The Great Plotnik

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


It's August tomorrow. That means musicians, like other humans, go away until September. So recording sessions have to be pushed back.

August means birthdays -- the Little Bear's just happened, then Mummy P. and then Ducknik.

August means padron peppers ripening on the deck. Plot is determined to have one very small plate of tapas out of those padrones before he and Duck fly east to swim in mountain lakes and eat loaves of raisin pumpernickel in Ellenville.

August might be hot or not, and it will be windy, but it will not be humid. We choose fog a hundred times over humidity.

August might mean driving back to Catawissa, even if Plotnik has to go by himself. The stories we have heard recently about what has happened to the bucolic country where Plot and Duck lived when The Great PD was born, are kind of chilling. (We hear Berwick, PA, where PD was born, is now known as "Methwick.")

August might mean First Place or it might mean Last Place. But the only thing that counts is where you are on September 29.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This is What You Get Without Editors

Huff Post must save money on photo caption editors too...

Big Mac
13.47 Pound Baby Born In Germany

Jasleen Germany Largest Baby
Former '7th Heaven' Star Strips Down For Maxim

Monday, July 29, 2013

Thoughts About Taste

Yesterday's chocolate cake discovery has The Plotster thinking about what makes for good taste. Every wine taster knows that wine tastes different according to what you are eating. Even if you are just sitting at a bar drinking, the second and third sips don't taste like the first.

That's what smokers say about that first drag in the morning. It is definitely true about the first swallow of coffee.

Give Plotnik a piece of chocolate cake and he wants that cup of coffee. Why? He needs hot sauce with any food that isn't highly spiced. Why? He loves the taste of bacon but the smell of bacon fat makes him sick to his stomach. Same with liver, any kind, even the tiniest bit. One taste and he has to spit it out. Why?

Obviously psychology is involved. He thinks that Destination Bakery chocolate cake had to have been the same texture and the same chocolate-to-fat ratio as his Mom's chocolate cake from when he was a child, because it tasted way better to him than it probably was. Maybe it's more than that, though, because everyone at the table, adults and children, felt the same way about that cake, and we all had different moms. But Plotnik more so.

Smell is important too -- that's probably why bbq tastes so good. We associate the smell of
smoking meat with goodness. It's also why coffee sipped through a styrofoam lid has so little taste - you can't smell the coffee the second before you swallow it.

If you think of the foods you really dislike, it's probably the smell that does it to you. Plotnik remembers  eating at Canter's with his first stepfather Harold and Grandpa Ben. Both of them ordered cabbage soup. Harold's family was Hungarian, Ben's Rumanian. Obviously, that smell reminded both of them of the goodness of home. But it stunk so much to little Plottie that he can remember it to this day -- and Harold died in 1959.

But the smell of the pastrami at Katz's (also Rumanian style)? Fawgeddaboudit. Add in the pickles? Gedoudahere. Heaven on Earth.

But could he eat a piece of that chocolate cake after a pastrami sandwich with half a dozen sour pickles?

Nope. So it's more than taste. Maybe just good taste.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Second Coming of Chocolate Cake

Let's talk about chocolate cake. If there is one food that is eternally disappointing, chocolate cake is it. No bakery does it like Mummy P. did, or at least how The Great Plotnik remembers his mom's. Chocolate cakes are, time after time, year after year, 'way too rich, or the chocolate balance is off, or the texture is more like pudding than cake, or it's too dry, or some idiot decides to use margarine or carob. People don't know the difference between cake and brownies, or they think the idea of chocolate cake is something called Chocolate Decadence or Triple Chocolate Fudge or Chocoholic Zapper.

The French can't make chocolate cake, theirs are too-sweet too-rich too-creamy. The Austrians are too close to Black Forest Cake or German Chocolate Cake, both of which are all right but not what we're looking for. The Mexicans, who invented chocolate, can do hot chocolate but not cake. Today's world is a chocolate cake lover's wilderness. 

But don't give up, because tonight it all changed. Tonight we had the best chocolate cake Plot and Duck have tasted for at least 40 years. It came from Destination Bakery, down the block, and was our neighbor Avanna's birthday cake yesterday. They brought some over and it is astonishingly perfect.

JUST the right Belgian chocolate. JUST the right crumb. JUST the right sweetness. There isn't too much frosting but there's not too little either. It ain't cheap -- $50 bucks for that cake, but it would serve at least 16-20.

Or one Duck and one Plot for maybe a week. We've walked by that bakery on the way to BART for many years and seldom bought anything there. Can't wait for somebody else to have a birthday now.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hundred Year Old Vines to High Tech

Lodi was fun. Just about two hours out there and a little more coming back, due to some bridge traffic caused by the Giants game. Once you get past Tracy you start to see a corn field here, some grape vines there, and then it's orchard country. Walnuts, peaches, almonds, melons and of course grapes grapes grapes. This country grew grapes until Prohibition, then they tore out the vines and planted walnuts. Then they tore out the walnuts and planted grapes again.

But some of those old vine zinfandels are still there and still producing. We tasted zins from 100 year old vines today at Klinker Brick winery and Primitivos at Sorrele. (Same grape, different name.) They are not Rafanellis, but they are very good.

But man, it's hot out there. You don't linger in the sun. And you can't really taste very much wine either.

It was a long drive just to visit a couple wineries, but seeing good friends we hadn't seen in awhile made it all perfect. And then we stopped at Pazzia on 3rd Street for dinner, our old favorite haunt where we hadn't been in so long the owner's beard has gotten gray. Pazzia's pizza is just as good as ever -- the best we know of in S.P.

We kept passing lines of young, well dressed men, waiting to get into various buildings. Turns out there's some kind of tech convention in town and many companies in Pazzia's neighborhood were hosting after-parties. Lots and lots of men. Some looked like teenagers, but most in their twenties and thirties. No women.

So this is the answer to the eternal question, ladies: "Where do you go to meet guys in this town?" South of Market. You've heard it here.

Friday, July 26, 2013


The Travel Schedule is looking up. New York in August, followed by, at some point over the following six months or so, Sicily by car, somewhere for Christmas (maybe here?), then La Culebra and Vieques by boat with Captain Crow and First Mate Finch early next year. Trips to Stiletto, of course. Plot and Duck haven't been anywhere major since Spain last November, so the clock has been running.

Spent part of the afternoon talking with Carlo, our soon-to-be ex-next-door neighbor, as he and family prepare to move to Berlin for a year, then back to settle in Arizona. Good byes are good for absolutely nothing except sad songs.

We will miss them and we will miss their kids -- it's really nice to get hugged by children on the street. But the parents are scientists, and scientists have to go where the jobs are, where the opportunities are, and these days that says Europe.

Come to think of it, a trip to Berlin would not be a bad idea.

The baseball fan in The Great Plotnik is convinced the Plotzers are toast, done, finished, washed up, kaput. They will not win another game, at least until they do. Could be tonight, or next year.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Financial Advice

Had lunch with our friend and financial advisor today. The lessons to remember when speaking with financial people are these:

1) Don't think about the short term. Only the long term matters. In the short term, shit happens. In the long term, everything rises gently.

  1a) This is in contrast to your personal long term prospects. In the short term, you might be having fun, but your long term trend is a diminishing return followed by illness, anguish and death.

  1b) Pay no attention to graphs with arrows that point down.

2)  If you feel stupid because you don't have enough money, you are stupid.

  2a) If you feel stupid because you're stupid, you probably don't have enough money.

3) Bad people in general, 100% of lawyers and 95% of financial people treat everything they do as a competition.  Did Zimmerman kill that kid? Yes. Did I get him off? Yes! I WIN!

  3a) The financial equivalent is: "Does this transaction I am recommending prove I am the smartest person in the room? Am I so smart that I see something the rest of the world is missing? I WIN!"

  3b) (sometimes followed by: "Ooopsy.")

4) Run from anything that has any of these words in it: 'Derivatives,' 'exchanges,' 'swaps,'  'Ianni,' 'demographic', 'youth,' 'My Fellow Americans,' 'The American people,' 'Republican,' 'McConnell,' ''Tea,' 'Party' or 'Your Call Is Important to Us.'

5) Do NOT spend any time in your life with people you don't like. Spend as much time as possible with people you love.

  5a) Find someone you trust to do this stuff for you. Ask them to explain. If they keep explaining until you get it, you've found a jewel.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


The Padron peppers are booming this year. It's got to be the extra heat, or maybe the loving care (and extra fertilizer) that they get due to their clever positioning in big, black tubs on the back deck. This is probably it, seeing as the tomatoes planted next to them (Stupice, Early Girl, Sun Gold and a nameless hanging variety whose seeds somehow got into our luggage when we were leaving Barcelona) are doing equally well.

The secret to growing anything in Saint Plotniko this year has something to do with sun but everything to do with wind. The tubs on the deck are protected from those gales we've had along with the extra heat, whereas the same plants in the rear garden, planted at the same time, are getting battered and dry out quickly. 

Get ready for tapas mis amigos.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How It's Done

People who don't love baseball can turn away now. There are some cute cats singing "Memory" on U-Tube. Blogmaid, you are forgiven for watching the Royal Birthling.

Now, for the rest of us. This is part of an interview with Torii Hunter, now with the Detroit Tigers. The subject of the interview is great outfielders and how the great ones never have to dive for a ball because they positioned themselves correctly in the first place. The quickest path between Point A and Point B is a straight line. You are Point A. The tricky part is figuring out were Point B is going to be.

Here is the part Plottie loved:

"Before each game, as the Tigers get in their daily rounds of batting practice, Hunter sets himself up in the outfield. His teammates jog to and fro, sometimes sprinting, shagging fly balls. But Hunter barely moves. He's 37 now, and he's learned the benefit of saving his legs. So he watches, listens to the crack of the bat and feels how the wind is blowing. Once the ball is hit, Hunter will avert his eyes from its path and focus instead on the five-foot circle of grass where he thinks the ball will land. More often than not, the ball drops in the circle. Six-time Gold Glove Award winner Kirby Puckett taught Hunter this mental exercise when he first came up with the Twins, to teach him to take the most direct route to the baseball."

Man, baseball is wonderful. (When your team is winning...)

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Plot and Duck have a nice five-day stretch where we'll see three plays. Last night's "Camelot" at San Francisco Playhouse was good, tonight's Don Reed show at the Marsh is sure to be very funny, and then Wednesday we'll go down to Palo Alto to see "The Loudest Man on Earth" which got a little- man-leaping-off-his-chair review from the Chron.

Seeing lots of shows makes for tighter reviewing, but it wasn't easy to review "Camelot" because the music, for a classic show by world-class writers, is kind of meh. It premiered in 1960 just as the Kennedys were taking over in Washington, and the show became identified with the new spirit in U.S. politics. So, in a sense, timing was everything for Lerner and Loewe. But all these years later and their previous blockbuster "My Fair Lady" is still one of the two or three greatest musicals of all time, while "Camelot" has not worn nearly as well.

It had to have been easier for a knight 1,000 years ago to carry around a sword than for an actor in the 21st century,  especially when you have to sit or squat or turn around in tight company. It was fun to watch this cast pull it off without anyone losing his pants. Maybe  JJ-aka-PP can tell us all what's involved in stage choreography when swords are part of the program.

Friday, July 19, 2013


I've been told it's easier to read stories on Blogger than on Facebook. So here is today's post, which stems from a discussion with The Great FiveHead about black townships in South Africa. This little girl was photographed in front of her house in Kayelitsha, near Capetown. At last night's TIAPOS several people wrote about Trayvon Martin, from different perspectives. Here is mine. - TGP)


We San Franciscans love our city. When our family comes to visit we want to show it off. But the fact is that no matter how beautiful the cityscape, what tourists always notice first is dirtbag piss-covered humans everywhere they look.

I moved from casual California to callous New York in my early twenties and I was horrified to see people on Broadway nonchalantly stepping over winos sleeping on the sidewalk. I blamed the East. It was so cold, life was hard, people had to have thick skins.

Now I live in Paradise. I get it. I see the beggars, but I don't want to see them, so I look up instead of down -- there! The Bridge! There! The Wharf!

A few years ago we traveled in South Africa. We went to townships like Kayelitsha and Langa, outside of Capetown, and also to Soweto, which is a few miles from downtown Johannesburg. The townships are far larger than I had thought. Soweto is an enormous, sprawling community of several million people. There are a few blocks of small but nice homes where the local gentry live, and then there is 'across the tracks,' for everybody else.

Except there are no tracks. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu live down the street from each other on a block with trees. Their houses have lawns and grass and there are street plaques celebrating these favorite local sons. But travel a quarter mile and you are in the middle of a roiling treeless ocean of sheet-metal shanties where eighty thousand people share a few water spigots and primitive group latrines. Their tiny homes smell pungent, of the kerosene they use for cooking and heat, and of the garbage that piles up when so many people share so few services.

They have lots of drunks too. The shabeens (bar-shanties) brew up a toxic home-brew which sits in a copper tub in the middle of the dirt floor. You take a metal cup and scoop yourself a glassful. The old men in the shabeens look as dazed and forlorn as the crackheads on Eddy Street.

Go to San Francisco's Tenderloin at night and you see what remains of the American township we used to call "Skid Row." When I was growing up, every city had one. If you were drunk or vagrant, the police threw you into the wagon and took you down to Skid Row -- the bowery. They might bust your head so you wouldn't try heading into the town again until you were sober.

Skid Rows have disappeared. Urban land is becoming valuable again. The Google Bus does not stop on Eddy Street yet, but it will.

My sense now is that white people in South Africa thought about their people of color about as much as we in America thought about bums on Skid Row. Their lives were without value to us. What we wanted was to dump them somewhere where we wouldn't have to think about them. This has not changed all that much.

If homeless people stayed in the Tenderloin, or in the camps under the 280 Freeway, we wouldn't hear about them. But they don't. They camp out in parks, on streets, in doorways, in BART stations, in the entrances to theaters and concert halls and restaurants. Escalators stink of urine and sooner or later rot out and stop working. Bums lie lifeless and curled up on Powell Street in the midst of lines of tourists paying $6 dollars each to ride ten minutes on a cable car.

We who live in crowded cities have accepted the laws of minimal behavior -- don't pee on the sidewalk. Don't smell so bad people jerk their heads sideways when they pass you. Don't lie in the street covered with your own vomit. This is not such a high standard, but if you won't go into the homeless shelter, if you won't accept treatment, if you won't show up at the neighborhood courts, and if you won't or can't stop drugging yourself to death, we are helpless before your intransigence.

We don't know what to do.

I have read Shantaram. I know we are supposed to consider all humans among us to be deserving of equal respect. We are all sacred children under God.

Here's what God allowed in South Africa, during the years of apartheid. Every city or town of any size had its own township, with limited or no city services. White people lived in the towns and black people lived in the townships. In an area like Capetown there is a third ethnic group, of Malay and Indian origin, so there was (and is) a "colored" township as well.

What made you "black" and what made you "colored?" The pencil test. If a pencil fell out of your hair in a few seconds, you were colored. If it stayed there you were black.

Coloreds did not go into the black township and blacks did not go into the colored township and neither one was allowed on the streets of the white city after dark. They were expected to be back in their own township by then, so they would be of no danger to white women or children. Their own dangers, living in overcrowded squalor with little rule of law, were not considered.

America took a different approach. We enslaved our black people, then freed them into informal townships, which we call "neighborhoods." We have specific neighborhoods for all people of color, black neighborhoods, Asian neighborhoods, Latino neighborhoods. You can work yourself out, if you wish, but it is not easy.

White is a color too and we have white neighborhoods, often broken into ethnic grounds, Italian, Irish, Jewish. When my parents were young in Chicago, a Jewish kid did not walk into an Irish neighborhood. A black kid did not walk into a Mexican neighborhood.

And homeless people, or hoboes as they were known then, stayed on Skid Row.

If you strayed, you could get what Trayvon Martin got, or that version of punishment that existed before bullies could legally carry concealed weapons and use them with impunity.

George Zimmerman might not have noticed an older man in his neighborhood, or a young white kid, or perhaps even a young black kid without the telltale hoodie. Trayvon's mom had warned him about "looking hard" when he was visiting his dad, but, you know, kids.

All societies have rules. People who live there know them. They are not good rules, nor righteous rules, nor do they add anything decent to the quality of our lives. But sometimes they are what stand between life and death.

Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die, as far as we know. But he was a young black man wearing a hoodie in a non-black neighborhood. In the despised apartheid days in South Africa, if you'd stuck a pencil in his hair he would not have been allowed anywhere near George Zimmerman. But this is America and we have no pencil tests. We dream of tolerance, but tolerance comes slowly, and is always swept away by fear.

Fear killed Trayvon Martin. My guess is we will step right over it. Look! The Wharf! Look! The Bridge!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How To Kill Two and a Half Hours Downtown While Waiting For Them To Install Your Replacement Hard Drive...

...just amble into the Apple Store around the corner. Walk upstairs --- somebody is giving a presentation about Aperture, apparently a fancy I-Photo. He is maybe 25 and his students are all geezers. He's a professional photographer, which is probably why he's working in the Apple Store.

...walk across Market Street to the small Farmer's Market in the Jewish Museum arcade. Sample half a dozen nectarine bites. But at $3.50 a pound that's, like, $2 a peach. And it will rot on your counter before it makes it into your granola. a young Chinese woman, dressed in a perky Muni tourism outfit, who is trying to suggest in a non-combative and kindly manner to the totally shitfaced bag of rotting drunken flesh lying on the sidewalk that he might consider relocating his sorry self to a doorway on someone else's turf. He is covered in more vomit than a frat party. The line for the cable cars snakes around and through him.

...pass Tad's, where a SF Steak Dinner Special is now $14.95, up from the $2.95 it was the last time you went there, when you took your college girl friend out for a night on the town and didn't realize that Tad's wasn't probably the impressive night spot she had had in mind.

...stare into the hole in the ground where they are building the Central Subway. What is it about holes in the ground? You never see anything. But you can't stop looking.

...finally get the call that your replacement SSD drive has been installed. And now it begins. Again.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Good Grub

Plot and Duck have their house to themselves again.  Plottie worked all day today repairing "Foghead," "La Culebrita" and "Old Mr. Stein," which meant recreating instrumental lines and fixing timing issues that he had already done once, plus re-recording vocal and guitar Parts. It can be painstaking. The Great Hard Drive Fiasco was eleven days ago, and he still doesn't have a replacement solid state drive. 

But World HQ feels empty. The cupboard is bare. So the morning was devoted to making a new batch of granola and then a sausage-marinara with chipotle for the freezer. The extra sauce went into a fabulous dish with chopped up fennel, herbs and shrimp, covered with feta and baked for tonight's dinner.

Spoke to The Great PD: they're home, and it's a hot July in the Shmapple.  But once they left here the wind and fog came back. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013


So, they're on their way home. At least they got to see Northern California put on its finest weather. What a whirlwind two weeks for Plot and Duck, with a memorable trip to Providence sandwiched in between.

The Greats PD, 5H, BBone and Desbondiga the Prosperous (DP) have a mountain awaiting them as soon as they return home, what with packing up and moving into a new apartment around the corner, not to mention work, camp and that good ol' East Coast mugginess. The Great BZWZ is hopefully sitting on her behind today, but she's got to pack up and move too, from the Northeast of the past twelve years down to the South. She's in for a few surprises, but luckily she's got JJ-aka-PP to help her get accustomed to Southern weather and rednecks.

Nobody can tell me Mummy Plotnik looks her age.

These are are all college friends of the Great PD. Plot and Duck know them all and they've known Nick (ie) since he was Isabella's age. Their expanding families got together in Watsonville over the Fourth of July at the home of one of their parents. They are no longer children, all now in their mid-to-late thirties, and all have one or two kids and several more are imminent. Their beards are turning gray-ish. This means they are basically exactly who Plot and Duck were when their kids were little.

Desbondiga the Prosperous. The Meatball with Handles. The kid who makes everybody laugh just by exposing his thighs.

Meanwhile, The Great FiveHead and B-Bone the Fearless got to spend a day on the Santa Cruz waterfront.

You've seen photos before of beautiful Stella and Isabella. Stella lives in Pacific Heights and just gets more stunning every year. It's a little spooky.

Dinner at Regalito -- the perfect choice as long as you go early before the crowd takes your ears away. That's probably the best guacamole and certainly the best homemade tostadas in the city.

So now it's back to work. I guess. Tomorrow, maybe.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fun Day at Explo

The Exploratorium is the perfect place to take a scamp. Belly-Bone insisted on telling the other thousand kids there that she knew everything there is to know about every exhibit in the museum, or that she already learned about this stuff in New York. 

We ate grilled cheese sandwiches from a cart in front of the museum, and bought America's Cup tchatchkes on Market Street, and took streetcars, trolleys and buses to go nowhere in no particular hurry.

Ran into old friends Trisha and Ellyn at the museum, while searching unsuccessfully for Hanky Girl.

As always, when you show your beautiful city to people who don't get to live here, it looks more beautiful than ever. So it is nothing short of astonishing that the first thing people notice, before the bridge or the buildings or the hills, are the homeless people.

Those beautiful newly-planted palm trees along the Embarcadero, each with its own brick enclosure, have become tiny mini-motels for homeless people. One palm, one hobo, each enclosure filled with filthy blankets, or a hospital bed, or empty bottles and trash, the drunks lying on the treet, or staring off into the million dollar view.

This will never change, especially as the weather gets warmer. If you were going to be homeless, wouldn't you rather do it in Saint Plotniko than Cincinnati?

Yesterday, The Great PD and Great 5H spent several hours with an East Bay real estate agent, getting a fix on the way things are out here. Ya nevuh know. The Great Plotnik would certainly be sad if he had to spend any more time with Belly The Bone and Desmond the Prosperous.

Meanwhile, 3000 miles away and two days too late for Plot and Duck, DRBZ is stepping out.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Belly on Billy Goat Hill

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Three Great Days

We're home after a whirlwind three day cross-country adventure.

At the post-acceptance party yesterday afternoon they said some really nice things about Dr. BZ's dissertation, including how well written it was and how she had raised the bar for everyone studying this discipline. Her advisor commented on how she had brought a fresh ear and eye to the department, since her background had been so different, and how the field of study she had carved out for herself had seemed improbable at first, but now made perfect sense.

They commented on what a good writer she is. Well, duh, thought her dad, who has known this for a long time.   

Then she, her parents and her lab group all drove across the world's shortest bridge and met at her advisor's house to swim in his pool and have dinner. There were mosquitoes but these are scientists so there were all manner of repellants, including both "Hippie Repellant" and the one favored by Advisor Jim's wife, the archeologist, who knows what works for her in the jungle. We may have brain loss but nothing itches this morning.

There were delicious fish tacos and a crumble made from local plums and cherries. BZWZ is fortunate to have been mentored by such graceful people.

There was a trip afterwards to the Grad Students'  bar, where all the students appear to be well known by the bartenders. It reminded someone of the verse from the Ray Charles song "I've Got News For You"  that says

"You said before we met
Your life was awful tame
But I took you to a night club
And the whole band knew your name...."

One of the grad students brought Dr. BZ a Bullitt Whiskey with one precisely chosen ice cube, that he said he hand-selected, though he himself works with dirt, not ice. Chris arrived. He's a really nice guy who studies magma and makes homemade bread and has one more year to go before he goes through this whole process himself.

What an interesting community. They study in really obscure places, like the Arctic and the Antarctic and on top of mountains and in the jungle and out in the middle of the ocean, and then they come home, publish their findings, and after that they have to scrabble to find someone who will pay them anything at all to continue their research and teach others.

They sound like musicians.

Next up for BZWZ is sleep, lots of it, and hopefully a nice vacation somewhere, then packing up her house and heading to Atlanta/Boulder for a year or two as the saga continues. Some day, Pops hopes, she'll find a spot she loves, and plunk herself down in it, unpack her suitcase, reclaim her rugs and artwork off our walls, take out her banjo and guitars and write some more songs. 

Until then there are more stories to write, more Delta D to analyze, more isotopes to discover and, looming above it all happiness to find and a planet to help save.

As for us, Isabella and PD met us at the airport and threw herself into our arms. Wow, what a week.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Doc Beezie

It's over. The Great BZWZ rocked. In her black slinky dress with her pointer and slides projected on a screen in back of her, in the same room she showed us when she first got to Brown, the planetary room, an old-boy looking venue if ever there were one, where the planetary geologists gather to discuss the vulcanology of the eighth moon of Neptune, BZ calmly took an assembled group of forty, including her parents, on a voyage that described her last five years' research, studying weather patterns, East Indian and African monsoons, cores extracted from lakes, data from weather stations and from the geochemistry of deuterium-heavy paleolithic plant waxes. 

She was calm, assured and never rushed anything. She smiled, laughed a little and explained a lot in her forty-five minutes in front of the group.

Afterwards there were questions from the audience, and the very first one was from a professor who walked with the aid of two walking sticks, and who was trying to stump her: "How would you describe everything you just said to a five year-old?" 

He was starting to explain how "it's very important that we be able to be able to sum up..." when BZ cut him off. "Here's what I'd say to that five year old," she said. "Look up in the sky. Weather changes all the time. There are lots of reasons.  We need to learn about those reasons." The questioner smiled, nodded and sat back down.

She knows her stuff. Of course, this has been her pattern since the fifth grade: do the work. Do more than you have to, so when you have to describe it, or write it, or sing it or play it, you'll have plenty to draw upon.

This is the kid who would wake herself up early to make sure her homework was done, the kid who went to Space Camp, who hung with the outcasts in high school, who took the plunge to go across the country to another world for college, and who got to Manhattan five days before 9-11, who prospered in the low-key academic world of Barnard College, then got out and chose to stay East and work for several years, finally figuring out what she might do with a PhD -- and then going out and getting it.

Right now she is being grilled by her committee about how to refine her thesis. We are to return in two hours for champagne. We are not allowed to say the D-word until then. Fingers still crossed.

But it's a lock. She had 'em when she picked up the pointer. As for Pops, she had me at Minute One. Committee, Shmamittee: Remember, I saw her first.

Sunday, July 07, 2013


When it's this hot you can't do anything. Sleep? You mean, that thing when you lie in bed and close your eyes and then it's morning? How about a constantly greasy upper lip? Remember hot sandal foot? 

The East is not the West, as someone once wrote. 

Rhode Island is unique though. People are just -- fun. Nobody's going anywhere, you couldn't drag 'em to Shmalifornia if you tried. They're lifers. They'll give you a seat at their table and share their oysters and within fifteen minutes you're exchanging emails and promising to stay in touch.

It won't happen. But at the time it seems possible.

Think that'll happen in Park Slope? or Noe Valley? Not likely.

The Great BZWZ has been working at her office all day today, and will be there until midnight most likely, working on tomorrow's presentation. But when it's done, she'll have put everything she can into it.

Her parents are, well, hot. But looking forward to not understanding one word tomorrow. It's supposed to cool down some.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Double Lucky

Here is a secret: It is no worse getting up at 4:30am to get to the airport at 5:30am to catch a 6:30am flight than getting up at 7am to get to the airport at 9:00am to catch a 10:00am flight, Either way you don't sleep the night before, afraid you'll sleep through your alarm. You just lie awake in bed longer. But there is no traffic getting to the airport when you leave early and the airport itself is so much easier to deal with at 5:30 than at 9:00. 

The security line is short and so is the coffee line. The croissants were just delivered. There is room to sit in the waiting area. People are smiling. Your plane is, by definition, on time, since it hasn't had time to be delayed coming in from anywhere else. It's the flight crew's first flight of the day so they're still happy to be alive and employed. The child in back of you is still groggy. You can read the newspaper while the news is only outdated by a few hours.

It helps if you have a wife who traveled on business for many years. She has getting up early down to a science. Shower here. Lunch packed here. Suitcase zipped up here. Carry-on, windbreaker, check! Book, I-Pad, check! Boarding pass, check!

We argue little. She still thinks they care about your toiletries in plastic bags. I still look for bad omens.

But look how I've grown. Our kids are in town so the other afternoon I went to Sun Fat to buy fresh salmon to barbecue. Everyone in Sun Fat is Chinese. I needed a two pound piece so the man cut one off a slab of fresh King. He wrapped it in butcher paper, weighed it, turned to me and said:


A second man said "Uh oh." I looked at him. "In China," he said, "this very bad."

A third man said: "Oh, yes. Bad omen."

"Bad omen?" I said.

"Numba faw mean death."

"Fawty faw death DEATH," said the second man.

"Worse," said the third man. "Fawty faw FAWTY FAW!" 

"You mean death death DEATH DEATH?" I said.

The three men smiled. "You need bag? Ten cent," said the first man.

"Wait a minute," I said. "I am serving this salmon to my kids and grandkids."

"How many?" 

"Four," I said.

"Hold on," the first man said. 

The three men huddled and the first man gave a lengthy opinion in Chinese. Judging from his burning eyes, escalating volume and the way he stared first at man two and then at man three, punctuated by rapid downward motions with his right arm, it looked like he was saying "I already cut this piece off a perfectly good (and expensive, I might add) King Salmon. I am not cutting it again. That old country BULLSHIT does not apply in this case because this is not China and this man is not Chinese. So shut the fuck UP!"

The second and third man were obviously employees of the first man. They all nodded and the second man turned to me.

He said "But you eat too, right? You, you wife, that make six? Six not bad."

"Plus, four plus four make eight. In China eight MOST luckiest numba," said the third man.

"Eight eight," said the second man. "TWICE lucky."

All three nodded. Problem averted. 

"So, you need bag?" said the first man.

A few years ago I would not have purchased that salmon OR fed it to my kids OR gotten on this plane this morning. But Barb and I are on our way to see BZ defend her PhD.  The way I see it: DOUBLE lucky.


This story is meant to be funny. But this afternoon, when we got off the plane, we were stopped by a TV broadcast in an airport bar. There was a real plane crash this afternoon, right on the runway where we had taken off eight hours earlier. Lots of injuries, and a few people are dead. And we had a wonderful time tonight, eating oysters down by the water, on a hot Rhode Island summer night. 

You can't figure this stuff out.

Friday, July 05, 2013


The best part of a garden is surprise. Can't remember planting these bulbs, but here they are. And just in time, when all the other spring bulb and flowers are fading.

 Luckily, restoring song data is easier than coming up with all the ideas in the first place. But this will take a while.

All packed up for the whirlwind trip across the country, to see the prettiest flower in the Rhode Island garden.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

It's Getting Noisier Minute By Minute

People are shooting off fireworks though it's half an hour 'til dark. Can't see any of them yet. We'll go sit on our neighbors' deck in half an hour or so, where there's a better view.

Yesterday's horrendous hard drive failure knocked the Plotster back on his heels. The drive that couldn't fail -- I mean, the salesman said, it's solid state! Nothing spins! These never go bad!

Boom. Worked fine when Plot turned off the computer Tuesday night and Wednedsay morning crashed forever. You can't recover data easily from hard state drives -- but don't worry! They never go bad!

That's a lot of work down the drain, but guess what: people are shooting off cherry bombs anyway. 

Dan and Fam made it safely down to Watsonville and they're hanging with some of their best friends for the weekend, all of whom have little kids.

BZ is getting ready for her defense Monday.

Mummy P. is feeling fine.

Isabella has burrowed so deeply into our hearts that she can go get moody and we just laugh.

Desmond is starting to chuckle, though most of the time he just sits on his diaper like Buddha.

So, as Plot is looking at it tonight, he and Duck have got it made. He's got a lot of work to make up, but he did it once. The second time should be easier.

They get to see BZ Saturday and PD, 5H, B-Bone and Des-bone again next Tuesday.

So let it rip! That last one shook the house. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Going Rate for Lost Teeth... Saint Plotniko is said to be more reasonable than in Brooklyn. We are about to find out.

Monday, July 01, 2013


It's so great to have TDP (Texas Desert Princess) back in Saint Plotniko. She belongs out here. We're workin' on it.