Aucun tire-bouchon? Caught without a corkscrew?
Sacré bleu!

Brad was kind enough to send along this educational video. Has this been on Food Channel or DIY? No translation is necessary.

Full disclosure: John Mellencamp’s grandmother and my paternal grandmother were cousins, so I guess that makes us – what? – second cousins twice removed, or something? Don’t ask him, I’m sure he’s never heard of me.

In any case, the fact that we’re loosely related may have colored my opinion, but, over the years, I’ve grown to love his work – at least in concept – and was fascinated by this story on NPR’s Morning Edition, earlier this week:,mqgz,dv,f2fy,cnwq,g1zw,l3bv

Born with spina bifida, Mellencamp got off to a rough start in life, but has managed to become something of an inspiration to many people, from towns large and small. At the same time, he’s developed as a musician in spite of in his phenomenal success.   

As a fan and someone who shares a very little bit of his DNA, I can appreciate Mellencamp's eclectic musical taste and demand for authenticity.  Lord knows he's paid is dues in a very tough business, and he certainly has a right to look back on his roots, musical and familial. After all, in the 1840s,  his ancestors waded for miles up the White River to the White Creek (in what is now called Indiana), where they cleared the land to build a community. A century and a quarter later, Mellencamp ran away from that same spot, only to return home rich enough to buy up much of the town. What a story!  Go John!

Here’s a review of his latest album, from Rolling Stone:

No Better Than This
By John Mellencamp
No Better Than This is John Mellencamp's debut on Rounder Records, the legendary indie label specializing in roots and Americana music. The entire album was recorded with Mellencamp and his band all playing live in one room using a 55-year-old Ampex tape recorder and just one vintage microphone. Legendary producer T Bone Burnett captured the 13 new tracks at three historic locations: Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn., (where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis first recorded); the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., (the oldest Black church in North America, dating to 1775); and in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas (where Robert Johnson made his first recordings in 1936). Mellencamp's songs on No Better Than This reflect classic American musical traditions including blues, folk, gospel, rockabilly and country, while addressing such themes as the need for hope, the nature of relationships and narratives that recount extraordinary occurrences in everyday life.
"No Better Than This shows Mellencamp channeling spirits and stepping into period styles. They fit him perfectly." ~Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

Adams Reservoir, Woodford, VT
Water holds a mystical power over me, more today than when I was younger. I swim, I kayak, I soak in a hot tub, I take showers whenever my joints cry to be soothed or my soul needs an energizing boost.    

In Vermont, ponds and even pools are cool, almost cold, even on the hottest days. Once you’re in and moving, the crisp temperature is all you could ever ask for, but don’t go in one toe at a time.

I have access to outdoor swimming pools and a dozen ponds or reservoirs in two states, so I carry gear in the back seat of the car that lets me swim on a whim. Rubber-soled “lake shoes” keep my feet safe from rocks and muck. If the sun is high, I wear full-length rashers to block UV from my ultra-sensitive skin and wacky immune system. Kids gawk at the sight of an old lady in surfer garb, but I just smile and, on the way out of the water, I comment on how the waves suck at this beach.

Sometimes I don’t even swim, but  just go out up to my neck, letting let currents pull me from side to side. If I need to build up strength in my severely arthritic lower body, I cross country ski in the deep stuff, or bicycle back and forth across the pool. Then I do side stroke and back stroke, both very meditative forms of swimming.  

Green River, Halifax VT, Spring 2010
A doomed Piscean, I’d rather be IN water than not, but if I’m on land, chances are I’m looking at one body of blue stuff or another. Our walls are filled with artwork I’ve collected over the years, most of it involving something aqueous. After all, I spent some years living and working on Long Island, New York, where I wrote a book about life on that (very crowded) Atlantic sandbar. 

My husband loves boats, so we’re drawn to coasts and marinas when we travel. Up here in the mountains, we can always find streams or lakes to play in or photograph, any time of the year, frozen or liquid.  

Lake George NY, August 2009
Monterey Bay CA, May 2010
Here are some photos and video I took in and around the Monterey Bay Aquarium this spring.

Pacifica CA, May 2010
Tuna at MBA, May 2010
Leafy Sea Dragon at MBA
Moon Jellyfish at MBA
Black Sea Nettles at MBA, May 2010
For mesmerizing video of jellyfish and sea nettles, go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's own video at

If you want to swim with the fishes without getting wet, go to the MBA kelp forest exhibit and sway with the water plants and animals to hypnotic music. Try not to go when it’s busy, like we did. Too many people making too much noise, but click on the arrow and enjoy the show anyway. See the shark?
For more in this series, click on Swimming as Meditation in the index on the right.
Also, see Cari Shane Parvin's Zen of Swim at 

In case you live in an area served by a newspaper that does not subscribe to the Associated Press wire, or you never watch television news, here’s an AP story that spells out some of the facts about the Muslim cultural center planned for lower Manhattan.

AP reporter Calvin Woodward says, Islam is already very much a part of the World Trade Center neighborhood, Muslims already pray at an interfaith chapel inside the Pentagon, and “the imam who's being branded an extremist has been valued by both Republican and Democratic administrations as a moderate face of the faith.”

Here’s a link to the entire story, Fact Check: Islam already part of WTC neighborhood, as it appeared in the Washington Post:


Philo CA, May 2009
I am a lover, and I deal in love.
Sow flowers,
so your surroundings become a garden.
Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet.
We are all one body.
Whoever tortures another, wounds himself.
                                        from Rahman Baba, a Sufi saint and poet 

Author William Dalrymple sheds light on nuances of the Muslim tradition that are getting lost in all the noise over the planned construction of a Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan, in an op-ed piece published Monday in The New York Times. He says the center will be spiritual home to Sufis, the most peaceful and inclusive believers in the Islamic world. How tragic that this message has been overpowered by the din of politically motivated rhetoric.

Consider the following:

Sufism is an entirely indigenous, deeply rooted resistance movement against violent Islamic radicalism. Whether it can be harnessed to a political end is not clear. But the least we can do is to encourage the Sufis in our own societies. Men like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf should be embraced as vital allies, and we should have only contempt for those who, through ignorance or political calculation, attempt to conflate them with the extremists.


The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.

Yet many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Had the George W. Bush administration been more aware of the irreconcilable differences between the Salafist jihadists of Al Qaeda and the secular Baathists of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the United States might never have blundered into a disastrous war, and instead kept its focus on rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan while the hearts and minds of the Afghans were still open to persuasion.

For the complete opinion piece, go to The New York Times, August 16, 2010, The Muslims in the Middle, by William Dalrymple.

For a very different take on the same issue, read Citizen K’s blog conversation  at

It opens with this:

The seriousness and depth of contemporary politics came to the fore yesterday when Nevada Democrat Harry Reid joined Republican opponent Sharon Angle in opposing construction of a mosque and community center near Ground Zero in Manhattan, approximately 2200 miles from Las Vegas.

Citizen K. has learned that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg conducted a conference call with Reid and Angle in which he expressed thanks for their concern. The precise responses of Reid and Angle are unknown, but I can reliably report on Bloomberg's end of the conversation:

"Senator, Ms. Angle, I'd like express my heartfelt gratitude for your interest in New York and your concern for the people living here...

"Yes, I do have to thank you. That you could make time to express your opinion about events in a city on the other side of the country when Nevada has a 14.2% unemployment rate and the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, well...I'm touched to say the least...

Guest blogger Karen Holmgren recounts her cancer story, in light of a new study suggesting that some of her treatment may have been unnecessary:

In 1997 after a routine mammogram I was called in for follow-up images. I thought nothing of it (technical error, perhaps), but 10 days later I was told to make an appointment with a surgeon as soon as possible. He scheduled me for a biopsy, assuring me that "95% of these things are benign." 

Because the area in question was small and deep, the biopsy was preceded by a very stressful ordeal to locate it. I was clamped in the mammogram machine for at least 20 minutes while an image was taken and developed, then the doctor inserted a wire into my breast, aiming for the target. Another image was taken and developed, and he adjusted the wire. Repeat a third time. I could not move until he was sure he had located the tumor. Then it was time for the surgical biopsy, for which I received general anesthesia.

Being confident that I was OK, you can imagine how stunned I was when he called me late on Friday to tell me that it was malignant.  I had a whole weekend to freak out before I was able to find out more. It was called Ductile Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), about 0.5 mm, Stage 0. (I later learned that DCIS is a non-invasive lesion.) The sample had "no clear margins" which meant that there seemed to be evidence of additional areas of concern. His recommendation was a modified radical mastectomy, which he wanted to schedule the following week before he went on vacation. I insisted on consulting an oncologist. She confirmed the diagnosis and said that mastectomy was the only recourse; no radiation or chemotherapy would work. You can imagine how sick at heart I felt. For days I had the urge to just scream. I found a woman surgeon who was very kind and assured me I wasn't going to die and that surgery would give me a long life. 

So I had it, a modified radical with the removal of 13 lymph nodes, and an implant. And when I got the pathology report, it said "No evidence of cancer." One of the maddening aspects of this is that I was laid off from my job just as this began to unfold, so I had only a very limited conversion insurance plan that paid less that 15% of my costs.

In a recent report in the New York Times I read, "In 2006, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an influential breast cancer survivors’ organization, released a startling study. It estimated that in 90,000 cases, women who received a diagnosis of D.C.I.S. or invasive breast cancer either did not have the disease or their pathologist made another error that resulted in incorrect treatment." It's hard not to wonder if that was true for my case. So I want other women to know that if they get a bad diagnosis, get a second reading of the biopsy before agreeing to any surgery, radiation, or chemo! 

It took me a long time to get over feeling disfigured. Now I guess I have to get over feeling pissed!

Read more about this study here:

“He believes that what he says in public and how he lives don't have to be connected. If you believe that, then yeah, you can run for president." Marianne Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House’s wife #2, says candidly about her ex to Esquire Magazine, in an interview found here.

The story notes that Gingrich has raised as much money as all of his potential rivals combined and sits atop the polls for the Republican presidential nomination.

Whether he earned that money or his fans contributed threw it at him, it doesn’t matter. Money follows money.

Sheesh, if all you had to do was invent a past and present it to the public, along with a couple of million dollars and some well-crafted words, I guess anyone could run for office.  

Let’s see: The Huffington Post reported in March that US millionaires are thriving, in spite of the recession.  

As of 2009, the US counted 7.8 individuals earning between $1-5 million a year. There was an additional million earning more than that, plus at least 793 people scattered around the world bringing in more than $1 billion, with most of those folks making that kind of money in the good ole US of A.  

It takes a certain kind of person to command such earning power. Power, I think that’s the key word here. So, when you have that many people accustomed to power, with that much money in their pockets, what else should we expect when elections roll around?  

If I were running for office, I would hire someone to design a clever bumper sticker expressing this concept: Vote for me. I may raise your taxes but promise to increase and improve the services you get from your government.
Do you think I’d have a chance, assuming I could actually accomplish what I promised? Maybe so, after people lose roads, plowing, schools, libraries, cops, fire departments, etc., all in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

Responsibility for whom?

Here are a few lines from Paul Krugman’s op-ed in today’s New York Times:

The lights are going out all over America — literally.  

…a nation that once prized education — that was among the first to provide basic schooling to all its children — is now cutting back. Teachers are being laid off; programs are being canceled; in Hawaii, the school year itself is being drastically shortened. And all signs point to even more cuts ahead.

We’re told that we have no choice, that basic government functions — essential services that have been provided for generations — are no longer affordable.

...the logical consequence of three decades of antigovernment rhetoric, rhetoric that has convinced many voters that a dollar collected in taxes is always a dollar wasted, that the public sector can’t do anything right.

…a large part of our political class is showing its priorities: given the choice between asking the richest 2 percent or so of Americans to go back to paying the tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom, or allowing the nation’s foundations to crumble — literally in the case of roads, figuratively in the case of education — they’re choosing the latter.      

For the entire piece, see:
America Goes Dark
From The New York Times, August 8, 2010


Sunflower field in southern Vermont, August 8, 2010

My grandchildren just might grow up thinking people don’t kayak or ride motorcycles until they are very, very old.


My grandmothers were age 54 and 65 when I was born. As far as I know, neither one ever drove a car, took a trip that didn’t involve visiting family, or chose to exert herself to stay fit. She didn’t need to, work took care of that.

My grandfathers drove, but I never really knew them. One died before I was born and the other was someone I heard more about than ever got to know first hand.

Whether I knew them or not, I am confident my grandparents never traveled to another country, learned a second language, kayaked, swam for the fun of it, ran in a charity race, took dance lessons, wrote a book, or even took photos of their grandchildren. I don't think I ever saw my grandmother taking a photograph. She probably didn't own a camera. Her life revolved around work (until age 78!), family, church and doctoring, until she was so debilitated she ended up in a nursing home.   

If you’re old enough to have grandchildren, what do you do that you’re sure your grandmother or grandfather never had a chance to do? 

Nana and Grandpa kayak at Adams Reservoir, Woodford, Vermont, 08/07/10