Saturday, September 26, 2015

Angela and Volkswagen

First off, you have to marvel at how little Angela Merkel, the most photographed woman with clothes on, has changed.

She in seen in the photo with Volkswagen's CEO Martin Winterkorn--the recently resigned CEO of Volkswagen who was embarrassed by an emissions rating scandal--shortly before the 2008 taping of the German version of the show, 'I've Got a Secret.'

Ms. Merkel had no involvement in the emissions scandal, but did lend an ear to Herr Winterkorn.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


There isn't a person I grew up who doesn't have a Yogi Berra story. From watching him play at a game, on TV, or reading about the Yankees in the 1950s in the three New York City tabloids. He was New York baseball growing up.

Yogi is seen here above relaxing amongst what passed for luxurious, ultimate gifts on Yogi Berra Day in 1959 at Yankee Stadium. Yes, televisions did once look like that (and probably a black and white set at that) and I can tell you it looks an awful lot  like the one that every fall seemed to find itself at the edge of the stage in our auditorium at P.S. 22 in Flushing.

The explanation was simple. The teachers explained that the maintenance people (those that shoveled coal into the furnaces) hauled a television onto that stage and watched the World Series, generally always with the Yankees playing someone. I can't think of that scene in our auditorium and not think that baseball games were being watched in our assembly auditorium as we were trying to master subtraction.

And I can't think of that era without seeing the photos of Yogi's leaping leg-lock hug on Don Larsen after the only perfect game in a World Series was completed. I then always thing of the announcement that the winners' share per man in that series was $11,000, I think, more that what F.D.I.C. insurance would insure a savings account for, which at the time was $10,000. I marveled at the riches you could earn playing baseball. The loser got $7,000 I believe. Maybe $8,000. Richer that Croesus.

The Don Larsen game was a game my father was at! His boss took him. I ever so jealous of that. And the man never even thought to even at least hold onto his ticket stub. He wasn't very sentimental.

Day games during the golden era and during the week were fairly filled with fans, even regular season games. The attendance at those games would make any owner envious in today's era. It was truly like the scene in 'Pat and Mike' where the Spenser Tracey character Mike, a sports promoter, takes Pat, the Katherine Hepburn character, to a day game at the Stadium. She remarks that there seem to be a lot of people there for a weekday, doesn't anyone go to work? Mike snidely tells her, "Yeah, their grandmothers all died."

As kids we couldn't believe that Yogi was president of a company that produced a chocolate drink of, to me, questionable taste, called Yoo-hoo. The drink came in small bottles and had a yellowish-brown label. To me it looked disgusting, but I guess someone bought it. I think Yoo-hoo is one of those things I never liked, like Tootsie Rolls. Yogi was also a businessman?  I don't think we ever got that out of our heads.

I never got the Yogi Berra baseball card. I did get Whitey Ford, duplicates, that enabled some trading, but never Yogi. And never Mickey Mantle. I never chewed the gum that came with the cards either. I don't think anyone I knew put that pink shingle in their mouth.

One of my oldest friend's memory of Yogi was watching Yogi turn and look at Bill Mazeroski's 7th Game World Series walk-off home run sail over the left field fence where Yogi was playing in the bottom of the 9th. Of course this gave the Pirates the 1960 World Series win and permanently made Bill Mazeroski the most hated man in New York.

Oddly enough, in that Series the fifth game at the Stadium was that same friend's (who I didn't know at the time) first World Series game. He and his brother had been taken to Yankee games as early as 1953. The father wanted to make sure they grew up loving America and its pastimes and didn't drift into Communism. It was my first baseball game. We both saw the Yankees lose that day. Portents of things to come. There were 62,753 people at that Monday afternoon game. My grandmother hadn't died yet, but I guess others had.

I remember watching infield practice early at a game being played at Shea, perhaps 1964, 1965, when the Pirates came to town. I remember being close to the field, before they chased you back to your seats, where you could hear the ball zip on the infield grass and see the seams, and Bill Mazeroski deftly fielded the ball and threw to first. Still the most hated man in New York.

Lots of people quote the things Berra said, or didn't say, but were attributed to him. My favorite, because it's so believable, is the one that has New York City's Mayor Wagner down in Florida at Yankee spring training with his wife Phyllis. This has to be in the 50s, and the Mayor and his wife are introduced to Yogi, who is not in uniform, but rather civilian clothes, wearing a typical floral-Florida style shirt that screams relaxation, or retirement.

Phyllis takes in Yogi's leisure attire and tells him, "Yogi, you look so cool." Yogi, ever polite, says, "Thanks Phyllis, you don't look so hot yourself."

My own best memory of Berra is a little more layered than watching him. Berra was a fantastic pitch hitter. He worked a walk, or generally got a hit. No one kept an inning alive like he did.

For whatever reason, my father chose to paint the back of the house at night, shining a spotlight on the area he was working on. We had a clapboard house on Flushing that demanded its share of maintenance. A lot of maintenance. I first learned to paint on that house with Dutch-Boy paint, made by the National Lead Company. Guess what that paint had in it? You never picked up a heavier brush of paint until you picked up a brush dipped in lead paint. I continued to paint the entire house after my father passed away, using lighter and safer latex paint.

Why my father was painting at night is something I can't explain. He worked Monday through Friday at a day job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and chose to help out at the family flower shop after work, probably a lot more after his father passed away in 1956. My father always did do strange things.

I don't remember the year, and I don't remember the day of the week, but it was probably a summer Saturday night, and here's my father painting the house at night with the aid of a spotlight he's jury-rigged to shine on a ground floor window, and we're listening to a Yankee game on the radio.

I'm sure by then I had helped him paint the house, but I guess I didn't get the call to do night painting. I don't know who the Yankees are playing, but it's a close game. Perhaps it's the 9th inning, top or bottom, I don't know, but the Yankees are up and making the game tense. I go for ice cream, Breyers (then made not so far away in Long Island City) at the candy store, Siegel's, two blocks away.

I come back. It doesn't take too long and I didn't run, but some time has elapsed and my father seems happy. The Yankees are still up. "How did that happen?" I ask. "Berra got up and got a pinch hit," he explains.

Yogi Berra passes away at 90. The only time he didn't make someone happy or laugh.

Monday, September 21, 2015


"A long, long time ago, I can still remember..." are the opening lyrics to what is now a very famous song, 'American Pie.' I suspect this is true for many of us and it is true for me when I think of the article I read, a long, long time ago about families in Manhattan, on a block on Second Avenue, between 25th and 26th Streets that were still being powered by DC current, rather than the nearly universal AC current.

I read the story, probably sometime in the 60s, and probably in the New York Times. My search results from their Time Machine feature failed to cough up that story, but other stories did float onto the screen about Manhattan's use of DC current, championed by Thomas Edison, and what later became the nearly universal use of AC current for residential and commercial buildings.

Recently, there was a bit of a reunion with a family I had known since the late sixties. One of the six brothers from a family of 10 joined the insurance company I had just started working with a month after I did. They are still working at the insurer, having completed their 47th year of continuous employment with the same employer, and we are lifelong friends. I bowed out from that employer, but not work entirely, after 36 years at the same company.

There was a time in the early 70s when we gathered to play roller hockey in a school yard on East 32nd Street, starting fairly early on Sunday mornings during the fall. And I would guess it was too early one Sunday morning, because a paper bag full of shit come down from an apartment window onto the playing surface from someone who clearly was tired at being bothered by the noise, and who also had developed an obvious technique for bagging crap. The police were called, and there was no more shit. We weren't going to take any shit. We were going to give it.

Five of the six Burek brothers played roller hockey, so obviously if any number, or all of them were sick, there really were not enough of the rest of us to choose up sides. We played for hours and hours, quitting in the late afternoon in time to get ready to go the Ranger game at Madison Square Garden. At least for those of us who had tickets. I always had two tickets, since I was a two seat season ticket holder, $5 a seat, green seats, Section 333, Row M, seats 5 and 6. Not really that bad.

In meeting the oldest brother again after a significant number of years gone by, there was a mention by them of where a family of that size lived in Manhattan. When I got to know them in 1968 they lived on two floors in a very old walkup that was between 32nd and 33rd Street on Third Avenue. Ten kids in 13 years, a mother and a father, no twins.

The oldest brother happened to mention where they lived prior to that, on Second Avenue, between 25th and 26th Streets. This rang a bell.

I mentioned that I remembered reading a long, long time ago of a block of apartments in just that area that still had DC current. And this was sometime in the 1960s. Johnny pointed to his chest and said, "Yeah, us. I remember there were adapters for the appliances."

When I read that article so long ago I was taken by the story that there were still people, in Manhattan, with DC current. I knew of the difference between the two, and that DC didn't travel as far as AC current without being reinforced by power stations every mile or so. Perhaps because the Second Avenue apartments were so close to a Con Edison generating plant complex called Waterside on the East River, there were still places where the conversion hadn't yet taken place for whatever reason.

Thomas Edison was of course a proponent of DC current, and tried to champion it over AC current, claiming it was safer. Some of the stories I wound up finding online told of the electrocuted elephant Topsy in 1903 at Coney Island's Luna Park and how his death was attributed, falsely, to Edison's desire to prove that DC current was safer than AC current. The story of the Elephant's death is true, and even available on YouTube, but apparently there was no involvement by Edison in choosing the current.

Then there was the fairly recent reminiscence of someone in the late 1960s whose AC television set wouldn't run on the MacDougal Street apartment's DC current. They worked out a deal with a neighbor in another building across the air shaft and strung an extension cord from their AC outlet to their AC television set in their DC apartment. The story differs a bit from Dustin Hoffman's jury-rigged electrical line in the movie 'Midnight Cowboy' because the tenant with the DC current paid the tenant in the other building for the electricity they were getting.

DC current lost out to AC current after George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla proved AC current to be safe, and that it was cheaper to produce and run because it traveled further and didn't require as many power stations on route to keep the frequency strength up. The early version of Betamax vs. VHS was referred to as the 'War of the Currents.'

DC current amazingly stayed on in small parts of Manhattan until 2007, when it was completely taken offline. The places that still used DC had been accommodated by converting the incoming AC current to the building to DC.

I never seem to have to look far for where one thing ties into another. Nicola Tesla was the genius behind so many electrical inventions and innovations, but who was incredibly eccentric and superstitious and who died basically broke and alone in a hotel room.

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian who came to the United States in 1884. There is a Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in Manhattan that I passed many times when I worked in the area. There is bust of Nikola Tesla to the left of the church's entrance at 15 West 25th Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue, in what in now annoyingly called the NoMad area by the real estate people who want you to have cachet. 

15 West 25th Street, not that many blocks west of where one of the last vestiges of DC current, the current that Tesla's AC proved superior to, lit up the apartment of a family of 10 kids.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fashion Week 2016

I know clothes are important. Clothes are what keep Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in constant first place as the world's most photographed woman with clothes on. Clothes keep me from getting eaten by mosquitos, no-see-ums, flies, and other insects when I spend some time in the garden.

And I know New York City's Fashion Week is a big deal. I remember when I worked near Bryant Park and saw the annual transformation of the place into a massive tent supported by steel girders, where everyone coming and going seemed to be identified by a large plastic card worn around their neck that flapped on their torso.

But, since I stopped working I stopped knowing where fashion week was being held. My guess is it's not Bryant Park anymore, since I seem to remember that either it got passé to be there, or the squirrels and pigeons complained radically and wanted their trees and roosting areas back.

Since I read two fairly good newspapers a day, I decided to go all in and glance at a review of the show, or shows in today's Newspaper of Record.

A full page in the A section is devoted to Fashion, with photos and lively text by Vanessa Friedman under the headline 'Dressing Up the Dresses.'

I got a bit of a clue that perhaps Fashion Week is held in various parts of NYC these days. Trying to find a recognizable place name in the text I instead came across a description that Coach held "its first official runway show for its first-ready-to-wear line in a 'purpose built' glass-walled greenhouse on the 30th Street extension of the High Line." Imagine that press release! I know about the High Line. I've walked it.

Easily understood is Ms. Friedman's opinion of the setting Coach created for its "first official runway show..." You get the idea. "It was impressive."

Disappointment is understood when she describes the collection, but wonderment sets in (at least for me) when she tells us the "thinness of the collection could be summed up as 1970s prairie biker babes." I guess as a female writing about a fashion show she's allowed to refer to the look of Coach's "first-ready-to-wear-line" as a certain species of "babes."

At some point in my education I was exposed to diagramming sentences. Break it apart, identify the parts of speech, and label the parts, subject, verb, adverb, adjective, phrase, clause, etc.

I know what "babes" can be, and I certainly was there for the 70s (was Ms. Friedman?), but what is a "prairie biker." And when you put it together, what is it? I do get that Ms. Friedman doesn't think it's good for 2015, and certainly not good for Coach's "first-ready-to-wear-line" but what image is she trying to convey?

The only picture in the print edition of the Paper of Record from the Coach show is the one above, a very skinny looking model who has only been eating fat-free yogurt for two years, walking down the grass-sided runway carrying a purse, wearing a colorful dress, topped with what looks like an orange (pumpkin?) colored leather jacket. Maybe it's the jacket that conveys the "biker" look and the dress (wildflowers  on the prairie?) that conveys the "prairie?" Obviously, put it all together and you get a "1970s prairie biker look."

I knew that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


The dates on the stones let you measure the time
Of the lives that lived in between.
The bracketed years reveal to the current
The joys and the troubles they've seen.

On any given day a person is born
You can record the date of their birth.
And on any given day a person can die
And you can record that they've left this earth.

And the morning we made our dusty descent,
An accomplishment undiminished,
We learned of the others and their bracketed date,
And our own, that remained unfinished.

So it is incredible to believe the end can be met
At the hands of someone we knew.
He put an end to life, he put an end to himself,
But he didn't put an end to you.

Thirteen years. Still true.
No one ever dies
Who lives in hearts
Left behind.

He didn't put an end to you.

Monday, September 14, 2015


It is not widely known, but there are statistical codes to describe every cause of death. And if you think that you would only need a few codes, since heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death, you'd be sorely mistaken.

Of course, if you're Pete Hamill, you would only need one code, because Mr. Hamill has so succinctly summed up death that he correctly states that life is the leading cause of death. But Mr. Hamill is a writer and therefore not a heath statistician, so he's only going to count once he passes away. And believe me, they'd find a code for it.

Consider that in the latest International Classification of Diseases-Version 10, (ICD-10) there is a code for being killed by an alligator. But not just one code. There are numerous subdivisions off a base that goes off into the branches of bitten, struck, contact, crushed, and that old standby, other.

There is a whole new numerical system, highly revised, with granular wording that gets down to a grain of sand to describe a cause of demise. I initially became fascinated with ICD-9, which was not so specific, but did allow for numerous codes for getting whacked by a trolley. It can happen.

So, consider the latest contretemps regarding a coroner's ruling that a man, who was in a kayak and drowned, was a victim of a homicide caused by a "kayak drain plug intentionally removed by other."

I don't think there is yet a morbidity code for this occurrence, or if there will be an item in a committee's agenda to consider it, but for now there are lawyers screaming foul that a coroner went what is considered to be way beyond stating a cause of death to include a form of the word "intent" in their ruling.

"Intent" is a big legal issue and leads to the creation of certain charges. The coroner is considered to have crossed the line into the courtroom.

The episode that gave birth to this series of disputes involves the drowning of Vincent Viafore in the Hudson River, NY, this past May. He was kayaking with his fiancé Angelika Graswald, and it is alleged she caused the sinking of his kayak and didn't do squat to save her betrothed, who wasn't wearing a life vest, because if he croaked she could collect on the insurance policy. It is not 'Double Indemnity' but certainly a variation of it.

Ms. Graswald is in custody, being held while awaiting the ruling on a bail hearing in New York's Orange County. There are numerous links to the story from its outset, including an early one that a body found in the Hudson was not that of the then missing kayaker Vincent Viafore. You really never know what you might find in a river until you start to look. Especially in waters in and around New York City.

So, how will Mr. Vincent Viafore's cause of death be classified? He's no less not breathing no matter what someone codes it, or proposes to code it. Apparently though, it is going to make for great courtroom theater.

Consider that in the aftermath of 9/11 there was extensive debate on how to classify the deaths of the victims, which ultimately neared 3,000. Were they caused by a homicide? An act of war? Terrorists? Was a new code needed?

My guess is ICD-10 probably covers the events causing demise on 9/11. It might however be lacking in assigning a numerical code to intentionally yanking kayak plugs while the kayak is in the water and occupied.

Stay tuned. It can only get better.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The One and Only

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel is still the most photographed woman with clothes on, seen here on the front page of today's WSJ.

Fourteen Years Ago

It was only yesterday that it dawned on me that the next day would be 9/11, fourteen years after the great attack, a word in the NYT headline the next day that I still can't shake or think was the right headline. But even after all these years, I have no substitute, so I go with it.

In yesterday's Times there was a piece on the construction of the Greek church that is going to replace the one at Cedar Street that got clobbered by the falling Tower Two. It's been a long time, but they finally got something underway.

David Dunlap wrote the piece in the Times that reminded me that the next day was 9/11. It's a great story about the construction, and the path it took to get there. His piece closes with a great line about the weather on the day he was back at ground zero writing about the church. Apparently Tuesday of this week, 9/8.

"As he spoke [Mr. Dimitriou, executive director of administration for the Greek archdiocese] there was a cloud-free blue sky on a September morning. A Tuesday, to be precise. At a quarter of nine."

I've emailed Mr. Dunlap on some of his other stories, and this is what I wrote yesterday. He was nice enough to respond and add some of his memories. There are a lot of us who have them.

One of the most enduring pictures I ever took was a picture of St. Nicholas church at Cedar Street, with the Trade Center towers in the background. The picture is from a tight viewing point, looking up at the church and the towers. I took the picture in 1977 when my wife and I went to Windows on the World and also visited the observation deck, where planes seemed to be flying below us. I always said to myself I'd be back to take more pictures, but never did, and now can't. At least of that.
I later worked at One World Trade and was there on the 29th floor on 9/11 at 8:48 AM; Empire BlueCross BlueShield.
The rendering of the proposed church looks more than interesting. It looks a bit like a glowing St. Vartan's on 34th Street and 2nd Avenue, an Armenian church, and St. Nicholas in Flushing, also a Greek Church.
I often look at the sky on September mornings. I keep looking for a repeat of the weather on that fateful day. In my mind, there have been days that are close to it, but not quite it.
It's just as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Ever want to get in touch with an author, (living) or someone at the publishing house that had something to due with the author's book? Fuhgetaboutit!

You might be able to find an email address from a website they might maintain, or a Twitter handle from a search. That of course is only part of the effort, because that just means you've been able to direct a query outward, but may mean you'll never get an acknowledgment, or an answer back to your submission. And if the digital addresses are lacking, and you try and contact them at the publishing house with USPS mail...well, good luck with that one too. Someone still has to answer you.

I found myself shutout when I attempted to contact Mr. Jason Matthews, author of 'Red Sparrow' and 'Palace of Treason' at his publisher the old fashioned way, via USPS. Mr. Matthews has freshly written two CIA spy novels that read like news. If that's your kind of book, then both are recommended.

Well, Mr. Matthews (if that's his real name) lives in Southern California and may not be plugged into snail mail directed at him at his publisher. I've had that experience before, trying to reach an author through their publisher. Contact was established some other way, that now escapes me.

I tried Mr. Matthews's editor, Mr. Colin Harrison at Scribner's. I even offered a funny bit about Ulysses S. Grant and how he found he stopped getting mail when he stopped answering it. Thus, he took up stopping for good. I think others have joined him. Guys, it's working.

The question to either Mr. Matthews, or Mr. Harrison, was that two principal characters in the books are uncle and niece. Uncle Vanya ( I swear) and niece Dominika. Only his last name is spelled Egorov, and hers is Egorova.  Pourquoi le difference in spelling, especially since she is the child of the Uncle's brother? You'd expect the surnames to be the same.

Did Dominika add the 'a' when she started working where the Uncle worked? You know, to avoid the appearance of nepotism? The fact that they both work for the new KGB, the SVR, doesn't seem strong enough to explain it. And a typo was ruled out-of-hand. Would have been way too many for a publisher to make.

I did take French in high school, and still maintain a smattering knowledge of the language. I know about genderized words. Le, la, the whole bit. What I seemed to have found out about Russian is that they genderize the last name. Thus, Vanya, the uncle's (I swear) last name is Egorov. The niece's last name is feminized by adding an 'a' to Egorov, making it Egorova. Thus, if she had a phone listing, it might be safe to expect that Dominika's name would appear in the phone directory as Egorova.

If in the old days this allowed weirdoes who might have been using phone directories to get to women in the phone book in motherland Russia and make heavy breathing phone calls, I'll never know. Maureen Dowd quipped after the first presidential debate with Al Gore and George Bush, that Mr. Gore's heavy breathing caught so well and amplified by the sound equipment and broadcast the world over was enough to make women remember why they got caller id in the first place.

The tactic in the States for obscene callers was to look for feminine first names in the phone book. This was circumvented by making the listing with only an initial of the first name. But, if you've got to be Egorova in the phone book, then no matter what the first name is, you've got to be female.

I've enjoyed finding the answer to my unanswered question for myself. At least I think I have. I'm willing to go with it.

It's unlikely the character Dominika's name was ever in the Russian phone book. Enough trouble finds her in both books to make a phone listing, or doorbell listing highly irrelevant.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Impressions of Saratoga

After all these years of going there, which started in 1974, and has continued on and off, and now on for the last 24 consecutive years, I've decided to etch a few written impressions of the place.
  • Saratoga is old, but it does now have flat panel TV screens. Nearly everywhere.
  • The wooden stands are not where you'd want to be if there was a fire. Close your eyes, open them again, and you could be back in the era of the Civil War when you look at the stands from the apron. Do you approve of Lincoln?
  • A lot of women go to the races at Saratoga.
  • Some of them wear hats that are knock-offs from Kate Middleton's head gear.
  • Horses are large, especially when you get close to them.
  • Jockeys are not as small as you might expect. They are not pygmies.
  • Horses run fast, even the ones you lose on. It's just there are others that run faster.
  • Very little of the place is air conditioned.
  • Money is needed to bet.
  • Winning isn't everything, but it helps when you do.
  • There are people who come to Saratoga who appear to be homeless. They seem to be carrying everything they own, and one of these things suddenly becomes a chair.
  • Very few people are carrying anything less than an Igloo lunch cooler.
  • Saratoga is an expensive place to eat if you're hungry and don't bring your own food.
  • It is very hard to be the oldest person at Saratoga. Someone near you is older.
  • It is better to have a seat at Saratoga than to have to stand.
  • It is not true that all those people at the picnic tables live there. It just looks that way. They do go home. Eventually.
  • It is not much fun being there when it rains, unless you know the slop/mud pedigree of every horse that has been left in the race to run.
  • Handicapping is an art or a science. It doesn't matter which it is when you win.
  • There are horses whose purse earnings for the last two years exceed your annual income by a multiple of five. And they've only won one race. See Frammento.
  • The place is quite colorful. But red and white prevail nearly everywhere.
  • No horse has ever won as much money as Alex Rodriquez has been paid.
  • Don't worry about your car. Just hope you have enough energy to walk that far to get it when the day is done.
  • Don't stay mad at the place too long. A year will go by fast enough.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Book Reviews

Aside from obituaries, book reviews are a great source of information. Not necessarily book reviews of novels, because well, they're fiction, right?

I find I read the book reviews in the Wall Street Journal the most, especially the one book review that appears every day, Monday through Friday. One of the great things about these  reviews is that they are always in the same place in the paper--first section, right before the editorial, op-ed pages, on the right. Always.

These Journal book reviews are seldom, if ever about novels, but rather, history, politics, finance, current events, biographies, and autobiographies.

Take the book review that appears in today's paper, a dual biography of Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, cleverly titled, then ridiculously sub-titledSisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World.

Book titles these days are like promo movie trailers. If you haven't figured out what the book might be about by reading everything in the title and sub-title, then you're not paying attention and you're just staring at the picture or the artwork.

The book review, by Marissa Medansky, culls some of the biographical highlights found in the book and quickly informs us, without our having to buy the or read the book, that Sandra Day O'Connor grew up on a ranch in Arizona and changed tires on the family truck before heading off to Stanford.

I never met Justice O'Connor, but she always struck me as a capably-sized woman, but one who I never envisioned as having to change tires on anything, let alone a truck, no matter who owned it. But now that I read that, it doesn't surprise me. There are lots of manual tasks on a ranch, and changing a truck tire (we don't know the size of the truck yet) certainly seems within her physical range.

We learn Justice Ginsburg grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Anyone who knows anything about New York City and the unique characteristics of its boroughs, or the five counties that comprise New York City, knows that Brooklyn presents the most possibilities for heading off in any number of directions, legal and illegal. Recreational pursuits are just as varied.

Since Justice Ginsburg is female and Jewish, it would be unlikely that she might be consumed by handball, stickball, or applying for membership in organized crime, certainly the background of some of the borough's most famous citizens.

No, the quick assumption is that Justice Ginsburg would be someone who was always involved in school work. Perhaps a nerd, probably wore glasses at an early age, since they were always reading and not watching television.

Well, there seems to have been that, but we learn from the book review that Justice Ginsburg took up baton twirling and cheerleading, as well as being smart enough to be admitted to the high school honor society.

This is really a revelation, and easily the basis for the grand prize question on a quiz show. Justice O'Connor can be imagined to twirl a tire iron around a lug nut, but at any age, I cannot picture Justice Ginsburg twirling a baton or chanting cheers with pompons.

The things you learn by just reading about books.