Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Where Have All the Poinsettias Gone?

Apologies to Pete Seeger, this seemed an appropriate title for today’s blog. My daily desk calendar, which this year was from the New Yorker, has a fact of some sort on the back. Today’s was that the Poinsettia was introduced into the United States in 1828 by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. Go figure!

One of my favorite episodes of Friends is where Chandler has tickets to a Yankee game and is trying to get Joey to go with him. Joey, clueless as to baseball is eventually interested because Chandlers brings out the Yankee history including the moment when Lou Gehrig makes his farewell speech. “Why was he leaving?” “He had Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Lou Gehrig had Lou Gehrig’s Disease? What are the odds?”

Poinsett brought us Poinsettias? Actually the flower was a tradition in Mexico related to Christmas since the mid-1600s, and in Spain before that. A few years ago I read a story in the LA Times that talked about what happened to the tradition in the U.S. It was slow to grow until a German immigrant, who settled in LA began selling the plant from stands in the mid-1950s. His son, also interested in the plant, experimented with grafting procedures which resulted in a superior, more attractive plant. Soon the Ecke family had a virtual monopoly on the plant throughout the United States. A third generation son had a flair for marketing and provided free plants to television stations from Thanksgiving to Christmas as backdrops for their news programs. He also finagled his way on to the Carson Show and Bob Hope’s Christmas specials, which were both very hot at the time.

All things must end, they say, and the secret grafting procedure was eventually made public in the 1990s. Now a commodity, they are ubiquitous and cheap. This year as in years past, I bought four for our window ledge, one for our steps and one as a hanging plant on my deck. I used to plant them and surprisingly they would last through the year and even bloom the next year. But now my deck has too many herbs so they get recycled as green waste.

I would be interested if any of you follow this seasonal tradition and what you do with the Poinsettias after the New Year’s parties?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in California

I received an e-card today from a friend in Ohio. Apparently Ohio is far enough north to escape the snow that is threatening Atlanta, since they mention "hoping for and waiting for snow". I was reminded of how much I have changed since growing up in north-central Iowa.

Until the navy took me away from home hearth on Christmas was always a little damp from the wood brought inside. My first winter holiday in San Diego, I wrote home “Today, New Year’s Day, I swam in an outdoor pool.” I wouldn’t do that today as we are expecting a high of only 62 degrees. And that reflects my change. I am disappointed with my 62 degree weather. I have gotten used to choosing when I want snow and ice and for how long. Mary and I try to get to New York between Thanksgiving and Christmas to see a show or two, try new restaurants, see the decorations…and see the snow.

And then we return to what we expect will be the perfect climate people see when they watch the Rose Bowl. That’s become an entitlement as expected as Social Security. Maybe more so.

My grandchildren, who live across the street, are making plans to go snowboarding in our local mountains during their school vacation. There was a time when their parents were growing up when we would do that too, but today we will light the fire more for atmosphere than necessity. And my Christmas cards, finished yesterday, are filled with news other than the weather.

California news, like what celebrity we saw recently (Brad and Angelina), what to see New Year’s eve (“Black Swan” too dark, “True Grit” too long, “What Do You Know” terrible reviews), And our tax mess. Cheery news.

I bet I’m not the only transplant who has changed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Man of Letters

Yesterday I read a blog from one of my favorite bloggers, Gutsy Writer http://www.gutsywriter/ who took the position that a case can be made for not buying Christmas presents. Her arguments as always were persuasive and well founded, I just don’t happen to agree with her (sorry, Sonia). But it started me thinking about another commonly criticized practice, the Christmas Letter.

My wife asked me if this year’s letter was the 50th or 51st in our long history of proselytizing the practice. I was able to look in a hardcopy file and find that it was the 51st, the first being written the first year of our marriage, when I was a navy dentist in San Diego. We had less than two months to compose ourselves and a letter to explain to friends and family all the things going on in our lives. It seemed a letter covering the general facts and supplemented by a personal note at the bottom was a reasonable model.

Each year since we have tried to keep our holiday correspondence personal as well as descriptive of what has turned out to be a very busy and active life. For many years the letter has developed a style that receives almost universal appreciation from the recipients. There is a scripture reference that ties in to a quote of the biggest news story of the year (this year it was the mid-term election), both in a highlighted box at the top, balanced by religious art on the left.

Then, we have four paragraphs the chronicle the activities of Mary and me, our two grown sons and a few grandchildren from the older’s family. Finally there is a closing paragraph that covers guests in the last year and hopes that more will join those ranks in the upcoming year. There is enough room on the single page for a three or four sentence personal message. Sometimes we include a picture. On occasion I think there may be a book there.

We send a few more than 100 each year and try to get them to recipients before Christmas. Mary is better at that than I am. But then I have to shop for presents.

How do you feel about Christmas letters? Write them? Enjoy receiving them?

BTW I think there are some good fruitcakes too, including the recipe of my mother-in-law.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Board Games and Boredom

We are experiencing an unusual weather system in Southern California. A week of steady, albeit light, rain. For a variety of reasons I find myself reflecting on an earlier time when, if the weather was inclement, we would pull out the chest of games and play, hour after hour.
One of the reasons for my memory is that I yesterday finished reading a remarkable book called “City of Thieves” by David Beniof. The story tells the brutally vivid story of the siege of Leningrad by the Germans in 1943. A pivotal scene in the story depicts a chess match between a seventeen year-old Jewish boy and a high ranking SS officer. I am hard-pressed to remember my last chess match, and my 12 year-old grandson, I’m told plays a respectable game. But he too would probably not find it easy to remember when last he played something that wasn’t computerized. We seem to have lost the knack.
Interestingly also was a note this week that the toy collection of Malcolm Forbes, the late financier will be auctioned off. Included in that collection are several early versions of the game Monopoly, which was a household favorite. A 1933 board, hand-painted and circular in shape to match the table it was played on is expected to fetch as much as $80,000 at the Sotheby auction. I have fond memories of playing Monopoly, cribbage, Scrabble and some puzzle games when we were forced inside of the Clear Lake, Iowa summer cottage of my youth. In addition to sharpening one’s wits, these games served as socialization tools, teaching us to give and take, choose up sides, accept defeat and other valuable life lessons.
I think if the rain continues I may challenge Ryan to a game. I get white.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Dog in the Fight

When I was in the corporate world I found comfort in being able to take a position that “I don’t have a dog in the fight”, meaning I had no strong position to defend on a controversial issue. I could save my energy. I could avoid making enemies. I could support whomever I wanted.

Now that I am involved in retirement, I find that I choose only issues that I am concerned with, indeed often am passionate about. The problem with that is I always “have a dog in the fight.”

The most recent occurrence of this problem comes from my position with an organization called the American Institute of Wine and Food, AIWF. AIWF was founded shortly after WW II by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi. It was modeled after a French program that tried to re-instill in French school children, knowledge and passion for food. It was well-funded and supported two charities: culinary scholarships and school education about food.

I became interested in the organization by getting involved in the Orange County school Days of Taste Program and some seven years later find myself the Chair of one of the 29 National Chapters. We try to have one event a month to raise money and have one Board Meeting a month to track our progress. I have been Chairman for almost three years.

In the last three months I have had only a total of two Board members make the Board Meeting. While we have had events in October and November they were organized by other than our Chapter members and were not well attended by our members. We are not havig a December event.

Today I realized it is time for Board elections and I have only three candidates willing to serve. My dog is in the fight and it is a pretty weak pup.

Anybody have a suggestion?

Saturday, December 11, 2010


As I write this I am watching one of the oldest traditional rivalries in college sports: the Army-Navy game. The game has received particular interest this year for a variety of reasons. First, the knowledge that the senior cadets and midshipmen will be likely placing themselves in “Harms Way” before next year’s game is evident in the number of wounded warriors who are rooting for their respective service in Philadelphia. Second, it is likely that both teams (and perhaps the Air Force Academy) might get Bowl bids this year. Third, ad perhaps this is a little cynical, people who have little knowledge of the service schools feel a sense of patriotism and troop support by watching the game and talking about it.

In my case I have a special affiliation. When I was growing up my birthday, October 27 was celebrated as “Navy Day”. This was because I shared the birth date with Teddy Roosevelt a Secretary of the Navy and the President who sent The Great White Fleet around the world. I had a little officer’s uniform and marched in the Mason City, Iowa Navy Day parade until I outgrew it. I also was expecting to go to the Naval Academy until my vision deteriorated in Junior High. I would later follow my father as a navy dentist and remain so until I retired with 31 years of service.

On one of my tours to Washington DC I was close enough to Annapolis to take advantage of the fact that I had a friend who was the senior dental officer at the Academy. My younger son was 15 and we went as a family to several home games. His older brother was in college but I seem to remember he was able to go to a game himself.

So, I am reminded that practically all of us are part of one or more traditions that bring fond memories. Please feel free to comment on any that are special to you.

Go Navy. Beat Army.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

“A Day that will Live in Infamy…”

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt coined those words to alert to American people that the Japanese had attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor and dealt what might have been a crippling blow to America’s ability to defend itself against occupation, I doubt if he envisioned that five generations and less than seventy-five years later few school-aged children would commemorate or even remember the date.

I doubt also if he could have envisioned that, what Tom Brokaw would call “The Greatest Generation”, could possibly rise to the occasion to put an end to the conflict in less than four years. My parents were part of that generation; my father enlisted as a Navy dentist at the age of forty-one. As I look back on the war years my memory is of general acceptance of sacrifice. Saving sugar stamps for birthday cakes, saving gasoline stamps for special trips, sharing with others so all could have a semblance of order in a chaotic time.

I recently saw the movie “The Road”, an adaptation of a bestselling piece of fiction by Cormac McCarthy. Some of you may have seen the screen adaptation of another of his dark novels, “No Country for Old Men”, which had much better distribution and acclaim. McCarthy paints a picture of a different kind of world, where selfishness is the norm and the moral road is not maintained. After seeing the movie, I needed a counterpoint and so ordered a new biography titled “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. Ms. Hillenbrand is a fascinating author whose earlier book “Seabiscuit” also was made into a popular film in 2003. Her characters portray the best in people, and the hero of “the Unbroken” Louis Zamperini is larger-than-life inspirational.

Probably most of us, if we are truthful with ourselves, lie between these two extremes, of selfishness and selflessness most days, showing the extremes on rare occasions, but I can’t help but reflect on days that for me commemorate more than just a date, how much we can learn from those who went before us.

If only we stop and do the reflecting.

Please comment if you share my feeling.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Memories Pop Up at the Strangest Times

I don’t know exactly what prompted the memory. Maybe it was the news item that President Obama had stitches in his lip from a basketball injury. Maybe it was watching my Lakers get beat for the fourth time in a row and realizing that at any time in the game eight of the ten players on the floor were black. Maybe it was that my memoir is about to be published and I flash back on episodes from my youth.

Whatever…I thought about the Harlem Globe trotters…and Meadowlark Lemon.

When I was growing up in Iowa in 1950 I think I went to a Globetrotter game each year for three consecutive years. One of those games I remember was against what were then the Minneapolis Lakers with their tall phenom, George Mikan (who was white). While I didn’t realize it at the time, Iowa was home court for the Globetrotters. They originated as a serious basketball team in the Negro league when Abe Saperstein decided to promote a group of talented ball players from South Chicago, where they all went to high school, by taking them on the road to challenge home town teams in southern Illinois and Iowa. This was in the 1920s.

So, by the time I saw them they had evolved from serious ball players to showboating entertainers. And entertain they did! The shot-making would be impressive to today’s fans and the warm-up passing and dribbling would take the breath away from an Iowan adolescent. At least it did mine.

While there were legitimate stars, like Wilt Chamberlain, “Goose” Tatum and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the most remembered and certainly the longest lived was “Meadowlark” Lemon who was an active player for more than 22 years. He played in more than 16,000 games and entertained literally millions of fans. Eventually his legitimacy was established by his entry into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

What I began to reflect on when I thought about the Globetrotters is how much they did to bring equality to the game of basketball and eventually all sports. There is no doubt that they were instrumental in the Boston Celtics decision to sign a black to their team in 1950 and the fact that they had a winning percentage of 98.6% of their 22,000 games as of 2006 speaks eloquently of their talent.

How did they play so many games and travel through the United States, Europe and the rest of the world? Well, there was more than one team. And the talent level of each was pretty high. Thanks, Globetrotters for the joy you brought this once-upon-a-time youngster and for all you brought to the sport.

Here are three links if you want to see for yourself what the Globetrotters brought to the game:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New York, New York. It’s a Wonderful Town

For the past several years, more often than not, my wife and I have taken advantage of the fact that a pretty good Dental Meeting, the self-aggrandized titled Greater New York Dental Meeting or GNYDM, is scheduled the week after Thanksgiving. We make our way to the city along with more than 20,000 dentists and staff. This year was no exception.

Also, as has become our custom, we got together with our niece and her friend for Sunday Brunch at a fascinating restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called 44 ½ between 44th and 45th Streets on 10th Avenue. This is close to my niece’s apartment and she always provides us with a walking tour of her environs after our meal. She was telling us that she has now been in the city for 12 years working in the fashion industry. She took her degree in that field at Brooks College and later at Cal State University in Long Beach and we were more or less her surrogate parents during that time.

I was reminded of my sister, now deceased, who in her adolescence fell in love with NYC and practically wore out the grooves in Gordon Jenkin's musical vignette "Manhatten Tower". Eventually she finally settled in that other American unique city, San Francisco, but it brought to mind what attraction NYC has for its residents and those who seem to always return. I asked Sara. “Partly it comes from the fact that so much is always going on, and the people are so involved with life,” she said. “I have a friend who moved to Savannah, and she seems content, because Savannah is so different from here, but she couldn’t be happy in Chicago or San Francisco.” She didn’t add, nor could I, but it was an unsaid truth.

We ended up one night in an Upper East Side restaurant called Trattoria Dell’Arte and found ourselves seated directly in the middle in the traffic pattern for all the waiters, customers and the MaĆ®tre d’, an energetic, interesting young man named Justin. Justin typifies the New Yorker. He lives in his city and accepted the challenge of his new position (he used to be day manager) because of the excitement and the challenge. As he guided and directed his enthusiasm was infectious.

For me the draw is for visits rather than to live there. I like the fact that you can walk so many ways, noticing the clustering of related stores. While I have heard horror stories of belligerence, and in fact have a couple of cabbie stories in my repertoire, I find most people exceptionally helpful and friendly. I find the restaurants unique and yet historically memorable and would not dream of a visit without a Pastrami half sandwich at The Stage. I love the history, including the Ellis Island stories of who could have been my ancestors.

I am counting the days until next Thanksgiving.

Do any of you have a love for NYC? Any have stories they would like to share?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It Isn’t Rocket Science

The other day I overheard my two grown sons discussing, of all things, politics! It turns out that it wasn’t the nuances of whether California is essentially a Red state with three pockets of blue swinging issues, although my wife has convinced me that this is true. It had more to do with the prominent political issue off interest to us all…employment. In particular a bill moving through our Congress that would extend unemployment payments.

Now I am greatly aware of how the unemployment issue has affected us during the last few years. My older son lost his job and it was four months before he found another. And it was at a greatly reduced salary with commissions hedging the employer’s bets on cost. I do some consulting with a Health Plan and even though business is growing, my department was downsized from six to me. I belong to three social networks of small size and all have at least two members unemployed. So the problem is a reality.

What I notice though is the insidious effect of technology on productivity and the workforce. When they put scanners at checkout lines in stores as diverse as supermarkets and home improvement many sales staff found themselves redundant. When the public became accustomed to being involved in the research process at warehouses and IVR customer service, more employees were “on the street”. Even my beloved U.S. Navy built a ship with the firepower of a battleship and a crew of less than 200. Retirement benefits cost more than drones.

So, what’s the point? My sons’ conclusion was that extending unemployment is only an incentive to try to find comparable pay and benefits to the job someone lost. Bad idea! A better solution, although it is a long-term fix, is to target the money to projects that boost consumption and an appetite for the goods technology allows us to make with fewer people. That’s eventually what worked us through the Great Depression. That and World War II.

Are we on the right track?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Curators versus Collectors

My wife and I went to the opening of an exhibit at our local art Museum, the Orange County Museum of Art. Possibly because nearby Laguna Beach has a worldwide reputation as being artist friendly, with its annual Pageant of the Masters and Sawdust and several other festivals, or maybe because OC seems to support the arts in all fashions, we expected and were treated to a unique and very interesting display titled “2010 California Biennial”.

As members, we had a chance to hear a presentation by the curator prior to a guided tour of the exhibit. The Curator was not able to attend, but her assistant a very nice young lady who is in the process of becoming a curator was a fine substitute.

I have recently become intrigued by what makes a curator a curator and asked our presenter if she could answer the question. Her response surprised me. She told us that the field is relative new as regards formal training and an associated degree (PhD). Only in something like the last 14 years has there been a program nationally and in California I believe there are only two schools offering one. Prior to the formalization of these programs, museums had curators who might have taken their collecting to the next level, establishing credentials initially by studying collections of others interested in the same period or theme.

My question was relevant because in my soon-to-be-published book, Harnessing a Heritage” I suggest that young children and grandchildren could enhance their knowledge of their own heritage by visiting museums and researching why the Curator chose the collection he or she did. Now I am more certain than ever that this is true and that my book note, “Who knows, you may get invited to see your own curator’s exhibit” rings true.

Have any of you noticed that your children have such an interest?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Dreaded Christmas Letter

I started work today on what will be the 50th edition of the FitzGerald Christmas Letter. Not surprisingly there are people who were recipients of the first who are no longer on the list, having died, moved without a forwarding address, or indicated by failure to stay in touch that they no longer care about all the interesting things we did this year. What may be more surprising is the number of people who say they look forward to receiving it, even after many, many years. I attribute that to several consistent elements.

We always write a personal note. Mary’s notes tend to be longer than mine, but I have chosen the content of the letter itself and try to include many of the comments I would personalize on my note.

The letter starts with two quotations, one from The Bible and one a related topical news item. Last year, for example, I tied Elijah’s confusion about where God’s voice was coming from with the Social Network explosion of Twitter and Facebook. Ten years ago it was the “man shall leave his mother and father…” with our then-Representative Christopher Cox saying, “We have to find a way to stop punishing people tax-wise for being married.” At times I have toyed with making a book from what I thought was the important story each year for 50 years.

The letter is less about what we did as to why we did it. For the last several years it has included comments on where we went for our Family Vacation, who went and why. This year was The Grand Canyon and a houseboat on Lake Powell. Last year was a 5500 square foot Log Cabin in Door, County Wisconsin. That has more general interest than what cities hosted the several Dental Meetings and Dental Insurance Meetings we attend.

The letter remains a family story. Mary takes her editing job very seriously; she first is responsible for chronicling our activities, and then generally puts me through three edits before we have a finished product. Both kids, and probably soon the three grandchildren must approve what is said about them before it goes out.

We only send it to people we do not see on a regular basis, so the included news is fresh to the reader. I am giving some thought to posting this anniversary edition on my website . Any comments from you Blogsters about what you think of Christmas letters? I’m open for criticism or suggestions.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another POV

Friday I went to my local Writers Club and heard a presentation from Lynn Price . Lynn is a commercial publisher and gave several great tips on how to improve your chances of getting your manuscript accepted through each of the three stages of possible rejection. She provides this and more in her book The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box but it is always interesting to hear the story from the author. It is also interesting to meet someone whose blog you have been following.

In her most recent blog she makes an interesting point about how vanity publishing may have a negative effect on commercial publishing. I believe I am correct in paraphrasing that diluting the pool of authors with those who don’t go through the editing process with Editors who have a respect for what the market is looking for, will eventually cause the caliber of books to decline.
My business background included sizeable stints in the Insurance industry where I saw three lines of business in the same companies, competing aggressively with their own business as well as trying to get market share from other companies: commercial health, PPO and HMO managed care. To a large extent the mix of these followed the market for services, but I suppose it also was and could be described as cannibalism, leaching membership from the higher end commercial line. On the other hand I saw the total membership (read readers) grow as health care became more affordable and met the personal needs of more people.
I am presently in Interior Editing of my memoir Harnessing a Heritage and feel I have received excellent assistance in improving my book. It remains to be seen if the vanity publisher I am using will be successful in assisting my marketing efforts, but they are making it possible for me to fulfill a dream.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two Entirely Different Ships

As I write this, the USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76 has steamed from its home port of San Diego to provide assistance and protection to the Cruise ship Carnival Splendor, which is being towed, likely to San Diego. The event provides me a time of reflection on the twenty-plus years I spent as a Navy dentist and the two tours I had on carriers.

I remember the awe that accompanies the first time you board a carrier that is going to be your home for the next couple of years. One marvels at the size, the complexity and, more interestingly how easy it is to become acclimated to the “floating city”. My first ship was the USS Boxer in the ship generic family of LPH-4. The abbreviations all are very descriptive: CVN meaning carrier vessel nuclear and LPH meaning landing platform helicopter. My second ship, USS Hancock a CVA (attack) was larger and designed with the same mission as Ronald Reagan. I am reminded that, although each tour had several missions, each had a component of assistance. Boxer helped Haiti cope with a hurricane in the mid-1960s and Hancock was one of the ships that helped evacuate refugees when Saigon fell.

Beside assistance as a mission of similarity with navy ships, the similarity between Ronald Reagan and Carnival Splendor is worth noting. Ships complement on Reagan is about 3200 crew and accommodations for about 2500 air wing personnel. Splendor has about 3000 passengers and 1200 crew. Both are self-contained (when systems are working) with water and food available for extended periods of time. Splendor requires more frequent replenishment.

One obvious difference is their purpose. With the Carnival line people expect all the creature comforts promised. The navy promises very little beyond keeping the crew as safe as possible. Crew on a naval ship works pretty much 14-hour days, seven days a week unless they are in port. The strange thing is that I look back on those days as some of the most pleasant in my life. The bonding of shipmates has no comparison, with a cruise ship or anything else.

There must be some other old salts out there. Any similar recollections?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Waiting is the Hard Part

Thursday I finally finished working my way through the edits on the used-to-be 12 chapters of my book, Harnessing a Heritage and wrote the 13th chapter, which was a suggestion of the editor. All in all I am very pleased, because I think it is a much better book. And I learned some things that will help me if I decide to write a second book. Things like making your research blend in with your story rather than be the story.

There was a small disappointment. My first author TV interview was cancelled. Well maybe just postponed. Never got the whole story, but my presumption is that the format for the closed channel cable show was changed, or at least modified without the show’s director having much to say about it.

So, I uploaded my revision to my editor, CreateSpace along with the material for my cover. Had a couple of problems with uploading (.jpg files need to be zipped, but Word documents only need to be consolidated into one file). I called to make sure everything was received in acceptable format (it had) and was told that I would be contacted next week by my interior editor.

Waiting is the hard part even though I have plenty to do on my website: to make it ready for marketing. Any comments from you, if you have done that, would be greatly appreciated (Content display, PayPal, etc.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

That’s probably one of the best known quotes on television, or perhaps anywhere. From the long-running series, Cheers, it is so familiar that sometimes we forget what the truth is that it describes.

My twelve year-old grandson, who is often included in the generational lunches our family does on week-ends commented this week that we should go back to Peanuts, a neighborhood sandwich place that derives its name from the freedom to throw the ubiquitous peanut shells on the floor. This, from a kid who has memorized every fast food menu in Orange County.

Reflecting on his desire I was struck with the fact that, although the sandwiches are good and the peanuts unusual, the thing that probably colors his memory is the friendliness of the clientele. Ryan has only been there twice, but his Dad, Uncle and me have been there multiple times and know Wanda, the owner and resident bartender from “way back”. Know her history from when she bought the place five years ago. Know why there are all the pictures of NASCAR events and tracks on the wall. Know why the napkins no longer advertise Bud because she wanted to raise the image of the place.

And more importantly know the people who are there when we come. Oh, we don’t know their names, or even what they do for recreation and sustenance, but we know THEM! Know why they frequent a place like Peanuts and know that a casual comment about a sports team or even a political figure may get you a friendly pop on the arm, but it won’t get you into an argument. Or if it does, it will be a friendly argument.

I’m pleased to see that we have passed on to Ryan an appreciation for that kind of atmosphere. We’ll have to take him up on his suggestion to return soon.

Oh, did I mention the sandwiches are good too?

Do you agree with my sentiments? Do you want to share the name of your favorite place where “everybody knows your name”?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

OMG! Not Another Birthday?

I recently celebrated a birthday and was reflecting on how some things have changed over the years. For instance I got 13 electronic wishes, 11 of them from Facebook friends. Of course I also got many cards, most of them from relatives with one from Southwest Airlines and a smattering from other commercial enterprises.

None from the firm I do consulting for, or even from any of my fellow employees, which is not surprising since my face time at work is extremely limited. But the 11 from Facebook is what got my attention. These are all what I would call close friends, but I probably haven’t seen any of them in months and maybe years. However, they are people I have had closer contact with in times past and, if the greeting are any indication, are friends with whom I share mutual respect.

My wife, Mary sends birthday cards to close to 40 people. Real cards, sent with special birthday stamps. When her birthday comes around she receives more than 25 cards in kind and her display on the mantle of the fireplace wraps around both corners. Mine cuddles protectively in the center and toward the edges. When their display time runs out Mary dutifully collects them so I can have one more look before recycling them to the paper section.

As I complete my reflection, I find that maybe one of the better presents I now treasure from my birthday is seeing how great is the circle of friendship that I now have. Interestingly it has not required that I send greetings to ten of my friends. Life is indeed good.

Feel free to share your comments on whether this experience of mine is unique. BTW my Facebook address is Dee FitzGerald…and they will remind you next year of my birthday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who Says “Never Discuss Politics”?

With only one week left before we cast ballots in what has been described as the most important mid-year election ever, I find myself reminiscing about some political minutia I have gathered over the years. Some, like California’s proposition that essentially forces a portion of any tax increase into education, or the controversial Prop 13, probably fall into the title restriction.

Others, such as California’s ballot initiative process might be of interest, especially since my research today corrected some misconceptions I’ve held for years. I had heard that California started the process of direct initiative in the mid-1850’s because the Southern Pacific Railroad so controlled the legislature that the electorate worried they had lost their governmental voice and worried that the state capital, Benicia was becoming a railroad town. Nice story, but the timeline doesn’t work.

For instance, Benicia was the capital for only 13 months during 1853-54. The Southern Pacific wasn’t founded until 1865 and the initiative process concept came south from Oregon in 1898, and probably didn’t arrive by rail.

The impetus behind the concept of getting signatures in support of legislation probably did come from a general feeling that the state legislative process moves too slowly for the public’s taste. It originally was a European national concept coming, not surprisingly from Switzerland. The U. S. never embraced it as a national process, but half the states have either a direct or indirect initiative alternative to legislation.

My conservative nature says initiatives as a general principle are not as well-thought out as the hundreds of laws proposed in the California Senate and Assembly, as poorly structured as most of those are. Consequently I generally vote negative. This will probably be true with the Proposition 19 initiative regarding marijuana use. But I certainly recognize the value of bringing those type issues to the attention of state government.

BTW one previous impression did seem legitimate; the Railroads got into some serious sidelines. For instance Southern Pacific founded several major hospitals, many of which are still in use in such cities as San Francisco and Tucson.

Feel free to post your opinion of the initiative process, including how you feel about Prop 19.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sometimes You Get Side-tracked

I had the best of intentions to get to work on Chapter Three of my edited book this week, but I ran into diversions.

For the most part, I submit for about four auditions a week through LA Casting. Most of the time I don’t hear anything from anyone, but this week I was scheduled for two auditions, which included a featured role in an Acura commercial and background in a reality TV series. Although I went to both, I didn’t get notice of a call-back or a booking.

What I did get was a call to be in a featured film, a sort of dark thriller about weird cabals in the Catholic Church. The working title is "Killer Priests" and the Director has only one film listed on IMDb. He is, however a joy to work with and has scheduled another day for my group of 20 men to work on location. Pay is deferred and only amounts to $50/day, but it is exposure which in this town can often lead to future work.

If you want to follow my theater work (and eventually read some of my book when it is published) you should join me at .

I would be interested if any of you who see this are in the industry. Please post a comment if this is so.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Working Through the First Professional Edit

Set aside the fact that you spent a year writing it and the editor spent three weeks reviewing it. Set aside the fact that three of the eight page comment centered on a lesson in how to use commas and semicolons. Concentrate then on the five pages; pages that have three major concrete improvements (include fewer of the facts that the reader might know or could find elsewhere and more on facts that describe your friends and your experiences...).

When I did that I was ready to rewrite the 13 Chapters and ready them for resubmission. It gets a little difficult because I had to combine the 13 chapters into one 35,000 word Word document and now I have to parse them back-but it is doable. Biggest problem is keeping the same flow when I go back and add delete some of the text. I figure I have about two weeks before I can submit for interior editing.

Hopefully I can have a book by November 9 when I have my first tv interview.

Is my experience helpful?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Appreciating the Unexpected

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Did you ever have the experience of going on a trip for one reason and finding that the joy of the trip was for an entirely different, unexpected reason?

I just got back from a week’s trip that I thought was going to accomplish three things: give condolence support to a sister-in-law, visit a professional meeting and catch-up on new elements in my field (dentistry), and keep my wife company on a long-delayed Memorial Service for a distant relative.

What I experienced was entirely different: an unexpected visit to a Major League Baseball Playoff game at the only remaining fully-covered stadium, a memorable dinner with friends from forty five years ago with an invite to visit them again at their elegant Chicago home, and a chance to learn about a fascinating relative I had never met- an Architect of world reputation who gave life-long influence to dozens of his students.

It strikes me that too often we limit our enjoyment by anticipation. Whether it is a book, a movie, a concert, a new acquaintance, or travel, we could probably enhance the experience by remaining open to the unexpected.

Any of you have a similar experience?

Next time I’ll share with you my reception of the first edit on my book…

Monday, October 4, 2010

Life in the City

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sometimes we forget there are advantages to living in a metropolitan area. When Mary and I first moved to Orange County we used to drive into Los Angeles to see a play or hear a concert, or even go to some trendy restaurant. That was in the late ‘70s and the traffic has changed so much that we now have Rush Hour from about 6:00 AM until 9:30 PM. Luckily, and probably predictably, OC Theater has improved dramatically (pun definitely intended) and we probably see more good shows now than we did then.

But, it still is nice to pick some things to do that can only be done in a major city. Last week we took advantage of a Member exclusive event at LACMA, where they were dedicating a new building in the complex, called The Resnik Building for the couple who donated $43 million to its construction. We went on a weeknight and were lost in the crowd of 2,000 who bellied up to one of several bars and food stations for wine, POM drinks, Fuji water (all of which came from Resnik enterprises) and Sloppy Joes and Barbequed Chicken.

The nicest thing about the social part of the event was striking a conversation with a couple who shared their passion for film, vinyl records, objects d’art and sincerity in people.

The nicest part of touring the exhibits (I accused the Resniks of needing a place to put all the stuff they collected, like Olmec statuary, so they moved it into LACMA) was the Fashion exhibit which covered all manner of interesting items from 1750 through the Victorian Period, magnificently displayed on striking mannequins.

Does anybody out there share my enthusiasm for meeting new people and seeing new? Leave a comment.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

LBGT and Other Acronyms I Knew Nothing About

Saturday, October 2, 2010

With attribution to Ellen DeGeneres

Although I share everyone’s concern over the tragic death of Tyler Clementi and the invasion of his privacy by a roommate’s secret webcam filming, I find some humor in how quickly the acronym LBGT (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender) made it on to so many news reports within 24 hours of his suicide jump off the George Washington Bridge. It was as if everyone got the lexicon update but me.

I attribute it to the Facebook and Twitter people, one of whom is my niece.

She caught me a few days ago with IMHO, which I think I correctly deciphered to be “In My Humble Opinion” and tripled my knowledge of the genre, which previously included only OMG and CUS. Don’t get me wrong. Once I figured out that Long Beach GT would need an O or replace the T with a P to be anything I even recognized, I conceded I needed help.

What puzzles me is what the four groups have in common, except that they may be innocent victims of hate crimes; but in that case shouldn’t we add C for Catholics, J for Jews, M for Mormons or even R for Republicans? And if then the resultant LBGTCJMR would get together to commiserate their misfortunes, they would quickly note the absence of any Muslims and would discover the group was too big to find a good venue and too diverse to have much in common.

I thought the whole concept of having college roommates at Rutgers or any other university was to develop tolerance so we could be better mates to our wives, husbands, or significant others. I know that is what helped Mary and me through fifty years of marriage which culminated in yesterday’s 50-year wedding celebration.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Are You Doing in Your Spare Time?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waiting for the Editorial process to run its course, I try to fill my days with meaningful; activity…like playing golf! Actually that’s a bit of a stretch. I had five weekly goals when I left WellPoint five years ago: play tennis one day a week, play golf one day a week, do aerobics twice a week, cook dinner for my wife one night a week (‘cuz I like to cook), and every night before I go to bed I have in my mind at least one thing I was going to do the next day that was meaningful to me.

Nothing about writing a book.

Actually if I hadn’t injured my shoulder a year ago (there goes the tennis) I could feel pretty good about those resolutions. OK, so I’m a few months behind in the aerobics, but the cooking and golf have held up well. As has the “something to do tomorrow” bit.

The reason golf is on my mind is that one of my favorite NPR commentators, Frank Deford, was lamenting the depletion of U.S. interest in golf over the last 10 years. His focus was on the Ryder’s Cup which has been dominated by Europe recently, as have most USPGA tournaments. Ten percent fewer U.S. golfers and an equal loss of courses.

So I applaud my sons who are treating me to a session Friday to celebrate fifty years of marriage. That should take my mind off waiting for my red-lined manuscript.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stem Cells from Baby Teeth

September 25. 2010

I just returned from 4 days in Seattle at the National Association of Dental Plans annual Converge Conference. While the meeting was extremely interesting the most interesting part was lunch with a close friend, Doyle Williams.

Doyle was telling me the details of his three appearances on the Today Show, a feat accomplished because he made it a point to learn about how recent extractions of deciduous (baby) teeth can be a source of Stem cells for research and eventually cures of chronic health problems.

Boston, Doyle’s base of operations, is one of two private banks where teeth are harvested for their pulpal mesenchymal cells and stored until someone in the family DNA has need for them. The most obvious would be for juvenile diabetes and Doyle informed me that research using these stem cells is very promising for creating insulin-producing cells.

I must find out more about this. Wandering through Google today was enlightening, but I’m not there yet. An old friend, Grant Sadler seems to be in the midst of things. I think I’ll look him up.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making Sense of Editing

Saturday 09-18-2010

Thursday I started the process of working with my Editor.  Or, better said, working with the liaison to my Editor.  I had previously filled out a form for the liaison to read; what is my book about?  Who s the target audience? What are some potential weaknesses I have in writing? What are some of my specific concerns about the editing process?

So when I got the call from the liaison, it was more a process of establishing a comfort level.  I was able to say that I had freely chosen a style that might not conform to Strunk and White, or in the case of what these editors use: the Chicago School of Style.  I took lots of freedom in punctuation and sentence structure.  Some of this came from a Writer’s Club presentation where we were encouraged to make our sentences and paragraphs “interesting.” Some came from the fact that I write with my ear as much as my eye.

Anyway, the book is on its way to the editor and I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks how things fare.

A friend has hired an editor before she goes to publish.  The first person contact and repetitive re-writes she believes are a good investment.  Lots of roads to the end of the journey.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lessons Learned about uploading manuscripts

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today I started the publishing process.  The first thing I learned was that all uploading has to be done with COMBINED documents.  I had thought I might have to change my Word documents into a .pdf file, but that was not the case, at least for editing purposes.  What you have to do is combine each of your Word documents (in my case, chapters) into one Word document.  Oh and BTW the same is true for any graphic content.  All has to be combined into (in this case) a winzip file.

Anyway, after about four tries and a few missteps I think I got everything sent to the publisher.  I had guessed at my length and when it was combined I was spot on.  Imagine!

I was then asked some questions to help the editor make his/her way through my baby.  The nice thing is that I feel there is someone on the other end of the upload process who is paying attention and (hopefully) as the process develops, cares.

Doubt if I’ll have anything on this process to report on Saturday, but being regular is good exercise.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Taking the Blog on the road

Wednesday, September 8

Missed my Tuesday deadline as it was a travel day.  Seems to take almost the whole day to get from California to Wisconsin.  Arriving in Milwaukee we had our second "never happened before" air travel moment.  The first was from our Family Vacation to the Grand Canyon and a houseboat on Lake Powell.  The return flight got us successfully from Flagstaff tp Phgoenix where we waited with the crew for a pilot to arrive and fly us into Oramge County.  By the time he/she got there we had missed the curfew in OC and had weather problems.  So, six of us were eventually crowwded into two rooms for 4 hours sleep before our ext day's flight.

This adventure put us in the baggage terminal waiting for the better part of an hour to find out that one of the 14 golfers on our flight had jammed the belt and broke the entire apparatus. 

But I am learning about Blogging from my book Blogging for Dummies and should be ever so much smarter when I get back to California.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday 09-04-2010

Saturday, September 4 2010

Labor Day weekend and, since my book is out for early edit to friends and family, time to take a breath and relax. Have travel plans for next week which will take me back to Wisconsin and Illinois to visit family while back for my Marquette dental School 50th reunion.

Always wonder when I come back from reunions that no one has really changed. Conversations pick up where they left off five years ago. And then, about two weeks later you get this photograph and wonder, “Who the hell are all those old guys?”

When we get back I’ll upload my book for editing by . Starting to get exciting! Have made several changes since I “finished” the book, but think it is about as ready as it can get and I should get the ball rolling. Will be sharing lessons learned on my Tuesday and Saturday blogs. Am unsure what next Tuesday’s will be since it is a travel day. Maybe by then I will have figured out how to blog on my mobile.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just starting! Where have I been the last few years? I’m trying to catch up with the rest of the world and will be doing a blog on Tuesdays and Saturdays for the foreseeable future. General intent is to share knowledge on topics of interest to me and to others.

There are so many things I am interested in that I am choosing as my blog name Dr Eclectic.

I was encouraged to start a blog because of a writer friend named Sonia Marsh. Sonia is a neighbor and shares my position of writing a book, soon to be published. I started the self-publishing process today and will let you know more about it in the future. I’m sure others of you are thinking of doing the same thing and can learn from my challenges and mistakes.

Don’t we all want to be Karen McQuestion, who sold 17,000 self-published books before one went to print? More About my book later, but I’ll attach what I hope will be the cover photo of Harnessing a Heritage by D.E. FitzGerald. Come visit my website at

Well, wasn't successful with the attachment, but will catch up in two weeks when I start this process in ernest.