Pointsman

Name:
Location: one hour from Suffolk, Rockingham, and Scarborough, United States

I'm one of the co-authors of Point of Hopes, Point of Dreams, and The Armor of Light (which, contrary to some reviews is NOT a Points novel). Proud member of CoastLine SF, Piscataqua Obedience Club, and admin for Horseboard.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Racing the Truck

I love good TV commercials. They're like poetry in that they have to convey so much in such a small amount of space and time.

Over the past few years, UPS has been having lots of fun running a series of ads featuring NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett -- UPS being the primary sponsor of Jarrett's #88 Ford Taurus. The premise is that UPS wants Jarrett to race the truck. Jarrett doesn't want to. For years, UPS reps, people on the street, famous musicians (my favorite was Charlie Daniels), a certain pair of Muppets, and his own father, have tried to persuade Dale to drive the truck. All to no avail.

Until this year. Dale walks into a meeting of UPS execs and said he's changed his mind, he'll race the truck.

The news sweeps across the globe, leading to general mass rejoicing. Cell phones ring, text messages proliferate, it becomes the lead story on the evening news... and then Dale sticks his head back in the conference room. "But let's not make a big thing of it, ok?" he asks. The UPS execs hastily reassure him -- as a plane flies by outside towing a banner that says, "Dale Says Yes!"

Well, you see, it takes more time to describe it than it takes to run. That's why good commercials are more like poetry and describing good commercials is... blogging. You can see it here (and a word of advice -- the UPS site seems to like Netscape better than Explorer. Yay, UPS!).

As much as I enjoy NASCAR Nextel Cup racing, I lack the genetic component, which my partner has discovered to the nth degree. To the extent that this season, we have NASCAR In Car, which is one of those packages that lets you follow the action from inside certain selected drivers' cars. Good weeks are ones when DJ is one of the selected drivers, as he was last week and is again this week. Anyway, while I'm here blogging away, Melissa is off swapping back and forth between the network coverage and her In Car coverage. And to be sure, the conversation can be fascinating, the insight it gives you into how decisions are made, on how cars handle and how an evil handling car is dealt with, is really nifty. People love the inside story. I bet Danny would rather be backstage at the Oscars than in the audience. (Really big smiley face here!) I know I'd rather be on the backstretch at a racetrack (especially Saratoga) than on the apron or in the grandstand.

And so far, no one has tried to censor the drivers' language in these "private" conversations we're allowed to listen in on. And sometimes, wow, the language. Last week Dale Jarrett had an evil handling car for part of the race, and the normally gentlemanly D.J. was heard at one point to say, "They're driving by me, they're freaking driving by me. I'm freaking wide open and they're freaking driving by me."

Understand, the word he used WAS freaking. Not the other one that isn't firetrucking. That's about as salty as DJ gets. And, as I mentioned earlier in this blog somewhere, his primary charity is the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation -- how about that, a NASCAR champion concerned with women's health issues!

But I was going to mention a mild case of NASCAR widow-hood. Usually it's not a problem, as I'll drift through the living room where Melissa is watching, or if I'm out driving, I'll listen to the race on the radio, which I prefer to watching as I'm not wild about the hosts on Fox. The problem is California. The California races start later, of course, so they end later, of course, and they tend to cut into the dinner making hour. I enjoy company when I'm making dinner, and I'm not keen on pushing it back an hour or more waiting for the race to end, so I'm left to make dinner by myself, with only the critters for company. (really REALLY big smiley face here.)

The problem tonight is, we decided on having something that she traditionally makes. Sigh. I better get some cheese and crackers (to go with this whine?) to get me through to the end of the race.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Wildly Random Musings

I admire Danny's discipline... or maybe it's obsession? -- when it comes to blogging every day. Like him, I started this blog to try to prime the pump for my own "real" writing. To get those muscles back in working order. And stuff -- like life! -- keeps getting in the way!

Last weekend, Don Sakers & Thomas Atkinson came up for a couple of days following Boskone. They're two of our dearest friends; we actually "ran off" to Vermont with them three years ago to get civilly united. Then Melissa's mom came up from Arkansas to help out while Melissa continues to recuperate from her hysterectomy. It's all been very pleasant, but has, I confess, kept me away from the computer.

But here I am, without much substantive to say (hi, Jeff!). So, some things that have crossed my mind, caught my eye, amused or irked me recently.

1. If you enjoy good photography, you must check out Barbara Livingston's website. She's won two Eclipse Awards for photography, and the woman catches shots most of us wouldn't even be able to see, let alone capture on film. It doesn't matter if you're not a horse-lover. If you're in a museum, do you turn away from a Degas because it happens to have horses in it? She is to photography what Stubbs and Munnings were to painting.

2. Speaking of Danny... I feel like I'm getting my minimum daily requirement of political insight, sociological awareness, and pop culture instruction when I read his blog. And sometimes it leaves me feeling the tiniest bit inadequate!

3. Law & Order, the series, of any stripe, seems enamored of this notion that defense attorneys are evil, venal, or else incredibly naive, not to say stupid, and sometimes all of the above. It looks as though the plan for the new series is to have all of the defense attorneys be "ethically challenged." I only hope that the creators of the various series never have a legitimate need for a good defense attorney. What is so wrong with the idea of innocent until proven guilty? I suppose they never knew that John Adams defended one of the accused in the Boston Massacre. That he contended it was of more importance to the community that innocence be protected than it was that guilt should be punished. Good thing he didn't live a hundred years earlier, Cotton Mather would have gotten really medieval on him!

4. I have new insurance this year, and it is probably going to be directly responsible for a spike in my blood pressure. I am very fortunate to have insurance, and in the grand scheme of things, it's damn good insurance. But there have been many hoops to jump through, many errors to be corrected, and I'm about to throw something.

5. It was amusing to see the same story, about J. Paul Reddam purchasing Kentucky Derby hopeful Snack, in both Thoroughbred Times and on the US Trotting Association website. According to the USTA site, Mr. Reddam is a noted owner of Standardbreds, while Thoroughbred Times doesn't see any need to mention that. Know thy audience.

5a. That said, there's at least one sports writer who would point out how unlikely it is that a Triple Crown winner will ever be named Snack. Uh-huh. And Seattle Slew sounds nice, but "slew" meant "swamp."

6. It's not the cold, it's the damp. That's the winter version of "it's not the heat, it's the humidity." I just got back from walking Vixen around town, and it is raw out tonight.

7. Fans of less than stellar hockey teams have taken cold comfort in proclaiming their teams undefeated in the 2004-2005 season.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Signs of shhhhhh.....

It really is ridiculous of anyone who has spent her entire life in New England to be talking about signs of spring in the middle of February. Signs of a February thaw, perhaps.

Joe is talking about his horse coming back to NY from Florida around the second week in March. Just in time for the traditional St. Patrick's Day snowstorm!

A few years ago, Melissa and I had a signing at Jumpgate on Preakness Day, so that would be the third Saurday in May -- and it snowed! No just flurries, we're talking measurable snow that made the folks at the Harley rally down the road very unhappy. That same year, we had measurable snow in mid-October, so that made for, let's see, four snow free months.

I do love New England!

And yet... yesterday, mild as it was, temperatures here in Portsmouth were cooler than in surrounding locales. Why? Because the wind here had turned around and was out of the east. Yes, that's right -- the first seabreeze of the year.

And now that my backyard has lost most of its blanket of snow, I can see many daffodil tips, grown a good inch or two. No signs of the chionodoxa yet, but they'll be along, overtake, and pass the daffs in good order. In a month, maybe less, they'll actually be in bloom while the daffodils are still growing.

Hairy Tales

Blogs can become some (literally) twisted life form, curling in and around themselves, commenting on one another, one blog entry inspiring another, which sends another blogger to the keyboard...

Danny just commented on his friend Tamar's entry about hair. Danny wrote about baldness. My take on baldness is that everyone should try it. Sure, I didn't want to, but I also didn't choose to wear wigs. And I can look at the photos of me without hair, and not cringe. I have a pretty darned decent looking head! The hardest part was the lack on insulation. It was cold in the winter (and spring), and in the summer, whenever I wore a baseball cap, it was hotter than it would have been with that cushioning air-pocket of hair. And, as my friend and hairdresser Larry pointed out, raindrops can _hurt_ without that cushion!

(If I can figure out how to post photos here without having to house them on some public site, I will post one of me in my hairless mode. It's very... Midnight Oil-ish.)

The acid test is would I do it again. (Well, sure, if I had to!) Because of the cold, sunburn and raindrops keep falling on my head elements, probably not.
Aesthetically, though... If I weren't a wimp about those other factors, I just might!

One of my favorite episodes of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (I don't even want to talk about Queer Eye for the Straight Gal, or Girl, or whatever the heck it is) was the one about Richard, who, at the urging of the Fab 5, especially grooming guru Kyan, ditched his toupee and went for the bald look. My goodness, the gentleman looked fantastic! Sharp, sophisticated and so much more confident. Less is more! And a lot less is a lot more!

My concern about this blog entry is that Danny is now going to think, "Oy, I'm complaining about being bald when Lisa was bald because of chemo?" Danny, DON'T, please! Because then you'll incite my old Catholic guilt that I should have made you feel guilty so I should just shut up... Even recovering Catholics retain that facility for guilt, I'm sorry to say!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Dogs, Horses, and Automobiles

The second week in February is valued for one thing above all others, and no, Danny, it is NOT Valentine's Day.

Rather, it is that doggy celebration known as the Westminster Kennel Club show.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am something of a leveler when it comes to dogs and showing. I own a mixed breed. Always have, always will. I am a member of the United Kennel Club, or UKC. The UKC permits, nay, encourages mixed breed dogs to take part in performance (obedience) competition. The AKC, which says they promote responsible dog ownership, does not allow mixed breeds in any of their performance competitions (obedience, agility... Rally O, even, probably). I have no time or patience for that kind of useless and actively harmful elitism.

But I am a total pushover for the Westminster show. Those dogs are having fun, and they show it. The best of the best are like some great radiating presence on their own stage. Even as cool a customer as last night's winner, Carlee, demanded that all eyes be on her. Oh, she was perfect! (I was rooting for the Great Pyrenees, doubtless remembering fondly evenings spent at the Sea Dog brew pub in Camden, Maine, where the mascot was a Great Pyrenees.) Her self-stack should be an instructional
video, except it might cause too many handlers to despair.

My greatest pleasure in Westminster lies in seeing all the less popular breeds strutting their stuff. I love the Komondor and the Puli. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is probably my favorite of all retrievers. The Belgian trio -- Malinois, Shepherd, and Tervuren -- are some of the most handsome dogs I have seen. Always delighted to see the "little captain," the Schipperke, and the "I know what I am doing and I will do it in my own time, thank you" Shiba Inu. Because of Vixen's own probable make-up, I am enchanted by the Shelties and the Whippets.

As the hosts, David Frei and Lester Holt said, my favorite dog is the last one I've watched. Of course, the beautiful thing about owning a mixed breed is that in one dog, you can have so many, and are free to love all the pure-breeds for what they contribute in one savvy, sassy, mutt!

As for horses, about which many people I know can write far more knowledgeably than I, well, I am having a total fan moment here. Gander is coming to Rye! I can tell from the crickets chirping that not too many of you know what that means. Gander is one of the most popular racehorses of recent years, among people who know racing, especially on the NY circuit. Sure, I love Smarty Jones, but Gander is Gander. A horse who, like those dogs at Westminster, knows he's good and knows he's loved. He's won Horse of the Year titles in New York and New England. His trainers, John and Tonya Terranova, always made sure he was accessible. My friend Barbara Livingston, when conducting photograph workshops, always brought her students by their barn at Saratoga. Well, Gander is now retired, and his owners are from NH, so it turns out that Gander will be spending his retirement at Peter Fuller's farm here on the Seacoast! Maybe he can do some publicity for EPONA!

Automobiles. The middle of February also means Speed Weeks and the Daytona 500! While I hate, loathe, abominate, and despise the new points system, it's hard to be churlish (yet) when my favorite driver has locked in the pole position for this great American race. Yes, sir, Dale Jarrett has given notice that he's not to be counted out, after two less than typical years for him and the #88 UPS Ford Taurus. There are many reasons I like and admire Dale Jarrett. He's a canny, patient driver, the kind who can start at the back of the pack and end up leading and winning. He's a gentleman -- he will not wreck you. And, of all the NASCAR drivers, he is the only one whose primary charity concerns women's health -- he supports the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation . All around class act, D.J., and I hope to see him in Victory Lane on Sunday afternoon!

(Oh, you may have noticed -- how could you not! -- all the links in here, all of a sudden. I had one of those "bang the rocks together, guys" moments, downloaded the newest version of Netscape, and lo and behold, all those bells and whistles heretofore denied me are now mine to command. Be afraid. Be very afraid.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Should I Stay or Should I Go

I think I'll stay.

I had contemplated moving this blog to ... somewhere else. For a few reasons, but the key one was that people were not able to comment without signing up for a blogger account, and that just seemed rotten to me. I mean, my die-hard degenerate handicapping friends object to giving The Form any information, they sure as heck aren't going to divulge even false info just to comment on anything I might post here.

They still might not, but at least now they can do so without coming up with elaborate alternate personae and email addresses they never check (we all have one -- or two -- of those, don't we?).

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A lady with attitude

Taba died yesterday. She was 32 years old, and had lived at my friend Jeanne Mirabito's farm since late last fall. Taba was champion 2 year old filly in her native Argentina. She was the dam of 1986 Chamion Older Male Turkoman, and the grand-dam of 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given.

I met Taba on a gray day in late November at the Our Mims Retirement Haven, Jeanne's farm for retired broodmares. She was very much a grande dame. Imperious. Elegant. And she knew very much her own mind, and didn't mind giving you a piece of it. The most striking instance came when the name Point Given came up in conversation.

Taba's ears went back. Her head jutted forward. And if you weren't careful, she came damn closing to taking a chunk out of you for even mentioning that name in her presence.

Why? Who knows? It could be because she felt that Point Given was undeservedly more famous than she. It could be that she had not forgiven him for not winning the Kentucky Derby in 2001. Sorry, Taba, but nobody was going to beat Monarchos that day. All we know for sure is that you did not mention Point Given in her presence... or, more precisely, within striking distance. Because she would do her level best to nail you.

Taba even knew when you were _thinking_ the name Point Given.

Taba was donated to the Our Mims Retirement Haven by Olin Gentry. But she was owned by Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds. And Taba died on the same day as John Gaines.

Jeanne is one of those people whom it is a privilege to know. Her farm is basically a hospice for elderly broodmares. She takes them in, cares for them, loves them, knowing her heart will be broken. That is a kind of courage, of gallantry, we don't see all that often.

Taba was a fortunate lady, as are the other mares residing at Our Mims Retirement Haven. To learn more about OMRH, about Our Mims, the mare who started it all, about Jeanne Mirabito, and to learn how you can help, visit www.ourmims.org.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Winterlude

What a spell of lovely weather we've been having! After an absolutely brutal January, February has been, well, a Valentine. Sure, it's only February, and there will be more snow -- and a lot of it, looks like, starting tomorrow -- but I do think that New Englanders have a capacity for living in and enjoying the moment. Mild winter days like this are such a gift! One can ditch the parka, the mittens, even the hats. Saturday afternoon I was working here at my desk when Melissa infomed me it was 54 degrees outside! That did it, I bolted away from the computer, got Vixen leashed up, and off we went. The South Mill Pond is virtually ice free, and covered with ducks (haven't seen the buffleheads in a few weeks, though). Downtown was crowded with people enjoying the mild weather. It's pretty funny to see folks who obviously don't put seasonal clothes away -- I have seen shorts, t-shirts and, more insanely, flip-flops being worn! Now, my shorts and most of my tees are put away for the warmer months. I was delighted to be wearing nothing heavier than one of the ganseys Melissa has made me. Vixen had a grand time splashing through puddles and becoming a mud-puppy.

It's restorative. It gives you a chance to catch your breath, to deal with the rest of the winter... which is a month shorter than it was, well, a month ago, right? :-)


Friday, February 04, 2005

Like a Ferrari to the grocery store

At the end of December, my dear old Bondi Blue, first gen iMac gave up the ghost. I think it can be repaired, and if so, I intend to get it repaired, as we have always wanted to have a hub in the kitchen where we can keep recipes, and this would be the most practical way to do that. But when the little old iMac died, I was in a position to buy a spiffing new one. Not top of the line, but not an eMac, either. So I have one of these super-elegant "Where Did The Computer Go?" iMac G5. I absolutely love it... and I feel more than a little guilty owning it.

As I've said elsewhere in this blog, I haven't been doing a lot of writing lately. So I feel as though this lovely, powerful computer is not being put through its paces fairly. I post here. I update the pointsman.net website (no, really, I do...). I read my friend Danny Miller's blog -- he's as big a Mac fan as I am. I administer the horseboard.com discussion board for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. I research and order seeds and plants. I plan trips. I locate bargains (woo-hoo, those mocs from Lands' End are on serious sale right now!). I check out my friend Barbara Livingston's amazing photography (www.barbaralivingston.com/gallery).

But I do feel it's like taking a Ferrari to the grocery store. And I know whereof I speak, sort of. We have a neighbor across the street who has a Ferrari. And he does drive it to the grocery store, or just around the neighborhood. A Ferrari is not meant to go 20 mph. It's an insult to the Ferrari. So much so that when the Ferrari returns to a state of rest, it lets of an indignant fart of disdain. "Milk? You got me out to go for a half gallon of milk, and not even whole milk, but part-skim? Fah!"

So, to my iMac, I'm sorry. I promise, I'll turn you loose some day soon. And we'll see some great places together.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Nomenclature

Been meaning to write on this for a week or so now.

After my last treatment up at Dartmouth-Hitchcock last week, I met with my radiation oncologist up there to go over what's next, which, basically, will be the first of many follow-up MRIs, starting in late February.

As I think I have mentioned in this blog, I feel so much more confident this time about the results than I did last time. Last time, last spring, I was plumb wore out I guess from the chemo, surgery, and chest radiation. But also -- I was thinking of things in the wrong way.

To wit: Dr. Hartford was talking about the fact that breast cancer responds very very well to radiation (i.e., radiation is extremely effective against it). Part of my mistake was referring to this pesky little hangover as a brain tumor.

No, no, no. Brain tumors do not respond as well to radiation. They are biologically, chemically, pathologically a whole nother critter. Therefore, it is absolutely key for me to refer to this little hangover as "breast cancer." A lesion in the brain, to be sure, but NOT a brain tumor.

I wish I were a knowledgeable gardening writer, I imagine fantastic insights -- or at least clever ones -- could be drawn on the topic of the nomenclature of cancer and of growing plants.

No more being careless with words. You'd think, in my professions, I would know that, wouldn't you? But it's so interesting when something like this really, truly, brings home the power, physical and real, of words.

Declaring 2005 a Non-Starter for Wagering Purposes...

Well, really, can you blame us?

We have decided to start 2005 again some time around March 1, which of course, isn't all that weird, in many calendars. Let's face it, those kids born of virgins in the deep midwinter were actually more than likely birthed in the milder spring months. Makes sense, and Mom has never been anybody's fool.

I had thought about declaring it started as of February 1, but I'm still on the damn steroids, which I hate, and Melissa is just starting her recovery from her hysterectomy (more on that anon), and so, let's just get this out of the way. Come March 1, though, we expect to be partying in the streets!

The hysterectomy went well. The doctor found severe endometriosis. Melissa being the science fiction writer that she is, she asked the doctor to photograph whatever she removed, which she very kindly did. It's pretty impressive. The good thing, I guess, about the endometriosis, is that she should end up feeling even better than she was expecting to, as a result. Dumb innards.

Today was the first day this week that didn't involve being at the hospital. In fact, it was one of the few days of the past two weeks that did not involve being at A hospital, either up at Dartmouth or here in town. Wow, no wonder I feel like I'm relaxing a little bit, finally.

Now, where's that Maker's Mark...