Friday, October 19, 2012


Crossword puzzles give Jerry and me a great deal of pleasure.  As much as anything, we do a lot of laughing at what we don't know, should know, have on the tip of our tongue and are happy to know.  Often we end up close to hysterics - such as after wracking our brains trying to come up with the last name of a person named Bobby, but discovering what the puzzle wants is a simple "pin." 

We complement each other; I do the hard puzzles and he does the easy ones.  Within that framework, he is assigned to provide help for all the scientific and math questions, and I help with all the writers, books and religious questions.  We're on our own with foreign words and Roman/Greek mythology!

Early this morning Jer was down to the last unknown word and passed the book over to me.  I found the answer was obvious: OldDanTucker.  It was not obvious to Jer.  "Who's that?" he said.  Unbelieveably, he had never, ever heard of Old Dan Tucker, much less heard it sung.    He didn't challenge me on it but he had that look that said, "I'll bet you are not going to let this go, are you?"

From my earliest childhood my mother sang to my sister and me.  She was not a particularly good singer, but she was full of music.  Now my father came from a musical family but I don't believe I ever heard him sing.  It was always my mother.  Many of her songs were ones that were probably older than she was.  She often sang to us the musical version of "Trees" (I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree....).  She had a darling song that was popular probably in the 1920's "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" about the furniture dancing when the singer and his amore decided they couldn't part; my sister and I loved it!  And yes, we heard a lot of the old gospel hymns.

It was from her singing that I remember "Old Dan Tucker."   This morning I tried to sing it to Jerry, but due to my aging vocal cords (which the doctor says appear stiff and inflexible as if they were somewhat arthritic, to my great dismay) and my lapsing memory over the words, I couldn't do an accurate rendition for Jerry's benefit.  So I found a great YouTube version and called Jerry to come hear it.  He now has no excuse for missing it should another crossword puzzle ask that question again. 

Jerry laughed; I'm sure he didn't disbelieve what I had told him, but hearing it sung by a real hillbilly confirmed what his morning crossword puzzle meant.  And then it occurred to me that probably my own kids didn't know about Old Dan Tucker.

Maybe some of you readers don't remember it either.  So shown below is the link that will take you to the fine singing of one of our honest folk songs that dates from the 1840s!


Be sure your sound is up; it would be a shame to not hear and enjoy it.

Monday, October 15, 2012


This picture is of a web that is being spun by an orb-weaver spider who resides just outside our front door -- actually, in the eaves, I think.  It's not the most beautiful web I've ever seen, but it certainly is the biggest.  She's been working on it for almost a week now and it grows daily.  The picture below is of the front of our apartment and the area within the square is about how big it is, and the dark line extending to the right shows her latest addition - a line that runs over to the bougainvillea bush.  So far it is all above our heads, but I think maybe a 6'4" person walking onto our porch without stooping would end up with a scarf of spider web draping down around his head and shoulders.

This is a fitting time of year for her to do this.  She's not the prettiest thing in the world, but she surely does fit the bill of a scary Halloween spider:

I had a visit with the eye doctor this morning - a regular 6-month followup visit due to glaucoma, a family trait.  I had high ocular pressure for a long time; finally the time came when I needed to put 1 drop of levobunolol in each eye once a day.  That's where it stands now and it has caused no damage.  I did learn today, however, that I have the beginnings of cataracts.  This is not surprising at my age and since I have not been bothered by any clouding or fuzziness, I admit to being a little surprised.
But when I got home and read the report the eye doc handed me, this new medical condition was reported as "Senile cataracts!"  Now I am totally insulted!  Senile, schmeenile!  Call it old-age cataracts, or if it has to have a more medical- sounding name I'd call it "Presby-cataracts."  (Presbyopia is the medical word for "old eyes.")  Anyway, it's just a good thing I wasn't still in her office when I read that form.  I know it isn't her fault, but I don't like the sound of senile anything!
Jerry and I had a big surprise at our last meeting of the Friends of the Library group we volunteer for.  The librarian reported that according to the County Board of Supervisors (our library is a county facility), all volunteers, both present and future, must now be fingerprinted and have background checks before we can continue to volunteer.  The kicker here is the word "ALL." All volunteers.  Not only the ones who tell stories to the children, but the ones who repair the damaged books in the work room; not only the parents who help out on the Wednesday afternoon monthly movie shown in the community room but all the high schoolers who come in to serve as helpers and pages among the stacks. 
The finger-printing must be done by a single company of the Board's choosing, at their facility.  Forms must be filled out containing certain information about us that will enable them to research our background, and then we are obligated to pay $42 for this "service."  If we prove worthy, we may continue to volunteer.
Jerry and I limit our volunteering to one FOL meeting per month (all adults) and two hours of working at the monthly fund-raising book sale.  We sit at a table and take the money.
I have a virginal white background, with nothing to hide.  And  I don't think this is a "Big Brother is watching you" type of thing; I don't like to see plots where there are none.  But I am not a happy camper.  Even the $42 is not the issue.  Of course I do think that we should take every kind of caution around children, but this is just too much. 
Last week I was driving down Van Buren heading in to Riverside when I noticed a big new billboard had gone up about one-half mile north of Limonite Road.  On it, the world's biggest Big Mac was sitting in front of some Golden Arches.  The wording was simple: 
As I whizzed by I laughed, because MacDonalds is LEFT on Limonite. 
This morning I drove that way again.  There is no MacDonalds billboard now.  OOPS!  Someone made a BIG mistake.
In the last year I have developed some cardiac palpitations, of which my doctors are aware.  No one except me seems to get excited about them.  And my own doctor says his grandpa (also a doctor) had them until he died at 94.  My friend Fran has kept me sane through these times, showing me by the fact that she is still alive and kicking that it is possible to ignore them and go on about your own business. 
Nevertheless, there are palpitations and then there are
the latter of which I think best decribe mine.  I've been thinking of how to let the doctors know that I am serious about how they feel.  And I've decided what best illustrates them:  when I have the bad ones, it feels like three junior high school boys have been turned loose in the percussion section of an orchestra and told to make as much noise as they want.  So they do, in my chest.
It's not fun, docs!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


In this morning's LA Times the picture above appeared, along with a story of a man finding this really large eye as he walked along the sand at Pompano Beach, north of Fort Lauderdale.  He said it appeared to be very fresh, noting that it still had blood on it.  If it hasn't already been sent, it soon will be heading to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Intitute in St. Petersburg.  It is about as big as a baseball, the story notes, and so far no one can figure what kind of an animal, fish or otherwise is the owner of such an eye of that size.  (It of course has assumed the sobriquet "Ol' Blue Eyes.")

Well, looking at it gives me the willies!  The black and white picture in the Times was bad enough, but seeing it in full, glorious color is just too much!  Much as I love blue eyes, I may certainly have bad dreams over this one!

Which reminds me of the one other thing in the world that gives me the willies....and that is seeing an empty swimming pool. 

Now I'm going to be honest with you in exposing my one little psychological quirk.  I can account for why I don't like them and why I avoid them like the plague if I expect one is anywhere in the vicinity.   My psyche tells me that the blue eye and the blue pool are both willie-worthy. 

During my years in Scouting, the girls of Troop 28 in Long Beach took swimming lessons at the old YWCA in Long Beach.  The Y had quite a large enclosed swimming pool.  If you were taking lessons you stayed on the ground floor around the pool.  If you were merely watching, you would go up to the second floor balcony and watch the activity below.  We often arrived early for our group lessons, so after changing into our bathing suits we all would sit in the balcony to watch the swimmers below.  If I had to guess, I would say we probably were somewhere between 9th and 11th graders then. 

A few years later I had a nightmare about that pool.  I dreamed I was in the balcony with my friends and one of them decided to dive into the pool.  At the very moment she pushed off from the railing, the water in the pool drained out instantly and her head hit the bottom of the now-empty pool.  Warm blood splashed up on us in the balcony.  END OF DREAM.

Who knows where dreams come from?  Why does the mind make them so awful sometimes?  However, I survived  both the dream and swimming and went on to become a Mariner Scout, spending the last four years of my scounting experience on and in the water, as all good Long Beach teenagers did.

But from that point on, I never could look at an empty swimming pool.   Just the idea of it gave me the willies.  Of course I didn't have all that many occasions to see an empty pool, but I do remember that one year in college I counselled at a church camp and upon my arrival discovered the pool had not yet started to be filled.  As the pool was right next to the entry of the "mess hall" I had to avert my eyes to stave off that creepy feeling.

Many, many years later Jerry and I bought a house with a swimming pool.  At one time we needed to have some repair work done on it, which necessites it being drained.  I was a big girl now, I told myself, and I could handle this.  In fact, when it was finally dried out for the repair, I chose to walk down into the pool, asking the workmen to show me where the repairs were going to be made.  They didn't know I was trying to desensitize myself.  I wasn't crazy about walking around that dry pool bottom, but I felt it was a tiny bit of mental health exercise I needed to do. 

That probably was the last time I ever had occasion to see an empty pool, but seeing the big eye in the newspaper this morning reminded me of my one acknowledged psychological foible. 

Since nothing else gives me the willies, I guess I could say I don't feel the need to crawl on the Freudian couch at this stage.  But that eye......

Friday, October 12, 2012


Here's a "did you know?"

Straight from Wikipedia's mouth I find the following:

Beginning in 1984, when I first started compiling my family tree, never thinking it would turn into the biggest and longest adventure in my life, I thought it would be nice to find, frame and hang whatever pictures of my direct ancestors that I could beg, borrow or steal.    In genealogical terms, "direct" ancestors are those from whom you descend through blood lines, so to speak.  Going back from you, that would involve your mother and father, two sets of grandparents, four sets of great-grandparents, etc.  (Yes, it does get wieldly and cumbersome sometimes, so instead of saying great-great-great-grandpa we simply say third great-grandpa).  And of course when you get to pre-camera era you have to think in terms of finding paintings or drawings.

In 1984 we lived in a house with a long interior hall, and it was a perfect place to start my Rogue's gallery.  I consider that I have been very fortunate in finding as much as I have.  The latest picture, that of old Uberto Wright (1813-1890), came to me because several years ago in a blog I posted a plaintive statement (like a whine, more or less,) that I guess I'd never know what this kind, loving second-great grandpa looked like.  Before too much time passed, a fellow in Indiana, who was an authority on Church of Christ historical documents, contacted me and directed be to where a picture of Uberto could be found.  Needless to say, I am greatly indebted to him. 

As we got older, left the house for an apartment and continually work at downsizing for the future, the configuration of my Rogue's gallery has changed.  it's all in a clump on my office wall, and I need to point my finger at the pictures  that are related from generation to generation.

From my Rogue's gallery I can visually trace my Dobbins line like this:  Me->my father Scott Dobbins Jr.(1908-2001) ->Scott Dobbins Sr.(1876-1918) ->James Sellers Dobbins (1836-1902)-> James Alexander Dobbins(1806-1872)-> Robert B. Dobbins (1775-1852).  Beginning with my dad's picture, this is what my wall shows:

It's not only the Dobbins line that I have documented in photos but my mom's Ryland line and many other of the direct ancestors also, but none quite as dramatic as this.  In some cases, I've had to use a copy from a book.  One of the pictures I have was from a photograph taken of a picture hanging on the wall of a library in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  The man in that photo is George Stevens, for whom Stevens Point was named and my third great grandpa.  So by hook or by crook I've managed to get twenty photos (two have been added since the picture was taken.

I suspect that no more will be found.  The crazy thing is that the Internet has made so much possible that that statement may not be true a few years from now.  Actually I should change it to read, "In my lifetime, I suspect..."  But even that might change.  Honestly, I never stop looking. 

Am I concerned about their future?  Of course.  I have an emotional investment in these photos.  In a sense I feel I gave birth to them.  The next generations coming behind me don't need the tactile and visual things that my generations wants.  So I've resigned myself to not having to know what will become of them when I die.  Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, I will simply avoid the issue and not worry about it.  If any of you have any bright ideas, let me know.

And incidently, they really don't, you know!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Reading the news just today of the passing of Turhan Bey on September 30 caused me to remember how "in love" I was with him when I was just a wee tyke.  So for today's blog I'm republishing one that I wrote shortly after I started blogging.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it is awfully nice to see a smile instead of a smirk, isn't it?
And just so no one gets their nose out of joint, I need to add that Jerry smilingly approves this message!

Friday, October 5, 2012


Sometimes I can’t understand how Jerry and I could get to be this age (old) without knowing some of the simplest things.  We have lived our whole lives around cows, from cows jumping over the moon in our babyhood, to cows giving milk in our childhood, to calf-roping and steer riding when we were teenagers old enough to go to rodeos, and the value of good steaks in our adulthood.  So why are we still so confused?
I think my own first personal quest into the unknown was when I was reading a book set in past era, perhaps like in Caldwell, Kansas in the 1880s, and one of the characters in the book used the word “beeves.”  “BEEVES?” I said to myself?  Who besides this character uses the word “Beeves.”

If we pay attention to the dictionary, we will find we should be using it ourselves if we drive past a bunch of steers out on the prairie (or in a pen waiting to go to the market) and comment on what we see.  “Look at the beeves” is perfectly fine.  It is simply the plural of “beef” – although I don’t think this is totally what is being used today; rather, we use “beef” as the plural, too, the same as sheep and sheep, whether it is a single sheep or a flock of sheep.
OK,  beeves to me sounds quaint, and Jerry and I enjoy using it, although we don’t have a lot of occasion to do just that.

This latest foray into cow territory came about because I asked him if a cow, a term I use generically for bovines, male and female, really referred to a female bovine.  In other words, did “cow” function the same as “sow” – that being one would never call a male pig a sow.  If “cow” was used the same way, then I had been using it wrong all these years.  If I saw a herd of bovines in a field, I would have called them cows, and I began to think about it.  Was I wrong?  Jerry wasn’t sure either.
All this ignorance comes because we both were born and raised in a city, and the nearest we ever got to farm animals was at the LA County Fair each year.

Well, it turns out that I have been wrong if I was trying to speak proper English.  A cow actually is a mature female of a bovine animal, but informally it is correct to call a domestic bovine of either sex and any age a cow. 
The problem Jerry and I ran into in trying to be correct is that in trying to get an answer from a dictionary, we end up going around in circles and understanding far less than we thought we did when we started out.  It seems the terms are right, wrong, possible, not possible, and maybe all at the same time, depending on… infinitum.

After our latest skirmish, we think we now understand this:
1)     An adult female bovine that has given birth is called a cow.

2)     A young female bovine that has not given birth is called a heifer.

3)     An adult female that has not given birth is often called a heiferette.
 (This term made me almost roll on the floor laughing!  Imagine!)

4)     A castrated male bovine is a steer

5)     Young bovines are called calves, usually “bull calf” or “heifer calf,” depending on the gender.

6)     And we DO understand beeves, which seems very simple now.

We have not totally got everything down pat, however, but I think we are going to stop here, as we’re not likely to be asked for anyone for an explanation.

The sad thing is that we have no real good excuse for not knowing.  It is our native language and we should have it figured out by now.

Being a bit confused reminds me of something that happened a long time ago, when my young Turkish friend was learning English.  She had taken English in her classes in Istanbul when I met her, but as any of you who have every struggled to learn a foreign language know, it is hard to remember all the meanings.  She was speaking fairly well, but when she got excited words tended to leave her.  One day she was talking about the possibility down the road of marriage and in the middle of her enthusiasm she lost a word.  She paused, and then said to me, “Will I be the bride or the groom?” 

Words that are so simple are not always that easy for everyone.  And I guess that is why I struggle with animal nomenclature.  Surely I should know by now.  Obviously we don’t, but talking about it sure does give us a time of hilarity, when we have to ‘fess up that yes, we still have trouble with beeves and heiferettes!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I can't think of anything much worse than 6,084 young people playing dodgeball at the same time.  The picture above, taken by LA Times photographer Don Bartletti, shows how it looked on the field on Wednesday, September 26 of this year.  The participants were all UC Irvine students and they had a good reason for doing it.  They were trying to set a world record for the most people to play dodgeball at one time. 

Nevertheless, when I looked at the photograph my eye zeroed in on a fellow I seemed to remember from my childhood, and I had to work hard to suppress a shudder.  Considering that my childhood ended about in 1950, my flashback certainly had to break some unknown record too -- perhaps a time-travel type thing that somehow made me immediately recognize that awful little boy on the Frances E. Willard Elementary School playground who picked me out as the child most likely to cry if hit by a highly inflated, swiftly thrown dodgeball -- and tried to set his own record for accuracy.

I picked him out of the mass of students above and am quite sure that this is he:
His stance is the same, his strongest arm is setting up for the throw, and it's obvious that whoever doesn't dodge in the right direction will end up with a stinging smack that will raise a welt and cause tears to jump out of one's eyes, unbidden.

I HATED dodgeball as a kid.  I was thought to have a heart problem when I was young and was not allowed to participate in energetic games such as volley ball, softball, tennis and so forth.  But for some reason teachers believed that dodge ball was ok.  We didn't play that game at recess but only at the times when we went outdoors for our class' Phys Ed period.  The boys would form a big circle and the girls would stand in the center.  One boy was given a ball and of course the object was to throw it so it would hit one of the girls, who then was "out."  The teachers told the boys not to throw hard enough to hurt us, and perhaps most of the girls didn't consider getting smacked by the ball all that painful.  But I was a little, scrawny, shy kid and possibly had a sign on my back that said "Kick Me," because no matter how I tried, I always ended up with red welts on my arms and legs.  And I tried awfully hard not to cry.

It wasn't bullying, per se.  I was not picked on, but I felt like I was.  To be honest with you, none of the girls much liked the game, but some were physically much bigger than me and when it came their time to throw the ball at the boys, they acquitted themselves admirably.  I avoided ever trying to catch the ball and throw it back at the boys, because I wasn't very good at throwing anything. 

I suppose I could have complained to my mother and she might have been able to get me excused from the Phys Ed time, too, and instead be allowed to sit on the bench and watch.  But I already felt like I was the odd kid because there was so much I wasn't able to do because of my heart problems.  So I just kept quiet about it and tried to make myself small and mousy and insignificant, so as not to draw attention to myself.

Until I saw the picture of the dodge ball game at UCI, I really hadn't thought about it in a long time.  But when my eye picked out that fellow getting ready to throw the ball, the memory of that awful time in elementary school when I had to face one of my classmates with his legs in a stablizing stance, an inflated dodgeball in his hand and his arm pulled back to send it flying to smack me with as much force as he could played out in my mind again, I have to admit feeling very sorry for that little girl... who was me.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Southern California is in for a blistering hot day today.  Even downtown Los Angeles is scheduled to have a 100+ day.  Out here in the boonies the weatherpeople are forecasting 107 or higher.  My gazpacho recipe, copied from the LA Times back in 1975 is the perfect antidote to the tongue-hanging-out weather we get in the fall.  And a perfect dinner entree - made in the morning and chilled all day in the fridge. 

There are a couple of items that need to be addressed first, and they all date this recipe.  First, I have no guarantee that a 48-ounce tomato juice can still exists.  But surely you can figure out how to come up with the correct amount of juice by using smaller cans!  Secondly, using MSG is no longer in favor so you probably won't have it on your shelf.  But don't bother buying it; the soup is just fine without it.

And lastly, it sure helps to have a food processor.  In lieu of that, make sure your knife is sharp, because there truly is a lot of mincing to be done. 

1 46-ounce can tomato juice

1 medium green pepper, minced
1 small onion, minced

1 cucumber, peeled and minced
2 small canned green chiles, minced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic       

1 teaspoon seasoning blend
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 drops hot pepper sauce

MSG, optional
Salt, white pepper

Lemon wedges

Combine tomato juice, green pepper, onion, cucumber, chiles, Worcestershire sauce, seasoning blend, garlic, oil, chives and hot pepper sauce.  Season to taste with MSG, salt and white pepper.  Chill thoroughly.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Makes 6 hearty servings.

NOTE:  For a smooth gazpacho served with vegetable garnishes, blend tomato mixture in blender until smooth.  Serve with additional diced cucumber, green pepper and croutons on the side.