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Showing posts from May, 2009

Postcard from the Fringe

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... Back in 1997, Robb and I were living in Baltimore, and running a small theater company with our friends. Things were going well, we were doing exciting work, and we decided to take one of our productions to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival . We raised (what was for us) a lot of money. We came up with ingenious ways to scale down our show so that we could ship it to Scotland. We prepared to install, perform and strike our show every single night. We rented a flat in Edinburgh. We bought travelers' checks to pay the rent on our performance space and flat. We hired a promoter. Then the big day arrived. Everyone who was going to Scotland headed off to the airport. And things started to go wrong. Our travelers' checks were left in our office. Our scenery, which we had shipped ahead, got stuck at the docks, because of a customs snarl-up. Our baggage was broken into by the airline's baggage handlers, and our tools were stolen. But the worst and scariest part of

Jobs

Remember that list of jobs that Robb was supposedly qualified to do, but that made us laugh at its absurdity? Well, we've got another one to add to this list. Working for Canon Electronics. We found this article at Gizmodo . Can you imagine working in a place where the boss got rid of all the chairs and put in alarms which go off when you don't walk fast enough? Well some of the folks who work at Canon don't need to imagine - its a reality for them. The president of Canon Electronics Hisashi Sakamaki is also the author of a book called "A company will do well if you get rid of the chairs and computers" - available on Amazon . According to his book, employees can concentrate on the meeting at hand without chairs and they have been able to half the number of meetings each year. He also says that by standing at work, the employees develop a closer relationship with each other and that problems are solved much more quicker. The company also saves on the

Whatever Happened with the Lawn-Covering Neighbors?

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... A lot of people have written to ask if we ever figured out what our crazy neighbors were up to with all that lawn-covering. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, or if you want a good laugh, click here . Oh heck, click here , too. That's pretty funny as well.) I never answered the questions about the neighbors because I didn't want admit to my part in the story. I pretty much come off looking crazier than the neighbors, and that's saying something. As it turns out, the neighbors technique of covering every inch of their lawn every single night, and leaving out an un-baited live-catch trap payed off. After months, they caught a very angry screaming juvenile raccoon. I don't know if you've ever heard a panicking raccoon. It is not a soothing sound. Our neighbors didn't seem to have a plan, beyond "cover lawn with linens, set trap, catch wild animal." After much raccoon screaming, and loud arguing in their kitchen (which we

A Day at the Races

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... Robb called me from the trail, to see how I was feeling (still sick, sweaty and woozy, thanks for asking). "I went to the track today and came out fifty bucks ahead" he told me. Now, neither Robb nor I have the gambling gene. The only parts of being in a casino that I find interesting are the people watching, and (perversely) how much my people watching freaks Robb out . Robb's uncle and grandfather were New York police officers, and I credit this fact with Robb's fear of offending anyone connected to the Mafia. Apparently, there are rules about this, and chief among them is You Do Not Look at Anyone or Anything in a Casino For More Than Thirty Seconds . Casinos are owned by the Mafia. Mafia business is not your business. Avert your eyes, and move along quickly. I may, of course, be totally mistaken and even delusional about all of this. In any case neither of us have any interest in gambling, and find racetracks terribly boring. I'm sorry. We

Bug

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... I've got some kind of summer cold, which has turned my brain to jelly, and sapped all my energy. My co-workers are dis-assembling the scenery for The Lieutenant of Inishmore and as soon as they are finished, Sheri and I will be repainting a gigantic expanse of stage floor. I'm hoping that I feel better soon, because painting an acre of shiny black without any flaws is an exhausting and daunting task under the best of circumstances. I like the use of the word "bug" to describe an illness, or an annoyance, or any of a number of insects. I remember a visiting Belgian being irritated by the seeming inexactness of the word "bug." I suppose you could say that it bugged him (but that would be a cheap joke, and I would never do that). The bug in the top photos is, I think, a honey bee. That would be a European species, introduced to America for agricultural purposes. I think this bee-like bug is a native hover fly, or Syrphus opinator . More hone

Post-Holiday Blues

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... Robb and I happened upon this napping Cormorant whilst cycling on Sunday afternoon. I took a lot of uninteresting photos of him, dead asleep. And then, he yawned, shook out his feathers, and resumed his nap. I certainly had no idea that the inside of a Cormorant's mouth was such a splendid shade of blue! I wonder if this color lasts year round, or is in place only during breeding season? This is a Double-Crested Cormorant , named after his tufts that look a bit like false eyelashes. Not surprisingly, he only wears those long enough to attract a mate. I hope you all had a love holiday weekend, and that you're re-energized for whatever you need to be doing.

change in plans

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... Robb and I were supposed to go to a letterboxing party in Folsom, but it ended up that neither of us were feeling prepared to do all that driving. Robb certainly wasn't going to be comfortable after four hours in the car. I seem to be getting a sore throat, which seems unfair on a holiday weekend. Robb hadn't been cycling for days, which is not a good thing. When he doesn't keep his legs in motion he suffers, physically. So despite feeling low-energy, we went out for a spin on the Bay Trail. I had stupidly forgotten to check my camera battery, which (of course) was completely exhausted. We certainly biked faster because I wasn't stopping every fifty feet to photograph something or other. I'm not really used to Robb's new camera. Photographing with a digital point and shoot is really foreign to me, since I've been using a camera where I sight through a view-finder. That new-fangled picture-screen! For as long as we've been cycling the

Is this seat taken?

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... photo by Kevin Burne Last night was opening night for the final show of Berkeley Rep's season . Robb and I only stayed through the first act. Now, this had nothing to do with the show. Robb has limited "sitting tolerance." Because of the damage done to his body by his spinal cord injury, he just can't bear sitting for more than about half an hour. After that time, Robb is in horrible discomfort, and if he ignores the pain, it lasts for days. This, to put it bluntly, really sucks. It means that we have to think long and hard about seeing any movie on the big screen. It means that we can't travel by plane. It means that even though Robb can't walk great distances, he doesn't find a wheelchair very useful, either. And it means that going to the theater will cause days of residual discomfort. So, for the moment, we see a fair amount of First Acts, and get our friends to tell us about the parts of the shows that we missed. Two years ago:

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

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... Robb noticed an article in the local news about a baby Harbor Seal that had been found by a police officer in the middle of a busy intersection, in the middle of the night, in the middle of Richmond California. The officer, no doubt charmed by the insane cuteness of the baby seal, closed the street, until staff from the Marine Mammal Center could take the animal to their rehab hospital for a looking-over. The Marine Mammal Center is an amazing facility. You can watch the NOVA program online, and it really is moving . One really amusing thing about the work of this center is that they name the animals (many rehab centers do not, in the spirit of reminding everyone that the animals are wild, and not pets). On the NOVA program, the staff were going through a phase of naming the animals "Your Mother" and "Your Sister," as in "Your Mother has been eating tons of squid and is getting nice and fat." The seal found last night was named "Moody,&

Free Tickets!

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... Do any bay Area readers want to see The Lieutenant of Inishmore, the blood-and-gut black comedy that I've written about? To request tickets, please call the box office and request the Wee Thomas offer. Sorry, emails to me will not be honored. Tickets are available for the following performances only: Fri, May 22, 8pm Sat, May 23, 8pm Sun, May 24, 2pm Sun, May 24, 7pm * Call the box office at 510-647-2949, hours 12noon to 7pm, Tue thru Sun * Limit of 2 tickets per person. * Must mention Wee Thomas when ordering tickets * Tickets must be ordered by phone. No walk ups. * This offer is based on availability and may expire at any time * Sorry, this offer is not available retroactively. No late seating. The Lieutenant of Inishmore runs 2 hrs including one intermission More info on the show can be found here. And if you bring in a photo of your cat, you can get a dollar off of a drink at our bar. ...

Opening Night

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... Eleven hour work days, involving hours and hours of squatting and standing (and squatting and standing, and squatting and standing) results in sore, exhausted painters. (And hopefully some nice scenery.) This photo is actually from a long time ago. I don't have any interesting pictures of the current project, which opens tonight. A year ago: Fake lawns for lizards Two years ago: Aquatic therapy for Robb Three years ago: We have wonderful, generous friends. ...

I'm talkin to you, Mister Towhee.

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The Healing Power of Nature

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... I've been feeling horribly burned out, for quite some time. I feel like I'm that little mouse, running on its wheel, expending a lot of energy, and getting nowhere at all. I've been dreaming of a vacation in the country, roaming the back roads, and swimming in rivers, being quiet, thinking my thoughts. Unfortunately, this is just an idle dream at the moment. I'm busy with work, and New York is three thousand miles away. Besides, Robb would not be able to participate in this vacation, which fills me with conflicting emotions. I would love some time to myself, but I feel horribly guilty for saying that. Yesterday was hot, and Robb and I sought out a shady spot. Almost by accident, we discovered a super-secret park in the middle of Oakland, with redwood trees, and a gentle creek. There's something so soothing about sitting with your feet in a creek. Somehow, when you're doing that, life seems less difficult. I finally bought Robb a new

Sporulation

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... On Friday I was being an Unrepentant Dork and was reading an online discussion forum about composting. Someone was fretting about the strange brain-like growths on their compost pile. These growths were worrisome, because they "smoked" when disturbed. A kind person wrote to assure the composter that this was sporulating fungus. I immediately looked up the word " sporulation " because I was convinced it was a made-up word. I then wrote to the compost forum, thanking them for teaching me a new word, and wondering if I could work this word in casual conversation. I'm a Hopeless, Unrepentant Dork. It was hot today. Robb and I wanted to get outside and soak up some nature, but we didn't want to bake our brain in the process. We wanted shade, and new vistas. And after a bit of internet searching, we found a delightful city park which crisscrosses a stream through the redwoods. We were heading home, when I paused to look at a strange growth on

The Dangers of Television

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... TV to the Rescue! Originally uploaded by wackystuff Robb and I have been in a 1930's whodunit spree, for quite some time now. Our fascination for British period pulp is apparently the bastard love-child of P.G. Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle . Intrigue. Antiquated class structures. Excessive alcohol consumption. What could be more diverting? Having previous gorged ourselves on Lord Peter Wimsey and Jane Marple , we engaged in an orgy of Campion - watching last night. And today, Robb is paying for this. He has a major television hangover. I was teasing Robb last night about how he was sitting too still, but sitting still is exactly what did him in. When Robb gets too caught up in something, and doesn't regularly change his position, his body protests and "punishes" him. Too much laying still, and watching tv? That results in a sleepless night and achy discomfort the next day. Weird, huh? This all proves the point that if Robb wants to feel well

. . .

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My Hero Originally uploaded by wackystuff Too cute not to share.

Valedictory

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... I sold a box of our books two weeks ago. These were mostly Robb's books, scripts and theater books. I'm still feeling conflicted about letting these go. There's something so bittersweet about saying goodbye these books, because to my mind, parting with these books represents saying farewell Robb's career as an actor. A year ago: I try to overcome sorrow by snuggling up to lizards. And barn cats. Two years ago: I'm in Syracuse New York, hanging out with Lock Wench. Three years ago: We're over-ambitious. We go to Mount Diablo, with the idea that Robb will be able to walk on the trails. This doesn't work, but we still celebrate how much better he does walk. Plus, we see a coyote, which is always good.

Eagle Scout

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... I was out on my trike on the Bay Trail again today. There's a ten-mile stretch where I can be found two or three days a week. I think Lisa's a bit bored with it but I'm comforted knowing where all the water fountains, park benches, bathrooms and cafes are. I also prefer this particular stretch of trail because it is almost entirely separate from traffic. In fact, there is exactly one intersection to negotiate. Normally, when I'm crossing this multi-lane four-way stop, I get lucky and catch the eye of whichever driver is best positioned to cream me. (My trike seat is about five inches off the ground.) Today there was no such luck. Everybody seemed to be in a trance. Finally, as I glided tentatively into the intersection, I noticed all eyes turning in my direction. But they weren't looking at me, they were looking above me. As I reached the opposite sidewalk I looked up and saw a big black crow hovering a few feet above me. I suppose he must have be

Stunt Men

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... One of the great pleasures of my job is working with my interns. This year's delightful intern, Mike, is moving on to new adventures, and will be leaving the Bay Area to design two shows this summer in Montana. Robb, Mike and I decided to spend a valedictory day in Point Reyes . The sun was glorious, and the wind was strong enough to bring out my stunt kite. Robb's balance has improved so much! I think the fact that we were flying kites on sand instead of the squirrel-hole-riddled meadows in Berkeley really helped him out. Even if we fell flat on our backs (which we all did), the landings weren't so bad. Days like this make me truly happy, because I can see how far Robb has come since his spinal cord injury. (Remember how amused I was that Robb's therapist specifically took him out to walk on sandy beaches ?) Will Robb be hurting on Monday and Tuesday? Probably. Will it have been worth it? I hope so.

Dear Internet

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... We really try to be brave about our situation. We do. But today, Robb was attacked by giant squid. He fought valiantly, but as of now, we're not certain what the future holds for us.

Determination

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... To wash away the ickiness of the previous posting, here's a much more uplifting story. Major Phil Packer, who was seriously injured in a blast in Basra Iraq in 2008, and who was initially told that he would never walk again just completed the Flora London Marathon . He walked as much as his doctors would allow, two hours a day. Describing the event as a " hard slog, " Major Packer walked every day for two weeks. Major Packer has not let his injuries slow him down. In three weeks, he will travel to California to climb El Capitan in Yosemite . All of these adventures serve the purpose of raising money and awareness for disabled service personnel, and the greater disabled community. His goal is to raise one million pounds, and he's already three-quarters of the way to his goal. You can read more about Major Packer at his website .

The Language of Flowers, or the Ignorance of Humans

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... Victorians society always struck me as particularly roundabout in expressing their thoughts. Euphemisms and omissions abound in Victorian literature. The Victorians, we are told, had a whole language of flowers , so that lovers could say with flowers what they couldn't with words. Me? I'm pretty direct. But I'll try out this language of flowers thing, and see if you understand what I'm getting at. I like to share feel-good stories about people with disabilities on this blog, but I'm sorry to say that I've got a backlog of feel-pissed-off stories to share. Story number one . A deaf family in Maryland's house is repeatedly burglarized, and after one incident, the police regard the family's attempts at communication as dangerously aggressive, and threw the victim to the ground, subduing him in such a way that he could neither breathe (he had recently had neck surgery) and not communicate via sign language. Apparently, pointing at a polic

The Perils of Auto-Pilot

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... Robb goes out cycling several times a week. Studies seem to indicate that prolonged steady cyclical exercise contributes to neural regeneration in patients with spinal cord injuries. Also, cycling is a great source of aerobic exercise for Robb, who can't exactly go jogging. While Robb still cannot walk any great distances, due to the paralysis of his feet and legs, he often rides twenty miles at a stretch. Yesterday, he was out on the trike, and his back was hurting. He opted to "push through" the pain, which sounds like a good idea, but probably wasn't. When I got home from work, Robb was in miserable discomfort. Usually, he finds relief from his back pain when he lays down. But that wasn't working last night. He ended up taking some pain pills, which eventually masked his discomfort. The problem with some of these pills is how much they knock Robb out. I, on the other hand, have no excuse for my groggy state. I got up this morning, a little bit befor

Random Nonsense

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... I recently started looking at the blog through the filter of Google Analytics. I've learned that nobody finds our blog using search engines. The only two searches that lead people to our blog were a search on my name (the person stayed less than one second) and a search for the phrase " gory blister ." Well then. Having searched this phrase myself, I now know that Gory Blister is a " technical death metal band from Milan. " Note to self: Do not confuse technical death metal bands with the non-technical variety. Robb was out cycling today and heard a Northern Mockingbird going through its repertoire of songs. In the middle of this medley was a perfect imitation of a car alarm, ending with the boop-boop-boop sound of someone remotely turning off their alarm. The snails and I are in a pitched battle for control of my garden. On Monday I threw one hundred and twenty of the slimy little bastards over the fence. I have tossed at least fifty s

Getaway?

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... Robb and I need a vacation. This winter and spring have been really stressful and exhausting, and we need to recharge our batteries. Since Robb cannot sit for long periods of time, we are interested in going somewhere that we can drive to. (This way, Robb can lay down in the car, and we can take travel breaks.) A very short plane ride might be all right, too. Does anyone have any suggestions of places for us to hang out? We were thinking Yosemite, but that's because we already know that we like it there. Robb needs a real bed to sleep on, so we're not considering camping. Bike trails are preferable to hiking trails. We are trying to save our pennies, so we're not looking to do anything super-expensive. We would love to hear your suggestions.

Progress

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... On Sunday, Robb and I went cycling at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. I was feeling pretty lazy, and the birds were interesting, so we didn't do a long or a fast ride. At one point, we stopped near a picnic table, and I reminded Robb how we had sat at this particular table shortly after he came home after his six weeks of hospitalization. Here's what I wrote about that day. One of the first Lisa-and-Robb outings we did when Robb was first home from the hospital was a trip to Arrowhead Marsh near the Oakland Airport. I parked the car, and I think Robb walked about two hundred feet, to a picnic table. We enjoyed the sun, and felt pretty good about everything. Robb's response to all this was to ask, incredulously, "Why wasn't I panicking?" This was a Very Serious Question. So we did what Robb and I do best in moments of great stress. We looked at each other and then burst into laughter. After a lot more laughing, and some mushy affirmations of love,

What's that Quail, Robert?

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... Can the Serious Birders help us out here? We are mystified by the quail we saw whilst cycling in at Arrowhead Marsh, in Oakland. First, it strikes us that seeing any quail at all so near the freeway and the Oakland Colosseum and all the warehouses is a bit peculiar. But the markings on this bird seem so much like a Gambel's Quail , which shouldn't be in Northern California. Since the last quail I encountered was someone's escaped dinner , and since Robb tells me that these birds can interbreed with California Quails , I'm totally at a loss to identify these birds.

a somewhat arbitrary mile marker

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... quietly magnificent Originally uploaded by ctrl-alt-grant Will you be the two hundred thousandth visitor to our blog? Take a look at the toolbar thingy on the right side of this page. Scroll down past the map and the blog tags, and tell us your visitor number. And while we're holding the mirror up to our readers, we would love to know how long you've been reading our blog, and how you found us.

Purge

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... Do an internet search for help about organizing your life, and you inevitably end up looking at photos like this. I find these pictures totally stinkin' hilarious. First off, this "closet" (more likely: a set built in a photographer's studio) is considerably larger than our living room. Secondly, it contains fewer clothes than Robb and I wear in a week. But, hey, there's a room for the storage of this hypothetical person's red feather boa. So, clearly, that represents Real Life. I'm still chipping away at my goal of decluttering my life. Lately, I've been asking myself if I'm hanging onto things because they have a place in my current life. Am I storing things in hopes that some future life will have a use for them? Or am I holding onto them, because some past life had a use or desire for them? (Am I answering these questions, or just asking them? Well, maybe a Future Me will get around to that.) Today, we did one of those cockam

A voice for disabled veterans

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... I was curious about the woman pictured with the dignitaries at the White House in my previous posting . Barack Obama introduced her in his speech as Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth , an assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. I did a little internet research, and have to say how impressed I am with this woman, and her selection for this post at the VA . Ms. Duckworth is the daughter of an American diplomat and a Thai mother. She grew up all over Southeast Asia, where her father worked for the United Nations, and is fluent in both Thai and Indonesian. She holds a Bachelor of Art in polital science from the University of Hawaii, a Masters of Arts in international affairs from George Washington University, and was working towards a PhD at George Washington, when she was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, is an officer in the US Army. Duckworth was a helicopter pilot for the Army Reserv

Unbroken Spirits

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... These photos were taken at an event held to raise awareness (and money) for veterans who are adapting to life-changing injuries . I was opposed to the first Gulf War. Robb and I marched in protest to the second Iraq war. But that doesn't mean my heart doesn't go out to every single person who is touched by war. Quite the contrary. I think it would be best if we all look at the photos , and read what's been written about this event, and then think our own thoughts. Let's not use the comments section on this blog to argue about our feelings on the wars that the United States is involved in, or air our grievances about American presidents. Instead, let's consider what it this event might have meant for these soldiers and their families and friends .