C. A. Casey

Another worthless writers blog

Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Spike, Dig, Kill – Part 1

Posted by Casey on January 3, 2008


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Well, we went to the semi-finals and finals of the 2007 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship. It’s one of those events I’ve always seen on TV and wished it would happen close to where I lived so I could see it in person. Well, it happened at Arco Arena in Sacramento this year.

Thousands of fans for the four teams–Stanford, USC, California, Penn State–converged on Arco Arena. College crowds are a lot different than professional sports crowds. Everyone’s excited that their team made it to the Final Four and the groups from the different schools try to out-do each other in school pride with cheers, chants, and banners. Most of the fans had to travel a ways to get there, the Penn State fans traveling the longest distance.

We were up in the nosebleed section because the bottom section seats were reserved for the colleges. But it was fun up there, surrounded by local people who, like me, wanted to go because it was close enough to attend. There were also a lot of fans of different teams up there with us.

We, of course, were rooting for Stanford.

In the semi-finals, Stanford played USC and California played Penn State. Over 13,000 people showed up, making it the second largest crowd for the semi-finals.

Stanford beat USC in a five game show down. They were evenly matched and the victory could have gone either way, making for an exciting game. We had a good vantage point because we were looking down and could see the whole court.

Here’s the photo gallery for the game. Not bad for shooting from the top of the arena:

Game 1 NCAA Division 1 Volleyball Tournament

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Happy New Year

Posted by Casey on January 1, 2008

I’ve been playing hooky from the blog. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the computer, since I’m on it for work and for play. I have two big December events to post and I’m working on them now. Let’s just say, they involve lots of photos.

Here’s a photo I took December 22, from the back of an SUV, on a gazillion lane freeway, heading south to Palo Alto. I saw the shot, grabbed my camera, and prayed that the photos wouldn’t be too blurry because I was shaking all over the place from trying to keep the zoom lens steady in the moving car.

Yep, that’s the Golden Gate Bridge . . .

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Happy Winter Solstice

Posted by Casey on December 21, 2007

Tis the season to embrace peace . . .

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

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Ups and Downs

Posted by Casey on December 16, 2007

Three unexpected things happened today . . .

This morning I went to a funeral for a cat. Mr. Whiskers belonged to a friend and was hit by a car this morning. He was a fun loving cat with lots of personality and his presence will be missed. He was buried out in the country on a horse ranch, between a pair of trees.

This afternoon I got an email informing me that my story “Harleys in Driftwood” has been selected for an anthology–A TIME TO … Volume 2 – The Best of The Lorelei Signal 2007. That was a nice surprise.

This evening when I came back from part 2 of my life list experience (you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what it is) I got an email announcing that the December Special Issue of Coyote Wild is up. My story “Lighthouse at the Edge of the Universe” happens to be in that issue. So that was a really nice surprise.

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Between Interesting Stuff

Posted by Casey on December 13, 2007

My life has been pitifully boring lately. That’s about to change tomorrow night. I get to mark something else off my life list.

Until then . . . enjoy this music video . . . YouTube won’t let me embed it, so you’ll have to click on the image to get to it.

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Makes me kind of nostalgic for my old pairs of ripped jeans . . . When I looked like this . . .

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Yep, I raided old photo albums when I visited my mom over Thanksgiving. This was my high school photo when I was a junior and I’m pretty sure the jeans I was wearing (out of sight of the camera lens) had rips in them.

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Tis the Season to Give Presents

Posted by Casey on December 9, 2007

Some of us don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday but rather recognize X-mas simply as a day of giving gifts. So as I mull over what to get everyone this year, I can’t forget my many furry friends . . .

Do you think they’d like one of these?

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The Kitty Wig

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The Golden Compass — The Film

Posted by Casey on December 2, 2007

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We went to a sneak preview of The Golden Compass last night. The fact that it was a sneak preview was entertaining in itself. A lady in front of us stood with a clipboard, taking notes on the people coming in, along with counting them with a clicker. She said the film studio wants all kinds of information. The studio should be pleased that most of the audience arrived early and almost filled the theater. They were also a very attentive and respectful of the film. I suspect many were fans of the books. I thought it interesting the only time the audience really came alive and applauded was when the armored bear, Iorek Byrnison defeated the king of the armored bears.

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I started reading His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman after I finished the Harry Potter books. These two sets of fantasy works will be forever linked since they became popular at roughly the same time. Although Pullman said in an interview, “I was quite happy for Harry Potter to get all the attention so I could creep in underneath all of it.” The book Northern Lights–known as The Golden Compass in the US–was first published in 1995 and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone–know as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US–was first published in 1997. Both gained popularity in England before crossing the pond for greater fame and fortune.

I wasn’t quite ready to commit to reading another series, so I’m only a couple of chapters into The Golden Compass. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I think I’m ready to read the trilogy.

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I’ve read enough of Philip Pullman’s work to know he writes with a depth and intellectual awareness that is not found in Rowling’s work. Like the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, Pullman’s books have strong thematic substructures that are difficult to translate to a visual/aural medium. Since I’ve read only a bit of The Golden Compass, I can’t comment on the faithfulness of the film adaptation to the original text. I can say the screenwriters found a narrative thread that was easy to follow and made sense dramatically.

Having said that, two things I know aren’t the same as in the book. The whole opening sequence with the kids doesn’t open the book and the Master is the one who poison’s the wine in the book, not the scuzzy bad guy from the Magisterium in the film. Maybe I’ll understand these changes when I finish the book.

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The director, Chris Weitz, “decided to move the final three chapters of The Golden Compass to the beginning of The Subtle Knife. To me, this provides the most promising conclusion to the first film and the best possible beginning to the second.” Pullman agreed to this change. A similar decision had been made in the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

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At the heart of the series is a tough eleven-year-old girl, Lyra Belacqua. Dakota Blue Richards went to an open audition and beat out 10,000 other girls for the part. It’s a difficult role because Lyra is a tough, unruly, orphan who has basically been allowed to run free and raise herself. So it’s amazing they found a girl who has never acted before, so perfect in the role.

As for the religious controversy surrounding these books . . . It’s fantasy fiction with the same moralistic and thematic weight as those other monumental fantasy series that has drawn some sort of religious controversy. Works such as the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Narnia is usually criticized because it’s too allegorical and LotR for not having any religion at all.

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The funniest part of the whole controversy is that the ringleader for the controversy, William A. Donahoe of the Catholic League thinks, because The Golden Compass is the least religiously offensive of the books and the filmmakers supposedly have been careful to keep the offending elements from the film, parents won’t find anything wrong with it and buy the books for their kids to read. Only too late will these parents learn that these books, according to Donahoe “promote atheism for kids.”

An article posted today in the Los Angeles Times puts this so-called controversy into perspective. Laura Miller states in “Religious furor over Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ ” :

Most preposterous, of course, is the idea that anyone would make a $180-million movie with the purpose of tricking children into reading a seditious book. What self-respecting kid ever needed that much encouragement to ferret out whatever the adults are trying to hide?

 

Also — whoops! — no one’s been hiding “His Dark Materials.” To date, 15 million copies of Pullman’s books have been sold worldwide. “The Golden Compass” won not only the 1995 Carnegie Medal, a prize awarded by British children’s librarians, but also the “Carnegie of Carnegies,” as the public’s favorite book in the prize’s 70-year history. The final novel in the trilogy, “The Amber Spyglass,” won the Whitbread Book of the Year award in 2001, the first children’s book ever to do so. It’s safe to say that copies of the trilogy reside in every decent children’s library in the nation. If there is indeed a “deceitful stealth campaign” afoot to lure children to Pullman’s books — as William Donohue, spokesman for the Catholic League, insists — it’s remarkably short on stealth.

I enjoyed the film. It’s visually stunning, well-acted, and goes along at a good pace. All the critters surrounding the people–their dæmons–are fun to watch and the bears rock. For me, that’s all I need for a good time at the movies.

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CA to AZ

Posted by Casey on November 19, 2007

Well, I’m going from this–taken last weekend at Bodega Bay . . .

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to this . . .

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for a week, while I do the family thing over Thanksgiving in Tucson.

I really can’t get into a holiday that celebrates eating a defenseless bird, so I spend the day mourning the slaughter of all those poor turkeys. For the record, the last time I had turkey for Thanksgiving was 32 years ago.

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Stanford vs USA

Posted by Casey on November 19, 2007

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The USA Basketball Senior Women’s National Team ended their two-week eight-game college tour Thursday night at Stanford.

It was an amazingly beautiful day, sunny with no fog and mild down there in Palo Alto. It was so clear, we could see the fog drifting over San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. We had dinner at Hobee’s, a chain of restaurants south of SF. It has a nice mix of carnivore and herbivore food.

We got to Stanford about quarter to six and as the faculty and staff were escaping campus, we got a parking place right across from Maples Pavilion. People were already there waiting to get in and by the time they opened the doors at six, there was a nice crowd waiting. That was a good sign–people were there an hour before to see the warmups, etc. Showed real interest in women’s basketball.

A teenage girl in line in front of me had a UConn sweatshirt on. The woman sitting next to me had a Seattle Storm shirt on. Then the Monarchs fans showed up. Quite a few like us came on their own, but three bus loads arrived from Arco Arena and suddenly purple competed with Cardinal red as the dominant color.

The shoot around was very relaxed. The coaches and players stood around chatting. Something you never see in a WNBA game–a player chatting with the coach of the opposing team. Taurasi, who talks to everyone at any time, chatted with Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer.

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All of a sudden the players gathered at mid-court stripping off their warmups for a group picture. The teams also exchanged gifts before the game. I wonder what they were.

It took a little getting used to having Lisa Leslie and Diana Taurasi introduced without any boos. Or them making points without any boos. In fact, both teams got equal applause and cheers, showing appreciation for good plays, no matter who made them. That was the best part about the game. It was a friendly and everyone was relaxed and just having a good time.

The three bus loads of Monarchs fans were there to see Kara Lawson play. When she took the court for the first time, she got the loudest cheers of any player. When she made a basket the mob of purple clad yelled her name, beat thundersticks, and one woman rang her cow bell–just like at a Monarchs game. The Stanford fans looked a little bemused by these displays.

Monarchs Ticha Penichiera, DeMya Walker, and former Monarch and Olympic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton also hopped the buses at Arco, so it was a mini-Monarchs reunion of sorts.

The anarchic Stanford band and the infamous Stanford Tree entertained during timeouts. The halftime entertainment were Irish dancers, who did a good job.

The game itself was one of the best I’ve seen in person. USA played like a well oiled machine. It was fun seeing in person Bird and Taurasi on the same team together. They ran a couple of fun plays they’ve probably been doing since their UConn days and could do in their sleep.

Bird played a perfect game. She had a game-high 19 points, plus 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals. K-Law didn’t disappoint her faithful following with 15 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal. I think she’s done a good job of pleading her case for a permanent spot on the National Team. The final score was 97-62, USA all the way.

Something else you usually don’t see in a game–USA player Jamie Carey was called over to the Stanford bench during free throws in the second half, where Tara had a few words with her. Just like the old days for both of them when Jamie Carey was the point guard for the Stanford team.

The USA team went its separate ways after the game. Bird and Taurasi are off to Russia to join LJ, Tina Thompson, Izi Castro Marques, Kelly Mazzante, and Kelly Miller on the Spartak Moscow Region team. Pokey Chatman is now an assistant coach on that team. Wow that’s some team.

I ‘m starting something new. I’ve created a secondary blog for photo galleries and other things that are related to the posts here.

So here’s photo gallery for the USA-Stanford game.

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While We’re Waiting for My Stanford vs USA Blog

Posted by Casey on November 18, 2007

I ended up at Bodega Bay today and this little lady was nice enough to pose.

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Watch Out World . . .

Posted by Casey on November 15, 2007

Kara Lawson called her “the real deal.”

Diana Taurasi said “she’s the man.”

Her name’s Maya Moore and she’s a freshman on the UConn women’s basketball team. I saw her play in a high school tournament on tv last year and she was not only so much better than everyone else, she played with a grace and maturity that most players don’t develop until they’ve gone pro.

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She’s the first UConn freshman to score in double figures in her first two college games since Swin Cash did it in 1998 and is the first freshman to score at least 20 points in those first two games. On top of that, she scored 17 points against Swin Cash and the US Women’s National Team a couple of weeks ago.

She got a double-double in the first game of the season against Stony Brook. In 20 minutes she scored 21 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, plus 4 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks.

UConn went against Holy Cross for their second game. Moore played only 19 minutes but scored a mind-boggling 31 points–shot 14 of 16 from the floor–grabbed 5 rebounds, plus 4 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. When she saw the stats after the game, she shook her head and said, “Not enough rebounds.”

It’s going to be a fun year with her breathing down the necks of the CP3‘s (Candace Parker and Courtney Paris) , Sylvia Fowles, and Candice Wiggins for the college players to watch.

I get to see Wiggins and her Stanford team play tonight against the US women’s national team. It’s the last game in the two-week eight game college tour by the US team.

This is another one of those life list things–seeing the national team in person. Covering the Monarchs, I’ve seen all the individual players in person several times but it’s different with them all together wearing the USA uniform.

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Friend in Print

Posted by Casey on November 13, 2007

baryspanish1.jpg Bary in summer school

My buddy Bary, a fellow librarian who works at the National Gallery of Art in DC, attended the Summer Language Program at Middlebury College in Vermont. He had to habla Spanish all summer. Better yet, he wrote about his experience. It’s on page 4 of the Fall, 2007 issue of Sketches:

A Middlebury College Language School Summer, or, “No English Spoken Here” by Bary Johnson

Sounds way too much like work to me.

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New Strings and a Shine

Posted by Casey on November 13, 2007

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Watermelon Music in Davis, California does a cool thing once a year. They have a restring clinic for guitars, ukeleles, and mandolins with free strings donated by D’Addario. They polish your instrument and put on the new strings in exchange for a non-perishable food item for the Yolo County Food Bank.

I showed up early with my blue guitar and I’m glad I did because by the time my instrument was shiny with new strings, the line was out the door in a light rain no less.

I enjoy visiting Davis. It’s a small college town with beautiful tree lined streets and a really cool downtown. They also have a Food Coop where I can buy things I can’t get anywhere else. I grew up in a town like this and I always feel a bit nostalgic when I go there, especially on overcast cool fall days like Saturday.

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This Just In

Posted by Casey on November 10, 2007

BJ was also in Los Angeles last Saturday to watch the Los Angeles Amazons play the So Cal Scorpions. Those are women’s football teams. Well, it seems she wandered to a little known part of the Walk of Fame and found this star.

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Who knew they had stars for crazy photographers.

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It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Posted by Casey on November 10, 2007

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So why was I leaning against a pillar outside the Burbank Marriott on Saturday morning? Well, here’s a hint . . .

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Yes, a bunch of us jumped on a plane in Sacramento, flew into Burbank, briefly detoured to the Burbank Marriott to eat lunch and get ready for the shuttle to pick us up and take us to Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to see Wicked.

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There was a tiny hitch on the way to the theater. The block in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was blocked off. I glanced down the road and saw snow and Christmas trees and a red carpet. They were getting ready for the premiere of Fred Claus.

We finally got to the theater and had to deal with a couple of bus loads of tourists because it’s in the middle of the Walk of Fame. Plus it was just a typical crazy Saturday afternoon on Hollywood Boulevard. Insane, touristy, and compelling in its own way.

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The Pantages Theatre is art deco gone amuck. It was built in 1930 and reflects the gawdy Hollywood taste of the time. The interior is ornate gold, upon silver, upon copper in bizarre layer upon layer of pseudo ancient Egyptian, ancient Roman, ancient Mayan/Aztec design.

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As for Wicked — good lyrics and book, rather mediocre score. Sets and costumes, stunning. The performances were good, except the guy who played Fiyero. He’s basically a dancer and his singing and acting were very weak, especially in comparison with the rest of the cast.

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After the show we walked up Hollywood Boulevard to the Kodak Theatre. We first tried to find John Wayne’s star on Vine, but went in the wrong direction. I did find some of my favorites.

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And the star of the Unknown Celebrity

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Just kidding. There were a lot of empty stars. I wonder if some of the locations are more prime than others. Actually, Hollywood Boulevard is in the, let’s call it, funky part of town, so a star has as much chance of being in front of the Pantages Theatre, MacDonalds, a tattoo parlor or under a marquee proclaiming “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
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Most of the crowd was in front of the Kodak Theatre/Mall.

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As the sun went down the crowds got bigger and we had to cross the street to get any view of Grauman’s Theatre. The crowd was just as heavy on that side of the street and the sidewalk is split for people who just want to walk and people who want to stop and gawk.

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We got the shuttle to pick us up across the playing fields for Hollywood High, which is just a block away from the Kodak and Grauman’s Theatres. Lunch hour must be fun for those students.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, a Farscape Convention is going on. What can I say? Life’s a carnival. I’m usually at a Xena Convention at that hotel and I was flashing back in the middle of the night when the hotel bar closed and singing and laughter wafted up from the courtyard as the party spilled outside. Just like at the XenaCon.

One added highlight of the trip. On the way south, we flew past Yosemite and I got a good view of Half Dome and El Capitan.

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Putting the Curl in Curling

Posted by Casey on October 27, 2007

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Well, I played my second game of curling last night and my team won. Yeah. We actually didn’t do bad once I got the hang of throwing the first two stones lighter than heavier. Skill in knowing how much muscle to put behind the stone and releasing it so it curls properly is only half the equation. The other half is the ever changing condition of the ice.

The ice can be fast or slow and it can have rough or slick patches that will alter the course of the stone. The condition of the ice changes as stone after stone rolls over it and as slick paths are created by the sweepers and the players who glide on the Teflon soles. Also last night, the door to the ice was left open for a while. That warmed the rink down and, while it was more comfortable temperature wise, the ice got slicker and slicker and nearly every stone was too heavy–rolling all the way through the house. After someone closed the door, the ice hardened, changing the playing conditions again.

I’m getting better at keeping up with the faster stones while sweeping. Sweeping is a lot harder than it looks. First off you’re running kind of sideways on the ice, watching the stone, watching and listening to the Skip for instructions, watching for other sweepers in the neighboring lane, watching for guard stones in your path . . . it really gets fun when you have to do all this while you’re sweeping the ice in front of the stone.

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Now that I’m getting the hang of doing the basic things, I’m paying more attention to the strategy of the game. Being the Lead, I throw the first two stones that are hopefully guards or draws and I sweep for the other players. A game lasts two to two-and-a-half hours and has ten ends. That means I throw twenty stones and sweep sixty. No wonder my back feels it in the morning.

Part way through last night, I realized I was really enjoying myself. It was a turning point in my mind from beginner to actual contributing member of the team. Two weeks ago we were two beginners, a player with experience, and a player who’s been curling all his life. This week we were gelling as a team, concentrating more on strategy than on figuring out what we were doing.

The best thing, I haven’t fallen yet, and I’m wearing regular shoes.

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Winging It at Wild Wings

Posted by Casey on October 22, 2007

I was at Wild Wings Golf Course Saturday, outside Woodland, California, photographing the last regular season tournament for the Northern California division of the National Golf League.

We mostly hung around at the ninth hole, listening to the ’80s rock ‘n roll and talking to Kim, the DJ for the event. Kim was telling us how she had to cover a high school football game the night before in the pouring rain. Makes me thankful basketball is an indoor sport.

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It was windy but a beautiful sunny day and Wild Wings Country Club is a nice setting, wrapped around a community of homes outside of Woodland. I can think of worse ways to hang out on a Saturday.

I met Michael and Brenda–part owners of the Sacramento Sirens–and had an entertaining chat with them. I love their enthusiasm for women’s sports.

Every once in a while teams of golfers showed up to tee off the ninth.

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. . . Or No Deal

Posted by Casey on October 18, 2007

BJ has chronicled the Deal or No Deal watching party the Sirens and the Sac City Rollers held last night.

“Kimberly’s Deal” on Deal or No Deal

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Deal?

Posted by Casey on October 18, 2007

Kimberly Bradshaw, a Sacramento Siren and a Sac City Roller was on Deal or No Deal tonight. She’s no. 91 in the photo taken at the Team Golf tournament a few weeks ago.

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At the beginning of the show, they showed clips of her playing football with the Sirens. Great free publicity for the league. Then in the middle of the show half the Sirens (in their jerseys) and members of the Sac City Rollers team (on roller skates) come into an area behind the stage to root their teammate on.

It was fun seeing the Sirens having a good time shouting encouragements and chanting.

Kimberly’s son (the kid in the above photo) wanted her to take the deals. Smart kid. Kimberly took one too many chances and ended up with only $23,000.

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Look Ma, I’m Curling

Posted by Casey on October 13, 2007

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Saturday’s Little Adventure

Posted by Casey on October 10, 2007

Saturday was a beautiful day and I just wanted to go out and play.

First stop was to check on the Glory Hole, since we’ve had only one major rain since the last time we looked at it back in July. This is what it looked like back then.

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This is what is looks like now . . .

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This is what it’s supposed to look like . . .

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We need rain. Real bad.

A half-dozen Asian-American students were lined up with their sleep black motorcycles trying to get a photo with all of them in it. One of the students put the camera on the edge of the road, set the timer and ran to pose with the others. One of them spotted me and asked if I’d take their picture. Which I did with pleasure.

We headed for Winters to have lunch and went by a town park filled with people. It turned out to be a children’s festival.

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The kids got to chose a pumpkin to take home . . .

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There were lots of games and activities for the kids but the best thing were the exotic critters.

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We had lunch at the Putah Creek Cafe, which is a nice corner diner in downtown Winters. I had a veggie burger and a soy Chai.

They served Marionberry pie with two scoops of ice cream on it. Note to self. Make some vegan Marionberry pie. Marionberries are a type of blackberry grown in Marion County, Oregon. When I lived in Portland, I used to visit the quaint German village of Mt. Angel, Oregon in Marion County, where they have an Oktoberfest that gets 300,000 visitors. The town’s population is 3,700. I’d get Marionberry soda from the Mt. Angel Brewery.

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After lunch we went to Solano Lake to commune with nature for a while.

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That night I felt relaxed and at peace. The sign of a successful day having fun.

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Did I Mention I Love Snakes?

Posted by Casey on October 7, 2007

Basketball withdrawals are not pleasant . . . So I had to go out and play . . . Little did I know I’d encounter a taffy yellow and white snake in Winters, California . . .

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I love snakes. Can’t resist touching them. They are wonderful creatures and everyone thinks I’m nuts for liking them. Go figure.

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My Big Moment on National TV

Posted by Casey on October 4, 2007

My big moment on ABC TV came last year—August 19, 2006, when the Monarchs booted out the Houston Comets in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs.

At halftime, I was making my way through the chaos of people behind the scorers table and on the baseline to get to where my friends were seated in the stands. It’s a tricky business dodging around people and cameras and cables and security people making sure everyone’s where they’re allowed to be.

All of a sudden a white jersey came into my range of vision and a hand gently stopped my progress as the white jersey eased around me and disappeared. I knew it was Yolanda Griffith without even looking up. Some people just have a presence about them. What I marveled at was the grace and strength she stopped me from plowing into her and how she slithered around me without missing a beat.

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Curler in Training

Posted by Casey on October 3, 2007

Yes. Good readers, I have curled. There is photographic evidence. I hope the holder of this precious evidence will email it to me before he sell copies of it on Ebay for bunches of money.

As a preface to all this, I used to be athletic as a kid. Good at softball, basketball, baseball, track and ballet . . . then I got Osgood-Schlatter Disease–I wasn’t allowed to walk for more than a half hour or so a day for a year so I wouldn’t do too much damage to my knee as I outgrew the disease. I spent years hiking the rugged hills of Southern Illinois to strengthen the knee. But it continued to be injured and abused through the years, including getting torn to bits in a bike accident, which was pretty much the last straw for it to even pretend to be normal again.

So I have a bum knee that I have to pamper to keep it working properly. But I miss doing things like hiking and playing sports. I wish I could try out for the women’s football team. That’s something I’d really like to try, at least once.

Curling is something I can do. I can use a stick to deliver the stone instead of crouching down and sliding, and that’s what I practiced Friday night. I grew up in the Midwest and am used to wintry conditions and have had to walk on ice a lot slicker than the pebbled curling ice to get across parking lots and across campuses to school and work.

I’m proud to say, even though I was running in my regular shoes several feet on the ice to deliver the stone I never slipped and fell. I think I can really do this sport so I’m joining the Wine Country Curlers.

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So wish me luck . . .

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Harry Potter — the Third Book

Posted by Casey on October 3, 2007

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite of the Harry Potter movies. I liked the director’s touch a lot and was very disappointed when he didn’t do the next movie.

The book is also much better than the first two. The writing is more confident, stronger, less self-conscious, less forced. Practice makes perfect and Rowling certainly improved as a writer with this book. I didn’t lose interest part way through, as I did with the first two, which means she’s dropping more interesting crumbs of information that are resolved at the end of the book. It still tends to drag and she still has problems with pacing her scenes, but there’s enough strength of imagination and story to keep the reader from wandering off.

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The difference between this book and the first two is she finally got away from consciously writing for kids. Now an argument can be made that the increasing sophistication level of the books mirrors the growth of the protagonist. The writing-to-appeal-to-kids seems a little forced in the first two books but I don’t think Rowling was trying to make the reading level equivalent to Harry Potter’s abilities at ages eleven and twelve. It’s hard enough writing a book and then consciously altering the writing style on top of that. I think Rowling finally got confident enough in her writing to let her natural style come out.

There are things that continue to drive me crazy about her writing. Her action and suspenseful scenes are paced the same as her non-action scenes and it pretty near kills the action and suspense every time. Her use of adverbs is laughable and unnecessary and sometimes just wrong. I’m appalled that they got by the editor. On the other hand, she may have had thousands of adverbs in her original manuscripts and these are the ones the editor missed crossing out. Just say no to adverbs. Really. They add nothing to the story (except a good laugh because a lot of them are Tom Swifties) and ruin otherwise good sentences.

Now on to the major problem I have with Azkaban. The fantasy slips. In a major way. For fantasy to be credible, an author has to build rules for how the magic works within the fantasy world and then follow these rules without exception. If the rules start slipping then credibility goes out the window and anyone can save the day (or do anything) by just snapping their fingers or waving a wand. If there are no rules for magic, then magic can solve everything in the story. The story has no real tension or suspense because there’s no chance of failure for the protagonist.

Rowling lets the readers know early on that Hermione is doing something that allows her to attend two classes at the same time. She then uses this same device to allow Harry to save the day. So far so good. Actually a good way to make a minor mysterious story element into the key for resolving the plot. The problem is, Rowling set up rules for this Time-Turner for Hermione to attend classes and then changed the rules when Hermione and Harry use it at the end of the book.

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The Time-Turner allows Hermione to go back in time to attend a class at the same time as the class she just attended (I think that makes sense). The rules for Hermione is she cannot tell anyone what she’s doing.

Now, when Dumbledore allows Harry and Hermione to use the Time-Turner to save Sirius Black he says, “But remember this, both of you: you must not be seen. Miss Granger, you know the law–you know what is at stake . . . You–must–not–be–seen.”

So if the law is you can’t be seen when you use the Time-Turner, Hermione can’t be seen when she’s going back in time to attend class. But in the middle of the book, Ron says, “I heard her talking to Professor Vector, that Arithmancy witch, this morning. They were going on about yesterday’s lesson, but Hermione can’t’ve been there, because she was with us in Care of Magical Creatures! And Ernie McMillan told me she’s never missed a Muggle Studies class, but half of them are at the same time as Divination, and she’s never missed one of them either!”

Obviously, she’s not only seen but is fully engaged in those classes she attends using the Time-Turner.

And minutes after Dumbledore tells them they cannot be seen because it’s a law, Hermione tells Harry, “Professor McGonagall made me swear I wouldn’t tell anyone. She had to write all sorts of letters to the Ministry of Magic so I could have one. She had to tell them that I was a model student, and that I’d never, ever use it for anything except my studies . . . ” And Harry never thinks to ask, “But how did you do that without being seen?” since Dumbledore had been so adamant about it and Hermione keeps reminding Harry they can’t be seen while they save Sirius Black.

This is such a major slip in every way–plotting, world building, rules of magic–that it undermines the Time-Turner as a plot-resolving device. I’m surprised the editor didn’t catch it, since story continuity is something editors keep track of.

I hate to see such lazy attention to major plot points, especially in such a popular book. I’m afraid the quality of these books have suffered from the pressure Rowling was under to finish them and the publisher was under to get them to the readers. Putting creative writing on corporate time-tables that cater more to the consumer than the writer results in books that couldn’t possibly be as good as they would have been if Rowling had been given the time she really needed to fully engage her imagination for each book.

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