. Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson, 4, documentary
163. James Dean: Live Fast, Die Young, 2.5
164. Juno, 4
165. Love in the Time of Cholera, 2, bad rendition of a great book
166. Eldorado, 2, strange film set in Belgium (in French), interesting premise but ended up going nowhere.
167. Murder on a Sunday Morning, 5, one of the best courtroom documentaries I've ever seen. A 15-year-old black youth was accused of murdering a tourist and stealing her money. Public defenders fight for his acquittal.
168-170. Da Vinci's Inquest, last three episodes of season 3, 4
171. A Room with a View, 5, this is one of my all-time favorites which I enjoy watching again and again. It is one of my husband's favorites, too.
172-181. Murder One, season one, episodes 1-10, 4.5, critically-acclaimed TV series that lasted only 2 seasons, the first season takes us through one case with some smaller side cases between.
182. The Secret Life of Words, 4, this film started so slowly, that we almost stopped watching after 20 minutes, but as soon as Tim Robbins' character appeared, it got interesting, although Robbins performance was rather weak.
183. After the Mayflower, PBS American Experience documentary, 4
184: Lizard Kings: On the Trail of the Monitor, 4, PBS NOVA documentary
185. 4-D Man, 2, lame old sci-fi good only for comic value

Miscellaneous Things I Did This Year:
(this will not include normal or mundane things like laundry or paying bills)
1. Created another blog: A Little "Peace" of Brazil
2. Weekly, we drive 25 miles to my mother's home to deliver groceries and put her medications in a pill organizer. She is 95 and living alone. She has in-home help while we are waiting for an opening in assisted living near my home. My husband drops me off, then he goes to the library. When he returns we often have a few "fix-it" jobs for him.
3. Updated Quicken files for 2008
4. Hemorrhaged money at Costco (the cupboard was bare)
5. Edited previously-written stories and created illustrations for future posts for 2 public and 1 private blogs
6. Helped my husband shovel a foot of snow from sidewalks (unusual amount of snow for this area.)
7. Shoveled more snow (still half the driveway to complete.)
8. Finished shoveling the driveway.
9. Shoveled 3 more inches of snow.
10. Shoveled 3 more inches of snow.
11. Helped my husband clean the car, inside and out, while in the heated garage. We shoveled 2.5 more inches of snow. By the time we finished all the sidewalks, there was another 1/2 inch. We will tackle the driveway tomorrow.
12. Shoveled all the sidewalks again (3 more inches), and 6 inches from half the driveway.
13. Wrote "The Joys of Winter #2" to explain why all this snow is unusual for this area ---so far 24" in 9 days.
14. Shoveled the last of the driveway and knocked icicles (some 4 ft long) from the gutters on the garage.
15. Helped my husband put together a new computer desk. Some of the holes for the hardware were not in the correct places, so we had to fiddle with it. That was easier than shipping it back.
16. Traveled about 50 miles (1 way) to pick up 2 used car doors and a trunk lid to replace the rusted ones on my husband's car. Ate lunch in a pub on the way home.
17. Since the last big snowfall, we have had an inch here, an inch there, several 3" snowfalls, today another 2", totaling 10".
18. In the garage, we washed the salt off the car, shoveled snow, filled bird feeders.
19. We have been working on and off to rid ourselves of useless or old paperwork. We are shredding anything with personal information and putting the rest into containers to take to a paper recycling box (our trash pick-up will not take any papers but newspapers.) This has been an on going project for several months.
20. My husband set up Receipt Wallet on his computer and we scanned every receipt from 1/1/09 to the present. He also scanned many documents into the program so that we can throw away much of the ever-growing paperwork that takes up space and time. (see #18.)
21. Started physical therapy for back, knee, and ankle pain and do stretching exercises daily. Conveniently, the PT is a 2-3 minute walk from our house.
22. Went to an outlet mall to purchase new sneakers for both of us. We do Nordic walking whenever time and weather permit. I needed shoes with more support for my ankle. My husband's best walking shoes were falling apart. I cracked a bone in my left ankle in 2001 and have turned or sprained it so many times that tendons and ligaments are torn. When I had surgery (2007) for a torn meniscus in myright knee, they found lots of arthritis. My lower back pain is fairly new.
23. Completed our own taxes and, for the first time tackled my 95-year-old mother's complicated taxes. I expect to hear from the IRS to inform me of the errors.
24. Several days, we worked in the yard, cleaning up debris from last fall, digging weeds, etc. to prepare for planting.
25. After 40 years, I was able to contact former students and neighbors from the 2 years I spent in Brazil as a Peace Corps Volunteer. With much email flying back and forth between here and Brazil and here and Brunie in California, she (another volunteer in the same community) and I are tentatively planning a trip to Brazil in 2010.
26. Planted trees. I can't take much credit for this as I helped but my husband did most of the work: dug up 150 square feet of sod, spread topsoil, dug 10 holes 17" across by 17" deep, mixed potting soil with the soil removed from the holes, planted ten arbor vitae trees. We did this during a rare April heat wave with temperatures approaching 90 degrees. We still need to cut a cover sheet to keep weeds from growing and spread bark mulch. We need to water the trees daily for several weeks, then every-other day for several weeks unless it rains. Luckily we expect rain for the next 4 days, because we are exhausted.
27. Mostly I have been blogging. I have two public and one private blog and spend almost all of m spare time working on those.
28. Gardening, gardening, gardening. We have spent a lot of time making new trellises for our beans and new tomato cages, shopping for supplies, planting, mulching, watering, trimming. We hemorrhaged money during the month of May.
29. Our electric fence, used to keep rabbits from our garden was damaged by all the snow last winter. So we rebuilt it ---by the time we got it up, the rabbits already ate some of our beans, so we had to replant seeds every few days, but that might help stagger the crop when the beans are ready to be harvested.
30. Had a battery of medical tests for various problems. Had about 5 months of physical therapy for back pain with no improvement. Exploratory surgery for another medical problem, which looks like the results will be negative.
31. Started a diet to see if losing some weight will improve back, knee, and ankle pain.
32. Attended a Mark Twain conference in Elmira NY.
33. Harvested about 30 pounds of beans, blanching & freezing them. Also made sauce from tomatoes and froze that.
34. Helped my husband work on two of our cars. Both had numerous problems. Had to rent cars several times to get around while these were out of commission.
35. We worked for weeks cleaning up and organizing the garage and storing things we didn't need immediately to make room for more garage projects.
36. Because of my upcoming trip to Brazil in the fall of 2010, I started to study Portuguese. I lived in Brazil 1967-69, but have forgotten most of what I knew. I have a pocket translator that has quizes on it. I also have a Portuguese software program and several pocket-sized books that easily fit in a purse. I also carry my pocket Portuguese dictionary. Anytime I am caught waiting, whether for an appointment or for water to boil, I get out one of my learning tools. I also keep a small notebook where I keep a list of words I want to remember. This is for a 10-day (or so) trip, so I am ignoring words that I rarely use in English, gfiguring I can get along without them in Portuguese.
37. Set up an Orkut account ---it's sort of like My Space, but used a lot in South America. This is my way of communicating with those I will be visiting next year in Brazil.
38. Our health insurance plan ends Oct. 31, so I made appointments for a few problems (before our current insurance runs out) and then we had to decide what plan to go with (we had 2 choices) starting Nov. 1. This took many phone calls and much research to decide what would meet our needs and budget the best. Once we applied for the new plan, they made us dig out our marriage certificate to prove we are married since our last names are different. (We were in that plan before 1999-2002 and they accepted us as a married couple without documentation.)
39. Set up a private blog for members of my Peace Corps Training group who served in Brazil 1967-69. I have also been attempting to find some of the members of the group with whom we have all lost touch.
40. Installed a new storm door. We had purchased it when we were buying a bunch of other things at Lowe's, because shipping was free when we purchased a certain amount. But we left it sit in the box on the back porch for over two years. We were supposed to have three unusually warm days for November, so started to work on it the first day just in case we ran into unusual problems, which we did. We had to make adjustments for the door to fit properly. We didn't spend all day working on it, but perhaps a total of 12 hours over three days. It might have been worth paying for installation, because installers could probably do it in an hour ---but then we wouldn't have learned anything.

No comments: