Search Results for "fortuna"

WHAT IF Fortuna is More Than Just a Clever Name for a Cat?

As I’ve written before, the naming of our dogs and cats is a very important family ritual (and will be the focus of an upcoming blog).  One of my personal favorite names that we have not yet used for a cat is “Fortuna” – do I need to point out that most cats are “for tuna”?  Even though my topic today has nothing to do with naming pets, it has a lot to do with Fortuna.

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The Roman goddess Fortuna and her wheel

It turns out that Fortuna, supposedly the daughter of Jupiter, was a Roman goddess who controlled fortune and capriciousness in human affairs.  If she were posting pictures of herself on Instagram she would be near a Rota Fortunae (wheel of fortune), signifying that our fate in life is determined as much by the spin of the wheel as by our own doings.  I must admit that Fortuna’s mythical wheel of fortune often seems to make a lot of sense to me.


A Fortuna selfie for Instagram?

I was sharing my thoughts on this with our son Travis and he pointed out that Ignatius Reilly, that wonderfully quirky character from A Confederacy of Dunces, referred to Fortuna throughout the novel, something I had forgotten.  Curious, I did a search of the novel on my Kindle –  her name appears 31 times.  Even if you are not a Fortuna fan, I would highly recommend Confederacy – it is a one-of-a-kind classic.


Ignatius mentioned Fortuna 31 times

I am prattling on about some obscure goddess named Fortuna because that’s what immediately popped into my head when Ann suggested a What If theme for today’s blog. The interventions of this mischievous goddess into our day-to-day lives leaves no option but to contemplate “what if.”   To illustrate, I want to to share one particularly significant what if moment for Ann and me.  It has to do with an army captain, whom I never met, the the military draft, and maybe a flu bug. 

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The sword of Damocles?

Here’s some context.  It was near the end of 1966 and I was a fledgling school teacher at Chino High.   Ann and I had just got engaged.  Shortly after our engagement I learned that I had been reclassified by the Selective Service System as 1A and was no longer guaranteed a deferment for teaching.  A 1A classification at that time was a sure ticket to being drafted with the near certainty of ending up in Vietnam.  I could see only one alternative to the mandatory draft –  join a reserve unit. 

So, I looked into the air national guard, the naval reserve, and even the coast guard reserve.  Nothing panned out until I learned of some openings in an army intelligence reserve unit based in Los Angeles.  I drove to LA to speak with the unit’s head sergeant. 

army intelligence

Some consider this to be an oxymoron; I considered it to be a way around the draft.

During the interview he asked if I knew any foreign languages.  Suppressing the urge to tell him that I was pretty good at Pig Latin,  I told him I had couple of semesters of junior college Spanish under my belt.  He said that’s great and asked me to put on some headphones and translate into English as much of a recording as I could.  I didn’t understand a thing I heard, jotting down some random notes about what I guessed was being said.  He glanced at my results and said that was close enough for government work (it wasn’t very comforting to learn that’s all it took to get into army intelligence).

fort Ord on the beach

Fort Ord was considered one of the most attractive locations of any U.S. Army post because of its proximity to the beach and California weather. I was already packing my suntan lotion and trunks.

The most exciting part was that as soon as I was sworn in I would be sent for training at the army’s Military Language Center located at Fort Ord on the Monterey peninsula.   All I needed to do was fill out some forms, pass a physical, and appear at the reserve unit’s monthly meeting in three days to be sworn in.  I completed the forms and passed the physical that day.  Then I rushed back to tell Ann the good news, not realizing that Fortuna’s fateful wheel would soon intercede.

The day prior to the reserve unit meeting the sergeant called to inform me that the commanding officer had come down with the flu and wouldn’t be able to swear me at the upcoming monthly meeting.  I would have to wait until the next meeting.

One week later I became one of the more than 300,000 American men that year to open an envelope with this statement inside: “Greeting: You are hereby ordered for induction in the Armed Forces of the United States.”  This meant that I was immediately ineligible for any other kind of military service.  My completed forms and passed physical were for naught.  I was had. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered “what if” about this.  What if that captain had not caught the flu that weekend and swore me into the reserves prior to getting my draft notice?  Would I have been able to continue teaching at Chino High?  Would I have still gone to grad school?  Would I have avoided Vietnam?  Would Ann and I have had children earlier?  Would we ever have met folks like the Davis family (see Ann’s blog)?  Would I have learned a language more useful than Pig Latin?

Anns Fortuna

It was no coincidence that a few years ago Ann chose this Fortuna image for her email profile picture.

Of course that is just one of many what if moments that have influenced the direction and substance of our lives. Even though we had dreaded the thought of my being drafted, the army’s disruption of the first couple of years of our married life strengthened our relationship and opened opportunities we hadn’t imagined. Perhaps the best way to think about Fortuna is to realize that when the Rota Fortunae deals us a not-so-desirable outcome it provides a potential opportunity to confront the hardship and become stronger for the effort.  

Here’s to good fortuna for all in 2019!

Forecast: Cloudy and Cold – Followed by Sun and Warmth

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The irony of her holding a “Health Insurance” card is not lost on us.  Maybe they should have stayed in Mexico?

Ahhh to be a bird in flight to somewhere else at this moment.  Except we’re not sure where that somewhere would be.  Definitely to a sunny, warm (healthy) spot!

March is always such a bittersweet month – and even more so this crazy March of 2020.  The Snowbirds who winter in Mexico will soon start flying north, at least if they’re allowed to cross the Mexican border!  Speaking of Mexico, our Brooklyn kids just returned from a week split between Mérida in the Yucatan and Campeche on the Gulf Coast.  They highly recommend both.  And, fortunately, their flights home were without issue – but very very empty.  Speaking of kids and warmth, our daughter, Sara, just posted a touching blog about how the warmth of one customer helped ease the pain, as their Tacolicious restaurants were forced to close.

And speaking of flights, this interactive website from The National Geographic about birds’ migratory patterns is both lovely and fascinating.  Western Tanagers should be heading our Northern California direction about now.

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The Western Tanager

Our non-flying pet dogs and cats – who are currently cuddled up on warm wool blankets by toasty fireplaces – will soon be sprawled out in the summer sun.  And Andy, who is happily spending copious amounts of time in our warm basement – see today’s Andy’s Corner – will soon be happily gardening and fixing our drip systems (if you believe that, I have another funny story).

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OnoMoore and ChocoLatte are hanging out near each other ONLY because there’s a fire in our wood stove.

But for now, there’s still time to put another log on the fire and curl up next to it…or, if you’re a dog, take a romp through the snow.  Hope that seeing Rosie – a Bernedoodle who happens to live in Boulder, CO, with our friends – enjoying her wintry life might bring a smile!  Be sure to watch the very short video.

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Rosie and friend in the hills outside Boulder, Colorado

Our chilly weather last week here in Northern California inspired us to enjoy a bowl of chili.  Being wild and crazy and adventurous (and largely stuck in our house), we tried out a pound of Beyond Beef – which we found in a cooler near the fresh vegetables at Whole Foods and also frozen at our local Sonoma/Nugget market.  The resulting chili, quite frankly, was delicious…probably better than the burgers which we fixed with Beyond Burgers.

That cold spell was quickly followed by a 75 degree day.

Even in Colorado – some days this March have reached the high 60’s.  That’s warm enough for asparagus to start growing.  What could be more symbolic of spring for us food fanatics.  Andy and I have vivid memories of “stalking the wild asparagus” back on the Colorado farm where we lived when our kids were born.

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Stalking the wild asparagus – in Colorado!

So whether it’s chilly where you are – or warming up, we’ve got you covered.  For those frigid days, try today’s Beyond Beef chili recipe or one of our other super-duper chili recipes: MountainWestBob’s, Lamb and White Bean, Vegetarian Black Bean, and Not Your Mother’s.

In addition to today’s d-lish chili recipe, we suggest you to make a quick, hand-sanitizer-activated run to your market and pick up a bunch or two of asparagus.  And, believe me, after years of steaming or boiling asparagus, I can assure you the best possible way to fix it is neither of those.  Instead do this!  And once you’ve got a double-batch cooked (we KNOW you’re hoarding a little), make this salad.  If you want something more substantial, try one of these pasta or noodle recipes, which make great use of spring’s asparagus. Continue reading

Ya Got Trouble – right here in Glen Ellen

A counterculture (also written counter-culture) is a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores. (Wikipedia)



Ann’s blog about the “counter culture” comes on the heels of a recent BigLittleMeals dinner party featuring a pool and pinball tournament in our basement.  This gives me an opening to reach back into my sociological past to explain how the game of pool may nurture counter-cultural values and norms.

Culture, social values and norms were the grist of the texts I assigned to my intro sociology students back in the “good old days.”  By good old days I am referring to when students paid outlandish sums for text books that they would never consider keeping but could sell back to the bookstores at the end of the semester for a pittance of what they paid.  My students may not have learned much from me about culture and norms, but the text book industry undoubtedly taught them lots about capitalism and corporate greed.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to pool and associated deviant behavior.  Actually, there is no need to crack a sociology text for this.  In the song Ya Got Trouble, Professor Harold Hill (played by Robert Preston in the Music Man) tells us all we need to know about the perils of pool for upending the morals and social values of young men and women. Here are just a few examples from the lyrics:

Friend, either you’re closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a pool table in your community

Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table
Pockets that mark the diff’rence
Between a gentlemen and a bum

And all week long your River City
Youth’ll be fritterin’ away
I say your young men’ll be fritterin’!
Fritterin’ away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
Get the ball in the pocket
Never mind gettin’ dandelions pulled
Or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded

Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes
On while they’re loafin’ around that Hall?
They be tryin’ out Bevo, tryin’ out cubebs
Tryin’ out Tailor Mades like cigarette fiends! …

and starting to memorize jokes from Cap’n Billy’s Whiz Bang

Keep in mind that the Music Man is set in 1912, so some of the terms in these lyrics may be unfamiliar.  But no problem, I came across this web site with a glossary of terms from the lyrics.  Here are three I didn’t know:

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Bevo: A non-alcoholic beer (“near beer” or “cereal beverage”) brewed by Anheuser-Busch.

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Cubebs are cigarettes made with cubeb, the spicy fruit of an East Indian climbing shrub, Piper cubeba, of the pepper family, dried and used as a stimulant and diuretic, as a treatment for asthma, chronic pharyngitis, and hay fever.

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Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang was a monthly men’s humor magazine published by Wilford Hamilton “Captain Billy” Fawcett. 

To truly appreciate the social evils of pool you must hear the full version of Robert Preston’s Ya Got Trouble.  Fortunately, it just so happens that I have a copy right here.  To add a little dramatic zing to the song I have included photos of some of the derelicts and shady characters who frequent our basement pool table.  Nevertheless, be sure to focus on the lyrics (see them here) because some of this material will be on the final exam!


New Beginnings

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Do we need to make New Year’s resolutions about food?  If so, Harvard Medical School offers up “Six Simple Ways to Smarter, Healthier Eating.”  I’ve read it – and lots of other articles with nutrition advice – carefully.  Harvard’s #6 is the absolute best: “Plan meals that are delightful, delicious and healthy.”  (I would probably add that planning is not enough; you need to also COOK and EAT the meal you plan! 🙂 )

Please note though – I’m not giving up totally on salt or sugar or bacon or coffee or red meat or butter – or wine – as this new year starts.  I did, however, many moons ago give up drinking almost all juices, eating ultra-processed food and most pasta (which, all on my own, I decided made me gain weight).  I never eat more than half of a sandwich, and I try to have desserts around only when we have company.

Admittedly, I intend my last meal on earth to be spritz cookie batter – made with a blend of butter (preferably Kerrygold) and sugar (definitely cane, not coconut – a family insider joke).  I’d be the first to say that Julia Child and I could have been soul sisters in our love of butter.  High on my 2020 Bucket List is a visit to Bella la Crema,  a new innovative “butter bar” the next time we’re near Lyons, Colorado.  Yay, Colorado! Yay having friends we want to visit in Boulder!

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That said,  a keeper resolution is that Andy and I will cut back on the amount of beef and lamb and pork we eat – for the earth’s health maybe even more than our own health.  For the time being, I’ll pass on plant-based meat.

I most definitely intend to follow Harvard’s suggestion #2:  Harness the power of nuts (and seeds).  Here are a couple of articles to support this.

8 Health Benefits of Nuts

Super Seeds and Nuts You Should Include in Your Diet

Both are well worth a read – and we’ve added them to our Food for Thought (lots of articles there are worth a read!).

To accompany this 2020 resolution of mine, let me share a few nutty family stories and recipes.  Clearly, the family is very seedy 🙂  And – on another note – Andy was quite tweedy in his “higher” education LSU position – that is until he became quite needy in his “hire” as an adjunct.  See today’s Andy’s Corner!

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Picture this:  it’s 4:30 pm on Christmas day.  Your family has all agreed to contribute something to the Christmas dinner.  Your daughter is putting the finishing touches on her Moroccan stew; your son just iced his pumpkin bundt cake; his partner is preparing a preserved-lemon dressing for her Moroccan salad.  Your older grandson….well…let’s just say a roasted carrot dip never happened 🙂

Your small kitchen is pretty hectic about now….and then your 14-year-old grandson (i.e., Moss – of guest blogging fame) announces he’s ready to make his appetizers – which will be cracker/crisps – from scratch.  And he has never made them before.  And they have to chill in the freezer for at least an hour.

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This is not our grandson Moss making crackers or Moss in our kitchen – but it is Moss making a chocolate cake for his 14th birthday! Note: sugary, chocolate-y cakes should most definitely be allowed on birthdays!

Deep breathing.  It will all be fine.

About 2 hours later (after mixing, baking, chilling, slicing and then re-baking the cracker/crisp dough), we all sit down to taste the just-out-of-the-oven homemade appetizer cranberry nut cracker/crisps – served with fig jam and brie.  And they are delicious!

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Fortunately, Ono Moore, our Siamese cat, is not fond of blue cheese or fig jam or even Nutty Seedy Fruity Crisps

Earlier in December our daughter tipped me off to Sikil-P’ak – both a healthy and unusual pumpkin seed dip – which she served at a recent All-Ladies party.  She was also responsible for the recipe for spiced nuts, which I’ve included, straight from her Picnics cookbook.  Both of these recipes are perfect for incorporating nuts and seeds into your 2020 diet – and loving every bite.

Continue reading

New Beginnings: Moving from Higher to “Hire” Education

Today’s blog New Beginnings is primarily about Ann’s New Year’s resolution to eat more healthy food.  Given that in Andy’s Corner I am allowed to “go off script” from time to time, my New Beginnings is more about moving from “higher” to “hire” education.  Let me explain.

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This cartoon panel by Garry Trudeau is not only funny but hits the nail on the head when it comes to “hire” education.

I previously mentioned that for 27 years in my former life I was a member of the LSU  Sociology faculty.  While there I had my own office – with windows!, a separate office for graduate students who worked for me, funds for research and travel, and was obligated to teach just one course per semester – of my choice. I probably don’t need to mention that this rigorous teaching schedule garnered little sympathy from Ann who was on her feet teaching 6 classes a day at Scotlandville Magnet High School.

Stubbs Hall

Stubbs Hall at LSU, home of the Sociology Department

After taking early retirement in 2002 and moving to Glen Ellen, we found the cost of living to be a bit heftier than expected and decided it might be wise for me to earn a little extra income by seeking teaching opportunities at nearby Sonoma State U.  I inquired and was hired on a semester-to-semester basis as an adjunct.  A New Beginning had begun!

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Stevenson Hall, home of the SSU Sociology Department

That it was a “new beginning” first hit home when the department administrative assistant showed me what would be my office.  I was to share space with another “more senior” adjunct instructor whose book shelves and desk already pretty much filled up the small (windowless) room.  There was no computer or extra desk for me, but I was told that I would be able to find a desk at surplus across campus.

After checking out the massive, mostly three-legged surplus desks, I ended up buying my own tiny Ikea computer desk that would fit in the corner and had room for my laptop and a few books.  Fortunately, there was a perfectly fine office chair, as long as you didn’t try to lean back in it.

courses taught ssu and lsu

Comparing the courses I taught at LSU and SSU provides clear evidence of “New Beginnings” 

The first teaching gig I managed to land was a summer course that was paid according to how many students enrolled.  Five students showed up.  I had prepared the course, Population and Society, in the lecture format I used at LSU but quickly discovered that doing a formal stand-up lecture to 5 stone-faced students wasn’t going to cut it. So, I totally revamped my teaching style from a lecture/performance mode to a small group and interactive mode.  It seemed to work.

Before long I was asked to teach other classes that came down the pike that needed an instructor; I always agreed to do them (see the above table). I even was asked to teach in the Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies Department.   Eventually I ended up teaching the equivalent of full time (i.e., 4 courses per semester), which at the adjunct pay level earned about half of what a tenure track faculty would get.

Despite the culture shock of moving from a secure tenure track academic position to a precarious semester-by-semester status, I have to admit that I loved what I was doing.  My SSU faculty colleagues were fantastic and never once did I feel less valuable because of my adjunct status (except, of course, when the paycheck came in).  I actually looked forward to showing up at my modest office and interacting with the other faculty members.  More importantly, the opportunity to teach so many different courses forced me to rediscover my sociological imagination and energize my love of the discipline – and teaching.  Down deep somewhere I am a ham and love an audience.  I must admit that this what I miss most now that I am a two-time retiree.

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My SSU Senior Seminar class, 2008

In the end, I can’t think of a better way to ease out of a career that I loved so much.  I just hope that some of the students I encountered while in my adjunct phase came away with something more valuable than just earning a few credits.  Maybe they will think of their life’s trials and tribulations as “new beginnings” – with the potential of having great endings.

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