Friday, October 31, 2014


Halloween brings forth all manner of motifs, from the perky pumpkin patches to the creepy crawly creatures. Today I’m showing you something from the stars. Spiral arms and colliding galaxies – the stuff of sci-fi nightmares – this is Arp 272, some 450 million light-years away. 
Just think of how far that is. 
Boggles the mind, it does.

I first saw this particularly haunting photo on the 9/22/11 posting at APOD, the Astronomy Picture of the Day, NASA’s daily entry of fascinating photos.    Fortunately for us, unlike the botanists who classified and named living things in mundane Latin, the astronomers named things in the heavens using their vivid imaginations.  If you move your cursor over today’s APOD photo offering you will see just what I mean – the picture is chock full of spooky nebulae, (Ha! that’s Latin!) and Cousin Margaret is there too. You can check my blog posting, Sky Shots, for a glimpse of what APOD offers each day.

While your mind is being boggled at the distance of Arp 272 – remember that name, there’ll be a quiz later on in life – have a hauntingly Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Today’s The Writer’s Almanac gives us this entry:

It was on this day in 1886 that the Statue of Liberty was officially unveiled and opened to the public. It was gift from France intended to celebrate the two countries' shared love of freedom, shipped to the U.S. in pieces packed into 214 crates. Workers put it back together in New York. The day of the dedication was cold and rainy, but huge crowds came out for the celebration anyway. The statue was under veil, and the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was alone in the statue's crown, waiting for the signal to drop the veil. A boy down below was supposed to wave a white handkerchief at the end of the big speech. The boy accidentally waved his handkerchief before the speech was over and Bartholdi let the curtain drop, revealing the huge bronze lady, and gunshots rang out from all the ships in the harbor. The speaker, who had been boring everybody, just sat down.

That was interesting to me because I’ve written before about the Statue of Liberty, and written incorrectly. Where I got the nugget of knowledge that the statue was dedicated on the 18th I will never know, and how I ever remembered, three years later that there was something wrong with the dates, I will also never know. At any rate, she stands majestically up there in the harbor and I stand corrected down here.

I do wish I’d known before about the unveiling and the boring speaker. The details of the 1886 ceremony, like the details of the 1863 ceremony at Gettysburg, make it all a lot more interesting. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Today, according to the Writer’s Almanac, is the birthday of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Anne Tyler, she of The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons.  Today’s entry included a quote from her: I want to live other lives. I’ve never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.”  Aha! That struck a note! Reading is my way of making other chances, of living other lives in other worlds, and, especially now when my traveling days are dwindling down to a precious few, of learning about those worlds.

Strangely enough, when I read another life, I don’t want to read it in the first person, and I don’t want to read it in the present tense. Before I choose a book I have to flip through to the first pages to be sure I’m getting third person, past tense. Nowadays, I can go to Amazon and “Look Inside”. Saves me a lot of aggravation.

When I read another life now, I have certain eras in which I’m interested. Years ago, when I was much younger, I was a Sci-Fi and Fantasy aficionado: Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey. I was looking forward. Although I do love a mystery from any age at all, today, l suppose, I’m looking back: anything Medieval, Renaissance, Regency, but nothing Victorian or later. 
Why? I’ll tell you: I don’t know! 

Friday, October 24, 2014


For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn? – Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice

I first read that sentence in a daily email from The American Scholar.  Then this sentence - source unknown -“what other people think of you is none of your business, it’s their business,” has been doing the rounds of what I call the Personal Betterment blogs.  It all seems to boil down to it being a good thing that we can’t read each other’s minds. I’ll say!

I’ve a Philistine neighbor who also prides himself on saving a buck. (I call him cheap.) I’ve another one who is usually found neatening up his property and who washes his cars at the drop of a hat, parading out there topless as he suds and rinses. (I call him anal.) I’ve one who, in this community with leash laws and scooping rules, regularly lets his dog out to do his business wherever it wants to. (I call this guy lazy.) (I think I’d call him thoughtless too.) They are all quite nice neighbors who would do anything for any one of us should the need arise. Somehow though, the fat in the milk of human kindness in me has been watered down to fat-free level.

After living more or less in the woods for over twenty years I am fascinated by neighbors. I am not just fascinated with them as neighbors, but also as couples and how they relate to each other. Sounds like I’ve had my head in the sand for years, but really, in my later inquisitive years, with the exception of family and close friends, I’ve seen little of how most of the rest of the nation’s couples go about daily life. It is fascinating. Who cooks, who doesn’t and eats most of their meals out, what gals have cleaning ladies, what guys call in a handy man just to change a light bulb, who goes to bed very early, who are night owls. I don’t sit at the window and watch the neighborhood happenings (really, over the years, I’ve missed most of the important happenings, like when the police came to the court to make an arrest!) but I’ve absorbed information over the last seven years or so. Very interesting. I’m sure Frank and I are very interesting to all of them too.
I'm looking at you! 

Love thy neighbor. Do I love them? No, but I’ll be there in a flash if they call.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


In this morning’s The Writer’s Almanac I read that on this day in 1867, the U.S. took possession of Alaska – this is Alaska Day. The purchase from Russia certainly has paid off: in gold, in oil, in fish, in territory. It has also paid off in the form of “TV Alaska”.

It seems to be another gold mine. The National Geographic shows include Wild Alaska, Dr. Oakley-Yukon Vet, and the ever popular Alaska State Troopers. (Are you too a member of the Howie Peterson Fan Club?) The Smithsonian gets in on the act with various nature documentaries and one-offs like Aerial America: Alaska.
To name just a few of the shows on the Discovery Channels, there are Life Below Zero, Railroad Alaska, Flying Wild Alaska, Buying Alaska, Gold Rush, Bering Sea Gold, Alaska Marshals, Yukon Men, Alaska: The Last Frontier, and the one that probably started the rush to Alaska: Deadliest Catch. If you haven’t seen at least one of those crabby episodes you must be living under a rock. I wonder if the Discovery Channel has a permanent office up there in Alaska.

Alaska – are you sick of seeing that word?  Here’s the antidote:

Friday, October 17, 2014


The Front Cover

Just a few days ago while I was rummaging through some old records I’d saved, I came upon the cover for a ‘40s recording. Ooooold! The brittle record is long since gone, dropped and smashed to pieces. I’d forgotten I even had this old cover. I remember it so well, the repetitive telling about the shoes with “crimson soles and crimson linings”, and the tigers going off bragging “Now I’m the grandest tiger in all the jungle.”  I even remember the very regal and pompous music that accompanied them as each tiger sauntered away. (Or am I remembering something from Peter and the Wolf? The mind is a strange thing!)
Inside Front Cover

Until recently I never knew that this book, Little Black Sambo, was controversial. The recorded version is the story in my head. I googled “crimson soles and crimson linings”, and it gave me the Project Gutenberg copy of a volume from 1906.  Well – I’d say that was controversial!  What was the illustrator thinking? At that time the story was written in 1899, by a British author about an Indian Boy, the story was fairly innocuous.  But by the time it hit America and was re-illustrated, especially in the 1906 version, they didn’t think much about who would be hurt by what.  I really didn’t look at the record cover when I was little, I just listened to a story about an Indian boy. Black, to me, was part of his name, not what he looked like.

Read the first line: "Once upon a time in far-off India"

The illustrations on the Gutenberg page are right out of the South of Joel Chandler Harris, but with a monkey or a macaw added in here or there. Ain't no monkeys here! It is no wonder the American versions cause so much controversy. The read-along story on the record jacket, which in few ways resembles the story I think I memorized while listening, says the boy lived “in far-off India”. That was always the place in my head: India. ‘India’ appears in the 1906 version only in parenthesis to expand on the melted butter “or “ghi” as it is called in India”. The illustrations on the record cover I scanned in for this essay hint of the 40’s in America – only the tiger is out of place. There's not a monkey or macaw to be seen.  I suppose that by the 40’s people realized that the original story was basically a good one for children, but that many people would be offended by it as it stood in the 1906 version. It seems to me that in neither that version nor the 40’s recording do the stories and illustrations complement each other.
"And Little Black Sambo was so hungry he ate one hundred and sixty-nine,"

I do see that now there are more modern versions, especially with names changed to Indian sounding names like Babaji, and it's too bad that Helen Bannerman didn't use them in her original story, but even then there are critics of that one being partly “politically incorrect”. I suppose we can’t please all of the people all of the time, but I was pleased to come upon the record cover and recall the story I knew.

This was just a blog prompted by an old treasure. What will I find next?


Friday, October 10, 2014


Well Holey Socks, I just discovered that last week's post didn't post. A Senior Moment perhaps?  One never knows.  Today's post is below this one. Sorry!

               In October I'll be host
               To witches, goblins and a ghost
               I'll serve them chicken soup on toast
               Whoopy once, whoopy twice
               Whoopy chicken soup with rice

Ah yes, it is finally October. The days are getting shorter and cooler. All I can say to that is "Whoopy!"  I don't know about serving chicken soup on toast - with toast, of course, but not on it.  Maybe in it. I love chicken soup, and I can whip up a great chicken noodle soup in no time at all. I once, in my childhood, I suppose, loved Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup.  Not any more. I bought a can a while ago, just for nostalgia sake, and it now seems watered down and blah. Needs salt too.  I know they're de-salting a lot of prepared foods (while others seem loaded with salt. Typical.) De-salting for our health, over salting for flavor.

In these coming winter months I will enjoy my chicken soup in the form of Knorr or Maggi bouillon. A mug of hot bouillon on a cold afternoon is comfort at its quickest and finest.


There has been a lot written and televised lately about the three most famous Roosevelts. Tomorrow will mark the 130th birthday of Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman who thought for herself and was in a position to use those thoughts effectively. You can read a short bio of her here at The Writer’s Almanac.

If there was ever anyone who could have worried about what people thought of her it was Mrs. Roosevelt, our longest serving First Lady. Evidently, she was quite comfortable with herself and her role in our nation’s history. There are many aphorisms attributed to her, but my favorite, one mentioned in that bio, is this: "You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."  It has taken me years to realize the truth of that.

I forget where I read it, but recently I came on a quote to the effect that “what other people think of you is none of your business.” I’ve often worried about what folks thought of what I do or don’t do. I still do worry a bit about the appropriateness of what I wear where, and I’m sure it is a good thing, but for years it made me nervous and anxious. I wasn’t wearing a ball gown to a baseball game or a bathing suit to a funeral, but I just knew that everyone else had seen me and that I was found wanting. I now know that only the self-appointed critics would do such a thing, and what they thought wouldn’t have hurt me in the least, especially because I can’t read minds.

I’m pleased to have reached the age and stage where I am comfortable with myself. Taking the hint from Mrs. Roosevelt, I yam what I yam.