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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Naptime

The other day I looked over at the chair and saw Burnie taking his afternoon nap. He looked so uncomfortable I couldn't resist snapping his picture.



Of course, he woke up, but not for long. I still don't know how he got into that position. He seemed to be on his back, but curled up at the same time. The toes on his hind legs were also curled.

It's amazing that he was even able to walk after sleeping like that for so long.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Million Dollar Portfolio

Today while checking the Market, I learned that CNBC is again having their Million Dollar Portfolio contest. And there are some changes. I can have up to five different portfolios. I've already named three and hopefully tomorrow I'll think of imaginative names for the other two.

I had such a good time last year with this contest, that I'm looking forward to May 12 when it starts. Imagine having $5 million dollars to spend, even if it is pretend money. This year I hope to be a more aggressive investor and buy fewer stocks, but more shares of each.

I've already started my spreadsheet to keep track of my purchases and sales. Got any good tips?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where is the Responsibility

This morning when I turned on the news, I heard about an SUV that went out of control and ran into a house. About a week ago, the following headline appeared in THE TIMES OF TRENTON, "3 People injured in SUV Accident". Last year a headline from Texas stated, "Teen Dies in Skateboarding, SUV Accident".


Another headline, this one from SUV ACCIDENT NEWS states, "Seven Die in SUV Accident". In this story, they state that a rented SUV went out of control, causing the death of seven people. It further explains that the SUV went out of control after clipping a car it was trying to pass, sending the SUV sideways, then airborne before slamming into some trees in the median. Of course, I feel for the families of the dead, but we need more information. I don't think the SUV decided to pass a car. Was the driver used to driving an SUV, was the driver speeding?


In the accident mentioned in THE TIMES OF TRENTON, it states that the SUV, driven by a 17 year old, allegedly went through a red light and struck a car. In the Texas case, the teenager was run over by the SUV that was pulling him while he rode on a skateboard around a parking lot. The SUV wasn't along, a 16 year old was driving.


It seems that these accidents were caused by inexperienced drivers, carelessness, disregard of traffic laws. The SUV is not intrinsically evil, the SUV does not have a mind of its own, it does not decide to go out of control, pass red lights or pull skateboarders.


It has long been my contention that we would not need all the elaborate safety measures such as airbags, signals that let us know that we are about to run into something, child booster seats, childsafe locks on rear doors if people would take responsibility for their own actions, or if the police would more strictly enforce current traffic regulations. Stop using handheld cell phones, use your seatbelt, ensure that your children sit still in their seats and watch the road.


Children were once taught that when crossing the street, they should look left and right. Maybe this approach should be used when driving - look left and right, forward and back, up and down. That way we will see who is behind us, who is trying to pass either from behind, or up ahead of us, the color of the traffic light, the speed limit, etc.


It's time we stopped blaming the car and starting putting the blame where it belongs - on the driver.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lifelong Learning

Last night at our weekly canasta game, we were discussing what we each had done during the week. When it was my turn, I told about my trip to the City and lecture. I was quite surprised by the reaction of one of the women. She asked why I would want to go into the City and sit through a lecture.

I couldn't understand her reaction. Maybe I'm sterotyping her. I thought that as a teacher, she would understand someone's wanting to keep learning, no matter how old. Wait until she hears about some of my other planned studies - photography, geology, Shakespeare, French, just to name a few.

There's so much to learn, I keep thinking of a saying I've seen in some catalogs, "So many books, so little time".

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Museum Field Trip

Today I started my lecture series on The Language of Music at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. The day started off badly, my alarm didn't go off. I got up an hour later than I had planned so I didn't have time to make my bed. I'm so glad I didn't have an emergency at the house. I would have been so embarrassed to have an emergency worker see my unmade bed.


Once I got to the Met, everything went well. The lecture was very interesting and I then took a stroll around the museum. I'm in awe of their Egyptian Exhibit. I saw bowls from 3700 BC, cloth from 2500 BC. The cloth was woven from2 ply "S" twist linen thread. The museum even has Perneb's tomb set up in one room. There are portraits on limewood from 130 to 150 AD. It seems that the Egyptians enjoyed gaming. I saw a set of ivory dice from the 1st century BC to 4th century AD. The museum has a collection of 36,000 Egyptian artifacts.

I find it amazing that so many of these articles have remained intact. There is so little breakage, even of glass containers.

I was also surprised to learn that the museum allows photography as long as there is no flash used and it is not a special exhibition.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cooking

Our Singles Group is planning a pot luck dinner for our next meeting. This weekend I decided that I would make my stir fried chicken and peppers. Unfortunately I never told the president so my sister-in-law decided to make the same thing. That meant I had to change my plans, because my recipe is better and I didn't want to outshine her (humble person that I am).

I was assigned a potato dish. Since I don't usually eat potatoes I'm now going to go through all 200 of my cookbooks for a suggestion. We only have a microwave in the Clubhouse kitchen so I have to either keep the dish very hot, or make something microwave friendly.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Family Tree

When I was growing up all my friends had grandparents. The only grandparent I knew was my father's mother and she died when I was six. I don't remember too much about her, except that she was ill. I guess that's why I've always felt that my family began with my parents and aunts and uncles.

I decided to do a little checking since I learned the names of my grandmother and great-grandmother. I had heard that my grandmother came over from Germany when she was about 15, so I decided to check the records at Ellis Island. Well, it looks like she came over here two years before they kept records at Ellis Island.

Then I decided to check with the Church of Latter Day Saints. I've heard that their genealogy records are very complete. I checked my father, they had a record. Feeling very confident I checked my grandmother and grandfather, no luck. They had no records of them whatsoever. Now I'm back to square one.

Maybe my family really did start with my parents' generation.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pope's Visit

Yesterday our Pope returned to Rome. It was a touching and exciting visit. I'm still kicking myself because I didn't go into the city to join the crowds along 5th Avenue just to get a glimpse of him.

Yesterday, I caught the Mass at Yankee Stadium. The coverage was quite extensive. Channels 5 and 9 covered the concert and Mass. CBS and NBC also covered the Mass, I don't know why ABC didn't. I stayed with Fox News. They did a good job of explaining the Mass and also gave us some background on the Pope.

They again mentioned their surprise at his election and his performance as Pope. There was not much expected of him in the beginning because he was an academic. They never expected such a warm and thoughtful person. They did mention an interview with his brother, also a priest, who said that Cardinal Ratzinger at the time of his election had been looking forward to retirement as a time of reading, and music. They also mentioned that the Pope doesn't like to fly, at one time he took the train from Rome to Germany to visit his family. That has certainly changed.

An article in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL said that he had been seen as a stern, sort of enforcer of church rules and a person who did not have a pastoral sense. Evidently, he has changed. This week he came across as a gracious man reaching out to crowds in Washington, accepting matzo at a synagogue andat Ground Zero helping up widowed women as they knelt before him. He wanted to appear friendly to many faiths by meeting with Muslims at an interfaith gathering in Washington and with Jews in New York.

He had such a busy schedule this week that it's hard to believe he's 81. He looked as energetic as he waved good-bye and entered his Al Italia plane as he did when he arrived in Washington. If I may be permitted a bit of political comparison, If the Pope can handle such a busy schedule at 81, why can't John McCain at 71 handle the presidency?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Tale of Two Cats

It was a beautiful Spring day yesterday so I opened some windows. There were three windows open on the same side of the house, all having the same view of the road. Here is the story of two cats.

Burnie was happily getting some fresh air while watching the world go by when Crash decided that he should not be so happy. She wanted to look out the window.
She kept trying to see what was so interesting to Burnie, so she got up on her hind legs to peer out the window.
He took umbrage at that and they sat and stared at each other for a short time. Crash was ready to fight. Her paw was in striking position and she was ready to pounce.
Evidently she thought better of it and gave up the fight.
Crash and Burn live happily ever after!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Joy of Driving

I still travel back to Woodhaven for two people - my hairdresser and my dentist.

Yesterday, it was time for a haircut. I decided to leave the house early for my appointment. A trip that normally takes 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours took 3 hours. I think the city Highways Department saw what a beautiful day it was and decided it was a good time to close lanes on the Belt Parkway. Of course, everyone who had a driver's license was also on that road yesterday. I finally made it and got my haircut.


Because I was leaving later, after 4:00 pm, and after roadwork was finished, I thought the traffic would be lighter. What was I thinking? It was much worse. There didn't seem to be any reason, except that there seemed to be twice as many cars on the road, along with the usual fender benders. It almost made me want to give up my driver's license. I didn't, that would be foolish.


As bad as yesterday was, that wasn't my worst traffic experience. A few years ago I was travelling from upstate New York to New Jersey on the Garden State Parkway. I left my house about 2:30 pm, expecting to arrive by 5:30 pm. I finally arrived at 11:00 pm! There had been a cloudburst and the Garden State Parkway flooded in only one spot, closing two of three lanes. The third lane also had a huge puddle.

And people wonder why I'm so fanatical about leaving early and allowing a lot of time for a trip.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cat Intuition

Several years ago I had a cat that I felt wasn't too bright. She did have her moments of intelligence or intuition though. One time, my son had been away for a weekend and we expected him home at any time. Midnight, the cat, had been upstairs when she suddenly came running down. About five minutes later, I heard a car door slam and then my son walked in the door. Midnight must have sensed that he was nearby and wanted to greet him at the door.

Today I had a similar experience with Crash. I was expecting a package, but had to go out shopping. When I got home I came in through the garage and put all my groceries away. Then I went to the front of the house. Crash was sitting in the entry, just staring at the door. She didn't move when I called her name, so I decided to open the door and see what was outside. There was my package between the storm door and the inside door. Was she trying to tell me my package had arrived?

Do cats "know" when someone is almost home? Do they think enough to tell their owners when they have a package or mail? I don't know the answers, but I wonder if there has been any research on "cat intuition".

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Pope has arrived safely in the U.S. I was watching some videos of trial runs of his arrival and motorcade. The Secret Service had a man dressed in a cassock so they could practice protecting him, since they usually only protect dignitaries in business suits.

The Pope will be 82 tomorrow and after looking at pictures, he seems to look better now than he did three years ago.

Unfortunately, his arrival was marred by comments made by Bill Maher yesterday. I won't repeat them, but they are definitely anti-Catholic. They have been ignored by the media. Fortunately, the bulk of the reporting has been positive. I'm tempted to go into the City this weekend, but I think the crowds would be too much. I think the TV coverage will be better.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Papal Visit

Today's NEW YORK TIMES had a headline that read, "Hefty Bill for Pope's Visit Looms for Archdioceses".

The article mentioned some of the costs such as printing tickets for papal Masses to organizing street closures and security. The Washington archdiocese predicts that the three days that Pope Benedict XVI will spend in the capital will cost at least $3 million. The article goes on to mention that when Pope John Paul II made a trip to the East Coast in October 1995, the cost was about $1 million to $1.2 million a day according to an estimate of an organizer of the 1995 papal visit. The TIMES adds that heightened security after the attacks of September 11 will probably push the costs higher this time.

Unless my math is very wrong, this papal trip will cost about $3 million for three days, or about $1 million/day compared with the 1995 visit which cost about $1 million to $1.2 million/day. I really don't see how this trip is so much more expensive which is what the TIMES would like you to believe.

The article goes on to mention that the Christ Our Hope Foundation which is financed by wealthy donors will underwrite the costs. The foundation has already raised more than $3 million and any surplus will be donated to a charity of the Pope's choice in his name.

Of course, the cost to the city of Washington is estimated to be $2,190,955 to provide security, close streets and clean up after parades. The city tries to be reimbursed by the federal government for what it spends on such efforts for visiting dignitaries every year. They would like to discuss cost-sharing with the Archdiocese.

From what I read, the cost of the Pope's visit will be covered by the Foundation and the city of Washington which normally bears the costs of security for visiting heads of state. I really don't see how this will cost the Archdiocese much, unless I missed something in the article.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Music

I've been spoiled.


My CD player holds up to 200 cd's so I can load it and listen to music for hours. Today I was working at the other end of the house so I decided to listen to some tapes. I had forgotten how short each side of a tape is. I was getting up and interrupting my work about every 15 minutes to turn the tape, or replace the tape.

I'm exhausted.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Comedy

Tonight we had a comedy night at the Clubhouse. When I saw the opening act, I wasn't too optimistic. This man could have been a resident he was that old and he had an accordian. At first, his jokes were pretty bad, old and corny, but he got better as time went on.

The second performer was a comedian/impressionist. I've always enjoyed impressionists and he was really good. I especially enjoyed how he went from one voice to another without a pause. I'm sure that he won't be able to speak tomorrow. Going from Ronald Reagan to Clint Eastwood to Arnold Schwartzenegger, etc. puts a real strain on the vocal cords.

For his finale, he invited four men from the audience to do their impression of Elvis. Of course, none of them could compare with Elvis, but it was a lot of fun. And it took a lot of nerve to get up there and perform.

It was a good night.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cherry Trees

A few weeks ago I read an article that said because of global warming, the cherry trees were going to bloom early. Knowing I was going to Washington, I was very disappointed. Everyone says how beautiful these trees are and I had been looking forward to seeing them.

Well, the global warming crowd was wrong. The trees were beautiful, in fact we were told they were at their peak, and would probably bloom for only one week more. Unfortunately, there was so much rain this past weekend, they probably won't last that long. I'm glad I got a chance to see them and get pictures. It's so hard to predict their blooming time that I doubt I'll getsto lucky again.

There are several different species of trees, and cuttings have been taken from the original 300 trees so now there are thousands of trees across the city.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Arlington National Cemetery

During my recent trip to Washington DC, we made a stop at Arlington National Cemetery. As always, it's both somber and inspiring.

Since I've made so many trips to this area, my souvenier buying days are over. I did, of course, make the obligatory stop at the gift shop. This time I bought books. One I picked up is called, "In Honored Glory". It's all about Arlington.

The land was originally owned by the adopted son of George Washington, George Washington Parke Custis. The land eventually passed to his granddaughter, Mary Anna Randolph, who married Robert E. Lee. When R.E. Lee left Arlington to join the Confederate Troops, the federal government sensing the strategic importance of the Arlington plantation captured it. During the Civil War, a property tax of $92.07 was assessed on the plantation with the requirement that the tax be paid by the owner personally. Mrs. Lee was unable to appear to pay the tax, so the property was confiscated and sold at auction to The United States government for $26,800.

The government had been looking for suitable burial grounds for the Civil War casualties and chose Arlington. The first military funeral was for Private William Christman of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry who had spent the majority of his two month military career in Lincoln Hospital with peritonitis.

The Quartermaster General of the Army, Montgomery Meigs was charged with the administration of federal cemeteries, but he was angry with what he felt was Lee's treasonable behavior so he requested and received 200 acres in the immediate vicinity of the mansion to be used as a national cemetery. Soon 65 burials took place on the property, including some in Mrs. Lee's rose garden.

There are many more interesting stories in this book which lists the names of some of those buried in Arlington. Some of them are - Oliver Wendell Holmes, General John J. Pershing, General Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall, General Jimmy Doolittle, Audie Murphy. There were also some surprises - Joe Louis, Lee Marvin, Pierre L'Enfant. Marlo Batista who was an Italian prisoner of war is also buried there.

There are monuments and memorials for Challenger, Pan Am 103, Pentagon Victims on 9/11. There is a memorial to the War of 1812 Unknowns and a group burial for 2,111 Unknowns.

This was a very interest trip and I'm so glad I bought this book. I've learned so much about Arlington. It makes me want to learn even more. I'm sure I'll write more when I finish the book.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Adventures in Time

Last year I bought an alarm clock radio for my bedroom on sale. It's great, it's preprogrammed to adjust for daylight savings time and even for the time zone. I thought it was a great bargain. Today I found out why it was on sale.

Last year the dates for daylight savings time changed, but the programming for the clock didn't. When it was time to reset the clocks this year, I had forgotten about the preprogramming so I changed the time. This past weekend, while I was away, was the original "spring ahead" weekend. I didn't notice the time when I went to bed last night, but this morning when I woke up at 7:30 AM, I was thrilled that I had such a good night's sleep.


As the morning wore on and the TV program didn't change at 9:00, I thought the network had changed their schedule. The morning seemed unusually long. I couldn't believe that I had showered, done my hair, had breakfast and checked my e-mails in only an hour and a half. Then looked at another clock and I remembered about the clock and realized I had gotten up at only 6:30 AM.


But that doesn't compare with the time in Salt Lake City when I woke up, looked at my watch and saw that it was 8:10 AM. Since I wanted to have breakfast and be on the road by 9:00, I jumped out of bed, showered, got dressed and put on my glasses. Then I discovered that it was only 3:40 AM. So I went back to bed.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Washington DC

I've just returned from three days in Washington DC. This was about my seventh trip and each time it gets better. There is always something else to see.

We had rain, but we did manage to see the cherry blossoms at their peak. They are quite a sight. There are also some new memorials - WWII, FDR, Korean War, all quite impressive. I was not fond of the FDR memorial because I had heard that he wanted a simple memorial. His memorial has four outdoor "rooms", each depicting scenes from his four terms as president. He never wanted to be photographed in his wheelchair, so at one point, he is in a chair with a blanket draped over his legs. The chair does have very small wheels, somewhat like casters. However, this caused much controversey and another statue had to be cast showing him in a wheelchair.

The purpose of showing the wheelchair was to show that even though he couldn't walk, he was still strong. It was, I feel, a concession to the handicapped, but I really don't understand why his wishes were not honored.

Both the wheelchair and grand memorial take something away from the man. I can't understand why his wishes were not honored. Was it for the ego of the designer of the memorial?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Annoying Commercial

Over the past year I've commented on my favorite commercials. Today I'm going to discuss my least favorite. It's Nationwide.

I've seen three of them and they all show a lack of concern. Yes, life does come at you suddenly, but if your friend is looking out your window admiring your car, this friend should alert you to the fact that a scaffold is tilting dangerously close to your car, or that the emergency squad has moved your car into an intersection only to be broadsided by a truck. In another, a friend doesn't mention that the neighbor across the street is throwing clothes and furniture out of a window onto your car. The only concern is how much has been saved by using Nationwide.

The worst commercial takes place in a bank on a day when parents take their children to work. Here a little boy sees the teller use the pneumatic tube to return a book or receipt to a customer. This child then sends a pencil holder full of pencils through this tube and into a car, breaking a window, then a stapler is sent through, then other office supplies. You get the picture.

It seems to me that Nationwide, or their advertising agency, is only concerned with saving the customer money and not with getting involved by either warning a friend of danger to a car, or by controlling a child playing with bank's equipment. This is a sharp contrast to the Liberty Mutual campaign which shows people getting involved because they've seen someone do a good deed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Geographic Explorations

When this year started I had great plans for vacations or geographic explorations. My original plans called for a weekend in Washington DC, five days in Boston, 10 days in the Colorado Rockies, 10 days in Alsace Lorraine and a week in the maritime provinces of Canada.

Those trips are slowly being cancelled. Washington is still on, but Boston has been cancelled due to lack of interest by members of our Singles Group. I may cancel Colorado because there are only three people from our community signed up. And, I'm the only one committed to the maritime provinces. If I wanted to go there alone, I'd rather drive there and see some of the area instead of flying.

Now my latest thought is another train trip to San Francisco, this time in either June or July when the days are longer and I can see more of the country. Then I'd probably rent a car to drive through the Napa Valley and the redwood forest up to Seattle for a visit. I'd take the train from Seattle. This is still in the planning stages, but it is a possibility. I'd really like to see Napa and some of those giant sequoia trees.

Of course, those are my thoughts today, who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Reading

Today for the second week in a row our activities director was not at the Clubhouse. She usually has a few jobs for me to do in my three hour shift. I really enjoy working there, I get to know my neighbors and I have time to chat.

Today, after I finished a few items, I was able to read my newspaper and book. Reading is one of the few things I miss about having a real job. When I worked, I had a long commute and usually spent half of it reading. I could read a book a week. Now, I'm lucky if I read a chapter a week.

I think the problem is that I just don't make the time to sit down and read. When I do, after a short time I start thinking of the dishes to be washed, the laundry to be washed, etc. Then, there's the phone. I don't know how many times I've settled into my chair, gotten involved in my book and the phone would ring.

I think the only solution for me is to set aside about a half hour a day for reading only, and if the phone rings, ignore it. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.