Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Holiday Question

Happy Easter and Happy Passover

And apologies for the belated Passover wish.  It started Friday night and will continue until the night of April 7th which begs the question ... because they have a longer hunting season, do Passover celebrants get more eggs?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Change in the Sofa Cushions

I don't hammer you readers to buy my book! too often, but this is how far I will go to make it successful.  Spend some of my own money!  I know - shocking news from Nickle Nose Nina!

Our local paper, the Daily Breeze, has decided to make some gelt by offering 3 in. x 3 in. sticker ads which are placed on the paper's masthead every morning.  They are usually for such mundane, but necessary firms such as plumbing, contracting, etc.  I'd never seen a book ad, so why not?

This is the copy that will run on Wednesday, April 25th which is also my birthday so this is my present to myself.  $1,400 worth of present.  But:  the buy order is for 25,000 subscribers in the beach area plus Torrance.  This is not as bad as it looks - it is $0.05 per person.  Math is by no means my strong suit.  In fact, as a "suit" that would be a Brazilian bikini.  Scanty. 

Be that as it may.   

"The axe forgets, but the tree remembers" is a saying I ran across and (obviously) adored.  It is an African saying along with "Be not so proud, rooster - you were once only an egg."  

Here endeth today's philosophy lesson.


Monday, March 26, 2018

When Did So Many Become So Trashy?

Where to begin?  Parades and marches - the Pussyhats marched with smirks -- and refused to pick up after themselves, leaving an ocean of empty coffee cups in their wake.  Then - and this is a classic - 400,000 environmentalists marched in New York City - and littered left and right.

#Me Too (uh, organizers?  You forgot the comma after Me)  began fomenting in November, 2017, and now was moribund in February, 2018.  Incidentally it took that long for someone to finally ask, "Whatever happened to the preconception that one is innocent until proven guilty?"  Accusations flew like rice at a wedding with not a shadow of evidence, a trace of due process or a hearing of any kind.

And now comes Stormy Daniels.  "Oh, Melanie, I'm just sorry; I am so sorry; I wouldn't want that to happen to me" and let us now finish her sentence "I'm so sorry for you that I bring all of this up 12 years later to show how sorry I am."   That last phrase nails it.  Yeah, you are pretty sorry.   

It can hardly surprise a denizen of the world of porn films to learn that men will say anything to get what they want.  This includes being catty about the current resident of the family home.

At least Stormy Supporters (?) are not marching and strewing litter, trash and used coffee cups on a street anywhere.  Yet.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Whale Away, Mates!

For more detailed information, front page

Tis is the season for whale watching out here - not a reference to People of Walmart - that BTW is apparently a year-round sport.

Gray whale mammas and their babies swim northward from Cabo toward Alaska where they live when not birthing.  And escorting.  I would imagine that mama whales are not in the best of moods what with having to keep reining in a frisky, curious baby whale.

The article details where whale-watching boats depart from, the best spots on the cliffs to spot them and mentions a boat out of Dana Point that has an "underwater viewing pod" where you and a whale can eyeball each other.  One of whom will swim away.

Pictured was a six-passenger Zodiac ( an inflatable rubber boat with an outboard motor) which made me shudder.  This boat and a matronly whale are about the same size.  Worse, the bottom of the boat is painted black and black, grey, white and dark blue are not recommended colors as the whales sometimes confuse those so-painted boats with another whale.  And come up and nudge the boat and splat go the passengers, straight into the water.

A secondary alarm traversed my comely shape when I noticed that not one single passenger was wearing a life vest and neither was the captain.  Unless you are a gold medal candidate for the Olympics, never go out on the water without wearing one.  If you clunk your head on the way over the ship rail, at least the life jacket will keep you from sinking like a stone to tour Davey Jones' locker.

Mexican glass bottom tour boats force the passengers to wear them which is quite a shock in a country that seems not to have OSHA listed in government agencies.   But having occupied myself speculating about the materials used to fasten a Plexiglas window into the boat floor, vs.the roiling, pounding Pacific Ocean,  and remembering all too clearly watching the Marina Hotel go up in Ensenada (all of the 11 floors tilted to a noticeable degree) - I was glad to be wearing one.  

If a selfie you just must have, do it on the dock.  Before - advisable for rescue workers to identify you - or after where you will be O So Happy To Be Back.  (flash flash)

Find a good cliff with an acceptable viewing spot, bring a picnic lunch and a couple of friends and whale watch.  You'll never even come close to getting your hair wet.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Marching Toward Nowhere In Great Numbers

Today some 500,000 people are expected to march in Washington, DC, plus another 700,000 people in the US and abroad.  The thrust of all of this shoe leather on the street is to provide safer schools for all.   Only a psychopath, brain moldering away in his mother's basement, would NOT want greater safety for children.  Marchs are usually pointless; this one certainly is.  It should be called #Marching for the Obvious

I would like to point out that no march has ever changed anything.  Marchs strike me as an opportunity to maybe get a media mention as well as numerous selfies.  Certainly that's what Oprah and George Clooney (to name only two celebrities) are doing today.  TV cameramen are checking battery levels; commentators are tantrumming if they can't get an appointment with their hairdressers...make-up artists are feverishly flipping through their tackle boxes to make sure all of their tools are there.

However:  there is joy in some circles at the news of a massive march like this.  The CEOs of airlines, bus companies, Amtrak are writhing in joy.  Police officers are quietly smiling to themselves - "Overtime!  Crowd control - maybe bust a few heads?  Bring it ON"

Medical staff are manning first aid centers along the parade route and the bottled water people are fighting in the gutters to put up their tent and serve their water.

The sanitation guys, however, are sullenly relaxing for as long as they can before they have to fire up the dump trucks and go clear away mega tons of trash, tossed carelessly aside.  They remember the 620 tons left after this year's Mardi Gras parade; the 60 tons they had to deal with after the Philadelphia Eagles win. 

"Oh, this the end of the parade?  Don't need this (empty water bottles, posters, signs) any more," plop onto the street.

And then, litter disposed of, the marcher wanders off to see what's next.  As unenlightened as he/she was before the march ever started.  Poor, poor dears.  Fooled again.  And with blisters and bunions to prove it.  Surely they consider them war wounds in their great battle to right a wrong!  Unsuccessfully yet again.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Details - Irish Hotels and Meals

"Bring your own washcloth; Irish hotels don't provide them," advises the CIE tour pamphlet.
Somewhat daunting was the line "each room has a private bath/shower."  Why mention this?  What else would it have?  An assigned time to use the facilities in the bar or restaurant with a special hotel-provided pass?

The Dublin hotel was the Mespril and we heartily recommend it.  A lovely large room with a seating area and big windows giving a great view of the not-a-lot of traffic street below as well as the fascination of watching the waters of the Grand Canal bobble and burble along on the other side of the road.  

The morning beverage is a variety of teas or little "straws" of instant coffee.  The "coffee pot" is a water pot and is used only for providing really hot water for tea or coffee.

The tour included breakfast and each morning we were faced with the classic Irish breakfast.  This is bacon, sausage, "black pudding" (involves pig blood,) potato cake, fried egg, grilled tomato, soda bread, toast and Campbell's Pork and Beans.  We discovered that you're supposed to put the beans on the toast.  After we got home.

The Mespil thoughtfully also sets out a platter of Italian salami, mortadella and cheese.  The other choices are fresh fruit, cereals, granola, croissants and toast.  Irish butter is delicious and we all made pigs of ourselves using lavish amounts on anything even remotely butter-able.  Condiments are little packets of mayonnaise, mustard, malt vinegar, tartar sauce and Heinz Brown Sauce.  Which I think is Heinz's 57 here.  

The foods above were not limited to the Mespil - every hotel we stayed in offered the same.

The CIE guidebook helpfully told us that it is not uncommon to be given potatoes in a number of different forms - roasted, boiled, mashed and chips (fries to us; crisps are potato chips) - all on the same dinner plate! The predominant entrees in Ireland are lamb, seasoned game and fish, none of which will I eat.  I planned to exist on Ploughman's Lunches (bread, cheese and a pickle with a small salad) and for dinner, I would magically become a vegetarian.  Happily the country is apparently awash in shrimp and lobster and that solved that problem!

Speaking of shrimp, they are called prawns despite being the size of river shrimp, most commonly used here to make pates for shrimp toast.

More good news - I loathe Guiness (prescribed for pregnant women to nourish the unborn)  because it tastes like a wet dog smells.  We got along very well in the various pubs with a Harp.  The most popular beer in Ireland is ... drum roll - Budweiser!

The only thing that Richie didn't like about the tour was this:  for a timely departure, we had to leave our bags outside our hotel room doors for the night.  One morning, Dominick has the luggage door about to be closed, gets into the driver's seat and says, "I don't know what you lot have in your suitcases, but you've damned near given me a hernia.  I'm sorry for the slow start, the lads (baggage handlers) weren't at the races this morning."

And with a subtle shift of the gears, we pulled away from the curb and set off for the southwest of Ireland.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rainy Day Amusement ...

I ran across Microsoft Paint on  An older woman's paintings were featured and I was amazed at the details, the clear lineage she used and her final products.  Clicking out, I went to see if my computer set-up had it and it does!

I can't say "I proudly present the next threat to Michelangelo" but this is my very first attempt.

It is meant to be mountains in a field with a stream rushing past on a semi-sunny day.  Squint.

There are various sizes of brushes, but a rather limited palette. Painting over is just ... painting over - i.e. I couldn't mix colors.

As much as I enjoy reading, this is a great alternative for a rainy day.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Did I Ever Tell You About the Time ...

Today is Hump Day and you are probably thinking about what to do this weekend.  Here's a suggestion for  you.  Attend the 4th annual presentation of the South Bay Stories Show.  I'd never heard of it (no surprise there many of you mutter) until founder Jim Mueller joined the South Bay Writers Workshop and mentioned it.  It was a tasteful hint - a shower of vividly colored postcards and the touching way he got down on his knees and begged us to come.  None of us can resist a grown man's sobs, so we paid attention as he enlightened us as to what it is and writer Maureen did 20 minutes on stage fright and her pending appearance in this very production.

A select group of writers, singers perform on stage for a discerning audience at the Hermosa Beach Community Center - Pier and PCH.  The show schedule is:

Saturday, March 24th at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 25th at 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 25th at 4:30 p.m.
Tickets are $20 at the door - the Website is

Here is the line-up and their subjects:

Wanda Maureen Miller - "The Miracle" growing up in rural Arkansas

David Cook - "Ben and Me" friendship of Vietnam vet buddies

Shanti Friend - "My Awakening" finding her life's passion

Scott Fellows - "Aspen - A Tale of Two Cities" life in Aspen then and now

Jane Porter - "Mama" and "Dragonflies" two original songs about life on a farm

Kyle Cohen - "Welcome to LA" moving to LA and lookin' for love

Mike Shields II - "The Day the Music Died" growing up with his father

Avra Diamond - "My On-going Battle with Big Brother" trying to get her Global Entry Pass

It is a great showcase for a variety of writing styles and subjects.  Post-event you may even feel a little itch to write yourself.  Take a gander at the  - we welcome all comers. Think about it during the show - the South Bay Stories Show.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ooo! Excellent Dish!

Yesterday morning I touted a couple of books that might be of interest, but that same afternoon (!) I came across The Best for a rainy day.

Anyone Who's Anyone by George Wayne.  George Wayne emigrated (legally) from Jamaica, driven by a need to report gossip about the high and mighty of NY society, celebrities from movies, plays, fashion, the arts...and he succeeded.

He is absolutely the epitome of the witty homosexual.  Which, incidentally, he would be the first to tell you.   I haven't run across any "Girrrl, you (fill in)" yet but am only on page 127 of 280.  I have hope.

His GW Q and A column ran in Vanity Fair for 22 years.  According to him, they were eagerly sought out each month and I know I did look for them as I enjoyed some of his barbs which should have gotten him a left straight to the chin or at least, a tap on the arm with a folded fan by an irate lady.

The people in this book include:
David Copperfield - not a sunlamp tan; real deal
Debbie Reynolds - reported on a sit with Elizabeth Taylor (and Richard Burton) 38 years after Liz skipped off with Tony Curtis.
Ivanka Trump - has a good friendship with her ex, currently the President of the United States.  She advises not to wear endangered furs, but mink "are raised like chickens," so go ahead.
Milton Berle and his famous 13 in. penis - he was snarky about it

Still to come -  Martha Stewart, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York; Eartha Kitt, Donnatella Versace, and many more.

It's a real celebrity salad and if you're as big a gossipeuse as I am ... can we talk?  (Joan Rivers was interviewed, too.)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rainy Day Reading

Incredibly enough, the weather forecasters are predicting rain for the So. Cal. area starting Wednesday and if they are right (emphasis on "if") we have some lovely curled up on a favorite seat, eating bits of this 'n that in a toasty warm house comforts coming up while the winds howl and the rain lashes the windows.  Oops - wrong place.  The Moors, maybe, but nothing so dramatic here.

Seizing every chance I can get to do nothing around the house, here are some recent reads that some of you might enjoy.

Chick Lit - The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman  Thumbnail:  widowed mid-30s woman with two small daughters and a job with a publishing company as an illustrator, gets inveigled into attending gardening classes for the publisher.  She and her sister are besties because they had a shitty mother.

(yawn) you say.  But this book is amazingly sophisticated, largely from such as:  "She has people skills like lions have gazelle skills."  "We had as much in common as a roller skate and a race car."  This makes for interesting reading for me because it is crammed with steal-able stuff.

Historical Chick/Women's Lib Lit - The Coroner's Daughter by Andrew Hughes  This tale is set in Dublin in 1816.  Apparently Dublin consistently has bad weather (fog, heavy rains, snow) or else Hughes just likes the dramatic possibilities.  The heroine is an only child, her father is the Dublin coroner; her mother is dead, apparently a suicide due to acute depression and fear of leaving her room.

Abigail Lawless shares an interest in her father's job and amazingly, he began teaching her science and dead bodies when she was 10 or 12 years old.  His job includes dissecting the body for cause of death and then presenting the findings to a jury which gets to see the dead body.  Clearly, they were hardier back then than today.  Our courts admit ghastly photos which can be bad enough.   Bonus Points:  Remember that they didn't have air conditioning in 1816.

Amazing Science - The Body Builders - Inside the Science of the Engineered Human by Adam Piore    Random chapter headings: 
The Woman Who Can See With Her Ears - Neuroplasticity and Learning Pills
The Birth of Bamm-Bamm* - Decoding the Genome and Rewriting It
The Telepathy Technician - Decoding the Brain and Imagined Speech
The Bionic Man Who Builds Bionic People

* Age three, Bamm-Bamm had six-pack abs, could scale a gym rope unassisted and waved 5 lb. barbells around like rattles.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

St. Patrick's Celebrations - Then and Now

Once upon a time ... in 1960 when I was a Junior at KU, my buds and I had a favorite bar.  It was Kelly's Westport Inn, shortened as you may imagine to "Kelly's."  It is a one-story brick building on a corner in Westport which was Kansas City's modest attempt at cool.  The building was believed to be the oldest building in KC, having been built in 1850 where it sat complacently until this moment.  We were told that there were chains in the basement walls for slave owners to park their property whilst having a convivial drink upstairs.  None of us were ever invited to take a look.

The building, if not Kelly's itself, was designated a National Historic site in 1959.  Post Prohibition was when the bar got a liquor license.

Today, you can see the ashes of George Wiedenn, Sr. in a Ten High bottle behind the bar.  Unf. the Website never discloses who he was in the life of Kelly's.  Whatever it was, he's still around.

"What does all of this have to do with celebrating St. Paddy's?" you ask.  Because in 1960, I drove my mother's car from KU direct, non-stop to Kelly's to celebrate it.  You know that a bar named Kelly's is going to be doing a good business on March 17th.

Such was the crowd attempting to pay tribute to St. Patrick that it spilled out onto the sidewalk and over the curbs.  To get a drink, you handed your money to a person closer to the bar than you were, the money made it's way through the crowd to the bar, the drink was made (Brandy Alexanders in my case and no, I don't know what I was thinking; I was 20) and sent back over bobbing heads to the person who ordered it.  No one ever kept the money sent to the bar nor drank the drink it bought.  People were honest back in those days.

Now fast forward 57 years and this is how Richie and I celebrated St. Patrick's Day.  He and "D" went down to the Hermosa Beach parade, had corned beef and cabbage at Scotty's on the Strand and a couple of beers at The Deck which used to be a dive bar named the Poopdeck.  Lucky bastards got window seats.  Himself came gliding in at about 5 p.m. after a 10:30 a.m. start where they waited and waited for the parade to begin which is typical and why I didn't go.

So what did we do together?  He had a gin and tonic and in the spirit of "green" the color of the day, I made myself a Green Martini.  We sipped our libations and waited for the pizza delivery guy.  And then we watched "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.  Neither had to do a lot of "acting;"  in fact, all Maureen had to do all the movie was run like a deer, throwing alarmed looks behind her.  Her two expressions were doe-eyed fear and red hot rage.  Wayne just had to show up. He never played anyone but himself in any event.

So that is the contrast between back then and now.  If we're still able to get around without wheelchairs next year, we could fly back to KC for St. Patrick's Day at Kellys though ... writing about it has made me nostalgic.  Except for the part when I went to go home, found the driver's window of my Mother's borrowed car busted in with little round pebbles of glass all over the front seat.  At first Alexander and I thought they were rain drops.   They weren't.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day

When a Bush Stopped Construction into Shannon Airport
Back in 1999, a new roadway into the airport was being constructed.  One fine day, the bulldozer operator was happily digging his way along when as he came to a blackthorn tree.  His blade was down to get this bush, right in the middle of what would be the road, out of the way, when he was stopped when an old woman suddenly appeared out of nowhere, screaming, "Do not touch the tree!  If you do, you will have fatal accidents right here!"

The bulldozer driver can't in good conscience run over the old lady, so he stops.  And then more people appear, all shouting with the old woman "Do not touch the tree!"

It turns out that the blackthorn tree is a meeting place for dueling fairy clans.  Reminder:  we're in Ireland, okay?  This minor, but sincere uprising made the papers and television.  The upshot was that the engineers divided the lanes to put the tree in the center.  Completion took 10 years.

And then in 2002 I think it was, some nut case attacked the tree with a chain saw and cut off many of the branches.   Ahhh, twas a serious mistake - anyone who cuts off a branch of a blackthorn is cursed and the curse is that the perpetrator will never have a good night's sleep ever again.

The Curse That Lasted 90 Years
The County Mayo hurling team had finally made it to the finals.  They were ecstatic!  But nervous. In previous years, they had not had the best of luck.  How to ensure victory?

A visit to Biddy, a well-known white witch who had a blue jar of magic, was in order.  The team wanted to take the blue jar to the tournament, sure that it would give them a win.

Biddy was adamantly against this separation from her magic blue jar.  Back and forth they went.  Finally after an appeal to her civic pride, she did give them the magic blue jar. with many a warning.  "Do not lose my bottle!"  Promises flew through the air as to the future safety of the blue jar.

Magic blue jar or not, the County Mayo team won the tournament!  They repaired to a riverside pub and the celebration went on into the night.  They proposed numerously toasts to Biddy and ... the inevitable happened.  The bottle fell into the river and although they searched frantically (and drunkenly), it was never seen again.

Biddy retaliated and put this curse on them:  "You will never win again until every last one of you connected with the team is dead," she screamed.

This was in 1905.  County Mayo did not win another tournament until 1995.  And the newspaper headlines screamed in 36 font, "Curse Finally Broken!"

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mixed - True and Maybe Not

This happened a long time ago - despite the TV series "Victoria" which might make you think the following anecdote was more recent than it really is.

It was the custom back then that if royalty came to visit, you had to not only feed and drink them lavishly, but if they admired, say, a decorative item in your house - a gold tablecloth?  A finely-wrought bit of sculpture? - you had to give it to them, then and there.   The poor hosts had to have been torn between showing off -"Oh, this - my grandfather brought it back from India - pure jade" or else hide everything of any value whatsoever and apologize for your house being so bare - "Ah, the winter floods - did terrible damage in the salons - everything has to be repaired to explain the rather bleak look you see around you."  Both monarch and host knew exactly what was going on.

And this is one story of host and monarch.

The owner of Muckrake House outside of Killarney went broke entertaining Queen Victoria.  When he died shortly after her bank-breaking visit, near death, he asked to be buried in a standing position.  "On Judgement Day, I want to wake up looking out at my beloved lake."  And upped and died shortly thereafter.

The tenants - who, by the way, hated him - buried him in a vertical position all right - upside down.

Meaner spirits declared that he wanted to be buried standing up to keep what few coins he had left in his pocket!

Murphy's Bar, Galway
Richie tried to get a free drink in every bar named "Murphy's we passed by waving his California driver's license around and wheedling, "Sure and you don't have a beer for a thirsty cousin?"  We got laughed out of every bar named Murphy's all over Ireland.

Others have a system.  Four women and a man strolled into the Galway laugh fest, asked for a clean glass and they all put money in it.  They paid for beverages from the money glass.

Cistercian monks
Their first job of the day is to go out to the private cemetery and dig a shovelful of dirt from the grave marked for them.  This was done to remind them of their own mortality.  They then put the shovels back in the shed, went in for breakfast and started their day.

Choctaw Indians and Irishmen
During the Great Famine, the people of County Mayo were hit especially hard.  They died of hunger by the hundreds at the sides of the roads, trying to escape.

Somehow, the Choctaw Indians of Florida who had been moved from their own lands heard about the this Irish plight and collected $405 among themselves and sent it to Ireland.  This began a great friendship between the people of County Mayo and the Choctaw Indians who still trade visits to this day.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Banshees Screams Mean You Are Doomed! But Maybe Not.

Tour guide Dominic said to us, "I don't think of myself as a nervous man, but I was terrified as a child by the Banshees.  They were old women who sat on the fence outside your house and screamed all the night long.  This meant that someone in that house was going to die!  Or, that someone far away had died!" and shuddered delicately.

He probably didn't know it as a child, but because his last name is Dixon, he is spared the Banshee's warning.  There are only five families in all of Ireland that need to fear them.  They are:   the O'Connors, the O'Gradys, the O'Neills, the O'Brians and the Kavanagh.  They are thought to be the first families in Ireland.

The Banshees are still feared today (by some) and the reason is that their legend has become increasingly evil.  In olden times, the Banshee's provided a service - a warning of death.  This devolved somehow into the Banshees want to kill you!  They are said to fly through the night looking to feed on sadness.  Their screams are believed to be so high-pitched that they can break glass and blow out every artery in your body so that you die, awash in your own free-flowing blood.
From a scholarly point of view, this blood bath (literally) conjures up visions that the traveling companions of the Banshees would be Vampires.  Pur them on the To Be Feared List, too.  And if visiting Ireland, stay in the town centers - not out in "the country" where they may still have Banshees.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fear The Ledprechaun!

Continuing from Travels in Ireland...

Leprechauns are not the fun-loving imps we think they are.  Originally, the were a group of shorter than average people.  The story of these little people lost nothing in the telling until they were billed as "tiny."

The men's wives had trouble birthing children which were more often than not deformed in some way.  So the mothers stole baby boys, leaving their misshapen babies behind.  Only boys were stolen; they had no use for girls.

For that reason, little boys - as recently as 65 years ago - were dressed up as girls.  Dominic showed us a friend's picture of his first grade class and they are all girls, but half of the "girls" are actually boys. At five or six they were (finally) put into boys clothing.

It was believed that a pair of iron fire tongs kept in the baby boy's crib would keep the leprechaun women away.  Dominic didn't enlighten us as to how this was supposed to work.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Lucky Find

Going through the files, I came across the diary/travelogue I wrote while we were in Ireland in May, 2006.  I will find a use for this as there are too many pages to dismiss it (and the lore in it.)

Speaking of lore ... courtesy of our excellent tour guide, Dominick Dixon of CIE Tours, owned by the Irish government.

*  The Vikings were the first to mint coins, but since they hadn't gotten around to inventing purses, they would daub beeswax onto their hairy armpits and slap the coins there.

*  Baby boys were dressed in girls' clothing until age 5 or 6 because otherwise the devil might take them.

*  Ronald Reagan's people came from the village of Ballypooren (poreen means 'small potatos.'  When Reagan came to visit, a man named Jack Ryan had a new sign made for his pub.  It read "Ronald Reagan Presidential Pub (or some such) insuring that Reagan would pay a visit.  Photos went out around the world.  Shrewd lad that Jack. A rare genius for advertising.

*  Roadside memorials.  They do a rather better job than our American instant shrines.  Theirs are like mini-graves with headstones with gilt lettering on them.  The actual body, of course, is buried in a cemetery.

*  In breeding season, rams are fitted with a dye bag that leaves a mark on the ewe - say Yellow.  Two weeks later, more ewes are bred, but with a different color dye.  Blue.  Again, two weeks later, Red.  When lambing season comes, the farmer takes all of the yellow-marked ewes and puts them up in pens.  Two weeks later, the blue ewes are penned up.   And the lambs are born in safety, not out in the fields.

*  Every year there is a great three-day festival to celebrate the King Goat.  A wild goat is captured and brought in to town where he is kept on a pedestal.  This celebration draws huge numbers of visitors and is also a great horse market.  To clinch a horse sale, the buyer and seller both spit in their hands and then shake those hands.

*  As late as 1959, the Catholic church would not allow babies who died before they could be baptized to be buried in graves.   Instead they were buried outside of town in unmarked graves which were then planted with a blackthorn tree.  It was believed that they fairies came out at night and danced around said trees to amuse the poor babies.  Imagine the mothers - not only the loss of a baby, but no official place to grieve for them.

More tomorrow ...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Boneheaded Billionaires

Of late, Governor Moonbeam's adored bullet train to nowhere has gotten a lot of press.  Front page yesterday in the LA Times and the Daily Breeze.  Scanning through the headlines ... when I saw billion dollar amounts being tossed around like confetti at a St. Patrick's Day parade, I began to actually read the articles.  And then I went to Google.

This outrageously bumbling attempt to put a high-speed rail line from LA to San Francisco is no new thing.  It began back in 1993 when the Intercity High-speed Rail Commission began to conduct feasibility (none if you ask me) studies and plans.

In their infinite wisdom many years later, the decision was made to toss $2.6 billion (billion) up into the air for the portion of track that will travels from Bakersfield to Madera (Ed. note: population 61,416 - mostly oil industry-related jobs for a distance of 119 miles.)  Frankly, I didn't know that solid gold rails would be used.  No one mentioned it.

Here, from the august LA Times which never met a Democrat it didn't laud ... Jim Frazier, D, of Discovery Bay:  "At first glance, the High Speed Rail project is still over budget and the funding to complete the program hasn't been identified.  ... We still have no realistic way to pay for the project."  (Ed. note:  But what the hell - some sucker'll pick up the tab, ha ha. Or we can float another bond offering.)

"The project issued its first construction contract in 2013 when it had almost no property and was experiencing trouble acquiring more."  I now see the emergence of the "nowhere" part of this billion dollar cluster f--k.

"The business plan devotes an entire chapter to reviewing its past mistakes and proposing solutions so that they are not repeated.  For example, the rail authority says it will not issue future construction contracts until it has acquired all the land beforehand."   I can tell you this rendered me tomb silent for several minutes as I contemplated the kind of moronic simplicity that proposed that.  And that of the people who voted for this brain dead group.

The environmental report and Fresno.  "The rail authority found that nobody could be sure what was under the ground in Fresno, driving up the cost of relocating sewers, water lines and electrical conduits by hundreds of millions of dollars.  Environmental review costs went from a projected $388 million in 2010 to more than $1 billion.

Sen. Andy Vidak, R, Hanford:  "Initially a rat hole, now a sinkhole; soon it will be an abyss in which more and more tax dollars are forever lost.  I speak of the never-ending scam called High Soeed Rail."

Governor Brown in his State of the State address:  " I make no bones about it.  I like trains and I like high speed trains even better."

All of these billions, all of these advocates - someone is stuffing Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts with ill-concealed glee.  There is no other answer for the insane amounts of money and the persistence that is yelling for a train no one in the general population wants.  Long live greed and graft. God knows, getting the bullet train to nowhere will.

NOTE:  The Pacific transcontinental railroad was built in six years - from 1863 to 1869 - from Omaha to Sacramento, a distance of 1,756 miles by hand.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Brushing Crumbs Off Of the Table

I wrote that a neuro recommended drinking  diet tonic water as an aid to treating nighttime leg cramps.  The sudden, agonizing "squaweeez" of a calf muscle or ankle that necessitates throwing off the covers, getting out of bed and, hanging on to something to do exercises such as heel lifts, slight knee bends or whatever feels good until they have eased.

It works.  Side benefit:  instead of drinking Riesling in  a small wine glass (think 1st class wine glasses) and an ice cube I switched over to the diet quinine tonic.  Far fewer calories than a Riesling which tastes more like fancy sugar water than anything else.  Am not sure there is even any alcohol in it as I went to bed stone, cold sober every night.  Judge for yourself.

$30 for a Good Dinner
Brickworks, Manhattan Beach Mall (  to our delighted surprise is doing the $30 Special again.  We had no idea until we were presented with menus.  In it, you are offered a first - salad or hors d'oeuvre or soup, main of a variety of meats including lamb which is rarely seen in South Bay menus, and accessories (the potatoes au gratin are wonderful, flame broiled to a lovely tan) and the third course which is dessert.

We started with deviled eggs with our drinks (Stella for him, sparkling prosecco for me.)  Our server nodded professionally and asked "Four or six?" "Four," we said.  Instead of a flag of bacon waving over the egg half,  theirs come with powdered, cooked bacon sprinkled on top and aside from an initial feeling that I was eating bits of shell, they were good.

He ordered the cream of tomato-basil soup for his first course.  I ordered the Caesar salad which was better than most I have encountered in my So-Far Vain Quest for the Perfect Caesar Salad. That was mine.

We both chose the slices of filet mignon with a red wine sauce, potatoes au gratin and honeyed steamed carrots.

The staff is quite amiable about boxing up your dessert and did so for his crème brule/flan and my carrot cake.

$60 for all but the deviled eggs and the bar bill - a glass of house Cab for him and a second flute of sparkling prosecco.  And leftovers and advice, too!  Our server recommended eating the carrot cake with my morning coffee!  I didn't.  Half yesterday; finish it off today.  The pineapple chunks were a good addition.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Uber! Flyte! New Market!

Start-up costs would include one ambulance per city where you already have a presence.  Advertising would be minimal - word of mouth would soon spread the news - "Uber!  I need the ambulance!"  "Flyte!  Fly me to the hospital!"

What prompted this genius idea?  Richie got the bill for his ride in a commercial ambulance after the Redondo paramedics kicked his ass loose.  The distance between our house to Providence - Little Co. of Mary is 3.7 miles (using Anza) and in a civilian ride takes 15 minutes.  Obviously an ambulance Code 3 with lights and sirens can probably make it  in somewhat less than 5 minutes.

The bill that McCormick (contracted to Redondo) sent was for $2,088 or $522 per mile.

He did not receive oxygen therapy or as far as he knows any medications.  Oxygen in the ambulance, by the way, is treated like filling your tank at the gas station.  Some years ago, I was a Code 3 for an allergic drug reaction to an antibiotic.  One the road, I could not talk but pointed (hysterically, it must be admitted)  at the oxygen port  mounted in the ambulance wall.   My bill later charged me for $125 worth of oxygen.  I have no complaint, much cheaper than cremation after my death.

I mention this as an educational bit of knowledge.

Continuing a costly story ... on arrival at Providence - Little Co. of Mary, Richie's Primary Diagnosis was:  influenza due to identified novel influenza A virus with pneumonia.  He spent four days in the hospital.  The bill for that was $24,000.  I could give you more detail if he hadn't misplaced this bill. He may have filed it, using my lighter as a help.

Happily, there was another bill re the hospital and it was itemized thusly:
Initial hospital day care - $605
Subsequent hospital care day - $217
Hospital discharge day - $325
   Total:  $1,147 

After all of the Medicare and PPO insurance nibbles, Richie now owes $203.43.  Thank God it's only that much. We can't afford another ambulance ride for quite some time into the future.  Uber!  Flyte!  You listening?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tooth #15

Yesterday I had a dental appointment for a cavity in Tooth #15.  To save you time, upper left, second tooth in from where your wisdom tooth used to be.  I think.  May be third tooth in.

All went smoothly and then it came time for the grind your teeth against a piece of blue paper to show where the tooth doesn't fit as well as the original with the matching bottom tooth.  Or at least that's how it used to be when I rode the family dinosaur to the dentist.  Thought I tried hard, I could not remember the last time I had a filling done.

I was curious about whether this antiquated - surely?! - part was still being done.  So I asked rather diffidently about it and the dentist held up a clamp holding a strip of blue paper!   She was laughing like hell, delighted at being able to exhibit that, yeah, good things never go out of use.

Monday, March 5, 2018

"I Feel Like a Lobster Roll - Let's Go to MacDonalds!"

You may well be as surprised as I was to learn that the MacD's in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire sell lobster rolls in season which is July to mid-August.  The toasted bun with mayo, salt and pepper and lobster meat sells for $9.

I had to sit back in my chair and contemplate this matter.  The item that got this attention from me was about the Freeport, Maine, MacD's which is located in a former private home built in 1850 to the specifications of businessman William Gore.  Not surprisingly, it is known as Gore House.  The only hint that it IS a MacDonald's is a yellow sign above the front door.  This location is hailed as the most elegant in the chain because the original design (location of living room, dining room - no wi fi there, btw)  has been adhered to with if not the original furniture damned good replicas.  The outdoor patio has wooden tables and benches/chairs not (shudder) plastic.  The house became a MacD's in 1984 and has been about the only item of real interest to many in Freeport.  Certainly I would be one.

Long Island (where many of my in-laws live)  lobster rolls are considerably more pricey with $15 being the average and served out of roadside shack at that and out here on the Left Coast, they are routinely the sinister Market Price.

Info for when you order - served warm on a grilled bun with butter, it is a lobster roll.  Served cold, with mayo and celery, it's billed as lobster salad.

For South Bay locals, would recommend a lobster tail from Captain Kidd's and an 8-pack of hot dog buns.  Chop up the tail, grill the buns and have at it.  And next time you see "Market Price," sneer.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Annual Broken Elbow Fest - Massive Numbers of Paramedics To Be On Standby

Los Angeles  March 4, 2018

Tonight will be the 90th celebration of the annual Broken Elbow Fest wherein Academy Award winners vie to pat themselves on the back which in many cases results in a broken elbow.

We caught up with LA County Fire Department paramedic, Jay Simpson and asked what preparations were being made.  He grinned and said, "We're well stocked with slings, gassed up and ready to go.  We did have to take all of the opioids off the bus - it's uncanny how these Hollywood types (faint head shake) can smell out an OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin from 50 ft. away. Never seen anything like it even at a methadone clinic."

Award recipients are expected to spend their allocated winner's speech time railing against President Trump, extolling #Me Too and whatever the most recent hash tag promotes.  The "herder" who watches for actors over-extending their allotted time said he expects a busy evening "For once," he sighed.  Shaking his head in dismay, he added, "Used to be it was sweet stuff like 'Hi, Mom' or the 'thanks yous' ran long, but not any more.  I'll be earning my paycheck tonight," he smiled.  Holding up a finger to delay us, he added, "Just like I do in Presidential election years.  Boy am I glad that only comes around every four years!"

Meanwhile reliable reports (from hair dresses, make-up artists, yogi teachers) are reporting that likely-to-win actors are working out full time on their arm muscles.  #No Broken Elbows!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

DNA Your Dog! Build a $20,000 Chicken Coop ...

My new dental tech was doing a deep clean and to amuse myself I asked her about her dog because she had spoken loving about him on a previous visit.  Enthusiastically she told me she had the dog's DNA done from a kit on  She thought it was $60 or $70 for this service.

When she got the results, she was thrilled and her excitement carried forward.  "Oh, the huskey makes him a good long-distance runner - when I train for marathons, he goes with me and if I did 10 miles, he probably did 16 because he'll run ahead of me and then double back.  His coloring is Doberman.." and on she went.

Ads for this service stress the fact that testing is painless, uninvolved and send the mouth swab to them and results will be mailed back postage-free.

I can see how it could be amusing to read the results and attribute certain behaviors, possibilities for specific diseases - I immediately thought of hip dysplasia in German Shepherds - to your very own dog.  Further, if you'd purchased a thoroughbred and the results that came back had 47 other types of dogs present ... lawsuit time when it was a $2,000 dog.

I had less hope for getting your cat's DNA.  Cats are famous for multi-partners of equally dubious distinction.  The average found cat is unlikely to be an exotic such as a Burmese.  Basepaws describes its services as the first ever for feline DNA.  It seems to have been a result of success with dog DNA.

And then I read this:  "My cat's name is Roger and I really want to learn more about his DNA because I want to confirm his royalty."  Ooooky-dokey ...

However, all of the above paled in contrast to a new fad in Silicon Valley.  Billionaires are raising chickens.  Naturally competitive the tech personnel are going in for the exotic "heritage chickens" which are a very old breed and often nearly extinct.  A heritage bird's average price is $350 vs. $15 for a bunch of common chickens.  The buyers are looking for chickens that are affectionate and calm; in other words, small child friendly.

Coops are often a miniature of the residence.  But not always.  Williams-Sonoma sells a chemical free, sustainable red pine residence for the dear chickens.  It is considered the Range Rover of chicken coops by chicken aficionados.

Some coops have solar panels, automated doors, electric lighting and video cameras so that you can visit and check on them from far away.  Some chickens rate a personal chef who prepares the organic salmon, watermelon and steak of their diet.  This is important because the family eats the eggs.  And a six-pack of personally harvested (?) eggs has replaced the traditional bottle of wine for mein host.

A phone app - Coop Tender - comes with the ability to change the coop temperature, ventilation and a motion detector predator alert that switches on a blue-white floodlight.  .

Silicon Valley personnel say that after a day of looking at a computer screen, chicken watching is very enjoyable. Even in their living room as particularly nice chickens are invited in to roam the house - wearing a chicken diaper.  I should have known that all things are possible - and sell them.  The price range is from $14.95 to $9.49 at Walmart.

And their children enjoy collecting eggs which given the attention to detail most often shown by the driven, they probably do in a haz-mat suit.  Monogrammed, of course.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Veteran Teacher Remembers

He begins by telling me that he's seen many teachers quoted after these appalling attacks and that most are supporting stricter gun laws.  Chastisement (of me) over, he went on to write -

"I spent 30 years teaching public high school in an urban community long considered 'culturally deprived' which was government politispeak for "a bad place."  I only felt really threatened once in my years of teaching public school.

In my 13th year, a very strong student challenged me after I called him down in the hallway for using profanity.

He told me he would spread my moustache from ear-to-ear.  I started to take off my jacket and necktie and muttered, "I'll just let you try that, young man," but when I looked up, he was fleeing the scene faster than an antelope bolting from a lion and all the while his friend stood there laughing his ass off.

My very first two years of teaching ('72-'73) our school was rife with racial rioting, but as much as they seemingly hated one another, the students always respected teacher authority.

When I was in my 21st year (of teaching) we had two pipe bombs go off in our school.   No one was hurt and only minor damage was done, but we had ATF and FBI federal authorities crawling all over the place.  I never felt threatened at the time because th placement of the bombs made it obvious the bomber(s) weren't intent on harming people, just causing a school cancellation.  The two students responsible were eventually caught by the FBI and arrested.  Neither ever returned to the school.

When I was dean of students, we were alerted by a student that one of his buddies had a gun at school.  We thought he was carrying it, but it turned out the "gun" was in the trunk of his car - a .12-gauge shotgun he used to shoot skeet and trap at the local conservation club.  Having grown up in a more rural setting of the early '60s, I remember seeing friends pickups with gun racks and shotguns parked in the school lot so I wasn't all that concerned.  The boy's father came and picked up the gun and that ended the situation.  That was all 15 years or more ago.

Honestly?  I never felt as if my life was in danger ... back then.  Today with the general apathy of society to provide adequate school security, the court mandate that violent children are still entitled to attend public school without regard for the consequences, and the lack of parental control over many teenagers in urban settings, I am glad I'm not still in the public schools teaching.  I would add that one of my former student teachers was teaching at Columbine Middle School when the shooting spree occurred at the high school and I know she suffered some PTSD thereafter."

Doug Vermillion of Anderson, IN.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Unheard Voices

Every time there is one of these tragic school shootings, we hear from the police chief, the sheriff, the students...and God almighty the media jumps all over it.   But never a teacher.  Have you noticed that, too?

So I consulted with the only two teachers that I know.

A PhD special education teacher who works in Beverly Hills was my first choice since he is actively working.  The other is no less distinguished, but he is semi-retired.  Nice contrast.

What would you like done in the way of prevention?
     It seems to me that steps need to be taken much earlier.  When we know that a child has expressed any dangerous behaviors - to himself or others - we need to be able to offer more support.  In Special Education we have the opportunity to provide counseling, but it (counseling) is typically school-related issues.

     Beyond that the kids get referral for services.  As you can imagine, this is a long, difficult process as the system gets pretty bogged down.

Does your school have a plan in place?
     We have several plans and steps based on the danger.  We have a lock down procedure where we lock our metal doors and move the kids to a safe spot in the room.  We really just need to keep the kids safe for the few minutes it would take for the SWAT team to arrive.

Do you feel safe in your school?
     Yes, I feel safe in my school.  We have a police department that will be here in seconds.  I have seen it first hand and it is really impressive.  Moreover we have plans in the school to lock it down quickly and efficiently.

I'd like to thank this teacher for taking the time to present a teacher's point-of-view.  They're there in the heart of danger, too, and deserve credit for so being.