Day Four, Chicago Trip……

Apparently we are lucking out with weather. The temperature is supposed to drop again and I believe snow is on the way. The last part of the dive show was good, and the best part was when several people came back to buy an extra book for a friend, or to pick one up because someone couldn’t make it, but wanted to be sure and get an autographed copy. The Beneath the Sea Show in New Jersey is next up the first weekend of April and that should be it for me for a while. Richie has multiple appearances, but those are in areas that I am not involved with.

We didn’t make it to a place with deep dish pizza, however, there is still the chance they may have somewhere at the airport, so we haven’t given up just yet. We took the advice of a friend and went to Carlucci’s where I had an excellent veal piccata (one of my go-to dishes) and Hubby had his wild boar pasta. Although there were several items he was torn between, wild boar is not something we can get at any of our local Italian places. This was a variation because it was boar ragout and slices of boar sausage in a sauce.

We’ve had a delay in departure which means if there aren’t other delays, we’ll be landing in Miami right about peak traffic time. That’s always an interesting situation.

A Complex Movie….

Lucky Number Slevin is right on the edge of the kind of violence I can handle in a movie. It’s also one of those you have to pay attention to, especially in the beginning because of how it unfolds. I don’t want to “spoil” anything and we actually tuned in because it had such a strong cast. Josh Harnett is one of the younger actors (not one I know that well), but Lucy Liu is certainly familiar. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, and Stanley Tucci provide quite a line-up. It wasn’t wildly popular with the critics, but I learned a long time ago my opinion and that of professional movie critics diverge on many occasions.

The movie is reminiscent of other complex ones such as “Inside Man” and “Vantage Point” where misdirection takes place and seemingly unimportant moments become significant. It’s classified as a “Dark Comedy” and as I said, the body count is pretty high. I would say rather than being a comedy, it has comedic aspects. Although it isn’t a movie that’s likely to cause you to plunge into heavy philosophical discussions, it will keep you entertained as long as you focus on what’s going on.

Definitely Not a Holiday Film…..

Yes, I always watch “Miracle on 34th Avenue”, I prefer the version of “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott, and I enjoy “Scrooged”. I like some of the other classics, too. Last night, we tuned into a WW II movie, “Fury”, that we’d been told was well done. I must digress for a moment and explain that years ago, our son said he didn’t like watching military movies with us because we were too quick to point out the errors. That’s an occupational  hazard and part of why when I enter into technical aspects of my novels, I go out of my way to be accurate with whatever the “techy” part is.  We can handle a certain amount of “Hollywood version” (such as in “Saving Private Ryan” when they attacked this one position instead of logically using the long gun to pick the bad guys off), but when a movie is well-done with attention to detail we appreciate it.

Anyway, my point is we started watching “Fury” and many of the small details were properly captured. It is, however, graphically violent in several scenes which I don’t care for, but did support the story. It is a dark movie in many ways and certainly not what would one call heart-warming. I definitely don’t recommend it if you’re looking for something light. If you want thought-provoking though and you’re a fan of WW II movies in general, it’s worth your time. Some of the dialogue is a little difficult to follow since it takes place in the tank over their intercom system, but you can get the idea even if you don’t catch it all.

It Might Not Seem Funny, But…..

Okay, in general I do not like to play to stereotypes and clichés, however, snow is white and there are certain realities from a regional perspective. When I walked to the rental car parking lot to get my car, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Sure as the world though, there are New York plates on it. New York? New York – as I am preparing to be driving in rural Louisiana? Really? Sigh. At least the car has a digital speedometer so I can be certain to not go more than 1-4 miles over the speed limit and right on it or under if I am within the town limits. Here are the comments to date.

I arrive at my aunt’s house. One of my cousins comes in shortly thereafter. “New York plates? You do know the phone will be ringing asking who on earth from New York would be visiting?” Another of the family arrives. “New York plates? Did you get a ticket yet?”

I leave my aunt’s house yesterday morning to drive up to Minden where Daddy and my stepmother live. I stop for a Diet Coke at a convenience store in one of several small towns I pass through. As I step to the door to leave, an elderly man holds it open coming in and says, “Are you the one that drove all the way from New York?” “No sir, I assured him. “A rental car with New York plates. Who could imagine?” He shook his head in puzzlement as I went on my way. Yes, it is kind of funny, but believe me, there will be no speeding on this trip.

“That’s Not Possible”…..

My apologies once more for a lack of posting, but it’s been another of those weeks. I’m taking a few minutes break from a task and have had the television tuned to the movie, “Apollo 13” with it’s incredible cast of stars. I’ve always enjoyed the movie for a lot of reasons and it’s especially great if you want to use a movie that demonstrates problem solving and leadership. The two most memorable phrases of course are, “Houston, we have a problem,” and “Failure is not an option.” (That phrase is often used inappropriately, but that’s a topic for another post.) One of my favorite lines though comes just after the explosion on the craft as no one knows quite what has happened. Everyone is looking at their instruments and Ed Harris, who plays Flight Director Gene Krantz is asking one of the men what’s going on. “It’s reading a quadruple failure. That’s not possible – I’ll get back to you, Flight.” Except it was very possible and in the six (or maybe seven) days that followed, a great many things that had been considered “not possible” occurred. A huge number of individuals were required to come up with solutions for things that had simply not been imagined as going wrong and in each case, the people thought through the problem and worked it out.

Another irony that I’ve always wondered about is that Astronaut Ken Mattingly was replaced on the mission by Jack Swigert at a very late date because NASA was concerned that Mattingly would break out with the measles during the mission. To disrupt a well-functioning team is never something to be done lightly and inserting a new member at that point did have some drawbacks. However, it was Mattingly who figured out how to re-sequence the re-entry of the crippled spacecraft. Quite simply, there may have been no other person who could have worked that out –  Mattingly not being in space was a significant reason why the astronauts were able to successfully return to earth.

Not too long ago, I watched a “making of” segment that was part of the real story of Apollo 13 and there was this one scene they discussed with Director Ron Howard where tempers had flared in the movie. The truth was that scene did not occur in real life and when asked about it, Howard readily acknowledged he had taken dramatic license in a few spots. Why? Because the reality was that people had remained remarkably calm, all working to the very best of their ability to solve the crisis. As Howard said, “I was making a movie and we had to have at least a little conflict.” (Not his exact words, but close.)

Sunrise Isn’t for Everyone…..

Sunrise From Our Back Yard

Sunrise From Our Back Yard

I’ve posted before about how I am a morning person and hubby is a night person, but we manage a compatible rhythm that works well for us. Part of what I love about early mornings are indeed sunrises and I’ve seen some great ones – especially when we’re on a dive cruise and you get to watch the sun seemingly rise from the water. I have to admit that even though it’s totally different in the mountains (and we don’t spend much time there), that can be spectacular, too. The very stillness of that hour of the morning is something I greatly appreciate, and if you’ve read Irises to Ashes I describe a couple of sunrises through the main character’s eyes.

When we visited the lovely fishing town of Sete, France quite a few years ago, I slipped out of the hotel right before daybreak during that time that it’s light enough to see, but the sky is still that pale gray. As a fishing village, you had boats getting ready to head out and the night boats that had come in. In a small town, they didn’t have many 24-hour places (probably none in fact), but they did have a few that opened very early. I strolled the streets, hearing the sounds of a handful of cafes getting ready and watching birds wheel overhead and come to perch on top of street lights that were just going off. Several cats were roaming about and the people who were preparing for the day waved when they saw me.

Although I mostly come up to the office and start work before sunrise, there are mornings when I pause and step out into the back yard to look at the sky and take a few sips of coffee. The other day, I snapped this photo as a reminder of why I enjoy it. And yes, I realize that sunrises look a great deal like sunsets.


Relatives and Friends or…….

I was in a conversation the other day when the topic of having family and friends in business with you came up. For small family businesses, especially places like restaurants, it isn’t surprising to see siblings and two or three generations working side-by-side. In really successful situations, a son or daughter might then branch out to open a second location. The flip side to that are the sons and daughters who when given the opportunity, go into an entirely different line of work precisely because they did “grow up” in something that they decided wasn’t the right path. In fact, if you remember the great scene between Peter Boyle as the father and Bill Pullman as the son from the movie, “While You Were Sleeping,” the character of Bill Pullman finally got up the nerve to explain that he didn’t want to continue in the family business only to have his father tell him he wished he’d known earlier because someone was asking to buy him out.

Anyway, the real point of the post goes back to when I retired from the Army and went to work for a small services and technology firm. I say small –  that’s how they started and grew to the point that a Fortune 500 company acquired them. That, however, is another story. At some stage as they were hiring larger numbers of people, the comment was made about them hiring relatives and friends. The wife part of the co-founders said, “Yes. Who would you like us to hire – strangers and enemies?”. The reality is that I have absolutely nothing against family and friends with the clear understanding that they have to be the best qualified for the job or at least highly qualified. They must also be willing to recognize that they probably need to work a bit harder to overcome the perception that they’re getting away with stuff that others wouldn’t be allowed to. It isn’t fair, but it is a normal human reaction. The problem comes when it’s obvious that an individual is either not fully qualified or has an attitude that’s difficult for other employees to deal with. The smirking, “You can’t do anything about this,” can quickly translate into the loss of good employees who don’t need that kind of thing in their lives. Other employees might not be in a position to leave, but aren’t as effective as they otherwise could be. Working together as family and friends can be great, but it isn’t the right arrangement for everyone.

Day Three……

This was my third day using my arrival as my actual first day. It was fairly intense with almost 12 hours by the time we did all the work and then I took my host and his family to dinner as a thank-you for all the running around, plus they are enjoyable company. That also gave me the opportunity to see more of the lovely countryside during this too brief visit. I saw my first pheasants in natural setting as one scurried across the narrow country lane and another swooped low past the car. Dinner was at a charming lakeside (loch-side) restaurant that was a bit of a drive through more rolling hills.

Work-wise, it was jammed-packed with interesting information and the confirmation that some of what I thought was true appears very much not to be. The unfortunate aspect of writing non-fiction is that when you discover a source to have been in error, you pretty much have only two choices – perpetuate the error or change what you have. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this and I doubt it will be the last.

This morning we will be off to Belfast for another lengthy day and what I hope to be verification of a couple of areas that I have a special interest in. On a personal note, the time difference and my hubby’s schedule means that we haven’t spoken since I left, although with connectivity, the emails are zipping back-and-forth and I did leave him a voice mail. Hopefully, we’ll connect before too long.


It Was A Very Small Island……

There was a movie back in the 70s or 80s, “The Greek Tycoon” with Jacqueline Bisset and Anthony Quinn. The beautiful widow of a U.S. Senator who was assassinated is attracted to a wealthy Greek Tycoon. While the scenery was spectacular and it doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out how the whole thing was going to play out, there was one terrific line that I have used on many occasions when discussing the term of “it’s all relative”. The two characters are at a fairly critical point of their relationship and Jacqueline Bisset has doubts that the tycoon can commit to a monogamous marriage. It was well-known that he has had an on-going affair for many years with a famous actress. He’s trying to downplay that and Bisset is pointing out the way he has lavished gifts on her says something like, “And they say that you bought her an island.” “It was a very small island” was the immediate response. Naturally, that comment made her smile in exasperation and helped win her over.

There are certain things that are relative and our own standing can sometimes fall into that category without us realizing it. Maybe we don’t have the luxury car in the driveway or get to fly first class when booking a vacation to Tahiti (or wherever). To the person hoping that their rusty car doesn’t break down again and packing a picnic to take the family to a free park because that’s all they can afford, our situation does seem to be pretty well-fixed. I’ve posted about this sort of topic before, but it never hurts to take a few minutes and stop to think about what we do have that is special to us.

Paris, Day Two…….

No photo today because I’m not totally sure if emailing them to myself is in our plan or not and will check with Hubby. Let me back up to the hotel. We’re in a room that is a little larger than a cruise ship, but not much. On the other hand, it does have internet, a small elevator, and plenty of hot water even on the fourth floor. The location is great being a one minute walk to the Metro and the light rail line just across the street from that. So, about dinner last night – very different from what we usually do. Totally Novelle Cuisine in a place that could have been anywhere in New York. Hubby loved it. The presentation was great, service perfect, and since we had eaten heavily at lunch, I had plenty. The menu was quite limited with the concept of focusing on what they did. In fact, this morning when I asked for recommendations about a place for tonight and mentioned where we’d been, the desk clerk asked me how we liked it and was glad to get a personal review.

So, this morning after breakfast at a nearby café (we slept late), we set off to find the Picasso Museum. It is in the Marais district and far enough from the Metro that no signs point to it. We missed the cross street initially, but did backtrack and find it. Then as it turns out, they control the number of people who enter at any given time, so there was a one hour wait in line. That wouldn’t have been quite so bad, but it was chilly and a light rain for almost the entire wait. Anyway, the irony is that the Picasso Museum in housed in an old house that was no doubt built in the 1700 or 1800s. There were four floors of exhibits and one section contained some of Picasso’s personal collection that included Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, etc. The other thing that was interesting was a collection of photographs from a photographer who was a tenant in Picasso’s studio. He subsequently did a series of photos of Picasso working on certain pieces.

We had a late lunch at a lovely little café and even though it had stopped raining, Hubby was in the mood for onion soup. We then came back and the Cluny Museum – Museum of the Middle Ages – is close to the hotel. We had been there on the previous trip, but I was too tired to climb to the third floor to see the Lady and the Unicorn exhibit. We made it this afternoon and I will do a special post about it when we complete the trip.