Thursday, January 31, 2008
For those not familiar with Foxwoods, or "The Wonder of It All" as it's referred to in many of their advertising campaigns, it's currently the largest casino in the world based on the amount of floor space for gaming and rises out of the Connecticut woods on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Ledyard which is about 15 minutes up the road from where I live. Where I live is actually sandwiched between Foxwoods, the largest casino in the world, and the Mohegan Sun, the second largest casino in the world.
Foxwoods is HUGE and going to be even bigger as they are just about finished with their new expansion project, the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, a breathtaking new $700 million development scheduled for completion in the spring of 2008. It will add nearly 2 million square feet of overall space and change the landscape of this part of Connecticut even more. When you come around the corner and see the complex with the new hotel rising out of the woods (essentially in the middle of nowhere) it's pretty darned impressive! This picture doesn't show the new hotel, I'll have to try to find a camera with a good enough lens to get a picture of that - hokey smokes!
I used to work at Foxwoods years and years ago as a Security Officer, long before I worked at the Mohegan Sun Casino as a blackjack dealer, and it's rather interesting to go there and see some of the people that I used to work with still there and doing the same thing. I'm not so sure I could have lasted over ten years standing on my feet for 8 hours a shift - especially with my back problems. But that's neither here nor there as far as this post is concerned!
The casino seemed pretty empty last night (of course, as big as the place is, it's easy for it look empty even when there are thousands upon thousands of people there) and the Bingo Hall was even emptier so I thought perhaps my chances of breaking the losing streak I've had since I last won $40 at a game of Bingo at the NCO Club on McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey in 1981 might actually be pretty good. I was ready for a win, for the chance to shout out "Bingo" with the best of 'em, and maybe even get a chance to grab some money out of the Money Machine or give the Money Wheel a fine spin.
Alas, it appears that I am the Susan Lucci of Bingo-playing and my losing streak has continued unabated. As I have told my mother on several occasions, I get the feeling that it could be myself and the Bingo caller only and I still wouldn't manage to win! My mom, on the other hand, actually does quite well and has chalked up a good number of wins for herself. Neither she nor my aunt got to yell "Bingo" last night but Mom had done pretty good on the slot machines prior to Bingo and was going to go home with some of the casino's money in spite of her numbers not coming up in Bingo.
As for me, I made a small contribution to the tribe to help pay for their new MGM expansion and had a nice night out visiting with my aunt, who it's always nice to see, and my mom. There are worse ways to spend an evening and knowing that I have the worst luck when it comes to gambling, I'm never tempted to bet the rent and walk out of there kicking myself in the butt for challenging Lady Luck and losing.
Maybe next time, though, I can finally break that losing streak!
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Having had the opportunity to visit Alcatraz in 1986 during my parents' visit to California when I still lived there, I was rather intrigued by this story just as I was by the former federal prison. I was rather dismayed to see that someone wants to tear down the history of Alcatraz along with the old buildings for it's certainly an interesting, and I feel important, part of our American history whether you think it "exudes negative energy" or not.
Alcatraz's colorful history began shortly after gold was discovered in 1848 along the American River in central California. As word of vast riches spread quickly, hundreds of ships filled with gold-seekers from around the globe arrived in San Francisco Bay and the land formerly belonging to Spain and then to Mexico was claimed as United States territory.
San Francisco's population exploded from 300 to 30,000 in just a few years while it became the center of world attention for thousands of people in search of gold and riches. In 1850, California became a state and President Fillmore issued an Executive Order reserving certain lands around San Francisco Bay for military use as the United States government felt they needed to protect the land and its mineral resources from seizure by other countries.
In 1853 construction began on Fort Alcatraz atop the sandstone island in San Francisco Bay and upon completion became the most powerful of all Pacific Coast defenses. Steep walls were created around the island and cannon were posted at the north, south, and west sides of the island so that they faced all ships coming into the bay. Eventually there were 111 guns that almost totally encircled the island along with smaller Howitzers that were posted midway along the island in gun batteries.
Alcatraz Island, often referred to as "The Rock", was originally planned as an army defense site but was also an ideal location for a prison and, as such, in 1861 Alcatraz was officially designated the military prison for the Department of the Pacific. Initially prisoners were held in the Howitzer rooms of the guardhouse but when they became too full, a temporary wooden prison was built in 1863 just north of the guardhouse. It was replaced with several adjoining structures called Lower Prison which housed an average of 100 men throughout the late 1800s.
During the Spanish-American War thousands of troops passed through San Francisco and between 1899 and 1900 the prison population grew from 25 to 441. This increase necessitated the building of the Upper Prison which consisted of three wooden cell houses with two tiers each which were surrounded by a stockade fence. In 1907 Fort Alcatraz was re-designated the "Pacific Branch, U.S. Military Prison, Alcatraz Island" when the army finally acknowledged that the future of Alcatraz was as a prison and not a defense site. After an ambitious building project, the cell house complex included four cell blocks with a total of 600 cells, a kitchen, dining hall, hospital, recreation yard, and administrative offices. It was the largest reinforced concrete building in the world when completed in 1912 and also included a power plant which produced electricity and steam heat for the island.
In addition to its role as a military fort and prison, Alcatraz Island was the site of a navigational lighthouse which was erected and first lit in 1853. Alcatraz Lighthouse #1 was the first lighthouse built on the current US Pacific coast and contained a California Cottage design with a short tower protruding from the center. In 1856 a fog bell was added to the lighthouse.
In 1909, after 56 years of use, Alcatraz Lighthouse #1 was torn down to make way for the construction of the larger prison. Alcatraz Lighthouse #2 was constructed and located next to the cell house and completed on December 1st, 1909. Its 84-foot tower of concrete contained a smaller lens than its predecessor which was eventually replaced in 1963 with an automated rotating beacon thereby allowing the keepers to be discharged.
In 1933 the Army left Alcatraz due in part to the Great Depression of the early 1930s and negative publicity. Most of the military prisoners were transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Fort Jay, New Jersey however they turned over their 32 worst prisoners to the custody of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons who took over control of Alcatraz Island and ran the federal prison there from 1934 until 1963.
The Federal Government had decided to open a maximum-security, minimum-privilege penitentiary to deal with the most incorrigible inmates in Federal prisons in order to show the law-abiding public that the Federal Government was serious about stopping the rampant crime of the 1920s and 1930s. Classified as a concentration model, where difficult-to-manage prisoners from other institutions would be concentrated under one roof, Alcatraz served as an experiment of segregation in response to the outbreak of crime and violence of post-Prohibition, post-Depression America.
Despite it's reputation as being a "Devil's Island", several inmates actually requested a transfer to The Rock. The average population was only about 260-275, never once reaching its capacity of 336, and many prisoners actually considered the living conditions to be better than other Federal prisons (for instance, there was always just one man to a cell). At Alcatraz, a prisoner had four rights: food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Everything else was a privilege that had to be earned. Some privileges included working, corresponding with and having visits from family members, access to the prison library, and recreational activities such as painting and music.
Even though Alcatraz housed such famous prisoners as Al Capone, Robert "The Birdman of Alcatraz" Stroud, George "Machine-Gun" Kelly, Alvin Karpis (the first "Public Enemy #1"), and Arthur "Doc" Barker, most of the 1,576 prisoners incarcerated during its 29 year history as a federal prison were not well-known gangsters. They were simply prisoners who refused to conform to the rules and regulations at other Federal institutions, prisoners who were considered violent and dangerous or who were considered escape risks. If a man did not behave at another institution, he could be sent to Alcatraz where the highly structured, monotonous daily routine was designed to teach an inmate to follow rules and regulations.
On March 21, 1963, Alcatraz closed after 29 years of operation as a U.S. Penitentiary. The reason for closure was due to the fact that the prison was too expensive to continue operating primarily due to its location and isolation. The isolation of being on an island meant that everything (food, supplies, water, fuel, etc.) had to be brought to Alcatraz by boat. As an example, the island had no source of fresh water, so nearly one million gallons of water had to be barged to the island each week. The Federal Government decided that it was more cost-effective to build a new institution rather than to keep Alcatraz open.
After the prison closed, Alcatraz was basically abandoned though many ideas were proposed for the island which included a monument to the United Nations, a West Coast version of the Statue of Liberty, and a shopping center/hotel complex. The island made news in 1969 when a group of Native American Indians claimed Alcatraz as Indian land with the hope of creating a Native American cultural center and education complex on the island. During the 18 months that the "Indians of All Tribes" used their act of civil disobedience to illustrate the troubles faced by Native Americans, public support was strong and thousands of people came to the island during the time they were there. Unfortunately, the small Native American leadership group could not control the situation and much damage occurred including graffiti, vandalism, and a fire that destroyed the lighthouse keeper's home, the Warden's home, and the Officers' Club.
In June of 1971, Federal Marshals removed the remaining Native Americans from the island and it was once again abandoned until 1972 when Congress created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Alcatraz Island was included as part of the new National Park Service unit, designated as a National Historic Landmark, and opened to the public in the fall of 1973. Since then it has become one of the most popular Park Service sites with more than one million visitors from around the world coming to tour the island each year.
Da Vid and the Global Peace Foundation, now wish to change all that and have managed to get Proposition C put onto the Febuary 5th California ballot by collecting over 20,000 signatures in favor of the plan to convert the historical prison on Alcatraz Island into a Global Peace Center. The initiative would restore the operating power of Alcatraz back to the city and county of San Francisco which would then open the door for Da Vid’s ambitious renovation plan for the island tourist attraction.
Da Vid has described Alcatraz as a "major power point" where "energy moves through the planet." His vision to turn it into a peace center came to him in 1978. "It was a flash," he explained, "and I wasn't on any drugs either." His grand project calls for transforming the former penitentiary into "the eighth wonder of the world", comparable to the Taj Mahal or Parthenon, which would include a statue of St. Francis, a multimedia entertainment center, a world cultures conference room, and a harmonium, employing sound techniques to impart a "deep meditative, transpersonal and transcendent experience," a medicine wheel and a labyrinth.
Even should the operation of Alcatraz Island be successfully turned back over to the City of San Franscisco from the Department of the Interior and National Park Service, dismantling the prison would be a very costly proposition and Da Vid has absolutely no funding for such an endeavor. When the San Francisco Chronicle asked him about that he assured them that "Money will come" and hopes that major corporations will wish to build some good karma for themselves by helping to fund the multi-million dollar project.
In my own humble opinion, I have to strongly disagree with Da Vid's desire to wipe out the history of Alcatraz Island. It seems that there are way too many people hoping that by removing the reminders of our history - especially the unpleasant aspects of it - it will make everything all better and that's just not the case. History, whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, is an integral part of life. We need it so that we can look back at where we were and see the proper direction that we need to go in. We learn from history. Or at least we should.
I have to agree with the San Francisco Chronicle in their editorial "A Vision for Alcatraz" where they state:
"... preserving the old prison at Alcatraz may not be the purest option from a spiritual perspective, but it's a notable part of our region's history ... Remembering our history is rarely uplifting, but it's important."I hope the citizens of California feel the same way and defeat this Proposition at the polls next Tuesday.
If you're interested in learning more about Alacatraz Island's colorful history, then check out the very interesting www.AlcatrazHistory.com where you can learn a lot more than what I just briefly told you or, if you're on the West Coast and haven't been to Alcatraz yourself, I strongly suggest a visit. Just bear in mind that the tours sell out every day! Yeah, it's that popular, Mr. Da Vid!
On Friday, January 25th, Mount Vernon Police Officer Christopher Ridley, 23, was trying to make an arrest outside a Westchester County government complex when officers from a different department spotted him, and, under circumstances that remain unclear, opened fire and killed him.
Ridley was not in uniform and was out of his jurisdiction, but White Plains Public Safety Commissioner Frank Straub said Saturday that the young officer had witnessed a violent assault taking place and rushed to break up the fight. Ridley was struggling with the 39-year-old suspect when Westchester County police officers came upon the fray. Witnesses told reporters that the officers ordered Ridley to drop his gun, then shot him when he didn’t immediately comply.
On January 28th, Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton I. Young and Police Commissioner David E. Chung posthumously promoted Officer Ridley to the rank of Detective. Mayor Young commented that, “the full details of the investigation have not yet surfaced but the one thing we are assured of is that Police Officer Ridley acted courageously and died as a result of his actions in the line of duty. Therefore it is fitting to bestow the honor of a Detective Designation on Christopher A. Ridley.”
White Plains police have interviewed more than three dozen witnesses to the fatal incident and are analyzing video footage from the area to determine the circumstances of Ridley's death which has drawn the attention of the Reverend Al Sharpton. Detective Ridley had served with the Mount Vernon Police Department for one year and is survived by his mother and father.
On Sunday, January 27th, Trooper Daniel Barrett of the Indiana State Police was killed when his car crashed into a tree. Trooper Barrett was on patrol at approximately 10:45 p.m. Sunday night in Fulton Country, 90 miles north of Indianapolis, when his cruiser moved to the east side of the road and hit a tree on the side of the driver’s door. He was declared dead at the scene of the accident.
Barrett, age 25, was a trooper since July 2007 when he graduated from the 67th Indiana State Police Recruit Academy. Before he began work as a trooper, Barret worked as a Corrections Officer and took criminal justice courses at Indiana University and Ivy Tech. Trooper Barrett is survived by his parents, two brothers and one sister.
Barrett is the 43rd officer of the Indiana State Police that has died in the line of duty.
New Orleans Police Officer Nicola Cotton, age 24, becomes the first female Law Enforcement Officer to die in the Line of Duty this year after she was overpowered and shot with her own weapon by a vagrant who was wanted for questioning in a rape on Monday, January 28th.
Officer Cotton approached the subject in her cruiser and began questioning him but when she tried to handcuff the suspect, he attacked her and a seven-minute fight ensued. Officer Cotton used her radio to call for back-up but the suspect grabbed her weapon and shot her repeatedly.
Responding units arrived at the scene approximately two minutes after she was shot and located the suspect still holding her service weapon. He was taken into custody by the responding officers and has been booked on a charge of first-degree murder. The suspect had been arrested several times before on suspected sex offenses.
“I can tell you this officer fought with a man twice her size, and she fought very courageously,” said New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley. “She followed procedure as far as we’re concerned.” Riley said police have several witnesses to the attack that occurred in a parking lot near a busy intersection in the crime-plagued Central City neighborhood, just a few streets away from the district police station, as well as security videotape of the deadly assault.
Officer Cotton had served with the agency for 2 years and was among the first graduates of the police academy after Hurricane Katrina.
May these three brave young men and woman rest in peace and may their families also find some measure of comfort in knowing that they died serving their communities with honor, valor, and bravery.
Monday, January 28, 2008
First off, MM awarded me with both the Silly Goose and Smarty Pants awards for her latest round of Thesaurus Thursday, a fun little game that she hosts every Thursday where she gives her readers two words and challenges them to come up with either the correct or a silly definition. If you've never stopped by to play on Thursdays, what are you waiting for? It's a great chance to show off your knowledge of obscure words or have fun making up what you think the definition ought to be! It's nice to be a Smarty Pants but I find it to be even more fun to be a Silly Goose!
Then, as if those two awards weren't enough to make a blogger happy for quite awhile, MightyMom then went on to award me with a pretty cool award that she got from another blogging buddy that we share, Pinky @ Cheese In My Shoe ...
Apparently this award means that my blog is a daily addiction for MightyMom and to that all I can say is "aw, shucks, thank you ma'm!" You can read more about the award here.
MightyMom wasn't done there as to wrap things up she awarded me the task of taking on The Book Meme which I really enjoyed doing. I love books and wish I had more time to read them as it seems like it's been way too long since I've emerged myself into a really good story. Not to say that there aren't some really good stories here in the Blogosphere but you know what I mean! Besides, I'm waiting patiently for Gale to get her novel published! While you're waiting, too, check out -
- One book that changed your life: Geez, the first question right off the bat is a tough one! I'm not sure that there are any books that have changed my life per say but there have been a lot of books that have touched my life. If I had to name one book, though, I guess I'd say The Bridges of Madison County because it made me realize, all over again, how sad it is to live your life without the person that you love by your side and how much love can hurt even though it's also one of the greatest emotions ever.
- One book that you have read more than once: My father always said that he "didn't like to chew his cabbage twice" but I have no problem chewing mine several times over! When I was younger (still in my teens), I discovered the historical romance fiction of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and I have reread - several times over - her novels "The Flame and The Flower", "The Wolf and the Dove", "Shanna", "A Rose in Winter", and - a particular favorite of mine - "Ashes in the Wind". I loved them all not only for the heartwarming and pulse-racing romance but also for the accurate history that each book contained. No one - and I mean no one - writes historical romance like Kathleen!
- One book that you would want on a desert island: "1,001 Recipes for Coconut"
- One book that made you laugh: I'm with MightyMom on this one - any of the books in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich! Having lived in New Jersey not that far from Trenton when I was in the Air Force, I can picture and hear all of her characters quite vividly. Of course, reading the adventures of Stephanie does make one crave donuts while reading ... and cheesesteaks, too ... oh, and dark-haired Jersey cops and hunky bounty hunters and ...
- One book that made you cry: Just one?! I admit to being a total sap so cry when reading a lot of books (not to mention watching movies!). but one that comes to mind right away is "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom. What a great book and the made-for-TV movie was quite excellent, too!
- One book you wish you'd written: "The DaVinci Code" because it would have meant that I had the chance to go over and explore through the ruins of Rome and other fascinating parts of Europe while doing the background research. Plus I'd also have the money Dan Brown has from writing that book as well as being a household name in almost everyone's household!
- One book you wish had never been written: "Mein Kampf" - enough said.
- One book you're reading: "The Historian", a novel written by Elizabeth Kostova about a quest for the historical Dracula that reaches back through five centuries. My supervisor gave it to me to read months ago and told me that it was really very good and so far I've managed to get through maybe four or five chapters. I believe that there are others at work who are waiting for me to finish it so that they can read it next. Oops!
- One book you're going to read: "Wicked" as it's sitting on my nightstand waiting for me to just pick it up and start! Well, either that or I'll take the easy way out and go see the play instead!
Now, because this was a book meme I just have to tag my favorite retired librarian, Joan, and I'm also going to tag Patti and Jamie as they seem the type to loves books, too. If anyone else would like to snitch this meme (Mimi?) then by all means, go for it and let me know what you come up with!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
After some persuasion, Jason took over as bass player and, because we needed a singer and no one else was willing to do it, I took the microphone for awhile and thoroughly embarrassed myself. I swear we could hear the coyotes howling outside at one point and I'm sure it wasn't at the moon but at my poor excuse for singing!
Amy and Amanda attempted some singing, too, after a fashion and I've got to say that Amanda has most definitely inherited my non-singing abilities! Sorry kiddo! Still it was a lot of fun and we never got boo'd off the stage though we came pretty darned close to it a time or two! Perhaps I had best stick to my awesome guitar playing abilities rather than try to sing!
Today is cold and dark from the clouds with a bit of snow in the air - the perfect day to stay home in front of the fire - if one had a fire, that is! Instead I get to schlep off to work here pretty soon and take up my duties as 911 operator extraōrdinārius. Ah, there I go being delusional again! I am but a simple 911 operator who would rather stay home on this cold and snowy Sunday and eat Ramen noodles while perhaps watching some sort of fluff 'n stuff on TV but alas someone has to tell the ambulance people where to go!
Hope that everyone has a warm and cozy Sunday doing warm and cozy things!
Saturday, January 26, 2008
For those who didn't live through the 80's with bands like Flock of Seagulls and Devo and aren't familiar with what a "keytar" is, it's a keyboard or synthesizer worn around the neck and shoulders similar to a guitar. The word “keytar” is a portmanteau (no, not a large suitcase but a word formed by blending together two other words!) of “keyboard” and “guitar”. "Keytars" allow players a greater range of movement compared to conventional keyboards which are placed on stands and restrict the player to basically standing in one spot on a stage. Anyone who's been to a rock concert has witnessed guitarists and singers wander around freely while the poor drummer and keyboard players stay stoically in one place but if the keyboardist had a "keytar" they could rock out at the edge of the stage with the best of 'em and be able to have lots of adoring fans grab at their shoes, too!
Regardless of what it is, it has become Amanda's new obsession and she really wants, wants, wants, please, please, please, I won't ask you for anything else wants one. That sort of want. It is a want of great proportions, it is a want of great desires, it is a want that would make her really, really happy, and it is a want that shall probably remain unfulfilled as I've looked at "keytars" on eBay and they are way out of my price range right now no matter how many paid posts I write (like the one below this one on an alternative for drug rehab)!
Still, hope springs eternal in the heart of a 15-year old wanna-be-keytar-artist so much so that she drew her first album cover complete with the name of her new band, Kick the Bucket, though she has no album title yet -
So, anyone got an old "keytar" hanging out in their closet gathering dust from the 80's that they don't want anymore and would be willing to sell cheap? And I do mean cheap! Either that or maybe we could trade for some original Art-Munkey drawings??
Friday, January 25, 2008
A couple of Fridays ago, while Jamie was still here, we went to see Sweeney Todd with my friend Paula but the only theater where it was playing was a good 20+ miles away. Both girls really enjoyed the movie (of course Jamie did - it had lots of slashing and blood!) and Amanda had been saying she wanted to see it again. To say that she loves the movie would probably be a gross understatement of how she really feels about it! She's pretty much got the entire soundtrack memorized while she plays the downloaded music a lot on her computer. She's also been attempting to teach herself the opening music on her keyboard and is coming along pretty good with it.
At any rate, the offerings at Lisbon Landing actually had a 6:45 showing of Sweeney Todd but they were also showing Juno, a movie that we had seen the previews for when we saw Sweeney Todd and it looked like it was pretty good. Amanda said she'd like to see Juno so we decided to go to the 4:45 show and save a little on the ticket price. If you'll allow me a small rant, let me just say right here that movie ticket prices are outrageous and the prices they charge at the concession stand are truly highway robbery! Needless to say, we stopped at Walgreen's on the way to the movies and picked up some candy at a much more reasonable price. For those who know I don't carry a purse - I made Amanda smuggle in the contraband goods!
We pretty much had the movie theater to ourselves as there were only four other people besides the two of us but the movie was quite funny and well worth seeing. For those who've never seen or heard of Juno, it's described as "a movie about growing up ... and the bumps along the way". Ellen Page, who plays the title character of the film, finds herself pregnant at age 16 by her friend Paulie (Michael Cera) and after looking through ads in the Pennysaver decides to give her child up for adoption to Mark and Vanessa Loring who are played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. It also helped that one of my very favorite actors, J.K. Simmons, was in the cast as Juno's father, Mac MacGruff. Not to take anything away from my own father but this character was the type of father I would love to have had. Hmm ... do those types of fathers really exist out of celluloid? Amanda and I both gave the film two thumbs up.
The movie ended at 6:35 which gave us time to catch the 6:45 showing of Sweeney Tood if we were so inclined. I had been kind of hoping that it would have been on the same side of the building as the movie we had just seen so we could have just theater-hopped over to see it. Amanda was totally appalled that I would even consider sneaking into another show but I had no intentions of sneaking in ... I was going to just walk right in! Unfortunately, the theater that it was playing in was on the other side of the concession stand and would require new tickets to go see so there was no chance to sneak in anywhere. Rats!
After a brief discussion, Amanda decided that she really wanted to see the movie again so I went back to the box office and bought tickets for that show, too. Oh well, we don't go out that often and, all things considered, it could have been a lot more expensive of a night if we had decided to go out to eat after Juno. This time around it was easier for me to watch Sweeney Todd as I didn't have that still-lingering feeling of nausea that I had for well over a week after my bout with the stomach bug when I first saw the movie. At that time, the whole premise of human meat pies really turned my stomach! This time it was a breeze and I really enjoyed the movie more while being able to look for all of the little nuances and such that you generally miss when see a movie only once.
Sweeney Todd is most definitely a Tim Burton film but I thought he did a great job with it though it certainly doesn't make me want to run over to visit London anytime soon. What a dark and dismal place he portrays it to be! Very much like the lyrics say:
"There's a hole in the whole in the world like a great black pit and the vermin of the world inhabit it;The first time we saw the movie I was very pleasantly surprised at the singing as I had completely forgotten that Johnny Depp first went to Los Angeles with a band before he became an actor. He did a very good job and is actually quite a good singer as is Helena Bonham Carter who plays Mrs. Lovett, a woman that Amanda truly despises by the end of the movie! The most exceptional singers by far are Jamie Campbell Bower who plays Anthony and Ed Sanders, a boy with an amazing voice, who plays Tobie. Even Sacha Baron Cohen (better known as Borat) does a pretty good job singing as Signor Adolfo Pirelli - the poor guy who gets to feel the blade of Mr. Todd first.
And it's morals aren't worth what a pig could spit and it goes by the name of London."
I suppose that the whole premise of slashing people's throats and then baking them into meat pies ("It's priest. Have a little priest.") is a little - uh, let's say - macabre but that really isn't what the movie is about. It's about love and treachery and revenge and forgiveness and what to do with the dead bodies that seem such a shame to just bury when there's a horrible meat shortage in London! It's a Greek tragedy and you know it's just not going to have a happy ending but you can still understand why Mrs. Lovett did what she did even if you don't approve. Love makes you do some really stupid things sometimes - trust me, I am well versed on that one!
Amanda and I both enjoyed seeing Sweeney Tood again and it was a nice way to spend a cold Friday evening in January. Now I just wish I had some pot pies in the freezer for dinner ...
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Still, how exciting it must be to have the receptionist call upstairs to dispatch to state that there's a delivery for you at the front desk! If memory serves me correctly (and yeah, yeah, I'm old - so it might be a bit faulty!), it's just one of the most special feelings anywhere to know that someone thought enough of you to go to all of the trouble and expense of sending you flowers. It's one of those things that can make a person smile for a very long time. Sigh ... it's a gesture that really appeals to the incurable romantic in me.
So let me ask all of you this week -
First off I got this lovely - and deceptively heavy! - award, which I was unable to find the origin of, from Pinky @ Cheese in My Shoe. Pinky is still fairly new to the Blogosphere but she's a lovely person with a lovely little blog and she really writes from the heart. Case in point - she recently wrote a post about the loss of her newborn daughter five years ago and it was a post that really touched my heart while she wrote of a loss that no mother, or father, should ever have to go through - ever. Please take the time to go over and read Babies ... Memories ... and you'll see exactly what I mean.
In closing her post, Pinky wrote:
"This was terribly scary for me to post. I hope I didn't scare anyone away, but if I did, I guess I don't really care. I'm tired. I'm sad. I'm worn out. Let me just say ... this is part of who I am. I want to be transparent. I want to be who God made me to be. I'm posting this because I've felt conflicted since I've started blogging. I've been afraid to talk too much about Angel and losing her, but then I felt guilty for not talking about her. So I post this for myself, I guess. To be true to myself and to honor my daughter and what we went through together. I'm not ashamed of it. I'm not afraid to talk about it. I choose when and where, but I'm not at all ashamed. I'm proud of my girl and I'm proud of what God has done in my life through her. There. I'm done."I admire Pinky for having had the courage and conviction to share such a tremendously difficult time of her life and I hope that by opening up like she has, that she will be able to draw strength and comfort from some of the many wonderful people who can be found online. I think that she most definitely honored her daughter and, at the same time, she honored herself. It should be I who is passing an award on to her.
Thank you, Pinky, for this award and please know that your blog is a treasure to me also!
Another award that I recently received, the You Cheer Me Up Award, originated from Ann @ A Nice Place In The Sun and was given to me by two other fantastic bloggers - Dixie @ Dixie's Heart & Soul where you'll find the proud mother of a United States Marine (Semper Fi, Matt!), and Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself @ Captain Picard's Journal. It was so sweet of Dixie to stop cheering for her University of Memphis Tigers Basketball Team long enough to present me with such an honor and as for Jean-Luc ... well, what can I say there but I am flattered and honored and am hoping he'll go just a little easier on me in our next game of Scrabulous on Facebook! Then again, going easy on me won't help me with my vocabulary so ahead Warp Factor Eight, Captain!
It is always very nice to receive an award from a fellow blogger and to know that somehow my writing either made that person smile or think or laugh or maybe even cry every once in awhile. You all honor me by reading my posts and leaving comments and having made me a part of your cyber-world.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I'm not exactly sure where my daughter gets her ideas for these pictures (this one is somewhat similar to the one she drew with the snowman ripping off and eating the other snowman's head) but they remind me of a little bit of Gary Larson's "Far Side" cartoons or perhaps even a tiny bit of Bill Watterson's "Calvin & Hobbs".
At any rate, it seems that she is trying to find her own unique style and I am rather glad that she is going in other directions other than an anime-style. Now if her darned art teacher would actually like some of the work she's doing rather than just saying it's all "silly cartoons" ... there has been a lot of talent out there making a lot of money while making a lot of people laugh with "silly cartoons" - Mr. Novak would do well to remember that!
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
What do you get when you combine Chantal Claret, lead singer, frontwoman, and composer for the New York-based band Morningwood, and Jimmy Euringer, lead singer, frontman, and composer for the New York-based band Mindless Self Indulgence? - which just happens to be Amanda's favorite band for those who either forgot or are new to this blog!
Think about it for a couple of moments and I'll wait ...
No, the answer isn't a lot of pink, purple, and hair products ...
With bassist Lyn-Z having married Gerard this past summer and Jimmy and Chantal now tying the knot I guess that just leaves drummer Kitty and guitarist Steve to take the plunge with their long-time significant others, 'Righ??
Because my last post was such a sober one, I wanted to use this post as the opportunity to show off some more pictures from Saturday night's employee party. Mo requested "pictures of the hot stud" and Mimi wanted pictures of the hand-kissing event but there were none taken and I rather doubt I'm going to be able to assemble everyone for a retake! There is, however, one picture in the following slideshow of myself and JM, the young EMT (or "hot stud" as Mo called him!) I danced with. It's a pretty close close-up that I almost wasn't going to publish and then thought, "oh what the heck, why not?, post the thing"! Personally I don't think that anyone looks all that great in a close close-up so you'll have to take my word for it that JM was much cuter in person and he had a personality that was absolutely charming, to say the least. He certainly made my night!
As for the other people in the pictures, I'll give you a quick run down of the players: Jennifer is a part-time scheduler who works in dispatch with me and whose husband is currently going through the State Police Academy; Chica is a scheduler and her husband Hugo is the excellent sandwich maker I mentioned in Sunday's post; Renee is one of the nicest people ever and is the Employee Scheduling Coordinator who also works in our office; Beth is a full-time scheduler and her boyfriend Bob works as a dispatcher for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe; Russ is a fellow dispatcher; Jenifer is my weekend dispatch partner; and Frank is a part-time dispatcher and Dawn is his girlfriend. Hopefully I didn't leave anyone out!
Mimi, sorry there wasn't more romance - it isn't that you haven't taught me anything, it's just that there were no opportunities available but I did have a lovely evening and a really good time. That counts, right??
I've always thought that it would be nice to take one of the many sightseeing tours that are available so that I could see more of the city in a shorter amount of time but I've just never gotten around to doing that either. I have a cousin who lives in Shirley, outside of Boston, and her family took one of the many Duck Tours that are available in Boston and they loved it. I'm still not too sure how much I trust a land-water vehicle but I don't think anyone has drowned on one of those tours yet!
The last time I went to Boston was this past September when I went up for a Saturday with a friend from work. Liz and I had a great time checking out all the stores on Newbury Street which until the mid 1800s was actually part of Boston Harbor. Beginning in 1857, the harbor was slowly filled in to become the Back Bay section of the city and that was when the 2-mile stretch that eventually became one of Boston's most enchanted streets filled with unique shops, boutiques, and restaurants most of which are located in renovated brownstone buildings. The more expensive shops are located on the end of the street closest to Boston Public Garden but as you walk towards Massachusetts Avenue they gradually become slightly less expensive and more bohemian. Liz and I poked our heads in a few as we walked the entire lengthy of Newbury Street in both directions.
Another fun part of our day in Boston was when we stopped by the Bull & Finch bar on Beacon Street which is more popularly known as the bar where the TV show Cheers was based. It's the bar where supposedly "everyone knows your name" but as it turned out no one there actually knew my name at all! It was still fun to pose for pictures and pretend that I was as smart as Cliff Claven for a little while! "It's a little known fact that the tan became popular in what is known as the Bronze Age." Yessiree, that Cliff was certainly a scholar, wasn't he?
Before I go up to Boston again (and now that I've got a blogging buddy living up there it shouldn't be too long!), I'm going to see if I can win a handheld GPS by signing up for the Trusted Travel eNewsletter from "Trusted Tours & Attractions". Their eNewsletter is designed to supply tourists with informative, useful, and practical articles as well as money saving deals and if I sign up before January 31st I'll be entered into their contest to win a handheld GPS which would come in really handy when I can't remember in which the direction the Northend of Boston is and I'm craving a cannolli and an espresso!
I most definitely want to spend more time in Boston this Spring and Summer as it's a gorgeous city packed with history and culture and all sorts of fun things to do. Add on the fact that it's close to home - and I can almost speak the language - so it's definitely on my list of things to do! All in all it's a wicked place to visit and with Mags now living in Allston, there's at least one person up there who knows my name and that's certainly a start, isn't it??
Monday, January 21, 2008
Over the weekend, two more officers lost their lives in Line of Duty deaths and have been added to the Honor Roll on my sidebar that is growing way too fast for my liking. No doubt you, my readers, are becoming just as dismayed as I am at the alarming rate our Law Enforcement officers are losing their lives but I will continue to do these posts in an effort to make people more aware of the tragedies that happen all too frequently right here in our own country so that maybe something can be done to stop these horrible losses while honoring those who have sworn to protect and uphold the law.
Senior Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar, a 6-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol, lost his life Saturday morning, January 19th, while trying to stop suspected smugglers who had illegally entered the country from Mexico. According to Agent Michael Bernacke, a spokesman for the agency’s Yuma sector, Agent Aguilar was trying to place spike strips in the path of a Hummer and a Ford pickup truck near the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in California, an area which is frequently used by smugglers trying to bring people or drugs into the country from Mexico, when the suspected smuggler’s Hummer intentionally struck and killed him.
Both suspect vehicles fled into Mexico where they remain at large. The FBI is leading the investigation, along with other federal, state and local authorities. In addition, Mexican authorities are lending their full support to capture those involved.
“Today we mourn the loss of one of our own,” Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said in a statement. “This serves as a tragic reminder of the dangers our agents face every day while securing our nation’s border and our way of life.”
Senior Agent Aguilar, age 32, from El Paso, Texas lived in Yuma, Arizona where he leaves behind his wife and two children.
On Sunday, January 20th at approximately 2:34 a.m., Officer Matthew B. Thebeau of the Corpus Christi Police Department was killed in an automobile accident while responding to an assault call when a motorcycle traveling at a high rate of speed started to go out of control,. Witnesses told police Thebeau appeared to try to avoid a collision with the motorcyclist.
According to a statement released by police officials, Officer Thebeau's patrol car struck a concrete wall and straddled the barrier for approximately 50 yards until it istruck a light pole and I-beam supporting a highway sign. Officer Thebeau was ejected from the patrol car and landed in the northbound lane of traffic where he was then struck by at least one other vehicle. He was transported to Spohn Memorial Medical Center in Corpus Christi, Texas where he was pronounced dead.
"As police officers, we know the risk and we live with the reality of life and death every day," said Chief of Police Bryan Smith in a prepared statement, "But there is nothing that can prepare you for the feelings of shock and sorrow when a brother or sister in blue makes the ultimate sacrifice while serving the citizens of Corpus Christi. Today, we stand together, united in sorrow. Our thoughts and prayers go the family of officer Matthew Thebeau."
Officer Thebeau was a 2-year veteran of the Corpus Christi Police Department and only 25 years old at the time of his death.
Once again, please join me in acknowledging the passing of these two fine men who gave their lives in service to others. My thoughts go to their families, friends, and fellow officers.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
However, you folks obviously don't want to hear about my corsage based on some of the comments I got in yesterday's post about the party. You want the dirt, the skinny, the 411 - all of the excitement and drama of a Saturday night out with a fancy dress, painful shoes, and sparkly earrings! As Mimi inquired in a comment she left,
"Please indulge my imagination this morning. How long did it take for your earrings to fall off? Before or after dinner? Huh? I need to know this. Two dances? Two kisses? or two seconds ...... (that would be my preference) And the dress. You did wear a little black dress, didn't you Linda? Slinky. Sexy. Classy. Fit for dancing. Dancing! How many dances? And how many did you turn down? (yes, the dirt please) and were they good kissers? That's really the important part. Smooching in the punch line does not count. Haven't I taught you ANYthing??! Oh yea. And who won the employee award."Well, not to disappoint royalty but my earrings stayed on all night until I came home and removed them - my shoes did likewise (I actually left them on all night for a change) - I didn't wear a black slinky dress but rather a purple one with seed beading that befits a woman of my, er, age - and there were no kisses except for quite a few on the cheek and one special one from an EMT who knelt down and kissed my hand while declaring me to be his very favorite dispatcher. This same EMT got down on his knees again and asked me for a dance and kissed my hand again afterwards but don't anyone go getting any ideas - he's probably younger than my son but cute - wow! - is that kid cute! Anyway ... moving on ...
I had to "MySpace" it with the picture over to the right as my official photographer went to spend the evening with Jason, Amy, and Cate rather than be left home alone while Mom went out cavorting so it's not the best in the world but not the scariest either. I could really do with some professional retouching but alas, what you see is what you get!
There were a lot of pictures taken during the course of the evening but mostly by other people so I have to wait to actually see them myself - never mind post them! I'm hoping that they turn out better than the one I have here of myself, Frank (a part-time dispatcher and worthy opponent when it comes to snarky comments!), and Chica - my very favorite Ecuadorean scheduler and wife to Hugo who makes the best sandwiches in all of Eastern Connecticut! Hugo (seen below with his lovely wife) actually took another picture before this one that was much better except that it's too dark to use (bummer) so I'm stuck with this one where I look like I'm thinking "just take the f'ing picture already!" Well either that or my shoes were starting to hurt my feet from standing for so long!
One of the things I really enjoy about this annual party is that you get the chance to see everyone out of uniform and dressed in their finery looking very handsome or beautiful as the case may be. I am always impressed and amazed at the women who can walk around in strappy sandal-type shoes with 4-inch heels and not only maintain their balance but dance in the things! Apparently I don't have the "shoe gene" that gives one the ability to do such things but I thought these shoes were kind of cute and they really weren't as uncomfortable as some others I've worn in the past.
As a matter of fact, I - the person who is a notorious non-dancer - actually got out on the dance floor for a few dances (other than the slow dance with my EMT in shining armor and my annual dance with Andrew, one of my favorite paramedics) and didn't feel like a totally uncoordinated clod while dancing to KC and the Sunshine Band's "That's The Way I Like It" and Justin Timberlake's "Bringing Sexy Back". I figured that everyone else was having too good of a time to critique my dancing skills and the two Midori Sours I had loosened me up enough to hit the dance floor. Don't tell anyone I said this but it was actually kind of fun!
As for the new Employee of the Year, had I actually placed a bet on yesterday's prediction, I would be cashing in my winnings right now as the winner was the exact person I had said it would be. Val, who is one of the billing specialists in the Connecticut Ambulance Billing Service section of the company was quite thrilled to be given the award and actually was crying when she took the stage to receive her plaque. She gave a nice speech but afterwards I was told by quite a few people that mine still stood as the best best speech ever. I so wish I could remember it but apparently when you start out with "I'm on drugs tonight" it's a little hard to recall anything! Even if I don't remember it, though, a lot of other people do! Maybe someday I'll be good enough to receive the award again and redeem myself but I rather doubt it as I don't believe anyone has ever been made Employee of the Year twice - they like to spread the awards out and I don't blame them for that at all. Like I said, it's a wonderful thing to be recognized for doing a good job - especially when you take pride in your job. A big congratulations to Val and I hope she enjoys her front of the building parking space for the next year!
Because I don't have to be into work until 3:00 today I stayed until the party wrapped up a little after midnight and then came home to a quiet house where I took off my earrings - by myself - and then my shoes - by myself! I'm sure that Mimi would have enjoyed more drama and romance but alas I was pretty sure I wasn't going to meet my Prince Charming at the party as I already work with all of these people anyway so there were no surprises as to who was there. Besides, my Prince Charming appears to still be wandering around lost in the woods somewhere ... perhaps next time Mimi is out doing snow-watch in the woods of North Carolina she'll see him and point him in the right direction! If not, I guess I'll be going to next year's party solo, too!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Along with Service Awards, Attendance Awards, and the like, tonight they will announce who the new Employee of the Year is. If I were a gambling woman, I'd put my bet on one of the billing clerks as, per popular opinion around the company, it's "their turn on the other side of the building". I don't think that's the criteria the award should be based on and I certainly hope that isn't the case. I think it should go to the employee most outstanding and most deserving but that's just one former Employee of the Year's opinion.
At the annual party in 2005, I was awarded Employee of the Year for 2004 and I have to say that I felt it was a great honor as well as a goal attained. When I first began at American Ambulance in June of 2003 and found out they had an Employee of the Month/Employee of the Year program, I made it my goal to attain that title. I hadn't expected to accomplish that goal quite so quickly but I sure the heck wasn't going to turn it down either!
What made it even more special was that when I was named Employee of the Month in August of 2004, I was nominated by over 30 of my fellow employees and per our Human Resources Director that apparently was pretty darned unheard of. To have had that sort of support, vote of confidence, and recognition from fellow employees meant even more to me then becoming Employee of the Year who is picked by the Executive Team from the pool of winners of Employee of the Month.
I wish I could remember more about that night and that holiday party but it's a bit of a blur. I had somehow managed to mess up my back the night before the party and spent part of the morning at the Emergency Room barely able to move! I was diagnosed with a lumbar strain, given some pretty powerful muscle relaxers, and sent home with the doctor's approval to go to the party (he apparently knew I needed to be there) and then stay out of work for several days.
Fortunately my friend Paula was going with me that night so she drove to the party and kept tabs on me throughout the evening. Apparently I gave one heck of an acceptance speech; note: never ever under any circumstances tell a room full of EMS people that you really ought to be home flat on your back - at least not if you embarrass easily! Even in my prescription-drug-induced state I remember being very honored and thrilled, though. Beyond that, most of it's a haze though I distinctly remember the year's worth of harassment that I got from my fellow dispatchers on the receipt of my award!
Whoever wins tonight, I wish them congratulations and hope that they remember their special evening with clarity and pride as getting any sort of positive recognition from the place you work for is really a very nice thing. Sure, you get harassed something awful by your fellow employees but the award is validation that you've done a good job and we all need to know we've done well from time to time.
Now, I need to go work on my hair and try to find my earrings ... I promise to try to post some pictures tomorrow!
Friday, January 18, 2008
Shivers, age 34, was an officer for eight years with the Chesapeake Police Department and was assigned to the Special Investigations Section. Detective Shivers was the recepient of an award five years ago through the Virginia HEAT (Help Eliminate Auto Theft) program sponsored by the Virginia State Police and was honored for uncovering a car-theft ring that stretched from Hampton Roads to Richmond.
Detective Shivers is survived by his wife, two daughters, and a son. The Bank of Hampton Roads has opened an account for Shivers where donations can be made under his name or under an account named “Officer Down” should anyone wish to donate in his memory.
This is ridiculous - it's only the middle of January and I have already added eight names to the Honor Roll on my sidebar ... this does not bode well for the rest of the year. Please join me in not only offering condolences to the family and friends of Detective Shivers but also in praying that this sort of senseless loss of human life will stop.
Amanda is a yellow mustard only kinda kid so she wasn't of much help in reviewing these mustards so I called in the help of my dispatch supervisor who knows a good thing when he's handed it! I asked him to try out the Harvest Coarse Ground mustard for me and he was more than happy to put it on the ham that he was preparing at home that night. He assured me that it was absolutely delicious and really added to the flavor of the meat. Watching a grown man drool over a mustard is quite the sight but apparently the Harvest Coarse Ground is just that good!
That left me with the Hearty Spicy Brown to try so I trotted off to my local grocery store and picked up the fixin's for a sandwich or two - roast beef, turkey, provolone cheese, and some nice soft Kaiser rolls. I came home with my mouth watering, constructed a sandwich using the Hearty Spicy Brown mustard, and then sat back to enjoy it. To be honest, I haven't had a sandwich that good in a long time as the mustard added just the right kick to it. I've probably got some of the country's blandest taste buds this side of the Mississippi River but this mustard added just the right amount of spices without being overpowering or sending me reaching for the closest glass of water to put out the fire in my mouth!
Should the good folks at Kraft Foods want to send me a sample of all the other mustards in the Grey Poupon line, I'd be more than happy to give them a go (hint, hint!) but I guess one shouldn't look a gift mustard in the mouth. It's better to put it there instead!
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Not that I have a lot of room to talk myself as I had Jamie only a little over 13 months after I gave birth to Amanda but it wasn't planned that way and I really wasn't all that thrilled about it. There are things that you just don't think about when you have your kids that close together - things like needing a second baby crib or other baby furniture like a high chair, baby swing, etc. Never mind double on the diapers and formula and all those other things that go along with babies. I remember having one very big and very full diaper bag to cart around with me! That's probably where my back problems began now that I think about it!
Jilly is sort of excited about the blessed event but she admits that her significant other is more happy about it than she is. Of course, it's so much easier for a man as they don't have to go through the nine months of pregnancy and labor and delivery and all of that fun stuff. It would be great to see just one guy go through that just once! Maybe the entire male population would be more understanding about it then. Maybe!
In the meantime, Jilly's hoping for a girl so send good thoughts of that to the stork for her!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I dropped my car off this morning on my way into work for an oil change, tire rotation, and a few other small things that need to be done periodically and caught a ride down to pick it up again after work. When I got there, the manager seemed a bit upset that they hadn't had a chance to get to it yet in spite of the fact that I had dropped it off at 7:00 and it was now after 3:00. It wasn't just that which had him upset, though. Apparently another customer had somehow managed to back into my car while it was in the parking lot and done a pretty good job of scraping up the rear bumper on the passenger side.
Uh ... okay ... I certainly wasn't expecting that but Pete assured me that the other guy's insurance company was going to pay for the damage and that they had already ordered the paint and could do the work right there next week. They had just about been ready to start the oil change when I walked in so I said I had to walk down the street to run an errand anyway so no big deal and when I looked at the damage to the car it really wasn't that bad either. If I had something other than plastic bumpers it might have been a lot worse but it was just a lot of paint transference and a couple of small nicks that could be easily repaired.
I really wasn't at all upset as it was obviously an accident, not that much damage, and these things happen - hence the reason they're called 'accidents'. Truth be told, I'd rather the guy had totaled the thing as I have gap insurance and it would have gotten me out from under a car payment that I'd rather not have but oh well ... whatchagonnado?
Anyway, all of that brings me to this week's question and it's about accidents -
Since then I always chant "bridge freezes before roadway" when driving in winter weather and have been fortunate enough to not have anymore accidents. I count myself very lucky - very lucky indeed.
Now, what about you? Have you had a guardian angel on your shoulder when you're on the road, too?