Saturday, December 25, 2021


                               M E R R Y     C H R I S T M A S  !

Rain ... rain ... rain ... !   Our Christmas gift from Mother Nature has arrived at the base of  Southern California foothills where I live.    Snow is falling in the surrounding mountains.  This moisture won't end our drought conditions but will certainly be a welcome step in that direction.

One hot summer day in SoCal,  many years ago,  singer Mel Torme' visited his co-song-writer, Bob Wells as Torme' has described numerous times.  Observing a piece of paper with words written on it lying on the piano, Torme' inquired, "What is this?"

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, 

Jack Frost nipping at your nose"

Wells explained the weather was just so miserably hot, he had tried everything, finally jumped in his pool but nothing he did soothed him, so he wrote those words to see if they might help cool him down.  Torme' commented he thought the words looked like a song.  Collaborating once again, "The Christmas Song" was written in the next forty minutes to become one of the most performed Christmas songs ever.

"The Christmas Song"  (Live/1990)

Mel Torme' with John Campbell

Album -- "The Christmas Song/Autumn Leaves"

Mel Torme' whose singing voice had perfect pitch was referred to as "The Velvet Fog",  a description he did not like but some thought non-offensive and most apropos.  Torme' maintained vocal quality as he aged which not all singers do -- such control, sophistication and class.  

Memories can be pleasant on a Christmas day celebrated virtually with distant family members.  I have fond recollections of attending with my husband,  a Mel Torme' performance in a local midwestern city dinner club where we lived years ago -- a most entertaining evening.  

I am also reminded of hearing George Shearing, a consummate pianist, incidentally blind, perform in a San Francisco hotel's club room years after his guest appearance on that live TV show with which I had been associated and where I met my husband.   Listening to this music conjures memories of my much preferred small intimate club or concert hall atmosphere where people relaxingly sit, focused on the music, musicians, rather than large concert venues with loud sensory bomb-barding sound and video extravaganza distractions prevalent in recent years.

Torme' joins George Shearing in the following concert video in Germany.  

Torme's song early in the show suggests to me we're again living in times when we may need to "pick ourselves up" and get on with life.  Then Neil Swanson's fast-fingered bass solo was reminiscent of my husband who also played the acoustic upright bass with his various groups and occasionally backed some musical stars.  
About 28  minutes into this smooth easy-going video Torme' sings a very emotionally moving rendition of "Stardust" with poetic lyrics eliciting many more memories as he showcases his vocal talents.   Some  upbeat tunes are featured with an early-on bit of scat singing -- vocal interpretation of a musical instrument -- reveals that Torme' is a master in those songs he vocalizes here.  

Mel Torme' George Shearing Jazz Festival Berlin 1989 Full Concert

Mel Torme' Vocals, George Shearing Piano, 
Neil Swanson Bass, Donnie Osborn Drums.

Torme' and Shearing pay tribute to somewhat younger Caterina Valente (age 90 now) a world famous multi-talented, mult-lingual (fluent in 7 languages) entertainer traveling from her home in Switzerland to attend their concert.

An even more youthful Caterina Valente's sensuous dance and vocal interpretation of "Malaguena" begins this next video, that integrates memorable movie clips of other popular stars of the era performing to her song.  

Caterina Valente
"Malaguena" (1955) 

                         H A P P Y    H O L I D A Y S !

Sunday, December 19, 2021


Short holiday letters with no greeting cards for the first time were what I mailed this year.  I guess sending holiday greeting cards are a thing of the past for me now.   Not many left with which to engage in our traditional holiday activity with personal updates, caring messages as we caught up with each others year.  I really miss sending and receiving all those cards and letters as occurred in yesteryear but that was then, and this is now.  Actually, I've also missed letter exchanges throughout the rest of the year, though there have been a few emails, but not quite the same. 

Frank Sinatra 

"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)

Swing Easy!  Album -- 1998 Capitol Records, LLC

What is it with email that when I receive one that I feel I must respond quickly, likely even the next day, or is that just my reaction and others don't feel that way?   I can see such promptness is a good business practice, but should that timeline apply with personal correspondence?

I still remember the days before we had the internet, do you?  How did you stay in contact with friends and family who lived some distance from you?   Did you exchange phone calls -- calls that perhaps were long distance, incurring additional charges?  Did you also exchange letters written back and forth -- handwritten, or typed on those now old-fashioned devices called typewriters, manual or electric?  (I still have two.)

Personal letter exchanges were often spaced weeks or months apart.  After finding time and getting in a writing mood to respond, the letters took a number of days for the U.S. Postal Service to transport, then deliver them.    Corresponding parties were quite accepting of such a time gap in contact.  Then, we got the internet with email.  Suddenly, seems like people began expecting much quicker responses, almost to the point of being instant or, at least next day.   Just how many days can be acceptably allowed to lapse before sending a response to a friend's email?

This came to mind when someone with whom I had recent contact sent me a short email two days after receiving my email noting that life was hectic right then, but a response would be coming on the weekend.  I appreciated receiving that thoughtful note, but it did set me thinking and recalling how years ago if we'd been exchanging letters, a week, maybe two, or even more could have gone by which would have simply been not only expected but quite acceptable by both parties.  There would have been no need to write explaining a delay.  What is an acceptable response timeline now?

This was an issue for me when I first began using a computer, sending emails.  I took my cues about what the expected frequency behavior was from those who were longtime email users now emailing me.  What occurred is that the primary person with whom I was first emailing, other than my adult children, was a new acquaintance.  That person almost always responded to my emails the next day at the latest and if later apologized for the delay.   I concluded this very prompt response was the accepted timeline expected with emails and tried to do the same which often created extreme pressures for me.

Quite some time passed before I began to realize a next day response was probably an ideal business practice, but my correspondence with this person I believed to be personal, not business.  So, I didn't realize until much later I did not need to respond so promptly even though the other person continued the rapid response.    I had begun to feel like a hamster on a wheel trying to keep up before finally ceasing to  do so.  I wish I had known this in the beginning, but I had thought I should follow what appeared to me to be the expected digital internet-world timeline for email correspondence.   

Do you have timelines you follow with email correspondence?  Are they different than when you corresponded with hand-written or typed letters years ago, including business versus personal with family and friends?

Sunday, December 12, 2021


Some of you are busy readying to celebrate Christmas; others are focused on Hanukkah; and additional people have their celebrations in the offing.   My holiday preparations here at home are quite minimal compared to those sometimes frantic years when my family were all present to celebrate together, or in later years when I travelled to their homes. Since I'm doing so little I've had more time to ponder some of the matters in this epistle length post.   I hope all is going well for whatever you may be doing with decorating, gift selections, baking and more.

Michael Buble'   -- Album "Christmas" -- 10th Anniversary Edition

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas.                                                         

My recent transition from my cell phone to a smartphone has had me thinking about the changes that keep occurring in my life. Like so much in this digital internet world, the technology, even its security, has moved forward at a much faster rate than has the quality of some of the services provided.  The driving force in our capitalistic society where for many monetizing takes precedence over all else -- sometimes even including ethics and morality -- seems to have become the primary driving force in technological companies' operations (perhaps thanks to Wall Street) which is important, but only to a degree, especially after a company's viability is established.

We see this with questions arising about the values of those dictating the operations of social media companies such as Zuckerberg and Facebook; others who own Twitter, Instagram to name some additional ones; also businesses like Bezos and Amazon, Microsoft, Google and more.  Establishing a balance between the best interests of all Americans, especially those of our children, plus what constitutes "enough" for each company's profit-making goals are issues about which many express considerable concern.  Fair distribution of such income increasingly comes into focus given the uneven distribution of wealth in our country.  There are no easy answers.

Existing technology keeps evolving, some ideas developed being replaced before the services they offer are at least as reliable and efficient as what previously existed it seems to me.  Perhaps this is how progress occurs.  The public is subjected to tolerating a decrease in some operation functions that had been achieved by an existing technology, but they are gradually being replaced by the new technology that can't yet provide a previous important mastered feature but may have additional appealing new ones the old technology does not.   We're left with less than what we had, in some respects, while we navigate the treadmill of the latest new device.

Referring to telephone service in this instance is what comes to my mind as wireless cell phones, now smartphones replace our copper-wired landline phones.  The reality is that people are increasingly using wireless phone systems in preference to the wired landlines so the inevitable seems only a matter of time -- that wired landlines will cease to exist.  

Only about 37% of American households now still use landline phones according to Statista as summarized in numerous web site reports such as Digital Information World.  This data was obtained by the local telecommunication company running off the copper phone lines across the country in a report earlier this year.

Despite the declining use of landlines some of the pros and cons of keeping a landline, particularly in the event of an emergency, still apply as described in an older article written by Nicholas Gilmore.   Recent article comments describe individual's situations like my experience where this is true.

This brings into question the conclusion reached by AARP's John Quain in an article earlier this year.  Contrary to what he wrote, not all problems with 911 calls have been resolved as described above -- one problem he didn't address as well as a few others he cites as having been eliminated but have not everywhere either.  Additional commenters, too, have questioned the accuracy of his perceptions about the state of 911 call problems applying everywhere in the U.S.

My own personal experience a few years ago was with a cell phone in my home.  Surprisingly to me, my call went to a nearby city.  I had to be able to speak and tell them what city and where I was calling from.  They then transferred my call to my city's emergency system which also had the capability of identifying my exact location without my having to be able to speak as the landline 911 system does.  

What if I couldn't speak when I first called -- locating me via cell towers could have taken longer.   A 911 call from my home using my landline phone a few years earlier had gone directly to my city's emergency line and they knew my precise location though I could have verbalized then if needed.  All 911 systems today should have the same tracking capabilities as the landline 911 system.  

Note: I was unable to locate current percentages of cell/mobile phone systems that can precisely identify a 911 caller's location as quickly and efficiently as the 911 landline system.  The last figures I read a few years ago were that only less than 50% of cell/mobile phone systems in the U.S. had acquired this capability.  

Check the 911 system where you live to determine if their wireless emergency response system has adapted to be one equivalent to that of a landline phone.  The automatic and immediate location identification is time-saving and doesn't require the caller having to be able to intelligibly speak to say where they are -- both of which can be life-saving critical acts in the event of some medical emergencies i.e. stroke, heart, respiratory, and others.

A recent Forbes article by Mike Vorhaus recognizes Americans are using their mobile phones to replace their landlines.  He also reports having a mobile phone but is keeping his landline and thinks it is very sensible to do so.  He describes how landlines have their "own energy" allowing "landlines to operate completely independent of the household electricity or the general electric grid."  Electric power to the house and grid if lost, over time results in phone batteries dying and the wireless home phone system failing.  Our landlines continue to live on.  

I think about possible earthquakes in California and being able to communicate with the rest of the world after a major disaster.   My landline phone will possibly be more readily operative in such a situation since I "...don't think it will fall as quickly as cell towers thus destroying wireless capability in an earthquake"   What kinds of disasters are you at risk for experiencing where you live?  Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, other destructive forces.

I didn't yet have my smart phone when I  experienced an unexpected sudden extended power outage of about 12 hours duration just before Thanksgiving.  I was certainly glad to have my landline phone then to eventually learn what was happening after several phone calls over time. The landline had to be used because my then cell phone's battery was almost completely run down but I had planned to charge it later that night.   

Another future landline benefit now is I could call my smart phone should it become lost.

Obviously, with these wireless phone and other devices we have become very dependent on batteries so need backup and supplemental energy sources -- reserve energy chargers, solar units, generators -- if we're going to be so dependent on wireless technology.  

Do you keep your tech communication devices fully charged for the unexpected?  What do you have for backup in emergencies?  A few hours outage is one thing, but what about longer outages?  

Are our tech device batteries immune to shortages unlike those for EVs?  Google summary reports for electric vehicles for example:  

"Lithium, nickel and cobalt are the key metals used to make EV batteries.  Analysts believe there is a potential shortfall in the global mining capacity required to extract the minerals needed to manufacture sufficient batteries to meet projected EV demand."

Apparently there is a scramble by countries around the world to acquire the necessary minerals for digital device batteries that might give you pause for what could occur in the future which you can read in this BR article.

There was an era when our  personal time wasn't taken up by riding herd on keeping our devices charged and needing batteries for everything.  Our phone and electric lines once installed just were and we rarely had to give much thought to them.  My-y-y, how that all has changed.

What's interesting to think about is what communication system may replace our smart phones and how long before that occurs?  Don't get too attached to your smart phone because Forbes MikeVorhaus suggests this may be our future (for however long this lasts, I might add):

"...the next disruptor of personal communications -- the messaging service.  Today, according to my recent national survey of U.S. households, over 75% of the US population with connection to the Internet and/or mobile phone services, use a messaging service at least once a week.  It is quite clear where this trend is headed because 91% of 18-34 year olds are using messaging services regularly, vs. only 56% of the over 55 year old age group.

"Messaging services are universally used by the 18-34 year old age group.

"Eventually the messaging service may well challenge the "phone" function of the smartphone.   Messaging services not only offer text, but also robust voice services, free, over the Internet.  And remember, your smartphone is also a TV."

On the other hand, or additionally, Augmented Reality Technology is being developed with headsets, glasses, or computers that can be worn on the head.  AR is thought by some tech leaders to be that smartphone replacement possibly in the next decade, but we'll not explore that here now.

Personally, I don't care for the idea of wearing such technological devices on my head, but who knows what most of our population, especially large numbers of influential younger generations, will adopt using.  Will other older systems like our smartphones then be gradually phased out like the phone landline so we're forced by a user majority into using a Messenger Service, AR, or something else?  Perhaps we don't have to have just one dominant system for all like we use to for so many years, or do we?

Sunday, December 05, 2021


Late News Bulletin -- University of Michigan won Big Ten college football championship for the first time since 1997 thrilling their fans everywhere, including our family alums and the rest of us who share that enthusiasm!  

>  >  >  >  >

College Football is one of numerous U.S. sports enjoyed by many, often even more so during challenging times.   All sorts of other news items catch my attention including some that can make this world in which we live seem like a very scary place.   The "ignorance is bliss" saying could well be a true "blessing in disguise", but also could be a dangerous one leading to "burying my head in the sand" if I choose to just "tune it all out".  Mostly, I realize there's little I can do to avoid some worst-case scenarios as reported in some of these following examples.

Last month NASA launched DART (short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test), a rocket to smash into an asteroid to alter its path.  Success is desirable to protect our Earth in case there ever is such a threat.      Live Science summarizes a NASA report that there is an asteroid named 4660 Nereus entering Earth's orbit but is expected to pass by us.

Then I read Solar Superflares may occur more frequently than scientists thought.  The result could be devastating geomagnetic storms adversely affecting a wired global society as we're becoming -- obliterating satellites in orbit and infrastructure on the ground -- causing an internet apocalypse. Given how wired we are here on Earth personal and businesses connections could be wiped out as could be all individuals' personal data.

We all know Omicron, the latest variant after Delta+ evolved from Covid-19 creating the pandemic now circulating in our world.  Scientists rush to determine how serious the threat, how to best combat the infection.  Will there be even more variants in our future -- some possibly immune to presently known vaccines?

That's not even considering climate change with oceans rising resulting in water overflowing our shores consuming land masses to cite just one undesirable consequence.

Fortunately, none of what I discover causes me to worry to the point I'm filled with anxiety through the day and doesn't depress me to a degree I lose sleep at night over what might happen.  Like most others I defer to scientific experts to analyze the situations and trust they'll come up with possible solutions to save themselves and the rest of us.  

While we can't fix everything, occasionally, as with climate change and the pandemic viruses, there are some actions, in addition to the scientific experts, we as individuals can initiate to effect beneficial changes for ourselves and others to some small degree.  Of course, many individuals acting together can begin to have more effect meaningful for all others.  There are many positives in this world which I keep reminding myself and I suspect you may be doing the same, too.  

A respite from thinking about all the more negative matters can become a mentally healthy exercise by  distracting, then redirecting my mind's focus elsewhere.   Nature, other living creatures, music are just a few examples of elements that can serve that purpose for me.   They always seem to demand my full attention, bringing me a good dose of much welcomed pleasure.    I wonder what interesting activities others engage in to stimulate desired positive thoughts and feelings with which to brighten their lives?      

So it is, one such effective distraction for me occurs when for short times I vicariously live in another world including with nature's creatures or listen to music I favor. 

BIRDLAND by Manhattan Transfer 

A popular vocal group from an earlier decade vocalize live in Tokyo Japan 1986 with remarkable lyrics they added to this complex Weather Report song.  From the album "The Very Best of Manhattan Transfer."  

I've also been intrigued again by the Big Bear Bald Eagles so will update their saga though I really hadn't planned to do so this year.   I've periodically been writing about them the past few years since they've become SoCal residents nesting in the mountains east of where I live.   My attention was recaptured this year when I read a new improved live camera had been installed continuing to focus 24/7 on the eagles nest.

Curiosity had really got the best of me this past October when I remembered these eagles had laid two eggs last year, sat on them for weeks and then, disappointingly, neither hatched.  I couldn't help wondering, would this adversely affect the wanna-be parents' relationship?  Would they try to hatch eggs again?  Would they even return to the nest?  When would they arrive if they were coming back this year?

If you're curious about what they were up to in the past few years on those occasions when I peeked in on their life, type "Big Bear Bald Eagles" in my blog's search in the upper left-hand corner of this screen which will bring up several of my accounts including some videos.

The Friends of Big Bear Valley is a site I recommend for ongoing current updates.  Preserving Bald Eagles from extinction has been serious business after all as has been my general attitude in writing about them, but I may waiver a bit this time.  

These bald eagles have become celebrities even garnering news media coverage.  The birds are constantly under the video and audio monitoring of the live nest camera -- a real reality show!   Celebrities in our society garner a lot of attention from their public especially if some of their behaviors have been characterized as being unorthodox.  Perhaps this bird couple could be no exception though they seem to be oblivious to the fact we are watching them night and day.  Maybe, somehow these birds aren't immune to all the hoopla either.  I wonder if they know or suspect on some level they're being observed.   I wonder if they ever have that feeling -- you know -- that you're being watched, but you don't see anyone, or sometimes you discover there is someone intensely looking at you?   

Indulge me -- here's a little different take on these birds' story.  Consider this -- the life of these Bald Eagles is a soap opera story, you know -- Jackie's a cougar, having chosen a younger partner,  Shadow, for whom she unceremoniously ditched her previous older partner who will remain nameless.  On my initial visit to the BB site that first year, the old partner was reported to have been sighted flirtatiously flying around again after their previous season together.   The rumor was he may have been a bit flaky, so she gave him the cold wing which is more than just gossip!  Hooking up with this new guy, Jackie had apparently decided he was a keeper from their previous successful first year together.  Would he continue to be?

The Big Bear people reported they weren't sure the couple would be back, or even as the same pair.  But then Jackie and Shadow showed up again in November last year and began bringing those sticks to the nest to ready up the place a bit for another brood.  All of this was for naught since along with some other drama there was no egg hatching.  What happened?  We'll never know.

Bird-wise as I had become, I was wondering if those eagles would return this Nov. since they had such an unsuccessful previous year -- or would Jackie have traded Shadow in for a new model? . .  .  .  . t i m e . . . .. passing . . . . . FWIW I was just motivated to check their site -- they're back!   Here's the new link:

And... BB authorities added an additional link to a new wide view camera focused on Big Bear Lake to enable seeing the eagles flying, along with the continued coverage on that nest site link above.

Jackie won't lay eggs until after the first of the year.  Meanwhile she and Shadow will fly in with sticks and fluff they gather, then architecturally carefully arrange their material in the nest's remodeling process for their new brood.  This nest in the upper branches of a very tall tree must withstand winter's occasional icy cold rains, snowy blizzards, and the strength of tree-shaking winds before some hot dry days descend on the area.  The eggs must be safely secure and protected from breaking as the parents incubate them while sharing the multi-weeks alternating responsibility of sitting on the nest.

During this nest construction, the couple may occasionally be seen dining on fish or snacking on other wild-life food Shadow generally flies in as primary provider.  If they want their eggs fertile which they must be to hatch they will also have to find time to caboodle (not exactly a scientific term), beak to beak, lots of romance and more, but nature being what it is, the necessary behavior will likely occur numerous times whether on site or out of view.  Eggs are laid between January and March.  
Check out the eagles-updates link.  

So, there you have it -- once again, this blog post content has evolved into being . . . .  . for the birds!