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.