Thursday, March 31, 2011


Sunlight seeped through the curtains to awaken me this morning so I could commence another day. My arm reached across the bedside table with fingers extended to give a customary one tap on my radio. This activated voices from the all news station with sound intentionally set on low volume so as to not jolt my system. I continue to enjoy the occasional luxury in these semi-retirement years of lolling in bed a bit, half awake, gradually acclimating myself to the world.

Today the radio newscaster reported California's Democratic governor announced negotiations with the minority Republicans had collapsed. The Republicans continue to rigidly refuse to allow a needed four of their number to join Democrats voting in favor of an election voting initiative. The proposal would give the voting public the opportunity to select which one of several actions we would choose to address our state's extremely serious budget deficits. None of the choices are desired but some action must be taken. I wonder about the allegiances of those politicians who don't want to let the people decide by vote where we would accept needed budget cuts.

Then I heard startling news that Newport Beach's library was going all digital. They would retain their children's library and activities in addition to a few other services. Throughout the day I thought about the ramifications. I considered the implications if all information everywhere was available only digitally and required a power source for the access devices. What if ... all power systems ceased to function? Those individuals retaining memory bank knowledge they could share would be prized elders in every community. We would have come full circle with our early ancestors, but would just be on a different level from them. Tonight's news reported the story was incorrect with the true facts misunderstood. Meanwhile an interview with the library's representative discussing an alarmed Australian communique on the change revealed her amazement the library had been receiving these inquiries from all over the world.

By this time, I've arisen, engaged in the usual morning personal self-care activities. Then comes breakfast preparation, retrieving my daily newspapers that I still prefer reading to computer scanning. Meanwhile, another room's radio continues with news, weather and traffic reports. I ignore traffic information unless some significant event could impact my driving area -- a freeway chase, roads closed for repair or major accident. I've already learned weather conditions before I dress. Typically their effect on clothing attire is simply do I need a jacket or not, an umbrella or raincoat -- a far cry from all those midwest years ago preparations for ice and snow.

News reminds me again the Governor has stated our 3-year water drought is over. Our annual rainfall and mountain snowpack exceeds the norm expected. We are admonished to still use conservation measures though the critical necessity has passed for now.

By now I've left home and am driving into the retirement community I serve, I enjoy the landscape of flowering plants including shades of pink, red and lavender. Dark green shrubs tinged with light yellowish tips are striking as are the emerging green tree leaves and red maples. This day I have only one patient to see, which I follow with a phone call to the patient's spouse confirming I'm ending therapy.

Exiting the facility I notice sudden movement in the bushes ahead. Suddenly a red squirrel with a fluffy arched switching tail darts across the walkway. A pursuing squirrel companion emerges, then stops short, unsure if I pose a danger. I casually walk on by, confident this pair will soon resume their Spring courtship activities once I'm out of their sight.

My thoughts are pondering whether I have time to drive to another nearby retirement community where I usually leave my previously completed end-of-the-month reports. I drive through the intersection where I would have turned if I was going directly for my hair appointment, so conclude I've made the choice by default. Driving cross town in another small college community I notice the greening arch-like canopy provided on this tree-lined street, how the symmetrical tree shapes suggest they're been recently neatly trimmed.

During this trip the radio resumes the all news reports. The newswoman repeats the not unexpected news I first heard early this morning, Japan nuclear officials are expanding the distance they now tell residents to stay from the increasing number of plants with dangerous emissions -- 10 times above the accepted limits -- water affected, but not their drinking water, some farmland and vegetables, cow's milk contaminated. In the U.S. Spokane continues to evidence "trace" amounts of radiation in milk and now that's true in California, too, but not in an amount to be of concern -- reported 5 times below the accepted limit.

I remember a days earlier news report about the San Onofre nuclear plant that's 51 miles from my home. An ex-plant manager has filed a whistleblower suit against utility Southern California Edison Company for wrongful termination in response to his efforts to expose safety violations at that nuclear plant.

"As Reuters reports, the firing came after the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a warning letter in March, 2010, to Southern California Edison, the principal owner of the San Onofre plant. It rebuked the utility for a workplace climate that, the agency said, had the “chilling effect” of preventing employees from raising safety concerns."

My thoughts refocused as I drove the heavily travelled Route 66 Foothill Boulevard eastward to my hairdressers. Small business offices, one used book store, banks, restaurants plus mini shopping centers with department stores lined both sides of the roadway. I remembered this was the Route that my husband and friends traveled west from Ohio to L.A. in the early fifties. This whole area had been citrus orchards and would have been filled with bloom-covered orange or lemon fruit trees.

My younger native Southern Californian hairdresser knows this area well. She sometimes entertains me with her memories of when people, cars and freeways were not so prevalent as now -- her then back road driving trips past now landmark sites, the beach and nearby snow-covered mountains with young friends fortunate to have a car.

Haircut finished, with more gray and white strands visible as my aging process continues, I drive home. The radio weatherwoman's morning predictions have been confirmed by my car's thermometer -- 91 degrees outside. Two days ago and earlier we were having daytime 60+ degree temperatures. Tomorrow will cool down with a return to 60+ degrees and rain by Sunday.

Preparing dinner, later viewing the PBS News Hour I listen to talk of Middle East uprisings with speculations repeating no one knows what the outcome will be. Problems in Africa when a leader refuses to relinquish his office to a popularly elected replacement. The day is coming to an end. Tomorrow I'll shop for grocery items I need in the house to prepare for an upcoming colonoscopy. The preparation experience always seems worse than the procedure.

I guess today passes for being relatively normal but certainly slower paced than so many years of my life. There continues to be so much to think about. I didn't even mention what's happening, or not happening, in D.C. where we still don't have a budget. More than a few other critical items are pending there. Perhaps tomorrow some issues will move closer to resolution, or not.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Nature sets its own agenda, so we human beings best consider that fact in our planning.

Recently our news was excitedly describing we were having an astronomical Super Full Moon event. The moon would be closer to Earth so would appear 14% larger and 30% brighter than we customarily see. When I heard about this Super Moon, I thought, “Wonderful! I’ll take a picture for my blog.” No! Non! Nyet!

Nature had other plans as I discovered when I walked outdoors. Looking into the night sky I could see the atmosphere was filled with moisture-filled clouds. Confirming weather reports had said that beginning in the morning’s early hours conditions were set for the unloading of rain, sleet or snow, depending on the elevation level where one lived (which is exactly what happened.) But that night, scanning the sky, I suddenly noted Nature was deliberately teasing by giving me a glimpse of that circular deep yolk-like yellow super moon form, before quickly pulling her cloudy gray scarf across its surface to discreetly cover that exposed naked body. So, I didn’t shoot the planned photo. NASA tells me I won’t have an an opportunity to view such a brilliant Super Moon again until 2029. Perhaps Mother Nature was more accommodating for those living elsewhere and some reading this were treated to the Super Moon view.

Nature was misjudged in Japan, too, as the nuclear energy plants thought to be built to withstand most assaults proved not to be. The 9.0 earthquake was greater than had been anticipated triggering an unexpectedly large tsunami whose waters wrecked far greater havoc than had been considered possible – whole cities washed to sea, thousands of people killed and everything else in the water’s path destroyed. Thousands more Japanese citizens have become displaced and homeless. Tsunami destruction occurred elsewhere, including on Hawaii’s Kona side and in several western mainland California harbors including Crescent City, Santa Cruz and Redondo Beach, but only one life was lost here.

The tsunami took its toll on the Japanese nuclear energy plants ability to withstand the outside forces to which they were subjected. The consequences of mistakes from failure, based on inability to construct indestructible nuclear energy plants, are often terminal for viable life. Their safety systems to contain deadly radiation emissions can become compromised when Nature’s unpredictable actions exceed any limits thought capable by the best scientific minds. Mastering control of Japan’s nuclear plants functions continues to be an evolving proposition.

Known facts about radiation released in Japan are gradually emerging. Affected areas are being expanded. Various foods including tap and sea water, seafood, vegetables, milk have been affected with increasing amounts of radiation present. The radiation plume reached our U.S. West Coast Friday, March 18th with no radioactivity immediately registering. Saturday reports indicated slight “miniscule” radioactivity in Sacramento, CA. Subsequent days’ radiation figures have continued to record minimal amounts that do not jeopardize safety which is of special interest to those of us living in California. A few California individuals have established Independent web sites where they report radiation levels they’re monitoring. Their scientific techniques validity and reliability have not been established, but I’ve heard no reports that their results conflict with official data.

Official radiation reports from Japan and the United States have met with skepticism from some citizens of both countries about whether all facts are being completely revealed by officials in a timely manner. This concern may motivate some of the private individual radiation monitoring on our shores.

United States Environmental Protection Agency provides regular radiation up dates at their site linked here.

Another link is the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, A Cooperative Japan-U.S. Research Foundation. A link to this Foundation’s site for information relating to the accident at the Fukushima Dalichi nuclear power plant reports that the English “Answers to frequently asked questions page is now under construction.”

This Japanese disaster has prompted increased private and professional conversation re-examining the safety of our U.S. nuclear plants – their construction, ability to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis, for those of us living along the Pacific Coast. I was prompted to check the miles between my good friends’ residence and my own with the coastal San Onofre Nuclear Energy Plant located between Los Angeles and San Diego. I’m 50+ miles distant, but my friends are only 18+ miles away from the plant. They report periodically receiving official information about the plant since its initial construction. In fact, the husband had an opportunity to tour there years ago and afterward reported confidence in its safety. I think we all welcome a reexamination of all the factors associated with nuclear plants in our midst to determine if changes are warranted.

Considering the nature factor, I think history shows that nature is unpredictable, given the limitations of human knowledge and despite the efforts of our best scientific minds. Nature clearly has the capability of interfering with our lives, and has, taking a terrible toll on life in this instance. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last for disasters when we consider all the potentially catastrophic weather conditions we experience. We may be inclined to think Nature is interfering with our lives when many catastrophic events are unleashed. Maybe we humans are interfering with Nature.

Monday, March 14, 2011


(Later -- The earthquake was upgraded to 9.0.)

The recent earthquake in Japan dwarfs all the worlds other unsettling events. This catastrophes devastating human element is beyond comprehension. We cannot know the anguish of concern for the welfare of loved ones unless we’ve ever been in a similar situation of comparable uncertainty. The inability to establish contact with those we care for, or be able to provide them any needed assistance, must be an almost unbearable situation.

These circumstances are being felt most acutely by so many individuals in the United States, around the world and certainly specifically in Japan. A blogger, Bob Brady, whose writing I greatly admire, has been coping with just such unknowns. He lives in Japan, writes at "Pure Land Mountain," and is sharing his family experience. He has finally had phone contact with some of his family who live in an earthquake affected area. I can only imagine the relief he and his wife must have felt upon finally hearing their daughter’s voice. The account of his son-in-law’s hours long trek home on foot in the midst of this disaster is a heroic story. The family is still faced with much uncertainty. Bob says he will write on his blog as he is able.

These events have certainly given me pause to attend to earthquake information as also usually occurs any time after we experience these tremblors in So. Cal. Japan’s five minutes of shaking seems interminable compared with the seconds to little more than a minute’s duration of any shaking I’ve experienced. I hope quake experts’ reports are accurate that due to the smaller fault size, our San Andreas Fault could never register an 8.9 quake as in Japan. Our long predicted “Big One” has the potential for destruction enough in our populated areas.

The same experts say Northern California, Oregon and Washington are much more susceptible to a strong quake. I certainly don’t wish such a tremblor on those areas, or any others, now or in the future.

U.S. Earthquakes are often most associated with California, but the reality is they occur in various areas across our country. See USGS map.

Earthquake preparedness will be of interest to those who live in or might be affected by a nearby tremor.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011



Vocalist, Musician, Composer

The recent 53rd Grammy Awards 2011 televised program moved at a refreshingly rapid pace for such shows. Almost constant musically entertaining action with tight time limits on everything in between performances accounted for this feat. The production also contained more disconcerting blipped content than I’ve ever heard on any one program. Eventually, I became distracted, then irritated, as I began to wish either all those censored words would be aired, or the entertainers would use some that could be aired. I won’t go into word censorship pros and cons now.

The show proceeded with the introduction of music world celebrities, who then received momentary audience adulation, before announcing the nominees, followed by each nominated individuals or groups performance. Declared award winners were strictly limited to very brief acceptance speeches allowing this lengthy 3 ½ hour program to proceed so rapidly. Maybe some of this time limiting would be welcomed for other televised awards shows of shorter duration.

Much of the music performed accurately reflected that aspect of the past decades pop tastes for mostly aggressive sounding music. The constant nature of the various songs’ lyrics consisted of stories often focused on only life’s harsh realities, though some were occasionally poetic. Personally, I could enjoy the musical choices offering a little more romanticism, idealism and fantasy.

Also, I certainly recognize the significance of physical sex to humankind, but the performers seemed to have a pressing need to overtly sexualize their words and body choreography. Perhaps their music is a reflection of thoughts most on the mind of the Grammys predominately youth-skewed artists. I also heard mostly loud belting singers voicing similar to each other yodel-like pitch changes with an over emphasis on wavering vibrato. Music instrumentation uniformly was characterized by the incessant heaviness of over-powering drum beating which continues to be so prevalent in much current music.

The highly touted appearance of Mick Jagger was characterized by his energy exhibited while shouting-singing with his striding parade back and forth across the stage. He effectively meshed the loud heavy musical bass beats with the song’s lyrics he sang that seemed to consist of little more than the same phrase persistently repeated. Some reviewers have snidely commented on his age, as they did about Barbra Streisand’s, but that has nothing to do with my comments about the actual music. I do have little regard for those critics or reviewers in the music, or any other industry, whose jibing comments are demeaning based on an individual’s age.

Every decade I’ve enjoyed a varying number of song choices from most every genre, including pop music. Recent decades I've heard fewer pop tune selections that appeal to me, but I’m always interested in listening to the offerings.

The Record of the Year, “Need You Now,” by Lady Antebellum also won Best Country Album and Song of the Year as I had guessed it might. Interesting to me, was that the initial lyrics seemed like a variation with a different rhythm of an old pop romantic ballad written by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen often associated with vocalists Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, “One For My Baby,”:

--- “It’s quarter to three and there’s no one in the place…”

Lady Antebellum’s initial “Need You Now” words, before some more original lyrics followed:

--- “It’s a quarter after one and I’m all alone...”

“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire won Album of the Year, another choice I had, surprisingly to me, correctly selected.

Excepting the songs mentioned here, there was a sameness to most all the Grammy Awards music – loud and louder, fast and faster, with high and higher tension building toward increasingly extravagant special effects, pyrotechnics and often all sorts of grandiose dance gymnastics. Just doesn’t seem enough to have vocal talent and music skills without all the other ‘couterments ala Lady Gaga’s egg. I’ve often wondered if such distractions serve to mask vocal quality weaknesses and/or music skills, but listeners would have to arrive at their own individual perceptions and preferences on that topic.

I simply didn’t experience the Grammy program as having an overall musical variety, much less including many songs that created feelings of warmth, calmness and reflection until Barbra Streisand sang a rendition of her original composition, “Evergreen.” I welcomed hearing a tender romantic poetically uplifting melody backed by an orchestra with integrated unobtrusive drumming beats.

Introduced with Kris Kristofferson, Ms Streisand was briefly honored as MusiCares Person of the Year, sang "Evergreen, then quickly moved off stage. Her appearance seemed almost like a last minute injected footnote.

MusiCares is a non-profit organization offering assistance to musicians in crisis and seemed deserving of a minute or two more attention from those present. I wondered if the audience, with the optimism of youth, failed to recognize MusiCares significance, much less that some of the entertainers among them would likely eventually need to receive the organizations help.

Here’s Barbra Streisand singing “Evergreen” Live in Concert – 2000:

The Grammy Show's highlight for me wasBest New Artist -- Esperanza Spalding. Her selection was surprising to many of the music world pundits. I was delighted with her well-deserved recognition as I recalled being so impressed upon first hearing her music a year or more ago. I couldn’t describe better than this quote from her myspace web site that refers to her as a “jazz fushion artist.”

“If “esperanza” is the Spanish word for hope, then bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding could not have been given a more fitting name at birth. Blessed with uncanny instrumental chops, a multi-lingual voice that is part angel and part siren, and a natural beauty that borders on the hypnotic, the 25-year-old prodigy-turned-pro might well be the hope for the future of jazz and instrumental music.”

(A video of her performance on David Letterman’s Show, and also a free download is available there.)

“Musician and rising star Esperanza Spalding performs ‘Tell Him’ on the double bass at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009. “

I confess to musical bias for the upright bass since this was my husband’s instrument as I’ve noted here earlier, including in this most recent February piece. An upright bass is an uncommon instrument for women musicians, but attractive Ms Spalding is exceptionally talented playing and singing -- well deserving of her 2011 Grammy Award as Best New Artist.