Total Pageviews

Thursday, March 31, 2022


--The Pilbara in northwestern Australia exposes some of the oldest rocks on Earth, over 3.6 billion years old. The iron-rich rocks formed before the presence of atmospheric oxygen, and life itself. 

Found upon these rocks are 3.45 billion-year-old fossil stromatolites, colonies of microbial cyanobacteria. The image is a composite of ASTER bands 4-2-1 displayed in RGB. 

With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of about 50 to 300 feet (15 to 90 meters), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet and is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on the Terra satellite. 

The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for the validation and calibration of the instrument and data products. 

The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change. 

Example applications are monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance. 

 Image Credit: NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022


German citizens flock to railway stations to greet incoming Ukrainian refugees with offers of housing.


Thank you!

Tuesday, March 29, 2022



Even the leader of the free world deserves a few minutes to relax.  Here's President Joe Biden with his Secret Service detail from last summer.

Monday, March 28, 2022


 Russ Snow, a long time farmer in the Highland Valley, picks avocados on his farm between Ramona and Escondido on March 11, 2022. (Sandy Huffaker/inewsource) 

GUEST BLOG / By Camille von Kaenel,
--Farmers in the Highland Valley between Ramona and Escondido are fighting their water district over a plan to force them to pay thousands of dollars to switch the type of water they use to irrigate their crops — or else go without the water. 

The plan is now mired in a delay of almost two years as the Ramona Municipal Water District considers the risk it will get sued and the impacts on its fire hydrant system. Russ Snow, who grows avocados on four acres in the Highland Valley, said the cost of the switch might make him stop farming altogether. 

He said he’s already just “hanging on” as the rising price of water and the effects of climate change including wildfires make it harder to farm. “It’s just kind of an end of an era, for me, and I share the frustration of a lot of farmers in this state that we’re kind of being pushed out,” Snow said. 

He places the future of his grove largely at the mercy of the Ramona Municipal Water District, one of 17 agencies in the San Diego region that exists exclusively to sell imported water to businesses and residents in mostly unincorporated areas through an expensive system of pipelines, pumps and storage tanks. 

In the Highland Valley, providing farmers with untreated water to irrigate their crops, including avocados and grapes, is no longer operationally or economically viable, according to a study paid for by the Ramona Water Municipal District. The study determined that maintaining and repairing the untreated water system would cost around $42 million above the amount the district is planning to get from current sales of the untreated water. 

The sales have dropped 91% from 2002 to 2019, in part due to destruction from a wildfire and in part due to the high price of water also hitting other San Diegans. 

The district’s board of directors, who are locally elected, decided in July 2020 to decommission the entire untreated water system. In letters, the district told roughly 140 metered customers that their untreated water would be turned off and that they needed to decide whether to convert to the treated water system to continue receiving water. 

Switching to treated water would cost customers between $3,162 and $7,500 or more based on the size of the existing meter, according to the conversion form. The money would cover the cost of a new treated water meter and the installation of new pipes to connect to the system. 

Seventy-five customers have chosen to convert to the treated water system or disconnected their meter from the untreated water system so far, according to a district spokesperson. 

But some of the farmers are refusing to pay, saying they have already paid for their water infrastructure through a tax levied through an assessment district in 1979. They are asking whether forcing them to pay the conversion cost is legal and calling for the district to reconnect them to water free of charge once their untreated water service is turned off. 

Citing ongoing discussions and developments, the board of directors has pushed back the deadline for customers to make their choice twice from July 2021 to March 2023. 

Craig Schmollinger, the Ramona Municipal Water District’s interim general manager, told inewsource the changes to the water service would avoid having to pass on millions of dollars in costs to customers, including farmers. 

“It just wasn’t tenable for them, especially with the small incremental increase in cost for treated water purchase versus untreated water,” Schmollinger said about the farmers’ use of the untreated water system. “It’s an overall savings, and the board recognized that a dual system didn’t seem to make a lot of sense for that reason.” 

The untreated water system serves roughly 1% of the district’s 9,800-meter connections, yet the costs of maintaining and repairing the system are more than the costs associated with repairing and maintaining the treated water system, he said. 

Meanwhile, the rate for treated water is only slightly higher than the rate for untreated water. 

Avocados are pictured on a San Diego County farm in the Highland Valley between Ramona and Escondido. (Sandy Huffaker/inewsource) 

Schmollinger said that farmers aren’t losing a service – they’re getting a different type of service. As for the fee to reconnect to treated water, the district called it a “limited cost” in a letter to customers. 

The water district’s board of directors considered who should pay for the cost of the conversion and decided that the customers should because it’s a private benefit on private property, Schmollinger said. 

But some of the farmers disagree. 

Snow and three other farmers in the region sent a four-page letter to their neighbors outlining their concerns. They argued that the switch is a general benefit to the whole district because of the overall savings it is likely to generate for all customers. They also point to the district’s own code, which says that “if any water main is replaced, relocated or extended, any metered connection to such water main existing at the time of such replacement, relocation or extension, which is replaced in kind, shall be exempt from the payment of any connection charge.” 

 Schmollinger said in an email to inewsource that the rules referenced by the farmers does not apply to the area of the district impacted by the conversion Snow and the other farmers urged neighbors who had already paid to ask for a refund. 

Snow paints the fight over who should pay for the conversion as an example of how the country and the region aren’t doing enough to help small farmers like him survive or recognize the contributions farmers have made to build up water infrastructure. 

His family is closely tied to the Highland Valley, where rolling hills between Poway, Ramona and Escondido are now dotted with a mix of avocado groves, wineries, farms and homes. 

Snow’s grandfather bought a 360-acre ranch in the Highland Valley in the 1950s and was among a group that petitioned the Ramona Municipal Water District to first extend its water service to the area, paving the way for more thirsty crops including avocados. 

As agriculture grew in the valley, that water service wasn’t going to be enough. In 1979, the Ramona Municipal Water District decided to build an untreated water system to reduce the pressure on the treated water system. 

In October of 2007, wildfires tore through the area, killing two people and burning more than 1,000 homes. They also damaged 2,700 acres of farms including nurseries and orchards and caused $24 million in losses in avocados alone. 

Snow, who purchased property near his father’s ranch, had to abandon 10 of his 14 acres of avocado trees. The stumps had burned underground, he recalled. 

San Diego growers also struggle with the increasing price of water, which has led some to change their crops. The county’s number of acres of avocados declined 28% between 2011 and 2021, according to the California Avocado Commission, and it ceded its spot as top avocado producer in the state to Ventura County, where water is cheaper. 

Boutique wineries relying on the less-thirsty grape have increasingly popped up in the Highland Valley. Yet the San Diego County agriculture industry remains a powerful economic force, bringing in $1.8 billion in 2020, primarily from nurseries and cut flowers but also from avocados, vegetables and citrus. 

Snow tends to his four remaining acres of avocado trees by himself, picking the fruit and selling them to a packing house in the valley. “My family has been farming in this state since the Gold Rush and I’ll be the last one,” Snow said. “That’s tough.” 

He’s considering replanting some of the avocado trees that burned during the wildfire, but he is concerned he will have to pay extra connection fees that did not previously apply for the use of the additional water. 

By one calculation, he estimated he would have to pay roughly $42,000 in fees to pull out the amount of water he needs for one acre of avocados. Snow said he wants the Ramona Municipal Water District to cover the cost of the conversion and to grandfather in agricultural users who may want to increase their water consumption. 

Customers of water districts have few recourses to correct treatment they think is unfair. Snow said his options were voting for new board members or suing the board, which he said operates without any real oversight. 

Edward Lopez, the executive director of the Utility Consumers’ Advocacy Network, pointed out that as independent local governing agencies, municipal water districts are not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission and can make their own decisions regarding costs and services. 

Lopez said water districts, which are governed by an elected board, must provide public notice for decisions and provide customers the opportunity to weigh in. The Ramona Municipal Water District held an informational workshop in May last year, in addition to considering the topic at several board meetings, sending letters and posting information on its website. 

Water districts are also bound by their own rules, which, Lopez noted, the farmers and the district appear to be interpreting differently. But he could not comment in detail about the disagreement because he is not directly familiar with the issue. “I certainly empathize with any customer facing rate shock or fees they didn’t previously have to pay,” Lopez said. 

There is one local government watchdog agency that has some oversight power over water districts. The agency, called the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, reviewed the Ramona Municipal Water District last year as part of a standard multi-year process, but the report does not mention the water troubles facing the farmers, which some of them found frustrating. 

Executive director Keene Simonds told inewsource the omission in the municipal review was a possible error. He said he could look more into it and prepare an addendum if ratepayers or the district formally requested it. LAFCO’s oversight role is otherwise limited. 

The agency mainly deals with adjusting jurisdictional boundaries and managing growth and does have the power to consolidate or dissolve a special district such as a water district if it has “lost its way.” Simonds added that accommodating and supporting agriculture is increasingly more pertinent to the organization as it considers maintaining economic vitality. “This is a weighty topic with a lot of layers,” Simonds wrote in an email. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022


ABOVE: “‘It didn’t get popular,’ said Hart, ‘because Verdi didn’t know rhythm.’” Illustration by American artist J. W. McGurk (1886–1939), for Ring Lardner’s story “Rhythm” in the March 1926 issue of Cosmopolitan. 

                                    A Short Story from the public domain. 

GUEST BLOG / By Ring Lardner, Sr.—This story is slightly immoral, but so, I guess, are all stories based on truth. It concerns, principally, Harry Hart, whose frankness and naturalness were the traits that endeared him to fellow members of the Friars’ Club and all red-blooded she-girls who met him in and out of show business. 

 Music writers have never been noted for self-loathing and Harry was a refreshing exception to the general run. That was before “Upsy Daisy” began its year’s tenancy of the Casino. You can judge what sort of person he was by listening in on a talk he had at the club one night with Sam Rose, lyricist of “Nora’s Nightie,” “Sheila’s Shirt” and a hundred popular songs. 

They were sitting alone at the table nearest the senile piano. “Sam,” said Harry, “I was wondering if they’s a chance of you and I getting together.” 

“What’s happened to Kane?” asked Sam. 

“It’s off between he and I,” Harry replied. “That dame ruined him. I guess she married him to make an honest man of him. Anyways, he got so honest that I couldn’t stand it no more. You know how I am, Sam—live and let live. I don’t question nobody’s ethics or whatever you call them, as long as they don’t question mine. We’re all trying to get along; that’s the way I look at it. At that, I’ve heard better lyrics than he wrote for those two rhythm numbers of mine in ‘Lottie’; in fact, between you and I, I thought he made a bum out of those two numbers. They sold like hymns, so I was really able to bear up when we reached the parting of the ways. 

 “But I’ll tell you the climax just to show you how silly a guy can get. You remember our ‘Yes, Yes, Eulalie.’ Well, they was a spot for a swell love duet near the end of the first act and I had a tune for it that was a smash. You know I’m not bragging when I say that; I don’t claim it as my tune, but it was and is a smash. I mean the ‘Catch Me’ number.” 

“I’ll say it’s a smash!” agreed Sam. 

 “But a smash in spite of the words,” said Harry. 

“You’re right,” said Sam. “Well, the first time I played this tune for him, he went nuts over it and I gave him a lead sheet and he showed it to his wife. It seems she plays piano a little and she played this melody and she told him I had stole it from some opera; she thought it was ‘Gioconda,’ but she wasn’t sure. So the next day Kane spoke to me about it and I told him it wasn’t ‘Gioconda’; it was Donizetti’s ‘Linda di Chamounix.’ 

Well, he said he didn’t feel like it was right to work on a melody that had been swiped from somewhere. 

So I said, ‘Ain’t it kind of late for you to be having all those scruples?’ 

So he said, ‘Maybe it is, but better late than never.’ 

So I said, ‘Listen, Benny—this is your wife talking, not you.’ 

And he said, ‘Let’s leave her out of this,"

And I said, ‘I wished to heaven we could.’ “I said, ‘Benny, you’ll admit that’s a pretty melody,’ and he said yes, he admitted it. So I said: ‘Well, how many of the dumb-bells that goes to our shows has ever heard “Linda di Chamounix” or ever will hear it? When I put this melody in our troupe I’m doing a million people a favor; I’m giving them a chance to hear a beautiful piece of music that they wouldn’t never hear otherwise. Not only that, but they’ll hear it at its best because I’ve improved it.’ 

So Benny said, ‘The first four bars is exactly the same and that’s where people will notice.’ 

 “So then I said: ‘Now listen here, Benny—up to the present you haven’t never criticized my music and I haven’t criticized your lyrics. But now you say I’m a tune thief. I don’t deny it, but if I wasn’t, you’d of had a sweet time making a living for yourself, let alone get married. However, laying that to one side, I was over to my sister’s house the other night and she had a soprano singer there and she sung a song something about “I love you, I love you; ’tis all my heart can say.” It was a mighty pretty song and it come out about twenty or thirty years ago.’ 

 “So then Benny said, ‘What of it?’ So I said, ‘Just this: I can recall four or five lyrics of yours where “I love you” comes in and I bet you’ve used the words “heart” and “say” and “all” at least twice apiece during your remarkable career as a song writer. Well, did you make those words up or did you hear them somewhere?’ That’s what I said to him and of course he was stopped. But his ethics was ravaged just the same and it was understood we’d split up right after ‘Eulalie.’ And as I say, his words wasn’t no help to my Donizetti number; they’d of slayed it if it could of been slayed.” 

“Well?” said Sam. 

 “Well,” said Harry, “Conrad Green wired me yesterday to come and see him, so I was up there today. He’s so dumb that he thinks I’m better than Friml. And he’s got a book by Jack Prendergast that he wanted Kane and I to work on. So I told him I wouldn’t work with Kane and he said to get who I wanted. So that’s why I gave you a ring.” 

 “It sounds good to me,” said Sam. “How is the book?” “I only skimmed it through, but I guess it’s all right. It’s based on ‘Cinderella,’ so what with that idea combined with your lyrics and my tunes, it looks like we ought to give the public a novelty at least.” “Have you got any new tunes?” 

“New?” Hart laughed. “I’m dirty with them.” He sat down at the piano. “Get this rhythm number. If it ain’t a smash, I’m Gatti-Casazza! He played it, beautifully, first in F sharp—a catchy refrain that seemed to be waltz time in the right hand and two-four in the left. “It’s pretty down here, too,” he said, and played it again, just as surely, in B natural, a key whose mere mention is henbane to the average pianist. 

“A wow!” enthused Sam Rose. “What is it?” 

 “Don’t you know?” 

 “The Volga boat song.” 

 “No,” said Hart. “It’s part of Aïda’s number when she finds out the fella is going to war. And nobody that comes to our shows will spot it except maybe Deems Taylor and Alma Gluck.” 

 “It’s so pretty,” said Sam, “that it’s a wonder it never goes popular.” 

CRONIES. Sportswriters Grantland Rice (2nd from left and Ring Lardner (2nd from right) pose with U.S. President Warren G. Harding (far left) and Harding’s Under Secretary of State Henry P. Fletcher (far right).

“The answer is that Verdi didn’t know rhythm!” said Hart. 

Or go back and observe our hero at the Bucks’ house on Long Island. Several of the boys and girls were there and thrilled to hear that Harry Hart was coming. He hardly had time to taste his first cocktail before they were after him to play something. “Something of your own!” pleaded the enraptured Helen Morse. “If you mean something I made up,” he replied with engaging frankness, “why, that’s impossible; not exactly impossible, but it would be the homeliest tune you ever listened to. However, my name is signed to some mighty pretty things and I’ll play you one or two of those.” 

 Thus, without the conventional show of reluctance, Harry played the two “rhythm numbers” and the love-song that were making Conrad Green’s “Upsy Daisy” the hit of the season. And he was starting in on another, a thing his informal audience did not recognize, when he overheard his hostess introducing somebody to Mr. Rudolph Friml. “Good night!” exclaimed Hart. “Let somebody play that can play!” 

And he resigned his seat at the piano to the newcomer and moved to a far corner of the room. “I hope Friml didn’t hear me,” he confided to a Miss Silloh. “I was playing a thing he wrote himself and letting you people believe it was mine.” Or catch him in the old days at a football game with Rita Marlowe of Goldwyn. One of the college bands was playing “Yes, Sir! That’s My Baby!” “Walter Donaldson. There’s the boy that can write the hits!” said Hart. 

“Just as if you couldn’t!” said his companion. “I don’t class with him,” replied her modest escort. 

 Later on, Rita remarked that he must have been recognized by people in the crowd. Many had stared. “Let’s not kid ourselves, girlie,” he said. “They’re staring at you, not me.” Still later, on the way home from the game, he told her he had saved over $25,000 and expected to average at least $40,000 a year income while his vogue lasted. 

 “I’m good as long as I don’t run out of pretty tunes,” he said, “and they’s no reason why I should with all those old masters to draw from. I’m telling you my financial status because—well, I guess you know why.” 

 Rita did know, and it was the general opinion, shared by the two principals, that she and Harry were engaged. When “Upsy Daisy” had been running two months and its hit numbers were being sung, played, and whistled almost to cloyment, Hart was discovered by Spencer Deal. That he was the pioneer in a new American jazz, that his rhythms would revolutionize our music—these things and many more were set forth by Deal in a four-thousand-word article called “Harry Hart, Harbinger,” printed by the erudite Webster’s Weekly. And Harry ate it up, though some of the words nearly choked him. Interesting people were wont to grace Peggy Leech’s drawing-room on Sunday afternoons. Max Reinhardt had been there. Reinald Werrenrath had been there. So had Heifetz and Jeritza and Michael Arlen, and Noel Coward and Dudley Malone. And Charlie Chaplin, and Gene Tunney. 

In fact, Peggy’s Sunday afternoons could be spoken of as salons and her apartment as a hot-bed of culture. It was to Peggy’s that Spencer Deal escorted Hart a few weeks after the appearance of the article in Webster’s. Deal, in presenting him, announced that he was at work on a “blue” symphony that would make George Gershwin’s ultra rhythms and near dissonants sound like the doxology. 

“Oh!” exclaimed pretty Myra Hampton. “Will he play some of it for us?” “Play, play, play!” said Hart querulously. “Don’t you think I ever want a rest! Last night it was a party at Broun’s and they kept after me and wouldn’t take ‘No’ and finally I played just as rotten as I could, to learn them a lesson. But they didn’t even know it was rotten. What do you do for a living?” 

 “I’m an actress,” confessed the embarrassed young lady. “Well, would you like it if, every time you went anywhere socially, people asked you to act?” 

 “Yes,” she answered, but he had moved away. He seemed to be seeking seclusion; sat down as far as possible from the crowd and looked hurt. He accepted a highball proffered by his hostess, but neglected to thank her. Not a bit discouraged, she brought him Signor Parelli of the Metropolitan. 

 “Mr. Hart,” she said, “this is Mr. Parelli, one of the Metropolitan’s conductors.” “Yay?” said Hart. “Perhaps some day Mr. Parelli will conduct one of your operas.” “I hope so,” said the polite Parelli. “Do you?” said Hart. “Well, if I ever write an opera, I’ll conduct it myself, or at least I won’t take no chance of having it ruined by a foreigner.” The late war increased people’s capacity for punishment and in about twenty minutes Peggy’s guests began to act as if they would live in spite of Harry’s refusal to perform. In fact, one of them, Roy Lattimer, full of Scotch courage and not so full of musical ability, went to the piano himself and began to play. 

 “Began” is all, for he had not completed four bars before Hart plunged across the room and jostled him off the bench. “I hope you don’t call yourself a pianist!” he said, pronouncing it as if it meant a cultivator of, or dealer in, peonies. And for two hours, during which everybody but Spencer Deal and the unfortunate hostess walked out on him, Harry played and played and played. Nor in all that time did he play anything by Kern, Gershwin, Stephen Jones, or Isham Jones, Samuels, Youmans, Friml, Stamper, Tours, Berlin, Tierney, Hubbell, Hein, or Gitz-Rice. 

 It was during this epoch that Harry had occasion one day to walk up Fifth Avenue from Forty-fifth Street to the Plaza. He noticed that almost everyone he passed on the line of march gazed at him intently. He recalled that his picture had been in two rotogravure sections the previous Sunday. It must have been a better likeness than he had thought. New York was burning soft coal that winter and when Hart arrived in the Plaza wash-room he discovered a smudge on the left side of his upper lip. It made him look as if he had had a mustache, had decided to get it removed and then had changed his mind when the barber was half through. Harry’s date at the Plaza was with Rita Marlowe. He had put it off as long as he could. If the girl had any pride or sense, she’d have taken a hint. Why should he waste his time on a second-rate picture actress when he was hobnobbing with women like Elinor Deal and Thelma Warren and was promised an introduction to Mrs. Wallace Gerard? Girls ought to know that when a fella who has been taking them out three and four times a week and giving them a ring every morning, night and noon between whiles—they ought to know that when a fella stops calling them up and taking them out and won’t even talk to them when they call up, there is only one possible answer. 

Yet this dame insists on you meeting her and probably having a scene. Well, she’ll get a scene. No, she won’t. No use being brutal. Just make it apparent in a nice way that things ain’t like they used to be and get it over as quick as possible. “Where can we go?” asked Rita. “I mean, to talk.” 

 “Nowheres that’ll take much time,” said Harry. 

“I’ve got a date with Paul Whiteman to look over part of my symphony.” “I don’t want to interrupt your work,” said Rita. “Maybe it would be better if you came up to the house tonight.” 

 “I can’t tonight,” he told her. 

 “When can you?” 

 “I’ll give you a ring. It’s hard to get away. You see——” 

 “I think I do,” said Rita, and left him. 

 “About time,” said Harry to himself. His symphony went over fairly “big.” The critics seemed less impressed than with the modern compositions of Gershwin and Deems Taylor. “But then,” Harry reflected, “Gershwin was ahead of me and of course Taylor has friends on the paper.” 

 A party instigated by Spencer Deal followed the concert and Harry met Mrs. Wallace Gerard, who took a great interest in young composers and had been known to give them substantial aid. 

Hart accepted an invitation to play to her at her Park Avenue apartment. He made the mistake of thinking she wanted to be petted, not played to, and his first visit was his last. 

 He had been engaged by Conrad Green to do the music for a new show, with a book by Guy Bolton. He balked at working again with Sam Rose, whose lyrics were hopelessly proletarian. 

Green told him to pick his own lyricist and Harry chose Spencer Deal. The result of the collaboration was a score that required a new signature at the beginning of each bar, and a collection of six-syllable rhymes that has as much chance of being unriddled, let alone sung, by chorus girls as a pandect on biotaxy by Ernest Boyd. 

 “Terrible!” was Green’s comment on advice of his musical adviser, Frank Tours. 

 “You’re a fine judge!” said Hart. “But it don’t make no difference what you think. Our contract with you is to write music and lyrics for this show and that’s what we’ve done. If you don’t like it, you can talk to my lawyer.” 

 “Your lawyer is probably one of mine, too,” replied Green. “He must be if he practises in New York. But that is neither here or there. If you think you can compel me to accept a score which Tours tells me that if it was orchestrated, Stokowski himself couldn’t even read the triangle part, to say nothing of lyrics which you would have to ring up every night at seven o’clock to get the words in the opening chorus all pronounced in time for Bayside people to catch the one-twenty train—well, Hart, go along home now, because you and I are going to see each other in court every day for the next forty years.” 

 A year or so later, Harry’s total cash on hand and in bank amounted to $214.60, including the $56 he had cleaned up on the sale of sheet music and mechanical records of his symphony. He read in the Sunday papers that Otto Harbach had undertaken a book for Willis Merwin and the latter was looking around for a composer. 

Merwin was one of the younger producers and had been a pal of Harry’s at the Friars’. Hart sought him there. 

He found Merwin and came to the point at once. “It’s too late,” said the young entrepreneur. “I did consider you at first, but—well, I didn’t think you were interested now in anything short of oratorio. The stuff you used to write would have been great, but this piece couldn’t stand the ponderous junk you’ve been turning out lately. It needs light treatment and I’ve signed Donaldson and Gus Kahn.” 

 “Maybe I could interpolate——” Harry began. 

 “I don’t believe so,” Merwin interrupted. “I don’t recall a spot where we could use either a fugue or a dirge.” 

 On his way out, Hart saw Benny Kane, his collaborator of other years. Benny made as if to get up and greet him, but changed his mind and sank back in his sequestered chair. “He don’t look as cocky as he used to,” thought Harry, and wished that Kane had been more cordial. “What I’ll have to do is turn out a hit song, just to tide me over. Of course I can write the words myself, but Benny had good idears once in a while.” Hart stopped in at his old publishers’ where, in the halcyon days, he had been as welcome as more beer at the Pastry Cooks’ Ball. He had left them for a more esthetic firm at the suggestion of Spencer Deal. 

 “Well, Harry,” said Max Wise, one of the partners, “you’re quite a stranger. We don’t hear much of you lately.” “Maybe you will again,” said Hart. “What would you say if I was to write another smash?” 

 “I’d say,” replied Wise, “that it wasn’t any too soon.” 

 “How would you like to have me back here?” 

 “With a smash, yes. Go get one and you’ll find the door wide open. Who are you working with?” 

 “I haven’t nobody.” 

 “You could do a lot worse,” said Wise, “than team up again with Benny Kane. You and him parting company was like separating Baltimore and Ohio or pork and beans.” “He hasn’t done nothing since he left me,” said Hart. 

 “No,” replied Wise, “but you can’t hardly claim to have been glutting the country with sensations yourself!” 

 Hart went back to his hotel and wished there was no such thing as pride. He’d like to give Benny a ring. He answered the telephone and recognized Benny’s voice. “I seen you at the Friars’ today,” said Benny, “and it reminded me of an idea. Where could we get together?” 

 “At the club,” Harry replied. “I’ll be there in a half-hour.” 

 “I was thinking,” said Benny, when they were seated at the table near the piano, “that nobody has wrote a rhythm song lately about ‘I love you’; that is, not in the last two or three months. And one time you was telling me about being over to your sister’s and they was a soprano there that sung a song that went ‘I love you, I love you; ’tis all my heart can say.’ ” 

 “What of it?” 

 “Well,” said Benny, “let’s take that song and I’ll just fix up the words a little and you can take the tune and put it into your rhythm and we’re all set. That is, if the tune’s o. k. What is it like?” 

 “Oh, ‘Arcady’ and ‘Marcheta’ and maybe that ‘Buzz Around’ song of Dave Stamper’s. But then, what ain’t?” 

 “Well, let’s go to it.” 

 “Where is your ethics?” 

 “Listen,” said Benny Kane—“I and Rae was talking this afternoon, and we didn’t disgust ethics. She was just saying she thought that all God’s children had shoes except her.” 

 “All right,” said Hart. “I can remember enough of the tune. But I’ll look the song up tomorrow and give it to you and you can rewrite the words.” 

 “Fine! And now how about putting on the feed bag?” 

 “No,” said Harry. “I promised to call up a dame.” Whereupon he kept his ancient promise. 

 “You’ve got a lot of nerve,” said Rita at the other end of the wire, “imagining a girl would wait for you this long. And I’d say ‘No’ and say it good and loud, except that my piano has just been tuned and you’ve never played me your symphony.” 

 “I ain’t going to, neither,” said Harry. “But I want to try out a new rhythm number that ought to be a smash. It starts off ‘I love you, I love you.’ ” 

Saturday, March 26, 2022


Lviv's Coffee Mining & Manufacturing
GUEST BLOG / By Pete R writing for Lviv is the true cultural capital of Ukraine. With its many cozy and atmospheric coffee houses, mysterious-looking decors, and the charming culture of independence and entrepreneurship, Lviv is by far one of the best places in Ukraine to go cafe-hopping and explore the authentic and vibrant cafe-culture that is no longer easy to come by in Central and Eastern Europe. 


Thursday, March 24, 2022


Polite Provisions in San Diego’s historic North Park neighborhood 

Yesterday was National Cocktail Day. Hmm. A holiday worthy of my former self. Ah, misguided youth. Since then and long ago the proverbial universe put forth an edict: thou shalt not drink booze. For 36 years I obeyed and continue to toe the line. 

 Congratulations to those of you who are blessed with at least a modicum of self-control and the ability to imbibe in moderation.  Here is a salute to a few establishments (15) in my hometown of San Diego. I toast you with my glass of cranberry juice, neat. 

Cheers (research from Yelp!)  Let’s toast to National Cocktail Day for the rest of the week! So, raise your highball glass. Or your rocks. Or your mug. No matter the glass shape, the drink inside should be delicious. Bars all around you are celebrating, and we’ve added some local favorites to this collection. Don't forget to check the business pages for their latest health & safety measures, such as contactless payment, mask requirements and changes in operational hours. 

CLICK HERE for list. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


Gando Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso, 2001
Last week’s Ides of March turned out to be a terrific day for architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, HFAIA, who was named the winner of the 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize according to Tom Pritzker, Chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award that is regarded internationally as architecture’s highest honor. 

Diébédo Francis Kéré, HFAIA
Kéré, 56, a native of Gando, Burskina Faso whose practice was founded and remains based in Berlin. Germany, was trained as a carpenter in his hometown. He designed his first building, a school in Gando, while still an architecture student. 

The prize jury said Kéré's work contributes "local, national, regional and global dimensions in a very personal balance of grass roots experience, academic quality, low tech, high tech, and truly sophisticated multiculturalism.” 

Pritzker added, “Francis Kéré is pioneering architecture - sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants – in lands of extreme scarcity. He is equally architect and servant, improving upon the lives and experiences of countless citizens in a region of the world that is at times forgotten. Through buildings that demonstrate beauty, modesty, boldness and invention, and by the integrity of his architecture and geste, Kéré gracefully upholds the mission of this Prize.” 

Startup Lions Campus, Turkana County, Kenya 2021

Kéré has become the first African to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize. He told BBC he was "very happy, very proud. It was a huge surprise." 

But his decades-long journey to the top of his field was far from a straight line.  There was limited opportunities in his village. "I grew up in a community where there was no kindergarten, but where community was your family and I remember the room where my grandmother would sit and tell stories with a little light, while we would huddle close to each other and her voice inside the room enclosed us, summoning us to come closer and form a safe place. This was my first sense of architecture," he said. 

Founded by Francis Kéré in 2005, with a dual focus on design and social commitment, his studio's scope encompasses building, design and knowledge sharing. “Architecture is primarily a service to humanity,” says Kere. 

National Park of Mali, Bamako, Mali, 2010
Surgical Clinic & Health Centre, Leo, Burkina Faso, 2014

Serpentine Pavilion, London, 2017

Burkina Institute of Technology, Koudougou, Burkina Faso, 2020

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


SURF CRASHER. A St. Augustine High School photographer in San Diego, California captured this fun shot of a recent dual meet with Mission Bay High. Being an official league meet, local surfer “Lucille” was not eligible for style points but did score points for being one happy seal in the surf on the first day of spring. [photo:]


Monday, March 21, 2022


First Day of Summer in Finland

Finland was named the world’s happiest country for the fourth year running, according to a 2022 United Nations world happiness report. 

Let’s enjoy this wonderful country while we can given its bellicose neighbor could cause WWIII any day. 

Here are reasons why Finland is so happy, says 

1. Design savvy 

The national Finnish broadcasting agency, YLE, recently featured construction progress on our the first Niliaitta cabins, one piece of the larger accommodation and tourism concept we designed and developed for the Kivijärvi municipality here in Finland. The overall intent with the accommodation concept is to drive tourism to the remote area in a sustainable way that does not impede on the local nature, but rather celebrates it. 

2. And the most eco-friendly Finland has tremendous green credentials. 

In fact, it ranked top in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, which handed Finland a rating of 90.68, beating its nearest rival Iceland (90.51), and neighbour Sweden (90.43). The report, commissioned by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said: “Finland’s goal of consuming 38 percent of their final energy from renewable sources by 2020 is legally binding, and they already produce nearly two-thirds of their electricity from renewable or nuclear power sources.” Nice one, Finland. 

3. Nowhere in Europe has more trees 

Finland has more forest per square mile than any country in Europe, and the 11th most in the world. It’s amazing there’s room for anything but trees, to be honest, as the nation is 73 per cent firs, birches and oaks (that’s nothing compared to Suriname, top of the list, which is 95 per cent forest). 

4. Its capital couldn't be greener 

Helsinki has embarked on an ambitious project to make motor vehicle ownership obsolete by 2025. Harnessing the power of new technologies, the authorities want to create an on-demand public transport system that will be so good nobody needs a car. As with other Scandinavian cities, Helsinki long ago promoted pedal power as a way of getting around. The city now has 2,400 miles of cycle lanes, which have been enthusiastically embraced by locals. 

5. There are 179,584 islands 

Finland’s nickname is the Land of a Thousand Islands. Pah. The nation boasts a few more than that; 179,584 to be exact, making it second only to Sweden in the global island ranking. 

6. And 188,000 lakes, including western Europe’s second biggest 

Not the biggest. That’s Lake Vanern in Sweden, of course. But at 1,700 square miles in surface area, Lake Saimaa is still remarkably big – certainly the largest of those that dot the Finnish landscape. It is home to the Saimaa Ringed Seal – although you will be lucky to spot one of these endangered freshwater beasts. They number a mere 320 in total, and are only found in the lake. Still, you can take a pair of binoculars and try. The waterside is most easily reached via the small city of Lappeenranta – 140 miles north-east of Helsinki. 

7. It's a tolerant place 

According to The Legatum Prosperity Index, which ranks countries according to a range of criteria, including personal freedom, based on access to legal rights, freedom of speech and religion and social tolerance, Finland is the ninth most tolerant nation in the world. The UK is 15th. 

8. With enviable gender equality 

The above might explain why it’s also one of the best countries in the world for gender equality. Finland ranks third, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, behind only Iceland (first) and Norway (second). 

 9. Santa lives there 

Tolerance and gender equality are great, but Finland also has Father Christmas. He lives in Lapland, of course, and can be visited all year. Lapland is arguably the real Finland - a wilderness region that is home to the nomadic Sami and their reindeer. In summer there are great hiking trails and white water rafting. In winter you can ski, go ice fishing, snowmobile along forest trails or mush a husky dog team. 

Founded in 2011 by Benjamin Andberg, Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo (Finnish for Helsinki Coffee Roastery)

10. They really appreciate good coffee

It seems the Finnish live their lives by some pretty admirable guiding principles, but that’s not even the half of it. Arguably more important is the fact that the Finns consume more coffee than anywhere else in the world - 12kg per capita per year, a hefty 2.1kg more per head than Norway, in second place. 

11. And stripping off for a sauna 

Up for baring it all in public? You haven’t sampled the life of a Finn unless you’ve done so at a sauna. There are 5.4 million people in Finland, and three million saunas – such is the national obsession with communal cleansing. The Yrjönkadun Uimahalli sauna and pool in Helsinki occupies a classic 1920s Art Deco building. Or head to the lakeside town of Kuopio to try the world’s largest smoke sauna at Jätkänkämppä Lodge, possibly accompanied by live accordion music. 

12. It has great Wi-Fi 

Ever wondered which countries provide the most rapid Internet experience? Of course you have, and of course Finland is in the top 10. 

13. And the most spectacular lights display in the world 

Finland is one of the best places on earth to observe the Northern Lights. Of course, never travel *for* the Aurora Borealis, because you’ll only be left disappointed, but if you just so happen to be in Finland over the winter months, there’s a decent chance you’ll witness the mystifying light display. 

14. Helsinki has one of the world’s loveliest cathedrals… 

The Tuomiokirkko ( – a neoclassical wonder in white, capped with domes of green, which sits at the heart of the Finnish capital. It was built between 1830 and 1852 in forelock-tugging tribute to Tsar Nicholas I, but lacks much of the pomp and circumstance which can characterise Russian churches, trading instead on a quiet architectural grace. It looks colossal from the outside, rearing above Senaatintori (Senate) Square, but feels rather smaller within – even though it can seat some 1300 worshippers. 

15. And Finns have surprisingly good beaches 

Not in the very centre, admittedly, where Helsinki is still very much a port. But look around, and there are plenty of strips of sand nuzzled by the Baltic. One is found 10 miles to the east in Aurinkolahti. That the name of this outer suburb – which translates as “Sunny Bay” – was recently changed from “Mustalahti” (“Black Bay”), in a marketing exercise designed to pull in potential residents, does not detract from the broadness of its main beach. It lives up to its moniker too – at least in July and August, when Helsinki lifts itself to a temperature of 21C, and the sea warms to a just about toe-dippable 16C. 

16. You can time travel 

No, really. The border between Finland and Sweden is also a time-zone marker. Finland is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, Sweden just one hour. This means that if you hop the frontier from east to west, you “regain” a full 60 minutes of your life – good fun on December 31, when you can ring in the new year twice. One possible location for such back-to-the-future machinations is Karesuvanto, a village in Finnish Lapland which perches on the bank of the River Munio, directly across from its Swedish counterpart Karesuando. Walk over the bridge between the two and, hey presto, you’re Marty McFly. 

17. Last but not least, it's the safest country on Earth 

According to the 2018 Travel Risk Map, which assesses the world across three categories - medical risks, security and road safety - Finland has the lowest overall threat level. A lovely place to hunker down and hope everything just blows over.

Sunday, March 20, 2022


 Illustration by Aleksei Ilyich Kravchenko 


To read the complete story CLICK HERE 

"The Portrait" is the story of a young and penniless artist, Andrey Petrovich Chartkov, who stumbles upon a terrifyingly lifelike portrait in an art shop and is compelled to buy it. 

The painting is magical and offers him a dilemma — to struggle to make his own way in the world on the basis of his own talents or to accept the assistance of the magic painting to guaranteed riches and fame. 

He chooses to become rich and famous, but when he comes upon a portrait from another artist which is "pure, faultless, beautiful as a bride" he comes to realize that he has made the wrong choice. 

Eventually, he falls ill and dies from a fever. 

Part I 

The first part of the story takes place in nineteenth-century Saint Petersburg, Russia and follows a penniless yet talented young artist, Andrey Petrovich Chartkov. One day, Chartkov stumbles upon an old art shop, where he discovers a strikingly lifelike portrait of an old man whose eyes “stared even out of the portrait itself, as if destroying its harmony by their strange aliveness.” 

On an inexplicable impulse, Chartkov uses the last of his money to buy the portrait, which the art shop's dealer seems glad to be rid of. Chartkov returns to his shabby apartment and hangs up the painting, but is so haunted by the old man's stare he covers it with a bed sheet before going to bed. 

That night, Chartkov dreams the old man in the portrait comes alive and steps out of his frame with a sack of money. Twice Chartkov wakes up and realizes he is still dreaming, but on the third time he wakes for real and realizes he imagined both the portrait's movement and its money. 

However, “it seemed to him that amidst the dream there had been some terrible fragment of reality.” 

Shortly thereafter, Chartkov's landlord arrives with a police inspector, demanding the rent. Chartkov is at a loss for what to do until the clumsy inspector accidentally cracks open the portrait's frame, revealing a pouch filled with one thousand gold sovereigns. 

Dumbfounded, Chartkov pays what he owes and begins making grand plans for the projects he can complete with his newfound wealth, recalling the encouraging words of his old mentor to “ponder over every work” and nurse his talent, while ignoring the superficial, “fashionable” styles of the times. 

However, Chartkov's plans quickly go up in smoke, and instead he uses his riches on lavish items and an ad in the papers. He soon uses his new apartment on Nevsky Prospect to host the customers brought in by the ad. 

At first, Chartkov attempts to paint his subjects in his own style, as his mentor had advised, but he soon falls into more “fashionable” styles in order to keep his customers happy. 

Though his “doorbell was constantly ringing,” his art becomes choked, and he resorts to “the general color scheme that is given by rote.” 

His reputation spreads and he is showered with countless compliments and immense wealth, but as the narrator remarks: “fame cannot give pleasure to one who did not merit it but stole it.” 

Many years pass, and Chartkov achieves such a high reputation he is asked by the Academy of Arts to examine the work of another prominent artist, one who devoted his life to studying art in Italy. 

When Chartkov arrives at the gallery, he is struck by the painting, which he describes as “pure, immaculate, beautiful as a bride.” In this artist's work Chartkov realizes what he missed out on and is so struck he bursts into tears and flees the gallery. At home in his studio, Chartkov attempts to revive the old talent he once had but inevitably fails, and in a fit of anger rids himself of the portrait of the old man and begins buying up “all the best that art produced” and bringing it home to tear it to shreds. 

His madness eventually manifests itself into a physical illness, and Chartkov dies, haunted to the end by memories of the horrible portrait. 

Part II 

The second half of “The Portrait” opens several years after the events of Part I, at an art auction is held at an old nobleman's house at which the sinister portrait is put up for sale. 

In the midst of the bids, a young man appears who claims he has “perhaps more right to this portrait than anyone else.” He promptly begins telling the audience his story. 

 His father was an artist who worked in Kolomna, a tired, “ashen” part of St. Petersburg, which was also the home of a strange moneylender. This moneylender was rumored to be capable of providing “any sum to anyone,” but bizarre and terrible events always seemed to happen to those who borrowed from him. 

Specifically, his borrowers developed qualities contrary to their previous personalities: a sober man became a drunkard; a fine young nobleman turns on his wife and beats her. 

Many of his customers even died unnaturally early deaths. One day, the moneylender comes to the artist asking for his portrait to be painted, and the artist agrees, grateful for the chance to paint such a peculiar subject. 

However, as soon as he begins painting the moneylender's eyes, “there arose such a strange revulsion in his soul” he refused to paint anymore. Despite the moneylender begging him to finish, the artist holds firm, and the moneylender dies shortly thereafter, leaving the portrait in the artist's possession. 

Inexplicably bizarre events begin happening in the artist's life. He becomes jealous of one of his pupils (revealed to be the young Chartkov), attempts to sabotage him, flies into rages, chases away his children and comes close to beating his wife. To make amends, the artist attempts to burn the portrait, but a friend stops him, taking the painting for his own instead. 

After witnessing its evil nature, his friend eventually passes the portrait to his nephew, who sells it to an art collector, who hawks it to someone else, and eventually the portrait's trail is lost. The artist feels immense guilt over the evil piece of art and makes his son promise to track it down and destroy it. This is the reason which brought the young man to the art auction. However, once he concludes his story and his audience turns to examine the portrait, they find it missing: someone must have taken it while they were listening to the young man's story. 

They wonder if they had seen it at all. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Nikolai Gogol, [left], the Ukrainian-born writer is known as one of Russia's greatest authors. Works like The Overcoat and Dead Souls launched Gogol into the upper echelons of Russian writers, yet his greatest masterpiece, a continuation of Dead Souls, was cut short by his tragic death at age 42 in 1852. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022


Café Ferlucci

Open daily 7 am to 9 pm
432 Rue de Castelnau E Montreal, QC H2R 1R3

Reviews say Café Ferlucci is a small secret along a leafy Street in a cool old neighborhood in Montreal. The locals love the place. They make great espressos and let your dog come in from out of the cold. Food, too. Nice place to study and /or to outline your next novel. Classic old world coffee house with a new world address. 

Friday, March 18, 2022


GUEST BLOG / By Associated Press war correspondent photographers
--Mounds of abandoned clothes and other personal items lie strewn along corridors leading out of Ukraine. 

The farther people carry their things, the harder it is, so they leave them behind. But their pets, they keep alongside them. Everywhere amid the exodus of more than 2.5 million refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion are the pets people could not leave behind: birds, rabbits, hamsters, cats and dogs. 

People fleeing the outskirts of Kyiv crowded together under a destroyed bridge, carrying little luggage and abandoning their vehicles on the road. But their pets remained with them. One woman ferried her dog across an improvised bridge over the Irpin River amid the evacuation. Another at a train station in Poland nuzzled her orange cat, nose to nose. FOR THE ENTIRE ARTICLE CLICK HERE.  

Thursday, March 17, 2022


Our thoughts, prayers, cash for ammunition go to Mattise Restaurant in Kyiv. We visited this wonderful place on the 15th floor of the City Hotel in the very heart of Ukraine’s capital long before war threatened to maim this historic city. If we were there now--all we can do is pray out the windows in the direction of Volodymirskiy Cathedral from Bohdana Khmelnytskogo Street. Will prayers be enough? Let’s hope so—abientot. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022


View toward West from the new Yerba Buena residential developments
Yerba Buena is a small island between Oakland and San Francisco. Most of us recognize it as the natural landmass that props up the middle of the Bay Bridge. A tunnel goes through the 72-acre island to carry bridge traffic. Attached to YB is Treasure Island, a landfill built in the 1930s to house one of the least known world fairs of the era. 


Until a couple of years ago if you thought there was no there there in nearby Oakland (according to a phase by the late great ex-pat Gertrude Stein) well there was less, less in the SF-owned mid-Bay island until now owed its claim to fame as a deserted WWII military depot and airfield. But thanks to the almighty dollar, those green pieces of paper printed by real estate developers, Yerba Buena and Treasure Island are being reborn as an apartment and owner-based housing development. Yerba Buena (Spanish for good herbs—mainly spearmint) is being developed separately from the bigger project aimed for Treasure Island. 

And, if you haven’t guessed by now—you too can get in on the ground floor of a massive new Yerba Buena residential project [The Residences] offering more than 250 condominiums seemingly priced a penny less than $2 million per unit. Forgive the cynical overtones but some of us were hoping for more affordable units. 

Call us naïve if 14 or so submarket units being offered on YB is a bone worth chewing. 

East-facing apartment units on Yerba Buena island now under construction.

Master plan for Treasure and Yerba Buena islands, below

Media reports point out Bay Bridge commuters are familiar with construction on Bristol Residences, the apartment complex facing the East Bay. Recently, groundbreaking is a done deal and construction is underway for the Townhomes and the Flats residences projects. San Francisco-based Stockbridge Capital Group and the developer Wilson Meany Sullivan are jointly developing for the project. Cahill is the heading up construction. 

Groundbreaking news: Construction so far in 2022 has topped out on the first new building in the Treasure Island redevelopment plan. TI’s planned 8,000 unit redevelopment plan is led by Treasure Island Community Development (TICD), a partnership with Stockbridge Capital Group, Wilson Meany, and Lennar Corporation. Treasure Island may not have cheap flats but the master plan shows plenty of green space. 

Is Angel Island next for real estate redevelopment? Who do we ask about that?