Handling Purples …Floral Friday

Technically speaking, purples should be considered as the representation of moderation or medium.  Purple is the blend of the hot color red and the cold color blue.  However, instead of middling, we get an intriguing, mysterious color. Purple is somewhat rare in nature so it has become associated with royalty and spirituality.

When used in creative projects, purples are best used sparingly. If overdone, the mind can get tired of it sooner than either reds or blues. Like its contrasting cousin, chartreuse, overuse seems garish.  That said, in the right amounts, purple is pleasing and somewhat refreshing to the eye.

This week I decided to use purple floral elements. The flowers tend more towards red-violet and not blue-violet, so they tend to warm up the arrangements and not cool them down.


I’ve kept the blue Fiesta Ware deco-style vase for a few decades. I suppose because it’s one of the first pieces of pottery I ever bought.  I paired it with puffy mums to soften the distinct lines of the detailing.


The lotus-detailed vase attracted my eye because of it’s Tibetan Buddhist themed design. The use of a red-violet stargazer lily was an intentional nod towards the integral nature of spirituality.


The vintage brownish tan vase features a mother and infant.  The little pot again symbolizes two aspects of life, this time, infancy and maturity.  It also has two handles as do the other vases.  To enhance the artful nature of the vase, I decided to use deep red violet daisies.

J 7-1-01The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Rudyard Kipling. “He wrapped himself in quotations–as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors.”

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Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide (Review)

The book’s diminutive size caught my attention, just under 7 by 5 by 1 inches.  Then the title–Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide–clinched the decision to read it.

At first glance, I expected some sort of step by step book along the lines of the “For Dummies” series.  It’s not that, at all.  Michael Kinsley’s book records his experiences with Parkinson’s Disease.  He was diagnosed at a relatively young age with the disease. Old Age consists of a series of essays about his own experiences to attempt to shed some light on a scenario many of us may have to confront later in our lives.

After I discovered the subject matter of the book, I felt some trepidation because my own late father suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.  Thankfully, Kinsley uses his writing skills in a somewhat cheery style to address the disease from his personal standpoint. He sprinkles in his reflections about the baby boomer generation with his accounts of the journey towards the end of life.

Regarding who may come down with age related problems, Kinsley writes, “But it can. And it will, to millions of people who have never taken drugs or misbehaved in any serious way.  They are jogging every day but will get Alzheimer’s anyway. So you need to recalibrate. Is it simply long life that you covet, or is it long life with all your marbles? Isn’t the final boomer game really competitive cognition?”OldAge-02

Michael Kinsley works as a writer at Vanity Fair, is the founder of Slate, and has contributed to The New Yorker. He has served as editor to The New Republic and Harpers. He is an editor at The Economist and managing editor of The Washington Monthly.

Given Kinsley’s resume’, I was disappointed with the book. I chose the book based upon its title. I wish that the title would have included Parkinson’s Disease instead of “A Beginner’s Guide”.  I don’t devalue the experiences of Parkinson’s sufferers, but I think the book is a short anthology of  work thrown together to sell on the strength of the author’s name brand.  The last couple of essays turned out to be weak analyses of the baby boomer generation and degenerated into opinionated political concerns about the national economy.

In the end, I found very little about the book to qualify it as a guide.  I wish the title had been “Old Age: A Parkinson’s Memoir” or something similar. This unimpressive book best qualifies as collectable reading material for fans of Michael Kinsley.

{ Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide by Michael Kinsley; 160 pages, published April 26th 2016 by Tim Duggan Books–Penguin Random House; ISBN: 978-1-101-90376-6 }

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Michael Kinsley. “You want to be remembered fondly, of course, but first you want to make sure you’ll be remembered. Most people aren’t.”

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Practical Enforcement Of Free Speech

Awhile ago, I stumbled upon a Facebook meme quoting author Leviak B. Kelly:
“… [W]icked people reveal themselves in words first. To inhibit speech would inhibit us seeing the wicked before they act.” As a blogger and an ex-media worker, the quote strongly resonated with me. For some reason, the quote brought to mind a pithy saying by former Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey. “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.”FreeSpeech-01

Just as many terrible ideas have been revealed by their advocates, so have some positive, constructive ideas been brought to the public domain by their advocates. Truly free speech is the hallmark of a society that honestly values freedom.

When I first became a broadcaster there was an intelligent, wise regulatory principle enshrined in rules set forth by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As the public service director, it was a rule that I took to heart as part of my personal and professional mission statement. The “Fairness Doctrine” was an enforceable set of rules and guidelines that was misunderstood and disliked by many people, especially broadcast station owners.

What the Fairness Doctrine mainly did, was to proactively enforce freedom of speech. On the surface, the idea of enforcing freedom of speech seems not only absurd, but limiting to the freedoms of radio and television station owners. In practice, it was a beautifully crafted regulation that served the public quite well and equitably.

One must remember the state of electronic media during the years before the Internet. Radio and television stations, then (and now) relied upon the use of the publicly owned broadcast bandwidth for the dissemination of entertainment, information, and editorializing.

FreeSpeech-03Here is where broadcasting differs from the print media of newspapers, magazines, and broadsides. A print journalist has the option of privately owning a printing press, ink, and paper. He or she then can sell or give this privately owned inked paper to the public.  Since there is no limit to the number of private individuals who can purchase printing technology and paper, there is no theoretical need to worry about the expression of opposing views in the public sphere. (The same can be said about today’s Internet.)

On the other hand, broadcasting uses an extremely scarce resource, radio frequency bandwidth. In addition, that bandwidth is the property of the general public (public domain).  There are only a limited amount of dial positions that can be assigned to anybody.  The physical properties of electronic, over the air transmission of signals, requires certain spacing of channels to avoid interference within so many hundreds of miles.  A regulatory body is needed to not only assign a channel to a person or an organization, but to assure that the user of that channel serve the public interest by issuing operating licences to use the public domain.

What usually happened was that wealthy, powerful people obtained broadcast licenses. Due to the fact that in most places, only one or two broadcasters could be licensed to operate in a city, broadcasters could and did effectively monopolize public discussion of public ideas and policy.

People who had differing or opposing views did not have any opportunity to share their views in the same manner as station owners enjoyed on publicly owned airwaves.  The commissioners of the FCC created the Fairness Doctrine as the most effective and fairest way to address this inequity.

The FCC imposed “affirmative responsibilities on broadcasters to provide coverage of issues of public importance that is adequate and fairly reflects differing viewpoints.” To satisfy this public need, the Fairness Doctrine stated that broadcasters must provide free time for the presentation of opposing views. “The time must be presented free if a paid sponsor is not available and must provide programming on public issues if nobody else seeks to do so.”FreeSpeech-02

It’s easy to see why influential, powerful station owners came to hate the Fairness Doctrine and why they advocated for its demise.  Meantime, those of us who sincerely believed in being good public affairs directors, loved the regulation.  We could ensure that all sides of a debate could be heard and not worry about losing our jobs by producing content our employers decried. In other words, a good public affairs director made sure the citizens had access to the airwaves they actually owned. It was a win-win  situation.  Station management had the upper hand regarding public debate, but the general public had the enforceable right to voice their opposition. One can understand why so many of us public service directors and producers were allies of the FCC’s cause.

The set of rules and regulations called on radio and television to not only be mere industries, but to act as servants of the public interest. A cabal of owners challenged the Fairness Doctrine in court, but it always survived court challenges.  It wasn’t until special interests were able to appoint commissioners friendly to station owners, in 1987, that the doctrine was abolished by the FCC. Any pretense to public fairness quickly evaporated in the marketplace. Only a few stations made any half-hearted effort to cater to fair public discussion.

Those of us who understood and valued the Fairness Doctrine, advocated for its reinstatement.  We only tapered back our efforts once the Internet gained traction.  Now, as we are all well aware, there is no shortage of venues for the free expression of public opinion and debate.

The big free speech problem we face now, is the drive by various powerful individuals and institutions to muzzle free speech on the World Wide Web.  That is a problem to be dealt with continuously into the forseeable future.

FreeSpeech-04iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Søren Kierkegaard.  “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

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Hawaiian Shirts

Little did I realize it in the late spring of 1967, that my new shirt was the heart and soul of Hawaiian shirts.  Joe, my new high school buddy, gave me a Barong Tagalog. Before I met them, my best friend’s family had lived in the Phillipines in Manila.  Joe taught me much of what I know about Filipino culture.

Actually, the Barong Tagalog was not brand new, but it was in pristine, excellent condition.  Joe said that he had outgrown the shirt and knew that I would like it. He explained that Barong Tagalogs are worn during formal occasions with black dress slacks and black shoes. The garments are worn with the top button fastened, without a necktie, and not tucked into pants.

My Barong Tagalog was a long-sleeved shirt, tailored from hand-woven banana fabric. It was an undyed, off-white color and felt very smooth and slightly stiff to the touch. At the breast was an embroidered geometric design in dark brown stitching. I tried it on. It was a perfect fit. I eventually wore it to several dress-up events and always received compliments about the shirt. I kept the Barong Tagalog as a memento for many years after my friend and his family moved away.AlohaShirts-03TomSellick

The Barong Tagalog’s share in the evolution of the Hawaiian shirt, aka Aloha shirt, is by the cut and tailoring of the garments.  In the 1920s Filipinos were part of the migration to the Hawaiian Islands of people from Japan and other Asian regions to work the sugarcane plantations. The elements of the original Aloha shirts were the Barong Tagalog, Japanese Kimono fabric, and Native Hawaiians’ own, traditional patterned fabric used in their  indigenous clothing.

The sugarcane workers wore the palaka, a comfortable short-sleeved shirt made of checkered Kimono cloth constructed along the lines of the Barong Tagalog. Eventually the shirts became a favorite of Japanese men and boys.

In the 1920s, Yale Educated, native born Ellery Chun returned to the Islands and took over his father’s Chinese general store.  In an effort to appeal to the wider Hawaiian community, Chun decided to sell palakas constructed of Kimono fabric that was printed in bold patterns and bright colors.AlohaShirts-01

In 1930, one of Chun’s competitors, Musa-Shiya, created his own version of the Palaka and marketed them for just under a dollar apiece. The current incarnation of the Aloha shirt was designed and marketed in 1932 by Ti Haw Ho, the owner of a surf and sportswear shop. The store’s shirt retained the basic Palaka style but the fabrics were more bold and colorful. The printed designs included the familiar, clichéd palm trees, large flower blooms, Hula girls, pineapples, and so forth.AlohaShirts-02BingCrosby

By the 1940s more sellers entered the market utilizing other fabric choices like silk. Fabric designers also tried their skills at new patterns and pictures. The shirts gained popularity among tourists and military personnel on leave.  Shirts of this period have become highly sought after collectors’ items.

In 1951, President Harry Truman was photographed on vacation in Hawaii, wearing an Aloha shirt. The newspaper photo triggered a mainland fashion craze. Other noteworthy men also wore the shirts.  Bing Crosby and Bob Hope were big fans of the Aloha shirt. Interest was kept alive when Elvis Presley donned the shirts for “Blue Hawaii”. Aloha shirts of this type are still worn today.

Regarding my personal enjoyment of Hawaiian shirts, I still have my first one in storage.  In 1982, my roommate Felix flew to Hawaii on vacation.  He brought back souvenirs for his friends.  His gift to me was an indigo blue flowered, silk Aloha shirt.

To me, Aloha shirts, in addition to Barong Tagalogs, symbolize friendship.

AlohaShirts-04iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness says life is short so be sure you own at least one Hawaiian shirt.

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The downtown air felt so thick with heat and humidity that mist gathered onto the young man’s eyeglasses. His bandana drooped with moisture wiped from his face. The young man slowed his pace to keep from generating ever more heat.  The young man fantasized about a hurricane that might blow away his discomfort. Even a mild breeze would be welcome tonight.

The young man halted to wipe the moisture from his glasses.  There was only one small, dry place remaining on the shirt tail to use. He muttered in frustration that he was cursed with such severe near-sightedness that he had to wear the “Coke Bottle” thick lenses.moths-01

His thoughts were interrupted by clicking sounds echoing off the buildings. That’s when he noticed several bats swooping through clouds of moths in orbit around each street light. How many thousands or maybe how many millions of the insects were downtown?  The bats would certainly have their fill of prey that night.

A tiny moth took refuge on his eyeglasses. The young man slowly removed them again, in order to examine the creature. It’s wings were not the expected delta shape of spring millers. The grey was tinged with pinks and gold. The wing span was slightly larger than a thumbnail. moths-02

The curved wings had markings that resembled golden eyes. The little insect looked like a smaller version of a moth he had once seen on an insect identifier chart. Before the young man could inspect the insect more closely, the moth flew away to join its comrads.

How many of the tiny moths were in the clouds of insects downtown that night?  By far, the largest share were the pesky, drab millers. He cheered on the bats and hoped they would eat to their hearts’ delight. The young man resumed his walk and observed the greedy bats as they clicked and flew through the swarms of moths.

After several minutes, the downtown district was behind the young man. The street light poles were spaced further apart.  Each light looked like a globular cluster galaxy.

The young man wondered what happened during olden times when streets were lit by gaslight.  The Victorian moths were certainly drawn to the many street lights. Were great numbers of old timey moths engulfed in accidental holocausts? Their individual guidance systems being deceived by the light of the fire, great numbers must have spiralled into death.

The young man observed that moths must be tough little creatures. They somehow survive hundreds of collisions with others of their kind and with solid glass light bulbs. Do moths get headaches from all of that bumping around?  Have they discovered a natural analgesic? Do some moths hang out around feverfew herbs?

At first glance, it would seem that street lights would make great lonely hearts clubs for wistful moths.  What perfect places to meet the moths of their dreams.  (Do moths dream?) Scientists say moths don’t hook up at street lamps because most moths are like most humans, they prefer to mate in the dark.

The young man continued walking homeward. Every 50-yards or so, was another street light, each with its own galaxy of hundreds and hundreds of miller moths. Were there perhaps one or two of the tiny pinkish grey creatures in each flying cluster?

The young man was tired of seeing miller moths.  He longed to see, just once that moths-03night, a beautiful luna moth, but they were not to be found in the young man’s part of the Midwest.

The young man once read that luna moths do not have mouths.  They never get the munchies. Instead of searching for food, lunas only cruise for sex.

At last, the young man reaches his home. He opens the storm door then sweeps his right hand across the top of the door. He shoos three wayward miller moths that had chosen the space between the door and the frame to hide away. Those three would not sneak in to flap around the house.

Unfortunately the young man’s precautions were in vain. When he flipped the kitchen wall switch, three millers began to orbit the light.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Christopher Fry. “Between our birth and death, we may touch understanding. As a moth brushes a window with its wing.”

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Instant Coffee

My friend Jorge knocked on the door and interrupted my investigation of today’s topic.  When he saw that I was researching instant coffee, my pal flashed me a knowing grin.  Jorge has been an instant coffee user since childhood. InstantCoffee-03

Although he loves the taste of fresh brewed, his go-to coffee is instant. Jorge is somewhat apologetic about his favorite brand of instant coffee.  Jorge confessed that he prefers to drink Nescafe’ Classico.  He was quick to add that he and his partner do not purchase any other products made by Nestle’, the coffee is the lone exception. He was referring to the worldwide boycott of Nestle’ products because of the missteps in the company’s business model.

The latest outrage is the statement by the company’s chairman that corporations should own every drop of water on the planet and people should only have some if they will pay a company for the privilege. The statement that water is not a basic human right, and should be privatized is only the latest on a laundry list of human rights quandries.

Jorge says his taste for Nescafe’ was cultivated at an early age.  His busy mother served the drink every day to family and friends.  It was a time saver in that she didn’t have to clean pots and throw out used grounds. Holiday feasts were the only times she prepared fresh ground coffee. The most popular brand in the Mexican grocery stores was Nescafe’.

Historically, the British first experimented with a type of dehydrated coffee in 1771. That first try failed to gain popularity, though. In the United States, the first experimental instant coffee came in “cake” form in 1853. It was field tested during the Civil War.

InstantCoffee-01The first powdered variety was invented in 1890, by David Strang of New Zealand. Strang’s process involved blowing hot, dry air over liquid coffee until it condensed into solids. The resulting product was convenient, portable and probably tasted nasty. Despite the flavor, public reaction to the product was enthusiastic. A similar process was developed in Japan in 1901, by Sartori Kato who adapted his instant tea process to make instant coffee.

A product that was similar to the Strang and Kato instant coffees entered the American market in 1910 from George Constant Louis Washington. Public reaction to the first version of “George Washington Coffee” was reluctant acceptance due to its bitter flavor.

The two World Wars provided a major boost to instant coffee producers. The powder was included in the meal rations.  In fact, the major share of production from the American companies was sold to the US military.

It was the Nestle’ company that made the beverage more palatable and convenient.  In the late 1930s they co-dried coffee extract with an equal amount of sugar-sweetened milk.  In the 1960s, they helped develop the freeze drying process that is today’s industry standard.InstantCoffee-02

All that history made Jorge and me thirsty for a cup of joe. Jorge insisted I should let my french press rest and that I prepare some instant Folgers, instead.  I filled two medium size mugs with half water-half milk, then microwaved them for a couple of minutes. Next I added two heaping teaspoons of the Folger’s “crystals” to each mug and stirred. (Neither of us use sugar in our coffee.) We enjoyed our perfect cups of instant coffee.

Jorge told me to remind my readers that the secret to a good cup of instant coffee, is to follow the label directions. Use one rounded teaspoon for every six-ounces of hot water and tweak according to taste. My friend enjoyed my instant coffee so much that he promised to wean himself away from the Nescafe’ ASAP.

InstantCoffee-04iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this one-liner from Jay Leno: “Starbuck’s is going to start selling instant coffee. This is for people who want the quality of Sanka, but want to pay the high Starbuck’s price.”

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Is It Hot Enough For You?

During extreme weather, we have a couple of idiomatic greetings to use in place of, “How are you?”. In the winter, there’s, “Is it cold enough for you?” In the summer we have, “Is it hot enough for you?”hotenough-01

This idiom took on a different meaning when it became more closely associated with global climate change.  Recently, I came across a YouTube video about one scholar’s concerns about the Northern Hemisphere’s jet stream.  https://youtu.be/CKasUm77D0U

Paul Beckwith of University of Ontario’s “Laboratory for Paleo-climatology” showed data about a radical shift in the flow of the jet stream.  Beckwith is concerned that the Earth’s climate is becoming chaotic and the new behavior is ongoing.  He notes that as the planet’s climate changes in a non-linear fashion that meteorologists are noting shifts in atmospheric and oceanic current patterns. Beckwith believes that, “We must declare a global climate emergency.” Winters will be much warmer.

Because this information came from a YouTube video and the alert was brought to my attention via the Internet, my inate skepticism was triggered and I decided to ask opinions of people I know who have more knowledge about weather and climate than I do.


To refresh your memory, the northern jet stream is the fast flowing “river” of air that moderates weather over North America and Northern Europe.

Climate scientists have noted real changes in the speeds and positions of the jet stream the past decade or so. Satellite images have shown the jet stream is taking a more meandering, longer pathway, which is causing seasonal weather patterns to alter. Many climateologists and meteorologists have said that the resulting change could result in more harsh winters over North America and Europe.

Meantime Beckwith believes the shifting jet stream and its recent cross-eqatorial flow will cause winters to be warmer, not colder. Beckwith posits, in his hypothesis, that the present disproportionate heating of the Arctic region is the cause of the jet stream destabilization. This may cause problems for livestock and agriculture and other aspects of civilization.

My two friends with a background in meteorology were unaware of Paul Beckwith and his work regarding global climate change.  I searched the Web for other opinions and discovered some experts who disagreed with Beckwith’s conclusions. They say jet stream shifts between the northern and southern hemispheres are not uncommon. While we should not ignore the current shifts, we shouldn’t jump the gun on declaring any sort of imminent general emergency.

One serious problem that there is no disagreement over, is that the Arctic and Antarctic have warmed recently as a result of melting polar ice caps. This means there is now less of a difference in temperature where the colder air meets warmer air in the warmer latitudes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has noted that the jet stream has indeed weakend during the past two decades. This means the jet stream is meandering “off course” more frequently.

This has shown up as warmer winters in such places as Canada’s Northern Territories, Alaska, and Scandinavia, while more southern areas have had much colder winters. hotenough-02NOAA’s James Overland says that Arctic temperatures have been rising nearly three times faster than the rest of the planet.

When the sea ice melts, the reflectivity of sunlight changes and the water absorbs more heat. In turn, the warmer sea temperatures affect the atmosphere. Regardless of the cause of the shifting jet stream, we can expect severe impacts on climate and weather.  What happens up north will change precipitation and temperature patterns. The impact on agriculture will come from new air mass holding patterns that will remain in place for longer time periods.

In other words, some places on Earth will be hotter than usual and other places will be colder.  We need to be aware of these changes and be prepared to cope with them. This will be true regardless of one’s political opinions about global climate change.

J 7-1-01The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes naturalist and photographer James Balog. “Climate change is real. Climate change is being substantially increased by humans and the carbon we put into the atmosphere. And it appears to be speeding up. If science has made any mistakes, science has been underestimating it.”

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