Friday, September 30, 2011


Yesterday was the day to experience my second Tashlich. Although last year my bread crumbs turned out to be superfluous, I went armed again this year, just in case I was lucky enough to be able to actually cast them in some water.

And I learned a couple of things, too. The rabbi said Tashlich is more a custom than a proscribed ritual. It's use has always been to help Jews focus on identifying those areas of their life where they might need (or want) some changes - sins, so to speak. The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is set aside for this reflection. I also learned that observances can be very different, and in yesterday's case, the fact that there were dozens of people participating gives a very different perspective than when hundreds are participating. Either way, however, it is up to the individual to make the event personal or impersonal.

The rabbi passed out a paper with a simple responsive reading on it. At temple on Yom Kippur there is a congregational confession of sins, read from the Prayer Book that gives a list of sins from A to Z, literally. But in the paper Rabbi passed out yesterday there was a simple rendering of types of sin, simple but still broad enough to get one to thinking how that applies to them. One in particular that struck me (a sure sign of needing some breadcrumb- throwing) was of holding on to envy of things you don't have, while forgetting to count the blessings you do have.

Along with the short readings, the cantor and his guitar led our small group in some songs, all familiar to the regular attendees but of course totally unfamiliar to me, although even if I had known them my vocal cords no longer are amenable to musical sounds, much to my sorrow. At the conclusion of the short service, Rabbi suggested we take our bread crumbs (most everybody had brought their own) and walk to the water, keeping in mind that as the bible verse from Ezekiel shown on the paper says we are to cast away the transgressions and create in ourselves a new spirit.

The nice thing about this service is that except for the kids, who were very intent on feeding bread to the ducks, (which of course you would expect), we all did stake out a little spot near the pond and symbolically deal with our sins.

And before we left the little Tashlich service, we enjoyed a few more songs, again in Hebrew, and then the Rabbi asked the Cantor to play Pete Seeger's very uplifting song, "I've Got A Hammer" and we all joined in. Tashlich observance was closed on this note. The Rabbi was happy, those sitting in a beautiful park in a mini-congregation were happy, the little kids were happy, and I think the ducks were especially happy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Ever since I learned about Tashlik back in 2002 or 2003 - by reading about this particular Jewish Ritual in the newspaper - I've been very curious. It is observed in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and apparently is part of the business of dealing with one's sins during the interval between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement. The idea is to take some bread crumbs, which represent one's sins, to some flowing water where fish are and after the appropriate prayers are recited, toss the crumbs into the water to be carried away by the water's flow. The symbolism is obvious. Although it is just my opinion, there are some participants who like to make the symbolic stand for the real thing -- and there are others who see the occasion as just another social event.

Now I was at my first Tashlich service last year, and because we were at the ocean and the city didn't allow bread (or any food) to be put in the water, the ritual was done with "symbolic" bread. Since I had taken bread crumb with me to toss, I instead ate them myself and then washed them down with a glass of nice white wine which my daughter had brought along with her family. (I don't think the wine was allowable on the beach either, but...)

So today we are going to a different Temple's observance. I am hoping it will be a little more serious. I'll report tomorrow on what we find there.

Now I have to tell you I have read a lot about Tashlik, and in many quarters it just isn't taken very seriously. In fact, below is a reproduction of a hilarious article written sometime back suggesting correlating one's sins with a particular type of bread. I laughed all the way through it and trust you will too. I will go this afternoon with some white crumbs from La Brea Bakery's Petit Baguette in a baggie. I am sure they represent something, but certainly not "Exotic" sins. More just general sins, I think.

Here is the definitive Tashlich Guide for the Complicated Modern Jew

For ordinary sins - White Bread
For exotic sins - French Bread
For particularly dark - Pumpernickel
For complex sins - Multi-Grain
For twisted sins - Pretzels
For tasteless sins - Rice Cakes
For sins of indecision - Waffles
For sins committed in haste - Matzo
For sins of chutzpah - Fresh Bread
For the sin of substance abuse/marijuana - Stoned Wheat
For the sin of substance abuse/heavy drugs - Poppy Seed
For the sin of committing auto theft - Caraway
For the sin of committing arson - Toast
For the sin of passiveness when action is warranted - Milk Toast
For the sin of being ill-tempered/sulky - Sourdough
For the sin of cheating customers - Shortbread
For the sin of risking one's life unnecessarily - Hero Bread
For the sin of excessive use of irony - Rye Bread
For the sin of telling bad jokes - Corn Bread
For the sin of being money hungry - Raw Dough
For the sin of war-mongering - Kaiser Rolls
For the sin of immodest dressing - Tarts
For the sin of causing injury or damage to others - Tortes
For the sin of promiscuity - Hot Buns
For the sin of promiscuity with gentiles - Hot Cross Buns
For the sin of davening (praying) off tune - FlatbreadsFor the sin of being holier than thou - Bagels
For the sin of indecent photography - Cheese Cake
For the sin of over-eating - Stuffing Bread
For the sin of gambling - Fortune Cookies
For sin of abrasiveness - Grits
For sins of pride - Puff Pastry
For the sin of cheating - Baked Goods with NutraSweet and Olestra
For sin of impetuousness - Quick Bread
For negligent slip-ups - Banana Bread
For the sin of dropping in without warning - Popovers
For the sin of perfectionism - Angel Food Cake
For the sin of being up-tight and irritable - High Fiber Bran Muffins

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Yesterday I was in the front yard trimming the beautifully colored (but very messy) plumbago bushes and this most interesting fellow buzzed past my shoulder and lit on the bush. It startled me, to say the least, and once I composed myself again I ran for the camera. There should be some kind of blessing recited for digital cameras, because if I'd had to go get my old Canon T90 SLR out of the closet and afix the macro lens on it, I would have missed capturing this delightful bug photo.

I didn't know what kind of a bug it was. It was about as big as a bumble bee, had a somewhat furry body and most interestingly had a "cat-face" head (can you see it?), with amazingly decorated wings. I e-mailed a picture of it to my cousin in North Carolina, who is the family bug-identifier and then phoned her. After consulting her bug book she pronounced it a Tiger Bee Fly. We then Googled "Tiger Bee Fly" and sure enough, she was spot on.

I am delighted, of course, that I was able to capture a photo of it and share with you all today. The Plumbago bush flower on which it landed is what I'd call beautiful. But the Tiger Bee Fly is beautiful too in an ugly sort of way, don't you think?

I am reminded of a prayer in the Hebrew prayer book that Jerry keeps on his shelf. There is a section called "Blessings on Various Occasions" and one blessing reads thusly:
When seeing good trees and beautiful creatures:
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, or God, King of the universe who possesseth such in His world.
I see this as a very appropriate blessing to remember when seeing something as amazing as a Tiger Bee Fly, which I also learned is just one of a myriad of bee flies. Who every heard of such a thing before!

Because my cousin has a sharp eye for bugs and critters and has in the past few years, since she left Southern California and moved to North Carolina, sent me various photos of flora and fauna, I'll share a few more below that certainly fall under the banner of the blessing too.

A remarkable katydid.

The frog who came to a coffee-break.
Newly-born mantis babies.
A hiding, white legged "Goldenrod Spider"

A possum taking shelter on a cold winter night.

Neat, huh?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


It's hard to imagine something from a delicate plant like this could cook up into something like this:

But it does. The top photo is a buckwheat plant and the next photo is a buckwheat pancake, which looks like a very dirty pancake. Very strange, I say, but as for the latter I also say "very delicious."

I've eaten buckwheat pancakes all my life. My mother and I were particularly fond of them. I always assumed buckwheat was some kind of grain but that isn't so, Google says. Buckwheat is a broad-leafed plant native to northern Asia. The flowers may be white but the seeds, about the size of a soybean and from which buckwheat flour is made, are brown. The hulls are removed and what is left, called a "groat," is ground into flour.

Because I read that Aunt Jemima had discontinued their buckwheat pancake mix I decided I'd better snoop around a little to find out how I could make such pancakes if I got an overwhelming yen for them. Aunt Jemima did say that I could mix some buckwheat flour with their regular pancake mix and get the same effect. So it was in the hunting for this that I discovered a lot I didn't know.

Besides learning about the plant, I also came across another product that I'd never noticed (or even seen) before. It's a breakfast cereal called "Cream of Buckwheat." Thinking maybe I could use that for pancakes, I bought a box.

In reading the instructions, I noticed several ways to prepare it -- and one way used the word "GRITS." Now that particular word to me is like hearing "Ambrosia." I happen to think grits are a gift of the gods, so I knew that if I couldn't use it for pancakes, at least I could use it in place of grits.

Oh, gosh, did this turn out good! Beats Cream of Wheat by a longshot! Unfortunately, my local market was closing out the Cream of Buckwheat, so what to do? Now I needed a source for both Buckwheat flour and for the breakfast cereal.

I had an idea. Last Saturday we went to the little town of Loma Linda near San Bernardino -- the healthiest town in the US, I think. Clark's Nutritional Center has a large store there, and it's not an overstatement to say that they have EVERYTHING! We walked in the door, sashayed over to the "cereal aisle" and there not only did we find the Pocono Cream of Grits but also a new (to me) buckwheat pancake mix, which is how I was able to make that delicious pancake featured above. My lucky day for sure.

It's really good eatin' when things all come together.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I am a real pantywaist when it comes to seeing animals killed. Well, actually I don’t even like thinking about it, or moreover, reading about it happening. And the older I get the less I like it. Just this week I had to skip a whole chapter in one of Barbara Kingsolver’s old books because that chapter was about cock-fighting. It may have literary qualities and be very integral part to the plot, but I don’t want to read about cockfighting.

So when I read this most interesting story in the LA Times about birds of prey -- with nary a drop of blood in the telling -- I wanted to share it with everyone.

There is a 17-acre office complex in Santa Monica with a large Water Garden (like a pond) in its midst, and it wasn’t unusual for the first people at work each day to find as many as 100 gulls and pigeons wandering around the area and doing what gulls and pigeons usually do – mostly eating and pooping. What was supposed to be beautiful and serene had become truly gross. However, instead of using some diabolical means of keeping the gulls away (like with bb-guns), the complex management hired “Airstrike Bird Control,” a company out of Cambria, California, to bring in some falcons and hawks to do the job instead.

Now that sounds ominous, but here’s how it works: At night the birds are put in large perch boxes in the complex’s garage, and each morning they are taken out near the water garden and carefully tethered to outdoor perches. Gulls and pigeons have excellent eyesight, and since the birds of prey are their natural enemies the gulls and pigeons get the picture very quickly and move on to safer climes. Every day they look to see if the falcons and hawks are still there. One quick look is all it takes for them to leave post haste. The good news is that no blood is shed. Airstrike Bird Control thinks that a two-month indoctrination course should be enough for the unwanted birds to get the picture and permanently relocate elsewhere.

It’s interesting that the owner and trainer of the falcons and hawks has given each of his birds a name – Mia Farrow, Marlon Brando, Audrey Hepburn, and Johnny Depp. The older birds are allowed to have a time of free flying each morning and evening, and for their safety they are equipped with little transmitters that the owner can use to find them just in case they get confused about where “home” is. But even at that, they all know their names and respond to a vocal call.

There is another plus in not having the complex turned into a bloody battleground. These birds really are strikingly beautiful in their watchful poses, and sometimes it is hard for employees to keep their eyes on their own work. They often are seen gazing out a window, marveling at the beauty of birds they don’t see very often.

This is a happy bird story, and I wouldn’t mind seeing these birds myself, though unfortunately my window is not nearly close enough.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The best thing about living in a senior complex is that it is relatively free of the detritus that accompanies small children and teenagers. The worst thing about it is that there is a constant coming and going of paramedics and fire trucks. The latter can be disconcerning, to say the least.

But I admit to having a good laugh last night as for the second time this week we had the entire fire department pull up in front of our building. The station nearest us is just across the freeway, and we always can hear the sirens when the trucks pull out of the station. The paramedic unit follows. We can hear them come up and over the freeway - and we know they are coming into our complex if the sirens shut off at that point. Yep, we say, here they come again.

What has surprised us the most is that once they stop, the whole rhythm of the emergency changes. There seems to be no rush whatsoever. No one scurries. I think “mosey” would be a good descriptive word for the speed of their activities. Neither the firemen/women nor the paramedics from the ambulance appear to be in any hurry at all. A gurney comes slowly out of the ambulance, the equipment is carefully placed on it, and the attendants mosey off toward wherever it is that they have been called. I have often mentioned to Jerry that if he ever needs me to call the paramedics for him, I’m going to run out towards the truck and yell “Faster, Faster!” (Well, since you know I’m not crazy about making a scene you’ll know that I’d never do that, but it sure seems to me that at the somewhat casual speed attending this emergency a lot of sick people could get sicker before they got better.)

But what has happened these last two times, both of which occurred after we had crawled into bed for the night, is that upon their arrival these firemen ran as if there was a house afire! Except for the fact that it was all carefully orchestrated, it looked from our bedroom window like a Chinese fire drill! Here’s the kicker! Both times a white Fire Department van pulled up behind the fire truck (the battalion chief’s vehicle, Jerry speculated) and out jumped a fire person AND a fellow with a big video camera. Everywhere the paramedics went the man with the camera went too, his camera taping away as he ran.

Since both times the call for help was from a unit out of our view we don’t know for sure what happened, but both times the gurney came back occupied and was hastily shelved into the ambulance and taken away. The cameraman captured the whole thing and afterwards spent some time interviewing the firemen and paramedics. Soon, everyone dispersed to their vehicles and drove away.

With the introduction of this video camera, it has become maddening not to know what is going on. Because the paramedics come so often, and because we know so few people in this complex – we know our neighbors, of course, but the complex itself is so large that we know relatively few people who don’t live close to us – we are less concerned with the reason someone is hauled off in an ambulance than what on earth the filming is about. We wonder if the videocam operator is aware that what he is filming is NOT the way things usually happen. Does the battalion chief, if that is who he is, know he is seeing something way out of the norm.

Last night after the last of the trucks pulled away, Jerry and I laughed to think of that sick person’s speedy care and how lucky he was. We also made a bet that when the videotaping project is finished we’ll see a return to the slow-motion method of operation.

But we’re still curious as to what all that taping is about.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


There aren't very many people still alive who remember my dad and his pancakes, but I've got one remaining aunt alive who does. In the next generation there are a few cousins near my age who do - Shirlee, Nancy and maybe Sharon, and then my brother and me. Everyone else is gone.

My dad did a lot of cooking around our house. As I've noted in other blogs, mom wasn't a very good cook, and although she was the primary cooker of the regular family meals, my dad took over for all the specialty meals.

And while he was especially good on the meats to be served, his real specialty was pancakes. For us, pancakes weren't so much a breakfast item as they were for a Sunday night dinner. Back in the days when I grew up, there weren't many prepared "mixes," so daddy made his pancakes from scratch. At that time our family was composed of my mom, dad, my sister and me, and our Uncle Bill. My brother wouldn't come along until I was 14. Daddy would whip up a bunch of pancakes, mother would fry some bacon, "Unc" would tend the percolating coffee and that would be our Sunday evening dinner. We little kids and mother, not being big eaters, usually ate a single pancake, and the men usually had two and on occasion three. That was just about how many daddy's batch made.

My dad had only one sibling, a sister who lived with her family in Pueblo, Colorado. One year Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Chuck and my cousins Nancy and Kenny, who at that time were young teenagers, came to visit us and Daddy fixed a pancake dinner for them. This meal turned out to be one that set a record for pancake eating: Kenny, a growing young boy probably 12 years old, ate 13 pancakes! My sister and I were stunned. Never had we seen anyone eat like that, and even well into our old age my sister and I would refer to the time that Cousin Kenny ate 13 pancakes! It surely made history in the Dobbins family.

When my sis and I were little kids, our dad always made Mickey-Mouse shaped pancakes for us. He knew just how to do it, complete with eyes and a mouth - little squiggles of batter dropped in exactly the right places before the larger pancake batter "head" and "ears" were put on top of them. When I was doing some babysitting for my two youngest grandchildren, Olivia and Justine, I always made them Mickey Mouse pancakes for one of the breakfasts we had - but I certainly didn't inherit my dad's batter artistry. Mine were identifiable as mice -- but barely!

My mother had lots of brothers and sisters who lived not too far from us in Long Beach and daddy would often suggest that they all come over for a pancake dinner. He was good that way; he was the oldest of all of them and after he and mother married they shepherded her younger brothers and sisters through the tail end of the depression, often loaned them money when there was a need, and in general just made sure that they were all okay. Having them over for a Saturday night pancake dinner was his pleasure too. Around the table would be Uncle Sam and Aunt Marie with daughters Shirlee and Nancy, Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty with kids Karen and Steve, Uncle Hugh and Aunt Betty with Sandy and Susan, Aunt Margie and of course our own family of dad, mother, Ginnie Lou, brother Steve and me. After everyone was sated with yummy pancakes, the women cleaned up the kitchen and the men set up the dining room table for poker, using wooden matches for chips. Those with smallish children might head for home, and the older cousins might sit on the floor playing their own types of card games - Fish, War, and Old Maid.

Dad and his pancakes became a legend in our family history. Dad's own father died when daddy was 8, leaving his mother and older sister Dorothy, both of whom had to go to work to support the family. There were no social programs in place then to provide support for widows. Dad did a lot of the cooking while he was young; as he got older he started doing some surveying with companies looking to locate mining operations and he did some cooking out in the field then. So it was natural that later, being the breadwinner in a household of females, he, and Unc to a lesser extent, would pick up some of the cooking. (Unc was the "coffee man.")

There are lots of things we all remember about our childhood. I'm guessing that made-from-scratch pancakes for dinner is one of the more unusual memories a person can have. To this day I think of my dad when I see a stack of pancakes. He died in 2001 at the age of 93.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Several months ago I blogged about my pharmacist filling a prescription using product from a company I had not heard of before – and when I googled that company to see where they were located (they were in India) I found that the FDA had been after them to get their act together for several years. It seems many of the issues involved unsanitary conditions in the plant and wrong ingredients in the formulas. At that time I decided to put myself on an FDA list to receive e-mail notification of products being recalled.

Since then, I am surprised to learn that we earthlings are mostly still alive. I cannot in my wildest dreams believe what all is recalled. In one case there were thousands and thousands of lots of plasma recalled because the donor was later learned to have Hepatitis B. It is good, of course, that we have the FDA watching out for our safety, but sometimes I wonder if it is better to NOT know what is being recalled.

Today I got an FDA recall notice for a company in the Bronx: September 21, 2011 - XXXXXXXXXX Fish Products, Inc. located in Bronx, NY is recalling Smoked Split Herring because the product was found to be uneviscerated. (In case you don’t understand big words, this means the fish guts were not removed!) Oops! This one made me laugh, because I’m not likely ever to eat Split Herring.

I recall many years ago I read in Consumer Reports that there was a certain volume of maggots allowed in canned mushrooms – and I said to myself then that I would never, ever again eat canned mushrooms. I’d guess that was at least 45 years ago I read that, and I’ve been a consumer of fresh mushrooms ever since – and you can believe me when I say I inspect those fresh ones probably better than the FDA would. I’m definitely not that into maggots.

I also check labels to make sure the dye that colors food in cans and containers does not come from a cochineal which, when mashed, turns into carmine red. The labels will say cochineal if this bug is in it, but it will not add “insect.” Sometimes I find the word “carrageenan” there, but that is not a bug but a product from red seaweed.

I am not sure I’m doing myself a favor by reading all these recall notices. My original intent was just to not shorten my life by inadvertently taking adulterated medicine in the cause of furthering the global economy. But heck, you can find stuff that you really didn’t want to know elsewhere, too. The New York Times in its February 9, 2009 issue helpfully wrote the following:
In its (falsely) reassuringly subtitled booklet “The Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of Natural or Unavoidable Defects in Foods That Present No Health Hazards for Humans,” the F.D.A.’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition establishes acceptable levels of such “defects” for a range of foods products, from allspice to peanut butter.

Among the booklet’s list of allowable defects are “insect filth,” “rodent filth” (both hair and excreta pellets), “mold,” “insects,” “mammalian excreta,” “rot,” “insects and larvae” (which is to say, maggots), “insects and mites,” “insects and insect eggs,” “drosophila fly,” “sand and grit,” “parasites,” “mildew” and “foreign matter” (which includes “objectionable” items like “sticks, stones, burlap bagging, cigarette butts, etc.”).

Tomato juice, for example, may average “10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams [the equivalent of a small juice glass] or five or more fly eggs and one or more maggots.” Tomato paste and other pizza sauces are allowed a denser infestation — 30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams or 15 or more fly eggs and one or more maggots per 100 grams.

Can I ever look a glass of tomato juice in the face again? Probably not.

And as my mother always said, “Don’t let flies walk on your food. Think of where their feet have walked previously!” And as my sister and I understood, she was always alluding to dog poop, maybe our own Pal’s dog poop in the back yard. I sometimes wonder if her admonition was the genesis of my concern about foreign and gross things in food.

But as Jerry always says, “Just close your eyes and eat. Most of it is just protein anyway.” Small consolation, I say, small consolation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I've never been crazy about having anything whizzing around in the dark - starting with june bugs, progressing to bats and then taking a big jump to little asteroids, big meteorites and junk the size of a bus.

Now I admit I started out my life as a somewhat fearful child...and lots of things scared me, but I can't say I've become either a worry-wort or a hysteric personality in my dotage. But yesterday Jer and I were watching the mid-day news on Channel 4, and when the female talking head announced that the chances of being hit tomorrow by a piece of space junk from the bus-sized satellite due to enter our atmosphere were 1 in 3,200 I truly was taken aback! I waited for her to correct what she said -- that just couldn't be possible, I thought . But it didn't happen. I supposed she'd eventually announce that she meant something like "1 in 32,000," or "1 in 32,000,000." Jer and I looked at each other and said, "Someone made a mistake."

I told Jerry that those kind of odds are better than the odds of winning the BIG BANG lottery. If I could get odds like that I'd be willing to fork over some of my retirement savings to take a chance.

Since yesterday I've waited to see what kind of odds the scientists were really going to give. Nothing more was said on any of the newscasts we've been listening to, so a little researching online today produced the following:

The 1-in-3,200 odds of being hit pertain to any of the nearly 7 billion people on Earth. But any one individual's odds of being struck are about 1 in 21 trillion.

The quote goes on to say that the debris will only effect a 500 mile wide area - so perhaps that is why the odds differ. There was no further information given.

Now in addition to not being a particular fearful person, I also am not a very scientifically or mathematically oriented person, and I just have to admit that I don't understand what all this means.

If I am in this 500 mile wide window, I may react just as Chicken Little did -- THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING! But I think NASA is pretty sure that Mira Loma/Jurupa Valley is not in that window and I will be spared having to see a bus-sized satellite hurtling at me.

So I'll go to bed tonight expecting full well to get up hale and hearty tomorrow morning and spend the day having my usual Friday fun without worry. I'm counting on the 21 trillion to 1 odds to be operational for me.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


The Dictionary of Jewish words defines the Yiddish word "Chazeri" (pronunced kah-zeh RYE) as "worthless junk." Although Jerry doesn't speak much Yiddish, he has a few words that he uses regularly, and Chazeri is one he has often used for a pile of my junk that he knows he doesn't dare touch. It's junk to him, but for me it generally is there for a good reason and every so often I thin it out, using what I saved it for, and either filing or tossing the rest. Today's blog is because it was time to tackle the chazeri I'd accumulated on the end of the davenport: several loose newspaper pages and a few torn magazine articles for a someday blog.

The first item I'd like to mention falls in the "Now I've Seen Everthing" category. Above is shown a new touch screen tablet now on the market; it was designed for children from 1 week of age to 4 years.

The designer, a mother of two and a networking entrepreneur, says, "Children are curious about touch screens. We are just leveraging their curiosity." It's called a "Vinci," as in you know who "Vinci". The specs say it is smaller than an iPad, it is suspended in a rubbery red frame to protect it, and it comes loaded with a few stories and games that encourage children to think about feelings, numbers, letters... "and more apps are in development."

It is priced to sell from $389 to $479. But alas, no Wi-Fi.


The next item set aside in my chazeri was this photo:

I spent a long time looking at this simple picture. Obviously it is Obama going up an airplane ramp in the rain. But here's what I thought:

Is it really raining?
Who is than man following Obama? Does Obama have an aide whose job is to carry his umbrella?
Is this man doing a good job?
Who is getting wet, Obama? This fellow? Both?
Does this man know his umbrella is in the wrong place?
Doesn't Obama care?
Perhaps it stopped raining and neither of them are aware of it.

My newspaper comes very early in the morning and I don't think all that clearly right out of bed. Maybe an hour later I wouldn't have wasted my time speculating on all this, but still I find it an exceptionally interesting photo. Thanks to Jim Watson AFP/Getty images.

Now I know I have a strange "area of interest" for my reading material. Probably none of you who read this blog, with the exception of my son whose reading choices are and always have been as eclectic as mine, will find this newish book interesting:

When I started taking Journalism in high school, one of the things we did was to publish a weekly newspapaer. As I worked through the flunkie jobs on the way to becoming editor, one of the things I most liked to do was to write headlines. To start with, I was given a certain number of inches to play with, and a certain number of Font styles to choose from. I had to come up with a headline that was acceptable to my "boss" (the page editor) and to figure out what font and what pitch I thought was best with it, taking into consideration our newspaper's style (and of course our school printshop's stash of fonts.) Each letter of each font had a "count" -- that is, how much space it would take up in an inch, so I had to quickly learn how to count by ems and ens to make up my good headline. Sometimes it took awfully creative wording to get a satisfactory headline of the right font and pitch!

I suspect that is one of the reasons why this book appealed to me - and it reminds me of my past. The book review in our newspaper written by Wesley Bausmith let me know that a whole lot more is in this book too:
Flying in the face of the digital-age mantra that "Print is dead," Simon Garfield's "Just My Type" takes an engaging look at the world of fonts, the building blocks of everything we read. With wit and insight, he enlivens a topic that few outside the graphic trades might ponder. He wants to change that!

Anyway, "Just My Type" is now on order through my friend Abe of Abebooks. And my couch is a bit less messy!

There is one additional thing that is going on here in Southern California that is quite startling. The employees of the major grocery store chains (Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons) have through their union been negotiating for several months on a new union contract. They are still very far apart in their offers, which mainly at this point center around medical benefits. The last strike to hit these three major stores happened in 2004 and lasted for four months. At the conclusion of that strike, there was still not a lot of satisfaction, and it was felt that both stores and employees suffered financially.

At this point in time, our economy being what it is, there is a lot of fear around. Finally the employees decided if no acceptable bargaining agreement was reached, they would go out on strike again tomorrow (Sunday, 9/18). In response, Ralphs announced that if a strike was called, it was going to shut down all their stores for the duration of the strike and at that time would re-evaluate each individual store to see if they wanted to put it back in business when the strike was over or if they would close it permanently!

I guess what makes this so shocking is that we have been Ralph's customers since 1994, when we returned from Istanbul. We know them and their products and their people like the back of our hand. At the end of July the nearest Ralphs store to us (but not the one we shopped at) closed down. To think that all of the stores might do so tomorrow, whether on a temporary or permanent basis, is just a shocking thought. And of course we can't help but think that all those employees who have become our friends through the years will have to juggle their finances which, if they are like many of the people we know, is a very scary proposition that we wouldn't want to be in.

So we are kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or waiting to see who is going to call "Uncle" first.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I have recently been looking for beauty in my neighborhood and to my dismay I have found nothing. I have been looking for the kind of beauty that blogger Friko has in her neighborhood. And if you've ever taken a look at her blog you'll know what I mean.

Now I suppose if I had a macro lens for my camera I might focus in on the very heart of a neighbor's flower and find something of beauty way down inside, but honestly, the apartment complex where I live is definitely not beautiful. In my better moments I compare it to a bunch of army barracks, and the environs are a place where a good Dorothy Lange photograph might have been taken. It's an interesting area -- lots of goats, a few dairies, lots of discarded tires and davenports along the county roads and high-power lines running aside the property but definitely not beautiful.

But recently, while trying to move my own pictures around on the new computer and putting them in folders where they will be easier to find, I kept coming across certain photos that made me really happy. So that's what i'm going to share with you today, along with a little description of them and why they make me happy. They are best when they are big, so if you double-click on the images maybe you'll see their specialness.

My youngest granddaughter, Justine, now 8, has always been a dramatic child. She was born laughing, but you'd never know it from this photo. Look at those eyes.

Our cat, Tigger, spent the last years of his life happily taking naps on the end of our couch. He died in September of 2008 and not a day has gone by that we haven't missed him. He gave us 18 years of happiness.

In a tiny village in Turkey called Kumbetkoy we stumbled upon this woman up on the side of a rocky hill tending to her grain. Her job was to keep turning it so the sun could draw all the moisture out. She was young, and this was her life.

Of course this picture makes me laugh. It is a "photoshopped" image of me, one I did when I was taking a Photoshop class and was learning how to use the various tools. I use it at Halloween for my Facebook account. (It's really what I look like when I'm not feeling well!)

I call pictures like this "Magazine Babies" as it seems to me that certain baby pictures are simply iconic and could be anyone's baby. But this is newborn Olivia, my youngest daughter's first child and my next-to-the youngest granddaughter.

One of my dreams had always been to go to North Carolina's outer banks, and when my cousin moved within spitting distance of Okracoke, my dream came true. We were shell-hunting the day I took this picture. I'm not even sure the house was occupied, but it was such a serene setting that as far as I was concerned it was just my cousin and me and the elements. Seeing this photo reminds me of a dream fulfilled.

Grandson Christopher is now 29. He will always look like this to me.

These photos make me happy.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Usually I choose a book because I’ve read a good review, or I am familiar with the author’s other books, or it has come to me recommended by a good friend. I am not very good at picking books off a library shelf to read. Rarely am I satisfied, so I mostly don’t select my books this way – except when I’m desperate. Last Wednesday was one of those days.

But I couldn’t have made a better choice. Well, how can one NOT think a book entitled “The Pig Did It” would be worth reading. What on earth could the pig have done? I had to know.

So this book, a novel by Joseph Caldwell written in 2008 and the first in a planned pig trilogy, started me laughing on the first page and I laughed my way through it. Listen to what Ron Charles, The Washington Post’s reviewer, says about it:
The macabre comedy plays out in sparkling dialogue, including some hilarious speeches that are both incantations of Irish mythology and masterful bits of parody. Caldwell is a successful playwright, too, and his perfect ear for the non sequiturs of real conversation is a constant delight. If you love the Irish, if you've ever fallen in love or been spurned in love—heck, if you love bacon—you must read this irresistible novel.
It was my lucky day when none of the books I had on reserve at the library came in. It forced me to take pot luck on the shelves – and reading this pig romp has simply turned into having a feast of words and a belly-full of mirth.

I can’t wait for the next helping!

Monday, September 5, 2011


Found on the Longmont, Colorado Library website today:

Public Notice: Bedbugs
August 19, 2011: Please be aware that an exterminator has confirmed bedbugs in 5 upholstered chairs at the Library. The chairs have been treated. Bedbugs are not a public health hazard and do not carry disease. This information is shared with you so that you may make an informed decision in visiting the library. Visit the CDC website on Bed Bugs FAQs and read more about this notice in the recent Press Release.

Now how awful is that?! Ain’t no place sacred anymore. Yep, the bedbugs’ll getcha if you don’t watch out.

I hate bedbugs, and I hate the idea of bedbugs. Actually, I hate the idea of bed mites even worse, but there doesn’t seem to be anything one can do about the mites. The bedbugs? Yes, you can call an exterminator who will make a valiant attempt to rid your house of them, but they are apparently just as hard to get rid of as lice in a kindergarten classroom. And if you’ve ever gone through that process, you’ll understand what I mean.

Bedbugs and cockroaches always seem to mean that one is not keeping a very sanitary house, but that isn’t the case, at least with bedbugs. Bedbugs don’t need a dirty house. All they need is a mode of transportation to get to new feeding grounds, and that can be a matter of hitchhiking on anything going anywhere. Hence the critters on a library chair. Did you ever in a million years think that plopping your behind down on a library chair might mean that you unknowingly deposit a bedbug or two in your own house and unwittingly start an infestation. (Methinks it probably takes two bedbugs to start a single infestation, unless the lone hitchhiker is pregnant.)

I do not ever want to see a bedbug in my house. If I do, I will first call an exterminator, but from my readings I will have little faith that every last bug will be found. So then I will buy an air mattress, which at night will be blown up and placed on my kitchen’s linoleum floor. There I will sleep. Or maybe I’ll sleep on the back seat of my car. I’ll certainly not sleep in my bed any more, that’s for sure. Or I might choose to move to a new apartment complex. I’ll decide which, if and when the time comes.

Now this may be an over-reaction, but I have a very hard time sleeping anyway, and if I thought there might be a bedbug or two waiting in my bed, I NEVER would fall asleep.

And now that I think of it, since Thursday will be wash day this week, I think I’ll turn my mattress over when I strip the bedding and give it a good inspection. I have some suspicious red bumps on my forearm, and I just wonder…….

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I find it delightful to pick up a newspaper and read something other than depressing or discouraging political and economic news. So when I read in the LA Times yesterday about San Francisco’s “Parkmobiles” – bright red dumpsters filled with greenery that aim to bring postage-stamp-sized parks into the cement heart of the city – I had to laugh.

Although the city means well, some think the movable parks mostly provide a place for homeless hankie-pankie and a source of irritation for those who can’t find a parking place anywhere. Both complaints have been lodged.

On the other side of the argument, they also have provided an al fresco setting for fast food lunchers, a venue for little songbirds not usually found in the cement city, and a place for tired walkers to rest their aching feet. Two red dumpsters of greenery are already out working and four more are being prepared. On balance, even though I laughed when I saw the picture, I think the creator of those parkmobiles probably had a good idea.

Now we out here in the Riverside County boonies also have a piece of news that is every bit as unusual – and maybe more – than San Francisco’s. We have THIS! It’s a rock that’s going to become a famous piece of art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard.

It was blasted out of the face of a Glen Avon quarry in the nearby Jurupa Hills in 2005, weighs 340 tons, is two stories tall and 21 feet wide. Furthermore, sometime soon it is going to be loaded onto a truck – a heavy-haul “transporter” with 208 wheels owned by a Portland-based company – and driven 72 miles into downtown Los Angeles, driven, that is, at the speed of a snail and only at night. Going ahead of it will be a crew of 15, various LACMA officials and police escorts. It’s estimated to take seven nights to get from quarry to museum.

There has been some talk about building a protective crate around it. The artist, of course, wants a pristine rock without scars, scrapes and pitting on its sides, but until we hear otherwise, we’ll assume it will go through the countryside as naked as it came out of that hillside.

I can hear you asking, “Well, for crying out loud, what kind of artwork is this?” I understand the artist is Michael Heizer; the name of the work is “Levitated/Slot Mass.” Eventually the rock will be poised over a 456-foot long, 15 foot deep concrete trench. Once in place, visitors will be able to walk underneath the massive granite formation and down a slope that will create the illusion that the boulder is levitating.

I admit to not understanding this type of art. And thinking of walking under any suspended 340 ton rock would gives me the same kind of heebie-jeebies that walking out over the Grand Canyon in a cantilevered walkway does – neither are anything I would choose to do.

But what I AM going to do is find out which night this big boulder will pass my apartment complex – and believe me, it will pass by, as we live next door to Glen Avon and that boulder has to come by if it intends to go to Los Angeles – and stake out my spot. If I want to see a moving boulder I’ll have to give up part of a night’s sleep. Actually, I think we won’t be the only residents of Country Village who will be attending the big boulder move; there may be an actual Boulder-Moving party, if enough people decide to attend.

But should I miss it, I will still have the option of seeing the boulder resting in the daylight, but that sure doesn’t sound like a once-in-a-lifetime event.