Monday, April 14, 2014

WISE WORDS AND WORDS TO THE WISE

I love words.  I love to find new words to add to my repertoire of new ways to say things. I don't much like words that reek with pomposity, but I truly enjoy finding one that makes my brain respond "AH HA!  The latest, which I wrote about in an earlier blog is Mumpsimus.  Haven't used it yet, but the time will come, I'm sure.

I enjoy sitting on the couch early in the morning (like 5 a.m. when Jerry and I get up) having a good cup of coffee and listening to the local early-bird TV commentators struggle through the news.  Apparently they are reading scripts so the errors they make may not all be theirs.  But they do say some funny things:

Last week one of the female anchors, well educated and one would like to think well read, had to talk about a Medical Center with a unique (but not bizarre) name.  It as called the Apogee Medical Center.  That name gives you confidence that they provide the highest level of service.  But she referred to it as the A-PODGE-ie. (you know, of course, that the pronunciation is really AP-o-gee.  I nearly fell on the floor laughing.  I hope someone got her on the right track and that her face won't stay red very much longer.

Another day she got all tangled up in a "when" situation.  She was talking that day at 9 o'clock about something that had happened at 8 o'clock the previous day.  Her description, with much sputtering, came out "Less than an hour ago yesterday." HAHAHHAHAH!

A more recent goof was in a late afternoon broadcast, where the talking head said that traffic would move again "when they "uprighted the jacknife that overturned."   I swiveled my head to look at the TV and said to her "UPRIGHT THE JACKNIFE??????"   She, of course didn't answer!  HAHHAHAH!

Yesterday "the truck was carrying fuel and diesel." And later I must say I don't think the writer of the news was the one who put down what came out of her mouth: "A WHOLE NOTHER BOOK"  This "WHOLE NOTHER" instead of "Another whole" is so commonly said I suppose soon we'll be seeing "Nother" arrive in the OED.

As much as I hate to say it, it does seem like the women make a lot more "off the cuff" goofs than men do.  It may be women dither more, or that they have so much more in the brain to futz with than the men.  Perhaps men are a bit more controlled.

It doesn't bother me; in fact, I get some good laughs out of it and it often softens the irritation at hearing the same events reported over and over and over....and over......and still more over.  You know what I mean.

Learning a new language can give some laughs too.  Back in one of my early blogs I wrote about a friend in Turkey who admitted to using a wrong Turkish word when she went into the little bakkal (a mom-and-pop kind of store in Istanbul).  She wanted bread some and made a big try of informing the bakkal owner (a man) and all his buddies who were talking with him, but she used the wrong Turkish word.  She asked for a large ERKEK instead of a large EKMEK.  When the men all threw themselves on the floor hooting and hollering she realized that she had asked for a big man!

I have a friend who was meeting her Hungarian father-in-law and family for the first time.  She worked hard to learn some basic things about Hungary and a few phrases that she could say that would cause them to be delighted over the new daughter-in-law in the family.  She said she will never live down the fact that the Hungarian word for Strawberries, which her husband had told her were very good there, is very similar to the word for Hemorrhoids - and of course she used the wrong word.

Now I didn't have that kind of problem when we moved to Turkey.  I tried my best to learn Turkish - and got far enough into it to learn that bread (ekmek) can be turned into "breadmaker or baker" by the addition of a little "cu" on the end of ekmek - baker becomes ekmekcu.  Tutun is tobacco; the tobacco seller or maker is handled the same way:  tutuncu.  It's pretty slick.  Which bring me to the picture above.

The fellow in the picture is our driver, Ahmet. He was assigned to us when we arrived in Turkey for a consulting agreement.  He spoke some English, a lot more than we spoke Turkish.  He was quite helpful to me in learning how I should say things.  Now before I go any further, I must say that the beautiful limo you see was NOT the car that was assigned to us.  That was the boss's car and Ahmet had called me to come over to the garage to take a picture of him standing by the car.  Prestige, he wanted.  Ahmet was a nice fellow, and I had no problem with accommodating him.  The car he ultimately drove us around in was just about the size of a little Ford Pinto.  HAHAHHAH  (Joke's on us!)

Anyway, one day he was taking me somewhere  and I was thinking about Turkish words.  I said to him, "Ahmet Bey, the Turkish word for car is araba, is that correct?"  "Yes, Mrs. Title" he replied.  Then thinking that I should be able to add the little suffix on the end of the araba to come up with the the correct name for the driver of a car, I said, "Then, is it correct to say that you are an arabaca?"   He nearly flew through the windshield from putting the brake on so fast, and he pulled over to the side of the road.   In his most authentic and important voice, he said, "Mrs. Title, that is not correct."  He looked totally crestfallen.

YIKES!  "I'm sorry, Ahmet, what is the correct word then?  He swiveled around in the car, looked at me and said, "I am a SHOFER".

Let me tell you that what I most wanted to do was to throw myself down on the floor of the car where he couldn't see me and laugh my head off.  I wouldn't have been laughing at him; I would have been laughing at myself for the whole episode.  It was not his fault that we couldn't think of him as a chauffeur.  He was the age of our kids and had knocked himself out helping us get settled in Turkey.  He was such a lovely fellow and we were SO lucky to have had the experience of him being with us for that time.  He didn't feel like a "servant" to us; he felt like one of our kids. But our error was in not taking his position seriously enough.  Nevertheless, I found it an exceptionally funny happening, but I somehow managed to get myself pulled together and we went on our way.

Words bring all kinds of fun into our lives, often when we are least expecting it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

THE STORY IN THIS BOOK ASTOUNDED ME! WHAT ABOUT YOU?


In and around 1933 a strange confluence of events was taking place.  The western world was watching the changes in Germany as Hitler came to power.  And with that power came a Reestablishment of the Civil Service Law, which rules were designed to enable speedy dismissal of professors with Jewish lineage and others considered politically suspect from all positions in German universities and institutes.  Those professors included the great minds of philosophy, mathematics, science, psychology, physics, economics, medicine, music, architecture, languages and others.  These professions were filled mostly with German Jews, many Nobel Prize winners.  And in 1933 they found themselves without a job.

At the same time, Kemal Ataturk had come to power in Turkey. A visionary, he wanted to modernize Turkey's education system that at the time was mainly working with military and bureaucratic systems;  He knew that big changes would have to be made in the educational system, and he set out to start at the top: dismantle the one major university in Istanbul in that city and select individuals with the highest of academic credentials in disciplines and professions most needed in Turkey.  The Turkish professors weren't going to like it, but Ataturk knew it had to be done.

The catalyst for this confluence of events was in the hands of Hungarian born Frankfurt pathologist Dr. Philipp Schwarz, who was one of the first professors to be fired from his job in Germany. Through a connection – his father-in-law who was a friend of a man who had been called to Turkey by Ataturk to set up a plan for finding and hiring top professionals to staff what would be the new University – Dr. Schwartz set up "The Emergency Assistance Organization for German Scientists."  A comprehensive contract was drawn up that covered all kinds of contingencies – and Turkey extended  invitations to those men and woman who best fit the bill.  Altogether, approximately 300 academicians and 50 technicians and supporting staff went to Turkey.  Including family members, this meant more than 1000 persons. 

Most of you who know me know that I am very interested in both Judaism and things Turkish, having lived in Istanbul for two years and having married into a Jewish family.   I always have an ear (and an eye) open for new stories and new information.  Had it not been for a short interview with the author I watched on BookTV several months ago (filmed sometime before his death in 2011) I would never have known of either this book or this story.  The book was published in 2006, so it's been around a while, but I certainly never heard of it.  It is not another holocaust book.  The author has not only told the story and documented every word of it, but he also has included memoirs and reflections by some of those very scientists and their families.  You will laugh when you read the pitfalls of learning to speak Turkish, and the author includes a very funny story of Ataturk, Shah Reza Pahlavi and one of the dentist emigres over the quality of false teeth he could make. 


Don't pick up this book thinking it is going to be fast read.  It probably is not going to appeal to people who don't have a strong interest in the historical events in that part of the world at that time.  But it is a powerful book, and it shouldn't be kept hidden.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

INTERNING: PAID OR UNPAID


There seems to be a lot of discussion in business circles (and legal circles) today about unpaid interns.  Here in LA a class action lawsuit has been filed by unpaid interns seeking pay for all the time he worked without pay, damages and an order barring use of unpaid interns at one of the movie companies.  According to the way I read it, the lead plaintiff was studying to become a film editor and took the unpaid internship hoping to get experience that would give cachet to his CV.  Instead, his duties for the most part were those of the ubiquitous "gofers."

The LA Times this morning published a list of typically unpaid show business internships, according to their own research:
            Making coffee
            Cleaning the office kitchen
            Compiling press clippings
            Photocopying documents
            Taking lunch orders and picking up take-out
            Assembling office furniture
            Booking flights and limousines for actors
            Checking scripts to make sure there are no missing pages.

Reading that made me laugh.  It reminded me that when I was hired as an executive secretary for one of the vice-presidents of a local company, all of the above were either listed in my job description or expected of me.  Granted, that was a long time ago – almost 40 years, to be exact.  Women's lib had already come; Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique had made its impact and moved on.  But the mindset of men running companies located in smallish towns had not been touched.  And as far as the highest level clerical jobs went, we were still "private" secretaries, executive or not, and if we wanted a job, we didn't quibble about our job description.

Yes, we had some status within the company, that status being privy to confidential financial information.  We were on the payroll as exempt employees (which actually was a mistake because we were miles away from having the authority required for that position) and we did get to sit in our own little offices or in an executive wing, out of the milieu of the departmental gossip factory.

But there truly were a few chores we had to do that were definitely non-secretarial: fill up the gas tank on the boss's car, clean out the car ashtrays, and bring the bosses hot, fresh coffee whenever they asked.  And sometimes at closing time we had to mix a drink for them at the executive bar if they were working late.  That, and picking up lunches to bring in for the bosses, were truly "gofer" stuff.

I did not ever think I would end up as a secretary.  The woman who trained me (the President's secretary) had been a secretary her whole working life; it had been her goal through school and she truly was the best teacher I could ever have had.  She had this job because she had worked and studied hard to get to this point.  I took this job because I had been recently divorced and was desperate for a job that would provide me with some security, as well as medical benefits.  I had never worked full time before, and when I applied for the job I had been working part time at a secretarial service, mainly running a small printing press that produced service club bulletins.  The only qualification I could offer for full time employment was a good work ethic, a good brain, and a fast typing speed.  I was hired at less than the job was advertised for because I really didn't have the qualifications they specified, but the VP who offered me the job said he'd take a chance on me, for which I was, and always will be, very grateful. 

I also learned that I didn't much like being a secretary, even though I was good at it.  I never could quibble about whether what I was asked to do was or wasn't in my job description.  Even doing what I would consider somewhat demeaning things – like emptying ashtrays in the boss's car – I did it as I was asked; it simply was one of the least pleasant parts of the job.  I stayed three years, and then moved on, a company requirement because I married one of the executives!

The last job I had before I retired had a perfect structure for me.  Although my title was Administrative Secretary, I was basically the only "clerical" person on staff but I had a great deal of authority and finally requested (and received) a clerk who was a terrific help. 

Getting back to the Hollywood film company's dilemma, I suspect the Department of Labor and the legal profession are going to play with this paid/unpaid internship problem for a while but ultimately will make some adjustments that might not make everybody happy but that will help people know ahead of time what they are getting into when they sign on the dotted employment line!  They may even come up with a new and better name for a "gofer."
 



Sunday, March 30, 2014

OUT- IN- SPACE HUMOR!


Back on September 30, 2009 I wrote a blog entitled "Hello!  It's Chicken Little Again."  It was my thoughts on space junk as pertains to astronauts and elimination problems.  I found the whole thing very funny.

And now, I find another funny story about early astronauts and the development of space diapers.  Initially I did not think I should introduce it to you via my blog, since I had an feeling you might think my sense of humor equaled that of a 5 year old boy who runs around calling people "pooh-pooh head."  But since this article hit me in the face when I booted up the computer today and gave me a good laugh, why not share it with you?  I wish I had written it, but no, it's a recap on an original article published in the Houston Chronicle:  
It was a mission-critical element: the size of NASA astronauts' manhood. Seriously. The Houston Chronicle resurrects the fascinating historical tidbit by way of the Science Channel's Moon Machines documentary series, in which engineer Donald Rethke explained the very precise nature of early space diapers.
The Maximum Absorbency Garment system, donned by Gemini and Apollo astronauts, featured one very specific element: a sleeve likened to a condom with a hole at the tip that enabled the men to urinate into a pouch with a one-way valve in their suits.
Three sleeve sizes were available, small, medium, and large. And astronauts couldn't fib, explains Rethke. If they decided to order the next size up, the sheath wouldn't fit snugly, and liquid could potentially leak out, causing damage.
To make the process a little less embarrassing, the sizes were later renamed: large, gigantic, and humongous. Motherboard notes that the urination issue was first brought to the fore by Alan Shepard, who spent hours in the Freedom 7 capsule in advance of a quick 15-minute "suborbital hop." Denied permission to leave the capsule, he opted to pee in his suit—forcing Mission Control to turn off his biomedical sensors until the flow of oxygen in the suit dried the pee, allowing the sensors to be switched on.
Today's astronauts enjoy actual restrooms, though MAG systems are provided to astronauts who are operating outside space vehicles. 
Why do I think this is funny?  It's all in the writing, I guess.  Maybe I was simply primed to laugh, as I had just read, also online, a joke about a mother whose small child swallowed a 22 caliber bullet.  She ran to a nearby pharmacy and asked the pharmacist what she should do.  He handed her a bottle of castor oil and said, "Make him drink this, and then just wait for it to act.  But see that he's not aimed at anybody!" 

I found that funny too. 

Guess it's just one of those days!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

CAN I REALLY THROW IT AWAY?


 The perennial problem at our house is how to we let loose of ephemera?

Jerry and I, both being the oldest child in our family, became the receivers of all the old photo albums, scrapbooks, and so forth that our parents had kept over the years.  For me as a genealogist, this turned out to be a wonderful serendipity, because it gave me a head start on finding what my ancestors looked like. It also gave me knowledge of some rather funny things.

Again today I was going through the 5 foot high collection of books - which of course include our baby books.  Jer and I are both hovering around one side or the other of being 80 years old.  We need to decide whether all this ephemera should end up with our lucky (?) children or whether we should simply bite the bullet and make a trip to the dumpster across the street.

The big problem in going over them all to determine their fate is that it is necessary to review what is in them -- especially the baby books.  We don't want to let go of anything dynamic! This morning in the stack I came across Jerry's baby book.

Oh, the books of those years were so ornate.  Jer was born in 1929 - and the cover of his book is so descriptive of that era.  In reading through the book, I saw that - at least at the beginning of it, his mother, Bertha, was very careful to document everything he did.  (I did find in the back that there was one entry on a blank page that announced the birth of Jerry's sister in 1933.  Apparently she got a single page, instead of a complete baby book.  I suppose his mom got busier as time went on.


Jerry's book is a small one, without photographs (unlike my own baby book which is plastered with them.).  But it does cover the firsts of almost everything in that first year of Jerry's life.  And it was there where I found information that sent me into a peal of laughter.

It was this:  Jerry's mother wrote down for posterity that Jerry's first word was "BOBO"!

I closed my eyes and saw little Jerry, with his blond curly hair, pointing at something and saying loud enough for every one to understand...................."BOBO!"



And why I find it so funny is that Jerry later graduated from MIT (obviously not with a major in English!). One would think that a kid as smart enough to accomplish that would, at eight months, at least say something like E=mc2,

Lest you think that I am picking on Jerry, I want to add that my baby book, fat and  full of photos as it is, also contains some startling information that really wasn't necessary, I think, to share.  I have always wondered why it was necesssary for my mother to indicate that I was two months old when she started my toilet training!

And that fact alone may be an answer to the reason for yesterday's blog.

We may be able to let some of the old photo albums go, but surely not our baby books, for they contain amazing things, don't you think?




Saturday, March 22, 2014

MULLING THOUGHTS

I have a folder on my hard drive labeled "Mulling Thoughts."  Into it go things that I think I might mull over someday.  I also forget, for long periods of time, that I even have such a folder.  But yesterday I came across it again while looking for where I stored something on the computer - and I had to laugh.  What you'll see below is a section of my thoughts.  I have no recollection of putting all this down -- but when I read it I laughed at myself and thought maybe you'd get a good laugh out of it too.

**************************************************************

  *I am really not a “detail” person; I like to be involved in the broad scope.  I am generally aware of the details but it’s not where my focus lies.

*Here are a few things I think about myself:
  1. I like to be involved in the broad view – the creation and vision of a thing, not the details of working with it or making it work.
  2. I expect to receive what has been promised when it has been promised. 
  3. I expect meetings to start on time.
  4. I expect the leader of a meeting to stay on topic and bring it back to topic when it strays.

*The older I get the more rigid I am becoming. 
*I don’t tolerate foolishness very well.
*If something is to be a group discussion the leader should have strong leadership skills.
*I guess I like “3 things” or “5 things.”  I see it as making definite movement.
*I don’t like stupidity.

*I think a person who has 12 folding chairs to put away had better carry them more than 1 at a time to not appear stupid.

*How then can I enjoy counted cross-stitch?  Infinite # of stitches, one at a time.  Why do I not see myself making a quilt but knowing I can cross stitch a piece in which I must make maybe 10,000 individual pokes of the needle.  Is it because those 10,000 pokes are confined to a small piece of cloth?  Then why did I see needlework as tedious, tending to feel like it's an atonement for sin – past, present and future -  and yet experience counted cross-stitch as exciting and very in the "now"?

AND THEN….

And then underneath all the above that obviously I mulled over, I found this (I didn't say it; someone else did, but I guess I liked it!)

All right, fine.  The cynics out there might be saying that the giraffe wasn't really giving him a kiss, that it was only looking for food, or performing some kind of giraffe greeting behavior.  To which we say, pah!  This giraffe was giving his beloved companion a goodbye kiss.  If there's a world where a giraffe kiss is not a giraffe kiss, that's not a world we want to live in.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

OLD STANDARDS & NEW STANDARDS

On Facebook yesterday we had some discussions on canned green beans -- and the consensus pretty much was that the best use for canned green beans is in the old standard recipe for Three Bean (or 4 Bean if you like garbanzos) Salad that's been around for years.

My recipe from years ago is described thusly:   Open and drain 1 can each of green beans, yellow wax beans, red kidney beans and garbanzo beans. Toss in 1/2 cup each of minced onion and green bell pepper. Make dressing of 1/2 c each salad oil and cider vinegar, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 t salt and 1/ t pepper.  Mix well, and pour over beans.  Refrigerate, and serve chilled.  You can't do much better than that for a good salad on a hot day. (In this day and age we might do better to cut down a bit on the sugar, right?)

But I submit that just as tasty and almost as easy to prepare is Lebanese Potato Salad.  It hasn't been in my cookbook for as long as the bean salad, but it's been around the middle east for a whole lot longer.  



This recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Magazine of May, 1980.  That was before some of you were born, probably!  The original recipe didn't specify what kind of potatoes to use, but merely states "large" - which likely doesn't mean red potatoes but they work just as well.  So here's how to make this wonderful salad appear:

4 large potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut in bite-sized chunks and placed in bowl.

1/2 cup snipped parsley
3 green onions, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 t salt
dash garlic powder
dash pepper.

Mix together all ingredients and pour over potatoes.  Toss to coat.  Cover and chill several hours or overnight.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

So here you have it!  The old and the older - both standbys in my house.  And both are standards, as far as I am concerned.

Happy eating, friendds.