Nuts and Alligators

Here’s a Foreign Service story that’s too good not to share. Back in the early 1980s when I was working in Washington, D.C., I was assigned for two or three years to USIA’s Foreign Press Center, just three blocks from the White House. It was a great job. The FPC was located in the National […]

Does Voter Apathy Exacerbate Political Polarization?

In the wake of this past Tuesday’s primary elections here in California and several other states, my attention was drawn* to a Los Angeles Times report on voter apathy. “No offense, but I never vote,” a man, age 63, told the reporter. Asked why, the man responded, “I don’t believe in the system.” As someone […]

Want to Have Your Palm Read? Me Neither!

Roma (Gypsy) women Every once in a while, as I drive down the street or highway, I’ll spot a sign calling attention to what is usually a pretty low-rent establishment – a place where, according to its sign, you can get your palm read and your fortune told. In the interest of full disclosure, readers […]

A Hero You May Never Have Heard Of

Norman Borlaug About a month ago I saw an online birthday tribute to a 20th century hero few people have ever heard of. On March 25, Norman Borlaug, an agronomist who passed away in 2009, would have celebrated his 104th birthday. Borlaug’s work, say those who are familiar with it, saved billions of lives. It […]

Furo Adventure

If you haven’t bathed in traditional Japanese style, you’ve missed a great experience. I’ve had a few opportunities to bathe like the locals do in Japan, but none to rival the one I’ll recount below. First though, for readers unfamiliar with Japanese customs, here’s brief intro. In Japan, you get clean before you get into […]

The Limits of Canine Intelligence

  Rin Tin Tin Years ago, when Johnny Carson was the face of late-night TV, he once drew hundreds of outraged letters after he dared to say, in conversation with a guest, that pigs are smarter than dogs. Lassie lovers were not amused. I spent my childhood largely unaware of the limits of canine intelligence. […]

Recollections Called Forth by the Closing of America’s St. Petersburg Consulate

U.S. consulate-general, St. Petersburg, Russia The U.S. consulate-general in St. Petersburg became a casualty this week of the current escalation of tensions between the West and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, following the attempted assassination in England of former double agent Alexander Litvinenko and his daughter by Russia’s FSB (successor to the USSR’s notorious KGB). Putin ordered […]

The Hung Fat Brassiere Company Let Me Down

Years ago, when I was living in the Washington, D.C., area, I spotted an article in the Washington Post about amusing – to native-English speakers – signs and menu items in Asia. The article included a number of funny names, but the only one that occasionally pops back into my head was that of a […]

How to Be the World’s Coolest Dad

Romanesque Grotesque It’s probably a little harder to achieve Coolest Dad status today than it was in 1983, but I found a quick and easy way to do it back then. At the time, I was a single dad, living just outside Washington, D.C., and sharing custody of my two (at that time) kids with […]

Creating a Coffee Table With My Dad

For most of my childhood, we lived in a small house in Wanamassa, an unincorporated neighborhood just across the lake from Asbury Park, N.J. To my mom, at least, the smallest room in that house was the one in which she spent the most time – the kitchen. How she wished it were a little […]