The Trouble with Turkeys

Ben Franklin wanted our national bird to be the Wild Turkey.  This is from a letter to his daughter, courtesy of the Franklin Institute

turkey wild“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country…

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Now we have a President engaged in a Twitter fight with the father of budding basketball dynasty.  Is it any surprise, many may be wondering if America is going to the birds?

Turkey (noun) – a large mainly domesticated game bird native to North America, having a bald head and (in the male) red wattles. It is prized as food, especially on festive occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Turkey (noun) (informal, North American) – something that is extremely or completely unsuccessful, especially a play or movie.  Can also refer to a person– a dud, loser, stupid or inept

Turkey (idiom) – to talk frankly, mean business
turkey country
Turkey (country) – in Southwest Asia, where ironically you are not allowed to tweet.
tukey is it doneTurkeys can be so much trouble (particularly when trying to cook them) that Butterball has a turkey hotline  Nowadays, it can be texted as well as called.  Some of the calls are  so incredulous or even funny that they have been annotated in Mental Floss
Are turkeys really funny or are they just the butt of a fowl joke?  At least Turkeys are not prejudiced since they have both light and dark meat.

HippoCamp 18 Call for Speakers

If you like writing retreats and would like to be a speaker (even if you are not famous), then read on!

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

hippocamp17 tee shirt - SIZEDWe’ve posted before about how much we enjoy the HippoCamp experience.  Well folks, they just posted their call for speakers for the upcoming 2018 event. (BTW: When HippoCamp says “Speakers,” they don’t mean famous people.  They mean working, sometimes struggling, writers.)  See here:

HippoCamp’s programming is mostly for-attendees, by attendees! With the exception of keynotes and a few panels, our conference is built from the proposals YOU submit!

We’re enthusiastically inviting attendees who also are interested in being part of our speaker line-up to submit a session proposal for HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers (Aug. 24-26) in one of our three traditional tracks, our new addition of a special topics track, or our flash sessions:

  • Breakout Sessions in four tracks: 
    We’re looking for dynamic speakers and engaging, informative, practical 60-minute sessions that will give our attendees actionable takeaways. Breakout session presenters will receive a special discounted attendee…

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Call For Brevity Submissions: One-Minute Memoir

If you like it short and sweet and/or the sound of your own voice, this may be the contest for you.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Rufus P. Turner, developer of the first transistor radio & a professor of literature–Brevity’s kind of guy

We’re trying something new.

The Brevity Podcast is seeking submissions for our One-Minute Memoir episode. We’re looking for ultra-flash nonfiction of 100-150 words (on paper) and up to one minute (recording time). Accepted pieces will be broadcast in our February episode and receive a $25 honorarium.

Deadline for submission is January 6, 2018.


You may submit in one of two ways:


1) Text only. Submit a .doc. We will record accepted pieces in the Brevity studio.


2) Audio file. Submit an MP3 or WAV of your own recording PLUS a .doc with the text. Read our blog post about recording your own work for basic sound guidelines. We will master accepted pieces. Recordings should be a maximum of 60 seconds.


Please start your recording with your name…

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Book Clubs–Not just for Reading

Do you belong to a Book Club?  If so, where do you meet?  Is it in somebody’s home, a library, or some food and/or beverage establishment?  Is the purpose of the group to discuss a mutually agreed upon title, to discuss books in general, to meet socially, or is it an excuse to eat and drink?

Book club-modern dayIf your book club is more social than literary, more defined by who you talk about or what you eat and drink than what you read, then you book club is following a fine tradition that goes back to the 18th century..

“Ever since the advent of book clubs in 18th-century England, when books were scarce and expensive, these organizations have been about more than reading. Book clubs were organized to help members gain access to reading material and to provide a forum for discussion of books the club held. But they were also about gossip and drinking. ”

Sometimes book clubs end because they  no longer meet the needs of the members:  books are not getting read, too much/ not enough socializing, differing objectives for the purpose of the club.

Book Club that ended.jpg

Kardos, the Masked Marauder of Monterey

In the mid 1980s, we lived in Navy housing.  The back of our townhouse overlooked Monterey Bay, at the top of a steep wooded hillside. My husband was attending the Naval Post Graduate School.

racoons at teh glass doorOne evening, we noticed a raccoon on our back deck.  His  muddy paw tracks decorated the door as  he tried to force the sliding glass door open. He stared intently into the living room, while eating one of our recently planted tulip bulbs.  While  he watched us, his left paw knocked an empty flower pot filled water all over the muddy prints on the wooden deck. Seeing what a klutz he was, wraccoon tracks snippede named him after one of my husband’s classmates who had been asking asking if any one wanted to do a joint thesis as soon as he met them.

The next night he returned.  This time he finished off half a plant as he once again tried to force his way into the den.

After that Kardos became almost a nightly visitor.  He would sit outside for about 15-20 minutes watching us and trying to force his way into the house.  We learned that Kardos liked dog biscuits and peanut M&Ms but did not care for rice cakes.

racoon puppetWe also got a raccoon puppet.  When Kardos would make an appearance, we would stage the puppet by the  door so that the real and puppet raccoons were at eye level.  Kardos seemed fascinated how this raccoon could get inside the house, but he could not. I’m not sure if he realized that the inside raccoon was an imposter.

For over a month, Kardos was a regular visitor.  He took very few days off.  After one such brief hiatus, he returned with strangely yellow, glowing eyes.  He seemed nervous and twitchy, even for him.  Later that evening, a second raccoon showed up for the first time.  That was when we learned that Kardos was actually a Kardette.

We only saw Kardette, as we now called the raccoon, one more time.  She came back for a brief visit.  We never did learn if she had babies.

Raccoons are highly intelligent animals and quite dexterous about getting into houses.  They can also carry rabies.  We were lucky the Kardette never managed to get into the house.   In retrospect, we were very stupid to feed her.

Have you ever been fascinated by wildlife outside your door?  Did you ever interact with it?  Join in the conversatoin and share your wild animal story.

Escape from the Pentagon

Ann-2016On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Ann Parham arrived early at the Pentagon, like she always did.   As Chief of the Army Library Program, she was responsible for establishing policy for Army Libraries around the world.  She had been stationed in Korea, Germany and the United States.   At fifty-eight, she was at the apex of her 35-year career.  Her beige linen dress, purple silk jacket, and low-heeled beige pumps were professional and practical, well suited to her trim athletic build.

pentagon layoutAnn’s office was in a newly renovated wedge of the Pentagon, iconic home of the Department of Defense. The five-sided Pentagon was made up of five concentric, separated rings and five floors.  The center courtyard was a park-like setting, providing a short cut from one side of the building to the other.  Ten corridors intersected the five rings like spokes on a bicycle wheel.  From the air, the Pentagon looked like a target, with the courtyard as its bulls-eye.  Ironically, September 11 was the 50th anniversary of the initial groundbreaking ceremony for the Pentagon.

pentagon layour colored.jpg

The sky was a bright blue and the air was clear and crisp.  Ann was working at her desk in the open bay, that she jokingly referred to as Dilbertville, after the cartoon strip.  She heard people talking in the cubicle next to her.

“A plane has hit the World Trade Center Tower!”

Curious, she left her desk and joined four or five of her co-workers who were watching the TV at Marian Serva’s desk.  As they watched the news, a camera panned to a second plane flying directly into the second tower.

“We are at ground zero,” said Marian, a member of the Congressional Liaison group.  Ann would learn later than Marian was burned during the plane crash and died at her desk.

Pentagon-damaged wall“This is war,” replied Ann, as she stood with her back to the D-Ring offices and the outer most E-Ring. Being this close to the outer-ring makes me nervous. She decided to return to her desk.

She remained at her desk a few minutes to gather up some papers she needed to fax to Fort Benning, Georgia.  Returning down the aisle of cubicles from the fax machine, she had reached the support pillar at the end of the aisle near her desk when she felt the building shake.  A plane’s hit the Pentagon.  It was 9:37 a.m. when the plane struck the outer ring on Pentagon’s west side.

pentagon--area of impact           The force of the impact knocked her to the floor amidst falling pieces of ceiling tile. We are under attack.  The concussion blast knocked out the lights and turned on the sprinklers.   Ceiling tile hit her on the head—she would find some of it later in her jacket pocket.  She smelled burning hair.  Her face, eyes and the backs of her hands felt burned, but it was too dark to see them.  She put her hand protectively on the top of her head.  She realized that her hair, short brown, with red highlights, was singed.  Her hair was wet and smelled like kerosene.  Some of the drops fell on the front of her beige dress. Wonder what this is?  Later, she would discover they were a mixture of jet fuel and sprinkler water.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw flames in the north-east corner of the room along the E ring wall.  The heat was intense, burning her right ear.  Oxygen was being sucked out of the air.  If I don’t move I will be burned or suffocate.  My mother will not be happy to get that news so I better get out of here.  Thoughts of her mother motivated her to keep moving.

   Beige dress with fuel and water marks.  Blue jacket with burn marks

Ann's remaining shoe Ann felt her way out of the room, running her hand along the cubicle desks and inching through the white haze. This seems like I’m in a fog.   She hobbled along wearing one shoe. She had somehow lost her left pump and the little toe on her right foot hurt.  Her pantyhose had shredded when she fell.   Should I remove my shoe?  No!  Is this where I will die?  Need to keep moving.

                                                                                             Ann’s remaining beige pump

 Although there had been people in the open bay before the plane crashed, where is everyone?    I feel alone.    Patrick was just at his desk.

Patrick was a civilian information specialist whose cubicle was next to Ann’s.  He was in his late forties and a former Army officer.

“Patrick,” she called as she stumbled.  The silhouette of a military officer beckoned to her.  It seems like a light at the end of a tunnel.

Patrick approached, taking her right arm.  They continued toward the door together.   Patrick’s white dress shirt, dark pants and tie were covered in liquid.  His arms were red and burned.

Later Patrick would tell her “Ann, I saw you silhouetted against the flames when you called me and I turned back.”

From the E-ring, they walked the length of the open bay (the equivalent of the D and C rings –about the length of twenty 6-foot wide cubicles.)  Making a dogleg turn to the right, they entered the fourth corridor for about twenty feet.  As they exited into the corridor, they quickly passed an officer lying face down under a fire hydrant.  A few people stood around the officer.

After they passed the downed officer, the two turned left into the second bay that took them to the A-ring, the Pentagon’s shortest way around.   I feel more relieved away from that fire.

“Patrick, my face, eyes, and hands are burning so badly that I want to go to the restroom to wash.”

“We need to keep walking.  We have to get out of the building.”  He made no mention of his own burned arms.

Pentagon--overhead view of the damage“Let’s not go to the courtyard.  I’m afraid there might be a second plane that could hit us.”   Patrick agreed.

They started to walk toward the Mall entrance, but it was packed with dozens of people. Nobody was running in panic; people were walking with a purpose.  Some people were burnt and tattered like Ann and Patrick.  Some of these people look like it’s just a fire drill.

“This crowd of people is making me claustrophobic,” she said.  “Let’s try the River Entrance.”  The River Entrance was on the north-east side of the Pentagon, which was opposite from where the plane had hit..

“I’m never going back in that building.”  By now they had walked almost half way around the Pentagon, about one half mile.

pentagon--people outsideAs they walked through the River entrance, Ann did not want to look at people.  Seeing them react to the way I look would scare me even more.  She could hear people talking, but did not catch anything they actually said. The back of her purple jacket was scorched and torn.  Patricks’ white shirt was wet from the sprinklers and torn; his arms were red with burns. They continued across the parade ground on the Potomac River side, down to the road.  Cars were parked haphazardly.

Ann did not remember who directed her and Patrick toward the Defense Protective Service, which was the Pentagon police force.  One of the police officers tried to find them an ambulance.  When he could not find one, he put them into his Defense Protective Service car and drove them to Alexandria Hospital.  The Pentagon was about 6 miles north of the hospital, along Interstate 395.  Ann used to live near the Hospital and tried to give the officer directions.  I am so agitated right now, those directions aren’t right.  This is taking too long.

As soon as they got to the hospital, she sprung open the door and ran into the hospital Emergency RoomPatrick followed her at a walk.

“We’re from the Pentagon,” she said.  The emergency room personnel took one look at the two of them, smelled the jet fuel, and sent them to the decontamination showers.  My DoD identification badge has curled from the fire. My eyesight is almost normal as soot washed out of her eyes.  She found out she had second degree burns on her face and hands.  Her little toe was broken and she had a gash on the top of her foot.  Her ear was badly burned and she had lost a two inch patch of hair on her head.

It was now about 9:45 a.m. and they were the first people from the Pentagon to arrive at the hospital.


September Goals

Goal settingI have never established a monthly goal before.  This is the start of a new season and the blog’s 6 month anniversary. For September I plan to have 3-4 new posts each week.  The goal is to divide them between both categories:  library features and word play.  If you have any topics or recommendations I would love to hear from you.  back to school september

I truly appreciate those of you who have followed this blog during its initial 6 months.  In August, I had my first post “Too Bee or Not Too Bee” re-posted twice.  Thanks to In the World of Thoughts  by Namrata D. Prabhakar and Michael B Talbot of Mick B. Talbot’ s Poems.

I would also like to thank my first and most consistent follower, Dr. Rolig Loon.

Which blogs have been your most or least favorite?  Do you have any topics to recommend?   Please join the conversation and let me know.  I would really appreciate hearing from you.  Each time I get discouraged about writing what I personally laugh at myself for calling “the best blog that nobody ever reads,” someone has liked or commented on a post.  This renews me to want to keep on writing.DSC01412

Sunset at Cabrillo National Monumet at Pt Loma, San Diego, CA


Too Bee or not Too Bee

bumble beeYesterday morning, my husband and I were sitting by the hotel pool.  We had just finished our swim and were enjoying the mild sunshine and low humidity as we waited for our lunch to arrive.  As he looked up, my husband said “That bee just dove into the pool.”

“Go find a net or something to fish him out,” I said.  My husband wandered around the pool looking for something to save the bee.

Meantime, the bee was moving toward the side of the pool with with surprising speed and steadfast purpose.  He looked like he was swimming.  Was he doing the thorax stroke or the wing over wing crawl?

As he got closer to the side of the pool, I reached over with the plastic-coated menu and fished him out.  Before I could lift the menu high enough to let him crawl off it, the large fuzzy bumble bee flew off.  I have never seen a bee that resilient.  Somehow I have a feeling this was not his first dip in the pool.

The last time I had experienced a bee and liquid was when a another large bumble bee flew into my glass of chardonnay several years before.  He must of gotten a good sip before we fished him out with a spoon.  He acted quite buzzed and staggered around for several minutes on the concrete before finally flying off in a very zigzag pattern.

honey beeToday, we were at the Market at Grelen and I had another indirect bee experience. I saw this captivating sign near their flower garden.  “Caution!  Honey Bee Flight Path Ahead” Although I didn’t get to see any actual honey bees I was totally beguiled by the sign.

Honey Bee Flight Path.jpg

My recent bee experiences reminded me that these pollinators are in danger.  Pesticides and habitat loss are among the reasons that bee and butterfly populations are declining. According to Justin Worland in March 2, 2017  Time article, “More than 700 North American Bee Species are Headed Toward Extinction.”

The pollinators are responsible for a lot of the world’s agriculture.  Without them, many of the plants we have now would not be possible.  According to Fox news, “The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans. The species can pollinate over 75 percent of flowering plants and crops, making it one of the top pollinators in the U.S. That means the bee can travel up to 6 miles a day and pollinate between 50 to 100 flowers per trip. The pollination process occurs when the pollen sac from one flower sticks to a honey bee’s legs and is transferred to another plant. The pollen within the sac spills out when the bee lands on the plant, causing it to be fertilized.”

What cSave beesan we do to help save the bees?   Some suggestions include planting Bee friendly trees and plants.  Some plants bloom in the spring or the fall.  Other plants bloom all summer. Don’t use pesticides in your lawn.  Support your local beekeeper by buying local honey.  Provide a small dish of water for the bees to drink from.

What are you doing to help save pollinators?  Join in the conversation on what you are doing to save the bees, butterflies, and bats that we depend upon to keep the plants going that we need for both food and beauty?  We truly are all in this together.




Get Eclipse Glasses at Your Local Library (Maybe)

eclipse pathMonday, August 21 is Eclipse Day in the United States.  The solar eclipse will cast a shadow from sea to shiny (and along the path, shadowy) sea. Experts have been urging people to not look at the Eclipse without special glasses.  This includes looking at it through your camera, cellphone or any other device that does not have a special filter.

Atlas Obscura just posted a timely article that Eclipse Glasses may be available for free from your public library. “Many of the gratis glasses come from the STAR Library Network (or STAR_Net), a nonprofit that helps hook libraries up with science and technology resources. ”

Update info from Star_Net:

Since it was announced that public libraries were distributing free eclipse glasses, they have been overwhelmed with requests via email, phone and in-person. Most libraries have already given away their allotment of glasses. For those libraries that still have eclipse glasses, please be aware that these are intended for their eclipse programming events ONLY and not for general distribution to the public.

If your local library has run out of glasses, please click here to view a list of reputable vendors that may still be selling them. For kid-friendly ways to view the solar eclipse without the use of eclipse glasses, please visit our STEM Activity Clearinghouse for a variety of indirect viewing activities. 

This link shows all the libraries that the Star Network has sent eclipse glasses too–when it’s working

Library LogoContact or visit your local public library to see if you can get a pair of these glasses.  Hopefully they will so you an safely enjoy whatever portion of the solar eclipse is visible from your neighborhood.

Safe viewing!

Did You Meme What You Said or Did You Really Say It?

Meme fontMemes seem to have replaced old fashioned facts in the minds of many people.  Between fake facts, fake news, plain distortions, lies, propaganda, and the ever popular statistics, was Mulder correct?  Is the truth out there? (Ironically that X-Files tagline has become a meme in it’s own right.)

truth is out there

Meme (noun)an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation. –humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.

Richard DawkinsAccording to Wikipedia, Richard Dawkins “..first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme.”

The Meme concept has spawned a new industry of stars, websites, posters, and even meme generators.  Complex, Thrillist, and even Time have rated the best memes (so far) of 2017. the Chive (which modestly tags itself) as “probably the site in the world” explains 2017 memes

the Chive is the same group that brought us “Keep Calm and Chive On.” It’s derived from the British WWII posters that told its citizens to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”   You can find “Keep Calm and Chive On” aka KCCO on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and posters. Keep Calm and Chive On means roughly to chill out, to hang loose.   People who wear KCCO clothing or bumper stickers may be known as Chivers.

What is your favorite meme?  Join in the conversation about whether you like memes, create memes, or have no interest in memes.

PS The X-files will be returning to Fox for a 10-episode run during the 2017-2018 season.