Monday, December 23, 2013

Invite This Visitor In

In 1951 television was very new.  Programming concepts were new.  Viewing was new.  Ed Sullivan was hot.  It would be 13 years before the Beetles appeared on his show.  Out of this TV primordial soup came an astonishing show: Amahl and the Night Visitors.  Producers at NBC believed there was a market for opera on television, and that a live performance would succeed.  Most operas were too long for the already established schedules of hour blocks interspersed with commercials.  Anticipating a large audience for Christmas programs, they commissioned a new opera.  It was to be on a Christmas theme, fit on the stage in NBC production studios and suitable for family viewing.  They turned to Gian Carlo Menotti.  Inspired by Hieronymous Bosch's painting, The Adoration of the Magi, Menotti nailed the assignment.  Amahl and the Night Visitors was the first production on the Hallmark Hall of Fame and was shown for many years during the Christmas holiday.  Here is the Bosch painting

And here, for a trip down memory lane, is the original broadcast with an introduction by Menotti from the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the Bosch painting hangs.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

All is Calm

If you live in Minneapolis you might already know about this theatrical concert.  I have just learned of it.  Playwright Peter Rothstein and musical arranger Erick Lichte collaborated on this production which opened in Minneapolis shortly before Christmas in 2007. All is Calm tells the story of the truce initiated and celebrated by men from the trenches - opposing armies mired in mud and snow with a life expectancy measured in weeks.  In November of 1914, the first year of the war, men dug in on both sides of "no man's land" began to offer impromptu concerts.  They sang patriotic songs, army ditty's, and as Christmas approached, they sang Christmas carols.  On Christmas eve a German first, and then men from both sides stood up, stepped out and offered their hands.  They sang, exchanged greetings and small gifts, and played soccer.  Ordered back to their trenches they retreated to four more years of slaughter.  All is Calm is an intimate and honest account of this truce.  It is based on, and narrated by letters home, war journals, radio broadcasts and similar first hand accounts.  Here is a link to the website where you can learn more and watch the trailer.  I hope it comes to a theater near me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fraud and Abuse

We are forever promised that holders of high office will cut budgets by going after waste, fraud and abuse.  Recently we heard about members of the Soviet diplomatic corps cheating the US Medicaid program.  The scam was repeated by so many over so many years that it was apparently considered one of the perks of office.  Lie about household income; qualify for Medicaid, receive pre-natal care and hospital delivery, and then blend back into the New York City glitter of shops and high living.  Here's the story from the New York Times.  Don't think the Russians are the only foreign nationals who know how to defraud Medicaid with this abuse.  Ask those you know in the immigrant community.  They know who else has babies this way.  How does Medicaid miss these cheats?  This is not something new.  Each successful theft from the United States tax payer emboldens the next perpetrator.  If I had heard about this long before the Russian scandal broke, why doesn't Medicaid know?  Are we afraid of profiling?  Are we uneasy about careful scrutiny of applicants with foreign passports?  Too bad.  There are plenty of needy people in our Medicaid programs who could use the money.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Thoughts on the Solstice

The monuments and myths of our earliest ancestors bear witness to their spirituality.  The solstice is central to much early worship marking the end of darkening and beginning of new dawn.  I believe that the great light of a new star and the belief in birth of hope incarnate are of a spiritual whole with centuries of earlier solstice celebrations.  Poetry and music kept belief and tradition alive long before the printing press.  The words and music to an old song were transformed by Johann Sebastian Bach into his beautiful Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248.  I offer below the chorale, Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light, and then a link to a full performance of the Oratorio.  I chose a 2007 recording by the All South Jersey Senior High Choir for the chorale. Here is the link

If you are interested in a closer listen to the harmonies that float the chorale, here is an interesting version recorded by one young man, four times, so that he presents each voice part.

And finally, the Christmas Oratorio. Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Monteverdi Choir. Stonehenge offers a bold, but silent tribute to renewed  hope.  This piece is a full of the sound of glory.

My holiday offering.  Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Saturday, December 21,

I will be meeting a friend that morning.  She and I meet every month to take a long walk.  And talk.  The sun will have risen at 7:55.  At 9:11 here in the Pacific Northwest, the sun and earth will mark the winter solstice and daylight hours will begin to increase.  The tilt of the earth on its axis will again draw the Northern Hemisphere into alignment to receive more direct rays from the sun.  Above the Arctic Circle where my professional work took me, the sun would again appear above the horizon after the winter solstice.  (The 24 hour night in the Arctic is not the black of midnight.  The sun remains below below the horizon but the rays create a dawn and dusk that lighten the sky.)  My friend and I will talk about our families and ourselves.  The inconvenience of the short November and December days does not keep us from the busyness of retirement.  We are carefree in comparison to the millennia of ancestors for whom hope for survival was renewed with the sun's return.  If we are not alone in the Universe - if there is another planet of just the right mass, orbit and distance from its sun - if there is intelligent life - do they understand yet the cause of the daylight cycle? Are they building a Stonehenge?  Or is their science and technology taking them into exploration of their universe?  I will tell my friend, as I do every year, that I am a cave woman at heart. My spirits lift and I feel a surge of renewal - this year at 9:11 AM on December 21.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jang Song Thaek's Crime

KCNA, North Korea's official news agency has described the reasons for the execution (without trial) of Jan Song Thaek.  He is the uncle of dictator Kim Jong Un.  As our political season ends, however briefly, for the rest of 2013, it is worth reading every word.  We, and others in the free world, have choices about our relationship with North Korea.  Those choices should be informed by this glimpse into the mindset that would author such a message.  We fool ourselves if we think we understand.  Here is the link.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


This is a "must read" subject.  Here is one of many stories, this one from the Washington Post, about the 16 year old who drunkenly drove his Ford truck into a group of people who were assisting with a breakdown at the side of the road.  He killed four of them.  His lawyer's defense was that he suffered from affluenza, the ennui and depravity of certain of the very rich whose wealth enshrouds them in a sense of entitlement. In such a privileged frame of mind they should be excused from the consequences of poor choices.  I am dumbstruck that a judge bought this line.  Beware.  There might be such a person driving in your lane.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advice on Aging

A friend keeps a little notebook in his breast pocket.  He writes down things that I forget.  Such as the names of people to whom he has been introduced.  The departure time for the next train.  The items he is going to pick up at the store.  I don't have any shirts with breast pockets.  I recommend his little notebook.  I add my own advice:

  • Assign a place for everything you care about.
  • Always put the item back in its place - immediately.
  • Empty the pockets of coats and jackets before you rehang them.
With my friend's notebook, and a place for everything and empty pockets, you will save yourself time and gain considerable peace of mind.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Did You Miss This?

While you were hard at work earning a living your government was demanding 20 years worth of documentation in pursuit of evidence of anticompetitive business practices.  The "perp"?  The Music Teachers National Association.  The absurdity of this investigation is not apparent to the FTC.  Alert agents learned that the Music Teachers' Code of Ethics, followed dutifully by members since their incorporation in 1876, contains language which could create coercive monopolies to the disadvantage of prospective music students.  Here is the language in which danger lies: "Members....will respect the studios of other teachers...(and refrain from) actively soliciting (their students)".  You can learn more about the MTNA here. You can learn more about the consent decree from the Music Trades online Journal.  I feel especially well protected knowing that an anti-trust disclaimer will be read at every future MTNA event.  There may be a recital in your future.  Will you be comforted to know that your grandchild, seated at the large piano, legs not touching the floor, tiny fingers bent in concentration, has entered a musical community that has been cleansed by Federal vigilance?  In case you don't have a music student in your life, here is a video which I particularly like.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Resume Soon

We have been sick at our house.  Saps your strength.  We are on the mend.  I will post again soon.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Repaired link

I heard from several that the link in yesterday's post was broken. It is repaired.  Just in case here is the web address.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Colonel

Last spring a young rooster picked at the grass along a country road - perhaps someone's discarded Easter chick no longer wanted when the soft yellow down yielded to stiff white feathers.  A passerby took pity and drove him to a nearby sheep farm.  This is his story.

He took the name "Colonel".  It was a warning - behave or you will be fried chicken. He ate with the ducks in the morning. He explored the hay barn, the sheep pastures, the old horse barn, the equipment shed.  He matured. He grew beautiful long white tail feathers. (The Colonel bedded down each night with the lambs.  Roosters go dormant when they sleep and do not notice that the lambs munch on tail feathers. The colonel suffers this indignity stoically.)  He grew a vivid red crest and wattle.  And he fell in love.  With a ram. The Colonel's BFF is Bert.  They were inseparable. The Colonel crowed for Bert.  He stood on the ram's back and groomed his woolly shoulders. They napped together and shared fresh hay.  Bert lives alone in a small pasture, eating, sleeping and waiting.  In the late fall it is time.  Bert is put out in the large back field with his ewes.  He has 17 days to complete his work.  Bert's call came last week.  The Colonel was lost. He cast about for a new devotion. He explored the sheep barn anew. There he found the lame sheep. There are usually about a half dozen. They spend the day in a wing of the barn where they can rest and heal. The Colonel was energized. He groomed and guarded his flock.  He perched on their gate and crowed. 

I volunteer at this farm. Yesterday my chores included attending to the lame sheep. It was time for their soak in zinc sulfate.  I sent my dog to the back of the barn to gather the sheep.  There were eight in the infirmary. She returned with seven. I sent her back again for the eighth sheep. She came back alone.  On the third try, I went with her.  There was the sheep, in the far corner. In front of the sheep was the Colonel, feathers puffed, eyes blazing, wings held stiff and low like a fighter jet.  Every time my dog started around to gather the sheep the Colonel rose into the air, wing flapping, feet punching and calling hell fire on my dog.  Every time the sheep moved to respond to the dog's pressure the Colonel rose again, facing the sheep with the same display.  I stepped into the fray and engaged in an all-out sparring match. I used my feet, my hands, my voice and my dog. The sheep was liberated and order restored. The Colonel watched intently from the gate.  

Next week Bert will complete his mission and return to his pasture.  The Colonel can join him - or not. We will see.  To see pictures of the Colonel and Bert go here

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Food and Drug Administration Guidance #213

You can be a quick study on this important topic: prophylactic use of antibiotics by the food industry.  Over the last quarter century harmful bacteria have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics.  The result has been disease and death to humans from invasions that were previously combated or cured.  The majority of antibiotics sold today are to the growers of meat and poultry - administered as a potential defense to disease which might reduce productivity and increase the cost of their product.  Efforts to address this problem through regulation have failed in the past.  Now there is FDA Guidance # 213 which urges a new approach. You can read an excellent summary in a recent Science magazine editorial .  Donald Kennedy has spent his long career in this field, and now as President Emeritus of Stanford University, uses his bully pulpit to speak common sense.  You can also read Guidance # 213 here.  It's an easy read.  Makes sense to me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The End of the Road

My friend the sheep farmer asked me to help her today.  We were sorting and marking her flock.  It is time for the ewes to be put our with the rams - about 30 for each of the three rams. Our dogs put the ewes through a cutting chute, slowly so I could read the number of each ear tag.  My friend's breeding records guided the sort.  Ewes would not be sent out to their own father.  I used  red, purple or green spray paint - a stripe across the nose.   Some were culled.  A ewe is culled for many reasons: fecundity; heritage, conformation, even attitude.  I had black paint for the culls. I apologized to each big woolly creature as I marked her forehead with a black dot.  I thought of Lewis Carroll's poem, "The Walrus and The Carpenter". These two friends beseeched the oysters to join them for a walk: "A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, along the briny beach".  Later the friends set their table for dinner.  "But not on us! the oysters cried, turning a little blue".  It fell to the Walrus to do the deed; "With sobs and tears he sorted out those of the largest size..."  Here is the entire poem.  It is just how I felt today.

The Walrus and The Carpenter

Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Verdi Requiem

My friend an amateur cello player had the following to say about her recent experience.  Her correspondent is a Verdi scholar.

"Philadelphia has a reading orchestra that meets every week.  It’s for amateurs.....  You can go or not go, depending on how you feel about the piece for that week. It’s just for the love of playing – no rehearsals; no performances; .....

A few weeks ago, they did Verdi’s Requiem.  ....

.... we had about 150 singers, and four good soloists.

Instrumentalists came out of the woodwork...  My only previous experience with the piece was as a chorister, in the back, with the other medium-to-tall altos.  But in the cello section at this event, I had the tenor soloist just to my left, and the brass and percussion on my right, playing almost directly at my head, and buffered only by the viola section.  I have always been awed by the emotional range of the piece, but this was in a different league. It’s hard to describe, except to say that the terrifying parts raised my hair and the plaintive parts choked me up.  It was like being in the middle of a huge, loud, natural disaster, with people in trouble everywhere, but not yet devoid of hope. 

For days after that, all I wanted to do was listen to the piece again and again.  The best recording I found on YouTube was La Scala’s most recent (Karajan, Price, Cassotto, Pavarotti, Ghiaurov).   Almost enough to make me an opera fan, and certainly enough to make me see why Verdi means so much to you."

(the reply)

 " Oh, my!  I have been slow to reply because of course I had to listen to the Requiem again.  And, Oh, yes!  it raises the hair and chokes me up.  Part of what gets me excited about Verdi is the thought that he was a farmer, not just a farmer, to be sure, yet  a full-time farmer in that he raised sheep, sold cattle and grains, and went to market.  But when sitting in his garden, or more likely, when tramping over his fields, he had these thoughts about how the piece should go.  Most composers are urban creatures, bound in some way to a church or court, but not Verdi.  I think you have to go back to the Greek poet Hesiod to find an artist  who was a farmer.  Well, there is no explaining genius.  One of the stories I like about Verdi is that one day, when he was tramping his fields, he came upon two of his laborers resting themselves behind a hedge, and he overheard one saying to the other:  “I don’t get it.  He draws little fish-hooks on paper and then goes to the bank, and they give him money!”  I suppose it may not be true, but I like to think so."

Here is the La Scala Performance from YouTube.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Progress Now Colorado

That is the name of the organization that is pushing hard for sign-ups to the Colorado Health Exchange.  This post is not about the merits of Obamacare.  It is about the advertisements created by Progress Now.  Look at them for yourself here.  Scroll down to "Hey Girl" and "Let's Get Physical".  Decide for yourself. I'm glad I am not the parent of young children who might see this ad and ask me what it is about.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Admirals Behaving Worse Than Badly

This story is in the news.  You can find it at the link or in any newspaper.  The Navy's highest officers accepting bribes in exchange for classified information about ship movements.  Glenn Defense Marine Asia provides dockside services to the Navy, hundreds of millions of dollars worth over the last quarter century.  Glenn's chief executive assures his company's success by buying intelligence.  This story would be bad enough without the details.  Money alone was apparently not enough.  Prostitutes sealed the deal.  This story is beyond sordid.  The three officers who are currently the target of the Navy's criminal investigation seem to have over-reached.  Perhaps it was the tickets to the Lady Gaga concert that caught someone's eye.  If business with Glenn is done this way today, it was done in the same manner yesterday, and last year, and last decade.  I am reminded of an admonition to young men: "a stiff prick has no conscience".

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Fen at Sterne's Woods

I took a walk today through park lands managed by the Crystal Lake (IL) Park District.  We are visiting with my husband's family in the communities along the Fox River. The Fox rises in southeastern Wisconsin and flows south into the Illinois River. The Fox River valley was settled early in our country's history.  The fertile valley soils grew crops, the native forests were logged, mills lined the riverbanks.  The landscape changed, reworked by industrious settlers in the 19th century. But in the southwestern corner of McHenry County about 20 miles south of the Wisconsin State line, nearly 300 acres have survived as they have been for hundreds of years.  Sterne's Woods and Fen and the adjacent Veteran Acres should be in your walking plans this year.  Rolling hills, deciduous forest, pine fringe to a large wetland.  The wetland drains to the south and east where the run off and rising ground water offer nutrients and reduced soil acidity, and the acidic upland bog gives way to a fen.  This rich environment supports sedges, rushes, wildflowers and grasses.  These peat lands flourished in the northern states where low temperatures, short growing season, ample rain fall and high humidity allow ground to stay wet and groundwater to flow close to the surface.As settlers moved across the Illinois River they drained the bogs and fens for farmland.  Little is left now of this wetland habitat.  The same geography exists across the British Isles and Northern Europe where for many centuries peat was cut and dried for fuel.  Last year I wrote about the call in Great Britain to preserve the remaining bogs.  Luckily, The Crystal Lake Park District  has already done so.  Good thing.  Bogs and fens develop slowly as plants die and rot into saturated soil, adding less than an inch of peat in 100 years.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


My dog Floss is in her prime.  Here is her picture doing what she loves - herding sheep.

Floss was sired by Pleat who died last night four days past his 15th birthday.  Please read about Pleat.  He was a champion in every way.  He and his partner in life, Scott Glen, won every major sheepdog herding championship in North America and represented Canada in the World Championship.  Here is a short slide show Jenny Glen offers in his memory.  Take the time to read about him.  Have a hanky on hand.  Pleat.  Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No One Noticed?

A small news item in our paper: a so-called "sophisticated secret passage" discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border.  It was designed to smuggle drugs from Tijuana to San Diego.  Operations were aided by electricity, ventilation and a rail system.  Shipments were underway when Customs Enforcement stopped the train.  Reading about the tunnel made me think of a song recorded by both Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. While a human drama unfolds in a Western cabaret no one notices the drilling in the wall.   Its a long song.  I chose Joan Baez' recording because I love to listen to her.  The link at the bottom will take you to Dylan.

Lilly, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Game 7

Tonight would have been Game 7 of the World Series.  I'm glad Boston won last night, but sad not to have one more game to watch.  I don't watch much baseball during the long summer season.  But I have been hooked on the World Series for many years.  The first series I remember well was in 1975, Boston vs Cincinnati.  I was pregnant. Game 4 was played on the day of one of my pre-natal checkups. I sat in my car in the parking lot at the obstetric clinic listening to Luis Tiant pitch for Boston and tie the series 2-2.  It must have been an afternoon game.  I was late for my appointment.  I was lucky to be watching Game 1 in the 1988 World Series.  The Oakland A's played the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The A's led in the bottom of the 9th with the Dodgers at bat.  Power-hitter Kirk Gibson was injured in both legs and had stomach flu. He was watching the game from the clubhouse.  After the first out he called manager Tommy Lasorda and said that he was available to hit.  With two outs and one man on base, Gibson limped to the plate.  His home run is legendary, now considered one of the greatest hits in the history of the game.  The Dodgers won that night, and went on to win the series.  Watch the play tonight.  It nicely fills the "no Game 7" hole.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Reuse Reduce Recycle

Here is an interesting example.  I'm not sure if it qualifies as reuse, or recycle.  Carbon fiber is a hot commodity.  Composits are light weight and strong. The rear fuselage of Boeing's Dreamliner 787 is made from carbon fibre.  The construction process reminds me of the paper mache objects we made when I was a child - newspaper infused with a paste of watery flour laid up over a balloon.  The balloon is popped when the newspaper dries and voila! a ovoid object..  The carbon fiber is infused with epoxy and laid over a mold.  After baking, the mold collapses and voila! an airplane.  Or in the reuse/recycle case, an 80 foot long racing yacht made by America's Cup winner Oracle Team USA.  The mast and hull have been cut into 4 foot segments and shipped to the maker of stand up paddle boards.  It used to be fashionable to find an old barn whose weathered timbers could be salvaged for an upscale interior.  The yacht pieces will be fired in high heat and repurposed in new molds - unrecognizable as salvage from a sleek racing machine.  Is this good?  It is different.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


We have had fog for over a week. We live near salt water. The wet fog air smells of the sea  The fog is caused by a temperature inversion with warm upper air trapping the still, cold air rising from the land. There is no wind. Many complain. They would be well to consider the fog that fell on London on December 5, 1952 and be thankful for our grey mist. London's fog fell in the winter when coal burning furnaces  were working full time. The emissions were enveloped in the fog, engulfing  London in thick yellowing smog. Visibility fell to one foot. Those with the weakest lungs suffocated quickly. 400 on the first day. Four thousand before the air cleared on December 9. Many thousand more whose breathing was compromised beyond recovery died in the months following. We are expecting sunshine tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why is This News Not Front Page?

Several weeks ago the IPCC issued its Fifth Assessment Report about climate change. Although the report was a compilation and summary of already published research, and therefore not new analysis, it garnered headlines refueling anxiety and alarm about carbon dioxide levels.  "Climate change is a fundamental threat to sustainable development and the fight against poverty" intoned the World Bank.  Every media outlet carried the news.  Yesterday, The United States Energy Department issued a report of their own.  Their analysis showed that the United States has cut its energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by 3.8% since last year.  Their report concludes that the reduction is not related to the recession, but to the efficiency of newer cars and the on-going shift from coal to natural gas in energy production.  Read the report for yourself. You won't find any headline stories about it.  In our paper, it received a very short mention in a "newsline" summary.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Very Bad News for Some

I had to read the newspaper article twice.  I had difficulty believing what I read.  In the Washington Post last week a story reported on the results of a blind taste test: farmed salmon vs wild caught salmon.  It is an article of faith in Alaska that wild salmon is superior. The state-supported Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute spends public funds telling the world about its merits.  Now comes a panel of noted seafood chefs and a seafood wholesaler.  They taste fillets steamed with a little salt.  The results are disastrous for the fishing industry that is based on wild caught fish .  The fish were rated 1 - 10 with 10 being the highest.  The list below shows average scores.

  1. (7.6)  Costco farmed Atlantic, frozen in 4% salt solution; $6 per pound          
  2. (6.4)  Trader Joe's farmed Atlantic, from Norway; $10.99 per pound         
  3. (6.1)  Loch Duart farmed Atlantic, from Scotland; $15-$18 per pound 
  4. (6.0)  Verlasso farmed Atlantic, from Chile; $12-$15 per pound  
  5. (5.6)  Whole Foods farmed Atlantic Salmon, from Scotland, $14.99 per pound
  6. (5.3)   ProFish wild king (netted), from Willapa Bay, WA, $16-$20 per pound
  7. (4.9)   AquaChile farmed Atlantic, from Chile, $12-$15 per pound
  8. (4.4)  ProFish wild coho (trolled), from Alaska, $16-$20 per pound
  9. (4.0)  Profish wild king (trolled), from Willapa Bay, $16-$20 per pound
  10. (3.9)  Costco wild coho, from Alaska, $10.99 per pound
So, foodies who won't touch anything but wild caught fish will have to rethink.  A quick trip to Costco may be in order.  Our oldest son is a commercial fisherman in Alaska.  I'm not sure what this taste test means for him.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Over the Meadows and Through the Woods...

Only this time, Grandmother is the one making the trip.  I am off to Anchorage to be "Namma Nessa".  Back at my desk later this month.

Friday, October 11, 2013


The Montana legislature has passed a law allowing motorists to salvage deer, elk, moose and antelope struck by their vehicles.  I guess this makes sense if you consider that the wild game are a public resource and the legislature is representing the public interest in assuring the meat will not be wasted.  But.  Each road-killed salvage will require a permit.  The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved new regulations which have gone through public rule making, assuring drivers that the permits will be easy to obtain using a website and printing them out at home.  Absurd.  Is it expected that the driver will drive home, print out the permit and then drive back and pick up the carcass?  Absurd.  Montana is the 4th largest state with the 48th population density.  There are miles and miles of roads in Montana (leading over some of the most beautiful scenery in America) on which to strike an elk.  What public purpose is served by the application for and issuance of a permit?  What bureaucratic cost will pertain? Why not allow the law to be self-implementing: issue clear terms and conditions and let the burden of compliance rest with the driver.  Salvage for human consumption, whole carcass taken, no entrails left behind.  Next we'll be suing Mother Nature for vehicle damage sustained in the collision.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Time to Go To School on Government Finance

You may already have read about the memo circulating on Capitol Hill from Moody's Investor Services. Moody's is on e of the credit rating agencies on Wall Street.  Moody's has maintained a AAA rating for United States' bonds and consistently supported their view that there is adequate liquidity to justify the rating.  Listening to the fear mongering  from politicians about the national debt limit you might think that the Treasury's cupboard will be bare on October 18th if action is not taken.  No so says Moody's.  You can read summaries of their memo in many places.  Here is a link to the weekly Standard's article.  I cannot link you to the Moody's report which is available only to their subscribers.  All you need to know is in the linked article.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ping Fu and 3-D Printing

Last night the television news told a story about 3-D printing.  The video showed printing underway of food - the menu items coming out of the printer as icing oozes from a pastry bag.  NASA is hoping that 3-D printing will bring an entire mechanic's kit to astronauts from a toaster-sized printer supplied with soft ware to create every tool or spare part they might need.  In an earthbound hospital 3-D printing can make replacement joints for spent knees and hips. In 3-D printing, the coordinates of the object to be printed are entered into software that sends three dimensional information to the printer.  The "printing" is done on stocked material such as plastic, metal or flour and water.  There are many smart people to credit for this astonishing development.  One is Ping Fu, a woman whose story of her childhood in China during the Cultural Revolution is told in her book "Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds".  Fu's difficult childhood as a conscript in camps and factories is followed by an astonishing immigration and success in America.  She graduated in Computer Science & Economics from UCSD and went on to found Geomagic, one of the first 3-D graphics software developers in the United States.  Recent controversy swirls around Fu fueled by Chinese critics of her account. Fu and her publisher, Portfolio Hardbook defend her story.  I recommend "Bend, Not Break".  The title is the advice given to her by her grandfather as he described  bamboo in a storm.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I am reading about war, again. I am drawn to military history.  I want to know how war is planned and prosecuted.  I don't want to know, but learn inevitably about the human failings that prolong war.  Generals, ours and the enemy's, are not the inspired and wise leaders that we want them to be.  The soldiers are always young and mostly brave.  They are butchered unnecessarily when battle planning is compromised by bad intelligence, stubborn leadership, inadequate supplies or  bad weather.  Its the same in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II.  Probably in Vietnam, Iraq and all other conflicts.  I am reading "The Guns at Last Light" by Rick Atkinson.  It is the last book in his trilogy about World War II.  It covers the Allied invasion of Europe through victory in the war with Germany. It will chill you to the bone.  Atkinson offers detail.  We learn that as the Allies liberated the low lands they feared that Germans would use carrier pigeons to call in support for their retreat.  Based on "Pigeon Reports" issued to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces Atkinson tells us that trained falcons stood ready in England to be sent to the front if pigeons were deployed.  Military censors kept much of the bad news about the Allied assault from reaching families at home.  Atkinson spares nothing.  As the campaign stretched into winter, and progress was measured in yards gained per day, he quotes a chaplain speaking about the psychological toll: "..sound mental health requires a satisfactory life-purpose and faith in a friendly universe".  Atkinson's observation: "On the battlefields of Europe in 1944, no such cosmology seemed likely. "  Good book.  Be prepared to mourn.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some things Don't Change

I swooned over the Everly Brothers.  I can hear them in my thoughts and memories of school and girl and boy friends.  Recently I saw a video of their 1983 reunion concert in Albert Hall.  Here is my gift to you today.  Let your memories roll.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Beginning of Decline

That is one of the uses of the word "autumn".  It has begun here in south Puget Sound.  Wet and wind prevail.  Spiders spin their webs.  Yesterday a farmer out the road plowed his corn field to make room for pumpkin patch parking.  My friend who works in a lighting store says light bulb sales pick up as the soggy sky darkens.  Our fall is cozy inside a well insulated house near a well stocked grocery store.  I think of the beginning of decline of sun, warmth and harvest in a world lit only by fire. The winter solstice will mark the next beginning - a return of hope for another year.  The people of prehistory worshiped the force that drove the seasons through their cycle.  Understandably.  Their monuments astound to this day.  We just worry that the power might go out in the next big storm.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


We saw a magic show last evening.  Perhaps better said - we saw a magician perform.  This is an ancient art.  In the millenia before the current era the magician oversaw blessing, exorcism, cleansing, purification and forecast.  Magic entailed ritual which wrapped the viewer in awe and belief.  Magic was not different from what we call religion - a relation between priest and supplicant mediated by a catechism  The magi were special, chosen at birth, born in strange circumstance.  They were astrologers - hence the magi who saw the great star of Bethlehem and divined supernatural meaning. Throughout the ages, the magician transcended the known world and offered glimpses beyond to mere mortals.  Only with the luxury and leisure of the industrial revolution has the magicians morphed into pure entertainer.  The puffs of black smoke and sleights of hand are all just tricks put on to amuse.  We watch, we gasp and laugh.  We clap and beg for more.   The long cord that is pulled through a knot into two separate cords is really an illusion.  The rabbit was in the hat all along.   Or, not.  Go to a magic show soon.   See for yourself.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tired of Sound Bites and Talking Points?

I am.  I listen to the interviews on television.  Regardless of what is asked, the answers are well prepared.  The interviewee has come equipped with short statements that present the topic as he wishes it to be seen.  The interview is devoid of persuasion, analysis,or true debate.  There is no discussion.  Just exchange of rehearsed lines.  I recently read about a new exhibit at Harvard University Medical School's Countway Library of Medicine, Battle-Scarred: Caring for the Sick and Wounded of the Civil War.  The exhibit opened last December.  Drew Faust, Lincoln professor of history and president of Harvard spoke on "Civil War and the End of Life".  Her presentation was recorded.  It is thought provoking.  Get your coffee and a comfortable chair. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gone Fishing

Back mid September.  We will be in Southeast Alaska.  Setting shrimp and crab pots.  Fishing for salmon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dead in Culloden's Field

This is a line from the Skye Boat Song.  My mother sang this song to me when I was very young.  Sang in her gentle soprano voice, as a lullaby.  The song can be sung in 3/4 time, a waltzing journey into sleep.  Recently I have learned more.  In 1746 young Charles Edward Stuart, heir to the Scottish throne, came ashore at the head of Moray Firth.  The great heights of the Highlands rose before him. He could hear the sea birds calling, the waves lapping..  He was embarked on war with England, set on gaining her crown to unite the two countries under Stuart, Catholic rule.  He had put out a call to the Highland clans to muster on Culloden Moor and stop the Crown forces who marched north for the battle.  First a faint sound, then the full reedy drone of bagpipes, and then the clansmen in small bands moved on the horizon, cresting the hills and turning down to meet the young prince at the sea.  Imagine it.  The soft light of fog.  The heather.  The sea stretching behind him.  Close your eyes and hear it.

Romance and patriotism were no match for the well trained Red Coats.  In 46 minutes it was over.  Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped over land, and then by boat to the Isle of Skye and was later exiled by the prevailing English monarch.  The sweet song my mother sang was about this disastrous encounter.  Here are the words:

Speed Bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar, 
Thunderclouds rend the air.
Baffled our foes, stand by the shore,
Follow they do not dare.

Though the wave leap, soft shall ye sleep
Ocean's a royal bed.
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary head.

Many's the lad fought on that day,
Well the Claymore could wield.
When the night came, silently lay
Dead in Culloden's field.

Burned are their homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men.
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Charlie will come again.
Odd lullaby for a baby.  Sing along:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Incidental or Evolutionary Advantage?

Consider the operatic voice.  This is a voice that can be heard clearly at the last row of the top balcony in the world's greatest opera houses. A voice that soars over an orchestra and chorus.  A voice that can be made to trill, to plunge, to growl.  A voice to overwhelm the crowd.  How did Homo Sapiens' voice evolve?  Voice begins with air. The human lung is a bellows in service of the voice.  The larynx plays the same role as a reed in a wind instrument: folds within the larynx (called vocal cords) vibrate and modulate air coming from the lungs.  The tongue and mouth form specific sounds from the tones now amplified by the sounding box of the head and chest cavities.  In the dawn of our days, millenia ago, was the voice the sophisticated instrument of the current era? Or more primitive. Were the earliest humans equipped with a fully evolved  relationship between lungs, larynx and mouth?  Could early laryngeal folds oscillate at 440 times per second (required to sing the A above Middle C)?  Or was early speech more monochromatic?  Perhaps a child found that she alone could throw her voice across a canyon and hear it echo back.  Perhaps she experimented, and discovered she could warble like a bird. Cry out in danger.  Call others from a great distance.She could ululate as the wolf howls, or in sorrow.  Were her chances for a mate improved?  Were her children prized as the gift was passed down.  Was there a special role in primitive society for one who so easily could be heard?  I believe it must have been this way.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

As a Tattoo

Communications through social media, postings, photographs.  They are, as with a tattoo, forever.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Just Take Me Home

My husband and I were in a traffic event recently.  The traffic guy in the helicopter told us it would be stop and go through exits that were at least ten miles down the road.  My Washington State Department of Transportation app showed the freeway in black (meaning the color beyond the transition from green to yellow to red).  Every once in a while we sped up and we thought we were through the worst only to hit a wall of brake lights again.  I have learned that there is a name for this: Phantom Traffic Jam.  According to my new favorite smart people a Phantom Traffic Jam is "...a jam that arises in the absence of any obstacles." The smart people that explain such phenomena are an international research team from the University of Alberta, KAUST, McGill University, MIT and Temple University.  (KAUST is the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology located in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.)  Their work was supported by the National Science Foundation, I expect in the hope that better understanding of the effects of too many cars on the road would lead to better traffic management.  In the case of our event, there were no obstacles - no wreaks, nothing interesting happening on the shoulder, no blocked off ramps.  The research team also have a name for the momentary openings that sucker me into thinking I can resume highway speed.  These false promises are Jamitons, travelling waves of traffic instability.  They compare traffic waves, jamitons, to detonation waves: "In the language of detonation theory, such traffic roll waves are very similar to roll waves in shallow water flows....on long periodic roadways, final states can arise that consist of multiple jamitons."  You can read a short report of their theories and conclusions here.  Make a copy to read the next time you are in a Phantom Jam.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Who Will Honor These Dead?

A million creatures are killed every year on the road.  Their flattened bodies are familiar. We distract our children to shield them from some of the most gruesome sights.  We brake and swerve.  The US Department of Transportation estimates the cost of annual car-animal collisions is $8 billion. You can read more about this slaughter in the New York Times.  At Amazon you can buy Buck Peterson's "Quick Fix Cooking with Roadkill", or "Iowa's Roadkill Cookbook" by Bruce Carlson.  Many years ago my son, then in Junior High, went off on a guided bicycle ride across the west.  I gave him stamped postcards with which to write home.  Each came with a description of roadkill highlights.  I have a friend whose hobby is taxidermy.  His is wildlife art.  Each anatomical detail is carefully presented. His subjects are mounted in appropriate settings, lifelike, alluring.You can read here to learn about required skills. My friend mounts only road kill. He lovingly puts each creature right again.  For years he longed for a skunk, and asked friends to help find and bring one in.  This was a big ask.  It finally was answered.  Here is his masterpiece.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fly Fishing In Mud River

I have been in Alaska on a kayaking adventure with old friends.  There was much to smile about over the course of our week together.  We were living a travel brochure dream with fine weather, wild life and camp fires.  One day we paddled up the Mud River.  There was low lying fog that morning and some light rain.   The Mud is a  lovely river.  In the near shore waters we saw green algae, and eelgrass. The tide flat extends 1/2 mile to the west of the main channel.  On the day of our visit Bonaparte Gulls massed on the flats.  The Bonaparte is small and graceful with a bright white wing patch and, in breeding plumage, a black head.  Immature birds were travelling with their parents - returning from their breeding grounds in the boreal forest.  They were feeding on insects in the sea milkwort, glasswort, and algae.   We crossed a shallow bar  in the wide estuary and moved into the river. The beach meadow rose away from the river bank, extending to the forest in the distance.  On the meadow I identified beach ryegrass, fescue , and sedges.   I could see columbine, yarrow, ferns and cow parsnip.The yarrow was in full bloom.  Beyond the meadow were crabapple, alder, devil's club, and blueberry along the border with the forest.  The water was perfectly clear. As we moved upstream we could see schools of fish rising in the small pools at the river's edge.  We stopped to fish.   Bear, too had visited this feast,  their paw (and claw) prints visible on the sandy beach.  Two of the six women in our party cast their flies out in the lovely whip/sailing motion that sends the lure softly onto the water.  This was a fishing dream.  Cast, catch.  Cast catch. The water churned as they brought the fish to the beach.   Beautiful bright cut throat trout.  More than we could eat.  We kept three and released the rest.  Today there are men and women in sporting good stores looking at new equipment and watching films of great fishing. We lucky friends had a front row seat.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We Met in Nursery School

In the fall of 1949 fifteen little girls walked cautiously into the large stone house that had been converted into Miss Zara's School.  We were the new nursery class.  We would be the graduates of 1957 as Miss Zara only taught through 6th grade. Our class room was over the garage.  We took our naps there on rugs laid out in a row. In the years to come we learned many wonderful things.  Games that are now banned as too dangerous especially dodge ball and monkey bars.  French.  Not just the language, but how to set a table properly (in French) and how to hem-stitch a table cloth.  We had music and art.  And at the end of our fourth grade year, Miss Zara retired.  We band of dodge-ballers entered Springside School, K - 12 with larger classes, still all girls.  Our nursery school gang integrated and went on to graduate in a class of 37.  Six women from the class of' '63 are headed to Alaska for a celebration of  the 50th anniversary of our graduation.  We will kayak, and talk, and beach comb and talk, and sit by a fire and talk.  We will see glaciers, whales, bears, eagles and glimpses of each other when we were young.  At the end of a week we will go our separate ways again - enriched.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Good Read

There has been much written about the trial of George Zimmerman.  Perhaps you did not see an essay by the distinguished scholar, Shelby Steele.  Mr. Steele is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institute. He has written and spoken widely about race in America.  Among his many associations, he serves on the Board of the American Academy for Liberal Education.  You can go here to read his biography.  His essay, "The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment" appeared first in the Wall Street Journal on July 22.  I cannot link from the Journal, so I found it on another site.  Do not be dissuaded by the publication - read the essay.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

She Served The Marines With Highest Honor

Today is the 60th anniversary of the end to the Korean War.  33,000 American service men and women lost their lives in this war.  In recognition of one of the decorated war heroes a statue was dedicated yesterday at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.  The memorial is of Reckless, a small Mongolian  mare who was attached to the 75 mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines.  Her job was to carry ammunition for the rifles.  She served most heroically during the Battle of Outpost Vegas, one of the bloodiest of the war. In a single day she made 51 trips, alone, under heavy enemy fire, across no-man's-land and up the 45 degree slope of a mountain to the rifle firing posts.  She carried 9000 pounds up the mountain, and wounded soldiers back down to safety.  She was wounded twice, but keep walking, 35 miles before the day was over.  She was promoted to Staff Sergeant and retired to Camp Pendleton where she sired several foals.  Her numerous Military decorations  include two Purple Hearts.  Here is a short video about Reckless.  Think of her today.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sheep Camp

Actually, sheep, cattle and duck camp.  Perhaps more accurately, stock herding camp.  There are 35 campers.  I am one.  All adults. We all have at least one dog.  Some have 5 or 6.  One woman brought along six four week old puppies with their mother since they could not be left at home alone.  There are about 140 dogs at the sheep farm where camp is underway.  They are the herding breeds: Heelers, Australian Shepherds, Corgis, Kelpies, Bearded Collies, Shelties, and, in large majority, Border Collies.  The dogs work stock with passion and intensity.  Work is their reward.  Toys and treats play no part in their training.  When it is not their turn, the dogs watch others work.  During the lunch break the dogs sleep in crates and small portable pens.  The humans wear name tags. I am glad that camping is no longer exclusively for the young.  As with children away at summer camp, we are the essence of indulgence.    We may not be cannon-balling off a dock, but when our dog goes out wide around the sheep and fetches them back to us, we are getting the same thrill.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

And One Got Away

Picture the scene.  The edge of a forest opening onto a lush plain.  Grasses blowing in a light breeze.  A large duck-billed creature grazing slowing along a stream. And then the attack.  A fierce predator bears down on the gentle giant.  Out of the forest bursts the mighty Tyrannosauarus rex, 40 feet of muscle and jaw pounding forward.  This powerful predator could tear 500 pounds of flesh in a single bite.  The  Hadrosaurus takes flight.  The chase is on.  The smaller Hadrosaurus has neither armor nor weapon for defense.  T. Rex dives for the kill.  Hadrosaurus cuts to the side just as T. Rex's jaw snaps shut.  On this day, Hadrosaurus is lucky.  Only a flesh wound , and a T. Rex tooth lodged deep in the tail.  70 Million years later the tooth is still there, fossilized within a bony growth showing that Hadrosaurus survived.  All of this is revealed in an excavation from the sandstones of South Dakota.  This new evidence is compelling. It is the first demonstration of T. Rex as prey-slayer.  The research team can easily imagine the failed kill.   T. Rex had been thought to be a carrion scavenger.  Not any more.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dog Days of Summer Part 2

After lunch today I take our puppy to the dog park.  The park is a feature of our retirement community.  There is no one there when we arrive.  I sit on the grass in the shade and try out toys from the park stash.   Our puppy is five months old - all legs.  He prefers the old fire hose, flattened and sewn into a rough triangle. Second choice is a tennis ball.  He fetches some, and then lies down to chew.  I lie next to him and look up through the trees.  I am a child again.  I am very lucky.  My childhood memories embrace me.  I think about my own children who are raising their families now.  I hope it is the same for them when they grow old.  No one comes to the park while we are there.  An hour passes.  The puppy is tired.  We walk home.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do You Know An 11 Year Old Girl?

I do.  Think of the one you know while you read this.  In Chile, an 11 year old girl was repeatedly raped by her stepfather.  She is now pregnant - 14 weeks.  Abortion is illegal in Chile regardless of the circumstances. She is now in the national limelight.  Think of this young girl.  Abused in her own home.  Forsaken by her mother who did not protect her.  And now the object of nationwide debate.   Pressured for a comment she has said that having the baby will "be like having a doll in my arms".  The Chilean President Sebastian Pinera praises her for "depth and maturity. A member of Parliament- a man - opines that from the moment of a woman's first period she is ready to procreate.  There is apparently no political will to change the law. No political courage to protect the child. The child's doctors impotently declare the pregnancy high-risk.  The days pass.  What value is protected by this travesty?   Do you remember the song "Send in the Clowns"?  Don't bother, they're here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Heading East

I am heading out in the morning to visit my brother and sister-in-law at their summer camp in the Pocono Mountains.  These are lovely, lush hills and valleys in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  They have been a summer retreat from Philadelphia, New York and other east coast cities since the 19th Century.  The Poconos and the Catskills just to the north are part of the Allegheny formation.  They are not mountains by our western standards but gentle sloped hills.  The highest Pocono summit is North Knob rising 2,700 feet above sea level.  Three rivers drain the Poconos, the Lehigh, Lackawaxen, and the mighty Delaware - all together almost 200 miles of waterway.  We will sit and talk.  We may swim or hike or paddle a canoe, but for sure, we will sit and talk.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dog Days of Summer Part 1

It is hot today.  85 degrees in the shade.  Our community has a lovely dog park.  It is fenced and grassy.  There are plastic chairs and a water spigot with dog bowl.The west fence borders a bike trail - a reclaimed railroad right-of-way that runs 35 miles from salt water to the base of Mt. Rainier.  The west fence is also shady and I sat there this afternoon watching my puppy play.  He is five months old.  He easily amused himself.  Bikers passed frequently along the trail.  For five or six seconds they were within earshot of my chair.  Here are a few snippets of conversation - each a short story.

"...his family.  Aren't you ever invited ?"

"..other things left in the car.  Do we need...."

Girl biker "... one more mile.."
Boy biker " more mile..."

" ...without the key we don't...."

Girl biker "..don't see why not"
Girl biker "Do I dare..."

Boy biker "What the *** is that?"
Girl biker "dog park"
Boy biker "Let's...."

Boy biker 1 "... which Lake?"
Boy biker 2 "we're headed the wrong way"

"... still at work with all those..."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fast Draw Weed Killer

I watch television.  I am unapologetic.  I enjoy some of the programs, and many of the ads.  Sponsors pay dearly for market research, focus groups and product development.  The media offer expected audience broken down by sex, age group, education and occupation.  The ad that we see is expected to appeal specifically to the target audience.  I am curious about the ads for weed killer.  Over several years, in ads for several different products, the action is the same.  The weed, often a dandelion, usually animated, struggles up through a crack in the driveway concrete.  The homeowner, always male, often shot looking up from the weeds' vantage, readies, aims and fires.  He holds the spray-bottle of weed killer in a pistol grip.  Western drama theme music plays. Sometimes his neighbor, using a competitive product is vanquished.  The weed withers.  What do the advertisers know about male homeowners in the 35 to 50 age group?  Do they all harbor dreams of a shoot out in OK corral? Is weed management on their minds?  Apparently women don't yearn to shoot weeds.  In case you have not seen these ads, here is a classic:

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I am reading about war again.  Two very good books:  "We Band Of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese" by Elizabeth Norman; and "Quiet Hero; Secrets From My Father's Past" by Rita Cosby.  Cosby's father fought with the Polish resistance in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.  These books are not about rape, but rape is always part of the story.  Rape is always part of war.  Rape is never given as a reason that we are moved to intervene in other countries' affairs.  We declare a national interest in geo-political stability, protecting strategic oil supplies, or protecting citizens from chemical weapons or ethnic genocide.  Rape should be reason enough.  What do we expect of the outcome of rape?  Do we think about the social instability of a woman raising the child of rape?  What does she say to her child?  How does she explain?  How are her values reflected in her loyalty to her child, her country, her conquerors or what we antiseptically call "civil society"?  First the violation of the act.  Then the life long consequence.  Can she overcome her outrage and mother her babe?  Who will she trust again?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

You Go Girl

Four year old filly Estimate breaks for the win at the Gold Cup, Royal Ascot's biggest race.  Her proud owner is seen clapping, cheering and beaming with pride.  In the winner's circle the Duke of York (aka Prince Charles) presents the trophy to his mother, 87 year old Queen Elizabeth II.  The race is in its 207th year.  The Queen's love of horses and the track is legendary.  She has bred horses since receiving the filly Astrakhan as a wedding present from the Aga Kahn.  She is the first reigning monarch to win the prestigious Gold Cup. (The 75 year old Aga Kahn is the Imam of Ismaili Muslims.  There are 15 million Ismaili Muslims living in countries around the world.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Have You Sipped Its Nectar This Year?

Honeysuckle.  Along a trail near my house where I walk my dogs there is an overgrown thicket of honeysuckle.  In the evening the dizzying fragrance fills the air.  I cannot resist.  I pluck a flowering branch and pull off a single yellow tube.  I suck out the tiny drop of sweet nectar.  I reach for another. 

Honeysuckle is not native to North America. It was introduced in the 19th Century as an ornamental plant for erosion control.  It thrives throughout the country.  It displaces native plants, kills shrubs and trees as it climbs and weaves, choking off sunlight.  But oh, the pleasure.  The deep nectar reservoir in the long tubular flower is easily managed by visiting hummingbirds.  (The hummingbird's tongue extends well beyond its long beak.  The base of the tongue is at the back of the skull letting the tongue wrap over the head when not in use.)

Honeysuckle blooms in early summer.  If you crave the scent year round, there is a fragrance for that: Burberry London for Women, or Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl Summer.  For now, just take a walk wherever nature runs wild. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Who Wiped Down the Machines?

In the news tonight is a brief respite from the scandals and protests.  In  Northern Ireland, County Fermanagh at the 5 star resort Lough Erne a new tension arose among the world leaders.  The G8 Summit brought them there, journeying finally through the small village of Enniskillen.  (A note about the Irish economy.  It is still awful.  The Summit hosts dressed up the empty store fronts of Enniskillen with wrap around posters to hide the sorry truth.)  To get a taste of the scope of available pleasure at Lough Erne visit this BBC presentation.  Watch the commercial to get to the film clip shot just before the guests arrived.  Today we learn that the vast resort was unable to accommodate the requests of Presidents Obama and Putin who both wanted exclusive use of the hotel gym at the same time.  In a sort of "rock, paper, scissors" triage, President Obama's request trumped as it was phoned in first.  President Putin went for a fast swim in a cold local lake.  This has all been well covered by the media.  Imagine the photo opportunity.  Imagine the security nightmare.  Imagine what might have happened.   Seems to me they missed a chance to talk.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Ice Cream Truck Brings me Back

Last September I wrote about the ice cream truck that cruises my neighborhood.  It is back.  The distant notes of "The Music Box Dancer" bring me to the curb with my money.  Closer and louder.  On my street there are children riding bikes, scattering now to ask permission for a creamsicle.   In case you haven't had a truck on your street, here is a glimpse of one passing by:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Moving On

Two hundred and thirty seven times I have put up a post for you to read.  There have been thousands of page views.  Readers have logged on from Russia, France, New Zealand, England, Singapore and, of course, the USA. Including the two years during which I wrote a blog for the Weyerhaeuser intranet, I have written at least once a week for four and a half years.  I have enjoyed my blog and the research and discovery it has provided. But now, it is time to move on.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Springside School.  I contributed a personal statement to our class  memory book.  I include it here.  You have come to know me well through my posts.  This short biography will fill in some detail. 

A girl ties the sash on her tunic.  She has practiced hard and made the team.  She walks out onto the field.  She is my avatar.  She has been coached, and judged ready by Phyllis Vare.  What better preparation is there?  Opportunity waits.  So it has been with my life.

After Springside, I finished my education, a BA and an MBA.  I married and moved to Seattle.  I bore two children, a daughter and a son.  I went to work right away.  With 9 other women, I founded a state chartered savings bank.  We named it “A Woman’s Place”.  We did well.  I worked in both private and public sectors.  I was elected to the board of the University of Washington Medical Center and served for many years.  I divorced.  I started playing soccer.

I was appointed to serve as the US Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator for the northwest and Alaska.  I coached my son’s soccer and basketball teams.  I travelled to Alaska, doing EPA business and in Ketchikan I met Ed Fisher.  Ed was President of the Ketchikan Pulp Company.  We fell in love.  When my term with EPA was over we married. 

I learned to fish, to back down a boat ramp, to splice line that is fouled with kelp, and to shoot a gun.  I moved to Ketchikan to manage a company owned by Tlingit Indians.  We owned large stands of commercial quality timber.  My children graduated from college.  They came to Ketchikan in the summer and worked as kayak guides for cruise ship passengers.

 I moved on to my own consulting business which took me to mines, forests and oil fields around the State.  I was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service.  I supported politicians, managing the southeast Alaska campaigns for several.  My children married and started their own families.  I served on the Board of the Ketchikan General Hospital.  With others from rural Idaho and eastern Washington State I joined the founding board of LifeCenter Northwest.  We became licensed to procure organs for transplant, making it possible to fulfill the wishes of donors in our rural service area.  With dog friends I founded the Ketchikan Humane Society.    I started taking piano lessons. 

I accepted another appointment to public service as Commissioner of Environmental Conservation for Alaska.  My husband had been President of a number of companies, our careers crisscrossing the State.  We moved to Juneau together and both served in the Governor’s cabinet.

I was recruited by Weyerhaeuser, the timber industry giant in Washington State.  We moved to Puget Sound.  I took up sheep herding with our aging Border Collie.  Two years ago I retired.  I started Taekwondo, working toward Black Belt.  We added younger Border Collies.

My daughter and her family have settled in Anchorage, my son with his wife and children in Placerville, CA.  Ed’s sons are in Ketchikan.  His grandchildren are marrying and having their own children.  We have 10 grandchildren.  The oldest is a veterinarian in Wasilla, AK.  The youngest is my son’s 3 year old son.  We still own our house in Ketchikan and keep our boat there. 

I am satisfied.  I have played offense and defense, spent some time on the bench, made some shots and scored a few goals.  After fifty years on the field there is still opportunity waiting. 
Thank you for reading.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mother's Day Redux

Last year I wrote about lambs in my Mother's Day message.  This year, again, we helped our friend with her sheep.  She had 122 lambs who needed attention.  I cannot tell about it better than I did last year.  This year, I punched the ear tags. Here is what I wrote last year.

Perhaps one of your friends will ask for your help with baby lambs.  At about two weeks of age, they need a shot of selenium and an ear tag.  Their long tails need to be docked and the boys, well, the boys need to be castrated.  These procedures require separating the lambs from their mothers (briefly).  You will be assigned a job.  Catching the lambs requires good hand-eye coordination and the ability to hold a squirming baby with four hooves.  (The boys are easier to catch than the girls, who are wily and fast.) Holding the lamb for the procedures requires strength, patience, knowledge of several "holds" to steady the necessary lamb-parts, and the ability to hold a squirming baby with four hooves.  Applying the ear tag requires experience with gripping a tool such as a hole-punch and squeezing steadily while the squirming baby tries to pull ear from pinching object.  Injecting the selenium requires good enough eyesight to see the millimeter markings on the syringe in bright sunlight while the squirming baby tries to pull away - period.  Docking the tails requires experience gripping a tool against the pressure of an expanding rubber ring with a steady hand while the squirming baby becomes frantic.  Castration is like tail docking, except you need to be able to count to two.  The entire undertaking is not for sissies.  The lambs complain bitterly.  The boys, especially, lie on the grass and make pitiful noises.  The mothers are inconsolable.  Behind the fence, they pace wildly bawling for their babies.  When the gate is opened the reunion is spectacular.  Mothers running to and fro.  Babies forgetting their indignities as they listen for just the right baaaa.  And then quiet.  Just the muted sound of rich mothers' milk going down.

Worth Reading

Kevin Williamson is a roving correspondent for several publications, a columnist, often on economics and society, and a theater critic.  You may not be familiar with his work.  I think this piece published in the New York Post is worth reading.  The title should lure you in: "Its the end of the world as we know it (and that's great)".

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Derby Trivia

The track was sloppy yesterday.  Horses and jockeys covered in mud. This was the seventh timesince1876 that the National Weather Service characterized the track as "sloppy".  There have been six races on "muddy" track.  The coldest running was in 1940 when the temperature was 36 degrees.  The warmest Derby Day was in 1959 when the temperature reached 94 degrees.  In 1989 sleet was recorded two hours before post time.  And, in 1918 2.31 inches of rain fell on race day.  (That was one of the six days on which the track was recorded as "muddy").

1957 was another record breaking year. Derby Day, May 4, saw the coldest high temperature (47) and the coldest average daily temperature (42).  The wind blew 20 - 25 miles per hour all day.  Also that year, the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson retired from baseball rather than accept a trade to the New York Giants.  Buddy Holly recorded "That'll Be the Day". Larry King made his radio broadcast debut.  The first rocket with a nuclear warhead was fired in Yucca Flat, Nevada.  And, Iron Liege won the derby on a fast - and cold - track in 2:02.2

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


In the weeks since I injured my knee I have experienced episodes of anxiety.  Anxiety is beyond worry and concern  It is a fearfulness and uncertainty that affects both physical and psychological health.  For me it comes in the night.I wake bathed in sweat.  I cannot return to sleep. When I do sleep I continually tumble and fall in my dreams.  My heart pounds.  40 million Americans experience one or more episodes of anxiety each year.  The lucky ones know that there is effective treatment.  I am surprised at the degree of psychological engagement with my injury,  I have a new appreciation of the greater exposure to anxiety experienced by those in life threatening situations.  In case you know someone who is experiencing fearfulness, worry, apprehension, and is distracted, fatigued, nauseated, has heart palpitations or chest pain, share the website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness .  Your friend does not need to suffer.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Red Winged Blackbirds

There is so much sorrow now.  Confusion, anger, pain, uncertainty.  Here is a bright spot in the world.  The Red Winged Black Bird.  This raucous bird is common across North America.  The males are spectacular, with red and yellow wing patches that they can puff up in competitive display.  The antics and call and wing-patch display seduce a simply marked brown female into the caller's territory.  And another, and another. He builds a nest with each.   Over 30 % of his daylight hours are spent guarding his harem.  But, surprise, many of the eggs laid in his nests are from an invading competitor.  The females incubate and care for the young regardless of the territorial sparring around them.  This festival of aerodynamics and singing fills the air around ponds and marshes in the spring.  It is happening now outside my window.  Here is the Red Winged Blackbird. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What is a "Mental Health Background"?

In all of the debate about gun control and background checks this phrase is tossed around as though it means something specific.  What is a mental health background?  What about this "background" can be discovered through searchable records that might be available to sellers of guns?  What research or data are available that correlate episodes of treatment for mental illness with tendency to kill people?  For years people have lied about times in their lives in which they have sought treatment for mental illness because for years such information was believed to disqualify an individual from a job, public service, professional licensing and the like.  This stigma has added not only to the burden they carry from their illness, but also their reluctance to seek help. Only in the last decade have we begun to acknowledge that those experiencing mental illness can live productive lives in society if they receive the treatment they need.  Treatments are increasingly available on the same terms as treatment for other illness.  Do those advocating a  check for a "mental health background" believe they have a right to inspect the records of such treatment?  Medical records are not considered records in the public domain.  We believe in the right to privacy with respect to such personal data.  How is all this expected to come together in a background check that can be performed from a gun store in any place in the country?  Who might be helped by such a requirement?  Who might be hurt?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Traditional Marriage

I follow the debate about marriage.  I have not heard a presentation of the issue as I see it.  I believe that many are romanticizing what is said to be "traditional marriage".  In many cultures, for centuries, marriage, for the woman, has been simply an exchange of owners.  A woman went from being her father's possession to being her husband's.  In some cultures, marriage, for the woman, was an exchange with the expectation, by others, of better trading relations or less war.  In all cultures, women bore children as they were conceived - hardly always the loving commitment glorified in the so-call "tradition".  In even so called civilized cultures women had few rights and many responsibilities.  Men have always been free to pursue pleasure outside of marriage.  Women have not. The 20th century saw great improvements for women in choice and opportunity  - in some countries.  Many conventional marriages between a man and a woman followed a course of love and mutual commitment that was uplifting to both partners.  I do not begrudge that relationship to any who share it.  I also do not think it characterized "traditional" marriage.