Hello and welcome -- short break for vacation coming up.

Just a note to let you know that I'll be posting to this blog only occasionally for the rest of the year. We're timeshare owners and we're off to travel in Nevada and California. When we're gone, we shut down our home computers. (Besides that, we can't think of a good reason to get a laptop since we are both retired.)

Please check the right column for the blogs I follow and perhaps one will interest you. If you care to check this link again in a couple of months, you'll probably find me ambling around.

My husband and I wish you a pleasant fall and winter season. Thanks.

Keep Your Powder Dry Through the Election

See more of Louise August's work at: http://www.estrellafineart.com/louise_august2.htm

We've decided that whatever happens in this 2008 election, we will be rid of "The Emperor and his New Clothes."

That's the good thought.

Beyond that, we'll be in Las Vegas on Election Day. Hopefully, we will take part in a big victory party. We don't gamble or drink (beyond a beer or two, or a couple of glasses of wine) but will check the "spread" on Bush vs. Obama while we are there. Our son and grandchildren will keep us too busy to worry at all.

It's not a bad place to be.


PS -- Ellen's Afterthought:

Fie on you, Alan Greenspan. You will live in infamy!
"The Credit Tsunami = Irrational Exuberance"


Digital Geezer: A View from My Spouse

In April 1957, I moved to Rochester, New York to work for Stromberg Carlson. I had driven my 1949 Chevrolet convertible with a hole in the floor behind the driver’s seat – all the way from Boston to Rochester, NY. The hole was big enough to see the street underneath! I had a small apartment in an area bordering the city, and in the evenings, I parked my car near my apartment. Months passed, and spring turned to a brief summer, then to winter.

One night, I parked the car, and snow began to fall in earnest. The next morning, it was still snowing even harder. I looked and looked for my car, but it was GONE. I called the police, and explained that somebody stole my eight-year-old car with a rust hole big enough to put two feet through. The cop chuckled, and said it was hardly likely that someone had stolen the car! It was probably parked on the wrong side of the street – perhaps ODD or EVEN numbers – nobody recalls now! He checked his records and -- sure enough -- he found the car was towed during the snow emergency.

I bundled myself up in a heavy coat, hat and gloves, and stood out on the corner of Alexander and East Avenue waiting for a bus to take me to the police station in downtown Rochester. I waited and waited with a bunch of other people. Finally, some Good Samaritan picked up some of us lucky folks, and I was driven to the police station, where I paid the fine and towing charges and received a receipt.

But the fun was just beginning! The car was NOT ACTUALLY THERE -- it was parked in a field outside of town. So, I had to get on another bus, and then a second one, to get to the tow lot. I finally made it, and I showed my receipt to the guard at the lot. But, the lot was not plowed! There was a narrow area between the cars where it was OK to drive and walk, but there was snow up to the car's hubcaps. Without a shovel, good luck! However, I remembered that the guard had something stashed behind his chair. I trudged back to the guard shack, and asked to borrow the shovel. After much cajoling the guard reluctantly parted with the shovel, and I was able to finally dig the car out and drive home.

As Northerners know, you HAVE to go, even in the snow. The blizzards in upstate New York – Albany – Syracuse - Buffalo - are spectacular. Asked about the summers in upstate New York, one friend of mine said, “When summer falls on a Sunday, we play golf.”

The Digital Couple: The Geezer and Ellen Kimball

Never Yell 'Fire' In A Movie Theater... but how about something political?

It was Saturday afternoon just before 1 PM.

The Regal Cinema at Bridgeport Village, in Tualatin, Oregon, was not full for the 1:10 PM screening of Bill Maher's "Religulous." We missed the screening, so we paid matinee prices to see the flick.

We had just settled in our seats, hoping for a bit of a laugh from Maher and his cunning views on world religions. Oops.

Up came a trailer for the new movie "W" -- it's a film about George W. Bush that opens later this month. Josh Brolin plays GWB, with an uncanny look and voice. I don't know if I will see it, but my blood began to boil -- our investments had taken a whack on Friday -- and I was not in the mood to see ANYONE who reminded me of the Worst. President. Ever.

I watched the trailer quietly. But when the screen went dark, I blurted out at the top of my booming female radio voice:


First, there was dead silence. Then, the crowd of about fifty people erupted with spontaneous "YEAHS" and generous applause...

I was quite pleased. I wish all of you had been there!


"Are you better off than you were four weeks ago?" Obama asked with a chuckle.

Painting imagineered by Portland artist Lukas Ketner and published in Willamette Week, (our local alternative newspaper)

Barack Obama made us smile when he posed this well-worn question today on the campaign trail.

If you are old enough, you'll recognize that it's a riff on the original question posed in 1980. In the last Presidential debate, Ronald Reagan asked, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Here's our answer...

Dear Senator Obama,

The last four weeks have been horrible. We just backed out of the stock market yesterday. We put the fleeing remainder of our nest egg into Fidelity Investments CASH RESERVES to stop from going completely broke in this financial collapse.

We don't expect you to repay us -- we didn't really ever own the money, anyway. You only get the money when you cash out. Thankfully, we won't have to pay taxes on it. Because we are elderly, we probably won't have to pay much in the way of taxes this year. That's a good thing. We have to do more belt tightening, but it will be worth it.

To help us keep clear mentally, here's how we figure it:

We donated this phantom money to YOUR ELECTION.

It seems as if it is taking this woeful financial crash, the worst since my father's generation, to lock in your candidacy.

We know it's a paltry sum to you -- that $125,000 we have hypothetically lost somewhere. We lost it to someone, but we don't know exactly who. However, you probably won't miss it when it doesn't show up in your coffers.

We're still talking up your candidacy as we have since you won the primaries. It's becoming more clear that many others are taking up your cause. As we said, as good citizens trying to stay up with our expenses, we had nothing to do with the increase. We thought we were just being prudent to try and keep up with inflation through our elder years.

We had nothing to do with the loss. But we will have something -- EVERYTHING -- to do with your election. We await our mail-in ballots in just a few days. Good luck in the upcoming election!


Ellen and Al in Oregon

Two of the Yuppie Elderly and, theoretically, a couple of the top donators to Barack Obama's campaign.

**Go here for a true analysis of the differences whether YOU are better off than you were in 2000: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/print/36628

The Beauty of Madama Butterfly by Puccini

Listen to this animated version -- superb!

Movie Review: "Flash of Genius" (Opens October 3, 2008)

There’s an old expression that states, “It’s not the money, it’s the principle of the thing.” Robert Kearns fought for that ideal for more than three decades of his life.

“Flash of Genius” – presumably an expression inventors use to explain the moment of genesis of an idea – is the true story of Detroit engineer and inventor Bob Kearns. On his wedding night, he had an unfortunate accident. He was removing the cork from a bottle of celebratory champagne. The cork flew up and hit him in his left eye. The resultant scene was bloody but somehow prophetic – Bob Kearns came out of that incident legally blind in one eye.

His marriage survived and the man went on to father six children. Meanwhile, Kearns was keenly sensitive to the workings of the human eye. Kearns observed the pattern of the blink and he had a fascinating revelation. Kearns postulated that our brains introduce a discontinuous pattern whenever the eyes blink – quickening and slowing as necessary.

While driving in the Michigan rain, he observed that the windshield wipers on vehicles of that era only had two positions: ON and OFF. Quite often, the wipers ran too swiftly for light rainfalls, and too slowly for downpours.

Their marriage was affected deeply by his tinkering and the aftermath of the invention process. It was a single-minded effort that eventually took over Kearns’ entire life. At one point, it brought him to the edge of madness. Kearns swept aside his involvement with his loving wife, Phyllis, and his six young children as he became more and more obsessed with designing and marketing a windshield wiper that paused during its sweeping motion, as the eye pauses during blinking. By rearranging the already-existing mechanical and electrical circuitry, Kearns invented and patented the “Blinking Eye” windshield wiper. His goal was to manufacture these wipers and sell them to the automotive companies.

At the time, the behemoth Ford Motor Company engineers had already begun their own investigations into concocting an intermittent wiper system. Kearns was invited to show off his invention and given a Ford car on which to install it. Initially, the game plan appeared to be that a Kearns family business would indeed be born and Kearns would realize his dream.

That, however, was not to be. This movie documents what followed when the Ford Motor Company suddenly quashed its deal with Kearns, and surreptitiously began installing its own version of the intermittent wiper. What follows is the courageous but truly demented tale of how Kearns’ was left with a single life purpose -- to get the Ford Motor Company to acknowledge they stole his idea – his greatest work. It may only have been a windshield wiper system to others, but to him, it was a work of art on par with the “Mona Lisa.”

First-time director and former producer Marc Abraham read the original story by John Seabrook in the New Yorker magazine and decided to make it into a movie. A script by Phillip Railsback followed. Eventually, actor Greg Kinnear received a copy with the unlikely working title of “Window Washer Man.” Kinnear quipped on TV last week that the property sat on his desk for months while he avoided reading it, thinking it would involve some kind of a caped superhero with a squeegee!

I thought the movie was profound but some moviegoers might also find it quite grim. Anyone who has had dealings with large corporations knows the scope of their unyielding grasp – you just have to look at modern companies and trace their history. Some have met their demise because of poor decisions. However, I don’t believe it is “bad karma” that finds the large automakers in difficult straits these days.

My impression is that Greg Kinnear has never had a better part and I honestly hope he will be noticed for it. He has already won the Best Actor Award at Boston's Film Festival. Actress Lauren Graham plays Kearns’ long-suffering wife Phyllis, and Dermot Mulroney (with a mane of dark hair over his forehead) is fine as a duplicitous and self-serving partner named Gil Privick. Alan Alda has a small but significant role as Kearns’ lawyer Gregory Lawson. The various young actors who play Kearns’ children at different ages were quite natural and believable.

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada stands in for Detroit, Michigan in this film. Visiting family members from the Detroit area told me there is a lot of recent film activity in Michigan. Unfortunately, this movie was apparently not part of a trend that is said to be bringing films back to US locations. As a reviewer, I support that completely.

I give this movie a “B+” on Ellen’s Entertainment Report Card.

Universal Pictures Official Website: http://www.flashofgenius.net/
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Runtime: USA:119 min
Country: USA
Language: English

A quick aside: Somehow, I have a special soft spot for inventors. My father was a lawyer, but he was always tinkering with something or other. I don’t remember all of the things he invented, but he was quite a guy – variously a playwright, painter, sculptor and very amateur violinist! Dad actually holds a patent on a coin-operated microscope machine**, which provided a tiny income for him in his advanced years. The gadget was placed at a couple of locations in Miami, Florida, where they lived and where I grew up. Regrettably, my mother and father never shared details of their finances with me although I was their only child. Furthermore, finances were not something in which Dad showed much interest or ability. He ended up spending most of their cash in the waning days of his life. I don’t know the details but my mother was practically destitute and still trying to work as a legal secretary when she died at age 71 in March 1991.

**Google found the patent for me:

Patent number: 4405202
(Granted to Leonard L. Kimball)
Filing date: Mar 30, 1981
Issue date: Sep 20, 1983

Abstract: A protective microscope container for housing a microscope having a pair of focus control extension knobs extending therefrom and a pair of two dimensional slide holder control arms extending from the rear of the container. Two dimensional control members are used to drive a continuous slide...