Monthly Archives: May 2012

Bridge of Sighs

My post today isn’t about an architectural fantasy involving Antonio Contino’s bridge in Venice over the Rio di Palazzo, erected in the year 1600, connecting the Doge’s prisons with the inquisitor’s rooms of the main palace. Although it was Lord Byron who helped to popularize this belief by naming that water overpass, “Bridge of Sighs.”

Nor am I talking about a song with the same title written by a British guitarist in the mid 1970’s named Robin Trower.


Never mind.

No, I am talking about another world famous bridge that just celebrated 75 years of expansion over the San Francisco bay, the “Golden Gate” bridge. And it was just last weekend, on May 27th that the city celebrated with fireworks and crowning sun-bright sparkle enhancements.

Like a diamond set atop of the bridge’s own tower’s, it began flashing narrow beams of reflective light throughout the San Francisco Bay area in an installation matrimony of art and science—a project called Solar Beacon, all part of a yearlong celebration of the bridge.

Two sets of mirrors or heliostats sit on top of the bridge’s two 746 foot towers, two feet apart, swivel and tilt by motors directed by cellphone commands. They call this Art in Progress. “It’s never been done before and we don’t know what it’s going to look like,” said Mr. Vallerga, one of the volunteers.

Normally, they build this type of thing for astronomical spacecraft, including the ones bound for Pluto and Jupiter. That kind of work is very utilitarian and it’s not often appreciated for its artistic value. The idea started when Mr. Vallerga and his colleague Pat Jelinsky approached an artist-in-residence, Liliane Lijn at a space lab in London in 2005.

They wanted to build prism heliostats that would convert sunlight into refracted rainbow of colors that would beam from on top of a hill, like the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles or near the Griffith Observatory, but they were unable to drum up enough support. Thus the Golden Gate’s 75th Diamond Anniversary with a mountain ridge in France soon on the horizon.

So why the reference to the Golden Gate as a Bridge of Sighs?

Apparently the bridge is a public health hazard. Because it doesn’t have adequate safety barriers, it continues to be the world’s most popular suicide location. Since its opening on May 27, 1937, there have been an estimated 1,558 deaths by jumping. And that’s only counting those they’ve been able to recover. In other words, it’s estimated that every two and a half days someone tries to jump.

(Kevin Hines views an exhibit of 1,558 pairs of shoes during the celebration. The shoes represent known suicides that have jumped from the bridge. Hines, one of six people to survive a suicide attempt from the bridge, urges barriers be installed.)

The disquieting number of suicides speaks of a dark history surrounding this renowned public structure. With all its beauty and brilliance in engineering and construction, the question is asked, “How do we weigh its value against the reality of tragedy?”

Officials have voted to install a suicide deterrent to the bridge, but no money has been allotted. Then there are those who oppose a barrier because they think it will ruin the appearance of the bridge, yet the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Duomo in Florence, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and many other international landmarks have suicide barriers. But not the Golden Gate Bridge?

A happy anniversary to you Golden Gate Bridge!

Well, perhaps not. It is felt that only when the Golden Gate Bridge has a safety net will the day truly be worth celebrating. Until that time, it will continue to be thought of as a “Bridge of Sighs.”

So what do you think? Have you ever traveled to Venice, Italy and walked across the “Bridge of Sighs?” Have you taken a trip to the San Francisco area and driven across the “Golden Gate Bridge,” perhaps on a day trip to the wine country? Have you ever written a character that may have jumped off a bridge? Or taken a leap of faith?

Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!


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Habits Are Hard to Swallow

For longer than it’s been recorded, Swallows have been coming to San Juan Capistrano. The birds leave to fly home to Argentina in the autumn for winter and fly back to make their appearance in the spring.

Every year hundreds flocked together, forming a gray assembly of feathers like storm clouds soaring in the sky. The swallows even draw media attention, their story spreading far beyond this quaint little mission town.

These tiny birds would come to make their nests. Small mud-hives could be found clinging to everything from house eaves to nearby creek beds to freeway overpasses causing motorists to flip on their windshield wipers as they drove by underneath.

Been there, done that!

But nowhere were they noticed more than at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. All along the cathedral’s high stone walls that rise like a rocky precipice, which was badly damaged during an earthquake in the early 19th century—now became the perfect spot for swallows to create their clusters of muddy nests.

Then years later, the mission found themselves in a muddy mess. They were forced to do away with the swallow’s nests in order to stabilize and preserve the structure as the surrounding urban population grew making this famous bird’s sanctuary walls no longer homey. Slowly, the birds began to disappear. So much so that almost daily the mission officials say they were asked, “When will the swallows return to Capistrano?”

I find this hard to swallow!

It seems, not only had the swallow’s natural habitat been disturbed, but over decades, local businesses became dependent on the revenue they received from all the visitors who came to see these precious migratory birds. So the search was on for a solution.

First, they tried to replicate the nests by bringing in ceramic hives which turned out to be unsuccessful after experts had criticized the idea saying, “No cliff swallow would ever use it!” They also brought in swarms of ladybugs hoping they would lure the swallows back with one of their favorite treats. Well, that didn’t work either. So now what would they do?

You won’t believe this. They brought in an expert!

A biologist from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma who had ties to the mission after lecturing there in the past, having spent over 30 years in researching the cliff swallow. It turns out that Charles Brown has a personal interest in these birds that became a lifelong pursuit. “They do everything as a group,” he said. “I don’t know of any other natural spectacle that’s equal to it.”

So as a last ditch effort, Mr. Brown made the suggestion to lure the birds back by playing a reproduction of their mating call through a large speaker hooked to an iPod placed against one of the mission walls, although he admits that his experiment is a long shot. “The landscape isn’t suitable for them anymore. It will be a struggle to keep them there.”

Apparently this habit is not hard to swallow because as the speaker squawked a luring mating call one late afternoon last month, a few remaining visitors at the Mission San Juan Capistrano noticed a dash of orange on a sparrow-sized bird. Yes, they came back!

Okay, this got my wheels churning.

What? Did you think I was just going to leave you with the birds?

Apparently, whether man or foul—creatures are habitual. To be effective, what things can we do to make the most out of our hard habits in order to be successful? Well, I found something to share with you that just might help. But please keep in mind these are not my words, but a condensed version from a man named Stephan R. Covey who sold more than 25 million copies of his book:

“Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”

• Habit 1: Take the initiative by realizing that our decisions are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in our life.
• Habit 2: Self-discover and clarify our deeply important character values and goals. Envision the best characteristics for each of our various roles and relationships in life.
• Habit 3: Plan, prioritize, and execute our week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency and evaluate whether our efforts exemplify our desired values that help propel us toward our goals.
• Habit 4: Strive to value and respect others in our relationships.
• Habit 5: Be a genuine empathic listener which compels others to reciprocate.
• Habit 6: Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone.
• Habit 7: Balance and renew our resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle.

So what do you think? Have you heard of the migratory Swallows of San Juan Capistrano? Do you think they’ll make a comeback to their natural habitat? Do you think that Life is going to the birds? (Just thought I’d throw that one in! LOL!) 🙂 What habits do you find helpful and effective in your daily routine?

Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!


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Breasts: An Endangered Specie

I’m beginning to think that a certain part of the female anatomy should be added to the list of endangered species. Why do I say this?

First of all, I do not wish to approach this subject from the perception of body imaging. August McLaughlin did a wonderful job on this topic already this week with her post, “Body Image: Exploring Myths & Walking the Walk.”

No, my reason for saying this has more to do with our environment, both physical and in nature. I read a review the other day about a book that was recently release by a woman named Florence Williams. Then after finishing it I thought I would share with you some of the highlights.

One out of every eight women today will develop breast cancer in their life and more than 5 million women have had implants. That’s quite a staggering statistic, wouldn’t you say?

Although I have lived among two high income communities in my life that exude all things augmented, as if a teenage girl’s rite into the throngs of womanhood should include an emboldened pair of new breasts, this is not what I wish to focus on. Yet, to those woman who have fought the fine fight and won their battle with that dastardly evil malignancy, I am happy that modern science has had a positive restorative affect on your bodies. 🙂

It seems that whether we are man or woman, we love those glandular beauties known as breasts, yet we don’t take them seriously enough. Florence writes, “We name them affectionately, but with a hint of insult. Breasts embarrass us. They’re unpredictable. They’re goofy. They can turn both babies and grown men into lunkheads.”

Okay, those were her words, not mine!

Breasts feed us, nurture us and excite us. But the most versatile organ in the female body can also kill us. They are made up of fat and estrogen receptors— so they “soak up pollution like a pair of soft sponges.” Williams, an award-winning science writer, investigates why breasts are assaulted equally by men and a rising number of chemicals in the environment.

Ms. Williams, 45, who now has an eight year old daughter was inspired to write her book when she agreed to participate in a study of her breast milk while she was nursing her daughter. The results were shocking— her milk was full of chemicals, from pesticides to flame retardants.

Say what?

“There were reports about toxic and chemical contaminants showing up in breast milk—it was a great way to tell the story first-person,” she told “I realized there was so much about breasts people don’t know.” Now Florence worries about research that shows girls are beginning puberty and developing breasts younger, perhaps because of exposure to pollutants. “There are hundreds of chemicals coursing through our blood,” she said.

I don’t know about all of you but to me this is scary stuff. As a Mother I know that it was important to me to give my baby the best start in life and had made the decision to breast feed my children when they were born. After all, according to Ms. Williams, mother’s milk is “always the right temperature; it has the correct balance of lipids, proteins and sugars. It is medicinal, nutritious, and, to a baby, delicious.” But to find out about this chemical information I guess was just a little more shocking than I had anticipated.

Her study also includes a phenomenon not considered before: Breast milk contains a substance comparable to marijuana and is sold on the Internet in the neighborhood of 262 times the price of crude oil.

Why are we always forced to pay more for something that’s supposed to be healthy?

But her biggest concern is the vulnerability of breasts with cancer rates doubling since the 1940s. She can’t say for a certainty that chemicals in the environment cause breast cancer, but she says that the breast is the one organ in the body that is not fully developed until adulthood or even the last trimester of pregnancy.

“For many years, breast cells are interchangeable and more vulnerable and so are susceptible,” she said. Girls who go through puberty earlier are also at greater risk for breast cancer as adults. “We don’t know why,” she said.


I thought that this point was interesting: In Europe chemicals must be proven safe before entering the marketplace. But according to Ms. Williams, “We have the opposite in the U.S. and don’t take them off the market until they are proven harmful.”

The article ended this way: Advances in science give reason for optimism, but “regulatory agencies and the public in general are generally blind to where science is. Our bodies are intimately connected to the world around us,” said Williams. “If we live in an environment filled with pollution, these things will and do affect our health.”

Whatever our personal viewpoint is on this subject, I think it’s safe to say that the breasts we are born with, whether man or woman, are under assault and at risk of becoming an endangered specie. How many of us have or know someone whose been affected by Breast cancer? Or cancer period?

There’s just too many of us!

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go re-read my article, “Sexy as a Rockstar” and start eating more of that bad boy Kale and detox once I finish writing this post! 🙂

So what do you think? What is your personal feeling about this subject? Have you or someone you love been affected by Breast cancer? And what do you think about our toxic environment? And how has it affected you?

Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!


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Anger Can Be Draingerous!

Okay, hold on to your britches! There’s a misspelt word in the title!
Yes, I know. Be patient, I’ll explain in just a moment.


That’s a subject that a lot of us don’t like to talk about. It’s uncomfortable for most of us, yet it’s a part of us. It’s as much a part of us as any other emotion, such as love, hope, worry or fear.

That said, anger is not always a draingerous emotion. If used properly, anger can be an extremely productive way to encourage our determination to overcome certain obstacles or goals. So if we think of it as a controlled substance, there are times when an expression of anger may be appropriate.

It is an essential emotion that writers can instill in their characters to create great drama and conflict. But what happens when this emotion turns its ugly head and becomes draingerous? Remember, anger is an emotion that we all carry with us 24/7.

Well, first we might ask ourselves, why is there so much anger? It’s an important question to ask if we are to use the emotion of anger properly. And since the cause of most anger is one of the most complex subjects, we’ll just stick with the specifics.

There is a general consensus by health professionals today that most anger is a trigger emotion. It is a trigger that often results from injustice. It can occur when we’ve been slighted, insulted or when shown a form of disrespect.

“Anger triggers” can vary from person to person. And depending upon our age, gender or culture it may affect us differently. There are those of us who are seldom affronted, while others are easily provoked, holding on to anger like a security blanket for days, weeks, months and sadly even years.

It seems that a self-centered world is filled with the potential for such triggers of anger. Then add sensitivity into the mix and you’ve got an explosion of anger inducements from poor parental example, cramped living space, economic disparity, prejudice, injustice and bullyism just to name a few. Well maybe more than a few. But you get the point.

The urge to become angry and blow off this proverbial steam can be so overwhelming!
So how can we manage to keep this emotion of anger under control?

For several years, give or take 2,000 or more, the thought was to let one’s tension release through anger and a sense of psychological refreshment would emerge. This point of view was taken from the Greek philosopher Aristotle and later a neurologist named Sigmund Freud. They both claimed that if people repressed their negative emotions and restrained them they would develop a mental disorder such as hysteria.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy for a fictional character in a novel, but for those of us non-fictional characters, does this really work? And is it healthy? Studies have now shown that “Letting It All Out” with your anger often leaves us feeling more uptight and less relieved.

So what can we do?

1- Try to avoid doing or saying something that we may later regret so as not to trigger that draingerous form of anger in the first place. (I know, much easier said than done. But it can be done!)
2- To reduce anger: slow down and unwind. If we feel ourselves becoming overly anxious or excited and are in danger of losing it, let’s take our leave, take a walk or meditate. There is a proverb that says, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out.”
3- Learn to relax. Follow technics that have proven to be effective in combating stress-related anger: Breath deeply with slow repetition. Immerse yourself in something that you enjoy such as reading, listening to your favorite music, regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.

While we try to put these few suggestions into practice, we might also want to make sure that our expectations are realistic. If our expectations of ourselves and others are too high, this may also lead us into a life of frustration and anger.

So remember—All of us can become angry from time to time and how we convey that anger is a matter of personal choice. If we express our anger in a more positive manner, it can be a healthy way to compose a fine masterpiece and work of art. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to circle the drain with a more negative complex form of anger, it can prove to be, as my youngest son used to say when he was just a little guy—draingerous! 🙂

So what do you think? What kinds of things make you frustrated and angry? What do you do to keep calm and cool? Do you enjoy harnessing that powerful emotion of anger into a character? What helps you develop characters that are filled with anger?

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Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!


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