Towse: views from the hill

August 22, 2006

Updated FICTION page

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:16 pm

Updated FICTION page at Internet Resources for Writers

Pier 26 needs repair too.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:35 am

Pier 26 needs repair too. The Port Authority has millions of dollars of deferred maintenance that needs tending to.

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10 Aug 2006

Pier 36 needs repair

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:34 am

Pier 36 needs repair


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10 Aug 2006

Fireworks but no pics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:59 am

For the second time within the week — that we know of — there was a huge fireworks display over at Treasure Island, north of the Admin building.

The first one we saw was Saturday night. (Well, first you hear them going boom! boom! Then you go over to the windows to see if the Giants are blowing off fireworks at the ballpark which, if they are, you can’t really see them, but you can see the flareups on the cloud cover. Nothing from the ballpark end of town, then Oooooh! Pretty! Look, Eunice! Fireworks over at Treasure Island!)

Last night we were on the way home from a party friends had thrown in the south bay, so there might’ve been fireworks or not. Tonight we heard the boom! boom! again — louder than before — sounding more like explosions closeby.

Tonight, I had my camera out, set to the “fireworks” scene setting, but I was hoping that holding the camera steady on a railing might work and I was too rushed to pull out the tripod and set everything up. Everything was blurry and none of the pics really captured how cool the fireworks were.

We heard neighbors applaud after the grand finale.

We thought the show might be the pyrotechnic guys in town for their annual convention again (last convention with accompanying razzle dazzle was September 2005), but we couldn’t find hide nor hair of explanation anywhere in our web wanderings.

So, instead of the fireworks pics I’d planned to post, here is a pic from a set I made August 10th, when we went out for the day on Pablo’s boat with Pablo and the lovely and charming Ellyn. We spent the day hanging around Ayala Cove, Angel Island, picky nicking before heading back to South Beach harbor. Quiet day at the cove. Sunny. No fog whatsoever either coming or going.

Cupid’s Span by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, on the Embarcadero, public art I’ve mentioned before.

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August 20, 2006

Right before my eyes, all the time.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:02 pm

Wasn’t until recently when I was pouring some balsamic vinegar from a decorative oil/vinegar bottle my younger sister gave me several years back that I realized the picture on the bottle was of

L’Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Sénanque, in Provence .  Posted by Picasa

(Picture taken June 2005. Lavender not in bloom. Alas.)

Why’d it take me so long to make the connection?

August 19, 2006

[URL] Fenner’s Complete Formulary

Filed under: URL — Towse @ 11:21 pm

Back in my younger day, Ballard’s Golden Oil was the cure-all for chest congestion, coughing, &c. Used externally for chest congestion or stuffy noses, it worked like Vick’s Vapo-Rub, warm, soothing, smelly. It busted loose the crud. Used internally for coughs, it cured what ailed you. Every time.

Unfortunately, my grandmother only had a few bottles left by the time I showed on the scene and no one made the elixir anymore. She gave me a bottle from her stash decades ago. That bottle’s empty. The rest of her bottles are gone as well.

Every once in a while I search the ‘net to see if someone’s picked it up and resumed manufacturing, someone like Jeffrey Himmel, who’s made a fortune resurrecting brands like Ovaltine and Gold Bond medicated powder.

Today’s search brought up a reference in the LOC in Robert Grady’s Life of Henry Mitchell, Indian Canoe Maker, quoting Henry Mitchell, reminiscing:

Right where the bank is now there used to be a drug store run by a fellow named Folsom, and across the street, where the First National store is now, next to Parlin’s, there used to be a drug store run by a fellow named Marsh. Old Sockalexis left the recipe for a cold remedy at Marsh’s, where his boy worked, so when he gave any one a prescription for it, they could got it filled there. When Marsh died the stock was sold and old Ballard up here got a hold of all the books and papers. That Ballard’s Golden Oil that he puts out now is really the old Sockalexis Indian Cold Remedy.”

That sounded encouraging but I could find nada mas.

The old, torn, stained label on the small bottle I’d had had been pretty nigh unreadable, but I had been able to suss out that one of the ingredients was camphor. Maybe I could find the golden oil recipe by searching Google for /”golden oil” cold remedy camphor/.

… amongst the other hits was this keeper:


Sixth Edition of Fenner’s Forumulary, greatly enlarged,
revised and entirely re-written.


Of Valuable Information for Pharmacists, Manufacturers of
Chemical and Pharmaceutical Preparations, Physicians,
and Students of Pharmacy and Medicine.


Compiled and written by



The Web’s a wonder!

Some of the recipes look like they might be close to Old Sockalexis’ remedy. Maybe I’ll try cooking something up one of these days. Other recipes, I’d have a hard time formulating.

e.g. Cough Mixture (formula #4009)

Syrup of Squill, 1 ounce.
Syrup of Tolu, 1 ounce.
Wine of Ipecac, 1 ounce.
Tincture of Opium, Camphorated, 1 ounce.

To this is frequently added:

Tincture of Bloodroot, 1/4 ounce.
Syrup of Wild Cherry, 1 ounce.
Hydrocyanic Acid, diluted, 1/8 ounce.

Oh, for the good ol’ days …


Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:18 pm

His nibs asked me to clear the space next to the window so he could open the window and brush off the debris that Joe had accidentally let fall on the overhang.

So, I’m sorting through old papers and straightening piles. Photographs. My passport photo, age 4. Me riding a pony, age 3. The Towse family, sans #5 and before #6, at Manhattan Beach, New Year’s Day, 1957.

I found a torn piece of paper with cryptic notes from a conference some time ago, which one, I don’t remember — perhaps a NASW session on writing science for children. Maybe.

13307 $33
The Little Giant Book of
   Sterling Publishing, NY

Maryjo Koch science illustration
work similar to Ruth Heller’s

Jared Diamond COLLAPSE

“Sometimes” Sheenagh Pugh

Turns out Sterling Publishing (associated with Barnes and Noble) has a whole series of THE LITTLE GIANT BOOK OF … Maybe I’d been thinking of sending them a proposal.

I always enjoyed the late Ruth Heller’s work. She published her first children’s book, CHICKENS AREN’T THE ONLY ONES, in 1981, when she was fifty-seven. A few years later, the young ones and I heard her talk at the Santa Clara City Library about the whys and wherefores of her books and her illustrations. She was living in San Francisco at the time and using the creatures at the zoo and the aquarium as models for her book illustrations. So often illustrations in children’s books are not to my taste. Heller’s always were.

Maryjo Koch lives in the hills above Santa Cruz. Not that far away. Her illustrations are similar to Heller’s: detailed, delicate, engaging.

The note reading “Jared Diamond COLLAPSE” refers, of course, to the 2005 book by Diamond, who also wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL. Haven’t read it.

The final note — “Sometimes” Sheenagh Pugh — turns out to refer to a poem, a poem which Sheenagh Pugh “long ago got sick of.”

Here ’tis:


Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

— Sheenagh Pugh

… and the night visitors

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 1:59 am

The neighbors in the two top floors immediately south of us were burgled in January. The same burglars tried to break into our place but were put off by the burglar alarm setup they noticed when they took a screen off a window.

We found the screen tilted up against the wall the next morning and wondered who had done what and why. We thought maybe our youngest had been mucking with the screen but we never got around to asking him.

A couple days later we heard about the neighbors’ burglaries. We figured we must’ve been out gallivanting and away from home when the burglars paid us a visit. We assume that they started in the then-vacant top unit just north of us, hopped over onto our deck, hopped over to our neighbors, and then over to the next building down.

We hadn’t really thought about it before, but the burglars only took jewelry and small items from the neighbors. Of course! we realized. Who’d want to drag TVs or stereos up the path, up the stairs and over to wherever they’d found a place to park. Easier to take jewelry and cufflinks and stuff their pockets full, then saunter away.

Night before last, after dinner, we were sitting at the table reading papers and magazines. I heard some distinct thumps from upstairs. Then some more. Thumps from something heavier than the cat, who has a distinct thump all her own when she jumps off the bed so you won’t catch her where she’s not supposed to be.

The thumps sounded like they were coming from our deck, on the top floor, two floors above us — the deck with the window the burglars had tried to enter through in January.

Um. I said. How about those noises?

Some more thumps followed and a noise that sounded like someone had stumbled against some of my potted plants.

His nibs went up to investigate.

“Come up here, Sal. Come up here RIGHT NOW!”

I raced up the stairs and had made it one floor up when his voice floated down. “Oh, too late.”

He came down the stairs to explain what he’d seen. I followed him back up. He’d turned the lights on on the deck. One last BIG FAT RACCOON was staring in at us, then waddled away and disappeared down the fire escape.

Seems there’d been at least five raccoons, big raccoons — REAL BIG RACCOONS, his nibs said — (the one I’d seen was the smallest of the lot and was still three times bigger than our cat). The raccoons had been wrassling around up on our deck. Thump. Bump. Crash.

They’d scattered when his nibs turned the lights on.

Those raccoons had lumbered up a spiral fire escape staircase FIVE STORIES HIGH just to wrassle on our deck.

Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

The cat? She’d gone missing and didn’t turn up again until much much later. Probably hid under the bed until the excitement was over.

August 18, 2006

And after the flood they settled somewhere over the rainbow, in Triomphe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:45 pm

Harper’s carried Bill McKibben’s The Christian Paradox last August.


Ours is among the most spiritually homogenous rich nations on earth. Depending on which poll you look at and how the question is asked, somewhere around 85 percent of us call ourselves Christian. Israel, by way of comparison, is 77 percent Jewish. It is true that a smaller number of Americans—about 75 percent—claim they actually pray to God on a daily basis, and only 33 percent say they manage to get to church every week. Still, even if that 85 percent overstates actual practice, it clearly represents aspiration. In fact, there is nothing else that unites more than four fifths of America. Every other statistic one can cite about American behavior is essentially also a measure of the behavior of professed Christians. That’s what America is: a place saturated in Christian identity.

But is it Christian?

Interesting article.

In the article McKibben mentions a survey that found that 12% of American adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.

August 15, 2006

Senator says he’s sorry for "macaca" comment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:42 pm

The Seattle Times: Politics: Senator says he’s sorry for “macaca” comment

Shows what I know.

I (1) would never call someone “macaca,” but (2) never knew “macaca” was a slur-ish word. Shows what I know.

During the couple years or so we lived in Belém, the maid or cook would sometimes refer to one or more of us kids as “doido macaca.”

“Doido macaca” == “crazy monkey” and that we were, that we were, sometimes, on occasion.

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