Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Back in July of 2008 I wrote my first HOT COFFEE & COOL JAZZ blog entitled Following the Heart.  From that blog I said "I'll be looking forwards and backwards -- and sometimes sideways -- in my life, sharing with you some observations and reflections just for the fun of it."

And it has been fun.

More than five years have passed, and life moves on.  I have made many changes in my life during this time.   Just as I have worked hard to accept the necessity to downsize, I also focused on setting aside the things that cause pressure in my life.  Most pressure is self-inflicted anyway, and while it is easy enough to identify what things you OUGHT to be doing, it is hard to let them go if you truly enjoy them.  

I loved my genealogy society meetings, but the night drive to attend meetings became a burden that I had to set aside.  Jer and I joined a group at the library, and I found that I did not enjoy my time there, so that too went.  And to be very honest with you, things that we face in our daily lives get harder as our minds and bodies get less facile in physical and mental areas.  It's time to sort through those things and make changes.

Several months ago I tried to climb up on a chair to reach something in a cupboard.  As I hoisted myself up, my knee gave out and I plunged down onto the floor, luckily that same chair breaking my fall but nearly murderizing my rib cage.  It was hard for me to acknowledge that I could no longer count on my knees holding me up:  moral - don't climb up on chairs anymore, a feat I've done for probably 70 years.

I find a parallel to that in what is going on in the electronic age:  AOL upgrades create a monumental connection problem on my computer.  Google takes away things that I use every day.  The internet is not for old people, unless it is kept very simple.  I thought I was doing ok until I lost the capability to upload a photograph onto my blog, which I had been able to do for five years. That did it for me.  I don't want a photoless blog.

And so in considering this, I also came to believe my brain and my mouth and my thoughts have become overworked.  My life has changed and I don't have many interesting things going on, making the subject matter sometimes awfully difficult to work with and sometimes even to find.  Every day that I don't write a blog I'm inwardly fussing about it.  And I need to remove this burden from my life, too.

So this blog will be the last one.  It's been fun for me. I actually wrote them for myself, so in that I was successful.  I hope you enjoyed a few along the way.


Thursday, October 24, 2013


Margaret Drabble is high on my list of esteemed authors but low on my ability to read her books to the end.  Throughout my reading years I've tried several, because they ALWAYS get highly lauditory reviews.  Yet  not being much of an egghead (well, to be honest not at ALL an egghead) I finally have to admit that the problem obviously is me.  But the literary poohbah's are doing the rating, and I know that THEY know what they are talking about.

Nevertheless, I had it in my heart to read her most recent book (2009), called THE PATTERN IN THE CARPET, A Personal History with Jigsaws.  It has been tough going, but so far almost every page has sent me back into my childhood in the most wonderful memories that for the most part had not yet surfaced in all the "Life Story" writings that I have done.  I started using little pieces of torn paper as bookmarks for pages I wanted to go back to and savor again.  However, by the 100th page the top end of my book looked like a Cheerleaders PomPom.

It would do no good to try to give a recap of this book.  There's way too much for a blog.  But today I will share with you a snippit from one of the pages. It has to do with death and life after death, but whatever your feeling about what's beyond this life, I don't think you can quarrel with the lovely images....

Drabble says that Bishop C. H. Brent gave a touching reading at the funeral service of her beloved aunt, Phyl.

What is dying?  I am standing on the sea shore.  A ship sails and spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.  She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, "She is gone."  Gone where?  Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her...The diminished size and loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at that moment when someone at my side says "She is gone", there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, "There she comes!" 

Margaret, in her book says "And so I saw the great beached hulk of Auntie Phyl's body, stranded on her hard, high, care-home bed, launching off from its moorings, free again, sailing into another world.

The author's childhood was in England, and one of the first issues with understanding this book is that it deals with people we aren't familiar with, places that one probably should understand the differences between Engilish villages and English towns to make perfect sense of her remarks, references to older famous writers who never passed into the Enlish Lit books of college, and as usual, the difficulty with English (Is "squash" a vegetable in England?  No, it is a soft drink.")  

But I'm finding in this book.... well, here a gem of a paragraph, there a gem of a recollection, - a virtual treasure chest full of things that touch me.  I'm plowing on through the book, page by page,  It's not easy reading, but I am certainly finding satisfaction abounding.  I have no intention of stopping anytime soon!

Monday, October 21, 2013


I guess I am tired.  This morning at 5 a.m. while I was walking a grand-dog that I am tending for the next few days, the idea popped into my head and I pretty much worked it out.  I'm home now (at least until 6 p.m. when I go back to the dog house) and do you think I can remember what those ideas were?  Nope.  In fact, I feel kind of crabby.  I've got a couple of medical issues (minor, I hope) and it's possible they - or the medicine I'm treating them with - is causing this.  Anyway, the ideas are gone, but being happy and/or crabby  will have to be the subject today.


Doc Martin re-runs - I think we are in the second go-round of the series, and we are finally understanding how the English people sound when they talk!

Iced Coffee - a newly discovered treat that daughter Kerry insisted I would like - and I did!

My computer - always on the list except when it is acting up.

Knowing how to touch type - but kids today learn how to do it without having to spend two semesters in school taking typing classes.  You learn fast if you want to!

The smell and feel of the ocean - of interest is that daughter Kerry lives in LA, considerably closer to the ocean than I live.  When I go to her house I can sense a change in smell from cows to salt water, AND I always get a headache because, I say, the air is heavier there than where I live now.  Is this possible?

Rings and bracelets - I don't have much in the way of bling, but rarely do I purchase anything for my neck.  But I do like to decorate my fingers and wrists!

A workable scanner - After "making do" with a cheap scanner, I ditched it and bought another one that was the same price but is working like a charm.  Making do with the old one was the stupidist thing I've done in a long time!


Talk radio.

Putting meals on the table.  If I only count dinners for about the 50 years I have been an adult and planning meals, you can see why I am ready to be FINISHED cooking.  

The smell of freshly mown grass.  Talk about stirring up the allergies!  The minute I hear the mower coming toward us I batten down the hatches but good!

Political phone calls - even from my party.  I don't want to talk politics to anyone.

Seeing road kill - Self explanatory

Taking the written test for a Driver's License.  I beat myself up something fierce studying for it.  I never fail, but there is a first time for everyone.



Seeing a Port-a-Potty being carried down the freeway in the back of a pickup.

Listening to Jerry laugh - it's infectious!

Getting hiccups at my age.  Such indignity.

Having a hummingbird look me in the eye when I'm sitting on the porch.

The old movie "Mr Hulot's Holiday" with Jacques Tati.  

Men wearing red slacks.  Pul.....eeze!

Slapstick comedy.  A good pratfall can send me into gales of laughter.


Sunday, October 13, 2013


I have decided that I like the Mexican holiday “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) much better than I do our own Halloween.  Actually, I don’t celebrate either of them, but I do like the creativity and the figural representations and the pomp, if you can call it that, that surrounds the Mexican Holiday.  And oh! the colors!

I recognize that the origins of both holidays are religious in nature, but that doesn’t play into my thinking at all.  And I suspect the prominence that deceased family members have in the Mexican holiday observance is what makes a natural connection to my interest in those old family connections I’ve dug up (no pun intended) in my genealogical research. 

Once past the stage of going trick-or-treating and later the participation in ghoulish and/or creepy Halloween parties, I don’t see much to be delighted in over Halloween.  I will say this:  On October 1 I removed a little blue scarf I had tied to the crook of the cane I take with me when I walk and made a little Halloween decoration using a couple of black fabric roses and an orange ribbons, so it isn’t like I’m ditching my connection to Halloween (see above), but oh my goodness, it seems that el Dia de Los Muertos celebrations and exhibits here in Southern California are just getting bigger and better.

The Halloween Gallery I recently visited at Rogers Gardens in Corona Del Mar was what I consider a blend of the two traditions.  Some of the offerings were definitely Halloweenish and others definitely Day of the Deadish.  I liked them both. 

Wonderful sugar skulls.  Who would think to decorate like this?  Not me, but I might give it a try, using this as a pattern.
More on the Halloweenish side are the black cats.  Ferocious looking, but quite ..... well, charming isn't exactly the word, but I certainly do like them!

Ah, look at the great colors.  This is definitely not OUR Halloween skull but was certainly a tribute to the typical Dia de Los Muertos style.

Are these not pumpkins to clamor for?   It's hard in this picture to see that the designs are made of chains of black sequins.  Yes, we could do it with orange pumpkins too and make this a bit more Halloweenish.

I couldn't pass this most woebegone vulture up.  Can't you just see him sitting on  your porch helping you give out candy to Trick-or-Treaters?  I just fell in love with this fellow.

And finally, for all the world to see this funny face, I'm grimacing at the owl on my shoulder.  Now he was downright cute, and as a matter of fact he DID have two eyes (and still does, I think; the second eye is just not picked up by the camera.) 
It's accurate to say we had a wonderful time at Rogers Gardens.  If it wasn't such a long drive to get there (some 60 miles) I'd go again.  This time I would come home with the colorful plate (which incidentally cost an arm and a leg!) and probably one of the cats. 
But now I have the Ontario Museum's annual Dia de Los Muertos display to look forward to.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that more artists will participate than in the previous couple of years and I'll once again be amazed at what I see.
NOTE:  In case you see strange things like white backgrounds and green bars in this blog, just pretend they are not there.  I've had nothing but problems with my computer since I accepted AOL's offer of a new version (9.7).  It has become a real miracle if I can even open AOL now, and this blog only appears after trying for 3 hours to make it have pictures in it.  So take it for what's it's worth; it's the best I can do until AOL gets the problem fixed.  If everything looks proper, attribute it to the good fairy!

Friday, October 11, 2013


In the file drawer next to my computer sits a folder marked "Computer."  The earliest material in it dates from about 1997, when I first became brave enough to go on the internet.  I chose AOL as my service provider and a dial-up modem, which if you can remember back that far tied up your telephone until you logged off the internet.

Actually, I took a job through a temp agency in 1981 with Burroughs Corporation, and it was there that I learned to work a stand-alone word processor, a Burroughs device called a Redactron.  At the time this machine mainly was purchased by law firms and was especially of value because it could save hours and hours of repeat typing of legal documents with blanks filled in with differing clients.  Being an electronic thing, it was subject to all the glitches that we still meet every day all these many years later.  I recall one phone call from an irate attorney in downtown San Francisco demanding that we get a repair man to his office posthaste or the $11,000 piece of equipment was going to be thrown out the window of his 11th floor office.

It was at Burroughs in 1981 that I heard of the development of the PC (personal computer), and sure enough, as you know it came alone in due time.  In the intervening years I learned to work most of the Word Processing systems like Wang, use most of the word processing programs like Wordstar and Word Perfect, the electronic typewriters like the Xerox Memory Writer- and finally Jer and I invested in a Tandy 1000, from RadioShack.

Then I became the inheritor of an old IBM computer that my son replaced....and that's when the fun really began.  Nevertheless, throughout all these devices and all these programs, there are a few things that have remained constant, the biggest and most consistent of which is FRUSTRATION!

Back in 1998 the magazine Salon devised a Computer Haiku contest, asking entrants to use the Haiku form to express their ideas of just what all this new-fangled way of communication was about (that's my interpretation, not theirs!)  What is interesting is that now, almost 15 years later, these Haiku "poems" are as true as the day they were printed.  With thanks to Salon, let me share a few with you:

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My novel" not found.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
The page is not here.

and my favorite...

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent and reboot
Order shall return.

I understand, at a gut level, the feelings expressed in each of these poems.  As recently as yesterday a light bulb in my mind went on as I tried to figure out what else I could do to get my computer (whose name, by the way, is TIMEWASTER) to perform normally.  Ah, I said.  Perhaps if I totally close down old TIMEWASTER my problem will disappear.

I did, and it did.

Through the years I have been given lots of good advice.  The two most important ideas have remained constant: "Reboot" and "Don't ask why!"

Now back to my file cabinet.  Except for a few pages of instruction for devices and programs I no longer have, the material in that file is still helpful and pertinent.  I dare not get rid of any of it.  Had the computer age lived up to its promise -- A Paperless Office -- I could have left all of the material on the computer.  But as much as I love old TIMEWASTER, I am not going to take that much of a chance!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I walk into the living room to tell my husband something.   The minute I arrive, the thought is totally gone.  Wheeling around, I scurry back into the kitchen where I know the thought is awaiting my  return.  When my foot hits the linoleum floor, the thought jumps back in my mind and I manage to keep it there this time long enought to tell him what I wanted to.

Oh dear!   That is about the same as remembering something you need to buy at the market and by the time you find a pencil to write it down, you can't remember what it was you needed.

I propose these little lapses aren't exclusivelly owned by the over-55 gang, but they certainly hit us more often as we move on in years.

My friend Bev, a top-notch executive secretary, trained me when I went to work for a company in Pomona back in the '70s.  After several years of working together, we thought we were probably the best executive support team in the valley.  Both of us are now retired, and we laugh a lot over old times.  The biggest laugh can be simply stated this way:  when we were 35, our bosses could tell us what they wanted done, and we would do it.  At 45, our bosses could tell us what they wanted done and we needed to write it down so we wouldn't forget to do it.  At 55, our bosses could tell us what they wanted done, and we would write it down but then forget we had the note!  We laugh now, but it wasn't very funny then!

There were days in June before I retired from my last final when I felt I was losing ground.  It seemed that I had an allotted number of brain cells left to finish up this fast-paced job and if the boss didn't slow down, I was going to use them up well before retirement came.  It was a scary time, but luckily I stayed the course.

My sweet husband Jerry and I poke good-natured fun at each other when one of us has a momentary lapse, but we have made a pact that we are not going to tease each other in front of other people.  We will help each other out, rather than make an issue out of one of those honest but happening-more-frequently blanks!

We also have agreed that we are not going to waste time trying to remember some insigificant thing -- was it Thursday or Friday?  1973 or 1974 - you know, those times when it seems dreadfully important to get the exact jot and tittle correct while the world waits for us to get on with our story.  Jer and I have agreed to kick each other under the table when that starts to happen.  The kick will jog our stuck record and get us back on track.  It's our little secret.

We're trying to go gracefully into old age, making allowances for each other and being one of those couples younger people think of as "darling little old people."  We've got to work at staying sharp.  Techniques for exercising the mind abound, if you listen to the authorities.  I've chosen my poison -- memorizing my favorite old poems -- starting with "Abou Ben Adhem, May His Tribe Increase."  (I can hear you speculating that maybe some of my cells have already gone missing.)  I'm a firm believer in the value of memorization.  I think if I can just get that first poem down pat, the rest will be easier and I will be reassured that my brain cells are still alive and kicking.

Though Jerry may think otherwise.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


First off I want everyone under the age of 55 to say collectively to me, “Get a life!” If you have said that, you can now proceed to read what my curmudgeonly self has to say.

I would like to know what, if anything, parents of teenagers today have taught their kids about what is and what isn’t the polite thing to say in the workplace. I also would like to know what kind of expectations and/or training bosses give to those same teenagers.

Case in point: the Jer and I went to lunch yesterday and were referred to as “You guys” from the moment our cute little hostess led us to the table (Is this ok for you guys?) to the receiving of the bill at the end of the meal (Here’s the bill, you guys. Thanks for coming.)

I’m not asking for “May I’s” and “Ma’am’s” here. And I’m not concerned that “You guys” sounds disrespectful. What does concern me is that no one apparently has told these kids in the service industries that there is a nice, polite way to interact with customers, and referring to them as “you guys” isn’t it.

The manager of that restaurant probably did not think to give his kids a crash course in appropriate language usage. But I'd like everyone reading this who employs teenagers to stop a second and think about how they want their customers to be spoken to.

Second, I would like to lodge a protest at the loss of the phrase, “You’re welcome” which for eons past has been the appropriate response to “Thank you.” Frankly, I would rather get NO response than to have said to me, “No problem.” This last expression has insidiously crept into our language and one can hardly eat out anymore without hearing it. I understand if I have asked the waitperson for something out of the ordinary, a response of “No problem” is, well, no problem. But it grates on me that when I thank a person, any other response than “You’re welcome” feels like the thanks has been rejected as not significant enough for a decent acknowledgment.

Ah, now I hear you saying it – “Get a life!” But wait, I have one more – this final one not being so much a misuse of specific language but misdirection of it.

Here’s the third scenario. I go into a grocery store, step to the check-out counter with $150 worth of groceries, and while I stand there watching the clerk ring up my purchases – no insignificant amount – I am totally ignored, while I have to listen to a running commentary between the cashier and the box person over their love life or lack thereof. Where is the ethic that the customer is important, or comes first, or even should be coddled so as to generate repeat business? It is obvious that the person holding $150 or $200 in their hands is not very important to these two employees. And I wonder if management ever has taken the time to see how pervasive this behavior is and has tried to get these people back on track. I know of few other jobs where two people can stand around while they are working and carry on such a private conversation in front of customers.

Those of us over 55, who – believe it or not – do already have a life, mostly do not feel it is our job to tell parents and tell employers what they should do to prepare their kids and their employees for the real adult world. So we mainly fuss among ourselves, knowing that we are not so relevant anymore and are shaking our head at the direction things seem to be going.

For the few of us who have the opportunity to put our thoughts onto paper, we implore the multitude of parents, teachers and employers who have an opportunity to hone and mold these young people – mostly good kids to begin with – to turn them into first class young adults, setting standards for interacting properly with their elders and with customers of any age.
It would be wonderful to think someone is listening to my curmudgeonly self.   But alas....

Friday, September 13, 2013


THIS WILL GO DOWN in history!  September 2013 is when I re-joined the real world.  After putting a “hearing device” (high-falutin’ word for hearing aids) into each of my ears, I had to laugh at how much I have been missing!  I quickly discovered that the turn indicators in my car actually kept up a running click in addition to a green flash when I set them to turn a corner or change lanes.  Jerry will now lose the privilege of reminding me that my turn indicator is still on. 
I always explained to Jerry that the green flashing lights on the dash were out of my line of vision, being directly behind my steering wheel on both sides.  I did not know they also made a sound; Jerry should have said to me “Well then, listen for the click, stupid!”  But he was, and always has been, kind. I'll never leave my turn indicators flashing again! 
And the poor guy was practically spending all his time with me acting as my interpreter.  I thought I was just missing words from bank tellers, cashiers, waiters and waitresses – especially from anyone like my littlest granddaughters who had a high-pitched voice.   I was missing a lot more sounds, though:  the left and right click of my computer mouse.  Water running from a faucet in the next room.  The sound of my scanner doing its thing....you know, little sounds that are not particularly important, but that I just didn’t ever hear.
I am SO delighted with my new very-usable toys!  I am also happy that they are very visually "understated," although I would not have objected to anything, even an earhorn, I think!  Just gotta' figure out now how to pay for them!



MY DAUGHTER FROM ALASKA is coming down for a visit next week.  This is good news, as it’s hard to not be able to see her as often as I’d like.  Her visits are few and far between.  Her sister has planned a big family picnic in the park for Saturday the 21st, and if the 100+ temps don’t come back, we should have a great time.  We’ll still go, even if they return, but then perhaps we can sweet-talk the Park Staff to turn the sprinklers on so we can run through them. 
Remember when we were kids and that was what we did on a hot summer day?  Picture above with my little sis and me dates to about 1943.

I HEARD SUSAN DUNN, author of a fascinating new and well-researched book titled “1940,” give a talk on BookTV a couple of weeks ago.  Through an Interlibrary Loan I was able to get a copy of it to read.  Those of you old enough may remember that 1940 was the year Franklin Roosevelt ran for a third term, and the year before we became physically involved in WWII, although our nation was well aware of what the Nazis were doing in Europe.  Our country was divided on whether we should look beyond the isolation position and begin looking at ways we could come to the aid of Great Britain as the bombing of that country went on.  The setting of the paragraph below deals with the Republican and Democratic National Conventions of 1940 as they struggle with this issue:

  “While Senators Wheeler, Walsh and McCarran as well as former war secretary Woodring wanted the platform to state unequivocally that the party stood for “nonintervention in the political and military affairs of the Old World,” German agents were working behind the scenes for a similar pledge.  It was later revealed that the German charge’ d’affaires, Hans Thomsen, who had subsidized the attendance of isolationist congressmen at the GOP Convention in Philadelphia, did the same at the Chicago convention.  In his memo of July 19, 1940 to the German Foreign Ministry, Thomsen credited embassy staff with sending “several reliable isolationist Congressmen” to Chicago “in order to exert influence on the delegates with the purpose of including . . . in the Democratic platform . . . a pledge of nonparticipation in a European War.”  Thomsen hastened to reassure his superiors in Berlin that no one was aware of his behind-the-scenes machinations.”
To say I was dumbfounded is an understatement.
What I remember about WWII, being only a 5 year old in 1940, is the obvious later stuff: relatives in uniform, victory gardens, War Bonds, and V-mail letters.  As I am reading Dunn’s fascinating book, I am surprised over and over again at all that I failed to pick up as I grew in knowledge while moving into adulthood. 

 I can't put this book down!



JURUPA VALLEY, our newly incorporated city – of which Mira Loma (where we live) is a part – is on the verge of disincorporating after two years of existence.  Now it is no secret that I thought incorporating in the first place was a stupid thing to do.  There is NOTHING in Jurupa Valley that was worth incorporating, as far as I am concerned.  However, since we are not property owners and our lives wouldn’t change in any way if it incorporated, I chose not to vote either way but to let those whom incorporation would affect make the decision.  And incorporation went forward, with the “aye’s winning.
 Without going into great detail, for many years the State of California had been providing all newly incorporated cities with a loan that was to carry them through the process and fund them for two years of cityhood.  Every newly incorporated city in California had been provided this help.  The monies came from some revenue collected by the DMV, as I recall.  Anyway, because of the financial problems the State of California was having, right after Jurupa Valley incorporated the Assembly decided not to fund new cities any longer.  That offer of financial help was withdrawn.  The city has been operating on a borrowed shoestring for these two years.  A newly elected State Assemblyman has been working hard to get “us” some money, but two weeks ago the news came that if no money was voted for us by the time the Assembly adjourned on 9/12 for the year, disincorporation proceedings would begin.
You guessed it.  9/12 has come and gone, as have the Assemblymen.  Apparently we are now caput and will once again (after all the i’s have been dotted in the legal papers) become simply a corner of Riverside again.
It doesn’t matter to me now, either.  The only difference is that I had finally gotten around to putting Jurupa Valley on my little return address labels.  Luckily, the zip code remained 91752 throughout these changes, so any mail sent to the now-defunct city will still get to us as long as the correct zip is used.
 And that’s that!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Every once in a while I find an interesting bug.  I guess technically I wouldn't call a dragonfly a "bug" - but you know what I mean.  Any kind of a creepy-crawlie, flying or otherwise, I'll put in that category.  But I have to admit that I no longer have an eye that sees those kinds of things.  I blame it on global warming, but I think it has more to do with a) bad eyesight, b) age, or c) lack of interest.  I don't think the bugs have gone anywhere; I'm just not seeing them because I'm not looking for them.

I did, however, find and photograph the dragonfly.  Once I also found and photographed an interesting fly that was using my plumbago plant, but that photo is buried somewhere on my hard drive and I cannot find it for love nor money.

I have a cousin in North Carolina who has a scientific mind and a scientific eye, and she is always sending me interesting pictures of bugs -- sometimes to help her identify them and other times just because they are so darn peculiar or strange.

Here's a few of her photos:

These are wood lice.  There were hundreds of these bugs in the picture she sent; I cropped it to be able to see their markings better.  But are these not the most amazing bugs you've ever seen? 

She referred to this as a ballet bug.  I don't think that is its scientific nomenclature, but she thought the lower orange-ish leg looked like a ballerina-on-toe leg, and I'll go with that! 

She asked me what I thought this bug in full armor might be.  I didn't have a clue, but Google said it was a dung beetle.  Now I for one didn't know that we had dung beetles here in the US, but obviously we do.  He lives in North Carolina!

Again, you can't exactly call this a bug, because it is really a goldenrod spider, my cousin says, wearing a pretty fuschia hat.  

I think this is one of the most interesting photo of bugs she's sent me.  They are newly-born praying mantises.  She said they didn't stay long....just long enough for her to grab her camera and snap!

This is a walking stick on the outside of one of her windows.  When she saw it, she closed up the curtain and then went outside to get the closeup of the bug.  I think this is a great bug!  I'd probably call it a green-legged cigar bug.

I don't take pictures of bugs because I don't see them.  However, many years ago when we lived in Orange County we went to a Halloween Costume Party at a local veterinarian's office and I did see this bug, which I do believe fits in this category.  It is a cute but not particularly happy bug.  Enjoy.

Monday, August 26, 2013


I am not a poetry aficionado.  I mostly don't care for it and mostly don't understand it.  But every so often I come across a poem too good to pass up. 

Yesterday was one of those times.  I'll give it to you in link form, trusting that everything works as it is supposed to.  Reading it should make your day.

A VOTER'S PRAYER (an Ode to Anthony Weiner and associates)


Friday, August 23, 2013


I am always delighted when I find something to read that is light and fluffy and funny.  Of course, funny is in the mind of the beholder – what I find funny is not necessarily what everyone finds funny. 

And sometimes it may just be my mind that is aberrating….. but

Here’s how my latest funny goes:

Seems that some middle school girls back east decided to heighten awareness of a very serious health issue for women, that of breast cancer, by purchasing and wearing some rubber bracelets stamped with the following:

When these girls wore the bracelets to school, they were suspended.  The parents of the girls sued.  This case arrived at the appellate court, which found that the girls were wrongly punished, citing a 1969 Supreme Court case.  Without going into details (since most newspapers have been carrying the story that seems to move from the front page to the op-ed page and back with some regularity), the issue seems to be: Were the girls denied their freedom of speech?

 I wonder, can boys wear these bracelets and would it mean the same thing?  Does the meaning of “lewd” (as related to the term “boobie”) fit into anyone’s opinion?  Is “boobie” lewd, cute, or clever? Or is it now part of our vernacular and not worth cogitating about? And is there a difference between women wearing a similar bracelet and middle school girls wearing it?  Ah, there are all kinds of things to think about.   

And laugh about. 

My own reaction is this:  OH, FOR GOODNESS SAKES!  We all know junior high school (the old familiar term for us old folks) kids are busting at the seams to grow up and out of childhood.  Don’t make anything more of this than it is. It too shall pass.

 But it does remind me of when my own daughters were passing through this stage, all very close to the same time.  One day a gaggle of female twerps, led by my oldest daughter, arrived at the house after school and marched out to the garage, “to practice some cheers, Mom” I was told.  I heard the chanting and lots of giggling, so I peeked out the bedroom window to see what they were doing.

Here they all were in a row, arms bent at the elbow and in rhythm forcing both elbows back and forth as they chanted the following:

 We must!
We must!
We must develop our bust!
The bigger the better,
The tighter the sweater,
The boys are depending on us!


That was a long time ago.  The daughters are mostly grandmas now.  Kids are kids and middle school kids especially will think up things like this.  We can’t control everything, but we sure can laugh when the occasion calls for it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


And now I read that Bradley Manning no longer wants to be Bradley Manning but will become Chelsea.  And he's hoping that the physical part of this can be accomplished while he is in prison at the prison hospital.

As my darling brother always says when confronted with a "what else can happen" statement...............


Monday, August 19, 2013


One of my favorite parts of the LA Times is the tiny little column on Page 2 called “FOR THE RECORD.”  This is where sharp-eyed readers turn in their corrections to information (or misinformation) on previously printed articles.

 I’ve decided that rather than get irked because SOMEONE isn’t checking the facts before they send a story to print, I’ll just consider the source and get a good cackle over the goofs.  Since it is obvious that we can’t believe much that is offered as “fact” these days – and perhaps never have been, although I did think at one time newspapers employed fact-checkers – cackling is about all we can do.

I’m going to award a few prizes this week for the following goofs.


On August 7, the obituary of long-time NBC News report John Palmer noted that he left NBC in 1990 to anchor the news program “Instant Recall” and there interviewed Anwar Sadat.  The August 14 rebuttal reminded readers that Sadat was assassinated in 1981.


An August 11 article said this weekend the 405 Freeway in Westminster would be shut down completely in the southbound lanes but only partially in the northbound lanes. 

Oops!  An August 15 a retraction corrected that ALL northbound lanes and ALL southbound lanes would be shut down.  Makes you wonder how many people did NOT read the retraction and got detoured off onto a side street of an unfamiliar city?  That’s actually not a cackling matter, but nevertheless it makes you wonder how, when all the TV stations were announcing a full-blown closure of both lanes that our most prestigious newspaper made that kind of goof.


On August 11 the business section reported that Google co-founder Sergey Brin stole the show last year at the company’s annual developers conference by sky-diving onto the roof while wear Google Goggles.

On August 15 they changed their tune: He wore the device at the conference but did NOT skydive onto the roof.

Now that’s some mistake!  One wonders whether it was the writer or his source that devised that fable.


On August 11 the Times featured a wonderful story on Gustavo Dudamel’s presentation of Verdi’s Requiem at the Hollywood Bowl.  Regarding Verdi’s Dies Irae, “With a score marking of quadruple fortissimo – ffff – [my note: let these represent the musical symbol for loud] that is, roughly “as loud as you can plus one” it is some of the most ferocious music in the whole of the classical music canon.”  Now the fun begins

August 14 “FOR THE RECORD” indicates this: “We also got a bit carried away with our Italian suffixes when illustrating a dynamic marking of quadruple fortissimo.  Verdi’s original marking, quadruple forte, was ffff, not ffffffff,

August 15 rebuttal of “FOR THE RECORD” tries to clarify what was printed:  An August 14 FOR THE RECORD item correcting an Aug 11 Arts and Books section…did not properly explain the Italian names and notations for dynamic markings.  Verdi’s original marking is quadruple forte and is notated as ffff.  Quadruple fortissimo, which was incorrectly mentioned in the article, would be notated as ffffffff.

So as not to leave well enough alone, the August 18 (and perhaps the last entry)  states that in fact, the first article of August 11 said that the score contained a double fortissimo, but it did not.  Verdi’s original marking was a quadruple forte.

SO THERE!  (Really?)  Cackle, cackle.

I understand the need for corrections to make sure old Verdi is understood, but it also makes me think of this unanswerable question:  How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?


Sunday, August 18, 2013


Recently I have been watching some interesting book reviews on CSPAN2 about WWII and I was reminded of this 2009 post that some of you might have missed. 

My sister and I were just little twerps during the WWII years. In fact, I was 10 the year the War ended and since my father was not in the service and my uncles all came home safely, it affected us much less than others. One of the ways we “understood” about the war was in our game-playing. At school when recess came, our class and the other class of the same grade, probably we were third graders, would make a rush for the rings, which was the favored equipment on the playground. Whichever class got there first would yell over and over at the other class, “Here come the Axis”, which was the term used to describe those who fought against us in Europe. The winner was always called "the Allies." It hardly mattered who got there first; one day we would be the “Allies” because we got to the rings faster and the next day we would be the losers, the "Axis." At home we played war in the alley, dropping water filled balloon bombs on kids who lived on the other side of the alley as they came by, and we’d yell, “Take that, Tojo!” - Tojo being a much-hated and much talked about Japanese military leader.

One day some young boys in our neighborhood decided to recruit and build an army from among the neighborhood kids. One of the older boys – and by older I suppose he was 10 or 11 – became the Sergeant. In all he recruited about fifteen children, both boys and girls. Our first assignment was to get guns. We all scurried around to find pieces of wood to serve as our “rifles.” The Sergeant had us drill with these make-believe rifles. Up, down, up, down, left shoulder, right shoulder. He yelled a lot at the younger kids because they didn’t know “left” from “right” yet. He had us marching two by two up and down the sidewalk from one end of the block to another. It was summertime and we spent a great deal of time outdoors, learning to be good soldiers. Most of us had either daddies or uncles who were overseas fighting the Germans or the Japanese and we knew Sergeants were tough and we knew troops were obedient. Ginnie Lou and I, who were probably 6 and 8 years old at this time, were part of neighborhood’s loyal troops and did everything the Sergeant asked of us. Usually it was nothing more than marching or lying on our bellies aiming our pretend-rifles at the “enemy.”

However, one day the Sergeant informed us we were going to have a new drill. He said he expected his troops to comply with his orders. He lined us up at the edge of the sidewalk facing the lawn, toes barely touching the grass. He told us today’s drill was to fall over on our bellies without bending our knees and without letting our hands touch the ground to break our fall. The only thing we were allowed to do was turn our face to one side. Well, obedient soldiers that we were, all of us little kids one by one fell as he called our names. Clifford – splat – oof! Sammy – splat – oof! Darryl – splat – oof! My turn came. Barbara – splat – oof! Down I went, always wanting to please authority. Ginnie Lou – splat ---WAHHHHH, WAHHHHH!! My sister didn’t like that one bit and went running off into the house, bellowing at the top of her lungs. I followed close on her heels, secretly glad she had cried because I sure didn’t like the drill either but the only way to get out of it and save face was to run after her on the pretext of making sure she was ok.

The drills went on without us, the rest of the kids falling down one by one, until my mother came out in a royal huff. She told those boys they should be ashamed of themselves and if they ever did it again she was going to tell their mothers. They skulked away, and it was a long time before they ever allowed us to play any of games with them again. As far as my sister and I were concerned, the time away from them was no great loss. Playing paper dolls in our bedroom was much more to our liking.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


It was nearly five years ago that I blogged about Drew Gilpin Faust’s then-new book “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War.”  I recently bought a paperback reprint of it and have undertaken to read it again.  My own feeling is that I benefit mightily by any second reading of any book, fiction or non-fiction.  And I’m finding that this is again very true for me with “This Republic of Suffering.”

Yes, the subject is grim, but she packs this book full of things other than gruesome pictures of dead soldiers that so often come to mind when one thinks of the Civil War.  In her preface she speaks of the goal of her book:

This is a book about the work of death in the American Civil War…. Beginning with individual’s confrontation with dying and killing, the book explores how those experiences transformed society, culture, and politics in what became a broader republic of shared suffering.  Some of the changes death brought were social, as wives turned into widows, children into orphans; some were political, as African American soldiers hoped to win citizenship and equality through their willingness both to die and to kill; some were philosophical and spiritual, as the carnage compelled Americans to seek meaning and explanation for war’s destruction….”

In her first chapter, entitled “Dying” Faust’s discusses the then-common idea of dying a “good death.”  I had never heard of this idea before.  She says, “The concept of the Good Death was central to mid-nineteenth-century America, as it had long been at the core of Christian practice.  Dying was an art, and the tradition of ars moriendi had provided rules of conduct for the moribund and their attendants since at least the fifteenth century:  how to give up one’s soul ‘gladlye and willfully”; how to meet the devil’s temptations of unbelief, despair, impatience, and worldly attachment;….” 

Not being a devout practitioner of anything religious but admitting to many years inside a church, I was not willing to let “ars moriendi” go without a little more investigation.  My, my, my….what interesting things I found.  A peek at the online Encyclopedia of Death and Dying and at the section on ars moriendi make for fascinating reading …as well as a bit of chuckling over some of the drawings of demons trying to capture a dying man’s soul. 

But I guess in simple terms, as nearly as I can understand all this (which I’ll admit is much beyond what my brain can process) it was important for family members to know the condition of their dying loved-one’s soul, that is, was he “right” with the Lord, which would, if he so confessed, give the family peace in knowing that they would meet him again in the hearafter.  It became important during the Civil War to provide that assurance to family members.  Often times it was so noted in a letter that was sent to notify family of the soldier’s death – a simple addendum that indicated the soldier’s deathbed words were something on the order of “I am ready” or “I have great peace.”  Sometimes the words were delivered by returning soldiers.  And in some cases there may not have been a religious statement but a patriotic one of serving their country honorably, and which was often assumed to carry equal weight in dying a “good death.”

This first chapter of the book alone was so fascinating that I found it hard to move on to the next chapter, which is “Killing.”   

The author has a fat “notes” section at the back of the book, where she has listed the sources she used for researching each subject.  In reading though these sources, you can be assured this book is not made up of conjectures.   The amazing thing is that the whole book is so very interesting and so very readable.  

One ought not to stay away from such a book just because it is about death.

Friday, August 2, 2013


On my computer desktop I have a black sidebar on which headline news is reported. 

Right now I see 15 or so headlines.  The headline is in white print; the newspaper name and how long ago it was reported is in turquoise print.  My thinking about putting it there was that I could quickly see when important things make news.  I figured it would be a helpful gadget to have handy.  That’s all well and good, but sadly, what I see 80% of the time is headlines about entertainment personages.  I admit to being one of those grinds who couldn’t care less about such personages.  Just now when I sat down at the computer I read that Jamie Lee Curtis is home from the hospital.   I find that this headline comes from comes from the Pakistani Times. 
I’m glad to know that she’s ok, but what’s this PAKISTANI TIMES newspaper headlines and why am I getting news from them?  Not that it’s a sinister plot or anything, but getting one’s news from Pakistan instead of USA Today? Very strange, I think.

However, I do like these various little gadgets.  I have a Scratch Pad gadget, where one click will produce a drop-down box where I can write a note to myself.  I also have a nice white square on which a virtual black widow spider walks around.  I can use my cursor to block where she goes and to make her back up – IF I WANT TO!   I don’t play many games on the computer, so I consider my gadgets as play things.  And stress relievers.  Nothin’ relieves stress like pushing a black widow spider around!

In our little apartment we have a tiny room at the end of the kitchen that we call a pantry, although it’s really more of a storage room.  We chuff everything we can in there, from canned food to Dust Buster, to cat litter box, to crock pot, food processor, vacuum cleaner attachments, rags, and feather duster,   We installed lots of shelves for storing all this stuff, and of course all food items are appropriately stored in Tupperware containers.
Early yesterday morning while I was sitting on the couch having my first cup of hot coffee, Jerry went into the kitchen to fix his breakfast.  I was watching the 5:30 a.m. news and not paying much attention to what he was doing.  I heard a distant clatter and then a huge “thunk” and swoosh emanate from the kitchen.  An expletive followed.  I jumped up from the couch and ran in to see what happened – and I found Jerry staring ankle-deep in Wheaties.  He looked at me and said “Something in the pantry fell on the floor and it startled me.  I dropped the Wheaties.” The whole top of Tupperwear container had been knocked off and Wheaties flew everywhere!

At that point I burst into laughter.  My poor husband, standing in his robe and slippers amid a floor covered with from end to end with Wheaties.  It was such a sight and he looked so pitiful.  And “startled” was the word that made me start laughing.  I have never in 38 years of marriage seen him startled over anything; nothing ever surprises him, much less startles him.  But good man that he was, he crunched his way back into the pantry, grabbed the broom and dustpan and cleaned up his own mess.  Me, I went back into the living room, sat on the couch and laughed and laughed. 
Poor Jerry.  He discovered it was a vacuum cleaner tool – a little plastic crevice cleaner - that had clattered down onto the floor.  I didn’t tell him that I had placed it atop the Dust Buster the previous day; I had seen it was a rather precarious place to put the tool, but my hands were full and I couldn’t remember where it was when I picked it up, so that seemed as good a place as any to set it.  Obviously it wasn’t!


Last evening about 7 p.m. I walked into the bathroom and heard a strange noise coming from…the pipes?  the apartment next door?  It was quite loud and sounded as if it was something that had just been turned on.  I turned the water faucets on and off, and flushed the toilet hoping to discover the source of the noise.  I stepped one foot in the bathtub and listened to its back wall.  The sound was still very loud but that wasn’t the source. 
By this time Jerry had come into the bathroom to listen.  He moved into the bedroom to investigate and I decided to check the water pipes in the kitchen.  I could envision a broken pipe and having to evacuate the premises while plumbers hunted all night for a leak, but the noise seemed to be coming from the pantry.  Since the pantry abuts not only our bathroom wall but also the corner of 3 other apartments, I hoped I would find that the noise was someone else’s problem, not ours.  But when I walked into our pantry I could zero right in on the noise: IT WAS COMING FROM OUR DUST BUSTER.   The dumb thing was running at full force while it was hanging on the wall in its cradle.  I turned it off, of course.  When the sound stopped Jerry and I met in the kitchen and tried to figure out what had happened. 

We don’t know, and we’re not wasting any time trying to figure out.  It was just a very strange thing for this little machine inadvertently to have been involved in two separate incidents in one day.  And we consider ourselves very lucky that the problem was ONLY a Dust Buster and not a pipe.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Nancy Pelosi said it right when she spoke of the acts and the attitudes of certain politicians whose disgusting misdeeds are being related over and over to us by the media:  "It is so disrespectful of women” she says, “and what's really stunning about it is they don't even realize, they don't have a clue….”

Aside from the salaciousness of their actions and their amazing explanations of it, where have they been in the last 20 or 30 years when our society has decided that sexual harassment has no place in either the workplace or any place else for that matter?  Do they think what they are doing and saying is not harassment?  Or are they denying that “dirty talk” falls in the area of “sex?”  Perhaps they think somehow they are so irresistible that women will be flattered, rather than offended, by what they are offering. 
Hubris, I think, is what it boils down to.  And one doesn’t get rid of hubris with a short course of therapy, or a couple of lies, or even a promise or two.

Best they leave politics right now and get themselves some intensive therapy.  Taking a refresher course in "Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace" might also be a good thing to do. 


I for one am very tired of looking at them.


Sunday, July 21, 2013



What to read? What to read?!  I can’t call this a dilemma, because it isn’t, but trying to figure out what I’m going to read next is not always easy.  Actually, it is only easy if I have the next book sitting in front of me. 
I don’t purchase books out of consideration for A) my retirement budget, and B) my lack of shelving space in the apartment.  I choose not to have an e-reader since a goodly number of books I want to read are not in e-form, and “A)” above.

So here’s what I do.  Mostly, I read online and in-print book reviews, pick the brains of my reader friends, and on occasion (when I’m desperate) walk the aisles at my local library to see if anything catches my interest.  The latter is not very rewarding, which I attribute to the mind-set of a head librarian who prefers to spend her money buying children’s books. 
Today I’m going to tell you about the very strange way I chose the book I’m reading now and which has turned out to be one of the most fantastic books I’ve ever read.  The way it happened is so bizarre that I am embarrassed to admit to it, but it truly provided a serendipitous result.

I have an iGoogle page, dotted with little “apps” or “Gadgets,” as Google calls them.  I guess it is my answer to playing computer games.  On this page at the upper left I have a Gadget called “Hangman.”  There is a platform with a noose, all in cartoon form.  One can pick the category to use: the category I always choose is “20th century Novels”.  I choose letters, one by one, and hopefully can guess the book title before the little cartoony character (me, of course) gets hung.
On the right side of the page I have put a gadget that has a cartoon hamster in a cage.  Not only is there a wheel he can run in, but also it is possible to click on the page and give him some hamster food – little pebbles, up to 12 at a time.  He runs over, picks up the pebbles one by one, and uses his little paws to hold them while he nibbles.  Periodically he goes over to get some water, but then comes back and finishes up eating, at which time he goes back to the wheel.  I have named the hamster “Henry.”

Now what I do (and here is where you are going to think I am totally off my rocker) is this.  I get my hangman game set up and ready to go and then I give Henry his first food of the day – his 12 pebbles.  Once he starts to eat, I play hangman and try to finish (winning, rather than hanging, of course) before Henry finishes his breakfast.  The goal isn’t whether he wins or whether I win.  It is just a bit of frivolity before I sit down to the serious business of starting my e-day.
But here’s the point of today’s blog: I do not know all the books that I see running by my eyes from that hangman game.  There are some usual ones, like Atlas Shrugged (I read), Catch 22 (saw movie), Sophie’s Choice (neither), Watership Down (read), Lolita (read), and so forth.  There was one that always caught my eye because I had never heard of it and I didn’t understand what it meant: Angle of Repose.  Actually, there are a number of them that I don’t know and which occasionally circle past me more than once, but Angle of Repose catches my attention every time I see it.

A week or so ago I was at that point when if I didn’t get some books on reserve at the library, I was going to end up bookless!  So I checked to see if Angle of Repose was even in my library system’s collection and sure enough, it was.  I ordered it brought to my library so I could check it out.
In the meantime, I checked the dictionary and learned that an angle of repose is a term that means where matter stops rolling downhill.  While the dictionary defined it in geologic terms, I asked Jerry if he had ever heard of it and he said he met it in an architecture class at MIT.

I really didn’t know what to expect, but when the book arrived and the cover stated that the author, Wallace Stegner, won the Pulitzer Prize for it in 1972, I figured I was in for a treat.  And a treat it is.
I can’t remember when I have been so delighted with a book.  It is big and fat – and I am predisposed to like those books from the get-go.  Of course I like books with good plots.  This has it.  I like books with good writing.  This has it.  I like books with interesting characters.  This has them.  I like books that catch me early on.  This did.  But here’s what, to me, is the most special.  Stegner uses four generations of people to move his story, and he moves between them seamlessly.  He has one generation answering questions that may have come up in the earlier generation’s story and that the reader didn’t even think to ask.  As the story of the narrator’s grandparents is being written by the protagonist, the reader begins to see and understand more clearly the modern day characters in the book.  It’s a book of wonderful discoveries – not by the plot but by the reader.  But aside from all that, it is a darn interesting tale! 

I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book now.  It’s a book I don’t want to read too fast because there is a lot to think about in between the pages.   I renewed it early so I could be sure of having it until I am finished with it at my own speed, not having to hurry because someone else has it on their reserve list.
As we used to say in elementary school at the conclusion of giving our oral book reports, “And if you want to know what happens, read the book!” 

But I also need to remind you that good books can be found in VERY odd places.