10 Reasons Being A Writer Is Like Being Santa Claus!

Killorglin                                            Photo by James McSweeny

Fun and funny blog piece by guest blogger author Tara Sparling on Anne R. Allen’s blog! I even made a comment….lol.


That so few can cause such death and damage is not, of course, new to Americans: we had 9/11 and other incidents before that, as did many other parts of the world. What needs to be “new” is our response, as individuals and as nations. We do not have to wage uncertain wars and conflicts in lands where the innocents end up as dead as the radical terrorists; we do not have to paint all Muslims or Christians or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists with wide swipes of hate-shed blood from the least of them–no, we need to hold up as brave and compassionate the heartfelt civility of the best of them. Terror has no home; love has no boundaries.

Running From a Wildfire

My partner has family in Lake County, California, specifically Middletown, scene of this week’s devastating fire. She also has more family in Clearlake, and the family’s roots go back to being early settlers in Capay, followed by a move to Middletown.

The national media was woefully unaware and/or unresponsive for the first 12 hours of this ever-changing disaster, but thanks to Pulitzer Prize-level work by Gedi Schwartz (@Gedinbcla) and a few others, Twitter and Periscope was alive with updates and information. As with most things, one just had to know where to look.

Just another day on the Cadden Family Vineyard farm? The Valley Fire changes an ordinary day into an extraordinary one.

Just another day on the Cadden Family Vineyard farm? The Valley Fire changed an ordinary day into an extraordinary one that changed lives and landscapes throughout Lake County, California.

The following story by Corey Preston on Medium gives as good a run-up to the actual fire as I’ve read anywhere–reads like a novel: starts slowly, almost casually, but ends like a punch to the stomach with the now viral video of one man trying to drive through fire to make it out alive.

Corey’s personal Medium site is here.

The Day I Said “No!” to the Beav…

The badge is not a badger; it is a beaver.

The badge is not a badger; it is a beaver.

The very positive response to the Facebook post I did about the little Happier Camper trailer one could pull with a Subaru reminded me of the day I said “No” to the Beaver. It went like this…

No, it didn't go like this--this is the Happier Camper I discovered recently. THIS I might be able to handle!

No, it didn’t go like this–this is the Happier Camper I discovered recently. THIS I might be able to handle!

One day, I found Karyn perusing travel trailers and motor homes on line. She thought that with my retirement, it would be “fun” to travel around to the many cool places in this country one or both of us have yet to see. For one trip, she wanted to show me the Grand Canyon. I wanted to show her the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. We both wanted to travel the length of the East coast. And we wanted to do so without having to worry about hotels that take a dog, motels that are creepy and Bed & Breakfasts that are long on charm and short on privacy.

But the over-riding reason was that we were too old for homesteading in some exotic place like Joshua Tree (cheap land, artist and artistes, half hour from Palm Springs–oh and tons of desert,  very little water, awfully big bugs and anti-social rattlesnakes–I’d be too old for that at any age!) So, Karyn was all revved up for self-sufficiency WITH adventure. I leaned more toward just the self-sufficiency but there were no bus axles or monster tires involved.  And at this point, a little adventure goes a long way!LOL

She looked at these contraptions on wheels for weeks. It was clear there are the ones you pull, probably with your SUV, and the ones that pull you. There’s Class A, B and C, but I never got that far in my research to determine the difference. I’d been in a Mercedes Sprinter, of course, because I worked for a Mercedes franchise for 16 years. Some of the upfits (jargon for making it look like your living room, bedroom, etc. etc). were appealing, in that miniature me kind of way. But the big 5th-wheelers and the motorhomes? Finally, I said, “I don’t think I’ve actually ever been inside one.”

Within an hour, we drove to our local RV lot. Their RVs were used but in very good condition, it was close, and I knew the owner (always have to keep “the deal” in mind).

It didn’t take long before the salesman got tired of us when we said we had to see every one on the lot because we were “new at this.” He found another customer who was not so new at it and had some cash to burn.

I was done looking after a half hour. So done, really. But from somewhere on the lot, I heard, “I found it! I found it!” I knew that voice, so I braced myself and went in search of the enthusiasm I already did not share.

“Isn’t it fab? It’s got a bathroom!”
(Actually, it contains most of Westlake Village, a little village of about 9,000 people that sits alongside Thousand Oaks, California. Yes, I exaggerate, but the Beaver was huge.)

Karyn had found a Beaver. And she liked it. I did not. I mean, sure, for a decorated Greyhound bus, it was marvelous. But I couldn’t see actually driving that thing down the freeway, never mind single-lane country roads that wrapped around some 4000-foot high mountain ridge.

Alarmingly, she was REALLY getting in to it. (Admittedly, I was not.)

Alarmingly, she was REALLY getting in to it. “I’ll drive,” she said. “You be the  Navigator!” I did not like the direction in which this was going.

I took some pictures, we played around with imagining ourselves heading for The Grand Canyon or the Canadian border, and then we went to have a nice, civilized lunch at a restaurant that offered valet parking.

Tuscany was my idea of a a place with an ideal kitchen.

Tuscany was my idea of a a place with an ideal kitchen.

This was NOT my idea of a kitchen.

Beaver Galley: NOT my idea of an ideal kitchen.

“Couldn’t do this with the Beav,” I whispered, as the waiter approached.

She looked at me suspiciously. “Is that a ‘No?’” she said to me—“Shrimp Scampi and Crispy Straw Potatoes,” she said to him.

I inclined my head a bit, perused the menu, glanced at the nice waitperson, took a deep breath and said, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

“Oh, have something different, so I can taste it!”

“Risotto with wild mushrooms?”

“Perfect, but it won’t taste like the Risotto di Gho (seafood risotto) we had in at Trattoria da Romano in Murano.”


Trattoria Romano on island of Murano during visit to Venice and Rome and Florence.

Trattoria Romano on island of Murano during visit to Venice and Rome and Florence.

It's pronounced "Gu" by the locals. A fish infused risottoa, it is the BEST I've ever head in the whole world!

It’s pronounced “Gu” by the locals. A fish infused risotto, it is the BEST I’ve had in the whole world!

Thought to self:  Well, no it won’t.  But, for the money we spend on the Beaver, not that we’re going to buy it, we could maybe go to Italy again. ::Saves thought in back of brain for JUST the right moment:: I mean if we’re doing fantasy, hey, I write fiction!

As soon as the waiter left the table, we laughed. It was a total ‘No’ to the Beaver, and we both knew it. First, we couldn’t really afford it. They wanted about $75,000, and that meant financing it, and no because: Fixed Income Retirement Up Ahead–Proceed With Caution, Objects and Price Tags in Side-Mirror Seem Smaller Than They Actually Are and uh, no!

“It’s OK,” she said with a sheepish smile, “I was just testing you. And teasing you.”

Uh huh. Trust me, we were this close to owning a Beaver. Thank God, I put my foot down.

So, why, I ask myself, do I keep looking at things on wheels that one pulls with a car or things that have their own engines and sleeps two or 10? I love the Mercedes Sprinter with the Airstream upfit, for instance. But the one I want costs over $100,000. Couldn’t I buy a small atoll somewhere for that? Or two wonderful cottages in some unpopular but lovely place for that? Besides my own circumstances, I cannot in good conscience, even if I could afford these things, buy one with so many people homeless, so many Seniors without basic needs, so many women and children out in the world alone with diminishing resources. Not to get all dead serious about it, because I understand why we want these things. I’m just thinking we all need to rethink this big is better and more is better stuff. I could maybe see it if it’s your only dwelling…then again, for that kind of money, what about a nice apartment, a mobile or manufactured home, going in with a few people for a piece of land and some tiny or smallish pre-made houses? Even that sweet cottage is available, if you’re willing to go to an area that caters to Seniors or isn’t a big tourist destination. There ARE alternatives….and things to think about.

It must be some innate human wanderlust in the DNA…we like to go places, see new things, have new experiences. But as I said in the prior post, the “thrill of inconvenience” never really appealed to me. I want my internet. I want my bed. I want my shower. I want my bathroom.

This was NOT my idea of my bedroom.

This was NOT my idea of my bedroom.

This was NOT my idea of my bathroom?

This was NOT my idea of my bathroom.

But I did, finally, find the perfect vehicle for me. It has everything I want and less!!! It’s a concept car! That means it doesn’t exist, it won’t cost me anything, it seats five (or two adults, a Pug and a Ragdoll, plus luggage!) and it’s a heck of an idea whose time will no doubt come. I’ll let you know how it doesn’t drive!

The Nimbus e-Car is a hybrid automotive design on a whole new and adorable level. Created by Brazilian artist and designer, Eduardo Galvani, this all-terrain electric minibus is a concept e-car for energy conscious road warriors who also want to travel in cool. Read more: Futuristic Nimbus E-Car is a cute hybrid microbus perfect for the eco-conscious road warrior | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

The Nimbus e-Car is a hybrid automotive design. Created by Brazilian artist and designer, Eduardo Galvani, this all-terrain electric minibus is a concept e-car for energy conscious road warriors who also want to travel in cool.

Rensselaer Biologist Lee Ligon Awarded Science & Technology Policy Fellowship


August 6, 2015

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) biologist Lee Ligon has been awarded a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). With the support of the 2015-16 fellowship, Ligon will serve for one year at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, D.C.

“I want to learn more about how the university enterprise fits into the broader picture, part of which is about how government and international policy works and how that realm functions,” said Ligon, an associate professor of biological sciences. “This fellowship is an educational experience for me, but there is also a public service aspect. While my research in the lab and teaching at Rensselaer are important, the work I will do at USAID is on a larger canvas that can have international impact.”

Curt Breneman, dean of the School of Science, congratulated Ligon on the fellowship award.

“The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship is a highly prized, competitive position and we congratulate Lee for her achievement in earning this important distinction,” said Breneman. “Dr. Ligon is richly deserving of this honor based on her expertise and stature in the scientific community. She also brings important personal life experiences to the job. I am confident she will make a significant contribution to the work of USAID.”

While at USAID, Ligon will work on international human rights policy, specifically advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) inclusive development. The initiative is an extension of the agency’s history of advancing human rights by supporting and assisting marginalized and vulnerable populations, and promotes LGBTI-equality efforts through the integration of rights and empowerment in policies and programming.

“The opportunity to work at USAID on LGBTI issues was a perfect fit, as it is a topic that I have a long-standing interest in and that I feel very strongly about,” Ligon said.

As part of the Science & Technology Fellowship Program, Ligon will learn about governance and policy, and in turn offer her analytical skills and scientific thought process to policy makers.

Ligon said that she was motivated to apply for the fellowship in part by her experience in communicating the importance of science and basic science research to a general audience. For example, she has worked with the American Cancer Society – which funds her part of her research – speaking at society-sponsored “Relay for Life” and “Making Strides Against Cancer” events, and she also serves on the Public Information Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology.

Biologist Lee Ligon Awarded Science & Technology Policy Fellowship. Press Release By Mary L. Martialay