Wednesday, December 31, 2003

New Year's Eve Musings

This was most certainly the year that consumer use of internet shopping finally became commonplace. On a busy holiday season 2003 day, Amazon set its all-time one-day record of 2.1 milliion sales transactions. 19 million items are now listed for sale on eBay. Amazon sold 70,000 e-gift certificates just on December 24. Analysts think that holiday 2003 internet sales easily exceeded $12 billion.

My family's choice for the year's top weekly email newsletter is NASA's Earth Observatory Weekly mailing, that links us to a plethora of fascinating photos taken recently by a NASA satellite. It gives one a whole new perspective of life on planet Earth. You can subscribe to it at

Excellent words of wisdom for the new year come from Rick Warren, author of the best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life" and pastor of an Orange County mega-church:

"New Year's Resolution: Do it now! That's the best time advice I can give you. Three little words: Do it now!

Don't procrastinate. If you had a bank account, and I were to tell you that every morning someone was going to put $86,400 into that bank account-- you could spend it any way you wanted to, but at the end of the day, whatever money you had not spent in that account you lost-- do you think you'd try to spend it? Or do you think you'd let it go to waste?

But here's the thing-- You have 86,400 seconds every day. You've got to draw them out. You've got to take advantage of them. Utilize the present by doing it now. Sometimes I get stuff in the mail that says 'For a limited time only.' We should write that over a lot of possibilities in life, because they are for a limited time only."

Another sign that Ron and I must be getting older.....we are ready to throw a small party at home this evening, but our closest friends all want to stay home and either not drive or go to bed early. We will probably find a fun local restaurant with good food and music while our 12 year old parties with her friends.

Our prayer for you is for a blessed New Year!

Send emails to

Monday, December 29, 2003

Nutty Paranoia and Almanacs

News services reported today that the FBI has contacted 18,000 police organizations nationwide to warn them to be alert for people carrying almanacs. The FBI said that "terrorists may use almanacs to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning." Seriously, almanacs. The FBI said that information typically found in almanacs that would be useful for terrorists includes profiles of cities and states and information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks.

Said John Pierce, publisher of The Old Farmers Almanac, "While we doubt that our editorial content would be of particular interest to people who would wish to do us harm, we will certainly cooperate to the fullest with the national authorities."

Here's my concern......they forgot encyclopedias. Also, reference websites. In fact, the whole internet. And what about National Geographic magazines and books? For Christmas, my 12 year old budding engineer received a fabulous National Geographic book about marvels of engineering. It has lots of lavish photos and details about bridges, buildings, pipelines, skyscrapers...even the Great Wall of China. I guess we need to throw that subversive book out before she decides to blow up a building after reading about its construction. I should also toss her World Almanac for Kids. I mean, what will the neighbors think? What if a police officer sees her with it?

Hmmmm...maybe we should ban pesky public information altogether. People just can't be trusted. And we can then somehow find a way to ban curiosity. If it weren't for curiosity, we probably wouldn't need info at all.


When will the US government's current nutty thinking-in-a-vacuum paranoia end? Soon, I pray, because it now threatens the very principles that our great country was founded on: individual freedom and personal liberty for all.

Send emails to

Friday, December 26, 2003

An Unexpected Christmas Gift

My new son-in-law's mother passed away a few years ago, as his father did many years before her. At the end of a fun, long and loving Christmas Day, he hugged me and said "Merry Christmas, Mom." He had never before called me mom.

I am deeply touched, and so grateful that God led he and my daughter to be married this year. It's such a blessing to have a new son. :)

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

Hope you enjoyed a Merry Christmas, full of wonder at the miracles only God can bring...the miracle of the birth of His Son who came to save us, and the miracle of the blessings and gifts God has given to you.

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Christmas Day Menu

For my foodie friends, here is the menu at our home for Christmas Day:

Breakfast - cinnamon bundt coffee cake, fresh melons, French roast coffee and apple juice.

Munchies - fresh veggie tray, mixed salted and honey-roasted nuts, and yes, my fudge that will be submitted to publishers in January. Fudge flavors I have on hand for tomorrow are margarita, cinnamon, peanut butter, chocolate creme de menthe and traditional milk chocolate walnut fudge.

Dinner - roast beef, cooked medium rare, creamed spinach with bacon, old-fashioned scalloped potatoes, raspberry-cranberry sour cream mold, sourdough rolls, and for dessert, pumpkin and pumpkin chocolate chip cheesecake. Wines served will be a merlot from Paso Robles (bought by my new son-in-law one day before the earthquake this week) and Kendall-Jackson chardonnay.

It will all be served on holly-edged white Christmas china on an olive holly-patterned tablecloth, by candlelight.

Christmas dinner is my heartfelt gift to all who attend and enjoy the festivities.

Send emails to

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

A Peaceful Vision for the Christmas Season

This month's issue of Sunset magazine features an article called "Peace in the Desert" about a young Nevada couple with two boys who have a refreshingly different way to spend the Christmas holidays. They are gardners and nature lovers who enjoy nothing more than a peaceful day in quiet, desert landscape. Here are a few quotes from the article:

"There's so much excess associated with the holidays. It's nice to get out and take the emphasis off of stuff. And the boys just love it....We have beautiful clear blue skies then. The light plays on the chollas and grasses. And we've been out there on the rare occasion when the cactus and yuccas were dusted with snow. It was downright magical."

"We buy one gift for each child, not a huge thing. There's a critical mass of toys beyond which more doesn't make anyone happier. Little children especially can't handle all the hype. We try to avoid creating a big buildup for one day and instead enjoy the season day by day. Heading to the post office the week before Christmas with young kids and boxes is not fun. Shopping online can keep kids away from the hyperactivity of malls."

After a hectic day spent driving in heavy around-town traffic, shopping for last-minute gifts, braving the crowded aisles and long long lines at Stater Brothers, wrapping presents, cutting and packaging fudge and cookies for neighbors, not to mention paying a few bills, this couple's vision of a peaceful, centered Christmas season sounds inviting and healthy.

Send emails to

Monday, December 22, 2003

Brushing Up for Christmas

This weekend, my friend Jeanile and I reminded each other of something quite important: it's that time of the year......time to dust off our copies of "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend and brush up on the basics before our extended families descend on our homes for Christmas celebrations. :)

Send emails to

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Raising a Christmas Traditionalist

To our surprise, Ron and I are raising a strict Christmas traditionalist. No offbeat, post-modern approach to the holidays for this 12 year old. Yesterday, after her annual Saturday-before-Christmas cookie baking marathon (peppermint chocolate chip meringues, sugared ginger snaps and cookie-cutter butter cookies), she insisted that the three of us sit together with fireplace ablaze to watch the movie "It's a Wonderful Life."

She eagerly anticipates the start of the holiday season, which is marked by her and Ron putting Christmas lights on our house, usually over Thanksgiving weekend. She selects just the right Christmas tree for our family every year, and Ron may not put lights on the tree without her, either This year, she wanted to put ALL the ornaments on the tree. Radio Christmas music plays continually in her bedroom or the family room. And for the first time this year, she made origami ornaments for a small second tree in our living room.

Tonight we're going to a caroling and cookie party given by dear friends. Her next few days will be filled with shopping, present wrapping, and visiting with her older sister and new brother-in-law. On Christmas Eve, she and I will take festive homemade fudge to various neighbors. We will attend evening Christmas Eve church services, followed by an hour's drive to look at Christmas lights. Christmas Day will be a potpourri of family, gifts, fudge, picture-taking, dinner and lots of love.

She will never want a Hawaiian vacation over Christmas. She will never opt for Christmas Day skiing and a hillside picnic. She will never spend Christmas Day without family.

And Ron and I wouldn't have her any other way.

Send emails to

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Favorite Christmas Gift

My all-time favorite Christmas gift was dinner and a show. No, not just any dinner and a show, but an elegant December dinner in a trendy San Francisco restaurant with my oldest daughter, and two highly sought after tickets to the San Francisco Opera. The dinner was original and fun, and the opera was a cultural treat almost beyond compare. But what I remember most about that night a few years ago was walking through the chilly city later that evening with my daughter....laughing, talking, savoring the lights of nighttime San Francisco, just being together.

It was a gift of time....a gift of thoughtfulness....a gift of memories. That's what I loved most about her gift to me. I pray that someday when she is a mother, one of her children is kind and loving enough to give her such a gift.

Send emails to

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Wilbur and Orville Wright, Great American Innovators

Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle manufacturers with a dream bigger than their day-to-day jobs and putting bread on their tables. Their dream of flying through the air was not has dreamed of flying for all of recorded history. The Wright brothers' dream was born of curiosity, excitement and their technical knowledge, prime ingredients for a stew of innovation.

They studied, by scouring what little literature existed on flight and wrote to the so-called experts of the day. They experimented endlessly for years by building prototype after prototype in their bike shop at their own expense. They created models, full-sized gliders and a clever ahead-of-its-time wind tunnel before developing a powered craft in 1903. They were obsessed with manned flight, in the grand American tradition of stubborn, obsessive, hard-working innovators Thomas Edison and George Washington Carver, Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Meg Whitman (eBay), and so many more.

The Wright brothers tested gliders on the shores of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for several years before daring to put their Wright Flyer to the test. One hundred years ago today, Orville Wright, 32 years old, held a rudimentary motion picture camera while his older brother, Wilbur, 36 years old, climbed aboard the flying machine and laid prone across the lower wing surface.

Their risk taking was astonishing, and their blind confidence was equally astonishing. Odds were that the Wright Flyer would crash, and Wilbur would have perished along with his machine. Think about had NEVER flown before. Modern statistics would give them absolutely no chance for success. Interesting that these bright men knew to record this event not to glorify their achievements, but to provide proof to a skeptical world of the first manned-flight.

On December 17, 1903, Wilbur Wright first flew his rickety invention 120 feet, with a last successive flight that day of 852 feet, for 59 seconds, while his co-inventor brother recorded it for all ages. Mankind was changed forever.

The next time you hear of some bold and bright, creative, over-confident risk-taker with a wildly different idea, remember the Wright brothers and their crazy dream. Take a moment to listen, to care, to support. Honor them and their dreams as God-inspired. These are the ones who change our world. Innovation is the genius and great accomplishment, the true legacy, of our United States.

Send emails to

Monday, December 15, 2003

Saddam Hussein, Wizard of Iraqi Oz

The symbolism of the capture of former Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein is powerful. As a result, his image is splashed across every major world newspaper and starts every telecast. Political leaders exult in his downfall, and Iraqis dance again in their streets.

The reality is that, without shot or struggle, a young US soldier and his commander found a disheveled, confused old man in a dusty rat hole. He looked just like the long-time homeless in any major city. He was living in a small mud-brick hut without indoor plumbing, subsisting on candy bars, rice, hot dogs and 7-Up. He had $750,000 that was useless to him. He was harmless, it turned out, unable or unwilling to even use his small pistol.

One veteran journalist said that Iraqis are in shock over Saddam's appearance. They are trying to reconcile the image of this scruffy, mild man with the feared, arrogant, omniscient dictator who ran and terrorized their country and the world for 25 years.

Saddam reminds me of the Wizard of Oz...a feared ruler who worked behind the scenes, intimidating all with bluffs and bluster, smoke and mirrors and tricks, until the curtain was pulled back to reveal just an ordinary little man with a penchant for power and palaces.

Send emails to

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Aztec Corn Soup with Monterey Jack Cheese

My family always loves this easy homemade soup. I made a huge pot of it on Friday evening...they ate it all and asked for more. Saute 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, 4 cups of corn and 7 oz chopped mild Ortega chiles in 4 tbspns of butter for about 15 minutes. (Fresh, canned or frozen corn all work well in this recipe. I use good-quality canned.) Add 2 chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of veggie broth and 2.5 cups of low-fat milk, salt and lemon pepper to taste, and let simmer for 20 more minutes. I also add a tspn of Tabasco, and a generous sprinkling of white pepper for extra depth of flavor. Five minutes before serving, add 1 fresh bunch of chopped cilantro. Top with Monterey jack cheese and sour cream. It's delicious served with a salad and warm tortillas.

Send emails to

Thursday, December 11, 2003

A Misogynist Kosher Take on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, director of the L'Chaim Society, author and national syndicated radio host, has been watching TV show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," and he has some opinions about it. For one, he believes that it shows straight men as "today's coarse savages and bad-mannered brutes" who can only be redeemed by gay men as "the straight man's messiah." (You can't make this stuff up.)

After watching the Fab Five for a while. Rabbi Boteach had an epiphany....this is all women's fault. Of course.

Women are supposed to teach manners to men, "how to act like a gentleman, straighten my tie, take lint off my jacket." But, the good rabbi laments, how can women teach anyone anything these days? I mean, look what has happened to women.

"Raised in a world where they get attention by flashing a thong strap rather than a kind smile....What can a college girl who flashes her breasts for the 'Girls Gone Wild' videos teach a man about civility? What can a woman who prances around in her underwear on the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show teach a guy about dignified bearing? Men no longer believe that women have class. And while they date them and bed them, fat chance they're going to be preached to them about not belching."

Here is what we now know about Rabbi Boteach: he watches "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," "Girls Gone Wild" videos and the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, and as a result, he no longer respects women. Duh!!!

Rabbi, what about the men who produced and directed the programs? What about the men who made big money off this entertainment, off people like you who are watching this garbage? What about all the men on these make no mention of them. Do you disrespect them too, or are they just there as more victims of wicked women? None of these shows would exist unless men watched them, men like you, Rabbi Boteach.

And Rabbi, you seem to extend these stereotypes to all women. He continues in his article at, "Reality TV and the internet package women in 4 foul stereotypes: 1. the greedy gold-digger; 2. the brainless bimbo; 3. the publicity-seeking prostitute; 4. the bitchy backstabber."

Rabbi, turn on Oprah and you will see televised good and humanity beyond your imagination. Turn on lighter weight Christian fare "Seventh Heaven" or "Touched by an Angel." Turn on a symphony, a kosher cooking show, maybe even a golf tournament or tennis match.

Or better yet, Rabbi, turn off your TV and stop surfing the net. You need to get a real life and meet some real people. God bless you.

Send emails to

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Masterpiece

The most satisfying of all creative endeavors must be to design a building that is a bold artistic statement, a monumental construction project, and a stunning functional showcase for present and future generations of musical expression. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is all that, and yet, like the grandest photo that still doesn't do justice to the Grand Canyon, words are inadequate to describe the magnetic grandeur that is architect Frank Gehry's masterpiece.

At a block's distance, WDCH is all sensuous curves of buffed stainless steel, a continuously changing play of light and shadow in asymmetrical symmetry. It is perfect abstract balance. It is Kandinsky in his geometric phase, especially when colorfully lit up at night. As a mere art object....WDCH would have been genius.

But this is an acoustically-perfect, elegant 2,265 seat concert hall. The Hall was constructed of 12,500 pieces of steel which weigh over 11,000 tons, 300 tons of bolts and welds, and 18,000 cubic yards of concrete. Because of the building's curved surfaces and exacting design specifications, structural beams had to be placed by a 750,000 lb crane using the most sophisticated aerospace software. The interior is equally stunning....8 skylights with 3-inch thick glass were designed to retain natural lighting. The large "tree trunk" columns in the lobby are made entirely of straight-grained Douglas fir, as this material closely approximates the wood used in musical instruments. A list of fascinating details and touches would go on and on.

When WDCH opened in October 2003, the New York Times gushed, "Clad in a shimmering skin of stainless steel, the hall's volumptuous swirling forms evoke the contours of full-blown sails tacking in the wind, but Gehry rises above literal representation and ascends into poetic abstraction. He has given Los Angeles its long-awaited crowning glory."

WDCH is one of the world's great architectural marvels, an American counterpart to Egypt's ancient pyramids. How delightful that it was built as a home for and monument to fine music.

Send emails to

Madonna's Self-diagnosed Problem

"I used to leave my yoga class...and go to Krispy Kreme and get two hot, fresh, glazed donuts and have a sugar rush---and then crash and be depressed for the rest of the day," confessed pop superstar Madonna recently about her former addiction to sugar.

Madonna thinks her problem is a couple of donuts?

Send emails to

Sunday, December 07, 2003


The search engines have found this column of musings! Hooray and praise God.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Of Donut Shops and Starbucks

Despite smart urban decor and multiple laptop stations, trendy coffees and gourmet noshes, soft jazz music and Euro coffee-pub atmosphere, Starbucks and its cousins will never replace a great old-fashioned neighborhood donut shop. In fact, they are two entirely different animals. A sleek leopard and a friendly golden retriever.

There is a corner donut shop in our neighborhood situated in the same large strip mall as a Starbucks. (A highly unusual arrangement, it should be noted. It was a very early Starbucks location. Leases now inked by the Seattle-based corp mandate that no other coffee retailer can occupy the same strip mall. No exceptions.) Both Donut Star and Starbucks have plenty of business, albeit at different times. Starbucks customers plan to linger, to read, to chat with friends on the small front patio. Every morning, Donut Star customers line up out the plain glass door, eager for freshly made donuts and a hot cup of joe to go in white styrofoam cups.

The husband and wife owners of Donut Star keep their shop open 24/7, 365 days a year. Yup, they never close. They work together there every day of the year, and family or local teenagers man the small store during quieter hours. The coffee is newly brewed, delicious and inexpensive. During peak times, they keep fancier flavored coffees in thermoses on the counter...butterscotch, hazelnut, French vanilla, chocolate almond. No lattes with soy milk, no caramel macchiattos, no triple-shot expressos.

The glass cases are chock-full of fresh, sweet and but not sickly-sweet, traditional cinnamon rolls, croissants, danishes, blueberry and banana walnut muffins, cream-filled horns, maple and chocolate bars, and donuts, donuts, donuts....plumply raised, chocolate and delicate yellow cake, crusty old-fashioneds, airy French crullers. Not just chocolate icing, but also orange, strawberry, rich maple, a rainbow of sprinkles, nuts, coconut, cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar. All with nary a day-old bite in sight.

The owners and employees are invariably pleasant and attentive to each customer. I go in there perhaps 3 times a month, and it is astonishing that they remember my coffee preference. (Tall butterscotch, black.) He even apologizes humbly when they are out of my fave. The shop is always clean and brightly lit with 4 small 1980s table-and-chair fixtures attached to the floor beyond the cash register. A well-read copy of today's local newspaper is there for anyone with a few spare minutes. Under the window are notices for a kids' soccer league and senior citizens news.

No music, no hyper-cool merchandise, no pretensions.

I would love to see comparative sales data for the Donut Star and Starbucks in this same strip mall near our home. My educated hunch is that Donut Star's sales of coffee and fare outstrip those of Starbucks.

Send emails to

Friday, December 05, 2003

Sweet Joy, 7th Grade Style

Oh, to be a 7th grader anticipating her first school dance. She could barely contain her excitement...kept showing me her dance ticket, talking about the food, planning "being cool" strategies with her girlfriends, carefully selecting her clothes. Her sweet, adorable joy was a sight to savor and behold.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Santa Takes a Fall

Santa stood in front of his chair and waved to the crowd from atop his float in a Quebec parade early this week. 70,000 had turned out for the popular local event on the cold but beautiful winter day. Santa's float abruptly stopped, though, early in the parade. Santa fell off the float, and hit the street 10 feet below on his head. Samantha, an adorable movie-perfect 3 year old, started crying when she saw Santa fall. She sobbed to her parents that she was afraid and sad that Christmas would no longer take place because Santa got hurt. Turns out Santa was rushed to the hospital where he got 10 stitches, and is healing with no problems. A fast-thinking city employee donned Santa's hat and large jacket, hopped onto the float and waved to the crowds for the rest of the route.

Sounds like the seeds for a Hollywood movie plot.

It also sounds like someone needs to explain to Samantha the true meaning of Christmas.

Send emails to

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Secret Luxuries

There is secret luxury in being mildly sick. Last night as my temperature rose above 101 degrees, Ron made dinner, rubbed my back, ran out to SavOn for some medicine, was saintly patient about my tossing and turning. If only we didn't have to feel so miserable to earn such luxuries.

Send emails to

Monday, December 01, 2003

You've Got to Change Your Evil Ways....

"The only thing I know (about war) is all wars are wrong. There is no such thing as a 'holy war' because it is a contradiction. I believe that if we declare war against anything, it should be war against poverty and ignorance."

Carlos Santana, musician