Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Inspection

Today we had the inspection of the house we're going to buy. It was nice to have so much time to look around and think about where we want to put things, and to realize our furniture will fit. :) The actual inspection took longer than I expected (the inspector was very thorough and very good at explaining everything to us) but I learned a lot.

The best news is that house is great shape. Because they used real wood, cement, etc. the construction is strong, the walls are straight, etc. They don't use such good building materials today!

The only problems the inspector found were:
1. The garbage disposal doesn't work
2. The gas wall heater in the sunroom won't light
3. The logs in the gas fireplace in the basement need to be updated
4. The attic insulation was installed upside down (with the paper side up, so the paper needs to be slit)
5. Wall plugs in the kitchen and bath need breakers added
6. Smoke detectors need to be replaced and CO2 detector needs to be added

We're asking the seller to fix the first two. Roger and Dad can fix everything else (such little things!) and add a second bath (shower, toilet, and sink) in the basement. We also want to add a sump pump alarm, just in case.

The appraiser comes tomorrow. Now that it's starting to seem real, I'm so excited about moving I can hardly wait! We've asked our realtor to arrange the closing ASAP so we can move ASAP. I'll be so relieved to get away from our noisy neighbors and into our own house at last!

I'm also looking forward to meeting the seller. Given her collection of Dept. 56 villages and the amount of counted cross-stitch on her walls, we seem to have a lot in common! I might consider buying some of her Dickens Village and I want her to tell me how to care for the beautiful plants/landscaping, gazebo, etc. They have put so much work into making the yard lovely and I want to keep it that way.

I still can't believe we're finally about to become homeowners!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Favorite Electronic Book Gadget: The Kindle

For Christmas my dear husband gave me a Kindle (second generation) book reader. This thing is every bit as cool as Amazon claims: light, intuitive (so much I can't help wonder if Apple designed it!), and addictive. I'll never give up printed books completely, but I *love* reading on my Kindle. The screen really is crisp and easy to read (unlike a backlit eye-strain-inducing computer screen). Best of all, it can hold TONS of books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers.

New "hardback" books are usually $9.99. New "paperbacks" are usually around $6 -- but public domain books (Shakespeare, Poe, etc.) are free or very cheap. Where was the Kindle when I was hauling around a thirty pound Shakespeare textbook? :) If you keep an eye out you can find new promotional paperbacks (temporarily free).

In addition to classics and murder mysteries I "splurged" on a couple of very helpful, inexpensive books:

1. The Complete User's Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2: Tips, Tricks, & Links To Unlock Cool Features & Save You Hundreds on Kindle Content by Stephen Windwalker $0.99

2. Kindle Shortcuts, Hidden Features, Kindle-Friendly Websites, Free eBooks & Email From Kindle: Concise User Guide for Kindle 2 (US & International), DX, 1, iPhone & iPod by Aaron Steinhardt PhD $0.25

From these I learned about how to access Project Gutenberg, free books and audio, keyboard shortcuts, and hidden features (like the calculator, Minesweeper game, and Go game). About the same time I also discovered Sudoku Volume 1: Interactive Sudoku Puzzles for Kindle 2 and Kindle DX and Word Morph Volume 1: transform the starting word one letter at a time until you spell the ending word (Word Puzzles Optimized for Kindle) -- both for just $0.01 each. Who knew you could play these games on a Kindle?

Interested in Kindle fiction? I recommend Stephen King's UR ($2.99) and The Gift of Murder (a $7 mystery anthology which features "The Kindle Did It!" by Gail Farrelly -- and profits go to Toys for Tots).

As you can see from the photos (courtesy of Amazon), the Kindle is light and comfortable to hold. I love curling up with my Kindle. It's so easy to use, I really do forget about the hardware and just enjoy the story -- just as advertised.

I love my new Kindle so much that I named it: Miss Marple (because it appears so cozy and simple, yet it knows so much more than you expect). I supposed the same logic could apply to Lord Peter (sophisticated, elegant, and knows so much more than you expect) but apparently I like to assume my gadgets are female. (Ask me about my car, Christine.)

For those who know I only like Miss Marple on TV (not in print), I can't explain this choice. The name just seems to fit!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This was too funny not to share:

To All My Democratic Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.

To My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 2010.

Seriously, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Miracle on 34th Street

I still don't quite believe it, but we are about to become homeowners! (I've always wanted a house. To get one at Christmas is just like The Miracle on 34th Street!) The seller accepted our bid on the ranch I fell in love with. Photos and specs are below.

We can get out of our apartment lease four months early, so we'll probably move in March. I'm simultaneously excited and numb. I'll let you know when it finally feels real!

Brick Ranch in City of Davison. Many updates - Huge add on Family Room, Large Deck w/ Gazebo. 2 Car Garage, Finished Basement, Newer Roof, Electrical, Central Air, Fenced back Yard with Shade Galore ... Must See Home!

Built in 1956 (but in better shape than some new houses we saw!).
Lot size 70 x 136
Home size 1331 sq ft.
Master Bedroom: 11.4 x 11
2nd: 11 x 11
3rd: 11.4 x 9
Kitchen 12.2 x 11
Great Room 20.9 x 13.9
Family Room (Sunroom) 19.6 x 11.8
Downstairs Rec Room (w/gas fireplace) 23.4 x 12.6
Hobby Room (Workshop) 14.9 x 12.8
Laundry and storage room 35.6 x 11.1

Friday, December 18, 2009

Another Reason I Hate Renting

This morning the toilet in our master bath backed up. No amount of plunging cleared it, so I called maintenance as soon as the office opened. They promised to send someone right away but warned me "There's a service charge if it's not our fault."

"Service charge?" I asked.

"Yes, a service charge. It's $125 if it's not our fault." I started to wonder why she kept repeating this phrase.

"We only flush toilet paper," I said. "How could that be our fault?"

"We'll send the maintenance guy right away to assess the situation," she said, implying once again that it mus be our fault.

When I relayed this conversation to my husband he said, "We're not paying $125 effing dollars for this!"

I agreed, thinking of the bid I sent the realtor last night while waiting for the maintenance guy. We're guessing they have lots of residents with kids who try to flush toys, so this is now the standard reply for toilet problems.

The maintenance arrived shortly thereafter and it took two minutes for him to plunge the toilet, no service charge. Apparently I just need a different plunger. Still, the situation was just another reminder of how ready I am to move to a house.

More Houses

The adventure continues: Wednesday we looked at more houses.

First up was an older Cape Cod (1949). This is the house we wanted to see last time but the realtor was unable to contact the residents. It was nice but the wood floors in two rooms needed finishing (they had been sanded recently) and the paint needed touching up in some rooms. Bonuses: OK kitchen, LOTS of storage, big closets, 2 baths, and two rooms upstairs that would make nice offices. Negatives: the yard is very small (no room for a sunroom). The linolium on the stairs to the basement is peeling and the tile in the basement is probably asbestos (and would need to be covered/sealed). This house is my second choice.

I fell in love with the second house: a ranch with a wonderful sunroom, deck with gazebo, and finished basement. The yard is a nice size and nicely landscaped. We also really like the neighborhood: all brick houses from the 1950s, all well-maintained with low turnover. This is the kind of neighborhood people stay in. Negatives: there's only one bathroom. (Hey, how hard can it be to add a second bath? Roger and his dad used to build houses.) I put in a bid on this one last night. Wish me luck! I'm praying really hard...

The third house was a new home in a new subdivision. No trees or sidewalks, but the online photos looked great: large master bedroom/bath/walk-in closet, a wonderful kitchen and great room with fireplace, 3 baths, and huge beautifully finished basement. Sadly, the house is now bank-owned and recently had water standing in the basement. That meant that the basement had been stripped AND still had mold. I'm so allergic to mold I barely saw this house. A few minutes indoors and my eyes and throat were itching. This one is a definite no go.

The next house on our list was a split level in the township. It had a severe mold problem so we didn't even try to go there.

The most interesting house was next. It was originally built in the 1800s! It had a new kitchen but everything else needs lots of TLC (a definite no go term in my book). The second level was in good shape but there was water at the base of the basement stairs. We looked in the basement out of curiosity after the realtor told us the support poles were logs. Yup, logs were holding the floors up. Under the oldest part of the house the basement was fieldstone on one wall and something that had been painted white on the other walls, smoothed logs maybe? Nice yard but this was another definite no go.

The last house was a ranch just a few doors away from our apartment, on a busy and partially commercial section of Irish Rd. Traffic made getting in and out of the driveway a major pain. The house itself was a nice 3 bedroom 1.5 bath ranch with partially finished basement. The kitchen was really nice but the renter wasn't kidding when they said the house was messy. Judging by the toys covering most of the floors, we're guessing they had three kids. It had nice deck and huge back yard; the field behind it was included, so there was a lot of land. Negatives: one room in the basement (probably painted by a tween or teen) was black with rainbow-colored designs. It was far out, man. The waterheater was unusually small for a house that size. Given the traffic problem, this was a no go.

I really, really want the ranch and am praying the owner accepts the bid, but I expect her to make a reasonable counter-offer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

House Hunting

Yesterday the realtor took us to see three houses. I had no idea house hunting would be such an adventure! I'm so new to this that I'm glad Mom and Dad went with us.

The first house was a ranch three doors away from our dear friends John & Denise. It was small but nice. Denise met us there to point out things we might miss. I liked it but after our huge kitchen, it's going to be hard to get used to a small kitchen again. It did have 2 baths a partially finished basement, sunroom, and a 2.5 car garage. The best part about this house was the 50K price!

The second house was a Cape Cod that was listed at 99K and was about to be re-poed by the bank. It was larger than the ranch and had some interesting spaces (like the second floor of the 1.5 floors). Frankly, I can't actually remember much about this house except that the rooms were small but it did have a garage and 1.5 baths. I think I'd find it more interesting if the price were lower.

The last house was a ranch in the neighborhood I grew up in. Although it's currently listed at $107K, I think I liked this one the best. It was larger (1200 sq ft) with 4 bedrooms, a finished basement with day light windows, and a gazebo. The really interesting part was what we found in the house: an intercom system ("Scotty, I need more power!"), an incinerator in the basement (I'd never actually seen one before!), and boat (yes, a boat, specifically speedboat used for water skiing) in the garage, and chest freezer full of frozen food. Weird. Bonuses: gas fireplace, and new furnace/air, new hot water heater, and new roof. The realtor says the price is probably about to drop, so I'll definitely want to keep an eye on this house!

There were two more houses we wanted to see but couldn't. One had a bid (and only allowed one bidder at a time) and the other was still occupied. The realtor couldn't reach the residents in time for us to see it yesterday. That means the search will continue -- and next time I'll remember to take my camera and to take notes!

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Washer Incident

I spent Thanksgiving week crying about Saffron and have been numb ever since -- and frantically trying to work on my end-of-the-semester grading. Since I teach writing, I don't have to give final exams and the sooner I get done grading, the sooner my Christmas break begins.

Roger suggested we go up north for the weekend. Everyone I talked to thought this was a good idea. I could relax as much as I wanted, work as much as I wanted, and I wouldn't expect to see Saffron everywhere I looked. It was a good idea! We have wonderful time enjoying Traverse City and I even got a substantial amount of grading done.

All that relaxation disappeared when got home and discovered water standing in our hallway (in front of the laundry closet), in Roger's office, and in the master bath. I immediately called maintenance was told that my upstairs neighbor* overloaded her washer (apparently with a comforter, bedspread, AND pillows), then left the house. The washer was so full the sensor couldn't tell when to shut the water off, so the water just kept running. In addition to our apartment, the one next door also flooded. Since there's cement between the floors, the water came in through the smoke alarms and the vent/light in the bathroom.

I was furious at the mess AND at maintenance for not calling Mom and Dad. Before we left town I called the office to let them know we'd be out of town for the weekend and Mom and Dad would be stopping by daily to care for the cat. I gave them Mom and Dad's names and phone number specifically in case of a plumbing emergency so Mom and Dad could be here to prevent the cat from escaping if maintenance needed to come in.

All this was news to the maintenance guy. He did know the apartment next to us was flooded but he didn't even try to contact us?! (No message on our answering machine.)

After soaking up all the waters, then washing all the towels, I collapsed in bed -- just as the smoke alarm started beeping.

I called maintenance again. Apparently smoke alarms beep when they get wet. Taking out the battery didn't help, so we called maintenance AGAIN to learn how to pull the wires (the battery is only a backup). Even then, the damn thing continued to beep far longer than I expected. I was ready to wrap it in a towel and stuff it in a draw (or leave it on the porch) when it finally stopped.

Once again, I collapsed in bed. A few minutes later, Roger informed me that the smoke detector in his office was dripping again. I think I would have cried at this point if not for my anti-anxiety medicine.

The first thing Monday, I called the rental office to 1) make sure there's a note in our file saying no current or future water damage was our fault and 2) to find out why Mom and Dad's contact info wasn't passed along to the on-call maintenance guy. I also complained about the downstairs neighbor** kids who like to ring doorbells and disappear.

My next calls were to the bank and the realtor. It's time to house hunt!

* These are the neighbors directly above us, the ones with noisy kids who fall out of bed frequently and play Wii a LOT.

** These children are apparently unattended while the parent works afternoons/evenings.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Good-Bye, Dear Little Friend

Our precious little Saffron died in her sleep the day after Thanksgiving, just two days after my last post. She was sleeping peacefully in one of her favorite beds under the Christmas tree and seemed to know Roger and I were both with her. She coughed very delicately a few times and just slipped away peacefully. I’m thankful for her peaceful passing and so glad she was home with us. I know we did all we could to give her a wonderful life but I miss my sweet little girl already and always will. I like to think she’s already in heaven with Sable.

Thank you for all your love and support during her illness, from all of us.

Cathy and Roger (and Sophie the oblivious cat who nevertheless howled at the moment of Saffron’s death)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saffron Update

Saffron hasn't been doing so well recently. A couple weeks ago she had some kind of "event": she fell over, acted a bit weird for a few hours, and was back to normal the next day. There's no way to know for sure what happened, but since then, she's been acting like an old cat (pacing, vocalizing, and occasionally a little confused). The old cat behavoir appears to be unrelated to her liver problem or the "event."

I became really worried this week when her weight dropped to 4 lbs. (she should weigh about 7 lbs.). She's eating, but not nearly as much as usual. Although she's still drinking and getting around, I'm afraid she doesn't have much time left. We don't want to make "the decision" as long as she's not in pain and is still eating, drinking, and getting around. She seems comfy and happy -- I'm the one who is distressed! I guess we're never ready to say good-bye, no matter how much time we have to prepare. I'm still hoping that when the time comes, she'll leave us peacefully in her sleep. Until then, I'm going to sleep in the living room with her and love and comfort her as much as I can.

Here are some photos of her eating in bed (yes, she's the most spoiled cat on the planet) and sleeping in her favorite spot in the whole world (of course we put the tree up early just for her!). Say a prayer for my sweet little girl.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Favorite Hardback Book Gadget

A while ago I wrote about the Gimble, my favorite paperback book gadget. This is my favorite hardback book gadget: The Book Buddy II.

As you can see from the photo (click to enlarge) it can hold any size paperback or hardback book or, with the optional acrylic desktop, most laptop computers.

I mostly use my Book Buddy for hardback books. It's comfy because I can read without holding the book (which makes my healing tennis elbow hurt). Even if I do hold it, the pillow really does make the book feel weightless -- just as their web site says!

The Book Buddy comes in a variety of colors and prices and I recommend it for anyone who loves to read. I bought mine when I had chronic tendonitis, but don't wait until you have a medical excuse. This is a good product for any bibliophile.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remember in the Fitz

November is flying by so quickly I just realized that for the first time in many years, I didn't the about the Edmund Fitzgerald on the anniversary of her sinking. Listen to the song and remember a good ship and 29 men who just wanted to get home.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

"The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot

Friday, November 06, 2009

Newcomers Sweep Davison City Council

Big news in Davison this week: City Council shakeup: Incumbents ousted by three newcomers.

I've pasted the story here in case the link disappears.

City Council shakeup: Incumbents ousted by three newcomers


DAVISON — In an obvious two-sided election, the threemember team supported by Mayor Fred Fortner and Councilman Jim Hershberger will be sworn into the Davison City Council at the Nov. 9 meeting.

Roger Lutze, Matt Judd and David Martin have earned four-year terms and will join the seven-member council.

Roger Lutze

Roger Lutze

Incumbents Ron Emery and Keith Flewelling lost their longtime seats on the council, while candidate Ralph Arceo also lost the election.

“Congratulations to Mr. Lutze, Mr. Martin, and Mr. Judd,” said City Manager Dale Martin. “I look forward to working with these three men, the mayor and the others on the city council. On behalf of the city staff, I also wish to thank Mr. Emery and Mr. Flewelling for their years of service to the community.”

According to unofficial election results from the City of Davison, Lutze received 369 votes. Martin received 349 and Judd received 306 votes. Emery received 250, Flewelling received 243 and Arceo received 198.

David Martin

David Martin

In total, 1,717 voters turned out to the polls.

The results of the election come after an obviously twosided race, with the six candidates dividing into two teams of three. Fortner and Hershberger have gained a majority on the council, following a history with the previous council of a 5-2 voting split.

“I’m very pleased, I’m very excited and really looking forward to serving the community,” said Lutze after hearing the election results Tuesday night. “The main thing is going to be listening to the people of the city and that we started before we started the campaign.”

Emery, who has been on the council 18 years, said he was disappointed in the election results.

“After 18 years on council obviously I’m disappointed in the election results,” said Emery. “However with the resentment against incumbents and the strong campaign waged by Mayor Fortner against us, the results were not unexpected.

Matt Judd

Matt Judd

“I wish the new council members well and hopefully they continue making Davison a great place to live.”

Judd said he plans to work in the best interest of the people, and will figure out the issues in the city once he takes his seat on the council.

“I think it’s time for new people to be in there and we’ll give it the best chance we can, do the right thing for people,” said Judd. “(I’m) just going to get on there and find out exactly what we’re doing, you know … and go from there.”

Flewelling, who has spent 10 years on the council, said he hopes the city will continue to be a quality place to live.

“I am obviously disappointed with the results of Tuesday’s election. It is clear that those who voted want a change in city government and I congratulate the winners,” said Flewelling. “I hope that the city continues to be progressive and maintains the quality of living its residents have come to expect.

“The employees of the city do an excellent job in providing the services that make our city what it is. I know that they will continue to do so and I expect the government officials will respect that.”

The incumbents are surprised and blame the mayor. Helloooo! Maybe it's because voters are unhappy about:

1. Their decision to remove the canopies downtown

2. Their desire to spend our tax dollars on a new, unnecessary municipal center.

Nah, must be a conspiracy. After all, the mayor is the former owner of a downtown business and was opposed to the canopy removal.

I'm so glad these clueless dolts are out of office and wish the best of luck to newcomers Roger Lutze, Matt Judd and David Martin!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saffron's Special Day

The weather forecast says only a 20% chance of rain tonight and it should be cool and windy. Perfect Halloween weather! (You know you're from Michigan if you've ever gone trick-or-treating in the snow, wearing your winter coat over your costume.)

Best of all, today is Saffron's special day. We found her 12 years ago today and, despite her liver disease, she's still with us and doing OK. We are so happy she's here to celebrate her special day with us! Here's a recent photo of us together (don't you hate it when you're sleeping and someone starts taking your picture?):

And here are a couple of Halloween pics from last year. (She no longer climbs onto the table with the village.)

Happy Halloween birthday, sweet girl!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

It's the second most wonderful time of the year: Happy Halloween! I stitched this for my friend Nathan (click to enlarge):

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beautiful October

After killing frosts on Oct. 9 and 10, temps have stayed in the 50s F (some days going up to 60!). Apparently these conditions, coupled with our cooler than usual summer, have led to a long, beautiful autumn. Even at the end of October, we still have leaves on the trees.

For my fellow Tolkien geeks: it's like spring in Lothlorien! For everyone else, here's the quote:

"There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold. Not till the spring comes and the new green opens do they fall, and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers; and the floor of the wood is golden, and golden is the roof, and its pillars are of silver, for the bark of the trees is smooth and grey. So still our songs in Mirkwood say. My heart would be glad if I were beneath the eaves of that wood, and it were springtime!" (Legolas, The Fellowship of the Ring).

I took this photo in Davison Regional Park, Fall 2005. It looks about like this now, too!

Monday, October 26, 2009

RIP, Milvina

A memorial service was held Saturday for Millvina Dean, the last Titanic survivor. She was 97. The BBC story includes a short video with highlights from the service and her partner Bruno Nordmanis scattering her ashes "from a small launch on the water of berth 43/44 at Southampton Docks, the terminal from which the ship set sail."

God bless you, dear lady. I pray you are with your parents now and this time you all complete your voyage together. Rest in Peace.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Scream Theatre

I had a blast at the show tonight! The should cell CDs so we can enjoy the Halloween radio show again and again. If you're in the Flint area and not busy tomorrow, catch the show at 8pm at The Good Beans Cafe (810-237-4663). Tickets are only $7 for 1.5 hours of fun Halloween entertainment.

Friday, October 02, 2009

October, at Last

It's Friday, it's October, AND I have a new Ray Bradbury book to read. Life is good.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Woo Hoo! Frost Advisory!

There is a frost advisory most of Michigan's lower peninsula tonight. Woo hoo! Come on, frost. Kill the evil ragweed and solve my summer allergy problem!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bradbury at 89

After I found the interview with Ray Bradbury from July, I decided to put him in my Google Alerts so I don't miss any more news. I just learned that Ray celebrated his 89th birthday at Clifton's Cafe in downtown LA, where the Science Fiction Society met in the 1930s.

Next month he'll be signing his books at Every Picture Tells a Story in Santa Monica on Oct. 24. Oh, how I wish I could be there!

UPDATE: Ray will also be speaking Oct. 3 at the Duarte Festival of Authors (Southern California) and signing his new book We'll Always Have Paris. I'm so glad I added Ray to my Google Alerts! I just wish I could get to CA to meet him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ray Bradbury on the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

I just found this wonderful interview of Ray Bradbury on the July 19, 2009 podcast called 365 Days of Astronomy. This was recorded about a month before Ray's 89th birthday. He sounds good! Older, a little tired, but still mentally sharp and as optimistic as ever. Follow the link to read the transcript or listen to the podcast.

I've also pasted the transcript here.

Podcaster: Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society

Links: Planetary Radio

Ray Bradbury.com

Description: A very recent conversation with the beloved author, poet, dramatist and visionary, Ray Bradbury. In these excerpts, Mat asks Ray to look back forty years to the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Ray expressed his exhilaration and hopes to Walter Cronkite and walked out on talk show host David Frost! The Los Angeles-based writer shares other memories and looks to our future on Mars and beyond.

Bio: Mat Kaplan hosts and produces Planetary Radio, the weekly public radio and podcast series from the Planetary Society. Planetary Radio is heard on 150 stations across North American and beyond, as well as on Sirius XM satellite radio. The podcast can be found in the iTunes Store. Founded by Lou Friedman, Bruce Murray and Carl Sagan, the Planetary Society inspires and involves the world's public in space exploration through advocacy, projects, and education.

Today's sponsor: This episode of The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is sponsored by Clockwork Active Media Systems. Clockwork invents, designs, develops and maintains web applications that market, sell, streamline, automate and communicate. Visit Clockwork.net net or email inquiries@clockwork.net to get started on your web project.


OPENING REMARKS: Hello, pod people. I’m Mat Kaplan of the Planetary Society, where I host and produce our weekly series about space exploration called Planetary Radio. We’re very proud to join you on this, the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. And we’ve brought along someone many of you know and love. I visited Ray Bradbury at his West Los Angeles home just a few days ago. Ray will soon turn 89. I was cautioned that his hearing is not what it was, so I should speak up. Also that he was likely to tire long before he was ready to stop telling stories. That’s just what happened. We talked about many things, but we kept coming back to the shining significance of July 20, 1969. Here are a few excerpts from our conversation. You’re hearing them ahead of our regular radio and podcast audience.

MAT: I wonder if you feel as fortunate as I do in the whole history of humanity to have been alive not just to have left our planet, but to have set foot on other worlds?

RAY: Well, when I was a young boy, I thought, “I’ll be an old man when we land on the moon.” But I wasn’t old, I was 49 years old. I was very young. And I was in London that night, and I went over to the TV show. Instead of introducing me, he introduced Engelbert Humperdinck. I walked off the show. The producer came running out after me and said ‘What are you doing?’ I said, “That idiot doesn’t know this is the most important night in the history of mankind. I will not be on the show with that idiot! He’s stupid! Get me out of here! Get me a cab!” So I went across London and I met with Walter Cronkite. I did a broadcast on Telstar at midnight telling all the reasons why space travel was important and why it was important that we were on the moon because we were on our way to Mars. And someday we would settle Mars, and then we would go to Alpha Centauri, and we’d live forever. So this is the first step toward living forever. Mankind has got to be…the sun going out, or the sun flaring up. So, we’re gonna survive because of this very first step tonight, and that idiot Snow should have had enough brains…

MAT: Now, wait. I’ve gotta stop you because you said “Snow.” It’s “Frost,” right? David Frost.

RAY: Pardon me!

MAT: That’s quite alright. I just didn’t want to confuse the audience!

RAY: Frost, yeah. I don’t know why I used Snow. When I left that broadcast at the BBC in London I walked across London laughing and crying all the way. It took me six hours to walk back to my hotel. It took me six hours to walk back to my hotel. I didn’t take a taxicab! I wanted to be in London alone with myself and my joy. When I got back to the hotel, out in front there was a tabloid with the headline that said, “Neil Armstrong Walks on the Moon, Bradbury Walks at Midnight!” They reported I walked off the David Frost show. I hated him so much. But it’s good to have that headline! Me and Neil Armstrong in a single newspaper the morning after we landed on the moon.

MAT: It didn’t start then, of course. I think of your old friend, Arthur C. Clarke. It was in his story that he had a proto-human looking up at the moon and reaching for it, and thinking, well, if I could just get to a high enough spot I could reach it.

RAY: Well, we’re all similar people. We have the same dream, and landing the moon really did it for us.

MAT: You were talking though, before we started to record about, yes, I guess it’s okay to be excited about the moon, but your heart is still farther out on that red planet.

RAY: Well, see, we’ve been building flimsy things in space. Space stations, but they’re not strong enough. But it’s gotta be the moon. And sometime in the next few years we’ve gotta re-establish ourselves on the moon.

MAT: So you do see a role for the moon? You’re happy to see that we’re on the path to returning humans there?

RAY: We should never have left. We’ve circled the Earth with our rockets and photographed it. That’s good information, but it doesn’t help us get to Mars. The moon has gotta be a solid underground for us to build factories to go to Mars, and it’s going to take thirty or forty years to establish a base on the moon. And then we’ll go to Mars and we’ll establish a civilization which will last for thousands of years. And then we’ll move from Mars to Alpha Centauri or a planet near there.

MAT: You don’t sound like you’ve lost any confidence in the human potential in the universe.

RAY: We didn’t think we could do it, and we did it! It was quite amazing. And I went down and met with all the astronauts in 1967. I went to Houston. Life magazine sent me down to interview all the astronauts that were coming up. None of them had any names yet. But Life magazine had a meeting where there were seventy astronauts. And the editor of Life said, “Young men, I think you’d like to know that in the back of the room today is Ray Bradbury.” Everybody jumped to their feet and seventy astronauts ran back and clustered around me because they’d all read The Martian Chronicles. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m part of the lunar exploration. It’s so wonderful to be loved by these young men who treated me as a equal.

MAT: I think you’re part of much more than the lunar exploration. I think of the scientists and engineers who were also inspired to do what they’ve done, who are STILL inspired, who are still leading the missions that are taking us off of this pale blue dot.

RAY: Well, that’s wonderful. The night the Viking lander landed on Mars I was out at JPL. I was watching the photographs come in on the TV. I noticed a man behind me and I turned. It was Werner von Braun. I didn’t want to speak to him. I had mixed feelings. But I realized he was a mixed creature. He was half black, half white. He was half good, he was half evil. He invented the V2 rocket that destroyed England, and then he invented the rocket that took us to the moon. So I shook his hand, and he wrote an autograph on a piece of paper for me: “You saw it all ahead of us…to the moon. You inspired us.” And so Werner von Braun gave me credit for inspiring him to be a rocket engineer. Isn’t that beautiful?

MAT: There’s much history left to be made. In something like ten years humans will walk on the moon again. If we’re lucky, in something like twenty or thirty years they’ll walk on Mars for the first time. If you had a message for these future explorers, does anything come to mind that you might want them to hear from the past…

RAY: No, I want everybody listening to me to think of Mars, only Mars, again and again and again. And think of going back to the moon and make sure the government hears this from you. These are bad times today. If you read the Wall Street Journal, forget it! You know? If you buy stocks sell ‘em! Get rid of ‘em! But listen to me and say, “Back to the Moon!” The moon is everything and Mars is beyond, waiting for us. I want to be buried on Mars. I don’t want to be the first live person to arrive there. It’ll be too late. But I want to be the first dead person that gets there. I want to arrive in a Campbell’s soup can. Bury me on Mars in thing called the Bradbury Abyss. They gotta name a place on Mars for me, and I will welcome that.

MAT: I would love to see that happen. From your mouth to NASA’s ears! Thank you, Ray, and thank you for all of those stories.

RAY: Heh, heh, heh.

CLOSE: Author, poet, dramatist, visionary and blessed optimist, Ray Bradbury. We’ll include more of our recent conversation in the coming week’s episode of Planetary Radio, the public radio and podcast series from the Planetary Society. And we’ll put nearly my entire half-hour conversation with Ray on the Society’s website, planetary.org. Thanks very much for joining us. Ad astra!

For any newcomer to this blog: Ray Bradbury is one of my all-time favorite authors. I've blogged about him several times and recently sent him a geeky fan letter enclosed in a Halloween card (which I hope reaches him in time for his favorite holiday). I'd write more but I'm busy downloading the podcast so I can listen to the complete half-hour interview. Thanks, Planetary Radio!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget

Monday, August 31, 2009

Waiting for Frost

Last night the upper peninsula and the northern part of the lower peninsula had a frost warning. I can hardly wait for the frost. Here's why:

In case you can't read the maps, those are the ragweed and mold levels (the things I'm most allergic to). Pollen is not killed by having a lovely, cool summer (that I can't even enjoy!), it's only killed a killing frost. I think that's 28F for several hours. Since the summer has been so cool, I'm really hoping for an early frost this year!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

RIP Sister Carol Anne

I just learned that one of my favorite authors, Sister Carol Anne O'Marie who wrote the Sister Mary Helen mysteries, died in May from Parkinson's disease. After seeing a death date on her Stop You're Killing Me page, I found her obituary and a nice article in the online Catholic Voice about her homeless shelter: "Nuns continue ministry to homeless women in Oakland."

I found this picture and a nice remembrance of her on Stephen Danko's web site. There's another nice tribute on Janet Randolph's blog.

I'm so sorry to hear of her death and to learn that she suffered from Parkinson's disease. Apparently she didn't let it slow down her writing or her ministry! God bless you, Sister. I wish I could have met you in person but am glad to know you indirectly through your books. Rest in peace.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Favorite Paperback Book Gadget

When I developed chronic tennis elbow one of the things that hurt my arm most was holding a book. As an avid reader, not reading was NOT an option so I like to try different book gadgets. One of my favorites is the Gimble.

When you buy a Gimble (just $8 at Schuler Books, where I found mine, or Barnes and Noble), you get two sizes: mass-market paperback and trade paperback. Not only is the Gimble inexpensive, it actually WORKS! It's great for reading anywhere but especially handy for those who like to read while eating or read in the bathtub.

The Gimble is made in the UK and I found it in the gift section at Schuler Books. It was a serendipitous find since I haven't seen them in any other store. I've now purchased several as gifts and recommend them to anyone who loves to read.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Interview on Mystery Matters

Today I'm the guest on Mystery Matters, an internet radio show hosted by author Fran Stewart. You can listen live at the web site at 10 a.m. or listen later via the site’s archive or podcast at Mystery Matters.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Yesterday we visited the Star Trek Exhibit at the Detroit Science Center. It featured lots of costumes and props but the coolest part was the recreated bridge of the original series:

That's my husband in the Captain's chair and I'm at Sulu's station.

A volunteer told us the set was one-third scale, except for the chairs. The captain's chair is one of three actual props. Yup, I sat in it, I just didn't get my photo taken there. That's right: my butt sat where William Shatner's butt once sat! At least I wasn't geeky enough to wear a uniform to the exhibit. :)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Julia's Kitchen is Complete Again

I haven't seen Julie and Julia yet, but just read that Julia's copper pots are now in the Smithsonian with the rest of her kitchen. When we saw the exhibit a few years ago, that wall was glass. Now it's an actual wall with her copper pots. I want to go see her reunited kitchen!

Read more on the NPR and Smithsonian web sites.

We miss you, Julia. May the new movie lead new readers/viewers to discover your books, DVDs, and your love of life and food!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Saffron on YouTube!

The other night we gave Saffron a Cornish Hen. Yup, a whole chicken that was just her size! She loved it. Watch the excitement in her first YouTube video:

Before you ask: yes, we spoil her terribly. (Hey, she deserves it and we are just so glad she's still with us after being diagnosed with liver disease two years ago!) And, yes, we are easily amused. Who needs TV when you have cats?

P.S. If the video takes too long to load watch it on YouTube.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The hibiscus bloomed for the first time since we moved last summer. Whew! I was afraid that between moving and repotting we had killed it.

We're having a cooler summer than usual (it hasn't reached 90 yet!). I love it but wonder if that's part of the reason this tropical plant, which usually grows and blooms like crazy in July and August, isn't blooming much.

At least it had one bloom!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Reindeer Cherrries?

Sometimes being hard of hearing is almost (but not quite) amusing. The other day Mom gave me some Ranier cherries, but I thought she said "reindeer cherries." What the hell are reindeer cherries, I wondered.

They are beautiful cherries that look like this:

Not like this:

They were delicious and didn't taste anything like venison.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Back to Work!

Hoo-ray, the physical therapist says I can work again as long as I take frequent breaks and don't overdo it! Starting today, I am slowly working on updating my Fall classes. I figure it will take about a week.

Sadly, my Detective Fiction class, which I was really looking forward to, has been cancelled for low enrollment. Oh well, maybe things will work out the next time it's offered. In the meantime, that means I have only one class to prepare for Fall. Teaching four sections of freshman composition will be a LOT of grading, but it does cut down on the prep time.

I'm really annoyed with our Regents. They have changed our academic calendar and for the first time in years we'll start Fall classes AFTER Labor Day. That means exams will last pretty much until Christmas. Look at our schedule:

Sept. 8 -- Classes Begin
Dec. 14 -- Classes End
Dec. 15 -- Study Day
Dec. 16-22 -- Exams
Dec. 24 -- Grades Due

Yes, you read that correctly: grades are due on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve! Apparently our Regents don't actually teach and never have. Bah! Humbug! It's going to be a LONG fall semester and a very short Christmas break...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Going Paperless

I feel so 21st century: my husband and I have decided to cancel our subscription to The Flint Journal, the major newspaper for our area. Like many other papers, it's facing tough economic decisions and the recent change from daily to a three-day-a-week paper just didn't help. At best, it was good for local news (and the funnies and syndicated columns I like to read daily), but with the three-day format there was even less local news AND they got rid of a lot of stuff I do like.

For a while now I've been reading the funnies and syndicated columns online so the Journal's change to a useless three-day format made canceling an easy decision. Unfortunately, the Journal's web site is one of the worst I've every seen, so I won't be reading it. Sadly, the same company provides the web sites for most of the city papers in Michigan (Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, etc.) so they are all equally bad. I'll be referring the web site for my local ABC TV station for local news from now.

I'd thought I'd miss reading a printed newspaper but I don't. (It looks so quaint now on Miss Marple!) By reading it online I don't get ink all over my hands, don't have to worry about recycling, and never miss an issue because the paperboy forgot me for some reason. I think I actually prefer electronic format! I still love printed books but I'm also not opposed to ebooks and magazines, especially for travel.

Now I want a Kindle. :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Damn Ragweed!

Argh! The ragweed has started pollinating early this year. I'm so allergic that I react to the merest hint of ragweed pollen. I'm so annoyed! We're having a lovely, cool summer and I can't leave my air conditioning (aka my friend the pollen filter) -- and the first killing frost usually isn't until the first week in October.

Enough whining! At least I have air conditioning and allergy medicine to make life tolerable! Even so, I'm dreaming of lovely October weather.