Saturday, January 16, 2010

Post Birthday Ramble

Too many causes out there I'm concerned about. If only I were a billionaire.

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Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.
-- Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad
(Jayne & Stefan are oh-so-itchy for some travel for fun instead of business!!!)
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Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who defied the Nazis to hide Anne Frank and her family for two years & saved Anne Frank's diary, died today. She was 100. She is survived by her son and three grandchildren and an incredible legacy. Miep Gies has been my hero since I played her in The Diary of Anne Frank 27 years ago. Would I be as brave and strong as Miep Gies if faced with the same situation? Would I be willing to risk my life in that way? Would you?

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When disaster strikes, thousands of citizens in the USA start contacting various organizations & individuals (including me) in an effort to try to volunteer onsite at the disaster site, or they want to collect clothes, food & other materials to send. My recent professional blog details why this is NOT APPROPRIATE for Haiti and other crisis situations, why cash donations are what's needed most, how you can really help in crisis situations, and how you can get training NOW to respond to future disasters. Kudos to everyone who has donated to MercyCorps & Red Cross, BTW! Donations really do help, not just short-term, but long-term.

I still haven't found a list of casualties from the UN building collapse. I had a few friends there five years ago, but I'm not sure who was there now.

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Guess how much I hate Pat Robertson? Oh, come on, guess... My Christian friends now know how my Muslim friends feel every time Osama Bin Wacko opens his mouth. There's no more room on this poster for his nonsense and hatred. Jesus wept.

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Mel Gibson apparently feels the need to avenge my grandmother in his latest movie, "Edge of Darkness." Because the movie trailer keeps coming on and saying that he's fighting to find out what happened to "Emma Craven." Someone tell him she has an "s" on the end of her name, and that, really, she's fine?

Mel Gibson frightens me 90% of the time, but sometimes he does, indeed, make me laugh.

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So, I'm 44 now. And as most of you know, my birthday was spent watching most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6 (for probably the 10th time in my life) while Albi laid in a drug-induced stupor nearby, recovering from her sudden and very painful surgery. Buy a much-needed used car, take two online classes in social and health marketing at John Hopkins University to increase the kinds of jobs I can apply for, or get surgery for my 13 year old dog? Guess which I chose... Her surgery was Wednesday night, and as of Saturday, she's done really well. The drugs help keep her calm and sleepy and not as interested in licking herself as I feared, though as she recovers, that will become a greater struggle.

The Joss Whedon fest continued the day after my birthday with a birthday present to myself, Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog starring, among others, Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. I was one of the geeky folks who got to see it when it was available oh-so-briefly free online, thanks the Internet Movie Database (my favorite web site ever), and decided I wanted to own the official DVD for all the glorious extras. It's awesome. The ending gets me every time. Have I mentioned I'm a nerd? I've been a Nathan Fillion fan since Firefly, but I have to say, Dr. Horrible turned me into a Neil Patrick Harris fan as well, and the 2009 Tony's sealed the deal.

That reminds me of a discussion over on LinkedIn where someone asked about successful efforts to rebrand celebrities who were suddenly uncool for some reason at some point (scandal, no-longer-in-style image, etc.). In addition to Neil Patrick Harris, I thought of William Shatner, Wil Wheaton, Tami Faye Bakker, Donna Rice, and Steve Jobs. But other than Tami Faye, I couldn't think of anyone really famous or even semi-famous who came back from a really terrible or particularly salacious scandal except Bill Clinton (don't say Hugh Grant -- he wasn't married and I think his career actually got hotter because of that little incident), and he didn't rebrand himself -- just re-established himself with the same brand. I wouldn't count any of the people on The Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest as rebranding themselves... Your ideas?

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It's Girl Scout cookie presale time in the USA! Through cookie sales, Girl Scouts practice important skills: goal-setting, money management, teamwork, planning, decision-making & customer service. All proceeds-every penny-from a local council's cookie activities remain in the area where cookies are sold. Say yes to Girl Scout cookies!
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J Cravens's currently-reading book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Portland, Oregon Challenge!

Here's a challenge for those of you living in or around Portland, Oregon, who used to live in or around Portland, Oregon, or love visiting Portland, Oregon:

If you were to visit Austin, Texas and said you wanted to see what made Austin such a great city, or you just wanted to have a good time, I would tell you to:
  • Have breakfast at the Magnolia Cafe on South Congress Avenue, then stroll up and down the street and enjoy the various shops and galleries (particularly Yard Dog). Take lots of time and then have lunch at Guerro's.
  • Take in a show at the Continental Club and/or Ginny's Little Longhorn
  • Take in a movie at the Alamo Draft House
  • Have some beer and play table shuffle board on a beautiful antique table at the Shoal Creek Saloon
  • Drive out to Black's barbecue in Lockhart, for great food, Texas prairie scenery, and a cute little town visit
  • Hike Barton Creek
  • Walk around downtown and the grounds of the state capital
  • Enjoy the sunset over Lake Austin at the Oasis Restaurant
  • Stroll around Waterloo Records and Book People, then have some ice cream at Amy's.
If you were to visit Louisville, Kentucky, I would tell you to:
  • go to any of the Irish bars on Bardstown Road in the late afternoon or early evening with your dog, and just eat and drink and people watch outside (and play cornhole is such is offered)
  • have breakfast at Lynn's Paradise Cafe and then visit the shops two doors up and two doors down on either side of it.
  • walk around the Highlands and take in some really amazingly-beautiful houses (if any are for sale and having an open house, go in!), then visit the Pie Kitchen.
  • go to Cherokee Park and have a picnic with your dog
  • go see a baseball game at Louisville Slugger field
  • take the Louisville Slugger factory tour
  • visit the historic house and grounds of Locust Grove (during an event like a concert or festival is even more fun)
  • go to any bar during a U of KY game (I'm sure there's a few Cardinal fans in Louisville as well)
  • drive down and take the Maker's Mark tour, then stroll around Bardstown, and see some lovely Kentucky scenery in between your drives.
  • visit the Speed Art Museum
Now, people of Portland and lovers of Portland, do the same for me regarding your city and the surrounding area: offer concrete ways to spend a morning, an afternoon, an evening, even an entire weekend, that would make someone say, "Wow, this is really nice/great/different. This is what makes Portland cool." We've seen Powell's Books (which is WAY impressive and more addictive than heroin), we've visited Silverton (adorable) and we've had some nice lunches at a few places (all nice, but nothing really special). Here's your chance to show us what we're missing!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ending 2009 - Starting 2010

A highlight of the holidaze was video-conferencing with Stefan's family back in Germany on Christmas Eve. We did some screen-captures of the video call - the photo at left is the best. Unfortunately, we didn't screen capture Stefan's Grandmother (Cyber Oma) at the start of the call, and it's a shame, because it was my favorite moment -- she got such a kick out of it! Stefan's extended family is quite tight-knit, and it's been fascinating to be a part of such. I'm not used to it -- and I love it! His cousins and I write each other and I've invited them all to come stay with us. I really hope they do.

Stefan's parents also called us after midnight on NYE - it was about 10 a.m. their time. We were watching our Sean the Sheep DVD and drinking some really yummy "Barefoot Bubbly" Extra Dry Champagne (and I mean really yummy). Later on New Year's Day, I watched most of the "Buffy" marathon (first time I've ever watched it in the USA). All in all, a good way to end 2009 and start the new year.

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Christmas was very low key. Anne came up from San Francisco and cooked an amazing meal for us (leftovers gone in record time). I made dinner one night with our fabulous Maggi sauce from Germany and I made breakfast Christmas morning (turkey bacon is tasty, but you have to use two entire packages to get enough grease for milk gravy). I didn't get to resume one of my favorite Christmas traditions: watching the oh-so-classic A Christmas Story. Next year, for sure! One of our neighbors had the lamp from the movie in their window! We also got to visit Powell's City of Books for the first time. That's... wow. I managed to get out of the store buying only two used books. I'll have to stay away from there, for sure. Too tempting. Our last night together was spent watching The Great Escape, with Anne commenting on Steve McQueen and me commenting on James Garner, and Anne, Stefan and I having way too much fun altering an advertisement for Dr. Who.

Santa brought us each a small stocking filled with chocolate, Scotch and vodka Christmas morning. Stefan got me Ken Burns' Lewis & Clark DVD and It's Not News It's Fark (book), and I got him the remastered Fawlty Towers DVDs ("Don't mention the war!") and a pocket compass. We've already watched all the DVDs - Fawlty Towers just gets funnier and funnier every time you watch it. I loved the Lewis & Clark DVD (as did Stefan), but I think I liked reading Undaunted Courage even better. We've seen so much of Lewis & Clark's route without even trying to. For some reason, it gave me chills to think of that party seeing Mt. Hood.

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The first seven months of 2009 were pretty good: we went to Rome in January, had a great time in Louisville for the summer (and got my motorcycle license), drove cross-country and camped all over the USA in July. The last five months had some highlights: I bought a motorcycle in September, I went riding with my husband (realization of a longtime dream), Albi became an Internet sensation, we enjoyed the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest and got to know the terrific German community in the area, and I went to Serbia in December. And I got some good consulting gigs in 2009, some of the best I've ever had in terms of the kind of work and the pay.

But those last five months of 2009 were rough, and the constant disappointments made us question our decision to move not only to Portland, but to the USA as a whole. Tears have been shed. We're longing for that "I'm glad we moved here" moment. And our patience is running thin.

In 2010, what I want even more than a full-time job is for Stefan to get an Oregon title for his motorcycle and to get to resume his volunteer firefighting career. I'm not kidding, I want those two things more than a job. Those two things would transform both of our feelings about Oregon instantly.

We both are in dire need of travel, not just for work. I'm hoping for our first car camping trip of 2010 with Albi by April, and our first motorcycle camping trip soon after. Suggestions for sites and routes welcomed!

And before any of you write me about the importance of a positive attitude, please read How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich. She's my hero and expresses exactly how I feel about Oprah-like attitudes. Bah humbug.

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Do you know someone running a small cleaning company in the USA? I'm volunteering with an organization helping Afghan entrepreneurs. I must find a USA company manager to talk to a person in Afghanistan via (Skype or email), with me facilitating communications, regarding the realities of setting up/running a cleaning company for businesses, homes and maybe clinics & hospitals. Do you know someone running a small cleaning company in the USA that might fit the bill? Please give me their email or give them mine:
jc "at"

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In the waning days of 2009, Stefan got to see most of The Day the Earth Stood Still, one of the greatest movies ever made (and I don't mean that dreadful remake). Soooooo far ahead of its time. Don't you love the Glen Beck moment (the radio guy/scaremonger)? If you haven't seen this film in a while, you need to.

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STOP THE PRESSES: I'm about to say something nice about Canby! Ready?

Nice library. In particular, a nice used-books-for-sale section, and SUPER nice staff. We're very happy to have library cards now.

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No viewing of the Dakar Rally for Stefan this year. He's pretty bummed out about it. Yet another disappointment. I thought for sure that, if we couldn't find a highlight show on TV somewhere, we could find a bar somewhere in or around Portland that might be showing a TV channel that features highlights. No dice. Comcast's VERSUS network is showing race highlights every day, but we don't get that channel on DirectTV (and if we switched to Comcast, we'd lose a lot of channels we love).

I'm also looking for where University of Kentucky basketball fans might gather to watch UK games in or around Portland. But Google has turned up nothing so far. I hope that by blawging about it now it might show up in some search and connect me with a group.

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Just re-read The Chosen, a book I read back in college. I loved it even more this time around. One of the things that I find particularly striking is that one studies the Torah, one does not merely read it, and to study the Torah, one reads various versions of the Torah (acknowledging right up front that different versions exist) and various commentaries on such, as well as discussing it, even debating it, with others regularly. I wonder why so many (most?) Christians and Muslims emphasize only memorization of their holy books and are in complete denial that there are multiple versions of each?

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And that's my first post of 2010. Ta Da.