Friday, July 31, 2009


I read Olivia’s report card from Second Grade. She’s my next-to-the-youngest granddaughter and like her younger sister Justine, goes to a private k-6 elementary school in Los Angeles. A grandma, or anyone else for that matter, couldn’t have been more pleased at what it said. However, it also made me laugh:

Fall: Second graders have been busy this semester learning desktop publishing. We have been using Microsoft Word to create a document, edit it, and insert graphics and WordArt. We use the Internet to gather information and images. We download images to the desktop. Then we input the images and information into Word, Print Shop and/or Pages to create awesome documents. Second graders use the PCs in the Computer Lab and the Mac laptops in their classrooms. Olivia is a pleasure to teach.

Spring: We continued this semester with projects combining word processing, desktop publishing and the Internet. We visited several websites corresponding to classroom themes. For the dinosaur and the biography project, students gathered information on the Internet. They input their information into a word processor. Then they searched for related images on the Internet. We created several beautiful documents that include borders, headlines (fancy lettering) and clip art using The Print Shop. These documents include poetry pages, portfolio covers and cards. Olivia enjoys computers. Nice work!

What made me laugh is that I thought I should send my husband to Second Grade at the day school. If Olivia can do it, he can too. He has his degree from MIT and you can’t be stupid to get a degree from there. So I am sure that at least one semester at Olivia’s school would help his computer skills immensely. He already knows how to open up a document, make a few changes, save it and print it out. He wouldn’t have to start from ground zero, though it might be close to it.

I’d like nothing better than getting a report card on Jerry’s progress that was as glowing as Olivia’s. Kids like Jerry a lot, and I think he’d fit right in. He can tie shoelaces, too, if one of the little kids gets stuck.

What’dya think? Is he a good candidate or what?!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


The music community in the Los Angeles area is embroiled in a big brouhaha all because the L. A. Opera is in the middle of planning what they call the “2010 Ring Festival Los Angeles,” a city-wide arts celebration that will spotlight Richard Wagner’s 19th century, four-opera “The Ring of the Nibelung.” Seems one of the Los Angeles County Supervisors issued a statement that Wagner was well-known for his anti-Semitic views and that the festival would “be an affront to those who have suffered or have been impacted by the horrors” of the Nazis. He’s going to ask the county board to send a letter to the Opera, requesting that it shift the focus of the festival from Wagner by featuring other classical composers.

According to the LA Times, this will be the LA Opera’s first-ever staging of all four operas in the “Ring” cycle. More than 50 arts institutions will be producing exhibitions and educational programming related to Wagner and his music. Among those are LACMA, the Getty Museum and the LA Philharmonic. Symposiums will be held to discuss Wagner’s anti-Semitic writings and personal views. Leader of one of the discussions, Kenneth Reinhard, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA says that “Wagner was himself dramatically anti-Semitic, but his music is not and there is no reason to censor his music or fail to address his personal beliefs.”

Backers say to change the course of the LA Opera’s plans now would be a monumental financial disaster. The LA Opera has already spent or committed $32 million, much of what still needs to be raised. One of the local music critics says that forfeiting that kind of money would shut down opera in Los Angeles for a very long time.

Subsequent letters to the editor on the Time’s Op-Ed page run the gamut of opinion. Most, pros and cons alike, are rational and interesting to read. And although I don’t think any one carries more weight than another, because there are always two sides to a thing, I had to laugh at one in particular: it seems that Wagner also wrote the “Wedding March” from “Lohengrin” and the writer suggests if we ban Wagner’s music, all the people who marched down the aisle to it should be ashamed of themselves! (Not having marched down any aisle in either of my weddings, luckily I am not a candidate for embarrassment).

But I do have a little confession to make: When we were getting ready to book our flight to Istanbul for our move there, the company Jerry was contracting with had a secretary who handled all the flight arrangements. I told Jerry to let her know that under no circumstances did I want to land in Germany. I would change planes anywhere but there. Yes, Germany is different now than during the war, but I still cannot get out of my deepest soul the first picture I saw in 1945 at the end of the war when I was a 10-year old. I saw for the first time Nazi’s inhumanity toward Jews and others. I saw the pictures of the survivors at Buchenwald, not the dead but the living. To my ten-year old eyes, it was far and away the most horror I had ever seen. Inside my adult self is still that child and that picture. Not ever wanting to be in Germany for any reason is irrational, I know. But I can’t blame those who feel “honoring” Wagner’s music, wonderful as it may be, is akin to honoring the man and his sickness.

I am glad I don’t have to vote on whether or not to celebrate Wagner’s “Ring.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Because of ongoing drought conditions here in Southern California, it appears we are “going brown” instead of going “green.” Well, actually I think that is really all of one process.

As you know from past blogs, we live in a senior (55 and up) complex, which we chose because of its setting – lots of lawn, trees, shrubs, and a management policy that we could plant whatever kinds of plants we wanted around the outside walls of our particular apartment as long as the power mowers could maneuver around them. So we did. That was in April of 2005. The plants are looking good.

However, due to California's water shortage, a new management put in place about 2 years ago has decided to cap all water faucets on the outside of the building so no flower beds can be watered by the residents. Their rationale is that if residents don’t help them cut back on water usage, fines will be levied against the apartment complex, rates will increase and the costs will be passed on to the residents as hefty rent increases.

Management intends to keep the par 3 golf course watered, as well as the areas in the entrance to our complex. It is true that they will continue watering the lawns, but on a reduced schedule. Beyond that, it’s every man for himself. For us, it has meant in order for our plants - 2 white rose bushes, 1 camellia bush, 1 night blooming jasmine, 1 yellow hibiscus, 1 Barbara Karsten bougainvillea and two Cape Royale plumbagos – to survive, we must cart bucket after bucket of water, drawn from our bathtub faucet, through the living room, out the front door and then into the flower beds. When day temperatures hover close to 100 degrees through the summer and fall months, it will be almost impossible to get enough water to those plants to keep them alive. Jerry and I each have been trying to carry four buckets of water out early in the morning and another four buckets in the evening. This is not an easy thing for us to do, and I don’t know that we can keep up the pace. We do this because we sunk a lot of money into “landscaping” around our little tiny apartment and it is hard to stand by and watch our dollars die on the vine, so to speak.

I do understand that Southern California has a water problem. And I don’t want my rent to go up either, so there is not much we can do.

Just today I was looking online at cactus plants. I have never been particularly fond of cacti. I have seen them used to real good advantage when a professional landscaper has had his hand in the choice of plants and their arrangement. It is not something I can do myself. But when my plants die, I am sure not going to put new plants in that can’t sustain themselves in 100+ degree heat without water.

It is hard for me to get excited about a couple of saguaro cacti in place of my two plumbago plants. But I must admit that if I can find a few little cacti that will give me the kind of flowers I see on some of the online cactus sites, I might consider that as a start.

Poor California. We all knew we were desert originally and we all knew that we just might turn back to desert one of these days, but we always thought “Not in our lifetime!” Well, from the looks of my front lawn and my flower beds, we’re on the way! To be very honest with you, if I had to live in a desert, I think I’d just as soon try New Mexico!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


There is little that irks me as much as knowing the IRS is not going after money owed the government by some very rich taxpayers while the rank and file are trying their best to stay afloat in today’s economy.

Actually, when you get right down to it there isn’t much excuse in not going after everybody who owes money. But let’s face it, going after someone who owes $100 is not quite in the same category as going after someone who owes more than $1,000,000.

Why am I getting riled up about this now? A headline in the newspaper a few days ago reads “IRS IS SLOW TO PURSUE BIG DEBTS”

The article itself says that according to a Treasury Department audit, the IRS has failed to collect taxes from 18% of those who owe more than $1 million.

Whoever it was on the newspaper who asked “Why?” was told that it was the computer’s fault! It seems because of computer glitches that apparently go back to 2007, 448 of the 2,451 individual taxpayers who owed $1 million or more as of December 2007 were either waiting to be processed or had been assigned a lower priority than the other cases. Makes one wonder who programmed the computer and who determines priority?

The 448 delinquent accounts totaled $1.2 billion, and almost half had been uncollected for more than a year.

Is this the best the IRS can do? Who is watching the IRS? Who is watching the people who are running the computers? Who is trying to fix the glitch? Who is watching to see that it gets done? Who in our government can set this right? Who are these people who owe more than $1 million? Is there a reason they aren’t paying their taxes? Is the IRS going after them with the same vengeance as they are doing for the little hourly people who live from paycheck to paycheck and get behind on their taxes? Are the computers still broken? Have they been fixed? How hard is the Treasury Department working to rectify what their own audit showed them? To whom are they accountable? Where does the buck stop on this one?

In the scheme of things, when we are daily hearing about trillions of dollars, $1.2 billion may seem like small potatoes to the government, but I’m afraid we, the people, don’t think it is small potatoes and we’d like something done about it immediately.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Sometimes I wonder what the world is coming to. Imagine, an airline just for pets. My, My, My.

I know there lots of people who travel all over the world to dog and cat shows to show their animals, and these animals mostly ride in the cargo hold. I know there are some people whose little pet is small enough to ride under the seat in a regular airplane. And I also know some horror stories of dogs and cats riding in cargo and something going awry. But I guess I am just surprised that there is enough interest in flying pets around the country in the cabin of an airplane to be able to start up and sustain an airline with only pets as “pawsengers.”

If you look at this company’s website - - you will find everything you ever wanted to know about how a traveling pooch or puss will get from here to there. At moment, there are flights going in and out of only five major cities: New York, Washington, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. The company actually operates out of smaller regional airports in the five launch cities, which will mean an extra trip for most owners dropping off their pets if they too are flying. And since a plane leaving LA with a “pawsenger” headed to New York makes a stop in Chicago, where the pets will have a bathroom break, play time, dinner and a good nights sleep, and I suppose pick up new “pawsengers” going to New York from Chicago, the flight will turn into close to a 24 hour trip. So the owners have to weigh some issues before they make a choice of how to get their little friend from point A to point B. If keeping them out of the cargo hold is one’s priority, then 24 hours en route is not going to be a deal breaker.

In reading carefully what is written on the company’s internet website, the plan really sounds like a wonderful step up from a cargo hold. It’s definitely first class service. And when you get down to it, the costs aren’t all that bad either.

When we came home from Istanbul bringing our two adoptees – Tigger and Cipsi – they travelled from Istanbul to Amsterdam in the cargo hold on a Turkish Airlines plane. And then two months later they traveled from Amsterdam to Los Angeles the same way on KLM Dutch Airlines. This was before I heard of all the calamities that can befall animals in the cargo hold. But even so, if my option had been to leave them behind or put them in the cargo hold, I was willing to take my chances. They arrived in LA happy as clams, none the worse for wear, and no psychological damage that we could see!

I will probably never have a choice whether to fly our little Squeaky the same way. I do believe that since she simply squeaks instead of meows, and because she is so little (a 10 pounder), she might do well under a seat on a regular plane, though I would probably worry myself sick about whether or not she is going to make a pest of herself with her squeaking. But that would be my method of choice if I were going on a trip where I needed to take her with me.

I wish this new airline well. I think there are many more people than I am aware of who would utilize this service, and the owners have seemed to think of everything. I’m going to keep my eyes open to follow the progress of this most interesting endeavor – a Pet Airlines, of all things!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Justine, my youngest grandchild, just finished up kindergarten at a private elementary school in Los Angeles. Her mom sent me a copy of her report card and I’d like to share with you what the art teacher said:

“The Kindergarteners began the term with a drawing project intended to help me assess their developmental level. After that, we did a series of template drawings, a potent way to expand fine motor skills as well as begin thinking about elements of design. At first, the young artists worked with standard colored pencils on white paper, but then repeated the template project using metallic colored pencils on black paper. These variations demonstrated the connection between media used and product produced. We then did a bit of watercolor painting, an introductory project primarily designed to teach how to properly use watercolor sets and appropriate care for brushes. The next few weeks were spent on the Multicultural Day assignment, creating a project reminiscent of Uzbekistani textiles. Other goals of this project included an understanding of the concept of putting a drawing “in repeat,” an essential element in textile design. After that, we did a cartoon unit, using a series of simple characters, Otto O’Toole and friends. Cartooning, in addition to being fun, is a potent introduction to representational drawing. Finally, the children did an abstract design project, using various colors of plastic electrical tape. One of the goals of this task was to demonstrate how art can be created from materials not usually thought of in that context.”

Can you imagine a kindergartner having this kind of exposure to art? Yes, it is a private school and the classes are much smaller than classes in public school and surely it must be easier to find time (and teachers) to make this happen. But when I read this, my first reaction was to feel sorry for myself.

Little Justine is having the kind of art education I wish I had had! I have such a love of art and so little understanding of it. Fifteen years of schooling and no one ever told me about elements of design and the connection between media used and product produced. Nor about the essential elements of textile design and about representational drawing. I could go on, but it probably was that way with you too, if you went to public school in California.

I do remember taking Art 1 in 7th grade for the first semester and I think Music 1 replaced Art during the second semester. But at that time it was more “exposure” than “experiencing,” giving us just a wee acquaintance with the subject. From that point on, both art and music classes were electives. Unless we chose them to the exclusion of other academic classes, our art and music learning was finished!

If little kindergarteners are being exposed to these kinds of things when they are five years old and are having hands-on experience producing while they are learning, and if that exposure continues each year (which it does at Justine’s school), how enriching it is going to make Justine’s life as she grows up and has all of Los Angeles’ creative community at her fingertips.

I read her report card and thought to myself that I’ve been cheated!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Now I can’t say as I understand all this, so you’ll have to bear with me if what I say is worded awkwardly or isn’t quite 100% accurate, but it’s about when a white onion turns green, which is a good thing for everybody.

Seems there is an onion farmer up in Oxnard, California who sends his onions to many places and in many forms. I’m talking about round, white onions, not long green onions. His onions are skinned, diced, sliced or packaged whole. However, he, (he being Steven Gill) says that machines slice off about 40% of each onion before it is packed. With the volume of onions handled in a workday, that produces about 150 tons of waste each day.

Up until recently he used these leavings as fertilizer for his fields or sold them to cattle farmers as feed for their stock. But Steve and his brother David came up with an idea. They put the leftovers into machines that extract about 30,000 gallons of onion juice, which is then sent to a huge holding tank that keeps it at 95 degrees F. Into that juice they add bacteria purchased from Anheuser-Busch beer brewery. Methane gas is produced by the bacteria feasting on the carbohydrates in the fermenting juice.

According to an article in the LA Times, the gas is purified, dehumidified and compressed, then burned in the fuel cells at temperatures that exceed 1,000 degrees. The 600-kilowatt system produces enough power to operate the plant’s refrigeration units and lighting.

This is called a closed-loop system. The brothers said there were massive up-front costs to get this system going, but he feels it was a long term investment for the company. He has sliced $700,000 annually off the electric bill at the 14 acre plant in Oxnard. He also saves $400,000 a year on disposal costs. It says it was a $9.5 million system that will pay for itself in less than six years. But best of all, it eliminates up to 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions a year. Steven is proud that it is a great “sustainability” story, but he said it was first a business decision to solve a waste problem.

I was quite delighted to read this somewhat technical article. It is not easy to be “green.” It’s easy to leave the problem for someone else to worry about. It’s easy to think one’s own little contribution isn’t worth all the effort and change to even mess around with it. I am not much in touch with farming and businesses and electricity and so on, and I have to admit I don’t read much about sustainability and carbon footprints and even how to be “green.” But I was very impressed with what these fellows have done. I do think they are being good stewards of the earth, and felt I wanted to give them a thumbs up in my little corner of the internet!

Friday, July 24, 2009


From Thursday to Sunday I get two morning newspapers – the LA Times and the local Press Enterprise. Yesterday one of them had an article and picture showing a baby simian of some sort being tickled. The little guy did have a smile on his or her face, and the article reported that a study had been done on various baby simians which showed that they laughed like human babies do when they are tickled.

AHA! I thought to myself. And not being inclined toward creationism I added, “So there you have it!” And of course I immediately thought of using that in a blog. However, being of a somewhat forgetful nature in my old age, I tossed the paper out with the trash and forgot about it until this morning when I sat down to do my blog. Rats!

But in letting Google find the story for me to refresh my memory, I found that this article was printed by Manchester, England’s Guardian newspaper back on June 4. Made me wonder if the Editors of the newspaper I read it in yesterday had taken this long to decide on the appropriateness of printing such an article, thinking of its ramifications. You know how Puritan our society has become when it touches on creation vs. evolution.

Well, I don’t think the article made any definite pronouncements. But in reading the online story there were still a few points worth noting. It said that Davila Ross traveled to seven zoos around Europe and to a wildlife reserve in Borneo in order to record baby and juvenile apes while their caretakers tickled them. She said that tickling is a very important part of the caretakers’ playing with the apes, and that there are certain body parts that are more ticklish than other. Armpits and feet were two of those parts. (Sound familiar?)

If you are a creationist, then it will please you to know although it was true that the little guys laughed, it did not sound at all like human laughing. Seems humans only laugh on exhaling, whereas simians laugh both exhaling and inhaling. And according to Robert Provine, a psychologist and a neuroscientist at the U of Maryland, he reported that he and his students did some similar studies and likened chimp laughter to the sounds of “a dog panting, an asthma attack or hyperventilation. Some even thought the noise was caused by someone sawing.” Which then made me think of Jerry’s snoring. (Is that relevant?)

Well, I didn’t really come up to any definite conclusion about simian laughter, other than it was a very funny study report. However, the article ended with another illustration of simian behavior that is worth reporting:

Seems a chimp in a Swedish zoo had started to challenge scientists’ views about the unique nature of human behavior. “The 31-year-old male chimp, Santino, regularly displayed thuggish behavior by preparing piles of rocks while the zoo was closed and then lobbing them at visitors when the gates opened. The chimp has since been castrated.”

As my daughter Kerry so aptly remarks about things, “So there you go!”

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I’ve been on a mission to get some files cleaned out. I’ve saved certain things for a very long time and it’s time to get rid of them. I am well aware that the minute something gets thrown away, fate will intervene and you’ll need it. Nevertheless, I’m on a much needed roll!

Yesterday I came upon a batch of old ephemera I acquired after my mother’s death in 1982. She’d saved pages from an old mimeographed elementary school student newspaper dated 1943 and 1944 but only the pages with my stories on them. The original pages are disintegrating into a pile of confetti in the bottom of the file cabinet, but at least in 1982 I had the foresight to make a photocopy of them. In the intervening years, because they were tucked so far back in the file cabinet drawer I’d quite forgotten about them.

The school was Frances E. Willard Elementary in Long Beach, California. I entered it toward the end of first grade and stayed there through fourth grade. I loved school and I still have vivid memories of my days at Willard.

While I was looking at the little newspaper, my eye stopped on a story about an airport.

When I read that I had a real flashback. After we got the airport up and running, we each made an airplane. Now I came from a family of females and building a little airplane just wasn’t in my experience. I remember being handed a chunk of balsa wood and some sandpaper; this was not to be a model airplane from a kit. We were to sand and chisel that block of wood until it looked exactly like the one our teacher (or perhaps her husband) made as an example. If all went well, it was eventually going to be a silver airplane. I had my doubts.

But when we started work on it, a cute little kid named Jerry Laposa came to my side and helped me through the process. I can remember him showing me how to use the sandpaper for shaping the fuselage. In thinking back on it I couldn’t remember exactly what kind of an airplane we were making. I thought maybe because we were in the middle of World War II we made a bomber. But then I saw another story on that same page written by one of my classmates, Russell Payne, and it said that we were making “clippers.”

Ahhhhh, I remember! A clipper. The wings on top. And then I remembered having to dig out a certain square of balsa wood on the top so the wings would lie flat across the fuselage like the wings of real clippers. And then I remembered Jerry Laposa helping me with a little chisel, too.

From that point on, I began getting a PowerPoint-like recollection of my time at Willard, and little Jerry was in all of them. I remember working with him on the Victory Garden. When we were studying Pueblo Indians I was the mother of the family, Blue Bird, and Jerry Laposa was White Eagle, the father. Later we studied a unit on the Post Office, including v-mail letters, and Jerry was the postmaster and I the patron.

By third grade Jerry and I considered ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. There was no handholding or smooching, but there was an inner knowledge that we were an item! By fourth grade Jerry Laposa and I were exchanging Christmas Gifts – he gave me a little vial of Eau de Cologne and I gave him a small faux-leather wallet. Our parents were enablers, driving me to deliver the gift to Jerry and his father bringing Jerry to my house, gift in hand. He appears in all my birthday party pictures, though I do not recall attending his. We never talked on the phone or saw each other outside of school except for those parties we were invited too. Definitely we exchanged Valentine’s day cards, and of course I made sure he got the best card out of the box of little cards my mother bought to be given to my classmates.

Times were different then, but puppy love was already in the air.

In the summer after my 4th grade year the war ended, my father bought a business and we moved across town to 1620 Gardenia, the first house my family ever owned. If I felt bad about leaving Jerry, I don’t remember. I was excited to be going to a new school in the fall, going into 5th grade, and I had high hopes for lots of new friends.

It is amazing what memories can be pulled out of a file cabinet. Things that had been stored in my own memory out of sight for 65 years today were pulled out just as easily as taking something out of a file drawer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I guess it is a good thing I’m not a boss anymore.

Really, I never was much of a boss – or to be more precise, I actually only had one person that reported to me and who was there at my pleasure. I hired that person and I could have fired that person. So that made me a boss, I guess.

I always made my instructions and my expectations clear. I mentored where the people needed mentoring and corrected where they needed correcting. I was not particularly easy on them when it came time for their reviews nor was I hard on them. They knew where they stood with me and there never were any surprises in their reviews. They knew my reasons for my expectations and understood that they were there to meet them. They did, and we got along fine. During my six years I had two different people in that position, and we all started and ended up friends.

However, it is a good thing I am not a boss anymore.

I read in Sunday’s paper that it is a common complaint from today’s young people who join the work force with the expectation that their bosses will embrace technology as much as they do to discover that the bosses don’t think it is appropriate to do personal work on company time. These young ones expect to be able to read news stories online, read and answer their personal e-mail and visit various social networking accounts. They want access to everything from YouTube to Facebook and Hotmail. They say that they will not let these personal activities interfere with their job responsibilities.

Give me a break! I wasn’t born yesterday. I see what young people are doing with their computers, their cell phones, their texting, etc. Do I think if they are allowed to do this on the job it will never interfere with their job responsibilities? The article says that young people who do this at work tend to be more willing to put in time after hours in exchange for flexibility on the job. Do I think this is accurate? Absolutely not. And especially not after hours on overtime pay! They are as preoccupied with these things after work as they are during the eight-hour workday.

The article says that today’s young work force wants it this way and employers had better figure out how to get the jobs done and let the kids have their toy time.

It is a good thing I am not a boss anymore. I’d probably have to go on sick leave from apoplexy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Here locally – well, really about half-way between here and Loma Linda - there is a canyon that connects the Loma Linda-Colton area of San Bernardino County with the Moreno Valley area of Riverside County. It’s possible to take the freeway from one place to the other, but sometimes if the freeway is clogged up, or if you just need a soul-soothing ride, it is really pleasant to drive through Reche Canyon, which is sparsely populated. It’s a two lane road and not really heavily trafficked – and it’s not really very long either, just a few miles, maybe 8 or so.

But there is one unique problem with it: there are darling little wild burros wandering around, mostly in the hills but often near the road itself. Every now and then a burro gets onto the road and is hit by a car. It happens about once a month and when it does, the burros are usually killed outright or damaged so badly they must be euthanized. As if that isn’t bad enough, some years back a young woman driving through the canyon at dusk hit a burro and its body crashed through her windshield, killing her too. At night it is especially difficult to see the little guys, and if it wasn’t for the fact that there is not a lot of traffic through the canyon after dark, the threat would be far greater.

There are people living in the canyon who generally do so because they want acreage for their animals and a rural lifestyle. Several of them have formed a support group for the burros. Their first goal is to make reflective collars to put on as many burros as they can so car headlights can pick them up long before the car reaches them. Some of the animals are fairly socialized and the support group works to find good homes for those. Sometimes baby burros are found separated from their mothers, and these little guys are hand raised, becoming as companionable as a dog. No one wants to kill the critters off, so this support group is working hard to make living together safer.

There are a number of stories put forth about how the burros got into the canyon in the first place, because this is not their natural habitat. They are known to have been there as far back as the 1950s. Periodically a newspaper does a feature story on them and touts the support group’s efforts. This group now has its own website at It’s an interesting site to nose around on, with lots of information about burros in general and these burros in particular. And lots of pictures. If you take a look you’ll see that there are some awfully cute little guys.

Working to make the area safer for man and beast is a noble endeavor, I think.

Yea, I’m a softy, that’s for sure.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Sometimes I think when people begin feeling helpless about the big things in life, they go around looking for a little thing to object to. And if things go their way, they will “Win” instead of “Lose.” "We may not be able to change everything," they think, "but man, we can change this!”

In this case, “This” is a 5’10” mannequin that was purchased and placed outside a Barbecue restaurant in a little town in southern Ohio. No, she’s not naked, but she is voluptuous, which, depending on the eye of the beholder, is either very good or very bad.

She was brought to town this spring by the owner of the restaurant. Because of the bad times, many shops along his street have been boarded up or have left town. The small town of just 11,000 people is struggling to attract businesses. The owner of the restaurant himself reports that his own business pre-mannequin was down about 40%. In an entrepreneurial spirit, he thought perhaps a sandwich board out in front would help pull in business, and in browsing through a catalog for sandwich boards he saw “her.”

She was a model WL-25, which was described as “European large bust.” And therein lies the problem: too much chest. The owner made a place for her on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. He dressed her in donated clothing - a bikini bra in a Hawaiian print, denim shorts, which all young pretty girls love to wear, and a baseball cap. He named her “BarBe Q.”

He might have named her “Lusty Busty Brown,” whom some of you older folk in California may remember as an erstwhile model by that name back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. But he didn’t go after a titillating name, just an appropriate name for a pretty mannequin with long blond hair and comfy clothing outside his Barbecue restaurant.

Well, half the town raised a ruckus. One woman thought a hooker had taken up residence in front of the restaurant. Another one demanded that BarBe Q put on a shirt and look decent! One family decided to move to a place where they wouldn’t even have to drive by the restaurant.

But on the positive side, one lady glanced at her and said, “I’m jealous,” but then suggested BarBe Q also put on some high-heeled shoes to go with that outfit! And others just couldn’t figure what the hullabaloo was all about. Let the poor man be, they thought.

Because of the complaints, the city fathers were fairly concerned and wanted her to wear more clothing, as well as to meet some other requirements, but when it was pointed out that several bridal shops in town featured lacy, peek-a-boo lingerie on mannequins in their shop windows, and after much discussion, the city fathers settled for an Advertising permit and a few other little administrative details.

So for now, both the restaurant owner and BarBe Q are alive and well. When the owner puts his chickens in the smoker, a line of customers stretches out the door and down the street. Everyone admits his chicken, his brisket and pulled pork sandwiches are well worth the wait.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Sometimes in genealogy, when you know you are going to be researching your families who lived in the south before the civil war, you just have to steel yourself against what you probably are going to learn. Even so, you probably are not going to be totally prepared for what you find.

I am presently writing up a narrative of my dad's mom's side of the family. Dad's mom (my grandmother, Maud McConnell Dobbins) was born in Glasgow, Kentucky. In a story written by my Aunt Dorothy, Dad's sister, she mentions that the old family in Kentucky had slaves before the Civil War, but that when they were emancipated, the slaves wanted to stay with the family. Now that may be true, but of course it is beside the point. The point is that facing the fact of slavery in one's family is not at all an easy thing to do, even if they were treated nicely.

Grandma Dobbins' mother was Narcissa Frances Wright, also of Glasgow, KY. Narcissa's father was Uberto Wright, likewise of Glasgow. And Uberto Wright's father was Jacob Wright, who died in 1857 possessed of a large estate which included eleven negro slaves.

In order to settle the estate according to Jacob's will, it had to be inventoried. All the papers generated in settling the estate are still available in the county courthouse. The first document begins this way: A true and just inventory and appraisment of all the slaves and personal estate of Jacob Wright, deceased, which was produced to use by U. Wright, his executor.

First on the list is Baylor, with a notation "not valued at anything." One can assume he was a baby, but that's just an assumption. Perhaps he was an old man no longer capable of working. Then the list goes on, showing Billy on the low side, worth $250, to Samuel and Felix, both worth $1,200.00. Those amounts are in 1857 money. In 1857, $1.00 would buy just about what $12.00 would today.

Some of the other items on the list and their value are as follows:

1 yellow horse - $25.00
3 axes - $1.25
3 kettles - $3.00
1 bed and furniture - $20.00
5 beef cattle - $90.00
1 muley cow and calf - $14.00
1 white faced heifer and calf - $8.00
1 brown filly - $100
1 crib of corn supposed to be 125 barrels - $156.25

The sale was held and the proceeds of the estate distributed to the heirs as per the will.

What is hard to understand is that the slaves were considered property, and from the price they would fetch on the market you can see that they were a large and valuable part of a man's estate.

As a genealogist, we try to learn as much as we can about our families and the times they lived in. If we had all good old New England ancestors we wouldn't need to be dealing with the value of slaves when we write up our papers. But the truth is that some of us did have slaves in the family, and seeing their names written down on a property inventory may be interesting, but we sure don't have to like it one bit!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


When I was living in Istanbul, every three months I flew over to London to do some clothes shopping and some research in the Public Record Offices. Heading back to the airport for the return flight I always stopped at a Stainsbury grocery store to stock up on things I couldn’t get in Turkey. During those visits I learned how to use the “Tube” to get around in the city and really became quite adept at it. However, there’s not a whole lot that a tourist can do while riding through mile after mile of tunnels. It was ok for me, because I only had 3 days of it, but I knew it would sure be a boring thing for people to do day after day on their way to or from their jobs.

So it was with interest that I heard recently that drivers and staffers on the Piccadilly line have been given a book full of sayings by famous people that they encouraged to share whenever and however they choose in the course of their day’s work. Where we might say, “Take care, and have a good day,” someone alighting from a subway car in London might hear over the intercom, “John Ruskin said, ‘When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package.’” The powers-that-be who thought this up figured giving people something to think about might be a nice change for them than hearing again and again, “Remember to take your package with you when you exit the car.”

And in reading that I thought of the several times I’ve been on an airplane when the lead attendant had everyone in stitches over the way he or she phrased the mostly boring things that had to be told to us about safety issues, or when getting ready to take off or land. I love hearing clever things and usually get a good laugh out of them. But I also like pithy sayings. I think hearing something that makes you think a bit is not all that bad either.

So I decided that today I’d throw out a few of my favorite “quotes” – some of which I know the author of and others I don’t. But see if any of these might make your own list.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM in 1943.

“Anything that is too stupid to be spoken is sung.” Voltaire

“It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Clinton

“I don’t feel good.” Luther Burbank’s last words.

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Rodin when asked how he managed to make his remarkable statues.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Mark Twain

“99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.” Unknown

“Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” Proverb

“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” General John Sedgwick (1813-1864) last words.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olson, Founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977.

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” Bertrand Russell

“Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.” C. G. Jung

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” Abraham Lincoln

“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” Oscar Wilde.

“When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.” Mae West

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true” Nietzsche

“You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” Al Capone

“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. General George Patton

“I would have made a good Pope.” Richard Nixon

“A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines. Frank Lloyd Wright.

“God is Dead” – Nietzsche. “Nietzsche is Dead” – God.

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” Bill Gates in 1981.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Once upon a time, in a land far away, a beautiful, independent, self-assured princess happened upon a frog as she sat contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond near her castle.

The frog hopped into the princess’ lap and said, “Elegant Lady, I was once a handsome prince until an evil witch cast a spell upon me. One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back into the dapper young prince that I am, and then, my sweet, we can marry and set up housekeeping in your castle with my mother, where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children and forever feel grateful and happy doing so.”

That night, as the princess dined sumptuously on a repast of lightly sauteed frog legs seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce, she chuckled to herself and thought, “I don’t f*&%ing think so.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Not that I think the Episcopalians and the Anglicans are going at it to the extent shown in the picture above, but if you've read in the newspaper about the split in the Episcopal denomination you'll understand.

Some time ago the main denomination splintered over certain issues, among which was gay bishops, same-sex marriage and social action rather than evangelism. These issues had long been the focus of unrest and unhappiness within the Episcopal church, and finally the disagreement turned into action. The group which left basically was not in favor of these things and last month became a new national church called the Anglican Church in North America, much more traditional and evangelical.

The Episcopal General Conference recently met in Anaheim, and in her opening address to the convention the church's presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori shared these thoughts, among others: That we can be saved as individuals and that any of us alone can be in right relations with God is heresy; that an individual's prayer can achieve a saving relationsip with God is heresy; that individualist focus is a form of idolatry in that it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy.

Is she right?

Now the little religious being that still lurks around in my adult soul is flabbergasted at this statement, although not surprised. The rational being in my adult soul says "So who cares?" But I must admit that I got a good laugh from an online poll reported by in answer to the question: "What's your reaction to these statements by Bishop Jefferts Schori?" Answers were grouped as follows:

1. 4.70 percent said, "How'd she get to be the leader of the Episcopal Church?"
2. 24.66 percent said, "No surprise, considering her church ordained an openly homosexual bishop."
3. 28.59% said, "This is further evidence of Episcopal leaders moving away from orthodox doctrine"

And the one that made me laugh:
4. 42.04% said, "She is the heretic!"

Such interesting things go on in the name of religion!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Look at the sweet face of this cat. She is as sweet as she looks. The only thing is, she has a problem but it is not of her own making.

Her potty box, a triangular covered box that fits neatly into a corner of our tiny back "porch," has now become a thing of terror for this sweet cat. Why?

A couple of days ago, Jerry was reaching to get a bottle of water which we stored on a top shelf adjacent to the cat's box. He quite accidently hit a can of diet soda with his elbow and sent it crashing down onto the cover of the cat box. It made a god-awful noise.

The cat happened to be inside the box at that very moment and she ran flying out of it like a bat out of hell. Her hair was standing straight up -- she was so scared she looked electrified. He felt awful, of course, and attended to her with much petting, soothing words and apologies.

Did all that make her feel better? Well, she looks a lot better, but since that time she will no long go inside the box. All the cajoling in the world has not made her change her mind. As far as she is concerned, it's a no brainer: you get scared like that and you simply make sure it will never happen again.

The point of the box being covered is twofold: first, she is one of those cats that will dig to China, causing litter to fly everywhere, before the hole is suitable for her, and secondly and most important, she has a strange way of urinating, much more like a male cat spraying than a tidy little "sit" like a normal female cat. We never were able to find a potty box with high enough sides to contain her urine when nature called. I was having to scrub around the box after every one of her trips.

So at the present time we are trying to re-train her to walk into the box. But to avoid her using the carpet in the living room in the meantime, after so many hours we break down and remove the lid, at which point she happily uses the box. Training a cat is almost impossible under ordinary circumstances and retraining one that happened to experience an extraordinary circumstance is -- well, I'm thinking of impossible as being the correct word.

It's really not her problem and not her fault. We just have to wait and see how this situation evolves. Cats are pretty smart, but whether this cat is smart enough to know it will never happen again, I just don't know. What I do know is that if she eventually does use the covered box again, we will certainly move the stored items to a different location!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


One of my favorite places in Turkey is the little town of Iznik, formerly called Nicaea. It is an old, old city, probably dating from 1000 BC. It was revitalized by one of Alexander the Great’s generals in 316 BC and renamed Nicaea, after another general’s wife. By 74 BC it was part of the Roman Empire. Under Roman control it got new walls, temples, theaters and baths.

If you are coming from Istanbul, a trip of about 90 minutes, you will drive along the shoreline of Lake Iznik on the way to the town.

Then as you get closer, you will drive through several layers of Byzantine and Roman walls, and finally enter by the old Istanbul Gate.

With the rise of Constantine, who was head of the Christian Church, the town took on new importance. In 325 Constantine called what became known as the First Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church. It was the first time all the Bishops of the church had come together, and the primary cause was because of a particular heresy that had arisen about the nature of Jesus, called “Arianism” Besides the condemnation of this heresy, the council also created the “Creed of Nicaea” – the intent being to define unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.

This Council was held at Sancta Sophia Church, which as you would expect is now in ruins but still very interesting. The original building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1065 but rebuilt. At that time Mosaics were set into the walls. The church became a mosque with the ottoman conquest in 1331, and then had to be restored once again because of a fire in 1500.

Nevertheless, when you stand inside those ruins, you can’t help but feel you are still in a place where a major event in the history of Christianity took place.

Nicaea, now Iznik, was also the location of the 7th Ecumenical Council. This time it had to settle a controversy over whether or not Icons – pictures of Christ, the apostles, the saints, and holy events - would be allowed in the church. Iconoclasts, the term given to those who felt that icons were the “images” prohibited by the Bible, destroyed them wherever they could. The church council ruled against this, and in doing so enabled artists through the ages to create in peace.

But Iznik has more than just religious history to commend it. In 1514 Sultan Selim I rolled his armies over Azerbaijan and packed up all of the region’s artisans and took them to Iznik. They brought with them a high level of expertise in the making of colored tiles. A great period of Iznik tile making started and really lasted until 1700. Now the art of colored tile-making is being revived, and you can buy good examples at moderate prices. Any of the old antique Iznik tiles cannot be legally exported from Turkey.

Jer and I found the local museum to be among the most interesting we visited, and on the grounds I took a picture of Jerry standing next to a tiny tomb. Who would have thought a tiny baby would have such a lovely place of repose.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I don't like to get my ideas for these simple little offerings from other bloggers, but sometimes it would just be a shame not to pass something on to my own readers. Today is one of those days. Today's offering appeared last week on the blog of Tom McMahon, a fellow I don't always agree with but whose head is always filled with interesting and amazing stuff.

Via the American Presidents Blog, Clifton Truman Daniel tells a story about his Grandpa:

Grandpa was the last truly accessible ex-President. When he retired, the Secret Service protection vanished. It was not extended to ex-Presidents until after John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963. There is a five-foot steel fence around the house, put up by the Service in 1947, but from 1953 to 1964 it wasn't locked. Anyone who wanted to could walk up and knock on the door.

My favorite story is about the man whose car blew a tire on Delaware Street, right in front of the house. Not knowing where he was or whose house he was approaching, the man walked through the unlocked gate and up to the front door where he rang the bell. Grandpa answered in his shirtsleeves.

"Can I use your phone, please?" the man said. "I have a flat."

"Sure," Grandpa said. "Come on in."

The man called a local mechanic, who said it would take 20 minutes or so to get to him.

"I'll wait outside," he told Grandpa.

"Nonsense," Grandpa said. "Have a seat. Relax."

As far as we know, they spent the next 20 minutes chatting amiably in the living room. When the tow truck arrived, the man stood, shook Grandpa's hand, and thanked him for his hospitality.

"Not at all," Grandpa said, showing the man out. "It was nice talking to you."

The man got halfway down the front steps before he stopped and turned.
"I hope you won't take offense," he said. "But you look a lot like that son of a bitch Harry Truman."

"No offense at all," Grandpa said with wide grin. "I am that son of a bitch."

Sunday, July 12, 2009


We're not exactly LA-LA land here in northwest Riverside County, but an invention written about recently in our local newspaper made me wonder.....

Seems like a lady in Norco had invented - or perhaps "developed" is a better word - headlights for horses.

You have to understand that Norco (which really started out as north Corona) is probably one of the horsiest towns around and really fights tooth and nail to keep its horses and riders on the streets. You have to give them credit; they are bound and determined to have one piece of California left for themselves. They don't want to sell out to developers who will turn their beautiful rural area into a parking lot for million-dollar tract homes. They want to be able to ride their horses down the street whenever they want, day or night, just like in the old days.

Well, the newspaper article told about a lady who while driving down one of Norco's streets one evening rather suddenly came upon some horses being ridden in the street. It was dark, the horses were dark, the riders wore dark clothing, and although this lady did not evem come close to hitting them, she saw the potential for it to happen, so she developed a set of battery-operated lights that attach to the front part of the harness that goes across the horse's chest. These have been tested on a night trail-ride and the leader, whose horse was wearing them, said it was very helpful for her to be able to see ahead on the trail so she could lead the rest of the riders away from pitfalls.

The inventor now is working on a horse taillight so that people approaching a horse from behind will have advance warning. It will be interesting to find out how she will attach the taillight.

While I think this all is a good idea, I sure got a good chuckle over it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


This is a photograph of my grandfather, Scott Walter Dobbins, Sr. The image is lifted from a picture of the full Midway Railway Band of Colorado City, Colorado and probably was taken about 1898.

Scott was born in Lawrence, Kansas in 1873 to James Sellers and Nancy Corel (widow LaHay) Dobbins. Sometime around 1875 the family, which also included Scott's older brother Gaston, left Kansas for Las Animas, Colorado, where Scott lived for the rest of his life. His father homesteaded east of the town of Las Animas and that's where the boys were raised. When Jim died in 1902, the boys inherited the land; Scott bought out his brother and then sometime around 1908 sold the property.

Both boys were musicians. Gaston played the trombone and Scott the cornet. In those days every town of any size had a band, and the boys played in the Las Animas Band. But during the summers they also played in the Midway Railway Band in Colorado City (which is now the western side of Colorado Springs). The uniform that Scott is wearing in the above photo is that of a Railway conductor. However, for major performances and competitions, the band also appeared in full Indian regalia.

I have two pictures of the Las Animas Band. I'd guess this photo dates from around 1898. Gaston is on the right of the bottom row and Scott is barely seen on the right of the last row. All you can see of him is a round face with a shako.

This second photo can be dated around 1908. Scott is on the left side of the front row, and Gaston is behind him. The little kid in front is Percy, Gaston's youngest son. I suspect that the young man with the clarinet behind Percy is Traber, Percy's older brother. Traber played the clarinet and after high school began playing in the Sells-Floto circus headquartered in Florida.

What I have learned from my genealogy studies is that music played a large part in the life of the Dobbins families. Even James Sellers Dobbins's uncles taught in a shape-note singing school on the plains of Illinois back in the 1840s.
My father played, or rather played at, the banjo and the piano. And my generation dabbled at a few music lessons - violin, guitar, piano, bassoon - but no one ever ended up making much in the way of music! But I am proud to have the Dobbins musical heritage show up in my son Sean and his family. Sean and Brendan play horns and Nancy and Caitlin play flutes and handbells. All are accomplished musicians.

Although pre-genealogy I knew that my Grandpa Dobbins (who died in 1917, long before I was born) was a musician, it is from my genealogical research that I'm able to document by pictures just what form that musical talent took in the lives of my family.

Friday, July 10, 2009


For some strange reason, the books that are reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, my home-town newspaper, not only never seem to be my cup of tea but also are written in such abstruse language that I can’t understand what the reviewer is saying. So I am really beholden to the New York Times weekend book review online for my ideas of what new is in print that I might like to read. That’s exactly where my idea of reading Thomas Maier’s new book MASTERS OF SEX: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love came from.

This was an extremely interesting book to read – well, that’s true but saying it that way is a little misleading. With its subject matter, it was neither scurrilous nor titillating, neither embarrassing nor boring. Right off the bat Maier’s following the childhoods of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson (a married name) helps the reader understand how the subjects maneuvered through such an amazing adulthood and such a surprising profession. The story is not so much of sex but of the lives of these two people as they progress through researching that ultimately will change them and society alike.

Maier uses the same clinical and appropriate verbiage in describing the ground-breaking sex studies that Masters and Johnson did. His sensitive handling of this material makes this book very readable and of such interest that it is hard to put down. In reading the book there is no cause to titter, which may be a disappointment to some but which I, with my sometimes prudish bent, found very gratifying.

But the big surprise for me was that although I remember when the Masters and Johnson report came out, I don’t look back on it and say it changed my life in any way like Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” did. I guess I didn’t pay much attention to it. In the seventies I was busy moving through a divorce and later a new marriage and I suppose this society-changing study just wasn’t on my radar. But in reading this book I was astounded to see in black and white where people were in the ‘50s and ‘60s with their understanding of sex – and where this study allowed us to be taken in the 70’s and 80’s. It seems now as if we have always known these things. But as the book points out, in the 50s the word “pregnant” could not be used on TV. Such a change!

As a biography the book is a stunner. Dr. Ruth Westheimer, whom we all know from those years, says of it, "No novelist could come up with something as remarkable as the real life story of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the married experts giving advice to America on sex and love. With insightful reporting and writing, Thomas Maier has captured this extraordinary relationship between these male and female sex researchers, a legacy that transformed the way couples live today."

It’s a very good book.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


AOL had a list today of 21 items that we could do without. Here's its list:

1) Ice Cream Makers, 2) Rice cookers, 3) Shoe inserts, 4) Polaroid camera, 5) Iron, 6) Hobby Kits, 7) Tie Racks, 8) Give-away thumb drives, 9) Trade show giveaway junk, 10) Bargain DVDs, 11) Ear candles, 12) Books in a Kindle World, 13) Home Theater Sound Systems, 14) Bread Machines, 15) VCRPlus Gizmos, 16) Ionic Breeze, 17) Piggy Banks, 18) Ab Rollers, 19) Radar Detectors, 20) Baby Wipe Warmer, 21) Happy Meal toys.

Now I have to agree on some of these as being totally useless. I’ve had Ice Cream Makers, Rice Cookers, and Bread Machines pass through my kitchen almost unused. I did try extra-hard with the Bread Machine but I never ever got a decent loaf out of it. All it ever did was wake me up in the middle of the night kneading away with a godawful noise just so I could have fresh bread in my kitchen at 7 a.m. (which never happened). I just must not have the touch, because even after taking a bread-making class where we learned how tto knead our own bread with our own hands, I still never got a good loaf. But to this list I’d have to add these items that rested in my kitchen for years until I hoisted them: nutmeg grinder, meat pounder, vegetable steamer, springform pan and a wok.

I would take issue with AOL’s list in that I could never think an iron or real honest book could be considered useless! I don’t iron Jerry’s underwear but I do iron lots of my summer cottons. And it’s too late in my life to consider changing to reading my books on Kindle.

There are two other things on the list that I would never remove. First is the piggy bank. When I go to baby showers, I always find a big ceramic piggy bank and place enough coins in it to equal what I would have spent on an ordinary gift for the baby. On the bottom of the pig I use acrylic paint to put my name and the date of the shower. Then the pig gets dressed up either in boy or girl decorations – or in merely unisex style if the baby’s gender is unknown. It is wrapped and presented at the shower. I couldn’t do without Piggy Banks. And I probably would be disowned by my two youngest granddaughters if the Happy Meal toys were abolished. They may be useless to them tomorrow, but for today they are the driving force of my taking them out to lunch. “Girls, where shall we eat?” I say to them. “McDonalds!” they shout with one voice. It’s the Happy Meal draw!

Jerry and I have yet to part with our slide projector, 3 carousels of slides (although we got rid of about 1000 individual slides), and hundreds of audio tapes on which we put all of our record albums. We only look at the slides at Christmas when the families get together and the latest little grandchildren want to see what their daddy looked like when he was a baby. And very honestly we never listen to an audio tape anymore. We are too spoiled by CDs, although our CD collection is very slim and sadly all of our old Chicago albums from the ‘70s are on tapes, not on CDs.

But for the most part I have to agree with AOL’s 21 items. Things come and go in their usefulness, and I’d add that a trip through the 99 cent store sometimes causes us to buy on impulse other things that really shouldn’t even see the light of day into our house. Nevertheless, seeing AOL’s list will help me look at my remaining “things” with a new eye. Does it fit on AOL’s list? I can ask myself. If so, I can ditch it (or pass it on to a thrift shop where maybe someone will see it more as treasure than trash.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I have been working intensely on an article for use in a booklet I'm putting together for genealogical purposes and this morning I am just on the verge of having no words left. So I'm going to share a few photos with you with simple comments. All these photos have been sent to me by daughter Kerry. They are snaps of her little girls that she's taken in the course of their growth. Olivia is now 8 and Justine is 6. They were younger in these photos.

The photo above makes me laugh. I can see tiny Olivia's mouth telling that big horse to stop immediately. "WHOA" she demands.

I'm not sure when or where this was taken but of course Olivia is a very happy cat, actually much cuter than my own Squeaky, if you ask me.

I love this photo. How can a tiny child appear in such a dramatic photo. Justine ("Tini") is the child with the widest smile. Where did it go?

Tini is dressed as a princess and is celebrating her 4th birthday. Such a lovely photo, and such a funny child.

With photos like these, who needs words?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


There is always something new to learn about. I guess that is one reason I am crazy about Google: I can hear or read something and immediately find out probably more than what I wanted or needed to know. In 99.9% of the cases, if learning about them meant I had to go down to the library to do some research on the subject, I'd figure it just wasn't worth the time and energy spent. Life with Google is, for me, the good life!

Until a week ago I didn't know about vuvuzelas. But the LA Times in their June 28 issue had an interesting article about them. As you can tell by the picture above, they are plastic horns, and in South Africa they are identified as a cultural object - a special kind of noisemaker that is blown into like blowing into a trumpet and what comes out the other end can be one of two things: something very good, or something very bad.

Music of sorts can be made on them. Here's a You-tube site where you can hear something agreeable and music-like sounds emanating from them (you'll need to cut and paste):

Now that isn't actually symphonic music, but as a cultural offering it is not all that hard on the ears. But mostly the vuvuzelas are not used that way. It seems that in South Africa, blowing the vuvuzelas continually throughout an entire soccer game is "de riguer" and is actually used by the fans to give support to their home team.

As I read this article, for the most part the people quoted were in favor of a ban on the use of the horns anywhere but especially for the 2010 World Soccer Cup being hosted by South Africa. Those who oppose the ban say that blowing the vuvuzela is no different than cheering and no one would want to ban that. Those who believe a ban is definitely necessary says the only way they can stand the noise is if they watch the matches on TV and mute the sound.

As I read the article, I wondered just how bad the sound was. Surely the "ban-ers" were just purists who would prefer the type of participation one hears (or more accurately, doesn't hear) at a golf tournament. So I asked Google to give me a video that would let me decide where I stand on the issue. So I'll give you the link and let you decided, along with me, where on the ban/no ban continuum you would place yourself.


Monday, July 6, 2009


This is one of my favorite recipes from a microwave cooking class I took over 25 years ago. It's exceptionally colorful, and awfully good, as well as good for you.


2 small yellow summer squash, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 small white onion, sliced and separated into rings
1 tomato, thinly sliced
½ t salt
½ t basil
½ t thyme
2 T grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Using a glass pie plate microwave 2 T of butter until melted.
Stir onion rings into butter and microwave for 1 minute.
Mix in squash and tomato, stirring to coat
Sprinkle with salt and herbs
Microwave mixture on high 2 minutes or until squash is crisp-tender.
(Actual time depends on individual microwave.)
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese while hot and serve immediately

Feeds 3 or 4.


Sunday, July 5, 2009


Sometimes I find things that are just too good to leave unacknowledged. So this morning's blog is an article about something clever (or outrageous, depending on your particular mindset) that is going on in New Zealand.

Jul 3, 7:37 AM (ET)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - New Zealand's national airline has adopted a cheeky way to encourage passengers to watch its in-flight safety video: The cabin crew's uniforms are nothing but body paint.

The "Bare Essentials of Safety," screening in the cabins of planes flying Air New Zealand's main domestic routes, has gone viral online. It had 1.2 million YouTube views by Friday, four days after it was launched.

In the video, three cabin staff and a pilot, all in full body paint applied to look like their uniforms, talk viewers through the aircraft's safety procedures.

A demonstration seat belt, life jacket and arm rests are strategically positioned during the 3 1/2-minute video to protect the cabin crew's ... discretion. Passengers are shown ogling, mostly in appreciation.

The body paint idea is also being used in a series of television advertisements in New Zealand for the airline, which include the promise: "At Air New Zealand, our fares have nothing to hide."

One ad even features chief executive Rob Fyfe in body paint.

"We think in tough times there's a premium for making people smile, and it gives the opportunity to stand out in a crowd," Air New Zealand's marketing general manager Steve Bayliss told The Associated Press.

Each crew member spent about three hours having the body paint applied.

The video needed "a little bit of a hint, but every frame has to be as modest as anything you see at the local swimming pool or the beach in summer," Bayliss said.

After all, the people in the ads are not models or actors but work colleagues, he said.

Now I think that's a really clever approach, although I'm not sure the actual message of safety procedures gets through to the brain while the eyes are so busy ogling. Better, I think, is the simple approach in doing body painting just for the fun of it, as shown in the photo below. A group of 8 or 10 photos taken of different people with different paintings was forwarded to me some time ago, and while I've laughed my head off over most of them, the one below is about the only one that I feel comfortable enough to use on this blog, as it is the least outrageous.

Anyway, reading all this is a good way to start your day, don't you think?

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Many years ago I began keeping what I labeled as a "funny book" file. It had nothing to do with comics, but into it I put anything I found that made me laugh or chuckle. Most of the time it was a newspaper article: an engagement announcement that had a typo under the picture of a lovely young lady that gave her name as "Turdy" Smith. (Trudy was what they were going after, I'm sure.) Another time it was an exceptionally funny cartoon that wouldn't even be appropriate to post here but over which I still laugh when I see it.

Today's blog is based on a "Letters to the Editor" column from some past magazine I subscribed to. There originally was an article entitled "20,000 Legs Under the Sea" and the column I cut out were rebuttals to the author's Centipede Crotch Count. I saved it not so much because it was interesting (although it was) but because I was just astonished at how much time and effort people would put into such a subject.

Here are two of the more interesting responses:

1. “…a 100-legged centipede would have 98 crotches rather than 100. As every centipede knows, it takes two legs, branches or what-have-you coming off a trunk to form the angular area sometimes called a crotch. I therefore submit that a 100-legged centipede would have 49 crotches.”

2. “It may seem unbelievable but a 100-legged worm has more crotches than it has legs – 148…A centipede has 49 crotches on each side (defining a crotch as the space between any pair of legs), but a leg on one side of the centipede is also adjacent to a leg on the opposite side. Since there arer presumably 50 legs on each side, an additional 50 crotches must be added to the original 98, for a total of 148. The fallacy (in all published estimates so far) has been in thinking of single pairs of legs. In multi-legged animals each leg has many adjacent legs, all with crotches.”

What got me started this week of even thinking about centipedes was a picture in a newspaper of a millipede that was HUGE! I guess I surmised that a millipede would be smaller than a centipede, needing to be smaller, of course, -- I guess just because I thought a milli-anything would be smaller than a centi-anything. So much for my thought and reasoning process.

Anyway, in looking for photos to grace this blog, I discovered that the size of either is dependent upon the species. And although I have always had an interest in reptiles and lizards and other such things that most people aren't crazy about, in seeing pictures of what a centipede or a millipede CAN look like if you see the right kind I decided they needed to be put at the very bottom of my "like" list. I would pick up a snake or a tarantula, but never would I hold a huge millipede. It causes me to make a face just thinking about it.

As far as I am concerned, the number of crotches is about the only thing of interest concerning the "...pedes."

Friday, July 3, 2009


I saw in yesterday’s paper this picture of the new observation platform at the Sears Tower in Chicago. I read the article, took a closer look at the photo and found myself shaking my head back and forth: NO WAY, NEVER, NEIN, NOT ME.

I am not prone to phobias, and I don’t have a fear of heights. I have been to the tops of the Eiffel tower, the Empire State Building and the World Trade Tower. I looked out, I looked down. I didn’t feel afraid, dizzy or compelled to throw myself over the railing of any of them.

Now, I am going to admit to one phobia, however, and it is a strange one but I will also tell you where it came from. I do not like to look into empty swimming pools. It is more than a not liking; it is actually an avoidance of looking in them. Now I wouldn’t cause a scene if I had to look in one but if there is any way to avoid looking, I will so avoid.

Why? Many years ago our Girl Scout troop in Long Beach took swimming lessons at the YWCA pool, which was an indoor pool. Those kids who weren’t having lessons could sit in the balcony and watch their friends swim. Some time between then and when I grew to be an adult I had a dream that I was in the balcony there in the Y. People were allowed to jump from the balcony into the water. Dreams make those kinds of things possible, you know. Suddenly someone jumped off the balcony, and between the time they started their jump and the time they got down to the water, all the water disappeared down a hole and the person hit the pool floor. Hot blood splashed up and over my body. End of dream. You can rightly call that dream a nightmare.

The first time I can remember avoiding an empty pool was during Easter break when I was in college and was working as a camp counselor in the mountains. It was not yet warm enough outside to fill the pool, so I spent the whole week trying to avoid looking at it. There aren’t a lot of occasions in life to see empty pools but through the years the dread has always been there. When we lived in the Greenwood house in Orange we had to have the pool drained and replastered once. I forced myself to go walk around inside the empty pool, hoping to desensitize myself. I knew where the phobia came from and I knew it was irrational and I hoped to get over it. I was a big girl now and didn’t need to carry that little phobia around with me any more. The best I can say is that I made it out of the empty pool without an episode of the “screeming meemies” but I still don’t like them.

I thought of this when I found my head going back and forth – NO, NOT ME, NEIN, NEVER – as I read the newspaper about the glass-bottomed observation platform on the Sears Tower. On a scale of 1 to 10, my swimming pool phobia rates a small “1” when measured against how I feel about either the Sears Tower or, worse yet, the glass walkway out over the Grand Canyon. I can hardly write about it without shaking my head. It may be a phobia or it may just be a smart decision on my part not to tempt fate – fate being maybe a stress fracture of the glass the minute I walk out on it and down I’d go.

No way. I get the head-shaking heebie-jeebies just looking at the picture. Now THAT is a phobia.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity. The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high speed trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British engineers. When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer's backrest in two and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow.

The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the US scientists for suggestions.
NASA responded with a one line memo: "Defrost the chicken."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


One of the books I refuse to give up to space consideration is my "Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Special, 1937-1973" by Vincent Terrace.

My whole upbringing is displayed in this book. While early TV had been around for a while before my family purchased our first set, my father brought one home in the late 40s because he had an appliance store, held an Admiral franchise, and as soon as he was able he offered them in the store and of course brought one to our house. You can imagine how our "stock" went up among both my folks' friends and relations and my sister's and my playmates.

We had rabbit ears on our TV set for a while, entertained lots of "snow" at various times on channels that weren't very strong, but yes, it revolutionized our life. For my sister and me it meant watching Shari Lewis and Lambchop, Beanie and Cecil, Ollie the Dragon, Sandy Dreams, along with roller derby, wrestling and eventually the Ed Sullivan show.

In the fifties and in my early married life we got to watch things like Dr. Kildare, Palladin, Gunsmoke, and, if you recognize the fellow above, Gardner McKay's "Adventures in Paradise," which had 91 episodes shown between 1959 and 1962 and is one of my all-time favorites, maybe next to "Hawaii 5-0."

This interesting book I have provides great fun and reminiscing. There is, or was to be, a second volume dealing with the years 1974 to 1984. I always intended to purchase it, too, but that fell by the wayside somewhere. But for the most part the earliest years are the ones that are of most interest to me. And the weird thing is that sometimes my recollections are very faulty. I was sure that Richard Chamberlain starred in "Adventures in Paradise" but in checking the book to confirm that, I found I was wrong; it was Gardner McKay. Ah, yes, I do remember now. He was a handsome fellow, just the kind a young teenaged girl in those days would fall for.

There also was to be a third volume, an index. If I had that, I'd offer to look things up for you. However, if you know the exact name of the program you are looking for between '37 and '73 and would like a few details about it, let me know and I'll "see what da' book sez."