Thursday, March 31, 2011


Yesterday we had a little accident.  Normally, thanks heavens, we don't think too much about such things but when it happens then you're very aware and grateful for the professionals who take care of our mistakes.

We set out on a ride - five of us on Harleys - to the flatlands.  We left about 10 a.m. when it was still chilly up here in the mountains.  After a stop for gas after 10 miles we journeyed on in single file.  About five miles later on I was aware that we were missing the three headlights I was used to seeing in my rear view mirror.  I usually ride number two.

I caught up with the leader and waited for the others.  There was no sign of Larry.  I went back to find him.  Sadly, yes, there was a hold up with the traffic and I caught sight of him walking around on the other side of the road.

He had for some reason ridden off the road and ended up in a steep little gully having fallen off totally.  He had a big bruise and blood over his eyebrow and also his hand was bleeding.  We tried unsuccessfully to drive his bike out of the gully but it was too far in.  The CHP arrived in a few minutes and a few more later the ambulance arrived.

As we were on a sharp bend and the others had arrived the CHP asked us to move a distance away.  It turned out that none of us knew Larry as he had just joined the ride hearing we were going.  But I walked back to see how he was getting on.  He was in the ambulance and having all the work done on him.  He was OK, just a bit banged up and I was so impressed with the way that the EMT's dealt with it all.  It's wonderful that such a service is available.  Our speeds when we finally left were probably 15% slower than earlier.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


We were in the check out line of the local supermarket the other day.  A young man was ahead of us and wanted to buy just a packet of cigarettes.  Now these items have become so loaded up with laws that it means an ID check from the checker and then she has to go to some locked cabinet and find the brand required.
It's been close to 30 years since I bought a packet of "fags," and I was amazed to hear that the cost was $6.21.  He had the six dollars but needed to swipe his card for the other 21 cents.  It occurred to me that it was such a shame that he was so broke that he was actually spending his last dollars on cigarettes.  But what do I know of his circumstances.

When he'd gone I asked the checker if that was really the price for a packet and she confirmed it was.  It seemed extremely expensive and I'm glad I'm not buying a couple of packs a day, which I'm afraid to admit I did back in my youth.
Expensive though it is however, one thing is true: The diseases are free!  What's that I hear you say: There's nothing as righteous as a reformed whore!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


On my first business trip to Spain, the very first customer I met was called Jesus.  It was even printed on his card.  He was the Jefe de Cerebro Electronico, which is what the Spanish were calling computers in those days.  "Computer" was too much like the word for whore, which is puta, so they used this rather quaint alternative - Chief of the Electronic Brain - but I think it's changed now.

However the naming of boys after the Christian deity continues, and even though I'm not very involved in such religious matters I find the name always pulls me up quickly.  Even to my irreverent mind, it seems somewhat blasphemous.

The other day we had some water damage to the house and in order to dry the carpets we had to call on a fellow locally who specializes in such work.  He was called Jesus.  Although he pronounced it Hey-Souss, which made it rather easier to swallow.  I rang him up and he was there within the hour.  Now if the real Jesus could make it as fast as that I'm sure we'd find the churches a lot fuller than at the moment.  His rates were very reasonable, and did not entail a lifetime of devotion either.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I've had a shot at most vices in my life and some of them have been a lot of fun.  But the gambling thing has never worked for me, and I have to say that I'm very grateful for that.  To begin with my mathematical skills are minimal and so working out odds and other calculations is way beyond my basic abilities - one look at the horse racing channels with their borders of moving numbers makes my head whirl.  I don't disapprove of the business, it's just outside my life experience.

Perhaps I was taught my lesson by a visit to a local racing track when I was about 16.  I didn't have a lot of money and I lost everything and had to borrow the bus fare home.  Sitting on the top deck that day I think I came to the conclusion that the amount of fun to be had by giving all my money to some loudly dressed fellow with a satchel was not equal to the effort of acquiring it.  Hence I have probably over my lifetime not expended more than $20 in bets, and that includes office sweepstakes, which are sort of mandatory.

I find it interesting that we are not allowed to gamble in California unless it's on land that belongs to Indians - I mean the local types, of course, and not from the sub-continent.  Now what idiot politician came up with that one?  I had to do a piece on our local casino some time ago and found it was not only very swish but it had the biggest car park I think I'd ever seen.  They must be able to cater to the entire population of San Bernardino in there.

What I also found interesting, as I approached the institution along the moving walkway from the parking structure, was that I was greeted with the smell of cigarettes. It was really most unpleasant, and I had forgotten how nasty it was as California has been a sort of No Smoking area for over a decade.  But it seems that not only are you allowed to gamble on Indian land but you can smoke your head off too.  The experience did not encourage me to take up either vice.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Music Track - Eagles

This is one of the best Eagles' tracks I know.  And the best line in it is "I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little ass!"  For the English out there that doesn't mean its donkey!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sunday's Column - The Wende Museum

It's easy to let time slip away from the public consciousness.  How many years is it since we heard the words perestroika and glasnost, for instance?  Ten, fifteen or is it twenty years?  In fact, how long were we all dominated by the Cold War with all it's threats and saber rattling?  Today's freshman students have no first hand knowledge of the threat from the Soviet Empire; just stories told by old people.  But to those old people it's only yesterday.
A piece of the Berlin Wall at the Wende

In Culver City there is a museum devoted to the time of the Cold War, it's called the Wende Museum, which is a German word meaning turning point.  The collection there is the brainchild of a young man called Justinian Jampol.  As a self- confessed nerd, he decided to spend his inheritance on this place rather than fast cars.  The result is a building full of communist era artifacts that would have been consigned to the dustbin of history if he hadn't persuaded various governments to hand them over.  "They can be quite difficult opening up about their past," he told me.

Among the collection are scores of busts and statues of various dignitaries, as the Soviets did seem to like their images in front of everyone.  But it was the human stories that first really attracted Jampol to his work.  He traveled extensively throughout the Eastern Bloc when he was a student in England.

Today, trucks arrive all the time with more items for his staff of 15 to collate.  If you visit, and you can find all the information on the Web site at then don't miss the exhibit on Checkpoint Charlie, but from the E. German side which was called Friedrich/Zimmerstrsse.  It's chilling!


I'm not sure when it became fashionable to drink beer out of the bottle, but I have to say I don't like it.  On our first trip to Mexico apart from the fact that the waiter by the pool insisted on calling me "amigo," which I thought was very forward, he compounded the sin by bringing our beers in just the bottles.  I had to ask him quite firmly for "dos vasos."
Drinking straight out of the bottle I consider to be not only unpleasant but it gives me a sort of upper digestive gas problem.  And She Who Must Be Obeyed certainly would not drink out of a bottle, as I've told her that no lady would do it!  But the habit continues.

Now the same thing goes for drinking it out of a can - the same gas difficulty.  However there is some hope on the horizon, I think.  If the canners introduce that tear off lid that is beginning to appear on all types of canned goods, then maybe with a wider neck I could do it.  However until that  happens, "Un vaso, por favor!"

Friday, March 25, 2011


I'm sorry, but I've had to change the layout again.  The white writing on the colored background was difficult for some of you to read so I hope this change will be better.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


We have about three wigwams in our area.  One is at the local museum and is the most  genuine, the other two are used as guest accommodations in a local B & B and also a private house.  They are not genuine to our area as the local Indians used to hollow out the earth for shelter.  Wigwams are the province of the Plains Indians who would move around a lot and take these tents with them.  They are quite cleverly constructed and some of them have poles on the outside to strengthen them.

Down in San Bernardino there is another more unlikely set of Wigwams, more correctly called tepees.  They are at the Wigwam Motel.  It was built in 1949 by Frank Redford and was number seven in a chain that stretched from Kentucky to California.  This strange place is on the old Route 66, which was the home of many such novelty places.

I did a piece on it some years back and met the owner, who is a Mr. Patel from India, and who has owned it for close to 35 years.  It struck me as quite funny that here I was an Englishman, who's ancestors were obsessed with finding a route to Mr. Patel's land to acquire spices, and here today we had a real Indian on historic Route 66, owning a business build by European Americans in the style of the Native Americans of so long ago which the explorers thought were real Indians; a true example of the giant melting pot in action.  Also the confusion of conquerors.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


It's sad that Elizabeth Taylor has just died.  I fell for her at age 13 when I saw her in Ivanhoe with Robert Taylor.  She was an exceptionally beautiful woman, who considering her fame and fortune did not always have such a happy life.
Married eight times - twice to Richard Burton - she ended up being a rather odd character devoted to the cure for AIDS and to a friendship with Michael Jackson, which most of us couldn't quite understand.  And what was that marriage to Larry Fortenski all about?

We saw her in a live performance of Private Lives with Richard Burton in Los Angeles.  She was married at the time to Senator John Warner of Virginia.  She and Burton were pretty good in the play but I think the parts were rather like their own lives, not easy!  It's hard to say which of the 50 film roles is her best but Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer have got to be pretty high on the list.

Most Influential - Answer

Last week I posed the question: What is the most influential change that has happened to society in your lifetime?  I said I would post my answer this week and here it is.  The Pill!

With the invention of the pill, women at last were able to control their pregnancy situation.  Until then they were always at risk and therefore unable to compete with men with the stability that was needed in the workplace.  Within a decade they could be recruited to fill positions that beforehand they were barred from, due to the chance they could get married and pregnant and leave.

Within two decades, which is a very short time in the history of mankind, they were able to add their abilities to the development of society - a 50% increase in productivity.   Life has never been the same.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open Up!

I'm rather proud to say that we don't own an electric can opener.  I really think that having one is the ultimate in slavery to modernity.  There is nothing wrong with the hand held type although I think it's OK to have moved on from the really old ones that my grandparents used to use.  They left a very nasty jagged edge on the lid that was removed.  But going electric just adds to my "luditeness."
Many years ago I had a friend who's wife was into home management in a big way - used to give classes on it.  Her bete noire was the state of most people's can openers.  She said that the amount of bacteria that built up on the circular blades of openers was often very high and quite dangerous.  It was particularly prevalent in the electric type.  However, I've noticed that tin cans are now coming with those natty little tear off lids, so maybe the old fashioned opener is going the way of the fire bellows or the buggy whip.  In years to come archaeologists will find one and ponder as to what it could possible be for!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday's Column - Sweeney Art Museum

Sunday's column is about an art museum in downtown Riverside.  This is a nice city and it seems to circulate around the Mission Inn which is something of an institution.  So much in fact that I went there for lunch.  Now I would recommend it, but shall we say the service is more European than American. In other words don't go there if you're in a hurry.  The food was excellent even though it made me late for my pm appointment.  Those of you who know me know how much I hate to be late.
The Culver Arts Building in Riverside

The Sweeney Art Museum is an institution devoted to the most contemporary art.  It is part of the University of California Riverside, which is a couple of miles up the road.  On the occasion of my visit there was an exhibit of art devoted to the plight of "illegal immigrants," who were of course referred to as "undocumented workers."  No matter your stance on the political situation regarding these people, you have to admit that they have a hard life made even harder by their situation.  Like me they came to this country seeking a better life, except I had the wherewithal to do it legally.
The exhibit is a powerful one and I would recommend seeing it before it closes on April 1st.

Music Track - Hudson

This week's music track is not really my type of music; but I do like the artist.  I've never watched American Idol but I believe that Jennifer Hudson didn't actually win it, which gives the program a slightly strange reputation I would have thought.  I did see Dream Girls and saw Ms. Hudson in it.  It was a pretty impressive performance. Quite a voice!  Sorry about the advert in Spanish for Cheese at the beginning!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bells - part two

I am shortly about to take a little trip which will entail sailing a catamaran about 500 miles.  There will be four of us to do the work, along with a little beer I hope!  We will work the old naval way of watches and probably these will be about six hours in length.  However the prospect reminded me of when my father and grandfather would get into their stride talking.

They were both naval men, my grandfather a Lt. Commander in the Royal Navy, and my father having served with the P & O for some years.  They had an annoying habit of referring to the time by the naval method of bells, which as a child I could never get the hang of at all.

The other day I worked out the system which had been lying in my subconscious for some time I suppose.  The normal four-hour watch begins at 12 which is eight bells.  Half past 12 is one bell.  One o'clock is two bells, 2:30 three bells, 2 o'clock is four bells, 2:30 is five bells, three is six bells, 3:30 is seven bells, four is eight bells and then the system starts all over again.  I suppose the old expression of knocking seven bells out of someone refers to the last half hour of a watch by which time you would be pretty tired.  According to my watch we're just coming up on one bell!

Friday, March 18, 2011


When I was growing up there was a nursery rhyme that nearly everybody knew.  It went like this:
Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements; 
You owe me five farthings say the bells of St Martins
When will you pay me say the bells of Old Bailey,
When I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch,
When will that be say the bells of Stepney,
I'm sure I don't know said the great bell of Bow.

Bells were a part of everyone's life just a century ago, as not everyone wore watches and people used the bells to keep an eye or an ear on time.  All the London bells above were in action during my youth but I don't know if that's the case today as they no longer perform a useful funtion.

The bell of Bow also had one other important function and that was if you were born within the sound of it you were considered to be a Cockney.

Most Sunday mornings bells would ring out all over the country and I must say I miss the sound.  Here is a one minute clip of what they were like - you can see the ringers too!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


It seems one of the fashions that separates the old from the young is the drinking of water.  If you're under 40 then there's a good chance there's a bottle of water somewhere within reach.  For the older of us mostly we aren't users of the many brands of water available.  I do remember bottles of Malvern Water being on the bar at most pubs in the UK - for the fussy whisky drinkers who required purity.  The image was somewhat tarnished when I found one landlord filling up the bottles from the tap.  Also someone once told me he'd never drink it as he'd seen the sheep on the Malvern Hills piddling all over the place.

Recently however I had an experience which was very much water related.  I had a feeling in my throat as if a large pill had not gone down properly.  It lasted for well over three weeks and so naturally I assumed I had the "Michael Douglas" thing.  I went to the Dr and he referred me to a quite fierce ENT lady.  She looked me over and asked how much water I drank.  She dismissed out of hand Coor's Lite, decaf coffee and tea, and insisted she meant actual water.  I told her not very much.  She told me that I needed to drink a lot of water and I went away relieved and straight into a shop for a crate of it.  After a week, as she foretold, the feeling went away and today I drink as much of it as I can stand.  I still don't like it very much.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Most Influential

Someone told me the other day that he'd recently met a 100-year old woman.  He asked her in her long life what was the most influential change that she had witnessed.  She said it was antibiotics.  When she was a child many people would die as doctors couldn't stop infections.  He volunteered that in his life he thought the most dramatic change was the ability to obtain information.  He cited needing a piece of equipment for an old car that he was renovating.  He found the exact piece he needed on the Internet from someone in Germany.  It would have been impossible to get it any other way.

So what do you think is the most important change in your lifetime?  As for me, I'll tell you next week.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I really would like to hear from my liberal friends about this one.  Why can't we drill for oil here and be independent of the Middle East?  I believe there are two principal reasons: a) it's going to spoil the environment and b) we need to develop other renewable energies.

Well, firstly, once gasoline hits $10 a gallon, you're going to see the environment polluted with people burning anything they can to keep warm, and as for the second, there isn't anything that's as cheap and and plentiful as oil.  The technology just doesn't exist and we have more oil under the US than the entire Middle East. This is a big country and you can't go far on a charge of electricity - what's the distance?  One hundred miles?  And I don't see Al Gore driving a car powered by a windmill!

Around Los Angeles there are several oil fields populated by what they call Nodding Dobbins like these above.  They may not appeal to many people but considering what they do for us I think they have a certain grace.  I've got a bit of land out the back and if they want to stick one or two there it's fine with me.

I have a suggestion: Drill Baby Drill!  Then after a few years let's review the situation.  Or do you like being dependent on Sr. Chavez, or the various sheiks who hold our futures in their oily little hands?  Once we announce a serious return to rapid drilling, watch the price of a barrel of crude drop like a stone!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Earthquake Update

As many of you know, my son, Michael, lives in Japan and several of you have asked me how he's been doing with the current situation.  He also writes for a London journal called The Square Mile under the name of H. A. Brown.  He sent in a report of the entire episode which is available on their Web site, which you can access here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday's Column - Sinatra

This Sunday's column was devoted to my visit to Sinatra's house in Palm Springs, which I've already covered here.  On the way back from the desert I called into a bookshop, and with the token my daughter had given me for Christmas I bought a biography of Ava Gardner.  She had been the most influential woman in Sinatra's life, and I really didn't know that much about her.

It is hard not imagine her swimming starkers (which she did a lot) in the pool Sinatra had built in the shape of a grand piano.  Having read her life I can quite understand the perils of falling for a woman like her, and poor "old blue eyes" certainly paid the price.  It's said he never quite overcame his addiction.

Sinatra loved the desert and there are still plenty of people in the area who remember him and some of his wild ways.  He used to leave $20 bills under the table at one restaurant he liked to visit, for the cleaning staff to collect in the mornings.  He would also buy rounds for the entire establishment if he was in the mood.  But woe betide anyone approaching the great man when he wasn't in the mood; and particularly if you were a member of the press.  He could be most unpleasant.

Music Track - Lil Darlin

We thought we were really cool back in 1957, but listening to this I wonder just how cool we could possibly have been.  This was sent to me by my friend, Kevin, and the interesting part of it is that it's two performances separated by 47 years.

One wonders if they hadn't got sick of the song after such a time!  I quite like the "tails" in the later piece - probably as old as he is.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


As many of you know, my eldest son lives in Japan with his wife Eiko, and dog Jassie.  I'm pleased to report that although he was on the 25th floor in his office when the quake struck, and Eiko and Jassie were on the 26th floor in their condo in Yokohama they were all OK.  Michael said it was a life changing experience, not the least due to the duration of the earthquake but also the intensity.  Communications were difficult to begin with but emails got through.  Trains and elevators stopped; people were walking home on freeways.

I have seen some of the engineering that goes into modern buildings and often wondered if it truly worked.  Michael confirms that as this was the worst earthquake in Japan's history it certainly does.  There was no damage to their home.  Also Milestone, the catamaran that we are due to sail in a month, is OK.

In a little tribute to Tokyo THE BIG PICTURE this week is one of Tokyoites going about in their normal lives.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I had occasion to staple a couple of pieces of paper together the other day.  I don't do this very often as I try and keep paper to a minimum.  However as is usually the case, the stapling machine I have was out of staples.  This always seems to be the case - a bit like policemen when you really need them.

This sent me to my modest stationery shelf in order to fill the thing up.  Now, when we dissolved our business down the hill there were a few items that we divided up and I seemed to have inherited the staples - seven boxes of them.  I checked and found that each box contains 5,000.  Now that's a lot considering that I only use at most about ten a year.  So it seems that I have enough to last me the rest of my life provided that is 3,500 years.  Methuselah  better look out!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I had German Measles when I was about 14.  As such I had to take a few days off.  It so happened that at that time Mr. Curwin, our Math teacher did the lesson on "financial instruments."  When I came back I had absolutely no idea what anyone was talking about, and so I've always steered away from the subject.  For any of you who have a similar problem here is an explanation on the truth of derivatives that even I can understand.  It's worth reading through, and I'm grateful to my friend in England for sending it to me.

Congress decided that it's not fair that loans are not available to bars and taverns in poor areas whose customers are predominately unemployed alcoholics. They sent out an order that if banks do not raise their lending in these areas by 300%, they would face punitive sanctions. Therefore one day in Detoit a clever young thing noticed Heidi's bar and approached her with a suggestion.

They both realized that virtually all of Heidi's customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.

To solve this problem, they come up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.

Heidi keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers' loans).

Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into her bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit.

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.
Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

By now the clever young thing has become a young and dynamic vice-president of the bank and realises that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit.

He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral!!!

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINK BONDS.

These "securities" then are bundled and traded on international securities markets.

Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as "AAA Secured Bonds" really are debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb!!!, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts.

Since Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and Heidi's 11 employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINK BOND prices drop by 90%.

The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the BOND securities.

They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and lose over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.

Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the government.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, nondrinkers who have never been in Heidi's bar.

Now do you understand? I think I finally do!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Auger

People who don't live above the snow line no doubt are unaware of "The Auger."  It's a wonderful thing.  The problem with snow is that it has to go somewhere and the ploughs that come through naturally push it to the side of the road; both sides in fact.  The result is that the roads here become smaller and smaller with occasionally only enough room for one car at a time.

Big Auger

 Little kids years ago used to rush out and watch certain vehicles passing, and I have to say when the Big Auger comes through it is quite a sight to see it widening the road.  Of course this huge machine is just a bigger version of the one many of us use to clear our driveways.  Here is mine.
Little Auger
They work on the same principal, with a huge swirling corkscrew that breaks up the snow and then pushes it to the back where another blade swirls it upwards through the chute - all clever stuff.

The driver of the Big Auger is a grim looking fellow as he has to concentrate on his target.  He has a control however that directs the flow away from our driveways for which we're all very grateful.

Once the Auger appears, along with the clocks going forward, it's a harbinger of the arrival of spring -  hooray!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Peace Through Superior Firepower

This slogan drives peaceniks crazy, but it has often been demonstrated to be true.  After all, no-one would have dreamed of attacking the Roman Empire at the height of its power.  It was only after they had overstretched themselves and overtaxed their population that the Huns and the Goths began to chip away and eventually take down the capital. 

A friend kindly sent this video to me; it lasts just over eight minutes but is a fascinating explanation of how some intrepid explorers managed one of the greatest journeys in the history of mankind without loss of life.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunday's Column - Dates

Sunday's column was about the date business in Palm Springs.  Dates are difficult little devils to grow and need constant attention.  It's hard to understand why Mr. and Mrs. Shields left their Iowa home in 1924 to come all the way out here to grow them.
Dates can take from five to 20 years to grow and they have to have the fruit fertilized by hand.  They also have to be permanently moist deep down in the roots, and have all the growing fruit covered with bags in high summer, which in Palm Springs can be very high indeed.

But the Shields' prospered and became successful.  People will travel miles to sample one of their "date shakes,"  I didn't on my visit, although at 10:00 a.m. there were lots of people milling around in the gardens and outdoor cafe, where breakfast was being served under the spreading palm trees.

Palm Springs is at its best at this time of the year and for people up above the snow line it's only two hours away; not a long drive for a 50 degree improvement in temperature.

Of course in the summer it's the other way around to get away from the scorching heat that is the desert.  But for now, enjoy the wonderful climate change and perhaps a box of dates from Shields visitor center.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Music Track - Thomas Tallis

This is a piece of music that was fist composed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth - the first, and not the current one, the second.  That makes its year of composition around 1567.  This version was written in 1909 by Ralph Vaughan Williams who died in 1958.  It is perhaps the ultimate English music and it sounds like it too.  It takes about ten minutes.
I notice on the U Tube site that 138 people liked this and 3 didn't.  If you fall into the latter category, then  you no doubt will enjoy the video, which again is pure England.
An afterthought is that many years ago I read somewhere that this was considered the ultimate seduction music; no doubt after some oysters and a chilled bottle of good champagne in front of an open fire.  I never tried it!
I found the original Tallis version as well; it lasts about 2 minutes, and is as it must have sounded back all those years ago, it is sung by a choir alone.  I think Vaughan Williams did a wonderful job of his arrangement.  See what you think.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


A friend suggested the other day that I write a post on why Harley riders are all equal.  I'm not so sure about that, but I think in a wider context all motorcyclists share many of the same feelings about their activity.  Perhaps unlike driving, there is an underlying fact that riding a motorcycle is fundamentally dangerous.

It's this danger that I think puts off a lot of people but there are enough out there to make riding around on two wheels a very popular activity.  Of course, the danger can be diminished by training and keeping yourself fit and aware.  There is no doubt that riding a motorcycle makes you a better car driver as you see the road in a different way.  Also motorcycles have some advantages over their metal boxed companions; they are smaller and take up less room; they are quicker, and they can stop faster.  Nonetheless to fall off a bike in traffic is going to be a very unpleasant event.

Harnessing this danger will provide the rider with a different feeling towards travel and even a short uninteresting journey will be more exciting than in a car where you are insulated from the environment, and to some extent its dangers.

So even though Harley riders are in no way created equal, they have two things they all share: The love of riding, and also the love of a particular marque.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fir Trees

On our usual morning walk the other day we passed by a small front yard where the boys like to stop and pick up their p-mail.  Standing there I happened to notice that there were three very different types of fir trees standing next to each other in the yard.  I was also sorry to note that I couldn't give them a name, although I've lived in this alpine setting for twelve years and been coming up her for almost 30.

This lack of knowledge made me realize that most plant and tree names I learned when I was very young - it seems that adults felt it necessary to impart this type of information to all young people back them.  I wonder if they still do it?

Of course, moving to a different country in a very different climate, much of what I knew is somewhat outdated now as most of the flora is totally foreign.  But I do think I have to make the effort and find out the names of our different trees.  So a visit to the local Discovery Center is in my future. 

It's just on the other side of the lake and is a mine of information about all local nature.  In fact it might just be time for me to do another article on the place, as it's quite a feature of Big Bear.

If you go to you can see ten videologues I did about three years ago of my favorite places in the Inland Empire, the Discovery Center is featured on the last of these.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I have been asked to put a posting on the blog on a regular basis.  It is now at the bottom section above The Big Picture.  It will be changed every week.

It is called The Right Track and it will be a view of things here in the US, and also in the world from a personal point of view.

The title of the post says much about its content.  Basically it's a view from the right hand side of the political and societal spectrum, and may annoy or upset my left wing friends - Yes, I have a few!

If you agree or disagree and want to add your voice, please email me at and I'll try and post comments that are of interest.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I quite like hats but I don't wear them, unless the weather is really bad.  I like hats on women too, but I notice that few wear them.  Perhaps they have the same reaction to them as I do, namely that they make your head scratchy.

Now these are panama hats and I've never worn one of them.  Mostly really old men used to wear them when I was young.  As a really old man today, perhaps I should consider getting one.  But then it would end up in the closet along with the cowboy hat I seem to have collected somewhere.  Of course, I have the ubiquitous baseball hat(s) kicking around, and my favorite, which was a black one with the Harley logo, I lost last year while sailing with Michael in Japan.  I still miss it.

I notice too that some of the glitterati like to wear, what we in England used to call flat hats or cheese cutters.  They were always the province of the working class or the upper class who wore them while shooting.  I've got one sculling aorund but I wouldn't dare wear it.  I used to wear a gray bowler a long time ago, but eventually I felt stupid and stopped.  It was a good trademark for a while though.

It's worth noting that baseball hats seem to need instructions on how to wear them. Young men in particular feel it necessary to put them on incorrectly; let's all repeat "The Peak Goes in the Front!" I think we've run the gamut of trying it to the side and the back and various places in between. It's over, let's get back to normal!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I heard Donald Rumsfeld interviewed the other day; he's out there hawking his book around and having to put up with some quite impertinent questions from young liberal interviewers.  No matter how you feel about him, he's tried, I'm sure, to do the best he can for his country as he's been in the public arena since 1962.

I probably won't read his book, but I did find one of his remarks of interest.  He said that soon after he went into the State Department he was told by an older man to remember one thing: "At any one time, two thirds of the world is up to no good!"

I'm sure with such a view of the world, and my experience tells me it is right, you are bound to have a certain attitude towards it.

One other of the many memorable quotes Rummy has made is: "It's easier to get into something than get out of it!" How true.