Friday, January 29, 2010


A very big, fat book entitled "Architectural Excellence - 500 Iconic Buildings" appeared on the "new book" rack at the Corona Public Library last week and one peek inside was enough to cause me to lug it up to the circulation desk and take it home with me. It is fascinating, and I can already tell that two weeks isn't going to be nearly long enough to sort through it the way I want to.

The blurb on the inside cover says, "Architectural Excellence presents 500 iconic buildings from around the world that represent distinction in architectural design and significance to human history, through five millenia, in all cultures and on all continents....This comprehensive volume covers architectural styles throughout history, from Neolithic and Ancient Egyptian to High Tech and Eclectic Modern, and features works by the greatest architects - both known and lesser known - from our own times and from centuries past."

The first section concerns itself with the Ancient World to 500 CE. And what stunned me when I opened the book was that in the first section was a picture of Uchisar in Cappadoccia, Turkey, which is pictured above with Jerry and me standing in front of it. Now granted the rock itself is not architecture, but the substance of that outcropping is from "tufa," consolidated volcanic ash that over the millenia has been eroded by centuries of winds and rains. "Civilizations from the ancient to the medieval constantly wrestled for control. It was in the folds of these lunar dunes that the early Christians took refuge from a persecuting Roman war machine, and where a stand was made against the tides of Arab invaders encroaching upon Byzantine territory." They were able to carve living accomodations deep inside the tufa, where a good defense could be made.

When Jerry and I stood in front of Uchisar to have our picture taken, we knew its history, but it wasn't until I opened this book and saw its features as the very earliest structure of note that I got the full impact of what we had seen. (Now I have to tell you right here that we also got to stand on top of it, but I hasten to acknowledge that we did it from the back side, which is a plateau that enabled us to take merely a few steps up a walkway to appear at the top!)

As I turned to the second page, I saw Stonehenge, which we had visited in a month-long trip to England in 1985. Page Three was the Sphinx and Page Four was the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Page Five was the Temple at Karnak. The latter three we had seen when we were in Egypt in 1980.

As I went through the book page by page, I kept finding places where we had been. And I was really surprised. We are not world travelers. We have not been to Canada or China or Germany or Italy or Scotland or Australia, Samoa or Japan or so many other places. But we did take a tour to Egypt and Israel in 1980, a trip to England in 1985, and then we lived in Turkey (and never left the country) for two years in the early 1990s. By the time I thumbed through the book and got to the Medieval section, I already had come upon 15 structures or buildings that we had seen in the few travels we made. And of course I am not even mentioning all the things we saw in England during that month we were there - Westminster Abbey, Winchester Cathedral, Wren's Royal Crescent, the Roman baths at Bath and so forth that are pictured in this book.

All this reminds me of what a lucky person I have been. There is a church in Germany pictured in this book that I would dearly love to see before I die but I have truly seen enough to last me a lifetime. This book seemed to lay out before my eyes and my brain the magnitude of what I have been able to see in the last 30 years. Having this book at my fingertips truly brings it all back.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Long before I ever began doing genealogical research I was fascinated by cemeteries - not only the look and feel of the cemetery but also the individual tombstones. Except for the flat-as-pancakes "Memorial Parks" that are in favor today and which have no ambience whatsoever, there is nothing I like more than a cemetery with character.

When I was five and my sister three, my dad used to take us for walks in the old pioneer cemetery in Whittier, California. My mother always threw a fit about us going; she felt walking on the graves was desecrating them. My dad held tightly to our hands as we crossed Beverly Boulevard to get to the cemetery, and I'm sure it was that closeness to him, as well as his interest in the tombstone inscriptions and his helping us to identify the letters of the alphabet on them, that gave both sis and me a similar feeling about cemeteries. We loved 'em.

Thank goodness cemeteries are not alike. My cousin photographs tombstones in rural North Carolina for Find-A-Grave, and those cemeteries do not look like California's cemeteries.

Nor does this Alabama cemetery, with a house built over some tombstones, look like anything I've seen before.

On the internet I found this charming picture of some grave markers found in a Guatemala cemetery. Oh, I could go for this kind of headstone, were I to be buried and not cremated.

And in a Moscow cemetery I found this really lovely artwork. I wonder about the life that it represents....something I will never know.

I was surprised to see the full-to-overflowing Jewish cemtery in Manchester, England where Jerry's mom's relatives are all buried. There's not a blade of grass to be found.

And the Internet provided this most dramatic marker! Again, what is the story behind this beautiful piece of art? I wonder.

But my most favorite cemetery is the one I did my research in when I lived in Istanbul. It was the Protestant Cemetery, and in it was an American section where burials of American Citizens who died in Istanbul as early as 1832 were held.

In the book I prepared for this work, I described the cemetery like this: If one likes old cemeteries and is not obsessively fussy, one will like this one. It is neither gloomy nor morbid, and its feel changes with the seasons. In winter it is muted and still, with perhaps a dusting of powdery snow. In spring the sunlight dapples its way through new growth and onto the wet tombstones, drying winter from their faces. The bustle of summer spills over into the cemetery from the street outside the cemetery walls, linking its stillness with the sounds of a living people who know best how to enjoy the hot sultry summer months. And with fall comes the glorious silk leaves of amber, crimson, copper and gold, weaving their way towards the ground, draping themselves like shawls over and around the hand-carved stones. I've been in the cemetery during each of these seasons, and I believe it is as fine a place of rest as one could want.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I imagine not too many people make chicken and dumplings anymore. But this old fashioned dish is perfect for cold winter evenings. Many years ago I found a recipe for a somewhat different dumpling, and it was so tasty that I've used it ever since. I'll pass it on to you all who still put meals on the table that aren't either frozen or "take-out." See what you think of it.


1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup minced scallion
parsley sprigs for garnish

Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder,
and the salt. In a small bowl combine the egg, the milk,
the minced parsley, and the scallion, add the mixture
to the flour mixture, and stir the batter until it is just
combined. Drop tablespoons of the batter about 1-1/2
inches apart onto a buttered heatproof large plate, set the plate
on a rack over simmering water, and steam the dumplings,
covered, for 12 minutes. Transfer the dumplings to a heated
serving dish and garnish them with the parsley sprigs.
Serves 4.

Two items to note:

The first is that scallions are simply green onions with a fancy name.

The second is that instead of cooking my dumplings separately by steaming them, about 15 minutes before I am ready to serve dinner I crop the dough on top the chicken that is still cooking. The dough puffs up into nice dumplings - and you should taste how good the moist under-sides are!

Anyway, give it a try. It's really yummy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Except for the US government, I think probably genealogists are far more interested in the censuses than anyone else. In fact, we get downright excited about them.

Have you ever looked at a digitized copy of your family as they appeared on a census? The National Archives branches have microfilmed copies of all the censuses from the first, taken in 1790, to the most recently released census, taken in 1930. And there are a couple of places on the internet that enable you to see the digitized copies.

Here’s why we get excited: above is a copy of the 1920 Federal Census for Caldwell County, Kansas – not the whole page but a portion of the page where the family of my mother and grandmother are shown

You can see my whole family: My grandpa Byrd Ryland (the census taker wrote it down the way he heard it), my grandma Jessie, and all my aunts and uncles when they were little kids. Uncle Bob, Aunt Florence, my mother Virginia, Aunt Marie, and Uncle Bert. My Uncle Hugh and Aunt Margie were both born after 1920, so they don’t appear. It also shows my Great Grandfather, James A. Ryland, as well as the ages for all of them.

So we genealogists love censuses. It tells us thing about our families that perhaps we didn’t know. Censuses are kept private for 70 years, and then it takes about another two years for them to be readied for public viewing. The 1930 census was released for viewing in 2002. The 1940 census will appear about 2012. And there I will be able to see myself listed as a little 5 year old!

The US is gearing up for the 2010 census that will capture what our nation looks like at this point in time. Census takers are being trained, materials are being readied, and lots of publicity can be found in newspapers and TV stressing the importance of being counted. And it IS important to be counted. 310 million Americans will get their census questionnaires in the mail sometimes in mid-March. There will be some individual census takers following up personally when questionnaires aren’t mailed back to the government. And of course it is really important for each state to have an accurate count in order to get their fair share of federal dollars.

Yesterday, Robert Groves, director of the US Census Bureau, arrived by dog sled similar to the one above in the tiny town of Noorvik, Alaska, home of some 600 people and chosen as the place to kick off the 2010 census. By mid-March, the residents of Noorvik mostly will be scattered over the area in their yearly hunt for seal, moose and caribou, so an accurate count for the census then would be nigh impossible to take. So the Eskimos, Americans all, were counted yesterday, and counts of 200+ other remote villages will follow shortly.

And for genealogists in 2082 they will be the people who are most anxious for the results of this year’s census to be opened to the public. Hopefully this census will be as rich in information and as satisfying to them as all of them though 1930 have been to us.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I have been trying to talk Jerry into carrying a stylish men’s purse – not a purse like I have, although mine is no longer called a purse but a satchel, but he’s not buying a word of my “talk” and certainly not of “style.”

Maybe 10 years or so ago one began seeing men carrying tidy little leather – well, what else is there to call them except “purses.” They were not at all like what a woman would carry. I’m assuming the men could carry in them their wallet, a note pad, a handkerchief, credit cards, a pen or pencil and whatever else men carry. I thought – and still think – that they look pretty nifty, and very masculine. In a nutshell, stylish but with great usefulness.

But Jerry is old school. Men do not carry purses. Men do not wear sandals. Men do not wear necklaces. Oh, so many things men do not do.

Lately I see that the smallish men’s purse is no longer de rigueur and now the “in” look is to carry a “messenger bag.” I’m thinking how to approach Jerry to make him receptive now to carrying one of these trendy “messenger bags,” though I honestly don’t see that he’s going to budge an inch on his “men don’t do….” list. It doesn’t have to be a designer bag, although there are plenty of those on the market. But a casual medium sized bag could stand in for the briefcase he always carried when he went off to work every morning, and now that he’s retired and active in the community he could find plenty of things to use it for.

When we go out anywhere, he often asks me to hold his little medical kit he must keep with him. He asks me if I have change because he doesn’t like to keep change in his pocket, and often he’s in need of some cough-drops that I carry in my purse. If he forgets his pen he knows that I always have an extra one in my purse, as well as a piece of paper for notes. I carry the checkbook because he really doesn’t like to be bothered and he knows that I have it. I think if he just would let himself try a messenger bag out for a while, he would probably never leave home without it.

The messenger bags have been around for a while now. Jerry is not one to be in the vanguard of any trend, so I should think that he would fit right in and not need to be embarrassed by carrying it . I think it would sharpen his image a bit and maybe let him even look younger than he already does. For a man of 80, he carries his age well, and I do think this would buff up his image even more. And as you all know, looking a bit trendy is a good thing.

But this is true: he is a man who does not like change. If it was good enough for his grandfather and his father, it is good enough for him. So I am not holding my breath over him acquiescing to my suggestion. He has already said “no” to the purse, and I can hear an echo coming.

So next best is: I think maybe I’ll get myself a messenger bag, but one with a little pizzazz to it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


If I had to pick an inanimate object to represent my life, what would I pick? And why would I even think of doing this in the first place?

It’s all because of a feature article in this morning’s LA Times that talks about the evolving field of designing urns for one’s ashes. And just as I never am able to pass a survey by without taking it, neither can I not rise to the challenge of figuring out what urnable object best represents my understanding of my life.

The newspaper features some very interesting and actually quite beautiful urns. Even the urns that I laughed at were beautiful in their own way. And yes, I did laugh at some of them. One was the body of a fish that had two chicken-like legs holding the front end of the fish up, making a graceful swoop of the fish body, which of course is where the deceased’s ashes were contained. I can see that urn being used by one of two people – those who thought evolution was preposterous, such as a religious conservative, or those who thought otherwise, a scientist or a biologist, maybe. Anyway, it made me laugh and if I fell into one of those categories I would certainly want people to laugh at my ashes.

There was another “urn” that caught my eye. It is a birdfeeder – like a seed bell, but looked like a gourd birdhouse with a little hole in the side. Under the hole was a perch inscribed with the deceased’s statistics. Now the uniqueness of this urn is that it is made of bird seed, beeswax and the deceased’s ashes. It is meant to be hung outside and eaten up by finches or chickadees. Now this probably will be an off-putting idea to many people – but I find it a great idea to signify one’s understanding of the impermanency of human life. From ashes to ashes, dust to dust, you know.

Perhaps this one appeals to me because for the last five years Jerry and I have purchased dozens and dozens of birdseed bells and hung them on a wrought-iron staff outside our front window to watch the birds eat at the seeds. This year I told him that I was finished with the seed bells. The pile of seed husks had raised our lawn under the seed bell about 2 inches, had killed the grass, and would be blown all over the porch whenever we got a wind from the right direction. So even though this one has great appeal to me, I think having one’s ashes rain down on the lawn along with the husks (if the birds didn’t eat all the ashes at the same time) probably is a good reason for me not to choose that one. And my kids might object to its impermanency.

Before I tell you what object I have decided on (if I were to change my mind and give up “my property” at the Montecito Ash Garden, which isn’t likely), I’d like to encourage you to take a peek at these really amazing designs, either at the LA Times online, where you’ll find the whole article, I’m sure, or at, which is headquartered in Graton, California. Yes, Dorothy, there IS a Graton!

So now for the big moment. I have decided that the objet d’art for my ashes should be a computer mouse. I considered a monitor, a CPU, a legal-sized file cabinet, a ream of paper (this one came close to being at the top) and a stack of CDs. But I think that a mouse, complete with left- and right- click panels and a tail, is what would represent me quite nicely. And not to mention that even the shape of a mouse is similar to how I’ve morphed in my old age – kind of thick in the middle. It may not be as dramatic as a birdseed bell, but I’m thinking it is pretty much “me.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010


In my time of researching both in Istanbul and the U.S. for information on the lives of people buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Ferikoy-Istanbul, I learned that many of those early people were missionaries connected to the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missions. Many books were written by these missionaries and one that I found especially interesting was entitled CONSTANTINOPLE OLD AND NEW by H. B. Dwight, Chas. Scribner & Sons, N.Y., 1915. It is hard to find some of these books now and I was lucky to come across one in the Los Angeles Public Library. I took lots of notes from it and will share one with you, about the Mosque shown above.

Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque was built by an Italian who was born in Calabria. Captured by Algerian pirates, he turned Turk after 14 years in the galleys and changed his name of Ochiali to Oulouj Ali - Big Ali. He then became a commander of Galleys. At the battle of Lepanto he saved a shred of Turkish honor by capturing the flagship of the Knights of Malta, turning the squadron of Doria and bringing 40 galleys safely back to Constantinople. For this exploit he was made high admiral of the fleet, and his name was turned into Sword Ali - Kilij Ali.

An interesting sidelight is thrown on this picturesque character from so unexpected a source as the novel of "Don Quixote". In Chapter 32 of the first part of that book, in which the captive relates his life and adventures, Cervantes tells with very little deviation from the fact, how he himself lost his left hand at the battle of Lepanto, how 4 years later he was captured by pirates and then taken to Algiers, and how he lived there five years as the slave of a cruel Albanian master. Trying then to escape, he was caught and brought for trial before a personage whom he calls Uchali, but who was none other than our friend Kilij Ali. The upshot of the matter was that the builder of our beautiful mosque bought the author of our immortal novel, whom he treated with great kindness and presently accepted for him, in 1581, the very moderate ransom of 500 crowns. So might a half-forgotten building in Tophane be brought back to light as the mosque of Don Quixote.

Who knows whether or not this is true. But I suspect that Dwight did. Lots and lots of history in Istanbul, that's for sure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


When people today think of Frasier, they think of Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane in both “Cheers” and in his own sitcom, “Frasier.” But in spite of the fact that I cleared the deck of all distractions when either of those programs were shown in their weekly (and yearly) runs, it is not Frasier Crane that I think of when I hear the word “Frasier.”

You can’t have lived in Orange County, California, without thinking that the real Frasier was the charming, old tongue-lopping lion down in Irvine at Lion County Safari whose hanky-panky was reported all the time in our local newspapers. In case you don’t remember the story, the Lion Country Safari came into being in the early 70s, and if you really wanted to see wild animals, this was the place to go. There were monkeys and hippos and ostriches and giraffes and all kinds of birds – and yes, lots of lions.

Frasier was not what you would call a ferocious lion. He was more like the lion who would plop himself down next to a lamb. He was purchased well used from a circus in Mexico. Enough of his teeth were missing that his tongue always was hanging out the side of his mouth. And his idea of fun was to lie on his back with his feet sticking up, face tipped so his tongue could hang out sideways and go sound asleep in the wonderful fresh ocean air that drifted over the hills and into the Irvine area. How much fear does one have of a lion who simply looks silly whether awake or asleep.

But what was reported on so much by the newspapers was that Frasier was given a harem of lovely lady lions, and in his waning years he decided he might as well get a few good licks in if the ladies were willing. They were. I think in his two years or so of Orange County living he managed to add about 35 little cubs to the park.

Residents of Orange County were consistently being treated to newspaper photos of the little guys, and they were awfully cute, but it was Frasier whom we loved. We cheered the old guy on; more power to him! But he was old to start with when he came to the OC, and after two years of being in the spotlight, he caught pneumonia and died. He was buried on the hill side, a cross posted at the site.

My family and I never felt the need to drive through the park; sometimes things went slightly awry and we didn’t want to be a part of that. We would, however, drive along the old 5 freeway past it and if we were lucky, we could sometimes see giraffe head poking up looking at the cars. It was all very exciting, but we really wanted to keep a little distance between our kids and the animals. The park shut down in 1984. Once Frasier died, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of reason to go down there.

No reflection on Dr. Frasier Crane, but our hero always was, and probably still is, old Frasier – a sex symbol for aging people.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The advertisement in the paper said “Free Armonica Concert” Sunday afternoon at St. Michaels Episcopal Church in Riverside. Thinking with glee that I had caught the newspaper in a funny typo, I made an assumption that the “H” had been left off "harmonica." But then a thought hit me that a church is an awfully strange place for a Harmonica to be played. “The Old Rugged Cross” on a Harmonica? I thought not.

Just to be on the safe side I ran a google search on “Armonica” and was I surprised. There is such a musical instrument. It was invented by Benjamin Franklin and he was so taken with it he played it throughout his entire life. In England in 1761 he had heard wet fingers being rubbed on water-filled crystal wine glass rims to produce certain tones, which then were turned into music by rubbing them in the right sequence. Franklin took the idea back to America and developed the Armonica, not using the wine glasses but glass bowls instead. Basically, through holes in the center of the bowls, he threaded them onto a long metal spit and held the bowls apart by using corks. He then put this “spit” onto a rotisserie-type gadget that was rotated by means of a foot pedal. Armed with a bowl of water to keep his fingers wet, Franklin began massaging the glass rims, learning how to make music with his fingers and thus he became the world’s first Armonica player.

Luckily for us, there couldn’t have been more than 30 people in attendance, so instead of holding the concert in the Church sanctuary, we were moved to an all-purpose room, with folding chairs set almost within arms distance of this amazing musical instrument. But even better, the decision to move it from the sanctuary meant that we got to watch the musician, William Wilde Zeitler, assemble the instrument from scratch. All the pieces came in a huge trunk on wheels. A wooden table on which the instrument was to sit had to be assembled with screws and screwdrivers. Once up, the glass bowls on a spit (that is my description of what it looked like, not the musician’s!) were unwrapped from inside huge amount of big thick blankets and mounted on the cradles at each end of the table. In William’s Armonica, which he built himself, he had enough bowls to cover 3-1/2 octaves! The bowls that corresponded to the black keys on the piano had a gold rim on them.

Because it is 2010 and not 1761, the spit now turns by electricity, and mics and amplifiers were used. There also was a tiny little cassette which provided some harp accompaniment to certain tunes. (William was also the harp player.) Before the concert, he disappeared into the kitchen for a minute to wash his hands and he returned looking for the world like Ben Franklin, ruffled jacket and all.

Prior to to the concert I had done quite a bit of reading on the Armonica, and of course like everyone else I’d had a smidgeon of experience in making a wine glass emit a one-note tune. But none of this prepared me for what I heard. It ranged from a most delicate version of the Dance of the Sugar Plum fairy (oh, how light on her feet she must have been!) to a short version of tunes by both Mozart and Beethoven - and then on to some ultra “new age” compositions by William himself that were simply stunning in their simplicity and beauty.

At the conclusion of the concert he graciously let the audience members have a go (supervised, of course) at making the armonica sing the way he did. Most were lucky to get a few squeaks of sound out of it. He also had some CDs for sale (which of course I just had to have.)

William travels around the world giving performances and has appeared on the History Channel. Luckily he's got a great video on YouTube, so you can join me in hearing and learning about what I was lucky enough to see in person today. I am already relishing my CD. It was such a good day!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


In 1980 Jer and I took an organized tour to Egypt and Israel, a tour arranged by American Express. We spent 6 days in Egypt, 2 days in Jordan and then a final 6 days in Israel. We had a great guide – a young French fellow named Louis (Lou-ee, he was called) and we felt comfortable under his shepherding.

Egypt was every bit as amazing as we anticipated. The reason Jordan was on the itinerary was because that is where the famous rose-colored city of Petra is located. From Amman it was a simple bus ride over the Allenby bridge and into Jerusalem, a distance as the crow flies of about 44 miles.

Before we got off the bus at the Israel border, Louie gave us a lecture. He said this would be the most important thing we heard during our time together. He advised that going through customs here will be a rigorous ordeal. He said safety is a primary concern of Israel and we will be asked to do things that may irritate us. He said when we go in the door, we are to put our bags on a table and will be asked to completely empty them of the contents. He said not to ask for exceptions to be made, do not be embarrassed, don’t crack jokes, don’t complain. He said the bags will be taken away and x-rayed to make sure there are no bombs or other such implements secreted in them somewhere. He said our clothing and makeup will be inspected, and when the bags come back we will be expected to repack them and set them at the door to be put on the bus. He said we would be body-searched and perhaps asked some questions. He told us this was not a social event, not to try to make chit-chat with the inspectors, and whether we do things like this in America is beside the point; in Israel this is what they do to maintain the safety of their people, their cities and their country.

We listened to Louis and we were a compliant group. It took a long time to accomplish, but that was not only because of the repacking. Jerry, being the only Jewish soul on the tour, was taken away to what he later said was an interrogation room and there he was questioned about his birth, his parents, his grandparents, his and their involvement in any Jewish activities in both the past and present, and then they looked up his family names in a big black book that sat on the shelves among dozens of other big black books. He did not ask why they were doing this. He answered their questions, and when the Israelis were satisfied they returned him to me. We then were cleared to board the bus. At no time did any of the 40 people on that tour make a wisecrack or issue a complaint. We did what was required of us, even if we didn’t like it.

Writer Thomas Sowell in a trenchant op-ed piece this week says this: “We have become so obsessed with political correctness that both common sense and self-preservation have to take a back seat. We don’t dare “profile” anybody going through security checks because that’s not politically correct. Far better to be blown to smithereens than to be politically incorrect.” Sowell is a political conservative and mostly says things I disagree with. But I think he hits the nail on the head in this piece.

He ends by saying, “Terrorists are not covered by the Geneva Conventions for the simple reason that they do not abide by the Geneva Conventions. They are enemy combatants and you do not turn enemy combatants loose to go back to killing Americans while the war is still on – not if you are being serious, as distinguished from being political or ideological."

I understand the need for political correctness, and I think even in its extremity it helps us become more sensitive people and more aware of the reasons that passing time requires changes. But I don’t think one needs to be stupid about its application. We need to be willing to “turn the other cheek” on this one!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I admit it. I am a fast driver. On freeways I try to set my cruise control at 4 miles over the posted speed limit (sometimes here in Southern California it is 65 mph and other times 70, depending on urban or rural sections). When I do that, I am totally blown away by drivers passing me on both sides. If my choice is to get in the outside lane and stay at speed limit; my risk is that a) I will be run over by big semi-trucks, b) I will have one of them topple over on me, which toppling is a common occurance on our freeways, or c) I will have my vision totally obliterated because I'm caught in a pocket between trucks. If I drive in any other than the outside lanes at the posted speed limit, I run the risk of being shot at by one of the many people who think road rage is an acceptable excuse for picking slow drivers off the freeway.

So depending on the freeway road conditions, I more often than not exceed my own "4 miles over speed limit" rule and stay with the flow of traffic. I know I am breaking the law and I know that I will get ticketed for it if I am pulled over by a CHP officer, but I also know that most of the times the CHP officers are passing me by on the left and the right anyway, so odds are I won't get caught. I hope, I hope!

On the city streets a whole different set of circumstances exist. Obviously, on a heavily trafficked street, one has to go with the flow of traffic. As often as not the cars are all driving beyond the posted speed limit. I admit I mostly do not watch for signs that tell the speed limit, except when there are few cars on the road and I have an option of slowing down without snarling up traffic. I do try to drive the posted speed limit. But I know there are times, when conditions are optimum, that I will go a bit faster than I the signs say I should. It's kind of a "why crawl down an empty road at 15 mph?"

Now our Governator Schwartzenegger has decided he wants to balance California's budget by installing speed sensors on red-light cameras to catch - and ticket - speeding cars. He uses Beverly Hills as an example. There are 9 red-light cameras in that city, which could catch an estimated 835 speeders each month. The proposed fine for those caught going up to 15 mph over the speed limit is $225 per violation. Those going 16 mph or faster would be fined $325. What he doesn't say is that here in California many governmental units want part of the action too. So tacked on to those basic fines would be things like another $25 for local court costs, $50 for city street maintenance departments, $25 for this, that and the other thing - and an original $225 fine will end up costing $500 or more. A friend of mine got caught by a red-light camera after making a "California stop" (a slowing down but not a full stop of 7 seconds) prior to making a right hand turn onto a nearly empty cross-street. The $140 fine ended up costing her $475 by the time all the "add-ons" were figured into it.

Schwartzenegger figures that if he can install 500 speed detectors throughout California, they will generate nearly half a billion dollars for the state treasury each year. And he could then balanced the budget.

Whether one believes that scofflaws should be able to "get away with it" because everybody's doing it, or that it is only right to severely punish those who break speed laws whether deliberately or accidentally, it seems to me that this is a wrong-headed approach. I don't know what the answer is to our State budget crisis, but I sure don't think this proposal is a good answer.

Friday, January 15, 2010


In my local newspaper earlier this week there was a huge article with a picture showing a British vicar blessing Blackberries, computers and other such electronic gadgets. He did this at what was called a "Back-to-Work Ceremony." This vicar at a prestigious church in London said that just as in the old days we blessed scythes and other farming implements dragged to the church door, now it was appropriate to give that blessing to the tools of the modern workplace - Blackberries, cellphone and computers. His thinking was that the ceremony made worship "lively and relevant" to the people who worked in the nearby financial district.

My, my, my.

And then I read (and hear) that old Pat Robertson right here in the US says that Haiti's trouble is caused by a pact they made with the devil hundreds of years ago.

If you had looked carefully you would have seen me snorting when I read of the British ceremony and you would have seen smoke coming out my ears at reading of Robertson's mean spirited, ignorant and ill-advised words.

Things like this are what make me have less than warm fuzzy feelings about Christians and their interpretions of religion. I probably overall am not as negative of Christianity as I sometimes seem, but it is sure things like this that really rub me the wrong way. And give a poke in the eye to the truth.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Mystery author Lisa Scottoline has recently come out with a book of funny columns she’s written over the years that have absolutely nothing to do with mysteries. Instead, she talks about her life (The book’s name is Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog.) Her fourth essay is what I want to talk about today.

In it she makes some especially pertinent remarks about women’s aging feet, toes and toenails. She talks about calluses, hardening of the toenails, and finally she says, “What’s up with our little toe? Do you even have a little toe anymore? What happens to the little toe when we get older?...The saddest thing about the little toe is the littlest toenail. Can you even see yours, ladies?”

From start to finish she has written the story of my aging feet. I have always had trouble with my feet – not so much that they hurt but that they are awfully ugly. A few years ago during one of the hot summer months I was standing in front of the glass doors at a library waiting, along with ten or twelve other people, for it to open. Reflected in the doors I noticed a woman’s feet who should NEVER have worn sandals with toes like hers. A bunion on each foot had pushed each of her big toes in opposite directions (one going east and one west, of course) and her little toes were all mushed up against the other four and disappeared under them. I hate myself when I’m critical of other women who don’t dress in a way I consider appropriate for their age. But I suddenly realized that those very ugly reflected feet were mine! I was mortified! I don’t wear sandals any more.

A doctor once said my feet were in the condition they were because my mother bought my shoes too small when I was a kid. I was miffed. My mother was exceptionally careful with my feet. I wore sturdy brown shoes far longer than any other kid on the block. My baby book is peppered with me in sturdy shoes.

From an early age, my mother always took me to the Buster Brown shoe store in downtown Long Beach where a fluoroscope was used to help make sure I got fitted with the right sized shoe. I would put my feet in the hole at the bottom, and all of us – sales man, mother and me – could peer down our own personal viewer to see how my foot fit into that shoe. There was absolutely no way I could have gotten a shoe that didn’t fit. When the toe of my shoe didn’t pass my father’s “thumb” test (he wanted a thumb’s width of room between the end of my big toe and the shoe), I was taken down to Buster Brown’s again. I loved looking in the machine. Later those machines were eliminated as being too unsafe for use. (Interest info on fluoroscopies here.)

In junior high school a gym teacher, robust and dedicated to good posture, thought I had weak ankles, so she gave me a large rubber-band-like piece of wide rubber and made me put it around my ankles. Then I had to make my ankles stretch against that rubber band by only using my foot and leg muscles. Every other girl in the gym class got to go play baseball. I spent a semester playing with a rubber band.

After I married and moved to Westminster, I found a neighbor my age who had just had bunion surgery. At the time Sarah spoke of her new “$500 bunionless toes.” She looked at my bunions and said they weren’t $500 bunions, yet, and to wait a while.” That was in 1960.

I finally was ready to go for the bunionectomy in 2006 and already had the date scheduled when suddenly Jerry developed a need for immediate surgery – and that was the end of that! At this point I still have big toes going in opposite directions and little toes with no toenails that are hiding under the other toes – exactly the feet that Lisa Scottoline has! I’m sure she’ll be gratified to know that there is one other person who understands exactly what she is talking about.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I really do not have time to follow certain blogs the way I wish I could. But one I try not to miss is The Food Museum blog. "Foodie" has lots to say about things edible and cookable all around the world. Her blog is always interesting and often surprising.

Recently she posted a video on the making of candy canes. It surprised the daylights out of me and I think is worth passing on. Thanks to "Foodie" for such good stuff.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I have always liked to have a “Thought (or Inspiration) for the Day” book on hand to read first thing in the morning. I think this probably came from having “morning devotions” during the years I was involved in church doings. I especially like uplifting little homilies upon which I can reflect during the day and hold on to if the going gets rough. Toward the end of each year I start nosing around for just the right book.

However, I have to confess that I must be very hard to inspire, because I’ll be danged if I can find books that suit me. What looked good yesterday seems never to be followed by what looks good today. After a couple of miss-fits, I usually just throw up my hands, toss the book aside (unless it is a library book, in which case I return it), and forget it for another year.

This year I found a book that offered daily reflections using “contemporary spirituality” and since I am not totally averse to things spiritual I figured I’d give this one a try. Days 1 through 8 have gone fairly well, although none of the words for the day have been particularly soul-grabbing, but I have to tell you Day 9 caused me to snort in disagreement. I’ve never snorted before over anything purported to be inspirational, but there is always a first time.

The first words on Day 9 that didn’t set right was a quote from Dr. Mickey Mouse, complete with quotation marks. Right off the bat my eyebrows went up. If the writer had said Dr. Albert Einstein I might have reacted differently, but I decided I'd make allowances for that cutesy bit because the quotation had to do with aging. I figured I could use all the help I could get. I simply tried not to think I was being patronized.

Then good old Dr. Mouse said we have to play, which is not an auspicious continuation! As if to add authenticity to Dr. Mouse’s quote, the writer goes on to say mice are often used in tests because they have much the same DNA as humans. Dr. Mouse says studies show that old mice like to do fun things like running on wheels, and because it is so much fun they grow more new brain cells than mice who are living in boring wheel-less cages. I say that if the old mice are running on wheels they are a better “old” than I am. I can’t think of anything I can do at this age and stage of my life that would parallel running on wheels. And even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t think that is fun.

And then what struck me is one of the most equivocating sentences I’ve read in a long time: “scientists believe that these studies reveal that the brains of elderly humans MAY also richly benefit from a variety of enjoyable activities.” It was the wording I objected to. “Studies MIGHT mean…” makes a whole lot more sense than saying “Studies REVEAL…” Maybe I’m being too word-picky. But be that as it may, I don’t need Dr. Mouse to tell me I will benefit from a variety of enjoyable activities. I know that. But as I look at my options now, I don’t find one thing available to me that looks like I’d be able to play with it. At least not with the state of my health or the state of my purse. Maybe when I get really old and senile and move into my second childhood my kids can provide me with some stuffed toys and some metal bed-trays with magnetized Legos on them. But until then, forget the playing!

The writer ends with urging us to keep our spirits BRISKLY alive by fun and playing our way through life. Bah! Humbug! Dr. Mouse did NOT inspire me today.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Many of you know that I’m on a mission to move out some of my “things” – that is, things that I can part with – so my little apartment won’t look so cluttered.

I’m now having to decide if I should keep or give away “Joe the Turk.”

I worked for The Salvation Army twice in my working career. The first time was from 1968 to 1971. I was hired as secretary for the Ontario (California) Corps (church). As you know, the Salvation Army has many programs to help the needy in the community, and within a few months after I started work the welfare counselor quit. Captain Chet Danielson asked me to take on that job and he would hire a new secretary. I did, and he did.

Then in 1994, the very week of the big Northridge earthquake, I was hired as secretary at the Anaheim Salvation Army Adult Rehab Center, where I worked until I retired in June of 2000. From those two stints with “Sally Ann,” as The Salvation Army is fondly called, I learned lots of the history of the organization. One of the most unusual things I learned about was “Joe the Turk.”

There was a real Joe, and he was born in 1860 in Turkey but of Christian Armenian parents. His given name, however, was Nishan Der Garabedian. At age 17 he decided to come to the US to work with his brother as a shoemaker, but in his travels to get here he kept seeing the early Salvation Army members being mistreated as they took the gospel to the streets, and always he came to their aid. Calling himself “Joe,” ultimately he threw his lot in with the Salvationists, and cornet in hand he began preaching on the streets. He himself was tossed into jail any number of times. Evangelizing on street corners was not looked upon kindly by the authorities

According to the website “A landmark decision in 1893 in Wisconsin by the supreme court [in]The State ex rel. Garrabad (sic) versus Dering declared as unconstitutional a law which caused the arrest of Joe for playing his cornet in the street. He was eventually appointed evangelist for The Salvation Army, traveling the country attired in his special costume and carrying an oversized red, yellow and blue umbrella with religious slogans on it and a picture of the founder, General William Booth. Around the outside of the umbrella were lights that lit up and on top was a small miniature statue of liberty with a torch that also lit up.”

There are several fine websites that give additional information on this most unusual figure in evangelism which can be found by any good search engine using “Joe the Turk.”

In 1996 the Trade department at The Salvation Army had in their catalog a figurine of Joe the Turk that I purchased for my curio cabinet. It seemed a good blending of my years living in Istanbul with the years that I spent with The Salvation Army.

So the question now in front of me is: Am I ready to move Joe the Turk to a new home? Who besides me would find any significance in him? I don’t have an answer yet. But I think my little figurine deserves better than a thrift store end, don’t you?

Friday, January 8, 2010


Throughout my adult life one of my best sources for yummy food has been pot lucks. Rarely have I been turned down when I've eaten something absolutely wonderful and asked for the recipe.

This recipe came from a pot luck held at the old Tustin (CA) Community Hospital back in the mid 1980s when I was sent there on a three-month assignment by a temporary agency. It was a small hospital and I was in the accounting department. I don't remember what the pot luck was celebrating, but I had been there long enough to be invited to it. (I wasn't so lucky on some of the assignments I was sent on. One time I was sent out to cover the phones while a big party was held in a small company. I sat at a desk manning a phone through a 2-1/2 hour party without being offered as much as a drink of water!)

But at the Tustin pot luck, when I tasted this cake, which truly did look like an earthquake had totally destroyed it, I knew I just had to have the recipe. The cake maker graciously shared it with me and I have made the cake often through the years since that time. There are dozens of this same recipe posted on the internet, so I assume when it originated it came from a printed source in a magazine or some such place. But for me it's source will always be connected to that little potluck at the hospital in Tustin!


1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 box (2 layers) German Chocolate cake mix
1 stick margarine, softened
1 8-ounce pack cream cheese, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease bottom of 9"x13" or 11"x15” pan. Set oven at
350 degrees. Spread coconut on bottom of pan, then

Prepare cake mix and pour batter over coconut and
nuts. DO NOT MIX!

Mix butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and
vanilla. Drop mixture by spoonsful on top of batter.
Do not stir or mix.

Bake 45-50 minutes. Cool. Drizzle with melted
chocolate or serve as is. Serves 10.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


You can always tell who "newbies" in genealogy are because of their insistence of the "right" spelling of their name. Those of us who have been researching for a long time understand that although our name may be McCammon now, two generations back our family might have used the name MacCammon, or McCummin, or Cummings .... one just never knows. Strange things happen to names in genealogy. All we can be sure of is the spelling of our own name.

We genealogists are so dependent on indexes. And if we don't find a name we are looking for, we get really agitated. Often times the name really is there, but we just don't recognize it. Here's an example:

A bunch of government reports were created by on-the-scene inquirers who were attempting to get the facts right about the "bloody Kansas" period. These reports were taken down by hand and at some point retyped and put into print. There was no index made at the time. Later - about 1980 or so - a fellow decided to index them, which was a wonderful gift to genealogists and to me personally. I had a family who lived through that time and reports from a number of family members were taken. The name as it came down to my great-grandmother was Corel. However, we know that her father William and his brother Joshua both used a variation of Corel. Our William was Corel and Joshua was Corell. Who knows which is right - that is, who changed it? We will never know, but in researching we have to be open to the fact that our name may not always have been what we think it was.

Anyway, in this wonderful index I found my family listed as follows: Corel, Correll, Corell, Carroll, Carol, Corl, Curl, Carll, Care, Carles, Carl and Coral. What does this prove? First of all, on behalf of indexers please don't blame an indexer for making a mistake in reading a name. The difficulty usually starts with the person who wrote the name in the first place! Anyway, never discount a name because it is spelled or sounds differently from what you think it should.

Now if you don't find the name you are looking for in an index, first do the following - I call it "Conjugating Names:" Switch the name using different vowels. Here's an example from my own family. The name as I knew it to be was Lahay. When I couldn't find it where it should have been in an 1850 census, taking the vowels as "A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y" I was prepared to look for Lahay, Lehay, Lihay, Lohay, Luhay and Lyhay" I found old Toussaint LaHay listed under LIHAIS." If I had not been methodical in changing vowels, I never would have found him.

Just as an aside, his kids all carried French given names and he was from St. Genevieve County, Missouri. They were French Canadians and Catholics. In tracing him back the Catholic Church records did a fine job and ultimately it was found that one of his ancestors came from Ireland with the name of LaHay but it got changed through the years of living in the Quebec area.

Now, I also have another option. Because new researchers today haven't had to go through the machinations of using the soundex to find their families, they can be totally unaware of it and its value. The soundex grouped letters together that sounded alike. (I won't go into how it was used "back in the old days") The groupings were this: Group 1 - BFPV; Group 2 - CSKGJQXZ; Group 3 - DT; Group 4 - MN.

If you can't find the Puckett family in an index, try Buckett (it is unlikely that either F or V would be used). If you are looking for a Mason, try Nason. A Tucker might be a Drucker.

It doesn't only happen to last names, although it is the last names that give us problems in the index. Be careful with first names. Suppose you are looking at an index for Olive Ryland. If you don't find her, take a look at the Clive Ryland that is listed. The handwritten record looks for the world like Olive to me because that it what it is supposed to be, but to the indexer it looked a whole lot like Clive -- and sure enough, when I looked at the original record it certainly COULD HAVE BEEN Clive. My Chester Stevens is in the FamilySearch index as Jheotes Stevens. The only reason I found him is that I knew the composition of his family, and the FamilySearch index does have the rest of his family right. But Chester and his son Chester Junior are both listed as the Jheotes Stevenses. Can I get FamilySearch to change the index? No, but that is a different story altogether.

So for you "newbies," I encourage you to try these little tricks when you are hunting for your families. It just might help you clamber over some of your brick walls!

And as an existential question, I'd like an answer: Rebecca Corel married Giles Parman. When she died, her tombstone reads Rebecca Carl Parman, and subsequent family members all know her maiden name as Carl. What WAS her real name?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


We all know something about the Eiffel Tower, about Buffalo Bill and the Indians and Annie Oakley, about artists Van Gogh and Gauguin, and inventor Thomas Edison. But a remarkable book, Eiffel’s Tower & the World’s Fair: where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, & Thomas Edison Became a Count!, brings them all together in one place at one time. And that one place was the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. Author Jill Jonnes’ research and storytelling skills turn those isolated facts into a wonderful story. I can’t remember when I had such fun learning things.

Yes, it is a history book but more of a social history. My husband, an engineer, kept his cool every time I interrupted him to say, “Listen to this” – and then I'd read to him about struts and girts and angles and all kinds of engineering things that Jonnes' story made totally fascinating. But the story is less about steel and engineering than about people.

I read how people could, and couldn’t, bring themselves to go up to the various levels of the tower and what happened when they tried.

I read all about the artists squabbling over exhibition space and getting recognition and, yes, the arguing over whose paintings are the most relevant and deserving.

I read about Annie Oakley charming the socks off the Parisians. And her terrible childhood, which I’d never heard of before. I heard about the Indians in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show who refused to be bullied by the U.S. into signing a document giving away land in the Dakotas given them by the U.S. in the first place. They insisted that the government let the tribe members who were then living on the land do the signing. And they refused to budge in their position, in spite of a lot of arm-twisting.

I learned about Gustave Eiffel stopping midstream in building the Tower to get involved with helping out another engineer who was having problems building the Panama Canal.

There was not one single page in this book that didn’t have something surprising, something new, something interesting, something sad or something funny on it.

Jonnes story does not end when the Fair was over. She takes each of the participants and wraps up his or her life, so you’re not left to wonder what happened. The picture below shows one of the things that the Indians did after they left Paris. Buffalo Bill took his show to other countries and of course it was a wonderful photo op. I laughed out loud when I saw the picture below of the Indians and Buffalo Bill nonchalantly being taken down a canal in Venice. Who would’ve thought American Indians in 1890 would get to do such a thing? This picture, shown in the book, is held in the Western History Collection at the Denver Public Library and is reprinted here with their permission.

Don’t for a minute think a book about the building of an engineering marvel might be dull reading. It certainly isn’t, and it will be one of your favorites, just like it has become mine!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


6. A humble pastor – C.J.B. Harrison
Pastor Harrison, graduate of Cambridge University and a former Anglican minister, was teaching at a monthly home bible study in Riverside when we first met him in 1965. As we sat under his ministry both there and at Westmoreland Chapel in LA, he modeled for us what a church and a pastor could be. He was a breath of fresh air in the Christian world.

7. The woman who changed my world – Betty Friedan.
With her 1963 seminal book, The Feminine Mystique, she was central to the reshaping of American attitudes toward women’s lives and rights. When I read her book I saw myself on her pages and saw all kinds of possibilities. I believe my own daughters have been the true beneficiaries of this brave, creative and daring woman.

8. The man who took a chance on me – Dick McDaniel.
A time in my life came when I needed to be able to support myself, which meant a job that paid a whole lot more than I was presently getting at a tiny secretarial service. I knew I was smart, and I knew I could type fast and well. But with no experience to speak of, I was scared stiff. Responding to an ad in a local paper, I applied for a job as executive secretary. I took a typing test and was then interviewed by the man who needed the secretary. At the conclusion of the interview he acknowledged that I was very inexperienced but he said, “I am going to hire you before you are snapped up by someone else.” My life changed in that very moment.

9. The boss who showed me what management was – Major Oliver Stenvick.
During the four years I worked for Major Stenvick prior to his retirement from The Salvation Army, I did not think I was learning much. He was a tough boss, with high expectations and many demands. He was a hands-on boss and worked as hard as any of his employees. I did my clerical stuff and he did his managing. But when a new inexperienced boss replaced him, I realized just how much I had learned from Major Stenvick. I knew what to do and how to effect it. I took it upon myself to simply insure that staff continued the processes establish by Stenvick. Businesses run well that have good managers. To this day if I walk into a restaurant that has fingerprints on the windows, or a store with a messy interior, I see that management is not doing its job. They need Major Stenvick! And I laugh.

10. The short-tempered man who taught me patience – my own husband, Jerry.
Because I had worked in close proximity to Jerry for three years, when we married I didn’t think there would be any surprises. But there was one big one. This man with such a short fuse in the workplace is about the most patient person I have ever met when it comes to his family and his home life. I don’t know how that can be, but it is true. He is methodical, which I am not. I get frustrated when things don’t move fast, and he calms me down saying it will happen in due time. I prefer not waiting in long lines, but he assures me that we will move forward. If something doesn’t get done today, he will calmly say, “We can do it tomorrow” – and it gets done. His way is so much better than my way, and with all the projects I heap upon myself, the only reason I can tackle them is that he has shown me how. Just keep at it. The end will come. And it always does.

So these are the 10 people who have impacted my life the most. Some were friends. Many were teachers and bosses. Some were family. Many are no longer alive. I think with fondness toward all of them. Each impacted and enriched my life. Yes, I certainly had more people influencing my life than those I’ve written about. But how lucky I was to have each of these 10 in my life.

And naming them is a good way to start the new year.

Monday, January 4, 2010


At the beginning of each new year the newspapers (and now the internet) is rife with “Recaps” – 10 resolutions, 10 best songs, 10 deaths, top 10 books, 10 funny happenings, 10 new inventions….whatever you think of, there can be a list of 10 best or 10 worst, etc.

And so it made me think of my own personal “10” list of something – and at least for this first one I decided to think about the 10 people who most impacted my life.

Surprising to me was that I didn’t have to mull over this list as I anticipated doing; instead, the names came rolling out of my brain as if they were just standing there waiting to be written. So I’ll go with those ten, and tell you a little about why they are there. They are in no particular order of importance but more reflect the periods in my life.

1. My father, Scott Dobbins
It was my father who imprinted on my life a work ethic which I adopted for myself and which I expected of husbands. My dad was the first person at work each day and the last to leave. He took responsibility for his job and his family. He always gave 100% and expected it of others. But instead of making him a tyrant, he treated his employees with kindness, and on his 90th birthday some of those employees came to his party and honored him with their expressions of love and gratitude. He was one to emulate, that’s for sure.

2. My High School 10th grade English Teacher – Eleanor Weiherman
Miss Weiherman opened up the world of literature to me. In her class, among other things we were introduced to Silas Marner, A Tale of Two Cities, Julius Caesar, Moby Dick, a play called On Borrowed Time and poetry. We studied grammar too, but it was in reading and discussing these books that I learned there was more than science fiction books sitting on library shelves, which up until that time was my genre of choice. She moved me along the spectrum. For that I am grateful.

3. My Journalism Teacher in high school - Gary Lynes.
His constant praising of my work, recalled in my memory and reflected in my report cards of the period, gave me badly-needed self-confidence and the bravery to tackle the editorship of a weekly high school newspaper. Every kid in school should have a Gary Lynes.

4. My music professor at Pepperdine – Gaylord Browne, whom we referred to as “Papa.”
There is almost always a close connection between choir members and their conductor/teacher. Papa Browne was fun to be around and always motivated us to do "it," whatever "it" was, better than we thought we could. But for a select few of us who were not music majors, he took the time to introduce us to much more than just our choir music; he played violin in the orchestra of the Los Angeles MasterSingers Chorale in Los Angeles and he took us to their practices, where we were exposed to a much higher level of talent and a much broader range of music. It was there that I heard George Antheil’s amazing “Eight Fragments from Shelley, for mixed chorus and piano” and dates from 1950 – which I learned was actually music, and which to this day is my favorite.

5. My Sociology Professor at Long Beach State College – Dr. David Dressler.
Unfortunately I do not have a photo of Dr. Dressler. I wish I did. I had entered college intending to major in Sociology without really understanding what that entailed or what it would equip me for in life. In 1957, after marrying and having two babies, I finally returned to school, opting for Long Beach State, where I entered as a junior. It was there in Dr. Dressler’s classes I learned about social justice and social liberalism, something that none of my other sociology classes had even touched on. I must say Dr. Dressler opened up a whole new world to me, and while it took a few years for me to synthesize it into my life, it finally jelled and I have always felt that my political views were directly molded by this amazing man and his stories of the early labor movement in this country.

To Be Continued.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Read on the Internet: “Farmers have long been trying to get cows to produce more milk. Finally, this year, scientists at England's Newcastle University gave us a solution: talk to the animals.

“Researchers Peter Rowlinson and Catherine Douglas studied the practices at 500 dairy farms and found that cows with names produced one to two pints of milk more a day than cows that weren't given names.

“‘Even if a herdsman gave a cow a number instead of a name, that cow just seemed to be more agitated around milking time,’ said Rowlinson. ‘It just seems that cows with names are happier cows.’ [Now the use of the word “agitated” must signify a positive happening, not a negative one, which I think is what happens when I get agitated.]

But it’s not only cows that are getting happy. I know that for a long time people have thought plants grow better if you talk to them.

Back in 1848 there was a German academic, Gustav Fechner, who believed that plants, like people, had emotions and the best thing you could do for your plants was to give them lots of verbal attention. He wrote a book about the soul-life of plants. And even Luther Burbank, who worked wonders with plants, wrote in one of his books that plants may not understand the spoken word but they were capable of telepathically understanding the meaning of speech. Without trying to be negative, I must say I know Thomas Edison had some loopy ideas about how our bodies work, and I think I might put these people right up there beside ol’ Edison.

And I’m sure all of you have heard of Dr. Masaru Emoto who teaches that saying nice words to water will make it happy and saying bad words to it will make it sad. (That is the nonbeliever’s synthesis of his work; there truly are a lot of believers, but I’m not one of them.) All I can say is that I feel the same way when spoken to nicely.

Now for 2010 I propose that we all talk nice to everybody and everything, whether we believe these guys or not. It may or may not have the same effect it has on cows and flowers and water, but we’ll probably feel better about ourselves if we do. We may end up being called a Pollyanna, but don’t worry about that. Better that than being called a nut case!

Friday, January 1, 2010


1. I will reread a book that I loved as a child.

2. I will finally read that classic from high school that I’ve been avoiding.

3. I will find a book of poetry and read some aloud.

4. I will spend an hour in aimless browsing at a library.

5. I will read a book written in the year I was born

6. I will create a journal and keep notes about the books and magazines read.

7. I will assemble a list of my favorite people and send them my ideas about books (favorites, recent reads, and the like)

8. I will read a book to a child.

9. I will gather a few friends and read a play out loud

10. I will read a book on the history of my town.

11. I will read a book written from a political point of view totally opposite my own.

12. I will read a book about a place I’ve never been.

13. I will reread a book that I just didn’t “get” when I was eighteen.

14. I will read a book written by a non-American.

Adapted from a list created by Camille DelVecchio, Penfield (NY) Public Library