Wednesday, December 28, 2011

War Horse

I saw War Horse today with Kim and Gen. If you are a horse owner or a lover of horses you must see the movie with other horse lovers. Otherwise no one will understand why you are blubbering throughout the movie.

A couple of comments up front:
  • Homo sapiens are the dumbest species on this planet.
  • Horses are far more noble than we can ever hope to be.
I got through the movie with only three tissues. However, they were shredded and I actually could have used twice that many. Horse owners will recognize the scenes revealing horse nature. Spielberg, whose wife and daughter ride, absorbed some knowledge of equines. The horse that won't be caught? Face plant over a jump? Been there, done that. Velvety muzzle searching for treats, horse head using you as a scratching post? Ditto.

Even though I suspected there would be a happy ending, it was the dickens getting there. If you've read Black Beauty you will recognize a couple of events in the movie.

And there was one heck of a battle scene that made me wonder what in the world is wrong with humans. World War I was the transition from the "chivalrous" form of warfare with cavalry charges to the mechanical type of warfare we implement today. Young men thought they were going off on a grand adventure to protect England. They came home maimed and broken from artillery shells and mustard gas. As for the horses and dogs used in the war effort, they had no idea what they were getting into. Over a million horses were used in World War I, but only 60,000+ survived, and many of them ended up feeding the starving people who lived through the conflict.

War Horse is a favorite for an Academy Award nomination. I hope they have a special Oscar for Finders Key, the California bred thoroughbred who portrayed Joey through much of the move.

So -- if you decide to see War Horse, bring plenty of tissues and be prepared to be emotionally exhausted at the end. Horse owners will undoubtedly bring extra treats for equine partners on the next visit to the barn.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Oregon Humane Society Santa Paws 2011

Mary, Indy, and Santa wish you and yours
the best for the holidays and new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy First Day of Winter!

Freezing fog maintains its grip in the Wilsonville/Aurora area. Temperatures remained below freezing and the fog never lifted. This made for a chilly but beautiful afternoon walk with Indy.

Built in winter coat.

Frosty toes.

Canyon Creek Road North

Sugar coated ivy? Nope, frozen fog.

Frosty pine.

Frozen web.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I grew up in a home where once a book crossed the threshold it didn't leave. Thus, later in life, I have always been surprised when entering a home devoid of bookcases. I can understand the absence of artwork on the walls. Art can be expensive. Not everyone had a painter in the home like we did (my father). But no books?

Only recently have I taken to purging my library. No reason to keep a book I've already read and didn't care for. I'm now putting a little more consideration into my book purchases. But I'm still growing the library.

So when I enter a home and can't spy a single book, I shake my head. Who are these people?

Then I saw the above book and felt vindicated. Apparently there are enough other people like me to form a sufficient audience to offset the cost of printing and distribution of a book about books.  An audience that considers every flat surface as a viable landing site for a book or magazine.

Last week The Oregonian ran an oped from an antiquarian book collector/dealer who begged people not to ruin the value of books by writing inscriptions in the front or scribbling notes throughout. I've always made a habit of writing an inscription when I give a book as a gift. So I was a little taken aback by the recommendation.

This Sunday the paper included responses to the "don't scribble" opinion. Once again I was vindicated.

In the world of rare and collectible books, inscriptions and notes may be ruinous. But I find it intriguing to read these notations in a used book. It sets my imagination into motion. Who were the giver and recipient? Why was that particular book selected? What did the reader think of the book? It's especially fun in older books with a history (from gift to library to used book store).

So, as a book inscriber and book keeper, it was nice to learn I'm not alone in my bookish habits.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Stills: Pets

An anniversary salute to the launch of Sunday Stills. Capture and post photos of the "fur people" with whom we share our lives.

Indy and the Yogurt Cup

Oh boy! Yogurt!


There's more at the bottom.

Mmm, mmm good.

Gotta get a good grip.

Almost gone.


To see more pets visit Sunday Stills.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sparkly Air

It was still dark when Indy insisted on going for his morning walk. I bundled up against yet another morning of freezing fog and set out for the nearby high tech campus. The parking lots of the campus are well lighted but otherwise the area was peacefully dusky and quiet for our walk.

At first I thought it was my eyes, but after a few blinks I realized what I was observing were ice crystals in the fog sparkling under the parking lot lights. Against the darker backdrop it looked like fine glitter floating past.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The "C" Thing (aka Canter)

I finally got brave enough to canter Phantom yesterday. You'd think we'd have this ironed out by now, but I haven't consistently taken lessons (for a variety of reasons) during my partnership with Phantom.

My Big Goober Boy (Indy being my Little Goober Boy) attempts to crossfire during the trot to canter transition. This requires popping his rear end as he attempts to arrange his hind legs in a contra-indicated position. This move also pops me out of the saddle. Which means I have to be secure in the saddle before we attempt the initial canter depart of the session. Once we've struggled through the first canters in both directions subsequent canters proceed smoothly.

Now, I know the fix for the problem is to properly set up Phantom before asking for the canter (forward, soft on the bit, responsive to the leg). Leg yielding off the inside leg at a corner or on a circle is generally our best bet for success. But there are those days when we just can't get our act together, or Phantom offers the canter before we're really set up. Heck, I'm only human. I get impatient or go with the flow knowing it will be a struggle.

The lead up to yesterday's canter has been several months of a disrupted riding schedule. It began with Phantom's girth galls. While waiting for the raw areas to heal I rode briefly at a walk. A new string girth solved that issue. Then my mother broke her hip. Once she pulled through and was on the mend I hoped to resume my barn schedule -- only to discover Phantom was mysteriously lame. Trainer Julie loosened up a stiff shoulder but then Phantom had more time off while our schedule was overtaken by therapist visits and doctor appointments. Finally, life returned to a version of normalcy in November.

Phantom, of course, has been enjoying daily turnouts and galloping around with the boys. I'm the one who had to get back in shape. Which involved feeling secure enough to stick in the saddle while Phantom rearranged his hind end for a canter.

So -- yesterday's canter was an accomplishment. I'll take 'em where and when I can get 'em.

Monday, December 5, 2011

NW Authors Series: Christina Katz

This month's session was especially fun since it was part of Christina's launch of her newest book. Christina Katz is the person behind the Northwest Author Series of workshops at the Wilsonville Library. She is a writing coach as well as an author who helps writers negotiate changes in the publishing industry. Her previous books include Writer Mama and Get Known Before the Book Deal.

Christina and others familiar with the publishing business advise aspiring authors that we will be responsible for marketing our own books. Unless you are consistently on the best seller list, publishers allot few resources to advertising and marketing books. With the advent of digital self-publishing, you are obviously on your own to promote your work.

Christina's previous books helped multi-tasking mothers find time to write and explained the importance of developing a "platform" for nonfiction as well as fiction writers. In her session introducing The Writer's Workout she discussed the job of developing and maintaining a writing career. Foremost is the writing. That is always your priority. But other skills the writer needs include:  selling, focusing, learning, and self-promotion.

To sell yourself you must know yourself. What sets you apart from everyone else hoping readers will purchase their books? Assess your strengths and what you are doing to get your name and your work out there. Where have you published? Do you have a blog? Are you using social networks effectively? Christina shared worksheets from her books that guide self assessment. The completed worksheets collect personal information that can be converted into a "one pager" promotional document.

With easy access to digital publishing, Christina believes authors will and should be selling their words in a variety of formats. For example, a collection of poems or articles, small pamphlets or booklets, short stories or novellas, etc. Perhaps you have knowledge or experience that would interest a specific segment of the population. Not enough to interest a traditional publishers, but enough for modest electronic sales to a niche group. She suggests writers go through their work to see what may be appropriate for the new digital world.

Most importantly, Christina emphasized growth and progress. Keep learning. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small.

The Writer's Workout contains 366 tips for a writing life (2012 is a leap year!). Each is introduced with an appropriate quotation. It is divided into "seasons" that may be interpreted as seasons of the calendar or seasons of your writing career. The reader can dive in on any page as needed.

I'm looking forward to discovering the encouraging words and tips that will keep me going

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Stills: Backlit and Portrait

Catching up with Sunday Stills challenges. Since I put up our tree yesterday (yeah, yeah, fake tree in the Christmas tree capital of the world) I decided to take advantage of the lights and capture a shot of a new ornament for this year.

I couldn't manage "Bokeh" (November 27) as I don't know nothin' 'bout no f stops. Obviously I need to take a digital photography class.

However, I did give portrait (November 20) a try with my handiest subject:

To see how others met this week's photo assignment, visit Sunday Stills.