Thursday, July 10, 2014


A very strange thing has been happening in the dental office where I go to have my teeth cared for. This is not a new dentist nor is it a new office,  But over the 4-year span that I've been going there, I have noticed that either the dentist is getting crotchety or the office staff is trying to change the office ambience.  Either way, it's bad enough to have to go to the dentist, but when you start finding the office becoming oppressive, it's more than a little bit disconcerting.

The outer office is quite small, I'd say possibly 12 feet square.  There is room for 5 people to sit. There is a large corner table between two sofas, a coffee table stacked with magazines, a television set high up in a corner, a door to the outside, a door opening to the patient rooms, and a counter, behind which the office staff works.  It is a single dentist office.

When I went for my first appointment I noticed two signs: one was scotched taped to the TV set and said "DO NOT TURN THE CHANNEL".  Understandable, I thought.  Someone might not like what was being shown, but it was not their decision to make.  Leave the TV set alone.  There also was a sign near the counter that said "We do not take Credit Cards."  OK, I thought.  A bit strange in this day and age, but I could live with that.

Yesterday I walked in and the proliferation of signs just hit me smack in the face.  It was not like I had not seen them before, but for some reason yesterday the negativity of these signs -- all done by the computer, plain heavy black lettering on white printer paper, and either scotched taped or pinned to the wall -- just jumped out at me.  OH, SO MANY SIGNS!

 I counted:

No food or drink allowed - 1 sign.
No credit cards accepted - 1 sign
Payment must be made before treatment begins - 1 sign
Restroom not available to non-patients - 1 sign
No changing of TV channel - 1 sign
Seating is limited so do not bring non-patients with  you - 2 signs.
No smoking - 1 sign
Take crying children outside - 1 sign.
Right to refuse service to anyone - 1 sign

and worst of all........
No cell phone use while in this office - 5 SIGNS

Let me be clear, what I have listed above is just the "gist" of the signs.  They are all forcefully stated and are written in a very authoritarian way:  YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE FOOD OR DRINK OF ANY KIND IN THIS OFFICE AT ANY TIME!  

Considering there are 4 walls, and all are fairly close to where patients sat, you can imagine how it wouldn't take a person very long to see that apparently this is not a happy office.  Whether the signs are the idea of the dentist or the staff, there really is just too much NO, NEVER, STOP, FORBIDDEN, DON'T, etc.

Although re-wording the signs would be helpful to take away some of the negativity (i.e., Please step outside if you find it necessary to use your cell phone.) I'd guess someone doesn't want to be bothered.  And my feeling is that if it is necessary to continue putting up cell phone signs, those signs just aren't doing much good!  FIVE CELL PHONE SIGNS!  For crying out loud.

I am not likely to change dentists.  My strategy is to get either the first appointment in the morning or the first one after lunch, so I don't get caught having to spend much time in the waiting room.  But frankly, I just shake my head at how some people go about trying to solve a problem.  Hitting people over the head with another sign is certainly not the answer.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Each year our "Senior" apartment complex produces a very large celebration to commemorate Independence Day.  Neither Jerry nor I much like a bunch of hoop-lah so we usually don't get involved in its production, opting instead simply to bring out some chairs to set along the parade route and watch what goes by.  It's not like a small town parade; ours, being celebrated by oldsters, features decorated golf carts, flatbed trucks carrying various residents in historic costumes, a few local dignitaries interspersed between our leasing agents riding in convertible cars, and more golf carts; we usually have a single band from one of the high schools (or intermediate schools) in the area, a few horses, and a cub scout or brownie scout group marching in the 90 degree heat with their tongues hanging out.  The best part is the plethora of cop cars and fire engines that start off the parade with sirens ablast!  And then bringing up the rear is the local old car club, not driven by old folks but by young men who, with spit and polish and a great talent with hydraulics, making those cars able to stand up, lean over, drag their heinie and do cartwheels.  When the old '57 Chevy Bel Air goes by, I always kick myself for not keeping the one that I owned, although at the time we never gave it a thought!

This year the Riverside Transit Authority let their beautiful bus (shown above) come join the parade.  I'm telling you, that bus is a standout!  How lucky we were to see it "up close and personal" as it lumbered along between an old style military jeep and a car featuring a World War II vet living in our facility, dressed in his full white Coast Guard uniform, and surrounded by vets from the Korean War, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, and Afghanistan.  Later in the day, our great-grandson Tyler got to sit in a helicopter that landed on the property, flown in by one of these vets.  Because we wanted Tyler to experience all this, we were far more involved this year than we have been previously.  I wore a hat that shaded my face (I don't EVER do that!), we slathered our arms and legs with sunscreen (I don't EVER do that either) and carried water bottles with us, because the temp was in the scorching 90s and we are really too old to be out and about in it for very long.  But I confess, it was a much better day because we got off our duffs. 

Earlier Tyler had asked me what was the funniest thing I'd ever seen.  I didn't have an answer for him, but when we had to sit on the grass to eat the free hot dogs offered by "management" I told Tyler to watch, because me trying to get up after sitting on the grass was going to be PRETTY DARN FUNNY!  (And it was!)

Anyway, Happy Birthday, America.

One of the genealogy projects  I've been doing since the first of the year is transcribing parts of old books and documents to be placed on various state web pages to aid in genealogical research – all volunteer work and mostly very, very interesting.

Yesterday I was doing one on Pinella, Florida written in the 1890s but describing some of the happenings that took place during the civil war.  I was to transcribe 10 pages – and the first of those 10 pages started in on the middle of a story.  It was an bad thing to have to type – about soldiers, after burning down a house and barn, took target practice on the barnyard animals, shooting at chickens, ducks, and pigs mostly, and leaving them dead if they were lucky, but wounded and in great distress if not.  The words were graphic and I wished it hadn't been my lot to have to type that particular section.

But the worst part of it was realizing that these soldiers being talked about were the Union men.  Why would I think that Union men wouldn't do that (and unsaid was that Confederate men might?).  Fie on me!  And it reminded me of my shock and surprise when I first read "Son of the Morning Star" by Evan Connell, his dynamic book of the growth of the West leading up to Custer and the battle of the Bighorn.  I was astounded to read of what society expected, and allowed, and justified time after time after time as we grew into what we considered a great, civilized county.  It wasn't only the "bad guys" that did bad things.  Pogo wasn't too far off when he said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

In this morning's L. A. Times I read that "Lockheed Martin Corp. is developing a system that will revamp the way the U. S. Air Force identifies and tracks dangerous space debris.  Millions of pieces of man-made junk – including disabled satellites, rocket parts and debris from collisions – are orbiting close to earth."  I always laugh when I read things like this.  I know it isn't likely that any one of us is going to be klonked on the head by a piece of space junk.  But someone is worrying about it besides Chicken Little, else why all the effort to track it?  And it makes me wonder at what the powers that be have up their sleeves/sights to deflect a large asteroid that may head our way one of these days.

Oh, but then I think of the middle-east…..


On that cheery note, I'll tell you one of my favorite jokes:

Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity. The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high speed
trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British engineers. When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer's backrest in two and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow.

The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the US scientists for suggestions.

NASA responded with a one line memo: "Defrost the chicken."

Friday, June 27, 2014


I am not going to ask you to understand why I needed a death certificate for my grandma's cousin, Blanche Stevens Thompson, who died in 1910.  Just accept that fact that for genealogists to learn about people in the family who have been long dead, it sometimes is necessary to get death certificates and/or obituaries.  This blog is about the funniest and most frustrating try for a simple death certificate that in 25 years of genealogy has happened to me.

In a nutshell, my great- grandma Nellie had a brother George Stevens just a tiny bit older that she was.   George married,  and Blanche, born in 1889, was his first child.  Blanche was my grandma Jessie's cousin. Down the road George moved to Oklahoma, and in my research I discovered that Blanche married in 1909.  In my research I also found a tombstone indicating she died in 1910, one year after she was married.  Why? I wondered.  In childbirth?  A disease?  Or maybe even murdered?  A death certificate might give me an answer, so I went online to find out what Oklahoma required to provide me a copy of her death certificate, if one existed.

I knew that such certificates were not always available that early, but the Oklahoma website said there actually were some as early as 1910.  I had to fill out a form, making sure I answered every question, and then send the completed form with a $15 research fee to the address at the top of the form.  I did exactly what they asked.  These instructions made it clear that the $15 was simply a research fee for their work in looking for a death certificate; if one wasn't found, they would not return the $15 to me.  I understood this, and was willing to risk losing the $15.

I sent the form and the check off on January 23, 2014.  The check was cashed on January 27, so I knew the form had arrived.

When no answer had come by the end of March, I sent a follow up request, nicely worded, simply noting that I was still anxiously awaiting word from them.

On April 23, I received a request from Oklahoma to provide documentation for my relationship to Blanche.  I opened my file cabinet to the "Stevens" file and photocopied my birth certificate showing my mother's name (Virginia), my mother's birth certificate showing her mother's name (Jessie), a delayed death certificate filed by my grandma Jessie showing her mother as Nellie, a Census report showing Nellie as belonging to the family of Chester and Ellen Stevens, and showing George as Nellie's older brother.  Then I photocopied a census report showing Blanche as a child of George.  These documents were among those specified as acceptable as proof by the State of Oklahoma. 

On June 16, almost two months after sending them all my documentation, I received a letter from Oklahoma saying NO birth certificate was found.

The end.

What can I say?  They did their part, just as they said they would; I did mine.  That it took almost 6 full months to hear "no" blows my mind!  Was I surprised? No.  Disappointed? Yes.  But that's all part of the genealogy game.

What I find hard to understand is this:  Did they not have an index anywhere that could have provided a "yes" or "no" in less time?  And preferably before I had to dig up and send copies of all my files?  I have bit my tongue every time I come close to saying something like, "Well, what do you expect from ........" No, I won't  say it.  Oklahoma has a bad enough rap as it is. 

And that is why I laugh.  In my own mind the whole thing is simply preposterous. There is a way of doing things, and a way NOT to do them.  But I consider that life is full of little quirks, and in genealogy we run into lots of "nos" - usually just a little bit faster, however, so I need to explore other ways to find an answer to why she died.  Poor Blanche.  Truly gone, but not forgotten!

Monday, June 23, 2014


For the past couple of years I have had a sneaking hunch that barring my sudden demise, it would be my knees that gave out first.  I did have a frozen shoulder a few years ago that was quite satisfactorily unfrozen through some good physical therapy sessions at a nearby clinic.  But the knees have never got to the point where I felt they needed help. Going up and down stairs is where I have a problem, and I simply avoid stairs if possible and if not, I take it slow and easy like an old person would do.  So far the knees and the tiny bit of pain they cause me has pretty much remained stable. 

After seeing my oldest daughter through a total knee replacement this past week I have decided to rethink my own knees.  I do not want to EVER need that particular surgery.  No way, no how!  No stairs.  No squats.  My knees henceforth are going to be cared for and babied so as to extend their natural lifespan.  Rather than replacement, should that ever come to pass, I'll opt for a wheelchair instead of a replacement.  That is one nasty surgery, and I don't want it!  Ever!

* * * * *

I'm having some trouble getting projects to the completion stage.  Part of this is caused by the "Do It Twice" syndrome that has become standard operating procedure since the advent of something…..maybe the electronic age.  I am presently trying to buy a battery for my camera.  I went to Radio Shack to order one; they were out of them but said they could order one for me, which would be sent to their shop within 3 to 5 working days.  The order would be confirmed by e-mail and I would be notified by e-mail when it arrived.  I had to pay for it first.  By the time I got home, the confirming e-mail had arrived, giving me an order number and saying I could track its progress.  On day 5 I had not received notice of its arrival at the shop, so I checked their website.  Lo, it said my order could not be filled because they no longer carried that battery.  I called the shop and asked what was going on?  No one knew.  They made a phone call and confirmed that my order had been cancelled, which was the reason I didn't get an e-mailed notice of its arrival!  Was no one going to let me know?

I understand from reading the business section of the newspaper that Radio Shack may not be long for this world.  That might account for their not carrying the item I needed any more, but couldn't someone have notified me?  I AM keeping my eyes on my AMEX bill to make sure they cancelled EVERYTHING.  And now I've tracked down another place to get the battery and placed another order.  I haven't seen anything in the news about the financial health of Samy's Camera.  Hopefully it is just fine, thank you.  In the meantime my camera sits idle, which is about like losing the use of my computer!

* * * * *

The other project I am having trouble with is getting wi-fi into my house so I can utilize my iPod in ways other than music through the ear-buds.  The start of this project began in January with good intentions of everybody involved.  It has yet to be completed.  Everybody is busy, which I understand.  I'm reconsidering my original plans and am close to hiring someone from the Geek Squad to get me set up.  I've set Aug 1 as the point of switch.

* * * * *

Has anything pleasant, anything good, anything exciting happened to counter-balance all these little irritants?

I'm thinking hard ……..

Friday, June 13, 2014


I have always thrived on change.  When I worked, I loved Mondays because I hit the ground running and felt energized by having projects to do and phone calls to make.  I loved Fridays because change - a weekend - was on the horizon.  There were chores to accomplish at home and grandbabies to visit.  If it was different, I loved it!

Now retired, I look at handmade quilts and think, "I have time to do that now!" But change comes slowly to a quilt, and I understand myself well enough to know any quilt would end up half done in one of my drawers alongside the other started and now languishing projects in my craft drawer.  I have no business tackling large projects!  A small patch of quilt turned into a wall hanging might be a possibility, but certainly even that is kind'a "iffy."

So imagine my surprise when I found myself offering to create an index for a 600 page genealogy book. That meant finding every name in the book and inputting it along with each page number where it appears into a computer database.  It was a long project that needed doing, and since I was one of the few who had ever had any experience indexing on a computer, it seemed only right for me to loan my fingers to the project.

If I had any doubts about my ability to stick with it, I knew that my sense of responsibility was stronger than my dread of sameness.  If an index was needed, I would see that one was available!

The final count of names was somewhere around 15,000.  My fingers flew on the keys.  I zipped through those pages one by one - staying up sometimes well past my bedtime just to get another couple hundred into the database.  I canceled lunches with friends because I wanted to get more pages done.  During the time I worked on the index, I left my books unread and my social life unattended.  I can't remember when I had such fun!  That project took a while to finish, but doing it was as much fun at the end as at the beginning.  Next to counted cross-stitch, it was the most repetitious thing I had ever done.  Amazingly, I loved every minute of it.

In fact, since that time I have indexed many more books.  Of all the hobbies I have had in the course of my adult life, and there have been many, far and away the most satisfying to me has been this one - indexing.

To all appearances indexing names should be a monotonous, no-brainer job.  It looks like the very kind of job I should stay away from, the very kind I always have, in fact, hated to do.  But there must be something inside me that really likes to bring order out of chaos, that likes to grab the thrown gauntlet.  Maybe it is doing something that no one else can or wants to do.  Maybe it is just ending up the hero.

Now I don't think that I have changed, but I do know I have found another dimension of myself that I had not known was there.  I have always maintained that as we age, we had best look for all the new experiences we can find.  But I had more been thinking in the line of finally being brave enough to tackle riding a roller-coaster.  Nevertheless, we older folk needn't allow ourselves to be rigid and predictable, always doing the same things because we have always done them.

Up against something we have never done before, we might as well give it a try.  Seniors need not always be the same people we think we are, and the change coming around the next corner may just hold a wonderfully soul-satisfying surprise.  Maybe it won't be indexing, but then, who knows?

Friday, June 6, 2014


Don't let the "headline" or the graphic lead you astray.  I wouldn't be so crass as to lay out a medical problem – unless it was a true story about a child (or a crazy adult) who swallowed some kind of electronic item and while it was mid-body in its travels started losing battery power and was trying to let someone know.  Now THAT would be a reportable item for my blog.

But no, the bowels I am mentioning today are merely either the area deep inside my very large purse, or in my very crowded apartment.  You would think a beeping signal would be easy to find.  Now if Jerry were the only person living in this apartment, a single heard beep would lead him to exactly to the sound.  He has lots of "plusses" in his make-up; among the best is that he always puts things back where they belong – you know, one of those "a place for everything and everything in its place" kind of person.  He has the DNA of an engineer.  (I have always said that it is lucky he married me because I have spent all this time trying to teach him to be a little more loosey-goosey – a release of his more creative side.)  But he is not really amenable to that, as he likes order very, very much!

Early this morning a single beep from somewhere in our aural vicinity presented itself.  I was on the computer and I did not hear it.  But Jerry did.  What could it be, he asked me?  He and I both know that it has to be either one of two cell phones, my iPod, our landline handset, or, quite possibly, from a piece of equipment that we didn't know ever beeped. 

We each have our strong suits that help us navigate through life, but dealing with electronic things is not one of them.  Right now we have hopes of someday being hooked up to Wi-Fi so I can use my iPod for something other than listening to music.  I have several family members working on this, but when they arrive to get me set up they find I am missing another VIP (very important part).  We are now into month 6 of this effort. ( I do think it is a shame to be so dumb as to need grandchildren to keep one relevant!)  In the meantime, a tiny airplane icon has arrived on the top left side of my iPod screen.  Perhaps it beeped when it arrived and it was one of the beeps we had to ignore because we couldn't find it.  This makes me wonder why I put my family through all this for Wi-Fi when I don't really know what something as simple as an airplane icon means. 

So sometimes it may be the iPod beeping, but sometimes it is one of the phones.  We are smart enough to know that if we can't find our cell phone we can use our land line to call it, and if the battery is still running we'll have it in no time.  However, we did not know that our land line also has a built in beep, so mostly we remain in a state of confusion. 

Occasionally, and what must have happened this morning. is that some extraneous beep from outdoors happened to be loud enough for Jerry to hear it and assume it was one of our pieces of equipment trying to get our attention.  This has happened in restaurants too, and when it does, I spend 15 minutes or so digging through the bowels of my purse trying to locate either my phone or my iPod, only to discover it was not my beep!

Ah me, life has become so complicated.  Think of life before beeps.  It was a simple life.  We didn't feel deprived.  But having once experienced little machines that do good things in between beeps, we just can't go backwards to simplify our existence.  The simple solution to most wayward beeps is so easy: put things in their place when you set them down!  That's not a hard thing for Jerry to remember, but oh,doing that is  SO out of character for me!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I am fascinated by hoarding.  No, I don't hoard, and I don't think I've really ever known a real hoarder….but I've known people who come close!   The way I understand it, when the objects of their hoarding, their "things," cause them to not be able to use their basic necessities in a normal way (like not being able to sleep on their own bed because of so many "things" being stored there, or needing to eat meals at a nearby diner because their own kitchen is not accessible because of "things" – then those are true hoarders.  So just an overblown collection of certain things does not a hoarder make.


Sometimes I wonder about my files

I love files.  A file for everything, and everything in its own file.  And whenever there are too many things waiting to be filed, then a single file labeled "To be Filed" will certainly suffice.  My main problem is that I may never see the contents of that file again, because it too easily ends up underneath a pile of folders that accumulate on my desk.

But this blog is not exactly about that.

This blog is where I relocate some of the interesting things I've been saving to use in a blog sometime.  So sit back and read.  You'll just get a small taste of what all it is I have saved in this particular folder marked "To Be Filed."


1.  John Perry, at that time and perhaps still, a professor of philosophy at Stanford wrote a good article back in 1996 that explains how we can procrastinate and still get things done.  His premise is that the thing you most need to do should be put at the top of a "to do" list, and following beneath that are a whole bunch of necessary but not critical things that also must be done.  You can be a procrastinator and feel darn bad about it, but if you do a whole bunch of the lesser chores, you can still feel that you are making great headway by getting the closure you have made.  You can pat yourself on the back for a day well spent – and know that you will get to the #1 on the list tomorrow.  That's not exactly procrastination, he says.  Self-deception, maybe.

Read his funny essay in full here:


2.   Political correctness appears to be colorblind.  Some time back Michelle Obama went to a state dinner at the White house wearing a dress described by the Associated Press as "Flesh."  The designer called it a "sterling-silver sequin, abstract floral, nude strapless gown.  Was it flesh colored?  Not Mrs. Obama's flesh, obviously.  Associated Press changed the wording to "champagne."  And is the color "nude" a single color or a relative color?

Which reminds me, many years ago I had a nice tan, and a co-worker asked me if I tanned easily.  I assured him that I had to really work hard to get any tan at all, that actually the skin on my stomach is as white as a snake's belly!  (He wanted to see it, but I declined!). 

But getting back to the color nude, champagne, sand, flesh, or blush, peach, eggshell or cream – or for darker tones chai and darker yet "espresso" (all colors in the decorator's pallet) – I think probably nude and flesh should be retired and let the foods of the world dictate what color a dress is.

Jerry is color-blind; not the traditional red/green that many men have, but he has trouble differentiating between pastel colors.  He does not identify any difference between beige and gold, lavender and light pink, silver and grey, and other tones.  In one of his retirement jobs he worked for a police department following street sweepers and ticketing cars which had not been moved off the street before the sweepers came by.  In several instances people who received a ticket huffed into the Police Department indicating that they got a ticket but their car was not gold/beige/tan/ivory/silver or whatever color it was that Jerry saw and put on the ticket.  His spirit was willing but his eyesight was –well, not weak, but not 100% right on!


3.  Some time back there was a great article in the LA Times about a man in Compton who has made a good living for himself  - in fact, good enough to put both his son and daughter through College, he says.  He indicates that for 50 years, he has been raising colonies of crickets, Madagascar hissing cockroaches – and mealworms – piles of squishy, wiggly, red-orange mealworms.  They are his best product.

He has not suffered at all through any of the recessions.  He has 60 employees, most of whom are related to each other.  He started his business in the early 1960s and is still going strong. 

I guess if one has the stomach for it, one might do well.  As for me, I don't put bait on fishhooks and I don't pick up mealworms or any cockroaches, whether they hiss or spit.  Sure, I'd like a fool-proof way to increase my income a bit, but this is definitely not my project of choice.


4.  If you are looking for something different to do with your honey in tow, I suggest the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco.  Many years ago, when Jer and I were younger and more romance-able, we went to the then-called Miyako Hotel; the touted draw was a 2-person Japanese deep soaking tub, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience just as the book in which we read about it said it would.  (I think the book was something about 100 Things to do for Valentine's Day.)  This hotel has not been the Miyako for many years now; but the Hotel Kabuki goes a step further than only the deep soaking tub (which it still has):  it has a relationship with the Kabuki Springs and Spa communal bath which is merely two blocks away from the Hotel.  Hotel Kabuki now is part of the Joie de Vivre hotel chain and if you book a hotel visit through the Joie De Vivre chain directly, you receive a complimentary pass to the Kabuki Springs and Spa.

Now understand, I have not visited it under this new ownership.  Romance-able now pretty much involves not having to sleep with the cat on our bed.  So I can't tell you exactly what this all means:

            "The baths are open for women only Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays,
            and open to men Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  Tuesdays are co-ed. 
            Bathing suits are required on Tuesdays."

I leave it to you to snoop around on the Hotel Kabuki website and make your own bed & bath, which you will, of course, either lie in or meditate in, Japanese style, with or without Bath Butler Service and soaking salts.

And do have fun!

So I now have cleared out part of one file folder.  That enables me to toss away four papers that I swear I have been keeping at the ready for five years or so.  No hoarder lives at THIS house!  Just a saver!

Friday, May 23, 2014



FICTION: (In no particular order)

1.  The Round House – Louise Erdrich
            A winner of the National Book Award, this story set on a present-day Indian reservation is as good and painful a story as I've found in a long time. I think it is the best of all I've read of her books. 

2.  The Testament of Mary - Colm Toibin
             Jesus's mother, Mary, reflects on the events surrounding the crucifixion of her son, who she knows is not the son of God.

3.   Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
             A book of twists and turns that will keep you glued to your seat until you've read the last page.

4.    Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner
              1972's amazing book of discovery - personal, historical, and geographical.  It is a lovely, lovely read.

5.     The Good Lord Bird - James McBride
              Has Old John Brown ever been so deliciously portrayed?  You'll laugh, cry, gasp, and re-read.  

NON-FICTION: (In no particular order)

1.      The Man in the Sharkskin Suit - Lucette Lagnado
               What happens to an Egyptian Jewish family when the nation of Israel is born.

2.       1940: FDR, Wilkie, Lindbergh, Hitler - the Election Amid the Storm - Susan Dunn.
                I was too little to know this when it was happening, but reading it was a real eye-opener and, surprisingly, a very interesting book for those of us (moi!) who are not political or a historian.

3.       Blood and Thunder - Epic Story of Kit Carson - Hampton Sides
                Kit Carson's role in the conquest of the Navajo during and after the civil war.  But more than that, it's the conquest of the whole west - extending way out here to California -- in places I've walked all of my life.

4.       Crossing Cairo - Ruth Sohn
                 Review from my blog:  I heard her talk about this book at a book fair and knew that I had to read it.  What I appreciated is her ability to see events, people, culture, and locations through the eyes of an expat, a mother, a rabbi, a female and a scholar -- and still have every last word be interesting!  Most importantly, I think, is that it has set me to thinking about how I interpret news from the middle east, especially that which comes via TV. 

5.       Deadly Indifference - Michael Brown
                Under-Secretary of Homeland Security (under Bush) lucidly explains (and not with excuses) what turned out to be a very inadequate federal response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and a good description of just what FEMA is and isn't.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Have you ever had the heebie-jeebies?

Now I don't go looking for trouble, but there are a few things that certainly give me the heebie-jeebies.

The first and most irrational one happens to be a leftover from my teen years.  I think I've even mentioned it in an older blog.  It is simply seeing a swimming pool without water in it.  I will spare you the reason why it gives me the heebie-jeebies, and forcing myself to walk in my own swimming pool when it was drained for repairs many years ago really never made the irrationality go away, although I thought it would.  But it just kind of "tempered" it.  I don't have many occasions anymore to see empty swimming pools, but I have to admit two things: if I saw one I'm sure I wouldn't faint or anything like that, and if I had any say so in the matter, I probably wouldn't look at it in the first place if I had to walk by it.

I know.  It's crazy, but not incapacitating!

The second thing that gives me the heebie-jeebies is not going to be good PR for California.  I do not like to be caught at a red light when I am driving under a freeway overpass.  I think this nervousness came from one of the old SoCal earthquakes - either the Sylmar quake in 1971 or the Northridge quake in 1994.  An overpass collapsed on a car.  Of course all the newspapers ran pictures of it.  I am not ordinarily fearful of earthquakes (except in Turkey, because our apartment building was not very substantial).  The slight chance of being injured in one here in California doesn't give me any particular fear, but when I am driving and see that I am going to be caught at a stoplight while I'm having to wait under a freeway overpass -- well, what I experience is a good case of the heebie-jeebies.  No yelling, no thrashing about, but I tell you I am always ready, at first shake, to jump out of my car and run for my life!  Man! I don't like that!

And the final thing that makes me nervous is driving on the freeway beside a semi-truck.  We have way too many truck-car accidents here on our freeways.  The car rarely wins.  Just today as I drove down the onramp onto the 60 freeway, I had to merge into the traffic lane next to a big red semi.  At least it was a pretty, clean bright red - not that it mattered, but since I was to merge at the speed of traffic it took a little maneuvering to end up away from that semi as fast as I could manage it!

Now these last two situations are rational, as opposed to the irrational fear of an empty swimming pool. Nevertheless, there is no way that I can control either of those from occurring like I do when I opt not to look at the pool.

This morning, with Jerry by my side as I merged onto the 60, I asked him if anything gave him "the willies" - another good set of words for "heebie-jeebie."  Good old placid Jerry.  "Nope," he said, "not that I can think of."

Ah...... I should be lucky enough to go through life not thinking of disasters and things like that.  Que sera, sera is his mantra. Fatalism, I calls it!  No use trying to change myself at this stage of the game.  I guess I'm one of those "set in their ways" oldsters.  At least these quirks aren't debilitating.  They sure don't keep me off the freeway.  (And it's age that keeps me out of the swimming pool!)

Saturday, May 10, 2014


As I recall the story, there was a lady who wanted very much to honor her mother, and did so by suggesting to someone, somewhere, that a day in May be set aside as Mother's Day, in which children were to specifically honor or memorialize their mother with a written note or letter.  Within a few years she was fit to be tied, because the original thought was commercialized and publicized by the suggestion of present-giving, non-personal gift cards and the like. 

I have before mentioned that my family was not very observant of events, other than Christmas, Easter and birthdays.  I can't remember ever giving my mother a present, but my father always gave her one from "all of us."  If we asked what she wanted, she always said, "Just a hand-made card."  She wasn't hard to please, but even from a child's viewpoint it never seemed like a very good a Mother's Day present to me.

In thinking about the impact of Mother's Day in my life, I am always drawn back to something my mother put in a handwritten note to us, her three kids, and attached to her holographic will.  Her last sentence, written before she headed to the hospital for heart surgery (from which she would not survive) was this: "So, at the moment I shall end this.  Just want you all to know how much I enjoyed being your Mom, and wish you long happy healthy lives.  Love always, Mother."

I have often felt deficient in the "mother" department, but if I think of this note from my mom – and especially I always do on Mother's Day, I realize that regardless of what a brat I might have been, or my too-far-apart phone calls, or not always being the peacemaker my mother expected of me, or not coming up to the standard she wanted for me, what I did do, by doing nothing more than being her child, still made my mother enjoy being a mother. 

So in a sense, without my knowing it, what I did and what I became, and who I was still was enough to make her enjoy being a mother.  And it was a gift I didn't know of until she was gone.

I remember my mother today with really warm thoughts.  She was a genuinely good, kind person; I don't think she had a mean bone in her body.  She set a great example for her daughters in the way she lived her life.  That sometimes we fell short was not her fault, and she never, ever, intentionally made us feel guilty.  (We were quite able to do that ourselves, thank you.)

And so for me, I think I have already received the best gift possible for this and for every Mother's Day – and that is being able to say to my kids – Sean, Erin, Bryn and Kerry - while I'm still alive to say exactly what my mother did: " I have enjoyed being your Mom!" And that is better than receiving a handmade card, roses, See's Candy, a Barnes and Noble Gift Card, or a cashmere sweater for Mother's Day.  Being able to still put my arms around you is enough! 

Thursday, May 1, 2014


In my whole life I have never signed up for ANYTHING that even hinted at athletics or exercise.  As a child I was thought to have a heart condition and the whole of my childhood was governed by not playing active games.  By the time I figured out I wasn't going to die, I didn't know how to play volleyball, basketball, kickball, baseball, and frankly, just wasn't interested. 

I substituted reading for my "sport" and never missed not knowing running around making sweat!.  I always said my exercise was accomplished by curling up on the couch making my eyeballs go back and forth across the written page.  Ahhhhh.  Such satisfaction!

I lived my young and middle aged life before LA Fitness or Pilates came into being.  To be honest, what one doesn't have, one doesn't miss.  And then, one starts into old age and begins  having little niggling physical things go on with my body.  That was when I realized I probably did need a little conditioning.  I walked for a while, shocked that I rather enjoyed it, but after the scare that I had last December thinking I was going to need dialysis or a kidney transplant, I stopped walking because I felt so punk.  It turned out to be a side-effect of a pill, and once I stopped taking that pill, I became my old self again, kidney and all.  However, I just never quite got my enthusiasm for exercise back. So when Riverside County arranged to hold a "50 and Fit" exercise class on the premises of Country Village, where we live, I suggested to Jerry that we participate.  The goal, set specifically for seniors, is to work toward Muscle, Flexibility and Balance.  The sessions are three times a week, no cost, everything provided!  We've now been twice and like it enough to continue.

But I do have some observations to share.

As we walked in the door we were handed a resistance band.  We vaguely knew how they would be used.  The leader said they would be used in the exercises to build muscle mass through resistance.  The fact that mine had about the resistance of a rubber band made me question what kind of muscle it was going to do any good on.  I was originally thinking of Popeye-sized muscles, but obviously that was not going to happen if I didn't get a stronger band.  But at the same time, I must admit that I thought I looked pretty darn fit stretching that band by holding it with my fingers!  It made me laugh.  I was hopeful that all those people behind me could see that I was already fit.  (I did ask for a stronger band at the second session!)

Next, the leader had us put the bands away and led us in an exercise that I'll describe as stepping left and right in a rhythmic pace, left and right: STEP! STEP! STEP! CLAP! STEP! STEP! STEP! CLAP! – back and forth many many times.  But I laughed at this too, because anyone looking at me would think I had no sense of rhythm at all..  I could not stay in step with any body else, and often I was at a dead stop, giggling at how stupid I was.

But there was a good reason for my difficulty.  First of all, our leader faces us, so her right is our left.  If she would face the same direction that we are, we would all be together.  Many of the people were confused about which way they were to move and people were going every which direction.  But I found myself at odds with both of them – like someone marching to a different drummer.  I burst out laughing again at how stupid I felt, but for good reason: The leader has music to accompany our efforts, but the beat of the piece accompanying this exercise was different than the beat she set for our movement. So I DID have a different drummer, and with a tiny bit of musical training in my background, I positively could not ignore the beat of the music that my fine hearings aids piped into my ears!  I was not out of step at all; everyone else was!

The leader of the exercise group, a youngish woman who actually is one of the employees of our complex's management company, appears to have never exercised before but has had a short course in how to lead a "50 and Fit" group.  Her spirit is willing….but you know the rest of that old saw.  She is fairly unsure of what all these exercises are to accomplish; she herself watches and follows a DVD that is playing on a table beside her.  She does – and then we do - whatever exercise the DVD instructor is doing.  Sweetly and earnestly she follows the rules, so I expect she will get better as she gets more experience. 

I really would prefer a trainer like some of those physical therapists who worked with me to get my "frozen shoulder" back to normal, but we can't always have what we want. And besides, I think to myself, if we had a "REAL" trainer, I would probably then have to truly exercise, which I think I still hate.  So I've made my peace with my silly efforts and lots of laughs, and have to assume that what I am doing now is a whole lot better than finding another book to read.

I do, however, honestly hope that by the time she gets us working on getting our gluteus maximus muscles back into shape, her skills will be honed and we will see some good results.  Have you ever looked at your behind in a three way mirror?  I'm telling you, there is nothing left except muscles, all resting!  It's worse than the flabby underarms we get as we age, but perhaps for us women, not quite as bad as losing what we held up years ago in a perky bra. 

Sadly and realistically, I'm really under no illusion that I will come out of this "50 and Fit" a new me, but in the meantime what it does is get me off the computer for an hour, give me an hour laughing with Jerry, and make me recognize that I really am not in too bad a shape for an old broad.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


It's been a long time since I've played croquet.  It's pretty passe', now, I'd guess, although if one noses around on the internet it's possible to find some hard-core croquet players still wielding those mallets.

When I was a kid, my family was lucky enough to move into a house in 1945 that not only had not only a big back yard but also a big side yard AND a vacant lot next door.  We also lived in a town where lots of our relatives lived too, and at least during most of the year, Sundays would find a whole bunch of "us" playing some kind of a game outside.

Children were not the reason our folks bought the various games.  To be honest with you, my sister was a poor loser in anything and it was just easier to let the adults play and the kids watch.  When the adults were finished, there usually was a row over picking out the color of the mallet and ball you wanted to play with, and then there was often an argument at every wicket about "not being fair" .... the only way a game could be be played without tearing your hair out is if my sister got to win every hole.  As I said, she was a poor loser and a great tantrum thrower, so these games didn't last very long.

But while we kids were entertaining ourselves in the back yard, my mother and all her sisters were playing a game of badminton on the side yard.  Dad strung up the badminton net from the side of the house to a tall post set in a tire on the other side of the yard.  The women who weren't "up" sat in folding chairs at the side of the game and refereed and gossiped, I imagine, until their turn at badminton came up, and when it did they tried their best to hit the daylights out of that "bird," the term they used for the "shuttlecock."

All the while my dad and the brothers-in-law would be playing horseshoes in the vacant lot, which my dad also owned.  Most of the time it didn't take very long before us kids gave up on croquet and came out to watch the men throwing those horseshoes.  We didn't care about badminton, but we sure liked horseshoes.  If we waited long enough, we always got to try our hand at trying to throw a "ringer" - but of course our tossing line had to be moved  up very close to the stake, because those horseshoes were H-E-A-V-Y for us little girls.

When the afternoon games were over, the family always sat around in the backyard cooking off with bottles of beer, and lemonade for us kids.

My mom had a big family:  Uncle Sam and Aunt Marie (her sister), Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty (her brother), Uncle Hugh and Aunt Betty (her brother), Aunt Margie, her sister, and then there was my Uncle Bill, (really not an uncle but my dad's best friend.)  Often times my dad ended up either barbecuing dinner outside for everyone, or he made a big pancake dinner for everyone.

Dad was a good and willing cook.  His own dad died when he was 8.  His mom had to take a full-time job, and his older sister was studying for nursing school, so often dad was the one who put some food on the table in the evening.  He dropped out of school in 8th grade and his first job was at a restaurant.  Then later on he did some mining in California - and since he enjoyed cooking and mother didn't, he took over whenever company came.  In those days pancakes were made from scratch - that is, no pancake mix or Bisquick existed yet.  His pancakes were to die for, and he had the pleasure of remembering, even when he was in his 90s, of how much everyone in the family relished his big pancake suppers.

The family also quite often had poker parties on Saturday night, maybe once a month.  The babies would be put down to bed in one of the bedrooms.  The dining room table is where the group sat, and my sis and I would sit on the floor at the end of that table and nearest to the bedrooms so we could hear if any little tykes needed attention.  We understood that poker was an adult game (the chips in our family were pennies.)  But we listened to what was going on and devised our own game that we called REKOP, which was "Poker" backwards.  Sitting down on the floor, we managed to get through our own game without our parents being any the wiser (or so we thought.)

About the time I turned 14 or so, my dad had an outdoor patio built out in the corner of the back yard.  He did it so that Ginnie Lou and I would be able to bring our friends to our house for fun, instead of going out somewhere.  The patio, however, took a chunk out of our croquet course.  Eventually dad built a triplex on the vacant lot; a fence was put in which meant the horseshoes went by the wayside, and TV inside replaced the games on the outside.  My dad and his pancakes were the one constant as our society left the "old times" and moved into "the age of TV."  My cousin Shirlee and I are the last ones left who remember those "old times" and we agree that we were really lucky to have experienced that tiny snippit of life that was full of croquet mallets, balls, shuttlecocks, and horseshoes.

Monday, April 14, 2014


I love words.  I love to find new words to add to my repertoire of new ways to say things. I don't much like words that reek with pomposity, but I truly enjoy finding one that makes my brain respond "AH HA!  The latest, which I wrote about in an earlier blog is Mumpsimus.  Haven't used it yet, but the time will come, I'm sure.

I enjoy sitting on the couch early in the morning (like 5 a.m. when Jerry and I get up) having a good cup of coffee and listening to the local early-bird TV commentators struggle through the news.  Apparently they are reading scripts so the errors they make may not all be theirs.  But they do say some funny things:

Last week one of the female anchors, well educated and one would like to think well read, had to talk about a Medical Center with a unique (but not bizarre) name.  It as called the Apogee Medical Center.  That name gives you confidence that they provide the highest level of service.  But she referred to it as the A-PODGE-ie. (you know, of course, that the pronunciation is really AP-o-gee.  I nearly fell on the floor laughing.  I hope someone got her on the right track and that her face won't stay red very much longer.

Another day she got all tangled up in a "when" situation.  She was talking that day at 9 o'clock about something that had happened at 8 o'clock the previous day.  Her description, with much sputtering, came out "Less than an hour ago yesterday." HAHAHHAHAH!

A more recent goof was in a late afternoon broadcast, where the talking head said that traffic would move again "when they "uprighted the jacknife that overturned."   I swiveled my head to look at the TV and said to her "UPRIGHT THE JACKNIFE??????"   She, of course didn't answer!  HAHHAHAH!

Yesterday "the truck was carrying fuel and diesel." And later I must say I don't think the writer of the news was the one who put down what came out of her mouth: "A WHOLE NOTHER BOOK"  This "WHOLE NOTHER" instead of "Another whole" is so commonly said I suppose soon we'll be seeing "Nother" arrive in the OED.

As much as I hate to say it, it does seem like the women make a lot more "off the cuff" goofs than men do.  It may be women dither more, or that they have so much more in the brain to futz with than the men.  Perhaps men are a bit more controlled.

It doesn't bother me; in fact, I get some good laughs out of it and it often softens the irritation at hearing the same events reported over and over and over....and over......and still more over.  You know what I mean.

Learning a new language can give some laughs too.  Back in one of my early blogs I wrote about a friend in Turkey who admitted to using a wrong Turkish word when she went into the little bakkal (a mom-and-pop kind of store in Istanbul).  She wanted bread some and made a big try of informing the bakkal owner (a man) and all his buddies who were talking with him, but she used the wrong Turkish word.  She asked for a large ERKEK instead of a large EKMEK.  When the men all threw themselves on the floor hooting and hollering she realized that she had asked for a big man!

I have a friend who was meeting her Hungarian father-in-law and family for the first time.  She worked hard to learn some basic things about Hungary and a few phrases that she could say that would cause them to be delighted over the new daughter-in-law in the family.  She said she will never live down the fact that the Hungarian word for Strawberries, which her husband had told her were very good there, is very similar to the word for Hemorrhoids - and of course she used the wrong word.

Now I didn't have that kind of problem when we moved to Turkey.  I tried my best to learn Turkish - and got far enough into it to learn that bread (ekmek) can be turned into "breadmaker or baker" by the addition of a little "cu" on the end of ekmek - baker becomes ekmekcu.  Tutun is tobacco; the tobacco seller or maker is handled the same way:  tutuncu.  It's pretty slick.  Which bring me to the picture above.

The fellow in the picture is our driver, Ahmet. He was assigned to us when we arrived in Turkey for a consulting agreement.  He spoke some English, a lot more than we spoke Turkish.  He was quite helpful to me in learning how I should say things.  Now before I go any further, I must say that the beautiful limo you see was NOT the car that was assigned to us.  That was the boss's car and Ahmet had called me to come over to the garage to take a picture of him standing by the car.  Prestige, he wanted.  Ahmet was a nice fellow, and I had no problem with accommodating him.  The car he ultimately drove us around in was just about the size of a little Ford Pinto.  HAHAHHAH  (Joke's on us!)

Anyway, one day he was taking me somewhere  and I was thinking about Turkish words.  I said to him, "Ahmet Bey, the Turkish word for car is araba, is that correct?"  "Yes, Mrs. Title" he replied.  Then thinking that I should be able to add the little suffix on the end of the araba to come up with the the correct name for the driver of a car, I said, "Then, is it correct to say that you are an arabaca?"   He nearly flew through the windshield from putting the brake on so fast, and he pulled over to the side of the road.   In his most authentic and important voice, he said, "Mrs. Title, that is not correct."  He looked totally crestfallen.

YIKES!  "I'm sorry, Ahmet, what is the correct word then?  He swiveled around in the car, looked at me and said, "I am a SHOFER".

Let me tell you that what I most wanted to do was to throw myself down on the floor of the car where he couldn't see me and laugh my head off.  I wouldn't have been laughing at him; I would have been laughing at myself for the whole episode.  It was not his fault that we couldn't think of him as a chauffeur.  He was the age of our kids and had knocked himself out helping us get settled in Turkey.  He was such a lovely fellow and we were SO lucky to have had the experience of him being with us for that time.  He didn't feel like a "servant" to us; he felt like one of our kids. But our error was in not taking his position seriously enough.  Nevertheless, I found it an exceptionally funny happening, but I somehow managed to get myself pulled together and we went on our way.

Words bring all kinds of fun into our lives, often when we are least expecting it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


In and around 1933 a strange confluence of events was taking place.  The western world was watching the changes in Germany as Hitler came to power.  And with that power came a Reestablishment of the Civil Service Law, which rules were designed to enable speedy dismissal of professors with Jewish lineage and others considered politically suspect from all positions in German universities and institutes.  Those professors included the great minds of philosophy, mathematics, science, psychology, physics, economics, medicine, music, architecture, languages and others.  These professions were filled mostly with German Jews, many Nobel Prize winners.  And in 1933 they found themselves without a job.

At the same time, Kemal Ataturk had come to power in Turkey. A visionary, he wanted to modernize Turkey's education system that at the time was mainly working with military and bureaucratic systems;  He knew that big changes would have to be made in the educational system, and he set out to start at the top: dismantle the one major university in Istanbul in that city and select individuals with the highest of academic credentials in disciplines and professions most needed in Turkey.  The Turkish professors weren't going to like it, but Ataturk knew it had to be done.

The catalyst for this confluence of events was in the hands of Hungarian born Frankfurt pathologist Dr. Philipp Schwarz, who was one of the first professors to be fired from his job in Germany. Through a connection – his father-in-law who was a friend of a man who had been called to Turkey by Ataturk to set up a plan for finding and hiring top professionals to staff what would be the new University – Dr. Schwartz set up "The Emergency Assistance Organization for German Scientists."  A comprehensive contract was drawn up that covered all kinds of contingencies – and Turkey extended  invitations to those men and woman who best fit the bill.  Altogether, approximately 300 academicians and 50 technicians and supporting staff went to Turkey.  Including family members, this meant more than 1000 persons. 

Most of you who know me know that I am very interested in both Judaism and things Turkish, having lived in Istanbul for two years and having married into a Jewish family.   I always have an ear (and an eye) open for new stories and new information.  Had it not been for a short interview with the author I watched on BookTV several months ago (filmed sometime before his death in 2011) I would never have known of either this book or this story.  The book was published in 2006, so it's been around a while, but I certainly never heard of it.  It is not another holocaust book.  The author has not only told the story and documented every word of it, but he also has included memoirs and reflections by some of those very scientists and their families.  You will laugh when you read the pitfalls of learning to speak Turkish, and the author includes a very funny story of Ataturk, Shah Reza Pahlavi and one of the dentist emigres over the quality of false teeth he could make. 

Don't pick up this book thinking it is going to be fast read.  It probably is not going to appeal to people who don't have a strong interest in the historical events in that part of the world at that time.  But it is a powerful book, and it shouldn't be kept hidden.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


There seems to be a lot of discussion in business circles (and legal circles) today about unpaid interns.  Here in LA a class action lawsuit has been filed by unpaid interns seeking pay for all the time he worked without pay, damages and an order barring use of unpaid interns at one of the movie companies.  According to the way I read it, the lead plaintiff was studying to become a film editor and took the unpaid internship hoping to get experience that would give cachet to his CV.  Instead, his duties for the most part were those of the ubiquitous "gofers."

The LA Times this morning published a list of typically unpaid show business internships, according to their own research:
            Making coffee
            Cleaning the office kitchen
            Compiling press clippings
            Photocopying documents
            Taking lunch orders and picking up take-out
            Assembling office furniture
            Booking flights and limousines for actors
            Checking scripts to make sure there are no missing pages.

Reading that made me laugh.  It reminded me that when I was hired as an executive secretary for one of the vice-presidents of a local company, all of the above were either listed in my job description or expected of me.  Granted, that was a long time ago – almost 40 years, to be exact.  Women's lib had already come; Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique had made its impact and moved on.  But the mindset of men running companies located in smallish towns had not been touched.  And as far as the highest level clerical jobs went, we were still "private" secretaries, executive or not, and if we wanted a job, we didn't quibble about our job description.

Yes, we had some status within the company, that status being privy to confidential financial information.  We were on the payroll as exempt employees (which actually was a mistake because we were miles away from having the authority required for that position) and we did get to sit in our own little offices or in an executive wing, out of the milieu of the departmental gossip factory.

But there truly were a few chores we had to do that were definitely non-secretarial: fill up the gas tank on the boss's car, clean out the car ashtrays, and bring the bosses hot, fresh coffee whenever they asked.  And sometimes at closing time we had to mix a drink for them at the executive bar if they were working late.  That, and picking up lunches to bring in for the bosses, were truly "gofer" stuff.

I did not ever think I would end up as a secretary.  The woman who trained me (the President's secretary) had been a secretary her whole working life; it had been her goal through school and she truly was the best teacher I could ever have had.  She had this job because she had worked and studied hard to get to this point.  I took this job because I had been recently divorced and was desperate for a job that would provide me with some security, as well as medical benefits.  I had never worked full time before, and when I applied for the job I had been working part time at a secretarial service, mainly running a small printing press that produced service club bulletins.  The only qualification I could offer for full time employment was a good work ethic, a good brain, and a fast typing speed.  I was hired at less than the job was advertised for because I really didn't have the qualifications they specified, but the VP who offered me the job said he'd take a chance on me, for which I was, and always will be, very grateful. 

I also learned that I didn't much like being a secretary, even though I was good at it.  I never could quibble about whether what I was asked to do was or wasn't in my job description.  Even doing what I would consider somewhat demeaning things – like emptying ashtrays in the boss's car – I did it as I was asked; it simply was one of the least pleasant parts of the job.  I stayed three years, and then moved on, a company requirement because I married one of the executives!

The last job I had before I retired had a perfect structure for me.  Although my title was Administrative Secretary, I was basically the only "clerical" person on staff but I had a great deal of authority and finally requested (and received) a clerk who was a terrific help. 

Getting back to the Hollywood film company's dilemma, I suspect the Department of Labor and the legal profession are going to play with this paid/unpaid internship problem for a while but ultimately will make some adjustments that might not make everybody happy but that will help people know ahead of time what they are getting into when they sign on the dotted employment line!  They may even come up with a new and better name for a "gofer."

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Back on September 30, 2009 I wrote a blog entitled "Hello!  It's Chicken Little Again."  It was my thoughts on space junk as pertains to astronauts and elimination problems.  I found the whole thing very funny.

And now, I find another funny story about early astronauts and the development of space diapers.  Initially I did not think I should introduce it to you via my blog, since I had an feeling you might think my sense of humor equaled that of a 5 year old boy who runs around calling people "pooh-pooh head."  But since this article hit me in the face when I booted up the computer today and gave me a good laugh, why not share it with you?  I wish I had written it, but no, it's a recap on an original article published in the Houston Chronicle:  
It was a mission-critical element: the size of NASA astronauts' manhood. Seriously. The Houston Chronicle resurrects the fascinating historical tidbit by way of the Science Channel's Moon Machines documentary series, in which engineer Donald Rethke explained the very precise nature of early space diapers.
The Maximum Absorbency Garment system, donned by Gemini and Apollo astronauts, featured one very specific element: a sleeve likened to a condom with a hole at the tip that enabled the men to urinate into a pouch with a one-way valve in their suits.
Three sleeve sizes were available, small, medium, and large. And astronauts couldn't fib, explains Rethke. If they decided to order the next size up, the sheath wouldn't fit snugly, and liquid could potentially leak out, causing damage.
To make the process a little less embarrassing, the sizes were later renamed: large, gigantic, and humongous. Motherboard notes that the urination issue was first brought to the fore by Alan Shepard, who spent hours in the Freedom 7 capsule in advance of a quick 15-minute "suborbital hop." Denied permission to leave the capsule, he opted to pee in his suit—forcing Mission Control to turn off his biomedical sensors until the flow of oxygen in the suit dried the pee, allowing the sensors to be switched on.
Today's astronauts enjoy actual restrooms, though MAG systems are provided to astronauts who are operating outside space vehicles. 
Why do I think this is funny?  It's all in the writing, I guess.  Maybe I was simply primed to laugh, as I had just read, also online, a joke about a mother whose small child swallowed a 22 caliber bullet.  She ran to a nearby pharmacy and asked the pharmacist what she should do.  He handed her a bottle of castor oil and said, "Make him drink this, and then just wait for it to act.  But see that he's not aimed at anybody!" 

I found that funny too. 

Guess it's just one of those days!

Sunday, March 23, 2014


 The perennial problem at our house is how to we let loose of ephemera?

Jerry and I, both being the oldest child in our family, became the receivers of all the old photo albums, scrapbooks, and so forth that our parents had kept over the years.  For me as a genealogist, this turned out to be a wonderful serendipity, because it gave me a head start on finding what my ancestors looked like. It also gave me knowledge of some rather funny things.

Again today I was going through the 5 foot high collection of books - which of course include our baby books.  Jer and I are both hovering around one side or the other of being 80 years old.  We need to decide whether all this ephemera should end up with our lucky (?) children or whether we should simply bite the bullet and make a trip to the dumpster across the street.

The big problem in going over them all to determine their fate is that it is necessary to review what is in them -- especially the baby books.  We don't want to let go of anything dynamic! This morning in the stack I came across Jerry's baby book.

Oh, the books of those years were so ornate.  Jer was born in 1929 - and the cover of his book is so descriptive of that era.  In reading through the book, I saw that - at least at the beginning of it, his mother, Bertha, was very careful to document everything he did.  (I did find in the back that there was one entry on a blank page that announced the birth of Jerry's sister in 1933.  Apparently she got a single page, instead of a complete baby book.  I suppose his mom got busier as time went on.

Jerry's book is a small one, without photographs (unlike my own baby book which is plastered with them.).  But it does cover the firsts of almost everything in that first year of Jerry's life.  And it was there where I found information that sent me into a peal of laughter.

It was this:  Jerry's mother wrote down for posterity that Jerry's first word was "BOBO"!

I closed my eyes and saw little Jerry, with his blond curly hair, pointing at something and saying loud enough for every one to understand...................."BOBO!"

And why I find it so funny is that Jerry later graduated from MIT (obviously not with a major in English!). One would think that a kid as smart enough to accomplish that would, at eight months, at least say something like E=mc2,

Lest you think that I am picking on Jerry, I want to add that my baby book, fat and  full of photos as it is, also contains some startling information that really wasn't necessary, I think, to share.  I have always wondered why it was necesssary for my mother to indicate that I was two months old when she started my toilet training!

And that fact alone may be an answer to the reason for yesterday's blog.

We may be able to let some of the old photo albums go, but surely not our baby books, for they contain amazing things, don't you think?