Saturday, April 30, 2005

Vietnam War -- Ended 30 Years Ago

I don't know what I was doing when the Vietnam War actually ended in 1975, or even that I noticed it as I was buried in grad school. I remember so much about the war, and can vividly recall the images on the television news of tanks, soldiers, protests, and discussion during the 60's and 70's. I was involved in some protests as a college student during the anti-war era. Yet, I know many people whose lives were irreversibly changed by the war and that is sad. Not to mention the impact on the people in Vietnam. There is much that we don't know -- brutal fighting, missing POWs, prison camps, tunnels, land mines -- and much we don't want to know. It is not one of the better moments in US history; that will be debated by historians for years to come.
For the soldiers on the last tank that arrived 30 years ago, today is a celebration of life. But many other lives were needlessly ended too soon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Kitchen Utensils

I recently won a prize on a culinary radio show for calling in with my favorite kitchen utensil -- which was a vegetable peeler. I use it many times daily and usually take one when we travel, so it must be my favorite. As I said on the radio, it does pay to buy the name brand vs. the 2 for $1 peelers as they work much better and last longer.
My daughter is taking "Culinary Arts" (does this mean she may cook something?) But, in order to be allowed to cook in the school kitchen, they must pass a test about kitchen utensils, safety, food handling and the food pyramid (she did not know if it was the newly revised one or not.) I was informed by my daughter that I have not used the correct names for utensils -- what I have called a spatula is actually a turner and that we do not own a metal spatula.
Ina Garten says her favorite utensil is an OXO julienne peeler. Another chef said tongs with a spring hinge are perfect for lifting and turning items on the grill without piercing them and loosing juices (this was also on tonight's Culinary Arts review test). A Chinese spider (a sort of round spoon with holes) was the preferred utensil for another chef, who used it for a variety of applications. My husband loves his "Graham Kerr" knife/scraper combo as recommended by the current favorite TV chef, Alton Brown.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A Five Star Day

My horoscope clearly showed a five-star day! I am here, five years after breast cancer, so that must be what the five stars are acknowledging!
Not the fact that my housecleaning crew did not show up, or that the trainer slept through my appointment, which is just the way things go some days. Or the fact that the movie I selected at Blockbuster said "1 week rental" on the box, but scanned as a 2-day rental. (I told the clerk I wanted it to say one week on the receipt; he said "there are no late fees so return it whenever you want" . I said "your definition of reasonable return time may be different than mine and then you would charge me." He said, "after seven days late, they charge you the difference to buy the pre-viewed movie and then you just own it." I said "that is ridiculous, keep your movie.")
The best thing today is that I actually believe that the very first cactus flower of the season is opening tonight, as the Shabbat prelude to Passover begins. So, in all, it was a five-star day, and I am thankful. I look forward to the full moon and an eclipse on Sunday night.

Make Every Day Earth Day

I coincidentally scheduled our house to be cleaned today, Earth Day, by a green-clean (environmentally-friendly) cleaning service. How great is that? They will use products that do not harm the environment or leave residues or odors in the house, making it perfect for an allergic household and kids. They sell their products ( P.S. They did not show up for the housecleaning as promised, so I cannot attest to their products. Their heart is in the right place, I guess.
Reflecting on Earth Day, I have the same sadness I read in the story excerpted below. Yes, of course, I participated in the first one, and try to make every day Earth Day in my small world. When I look around at people littering, polluting beautiful water in all corners of the world and lack of concern for the air quality, I too feel hopeless. Yes, recycling is great, but if only a few people do it, we are constantly looking for new landfill land. No one wants it in their backyard, so why don't they recycle?
Always an idealist, my college major was an independent study I created called "Environmental Politics". Now, 32 years later, I am still pondering the question. I joined VISTA in the 70's to make a difference -- once I was stationed in rural Georgia, I realized the problem. People are more worried about food, shelter and access to adequate healthcare in the present than saving the environment in the future. So I set out to work on the healthcare access issue. Did I make any difference? I don't know, but the article below probably answers that....

As the world marks the 35th anniversary of Earth Day on Friday, environmentalists are debating the future of a movement that seems to be losing the battle for public opinion. President Bush's re-election, the failure to slow global warming and the large number of Americans who dismiss them as tree-hugging extremists have environmental leaders looking for new approaches.

What I am thinking about today is: Maybe we can just all start by doing one thing each day to make each day Earth Day. Maybe it won't be for you, but for your kids, animals facing extinction and, the world. Perhaps Bono is right, "one" can be for all, even if one at a time.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Salmon Fishing

My first job out of graduate school was at a rural hospital in Ilwaco, Washington, in a town that is one of the largest salmon fishing ports. Most tourists came to do Chinook salmon fishing on the Columbia or out at sea. During the time I worked there, the fishing industry was depressed, due to restrictions of fishing, controversy over Native American fishing rights and an overall poor economy in the vicinity. The oyster and mussel industries did continue to thrive, however.
The other hospital, in the north end of Pacific County, had previously been a shrimping port. That industry was also dead (though it has obviously started up again as a guy at a farmer's market here sells canned shrimp from South Bend, Washington). The other industry in town was logging, which was facing economic problems and there were many unemployed loggers.
I read today that the salmon runs on the Columbia River have dramatically decreased, for unknown reasons, and fishing has been called to a halt. I am a huge fan of the river salmon and find their annual pilgrimage upriver to lay eggs fascinating. Salmon is also one of my very favorite fish ---- this leads me to wonder about what we have done to the planet. Is it a long-distance impact of the tsunamis? What about the whales and dolphins beaching themselves for no apparent reasons (probably underwater sonar testing)? I don't quite know what to think, but I am definitely thinking about it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Brave Men and Their Trusted Dogs

Bravery is only one of the words to describe the reality of life for a K-9 officer and his/her partner. Last weekend we saw several officers (all men in this case), with their K-9 partners, compete in the "Desert Dogs Police K-9 Trials." The obstacle course had multiple components, and some of the dogs were flustered by the crowd cheering, but it was a spectacular event. It showcased the extensive training, and resulting trust, between the two officers, as well as the uncertainty that is faced daily jumping into windows, climbing through pipes, all in the name of law enforcement.
The stands at Scottsdale Stadium were not full, but many of the people there were officers' families, cheering on their team. I was struck by the fact that each had young children who have a father facing danger each day. I wish them luck and safety as they leave for work each day, truly living out the adventures displayed on "Dogs With Jobs." Custom, bullet-proof vests for each dog cost $600; you can bet we supported that cause for those dogs employed in police and sheriff departments, correctional facilities and the military.

Monday, April 18, 2005


OK, I am a pepperhead -- I love black pepper on everything, and the bigger the chunks are, the better! We have several pepper mills and a variety of peppercorns, but now, Penzey's is on the scene. They are a mail-order spice house that just opened one of a very few retail locations in Scottsdale. There is a pepper section! It is amazing -- I plan to take everyone I know with sinus problems there for a new form of treatment -- smelling pepper, cinnamon, basil, and other spices I am not familiar with. I don't carry a peppermill with me when dining out, but I really should as only the rare restaurant has an adequate supply of cracked pepper available. I miss Marin Joe's, with Georgette, as she always left the pepper bowl in front of me for the whole meal. As a pepperhead, you must know that that Vietnamese-style black peppered crab is a heavenly delight. I don't care about the crab, as I delight in simply licking off the spices. Run, don't walk to Penzey's. If you don't live close to one, find them online. We will soon have a whole cabinet dedicated to our newly acquired spices, as they join our growing sea salt and tea collections.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Side Stage View of U2 Concert

The U2 concert in the Glendale Arena was amazing. I only knew four of the songs in the two-hour plus set, but after the second song, I told my husband that Bono was awesome. He was involved, engaged the crowd, passionate and unbelievable to watch. Our seats afforded a view of the stage, which extended in a big loop out to the audience, but also all the backstage activities. After the warmup act of "Kings of Leon" (they were unusual, wearing very British shoes and hair, but quite good) a gaggle of roadies descended on the stage. They lowered about 7 light booms, and these guys in parachute gear, climbed on ladders and were raised up again over the stage. There were three stairways leading onto the stage, and each musician had a roadie handling their equipment. A door led out of the arena, and each time it opened, we could see who came in or out. There were 7 huge mixing setups behind the stage. When it came time to start, it went dark, the 3 musicians came out, to be followed by Bono. The crowd got on their feet for the first song "Vertigo" and stayed up, singing every word, for the entire concert.
Well, the guys in the rafters did some pretty great light variations; the stage lit up with lighting that changed colors around the edges; these light curtains came down and displayed walking figures and flags of the world. The roadie for "The Edge" (that is what my husband said the guy's name is) changed instruments for him effortlessly, and in his stocking feet, kept the cords from getting tangled or tripping him. Bono changed jackets once, though I don't know why he didn't just take it off, and put on a police hat and headband/blindfold with religious symbols drawn on it. Much of the banter was politically charged, though there was not much idle chatter, just good rock music.
At one point, Bono was handed the most beautiful, large, green (with gold accents) guitar which he added effortlessly to his singing. Cellphones, which were on, broadcasting the concert to others who were not there, got incorporated into the act as part of the support for the movement. The folks who were seated (or standing) behind the stage were not ignored as they were sung to and got some bows as well. The usher told us there were two encores the previous night, but as "She Moves In Mysterious Ways" went on, Bono told the rest of the band to just stay on stage. So they did, until he was the first to say thank you and good night. He patted "The Edge" on the back and exited the middle stairway. As he left, he was escorted out the door wearing an off-white, light weight robe with a hood. The others followed, one by one, disconnected from their mikes by their respective roadies. "The Edge" got a cold bottle of water from his roadie when he turned in his guitar or bass or whatever it was. Each left in one of those robes with the hood up. Why, I am still wondering? So not to get a chill from being so sweaty? Is it a Zen transition from the concert to a quiet time? Was it to make sure the right people get into the limo or bus before they depart for their next stop? I don't know.
It was a really wonderful concert. I admire that someone can use their position and power to make a difference in the world. It is certainly admirable to try, and, with the devotion displayed by the fans all reaching out to touch Bono, it is even possible.
We did not stay inside long enough to watch the roadies come down from their ceiling perches, but sat in the parking lot long enough for them start packing up for their drive to Denver. I never felt more like that Jackson Browne song, "Won't You Stay?"

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The First Jewish Pope?

Jean-Marie Lustiger, also known as the possible Jewish pope, is a curiosity. I read that there are wagers being taken about who will be the new pope. Lustiger, whose mother died in a concentration camp, is a new front-runner. He is seen to be an enlightened thinker, and excellent speaker. It will be weird to watch this unfold.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Royal Newlyweds

I don't like Prince Charles for cheating on Diana, but I have still read about the wedding preparations, protocol and ceremony. This woman, whom he finally married, has been in his life for decades, and frankly, why would she stop seeing him when he will eventually be King of England? Yes, all girls want to be princesses (which she technically is now, except for the actual title), but these same girls would also like to be the Queen (which she will be, except for the title.) The concept of living in castles, wearing beautiful ballgowns, attending fantastic events --- sure. But, break up someone's marriage in order to achieve your goal? That makes you not a nice person, no matter what the title is.
I do think the concept of the royals may be outdated, but, for people in ordinary lives, it provides the opportunity to see real-life fairy tales. In some fairy tales, the real Princess does get killed.
In case you wonder, I still aspire to be a princess. And, if there was a pea under my mattress, I would feel it.