Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quest for the Near Past

It's been a while since I posted. For the past several months I've been concentrating on finishing and publishing my latest novel, The Journeys of Brothers.  

I've been interested in genealogy for over forty years, and if you count my conversations with my father's parents, his brother and his wife, my interest in the past goes back to childhood. They knew their parent's and grandparent's names. Children were named after these ancestors in a nearly specific order, always for someone who had passed on. 

The frustration one encounters in searching for ancestors is that there is little to no documentation for those who lived in Central and Eastern Europe before 1830. To sidestep this irritation, I have become more interested in how my ancestors lived rather than their name, date and place of birth. For lifestyle, there is abundant documentation.

In writing the novel I used the oral history that was shared by my father's mother and my father's sister in law. My mother also had bits and pieces that confirmed some of  what had been told to me. Women seem to know about family background more than men. What was surprising to me was to learn that my grandfather was supposed to go to Argentina with his brother, Ephraim, and not to Canada where he lived most of the rest of his life. Why did this happen? No one would say, but at any rate it provided a seed for one of several turning points in the novel.

Because their is so much rich material in developing the story that could not be included in the book, I decided to 'branch off' and create a blog devoted entirely to an elaboration of the story, an odyssey of two brothers. Please continue to follow me on


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pittsburgh and Detroit-A Tale of Two Cities


Detroit Decay


In the winter of 1954 Pittsburgh was about to celebrate its 200th anniversary. It was founded by the French in 1754 when they established a fort (Duquesne) at the point where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers merged to form the Ohio. As a jumping off place to the west, it became the focal point of battles between the French and British and is often cited as the place where the French-Indian or Seven Year War, started. In 1758 the British overwhelmed the fort, destroying it. The next year a new, heavily fortified fort was constructed and named in honor of William Pitt the elder.

Like Pittsburgh, Detroit began as a French colony, short name, Fort Detroit.(The year often cited was 1701, although there was a community there much earlier.) As in the case of Pittsburgh, Detroit was turned over to the British, officially, as the result of the Treaty of Paris that ended the French Indian War in 1763.

Both cities grew as industrial powerhouses, although Pittsburgh's start was earlier with the growth of the steel industry. Both cities had extremely dominant industries and both developed powerful labor unions.

A striking divergence occurred in 1954. Pittsburgh declared itself "The Renaissance City." The political leader, Mayor David Lawrence, and the financial leader, Richard King Mellon, as disparate a couple one would ever consider, recognized that the steel industry was declining and the city would have to promote the development of new industry to take its place. They also agreed that the defining character of the city, the smoke from industry, had to be reduced if new industry was to attract the talent needed to bring the city into the future.

Over the next decade, the city became the poster child for urban renewal (mostly privately financed) with focus on developing its education and health services and facilities. In 1963 I worked on a projected demography of Pittsburgh. The result indicated that over the period from 1964-94, the population would decrease in half, from 600,000 to 300,000 with only one of its wards (14) maintaining its population (about 50,000). This projection was remarkably accurate. Detroit experienced an unplanned decrease in population of about the same proportion as the white population found refuge from the decay of the central city by moving to the suburbs.

I remember my first experience in Detroit in 1987. I went for a walk from an office building at lunch only to find myself lost in an area of dilapidated houses with boarded windows, panhandlers, dope sellers and streets with broken pavement. Where were the leaders of industry? They were in a suburb called Gross Point, minding their mansions and their yachts on Lake Huron. Where were the political leaders? They saw their future, not in giving to Detroit, but with as much as they could take from Detroit.

Today, Pittsburgh is cited as one of the leading cities in America with a prosperous work force, relatively low unemployment, solid potential for graduates of its nationally recognized schools of higher learning and a sound system of public education.

Detroit is bankrupt.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tips for touring in Europe from two Seniors who "ain't so sprite!" - Part II: Highlights

Finding a great driver

Walking and walking and walking

The Art in Venice
     particularly liking the smaller museums

The Architecture in Vienna

Two outstanding tours in Vienna
      The Spanish Riding School Stables
       The Vienna Opera House

Hills and Steps in Praiano  - how the seniors do it - slowly


Tips for touring in Europe from two Seniors who "ain't so sprite!" - Part I: Planning!

We are on the final two days of a three week trip to Sorrento, Praiano on the Amalfi Coast, Venice and Vienna.  It's cold and snowy today and so we are not venturing out yet, deciding instead to write some thoughts related to this trip.

We've never liked tours so we tend to figure and plan things on our own. For this trip, planning was more challenging.  Not exactly sure why but the usual fun and researching seemed to be more complex and less clear. We found Trip Advisor extremely helpful and in fact the suggestions we took, especially in hotel and hotel reviews were excellent.  The reviews alerted us to some things to ask for.  An example was a review posted for Hotel Antiche Figure in Venice that indicated that they had arranged a porter to meet them at the train station to help carry their bags to the hotel for 5 Euro's per bag.  We emailed the hotel arranging for this and were so glad we did.  While it was just a short distance from the train station to the hotel it was over a high bridge of the Grand Canal with lots of steps. Definitely would have been stressful for us even though we had packed very light!

We also learned that it is best to contact the hotel directly to make the bookings rather than go through Expedia which we had used in the past.  When we decided to change our reservation in Venice to 4 nights instead of 5 we called Expedia several weeks in advance.  They indicated that we should just tell the hotel upon arrival and that they had let the hotel know.  We learned upon checkin that the hotel knew nothing about the change and that the reservation should have been modified.  If Expedia would send them a confirmation of the change immediately they could still modify the reservation without any charge to us.  Well ..... that took quite a few phone calls, much explaining, and cost about 20 Euro's in phoning to accomplish!  We won't be using Expedia again.  The hotel couldn't have been more cooperative.

A big shout out and thank you to all the people who take time to write reviews in  The little details made a big difference.  For example sharing about the quality of breakfasts proved important.  We prefer to take breakfast at the hotel we are staying at and the raves of good breakfasts were very accurate for both Hotel Antiche Figure in Venice and Hotel Antiche Mura in Sorrento.

We rarely go for a US chain hotel when traveling abroad. However, Murray is a long time Hilton Honor member and he suggested we look at the Vienna Hilton which is centrally located and has a very high rating. We did and decided to give it a try, and are glad we did.  We were upgraded to a wonderful room on the Executive Floor and treated beautifully. We also elected the breakfast option and again were very glad we did. By selecting and prepaying in advance the breakfast proved to be an excellent value. The cost would have been 29 Euros per person if choosing it upon arrival.  While it is a great buffet with lots of different choices.... 29 Euro's ($40) per person for breakfast is just not in our budget.

Please note that we make no reference to a hotel in Praiano. The Margherita was planned by a writer's conference that Murray was a part of for its location. It was mediocre. The shower was abysmal, "hot" water trickled out at a temperature of about 90 degrees and there was no way to avoid climbing two flights to get to our room. The personnel were great. Praiano is expensive and the setting is beautiful, but there is a lot more to choose from along the Almalfi coast.

We are glad that we did take our time to carefully plan our hotels.  Factors such as location, quality of rooms, friendly staff and outstanding breakfasts have contributed to our enjoyment of the trip.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Generic drug substitutes have wide variances

BEWARE: Not all generic substitutes are alike. The FDA allows a generic to be approved if it is 80% to 125% as effective as the brand it is copying. My own blood pressure went out of sight when MEDCO (now ExpressScripts) changed its approved generic. Since I monitor my BP, I caught the change within a few days and worked with my physician to find an appropriate other generic substitute. 
ExpressScripts requires that a physician write an explanation as to why its "lowest price to them generic" is not suitable (you pay the same co-pay no matter which generic is used). You can't tell them anything. However, you can use the local pharmacy.

The problem is called "bioavailability." The FDA permits generics to be approved if they provide the same benefit as the brand within a confidence interval of 90%-hence within 80% and 125% of the effectiveness of the brand. In terms of the active ingredient, both generics and brands can vary within a narrow band (95%-105%) so if you get a generic that has bioavailability of 80% and it happens to have a batch that contains only 95% of the active ingredient, the pill you are taking is only 76% as effective as the brand.
I'll also caution you on the one a day pill pop. The manufacturers want you to be consistent, so they bundle their formula and convince physicians to prescribe daily dosing. This is especially true of statins for high LDL cholesterol and can lead to side effects, especially muscle pain and worse. I have cut my dosage to twice a week, keeping my LDLs controlled and saving a bundle on the 50c a day CRESTOR pill I had been taking.

Learning Dye Sublimation: Fun Way to Put Art and Photo's on Gift Items

When we began showing our art and photo's at Hillside Market last July, one of the owners kept remarking on how much she loved the pastel kitchen goddesses she saw on my website and was there a way that I could do something with them. I didn't want to sell the originals so how to use them?  Then my friend Regina suggested I put them on tiles.  Good idea but again how.

Driving to Steamboat Springs, Colorado from our home in Santa Fe, we stopped in Buena Vista exploring various shops and discovered Rock Run Gallery.  The owner/artist, Nora Larimar was putting her watercolor art work on tiles.  We had a lovely conversation and she graciously shared the process she was using and how I could find out more about it.

I googled dye sublimation and visited several websites explaining how to do it.  The best explanations were at a supplier.  They have video's that are helpful and I placed an order with them.  Much to my delight I was up and running within a few days of receiving the printer and heat press.  And the fun began and continues.

Images of pastel paintings that were sitting on a shelf, unframed and which I like very much are now on trivets and coasters (ceramic tiles) and on tea towels.  Murray's photographs and some of my oils are also great images to put on gift items.

Over the past few months we have seen several images receive repeated sales from the goddesses to sunflowers to Murray's photo of the Chama River.

It is great fun to come up with different images to fit a time of the year or a holiday.  For example we are featuring this rose on trivets and coasters for Valentine Day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Turning 70 - Vision for this Decade

Yesterday was my 70th Birthday.  Somehow that number seems overwhelming.  Rarely have I given much thought to my age.  But the past few days, as my birthday approached, I found myself getting quieter, to myself and a bit down.  Last night I attended a program of New Mexico Women in Film on Social Media. And to my delight I found myself re-energized, enthusiastic and looking forward to entering this decade with an exciting reworking of my mission and vision!

Besides family and friends, my life is focused on two passions: my work as a visual artist; and my role as President, Producer/Co-Director of Healing Voices-Personal Stories.

As a visual artist I see myself striving to create outstanding paintings that celebrate nature and abstract works inspired by music.  While my originals are created mainly in oils I have recently discovered dye sublimation enabling me to print some of my original art on tiles that sell at affordable prices.  I'll be sharing more about that in future blogs.  I'm showing both my originals and copies on tiles and tea towels at The Hillside Market in Santa Fe.

As President of Healing Voices-Personal Stories I am committed to creating films about domestic violence survivors as models for victims.  Key goals are to increase public awareness of domestic violence and to help victims to find a way out to rebuild their lives.

How exciting to have these two passions in my life and to know that as I enter this new decade I can do so with a renewed enthusiasm.  A special thank you to Robin Roffer, Kalyn Bastion of Social Media Pathways and Jordan Guenther, digital media manager of the New Mexico Tourism Office, for their excellent presentation last evening.