Category Archives: California

Book Review: Outside the Limelight by Terez Mertes Rose

Outside the Limelight (Ballet Theatre Chronicles. #2)Outside the Limelight by Terez Mertes Rose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the first book in this series very much and eagerly looked forward to the second. In most ways it did not disappoint. The author’s love of ballet and her extensive knowledge of the subject informed the story at every turn. I also appreciated the complexity of the relationships she delineated in this book. I have grown weary of stories that always hew to a formulaic hero’s journey or romance, and so I appreciated that Outside the Limelight dealt with other kinds of human relationships: siblings, parents, divorce, failed mentorship, work colleagues and teams, professors and students, and friends.

That said, I think the author may have taken on too much in this volume, and it ended up losing focus. The medical details of Dena’s tumor, operation, and recovery went on too long, as did the development of her relationship with Misha. The parallels between Dena and her sister and Misha and his brother did not need to be spelled out and dramatized in this much detail, especially because much of this quiet and somewhat dull post-tumor part of Dena’s story came at the expense of dramatizing the arc of Rebecca’s relationship with Ben. The denouement to that part of the novel was dramatic but confusing. I was glad all the characters got their happy endings but while I could see Dena/Misha coming a mile away, Rebecca/Ben came totally out of the blue for me. There had been so little sexual tension or chemistry between Rebecca and Ben throughout most of the story that I had assumed Ben was gay.

Rebecca’s on-again, off-again relationship with Anders formed the tight core of this novel for me. It takes place in 2010-11, just on the precipice of the current re-imagining of mentor relationships between powerful men and young ambitious women in the arts (and many other fields). One wonders if Anders Gunst’s career would survive the #MeToo movement. And even if so, how his life and those of the dancers under his tutelage would be forever changed.

This book strikes me as transitional in other ways too. It shows the beginnings of a new path by which dancers can open up the closed, insular ballet world and take charge of their own careers and lives via social media. What can happen in this brave new world is the story I really want–really need–to read now.

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Mundane Monday: Used Golf Clubs from Craigslist

My husband and I have always liked to play minigolf, but that’s it. Until now. I had always thought of golf as something rich people and Presidents did.

But recently I decided to try it. There are some advantages to being able to play. Golf is a sport you can play your whole life, even well into your 70s and 80s, as long as you are mobile. It gets you outside and walking. It can be social; you can chat, you can network. If you’re so inclined you might even be able to catch Pokemon on the course! And some courses are located in beautiful and/or interesting places that you wouldn’t even get to see if you didn’t play golf.

There is a course in our town, Mountain View, on Moffett Field. It’s not a well-known course and used to be for military only. Now they have opened it up to the public and while you do have to show your drivers license to get past the kiosk, they are friendly when you tell them you are going to the golf course. When you are leaving, you drive right past Hangar One.

HangarOne

My husband and I have taken a couple of lessons now and we’re planning to do more. I recently got a set of used women’s clubs off Craigslist so I can go down to the range and practice if I want to. I picked them up after church on Sunday, where I was playing violin for Earth Day.

This week’s Mundane Monday theme is “two for one.” Pictured here are the two blue cases for the equipment needed for my oldest and newest hobbies. They kinda match.

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The Mundane Monday Challenge is under new ownership. Check it out at K Ottaway’s Rural Mad as Hell Blog.

Here’s my card

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werner22brigitte, Pixabay 

Growing up and as a student, I didn’t view violin soloists as regular people. They were a breed apart, and they played music that was so far out of my reach that I couldn’t even imagine it. Otherworldly images on album covers and in galleries tended to reinforce this notion. I find these images beautiful, but more intimidating than not.

Back in Massachusetts when I was in the Philharmonic Society of Arlington, we had a cellist whose day job was graphic designer. He made the posters for our concerts. They were lovely: colorful, artistic, ornate and a little quirky, like the orchestra itself. It was always a treat to see what the poster would look like a month before the concert rolled around. And we were fortunate: he donated his services for free.

FallConcert
PSA poster by Arch MacInnis

One aspect of graphic design that these posters never had, though, was photographs of people’s faces. We were a volunteer organization and we sometimes had competition-winner soloists whose pictures we used for online and print publicity, but the posters were different. I had a short concertmaster solo one year, in the Tchiakovsky “Mozartiana” suite, and while I told all my friends and family and they brought me flowers at the end, I wasn’t on the poster (much to my relief!)

AfterMozartiana
With my kids, after “Mozartiana”

Then last year, after moving to California and becoming an almost-full-time violist, I had the privilege of being in a different orchestra, the South Bay Philharmonic, accompanying the concertmaster, Gene Huang, on the Mendelssohn violin concerto, and the principal cellist, Harris Karsch, performing the Popper Hungarian Rhapsody.

I also play with them in a quintet, and seeing my own chamber music partners perform major solo works was an inspiration to me. This time, unlike with concerto competition winners who might fly in only for the dress rehearsal and concert, I was able to hear the pieces at the beginning, before they were polished. While the final product was amazing to watch and listen to, I also saw how much time and work were needed to get there. They prepared these performances while holding down full-time Silicon Valley tech jobs, as well as the regular ebb and flow of weekly orchestra rehearsals and weekend chamber music get-togethers.

SBPSpringConcertPoster

As befits its origins at Hewlett-Packard, the SBP, now an independent orchestra, calls itself an “Open Source Symphony.” A lot of the publicity is online, but they also print out business cards for members of the group to distribute. When I first saw these, I kind of wondered what to do with them, and in particular it struck me that they had photos of faces on them, not just of composers but of people I knew. “How does it feel to see your face on a card?” I asked. I don’t remember the response, exactly, but it was something like “it was a little weird at first, but I’m getting used to it.”

businesscards

Or maybe I’m projecting, because that describes just how I feel. The original design of the card had my face next to Dvořák’s portrait, but I felt a little uncomfortable with that. Instead I suggested this picture of Yosemite Valley, to represent the “New World” of the symphony. The blue of the sky is nice and color-coordinated with my dress and the orchestra’s logo. My daughter, who is now a freshman in college, took the picture of me with my viola in the backyard while she was home for spring break.

I’ve been giving them out to friends, other musicians I know, members of my writers’ group, people at church, even coworkers. It still feels a little odd to see my face there on a card. Proud? Happy? Sure, but that’s not all. Nervous? Anxious about “putting myself out there?” Yeah, that too. It’s not a bad feeling, but I struggle to find the right words. It is not a feeling I’ve ever had before and not something I expected when I picked up the violin again, and then the viola, more than 10 years ago. A new feeling. A new world.

YosemiteVDC

Mundane Monday: California Poppies

The California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, is the CA state flower. It grows everywhere this time of year, even in the tiny bit of soil next to a drainage grate, or in the sandbags lining a creek.

FlowersGrate

It is sometimes found next to dandelions or Bermuda Buttercup, another common but pretty yellow weed.

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Every year, April 6 is California Poppy Day and May 13th – 18th is Poppy Week. I’m right in between the two with this post.

poppies2

The Mundane Monday Challenge is under new ownership. Check it out at K Ottaway’s Rural Mad as Hell Blog.

 

Mundane Monday: Embassy Suites

I was out with my husband finding some geocaches near a creek in Milpitas for my daily streak (830 days as of this writing), and spotted this building in the distance.

The way the light shines on it through the clouds, the green hills around it, the dome, the river, the mist, all this made me think it might be something special. Maybe some rich Silicon Valley millionaire’s villa, or a folly building like a mini Hearst Castle. A winery? A high school? A museum?

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It turns out it’s an Embassy Suites hotel. I’ve never stayed there, but yeah, it looks nice.

The Mundane Monday Challenge is under new ownership. Check it out at K Ottaway’s Rural Mad as Hell Blog.

Mundane Monday: Line of RVs

This road lines Rengstorff Park in Mountain View, where I live. There was a nice little geocache in the park that I found with my daughter today. But I want to call attention to this line of RVs parked here, stretching back as far as the eye can see.

LineOfRVs

Unfortunately this view has become all too mundane in recent years:

The Mundane Monday Challenge is under new ownership. Check it out at K Ottaway’s Rural Mad as Hell Blog.

Mundane Monday: Yacht Club

Yacht Clubs aren’t usually considered mundane, but this isn’t your ordinary yacht.

YachtClub

My husband and I were out geocaching this weekend to get points for a geocaching challenge called Planetary Pursuit. The more caches we find, the more points we get and the further we travel from the sun.

This cache was located in the historic South Bay Yacht Club in Alviso. Its website makes it look like a nice place where you can socialize on the waterfront. It’s no longer just for men or just for rich people.

There also weren’t many yachts there, except for this lonely, moldy Boaty McBoatface. I hope now that spring is here someone will come and give this poor thing a bath.

MoldyBoat

The Mundane Monday challenge is under new ownership. Thanks to K Ottaway and Rural Mad as Hell Blog for keeping it going!

Thursday Doors: Clarion West

This is not the door to the actual Clarion West writers’ workshop in Seattle. I attended that workshop in 1987 just after I graduated from college and before I went to graduate school. I put writing away for a long time, studying neuroscience and raising a family. I’m not done with either of those activities, exactly, although I’m now an instructor with Science from Scientists rather than a graduate student, and my kids are teenagers. And I’m not done with writing either. No, I’m just starting back up.

This door belongs to the house of one of my Clarion classmates. Although we kept in sporadic touch after the workshop, attended a convention together, and still sent yearly holiday cards, I hadn’t seen her in person for about 25 years. In between then and now we had both gotten married, had kids, and pursued other interests.

When I moved back to CA I realized that she was not that far away; I could drive to her house in less than 2 hours. But it took more than 2 years for me to get the trip organized. Finally, my husband was on a big power trail geocaching trip, my son didn’t mind getting himself meals and was old enough to be left alone for a day, and so I went.

Door

We had an awesome time. I didn’t know that I would as I knocked at the very normal-looking door in the very normal-looking California suburb, but I suspected. With some friends–writers especially–time doesn’t pass the way you think.

Thursday doors is a weekly feature in which door lovers share their pictures from doors all around the world. Stop by Norm 2.0’s blog to say hello and see some of the others.

Already? Why I don’t like Daylight Saving Time anymore

I haven’t blogged yet this month and suddenly it’s mid-March already. Tonight we set the clocks ahead one hour. This time of year brings out a predictable spate of articles about the history of Daylight Saving Time (not “Savings” Time) and partisans on both sides weigh in.

The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that they hate changing the clocks. I used to not mind it as much as I do now, but that was before it was so G-d-awful early in the year. Daylight saving time started in the USA in 1918 with the idea of saving energy. That means it is 100 years old this year. I actually remember the biennial clock ritual as a child with a little fondness. Thinking it through helped me understand clocks, timekeeping, time zones, circadian rhythms, and jet lag a little better. And somehow the stakes were lower for sleeping in.

But we don’t currently observe your grandfather’s Daylight Saving Time. The first federal standards established that DST would start on the last Sunday in April and end the last Sunday in October. But in 2007 and 2008, DST was extended by another month, into March and November. This extension was politically motivated and driven by candy and golf industry lobbying. The hoped-for energy savings have not materialized.

This is when I started to get angry about this issue. Nobody asked us: there was no popular vote on this change, and no consideration for what the time shift does to the human body clock.

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Daylight Saving Time doesn’t actually save anything. It just shifts light from the morning, when it is needed to entrain the body’s internal clock, to the evening, when it contributes to insomnia. Especially when instituted so early in the year, before the equinox (before the day is even as long as the night) it puts everyone in a state of perpetual eastward-going jet lag.

The body’s clock never actually adjusts to daylight time. The spring forward clock change is associated with a 25% increase in the risk of heart attacks  and an increase in traffic accidents on the Monday following the time change (Be careful out there!) And it’s in exactly the wrong direction to help sleep-deprived teens be able to get up for school. Daylight Saving Time is one of many factors that disconnect humans from the natural world.

I think we should just end this 100-year-old experiment altogether, and live on standard time all year round. But I’d settle for a return to the standards of the 1960s and early 1970s, when turning the clocks ahead really meant the coming of spring.

ClockGermanTown

 

 

 

 

Thursday Doors: El Camino Real, Mountain View

El Camino Real is 600 miles long, linking cities up and down California. Sometimes known as the “Royal Road” or the “King’s Highway,” it has a storied history: between 1683 and 1834, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries established a series of missions from today’s Baja California and Baja California Sur into what is now the state of California. Today’s El Camino links those 21 missions.

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In present-day Mountain View, however, El Camino a busy road with a lot of cars. I’ve done some Thursday doors posts about Mountain View before, highlighting it’s history as the geeky ground zero of Silicon Valley: Self-driving car, NASA Ames, HP Garage, Steve Jobs’ house, Stanford Medical Center. This post shows another side of the city.

Last weekend when I was at a friend’s house to play some string quartets, I drove my car into a curb. The tire didn’t go flat, but the rubber was damaged and it looked like there was a bite taken out of it. I could see some nylon. Another friend recommended a tire place on El Camino, and I took my car there this morning to find out that yes, the tire needed to be replaced. It would take about an hour and a half, during which I wanted to meet a group of geocachers for lunch at Panera Bread, a little over a mile away. I left my car there and walked.

“Caminar” is the Spanish verb for “to walk,” and as I walked down this camino I had a very different view of what I passed than I did when I drive every day.

First I passed this motel. Not sure I would want to stay there, but I probably would if the price was right.

01BudgetHotel
Budget Motel

This looked like someone’s house. The door was set back from the street and protected by bars and a gate.

02PrivateHome
Private Home

One of several medical offices and dialysis centers.

03MedicalOffice
Medical Office

An old-fashioned hardware store where you can find a lot of good stuff.

04TrueValue
True Value Hardware

Supposedly a personal trainer works here, but the building and parking lot are empty.

05PersonalTrainer
Abandoned Personal Trainer office

Never been in here, or seen this before:

06Vape
Vaping
07Vape
More Vaping

A restaurant that delivers

08Restaurant
Restaurant

Buy a new vacuum cleaner or get your old one fixed!

09VacuumCleaner
Vacuum cleaner purchase and repair

Sit on that weird bench while waiting for your car to be done?

10ForeignAuto
Foreign Car Service

Upscale apartment complex

11Apartment
Guest Parking Only

Even more upscale. We lived in a place similar to this one the first month we were in CA while we waited for our furniture. The balconies are either mind-numbingly or comfortingly similar.

12Balconies
Balcony Doors

The pool is visible from the street but no one is swimming today. Probably it’s too cold.

13Pool
Pool: Keep Closed

Painting a teddy bear blue makes me think of getting my hair cut, how about you?

14KidsHaircuts
Kids Hair Cuts!

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by adding your post to the link over at Norm 2.0’s blog!