Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mount Wilson: Solar Telescope

The Solar Telescope at Mount Wilson is still used for studying sunspots. 
Great strides have been made in this science here.
The telescope is tall. And look what a beautiful day it was! I didn't alter this photo one bit.

The wooden frame. The screws. The old courier typeface. I wonder how long ago this sign was hung.
Craig Woods, our guide, has been up in the elevator. We were forbidden to go. I'm sure that was for the best.

This door is an entry beneath the Solar Telescope. I remembered it the moment I saw it.

Boz visited there on his Mount Wilson tour in 2011.

More Mount Wilson insider photos to come!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mount Wilson: Science in Transition

The Mount Wilson Observatory was founded in 1904 by George Ellery Hale, who encouraged the likes of Edwin Hubble and who also had a great deal to do with the way Pasadena looks today. Think the city center plaza and City Hall. Think Caltech. Thank you, Mr. Hale.

More than 100 years later, important astronomical research continues at Mount Wilson, especially the CHARA Array, operated by Georgia State University. Don't ask me what it does. I've had it explained to me twice, once by John and once by Craig Woods, and I still don't get it. But it looks cool from above.

Craig Woods, by the way, is the reason John and I got a behind-the-scenes tour. He's our friend and the superintendent at Mount Wilson, the guy with all the keys. He's up on all the experiments, the history, and the equipment at Mount Wilson. Plus he's willing to climb some precarious ladders.

I hope you'll take another look at my May 10th post about Mount Wilson. Here's a further explanation of those photos:

First, that big engine, and its rheostat, power the tool-making shed. 110 years ago, when you got up to Mount Wilson with your mule cart or your Model-T, you weren't about to run down to Flintridge if you forgot your screwdriver. If you needed a tool or a part, you made it. Many of those magnificent old things are still there. Some explain themselves, some don't. Unless you're Craig, then you know what they are.

Near the tool shed is another shed that's a treasure trove of maps, blueprints and files. There's a small library with early Scientific American magazines and other works. There's an ancient and dusty stand-up grand piano and a pool table that hasn't been used in, I would guess, 20 years.

Off the upper left of this map is the 100 inch telescope. You can see the circles indicating the 60" telescope and the smaller but taller Solar Telescope, which is still in use. The 60" has lately been used for a couple of Hollywood parties. Stars, stargazing. This is an old map so it doesn't show all the buildings you might be familiar with if you've toured Mount Wilson in recent years. Off the pathways to the right, beyond the "no entry" signs, there are some cabins that are not currently in use. Fixer-uppers.

Mount Wilson Observatory is old. Newer, larger telescopes dot the planet. The larger the telescope, the deeper into space an astronomer can study. Although Mount Wilson still has many uses, it's now in a transition phase, becoming a museum. Funding will be needed to preserve all those beautiful blueprints and plans, to maintain those telescopes and historic buildings, to keep it all available so the public can visit and learn about the early days of astronomy.

It's also a place of natural beauty, everywhere you turn, even on the steps climbing up the hillside to the tool shed.

More soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Birthday Adventure 4

This is an engine. I think we can all agree on that. But do you know where this engine is?

This is a rheostat. It's in the room next to the engine. Do you know where that room is?

If it's not obvious what these are, you're too young to read. But where are they?

OK, now I'm giving it away.

John and I got a private, behind-the-scenes tour of Mount Wilson. This was my big birthday present and it was more wonderful than I could have hoped. I'll post more in a few days, but for now, read up on the wonders of the beautiful, historic Mount Wilson Observatory.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Litfest Pasadena 2015

Come on down and join us in the Playhouse District on May 9th. We're going to have ourselves a Litfest!

Litfest is Pasadena's annual celebration of literature. Starting in the late morning and continuing into the night, there will be panels about everything from poetry to mystery, memoir to YA. I'll be on the "Adventures in Self-Publishing" panel at 4pm at Vroman's upstairs. PLEASE NOTE, THIS IS A TIME CHANGE.

Or spend the whole day in the District. Check out the area restaurants and shops. Listen to all the panels you can get to. Meet the authors and buy their books at Vroman's. As for my books, Vroman's already has Act As If in stock, and for the weekend of Litfest they'll have Camelot & Vine as well.

Just so's you know: if you can't come to Litfest there's always Amazon, but let's buy local when we can. You can buy both of my books at Hoopla! in Altadena and the Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada, and you can get Act As If at the Pasadena Museum of History Store

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Natural City

Lost and found. 


Nature's spotlight.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Drought? What Drought?

Pasadena encourages us to save water. Good god, I can't water my lawn more than 3 times a week. If I can't grow grass what am I going to eat? What will I drink?

And what will I do a year from now when we don't have any water anymore?

I've been pouring my coffeepot rinse water on plants. If there's water left at the bottom of your glass at my house, it might go on a plant or be used for rinsing dishes. And after I've rinsed one dish I will reuse that water to rinse the next, and the next. John's getting tired of the bucket in the shower. I told him, "Fine. So don't let the shower warm up. We need all the water we can get for our grass!"

And the faucet leak. The first plumber who came told us it would cost $500. Really? Yeah, he said, $300 for labor and $200 for the faucet. It's only going to get worse.

Thank goodness the Nestle company continues to drain springs in Sacramento and San Bernardino (with a long-expired permit) while advocating for the privatization of water rights. This works out for me, because I can afford to buy bottled water. Screw the poor people, right? Let them drink cake.

On with the fracking!

Friday, April 10, 2015

This is What 60 Looks Like

photo by John Sandel

I've never been one to lie about my age. I'm beginning to consider it, but I don't think I'm fooling anybody.

It's hard to get used to how I look as I get older. I think we all feel this way, at least around a milestone birthday. Maybe when I turn 61 it won't hit me as hard. Some days I'm fine with how I look. Some days I'm not. That was true when I was 30.

Isn't age a surprise? All my life I've known it was happening yet it's still shocking to see the signs: the muscles of my upper arms as loosely defined as a boiled potato, the little bumps that appear in odd places and decide to stay, the wrinkles that deepen like windblown crevasses on the surface of Mars.

That last one is more reality than metaphor.

Wilma is unconcerned about age, although she has a milestone birthday coming up, too. She'll be 5 in June.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ceci n'est pas une chienne sur un divan

A cold is like a mosquito. It's not the worst thing in the world but it's an annoyance, and it usually comes along with a lot of other mosquitos to bite your friends and family. If a normal mosquito bites you it raises an itchy bump. If a bad mosquito gets you, you've got malaria.

This is a roundabout way of saying it could have been worse and I'm glad I got a flu shot this year.

All week I've been shuffling back and forth to the kitchen for more cups of tea between longeurs in the armchair doing crosswords. I don't have energy for much else.

I've postponed all my appointments, even those with loved ones. I kept one appointment with Wilma the other day, accompanying her on her morning neighborhood hunt, and was laid out for the rest of the day. This annoyed Wilma; she does not have a cold and would have appreciated more hunting or at least chasing and biting things in the back yard.

But as you see, we've worked out a deal. When she can't have violence, she can have doggie bliss.

"This way lies madness," you say. But Wilma's smart. I think we've got her trained to believe she's allowed to lie on the towel, not the couch. So when the towel is not available, neither is the furniture. I'll let you know how that works.

No toys on the towel, though. We have to draw the line somewhere.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Better than a Kegger

Back when I was in college, when you wanted to have a party you purchased a keg of beer and some plastic cups, then played LPs until everyone passed out on the sofa. That was fun, but I wanted to host a more grown-up party for the official launch of my book, Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand

I kept the invitation list small because my overwhelming wealth is overwhelming in the wrong way, and I thought I couldn't afford to feed a lot of people. It turns out we had plenty. If you want some crappy wine, come on over and sit on the porch with us. We're serving even the Cabernet on ice.

So it's official. Act As If, a humorous look at the life of a journeyman actor in Hollywood (journeyman as in "not famous") is on its way to being what it's going to be.

There were a lot of people to thank, and I'd like to thank them again here:
  • The Pasadena Musem of History, where we were so comfortably accommodated in air-conditioned splendor and where my guests were invited to view the exhibits as a bonus. 
  • Richard Gilbert-Hill, editor of the ActorsInk newsletter at, which spawned my column, Act As If, which spawned the book. Richard is an actor, writer and voice coach. He wrote the book's beautiful foreword.
  • Liz Hanley, theatrical agent at Bicoastal Talent. Liz and I go way back. She makes the book possible as much as Richard does, and she's a character throughout the book.
  • Greta Hanley, commercial agent at Bicoastal Talent. Without commercial auditions, some of the wildest essays would not have been possible.
  • Paula Johnson, who designed the book. The cover is great, the interior is great, and Paula is great.
  • Along with Liz, the book was blurbed by Kat Likkel (writer/producer, My Name is Earl, Galavant), Fran Montano (artistic director, the Actors Workout Studio), Rick Hall (actor, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Jane Macfie (actor, The Mindy Project). These people took the time to read and comment for the cover.
  • The actors, casting directors, producers and friends who contributed their stories and support. I don't think a book can be made by one person alone.
And John Sandel, my beta reader, editor, co-teacher, husband and friend, without whom nothing is possible.

You can find both Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand and Camelot & Vine at Hoopla! in Altadena, Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada, the Pasadena Museum of History gift shop and, soon, Vroman's in Pasadena. If you're far away there's always Amazon, where the book is available in paperback or for your Kindle.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Best Laid Plans

When Birthday Month began I made a pledge: "I'm going to have a minimum of one adventure each week," I said, "and I'll tell you about my adventures adventure is something I haven't done before."

Today's post is about best laid plans.

For Birthday Week, and I mean for my actual birthday, John had a super, one-of-a-kind adventure planned for me. I was pretty excited.

The day before my birthday, our adventure fell through due to no fault of John's. So we called on friends who helped us plan a good substitute. The adventure that happened, though, was that John and I woke up sick on my birthday.

Okay. It wasn't really an adventure by my definition. I mean, I've been sick before. It wasn't how I wanted to spend my milestone birthday, either, nor was it how I wanted to spend the week. Don't worry, I'm way better now.

What do you do when you commit to something for yourself but your time is committed elsewhere? How do you prioritize yourself? I need to get better at that

As it stands, I will have to have my birthday next week. I promise I'll report back to you.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Friends (Birthday Month Adventure #3)

When I decided to have an adventure each week during birthday month, I hadn't realized how hard it would be to include adventures in my schedule.

I defined an adventure as something I hadn't done before, which alleviates the pressure somewhat. All I had to do was go to a library branch I hadn't visited or take the train somewhere new. But due to unforeseen adventures this week, ones I won't be blogging about (but they're good), I didn't have time for an adventure I could blog about until the last minute!

Whew! Thanks to my friends, I made it. And I had a wonderful time. Here we are outside Flintridge Proper, a restaurant/pub I hadn't visited before, where we enjoyed happy hour and each other's company.

I don't suppose a woman of my age and obvious sophistication has a BFF, but it sure is nice to have very good friends. Here are (left to right) Karen E. Klein, Desiree Zamorano, Janet Aird, Karin Bugge, me and Margaret Finnegan. Aren't they fabulous? Don't worry about me, being photographed like this is how I decide which clothes to put in the Goodwill box.

Many thanks to the nice young man who took our picture. I asked him to make us look "hot, sexy and fabulous" and I believe he managed.

Thanks for dinner, dear friends! Most of all, thanks for your friendship.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Wilma: the Report

Wilma has been living with us for 9 months. We're a family. I remember this with Boz, the feeling that his presence transformed us from a couple into a family. But we're a different family with Wilma because Wilma is a different person. She's more rambunctious (gross understatement), though only a few months younger than Boz was when he moved in. Boz was an old soul. Wilma is young in all her parts.

It's impossible not to make comparisons. Boz was an angel, easy to live with from the start. Wilma has required training, consistency and love to learn to walk peaceably on the leash and to not freak out when she sees other dogs. There have been frustrations, family discussions and time-outs for each of us. But with every step backward there's a forward leap. Wilma wants to be part of the family and she demonstrates it at every opportunity, unless she forgets. In other words, she's a normal dog.

And she has a tail. Boz's was removed by someone before us who might have been loving but certainly was ignorant. Wilma's tail is a fascination. Sometimes she wags it so hard it has a circular motion. Among her many nick-names: Propeller butt. (Who needs cable?) She's incredibly and immediately expressive at both ends, though sometimes she uses her outside voice indoors. That's ok. It would never occur to a dog to hide her feelings. Even Boz used to wag his little stump like crazy, though he almost never barked.

Because Boz's tail couldn't be heard from a distance and because he'd lost his bark, he was forced to communicate in other ways, like a look, a movement or even a breath. He taught us Doglish slowly, over time. With Wilma we're all speaking it now.

Another difference between Wilma and Boz: Boz sat symmetrically. Wilma sits like this. 

A similarity: both sun bunnies. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Southwest Museum (Birthday Month Adventure #2)

The Southwest Museum is another place I've always wanted to visit but hadn't until Birthday Adventure Month. Maybe always wanting to go but never having gone is one of my unconscious criteria for an adventure.

I'm determined to have at least one adventure per week this month. It's not easy to schedule adventures! I'm so focused on working. But adventures fuel me and I've never regretted one, even the ones that don't turn out like I expect them to. Especially those.

The Southwest Museum, the oldest museum in Los Angeles, looms over the Pasadena freeway, all southwestern/Spanishy in the sun. Damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake was so extensive the building had to be closed, and eventually it was acquired by the Autry Museum along with its extensive collections of Native American pottery, baskets and weavings, not just from the southwest but from all over the country. There's a complicated history to this. This link was sent to me by a friend.

There's only one exhibit room open right now, and a few pieces displayed in a downstairs hallway. I found the straw sandal to be the most affecting. It's a fine exhibit, but don't go expecting a full day. The Museum is open Saturdays only. It's free, there's plenty of parking, and you'll see glorious Native American pottery, some pieces as much as 500 years old, some from the late 20th century.

The website is a bit misleading. I clicked on a link for the cafe but it turns out that's at the Autry. We were so hungry that we skipped out without seeing the tunnel, approached from the disabled parking lot on a lower level of the hill. The elevator's not working right now, so if you are wheelchair-bound you're restricted to the upper level. But that's where the pottery is so you'll see most of the good stuff (but not the sandal).

An adventure doesn't always turn out like you expect it to. That's adventure by definition, in a way.

You might want to enlarge this one to appreciate the snow-covered San Gabriel peaks in the distance. This is a view I hadn't seen before, easily gained by stepping to the edge of the parking lot at the Southwest Museum.

Note: Pasadena Adjacent was across the Arroyo from us at about the time of these photos. She was painting watercolor #19 in a series.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pasadena History

If you're a Pasadena history afficionado, two new exhibits at the Pasadena Museum of History are for you.

Try your wits against Ann Erdman, who curated the Mystery History exhibit. She poses the question, "Where are we? And what's happening?" pairing photos and items from the Museum's collection.

You know this one, surely? I hadn't known this had been saved I was thrilled to see it in person.

In the opposite gallery is Pasadena Pursuit, curated by Dan McLaughlin. Dan tests your knowledge of Pasadena trivia. Photos, historic items and ephemera are on display to enhance your experience (and maybe help you come up with the answer).

I was fortunate to go to the opening night reception. And what a photo op this was! I'm missing Dan, who was off being adored by his fans. But I've got three top Pasadena historians right here: Ann Erdman, Sidney Gally and Michele Zack. The history of the Dena is recorded in their many fine works. We're fortunate to have such dedicated author/researchers in our midst.

Friday, March 6, 2015

E. Waldo Ward Ranch (Birthday Month Adventure #1)

This 1902 barn is the most well-known view of the E. Waldo Ward Ranch, the first of my birthday month adventures. The tower is where they stored their weekly water delivery back then.

I hadn't seen photos of the house before. I don't know if you can tell from this photo but this house is BIG. It was built of redwood in 1903, and it's still occupied by the descendants of E. Waldo Ward.

Mr. Ward started his orange groves and perfected his marmalade recipes here at the ranch. His marmalade was THE thing on railroad dining cars for many years.

There's a gift shop, thank goodness. I'm happy to report that we came home with Pumpkin Butter and Old Fashioned Cucumber Slices.

You might think a short trip to Sierra Madre an odd way to start my month of birthday adventures, but I've wanted to see this place since I moved to Pasadena, so this week I did. My birthday adventures are all about doing what I want to do. Within reason.

E. Waldo Ward has regular hours when you can visit the store and wander the property. And on Saturdays they give free tours by appointment.

If you'd like to know more about the E. Waldo Ward Ranch, just go there! Or pick up Elizabeth Pomeroy's book Lost and Found at a local store or the Pasadena Museum of History gift shop. The ranch is on page 72.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Birthday Month

Margaret Finnegan had a great idea. During February, her birthday month, she would do 50 good deeds. Not only did she think it up, she followed through, posting her results on Facebook.

I'd like to imitate Margaret but I'm not as nice as she is, so I've come up with something else for my birthday month in March. I'm going to have a minimum of one adventure each week and I'll tell you about my adventures here. I'm allowed to do this instead of good deeds because I'm older than Margaret, and by god, some adventure is in order.

For my current purposes, an adventure is something I haven't done before or somewhere I haven't been before, preferably inexpensive or free and not too far away. I've got Elizabeth Pomeroy's wonderful Lost and Found as my guide, and I'd be glad to have your suggestions, too.

I'll try to do some good deeds while I'm at it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Informed Public

Transparency in government is always an issue, and lately the spotlight is on Pasadena. So an event coming up at the Women's City Club and hosted by the League of Women Voters-Pasadena Area is particularly timely.

The deadline for reserving lunch is today, February 26th! For the discussion, you can reserve as late as March 4th.

Thursday March 5 at 9:30 AM, get a load of this panel: Ann Erdman (former Pasadena Public Information Officer), Karen Foshay (Al Jazeera-Los Angeles), Noelia Rodriguez (Chief Communications Officer, Metro Los Angeles) and Keri Stokstad (Executive Director, Pasadena Media) will appear on a panel moderated by Val Zavala (VP of News and Public Affairs at KCET). The topic: the public's right to know.

Each panelist has their own perspective, of course. It'll be interesting to hear what they have to say. The presentation is free and open to the public, but seating is limited so you must have a reservation! Call 626-798-0965 or e-mail to let them know you're coming. If you'd like to stay for lunch (optional, $25) and more conversation about open government, sign up online here:

Park behind the Club in their lot off Madison. It's free.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ten Hands - Five Pianos

This was new to me: ensemble piano playing on the fly. Like maybe you've never even read the music before, much less met the other players. You just get together and play. Each person plays a different part of the music. It's like an orchestra of fingers.

Veteran musician David Cutter is Mr. David of He teaches all levels and all kinds of pianists. (Note the cherub in the background of the photo above.) Last weekend, he got five people together to play Pachelbel's Canon, Home on the Range and a gorgeous traditional French Christmas carol, a stunner because: I hadn't heard it, it's dramatic, and these people had never played together before.

Plus I liked the reception.

But here's what I love most about this story: David got this idea and he ran with it. He searched for the pianos, got Arroyo Seco Time Bank members to help move them, and he converted his garage to a piano studio. He was driven to do it and he did it. He's got 6 pianos in there!

David's main goal is "to educate, and ensembles are part of the process to becoming a musician. Yes, the sightreading and spur of the moment stuff is fun," he says, "but what I want people to do is sign up for an ongoing ensemble class where we perfect a piece of music as opposed to just read through stuff."

Wanna play?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pasadena Library's 2nd Annual Author Fair

Are you coming by Pasadena's Central Library (285 E. Walnut St.) this Saturday, February 21st? Of course you are, because it's highly likely that at least one of your author friends (me) will be there. And probably more than one.

It's the library's 2nd annual Author Fair, 10am-2pm, and oh boy! Everyone's going to be there! Look at this list of authors:

Marcella Adams, Maria Alexander, Cindy Arora, Ontresicia Averette, Anne Louise Bannon, Julie Berry, Boualem Bousseloub, Mary Brodsky, Petrea Burchard, Stuart Douglass Byles, Christina Cha, Justin Chapman, Regina Conroy, Joey L. Dowdy, Quoleshna Elbert, Carol Elek, Jamie Eubanks, Jess Faraday, Kenneth Grant, Anjeza Angie Gega, Steven Gibson, Ken Goldstein, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Reg Green, Claudia Heller, Lisa Hernandez, Rubin Johnson, Lloyd Kaneko, Gay Toltl Kinman, Sarai Koo, Ph.D./ Gail Taylor, Jay Mathews, Dan McLaughlin, Kay Murdy, Elizabeth Pomeroy, Adrienne Ramsey-Harris, Raquel Reyes-Lopez, Thelma Reyna, Susan S. Rosvall, Jo Anne Sadler, Kathy Salama, Gisele Samaan, Yvette Samaan, Yvonne Senkandwa, Jason Silva, Lucie Simone, Frederick Smith, Ellen Snortland & Lisa Gaeta, Lynn Martin Snowden & Kyle Sydney Powell, Rick Stepp-Bolling, Diane E.M. Tegarden,Mary Terzian, Larissa Theule, Alicia Thompson, Marcia L. Thompson, Sarah Thursday, Cherie Mercer Twohy, Erika Wain Decker, Nancy Woo, Nancy Young, and last but absolutely not least, Desiree Zamorano!!!

All during the Fair, authors will read from their works in the Auditorium. While Desiree reads from The Amado Women at 10:30, I'll be covering for her at her signing table (no, I will not sign her books). At 11:10am she'll cover for me while I read something funny, or maybe something poignant—poignant, yeah, that's it—from my new book, Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand.

You can buy an autographed copy from me and I'll have a few copies of Camelot & Vine on hand as well. Or just stop by and say hi. There's no pressure to buy anything, though you might want to get yourself a treat at the Espress Yourself coffee shop (pictured) on the library grounds.

All these authors will be there to sign their books and answer your questions. Or maybe ask you some!

Sunday, February 15, 2015


A previous owner of our house tex-coated the place and that has always kind of bothered me.