Thread the Needle

Did your mother have a sewing machine? Mine did. Once a month or so, my mother would pull out the Singer sewing machine and darn socks, ripped underwear and replace buttons.  She would sew patches on my ripped jeans and I was ready to go.  Sewing was part of everyday life.  I learned the basics of sewing.  My grandmother would sometimes ask me to “thread the needle” for her since her eyesight was not too keen.  So I would kiss the thread and do the job. 

Today though – it seems that sewing (as I remember it) has gone the way of the rotary telephone.  In my house, we don’t sew ripped socks anymore (they go in a donation bin).   When something needs sewing, we take it to the local cleaners and they do the job for a few dollars.  I still carry one of those matchbook-sized sewing kits (a few needles and some thread) when I travel but in the years I’ve carted it along – I don’t think I’ve ever used it (except once using a needle to remove a sliver). 

The Huffington Post had an article (October 17, 2014) that said millenials don’t know how to sew, do laundry or even take care of their clothes.  They also don’t know how to cook (Marketwatch); figure out tire pressure; handle finances; do routine first aid; or . . . . quite a few things.   I am thinking about quitting the legal profession and opening a gas station with a laundry service, fast food counter and a medical clinic.  With Wi-Fi . . . . . . 



I just learned that a good friend of mine — a lawyer — had a heart attack.  He almost died.   He was standing at the elevator with a bunch of other lawyers.  And he collapsed.  None of the lawyers knew how to use the AED unit parked on the wall — since none had attended their firm-sponsored AED course.  Fortunately a staff person who had taken the firm’s AED course — came out and helped save his life.  

How many of you have taken AED training?  Heimlich training?  CPR?  First aid?  I have discussed this topic in the past but I believe it’s always time for a renewed kick in your caboose. . . . . 

In my post of October 21, 2011, I recounted that the best course I ever took in college was a year-long program on advanced/Civil Defense first aid training.  It has come in very handy over the years.  Thus, a few years ago when I looked at the AED sign on the train heading to my office, something clicked.  I oughta figure out what this “AED” thingee is.  So while having lunch at my desk – I logged onto a YouTube video which told the story of the AED (see ).  I now have a better idea now of what an AED does.  And how it works.  I would urge those reading this post to spend 4 minutes to learn about the AED.

And while you’re at it, why not learn the Heimlich Maneuver? I’ve done it twice – successfully. See

A baby choking? See

How about CPR (“Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation”)? See

Heavy bleeding? See

Rescue breathing?  See  

If you watch all of these videos (if they don’t “link” just paste them in your browser), you will spend about 40 minutes. But it may be the most valuable 40 minutes you ever spend.  Someone – maybe you – will be eternally grateful.

Watermelon Salad

Over the last year or so, I have noticed that some of the more trendy restaurants are adding or even featuring seedless watermelon in salads. I have never been a watermelon fan since I swallowed a large black seed as a kid — and thought life is over.   That fearful memory has stayed with me.  Until recently.

In late August, Donna and I spent a few days in New Buffalo, Michigan — hardly a place one would expect to have a Damascus Road conversion.  But it happened.   At the Bentwood Tavern.  We ordered the arugula and beet salad.  And I fell in love.  Consider — arugula, small beets (of different variety), pumpkin seeds and seedless watermelon.  Diced.  With a white balsamic and olive oil dressing.   I ate it.  I enjoyed it.  Truth be told — I could’ve made a meal of it. 

In Santa Barbara, CA some weeks ago, we had lunch at a popular restaurant where I ordered the watermelon salad.   My expectations rose then fell.  The meal was outstanding though the watermelon salad was a rectangular cut of watermelon on a bed of lettuce.  Little else.  Very disappointing.   But we moved on to San Francisco and Rose Pistola where dinner started with a roasted beet salad with pomegranates, ricotta salata cheese, a 12 year aged Balsamic and light olive oil and  . . . watermelon.  I was actually tempted to order another beet and watermelon salad for dessert.  However the other member of my party insisted on something chocolate.   That we could share.  Chivalrous to the end, I capitulated.  Chocolate. . . . . I mean when you can have watermelon??      


Who remembers Carlos?  I’m talking Carlos Ilich Ramírez Sánchez.  Carlos was born in Venezuela in 1949.  Despite his mother’s desire for him to have a Christian name, his father – José – named him “Ilyich” after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  Two siblings were named “Vladimir” and “Lenin.”  Young Carlos joined the youth movement of the Communist Party in Caracas but his parents soon divorced and his mother moved the family to London.   It was there that Carlos began to really move.  In the wrong direction . . . . .

The “Carlos” of whom I speak is “Carlos the Jackal.”  Carlos volunteered for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and was given extensive guerrilla training.  Carlos gained a reputation as a killer. And he became an assassin for the PFLP.  He was involved in many killings, bombings and attacks.  In 1975, he was detained in Yugoslavia, flown to Baghdad and settled in Aden where he founded his own “Organization of Armed Struggle.”  Carlos connected with the Stasi (East German police) and planned numerous attacks from a safe house in East Berlin. 

Carlos was finally arrested in 1994 by French DST operatives. He was tried and convicted of numerous offenses and sentenced to life in prison.  Carlos the Jackal is today incarcerated in Clairvaux Prison where he converted to Islam, married his lawyer, and published a series of works including Revolutionary Islam which explains and defends violence in class conflict.

If there is something vaguely familiar about this story, it may be that the life of Carlos the Jackal was inspiration for Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 classic – The Day of the Jackal (the movie debuted in 1973).  Want a great book?  Movie?  Four stars. . . . .         

Girl Scouts

In my post of July 13, 2017, I referenced an article calling the Eagle Scout rank the “PhD of Boyhood.”  In my post of May 14, 2017, I observed that being an Eagle Scout was likely the sine qua non — that got me to where I am today. It got me into college (it certainly wasn’t my grades or last minute application to Augustana College).  As a result of squeaking into college (on academic probation), I met Donna. Had Lauren. Two granddaughters. Got a great job.  Yadda yadda

In my post of October 6, 2013, I opined that no one should be allowed to become a politician unless they were an Eagle Scout, or the Girl Scout equivalent  — or shared the values thereof.   That eliminates nearly all Democrats, a lot of Republicans and Donald Trump.   

So how do I feel about having girls becoming Eagle Scouts?  I think it’s great.  It is a wonderful idea.   While I prefer that this achievement be accomplished under the auspices of the Girl Scouts of America, if it’s done through the Boy Scouts, so be it.  What is important – is to develop a universe of young women who achieve the Eagle Scout rank (by meeting all of the challenging requirements and living up to the values).  It would be a major plus for them.  And for America.   Democrat or Republican, I would want them to run for office.  And win.      


[Third of a trilogy – from March 28, 2013]

In 1964 I was in my first year of college. Two afternoons a week, I worked as a lifeguard at a local YMCA (thanks to Lifesaving Merit Badge). One day after work, I noticed that a new movie was playing at the theater across the street.  I had time. I had interest. So I went in.  Alone. To watch “Zulu.”  WOW! 

The movie “Zulu” debuted in 1964 and it was Michael Caine’s first starring role. He played Lt. Gonville Bromhead – one of two commanding officers (with Stanley Baker as Lt. John Chard) of the small garrison that defended Rorke’s Drift.   None other than Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the former Prime Minister of Zululand and noted South African politician, played King Cetshwayo — the leader of the Zulu nation in 1879.  The scene opens with Zulus walking through the battlefield of Isandlwana.  And then the scene shifts to Rorke’s Drift. 

Names and characters are based on actual participants in the battle.  While the movie is historically accurate, there are some Hollywoodizations — limited pretty much to personalities and not events.  There was no “singing” and some of the characters are incorrectly portrayed (like “Hook” who was actually a model soldier).    Nonetheless, “Zulu” is one of the most captivating action movies I have ever seen.   In 2008, while in South Africa, I couldn’t resist.  I chartered a 4-seater and flew to Isandlwana and walked the battlefield.   The place was barren, remote and silent — except for lonely white stone cairns scattered over the landscape which served as markers for the 1,500 that lay buried beneath them.  I then went to Rorke’s Drift.  The interesting thing?  There was hardly a soul at either place.  A Zulu guide spoke eloquently of the British defense at Rorke’s Drift.  But he spoke more eloquently of the Zulu courage — and military savvy — that nearly drove the British from South Africa.      

Rorke’s Drift

[Second of a repeat trilogy – from March 25, 2013]

Following the dreadful defeat of British troops at Isandlwana on January 22, 1879, a small British outpost/hospital called “Rorke’s Drift” – a bare dozen miles from the site of the massacre – quickly mobilized.  They hastily built walls and fortifications with mealie bags between a series of buildings and a cattle kraal.   The 150 defenders settled down to wait.   They didn’t wait long.  By late afternoon, about 4,000 Zulus fresh from The Washing of the Spears (from the title of the magnificent book by Donald R. Morris on the history of the Zulu campaign) descended on the small outpost.  And attacked.  

As at the Battle of Isandlwana, the Zulus configured their attack like the head of a water buffalo — the horns surrounding the enemy and the head and chest crushing forward.  The battle raged through the night and into the morning.  The defenders fell back into smaller and smaller redoubts.  The 150 defenders poured a withering fire at the Zulus who surged a bare foot or two beneath the mealie bag walls. 

 By morning, the small garrison still held – suffering a few score of casualties.  Zulu casualties ran into the hundreds.  And the Zulus fell back as reinforcements were detected in the distance.  The defenders – the 24th Foot Regiment – succeeded in winning more Victoria Crosses (11) than any other regiment in British military history.  And 85 years later, a Hollywood offering captured with historic accuracy this pivotal battle of Rorke’s Drift.  The movie was “Zulu” . . . . .