Sunday, February 28, 2016

Magpie Tales #307: Throwing in the Towel



Painting by Cesar Santos
Baby, when I saw your palette this morning, I knew you weren't going to paint me today. Nothing resembling flesh colors are in the plans I see. Were you working on a landscape? My poor attempt at a joke... forgive me, but my feelings are hurt.

Perhaps now that you see my magenta panties, you'll be inspired. If not, look up a little further and check out the scene. Okay? Feel like mixing some fleshy tones now?

I know I'm acting like a child. I'll give your palette back when you tell me you'll paint me with my arms around Blue Boy or 
in a Wonder Woman costume with a tiara and stars.

Okay, okay I give up. Why are you so angry? Please don't let her use that pencil. Does everything have to be so black and white all the time....what about my red panties? Am I being punished? What in the world has happened to your sense of humor. 

Here's your stupid palette back. And I'm throwing in the towel now - it seems that's what you want. Someday, you'll look back on my colorless back with regret. You'll wish you could do this all over again.




Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dabbawalla

My friend Merle is visiting on her way home to Chicago from an around-the-world trip. As she is a Delhiwala (a person who lives in or is from Delhi) I asked her to review our itinerary for upcoming travel in N. India. She looked it over and asked me, "Have you seen the film 'The Lunch Box'?" The question was a segue into her suggestion that we make time to visit the Mumbai train station at lunch time when the dabbawallas go into action. From Wiki:

dabbawala; also spelled as dabbawalla or dabbawallah; is a person in India, most commonly in Mumbai, who is part of a delivery system that collects hot food in lunch boxes from the residences of workers in the late morning, delivers the lunches to the workplace, predominantly using bicycles and the railway trains, and returns the empty boxes to the worker's residence that afternoon. They are also used by meal suppliers in Mumbai, where they ferry ready, cooked meals from central kitchens to the customers and back.
In Mumbai, most office workers prefer to eat home-cooked food in their workplace rather than eat outside at a food stand or at a local restaurant, usually for reasons of taste and hygiene, hence the concept. A number of work-from-home women also supply such home-cooked meals, delivering through the dabbawala network.

Dabbawalla. nn.wikipedia.org


Besides Mumbai, we'll be visiting Delhi, Varanasi, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Pushkar, Agra and Srinigar.

In Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, we'll see the famous ghats where Hindus perform ritual ablutions. Hindus believe that to die in Varanasi means salvation and many people travel here at the end of their lives to be cremated and scattered on the Ganges.



In Srinigar we're staying on a houseboat on Dal Lake. We've always loved the houseboat scenes from a Jewel in the Crown - of course, nothing would be quite like that anymore, but we're hoping to get a feel for the romantic atmosphere.
From the article by CNN: Kashmir cribs: The houseboats on Dal lake.
"Forget hotels -- houseboats are the key accommodation when visiting the India-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The conflict-fraught region is making a tourism comeback, with the number of tourists doubling to 2 million in the past year.
Many of these tourists flock to scenic Dal Lake and the adjoining Nagin Lake in the summer capital, Srinagar.
On the water are more than 1,200 anchored wooden boats. Some of these are floating hotels, decked out to the max to attract tourists.
Looking like life-sized dollhouses, these boat hotels have an early 20th century British motif mixed with lots of Indian chintz.
The British colonialists were the first people to use the houseboats in Kashmir as hotels after foreigners were prohibited from purchasing land to build resorts.
A loophole allowed the Brits to reside only on the lakes, sparking a boom in houseboat-building among Kashmiris.
"I heard stories about British colonialists using this houseboat to have a casino, gambling on this houseboat," says proprietor Feroz Baktoo, pointing to Houseboat Royal Sovereign which he estimates is "around 70 years old."
Then in 1966, Ravi Shankar taught George Harrison to play the sitar on one of Butt's Clermont Houseboats on Dal Lake and legions of fans have helped spread the houseboat fame.
Today, vacationing on one of these houseboats in Kashmir is a serene, romantic and rustic good time."
While immersing myself in India, I came across the idea of Jugaad. From our former travels in India, we saw this principle in action many times. I think this is the underlying cultural reason (necessity) for why Indians make such excellent engineers:
Remya Jose from Kerala. Cycle washing machine.

Swarka Prasa Chouraslya. Water Walkers. 


We would call the contraptions above jury-rigged. Maybe the word jugaad is related. Here's the actual definition of jury-rigged.


Jury-rig, jerry-rig, jerry-built

A little-used definition of jury is intended or designated for temporary use. It’s a nautical term of unknown origin, and in its early use it usually appeared in the phrase jury mast, referring to a temporary mast put up to replace one that has been lost.1 This is the source of the verb jury-rig, meaning to assemble for temporary use, and its derivative adjective jury-rigged.
Jerry-rig is a variant spelling of jury-rig. One could call it incorrect because it entered the language several centuries after jury-rig and is obviously derived from a misspelling of the original, but it is widely used and is accepted by some dictionaries.
It would be easier to dismiss jerry-rig as incorrect if we didn’t have the separate adjective jerry-built, which means built of bad materialsJerry-built may or may not be etymologically related to jury-rig (its origins are mysterious), but all major dictionaries agree that jerry is the correct spelling in this case. 

Definition of jugaad innovation
Jugaad (a word taken from Hindi which captures the meaning of finding a low-cost solution to any problem in an intelligent way) is a new way to think constructively and differently about innovation and strategy. Jugaad innovation has a long-lasting tradition in India but is also widespread in the rest of the so-called Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and numerous other emerging economies. Jugaad is about extending our developed world understanding of entrepreneurial spirit in the traditional Schumpeterian style (Joseph Schumpeter was the Austrian economist known as the prophet of innovation).
Jugaad means thinking in a frugal way and being flexible, which, in turn, requires the innovator or entrepreneur to adapt quickly to often unforeseen situations and uncertain circumstances in an intelligent way.
Intelligence in this context "isn’t about seeking sophistication or perfection by over-engineering products, but rather about developing a ‘good-enough’ solution that gets the job done". 

Sepia Saturday #320: "Sock it to Me"


Years ago, it was simple and safe to pop down to Tijuana, Mexico from here in Fallbrook. For Southern Californians and our visitors, a day in TJ was an easy way to visit a foreign country. We loved shopping for hand-made Mexican arts and crafts -  silver jewelry, onyx chess sets, hand-painted tiles, clay pottery and the like. Bargaining in the markets was fun and we enjoyed the lively street scenes. Everyone who came to visit us, from out of state or out of the country, wanted to go to Mexico and drink margaritas, eat at Caesars**, go to a jai alai game or the bull fights. Ole!
Tijuana Bullring

Jai Alai Palace Tijuana
"Tuck and Roll" www.jalopyjournal.com
As a teenager, my husband motored down to Tijuana for a leather tuck-and-roll job on the upholstery of his new car. A pea green '51 Chevrolet 2-door coupe with a Bluefire 6, he inherited it from his brother who enlisted in the marines. Richard painted it, what else? -  red. The tuck-and-roll upholstery job was almost a rite of passage for "gear-head" teen-aged boys in Southern California. The photo is not Richard's upholstery but very similar.





The boys probably did other things while they were in TJ, activities prohibado for teen-aged boys at home, but I'm only guessing at that. The photo below is of Richard and a friend, Neil, sitting in their friend Dave's car. The plate to the left of the license plate proudly announces that Dave is a member of the car club, "The Violators." Richard has on his letter sweater circa 1955, 1956 from Birmingham High School in the San Fernando Valley. The sweater survived an avalanche and a hurricane, countless floods and attacks by mice and moths but finally succumbed. These are the only bits we have left.





The boys had all the trappings of "Rebel Without a Cause" except they weren't rebels. In case you've forgotten or weren't born yet, "Rebel Without A Cause" (1955) was a film that sympathetically portrayed restless and misunderstood middle-class American youth.





The photo below shows how I remember the streets in "TJ" during the 70's. How about all those macrame pot hangers? I bet most of them ended up housing spider plants or wandering ivy, hanging in kitchens in L.A. or here in San Diego and swaying gently to the sounds of Herb Alpert!

Tijuana 1977 Tadeusz Slaboeznski

On my last visit, a decade or more ago, we purchased large clay pots for outdoor landscaping and a custom iron railing for the house at bargain prices. Too bad that it's currently considered unsafe by the State department to travel to Baja, Mexico where Tijuana is located. Here's the warning* as of Jan. 16, 2016.
The border

And now for the hats.....
I took the long way around to get to my photo of the week which features my ex-sister-in-law's family in full silly tourist regalia, on one of those Tijuana visits ...I can't believe we/they posed with those corny sombreros. I have to confess there is a photo of me wearing one of them somewhere, but I can't bear to post it. The "Sock it to Me" hat might date the photo to Laugh-In days (1968-1973). Don't you love the donkey/zonkey with the painted stripes for added Tijuana ambiance?


Grab your sombrero, large or small, and skip over to Sepia Saturday for stories of jugs, fountains and hats and sleepy, dusty little towns. 



Tijuana at night. Not exactly a sleepy dusty little town.

*"The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by organized criminal groups in the country. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states. For information on security conditions in specific regions of Mexico, which can vary, travelers should reference the state-by-state assessments further below. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued May 5, 2015, to update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel."


**Here's the original Caesar salad recipe (their spelling and grammar left intact) from their website.

"In Caesar's, we respect each of the versions and varieties made a legendary dish; We honor the history of our city and godparents of the restaurant Tijuana tradition of sharing our current version of Caesar salad:


Our version of the original Caesar's salad portion for 4 people
20 pcs. Romaine lettuce leaf
200 gms. cup extra virgin olive oil
20 gms. Perrins sauce
15 gms. Dijon mustard
15 gms. crushed garlic
1 egg yolk
15 gms. lime (juice)
3 gms. black pimienta
35 gms. Parmesan
4 pcs. croutons
40 gms. anchovies


In a wooden bowl anchovies and garlic, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice milled.


Once they integrate well all these ingredients we add the egg yolk with this we texture.


We continue mixing adding olive oil, dosific√°ndolo threadlike while mixing to achieve the desired volume and texture, and finally add a touch of parmesan cheese."



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Music in Mind

Inline image 5
On Saturday, we attended the San Diego Symphony event, Music in Mind, which was fascinating. Before the performance of Beethoven's Pastorale, Dr. Charles Limb and Dr. Nina Kraus gave a presentation on hearing and sound. Dr. Limb has given several Ted Talks on the subject which you can listen to here:
Charles Limb Ted Talk

There was a presentation of Aphasia, a visual performance of an electronic composition, which was amazing to watch and so perfect for the talk about sound and meaning. Here's one performance I found on Youtube, so you can get the idea....it's a bunch of crazy sounds so turn down your volume if you're in the office. 


The lobby of the concert hall was very crowded with otolaryngologists attending a conference this week in San Diego. We worked with the Hearing Loss Association handing out pamphlets and generally shouting to each other...the two people from the Hearing Loss Association are, as expected, deaf and equipped with different levels of hearing assistance. Fortunately, everyone was able to laugh about our situations between shouting bouts. Nanci has a cochlear implant which appeared to be very successful. The other individual has regular hearing aids. One of the otolaryngologists told us he was very confident his research into stem cells and nerve replacement would be providing assistance to tinnitus sufferers and certain kinds of deafness. Bring it on!!! We're ready. 

Here's a few pictures.Inline image 2Inline image 3
Attachments area
Preview YouTube video Aphasia (Mark Applebaum) - Laurin Friedland, percussion - December 2014

MagpieTales #306: Having a Bad Day

"You see, Dear?
Everyone gets blue from time to time.
Even Jesus didn't escape those moments
Of loathing himself."

"His hair? He's having a bad hair day for sure
Mary said she'd give him a trim, but this?
It's such a mess, all hithery-dithery
And the points she left look like horns.
Horns, on Jesus of all people!"
            Christ in the Wilderness by Stanley Spencer

"I know he used to be very skinny.
This must have been his famous fat period.
He'd been talking, talking talking
And everyone wanted to feed him. 
He'd say..that's enough!
Then right before his eyes
One loaf and one fish became forty!
In the barest of blinks.
Or so they say....

"About the wilderness part? 
One man's meat is another man's poison....
Or does my analogy confuse you even more?
You see the billowing clouds behind Jesus?
Clearly, that's heaven and Jesus is hanging onto
the earth with everything he's got."

"This must be the very day, the very moment
when Jesus found out
what was lying ahead for him."

"What was that, you ask? Was it awful?
Yes, my darling...it was awful.
Or so they say......


Check out www.magpietales.blogspot.com for creative takes on Spencer's famous painting. 







Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sepia Saturday #319 - second try: The Laundry Incident

The laundry prompt for Sepia Saturday this week dredged up the memory of an incident that took place in my family sixty-five years ago when I was eight. Funny, when you start probing your memory how much it's like tuning in a radio station. At times, the remembered snippets come in loud and clear but then they slip out of grasp, and you have to work hard at clearing away the static to get them back. We are talking sixty-five years here......

As I recall that day, it was dinnertime for my mom and dad. We kids ate early, but the parents enjoyed a couple of cocktails first. I was sitting in the kitchen; my mom had broiled steaks which were ready and resting on the hot plate. She took a salad into the dining room and sat down. Suddenly I heard her shout. The shout was shocking as mother was very reserved and I rarely saw her lose her temper. "You're as crazy as the rest of your family!" she shouted. And then I heard an odd clanging noise. Mother rushed into the kitchen, pulled off her apron, threw it on the counter and ran down to the basement. I can remember being scared; I'd never seen anything like this. I carefully got out of my chair and peered into the dining room where my father was sitting with a stunned expression on his face, salad on his head and shoulders, and Kraft French dressing dripping off his nose. He looked at me then down at his rye and water which was slowly turning orange in front of him. I asked him what happened, and he just shook his head.

Meanwhile, mother was cooling off downstairs. Our basement was always about 10 degrees cooler than the house and dampish with a faint mothball aroma which issued from two large cabinets in the corner where we stored our winter clothing. I guess you might call our basement a sort of "she" cave. Mother had painted the floor a rich maroon color (very fashionable in the day) to brighten it up. Her wringer washer was the heart of the room. There was a workbench down one side equipped with various ordinary household tools - wrenches and hammers, nails and screws but my father had no part in this. My mother was the handywoman and took care of domestic repairs. She did everything in our home - moved furniture around, painted, hung curtains and she even made shelves and cabinets, using the carpentry skills she learned from her father. 

The next morning, everything was normal. The salad remnants had been washed out of the rug. We ate breakfast and went to school. While at home for lunch, eating crepes with my mother, the doorbell rang. A big surprise, as we rarely had anyone at the house during the day. Mother answered the door. It was Eaton's, our city's largest department store, delivering a brand new Westinghouse washer and dryer. My mother was confused, then thrilled, pleased and bemused. Whatever my dad did or said the night before, he made up for it in a big way! 

The washer and dryer, gleaming white symbols of reconciliation and detente, took an honored place 
in the basement laundry area. Our old wringer washer went off with the Eaton's delivery men to the Happy Hunting grounds. 

This pair is very similar to my mother's surprise gifts.


Before this abrupt modernization, the wringer washer was the star of the basement. My job, when I participated in laundry duty, was to feed the wet clothes into the wringer gizmo and shake them out on the other side. If they were still too wet, they went through again. I enjoyed the process - handling the warm, wet clothes, being alone with my mom, breathing in the smell of the laundry soap and watching the bluing action in the rinse water. 

Mother ironed, on her permanently "up" board, standing on a rag rug, in a spot next to the machine. She used her trusty General Electric for the ironing. As in the prompt photo, the clothes were sprinkled with water to make ironing easier. We used a recycled vinegar bottle with a perforated cap from the local fish and chips shop.  Mother took great pride in her work and made sure the collars were crease and pucker-free; the seams down the sides of the shirts were perfectly flat, and those tough spots around buttons were smooth and beautiful. She used a shoulder pad placed under the arm holes to get the tough wrinkles out of the shoulders. Every buttonhole was flat, and she'd check for loose threads and clip any strays with her little sharp sewing scissors.  After the shirts had been ironed and given a good shake, she'd make sure they were hanging straight on the hangars with the top buttons done up so they wouldn't sag open and get creased again. 

Years later I was back in Canada visiting my mother and bemoaning another one of my failed relationships. "You don't how to handle men," my mother said. My ears pricked up because after all, I still remembered the laundry incident and the hugely successful outcome we'd all enjoyed because of it. My mother knew what she was doing in the man-handling department. 

She went on to tell me a short story about her recent visit with my sister, who did inherit the man-handling gene from my mother. She recounted, "Jim yelled downstairs to Eilleen to iron him a shirt. You (meaning me) would have told him he should have planned for the shirt the night before and to iron it himself. Eilleen, instead, answered 'Yes, dear'. Then she took a shirt out of the laundry basket and put it in the warm oven for a few minutes, shook it and put it on a hangar. Jim ran down, put on the warm shirt, threw on his jacket and went to the hospital. He wore white coats over the shirts and nobody really saw them anyway.....but he thought he was wearing a freshly ironed shirt, ironed by his devoted wife." 

Fortunately, although I kept it in mind, I didn't have to apply mother's implied advice. The situation in the ironing world changed rapidly for the better; there was less and less need for it! Shirts became polyester blends and easier to iron, if at all; dress codes relaxed and we all began to wear t-shirts and other more casual clothing. Life went on and I don't think I ever ironed a man's shirt again. During my brief period on Match.com where I met Richard, my permanent husband, I made a full disclosure about my lack of ironing skills and other deficiencies. Fortunately, he is a ready-to-wear kind of guy, who actually enjoys washing and ironing his own clothes. I always make sure I compliment him effusively about the beauty of his sharply creased jeans and shirts. See mom...I got at least a part of your message!

I doubt that I'll ever score a triumph in my lifetime like my mother's washer and dryer - her record will remain unbroken by her daughters. And maybe that's a good thing.





Sepia Saturday #319: The Joy of Ironing


Then the epoch has appeared which may be properly styled the "Happy" or "Golden Age". For many cares and sorrows will be removed at once. The conscientious housekeeper, for instance, whose domestic duties often exhaust her bodily strength, will find her burdens greatly lightened. She has no more to suffer from the intolerable heat of her cooking-stove......In like manner the electric flat-iron will smoothen her linen without fatiguing her. But not only the lady of the house will rejoice; also the poor, hen-pecked husband will be in transports of delight, as it will make his path easier in many ways. The constant complaints he was hitherto obliged to endure, will grow mute forever...
Johanna S. Wisthaler, By Water to the Columbian Exposition, 1894


The ladies engrossed in their ironing brought to mind the one photo I have of myself as a child engaged in some sort of domestic activity. Even at that young age, I knew was something missing....







Where did I go wrong and miss the boat? Could I have grown up to be Joy Mangano? Joy saw the design deficiencies with mops and made a better one. And made a fortune.



Here's a trailer for the recent movie about Joy-more than just mops.


If Joy put her fine brain to work on the challenge of making ironing easier, I'm sure she could come up with improvements....well, actually she did, with her version of the steamer but I found these devices unsatisfactory because all they do is take out the "easy wrinkles", the ones I remove the lazy way by hanging the clothing in the bathroom. Steaming won't make a collar look good, or put a crease down a shirt sleeve, or down a pair of pants.

Maybe these robotic machines will do better, although they'd take up a lot of room in the closet.


IEEE Technical Committee on Robot Learning
This one would be the talk of the neighborhood. It's a German invention which blows air into the clothing to dry and iron it. Sells for 850 pounds in England. My cats would hate it!

Tubie - dries and irons a shirt in 7 minutes.


I suggest science/designers/ inventors should forget about improving the ironing process and instead, concentrate on creating totally wrinkle-free fabrics. I for one will only be satisfied when the iron is but a faint quaint memory like the buggy whip! Goodbye and good riddance. 



Grab your hairnet and glide over to Sepia Saturday for more smooth stories. 



Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sepia Saturday # 318 :Reflections




Vivian Maier and her work were recently brought to my attention. When I saw the prompt this week, I thought of the many splendid and unusual photos she'd taken of herself with her trusty Rolleiflex and my imagination transported me to the dark and dusty section of a used camera shop. 


Vivian Maier self-portrait
Harold's Used Camera Shop
8967 S. Optical Avenue
New York, New York

Dearest Vivian
Thanks for sending the self-portrait - honestly, I can't believe you found me. I chuckled when I saw you chose to send me this photo, out of all those we shot that day. There I am, front and center, nestled in your hand, hogging the spotlight as it were! And you were only partially in the picture! I have to admit I was so surprised to see my own reflection that I didn't pay close attention the rest of the shot.

Now that I look at it again, I can see what genius was at work. The way you held the light; the reflection in the mirror of you and you and you and me and me and me; the way you can see both the front and back of you and me, but not completely. Only partial views - the way most of the rest of the world views us both. Here's another photo we shot that day. Somebody brought it into the shop and everyone talked about how you were the original Queen of the Selfie. I have no idea what they're talking about but I do know this was an intense day and we did some great work together.



Vivian Maier self-portrait
Viv...it was such an honor to be held in your competent and talented hands for so long. What a team we made! Now that I'm "out of the picture" so to speak, sitting here on the top shelf in the dust, my happiest moments are remembering our times together. It was a high point in my career that's for sure.

Once in a while, someone comes into this place and notices me way up here. They even take out their fancy smart phones and take pictures of me for Facebook, whatever that is -  but no one holds me in their hands, peers into my viewfinder or brings me to life with a little film. You were the last Viv and the very best.

Again, thanks for the memories.....

Your pal forever,
Rollei Flex

Vivian's cameras

Field Trip: Oceanside Farmer's Market

Barbara and I both have trouble driving and talking at the same time. Since the advent of my acoustic neuroma, I'm not as good at driving as I was, even when alone in the car.  When the two of us are together, this is what it looks like.....
For our recent field trip to the Oceanside Farmer's market, Nancy took the wheel and got us there safely. Barbara and I don't have these sunglasses but I think we should get a couple of pairs.

The weather was fine in Oceanside and there was a decent turnout of vendors selling the usual things....jewelry, handmade purses, and clothes.


























This jewelry made from antique typewriter keys was very original.
There were several boutique food manufacturers:


Including George Petrou, 94-year-old seller of Greek olives, olive oil and feta cheese. 
George and Nancy
In his former life, he was a dress designer of some renown in Hollywood and designed clothing for Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, to name a few of his accomplishments. He had his press clippings in the booth you can browse through.




As we left his booth he gestured to Nancy and Barbara as they walked away and mentioned to me, "They look like models! And then he added kindly "You all look good." 



Looking like models
We grazed a bit longer and then chose a lunch from the vendors. Nancy and I shared a crepe; Barbara chose a taco. We picnicked on the street and tarried a bit too long missing the book sale. Now we have an excuse for another field trip. 

The meticulous crepe maker

Like the senior citizens we've come, we spent a few minutes discussing hearing aids. I'm the only one with them at the moment and Barbara talked about trying a pair out for a few days and finding them itchy and uncomfortable. I mentioned that they take some getting used to and I said,"It's like wearing thongs...you know how they feel horrible and then you gradually get used to them." "Thongs!" exclaimed Barbara with a look of horror and I realized I'd once again called "flip-flops" by the incorrect name. Sorry about that.
Cartoon by Dan Reynolds

After we ate, we took a walk to the beach and looked at the storm damage, then watched a crazy skateboarder, without any protection, attempting dangerous tricks. He took a couple of bad falls (they would have killed me) but he picked himself up and tried again much to the delight of the photographers waiting to catch one of those moments on film.

We had a great day!




Trying out my telephoto lens.

Skateboarder and photographer