Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ed Stiles

I've recently had a major clear out of my working space.  It's been about five weeks now so I think the new regime is going to stick.  I used to have lots of little bits of paper around, but now I've managed to stop the habit.  It was easier than giving up fags, I can tell you!  However one little thing I've kept close to me is a postcard I collected from the 20-Mule Museum far out in the desert at Boron.  It portrays one of the mule teams along with one of the handlers - Ed Stiles.

In case some of you townies have forgotten what a mule looks like this is one - long ears and very straight back.
Now poor old Ed was a muleskinner and his life was extremely hard.  He helped to drive a wagon train of twenty mules 165 miles across the Mojave Desert from Death Valley to the small town of Mojave itself. His job was to sit astride one of the last two animals in the train, often in temperatures of 130˚ F in summer; the twenty extremely stubborn creatures under his control must have created quite a challenge for anyone. The teams operated from 1881 until 1898.

Apparently maneuvering this wagon train around was a sight that spectators would turn out for – Ed and his two fellow handlers would use short tugs on the reins to go right and steady pulls to go left. Quite how responsive the mules were is not mentioned, but you can be sure they didn’t always perform according to the owner’s handbook.

Along with him was a driver, who sat aloft the huge wagons which were loaded with borax, and at the back was the “Swamper,” who was responsible for manning the brakes and also the cooking and dishwashing.  They lived on a diet of beans and occasionally some bacon.  They were described as silent, bad tempered men.  Can you wonder?

So the reason I keep Ed and his mules prominently on my desk is to remind myself when things don't go right, that life could be a damned sight worse - I could be Ed Stiles, and that would be no joke!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I wrote some time back about the possibility of watches going out of style - in fact with the use of cell phones, disappearing altogether.  The other day, I made a joke to a young 20 year old that the cell phone I turned in to upgrade recently was so old it was actually run by clockwork.  I was met by a blank stare.  He didn't recognise the term - incredible!  But the fact is that something that was so prevalent in my early life is not around today.  I think apart from some antique clocks I brought over from England, I only have three functioning clockwork items in my possession.  A couple of watches, and a kitchen timer.

The photo above from the free Web site called Morgue File is entitled Graveyard of Time - a fitting name.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bucket List

I have to say that my "bucket list" is very small.  Now this means that either I have no ambition or that I have lived a little too fully and yet survived to tell the tale.

There isn't anyone that I truly yearn to meet - except my favorite barman on a regular basis for the next 50 years, at least.  I'm not too impressed by fame or notoriety.  I've been very fortunate to travel a lot in my life and there are not too many places left to visit.  But perhaps I would put at the top of my list an extensive amount of time to visit South America.  I've been to the very top of the continent, but never ventured to the rest of it.

When I was about 10 my father had a job offer to go to Argentina.  He thought long and hard about it and turned it down.  He always said that he didn't want to raise me in such a foreign country.  At the time and for several years I regretted his decision, but now I quite understand.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I was very lucky in my early life to visit lots of factories; where they actually made things.  I saw cars, bottles, cookies, perfumes, vacuums, drugs, and TV tubes; the list goes on and on.  With every establishment there were hundreds of people bent to their tasks in every kind of environment.  I saw red matches being made in a factory that was built in the 1800's.  It was constructed as a match factory and was very, very safe.  There were no mistakes with such flammable material.

Recently, there has been a TV ad where a man wanders around a modern factory.  There are no people, only robots.  An incredible idea.  And I'm sure it's true.  After a few years I changed my direction and spent all my time in computer rooms and data entry areas.  It didn't matter where one went the basics were always the same.  Perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come, but of course, I didn't realize it at the time.  Incidentally the cleanest factory I ever went into, was the one in Havant, Hampshire where they made Tampax.  The noisiest factory I visited was the Rizla cigarette paper facility along the North Circular Road in London.  Low ceilings and machines that actually screamed.  It was dreadful.   I'm glad I saw the way things were made, but I imagine it's a lot nicer now.

The picture here shows the condition in which most of my early factories are now surely in.  Sad in a way.  The end of an era, but better for the workers to just supervise robots and lasers.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


We'd been living out here for about nine months when we hit the Christmas period.  It's funny how quickly we all adapted to Californian life - in many ways it was much easier, of course.  We lived in Marina Del Rey which is really a small village, with not too many residents, and lots of visitors on the weekends.  About a mile from our apartment was a wonderful supermarket, called Boys; it had the distinction of being named the supermarket with the most attractive women shoppers in America.

Well, on our first Christmas day, Boys posted a notice that they would be closed from 12 noon.  Normally they were open 24 hours, of course.  A feeling of panic descended on me.  Suppose we needed a jar of pig's feet, or ran out of toilet paper.  What the hell were we going to do?  We had become totally reliant on the pampering that California offered.

I was reminded of this the other day at our local market up here in Big Bear.  Normally they are closed between 2 and 6 a.m. so we've sort of disciplined ourselves to going without.  But the bomb was dropped.  They intended closing for the entire 24-hour period of Christmas day.  I reeled with the information.  As soon as I returned home, I checked our stock of pig's feet, and also toilet paper of course.  One never knows when a sudden attack of Montezuma's revenge might strike.  Well, I can report that we made it through the entire day.  But there was still a nagging feeling at the back of the mind.

Trevor's Travels

For the first time in close to a decade, there is no Trevor's Travels in The Sun.  As Saturday was Christmas, the paper drastically reduced the staff and only produced a "collapsed" version of the Sunday paper.  Most of the usual suspects therefore did not appear.  One can only hope that it does not mean the "collapse" of my regular journalistic career.  Things should return to normal next Sunday.

Music Track for Dec 26th

Merry Christmas everyone!
I have a little personal tradition during Christmas and that is the playing of this piece.  I don't think my family have yet spotted it.  This is a different version, but note perfect for all that.  You may be one of the 34 million who have already seen it, nonetheless it conveys everything best about Christmas.
Normally people always stand for this piece, and the history of that tradition goes back to the first London performance in the mid-18th century, when Handel first perfomed the work in front of King George II.  The king was so transfixed by the music that he automatically stood up.  Etiquette demanded that when the monarch rose, everyone else did too.  Hence the tradition - I'm assuming it still goes on.
Now we've had a few Baroque pieces for the last weeks, so next week - some hard rock!  Yeah!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

This is very pertinent as we've had a lot of snow this week!

Friday, December 24, 2010


Have you ever found that you own something you dislike?  I've had a mug on my desk for about the last 25 years, and I looked at it yesterday coming to the conclusion that I've always hated it.  It was given to me by a fellow I didn't much care for; he'd picked it up at a business conference that was a total waste of time and money.  It's rather ugly and, of course, it's in pristine condition - why don't the nasty things ever seem to break?

The new container
I was mulling this over when I wandered into the kitchen and spotted another mug doing the same task - keeping spare pencils and pens at hand.  This one was bought for me by Michael years ago and is a fine piece of work.  It also has what could double up as the family motto: Life's a Bitch; Then You Die.  We all realized quickly that there is one more line to add to that: And Nobody Cares!  We Summons' have always tried to be optimists!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I'm still practising with my new iPhone. It's truly an incredible device and although the "App Store" cheerfully informs me that I'm not authorized for some reason, I find the convenience of being able to access emails while S.W.M.B.O. is in some store quite terrific.  It reminds me of the progress of phones in my lifetime.

This is very much like the first phone my family had; heavy, and of course, black.  The essence of luxury was if you had a white one - only for the truly privileged.  I can still remember the number we had - Watford 4683.  But my grandparents (Halland 209) had an even more primitive system, where they couldn't dial anyone directly - it had to go through the operator.  Any calls outside the Watford area in our case had to go via dialing "0."

My very first job in the school holidays was operating a switchboard for a chemical company in London.  It had lots of wires and long plugs to connect the various people in the firm.

I remember writing last summer about the miracle of being able to make a call home from Michael's boat out in the Japanese Pacific from his iPhone.  Truly an amazing leap in technology for someone who still remembers his first phone number from 65 years ago.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I think we may be losing our Northern European grit.  Obviously, the reason N. Europeans led the way in the development of culture is mostly to do with weather.  If the sun's always shining you can loll about having fun, but if it's freezing cold and raining, you have to get indoors.  And to do that you have to have some doors to get in!  And once you've put up a building, you have to decorate it and then amuse yourself.  It's not easy.

Now we've been out here in America's playground for nearly 30 years and I think we're starting to lose it.  We've had continuous rain for four days and now it looks like it's going to snow for another three.  I have to say that it's made me rather bad tempered, and S.W.M.B.O. has become somewhat depressed.  Let's face it, when we were back in the old country we would have shrugged this stuff off and just gone down the pub.  Last evening, for Heaven's sake we even canceled a date at a local and stayed home and huddled by the fire.  What the hell has gone wrong with us?

Monday, December 20, 2010


I recently wrote a piece in the Sunday column about a wildlife retreat for animals.  One of the animals I met was a wonderful coyote, called Wylie, of course.  He was rescued several years ago,  being the only survivor of his pack that had been struck with a bad virus.  The column caused the owners of the preserve a problem with the bureaucrats who handle such things.  They were concerned that people would think that you could tame coyotes and turn them into pets.  This is not possible as like woves they will always be wild.

This is a wild coyote - the picture was taken some time ago by my friend Ann, who lived across the lake in the village of Fawnskin.  He looks fairly tame and in fact Ann used to put the odd scrap out for him, but make no mistake, like his brothers and sisters this is a completely wild animal.

We see quite a few coyotes up here in the mountains.  They regularly trot past my office window on their business, whatever that might be.  I have even seen one in the middle of Village Drive at midday on a Saturday.  They seem completely fearless.

But mostly we hear them with their distinctive howling - it's quite beautiful but very eerie until you get used to it.  They are very crafty too.  They will bring a female in heat around to a loose dog and then corral it when it leaves its safety.  I have seen skeletal remains after such an event.  So as I wrote in a previous post, if you're visiting the mountains with a dog under about 40 ponds, don't let it run around loose, or it could fall victim.  And also remember like everything else living up here, animals are not to be trusted - and that includes many of the two legged kind!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday's Column - Bookbinding

Sunday's column was about getting a book bound (not published).  I ran into The Book Craftsman some years ago when I was doing a piece on Mentone at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.  The firm was founded in the 1930's by a Swiss gentleman working out of his garage, but today it is owned and run by Mike Arnold, an ex-Brit, who retired from his law practise and wanted something to keep him busy.  This is him holding a book I wrote some years ago.

Which brings me to the point of the story.  As a service to your young heirs, why not write a series of essays for them to enjoy when you're no longer around?  Frankly it's not hard, and the result will be treasured by successive generations.  You just have to start, and of course, have a place where they will bind the result.  It's not expensive either.  I had three red leather copies made of the book I wrote for Evan, my grandson, and they cost less than $100 each.  He will get his copy when he's 21.  As a compulsive writer, I'm working on another for him.  This time in blue, I think.

Music Track for Dec 20th

We officially start winter on the 21st, although it's been damned cold for awhile up here in the mountains.  In celebration of this time of year here is Vivaldi's tribute to the season with his "Winter" from the Four Seasons.  Part of his notes for the music include stamping of the feet to keep warm.

Stravinsky once unkindly said of Vivaldi's music that is was the same old tune played hundreds of different ways.  Rather unfair and as The Seasons has been played - sometimes in Indian Restaurants for Heaven's sake! - for some three hundred years he must have been doing something right.  One is forced to ask how much Stravinsky will be listened to in the 2200's?

The video of this is rather interesting with the masks and views of Venice - wonderful city!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


There is a medical museum in Riverside that I've written about several times for Trevor's Travels.  It is a tough look at how things really were back in the "good" old days.  One exhibit is the advance of the stethoscope - an interesting short history.

It seems that the normal way of listening to a patient's

heart a couple of hundred years ago was simply to lay the ear on the chest, and listen.

Apparently one day an extremely well developed young lady needed attention.  The doctor was somewhat flummoxed by the presented twin problems.  In a fit of inspiration he grabbed a piece of paper from his desk and rolled it into a tube to keep his head away from the protuberances.  It was not long before better tubes were developed and thence flexible ones.

I was told this by the custodian of the museum; I have no reason to doubt him, and it makes sense to me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Design Change

It's the official start of winter next week - actually on Tuesday the 21st.  So here is a new design for the season; I think it's a little cold looking so let me know what you think, please.  We'll do another change on March 20th when spring begins.

Henry Moore

The Big Picture at the bottom last week was Three Reclining Figures which is at the LA County Museum of Art.  It is a large bronze piece by Henry Moore, who perhaps is England's most famous sculptor, and who died in 1986.  He was a Yorkshireman - one of eight children - who lived in extreme poverty growing up.  He became immensely wealthy but always lived modestly.

Like most people in the UK, I was introduced to his work slowly and with quite a lot of controversy.  It's become so accepted today, but at the time it was thought of as lumpy and not very clear.  There were also some odd physical things about his works which at the time were though of as disturbing.  I was unaware that my launch into the world of work was to occur each day as I passed under the portals of 55, Broadway, the home of London Transport, who sportingly offered me employment when I left school at 16.  They were later to withdraw their offer when the results of my end of school results came in.  But that's another tale.

Today, Moore's sculptures have endured and are all over the world.  If you want to check him out further, this is the link to the Wikipedia entry with many of his works shown at the bottom of the page.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Loose Dogs

People should be careful with their dogs up here.  Just because it's "The Mountains" doesn't mean that dogs will revert to their wild state and adapt to natural living.  The small dogs can be, and sometimes are, carried off by coyotes - more on them in an upcoming post.  But even the large ones are in danger, but from coyotes of the human kind.

This is Lakota.  He was the king of the street dogs.  A pure bred Malamute he lived down the road from us and it was always fun to see him trotting around, fully in charge of his domain.  But sadly he was abducted by a visitor and carried off.  We miss him still, although Frankie and Johnny are no doubt relieved that their owners no longer misbehave with Lakota as they were wont to do; in full view of the house as well!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Sponsor

I'm pleased to welcome a new sponsor to Trevor's Tracks.  It's Ben's Weather.  In future, you will see his logo on the right, and if you want to find out the latest weather conditions just click on the picture.  Ben Brissey is the subject of the upcoming column for Sunday December 26th, so I'll not dwell on his talents at this time.  Suffice it to say that he has been forecasting weather up here for the last 17 years and we all think he's about got it right.  It's not an easy place to do this as we're sandwiched between the high desert on one side and the Inland Empire with some coastal flow on the other.

Horseback Riding

In deference to my American hosts, I have labeled this post "horseback riding," although of course the "back" part is redundant as there isn't anywhere else to ride the damned animal.  But I digress.  S.W.M.B.O. used to be a champion rider.  She was a show jumper and has the cups and ribbons to prove it.  She gave it up many years ago but she had a brief flurry on horses at the stables in Playa del Rey some 20 years back.  And her favorite equine beast was Kirkland; an ex-race horse and a handsome fellow too.
This isn't Kirkland, but it looks a bit like him.

My riding experience was in my mid-twenties where a friend and I use to rent the odd hack and thrash them around the Surrey countryside until they got lathered up a bit.  Great sport, but not the disciplined type of dressage that She Who Must Be Obeyed exhibited.

However, Kirkland and I had built a sort of relationship and one day I asked if I could take him round the ring for a little trot.  It was quite a large ring too.  I moved old Kirkie from first gear up into second, but he took that to mean shifting to third and then into fourth and rapidly into overdrive - a full stretch gallop.  I had no way to stop him and it was quite the most terrifying experience of my life.  I eventually tried to turn him round into smaller and smaller circles and Kirkie realized that the fun was over, so he just dropped his shoulder and shoved me off.  He then trotted over to my dear lady to tell her what fun it had been, and could she bring me back again soon. 

It was several days before I could rid myself of the image of his powerful shoulders churning away beneath me, but worse was to follow.  Soon afterwards the situation came up in conversation among others and S.W.M.B.O. said in her best Worthing tone: "Well, I thought you could ride, but Kirkland proved otherwise!"  Dear oh dear!

P.S.  S.W.M.B.O. has just loooked at the photo above and told me once again in chilling tones: "That's not a bit like Kirkland. Kirkland was a pure bred chestnut.  That is a bay!"  She also called me a wanker.  Dear oh dear, again!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Some years ago I heard George Carlin doing a rant on "Stuff."  He maintained that we all had too much of it.  It's true though that we have a lot more than our ancestors, and of course, there comes the need to store it.  And up here that means a garage - and as big a one as you can get.

The garage we inherited when we bought this house was quite modest - it was built in 1946.  But a few years ago we had it extended.  Incidentally, in order to do this we had 13 inspections by the building department.  Thirteen?  That's the subject for another post, or even a tirade, I think.

However, we now have a garage which is actually sufficient for our needs, but it needs a bit of creativity to pack it full.  This means both motorcycles, both cars, several bikes, and a snow blower.  The luck of it is that it's not a double garage in the fullest meaning of the word; more like two garages next to each other.

I've often thought that if there were only men living on the earth, we would all have just enormous garages.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday's Column - Wildhaven Ranch

We've already dipped into some of the photos I took of the wonderful animals at Wildhaven Ranch.  Diane Dragotta Williams runs an amazing facility caring for animals who have been damaged in the wild.  I've been there about four times, and it's always a joy to see her charges - they all look so fit and well.  Many of them can no longer go back to the world of nature as they have been "humanized" by their cure, like Misha.

Misha the Black Bear Enjoying Some Cranberries

The ones who are only healing and will return are kept away from people so they can adapt to their normal lives once again.  Tours of the facility are at 1:00 on Saturdays.

Music Track for December 13th

A friend sent this to me by email the other day.  It's a five minute performance of Taps by a thirteen year old girl.
It truly is a wonderful thing to listen to such a performance.  I don't think I've ever heard the full version before.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Size Does Matter

I have a confession to make.  Although I try hard to keep up with technology, there is one small corner where I am dreadfully deficient.  The area of cell phones.  I have one of them of course - have done for the last decade - but it's hardly used and as for the fashion of texting while driving, forget it, I can barely hit the speed dial number to call home, for Heaven's sake.

So as I stood outside the retail premises of my carrier, I felt a little like a young teenage boy outside his very first "gentleman's club." As I eased my way through the doors, I was intimidated by the huge variety of wares available and how little I knew.  I was met by a delightful young lady, who asked how she could help me.  Blushingly, I mumbled my needs and she checked my previous performance on her screen before taking me gently around, explaining what she could do for me.  Knowingly, she allowed me to settle for slightly less than was currently the rage, and there were only a couple of truly embarrassing moments. 

The first was when she asked me to show her what I had.  With trembling and slightly clammy fingers I took it out.  It was pitifully small and it was obvious it had never been used properly.  The other was when she wanted to make a transfer to the new device.  I stuttered that there were only six or seven names on the card; two of them were duplicates and a couple more so outdated that they no longer functioned.  I suspect she had a bit of a giggle in the back room with her colleagues when she performed that service.

I now however am a proud possessor of an iPhone -  not as powerful as a lot of you more experienced fellows, but it's still early days and I hope to catch up with you soon.  Thank you for your patience, Eva!

Afraid of Heights?

For those of you who haven't seen this, it is an amazing video - about 7 minutes long - of a man climbing a 1700 foot tower to repair the antenna on top.

There's a small cartoon intro before you get to the actual video.

Even if you're good with heights this will make you feel decidedly woozy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


There are lots of candidates for the moment when society changed for the worst.  Some people say it all started to go wrong when TV arrived, others choose when women were allowed the vote.  For me, it was when people started to dance apart.  Yes, I think we began to lose our way when the cha cha took a hold, and we lost the ability to do the waltz and the fox-trot.

We were married for about eight years before S.W.M.B.O. and I found ourselves (with her mother no less) at a place where there was a small quartet playing dance music, and one or two couples were gliding around the floor.  It never occurred to either of us that we couldn't dance as we are of that age where lessons were all a part of the growing up process.  The only hiccough was as I stood there softly counting.  "Can you do this?" She asked imperiously.  "Of course," I replied.  "I'm just trying to get the first step going and then I'll be fine."  And so it was; we were away and I even took her mother out for a spin. although it was a bit like driving a London Transport bus through rush-hour traffic.

We regularly take to the dance floor on cruises, although I have to say my repertoire is diminishing.  But it is an activity, the loss of which has not benefited society, I think.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Four more Podcasts are now up on The Sun's Web site.  They cover visits to Peppers Gallery; Sturges Theater; Olvera street and Motorcycling.  You can hear them at
Just click on the right hand side of the panel.


I was sent an email the other day about the business premises of Google (The parent company of this blog!)  It was truly amazing.  It had slides and fireman's poles to get down from one floor to another.  There were rooms to relax in, free food, and games like pool.  An incredible atmosphere to work in.  How unlike my first office experiences in London 50 years ago, where bosses seemed to enjoy keeping their serf-like employees in Victorian conditions.
At the time we would have given our eye teeth to work in the type of building on the left, but that is not the point.  The type of changes need to come from management, and not be abused by the employees.  Not such an easy matter.

Many years ago I was given MacGregor's book of management.  In it he expounded his X and Y theories.  Theory X was that people wanted to work and management's job was to help them do it in the best way for the company.  Theory Y was that people didn't want to work and management had to make them.

It's not hard to figure out how Google approached these theories, and they seem to have found some success!  As can be seen from this site

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

I managed to get to the Arizona Memorial on our last cruise.  Sadly there were so many people in the line that I balked at the last stage and this is as far as I managed to get.  As the day fell on a weekend it was truly full and we had to make do with this shot.

This is a picture that those of you who have been to the Memorial Park will know, I am sure. I just wish the lady with the purple top had managed to get her kid out of the frame!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday's Column - Funplex

We have a new venture in Big Bear.  It's called the Funplex and it's right next to the Bowling Barn; both owned by Bill Ross.  The Funplex is dived into three parts.  A snack bar, pizza place in the front with room for 100 diners, a laser tag area of 2500 square feet at the rear, and in between a place with rides, dodgem cars, and redemption games.  It's quite an area and dominated by the Himalaya Ride - a switchback rollercoaster.
Manager, Jim De Groot has experience running this type of place - that's him on board the Himalaya - and particularly laser tag games.  The building used to house an ice rink at one time, then a roller rink, then a mall with antique businesses.  It is hoped to buy the piece of land between the two places and maybe turn it into a roller rink and also an ice rink in the winter.  It would take it all the way back to its roots.  In the meantime however, if you're tired of the lines at the ski slopes, then the Funplex is a great way for the entire family to have fin.

Music Track for Dec 6th

This is the first published piece of music by Sir Edward Elgar - a truly English composer, although you Yanks have grabbed his Pomp and Circumstance No 1 for all your graduation ceremonies.  The tradition of that is when he visited Harvard for a graduation speech the piece was chosen, then he went to Yale and they played it again.  It became a staple after that.  This is Salut d'Amor which means either The Kiss or Love's Greeting depending on your French.  It is a real slice of Victorian gentility, and is often played at weddings - including one of mine.

I was fortunate to meet Elgar's daughter, Carice Elgar Blake, on a number of occasions.  She was quite the lady.  This is only about 4 minutes long so close your eyes and drift back to an earlier time.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I wrote a piece on the demise of watches and at the time thought that along with this demise is the seeming inability for people to make fixed appointments - particularly with regard to leisure activities.  I've noticed that if you are trying to make a date with people to meet up, there is always the proviso to "check up closer to the day."  Why?  If a date is made, unless there is a medical emergency surely that is the end of it.  Why check later?

Also I notice that people seem to need to call while they are on their way and ask for directions if they, like me, lack a GPS.  Have maps completely disappeared?  It is strange how society alters, and I do try not to fight these types of changes.  However, next summer, I plan to go back to the UK for a visit.  (No it's not to the Royal Wedding, although I expect my invitation daily!)  I can call a friend today and suggest that we meet at say The Cumberland Hotel in the reception area at 12 noon on July 28th and know that he will be there.  We will not need to reconfirm, but then we're old. Of course, if either of us fails to turn up, we will assume the absolute worst and call the widow to ask about funeral arrangements.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Now this little road sign is something that I truly miss living here in the Great United States.  It's for a roundabout - I think you call them circles.  The fact is that they are very efficient traffic designs.

Here we have the infamous stop signs - either two way or four way.  Nasty traffic delayers they are too.  I remember one in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.  It worked fine for most of the day but when the offices turned out at 5, they did nothing but slow the cars to an absolute crawl. 
All because the cars had to stop one after another.  And the police used to watch on occasions as well.

I know of a circle out here - in Venice - but it's nothing like the extra special roundabouts that sometimes occur in the UK.  There's one in Hemel Hempstead where you can actually go the wrong way - great fun.

It used to be the case in Holland where the traffic used to stop on the roundabout rather than stop going into it.  It was somewhat chaotic.  I heard it said that it was to confuse the Germans.  Do they still do it?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I wonder if in 100 years people will wear watches at all.  Perhaps collectors will be fighting over Timexes at auctions in Sotheby's.  I've noticed that many young people don't wear them as they have cell phones permanently out and these devices do a wonderful job of keeping time.

The first watch I had was a Christmas present from my parents.  I can still remember it even though it must be 60 years ago.  It had Roman numerals and a curiously shaped case.  It also had a leather strap as it was some time before metal ones became the norm.  I wonder where it is today as it must have been cast out by an insensitive parent along with many of my favorite toys.

My grandfather and great grandfather both wore pocket watches with gold chains across their stomachs; both timepieces ended up with me and I wear one with my tuxedo on cruises.  Undoubtedly watches were a big status symbol, particularly for men, years ago, but now I can see them disappearing in favor of the ubiquitous cell phone.