Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Love those eyebrows!

Today is the 150th Birthday of Rudyard Kipling, the writer of poems, short stories, and novels loved around the world. I love Kipling’s works. Jungle Books, Gunga Din, Boots. They’re not just for kids, as many people believe. I enjoy them to this day. I was thrilled to visit his home, Bateman’s, in England. I guess you could say he is one of my favorite poets and writers. I read of his birthday this morning on The Writer’s Almanac, one of my best sources for writing ideas. As usual, they ended the piece with a quote. This one really made sense to me:

      "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."

True, true, true!  I’ve been saying for years that I’ve learned more history from my adult reading than I ever did in school. (Well, let’s hope so! When you stop learning you might as well curl up and die.) And it is soooo much more interesting. I’ve written about this before – here – but this week it really strikes home. 

We spent our Christmas holiday up in New York with some special people who bought our house when we moved south. I had left books for their future reading – about 12’ worth – and this trip I brought all the books back south with me. The house is being remodeled, and that shelf will hold other things.
I spent a lot of yesterday sorting out the books, deciding what ones to keep, and just delighting in seeing them again. The majority of them are historical novels – Middle Ages, Renaissance, and so on. Europe, India, America, and do on – with some Brit mysteries too, of course.
Many of the books, such as Dorothy Dunnett’s The Lymond Chronicles, a series of six historical novels set in the mid 1500’s, are some of the sources of my historical education. All are a source of some little tidbit of information that I’ve tucked into the grab bag of my memory.  One never knows when one will need to know that a sovereign is a pound, or a crown is 5 shillings, or that a flock of crows is a murder.

Try a historical novel, history in the form of a story – you’ll learn a lot, and enjoy it all too.

Friday, December 25, 2015


I am going to be non-PC and wish every one of you a very Merry Christmas. I know, I know, it is politically correct to say Happy Holidays, but today is Christmas. It is also the birthday of a dear friend of mine who happens to be Jewish. She and that Jewish kid from Bethlehem share the same birthday.     

Years ago, our family had wonderful next-door neighbors. They were Jewish. He was an excellent doctor, one of the best in town. One year, the year I remember because of what he said, a Christian patient sent him a card with a nativity scene on it. Someone at the gathering saw the card and was very surprised to see it there.  “Not at all,” said our neighbor, “after all, they were a good Jewish family.”

See that? There’s PC, politically correct, and then there’s PC, properly Christian, Christ-like, and he, that good Jewish man, had love for all.

I wish you all love and peace this day.

Friday, December 18, 2015


MADCAP PRINCESS RUNS AMOK. That was the headline in the newspaper just before I woke up. Dreams are funny things. I don’t have young things to dream about any more. I can sometimes consciously know where a dream comes from.

But in the case of the titled dream I haven’t a clue – especially now, days later, when I’m finally getting to the notes I wrote in my night book. Do you have a night book?  Maurice Sendak had a Night Kitchen, I have a night book. I keep it on a bookshelf handy to my groping hand in the dark. By it, I have a pen with a LED in the tip. They call it a Marine Navigation Light Pen. Sounds impressive!

Pen lit, book in hand, I can jot down the absolutely excellent thoughts that come into my alleged mind in my waking periods.  From many of these thoughts I have fleshed out ideas for pieces I’m doing for the community magazine. Other entries become blog like this one.  
Many times I just want to jot down things I need to remember for the next day. Sometimes I have no clue about what I wrote until I open the journal in the morning. That isn’t surprising, is it?

And just now, as I usually do, I went through Google Images to find a princess crown or some other appropriate illustration, and I found this:

In 1926 there was a Madcap Princess. Who knew?!

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Well I’ll be dipped if I can find an on-line reference to it, but I distinctly remember most of a jingle that, on the early days of television, regularly played on, I believe it was NYC Channel 5 – the DuMont station. DuMont was always supportive of minorities, and they regularly aired public service messages like the one about Sidney S. Snigglegrass. It was sung to a lively tune:

Sidney S. Snigglegrass, Jr. was told
Of a magical lamp with a genii of old.
When he rubbed on the lamp
Came a great flash of fire,
And the genii appeared saying:
“What’s your desire?”

Said Sidney: “It’s my desire that every man of foreign descent 
                       be sent 
                         back to where he came from.”

And bam! The oceans were jammed,
Boats and barges appeared,
And thousands and thousands
Of folks lined the piers.

And on it went, until Sidney, holding his magical lamp, was the only one left on the pier. I’m surprised that Sidney himself wasn’t whisked away. I can’t dredge any more of the song out of my memory banks, and I couldn’t find it on Google.

What it said then, and what it means now, should be a lesson to Donald (The Mouth) Trump: this nation was built, and is still building, by people of foreign descent. What’s your background Donald? Many races, many colors, many creeds, along with the people who lived here to begin with: we’re not quite yet the “melting pot” we’d like to be. There are still distinct lumps in the soup, but we’re stirring like crazy and it should be a delicious mix when it’s done. We can’t go along with any loud mouth who declares that the borders should be closed and the nation fenced in.  

And I am unanimous in this. 

Friday, December 11, 2015


Ah, yes, Frank Sinatra - my very favorite singer of all time. I wrote this piece for this month's issue of our community magazine, but seeing as how most of you don't live here, I wanted to get it into my blog.        

Does the address 415 Monroe Street, Hoboken, NJ, seem familiar? Hoboken? Right across the East River from New York, New York? At that address, on December 12th, one hundred years ago this month, Hoboken’s most famous son, one Francis Albert Sinatra, was born.

Is there anyone reading this article who doesn’t recognize the name or face of Frank Sinatra? His music spans generations, from those who were the “Bobbysoxers”, on through to the “Gen-Xers” and today’s “Millennials”. His vintage vinyl recordings are collectors’ items, and there is a brisk business today in Sinatra CDs and downloaded music.

There are many biographies, memoirs, and critical books about Frank Sinatra. Even without reading any of them, people know the outline of his life: his birth to Italian immigrant parents, his luck in landing a job with Harry James and the great bands thereafter, his early mid-life crisis around 1950, when his marriage and his life seemed to fall apart, and his redemption and Academy Award for his role as Angelo Maggio in From here to Eternity. His career was reborn, and in later years he went on to outstanding success in several fields, not the least of which were his savvy business investments.

Sinatra was the singer’s singer. His timing, phrasing, and enunciation were what sold a song. You understood every word. He had a great instinct for choosing the right song, the right arrangement, and the right band or orchestra to back him. Luciano Pavarotti might be the only serious contender who comes to mind as having Sinatra’s equivalent cultural impact, and the two, admirers of each other, got along well. Both were “larger than life”, flamboyant entertainers who knew how to engage and enthrall an audience.

Except for little bits and pieces like the fact that is favorite color was orange, there’s probably nothing new any article on him could tell us. But it’s good to be celebrating his centennial, just as it’s always good to hear a Sinatra song by chance. We stop, listen, smile, and the day just got better. He sang the best of songwriters from Irving Berlin to Jimmy Webb. The titles sing in our minds just reading the names of some of his hits: Angel Eyes, Strangers in the Night, That’s Life, Gone With the Wind, Witchcraft, All or Nothing at All, Blues in the Night, You Go to My Head, Time After Time, Fly Me to the Moon, I’ll ever Smile Again, The World We Knew, Ebb Tide. Most appreciated by those of us from the “Silent Generation” and the “Baby Boomers”: It Was a Very Good Year

“Old Blue Eyes” began life in a cold water flat on the east coast, known only to his family. He died 82 years later in Los Angeles, known to the world.


1 – First of Billboard Magazine’s Number-one Singles: I’ll Never Smile Again, 1940
2 – Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor in From Here to Eternity in 1953, and the 
      Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1970
3 - His children: Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina
4 - His wives: Nancy Barbato, Ava Gardner, Mia Farrow, and Barbara Marx
5 - Members of the Rat Pack: Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., 
         and Joey Bishop
11 - Grammy Awards
42 - The denomination of the “Sinatra” U.S. Postage Stamp issued in 1980
57 - Movies he was in from 1944 to 1988
61 - Record albums – not including countless single titles that number around 1,000.
100+ Nominations and awards, documentaries, cameos, radio and television shows and concerts, all too numerous to mention

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Today, as I read in the Writer’s Almanac, is the 185th birthday of the Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti. She is the author of one a poem that has become a wonderful Christmas carol, and the one that has become my favorite in my old age. Several composers, including Gustav Holst, have set it to music, but my favorite version is by the British composer and conductor John Rutter. You can listen to it here. (It’s the last line of the music that makes this one soar.) And, leaving out the fourth stanza, follow here:

In the bleak midwinter
                         BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

   Did you hear that last line? I think John Rutter’s music for this piece is excellent. The whole poem speaks of the true story and meaning of this Christmas season that is just starting. Starting my December off with this carol has been a delight.


Friday, December 4, 2015


Looking back on my blog history, I confirmed that I posted this piece, in one dress or another, both in 2011 and 2013. It is time to trot it out again. We all need reminders to keep the holidays sane.

National Stress-Free Holiday Month - is there such a thing as a stress-free December? Many people have begun to simplify the whole process in several ways. Some of these suggestions might work for you.  

Here’s a good topic: Decorations. To do or overdo, that is really up to you. Paring down your possessions throughout the year is the perfect strategy for cutting down on the holiday ornamentation. Pass on some of their favorite ornaments to your children and grandchildren. (They make great holiday gifts.) It can be counterproductive and a great deal of work to use all your decorative pieces just because you always have. Toss out or give away all but the real treasures you look forward to seeing again each year. To pare down even further, consider using more candles that can be used throughout the year, and fresh flowers that are very colorful but don’t require future storage.
Think about lowering your electric bill and eliminating the hassle of storing, sorting and installing outdoor lights and decorations. Select a great wreath for your front door and remember to leave the porch light on every evening until you go to bed.

Of course, the Gifts. If you’re at the base of a very large family tree you might be having a hard time just thinking of suitable gifts for everyone on those branches and twigs. It’s no longer fun when it becomes a chore going out to buy, and then wrap, and perhaps mail the gifts, or when the monetary end of it gets out of hand, especially for those on a fixed income.
Some families stop giving gifts to those married or over twenty-one, those no longer children. Some families pull names for an adult grab bag swap, in others they exchange gifts under a certain dollar amount. In many families they’ve eliminated gifts for all but those in their own households - after all, is it great fun to open them. Instead, they make a charitable contribution in the name of the whole family.

Next: Cards or Letters. Some have opted out of the holiday mailings, but if you haven’t, whichever you choose to send, you can make life easier for yourself by tackling the job early. Right after the holidays, update your card list (be ruthless!), then save money by buying your cards at the January sales. Begin working on your holiday letter as the newsworthy events occur. Start writing the cards and finish the holiday letter just after Thanksgiving. Sounds easy and, when you start early and stick to it, it is.

Last but not least in our hearts: Food!!  Are you still cooking the whole meal from soup to nuts? You are either a glutton for punishment or someone who really, really loves to cook. Let some of the younger generation start to hone their culinary skills. Pass the torch, and then promise to bring along your specialty: the family favorite appetizer, zesty carrots, or praline pumpkin pie. How’s that for stress-free?
Many families are choosing to have their major holiday feast cooked by others. Some have it catered and brought to the house - a great idea, but there is still the clean-up to be done. Others go all out and eat out. Many like to have a festive restaurant meal on the night before their holiday, then rest and recuperate and open some presents the next day. Many must have the main meal on the main day. Either way, you can use Google to search for restaurants in our area that will be open on the various holidays. This is the least work, the least worry all ‘round.

December is a month for all - enjoy all thirty-one days!  You can do it!        

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


A beautiful illustration by Susan Jeffers

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

A poem for December, for the month of “the darkest evening of the year.” This poem is why rhyme is so deeply satisfying to me. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015


This has been annoying me for quite some time now, but this morning, hearing “Yeah, I mean” used again and again, I felt it was time to bring out the curmudgeon in me and get out a brief blog on the phrase.

I have heard too many interviewees, mostly sports personalities, begin their answer to an interviewer’s question by saying “Yeah, I mean.” The interviewer may not even have asked them a yes or no question, but those are the first words of the reply.

Geeeeze Loueeeze, why don’t you say what you meant in the first place?  Is this a stalling tactic so that you can come up with a reasonable answer?  Do you even know what you mean?

     “Champ, how as it out there today?”
     “Yeah, I mean, it was brutal"

Where did this come from? When will it end? 
Yeah, I mean.

Friday, November 27, 2015


A while ago I read a bit of news about apple thieves. The piece, from Atlas Obscura, told of a gal, driving a Mercedes which indicates her level of income, who was caught by the police after she pilfered a bag’s worth of apples from a Massachusetts orchard.

Why do folks think such road-side produce is theirs for the taking? Like Massachusetts, New York is big orchard and farm country. Nothing like the vast acres of fields further west, but important none the less. When we lived in upstate New York, a local farmer planted a field of field corn, feed for livestock, by the end of our dirt road. He, probably like many other farmers, had to plant sweet corn in the first few rows surrounding the field. If he didn’t do this, thieves who didn’t like the feed corn would trash the field. Go figure.

The piece included this bit:
When someone at his farm catches a thief they almost always plead ignorance. “Oh, I didn’t know they were somebody’s apples,” he says they tell him. His response? “Well that’s kind of stupid.” 

Stupid? It’s downright self-serving. We passed that corn field each growing season for twenty years, and never even thought to take an ear or two. That gal didn’t just wander down that road by chance: she’d probably gone by several times. She, like others of her mind set, knew it was an orchard, not just a lone old apple tree still putting out fruit in an abandoned field by the side of the road.

Each time I hear a story like this one I am appalled and annoyed all over again. What are these people thinking? Then I just calm down and realize once again that this is the way a lot of the world works. It’s the way the world has been working more and more of late. Every Tom, Dick and Harry, every radical group, thinks it’s entitled. It stinks!

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Reading today’s edition of The Writer’s Almanac, I read that it is the 321st “birthday of the French satirist, philosopher, and social revolutionary, Francois-Marie Arouet,” better known to us as Voltaire. They ended the mini biography with this quote from him:

 “As long as people continue to believe in absurdities, they will continue to commit atrocities.”

Absurdities and atrocities – that speaks to me of many eras of our history. Of names like Hitler, Idi Amin, and others of their ilk who absurdly thought themselves omnipotent. Did I neglect one of your favorites? I’m sure I did: the names, causes and crusades echo back in time.

There is no reasoning with ISIL, ISIS, Da’ish, the Islamic State, the jihadists. They have what are, to most of the rest of the world’s peoples, including the majority of their fellow Moslems, some absurd ideas, including the declaration of themselves as a caliphate. I give you this from the ever-handy Wikipedia: As a caliphate, it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, and that "the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organisations, becomes null by the expansion of the khilāfah's [caliphate's] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas".  Oh really? There are too many factors that have contributed to the rise of ISIS. I can’t begin to understand all of it, much less simplify it here.

It just struck me that Voltaire, as a social revolutionary, would be very interested in today’s world scene. He’d understand the absurdity of ISIS’ claims. I also think he’d agree with what I wrote after the Paris atrocities: “Allah would be ashamed of you.” 

Friday, November 20, 2015

GREETINGS ...and salutations!


Handwritten, hand-decorated greetings date back for ages. The ancient Chinese sent New Year’s greetings. Each year they had a different animal theme to work with. From medieval times on, handwritten cards like Valentines were sent in many European countries. By the Renaissance era, cards were available from the printing presses. During Victorian times the Christmas card became popular. The Victorians positively excelled at the greeting card, and inexpensive postage stamps help spread the holiday cheer. From the first British printed Christmas card in 1834 to the first electronic card in 1994, billions of printed cards wended their way around the neighborhood and around the world.

Gifts, a cake and candles aside, how do you like friends and family to help celebrate your birthday: a greeting card, a phone call, a surprise visit from a hired entertainer, or an e-mail or e-card?  
How do you like to send and receive December holiday greetings? Do you delight in amassing and displaying dozens of cards? Of course you delight in receiving some of the now-popular photo holiday cards, especially if they are of your grandchildren? Do you like to make and send your own creations, or send store-bought cards? Have you saved a tree and opted to email your greetings?

Even Hallmark - “When you care enough to send the very best” - has joined the ranks of Blue Mountain, American Greetings, Jacquie Lawson, and others in the field of e-cards. Yes, Hallmark. It was bound to happen. Most people, though they still prefer snail mail greetings, don’t mind e-greetings, knowing that the sender still cared enough to think of them. 

Some have opted out of the holiday mailings, but if you haven’t, whichever you choose to send, hand-made or boxed cards or annual letter, you can make life easier for yourself by tackling the job early. Right after the holidays, update your card list (be ruthless!), then save money by buying your cards at the January sales. If you make your own cards, the summer months spent indoors in air conditioning are the ideal time to begin creating. Begin working on your holiday letter as the newsworthy events occur. Start addressing the cards and finish the holiday letter just after Thanksgiving. Sounds easy and, when you start early and stick to it, it is.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Le Tricolore in lights all over the world

I don't know why I'm amazed, but the outpouring of sympathy for the atrocities done in Paris is world-wide. Being on the other side of 'the pond', I think I realize how the world must have felt when we Americans had our 9/11 - our Nine Eleven. (And the coincidence still strikes me that the 9/11 is the same set of numbers we use for our emergency calls: 9-1-1, nine-one-one. Do you think that was deliberate? I never read of any speculation on that.)

You have to realize how powerful communications, especially world-wide personal communications, are today. Years ago, had such a thing happened, we'd have said something like "Oh, that's too bad!" Today we're all involved. We're all connected. In the middle of the night it struck me that the children of of one of my favorite bloggers live in Paris, and I hoped that young son and daughter hadn't been attracted to that concert. Turns out they were both away from the city, but the blogger, one Corey Amaro, was herself in Paris with a good friend and fellow blogger. They were dining in a restaurant just three minutes from one of the attacks. First thing this morning I went on line to see if she had posted. I was almost in tears when I read that all of them were safe. Whew! People I've never even met, but people about whom I read every day, people I feel I know, people I don't want to lose. I know a lot of Corey's blog readers felt the same - the list of comments was as long as a roll of papier toilette.

All I have to say about and to the ISIS jihadists is "Allah would be ashamed of you!"

Friday, November 13, 2015


Well, the community magazine didn't use this piece for the November issue - but they are using my Hans Christian Anderson piece, and it ends the same way: children must have books. I'll post that piece next month, just to stress that idea.

Who among us has never read anything by Robert Louis Stevenson? Any poem from A Child’s Garden of Verses, or Treasure Island, Kidnapped, even The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or The Master of Ballantrae. Surely you’ve even seen a movie made from one of these classics. Born in Scotland this day in 1850, the midst of the Romantic Era, Stephenson penned several of the books that have become the basics on any list of must-read children’s literature. Classics – if you know little else, you can know the great books that have made their way from print to film.

November is the month when we’ve begun to think of Christmas presents. Surely, for our grandchildren, books are some of the best presents: they’re presents they can open again and again. Along with Stevenson’s books, there is an impressive list of authors who wrote for children.

Along with A.A. Milne, Kenneth Grahame, Beatrix Potter, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll, to writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, J.R. Rowling, Susan Cooper, and Maurice Sendak, there is an impressive list of authors who wrote for children.

Any child’s library should include works like Aesop’s Fables, Mother Goose, The Arabian Nights, a bit of Shakespeare, a bit of mythology, and a good treasury of poetry. Don’t forget Grimm’s and Han’s Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, and perhaps a book of international fairy tales as well.

The shelf for the littlest ones should include books by Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, A.A. Milne, Eric Carle; books like The Velveteen Rabbit and Goodnight Moon, If Your Give a Mouse a Cookie, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and dozens of Golden Books.

This era of non-sexist child rearing notwithstanding, girls should read books like Treasure Island and boys could learn a lot from Little Women. The shelf for older children should include The Railway Children, Roxaboxen, The Jungle Books, Lewis Carroll’s books about Alice, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Jack London’s books, some of H.G. Welles, and the tales of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Include books by Roald Dahl, Maurice Sendak, and E.B. White. Put modern classics on the shelf: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and…, the books of the Wizard of Earthsea, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten one of your favorites. Just be sure to give that favorite to your favorite grandchildren.

But, back to Stephenson. Perhaps because I’ve always loved to go to the beach, the sea-side, this is my favorite of his poems:

 At the Sea-side, From Child's Garden of Verses:

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.

My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up,
Till it could come no more.

Monday, November 9, 2015


It is a big, international Erector set

O.k. blog friends, here's another jaw-dropper for you. The folks at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day - APOD - have come up with another salute to the fifteen year history of the International Space Station. This is an animation of the gradual building of the station - building? it is more like an amassing of technology.  And to realize that there are people who know the importance and place of every nut and bolt and wire in it, and which piece will go where in times to come.Whew! And to think most of us think they're living in a "tin can" up there. Go here to watch the animation. You see of your jaw doesn't drop too.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Wow! Would you like to see something really wonderful, cool, beautiful - and all those other superlatives? This is a picture Astronaut Scott Kelly took from the International Space Station. I didn't realize that it had been manned for fifteen years now.

Go to APOD - and get the story and see the picture so much better than it shows here. Stuff like this just blows me away.

While I have your spacey attention, and if you have about seven minutes to spare, go here to see a marvelous presentation on the astronauts first sighting of the earth from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, 45 - yes! 45 - years ago. Where were we all 45 years ago?

Friday, November 6, 2015


This piece and the one for next Friday are two I wrote for the community magazine. Though they used several others of my pieces, the magazine didn't use these two, but I get to keep them for my blog. Keep in mind that I am writing for the "active adults" - better known as seniors - here in Sun City Carolina Lakes.

The World Wide Web celebrates its 25th birthday this month. On November 13, 1990, two computer scientists at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, the European Organization for Nuclear Research), Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau, published a proposal for an international communication system for the exchange and linking of scientific information. The first Web page was a simple one: a heading and introduction to the World Wide Web.  They called it W3, but today we call in ‘The Web’ or the internet; we go ‘on line’. The system became available to the public in August 1991, and it has gotten more complex every year.

Many years before, prophetic writers like Arthur C. Clarke had foretold of just such a system on which one could find “all the information he needs for his everyday life: his bank statements, his theater reservations, all the information you need over the course of living in a complex modern society.” Clarke was correct: with desk systems, laptops, notebook computers, and tablets, on down to the small, hand-held PDAs the Personal Digital Assistants, and above all, our cell phones, we’re in touch with everything. Some say we’re in touch with too much, some want more and more every day.

Love it or hate it, the internet has become an invaluable tool. Though there are hazards there: spam, scams, phishing, and hacking, the vast majority of the internet traffic flows quickly and without trouble. Rather than waiting for the 6 O’clock News, we can get the latest news, weather, and sports in an instant, and from many different sources for complete, and we hope unbiased, coverage. Rather than go to the library, we can look up anything we want to know on any subject. We can read a book, buy a book, buy almost anything, transfer funds, pay a bill, get a higher degree, participate in polls, and, in some countries, even vote on line. Email has almost supplanted snail mail. The World Wide Web has now facilitated cloud computing, giving the world a place to store and manipulate its ever-increasing stock of digital information without taking up personal or business computer space.

Most anything you ever wanted to know about most everything is out there on the web. The Oxford English Dictionary, usually known as just the OED, now includes google as a verb. It means to search the World Wide Web for information. The search engine Google doesn’t like it that google is used to mean general web searching, even if it is there or on Bing or Yahoo or another site, but they can’t fight popular usage. Like Kleenex or Vaseline, the brand has gone into generic usage.   

The internet has spawned a new lexicon. The word ‘hardware’ has a new meaning, and now we have software to use on it. OMG, we now have ‘the web’, of course, and we ‘tweet’ and we ‘like’ and we Skype. We blog, we engage in e-tail, read e-books, we download apps, we transfer our own funds and pay our bills without leaving our desks. Forget Hi-Fi, we’ve got Wi-Fi. We know about hypertext and jpegs. It’s not often we’re AFK – away from keyboard - it’s all a big LOL.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


November - I love this month - perhaps because I was born in November, but mostly because it is the promise of cold weather and good sleeping ahead. I love to sleep - perchance to dream. 

I am getting this post out in the wee hours of the day. We went to bed, as we old folks usually do, around 8. This is the night we "fall back," so effectively we went to bed at 7. One way or the other, I couldn't get to sleep. Perhaps I was too warm? I know that several times (times!) I wondered what time it really was. What time is it ever really? 
Yesterday I read that the powers that be want to keep Daylight Savings Time, which then would become Standard Time. I know I'd be happier not to "fall back." 

I culled this poem from The Writer's Almanac several years ago for my favorites file. It lilts along delightfully and really tickles my fancy.  

     Come Picnic on Mars

for Zoë, age 5

On a distant glad November,
when our hearts are running high,
and the dreambats all have vanished
into the limestone of the sky,
why don't we take a fiery stroll
straight up to Mars? Just you and I.

We will pack a mental picnic
for years before we go.
Some will say the sky's the limit,
but we will answer: No,
the mind was made to travel.
So, too, indentured hearts,
and knitted fears unravel
with adventure in the dark.

A world of blues will slowly dwindle,
as Mars glows round the bend;
the differences that blind us
will bind us in the end,
for wonder is the chorus
that makes us all a choir,
and time will not forgive us
if, slug-a-beds, we lie
fat and bored and cranky
in our hammock in the sky.

So, come and take the waters
that jet across the seas
that lie between the planets
we crawl to on metal knees.
Oh! when we arrive, what fancy stuff
we'll see: the swooning sands of Paradise,
dust-devils, a volcanic sea.
Then, when twilight falls, by double moon,
we'll feast on ra-