Monday, August 14, 2017

Broken Argument haiku

He said: I will break
you. Too late, I am shattered
well beyond repair.

But I'm the willow
resilient stems weeping
on the farthest shore.

I spend the morning
writing of Paul's last concert.
We knew all the words.

Now I've none at all
Summer fog filled with useless
tears, laden with anguish.

His apology
like spitting in the ocean.
Sky mirrors my thoughts.

White bridge, a life-line
shrouded shore of no return.
Barricaded heart.

An act of selfless
preservation, or fear?
Run from the enemy.

Who says: I will break
you, expecting no resistance?
The picket line crossed.

I have no words left.
No tears to soften the heart,
this final trespass.


Friday, August 11, 2017


Classmate Steve Tristano in Oregon 1952-2015

2nd grade, Mrs Burge had left the room,
Lennie's son, Steve Tristano climbed up
on the piano bench to bang out a boogie woogie,
we were all rocking out—until she returned.
Busted. Instead of praise, she raged
and let out an anachronic scream
that ripped open the fabric of the universe.
We cowered as Steve took the brunt of her anger.
In that way, we knew jazz was bad, very bad.
A siren call, a farewell to arms. An addiction.
And Steve slipped off his moorings a bit—
the descent into darkness had begun.

Defiant Fruitcakes

Filed under "Lost Desserts" Hundred-Year-Old Antarctic Fruitcake Found in 'Excellent Condition Conservators with Antarctic Heritage Trust have uncovered a perfectly preserved fruitcake that dates back to Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition, which began in 1910.
A curious headline made me think of my Victorian grandmother who made fruitcake every fall for Christmas gifts. It did seem like they would keep forever. I guess that Hundred-Year-Old Antarctic Fruitcake Found in 'Excellent Condition is proof enough.

When the nights began to draw in, my grandmother would haul out the dried fruit she had stockpiled in the closet, usually three types of raisins, including tiny tart currants, and golden sultanas; sometimes she had dried figs, prunes, or Medjool dates; candied ginger, and the prerequisite jars of preserved glacéed fruit—a mixture of citrus, citron (candied melon peel) and candied cherries. (She used to make glacéed fruit from scratch—I remember helping her make candied orange rinds.) And a bottle of port.

We'd crack pecans and walnuts from 25-pound bags, tossing the buggy ones in the fire along with the shells. They'd sizzle and hiss like snakes as we gazed into the fire while she told me stories.

In Ireland, Valencia oranges were a special Christmas gift. They arrived from Spain wrapped in foil, and were cherished right down to the rind. Dried raisins and nuts were hard to come by, and spices were a luxury few could afford, so women hoarded the ingredients, when they could get them, for that special steamed Christmas pudding or wedding cake. In Ireland, wedding cakes are traditionally fruitcakes: a symbol of wealth and abundance.

The key ingredients of the fruitcake were part of a curious family history. They were foot soldiers marching in an act of defiance agains unjust land laws. During the 1920s, Asians and Indians, ineligible for US citizenship, couldn't own farmland in California. This made my Irish grandfather angry, so he bought farmland in Fresno for his friend Jahn Singh, and held the land title to circumvent the unjust alien land laws. 

Every autumn Jahn Singh remembered our family with bushels of fruits and nuts.  My grandmother would receive crates of oranges, raisins, pecans and walnuts as payment for the Fresno farmland that my grandfather had bought for Jahn. 

When the anti-Japanese California Alien Land Laws of 1913, and of 1920, also known as the Webb-Haney Act, were repealed in the 1950s, my grandfather turned the land title over to Jahn Singh. 
The law prohibited "aliens ineligible for citizenship " from owning agricultural land or possessing long-term leases over it. It affected the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers in California....The California Alien Land Law of 1920 continued the 1913 law filling many of its loopholes... the leasing of land for a period of three years or less was no longer allowed; owning of stock in companies that acquired agricultural land was forbidden; and guardians or agents of ineligible aliens were required to submit an annual report on their activities. —Wiki
Something ancient was evoked as my grandmother assembled the ingredients. Making fruitcake was a many day affair, from making the candied fruit, to shelling the nuts, and soaking the dried fruit.

My grandmother soaked the dried fruit overnight in port, or rum. Next morning, she sifted the flour with baking soda, and a litany of spices (equal parts cinnamon, ginger, and a scant measurement of nutmeg, allspice, clove and mace) to coat the dried fruit and nutmeats. Then she doused the dry mixture with a mixture of creamed butter, eggs, brown sugar and molasses. During Prohibition, bootleg whiskey was used to soak the dried fruit if a bottle port couldn't be finagled from the church stores.

My grandmother mixed the ingredients up with her large knotted hands in vast ceramic vats, standing over them like a field marshall. The round, and half round cake pans were already well greased and the bottoms lined with oiled brown paper bags.

She filled the cake pans to the brim (fruitcake doesn't rise), tamping them down on the table with soft thuds to dislodge any air bubbles. Then she placed the cakes in three tiers on tall racks inside the vast aluminum canning pot half-filled with water. The canning pot was a modern day version of the cauldron. It double-trouble, boiled and bubbled. 

The fruitcakes were steamed atop the stove for several hours, they were never baked in the oven. The stem vent atop the canning pot lid, with its three roller latches, chattered a little song and dance into the evening hours as I drew pictures with my finger on the steamy kitchen windows and dripping with condensation. By the way, fruitcake, a steamed pudding, is a medieval dish, pretty much unchanged across the centuries. 

Once the fruitcakes had cooled overnight, there was a bathing ritual (in whiskey) a swaddling ritual (wrapped in thin muslin or in cheesecloth) and a cloaking ritual (in tinfoil), before they were placed in their air-tight Christmas tins. They needed to be carefully tended during the first few months, dressed and bathed every few days until they ripened. She kept a few extra fruitcakes on hand to ripen, as fruitcake was deemed best when it was left to ripen (or ferment) at least 3 months, to a year, or longer. A union of space and time.

Fruitcake was never eaten fresh from the steamer. The flavors needed time to mellow and meld into a rich marriage of spiced goodness. Months, years, even. She had a few fruitcake that were ancient. Not 100 years old, but old enough. The time-defying secret was in the ritual bathing in booze. Fruitcakes were unwrapped to receive an annual anniversary bath of booze to preserve them, then rewrapped, placed in tins, and stored in dark cupboards. And later, the back of the refrigerator.

Whenever unexpected guests came over, she'd bring out thin slices of the dense, boozy, nut-studded fruitcake, along with the pot of Irish tea and whiskey. The thin fruitcake slices were like a rich mosaic of stained glass panes on the shining plates, Sadly, they would touch the fruitcake, perhaps thinking it was the commercial American version, a baked sawdust hockey-puck affair, studded with plastic candied citron and day-glo cherries, so she eventually quit making it. And I never thought to ask her for the recipe.

How did the fruitcake, something once so opulent, and made with love, become such a hated symbol of the holidays? The substitution of facsimile ingredients: rancid nuts, inferior dried fruit, and the prerequisite jars of commercial glacéed fluorescent fruit that swept the market during the 60s and 70s, directly led to the fruitcake's fall from grace. The honeymoon was over. Americans said, Let's call the whole thing off. Another tradition bit the dust. And the very word was beggared and denigrated to an insult of insanity: She's a real fruitcake.

It must've made my grandmother sad to let go of such a venerable tradition, to let die a family labor of love that was passed down the generations from her mother, and her mother's mother, in Ireland. A family heirloom. I still collect the fruitcake tins, though I haven't made a fruitcake, ever. None of my cousins would dream of making fruitcake today, My mother was not domestic, and all my aunts are gone now... no one left to carry on the tradition.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mill Valley's Unknown Museum and the Gluers Junk Art Movement

Embedded in my hitchhiking blog post, was a small story on the Unknown Museum, time for its own post, something i've been resisting for years—then I found the old photos. This is still very much in progress...
In 1969, on the long coattails of the Summer of Love, at the age of 22, eccentric LA artist Mickey McGowan moved to Sausalito with nothing more than the proverbial shirt on his back. Penniless, he shared a studio with a friend, Rat Soup, at the Sausalito Art Center for $80 a month. 

"A lot of us had our first shows there, myself with my drawings. Rat Soup with his sculpture." To make ends meet, he slept in his car, or sometimes in the studio, and worked at the Trident kitchen for chickenfeed. "Every night Miles would stroll in and Janis, or Crosby, the mainstays of the place." (Marin Nostalgia). My mom, who was working at the Trident, between theater performances, said even Perry Como used to drop in. And of course, the Limelighters All, were in situ.

McGowan, taught himself to make shoes, called himself the Apple Cobbler, and set up a funky little shop in downtown Mill Valley in 1973, and soon was court shoemaker to the rockstars (Grateful Dead, the Doobie Brothers, The Tubes, Journey), artists, and fashionistas. His wild hand-stitched leather boots and quirky one-of-a-kind brocade boots festooned with doll heads and toy tanks were in high demand. 

Mickey also made non-functional art shoes. (Combat Boot Stepping Out Shoes in World Culture, on exhibit at SFO International Terminal until Nov. 12, 2017.) Mickey was a Marin City flea market regular, often seen collecting kitsch for his art shoes and assemblage art. The small accumulations of ephemera and knick-knacks decorating the shop corners soon became a monstrous collection threatening to engulf the shop.

Around 1974, McGowan, in need of larger digs, moved into an old 
radiator shop at 35 Corte Madera Ave, across from City Hall, in Mill Valley to house what later was dubbed "the world's largest private collection of pop cultural artifacts" (Paul Liberatore). He shared his low-rent garage-atilier ($200 a month) with a motley collective of psychedelic-era glue artists, and the Unknown Museum was born.

Mickey had teamed up with other like-minded junk artists, later dubbed “gluers” or glue-artists, Larkspur artist Dickens "44" Bascom, Larry Fuente, and David Best at the Sausalito Art Center. 

I remember meeting them at the annual Sausalito Art Fair, held at the closed Bayside School—where the glue artists made a big splash when they lined a toilet bowl with copper pennies. And yes, it worked. The toilet made a serious impression on me as I really had to go. Pennies from heaven. (In those days the 65-year-old Labor Day festival was more of a funkadelic extension of the Marin City flea market, than the swanky affair it is today.)

My first recollection of the Unknown Museum was when it was firmly housed in the stucco automotive garage circa 1976. The roof was crenulated with 1950s-style TVs anchored along the ramparts. Mysterious banks of TV sets were o
vergrown with nasturtiums and electrical cords dangled down like roots. A decomposed teddy bear was caught napping too long in the baby carriage by a leafy green spear of dandelion blooming from his navel. A life-sized Colonel Sanders in front reigned over his court. A flying horse sign. The only thing missing was a Doggie Diner dog.

A bejeweled mannequin with a crown of antlers greeted the brave visitor at the door. Inside, you were assaulted by all manner of weirdness: there were stacks of tin lunch boxes, stuffed animals pickled in formaldehyde jars, homages to white bread. A large doll covered with spikes in a traveling trunk. A twist on the proverbial bed of nails. 

The visceral impact of seeing so much 20th c. detritus, everything in multiples, was overwhelming. Everywhere you turned there was also an invisible cloudbank of metaphors waiting to be plucked from the air. Mandalas made of bullets, toy cars, lighters, pens and pencils, bloomed like supernovae on what little wall space there wasA tower of dead clocks. A school of plastic sharks swam in a dry aquarium, other aquariums filled with toy water pistols, armies of GI Joes and Mr. Potato Heads. 

Broken TVs doubled as curio and diorama display spaces. McGowan said he had something like 300 TVs, many of them often blaring at the same time. Art was an act of resistance. We were confronted with bureaus transformed into nostalgic altars to JFK and Camelot, deep fur-lined drawers with tableau elegies to the massive backdrop of Vietnam, the fallout from Reganomics, and the threat of nuclear war. 

The museum was also home to a full-sized découpage fiberglass horse, along with odd metailic otherworldly creatures that were vacuum cleaners in a former life. Another toilet lined with an assortment of coins at the back of the store looked like it also served as a defacto coin purse during more desperate times. 

I remember a very large record collection, 10,000 albums, and that's not counting the 45s; an eclectic musical archive, more records than one could listen to in a lifetime (I only owned a few records), and the impish gluer Mickey McGowan himself, a blue-eyed son in horn-rimmed glasses, presiding over his mad-hatterly realm. 

Gowan, in Irish, means smithy, as in the Goibniu, an alchemist god who forged iron from dirt. Mac means "son of." Mickey was a true son of the great Goibniu, the Tuatha Dé Danann patron god of blacksmiths. He hammer and tonged art from the most unlikely of things, making art from detritus. He was also a son of Lugh, patron god of shoemakers, the god of both skill and the distribution of talent. And we all know that Leprechauns are cobblers.
Declutter was not in his vocabulary.You might say he had highly refined hoarding instinct skills. A fertile garden for the mind bordering on the nightmarish guaranteed to haunt your dreams. But the controlled chaos was also very zen-like. Mickey arranged ordinary objects according to thematic structure, aesthetic sensibility, and often with humor. Because of Dickens and Mickey, arranging random objects is something I do to this day.

Mickey McGowan said in an Image Magazine interview: "I always thought that if your mom threw it away, the Unknown Museum was the place to come. Once I tried to create a sort of Zen space there, a room that was spare and austere, but when I'd go in there I'd go nuts wondering what I should put in. Gor me the perfect Zen space is jammed with all kinds of stuff. Zen is all one, isn't it? Well this is all one, the purity of allness." (Cabinet of Wonders).

Tthe Unknown Museum was the place where one man's trash was magically transformed another one's art. It was an amalgam of Americana, or an "assemblage of American life," as Mickey dubbed it. Art masterpieces were created from the recycled detritus collected from the discards of American consumerism. The artist movement
was spearheaded by a group called the Moligator Manufacturing Company, the Northern Frog Works. They met and exchanged gluable materials like costume jewelry, rubber mice, teeth, baby heads, tennis balls, bottle caps, plastic salt shakers and beyond. Dickens Bascom, a noted northern California gluer, looked forward to the day when he could join other gluers and purchase a large office building and decorate it in their fashion. “I’m determined to do it,” he says. “I think it’s something people need.” —Art Car Central
The Unknown Museum became a counter-culture pilgrimage site (along with the Garden of Allah), where artists and the likes of John Beluchi and Bill Graham dropped in to check out the weirdness. It became a Sunday afternoon destination outing. I imagined zen beatnik Alan Watts, who championed disengaging from the past to live in the moment, also visiting and laughing his great laugh, as he lived down the street at the time. When queried about Watts' idea of the past and time present, Mickey said:
To deny the past would be foolish it seems to me, because it’s what you’ve lived – you can’t change it. You should accept what lessons you’ve learned and what’s gone on, and of course, look to the future....
As we sit here in this room now we have to think of the present, what’s happening. But we’re affected by the past and consequently we’re going to affect the future.... The past is a great teacher. (Donnakova interview)
Almost famous: The Unknown Museum was featured on Bay Area Backroads, and in museum guides, including Art in America. The Unknown Museum posthumously became the nostalgic darling of myriad articles, books, films, and television news spots, long after the museum met its ironic demise in 1984, when the old radiator shop was purchased by Smith and Hawken and morphed into an upscale nursery and garden shop. From proverbial eyesore to gentrification in one fell swoop. There went the neighborhood in more ways than one.

McGowan hauled his cargo of Americana to a rambling ranch-style house up the street
at 243 E. Blithedale Ave (now condos). I remember the gates were made of discarded skis. Bowling ball brooded in nests. The museum was off the beaten path, less accessible, but a sign, "This is your life" greeted you at the entrance. And it was true. It was what you made of it. (photos)

I'm not quite sure how I wound up with several pairs of skis, to carry on the slippery slope of collection. Or how much the museum impacted my own art. I recently found a cigar box art from my class with Inez Storer's class, lined with white rabbit fur. The Unknown Museum was something to behold with all its repurposed Americana detritus as iconography—the ultimate recycler's wetdream. But that too came to an end.

What survives the Unknown Museum are images frozen on film. Arrested time. The trashman cometh and he taketh away. Recycled technology. One man's garbage. Out of the rubbish heap, a phoenix circles the place of its birth. Glittering birds of memory.

The Unknown Museum closed its doors for good in 1989, and some 50 truckloads later, McGowan moved, with proverbial lock, stock, and barrel to San Rafael.The curious contents of the museum are shoaled up in a large old Victorian house that McGowan bought San Rafael, and to this day, vintage stuff continues to accumulate in every corner. According to Marin IJs Paul Liberatore:
He still collects every day, making a living liquidating estate sales and buying, selling and trading rare books, manuscripts, "ephemera" and neglected recordings of weird folk songs, bird calls and sound effects that he stores in a nearby warehouse. —Unknown Museum lives on, privately
McGowan may no longer be in the public eye, he gave up cobbling shoes, but he does rent out 50s-70s furniture and memorabilia to local film production companies. He also exhibited a collection of installations at the Falkirk Cultural Center in San Rafael in 1994. Mickey was also a curator for "Take Two: Refuse, Rescued & Re-created," at the O'Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley in 2009. The tradition has been passed onto the next generation of junk artists in the exhibit. Said Mickey:
"The Unknown Museum began by recycling and re-using things and paying attention to what we're discarding," McGowan noted. "It evolved into pop culture, but that was later.... We made our contribution as a matrix for the creative spirit," he said of the Unknown Museum and the "glue artists" he worked with, among them David Best, Dickens Bascom and the late Lois Anderson. –Exhibit of 55 recycled, reused artworks gets once-over from Mill Valley's Unknown Museum's ex-curator
When asked why he collected things by Marin Nostalgia, Mickey answered: "It’s a relaxant much like, perhaps, a mental Xanax. And that’s therapeutic. It’s cheaper and healthier. You don’t get the drugs in your system…" Mickey cobbled his last shoe in 1979. He said the glue was getting to him, he didn't charge enough money for his work.

Mickey's co-curator, Dickens Bascom (photo) is reportedly back in Marin after long sojourn on a small island near Costa Rica or Panama. (His recent work was exhibited at Sol Food in San Rafaela few years ago), Larry Fuente was spotted in Mendocino, and last seen slouching toward west Texas in an art car. David Best can be found in situ at Burning Man each fall when he's not at his Petaluma ranch on Sonoma Mountain.

Meanwhile, McGowan still dreams of resurrecting a new Unknown Museum at a new site. What brave new dreams may come of it, who knows?

Whatever happened to this silly creature?


Long before Burning Man, art cars were commonplace in Marin during the 1960s. The Merry Pranksters' school bus, Further was one trippy ride. I speak from personal experience. We saw a lot of Janis Joplin's a psychedelic painted white Porsche convertible, as she lived on my road. She never gave us a ride. But she'd always wave, her hair flying wildly behind her. To be fair, it was only a two-seater.

Most of the VW buses with their peace symbols hiding the VW logo, tooling up and down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, were constantly evolving works of art. And they always braked for hitchhikers.

The Unknown Museum was the unofficial watering hole for art cars in need of a touch-up or a make-over. Dickens "44" Bascom's Ford Falcon mosaic art car was a moving mandala with a stupa on top. Apparently Dickens "44" Bascom, whom I called Dick, was born on the 44th day of 1944 at 44 minutes past 4:00 AM. The man famous for being a curator of the Unknown Museum and the car with a 1000 soles.

An old Rambler station wagon filled with doll's heads, and a vintage black Fiat chock-full of stuffed toys and imprisoned dolls with their faces pressed against the glass, were permanently parked out front of the Unknown Museum garage.

On the defunct Art Car Central website & Pinterest

Dickens Bascom's Ford Falcon car had sole, a lot of soles, actually. About a thousand crepe rubber sneaker soles standing in as scales on the fins.  It also had a resident typewriter esconced on the trunk, which still worked, I once composed a ditty on it when it was parked outside the hardware store in Fairfax. He sometimes gave me a lift to Fairfax where he lived, when I was hitching home to Forest Knolls. I once gave him a bag full of my brother's broken toys to mend his car as some of the toys had fallen off. People used to toss coins into it, as if it were a wishing well, which took care of the gas money.

Bascom himself (gleaned from M. Kathryn Thompson, Facebook)

David Best, a friend from ceramics class, told me about a chia-seed sprout covered Oldsmobile. He said they couldn't drive the car very fast. Late at night the deer came down to graze on the car. David said they were constantly repairing the bald spots from the deer's late night picnics. The burly bison head hood ornament didn't scare them off. And you had to water the car to keep the chia seed alive—this was during the drought.

One day, David invited me over to the Unknown Museum to take photos of his latest art car. David decopaged an entire vintage ’50s Cadillac. The hood ornament was a water buffalo head with red eyes. The flanks of the car were lined with broken mirrors, like a Matisse study of light on water.

The Fiat stuffed with Disney toys and Barbie dolls, didn't run, but David's Caddy did—we sat in it, but I never got a ride in it. It was an occupational hazard to ride in an art car and expect to get to your destination.

That Cadillac was like a homage to water. A Las Pulgas water temple on wheels. This was during the great Marin County water drought, which rode hot on the heels of the great gas shortage. 

The sides of that gas-hog were of faceted glass and on the mink-lined back seat, plastic ketchup bottles, stuffed toys, rubber ducks, and toasters were chauffeured about in style.

Myriad mirrored prisms followed me as I circled the car. I was taking photos of my own reflections. It was a vast fragmented kinetic jigsaw puzzle. 

I was sufficiently blown away by the sheer magnitude of stuff ensconced on every available surface. The incredible attention to detail was overwhelming. These cars were glued together with resin and epoxy. Superglue hadn't yet been invented. At least I remembered to take some photos.

Perhaps the biggest surprise were the happy toasters nestled like lovebirds in the backseat. Thus began my career as a curiosity correspondent, and an arranger of things.

I'm not sure when these photos were taken, somewhere between 1973 and 1977.  Mickey McGowan said that the museum wasn't founded until 1974. I went to College of Marin until 1973. I returned for a few classes at CoM, as I didn't like San Francisco State, I dropped out, and was transitioning to Sonoma State by 1976-77. So, other than the horse, which I clearly dated on my photo album, the photos are anywhere from 1973 -1976ish. I also have slides awaiting digital somewhere. 


One time, Dickens Bascom and Larry Fuente hauled the decopauged life-size model horse out to a pond where the Dollar house once stood—on the San Geronimo Golf Course in the winter of 1977. Luckily I had my camera with me (and a fresh roll of Kodachrome) so, I stuck around. 

Larry and Dickens did a great Lady Godiva number at sunset. The girl wore a red cape and had a lot of red hair. Not much else. Commuters returning from in town nearly drove off the road, when they spotted her. With that kind of horsepower, I'm sure some were muttering about looking under the hood. Alas, I don't have any photos of Lady Godiva on the horse, perhaps I was too shy, but I did manage to get a few shots of the horse.

Larry Fuente & Dickens Bascom tacking up the horse.

You can see the foreleg and chest of the horse inside the Unknown Museum in this photo which was probably taken between 1974 and 1977.

I never got a photo of Dickens' art car, but I did manage to document his horse at the San Geronimo Golf Course. Sadly Long's Drugs Kodak developer sliced all my negatives in two lengthwise. I was able to salvage a few sliced photos (magically healed with a cloning tool). I don't actually know if the horse was Larry's or Dickens' creation. (Or both.) But Dickens and I were friends of sorts, so I mostly related to him.

Note bene: I cannibalized the core of this piece from a blog post I wrote in 2010: Hitching in Marin during late 60s, early 70s   And I lifted a few bits from my Letter to David Best from 1989 which mentions the Unknown Museum. This was the Facebook thread that got me on a roll on this post. I didn't realize that i had conflated Larry Fuente with Dick Bascom, until I saw Bascom's recent FB page. Those crazy eyes! I still call Dickens Dick, as that's how I learned his name. So, stet already.
Still to do: research Al Farow (sp), who, like David Best, was more prolific with the support of Rene di rosa.
Lois Anderson (aka Lotus Carnation) was one of the artists at the Unknown Museum in Mill Valley. According to a FB thread, she was a school librarian who dressed outrageously.  Bethany Argisle who was a performer at the UM, and has boots made by Mickey. We're now FB friends. I've written to Paul Liberatore and Mickey McGowan to see if I can get more first person perspective. Wait and see.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A reflection on Women & Technology: James Damore's Google Manifiasco

It seems yet another Facebook post got the better of me (but not bested me), and my comments have manifestoed and manifestered into fodder for a blog post of sorts.

Wow! When I read Google engineer James Damore's Google manifesto argued that biological differences make women less apt to perform in the tech industry, I saw red. Biology has nothing to do with a lack of women in technology. Why it's a hot issue is because Danmore's so-called 'manifesto" advances patently incorrect assumptions about harmful gender stereotypes. 

I have several relatives who are/were forefront in the field of technology. A cousin, key mathematician on the Manhattan Project, an aunt who did programming for IBM back in the early 1960s, cousins who work/ed for Apple, Pixar, Dropbox, etc. I happen to fix (or rebuild) the computers, and problem-solve all the software issues in our household, and for family and friends too. Not my male partner.

So, I'm quite sure competent women in the technology field are not an anomaly, nor the only reason why they're in the industry is solely because of equality, or affirmative action, as Damore suggests in his ten-page Alt-rightish manifesto. Alas it's couched with a request to open up dialogue—after taking potshots at women in general. The reason for the low numbers of women in the technology workplace is about discrimination at the grassroots level.

And for the record, among the first to create a computer program, to create a compiler, and create object-oriented programming were women. (See my list below).

BTW, I'm taking some flack over on Facebook from a few men for daring to counter their perceived male enclave, and swim with their sharktank mentality. One asshat had the audacity to ask me to stop posting on my own FB thread, thinking that I couldn't possibly a) have read said manifesto, and b) didn't understand or comprehend what it said.

I object to Danmore's use of absurd clichéd gendered stereotypes to support his argument that enough women aren't in the technology field.Biology is not the reason why there are fewer women in the technology field. Discrimination is. 

KQED News, SF Gate, and Tech Insider paraphrased, but did not publish the memo, which you can read on Gizmodo, along with prefaces and an interesting epigram. What was more enlightening was a post from Yonatan Zunger, former senior Google employee: 
"So it seems that someone has seen fit to publish an internal manifesto about gender and our “ideological echo chamber.” I think it’s important that we make a couple of points clear.
(1) Despite speaking very authoritatively, the author does not appear to understand gender.
(2) Perhaps more interestingly, the author does not appear to understand engineering.
(3) And most seriously, the author does not appear to understand the consequences of what he wrote, either for others or himself.

It’s true that women are socialized to be better at paying attention to people’s emotional needs and so on — this is something that makes them better engineers, not worse ones. ...
And this is addressed specifically to the author of this manifesto.

What you just did was incredibly stupid and harmful. You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas.  Read the entire rebuttal at Medium.
(With much thanks to BizTech Insider's excellent article: Mothers of Technology: 10 Women Who Invented and Innovated in Tech)

Among the first to create a computer program, to create a compiler, and create object-oriented programming were women (in no particular order):
  • Ada Lovelace invented the world’s first computer algorithm. Lovelace was hired by Charles Babbage in 1843, to document his never-to-be-realized “computer,” the Analytical Engine, intended to count Bernoulli numbers. 
"Many persons who are not conversant with mathematical studies imagine that because the business of [Babbage’s Analytical Engine] is to give its results in numerical notation, the nature of its processes must consequently be arithmetical and numerical, rather than algebraical and analytical. This is an error. The engine can arrange and combine its numerical quantities exactly as if they were letters or any other general symbols; and in fact it might bring out its results in algebraical notation, were provisions made accordingly,” —Ada Lovelace
  • Dr. Erna Hoover invented a telephony switching computer program that kept phone lines functioning under stressful loads. Her 1971 patent for telephony technology was one of the first software patents ever issued. She developed on her idea while in the hospital after the birth of her second daughter. 
  • Common Business-Oriented Language, based on the FLOW-MATIC language, was invented by Grandma COBOL, Grace Hopper. Hopper was the first person to create a compiler for a programming language and one of the first programmers of the Mark I computer in 1949. The programmers of the ENIAC computer, were six women mathematicians; Marlyn Meltzer, Betty Holberton, Kathleen Antonelli, Ruth Teitelbaum, Jean Bartik, and Frances Spence. Adele Goldstine was one of the teachers and trainers of the six original programmers of the ENIAC computer in 1944. Hopper also popularized the term "debugging" from a moth fowling up the works. 
  • Adele Goldberg was one of seven programmers that developed Smalltalk in the 1970s, one of the first object-oriented programming languages, and the base of today's current graphic user interface. Smalltalk was utilized by Apple to launch Lisa in 1983, and Macintosh in 1984. Windows 1.0 was launched in 1985. 
  • IT trailblazer Barbara Liskov of MIT, inventied CLU, a programming language that was the foundation for object-oriented programming; Argus, a programming language, an extension of CLU, that supports distributed programs; and Thor, an object-oriented database system. Which led to the imvention of Mac OS X, Objective-C, Visual Basic.NET and Java. 
  • Another object-oriented language, Simula 67, was created by Kristen Nygaard and Ole-Johan Dahl of the Norwegian Computing Center in Oslo. 
  • In 1985 Radia Perlman developed Ethernet technology. Her Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) made it possible to build massive networks by creating an innovative mesh network of layer-2 bridges—by disabling the links not part of that tree. This had a significant impact on network switches, thus making Perlman the Mother of the Internet. She has done extensive and innovative research, in the field of encryption and networking. 
  • Mary Lou Jepsen co-founded and served as chief technology officer of MicroDisplay in 1995, and created the small display screen. She also headed the display division at Intel, until she co-founded One Laptop Per Child. She invented the X O, the lowest-power, and lowest cost green notebooks ever made. She is the the founder of Pixel Qi. 
  • Meg Whitman is President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. 
  • Then there's Marissa Mayer, Google’s first female engineer. Mayer, who stepped down as President and CEO of Yahoo! when it was sold to Verizon, was Google’s first female engineer. She led product management and engineering for Google Maps, Local Search, Google Earth, Street View and Latitude. Her user interface designs and product vision placed Google at the forefront as the leading web, mobile, and search engine company. 
“The number one most important thing we can do to increase the number of women in tech is to show a multiplicity of different role models," Mayer said in article for The Huffington Post. “The stereotype of that very complete and rigid picture of what being a computer scientist means really hurts people's understanding and ability to identify with the role and say, ‘Yes, this is something I can be in and want to be in.’”

Yeah, please mansplain to me again Mr. Danmore, or is it Mr. Want (I am entitled to) Damn More, why women don't belong in technology because of "biological differences." You got your 15 minutes of fame. The Alt-right is rolling out the Breitbart carpet.

Women in Computing
Mothers of Technology: 10 Women Who Invented and Innovated in Tech
Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Questioning Women in Tech
Contra Grant On Exaggerated Differences

Monday, July 31, 2017

The day Sam Shepherd died

My mind works in peculiar ways on a good day. We were having a yard sale at my cousins' house in Nicasio and I was lamenting that everyone who stopped were strangers. But then it all changed. First the Peter Coyote lookalike dropped by and left empty-handed, then one of the McIsaacs from Tocaloma (Bud) stopped by. I told him I used to go out with Allan McIsaac. Suddenly it was old home week. And then I sold my toy spool Nessie to Phil Waddell for a buck, he was in a red car and the toy matched. He's from 71 Alta in Lagunitas. He said it was the house next to the one where all the musicians came to play....probably Jean Paul Picken's place, which led to a rather convoluted discussion of the good old days, to Big Brother & the Holding Company, to Janis, Herself (we lived near Barbano's summer camp on Arroyo) because meanwhile someone was wailing away on some blues number at the Rancho Nicasio, which led to a story on Ken Kesey, and the Diggers...which made me think of Lynn Deutra and the Forest Knolls Freestore in the basement of Ron and Marsha Thelin's old red house on Resaca. Which made me inexplicably think of Sam Shepherd. Don't ask. Even I can't make out that connection, other than I used to see him in Mill Valley when I worked for Mimi Fariña. Then I just found out that he died. You see how it goes? The old homes of memory. Circular breathing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Camping in Baja

One time we were camping in an old abandoned mission in Baja Norte, in the Sierra San Pedro mountain range, and in the morning, I awoke to find the canyon wall glowing in the early morning sun—filled with petroglyphs, and padres' marks—curly Spanish crosses from the 1760s. We arrived at dusk the night before, set up camp in the dark, and hadn't seen the ancient graffiti. Astounded, I gathered the top of the air bed to my body in a big hug, to revel in the sight, only to discover the small rounded rocks beneath my arms began to move on their own: a family of scorpions, seeking warmth, had moved in beneath the air mattress during the night. I believe some rather primitive an ancient form of screaming and dancing ensued on my part. John, who was still asleep, leapt up in a warrior stance to meet the enemy at his feet.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What was I thinking?

Climbed up Huayna Picchu above Macchu Picchu on steel cables to see the Temple of the Sun and Moon. What was I thinking?
Climbed Half Dome cables twice. What was I thinking?
Climbed inside el Caracol, the observatory at Chichen Itza to take a photo of the Solstice. Then couldn't get down.
Jumped into a sea cave (alone) at Double Point, Limantour Spit, without thinking how I was going to get back up again.
Rappelled down the inside of the dome of the Church of Religion and Atheism, while helping a friend to restore the fresco, Leningrad, USSR. I won't mention bouncing on the trapeze net stretched across the neck of the dome. What was I thinking?
Got stuck mid sea in a small boat when fishing net jammed the propeller, between islands in the Galapagos. Someone had to dive under to boat to cut it free. Swam through a tunnel at Corona del Diablo, to snorkel alone (a no-no), and was attacked by an irate sea lion. I was thoughtless.
Washed my hair in Laguna Hanson the only freshwater lake while camping in Baja, at the base of San Pedro de Martir. Swam with whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez, and with sea turtles in Hawaii during a full eclipse. I couldn't think at all, as the sun turned into a black sunflower in the sky while the birds stopped singing, and all the golden fish slept in my arms.

Monday, July 17, 2017


I'm still trying to figure out
how to pronounce palimpsests
When my dyslexic brain has a field day, 
I never know what ghost story 
will appear behind the print.

Magic Fire

I once found some flint in a glacial toe, or an ancient cobbled riverbed, near Groningen, the Netherlands. It was the summer solstice. The sun took a long time setting. The sky was on fire for hours. I knew the rock was special just by the feel of it. Unctuous, soapy, with a clear ring, like a bell tongue. I had no idea what it was, until I struck it and sparks flew. And it sparked mightily when I struck it together.

I then I spent hours lying on my belly amid the cobbled rocks searching for flintknapped bits. Even though the hunnebeds (cairns) were nearby, I found few worked pieces. I lay down on the stones, discouraged, picked up a random handful of flint (chert), to mindlessly toss away in disgust, and there it was, a hand-worked piece. Like night and day, the difference. 

I held nascent fire in my hands. Flint! Of course, I was insufferable, dragging people into dark closets to show off the sparks.  Magic fire! Loved the odor, like fireworks and petrichor, but stronger.

I once freaked out a bunch of 5th graders by striking chert in a darkened classroom. Nobody wrote great rock poems that day but the boys saw other possibilities... Pyro poets on fire. Charles Simic was teaching at Santa Rosa Junior College at the time so I developed a lesson plan around his poem, Go Inside a Stone...

7/17/17 & 8/1/17

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Worked stone

One of the things I do when I find what looks to be hand-worked flint/chert, jasper, or obsidian, is to look for those telltale flintknapped strike marks, then see if it fits comfortably in my hand. (Most tools I find are not arrowheads, or Clovis points, but harder to identify scrapers, and cutters.) I know it when I see it. 

I liken the worked stone to the wind-stippled surface of a pond, and the larger overlapping ripples as if someone were skipping a stone across it. It is odd to think of worked stone in terms of dropping a rock into a still pond, but the metaphor holds: the rock hitting the water, the scattered splash, followed by concentric waves moving outward. Naturally broken rocks do not have those features. Only those worked by human hands. Basho's mossy pond.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

25 random facts, another Facebook quizzy thing

25 random facts about me that may surprise my friends.

1. Do you make your bed? I take the easy way out now, a down quilt and a duvet cover. Making the bed means flipping the duvet over. But I prefer not to, to let the sheets air out. But I'm a fiendish pillow plumper. Can't stand grit or crumbs in the bed, no matter how small, or imaginary. I've been known to flip the sheets in the middle of the night for a cleaner surface.

2. The first car that was officially yours? A 1958/9 Volvo 544 panel truck with wooden interiors. Three on the floor, you had to get a running start it get up over White's HIll. A fact that affects my driving to this day. It was always falling apart, and you couldn't get parts for it as it was so rare. I used baling wire to fix the gas linkage. Learned to swap needle valves in the twin glass carbs, use a screwdriver to bypass a stuck starter solenoid.

3. Three grocery items you don't [want to] run out of. I never run out of pasta, oatmeal, or condiments. I don't want to run out of milk. Ever. Too traumatic. That, and chocolate, the darker, the better. And wine. Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

4. When did you start doing your own laundry? I always helped with the laundry, my granny had an old school wringer washer which meant hauling water, and filling the tub for the rinse water. We used a broomstick to stir the clothes. Then hauled them out to the garden to dry on the clothesline and rosemary and lavender bushes. There were always hitchhikers: mainly earwigs.

5. If you could, would you go to high school again? No FN way! It was bad enough to be bullied and beaten up in grade school, but the indifference and cruelty of those same girls in high school took on a whole 'nother dimension. TG for the Summer of Love, things changed for the better. I was so glad to get to college and leave that scene behind. I blossomed and came into my own, emotionally and intellectually. I was a late bloomer. I wouldn't even have gone to my high school reunions if it wasn't for Ken Bullock.

6. Can you parallel park in under 3 moves? Of course. Unless the tires are low. (No power steering).

7. A job you had which people would be shocked to know about? A horse stall cleaner at Fairfax Stables. Salad girl at the Rancho Nicasio. Canning factory worker in Bishoffzell, Switzerland.

8. Do you think aliens are real? Really? Really real?

9. Can you drive a stick shift? Yes, and column shift too.

10. Guilty TV pleasure? All Saints, an Aussie medical drama.

11. Would you rather be too hot or too cold? Too cold. I don't mind wearing more clothes or blankets. I don't do heat well.

12. If the world ends, do you want to be one of the survivors? Oxymoronic question. If the world ends, there won't be any survivors.

13. Sweet or Salty? Salty, spicy. Sometimes cranky.

14. Do you enjoy soaking in a nice hot bath? Yep for about 10 minutes, then I'm out. Showers are quicker.

15. Do you consider yourself strong? Yes, both physically and mentally.

16. Something people do, physically, that drives you crazy? Rudeness, especially drivers.

17. Something you do, physically, that you are sure drives people insane? Chew my nails, (not now), clear my throat a lot. Blurt. Talk too fast.

18. Do you have any birth marks? No.

19. Favorite childhood game? Riding my horse, hiking, swimming,drawing, reading.

20. Do you talk to yourself? Yes I jabber like a bluejay, and I answer myself too. How I problemsolve.

21. Do you like doing jig-saw puzzles? Nope. Nor do I like Rubick's cubes.

22. Would you go on a reality show? No freaking way.

23. Tea or coffee? Tea, then coffee. Then wine. Repeat the next day.

24. First thing you remember wanting to be when you grew up? A veterinarian.

25. No matter how much money you have or don't have, what are you an absolute snob about? Food & wine. Color. Composition. Good writing.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Prana feathers

Last night I dreamt I had down feathers coating my lungs, and awoke to paroxysms of real coughing. What was that all about? Other than the very real coughing, it was a funny, rather mythic dream, perhaps it was in reaction to .45Care.

Well, I did recently make a spate of new down pillows from an old comforter as my old ones were flat as pancakes and leaking. I may need to wash my new pillows,, to settle them in, even though I did wash the comforter a while ago.

It really was a funny dream. I guess I have been a bit down in the mouth, or I have been terribly flighty as of late. Maybe I'm molting. Featherbrained.

Someone suggested that I get rid of my pillows. She said: Maybe you're allergic to down pillows and comforters? Logical conclusion. But I don't have any asthma symptoms. Besides, I can't sleep on anything else. I've tried it. There is no substitute for down. Synthetic pillows make my head hurt, and my scalp sting. I may need to double bag them, though. It could be that they need another washing.

I think I was pondering Icarus and other forms of was more mythical than that. The creative mind at work vs. a health warning.

Think of it this way, I changed a sleeping pattern, disrupted an old process.... the old pillows, I last gave them new covers in Forestville, ca. 1980, and the feathers I've had since I was young. But the pillows no longer luff. They've lost their loft. A lot of karma in an old pillow. All the misplaced dreams. And the ones replacing them have a history too. A new start from old things.

And I had been playing the what-if game as I made the pillows, so the idea was planted, and I was very careful when I made them. I came up with an ingenious way to make them in situ without opening the quilt, so hardly any feathers escaped. What I really need to do is clean my room!

And I have had some lung congestion from when I tweaked my back and couldn't cough. I could hardly breathe.

I was also rearranging old art supplies yesterday, lamenting how I haven't used my pencils in a long time. I need to draw. Lungs, to breathe, as in inspiration, feathers equal flight. Escaped prana feathers. Inside flight.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Looking for lost artwork of painter-poet, Boschka (Betty) Layton

Montreal/California Canadian painter-poet, Boschka (Betty) Layton, former wife of Canadian poet Irving Layton, friend of Leonard Cohen, sister to Donald Sutherland, was a dear friend of mine in Guereville during the 1980s.

Her son, Max Layton is searching for his mother, (Betty) Layton's lost work: specifically paintings, drawings, literary mags, etc. Max Layton is working on a project to create a collection of her work online. If you, or someone you may know, have any of her artwork, especially her paintings, he'd love to obtain high quality photos of her work. He was also wondering if you had any photos, memorabilia, or memories to share?

There is very little on the internet about Boschka, so any little bit would help. Betty was an art student at St. John Vocational School in Nova Scotia during the 1940s, and moved to Montreal to found Canada's first avant garde modern poetry magazine, First Statement, with her brother John (Jamie) Sutherland.

Boschka Layton lived near the Peewee Golf Course, on the Russian River, in Guerneville, California until 1983, then moved to Goat Rock, near Jenner, and passed away from pancreatic cancer on Valentine's Day in 1984.

 Apparently her daughter, Naomi Layton lives in Santa Rosa. Her friends, Kat & Boz Williams of Sebastopol have one painting.

 If you know of an artist, or an art collector, or poet, who lived on the River from 1970 to 1984, please feel free to tag them too.  Any information you might have would be most appreciated.

You may leave me a message here, or you can post stories on my artist Facebook page. —Thanks, Maureen Hurley

Boschka Layton (Betty Sutherland) 1921 - 1984
Guerneville Poet Boschka Layton to Read at Copperfield's

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Facebook Quizzy Things

Every answer must start with the FIRST letter of your MIDDLE name!

Middle name....... ....V(****)
Girl's Name..............Victoria
Boy's Name.............Victor
Name of Movie.........Vertigo
Something you wear...vee-neck sweater
Item in bathroom.....vasoline,Vick's Vapo-rub
Place.......................Verona, or Vladivostok
Reason to be late....Vermin ate my homework

Now turn it into a short story or prose poem using all the words on your list.

Voracious voles in Victoria are called the victors of the victory garden because they eat their weight in snails and other pests every night, but the sweet scent of violets gives me vertigo. I was wearing the vee-neck sweater he gave me. We sipped chilled Viognier in the vale, and supped on Vichyssoise. She played the viola naked, no, it was a cello: Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre or was it Danse Bacchanale emanating from between her thighs. It was that kind of morning. Not the winter misery of Vick's Vapo-rub on the chest when your feet are as cold as Vladivostok. And the only excuse you can offer is that vermin ate your homework while the gentlemen of Verona dreamed of other plays.

Your actual name: Maureen Hurley 

Your soap opera name (middle name and a street you lived on): Vee Mirabel, or Barranca

Your stripper name (baby, or nickname and your mother's maiden name): Baba Reilly 

Your Star Trek name (first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 of middle, last 2 of first): Hurvien

Superhero name (color of your shirt and item to right of you): Purple & Teal Mouse

Goth name (black and name of one of your pets): Black Ziggy, or Black Figby

Rapper name (Lil' + last thing you ate):  Lil' Scalloped Potatoes or Lil' Waldorf Salad

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Singer, Old Singer: Pillowmaking & Sweet Dreams

First day of summer ritual: I hauled out my newfangled Singer sewing machine and set it up on the outside porch. I needed to do a bit of mending, to take in several pairs of jeans that keep falling off my ass, and to make a flotilla of new down pillows from an old down comforter.

My old down pillows are literally falling apart, I can no longer wash them (another summer ritual) as the pillow ticking has rotted on the corners. The innards from one old pillow probably dates back to my childhood. (The replacement ticking is at least 30 years old—a world record). The feathers go flat as a pancake despite a monthly rousing resurrection round in the dryer. TIme to let it go. It's done lost its loft. No more spiff in its spoof.

Last time I made pillows was at least a decade ago. Maybe longer. It's been on my to-do list for many summers. Yeah, I know, most people just go out and buy pillows. But I don't like most commercial pillows. I can't use the polyester ones, an old whiplash precludes that. I wake up with blinding headaches. Nix to feather pillows either. Like sleeping on concrete. More headaches.

And the one down pillow I bought on sale from Ikea isn't satisfactory. It's fat, and poofy as a cloud, but when it comes down to it, it's a pillow of little character or substance. My neck hurts in the morning. My old down pillows were my first line of defense, I could wad them up to cradle my neck, however, the Ikea pillow makes a good base camp. But I needed more. 

I needed several new pillows. And I sure wasn't willing to spend a C-note per pillow. Enter the down quilt, a Freecycle find. Not only did it come with plenty of relatively new fluffy down feathers, it came replete with its own ticking too (not an easy thing to find in fabric stores—I mean who makes their own down pillows these days? You can't use any material, it has to be double-woven pillow ticking, or the feathers will escape.) 

I also needed to replace the small side pillows for my neck (neck fenders), as the commercial baby pillows I was using are way too hard and they give me headaches. One most favored makeshift down side pillow was stuffed with a shredded child's down jacket, but after a few years, it was no longer doing the job. Too many escaped feathers after a round of fluffing, meant it was more jacket lining than down. 

The old small square pillow I nicked from a first class French passenger train in 1972, was equally worn. Sharp pinfeathers were lining up and tunneling through the corner holes quill-end first, like escaping prisoners armed with tiny claws.

If you make a feather pillow, you have to choose a windless day, you can't be indoors, and even if you carefully move, or breathe too fast, feathers will escape, and you, and your yard (or house) will be flocked with what looks like freshly fallen snow. 

I've tried various tricks. I've tried moving dry feathers on a still day in plein air. Doesn't work. Too many escape artists. The slightest breeze, and... Then, there's the very real danger of sneezing... I've tried moving wet feathers in plein air. Doesn't work. They're like superglue. This time I tried spraying feathers with a mister to weight them down with rosewater. Nope. They merely roiled away like a fragrant fogbank on speed.

My favorite restuffing method is to take a huge clear plastic cleaner bag, put the old pillow and the new pillow casing inside, then put an elastic band on both corners of the plastic bag as baffles for my hands, and then transfer the feathers. Minimal feather loss, no down up the nose.

Don't forget to take scissors, needle and thread, a seam ripper. Once your hands are inside the bag, they're covered with down. You don't want to remove them until the end. Sweating won't do. Sewing up the open end of the pillow on the sewing machine is the tricky part. If the pillow burps.... 

In this case, I needed to start from scratch, as the bulky queen-sized down quilt wasn't going to fit into any plastic bag. So that was out. Finding new featherproof ticking at a fabric store (not a hot commodity) was also a challenge. So the idea sat on the back burner, or rather, in the closet for a few years. 

It takes me ages to come up with innovative ways to fix things. I run scenarios through my head until I come up with a viable solution. This particular idea of sewing twin seams directly onto the quilt took me a few years to formulate. In the end, it was so amazingly simple and elegant, I wondered why it took me so long to arrive. 

I directly sewed the pillow shape right onto the quilt, after stuffing lots of feathers into the new pillow rectangle, then I did a double sew job, making a thin corridor where I could cut the pillow away from the quilt, which meant I didn't have to handle the feathers. Wrestling with the yards of quilt in that tiny opening on the neck of the sewing machine was a biggest challenge.

Things went swimmingly, I shook the down feathers to one end of the quilt, and marked it off to sew. That's when things went wrong. The sewing machine decided it was going to be temperamental which drove me mental. The bobbin thread kept breaking every few inches, the tension thread slipping, the amazingly sluggish foot pedal kept stalling, and there's no way to manually force the machine forward over a thick seam, as Singer did away with the pulley wheel.

So far, I have managed to roundly curse the American inventor, Isaac Singer (even though my old friend Pam Singer is related to him), the software engineers who shepherded the Singer to the electronic age, all of Sweden, and the ship it rode in on, and Vikings, and the Volvos for good measure (even though my first car was a Volvo panel truck used for delivering Singers), for designing such a spectacular piece of crap.

Ill-thought out designing abounds, the modern day Singer sewing machine probably holds a world record for the most design flaws in one machine, from the needle threader, a plastic bobbin plate that's next to impossible to remove, and a bobbin design that constantly snaps the lower thread, uneven traction on the feeder dogs, to the sluggish foot pedal. I'm a four-on-the-floor driver, I like speed.

The zig zag feature is nice, when it works, but the other 69 embroidery stitches are mostly useless because the machine pulls unevenly, leaving an amateur mess behind. Forget the attachments. I want a machine that sews a straight stitch where the tension is even, and the bottom thread doesn't pull out. It's not like you have a lot of manual adjustment features on this machine, as it's fail-proof electronic. 

Also forget about the automatic needle threader, another bit of useless hardware that gets in the way of manually threading the machine. And the newly designed eye of the needle is super small. I have to flip the Singer on its side and angle it up toward the sunlight, and then if I manage to poke the thread through the eye, then there's a gauntlet of attachments in the way of the thread.

I haven't used the machine enough for it to need a tuneup, I should've returned it to Costco... it is so spectacularly bad, I sometimes envision dropping it off a freeway overpass, but then some unsuspecting car will clash with it. Give me an old school electric, or even a pre-electric pedal Singer sewing machine any day. I wish I could get a belt for my old cast iron and chrome gilded black enamel 1929 Singer. Now that's one awesome machine. Beautiful to look at too.

Neil caught me mid-swear, and made the mistake of asking me why I bought the sewing machine if it was so if I did that on purpose. Yeah, I deliberately chose a bad machine. WTF? A spectacularly inane question that garnered some additional misdirected purple prose.

But I persevered, and eventually managed to squeeze out a few fat down pillows, and two side fender pillows. I look like the princess and the pea, with my mountain of pillows. Sweet dreams. My neck is happy at night. No more blinding headaches. Other than from the sewing machine itself.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Birthday Dinner

My beloved's birthday dinner was salmon glazed with honey mustard dill, cheesy Scotch potatoes, bib lettuce salad, and a Meyer lemon curd chiffon meringue pie affair liberally laced with Limoncello, that took six hours to make in this record-breaking heat. It was so hot, the meringue was doing the merengue. Then it wilted. Not a day I would normally fire up the oven three separate times. The sweltering kitchen resembled the seventh ring of Dante's Inferno. I imagined someone yelling Beatriche! or was it Stella! from the back porch of a Streetcar named Desire.

Friday, June 16, 2017


Someone asks: Is it Bloomsday already?
I answered: All day, the entire day,
it is Bloomsday, every hour, every minute,
right up to the very last second, 
until it sloughs off its mortal coils 
and declares that the calendar 
indeed has turned over a new leaf. 
Then it will be tomorrow and tomorrow 
and tomorrow, which, we all know,
never really comes, now, does it?