Belated wishes to a true gem

Carly%20Simon-6June 28, 2013 – Earlier this week, on June 25, 2013, Carly Simon, an icon in music over the last 50 years, turned 68.

I’ve listened to this great singer/songwriter all of my life. Simon’s lyrics make me feel more emotion than any other female in the business (although Joni Mitchell is a close second), and her music, from the early days through today, never grows old. The warm, rich tones of her vocals may have become raspier with age, but somehow that makes me adore her even more.

Through the years, I’ve read many books about her life, some of the material unauthorized, although she has wisely said that if you want to know more about me, just listen to my lyrics. I’ve also had the honor of seeing her live twice, a remarkable fete considering she suffers from terrible stage fright and rarely tours. That led me to believe I knew a lot about the public persona of my favorite female performer. However, a quick google search had me  stumbling upon a few things I never knew, and that surprise me.

In 1995, for example, Simon attended a Joni Mitchell concert at a small New York club. Nothing strange about that, but rumor has it she got into a tussle with Pretender’s lead singer Chrissie Hynde during the show. Witnesses claim that a drunken Hynde disrupted a nearby Simon with shouts of “I love you Joni” and loud clapping during the performance, and when Simon asked her to quiet down, Hynde punched and choked her. Hynde’s publicist said Hynde actually hugged her, playfully choked her “in a loving way”, and told Simon she loved her, too. Either way, it would have been something interesting to witness.

I also discovered she recently sang a duet with opera great Placido Domingo. They joined forces to sing “The Last Night of the World” from “Miss Saigon”. How beautiful is that?

Simon has been rewarded for her career in music with several Grammys, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar. She was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1994, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004. She also found a lucrative second career as a children’s author with five books to her credit.

Here she is singing her modern anthem, “Happy Birthday”.

Happy belated birthday, Carly! Thank you for sharing your remarkable talent with all of us.

Will the real Khaleesi please stand up

thCAWSS4DTJune 26, 2013 – Entranced in my favorite online game over the weekend (“Strike a Match” on ), I came across a player using “Khaleesi” as their username.

Any fan of “Game of Thrones” knows that Khaleesi is “the mother of dragons”. They also know that technically it is not a name, but rather a title. The character’s name is Daenerys Targaryen.

Still, I thought it was clever.

Yesterday, I found an article in an online newspaper that stated, “There are now 146 American girls named Khaleesi, up 450% from 2011.”


I knew that the name Arya, another popular character from “Game of Thrones” was on the rise, but that sounds like an actual first name. I’ve also known people to name their pets after sports heroes and characters from movies and books. For instance, friends have a dog named Gandalf because they are huge fans of “The Lord of the Rings” books, another has a new puppy named Chase Mutley, after the Phillies Chase Utley, and others named their cat Buster, after the character in “Arrested Development”. That works. Khaleesi is also the perfect name for a regal cat, don’t you think?

Naming pets by these character names is whimsical. When it comes to a child, a human being who will have to repeat his or her name thousands of times over the years, it borders on child abuse.

Why would anyone want to saddle a child with a name so unusual it makes him or her uncomfortable? A pet won’t have to stand by their name in the schoolyard, or possibly grow up to be a CEO of a major corporation with a name that embarrasses them. Standing out in any way is enough to embarrass a kid at any age. They will already feel odd enough during their lifetime, so why make that worse with an unusual name.

Parents, I beg you, if you want to be clever, or feel particularly close to characters in a sci-fi book, get a pet or a new online handle. You’ll still get the thrill of creativity, and spare your child from a lifetime of embarrassment.

A lunchtime tourist in her own city: The Philadelphia History Museum

philadelphia-history-museum-logo-240uw 2More than a year has passed since I’ve added to this series, and shame on me since Philly has so much to offer visitors. Whether you’re a lunchtime tourist like me who is rediscovering sites once taken for granted, or a visitor from out-of-town, you’ll love exploring Philadelphia’s downtown district. In this segment, the first over the next five Mondays, we’ll look at a less publicized Philly attraction many that locals or tourists may not know exists, The Philadelphia History Museum.

June 24, 2013 – Hungry for a little knowledge? This lunchtime vacation nourished my soul and my body, since I stopped at a street vendor along the way for strawberry banana smoothie. I walked the three blocks from my office building at 6th and Walnut Streets in historic Old City sipping the fruity delight and reached today’s destination, the Philadelphia History Museum, in less than five minutes.

Located on 7th Street right below Market, and only a few blocks from the Reading Terminal, the museum honors Philadelphia’s richly celebrated reputation with plenty of local flavors from the past and present.

????????????Exhibitions at the Museum invite visitors to wander through more than 300 years of the city’s “stories”, which covers Philly’s history from 1680 to today. Explore more than 40 of nostalgic objects that tell the story of the city and its diverse and colorful citizens. To get a bigger picture, use your cell phone while in the City Stories exhibit to receive text messages, and make it a true multimedia experience.

sportsThere’s no arguing that the Philadelphia sports fan is passionate, and has a reputation throughout the country for being rather fanatical, which I consider the true spirit of fandom. The museum also currently features, “Played in Philadelphia, Phillies Fandemonium”, a tribute to the baseball arm of Philly sports teams, and the creative fans who cheer them on. Visitors can observe Philly fans in photos and video, and if you’re an out-of-towner, perhaps you will understand why we are proud fans. The exhibit presently focuses on sports, but will also feature revolving themes devoted to the city’s history in theater, music, performing arts, film, broadcast, and electronic media in the future.

Other exhibits include “Made in Philadelphia: A beer revolution”, “Philadelphia Voices: A LGBT history”, and “From Face to Facebook”, which explores portraits of Philadelphians, and how they have pictured themselves through the centuries. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a local; the Philadelphia History Museum is one of the best places to visit in the area if you want to learn more about the city of brotherly love because it has is something for everyone.

The museum is located at 15 S. 7th Street. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $6 for students and teens (13-18). Children 12 and under, museum members and active military are free.

Check out the other options in the lunchtime tourist series. These excursions are perfect if you want to explore Philly on your lunch hour (and work downtown), or if you’re a visitor with an hour or so to spare.

The Italian Market
The Reading Terminal Market

Jeweler’s Row
Old City

The time of the season

summer_solsticeJune 21, 2013 – Happy Summer Solstice to the folks in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer arrives today, when the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, ringing in the longest day of the day year.

For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, today brings the exact opposite, marking the arrival of the Winter Solstice, or the shortest day of the year.

Whether you’re wearing short sleeves, or bundling up to face the cold, enjoy the day. As my Druid friends would say today, “Blessed be the solstice!”

It’s the luckiest day of the year

symbol-cloverJune 19, 2013 – You read that right. June 19, 2013 is forecast to be the luckiest day of the year, if you are a Sagittarius, that is.

According to Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone, a horoscope site that I read faithfully the first day of each month, “On June 19, the Sun and Jupiter will combine forces to create your luckiest day of the year.”

Miller adds that if your birthday falls on December 9, plus or minus five days – mine is December 9 – you will feel the energy directly.

No one loves a positive prediction more than me, but it might be a tad too much pressure for your average Wednesday. Nothing out of the ordinary is planned; I’m working all day, and then meeting a few friends for dinner tonight. That’s all quite pleasant, but perhaps on my luckiest day I should be at a casino or at least scratching off some lottery tickets.

Does it make me shallow that I associate luck with money? A better person might consider it lucky to have a good job and great friends to spend time with, and I do appreciate both.

It’s interesting that my luckiest day falls only a few days before my favorite day of the year, June 22, which I’ve written about here.

With fingers crossed and breath that is bated, I will humbly await to see how the day presents itself.

Enjoy the day, fellow Sagittarians. I hope it is lucky for all of us.

Brevity takes time

to_the_pointJune 18, 2013 – “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

This week’s WordPress challenge asks us to select a post from our archives, remove all unnecessary words, and make the same point. Here’s an attempt at flash fiction from a few years ago; my goal – write a story with 250 words or less.

Purchase Anxiety (Originally posted January 28, 2011 – 248 words)

The doorbell chimed something resembling Pachabel’s Cannon. It was the piece of music she loved the most.

I hope that’s an omen of good things to come, she thought as she walked into the store.

Books for sale lined the wall in front of her, featuring authors who wrote about the new age. She picked up a copy of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. She’d read it in high school, wondered where it was, and decided to buy another copy. Chances are it was lost somewhere in her travels. Or maybe her father deliberately lost it for her.

Sadly, she remembered how upset he was when he saw her reading a spiritual book not written by a Christian author. He accused her of turning her back on her faith to follow the words of some Middle Eastern lunatic. He was even angrier when she exclaimed that Jesus was also considered a Middle Eastern lunatic, and he would know that if he wasn’t such an idiot.

She hated that memory. Faith was certainly her father’s Achilles’ heel, and she took full advantage of hurting him with it. She felt guilty for years and never understood why she struck back at him with such venom. But she was 16 then, and maybe that was reason enough.

Somehow they found a way to forgive each other — she for his overbearing religious side, and he for her less than enthusiastic attitude towards religion.

Sliding the book back on the shelf she realized she didn’t want the book after all.

Purchase Anxiety (Posted June 18, 2013 – 198 words)

The doorbell chimed Pachabel’s Cannon, the piece of music she loved most, and she smiled hoping for good things to come as she walked into the store.

Books for sale lined the wall featuring new age authors. She picked up a copy of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. She read it in high school and decided to buy it again, figuring she’d lost it in her travels. Or, maybe her father deliberately lost it for her.

It upset him that she read a spiritual book written by a non-Christian author, and he accused her of following a Middle Eastern lunatic to spite him. He became angrier when she spewed that people called Jesus a Middle Eastern lunatic too, and he would know that if he wasn’t an idiot.

Faith was her father’s Achilles’ heel, and she took full advantage of hurting him with it. She felt guilty for years, and never understood why she struck back with such venom. She was 16 then, which may be reason enough.

Somehow they found a way to forgive each other — she for his overbearing religious side, and he for her unenthusiastic attitude towards religion.

Sliding the book back on the shelf she realized she didn’t want it after all.

The best jobs on earth

dream-job 2June 17, 2013 – It’s Monday and we’re back to the old grindstone.

Whether you’re sitting at your desk with your mind wandering, or behind a cash register wishing you were in another profession altogether, you’re not alone. Most of us dream of a perfect job, and usually it’s much different than the one we have.

Here are some of the coolest jobs on earth as voted by participants. I have agree with those who named chocolate taster, beer taster and fortune cookie writer, among the best jobs. I want to live in a world where you get paid the big bucks to do that type of work.

Now, here is a little dose of reality.

According to April 2013 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the ten most common jobs in America:

1. Retail sales persons (4.3M)
2. Cashiers (3.3M)
3. Food preparation workers (2.9M)
4. Office clerks, general (2.8M)
5. Registered Nurses (2.6M)
6. Waiters and Waitresses (2.3M)
7. Customer service representatives (2.3M)
8. Laborers (2.1M)
9. Janitors (2.1M)
10. Administrative Assistants (2.1M)

Additionally, here are the top ten least common jobs, according to the bureau:

1. Prosthodontists (310)
2. Patternmakers, wood (770)
3. Fabric menders (770)
4. Industrial-organizational psychologists (1,030)
5. Farm labor contractors (1,030)
6. Timing device assemblers and adjusters (1,140)
7. Mathematical technicians (1,150)
8. Mathematical science occupations (1,220)
9. Model makers, wood (1,270)
10. Radio operators (1,280)

Happy Monday!

The great debate: education vs. experience

educationJune 14, 2013 – Who has it easier when searching for a job, a college graduate, or a well-experienced worker without a degree?

This is an age-old question asked by many potential job applicants, whether they are fresh from the college classroom, or wise with experience from years spent in the workforce.

Recent graduates may believe they have it more difficult, and often cite their lack of experience as the reason. Still, experienced workers without higher education noted on their resumes often feel fewer doors open to them when looking for a job.

Employers seem just as puzzled by this question. A recent survey shows they say they value a bachelor’s degree more than they did five years ago. Yet they claim a degree has become the new high school diploma, which almost devalues it.

College degrees are more common today than ever, so there may be something to the claim they are not as highly valued. Perhaps that is because many believe the propaganda that college graduates earn a million dollars more in a lifetime than high school graduates do. Not only is this figure grossly inflated, but also it based on information found in studies funded by colleges and universities who want to market their schools to potential students.

Those same employers who say a degree is more important than experience also say they have trouble finding qualified graduates to fill vacancies because they lack basic workplace skills. So, what is the true answer?

It depends on the industry and the job, of course. Students desiring to become doctors, lawyers and engineers, for example, must have a degree to pursue a career in their chosen field. Money spent on that type of education is often a good investment. You may be wise, however, to think twice about going $120,000 in debt for a degree in women’s studies.

Still, experience often proves more important in other fields. In technology, for example, a field that boasts a few big names that are famous for not having a degree, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, experience and keeping up with the latest advances on your own may be more valuable than classroom time.

Higher education is always the best option if you can afford it. The problem is most students cannot go to college without the help of student loans, the amount of which is a growing problem for the United States. Students graduate with enough debt to see their monthly payments equal a mortgage payment in many cases. That often means moving back home after graduation and putting off buying your first home for several years, which hurts the economy.

Another solution is to gain both experience and a degree. If you’re starting out and can find an entry-level job somewhere, you can work during the day and obtain a degree at night. Many larger companies have tuition reimbursement benefits that help workers achieve this goal.

There are also colleges, like Philadelphia’s Drexel University, that has co-ops or internships, often well paid, built into the degree program. Drexel is a five-year program because of the co-ops, but the student gains valuable experience in the work force, along with a degree.

Times have changed for both the recent college graduate and the experienced worker. The job market is quite different than it was prior to 2007, and fewer jobs available. It is best to find a sensible solution that works for you, and realize that taking on a huge debt isn’t always the best answer.

Far from reality

realityJune 12, 2013 – Come a little closer. I am about to admit something truly embarrassing. I am one of those women who watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

My confession may not cast me in a positive light, but I never watch live. I wait until the DVR has recorded enough so I can fast forward through the many commercials and previews of what will come next, so I can watch it in about half the time. That leaves me time to help save the planet, listen to Bach, and read Tolstoy.

Why do I enjoy wallowing in the daily trials of the young men and women trying to find their life’s partner on a TV dating show? I suppose I am intrigued by the type of person who would chose to expose themselves this way, by the drama of their dilemmas and petty problems, and with their fight to be the last standing with a rose and possibly an engagement ring. Yet, I fully understand there is nothing real about it, no matter how they advertise it, and even though it is considered reality television.

I thought about breaking this less than great habit. Yet, I find it oddly therapeutic. Shouting at the television, at the stupidity that often takes over, does that for me.

Yet, there is one thing that drives me batty. Whenever I hear the phrase, “They are not here for the right reason,” spoken about a particular contestant, and that phrase is used so often that I believe its written in the contracts that they have to use it, I cringe. Sure, we realize it is code for he/she is getting too much attention from the bachelor/bachelorette. Besides, what would the right reason be, anyway? They are all there for the same reason. They like the spotlight and want attention.

In the 15 seasons this show has aired, only one successful relationship developed for a couple who chose each other at the end. Not very good odds for finding love. However, several former contestants have found careers in television and other media related fields. Much better odds, indeed.

Phew! I feel better. I exposed my weakness and got this off my chest.

And I did it for the right reason.

The new PI in town

private_investigationJune 10, 2013 – Will the privacy rights of American citizens eventually disappear altogether?

More and more that seems to be our reality, with the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collecting data from tens of thousands of calls from the communication giants such as Verizon and AT&T.

This situation is far from new; it began after 9/11 and was first reported in 2006, yet many Americans don’t seem to care that they are under surveillance. We’re already used to street cameras recording activity in high crime areas, and getting thoroughly examined in airport security lines all in the name of safety. I suppose worrying about how we will retire or finding a job that pays the bills is enough to stress over right now.

Other countries have maintained higher security standards than the U.S. for years, but Americans always felt safe in our cocoon. Until 9/11, that is. We were targeted, we got hit, and we had to make changes so it wouldn’t happen again. All because crime is running rampant in our own streets, and there are groups here and around the world out to kill as many people as possible in the name of religion.

The privacy issue makes me feel torn. On one hand, the government believes it is best for our national security. We want to feel safe and depend on them to keep us out of danger. On the other hand, it makes me worry. How far will they go? This kind of power in the wrong hands is frightening.

Yet the government isn’t even the scariest threat to our freedom. In many ways, we are our own worst enemies, and how we use technology adds to the problem. It is the age of cell phone photos and videos that expose the activities of average citizens. We have Google glass, 3D printers, Facebook and other social media, and the latest gadget popping up in the technology field, whatever it is. Surely, it will be our eventual downfall. With technology advancing so quickly, common people can become as dangerous as criminals, or their own private investigators.

It’s almost as if we don’t value our privacy, so why does this matter. We overhear and sometimes participate in private conversations on cell phones while sitting next to strangers on trains and buses, while standing in busy checkout lines, and walking down the street. In addition, we share intimate secrets of our lives on Facebook and other social media sites without a second thought. It’s not that much different from the type of information the NSA gathers.

Facebook is often targeted for possible violations of privacy issues, yet millions (including me) still use it. Facebook may think they’re being clever about privacy, but they know what you do when you leave the site; how else would they determine I was shopping for handbags on last night? I realize it’s the same with search engines like Google, but it seems more prominent on Facebook. When I logged on this morning, for example, there were plenty of ads for Macy’s handbags nicely framing my news feed. They also resort to trickery to get you to “like” certain ads. For example, they may disguise a photo of a beautiful sunset as something you should “like”, but it is actually a hidden ad for Wal-Mart or another retailer. It’s not surprising that their demise is predicted for a few years down the road.

What is surprising is that the other night my news feed contained a picture of a man on a train, most likely taken by a cell phone user and without his knowledge. The caption read: “If this is your husband, I have just endured a two-hour train ride from Philadelphia listening to this loser and his friends bragging about their affairs and how their wives are too stupid to catch on. Please repost.” Now, that’s one interesting way to expose a cheater. Is the woman who posted this a hero for calling out a cheater, or someone who should have respected the privacy of this man and the people on the train, even if he didn’t?

Part of me wants to applaud the woman who posted it; she is a friend of my cousin, and that is how I saw the post, but I don’t know her. And I thought about sharing it. But what if it’s not true? What if he made it up just to impress his friends? That makes him an idiot, but not necessarily a cheater. And what if this post embarrasses his wife? Perhaps she already knows — most spouses do unless they don’t care — and doesn’t want to make this public knowledge.

Last I checked that post had over 238,000 shares. It’s simply one more example that our right to privacy – quite possibly due to our own foolish actions – is disappearing.