Saturday, November 29, 2008


One of the surprises of genealogy is learning that divorce was fairly common in the “old days.” It’s also a surprise that newspapers then were every bit as explicit then as now – and actually, much more gossipy. Here’s what happened to Levi & Nancy Sperry, residents of Lawrence, Kansas. Levi’s first wife was Paulina J. Dobbins, sister of James Sellers Dobbins, but she died in childbirth and Levi then married Nancy Sperry, a neighbor.

In 1885 everything fell apart for the Sperrys. A divorce action was filed by Nancy Jane against Levi, alleging that in their 28 years of marriage he had scolded her, beaten her and threatened to kill her many times. The youngest daughter, Lilly Sperry, testified for her mother, stating that she heard him threaten to kill her mother and had been present once when he tried to choke her. Other family members, including son Watson, and Mrs. Sperry’s sister, Dicy Carter, also testified. In his portion of the trial, Levi stated that after their first year, their marriage had been a stormy one. It had become worse when she later wanted the boys to run the farm. Levi was upset that in any differences between him and the children, she always sided with the children. In cross-examination, he admitted having at one time threatened to split her head open with an axe. The divorce was granted. During the course of the trial, two of the four Sperry children, both adults, died. All the lurid details appear in the local Lawrence newspaper.

Levi was fit to be tied. On November 24, 1886 he wrote out a new will. A couple of items bear noticing:

1) Item #2 states, “I give, devise, and bequeath to my two children, James Sperry and Nellie T. Jones, each the sum of one dollar, and direct the same to be paid them out of my estate, as soon as possible after my decease, upon their each executing and delivering to my executrix, a full receipt therefore, in full for their share and interest in my estate. Because of the well-known domestic difficulties which I have had with my former wife, Mrs. Nancy J. Sperry, from whom I have obtained a legal divorce, and because my said children, James Sperry and Nellie T. Jones, bore a conspicuous part in my said domestic difficulties, thereby greatly aggravating my afflictions and embarrassments, both socially and financially, it is my will and purpose that my said children shall have no further share or interest of and in my property and estate, beyond the sum of one dollar each as above provided.

He certainly made clear his intentions in this matter.

2) Item #3 states, “I give devise and bequeath all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate....unto Mrs. Eliza J. McFarland to be the sole and absolute property of the said Eliza J. McFarland, and her heirs and assigns forever, and in case I shall survive and outlive her, then I hereby give, devise and bequeath all the property of every kind herein devised and bequeathed to her unto her children and their heirs forever. This provision and bequest is made by me, as, and by way of an inducement and past consideration for the agreement of the said Eliza J. McFarland this day made, that she will become my wife”

His will also appoints Eliza as executrix, which of course would necessitate his children going to her to get their $1 each when their father dies.

There is a Marriage License issued in Lawrence on November 23, 1885 and a return recorded on November 24 confirming the marriage of Levi J. Sperry, age 57 and Eliza J. McFarland, 38. Eliza was no dummy.

Eliza and Levi had 15 years of married life. His will was admitted to probate on January 25, 1901.

Although the records do not show if ex-wife Nancy Sperry received a settlement, she had a unique way of rebuilding her life. On February 17, 1887, Nancy Sperry, age 48, married young Edward A. Carlson, age 26, in her home in Lawrence -- and lived happily ever after!

Friday, November 28, 2008


The local newspaper was reporting on Russian Skater Irina Slutskaya and described her trademark maneuver in this manner:

Slutskaya, who turns 30 in February, was one of the world's best for a decade, often battling good friend Michelle Kwan for the top spot on the podium. She had incredible athleticism, allowing her to pull off the toughest jumps - she can still do all five triples - and spins.
Her trademark was a double Biellmann, where she reached back with both hands, grabbed the blade of one skate and pulled it straight over her head, then did the same thing with the other skate.

I laughed when I read this and felt if she actually did it the way they reported she was in for an unwanted surprise.

OOOFFFF! An on-ice bellyflop!

My old journalism teacher, Gary Lynes, always cautioned us to write what we mean, and mean what we write.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


To get the full impact of what I am printing below (which incidentally is from one of the best of the blog writers in the whole of the Inland Empire), you really should go back and reread my October 23 blog. If you've been following HOT COFFEE & COOL JAZZ, you'll know that on that day I provided a blow by blow description of the anatomy of chickens and the production of an egg. Now you already may have known about how Henny Penny got here, but being a city girl, the anatomy of fowls simply had not been part of my education, and because what a Google search produced was so very fascinating I just had to share it with you on that day back in October.

Now, thanks to David Allen, columnist and blogger for the Inland Daily Bulletin, I can add a new bit of information to my burgeoning cache of feathery trivia. Read this and laugh with me:


By David Allen on November 27, 2008 4:54 AM

On Tuesday, Betty Peters, the peripatetic history buff and Pomona Public Library volunteer, visited our office to show off a curiosity she'd found. She laid an old, lightly stained, brown piece of cloth, about the size and shape of a bib, or a diaper, on our counter and asked if I knew what it was.

I eyed it warily and said I didn't.

"It was a saddle for turkeys," Peters said. She explained that when she was growing up, her family had a small ranch in Pomona, which included turkeys. To help the tom turkeys inseminate the ladies, this cloth saddle was placed on a female's back. The tom could dig his feet into the seams and not slip from her back until his business was concluded.

"If anyone ever asks you 'Why do turkeys need saddles?,' now you know!" Peters crowed.

Chew on that while you're chewing on a turkey today. Happy Thanksgiving.

So THERE! Now you know something else.

And Happy Thanksgiving to both David and all you who follow my own blog!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


David received a parrot for his birthday. The parrot was fully-grown with a bad attitude and worse vocabulary. Every other word was an expletive. Those that weren't expletives were, to say the least, rude.

David tried hard to change the bird's attitude and was constantly saying polite words, playing soft music, anything he could think of to try to set a good example... nothing worked. He yelled at the bird and the bird yelled back. He shook the bird and the bird just got madder and more rude.

Finally, in a moment of desperation, David put the parrot in the freezer. For a few moments he heard the bird squawk and kick and scream-- then suddenly there was quiet.

David was afraid that he might have hurt the bird and quickly opened the freezer door. The parrot calmly stepped out onto David's extended arm and said, "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I will endeavor at once to correct my behavior. I really am truly sorry and beg your forgiveness."

David was astonished at the bird's change in attitude and was about to ask what had made such a dramatic change when the parrot continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I wish I could say I have no problem going to sleep at night. But that would not be true. I have been cursed with - well, not insomnia, thank goodness, but just an inability to sleep without spending a lot of time flat on my back first, gearing down from the day's events. No warm milk, no reading, no soft music will help ease the transition. I just have to lie there and listen to both my husband and the cat snore.

The other night, after an abortive start, I figured maybe I had better try the old idea of counting sheep.

I closed my eyes and imagined a flock of sheep in front of me. I quickly mentally lined them up. I noticed they all had numbers on them, which made me laugh because the Serta Mattress commercial sheep all have numbers too. How clever of my sheep, I thought. I sent Sheep #1 over the fence, Sheep #2 over the fence and then I thought about that Christmas wall-hanging I started to make one year that was to have a few shepherds and lots of sheep on it, all standing around a manger. I never finished the wall hanging, though. The sheep bodies were made of french knots and I got tired of making them. I threw it all away, but now as I was counting sheep I wondered where I could find a copy of that pattern so I could try again. Perhaps on the Internet? Oops, I was off track.

I brought myself back to Sheep #3 who was waiting patiently to go over the fence. Over he went. Sheep #4 went next, and I then I wondered if it was really true, as I had always been told in Sunday school, that sheep are so dumb that if the first sheep through a gate has to jump over a stick held a few inches off the ground, if you take the stick away the rest of the sheep all will jump at that point anyway. Was that really true? Maybe the internet would provide an answer for that. I immediately made a mental note to look this up too.

I pulled myself back to Sheep #5 and mentally got him over the fence. Sheep #'s 6 and 7 went over without any problem but before Sheep #8 could get his front legs off the ground, I wondered why I was making all my sheep male. Was there something Freudian about all my sheep being males? I laughed out loud again and wondered if counting these sheep was getting me any closer to sleep than when I started out.

I opened one eye and saw by the clock that forty-five minutes had passed with nary a feeling of sleep hovering anywhere near my bed. By this time it was obvious that my flock of sheep, numbers notwithstanding, was not going to assist me in falling asleep. I wondered if there was something the matter with my sheep. Or the matter with me?

But I also had a nagging feeling that maybe I had fallen asleep and this was all a dream!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Today I learned what "lynching" was.

I thought I knew. In fact, I was so sure that I asked my husband what he thought lynching was and he said the same thing that I did - being strung up by the neck and hung until dead. Isn't that what you thought?

Well, the other day I set about to read a book by Phyllis Vine called "One Man's Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream." Broadly speaking, it is about race relations in Detroit in the 1920s, and is the story of a black man and his family who purchased a small house in Detroit and unintentionally set off race riots, ending up with him and his family and others in jail, and Clarence Darrow, who had just come off the Scopes trial, ultimately stepping in as lawyer for the defense.

The first chapter reflects back on a lynching that a small child named Ossian Sweet, who later would be the one to purchase the house in Detroit, witnessed in Florida. A black man had killed a white woman; there was no doubt about that. The black man was caught, and instead of going through the legal system, the townspeople held a lynching. They built a pyre of wood with a stake in the center of it, tied the man to the stake and roasted him alive. After his screaming had stopped and the fire had done its work, the townspeople gathered the charred remnants as souvenirs.

As I was reading, I kept waiting for the lynching to happen, but when it didn't, I ran for the dictionary. Here I read the definition: Lynch: to put to death by mob action without legal sanction. Lynch law was named after Charles Lynch, an early American Justice of the Peace who presided over an extralegal court to suppress Tory activity; the punishment of presumed crimes or offenses usually by death without due process of law.

So lynching in America wasn't just hanging by the neck until dead, although that is bad enough. We also burned at the stake, clear up into modern times, though this was not an official punishment meted out by our justice system. But that one human being could conceive of doing such a thing to another human being is just beyond understanding.

Some things you learn, but wish you hadn't. This was a sorry example.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


When I was in elementary school the "pets du jour" were little white rats. Every kid with willing parents had his or her white rat. I suppose there was an ulterior motive in this, because if we had a daddy rat and a momma rat, we definitely would learn about the birds and the bees, saving our parents having to give us a lesson in sex education. However, we all knew if tiny hairless pink rat babies were born, we had to get daddy rat out of the cage in a hurry because he was apt to eat the babies. We didn't know why, but we knew it was true. And we also knew it wasn't fair to extrapolate from this that males of all species would do something similar, especially human daddies.

So with what I am going to tell you next, I don't want any wild extrapolations, although I know some of you will be sorely tempted.

From a recent AP article comes the following:

"A research team led by Syracuse University biologist Scott Pitnick found that in bat species where females are promiscuous, males boasting the largest testicles also had the smallest brains. Conversely, where the females were faithful, the males had smaller testes and larger brains.

"'It turns out that size does matter,' said Pitnick...

"'The study offers evidence that males - at least in some species - make an evolutionary trade-off between intelligence and sexual prowess,' said David Hoskens, a biologist at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter in England and a leading authority on bats' mating behavior.

"'Bats invest an enormous amount in testes, and the investment has to come from somewhere. There are no free lunches,' said Hoskens, who did not participate in the study."

As you can imagine, I about laughed myself off the couch. And passed the newspaper on to my husband.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I read in the newspaper yesterday that a tool kit with a wrench, a couple of grease guns, some wipes and a putty knife, all belonging to a lady astronaut presently out in space, has floated away and is now lost to the ages (unless it plummets through the atmosphere and happens to klonk someone on the head). Each time one of these losses happens, we humans, who are actually little more than tiny jots and tittles walking around on earth, are assured by NASA that most likely any space junk will fall into the ocean, since there is so much more ocean than land. And anyway, the odds of it making it through the atmosphere intact is infinitesimal, they add.

That may be, but I am fairly related to Chicken Little and I think I ought to make allowances for the fractional possibility of a wrench, a grease gun, or a putty knife landing in my very own space. (I’m not so worried about the wipes.) It’s true, last week the space refrigerator made it down safely into the drink but one of these days the odds may catch up with me.

Which makes me think of --- well, synchronicity, I guess I’ll call it. You know, it is like reading the latest issue of the Smithsonian Magazine while idly listening with one ear to the TV. Just as you read the words “may be insurmountable” the emcee on the game show says to the contestant, “it’s not insurmountable” – with the two “insurmountables” happening at the same split second. That is a synchronicity and I don’t understand how it can happen. Of all the fractions of seconds in the world at any one time, and all the words in the world that are lurking in the brains of writers and emcees, that two identical words could appear, one in my eye and one in my ear at the EXACT same time, is just too mind-boggling. If that can happen, why can’t a monkey wrench floating around in space land in the next sidewalk square at the same time I put my foot into it.

This type of synchronicity happens all the time (except at Las Vegas with three cherries). I turn the car radio on and punch the button set to KFWB, our local news station. The first word I hear is the exact word that I instantly see on the billboard I’m passing at that very moment. And it’s not a word like “and.” It’s always a word like “delicious” or “credit report.” That is synchronicity and I ask how can that be? How can that happen? It is just too much for me. There is no rhyme or reason for it. God didn’t cause it to happen, I didn’t imagine it, and no one plays that kind of trick on me. It is something that just is. And I don’t like not having a good explanation for it.

But getting back to space junk, I would like to put out a memo to the spacewalkers to keep an eye open for my nice chafing dish that was lost one of my earlier moves. It was a lovely white ceramic bowl with modern-style blue flowers around the middle. It sat on a wooden frame with a candle holder in the center and there was a wooden bowl cover topped with a round blue ceramic knob on top. There was nothing left in my apartment when I moved out. The landlord and I gave it a thorough check. My kids and I packed all our worldly goods and drove them to the new apartment. We knew we had everything. But that whole chafing dish setup never appeared anywhere. To show you how much that has bothered me, we moved in 1972 and I still wonder where my chafing dish went. Perhaps somehow it got into outer space and is floating around with the rest of the space junk (and probably with a few million orphaned socks) waiting to make its ultimate return to earth. Now I doubt seriously that I would be the one that the chafing dish klonked upon its re-entry; that would be SYNCHRONICITY with capital letters. But the dish and a couch arm-cover missing from a second move just may be out floating somewhere in the ether, because they don’t seem to be here on earth. That’s why I want the astronauts to keep an eye out for them. I’d like them back.

There are so many things in life to think about. I don’t want you to suppose I spend lots of time worrying like Chicken Little, though I do keep a close eye on what the scientific prognosticators are thinking about the big asteroid heading toward us. But there are just a few things I’d like resolved before I move on. One is where my chafing dish is, and the other is what explains synchronicity. I’ve given up on trying to figure out the orphan socks!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


My cousin Shirley and I were shopping for earrings, and frankly, what we liked and what we thought appropriate were far, far apart. On this particular day we were going for “appropriate.” -- understated, simple, classic earrings – something that older women could wear to work and not look silly. That’s what this shopping excursion was for. And those are the kinds of earrings we walked out with.

But they really weren’t what our hearts wanted. Have you heard the wonderful free verse poem by Jenny Joseph entitled “When I am old I shall wear purple”? Her writing illustrates that getting old will finally give us the freedom to do what we want to do instead of doing what is appropriate, whether that means wearing wild colors or odd clothing, buying something frivolous like satin shoes instead of Enna Jennicks, and so on. Jenny Joseph shows us that becoming old can be a time of purposeful eccentricity, a time of shedding the shoulds and going for the shouldn’ts. And though people might cluck at us, we will get away with it because of our age.

So my cousin and I bought earrings that would please our human resource department’s dress code, knowing we had made the appropriate choice, but in our heart of hearts, both of us hovering on one side or the other of that magic age of 65, we really wanted something flashy. We wanted something like the dangles and bangles of the teenagers, the hoops of the silver-screen seductresses, or the bright-colored wooden parrot earrings that the tourists buy in the Caribbean.

The young clerk who waited on us at the costume jewelry counter, a female barely over 18, probably had not ever had two women earring-buyers quite like us. After keeping her in stitches while we shared our ideas of what our bosses would say about certain earrings we held up to our ears, we told her we were going to let her in on a secret about ears and old age. We said that our news was something mothers never thought to tell their daughters, but out of kindness we would pass it on to her. We could tell she was not sure we were serious.

The news we told her was that no matter how hard a woman tries, as she gets older her ears will grow and her earlobes will droop! Cuz and I both knew that as we aged, all the muscles in the body would lose some of their tone, but we were shocked when we saw our earlobes lengthening in front of our eyes. Earrings with any weight at all made our earlobes hang down nearly to shoulder level. We expected flabby jowls and flapping underarms. Other things, yes. But earlobes? Never gave them a thought. So at a certain point we retired our favorite dangling earrings to the “I shall wear Purple” box and from then on we focused on lightweight, benign stud earrings. We told the clerk someday she would be old, and we wanted her to remember the two nice old ladies who first told her the secret of the drooping earlobes.

We think the little clerk never quite knew what to make of us, although we did show her just how saggy our earlobes were so she would believe us.

From time to time my cousin and I pat each other on the back and talk about what a favor we did for that that young jewelry salesperson. She now knows two things she didn’t know before she met us. The first is that one of these days – and sooner than she would like – she too will find her earlobes hanging down around her shoulders, just as ours do. And the second is, if she is smart enough she can make aging be a funny process, instead of one that is grim. Cuz and I don’t much like aging. Yes, we have to give up things, and sometimes things are taken from us. But sharing the process with good friends and looking hard to find humor in the strangest things is a guarantee that when it is time to wear purple, we can revel in our eccentricities with the best of them.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I can't imagine life without "Google."

I would never, ever think of going to a library and researching through all kinds of media to see if I could find any references to old baby soakers. First, I probably would think there would be nothing there anyway and it would be an awful lot of trouble to go through just to be disappointed. Secondly, I probably wouldn't think it would be all that interesting anyway, because I already knew what they were. But with Google, all things are possible!

In 1941, when I was six years old, my mother used a neighbor lady as a babysitter for my sister and me. In my recollection she seemed like an "old lady" but to a 6-year old, almost everyone is old, so it is likely that she was maybe in her 40s. I have that old lady to thank for my ability to knit and crochet, although the lack of steady crocheting over the years has diminished my skills in that particular talent. But I have always, since that time, knit.

This babysitter started teaching me how to knit soakers. What are, or were, soakers? In those days there were no such things as rubber pants or plastic pants for babies. So knit soakers were used over diapers to help contain the moisture. There were no synthetic yarns in those days either, so we used wool. Obviously the minute the baby wet his diaper, the soaker needed to come off and the diaper changed, because there is not much that smells worse than wet wool!

The soakers I learned to knit looked exactly like the bottom two in the picture above. I made lots of them, and considering there were no babies in my family I don't have a clue as to what I did with them all, except perhaps to use them on my dolls. As I looked at the photos, I was reminded that the little tassles at the end of the ties were a very important part of finishing off the project. Sometimes I used tassles and other times little pom-poms. My soakers were really classy.

By the time I had my own babies, beginning in 1956, plastic pants had appeared and we pulled those over the diapers. Mostly soakers had disappeared, although the picture above is from a 1959 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. All four of my kids wore cloth diapers and for a four-year period I always had two children wearing them. My sweet and helpful mother paid for Tidy-Didy laundry service to help me out with the washing.

With the advent of disposable diapers, even the need for plastic pants disappeared. My kids couldn't imagine keeping any of their children in cloth diapers. (But of course they can't imagine saving money for things they want to buy, either. Charge it! they say.)

Times change. But if you do a Google search on "Baby soakers" you'll find some 200 hits, which represent people of today discussing or asking about soakers. (I'd guess these people are what society now calls "old farts" - those of us who are in our dottage). Seems now there are some soakers made for incontinent adults. Apparently some people who try to live 100% natural use them, although I wouldn't think for soakers, but maybe for underpants (itch, itch, itch....)

Googling is a good thing to do on a Monday so windy that if you step outside you might get blown about a mile down the road and maybe end up in a dairy pasture. So pick your topic, give Google a chance to work its magic, and see what you can come up with. Your topic of interest might be much more exciting than soakers!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Many of you who are family or good friends are aware that two years ago I was suddenly afflicted with an inability to taste food as it normally tastes. All food and all drinks tasted different than they should; some foods were barely edible and other foods tasted so bad I would have to spit them out. Since this happened at the same time I had a sinus infection, the doctors assured me that my taste would "come back," as if it had gone someplace but shortly would return. I could not convince them that I did not have "no taste" - like when you get a cold and can't taste any of your food - but rather everything tasted unlike anything I had ever tasted before. My "taste" hadn't gone anywhere, but it had changed.

I later learned that doctors do not like to hear people say their taste is "off," that nothing tastes right. The reason is that unless they can find that some medicine the patient is taking has caused such a change, they know that there is nothing that can be done. They have given this condition the name Dysgeusia, which mean "impared taste." They think it has something to do with the nerves in the taste buds. And because it is such a rare condition, there is no research going on, no support group, no nothing to to look forward to, other than the remote possibility that one day the patient may wake up and have their taste buds working normally again.

The upshot of having this condition means I have to build the rest of my life around what and how I am going to get the vitamins and minerals into my body that I need to stay alive. Why go out and spend $50 on a good meal if nothing tastes good. Why bother cooking anything from scratch if you can't tell whether or not it is good or if it is seasoned correctly. And how can you make people understand what you are talking about? A cup of black coffee smells exactly the way it should, but when I take a sip of it, it tastes as if someone added 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of salt to it. And then remember that everything I put in my mouth has that same kind of dramatic change on how I taste it. There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, that tastes good. Some things are edible and drinkable; other things are not. But NONE are good or worth eating.

I have to keep telling myself that there are worse things in life that could befall a person than this. I gave myself one year to gripe about it, and then I have tried to just shut up and live life as best I can. Yes, I have lost weight. Yes, I pretty much use frozen food now. Yes, I don't like to eat at other people's house because I just might not be able to eat anything they serve me. Yes, I've been treated for anemia, constipation and probably should, on some days, be treated for a mild case of depression. But this is my life now, and it could be worse, I tell myself.

Yesterday I began reading a book by Oliver Sacks, a physician and Professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University. He has written some fantastic books that you've probably heard of: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist from Mars, Awakenings (which was made into a movie) and several others. He has just come out with a new book entitled Musicophilia, and it deals with people whose brain plays music for them, unbidden and unwanted. There is much I don't understand in Sacks' books when he talks about medical and scientific things, but his "case histories" are among the most amazing things I've ever read. And this book is no different.

Let me share a paragraph of two from one of his case histories in this new book: He got a letter from a woman he calls June B, a charming and creative woman of seventy, who tells him of her musical "hallucinations." She was visiting her sister and brother in law in November of 1994 and when she turned off the TV and started getting ready for bed, she heard "Amazing Grace" being played over and over. She checked with her relatives, but they were watching a football game. She stepped outside to see if there was a church nearby, but there was not. She finally realized the music was in her head. In the letter to Dr. Sacks, she included her "play list," which included "Amazing Grace," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," the drinking song from La Traviata, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," and "a really dreary version" of "We Three Kings of Orient Are." "One night," Mrs. B wrote, "I heard a splendidly solemn rendition of "Old Macdonald Had a Farm," followed by thunderous applause. At that moment I decided that, as I was obviously completely bonkers, I'd better have the matter looked into." This is found in his book on pages 79 and 80.

But not all of his clients have had such easily identifiable tunes; sometimes it may be just a mish-mash of notes and tunes, and repetitions of bars of music until the person thinks they will go mad.

Now, as I read these case histories (and remember I am just on page 80 of the more than 300 pages) it occurs to me that I'd just as soon keep my own affliction as to have one of music playing in my head all the time. Maybe "cool jazz" wouldn't be so bad, but if my brain turned on Country Western music, I'd probably decide to turn the music off one way or the other! Think of waking up in the night knowing that the minute you raised your head off the pillow to go into the bathroom you would get Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring" playing over and over in your head. Or worse, I might get my brain record stuck on Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful," which to me has to be the epitomy of brainless nonsense. But the worse one of all would have to be Harold Barlow's 1950s tune called "I've Got Tears in My Ears" - do you remember that one? The words were:

I've got tears in my ears from lyin' on my back
In my bed while I cry over you
And the tears in my ears, they're off the beaten track
Since you said "It's goodbye, we are through"
So if I should get water on the brain
You will know you're the one who is to blame
I've got tears in my ears from lyin' on my back
In my bed while I cry over you.

There are two more verses to it and it just gets worse.

So I have a suggestion for you: when you start feeling put upon by your body's aches and pains, just remember, no matter how bad things can get, having music on the brain, especially if you couldn't choose the tunes, could be infinitely worse that what you've got now.

Friday, November 14, 2008


My mother was always slender. As a homemaker in Long Beach, California in the 1940’s she usually wore what all women of that era wore – housedresses. In the 1950s she often wore slacks or a shorter version then called “clam-diggers” – calf-length trousers.

When I was first married, my husband and I moved into the front unit of a duplex my folks owned, which was right next door to my mom and dad. During those first few years I was busy learning how to be a mother and my mom's help was invaluable. One particularly hot day in summer she came knocking on my door holding a glass of freshly made lemonade in her hand for me. Oh, it looked so good, and I took it gratefully. But I was shocked to see her in shorts. Her legs were lily white and skinny. The shorts appeared awfully baggy. Mom asked me what I thought of them.

Now there are two truths here: First, back then women looked older at any age than they do at that same age now. I'm sure "housedresses" were responsible for much of that. And secondly, when a person is young, older people always seem very much older than you are. Now at the time of this episode, my mother was probably 45 and she didn’t look bad for her age except for her white scrawny legs and her very wrinkled knees. I look at my youngest daughter now, who is close to the age my mom was, and I see a healthy, attractive young mother; I certainly do not see wrinkled knees, but my mom had them and I was taken aback at her appearing "in public" with those legs. However, I would never have said anything of the sort to her so I simply said, in answer to her question, "The shorts are really nice and I'll bet they help you stay cool in this heat." She was pleased at my response, but I made a mental note to myself NEVER to wear shorts when I got “old.”

Time passed, my kids grew up and moved away, and I actually got well past the age of 50 with not much trauma, feeling young and healthy. And without thinking, and because I had moved to a desert-y area of Southern California, I wore shorts all summer long. It never occurred to me that I might be past my prime and that shorts might not be the best thing for me to run around in. I didn’t feel any different than I did when I was in college, so why not?

Why not, indeed? All was well until one day I walked past a full-length mirror in a store and saw my mother’s legs hanging out from my shorts. That was the day I accepted that I was, in fact, aging and that I'd better go buy a few pairs of pedal pushers, or clamdiggers or Capri pants, whichever were in fashion at the time and all much longer than shorts.

I believe what goes around comes around. I have found it so in my life. The moral of this story is to be very careful what you say and even what you allow yourself to think, if it is in any way judgmental. Everything, in one way or another, comes back to bite you. It is very embarrassing and can be awfully humbling.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I have always been a attracted to a smile. It didn't necessarily have to be a full-blown grin, but even a teeny-tiny smile was enough to make my heart go pitty-pat. Which brings me to Turhan Bey.

Now I know you young folk have never heard of this fellow before, unless you happened to see him in some spooky films that he had parts in as he aged. But when I was a sweet young thing, I'd say around the age of 8 or 9, Turhan Bey was the lead in such romantic films as A Night in Paradise, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Arabian Nights, to name a few. Now in most of these he appeared bare chested or in some swashbuckling costume -- and I thought he was the most romantic man on the screen. In fact, I belonged to the -- yes, the Turhan Bey Fan Club and I had an autographed picture of him, which I kept for years and which I am sure my mother threw away because she did NOT think he was cute like I did! But oh, that sexy little smile. Even at 8 or 9 I was aware of it.

At some point my "smile" meter left Turhan Bey and moved on to Roy Rogers. (Now how 'bout that for being fickle?!) I never saw a photo of Roy Rogers without his smile. For a few years I thought he was my dream man (I'd say this was in my pre-teen years) and I thought he was a most fantastic and handsome fellow. I was crushed to learn that after the death of his first wife he was going to marry Dale Evans. For some reason I had hopes that I might get my foot in the door, but alas, like many other of my teen-aged dream-boats, the door shut too soon. I followed him from film to TV (which we didn't have when I was a youngster) and many years later even went to his Museum in Apple Valley to take a nostalgic walk through my childhood. Yep, Roy Rogers and his smiling face was IT!

Then when I was a full grown teenager, I discovered "real" boys and I didn't much look at filmdom for my smiling boyfriends. Though I didn't have many of my very own, I did finally find one who I thought was just perfect and his smile eventually led to marriage. Sixteen years later this same one started smiling at other women, so I simply threw my hands up and forgot all about those handsome men in film and in real life.

Then came the fantasy! Who should appear on screen but Captain Jack Sparrow. What a smile he has. Capt. Sparrow is one major winner! Of course by this time I was mature enough NOT to send for his autograph, but when I shared my "dream" charm bracelet in an earlier blog, I did leave a space for a pirate charm! And so through Depp's slap-dashing pirate adventures I followed this Sparrow fellow, grinning right back at him.

And now we have come to this: We have a wonderful smiler and we'll get to look at him for the next four years. I'm sure that Joe Biden has his serious moments, but it did my heart good to see him on stage with that big grin on his face these last few months. Oh, Obama smiles too, but it is Joe that has the happiest look of the bunch. And how I love to see it.

Now, I have to confess: a smile does not make my heart go pitty-pat any longer. If my heart did that, I'd think I was having premature ventricular palpitations. So I just stare at the smiling picture and smile back at him. (Of course, being a Democrat helps keep the smile on my face.) I'm even willing to let Joe have excess verbiage from time to time if he keeps his smile in place.

And it is awfully nice to see a smile instead of a smirk, isn't it?

And just so no one gets their nose out of joint, I need to add that Jerry smilingly approves this message!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The other day one of our neighbors was carted off by the paramedics. He was on a gurney, an oxygen mask affixed to his face, an IV bag dangling over his arm, and his chest bare, probably ready for the paddles if necessary. All the neighbors were standing on their porches gawking, or if they were too far away to gawk they were running towards the scene to get in on the action.

This is my worst nightmare…. having to be carted off somewhere with all the neighbors watching.

Some years ago my sister called me to share some most embarrassing news. Seems she had suffered some strange chest pain and when it didn’t go away she became alarmed. But she, like me, didn’t ever want to “make a scene.” Our mother had thoroughly inculcated in us the desire to avoid making a scene at all costs! So when my sister called 911, she told them that if they would promise not to send help with sirens screaming, then she would like them to come check her out. However, if they would not promise that, then she wasn’t going to tell them where she lived. The 911 dispatcher of course had her address right up on the screen but in order to calm my sister she assured her that there would be no sirens.

My sister said she heard the sirens from a long way off, but was hopeful that they weren’t for her. But of course they were. Two big fire rigs turned the corner and stopped right in front of her house. All the neighbors came running. My sister lay down on the floor, pulled the afghan off the couch and covered up her head. The whole time the paramedics were there, she tried to keep the afghan on her head so they couldn’t see her. They humored her to the extent that they kept the neighbors out of the house, but they did talk her into removing the afghan so they could check her color. Within 10 minutes they told her she was not having a heart attack but they needed to get her to the hospital where her doctor could run some tests to find out what was going on.

She agreed, but demanded the afghan again. She was rolled out of her house on the gurney, with that blanket covering her face. She told me it was a granny-square afghan and she could see all the nosy neighbors gawking at her. But at least she felt comforted that they couldn’t see much!

I know exactly how she felt. That is exactly what I would do under the same circumstances. She and I laughed afterwards about how pleased our mother would have been that she “didn’t make a scene.” I’m sure my mother’s obsession with this little phrase was because growing up my sister was a terrible tantrum thrower, and it didn’t matter when or where the feeling came upon her, if she felt like having a tantrum, she let loose with one. I’m sure my mother said over and over, “Don’t make a scene” – and that phrase stayed lodged in our psyches long after the tantrums had abated. The Dobbins girls simply didn’t make scenes, not then and not now.

I felt so sorry for my neighbor for all the gawking that he had to put up with. Actually, I think he was beyond the point of caring who looked at what. Luckily he survived and later came home with several new grafted arteries and a bit more time.

My sister did not make a scene when she died some years later. She woke up one night not feeling too well, sat on the side of the bed to figure out what to do, and she then fell off the bed onto the floor, dead. It was an awful shock, seeing as how she was younger than I was, but I had to be grateful that she got a final wish – not to make a scene. I hope I am so lucky.

But I have my afghan on the couch close at hand, just in case.

Monday, November 10, 2008


When you hear (or read) of a squabble like the one below that happened in Jerusalem a few days ago, it makes you wonder if these well-intentioned religious icons ever bother to read their handbook. If these men are required to be celebate as part of their monkhood, then perhaps this brouhaha is simply a buildup of testosterone that seeks release in fisticuffs. But I suspect that is not the case and rather is just a power trip for men of the cloth who have too much time on their hands.

Police rushed into one of Christianity’s holiest churches Sunday and arrested two clergyman after an argument between monks erupted into a brawl next to the site of Jesus’ tomb.

The clash broke out between Armenian and Green Orthodox monks in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

It began as Armenian clergymen marched in an annual procession commemorating the 4th-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus. It ended with the arrival of dozens of riot policemen who separated the sides, seizing a bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead. Both men were taken away in handcuffs.

Six Christian sects divide control of the ancient church. They regularly fight over turf and influence, and Israeli police are occasionally forced to intervene.

The feud revolves around a demand by the Greek Orthodox to post a monk inside the Edicule - the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus - during the Armenian procession. The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way.

“We were keeping resistance so that the procession could not pass through … and establish a right that they don’t have,” said a young Greek Orthodox monk with a cut next to his left eye. The monk, who gave his name as Serafim, said he sustained the wound when an Armenian punched him from behind and broke his glasses.

Father Pakrat of the Armenian Patriarchate said the Greek demand was “against the status quo arrangement and against the internal arrangement of the Holy Sepulcher.” He said the Greeks attacked first. Archbishop Aristarchos, the chief secretary of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, said his monks had not initiated the violence. “I’m sorry that these events happened in front of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the most holy religious monument of Christianity ,” he said....

The entire story can be found via Google, and it is quite unbelievable. Seems to me that both the Armenian and Greek monks should sit down together and read from James 1:27 - "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

These monks fall more than a little short of pure religion. Methinks they need a massive dose of humility.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Now look at these darling little tykes. A little boy with three little sisters. He's the protector. They are the worshipers. They not only are my darling little kids but they were such good little kids. I gave birth to these four in a five-year span, and I needed them to be good. I hear myself telling people that I never had any trouble with them at all. And people that I've been friends with for years, who lived in the neighborhood where the kids grew up, have often said what a good mother I was.

Wait. I think that must be a dream I had.

No, they were good little kids, easy to discipline when it was necessary, respectful of their school teachers and other adults, and absolutely perfect children to take to a restaurant. But before I tell you the next part of the story, I do need to tell you that they all have ended up perfect adults. By helping them grow up to be independent, I think I maybe made it too easy for them not to feel guilt when they don't call me as often as I would like, but that is not their problem, it is mine for succeeding in what I set out to do.

But as they got to their teen aged years, probably between 15 and 18 years of age, there were many times I would have liked to walk away from the whole child-raising venture. Or in today's vernacular, I'd have liked to throw them in the car and drive them to Nebraska. I'm sure you've all been reading about Nebraska and its law regarding dropping off new-born children at any hospital there, except the way the law is worded, ANY child can be handed over, and parents of teenagers have been coming in droves to place their older children in the care of the hospitals. Far more teens than babies have been brought. Nebraska says it is going to revise the law to cover only babies under the age of three days. They really need to consider that what they are actually seeing now is a far greater need!

Anyway, my son in his teen years could get his priorities more twisted up than his body could get in yoga positions. And he laughed all the way through it. The school did not laugh. I cried.

There was never a time when I had to interface with the police over anything he had done, thank goodness, but at least half of my early grey hairs came from his shenanigans.

A daughter had a hard time finding herself. She tried out all kinds of options, some of which were not too good. She never got into trouble but she experienced life as one thing after another.One time I got a call from her friend's mother who reported that she had caught her daughter and mine smoking and what was I going to do about it? I asked her if she tried smoking when she was a junior high student and she said she had. We agreed to do nothing. But we did keep a closer eye on our kids as they bounced and splashed their way thought the late teen years.
And then the daughter who never gave anyone any problem, the one who smiled her way through her childhood, presented this to me one night when we came home early from some event we were at. Mooned by our own daughter.

The remaining daughter and my son both dropped out of high school in their senior year and went out on their own, in spite of our best tries to keep them home.
I got the rest of my grey hair from this. It is SO hard to raise teenagers. So hard to get through the terror of watching your kids trying their best to fall off the cliff. There are times when it just seems like too much. You try your best, and it doesn't seem good enough.
If you are lucky, and I was, you can watch them come out the other side. You can see their adult lives, watch them become parents and have successful careers. Yes, there are bumpy spots, but I have always known deep inside that my kids were raised with good values and that with any kind of luck they'd leave the teenage rebellion at 18 or thereabouts and come out smiling.
I love my four children. But I have to confess, many's the time I wish I'd known about Nebraska!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Some time back there was a big, interesting article in the LA Times about Kim Chi, the Korean national side-dish. It is one of my very favorite tastes - fermented, hot and spicy and really flavorful. Jerry won't touch it with a 10 foot pole.

Which got me to thinking about our tastes:
Oysters: HIM - Yum! ME: No Way!
Boiled weinies: HIM - Bring 'em on ME: Oh, Gag!
Sauerkraut: HIM - No thanks ME - Yummy
Calimari: HIM - Delicious ME: - Can't even bear to look at it.
Cottage Cheese with sour cream mixed in it: HIM - the only way to eat it
Cottage Cheese with salt and pepper on it: ME - the only way to eat it
Okra: HIM - I won't even try it ME: Fried or in a gumbo, it is wonderful.
Hominy and Grits: HIM - Yuk. ME: Bring it on!
Fat on Meat: HIM - Better than the meat itself. ME: Can't bear it in my mouth
Tomato aspic: HIM - Won't touch it ME: M-M-good-- Bloody Mary Salad
Escargot: HIM - Delicious ME: Never in my lifetime.

So in a sense, Jerry and I are like Jack Sprat and his wife. Betwixt the two of us our plates are usually clean, though we don't lick them like the crass Sprats do! When we go out he checks the menu for things I won't cook at home. I do the same. I usually get my sauerkraut fix from Reuben sandwiches. He chooses liver and onions, which I eat but won't prepare. Also I admit to being a lousy fish-cooker, so he more often than not orders fish.

Luckily Jer doesn't have a lot of likes and dislikes when it comes to food, and he's easy to work around when it comes to creating a meal. (He also does dishes and windows if I ask him!) But I draw the line at watching him eat snails. If he orders them at a restaurant he’d better be prepared to sit in a different booth or ask for a paper plate so he can go out in the car to eat them. I don't care how flavorful he says the sauce is. I will not ruin my dinner by watching him chew and swallow those horrible slimy things that drive us crazy in our garden.

It's ok to have differing tastes, but I have to admit it would be hard to kiss a man after he's eaten a snail. He’d just have to forego his good-night kiss that night.

In my venture to Coastal North Carolina last year, I was able to try a few of the local delicacies. One, which was called barbecue but was composed of "indeterminate" meat (pig parts, shredded, I think, and neither my cousin Nancy nor I found it to our liking, although apparently it is BIG in those parts. But my cousin Shirlee, who is the one who left sunny Southern California for the lovely coastline of North Carolina did take me to a restaurant noted for "Shrimp and Grits." Now Jer and I differ on the palatability of grits, too. He doesn't like them any way, any how. But you can see how tempting it looks below, as my cousin Shirlee is chowing down on them. I was reminded of the Shrimp and grits when I looked for a picture of Kim Chee, and there is a resemblance in appearance, but I have to tell you, that North Carolina soul food was the best thing I've eaten in a long, long time.

In fact, you can pass me the kim chee right along with the shrimp and grits and I'll be one happy lady!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


In this morning's newspaper there was an obituary for a woman who was the choir director of the last choir I ever sang in, which was back in 1972-73. Reading this obit made me think about how much that choir meant to me, as it was what held me together during the time I was reeling from an unwanted divorce. But then it got me to thinking about how I became involved in choirs in the first place, and that, in turn, made me remember a couple of very funny things -- funny to me, but not to my former husband, who was the "perp" in these events.

I met Joe in the choir at George Pepperdine College in 1954. He had served in Korea as a Marine and though he entered college a year after I did, he was a few years older. He brought to the choir a beautiful baritone voice, probably the most polished voice of all of us. (This was before Pepperdine became the Pepperdine University of today; it was a tiny Christian college east of Inglewood with a student body of 900 and a choir of about 40 members.) Anyway, our choir director immediately recognized Joe's talents and Joe’s solo work became our showpieces. (And of course I immediately fell in love with him.)

However, his one problem turned out to be that when he was onstage and nervous, he often got lost vocally. The first time happened on our first choir tour up the central valley of California. One of the songs we sang was based on one of the Old Testament Psalms. The best way to describe it would be to say that Joe sang certain parts like a cantor would do and the choir had responsive parts. The song was not particularly intricate but since it was sung a cappella, it was a nice showcase for his beautiful voice.

Things had gone well with our performances until one day when we were in front of a large high school assembly in San Francisco. We were doing the cantorial thing when out of the blue, in the middle of this song, Joe modulated up a couple of notes. This meant that each choir member had to mentally find the right note to make our next chord, and come in on it in the same key as Joe was now singing in. Luckily we did a pretty fair job of making the right chord and managed to do well on our response. But Joe, realizing what he had done, decided he'd better get back where he belonged, so at his next cantorial line, he modulated back downward, though not to his original key but to another lower, and wrong, key. I can remember the horror of once again having to hope to God that we come in on the new key's chord. Although we fumbled a teeny bit, we managed to end up okay and we finished up the song. Sweat was pouring from our faces and under our choir robes. Joe was far less discombobulated about this than the rest of us. Admission of error was not one of his long suits (a trait he carried throughout his life) and he laughed it off. The officers of the choir, of which I was one, quietly asked the choir director to please remove that piece from future programs, which he gladly did. Since we were near the last performance of our scheduled tour, Joe never knew that we didn't sing it again because of him.

At the time, I was totally mortified. I had just started dating him and I wasn't sure I was ever going to be able to be comfortable singing with him again. Of course, love won out and we did make happy tunes together in a 16 year marriage.

However, he did have one other dreadful occurrence that happened when we were singing many years later in our church choir. We were doing one of Handel’s intricate things and Joe was soloing. Again, he got lost but he went on ad-libbing some notes that Handel never intended to be sung. The poor pianist was going crazy trying to help him find his place. It was undoubtedly the longest Handel piece that any choir has ever sung, but very honestly, I doubt if anyone but the choir realized what was happening, unless they paid particular attention to the our stunned faces. Finally the pianist got him back on track and the choir came in appropriately and we sang "AMEN" with more relief that we ever though possible.

The nice thing about these events is first, that they make for enjoyable memories of funny things that happened to us when we were young, and second, I wasn't the soloist!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


There are certain columnists in newspapers and magazines that “click” with me. Seems like everything they write touches a place in me that is either funny or sad or ironic or simply rings a bell. One of those columnists, who probably had the biggest impact on my own writing, was Miv Schaaf, who offered an extension course at UCI back in the late seventies called, “Writing for Yourself.” I had followed her column faithfully in the newspaper; every one spoke to my heart. Oh, if I could only write like that, I thought. So I signed up, listened carefully and tried what she said. Because I did in fact stop trying to write to be published, I was able to please myself for a very long time.

Through the years I have followed other columnists’ work, and at the present time another LA Times writer has caught my fancy. His name is Chris Erskine and his writings – personal essays – never fail to speak to me. A couple of weeks ago he wrote a very funny essay that he called “So little money, so much you can do” and since we are all looking at how to make our remaining money last longer, I’ll share with you some of his suggestions that gave me a good chuckle. How ‘bout these penny-pinching activities:.

aHave a hot flash
aChop some wood
aOrganize the 5,500 digital files on your hard drive
aMake some moonshine
aWrite a letter to the White House
aDesign your retirement house
aDesign your retirement yurt (me: for those of you who don’t know “yurt” it is a circular domed tent of skins or felt stretched over a collapsible lattice framework and used by pastoral peoples of inner Asia.)
aHum a fight song (me: how ‘bout “Cheer, Cheer for Old Poly High, for her we’ll do and for her we’ll die?”)
aShort-sheet the kids’ beds (me: or your husband’s)
aShort sheet a ghost
aTeach your dog (or cat) to yodel
aCounty your lucky stars

And to this list I might add a couple of my own:
aRead Atlas Shrugged
aSit under a tree and time how long it takes before a bird poops on you?
aGo grunion hunting
aBegin collecting Susan B Anthony dollars
aThrow away one piece of paper per day that was generated from your computer.
aGo to a pet store and watch the fish in the tanks
aThrow away all your mismatched socks. You’ll NEVER see their mate again

We all need to find creative things to occupy ourselves when money gets tight. Let me know if you can come up with some additional fun things!

Monday, November 3, 2008


Most of us who are genealogists have elderly relatives who couldn't care less about genealogy and can't figure out why on earth we are interested in learning about old dead people. Some of them get downright testy about it and we learn quickly to keep the subject on other things when we are talking with them.

But personally I find it hard to understand how anyone would fail to find some interest or humor in learning about someone like my old Henry H McGlothlin, who served in the Civil War. He belonged to my dad's side of the family -- Dad's grandma Nannie's sister's boy. He was born in Virginia, came to Kansas in 1856 and as according to the records I can find, he was one of the "border ruffians" who harrassed the abolitionists who poured into Kansas to swing the vote in favor of making Kansas admitted to the union as a free, rather than a slave, state. In one book I read, he and some other cousins were called "unsavory characters."

Apparently once the bleeding Kansas period was over, many of them changed their stripes and became ardent unionists in the Civil War. Henry served honorably and lived an exemplary life crying auctions in Kansas. Below is a synopsis of an obituary printed in the local newspaper at his death:


Obituary - b Jeffersonville, VA 12 Mar 1849. In 1849 father moved from VA to where Kansas City now stands, area now known as Westport's landing. Stayed there until 1852, when family moved to KY. "Hank" was not satisfied with that country. Boarded a steamboat on the Ohio River, coming to KC in 1856 by way of Louisville and St. Louis. Has been resident of Kansas since that time. At breakout of Civil war he served the government as "scout" until the 15th Kansas was organized. He served until mustered out in November 1865. Married Mrs. Rebecca Probasco in the year 1871. No children. Was deputy sheriff of Linn County for over 20 years and for four years was deputy U. S. Marshall. "Cried" public sales continuously for over 30 years and is best auctioneer in the state. Has sunny disposition and kind-heartedness

Now down the road he filed for a Civil War pension claim. In his original claim he failed to mention one of his weaknesses so he sent in an Affidavit which was attached to the original pension, both of which ultimately ended up in the National Archives for future genealogists to read. I'm sure he never thought his efforts to get a pension would be read - and chuckled over - by family over 100 years later:


"At the time I made application for Pension I was then, and had been for many years, suffering with 'piles' and diseased rectum' (which I forgot to include in my application.) The incurrence of 'piles' and 'diseased rectum' was, as I verily believe, caused by riding horseback in the service and from exposure incident to Army life, and said 'piles' and 'disease of rectum' first made their appearance in a slight degree while I was yet in the Army, and have gradually grown worse from year to year since, so that it is very difficult for me to state just when and where said diseases were contracted or the circumstances under which they were incurred, as they are of many years standing."

Since finding this entry in his pension record, you'd better believe I've been a little cautious about what I put down in some of my personal writings...and I hope my medical records will never get into a genealogist's hands.

Sunday, November 2, 2008



Everyone is familiar with the name Stephen Hawkings, who is, of course, the world-renowned physicist and is remarkable because his brilliant mind functions even while ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) takes over his body. I wish I could understand all his pronouncements, but having barely been able to get through beginning algebra, I must admit that I must take others’ word for them, because I usually don’t know what in heck he’s talking about.

But he made quite an understandable statement sometime back at a news conference in Hong Kong that was reported in the LA Times. “The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find homes elsewhere in the universe, because there’s an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy Earth….Humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years,” the British scientist told a news conference.

And that made me think of the asteroids-hitting-the-earth scares that we don’t hear about much these days. Apparently asteroid 2002NT7, which originally had been reported as an impact hazard for the year 2019 has been discounted and replaced by QQ47, which is scheduled for March of 2014. When a year or so ago I heard that “we” were practicing shooting at, with the intent of hitting and making a dent in the orbit of, an asteroid that was drawing close to the earth but definitely posed no risk, I wondered then if this was more than a simple practice. As I recall, our shot didn’t so much as move the ‘roid one centimeter.

NASA most recently outlined what it could do, and in what time frame, in the case a quarter-mile-wide asteroid named Apophis which appears to be on a course to slam into Earth in the year 2036. The timetable was released by the B612 Foundation, a group that is pressing NASA and other government agencies to do more to head off threats from near-Earth objects. In reporting this, MSNBC said, “If it does strike Earth, the impact could have the effect of over 20 million Hiroshima style atomic bombs. As Billy Bob Thornton says in Armageddon, ‘It's what we call a Global Killer....the end of mankind. Half the world will be incinerated by the heat blast.....the rest will freeze to death in a nuclear winter. Basically, the worst part of the Bible!’”

Now my little local newspaper, which doesn’t usually have much to say, added a bit more of Stephen Hawkings pronouncement. He says it is much more likely that humans will kill each other off as nuclear weapons become the weapon of choice for all the armies in the world.

My, my, my. Makes me think that between the talking heads and the presidential race, not to mention the political pundits, we may be talked to death before any of the great disaster scenarios come close enough to happen!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I either was born yesterday or asleep at the switch! Yes, I knew that California's election code forbids anyone from engaging in "electioneering" within 100 feet of a polling place or an election official's office. What I did not know was that electioneering, while not defined in the code, is considered by the Secretary of State's office to happen when voters bring information, such as a t-shirt with a political logo on it, a ball cap with a political name on it, or even a campaign button within that same 100 feet. These people don't have to do any verbal electioneering; it is enough to merely wear something that is considered "political."

Now our local newspaper headlines today, "Leave Those Campaign Buttons, T-shirts at Home when Voting." It says that rumors about the rules have been circulating in e-mails. I do believe I have gotten every single kind of e-mail in the entire US in my e-mailbox, but that one did not make it into any of mine. It also states that church lectures and other social circles have been used to disseminate the information that voters could be turned away from the polls for showing up with so much as a campaign pin. I've missed those church services (I miss all of them, actually) and those social events (probably for the reason that I'm not much of a social butterfly.)

The article continues that according to Debra Bowen, secretary of state, her office has sent guidelines to election offices recently in an attempt to clarify the rules, which require voters to REMOVE OR COVER UP any campaign-related attire. She says that the people can still vote, but poll workers first would ask them to remove or cover any campaign-related messages. Some election officials will have smocks on hand, she said. Personally, I'd love to see Joe the Plumber in a smock. His very appearance at the polls, with or without a smock, would be, as far as I'm concerned, electioneering. Better he drape himself in a sheet with eyeholes. And I suppose our nominees should do that too. It would be awful if someone saw Joe Biden voting, as that might cause someone to think he is touting himself for a VP job.

And maybe the poll workers should stand by with duct tape for covering the mouths of anyone who might speak a political word within 100 feet of the polling place.

Kari Verjil, the registrar in San Bernardino County, said in a worst-case scenario she would have to call law-enforcement officers if a voter defies a poll workers' request to follow the law. Anyone who refuses to comply and is found guilty of this crime, a misdemeanor, could be subject to up to 12 months imprisonment, according to the code.

There's nothing like having an election so exciting as to draw the kinds of voting numbers that we are seeing on TV. And nothing so strange as to having to have a full body inspection before we can vote. Makes me wonder if we're going to have a lot of "free-speech" type of protesting going on. I certainly wouldn't be surprised.

I just found this whole article about as bizarre as any I've come across recently. Guess I'd better put away the jeans I was going to wear to the polls, the ones with an embroidered elephant on one back pocket and a donkey on the other. They were cute and really comfy. They are very nice to wear when I am sitting at the computer, because I can keep both political logos and ideas under control. So I'll save these jeans for another day, because if I had been asked by a poll worker to take them off and put on a smock, which would have made my scrawny legs (the ones my little granddaughter called "old") hang out the bottom of the smock, and show my feet with my most comfortable but horribly ugly brown Crocs on them -- well, I just wouldn't be able to do that, and would have to pass up on voting. And I don't want to do that either.

Having said all that, I'll now hold my peace.