Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Family Resemblance

I have a picture on my bureau of my mother and me and another picture of my son and me and it’s really amazing to me that my son and I look very similar as infants.  I am always amazed at the family resemblances when I look at pictures like that.  My son and I also have similar personalities although he has not followed a similar path in finding himself, I can see that we both come at life from different viewpoints.

It raises the question of nature over nurture that I have heard many times before.  The question is that if the same person were brought up in a different area would he/she be the same?  There have been many research projects, mostly involving twins, which have been done on the subject.  The Wikepedia article on the subject explains it as:

Nature versus nurture" in its modern sense was coined[1][2][3] by the English Victorian polymath Francis Galton in discussion of the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement, although the terms had been contrasted previously, for example by Shakespeare (in his play, The Tempest: 4.1). Galton was influenced[4] by the book On the Origin of Species written by his cousin, Charles Darwin. The concept embodied in the phrase has been criticized[3][4] for its binary simplification of two tightly interwoven parameters, as for example an environment of wealth, education and social privilege are often historically passed to genetic offspring.

With the recent spate of youth violence the subject has come up again in some circles.  Are certain people prone to violence or is it something that can be “nurtured” into or out of the person?  Whatever the situation is we need to figure something out regarding how best to approach the situation.  With the lack of funding that is certain to become more of a reality than it is now, these solutions will need to be creative enough, and workable to the point that our tax payers are not overly burdened or municipality resources not stretched too thin.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Natural Disasters

The flood waters have receded and the blue sky is peeking out all over this morning, one day after Irene.  My husband and I hunkered down in our house during the storm glad we didn’t have to go anywhere.  I was told on Friday afternoon that we didn’t have to come in over the weekend because the Governor had declared a state of emergency so I went food shopping on my way home from work Friday night.  It was nice that I didn’t have to go anywhere during the storm.  I bought what I needed and went home knowing that I was relatively safe.  We were very lucky and had no power loss.  My husband and I took in our porch furniture and rolled up our awnings and sat back and watched a movie while at the same time watching the wall of water that suddenly came down.  The wind was in our favor and didn’t blow the water up under the roof shingles as we feared.  We did get some water in our basement and a little in our chimney with a small amount of water damage on our third floor, but all in all, we had nothing.

I still have to shake my head at the people who bought all the water in the store.  When I went over to the store on Friday the shelves were bare where the bottled water should have been.  I noticed that the chip aisle and the canned meat aisle were significantly down as well.  I supposed people took the warning to heart that they could be out of power for several days and really stocked up on things.  My neighbor filled her tubs with water in the event of power outages and got her mother’s medication so that she wouldn’t have to venture out.  I suppose the medication thing was a wise thing, but in the kind of area we live in there is really no need to go all out survival because we can always walk to get help from someone if we need it.   

We know all our neighbors and everyone helps each other out.  In situations like a natural disaster we have a very good support system and I can’t imagine ever being in trouble in our neighborhood because the people on our block would be very helpful to each other.  But I know others are not lucky that way and if anything goes wrong where they live they would not be able to depend on their neighbors. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing?

I hope the hurricane of 2011 is not as bad as they say it will be.  However, I am hearing now that based on how it is where it is, it’s going to only marginally better here.  That’s if it does not blow out to sea.  I received an email a few hours ago with information about how to prepare in the event we have the worst and you can’t get out of your house for three days.  It has all the things that are needed for a family and some good tips like having recent pictures of your family and pets in a waterproof bag.  They talk about making sure your prescription meds are on hand and that you have enough for the three days as well as clean water for all your needs not just drinking, extra batteries and flashlights, and other things that sound like camping equipment.
There are some things that they don’t mention that I think are important.  They are:
·         Wine
·         Gummy bears
·         Baked beans
·         A manual can opener
·         A solar charger for the cell phone
·         A good book – or a fully charged Kindle

I am sure that everyone’s list includes things that they feel are really essential these are mine.  What are yours?

Several years ago, the weather man alarmed everyone about an upcoming snow storm that was supposed to wreak havoc on the Philadelphia area.  After the date, there was no snow to speak of and the weatherman even received death threats for his lousy report.  You may remember that he suddenly left the area after that and went to another city.  Reporting the weather has been said to be the only job where you can be wrong more than half the time and still have a job.

I know that technology has gotten more advanced and they are doing a little better at forecasting the weather but it doesn’t always work.  For example last night our office had scheduled for people to go out door to door and it got cancelled because the forecast called for a high percentage of thunderstorms.  It was pouring when the decision was made and then it cleared up and was dry as a bone for the remainder of the evening.  Oh well, I suppose we shall see if the hurricane proves to be everything that is being talked about, or it is much ado about nothing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake Twitter

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t feel a thing.  I was sitting in my office working on the computer and two of our phone volunteers were working away making calls.  All of a sudden, I heard a squeaking noise that seemed to be coming from the roof.  I think it could have been the air conditioner unit rocking back and forth.  My office mate felt it, and the volunteers felt it, but I didn’t.  Anyway, the both got up from their areas and walked out the door talking about an earthquake.  I was astonished!  My office mate and I went outside with our volunteers and overheard a woman sitting at a table at the cafĂ© next door talking quite excitedly on her phone about whether the person on the other end of the phone felt it too. 

When we can back inside, I immediately went to Twitter and started reading all the tweets about the quake.  I was amazed reading this stuff and seeing that the epicenter was in Virginia and we were feeling it all the way up here.  As the day went on countless posts, tweets, and pictures were available from all over the East coast.  There were some items that were somewhat funny such as pictures of fallen lawn furniture, and some that were semi-serious of cracks in windows in downtown Philadelphia and New York City.  If it weren’t for the Internet and the social media sites, I certainly don’t think the news would have traveled so fast.

Later that day I heard a geologist speaking about why we felt it up here and the potential for aftershocks.  He said that the vibration carried through the Appalachian Mountain range and that aftershocks could come up to a year later.  That last statement somewhat surprised me because if there is such a time gap between the quake and the aftershock wouldn’t it just be another event?  Well I guess it is a different type of quake.   I then heard on the news later that evening that the last quake of this magnitude we had was 100 years ago.  I had no idea that we could have earthquakes in this area, but I guess anything is possible.

I am sure that everyone will have a story of their own as to where they were and what they were doing when the quake of 2011 hit. What’s yours?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Google Plus

So Google has been dipping their toe into the social networking for the last few months with a service called Google + (Plus).  In order to join you have to be invited by someone in your contact list.  They have a strict age limit of 18 to be a member and you have to have a gmail account to log on.  It has some things that Facebook and others do not have namely a feature called Hangouts which are video chat rooms where multiple people in your circle can talk to each other.  The people in my office invited me and we had only had one hangout – which was mostly business related.  It is interesting as it sets up the video image for each person in a slide show format showing all of them at the bottom on the screen and then highlighting one person for a few second before moving on to the rest.

Apparently there are many more features that exist and people who have used it extensively in the Beta testing phase call it an “Advanced Facebook”.  Among the features is something called Sparks, which is comparable to Stumbleupon, as well as games, and an instant photo upload option for smartphone users. From what I have read they have no advertisements all over the pages as they do in Facebook and I gather other social networking sites have.  I personally don't find the ads on Facebook that objectionable but have had no other experiences with other sites.

Since Facebook and Twitter have been around for a long time, it is questionable whether this will catch on at all.  The little I have seen of it is interesting but I rarely have time to get into many of the things they are including so I can’t tell if I am going to do more with it.  I have gotten a few requests to be added to other people’s circles, so maybe at least the video chat would be useful for quick meetings where travel time is not an option.  Since may people are so used to the other things time will tell if this new network will gather steam.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nothing to Do

The next time I hear someone complain about the fact that the kids have nothing to do, I am going to scream.  You are going to hear it all over because it is going to be the longest and loudest scream you have ever heard.  Well maybe not really, but I will feel like it.

I want you to think back to your childhood if you are over the age of 45.  Did you have every hour of your day organized into specific activities, or did your parents allow you the freedom of running through the neighborhood making up stories with your friends and playing?  Did your parents take you to all the places they wanted you to go such as dance lessons, or horseback riding lessons, or whatever?  Did you parents take you to the park on a lazy summer weekend afternoon to laugh and play in the playground?  Didn’t you have fun just being a kid and not having to be somewhere doing something you didn’t want to do?

I think there are plenty of things to do for kids to do if parents are willing to look for them.  You can always sit down and read them a story, or play make-believe with them.  You can always take them to the library on a Saturday morning and let them join in on the activities they have there.  You can take them to the local zoo which for Norristown residents is lowered fee for many days out of the year.  You can take the kids to a museum, which are often open during the weekend.  Or you can just let them play in the back yard making up stories in their little imaginative brains where they can pretend to their heart’s content.  Kids have the power to be engaged by themselves and frankly it’s the parents who don’t have the time to be with them that complain the loudest.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Market

The financial markets are crazy.  Dramatically down one day and up the next.  It is going to take a while, and maybe another recession for everyone to stop holding their collective breaths a bit, and it's going to take time to rebuild and for the numbers to catch up to the level they were before, but remember, we have all been there before.  1929, 2009, etc. there have been 9 tumbles in all.  We will recover.  I am no way an expert on such things.  I barely can balance my own checkbook.  But I think I am rather keen on observation and I have observed that once the initial shock is over, most people don’t panic but make plans for what is coming up next. 

What has to come up next is a plan for everyone.  The plan in our household is to hold on to what we have and tighten our belt a notch or two.  Trouble is that our belt is already very tight and any tighter might cut off our circulation.  I don’t want to have to re-use toilet paper for example, and we already keep our lights so low my mother complains we are living in a cave.  We recycle what we can and that is not just putting things in the recycle bin, that’s trying to figure out ways to reuse things that we have instead of throwing them away.  It’s tough but it’s necessary.

Do you remember the commercial where two people are talking and one is somewhat complaining about the fact that the one person is so rich why don’t they buy the more expensive product?  The response was “how do you think I got so rich?”  It was really old commercial, and I don't even remember what it was for.  The point is that the last line has stuck with me for a long time.   Even though they say it takes money to make money, spending willy-nilly is not advisable in the best of circumstances, and these times are certainly not the best.  You have to hold on to what you have, spend wisely, and in time you can accumulate a lot.  I just hope the folks down in Washington do something shortly because any less confidence in the market will drive it down further.  We can’t afford it as a nation.  But it is not just us, it’s everywhere.  It’s like giant game of Dominoes. One market falls and others shortly follow, as this article points out.  The best thing we can do right now is not panic.  We are in this thing for the long haul and the techniques that have kept you going will have to keep you going a little more.  Be patient and creative and we will all get through this…again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


A friend of mine recently came home to find that his house had been broken into and everything of value stolen.  He and his wife were very frightened by the event and felt debased.  The police did come to the house and took fingerprints but didn’t find anything conclusive.  He told me that they then found that another house in the development had also been hit.  So the fear has permeated his area.

I remember when I was young, my family and I came back from a vacation – I think to the shore.  We were gone a week and when we came back I remember that the back door was open.  I accused my mother of leaving the door unlocked but as she went up to her bedroom, she saw that the drawers in her bureau were taken out and overturned.  I can’t remember if much was stolen.  My brother’s room was a mess anyway so there was no way to tell, and my room didn’t appear to be touched.  I don’t think the enormity of the situation affected me then, but I do remember feeling somewhat violated that someone who I did not invite was in my house looking through our personal things.

When a crime like that happens it is very upsetting.  In cases like robbery, it is fortunate he and his family were not physically harmed but emotionally they are injured.  In other situations, like home invasions, many people suffer cuts and bruises to their bodies and while they will heal, the injury to the mind takes far longer.  My friend says they feel unsafe in their home now. 

I am angry for him and angry at the perpetrator who had to gall to do such a thing.  That person may or may not be caught and the valuables that my friend lost may or may not be replaced – some are irreplaceable to begin with.  But I can’t imagine having my sanctuary violated so that one would feel uncomfortable to be there any longer.   I can only hope he and his family’s scars heal fast and that even if they don’t recover much that he will feel secure once again. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


They say that change is good, and for some things I suppose it is.  It gives you a fresh perspective on things and allows you to review and look at the things you were doing in the past and compare it to the new thing.  It allows you to learn a new skill and I think I heard somewhere that it adds brain cells, which is always a good thing.  However, sometimes change is frustrating and leaves you feeling anxious.  Sometimes I just want the old way back.

My new phone, while an upgrade of the old phone, is similar but different.  There are things that I really liked about how the old phone worked.  For example I liked the way I could change the pictures for my contacts and not have to accept their Facebook status.  The new phone does not do that.  The DROID 2 has an interface that relies very heavily on the social media; you either tie you contact list to Facebook or Twitter.  I don’t want to be forced to do that.  There are many people who are my Facebook friends that I don’t want in my phone as my contact list.  It makes the list long and hard to go through.  However, there are hot keys that you can set up so that you can speed dial those who you use most.  I haven’t explored that feature too much yet, but I can imagine it would make my life a lot simpler.

There are things that are different that I really like.  For example the phone remembers things.  For example I have to dial into a conference call every night and last night I noticed that I entered the first few numbers and the rest of the number came up, which was really helpful.  Another feature that is cool is the video camera.  There are neat effects that you can use and it has a really bright light to us.  I don’t do a lot of video taking on my phone, but if I did those features could help me produce a really snazzy film.

So I am still finding out about this thing and some things I like and others give me a headache.  Still change is good and if learning about this new thing will add new brain cells, that is something that this old brain can really use.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today I found out that I was eligible for an upgrade to my phone.  For the last few months I have been noticing that my phone is acting a little slow and there were sometimes that my battery would die quicker that I thought it would normally. I did have the same model for the last two years, although the phone itself was replaced once.

So when I was at the Staples store I realized that I could replace it there as they have the contract with Verizon to activate it with the same provider and get the new phone.  So after some consideration I decided to take the leap and get the DROID 2.  I had the DROID 1 and really liked it and the 2 has the physical keyboard which really helps because for the life of me I can’t type on the virtual keyboard without feeling like I want to throw it out the window.  The sales person at the West Norriton store was very patient and helpful and got my phone up and running although it took a little longer that I thought it would.

So now I go again, learning a new phone.  The operating system is a little different that I was used to so I have to learn where things are and use new versions of the old apps that I use on the phone; Facebook. Twitter, Gmail, and the like.  Since the operating system is new, the apps act differently than on the old phone.  We shall see if an old dog really can learn new tricks.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer Squash Torta

What do you do with those really big zucchini that you forget in the garden?   A friend of mine passed along this recipe which is really good.

5 eggs
½ cup chopped onion
1 glove of garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1tsp marjoram
½ tsp dried thyme
¾ grated parmesan cheese
½ cup oil
5 cups of grated zucchini or summer squash
Salt and pepper
1 cup Bisquick

Peel skin of zucchini, peel skin, if desired then remove tem and trim blossom end, slice lengthwise in quarters and discard any large seeds, the grate the rest.  Place squash in a colander and allow to drain for no less than an hour or overnight in the refrigerator to get as much of the moisture out of the squash as possible before adding to other ingredients.

In a large board, beat eggs.  Add the rest of ingredients, blend well and pour into a 9x13 buttered casserole.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated, but don’t add Bisquick until right before you are going to bake it.

Sprinkle the top with 1/2 grated parmesan cheese and paprika

Bake at 350 for approximately 50 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Serves 10-12.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Gaul of Some People

My husband has made an interesting observation of drivers.  He says those that are in the wrong are often the ones who scream the loudest.  I have experienced this several times, the most recent being yesterday.

I was headed down a two way street which has stop signs on every block.  I was approaching a small one way street where a woman driving a minivan was coming to the intersection.  She stopped and saw that I had a stop sign and prepared to go.  As she turned the corner she cut the corner rather closely so that I had to stop short before I got to the intersection to avoid being hit.  I made threw up my hands in frustration as I slammed on my brakes and as she passed me she yelled out the window, “it’s a stop sign, can’t you see it?  It means stop, you b@*%#”.    I didn’t say anything back to her because I knew it was no good.  She felt she was right and you can’t reason with those kinds of people. 

I have seen this kind of thing over and over again.  People cause a near accident and then they give you the finger.  I think that is the basis of road rage incidents, like the one that was in the paper recently where a man shot another man on Markley Street last year.  People who are very hot headed refuse to acknowledge that another person is not the kind of person to argue with and things get out of hand.  But as long as there are people, these kinds of acts will occur.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Cat

I have a Maine Coon mix cat that is the light of my life.  He has some quirky habits like chewing on plastic but overall he has the gentlest nature animal I have ever seen.  Maine Coons generally are like that.  They are known as the gentle giants with personalities like dogs; friendly, outgoing, responsive, and playful.

My Maine Coon is named Simon.  My son says it’s because he is simple, but I just liked the name and had planned to name the cat that when I got him.  I went to Annapolis to get him from a rescue that I found on www.petfinder.org.  My husband couldn’t believe that I would travel that far for a cat, but now that he has experienced Simon for the last few years, he really appreciates him and I am sure that wouldn’t think it was strange now.  The rescue place was way out in the boonies and the owner made me swear I would not disclose the location.  I am sure it was because it is a private home with a barn that houses the cats and she probably did not want a lot of traffic.  The place was very clean and bright and it was very obvious that the animals were very well cared for.

Simon has been the source of many an amusing anecdote over the years and will continue to be.  As I said he has this weird habit of chewing on plastic.  If there is a plastic bag left on the floor, he will gnaw on it.  If there is a plastic toy it will have teeth marks on it as soon as it is received.  He also likes ribbon, which of course is very dangerous for cats.  If a balloon has a ribbon on it he will ferret it out and start upon it in seconds.  One really has to watch what is brought into the house for fear he will latch onto it and consume it in minutes.  It's just like having a toddler in the house...again.  He also loves the laundry basket and will sleep in it whether it is full or empty. 

The most endearing trait he has is that he will greet me at the door even single time I come home.  My husband has said that he has seen Simon lying on the floor of the kitchen, seemingly asleep, and then suddenly perk up and run to the front door minutes before I walk in.  If you have had a dislike for cats, experience a Maine Coon.  Maybe you will have a change of heart.  Maine Coons - dogs in cats clothing. 

Monday, August 8, 2011


I heard over the weekend that Montgomery County has called a drought even in the light of the recent rain.  I remember a long time ago, a saying that was going around “save water, shower with a friend”.  Although that can be fun, it’s not always practical, especially if you are living alone, or have different schedules with your significant other.  But I try to do my part by doing the following things:
  1. 1.       Turn the water off when you are brushing your teeth.
  2. 2.       Adopt a “let it mellow” philosophy.  I know that can be pretty rank, but in desperate times…
  3. 3.       Turn the water off in the shower between soap usage.  I usually get in and get my hair wet, turn off the water, shampoo, turn the water back on and rinse, then turn it back off to soap up and then turn on again to rinse.
  4. 4.       Use liquid soap so you don’t have to leave the water running washing your hands.
  5. 5.       Use a dishwasher if you have one.
  6. 6.       Go to a car wash that recycles its water.
  7. 7.       Save rainwater (such as it is) to water your plants.  You have to be careful with this one as it can breed mosquitoes, but if you cover the container with a fine mesh you can reduce it a little.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chicken and Spinach

Tried something new tonight and it came out pretty good.  I was watching Rachel Ray at the Dr's office and she was doing this thing with shallots cooked in olive oil, duck sauce, and soy sauce and then cooking that down and adding spinach and I thought about doing a similar thing.  

4 chicken thighs
1/2 bottle of Marsala cooking wine
Half a bag of baby spinach - washed

Put about three rotations of EVVO in a skillet.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown until crisp on a  high heat.  Turn the heat to medium and pour in the cooking wine and cover.  Cook until done and the wine is very reduced.  At the very last minute put the spinanch and just before it is totally wilted, serve.

I served with spaghetti with a little olive oil on it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Home Town

Often after you have lived in a certain area, most people tend to take a sense of pride or something.  I have lived in Norristown for over 20 years and I now call it home.  I am not from the area originally, but I am now.

The other day I met a person at a social event and when he heard that I was from Norristown he remarked that he was now working in Norristown and was not too pleased about it.  “What a dump”, he said to me, and went on to say that there was absolutely no place to eat.  He said that one gets tired of Mexican food after a while.  While there are a lot of Mexican places, there are other places if you care to look for them.  I left the conversation feeling somewhat offended as if he had insulted my very person.

Yes, Norristown has a ways to go but calling a dump I think is a little over the top.  Perhaps I am looking through rose colored glasses a bit, as is my nature.  I know that there are big plans to change things, but we did get somewhat slammed with the economy when things were just getting started and many municipalities are having issues.  Our main problem is the demographics of the area which is not something that will easily attract new businesses and people.  We have to work a little harder to go after those people and use the plan that we have in place, and make some new ones, to ensure that we have a variety of businesses that will attract people and ultimately residents who want to live in a walk able, sustainable community, while at the same time enforce the rules that will weed out the aspects of the community that cause issues. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Instant News

I was sitting in my temporary office in Norristown the other day waiting for my appointment to show up.  I heard fire sirens going off and I immediately went to my phone and tuned into my scanner app and pulled up the police scanner.  I then went to Twitter and saw that the reporter for the Norristown Patch reported that there was a fire on W Main St.  A few minutes later he posted a picture from the scene showing the firefighters outside the building reporting that the people had been evacuated and that it was an electrical fire.

Today it’s possible to get news as it happens. You can tune into the fire and police and hear what things are happening as they happen.  On a plane, you can tune into the cockpit and hear everything that is going on between the pilot and the tower.  So rather than getting in my car and following the sirens, which would surely get me in trouble or an accident, or both, I plug in my electronic devices and listen away.  It’s a wonder of technology and fun to do.  I must admit that I am a bit of an action junkie so this is right up my alley.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Tech Items Know Me

I read an article the other day about how the technical gadgets you have are getting to know you better.  I found it really interesting and not at all creepy because it is very convenient that my gadgets follow me around and understand where I am at any given point. Because of my new job I not always at the same place every day all day long.  I move around and my information moves around with me.  If I am in Abington, I can look at information on my phone that pertains to that area.  That makes it really helpful because I don’t know Abington very well.  I still need to use my navigational app to get me to the nearest coffee shop, for example. 

The article talks about what the gadgets do with the information.  For example they are talking about the fact that if you follow a certain band, and you get into an area that they are playing that your phone will alert you to the fact that you could catch them in person nearby.  I have heard of retail stores that are looking into texting when you get within a certain distance from their shop to tell you of new deals and things that could be of interest to you.  I am not sure that businesses are doing that now, but it seems like a good thing, if you are into that kind of thing.  I would love it if when I was at the grocery store they sent me coupons on the things I buy anyway.  I would hope that the stores would not do this unless you told them you wanted.  I can just hear my mother screaming about invasion of privacy if these random texts were sent without permission.

As time goes on and technology gets better, more of this personalized stuff is going to come about.  Personally I don’t have an issue with it if I can manage it.  What I really hate is going to websites that assume you want a particular content based on your location or previous browsing habits.  I do want to have some control over my life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Chance

I really want to give people a chance but I have no time for people who do not take responsibility for themselves.  The day before yesterday and yesterday were very disconcerting.  The place that I am working at is running an ad for part time work.  We are paying above minimum wage and okay, so it’s not the greatest job in the world, but it’s money and who can walk away from that?  So we put an ad in Craig’s List and several people respond to the ad and we call them in for interviews.  Out of the 7 people who called who I scheduled for interviews only one showed up.  Is it me?  If you are running late or you changed your mind call the person and let them know.  Don’t just not show up.  I mean really.

If you have a job offer, show up and be responsible.  Don’t waste the interviewer’s time sitting around waiting for you to show up.  If you get a job, do it or call and quit.  Don't waste the employers time sitting around waiting for you to be there.  I would think that this kind of stuff wouldn't need to be mentioned, but I suppose it does.