Saturday, April 30, 2011


I've been asked by a lot of people for some more pictures from the Japan trip.  Here are some.
Canon in Shimoda from before Perry's time
Empty Island with a Shrine

Temple in Nio
Modern Wakayama City
Graveyard on Shodoshima Island
Shrine in Wakayama City
A Child's Grave - note the little apron
A Modern Wedding Group


If you want a light flavor of garlic with your recipes, add it at the start of cooking.

If you want a stronger taste then add it at the end of the cooking process.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding

Well, it's finally over!  I'm afraid that She Who Must Be Obeyed (S.W.M.B.O.) did mention to me at 3 a.m. that it was going on.  I didn't respond favorably as I was trying to go back to sleep.  I knew that first thing at 7 we would get the fast revue of it all and that would be quite enough.  Also for those with an unhealthy need to watch such things, there would endless repeats over the next few days.
I have to say I was relieved that a) there was no "incident." And b) that it didn't rain on the event.
There have been so many people over the last week or two ask my opinion about this royal wedding that I've been at something of a loss to talk about it.  It is flattering to be asked, but it's a "foreign" affair after all.  Nonetheless it has been incredible to see the amount of coverage here.  Every network that can scrape together enough frequent flyer reward points to send a crew over has done so.  Every day this week we have been bombarded with reports from outside Buckingham Palace and other landmarks. 
Well, as I say it's over now and perhaps the wedding has given the Royals a much needed boost to their ratings.
As to the popularity of such an anachronism perhaps it's this: in our modern world with so much unpleasant change going on I think people want a link to the past that contains a touch of magic.  It is also a look at the world's longest running soap opera, which has been going on continuously for a thousand years.  For all that I seriously hope that the marriage will be a happy one; they seem very nice young people.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Japanese Society

Typical Japanese Roofs in the Countryside
Once again it was very noticeable that there is a huge difference in the way the Japanese behave in their society.  As you know recently they have endured three biblical sized disasters; the biggest earthquake in their history; the tsunami, and finally the nuclear melt down at their reactor.  Granted there have been some protests at the way the government and the electrical company have handled the affair, but in general the Japanese have gone about their business in their usual stoical way.

Just before boarding the airport bus from Tokyo to Narita, I noticed the little man who was looking after the small shelter from where the bus departs.  He was in the words of my grandfather "a shilling short," or in modern parlance a sandwich short of a full picnic.  Nonethless he wore his waistcoat with some pride and he busied himself with the "management" of the shelter.  He had a pair of kitchen tongs and a discarded plastic bag and he would run around picking up any trash that blew into his area.  He also called someone on a cell phone that they had left on one of the buses.  I'm sure he put in a full day and I'm also certain he didn't complain or whine about his lowly lot.  Our society could learn a lot from him.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dead Man's Plot

There are problems with the countryside in Japan; it's dying.  It's the same old problem that happened in Europe in the early 19th century with the industrial revolution.  Young people leave the farm and go to the cities to make money.  The ones that are left are the old.

We covered the practice of putting the teardrop on the rear of cars driven by 70 year olds and older, but this shot also includes a Dead Man's Plot to the left of it.

Here the story is one repeated thousands of times all over the rural areas of Japan.

The residents of a property have died, and the young have no use for their inheritance as it's worthless as noboby is around to buy it.  They also might not declare themselves to be the inheritors and have to face property taxes.  So the house falls into disrepair and eventually becomes a health hazard.  The local authorities pull it down and it stays an empty space, with no value; a dead man's plot, as it's known. It's a sad situation but one that is also being repeated in some US cities like Detroit, I believe.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


While in Japan I noticed this symbol on many of the cars.  It seems that for a variety
of reasons, the Japanese want their over seventy citizens to advertise their age and no
doubt their driving skills (or lack of them) to others.

The tear drop is compulsory to all over 70.  No exceptions!  I wonder if the emperor
has to wear one too as he's certainly over the age limit.

My son Michael says it's a good thing as when he sees it and the car is just "pootling"
along, he at least knows that there's no point in getting cross with the driver as he's just
doing his thing and won't change.

I can't see the same rule applying here as the AARP would be all over it.

I shall not be sticking one to the rear of my Harley any day soon I can tell you!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Music Track - Goodnight Moon

I recently watched both Kill Bill movies - I've never actually seen them all the way through before.  Interesting experience as always with Tarantino.  My son said that his films are good but the music makes them great.  I agree.  Here's one of the tunes that he uses.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday's Column - Shooting

This Sunday's column is about shooting at our local range.  Just before I went out to do this piece -  it was last year just before the season ended - there was an article in the paper where George Washington was quoted as saying a citizen without arms is merely a subject.  Guns, and there are estimated to be about 64 million in the US, are always controversial.  Along with religion and politics they are not to be on the list for polite dinner conversation.  But if you have one you need to practise with it, and our local gun range, The BIg Bear Valley Sportsmen's Club is ideal for the purpose.  I took my .38 there several years ago to try it out.  What happened to me is written about in the column.  You can also listen to the podcast, which is on the right of the page at

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I couldn't close my reporting on Japan without giving an account of the weather there.  If you live on the sea the weather does have a pretty big effect on you after all.  Michael constantly checks the condition on his iPhone, in fact it might be said he's becoming rather obsessive about it.  He can't change it, only react to what comes our way.  And what came our way was rather unpleasant for a few days.
The First Sunrise

On the last leg, Mother Nature had something nasty in store for us.  We thought rather arrogantly that the Inland Sea would be less of a threat than the open Pacific,  We were very wrong.  As we passed under the great Seto-Ohashi bridge - it was to be closed to railway traffic due to high winds a couple of hours later - we could feel the storm building.  We had started our journey at 7 and made good timing up to that point, passing under the spans at about 10:30.  The last half, which was about 25 miles, took us until 4 to reach our final berth at Nio Marina.  Naturally the 35 - 50 mile per hour wind was in our face and the 15 foot seas were hitting across the starboard bow.  As we eventually made the left hand turn towards port, all the energy then changed to hit our beam and also caused us to surf in a corkscrew manner.  We did eat up the final bit quickly though and only had to maneuver behind the sea wall of the marina to reach safety.  Michael and I had stayed at the wheel for the entire leg and we were both soaked through. An inspection later showed that the constant buffeting had snapped a steel strap inside one of the engine compartments.  It held a water tank and had that come loose we would have had serious problems had it caused that engine to close down.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Firstly, I have to say that the Web access is not always want you want on a long trip down to the country.  Whereas in a large City like Tokyo "no Wi Fi" would mean that someone would be going crazy trying to fix it, and no doubt end up commiting sepuku.  In a little place like Nio there's not a lot of urgency with these things. Therefore I have a lot of blog postings to catch up with, and over the next few days I'll try and get them all done.

Yesterday was the end of my Japanese jaunt.  It was a long day as we had traveled 500 miles further on and that had to be eaten up first before getting on Singapore Airlines flight SQ 12 back to LAX.  So I left the boat at 9 a.m. and took a taxi to the first of two suburban stations, and caught the first of three trains.  At Okayama we caught the Shinkansen - the bullet train.  The little man on the right was concerned at my proximity to the "engine" as it came in.

The Shinkansen Train

I first traveled on this wonderfully smooth train back in 1975 and it's still an impressive ride.

Attendants walking through the train always bow when they enter each car and leave, even though nobody's paying attention

Girls also push trolleys up and down the aisles on the three and a half-hour journey to Tokyo.  They sell coffee and other beverages and delicious snacks.  It's all very civilised.  I also think it's quite expensive, but my dear daughter-in-law was in charge of my last leg and she handled the affairs.  It's like being a child all over again and not being in control of one's situation.

The attendants also wait politely at the entrance to each car and of course, bow as you embark.  The one on the right is so doing.

The train was about ten minutes late but it was made up by the time we reached our destination.  Here I was put on the Friendly Limousine Bus to Narita Airport, and I'm sure Eiko must have breathed a sigh of relief as she had finally delivered "the package" out of her care.

The flight to LAX had a few nasty moments of very bad turbulence as Mother Nature decided she wasn't quite done with me.  When we arrived we had that extra little delight that can sometimes happen.  A crammed airport bus to take you to the terminal building.  Always a joy, and one I haven't experienced in a long time.

Iris kindly collected me and took me to my car, and after the usual stimulating and competitive bout with LA traffic I arrived home at 4 p.m. - a journey of 23 hours.  (A boat, a taxi, three trains, a bus, a plane, an airport bus - possibly the best part! And a car ride!) It was the end of quite an adventure and I was glad to be back to family and home once again. As I came through the door, Matt Kemp hit a walk off two-run homer to beat Atlanta 5 to 3 in the bottom of the 12th!  Fantastic!

Yes, I did have a shower and go down for a pint that evening!  Well, you've got to haven't you!

Monday, April 18, 2011


There are certain things you don't like to hear "hofficers" on boats discussing.  Things like: "How long do you think we can stay afloat?" And "Do you really think it's cholera?"  One other is "Whatever you do keep away from the whirlpools!" Michael was deep in conversation about our journey today.  Suzuki-san and also Scott were leaving Sunday - jumping ship? - in order to return to their families.  Eiko and Jasmine were taking their places.  Once I heard the whirlpool thing I wondered if Jassie, as a seven-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had the skill to help us avoid this upcoming danger.
Jasmine, our new bosun's mate

It seemed that as we were about to bid farewell to the great Pacific and enter the Inland Sea. we had to pass under the Onarutu Bashi Bridge.  There is a twelve foot drop in levels during tides and even more during Spring tides which we are currently in.  Ha ha!  It was critical that we pass under the bridge at 8 a.m or a few minutes either side of it.  With 30 miles to make this time, we needed to leave at 4 a.m.  In fact we left at 3:45 under darkened skies and lots of fishing boats around us with green, white and red lights as their beacons.
But not only is there a current to deal with, there is the problem of whirlpools and even at 8 tons, Milestone would not appreciate being caught up in one of those.
Roiling water under the bridge

We arrived at the bridge at 7:45, and as we closed the gap up to the center archway, we could see the roiling water all over the place. One could only imagine what it would be like at the rush.  We were in what passed for slack water as we went through.

The whirlpools were everywhere to the sides, and we shot through the stage at over 12 knots - 50% more than our maximum speed, but with the incoming tide we were through and ready for some breakfast.  I have to say that I was mightily impressed by Michael drinking a beer at 5:56 a.m. he said it was his lucky breakfast beer.  His LBB! Good Lord.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Helpful Hints

Peppers with three bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating raw in salads.

Peppers with  four bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

Music Track - Mendlessohn

In view of the fact that I've been living on a boat for the last week, I thought a little maritime music was in order.  Initially I thought of Calm Sea and a Prosperous Voyage by Mendelssohn.  But it's a little dreary.  Then I thought of Variation number VIII of the Enigma Variations by Elgar which is labelled *** as it was for a mysteroius lady who was on a a voyage at the time.  Elgar used the Calm Sea overture as a link to this.  Then I thought of this, The Fair Melusine, also by Mendelssohn.  I like the bubbling he has in the music.  No doubt the bubbly sound is the movement of the waves and her breathing under water.  She was a mermaid!


Now, you'd better hide the children as I'm about to raise a difficult subject.  Right are they gone?  Well, it's about lots of naked men.
We are currently moored right next to an onsen, which is a Japanese public bath. To give you a little history, the Japanese have always been plagued by a shortage of space and for hundreds of years have lived in very small houses.  They therefore often dispense with bathrooms - well, the ones with actual baths in them.  As an exceptionally clean society and with a climate that is very humid for several months the problem of keeping fresh has been solved by public baths.  Until about 50 years ago in the country, many of these were mixed, but today they are single sex only.  The price of progress I suppose!
The onsen are also a part of the culture here, and it is not considered polite to get a 12-pack of Budweiser inside you, tear your cloths off and do a canon ball/honeypot while shouting "Whee Hee!"
We went to this onsen this morning and firstly broke the rules by putting our shoes in the same locker.  The young and pretty girl talked a lot of Japanese to us.  Quite a long time later as we were wallowing, we figured out that she was probably saying that she could only give us a key each if we used a shoe locker each - they are very rule oriented after all.  We needed a different key to put our valuables in upstairs.  But as all we were doing was grinning and nodding our heads like loonies, she gave up the task and gave us two keys.  We then had to pass our second hurdle which was to decide which doorway to go through.  There were no signs and they just had squiggly writing on them.  Do we take a chance and choose correctly, or do we risk arrest by charging into the women's bath?  Michael went back to the pretty girl.  She was still recovering from her first run in with gaijin but managed to convey the information to us.
Not an onsen but a shrine to cleanse the soul
Having got close to removing the last items of our clothing, we realized we didn't know where they kept the towels; naturally there is no information at all in any language but Japanese, so no way for us to find out.  We were faced with yet another dilemma when we ascertained from a young attendant wandering by that they were kept downstairs - yes, with the Young Lady!!! Did it not occur to her to perhaps give us the towels along with the keys?  Perhaps she liked the idea of us stripping down and then having to redress; or perhaps the even better choice of us wandering down starkers into the public lobby?
Anyway we are given our two micro towels and wander into the washing room along with several naked men of all ages.  It was here that the other gentlemen customers of the establishment recognized that we might not be playing the game according to the long laid out traditions of polite society.  The preferred method of the pre-wash is to sit on a small upturned bucket and use the hand shower at knee level to soap and and rinse the entire body.  Now this is no problem if you're 5 feet tall and weigh only about 90 pounds. If you're 6 feet 2 and weigh around 220 pounds and with creaky knees our preferred method is to stand up and spray the damned stuff all over the place.  Ha ha!  "Damned poor show," was no doubt the general direction of the conversation.  But of course, we couldn't understand it.
I have to say that having lowered our putrid, although to our noses clean, hairy naked gaijin bodies into their water I noticed a number of gentlemen quietly exiting the water to take advantage of the rotenburo, which is the bath outside on an open air balcony.  Also when we went out there ourselves they trooped back inside.  I considered it to be rude, as they didn't realize that it might have been a damned sight worse, and we might have brought a twelve-pack each into the bath along with our vile barbarian bodies.  Ah me! Prejudice is so unpleasant, but we'll carry on regardless.  At least we have our pride and our now spotless bodies.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wakayama City

Firstly, I'm sorry that the postings have been absent for about four days. Simply, we've been out of range of the Internet pretty much since we left Kurihama where the boat has been moored for the last three years.  We have now traveled about 400 miles since the start, which was at 11:00 pm on Tuesday night.  We have had two night sails, and three night moorings in port.  The longest span of sailing/motoring has been 40 straight hours. Average speed has been about seven miles per hours and we have managed a couple of quite exhilarating sails with the engines off. There have been four of us handling Milestone, and believe me with the weather conditions everyone was necessary.
I will do a full report as soon as I can get the time, but we always seem to be short of time.  After all there is beer to be consumed, and afternoon naps to take place.
The weather has been "challenging!"  As predicted the wind has been up to the usual "Summons" standard.  In other words if you want to know the direction we want to go, it's directly into the wind.  As we turned the corner to go up towards the Inland Sea - our ultimate destination - the wind changed from due west to due north. Uncanny! However we have twin Volvo diesels under us and we can laugh at nature's capriciousness.  Ha Ha!!!!!!
The sea has been threatening at times and there was a day when we faced 15 foot seas crashing under us and over us.  Cooking under those circumstances was not easy. I put a half dozen eggs on to boil them and the entire saucepan jumped out of and over the guard rails around the burner. Great fun cleaning that lot up in high seas.
Looking out at the Kushimoto Ohashi bridge - the southernmost point of Honshu

Half an hour out from our home port the starboard engine started to smoke, then it cut out totally.  But hey, we've got another one and two sails.  As the wind picked up on Wednesday morning, we hoisted the sail and guess what, a main batten broke out of its holding.  But hey, we've still got the port engine and a jib!  Then the jib played up and lost a fitting - it's a $3.00 job that holds the $1000 sail.  As we neared the port of Oshima, the port engine began to smoke but hey, perhaps we've got a couple of paddles down below.
A mechanic was waiting for us with true Japanese efficiency to look at the engines and he found that the problem was a couple of faulty $.40 caps on the coolant tanks.  They were replaced and since then we've had no problems with either engine.  Suzuki-san, our professional sailor repaired the damaged batten and jib fixing.  All these problems occurred after Michael had the boat totally serviced (for major coin!) before we even started, of course.
We had a good night's sleep at our mooring and set sail at 5:30 the following morning.  No lie-abeds on this ship, Oh no!
Tomorrow we leave at 4 a.m. to make a passage under a bridge with a very strong current.  The current is 10 knots and we can only make 7 knots so you do the math.  Of course by hitting the target at the correct time we will go through at 100 miles an hour or something like that.
I will try and post from the other side.  Of the bridge that is, not the "other side", if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


If you live above the snow level, you become something of an expert on underwear.  Before I traveled up above 6,000 feet, it wasn't something that interested me much, but after my first week of sub-freezing temperatures the subject took on some importance.
On a cold day down in the flatlands you can get away with an old T-shirt underneath and there are some hardy souls up here who do the same.  For those types we trot out the old saying: "No sense, no feeling!"  But for the rest of us we usually have several different types of underwear in our closets.

When I was very young and the houses in England were mostly not centrally heated and we tried to keep warm with coal fires, our mothers used to bind us up with a device called a Liberty Bodice.  Does anyone remember those?  They were thick T-shirt things with no sleeves and they had funny little metal edged buttons on them.  It had to be cold to wear them.  Can you still get them over there, I wonder?

Up here, come September, the shops sell the regular type of "Thermal" underwear.  It's a thickish item with little squares in the weave.  You  can get them in a variety of colors and they have them for top and bottom.  No matter how carefully you wash them though they will shrink over time.

But the best to keep you really warm is make of silk.  Not cheap -  usually about $25 each.  They do the job and there is nothing better in the cold.  You can even get double layered silk ones in speciality shops.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Indian Food

When we were FOB's (Fresh of the Boat!) it didn't take long to suffer withdrawal symptoms for Indian Food.  The English are totally hooked on the flavors of the sub-continent, having been its rulers up until 1947, when we were uncharitably asked to leave.  From the 1960's in the UK, Indian restuarants began to appear and soon people were flocking to them.  Adding a couple of spoons of curry powder to a dish does not make it an Indian experience, I can assure you.  I fact in real Indian cooking curry powder is rarely if ever used.

Of course, India and Pakistan together represent a huge landmass and there are well over a billion living there.  It is to be expected therefore that there is also a great diversity of cooking.

But once hooked it's hard to forget, and the desire for a "Good Indian," is much the same as the desire for a good steak by a Texan.

Our arrival in California found us living close to an Indian restaurant, but it was overpriced and frankly not very good. There was nothing for it but to learn to cook it ourselves, and this we did as there was an Indian bazaar a few blocks away.

In the last thirty years there has been a steady stream of Indian immigrants here, and I'm glad to say we have several more Indian restaurants to cater to their needs and also to those of us wanting such dishes.  They're pretty good too.  But I have to thank Mrs. Patak for her cooking pastes and sauces.  Although on their own they can taste canned, if you add some fresh ingredients and extra spices they can pass as decent replicas.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Japan - The Outward Bound Journey

Due to the International Date Line, I am losing a day on the way out to Japan.  The flight time is about 12 hours. It's a brutal time change with Japan being 16 hours ahead of us.  Jet lag will be bad although it's worse coming back.  I'm going out via Singapore Airlines, who still cling to some of the niceties of travel.  They don't seem to adhere to the normal airline policy of seniority giving the best routes to the oldest and most unpleasant of stewardesses.

This is an unusual view of Milestone as she was pulled out of the water for her annual bottom cleaning.  She'll be my home for the next ten days as we will not be getting a land-based bedroom in that time.  Too much sailing and a long way to go.  Incidentally, my cabin will be in the left (port) float at the back - it's surprisingly roomy.

As for radiation, which seems on the mind of many people, I'm going to try and avoid it!  In fact we will be sailing away from the bad areas, and the closest I'll be will be is Narita airport on the way in and out.

On the Thursday of my return departure, I'll be traveling on the Shinkasen bullet train, which is always a joy.  Very comfortable and fast with lots of interesting meals available for the planned three and a half hour journey.  I then have the odd situation of leaving Japan on the 21st and arriving back before I leave.  Very bizarre.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday's Column - The Petersen Auto Museum

This Sunday's column is about the Petersen Automobile Museum.  I have to admit that I've never been to it before and I feel rather ashamed of that fact.  After all, I'm supposed to not only know about all these types of places in the Southland, but to have actually gone to them.  No, I don't do it all from my desk via Google and Wikipedia!

As you start to go around the museum there are various models of a highly vintage order.  There is a blacksmith working at his forge to remind us that cars came from coaches and had to be made by hand using iron and steel.

This tableau, called Stuck in the Mud, shows a frustrated chauffeur standing by, with the woman lazing in the back reading a "penny dreadful."

In those days, not only were cars unreliable but the roads were pretty bad too.  Later on in the museum one comes across some of the more exotic vehicles, including Elvis's 1959 sky blue Cadillac complete with telephone - quite an innovation back then.  If you've never been to this place it is well worth a visit even if you're not a car buff.  You can read the entire column at

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Music Track - Rod Stewart

I saw Rod Stewart interviewed the other day. He came across as a very genuine fellow.  He's made a huge amount of money for a lad who grew up in a council house in North London.  He's done very well with some of the great classic American songs.  This is one of them - a live performance.  Now is it me or does old Rod sound a little off key?  Of course, he's basically a rocker turned crooner.
Perhaps it's a little unfair to do this to him but here is the master also in a live performance going back about 50 years. Which version do you prefer?

Japan - Start

As many of you know I'm going to Japan on Monday.  It's a trip that's been planned for about nine months.  Michael is moving his boat, Milestone, away from it's current berth near Yokohama down to a new home on the Inland Sea to the west, about 500 miles away.
Milestone has four cabins and two bathrooms, together with a large living/kitchen area so we won't be roughing it too much.  Twin diesels will propel us if the wind does its usual trick of going the wrong way - a Summons tradition!

I will try and post a blog most days but it rather depends on broadband linkage out on the Pacific.  We haven't as yet decided to take the direct line across the big curve and subject ourselves to tsunamis and typhoons, or around the edge and chance the sharp rocks.  But we do have Suzuki-san with us who is a professional captain. 

I'll post photos and also map references for you if I can.  Here is a reasonable map from Google which might help you to follow along.  I'm back on April 21st.,-95.677068&sspn=43.799322,69.609375&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Japan&ll=34.786739,137.680664&spn=2.851073,6.432495&t=h&z=8

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I have to say I'm very fond of bread.  In spite of amazing advances in technology we still don't seem able to make bread that's easy to store and use over a long time.  Years ago I decided to try one of the bread machines they advertised on TV.  It wasn't bad and we took it out from time to time until it broke and I found out the company was no longer around.  Then about a year ago I saw a small article in the paper about how to make bread in five minutes a day from some very simple ingredients.  I decided to look further into it, and ever since I've been able to do just that.

The recipe is very easy.  6 level cups of flour
3 cups of warm water; 2 packets of yeast; 1 tablespoon of salt; one tablespoon of sugar; some corn meal to act as a lubricant on the baking sheet.

You pour the warm water into a bowl, add the salt, sugar and yeast.  Mix and then add the flour.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, you make sure all the ingredients are well mixed, then set aside in a container with a lid but not airtight.  Leave it for about 2 hours to rise.  You can then take a piece about the size of a grapefruit and bake straight away, or keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks.  Yes, two weeks!

To bake, make sure the dough is at room temperature, and the flat bottomed baking tray/sheet is in the oven.  Put another baking dish in the bottom. Form dough into a loaf - any shape you want.  Dampen the top and then slash it for decoration, and you can add poppy seeds or sesame seeds.  Put into pre-heated oven at 450 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes.  Immediately pour a cup of lukewarm water into the bottom pan.  The steam helps the crust to form.   You can't go wrong!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I've always been pretty good at geography.  By that I mean knowing where countries are and how they are structured - not the newer socio/political stuff they teach in schools today. My friend Paul in England sent this to me in an email and I was fascinated by it. 

You click on the name of a country and then drag it to where you think it is on the map.  Do the easy ones first!  I did, and ended up with all those funny "stan" countries.  I wasn't too good with them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Helpful Hints

My friend Kevin sent me a batch of helpful hints the other day, which I think are rather useful.  This is the first of them: Take your bananas apart when you get home.  Separation keeps them from ripening too fast.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I was talking to a young man of about 25 the other day.  I happened to mention to him that I didn't have GPS.  He assumed that I meant that my unit was not working or that I was in-between units.  I had to tell him that No, I didn't own one at all and never had.  In fact if my next car should have one, like the cruise control I have on my current car, I would not bother to turn it on.

I'm rather proud of my sense of direction.  I've honed it over a lifetime of travel.  It's not a particular gift, it's more that I've studied maps all my life and as a result I know where I am most of the time.  And if I don't, I certainly will in a few miles.

Years ago, it was possible to stop and ask directions from pretty much anyone, as the population in general didn't move around from their spot.  Unfortunately today you can't rely on that as a lot of the people who work in shops or gas stations don't know the immediate area as they drive a long way to get there.
I've seen GPS units in operation and they are wonderful things, but there is a downside, as I'm sure they rob one of a natural sense of direction.  They also go wrong.  I borrowed a car from a friend some time ago to try it out.  It was a very flash Cadillac and had a GPS unit working on the dashboard.  We went around the lake and it was interesting that as we turned onto the final road, the unit didn't know we were on a road at all and had us going across the water.  Funny but unnerving if that's all you were relying on.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sunday's Column - Cal Scooters

Sunday's column is about an interesting motorcycle manufacturer here in Southern California.  It's called California Scooters and it's in La Verne.  Each bike is designed to do 98 miles to the gallon and only costs $98 a year to insure.  It also costs about $98 a month to buy.  You see 98 is quite an important number to them.
And so even though they won the world record on this machine they would have liked to tease another 20 m.p.h. out of it as they only managed 78 m.p.h.  "But the course, was a little uphill," said Steve Seidner, the CEO and founder.  The bike is based on the famous Mustang, built in Glendale in the 40's through the 60's.
Being so light they appeal very much to women and the cost is just $4295.  I must say I was rather tempted.
You can read the column and all the columns and podcasts at

Music Track - Mozart's Rondo a la Turk

This piece of music was at the top of the charts in 1955.  Pretty amazing!  But that was before Rock and Roll arrived.  At the same time I think Tennessee Ernie Ford was pumping out Sixteen Tons as well, so tastes were a little mixed to say the least.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Can I help you?

I've noticed a disturbing trend lately.  It's in supermarkets, where being something of a cook I spend a lot of time, and consider to be quite holy places.  When in them, I like to browse around and try hard to avoid other people, as I don't like being disturbed in my various searches.  Since the days of Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders, (does anybody remember that one?) we have all become quite familiar with the lay-out of these institutions; perhaps management doesn't realize that.

As I wander around the aisles I truly dislike some spotty youth coming up to me and saying: Can I help you?  Maybe I look particularly stupid to these young people, but it's becoming quite annoying.  I've noticed that the tiresome habit is spreading to the older employees too.  I was in the act of buying an item only yesterday when some woman in a uniform asked me if I needed any help.  Now the idea of the store, and it's a large one, is that you are supposed to help yourself.  I naturally ignored her and continued with my selection.  Good grief a couple of minutes later she interrupted my concentration and asked again.  She received the same response.  She even repeated it again and was once more ignored.

I do have a solution for this imposition.  I wear a pair of earphones when the store has decided it's not being friendly enough to its unfortunate patrons.  I let the chord end up in my pocket, but it does stop the practice.  So for all you enthusiastic store employees out there, let me remind you that I am not lost, I'm thinking; if I need help I'll ask, and I'm certainly not there to make friends!