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-