Thursday, December 29, 2011


If you saw the trailers to Hugo you may have gotten the impression that it is a kid movie, or at least one that would appeal to young boys.

The reality is delightfully far from that expectation.

Keep your eyes on Asa Butterfield and Chloƫ Grace Moretz. They did a masterful job of portraying about-ten-year-old Hugo Cabret and Isabelle.

Hugo lives in the walls of a Paris train station. He winds all the clocks in the station on behalf of his uncle, and guardian, Claude, who left and never came back.

In his spare time he is trying to repair an automaton, left to him by his dead father.

It wasn't until he found out that Isabelle has the one piece he was missing. They get it to work, and it provides a clue to an adventure that took me on a totally unexpected emotional journey.

Be prepared for an enjoyable two hours. I understand why the AFI named it one of the 10 best movies of 2011 and give it a total thumbs up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Another New Adventure, Part 3

Last night was night 7 of my CPAP.

A friend told me the experience of his brother, who "became a different person" with his CPAP. Most notably, he said that while the CPAP solved the immediate problem (sleep apnea) fairly quickly, it took him several weeks to get caught up on his sleep deficit.

I think both observations apply to me.

Last night we turned off the light at about the same time, but instead of waking up when Sally's alarm went off (she unlocks the front door at 6:30 so the grandkidlets can come in, mom starts work at 7:00), I was totally zonked until after 8:30.

And I feel better, more refreshed, than any of the other CPAP nights.

This is exciting!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Another New Adventure, Part 2

I have had two more nights with my new BiPAP machine and I am finally getting the hang of it. I didn't (or don't remember) waking up last night with the suffocating feeling; I guess my subconscious is figuring it out.

Anecdotally, a friend told me it could take a while before I get caught up on my sleep, and I think he was absolutely correct. Each day I feel a little bit more refreshed - no mid-day falling asleep yesterday - and I expect that will be the case every day.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another New Adventure

Three nights ago I went for another sleep study, required to diagnose sleep apnea and required if I want my insurance company to pay for the treatment. This study consisted of my being wired in about 20 different ways, then trying to sleep.

Unlike prior times, this study revealed that I do now have sleep apnea. That resulted in my being fitted yesterday with a BiPAP (similar to a CPAP) machine and, temporarily, supplemental oxygen.

Last night was my first night. I didn't have too much trouble with the mask and with the air pressure every time I breathed, except for the fact that I couldn't scratch where it itched.

I had been looking forward to what people have described as the best night's sleep ever. Unfortunately, it is going to take me some time to adjust, I'm afraid, because today I am tired, irritable and stressed (I have a couple of tics I can't calm down).

I of course don't know if the BiPAP solved the main problem, which is that I stop breathing in the middle of the night, but the secondary problem, that of low blood oxygen saturation, seems to have been alleviated; I woke in the middle of the night and checked it and it was well into the 90% range. When I had the sleep study, once I got into bed and headed toward sleep it dropped to 84%, not a good level.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I don't remember precisely why I added Stardust to my Netflix queue, because the queue is full enough that it has been a long time since I added it. My best guess is that I saw it advertised and that it had Michelle Pfeiffer in it.

This was a wonderful movie. There was tension, good acting, a nice mixture of big-name stars and unknowns, romance, and best of all, I knew how I wanted it to end, and it did.

Stardust is the story of a young man, Tristan, trying to win a pretty girl, Victoria, away from a dashing bully, Huphreys. Tristan manages to get Victoria on a picnic overlooking the Wall, an ancient stone barrier between us and another universe. While sipping champagne overlooking this area, they see a star falling into it, and Tristan tells Victoria that to prove his love and devotion he will bring the star to her.

Victoria is more interested in her other suitor, but tells Tristan that if he can do it in the one week before her birthday, she will marry him.

Tristan enters the land through a guarded hole in the wall by evading the guard, and there has a bunch of harrowing adventures. The first of these adventures is where he actually meets and joins forces with the fallen star, Yvain, played by Claire Danes.

It turns out that Tristan is not the only one looking for the star, though the others want to cut her heart out and eat it. Among them is a witch played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Among those who help Tristan and Yvain escape is a pirate played by Robert de Niro.

I love this quote. This is Yvain talking to Tristan, who has been turned into a mouse, and who Yvain thinks can't understand her:

You know when I said I knew little about love. Well that wasn't true. I know a lot about love. I've seen it. Seen centuries and centuries of it. And it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. And all those wars. Pain, and lies. Hate. Made me want to turn away, never look down again. But to see the way that mankind loves. You could search the furthest reaches of the  universe, and never find anything more beautiful. So, yes. I know that love is unconditional. But I also know it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable. And strangely easy to mistake for loathing. And what I'm, I'm trying to say, Tristan, is: I think I love you! My heart, it feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it doesn't belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I'd wish for nothing in exchange. No gift, no goods, no demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you love me too. Just your heart. In exchange for mine.
Watch this movie, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

First Lesson

I rented my cello this week and had my first lesson last night. A friend of ours, Scott Davis, has been playing the cello for many years, and is excited to help me learn.

He was very impressed with the cello. I guess it can be something of a crap shoot, but I lucked out and got one with a very good sound.

It sure helps to have some prior knowledge of music. I played the piano some many years ago and even went into the accordion for a while. But I think that it's mostly the desire to play that will make it work.

I figure in a year I will be playing along side Scott in our ensemble.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A New Adventure

Sally and I have been (willingly) co-opted into a singing group called the Sugar Hill Ensemble. The goal is to play in places such as rest homes and bring some happiness into some people's lives.

The originator of the ensemble is Scott Davis, a retired lawyer here in Spokane. Scott does the cello, Sally does the vocals, and we have a pianist (currently unavailable due to injury) and a guitar (currently unavailable due to travel). I narrate.

Scott is a self-taught cellist and has been urging me to give the cello a try. I already read music, so I am ahead of the game there. This has piqued my curiosity and I think I may go for it.

There is a popular pianist name Jon Schmidt who has been making the rounds, including Spokane a week or so ago. He is actually part of a duo, the other half of which is Steven Sharp Nelson, an absolutely wonderful cellist. Because some friends had gone to the Jon Schmidt concert, and raved about it, I looked him up and found Steven. Now I am totally engaged in the idea of learning to play the cello, not because I aspire to be him, but because his playing has touched my heart and my soul.

Here is an example of Steven's (and Jon's) playing, that should illustrate what I am talking about. Be forewarned, watching that video may lead you to search out others.

I blogged a long time ago about the violin that I got for Mildred one year because she had always wanted to play one. Well, I also have always wanted to play the violin. I love that sound I think more than any other in the orchestra. The cello has a lower range of sounds and now that I have been looking into it I find that it can be just as heart-touching as the violin. Well, almost.

That's my new adventure.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Music has had such a big place in my life, and I forget that sometimes.

My mom had been taught the basics of music at a young age by her grandmother. She had a lovely baby grand piano that was always a part of our lives, except for the three years we were overseas. What was remarkable was that she could hear any song, say on the radio, and sit down and play it. With all the chords.

Now this was not instantaneous, she sometimes had to think it through and work it out. But still, I was always impressed by that talent, and enjoyed a lot of the music she produced.

I married a gal (Mildred) who had been playing the piano in public since she was 11 years old. She had never had the time or the inclination to become, say, a concert pianist, though I have no doubt she could have. She loved her music, and the piano that I got from my aunt Mary's estate became a fixture in our home. She played it until it fell apart and we bought a new one.

Near the end of her life she was the ward organist, at a great personal cost. By that time her whole body was in pain, but especially her hands and her back. She still wouldn't give up playing the organ in church every Sunday, but paid a big price for it for the next day or two.

I married another gal (Sally) who had been singing in public for just about as long. She grew up on the island of Bermuda and as a young adult there sung in night clubs and such.

Sally still has a beautiful voice, one that I don't get to hear very often. But recently some friends have scooped her up into an ensemble they are putting together to sing what they call Magic Songs. These are songs that are memorable and emotional.

The first practice we had was just Sally and the cellist (and organizer), Scott Davis. I was coopted into being the narrator for the presentation. The songs he had picked out so far all seem to have a high emotional charge for me, mostly because of what was going on in my life at the time each was popular.

But most of all I was enchanted, once again, with Sally's voice. It's definitely not the voice of an 18-year-old, but that of a mature woman. Yet it has an ageless quality about it that makes me almost able to see her as she was at that age. If quality is any part of success (which I don't think it is most times, not in that industry), she could have been at the top of the charts in her day.

Mostly though, the passion for singing has been reawakened, and that is good. She has been giggling more, and practicing a lot, and is really happy. She is able to shift her load off her shoulders for a time and just be happy.

I have to say that in an odd way, I fell in love with her because of her voice. The first time we ever spoke on the phone (we were brought together by an internet site) I fell, and knew she was the one. Singing to each other became part of our courtship, though I know she got the short end of that stick.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What does it mean?

I looked back and found that nobody has left a comment on any of my posts since January 29th, and here it will be August 29th in two days. I guess that means I can say anything about anybody and not offend them.

On the birth of a grandchild

We are still in Toledo, Oregon, following the birth of our 14th grandchild, Quentin, Amy and Ben's 7th. We are leaving for our home in Spokane in the morning; we wanted to make sure everything was on track before we left.

As I was in bed last night, waiting to go to sleep, my thoughts went back to the birth of Mildred and my 7th, Mary.

I could recall almost none of it! I was overtaken with sadness that I am still feeling this morning.

As I look back I remember so little. I was so busy trying to provide for our growing family that I'm afraid I left a lot of the child rearing experiences, and memories, up to Mildred. And now she's not here to help me remember.

Some things I remember well. Actually, I do remember a lot. But I especially remember sitting together in Sacrament Meeting, and how good that was. I miss that now, a lot, especially when I have to go to church alone because Sally has to stay home with her mother. It's really hard not to be an 'active' dad any more.

Back to the births. I remember Ruth's well. Of course it was our first, plus there were complications. I remember Deborah's well. But again, there were complications. The rest are a blur.

I think another part of this blue funk I am in is that I just plain miss my kids, and of course, their mother. I love my new family, and love spending time with them, but I don't get to see my crowd very often, and that hurts.

I actually talk to most of them quite often, usually at least a couple of times a week. It's the first, Ruth, and the last, Mary, that I can't seem to connect with very often. Coincidentally (?) they are the only two who have never been in my home in Spokane.

I have faith that once we move past this life, all our memories will become clear to us, and I suppose that will have to suffice for now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Drug-Free School Zone

The dean of Science Fiction, Robert Heinlein, used an odd literary device to show how silly we can really be. In several of his earlier novels he would, at the beginning of selected chapters, start the chapter out with "headlines" from current (i.e. 22nd century) news media.

One of the ones I still, to this day, get a chuckle out of, was that the state legislature of some state had passed a law setting the value of pi to an even 3.14.

I was passing an elementary school the other day and noticed a sign that read "Drug-Free School Zone". AS IF JUST PUTTING UP A SIGN MADE IT SO.

I don't wonder if that isn't part of the problem, not part of the solution. We want to solve this problem, but instead of getting in there and really really doing something, we find catchy phrases (Just Say No?) and put up signs (Drug-Free School Zone) and then call it good.

For all I know, the Drug-Free School Zone is just what the community needed, and the sign really is keeping drugs out of that school. But my wife and I took a different route. We actually taught our kids what drugs do and what to do when confronted with them.

I know, that's a novel approach.

P.S. Had I known then what I know now I would have dumped the television set off a cliff.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Virgil Carter

I went to High School with Virgil Carter.

Now if you are about my age and you follow BYU football, or the Chicago Bears, you know who Virgil Carter is. He set a bunch of records while at BYU and was the first LDS quarterback in the NFL.

Today after church my wife was talking to a sister in the lobby. We are still in Newport, OR, waiting for the new grandson (should be tomorrow). I wasn't really part of the conversation until I heard her mention Virgil Carter. I said "I know him, I went to High School with him".

Well, long story short, her husband is Virgil's older brother Mike, she brought him over and introduced me and we talked for an hour about his famous brother, and even better, about Folsom High school and all the teachers and kids we knew in common.

Now this doesn't even related to the church, because I didn't join until years later. Truly, It's a Small World After All.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


As my family knows, Dungeness crab is one of my most favorite foods. I remember fondly sitting around the dining room table with a pot of fresh cooked crabs that my mother had bought, spending hours cracking, shelling and eating. Not to mention what I have eaten in the many years since then.

Well I find myself in Newport, OR. We are waiting for our daughter Amy to have her baby; when we arrived here a week and a half ago she was in labor. Still no baby. So my son-in-law Ben and two grandkids (Lara and Brenden) and I went crabbing yesterday.

What a time!

Newport sits on the central Oregon coast at Yaquina Bay. Both the ocean and the bay floor must be littered with crabs, and not just Dungeness. But there are lots of those.

The process is simple. A crab ring costs $6/day to rent, and enough raw chicken breast to keep you going all day is $2. There are plenty of spots, piers, to bait the ring and throw it off the side. Wait 10-15 minutes and haul it up.

The law allows, for Dungeness,  only keeping males that are at least 5 3/4 inches across, and there is a per-day limit. But the gender difference is very obvious and they give you a ruler. For other species, such as red rock, there are no restrictions.

So it was cold and windy, and boring while waiting out the 10 minutes. But we had a blast and went home with two nice Dungeness and six red rock crabs.

I don't have a license, so I couldn't have anything to do with the process, other than observing. If it weren't such a chore to get to Newport from Spokane (450 miles down through the Tri-Cities and Portland) I would probably get one.

Ben cooked them and he and I dug out all the meat. We decided that red rock were too small, but they were just as tasty as the Dungeness.

I slept like a log last night.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

David's Fat Legs

All our kids were scrawny. When small they were all in the 3rd percentile for their age. Our pediatrician just got used to it, but every once in a while he changed nurses and we had to teach the new one that it was okay, and that our kids were healthy.

David was one of the scrawniest. One summer day, he must have been 5-ish, he came in after playing outside all day. Mildred looked down at his legs, which were pretty much covered with bruises (as little boys can do), and said "David, look at those legs".

He looked down and said "Yeah, they're fat, aren't they" :)

Quarante Litres

When we lived in France the first time (1959-1963) we brought with us a turquoise 1956 Mercury. We took that beast all over Europe with a rack that my dad made piled high with camping equipment.

Since the US military was in just about every country in Europe that wasn't behind the Iron Curtain, a very nice perk was gasoline at US military prices, instead of having to pay the what civilians did.

My dad would buy chits before a trip, each of which was good for 10 liters. They could only be redeemed at gas stations that displayed a US Quartermaster placard, so when it was getting to be about that time we all kept our eyes peeled for one.

Now my dad never really did learn much French. But he did know to say "quarante litres" (40 liters, or about 10 gallons). Then it was (apparently) my job to monitor the transaction.

I remember one time the gas station attendant wasn't paying attention and went past the quarante litres. But with the chits it was all (10 litres) or nothing. So my dad ended up having to pay the difference out of his pocket.

Boy, did I get in trouble!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My ear buds are nice and minty

I got tired of mangling my Apple ear buds but wanted to carry them with me.

I got a can of Altoids Smalls, ate the mints and wiped it out as best I could. The ear buds fit in there very nicely, and the can fits in my pocket.

And they are nice and minty :)

A Big Hand for the Little Lady

If you like smart, funny, touching movies with lots of stars and a surprise ending, this 1966 film is a must.

Starring Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards, Paul Ford, Charles Bickford, Burgess Meredith, Kevin McCarthy, etc., this western has a recovering poker addict (Henry Fonda) getting into the yearly "big game" that is normally reserved for a select few in the area.

He gets the poker hand of a lifetime and promptly keels over with a heart attack (don't worry, he survives). In order to save their life savings which are on the table, his wife (Joanne Woodward) must do the thing she hates the most and play out his hand. Unfortunately, she has neither the knowledge to play it nor the money to stay in the game.

The outcome is fun, sly, and for me was not predictable.

I highly recommend this movie, it has been one of my favorites for many years.

QUOTE: (After the poker game is over)
"How many truly exceptional women have you known in your life?"
"Only one"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Marriage, even to the best of partners, doesn't make you wise, strong, elegant, efficient, sexy, patient or honest. What it can do is teach you how to love, and maybe how to be loved. It really helps if you bring those other things in with you.