Monday, December 30, 2013

December Sun

It has been a dry December, and this has meant that morning sunlight has been unusually strong and persistent. Because we have several solar panels, in a sense I am glad for the many hours of sunshine. On the other hand, it is hard to work at my desktop computer, even with the blinds drawn. Friends in Britain tend to take a pessimistic view of the future weather. One of their favorite expressions is 'We'll pay for it later!". By this they mean that we should expect heavy rains and possible flooding in the coming months. I am certainly not hoping for floods, but nor do I expect the next two months to be dry. The last thing we need is another drought here in California. Instead of just praying for "seasonable weather", I should be praying for rain!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Handshake

It may have been somewhat perfunctory when President Obama shook the hand of Cuba's President Raoul Castro, but it has been criticized. Few people remember that Bill Clinton once shook the hand of Fidel Castro, without any significant developments in the strained relationship. I have long been a critic of "Gitmo" - not just of the prison, but also of the whole idea of maintaining an unneeded naval base on Cuban soil. This may have made some sense early in the 20th century, and a modest rental was originally paid. For many years now, the Cubans have declined to accept the rent. How would we feel if a perennially hostile nation maintained the base at Miami beach? I see no reason for us to continue the embargo on trade with Cuba in any form. I understand the vocal chorus from the original middle class Cuban immigrants in Florida who oppose any resumption of normal relations with Cuba, but I believe that it is time for a change.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


The use of perfume by women seems to be very limited these days, especially in such feminist circles as are to be found in Berkeley. In these times when equality in professional life is thriving--an era of which I strongly approve--it is rare in Northern California to encounter a woman who uses perfume. Even in my advanced age, I am still affected by the delightful scent of an expensive perfume. It remains a powerful mental aphrodisiac. There may be other nations where exquisite perfumes are created, but to me the French remain the best at the parfumier's art. My favorite maker remains Lanvin. My all-time favorite was Jolie Madame, with the better-known Arpège a close second. In this egalitarian age, beautiful women wearing "heavy" perfume are likely to be scorned by other women for "lowering" themselves, presumably to try to trap a man with feminine wiles. They may even be assumed to be members of the "oldest profession". "Respectable" women wearing heavy perfume are considered as out of style as businessmen wearing hats. I do know some women who use perfume discreetly on special occasions, but this is usually quite "light", often modestly floral. I appreciate it when I encounter it. I never saw the movie The Scent of a Woman, but the title reminds me of the excitement I used to feel when a woman exuding expensive perfume came near. I think I would still feel pleasantly affected by my old favorite perfumes, but apparently no woman cares to give me the opportunity.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Charles Dickens

I have never been a great fan of Charles Dickens, preferring the work of his near-contemporary, Anthony Trollope. I have seen movies or TV serials of most of Dickens's best-known works: Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and Nicholas Nickleby. I long ago read and enjoyed Pickwick Papers. There are other authors, some still living, whose work has always been a priority for my reading list.. First, it was John Buchan years ago, and then Graham Greene. I have read every book written by John Le Carré, and I'm on a waiting list for the last in Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series. I have read all the Mary Russell and Kate Martinelli novels of Laurie R. King, and every one of the Patrick O'Brian naval novels. So I have begun to tackle more of Charles Dickens, starting with A Tale Of Two Cities. I hope to read Barnaby Rudge and Martin Chuzzlewit.