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28 Nov

The selfie of us on our March anniversary (46th!) seems an appropriate one to begin a holiday letter for this most bizarre of years: a little crooked, a little blurry, and kind of manic! What can we say about a year in which we had to stay home for most of it? Since I wrote last year’s letter before our travels at Christmas, I’ll include some tales of that trip first. Since Max & Dottie & kiddos planned to be in Austin with her family, we decided we would drive over to be with them. We managed to find a great home to stay in via HomeExchange (so it was free accommodation!), and en route made a detour to the famous little Texas town of Marfa–the site of artist Donald Judd’s projects, and a place I had always wanted to visit. Despite the cold and a lot of closed galleries, it was a fascinating place, better than my expectations.   

Marfa Court House

George at the Marfa Store, and below, Chinati Foundation

It was great to see the kiddos in Austin, despite minor family illnesses. We were especially pleased to meet the kiddos’ new cousin Sonny, Dottie’s sister’s little boy, who looks exactly like his father!     


Other events:  My book, Three German Women, arrived in October! I love the cover, and the contents look better than I expected they would. Read about it here:

Sadly, George’s 93-year-old father, George Albert Boeck, Sr., died on Halloween day in Greeley, Colorado. He was a real gentleman who prided himself on being curmudgeonly, and we miss him greatly. To whom will we now send articles about Sherlock Holmes and Abraham Lincoln? Here is the obituary I wrote for him that appeared in the Greeley paper:

Finally, I gave in after months of not seeing the family, and flew via Southwest Airlines to Denver. A lovely visit, with Lyle, who wanted an axolotl, and Lou, who said his favorite animal was a unicorn.

About the only other event to report in this crazy year is that George has once again acquired a beehive! No bees yet, but it is a sign of his perpetual optimism that he’s waiting for a swarm to find the new digs to call home. So we persist in our hopes for renewal, regeneration, and lots of honey in the New Year!

Please let us hear from you, by whatever means:  EE & GB, 450 N. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101, 626 644 2389, We both have Facebook pages, too! Thanks to all of you for making this year survivable! WE LOVE OUR TRIBE!


Rad Lib Aggregator

16 Feb

[No doubt many of you will recognize that this entry comes not from me, Erika, but from George, the other half of ESAUBOECK! He’s so sweet and earnest to have taken on this experimental project. –Erika.]


Just after the start of the year, I became impatient with the bland news reported in Google News and Huffington Post, the two aggregators I follow.  I decided to aggregate news from left-leaning publications, then added a few “from the other side of the aisle”.  A daily task undertaken at about 4:00 in the afternoon, it was really pretty interesting and only took a little more than an hour each day.

After a six week trial, it seems to me that does just about as good a job as I can with way better graphics, though being less selective.  The conclusions:  it is much easier to find positive, forward-looking articles in liberal publications than in conservative ones.  National Review is particularly noted for preferring attacks on opposition figures over descriptions of efforts by conservatives.  Selecting the appropriate publication from which to take popular stories was often a challenge.

Technically, finding current postings of classical music on YouTube is time consuming due to the incredible number of dippy “classical music for relaxed studying which will also put your baby to sleep”; they generally don’t give proper attribution.  WordPress’s free blog function works pretty well, despite some odd layout editing, the most frustrating being an inclination to automatically run paragraphs together.

I have no idea if anyone found the blog.

Here is the list of the not particularly Rad publications I looked through for this post followed by a few weeks of the post itself, enough for you to get an idea of the coverage.

The Atlantic.
Center for American Progress
Dead Spin 
Foreign Affairs
Huffington Post
Los Angeles Times
The Monthly Today
The Nation
New Republic
New York Book Review
New York Times
The New Yorker
Washington Post
From the other side of the aisle:
The Hill
Fiscal Times.
National Review
Washington Examiner

Feb 15, 2018.  On this day in 2001, the first draft of the  human genome is published in Nature

Why Can’t the U.S. Treat Gun Violence as a Public-Health Problem? A 1996 bill has had a chilling effect on the CDC’s ability to research the problem.  Sarah Zhang. The Atlantic.

Why Drones Are Still the Future of War. Troops Will Learn to Trust Them. Paul Scharre; Jacquelyn Schneider and Julia Macdonald.  Foreign Affairs.

119,000 Passports and Photo IDs of FedEx Customers Found on Unsecured Amazon Server.Dell Cameron.  Gizmodo.

What Happens When A Journalist Gets Beat Up? Too Often, Not Much.  Bernie Lunzer. Huffington Post.

Bipartisan Senate effort to protect Dreamers collapses after Trump threatens veto. Los Angeles Times.

Cry me a river. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is key to the PM’s legacy. He must save it.   Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

Amazon Doesn’t Just Want to Dominate the Market—It Wants to Become the Market. The company is a radically new kind of monopoly with ambitions that dwarf those of earlier empires.  Stacy Mitchell.  The Nation.

What Congress Has Accomplished Since the Sandy Hook Massacre. More than 1,600 mass shootings have taken place in America since then.  New York Times.

The Sad Reality of Trying to Keep Guns Away from Mentally Ill People.  Michael Luo.  The New Yorker.

Trump struggles with consoler-in-chief role. The president gave remarks that were appropriate to the moment following the Parkland school shooting, but failed to convey the sorrow Americans expect from their leader. Edward-Isaac Dovere.  Politico.On social media, Parkland students subvert the news cycle. A generational culture of real-time social media empowered witnesses to redirect the national conversation. Nicole Karlis.  Salon.The AR-15: ‘America’s rifle’ or illegitimate killing machine?  Most Americans back a ban on the weapon used in many school shootings. But the rifles and their cousins are among the nation’s most popular and profitable guns.  Marc Fisher.  Washington Post.

Giselle – Act II pas de deux (The Royal Ballet).  YouTube.

Feb. 14, 2018.  On this day in 1920, the League of Women Voters is founded in Chicago.

The Out Olympics .  Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy show the entertainment value, and political power, of gay people embracing full visibility.   Spencer Kornhaber. The Atlantic.

Cracking the Shell. Trump and the Corrupting Potential of Furtive Russian Money.  Center for American Progress.

The China Reckoning. How Beijing Defied American Expectations.  Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner.  Foreign Affairs.

We’re Averaging One School Shooting Every 60 Hours In 2018. Wednesday’s shooting at a Florida high school is the 18th school shooting of the year. Lydia O’Connor. Huffington Post.

ICE launches new immigration sweeps in L.A. area; at least 100 detained so far. Los Angeles Times.

Big business tax cuts a non-starter. You can’t cut tax for companies paying zero.  Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

With His Assault on PBS and NPR, Trump Seeks to Eliminate Real News.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

South Africa’s Zuma Leaves Behind a Broken Democracy. Can the party of Nelson Mandela cleanse and revive itself?  New York Times.

“America’s Harvest Box” Captures the Trumpian Attitude Toward Poverty.  Sasha Abramsky.  The New Yorker.

The best photo we have of the Trump White House is Colbie Holderness and her black eye. The photo of Rob Porter’s wife with a black eye is a picture of hate and violence. Lucian K. Truscott IV.  Salon.

South African president resigns amid corruption allegations.  The African National Congress had pressured Jacob Zuma to step down. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Zuma as ANC leader in December, is expected to become acting president.  Kevin Sieff and Krista Mahr.  Washington Post.

“The Song of Trees” by Keiko Abe. Performed by Felix Reyes.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Under pressure, Trump says he’s ‘totally opposed to domestic violence’.   Jordan Fabian.  The Hill.

How Trump’s Budget Would Cut the Social Safety Net. As a candidate, President Trump said he would not cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. But his 2019 budget proposal seeks to reduce spending on all three programs.  Yuval Rosenberg. Fiscal Times.

Success Academy Charter Schools Are a Big Success. Kids who attend New York City’s Success Academy charter schools do remarkably well. John Stossell.  Reason.Com.

VA Secretary David Shulkin regrets misusing taxpayer funds for European trip, reimburses government.   Naomi Lim.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 13, 2018.   On this day in 1914,  the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was established to protect the copyrighted musical compositions of its members.

Trump’s Top Intelligence Officials Contradict Him on Russian Meddling.  The intelligence community has a stark warning about Russia’s intentions to interfere in the 2018 elections—but no public plan to prevent it.  Natasha Bertrand. The Atlantic.

A Bad Budget for America’s Place in the World.  Center for American Progress.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israeli police recommend indicting prime minister. Attorney general will examine evidence and decide whether to indict after police investigation of the prime minister in two cases.  Oliver Holmes. Guardian.

Trump’s Plan To Screw Over Your Bartender. The Restaurant Owner-In-Chief Wants To Give Employers More Control Over Tips.  Dave JamiesonHuffington Post.

As foreign hackers plot next attack, Washington struggles to shore up vulnerable voting systems. Los Angeles Times.

Why Does the Pentagon Always Tell Us the End Is Right Around the Corner?  What they should say is how many times they’ve been wrong about that.  Tom Engelhardt.  The Nation.

Information Wants to Be Chinese.  How investment from the People’s Republic is dividing Washington and Silicon Valley.  Moira Weigel. New Republic.

The Hidden Political Message of Michelle Obama’s Portrait Dress. From the pattern to the designer, the dress is the most revealing part.  Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell.  Politico.

Chopin Waltz Op.69 no 2 played by Thu Le, Classical Guitar. Arranged by Roland Dyens.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Schiff: We’re not going to revise Democratic memo.  The Hill.

Democracy in Chains Author Nancy MacLean Calls Autism a Leading Cause of Libertarianism.  “It’s striking to me how many of the architects of this cause seem to be on the autism spectrum: people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others.”  Robby Soave.  Reason.Com.

Greece is the word: Fiscal recklessness portends a crash.  Quin Hillyer.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 12, 2018.  On this day in 1817, Frederick Douglas was born into slavery in Maryland.

The Fetishization of Kim Yo Jong.  Krishnadev Calamur. The Atlantic.

Election Security in All 50 States. Defending America’s Elections.Center for American Progress.

U.S. Soccer Blew It.  Billy Haisley. Dead Spin.

Frustrations at the White House and the Pentagon. Why They Can’t Seem to See Eye to Eye on North Korea. Julianne Smith and Loren DeJonge Schulman.  Foreign Affairs.

Why Purebred Dogs Are Sick, Miserable, and Ugly.  George Dvorsky.  Gizmodo.

Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits expand beyond usual format. The pictures, painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, are vivid depictions by African American artists and will hang at the Smithsonian.  David Smith. Guardian.

Do You Like Paying Tolls? You’re Gonna Love Trump’s Infrastructure Plan. The proposal would allow more states to toll interstate highways. Igor Bobic. Huffington Post.

Jeff Sessions, Not Trying to Hide It, Praises ‘Anglo-American Heritage of Law Enforcement’. Ellie Shechet.  Jezebel.

Minding the gap. For once, really important targets are making a difference. Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

Randy Bryce’s Campaign Is Not Just Pro-Union—It’s Unionized.  The Campaign Workers Guild has negotiated its first collectively bargained contract, with the Democratic candidate challenging Paul Ryan.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

Trump Budget Ignores Deficit With Increases for Military.  The plan also includes large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade.  Julie Hirschfeld Davis.  The Nation.

Trump’s Words Will Leave a Lasting Mark.  History proves that presidential rhetoric impacts policy, sometimes long after the president himself has left office.  Jeet Heer.  New Republic.

God’s Own Music.  The Anglican choral tradition is one of the great successes of English cultural diffusion.  Ian Bostridge.  New York Book Review.

Trump Budget Ignores Deficit With Increases for Military.  The plan also includes large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade.  Julie Hirschfeld Davis. New York Times.

The Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony: People Are Awesome. The Games feel like a testament to human pleasure: let us gather, and do these pure and ridiculous things for fun.  Amanda Petrusich.  The New Yorker.

McConnell’s immigration gamble. The Senate majority leader is unleashing a free-for-all debate over Dreamers — and his endgame is a mystery.  Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett.  Politico.

Jeff Sessions Let His Racism Peek Through a Little More Than He May Have Intended To.  Emma Roller. Splinter.

Trump wants to overhaul America’s safety net with cuts to health care, food stamps and housing. The budget proposal presumes lawmakers will change entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do.   Tracy Jan, Caitlin Dewey, Amy Goldstein and Jeff Stein. Washington Post.

Gregorian chant.Early Music Sources.YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Trump fires first salvo on drug prices. The Hill.

The Trump Budget’s $7.1 Trillion Hole. Yuval RosenbergFiscal Times.

When Border Searches Become Unreasonable. Allowing warrantless searches everywhere within 100 miles of the border leads to much abuse.  Kyle Sammin.  National Review.

Trump’s New Budget Plan Is a Fiscal Disaster. The administration’s spending blueprint continues the fiscal decline that began during the Bush era.  Marc. Joffe.  Reason.Com.

Feb. 11, 2018.  On this day in 1937, General Motors recognized the United Auto Workers’ Union following a sit-down strike lasting 44 days.

A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue. Americans would be less alienated from one another and solve problems more easily if they recognized one little-noticed distinction in policy debates.  Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic.

Cryptojackers Strike Again, Hitting Thousands of Sites Including US and UK Government Pages.  Tom McKay. Gizmodo.

The Guardian view on childhood obesity: forget small steps, tackle big food. Guardian.Heartbreaking Video Shows Black Parents Teaching Their Kids About Police Encounters. “Do everything that you can to get back to me.” Taylor Pittman.  Huffington Post.

Weinstein Company Sale Delayed by New York State Lawsuit.  New York’s attorney general filed a suit alleging the studio and its founders repeatedly violated state and city laws barring gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and coercion. It appeared timed to at least temporarily stop a sale.  Brooks Barnes and William Neuman. New York Times.

Progressives storm Democratic primaries. Veteran blue-state incumbents are hitting unexpected turbulence this year.  Laura Nahmias and Lauren Dezensky.  Politico.

White House wants to turn space station into commercially run venture. The administration plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the station altogether, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Post. Christian Davenport. Washington Post.

Paganini Violin Concerto no. 1 arrangement for reduced orchestra by Rechtman. Israel Camerata Orchestra.YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Trump officials do damage control after staff turmoil. Julia Manchester. The Hill.

Trump touts Lou Barletta as a ‘Great Republican’ running against Sen. Bob Casey. Steven Nelson.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 11, 2018.  On this day in 1937, General Motors recognized the United Auto Workers’ Union following a sit-down strike lasting 44 days.

A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue. Americans would be less alienated from one another and solve problems more easily if they recognized one little-noticed distinction in policy debates.  Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic.

Cryptojackers Strike Again, Hitting Thousands of Sites Including US and UK Government Pages.  Tom McKay. Gizmodo.

The Guardian view on childhood obesity: forget small steps, tackle big food. Guardian.Heartbreaking Video Shows Black Parents Teaching Their Kids About Police Encounters. “Do everything that you can to get back to me.” Taylor Pittman.  Huffington Post.

Weinstein Company Sale Delayed by New York State Lawsuit.  New York’s attorney general filed a suit alleging the studio and its founders repeatedly violated state and city laws barring gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and coercion. It appeared timed to at least temporarily stop a sale.  Brooks Barnes and William Neuman. New York Times.

Feb. 10, 2018.

How WeWork Has Perfectly Captured the Millennial Id.  The company sells a somewhat uneasy combination of capitalist ambition and cooperative warmth.  Laura Bliss. The Atlantic.

Purdue Pharmaceuticals Says It Will Stop the Aggressive Opioid Marketing That Made It Billions.   Tom McKay.  Gizmodo.

Corporations Won’t Fix American Health Care. They Already Run It.  Neil J. Young. Huffington Post.

White House floats an offer to keep legal immigration at 1 million per year instead of cutting it. Los Angeles Times.

Can Germany’s Social Democrats Get Their Groove Back?  The turn to neoliberalism demoralized the party—and helped fuel the rise of the extreme right.  Jordan Stancil.  The Nation.

The Heart of Conrad. (Review of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World by May Jasanoff).  Colm Tóibín.  New York Book Review.

G.O.P. Squirms as Trump Veers Off Script With Abuse Remarks.  Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.  New York Times.

class=”River__hed___re6RP”>Sports Illustrated’s Spectacularly Silly #MeToo Swimsuit Issue.You may have heard that women everywhere are sick of being sexually harassed; Sports Illustrated has, too.  Alexandra Schwartz.  The New Yorker.

The Democrats’ secret weapon to take back statehouses. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is pumping money and infrastructure into an array of legislative races. Special election results suggest it’s paying off.  Edward-Isaac Dovere. Politico.

Catching a glimpse of “the black tech renaissance”. I went down to BlackTech Week in Miami with a group from Maryland to see the future of cybersecurity.  D. Watkins.  Salon.

Danish folk song by Bon Voyage Music Project. YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

EPA chief’s questions about climate science draw new scrutiny.  The Hill.

In Memoriam: The GOP Pretending to Care About Fiscal Restraint.  The new two-year budget deal will result in a $1 trillion deficit.   Austin Bragg & Meredith Bragg.  Reason.Com.

Feb. 9, 2018.  On this day in 1950,  U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R. Wisc.) said that the U.S. Dept. of State was full of communists which he considered a bad thing.

6 Things to Watch for in Trump’s Infrastructure Scam.  Center for American Progress.

How to Win a Great-Power Competition. Alliances, Aid, and Diplomacy in the Last Struggle for Global Influence.   Benn Steil.  Foreign Affairs.

Trump’s America will be saddled with debt – just like his bankrupted hotels.  Guardian.

Dow rises 330 points Friday, but stocks still have worst week in two years.    Los Angeles Times.A New Housing-Rights Movement Has the Real-Estate Industry Running Scared.  In cities across the country, tenants are demanding robust regulations to keep rents affordable and stop unjust evictions.  Jimmy Tobias.  The Nation.

Could This Madman Accidentally Bring Peace to the Korean Peninsula?  The Trump administration’s extreme rhetoric on North Korea is forcing South Korea to seek a new solution for its longterm securityJeet Heer. New Republic.

Welcome to the Post-Text Future.  The internet was born in text. Now, video and audio are ascendant, writing is being left behind, and everything will be different.  Fahrad Manjoo.  New York Times.

Trump Gives Wife Beater Praise He Usually Reserves for Child Molesters and Nazis.  Andy Borowitz.  The New Yorker.

Justice Department’s No. 3 official plans to step downRachel Brand will take a private-sector job after nine months as associate attorney general, said a person familiar with the decision.Sari Horwitz and Josh DawseyWashington Post.

Brahms – Piano Concerto No.2 (recording of the Century : Emil Gilels/Reiner, 1958, Chicago).YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Pence did not stand for Korean delegation at Olympics opening ceremonies: report.The Hill.

Trump declines to release Democratic memo.   Kelly Cohen.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 8, 2018.  On this day in 1575, Leiden University was founded; its motto, Praesidium Libertatis or bastion of liberty, while appropriate from the start, was coined in 1839.

The Weirdest—and Possibly Best—Proposal to Resolve the North Korea Crisis. The administration is nowhere near out of peaceful options. Peter Beinart. The Atlantic.

10 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2018.Center for American Progress.

ICE Wants to Be an Intelligence Agency Under Trump. Immigration enforcers have tried for years to get access to spy agency secrets. Civil libertarians call the prospect ‘frankly terrifying’—and a lot more realistic under Trump.  Betsy Woodruff.  The Daily Beast.

Muslim Voters and the European Left. When Inclusion Leads to Populism. Rafaela M. Dancygier.  Foreign Affairs.

Google Will Soon Start Shaming All Sites That Don’t Use HTTPS as ‘Not Secure’.  Sam Rutherford. Gizmodo.

As Vladimir Putin steals the Russian election, our leaders are shamefully silent.  Guardian.

U.S. Gun Companies Manufactured A Record 11 Million Firearms In 2016. The gun industry’s output doubled over the Obama era — and it appears likely to keep growing. Nick Wing. Huffington Post.

George W. Bush says Russia meddled in 2016 U.S. election.  Curtis Lee. Los Angeles Times.

Sex, Lies, and Human Resources. If you think the #MeToo reckoning is over because the Weinsteins of the world have been toppled, you’ve missed the point.  Marie Claire and Esquire came together to ask some of the smartest people we know 21 questions to cut through popular opinion, diagnose how we really got here, and debate where we go next. Edited by

Am I bothered? Big bank regulatory risks are being priced in comfortably. Paddy Manning .  The Monthly Today.

John Kelly Has Got to Go.  His awful response to domestic-abuse charges involving a top aide is just the latest in a series of toxic blunders.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

We All Have Stake in Stock Market, Right? Guess Again.Wall Street’s up and downs have little impact on the income or wealth of most Americans, despite the bromides of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Patricia Cohen. New York Times.

North Korea’s Mesmerizing “Army of Beauties”. The allure of the country’s cheerleading squad is connected with the degree to which its members appear to be under complete control.  Jia Tolentino.  The New Yorker.

Rand’s latest stand puts government on brink of shutdown.  Get ready for a long night.  Burgess Everett. Politico.

Mike Pence Is Having a Full-Blown Meltdown Over Being Called Out for His Homophobia.  Isha Aran. Splinter.

With 1,000-point loss, Dow drops into correction territory for first time in years.  Thomas Heath. Washington Post.

Saint-Saëns: The Swan (The Carnival of the Animals) – Sarah Joy. YouTube.From the other side of the aisle:

If a School Cop Threatens Your 13-Year-Old with Child Porn Charges for Sexting, Get a Lawyer.  Families should never consent to have school resource officers search kids’ phonesRobby Soave.  Reason.Com.

Prison reform, the time is now.  Cal Thomas.  Washington Times.

Feb. 7, 2018.  On this day in 1898,   1889 Emile Zola was brought to trial for libel for publishing J’accuse,  a letter accusing the government of France of anti-semitism in the Dreyfus affair.

How Humans Sank New Orleans. Engineering put the Crescent City below sea level. Now, its future is at risk. Richard Campanella.  The Atlantic.

Nancy Pelosi Holds The Floor More Than 8 Hours To Demand Immigration Promise. The Democrat says she won’t support a budget deal until the House speaker commits to holding a vote for Dreamers.  Elise Foley and Igor Bobic. Huffington Post.“403,000 jobs in a row”. The PM should be careful grandstanding on the economy. Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

A Glimpse of North Korea’s Isolated Athletes.  We’ve gathered insights from the country’s state news media, analysts, defectors and athletes who have competed alongside North Koreans.  Motoko Rich.  New York Times.

Raining on Trump’s Parade. The reason to oppose the President’s desired military showcase is simply that it is not—in the old-fashioned sense—the American way.   Adam Gopnik. The New Yorker.

Trump’s military parade draws bipartisan rebuke.  Bryan Bender.   Politico.

Trump’s big parade turns military tradition and honor on its head.  Toy soldiers and toy tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue will make him look like a tin pot dictator. Lucian K. Truscott IV.  Salon.

Extreme Homophobe Mike Pence Doesn’t Seem to Get Why a Gay Person Won’t Talk to Him.  Kinsha Aran. Splinter.

In Conversation: Quincy Jones. The music legend on the secret Michael Jackson, his relationship with the Trumps, and the problem with modern pop.  David Marchese.  Vulture.

Republicans are doing a complete reversal on the deficit.   The debt binge, which is projected to push the annual gap between spending and revenue past $1.1 trillion in 2019, caps off a major shift for the Republican Party, which has been swept up by President Trump’s demands for more spending and tax cuts.  Damian Paletta and Erica Werner. Washington Post.

Quincy Jones – The Best Quincy Jones – (full album) HQ.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Right revolts on budget deal.  The Hill.

Big Jump in Corporate Buybacks.  Critics of the GOP tax overhaul argue that businesses will use their tax cut windfall not for domestic investment but to boost buybacks and enrich shareholders.  Fiscal Times.

Jeff Sessions Says Opioid Addiction Starts With Marijuana. Here Are 6 Studies That Say Otherwise.  Sessions: “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too.”  J. Ciaramella.  Reason.Com

Feb. 6, 2018.  On this day in 1959,  Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments filed the first patent for an integrated circuit.

On the Proper Name for the Trump Era: ‘Democracide’, ‘Ochlocracy’, or Something Else.  James Fallows.  The Atlantic.

Falcon Heavy Now Officially the Most Powerful Rocket in the World.  George Dvorsky.  Gizmodo.

Daniel Barenboim. Beethoven Piano Concerto # 5 – Jansons / Bavarian Radio S.O.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Pentagon planning grand military parade for Trump. Avery Anapol.  The Hill.

Trump’s NAFTA Antics Will Drive America’s Auto Industry Into a Ditch.  Daniel Griswold.  Reason.Com..

Feb. 5, 2018.  On this day in 1994,  Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Boycott the Republican Party. If conservatives want to save the GOP from itself, they need to vote mindlessly and mechanically against its nominees. Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes. The Atlantic.

Fertile Ground. Using the 2018 Farm Bill To Grow Investment in Private Lands Conservation. Ryan Richards, Mary Ellen Kustin, William Murray, and Caroline Kitchens.  Center for American Progress.

Why Spanish Nationalism Is on the Rise. And What It Means for the Country’s Politics. Omar G. EncarnaciónForeign Affairs.

Apple Music Was Always Going to Win.  Adam Clark Estes. Gizmodo.
Australian and Japanese stock markets slide after Dow suffers biggest one-day points fall.   Claire Phipps, Graeme Wearden and Nick Fletcher.


Trump:  Dems Who Didn’t Clap at SOTU “Treasonous”. President Attacks Democrats Not Clapping At State Of The Union As ‘Un-American’. Marina Fang. Huffington Post.

Millennials Are Keeping Unions Alive. Jobs are precarious, health-care costs are skyrocketing, and wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living—no wonder young people are organizing.
Michelle ChenThe Nation.

The Elizabeth Warren Model of Political Leadership. As her campaign against Wells Fargo shows, success on Capitol Hill can’t always be measured through a legislative scorecard.   David Dayen.  New Republic.

Stocks Plunge as Sell-Off Enters 2nd Week. The Dow and S.&P. Lose About 4% as Investors Grow Wary.  Matt Phillips.  New York Times.

Trump Goes Quiet as the Stock Market Slumps. Having boasted as the Dow Jones was rising, the President can hardly complain if people now associate him with it as it falls.  John Cassidy.  The New Yorker.

From the other side of the aisle:

Apple Music on Track to Overtake Spotify in U.S. Subscribers. 
Apple’s U.S. subscriber-account base has been growing about 5% a month, versus No. 1 Spotify’s 2% clip.  Anne Steele.  Wall Street Journal.

Feb. 4, 2018. On this day in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook.

China’s Surveillance State Should Scare Everyone. The country is perfecting a vast network of digital espionage as a means of social control—with implications for democracies worldwide. Anna Mitchell and Larry Diamond. The Atlantic.

After Credibility. American Foreign Policy in the Trump Era. Keren Yarhi-Milo. Foreign Affairs.

No 10 rules out customs union with EU. Statement comes after ministers contradict each other and reports of a challenge to Theresa May’s leadership over issue. Rajeev Syal. Guardian.

A fledgling

24 Jun

[George likes to make these little anecdotal moral offerings….ee]

As we travel Erika and I have shared and have had individual experiences.  Erika stayed in Denver while I  motored north from Denver to Greeley to see my father.  After a long, slow bit coping with someone’s minor accident, I needed to pee.   Eventually, after a patient wait, I exited to a gas station.  The station’s men’s toilet was occupied, as was the women’s (“That’s the ladies’!”).  Around the side and then the back was a fenced-in area protecting the air conditioning fans.  Just inside the gate was a fledgling robin, perched on a bit of metal wire.  I carefully slipped by.  I relieved myself into the grass  without attracting the attention of nutters, and again slipped by the young robin.

Here’s the problem.  Not until some time on the highway did I wonder how would the fledgling’s minders find it to feed it?  Shouldn’t I have shepherded it out of the enclosure?  Was it only alive because it was protected?

That’s what happens when you vary from the protected forms of the norms.  All up, if you worry about worrying about unexpected situations stop sooner and pee where you are supposed to.


Nearly Everything You Need in Ajijic

28 Mar

[In frustration at not finding much easily available information–such as maps, bus schedules, or even directories of places to eat and shop–George has been accumulating all these bits and pieces while we’ve been in Ajijic. Most of what is written here is G’s work, and includes his interpretation of how things work in this little ex-pat town in Mexico–ee.]


Where is the stuff that we’ve needed since coming to Ajicic?


The next time you talk to a Republican who opposes government funding for private services like schools and public transit, agree and describe how Mexico does water supply.  The city pumps filtered water to your house.  You are expected to treat it against pathogens — elaborate filters and ultraviolet lights.  Just think of the investment opportunity from selling these to every household in the U.S.!

When the home-treated water comes out of your faucet, it’s probably okay to use it to boil potatoes or pasta, shower or brush your teeth.  You probably want to get bottled water for drinking water.  To eat veggies (including sliced oranges and lemons), soak them in a basin of water with 4 or 5 drops of iodine solution for 5 minutes.  Between the iodine and the water, you will get rid of the organic and chemical fertilizers. Drain, don’t rinse.  The better restaurants have their own water treatment and will treat their veggies.

In short, get locally delivered bottled water in 5 gallon jugs. Where we rent, we get two 5-gallon bottles delievered for about 40 pesos (about $2.00). Prefer bottled water and sodas at your eateries.  As long as your house has a filtration system, don’t worry over much about your water.


Street vendors.  We’ve bought quarts of quality locally grown blueberries  and raspberries, and bunches of asparagus from vendors on the street, I hope for competitive prices. Why and how blueberries are being grown here now is a good question, but they’re very good, and the raspberries are sublime.  We have not been brave enough to eat from the cooked foods at stalls at the markets, but in most cases, especially around here, that food should be fine.

Tiny groceries are on every neighborhood street.  They are often dark and somewhat forbidding.  I’ve bought milk and fresh cilantro from nice people at Tienamos, just down the way from us on Revolucion. Often you will see a simple table set out in front of a house, with a few things, like drinks or chips, for sale.

There are three regular grocery stores in the area frequented by the ex-pats:

Torito, on the Carretera at Revolución a bit east of the town proper, offers pretty much what every modest grocery store in the U.S. does.  Some fruit and vegetables, beer, wine and spirits, a butcher (I’ve bought chicken wings to boil for broth, but prefer Tony’s as a butcher, see below), and all sorts of normally needed goods. Excellent local coffee, both whole bean and ground, can be found here, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuper Lake, in San Antonio a few kilometers east of Ajijic, caters to the U.S. and Canadian residents.  It’s the ex-pat market par excellence.  Clabber Girl baking powder, Schar digestive biscuits, McCann steel cut oat meal, Wasa Brot, bottled herbs, proper mayo and mustard, cilantro, wine, yogurt. One pays through the nose for the privilege of having these items available: a box of granola that would cost $2.50 at home costs almost $5 here. It’s also best to check the use-by dates as well.

Soriana Híper is a comprehensive grocery store in Chapala, just north of the city center, with good prices and a good variety of products. And if you would rather shop in a Mexican supermercado than succumb to WalMart or Costco–both of which are in easy distance from Ajijic–Soriana is the one to go to.

Fish mongers and butchers.

Las Playas Fish shop, next door to SuperLake, closed Sat. after 3:00, open Sun. morning.   Good fish, filleted to order, bones and heads for broth, lots of frozen shrimp.

Pescaderia Pacifico. Fish market in West Ajijic.  Again, good fish, filleted to order, bones and heads for broth, frozen shrimp.

Carnicería Tony’s.  Butcher next door to SuperLake on Carretera.  Really nice pork loins and beef.  The intelligent and well-spoken butcher (who speaks perfect English) is a gem and the young woman cashier is a quick wit if she shows it.  Note, in most shops you order and get your food from the provider and take it to a cashier to pay for it.

Bread.  Hmmm.  There’s reputed to be a good French bakery in west Ajijic.  I’ll try to check.  That said, I have found pretty good multi-grain loaves at SuperLake. [Found THE bread shop:  Panadería Escandinavia, in the mall across the Carretera from the Wal-Mart. Excellent Nordic-style loaves, and good sandwiches as well.–ee]

Helados Bök.  A terrific goat’s milk ice cream shop on the west side of the Plaza.  We’ve been able to order goat’s milk and goat’s milk yogurt there, too, but you may have to wait a few days to get it, while the owner pasteurizes the milk and sets the yogurt! (Note, too, that although the shop name includes an umlaut, the real German word for goat is BOCK!)

El Granero.  South side of Carretera just west of Javier Mina.  What a nice herb and grain shop!  Excellent quality, and pleasant people, too.

Open air markets, called Tianguis locally, are held weekly:

Monday:  Chapala, near the Soriana just north of downtown.  Lots of stuff!

Tuesday: West Ajijic, in La Huerta Hall starting not a minute before 10:00am.  Everything’s supposed to  be organic, quite a lot of homemade foods, as well as good fruit and vegetables. Entirely geared toward the ex-pat market, you would see more Mexicans at any market in California than you will see here.


Organic Market, La Huerta, Ajijic.

Wednesday: Ajijic, on Revolución south of the highway.  Trinkets and clothes above, vegetables, fish (filleted open air for you!), and meat farther south. A very happy place!

Thursday:  Jocotopec.  We haven’t been there yet, but it is said to be extensive and right on the Carretera, filling the road.


We’re staying in a house at the corner of Prof. Lázaro Cárdenas and Revolución, about 2 km ENE of the Ajijic’s town center for about $1,200 a month.  Our friend Leslie says that for long stays the price break is about $700 per month to get a nice rental; she has a two-story, beautifully appointed house at that price.  We’ve seen a very presentable house near us–with all the mod cons and a garden–for $950 per month.

My suggestion is to rent something short term while waiting for something long term available through a local real estate agent.  Our experience has been limited to Michael Rosenblum, a thoroughly pleasant ex-pat at Fenix Real Estate.  Once you relax here, it’s easy to buy quality real estate for surprisingly modest prices. (See Erika’s upcoming blog on immigration procedures!)

P1270125You will find that the town is divided first between areas above and below the Carretera (the Carretera is the main highway, and very busy and dangerous to cross).  North of the highway is seriously up hill along quite cumbersome cobblestone streets.  Our street, in Upper Ajijic, is the only paved street in the entire town–that is, paved with smooth, walkable tiles, rather than chunky, volcanic-rock cobblestones. West of the town center are many prosperous properties, some in gated associations, still on cobblestone streets.

Locks, etc.

Household security is quite like that in Europe — lots of locks, bars on windows, and keys.  Screens, windows, screen doors, garages, gates, back doors, front doors, they are all locked even when you are in the adjoining room.

That said, we have never felt the least bit endangered.  We walk through sections of town where poor people live and don’t have the heightened street sense that comes on walks past rougher apartment buildings in Pasadena.  On the other hand, I am careful not to show off my money or cards, pocketing both before leaving the ATM.  We close the first floor curtains and stash the computers in a kitchen drawer before leaving the house.  Like sensible tourists everywhere, we take only the money and credit cards we expect to need on our forays and always leave our passport at home.


Money.  Currently the peso is almost 20 to the dollar, so to figure a cost, divide by two and drop a decimal, e.g., 120 pesos: divide by two=60, drop a decimal=$6.00.  It’s not exact, but close enough to convince you that things are surprisingly inexpensive.  ATMs are numerous, but always ask for a receipt just in case the machine charges your account but doesn’t give you the money.  If it happens, just call the number on the back of the card.  You will be one of a number of people to whom this has happened. Sometimes the ATMS run out of money, too, and many of the ATMS in grocery stores are broken or eat your card without giving you money.  And be aware: very few places here take credit cards! We haven’t even tried. Some of the more touristy places will take a card, but as far as we can tell, the place runs on a cash economy.

Post office.  North side of  the Carretera just past J. Encarnacion Rosas. As you can see, it’s a hole in the wall, and word is mail will take anywhere from three weeks to two months to get where it’s supposed to go. Most ex-pats here use services such as IShop Mail, which actually mails things via a Laredo, Texas, address. Prices are a bit high, but these are the only reliable ways to get and send mail. postcardtotrump_ajijic

Super Farmacia.  Pharmacy.  Carretera and J. Encarnacion Rosas.  Celebrex, over the counter 10 for 280 pesos (ca. $1.40 each). (See Erika’s blog post on Mexico and meds)

Total Body Care.   Ocampo and Benito Juarez, t. 766 33 79.  World-class massage, acupuncture, pedicure & manicure, and the like. Very reasonable prices,e. g., full-body deep-tissue massage costs about 400 pesos, or $20.

Diane Pearl. Colon and Constitucion.  Folk arts. Some books about the Chapala region are also available here.

Creaciones del Lago.  A women’s embroidery cooperative.  Ramon Corona above 16 de Septiembre, cattycorner from LCS.  Four women sell their stitchery-decorated blouses and other finery. Lovely, inexpensive products from very pleasant women.  They will do custom work too.  The blouses and textiles are hand woven for them.

bookshopsign_ajijicEl Perrito Sabio Librería/Bookstore.  On Colon across from the Plaza.  Modest selection in Spanish and English, run by a well-informed gentleman named Ricardo with two small dogs. The ONLY bookshop in town.


Leather.  Excellent handmade leather goods for unbelievably affordable prices at the tiny shop on the Carretera called Marcelino (Carr. Oriente #8). Marcelino himself sits there at his sewing machine and can make anything you ask for, be it coat, jacket, or bag.  We got these three items for under $70. leathergoods_ajijic_apr11


Taxi.  Plaza (766 0674) and Gasoliera (766 1663).  The two plus kilometers from the city center to our rental costs 50 pesos.

Chapala Buses.  You can catch them at stops along the Carretera and the drivers can make change for reasonable denominations.  The buses are always clean, have fairly comfortable seats, and are heavily used. You can catch a “Directo” from here to Guadalajara, for about $2.50/trip, and 45 minutes into Guadalajara’s old bus station.

Local.  7 or 8 pesos in the neighborhood of Chapala and Ajijic.  About 40 pesos to or from Guadalajara but takes nearly twice as long as the “Directo”, and stops at every possible “parada” along the way, so a 2-hour trip.

The Guadalajara Old Bus Central (Antigua Central Camionera, known locally as Central Viaje) is inconveniently located some distance from the city center, which means an 80 peso taxi ride into Centro Historico. The station is also pretty grotty.  We took a local back to Ajijic just to avoid having to wait an hour for the “Directo”.

Drivers.  They are easy to find by recommendation, but a bit pricey — 1,000 pesos (so $50) for a four hour trip to Tlaquepaque, the upscale craft neighborhood of Guadalajara.  Similar fares for drivers to Mazamitla, an architecturally interesting town about 1 1/2 hours from Ajijic on the other side of Lake Chapala, and slightly more to Teuchitlan (Guachimontones Pyramids) 2 1/2 hours away on the other side of Guadalajara.

Tour buses.  The big name in town is Charter Tours, Again, they seem kind of expensive — more than $100 U.S. for a day-long venture to the other side of Lake Chapala, and they require a certain number of people for the tour, so often cancel.

LCS buses.  The Lake Chapala Society sponsors inexpensive bus trips to favored destinations — Tonalá (handicrafts) and Tlaquepaque (artsy Guadalajara) about every three weeks, 350 pesos (450 pesos for non-members), depart 9:00 and return 5:00.

Golf cart rentals.  Because of the tortuous cobblestone streets and the steepness of the Upper Ajijic roads, many people rent golf carts to get up and down the hills.  Emiliano Zapata #52, corner of Encarnación Rosas, Upper Ajijic.  About 3,000 pesos per week.  Much reduced for longer rentals.

Autos.  Long time residents say it’s not as frightening as it looks, but it takes some getting used to.  Car rentals seem expensive because U.S. or Canadian insurance isn’t accepted here, so one has to purchase Mexican insurance.


We were taken to the Telcel shop on the town side of the Carretera west of Juan Alvarez.  Sim card and 1 gig plan for about 500 pesos.  It is vastly preferable to purchase a Sim card and plan for your U.S. mobile rather than incur international roaming rates.  Sandra, the proprietor of this Telcel shop, is easy to speak with and generally instructed her associate regarding our needs.

To call US and Canada 001+area code+phone no.  Local land line, 7 digits. Local cell, 333+7 digit number.  Mexico long distance land line, 01+3 digit area code+7 digit local number.  Mexico long distance cell, 045+3 digit area code+7 digit phone number (Mexico City has 8 digit phone numbers).


So many lovely birds!  Vermilion fly-catchers, kiskadees, lots of water birds. To my disappointment, LCS offers no bird watching groups, but we know they must exist here, because of this kind of video:

Dogs and horses.

The locals let their dogs bark and many allow them to run in the street.  They’ve never given me much notice, though the occasional dog confined to a porch will bark viciously. We find the attitude about dogs here the most dismaying aspect of Mexican small-town life.

There are horses all over the place here.  No horse carts or wagons though, only saddle horses, most often used for carrying five gallon water jugs.

If you know which street to walk down (hint: Encarnacion Rosas) on, you will often get to see a hen and some chicks foraging on the side of the street.


That about wraps up our practical info and George’s observations about life in Ajijic these past few weeks.  So after the chickens, we will end with two beautiful scenes right outside our door:

And a list of special characters to copy and paste:

À Â Ã Ä Å à á â ã ä å

Æ æ

Ç ç

È É Ê Ë è é ê ë

Ì Í Î Ï ì í î ï



Ò Ó Ô Õ Ö ò ó ô õ ö

Ø ø

Ù Ú Û Ü ù ú ü

Ý ý

Þ þ



Surfing : Idle Curiosity. Editing : Intruding?

17 Jun

[Another George post! –ee]

Today is June 17.  Chambers Book of Days mentions that the Roxburghe Club — the famously exclusive book collectors’ club — was founded on this day in 1812.  Curious about its publications — each member is expected to publish an antiquarian volume for their fellow 40 club members — I found a list of the club publications and a list of the club members at its website.  Among the current members are the fashionista Christopher Gibbs and Getty Images founder Mark Getty.   After a romp through Gibbs’ antic career as reported in Wikipedia, I checked Getty’s page there.  In neither instance does the Roxburghe get a mention.  Curious about Getty’s wife Domitilla Harding, I found her photo on Google Images accompanying a Daily Telegraph story about her support of the Lambton sisters’ effort to get some inheritance.  The story mentioned that the Lambton and Getty marriage ended in 2011.

A keen Wikipedia editor, I now wonder if I should edit Getty’s page to include mention of his Roxburghe membership.  It wouldn’t hurt but there’s not much room for it.  Should I also mention that his marriage ended?  I don’t think so — it seems intrusive.

Stuff for dinner

17 May


In the Sigmundsgasse kitchen in Vienna.


Dinner.  It’s lovely to eat, but the ratio of time is about 4 to 1 of preparation and table.  The pleasure needs to be in the kitchen.  What are we doing in the kitchen?  Fiddling with groceries on their way to the table.  So I’ll talk mostly about groceries here, since that’s what I like best.  So there!

We’ve been here fall, winter and spring.  Unlike our experience a couple of dozen years ago, the fruit has been various throughout the seasons — apples, oranges, bananas always pretty good, berries variable, melons very good, and the cost of all seasonal.  If you’d rather buy an avocado than a car, it’s yours. The same is true of veggies — zukes are somehow always good, lots of them coming from Africa in the winter, I guess.  The local spring greens of a surprising variety start to arrive in the south from February or March and northward from March and April.  The affordable winter lettuce must come from greenhouses.  Arugula hits the shelves like a spring rain.  Radicchio and endive are a bit expensive, but still worth it to my mind.

One of the Bosnian markets.

One of the Bosnian markets.

Let me get some order in this.  Salad, done.  Standard vegetables:  everything is like the U.S.  Frozen peas and beans are great.  Onions, potatoes, shallots (!), mushrooms (watch for forest-picked mushrooms usually from stands on the roadside), carrots, and cabbage are routine and good.  I may have mentioned the asparagus arriving in a flurry.  They’re really keen about produce as it comes to market through the season for good reason.

Because I can’t speak the language, I look for my meat in packages.  Our butcher in Lisbon, whose shop was literally on the ground floor of our apartment building,  insisted that he could speak enough English that we could get what we wanted.  It had never occurred to me that ground beef for hamburgers might be different from ground beef for meatballs. He had the best cheap wine too.



In the enormous Kaufland supermarket, East Berlin.

Similarly, the fish mongers were wonderful.  I was astonished watching a woman in a normal store cleaning whole squid.  Sorry to say, but I was too timid to venture beyond recognizable fish.  Once you get to a fish market here, you’ll understand what I mean by “normal” fish.  That said, I had a squid ink risotto that I know I could make if I could get the ingredients.

P1030680 (1)

”Our” wonderful fishmonger in Barcelona.









Sliced meats of a million sorts are usually sold in 100 gram portions.  The same goes for dips and olives and dozens of other treats.  Again,  look up the local phrase “one hundred grams” in Google Translate and point.  They will understand when you gesture for more.


Enter a caption

Bread is a fraught topic.  In fact, it’s not an issue.  Outside of the German-speaking countries the bread is mediocre.  We didn’t even find very good Italian bread in Trieste. You can pick from bins or cello-wrapped loaves if you want.  The women (truly, always women) behind the bakery counter will halve most loaves for you and often slice them, too.  It’s a matter of point and nod or ask for a bit of English.  I’ve never had an uncomfortable interaction, but I have sometimes ended up accepting what didn’t surprise me to be not quite what I’d hoped for.

Let me revise my assertion that only German-speaking bakers are any good.  We were in Greece on a special bread-making day (“a special bread-making day”? yeah, sure, why not?) that featured an incredible big thin loaf of white bread with lots of sesame seeds sprinkled on it that sustained us for days.  We found a loaf full of seeds and nuts at Veritas, an organic shop in Barcelona, so good that I mourned when we’d finished eating it.


In an Athens bakery on the special bread day. 

Wassa Brot crackers are usually available.  I love the British cracker Tucs,  but sadly it uses palm oil, so I shouldn’t eat them.

Sweets and baked goods are fantastic and dependent on their origin.  Honestly, although everyone says that they are traveling for high cultural experiences, they’re really in Europe to eat.  The reason to eat lunch and dinner late in Barcelona is to snack at 11 and 4.  Sure, visit the Temple of Hephaestos in Athens, so you can cross over for something in the cafes adjacent to the site.  I don’t mean some modest cookie; order a small plate of grilled sardines and a glass of wine or a couple of chicken and spinach filo pastries to tide you over until dinner several hours later.  The Viennese museums all have cafes.  My suggestion is that you are visually tired after an hour or so, but a snack can give you a second hour of viewing.  You can pretend to pretend to come to the cultural site for the coffee but really come for the coffee.

What else?

Our soups are usually based on chicken broth from inexpensive parts — backs and wings, boiled for a short while with onion and carrot, cooled, cleaned, the bones returned to the pot and the bits of flesh set aside and usually used in a chicken stew.

The electric mixing wand we bought in Barcelona has saved its cost three times a week making vegetable soups.

All up, as usual success is in the planning.  One bowl for salad and pasta?  Make the salad and move it to the salad plates.  One element boils, the others only warm?  Use the tea kettle to boil the water for the peas. And one time I ended up boiling eggs in the tea kettle!

Oh, here’s something.

What we traveled with (or here’s pretty strong evidence that my suggestions are not particularly sensible after all) as we went from one kitchen to another:

Small French press, bag of coffee, bag of black tea, some packets of herb tea, carton of goat’s milk, small cheese grater, head of garlic, bottle of olive oil, usually a chunk of pecarino cheese and a bit of butter (there’s a dangerous substance to carry around–I once had a pat of butter melt into my shirt pocket!), measuring spoons, packets of oregano, basil, whole black peppers and sugar, a lemon, a couple of empty plastic bags, and as snacks on the road a couple of mandarin oranges, some peanuts, some digestives biscuits (McVite’s were the favorite).

What we found at our destination apartments:

Dish soap, liquid bath soap, salt, pepper (not always), pasta (often), sugar, one beer and one wine (not always), coffee, tea, herb tea, tp (two rolls usually)

[EE:  this may be the last of George’s missives on fun in the kitchen in Europe! Laundry tips may follow!]

KP : Kitchen Patrol? Not really.

15 May

[George continues his recounting of life on the road and in the kitchen….ee]

Right now we’re staying in Hans and Edith’s Vienna apartment.  Its kitchen is spacious, well equipped, and, with a big window, well lit — a trifecta shared by only Evy’s Andros apartment once we gave it a microwave.  (Yes, yes, I know, they’re superfluous, but if you freeze much broth or drink your morning coffee slowly, a microwave comes in handy.  I wish I’d learn how to cook veggies in one.)


Stoves and ovens.

The local technology in each country has provided us with simple, usually flawed electric stove tops with pretty good ovens, and when our stars shine (in Vienna and Portugal), gas stoves.  I sent the following description of the weird elements on a see-through stove that was a bit worse than normal to the owners of our apartment in Barcelona:

I use a gas stove top, so the electrical stove top is a real  novelty for me.  I thought that a rheostat would make it possible to vary the heat of the elements.  Here they are either on or off, but serially and not very conveniently.  The stove has right and left top and right and left bottom elements.
At 1, in the 1st and 2nd minute, only the top right element works, it is bright red.
At 2, in the 1st minute, the top left element is hot, the top right element is bright red, in the 2nd minute the top right element alternates off and on.

At 3, in the 1st minute, the top left is bright red on but usually off, the top right element is usually on but sometimes alternating.  The lower left element is bright red.

At 4, the top left element is on and off bright red, the top right element is usually bright red but also sometimes off, the bottom left element is bright red for the first minute and on and off bright red for the second minute.
The lower right element never turned on.

In short, the clever cook will spend a few minutes in the first evening checking which elements can boil water and what settings will simmer.  Keep notes and plan your cooking accordingly.  If you’re not used to electric cooking, keep in mind that the element is brilliantly hot for a few moments, then off for a few moments.  Someone will make a fortune when they re-introduce the rheostat. [EE: As you can tell, we do not like electric cooking, and George always assumes that everyone else feels the same way, and that no one in America has had to deal with electric cooking!]


Most of the ovens have had convection fans, believe it or not.  I understand that there’s a terrific benefit, but I only ever made biscuits and roast chicken.

Our Meals.

Breakfast.  We traveled with a French press, coffee, and a mixing wand.     Several of our apartments had single-shot fancy coffee makers, but we never used them.  I can barely boil water before a cup of coffee, so the press worked perfectly.  One-cup filters would work well, too.  The filters are routinely available in the grocery stores.

My breakfast was usually coffee, soft-boiled eggs, and some version of toast.  Toasters are rare;  jaffa-makers don’t really work, but if you use only a bit of oil and butter, you can toast bread in a frying pan pretty well.  Eventually I got so I would tolerate plain bread.  Erika had coffee and sometimes a smoothie — goat or sheep yogurt, berries or pear, and banana (have I mentioned that I despise this perfect  fruit — portable, cheap, routinely available, tidy as, healthy, tasty if you don’t mind banana — that I had as a snack nearly daily for years).  Otherwise, she had muesli.

It takes some looking to find unsweetened juice, so we often just juiced our own oranges.  The goat or sheep’s milk products for Erika’s wonky stomach are usually in the better stores and easily found the farther south you travel.  Eggs sell half and full dozen, but you can get them singly at the markets — what a pleasure to take a small paper bag full of eggs home nestled amidst the lettuce and spinach!


Lunch.  When I could, I’d shop for both lunch and dinner in the morning.  We’d have a substantial lunch and a light dinner.  Often we were out and about starting at about 10:00 and would have lunch in a cafe or restaurant.  When we did, we generally shared a first course and a salad.

Dinner.  Served next Tues.  I need some photos of the markets.

From each according to his abilities…

12 May

(George has now written an entire tome of Helpful Hints for shopping, cooking, and cleaning in Europe. This will be the first of many installments, I’m sure.–ee)


Those of you who have followed this blog will know that Erika is in charge of museums, travel arrangements, accommodations, finances, community/police relations, photography, reportage, and the like.  That is all well and good, but I should point out that, in addition to eating lunch with her, my principal roles have been to carry heavy things and look after the kitchen.


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In Evy’s house on Andros Island.


Usually, the apartments you find on AirBnB or HomeAway (we need a generic term for these private services) have been meant for just-married couples, young people in the first jobs, aged grandparents, or as vacation homes.  That is to say, the kitchens will be rudimentary, but there will be plenty of cleaning products.  Tourists are supposed to eat in local restaurants.  Of course, the reason to book privately rather than take a room in a hotel is to cut prices.  I can cook a dinner of baked chicken thighs and legs, braised zucchini, rice with saffron, and a salad, with drinks for less than €10.  This would cost €60 at a restaurant.  Speaking honestly, we do not much like to be out in the evenings or for breakfast (less than €5 in, maybe €20 out).  When we were out and about, we ate lunch at restaurants.

Shopping:  “Excuse me, do you speak a little English?”

Shopkeepers have, without fail, been kind to me.  I have rarely known how much they should charge, and have often offered a palm full of change for them to pick out what I owed.

Once a woman in a market in Bosnia took a €2 piece for about 100 Marka’s worth of early spring pot herbs ($2 for $1 worth), but it was worth the price for the deadly look she got from the woman I had just spent €5 with for a good-sized bag of several veggies.

The open-air and central markets are the most fun.  Sometimes the stall-holders are unhappy if you help yourself, but accepting if you simply load handfuls of produce into your bag.  They simply don’t want you picking through or handling the fruit and veggies.


Boqueria Market, Barcelona.

The fish mongers will not allow you to pick up and hand them a fish.  They will clean, scale, and fillet what you buy.  More precisely, they will ask you questions you won’t understand.  When you say, “Yes,” they will do what is usually done with the fish in question.


Fish stall, Borough Market, London.


It saves a lot of anxiety if you allow the locals to do what they expect you to want done even if that turns a pork loin into pork stew meat or sends you home with a cut-up rather than whole chicken.  I was surprised several times to see how a butcher’s cut varied from my expectations.

Standing in line:  watch for local custom when queuing.  If I needed to speak to the stall-holder, I would aim for the end of the line.  It’s difficult to ask the woman selling you €8 worth of fish if she has some heads and bones for you to make fish broth with, but  I usually ended up with about a kilo of them for free.  (Barely cover with water and boil them with some onion, celery, and pepper corns for only about 30-45 minutes.)

People try to be accommodating.  Routinely, when I needed a little parsley, not a bouquet of it, the grocer would throw in  several sprigs for free.

Grocery stores.  Go ahead, Google the location of the local grocery store.  Oops, better figure out what the local term for market or grocery store is. In most places, we found supermarkets everywhere, usually German companies, but we did our best to find local shops as well.

To get a cart, you have to put a Euro into a little slot to release a small tongue of metal attached to a chain.  You get the Euro back when you plug the tongue back in.  A similar arrangement is at the lockers in museum cloak rooms.  The trick is to have a Euro available.

The layout in most supermarkets is not a challenge, but you’ll have no idea where anything is.



The enormous Kaufland supermarket in Berlin.


In many stores you are required to weigh and label your fresh veggies and fruit, and sometimes fresh bread, either identifying it by picture or number.  Again, with a little preparation (write down what Google Translate says is goat’s milk yogurt or baking powder and be ready to show it to the shelf stocker), some hand signals, and a lot of goodwill on everyone’s part, I was usually able to get what I wanted.  Of course bread crumbs are with bread, not with flour and baking; peanuts are with junk food.  By the way, the €1 box of red wine is much better than any bottle for less than €10.  Wine that’s more expensive than €10 is uncharted territory for me. Sorry, wine connoisseurs!



An exception to the admonition to routinely agree with what you’ve been asked comes at the check-out.  I’m pretty sure that the first question in the markets translates to “Do you have a store card?”(most supermarkets in Europe have fallen into the same lamentable promo systems as in the U.S.), followed by “Would you like to buy a carry bag?” (you are expected to bring your own, but can purchase bags, both plastic and paper, in most shops), and “Do you need your parking voucher stamped?”  A vague smile and a gentle “No thanks” conveys that you are mentally incompetent but not a threat.  Try to give the smallest bill you can and change if possible.  There is usually a little tray where you can dump a pocket-full of coins to let them pick out what they need.

So ends my first installment….

Baedeker’s, 1900, Natural History Museum

19 Dec

[George’s take on the wonders of the Naturhistorisches Museum. He was the keeper of Baedeker’s, so he really had fun comparing the rooms then and now]

As I mentioned earlier, we came to Austria with a 1900 edition of Baedeker’s and have had no end of fun checking to see what remains a century later.

The other posts, slightly out of order from Baedeker’s, are

Train Stations and Tramways

Hotels and Baths

Wines, Restaurants, and Confectioners

Theaters, Concerts, and Music in Churches

Natural History Museum

Once we start talking about institutions of real learning, of course Erika has beaten me to the punch with an elegant and readable blog entry: Naturhistorisches Museum

Following on in my plodding approach, here’s the room by room summary of continuities and changes.

Natural History Museum


Room I.  “Large rock crystals … At the middle window is a group of stalactites from the Adelsberg Grotto.”  Yep.  But the stalactites might have been moved 20 feet from a central window to one nearer the door.

Nathist minerals


Room II.  The diamonds have been moved to more secure lodgings in room IV.


Room III.  Maria Theresia’s crystaline bouquet and the opal have been moved similarly to room IV.

NatHist crystal


Room IV.  Building materials of Vienna, much enlarged are now in room I.  Itś hard to convey how cool a series of rectangular, polished stones can be.   These carefully identify where on which building in Vienna these types of stone are used and where they were mined.

Secure cases are along the far wall.

NatuHist Bldg


Room V.  Meteorites.  Yes, lots of them in interesting variety.

Room VI.  Portraits and a display of coal-forming plants are gone, replaced by a variety of educational displays.

Room VII.  The limestone erosion is now in Room VI.  Now the room houses early fossils.

Room VIII.  The fossil water lilies and pterodactyls are still here.

NatHist lilies


Room IX.  No skeleton of a goat by the door, but fossils galore.

Room X.  No skeletons of bears and lions, but dinosaurs and the like and a huge turtle.

Room XI.  Prehistoric relics.  Yep, including the famous Venus.

NatHist Venus


Room XII.  Prehistoric tombs and relics.  Now some graves and also some salt mines and the like.

Room XIII.  Iron Age implements and Celtic evidence.  Yep.

Erika found the stuffed birds in XIX – XVI too depressing to venture on to the second floor where  taxidermist’s art is applied to increasingly complex animals.  Why a mouse is more complex than an octopus, I can’t imagine.  Suffice it to say that the maps in Baedeker’s and from the Museum match pretty well, as one would expect.

As Simon Winder writes in Germania, the Naturhistorisches Museum is one of the miraculous survivors of the destruction of Europe in the 20th century, and remains ”one of the great repositories of pre-1914 learning.” And lots of fun!

Baedeker’s, 1900, Theaters, Concerts, and Music in Churches

19 Dec

As I mentioned earlier, we came to Austria with a 1900 edition of Baedeker’s.  Tickets to events in the theaters and concert halls are a bit pricey for us, but music in the churches is always inexpensive and sometimes is free.  You don’t feel much inclined to get into your fancy duds, though, to sit on a rock-hard bench in the freezing cold of a Gothic or Baroque church.  Honestly, two out of three did have some form of laughably rudimentary heating.

The other posts, slightly out of order from Baedeker’s, are

Train Stations and Tramways

Hotels and Baths

Wines, Restaurants, and Confectioners

Theaters, Concerts, and Music in Churches

Natural History Museum

Theaters and concerts.

Baedeker’s 1900 begins this section with “Imperial Theaters”, meaning, I suppose, that these were the theaters sponsored by the state.  In 1900 Austria still had an aristocracy:

Opera, Opernring, of course.

Opernhaus_Wien_Staatsoper-Van_der_Nüll-187x Staatsoper Wien, Innenansicht


Hof-burgtheater, now the Burgtheater, Burgring. This theater is the home of ”Burgtheaterdeutsch”, considered as one of the most eloquent, clear, and melodious forms of the German language. Essentially a theatrical German, it was implemented as a way to override the various dialects and pronunciations found throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Burgtheater burgtheater_1900[1]

Hofberg Theater, 1907

 Private Theaters

Volkstheater, Neustiftgasse 1 (corner of Burggasse & Landesgasse)


Volkstheater, 1900.

Volkstheater_Vienna_Rote salon Sept_2006_002

Red Bar


Concert Hall


Theater an der Wien, Linke Wienzeile 6


Here’s the plaque on its wall — I mean, really, Beethoven lived in a dressing room or something in 1803-4 when he premiered here Fidelio, the 3rd Symphony, and the Kreutzer Sonata (Violin Sonata no. 9.)


Carl Theater, Leopoldstadt.  Closed in 1929.




Theater an der Josefstadt, Josefstädter Str. 26



Kaiser-Jubiläums Theater,  now the Volksoper.


Volksoper 1920

Raimund Theater, Wallgasse 18-20

Raimund Theater 1905



 Jantsch Theater.

Begun as a popular theater, it was from the 1920s a well-loved cinema in the Prater. When it burned down in 1981, it was the last of the many movie houses that had been the entertainment hub of the Prater area.


Postcard of Jantsch-Theater, 1900.

Music in churches.

In 1900, Baedeker’s lists music in churches with this short statement: ” At 10 a.m. on Sun. in the Votive church…and the Alt-lerchenfeld Church…; at 11 a.m. in St. Stephen’s Church…, the Hofburg Kapelle…, the Augustine Church, and the Karls-Kirche…” (p. 7)

Today, it’s a little more complicated. The churches listed below host concerts, usually classical or liturgical.  The cost is modest compared to the proper concert halls.  These and many others also have choral works presented more or less for free, usually on a Sunday afternoon.

Votiv Kirche, Rooseveltplatz

Saint Stephan’s, Stephan’s Platz


Altlerchenfelder Kirche, Mentergasse 13, 1070 Wien. No music routinely scheduled at present.
Hofburg Kapelle, Hofburg-Schweizerhof.  Special events often.


Augustiner Kirche, Augustinerstraße 3




Karlskirche, Karlsplatz.  As well as scheduled concerts, there is free organ music Monday through Friday at 15:00, and Saturday and Sunday at 20:00