Parrots in Japan; Pelicans in the U.S.

 Environment, Miscellaneous  Comments Off on Parrots in Japan; Pelicans in the U.S.
Dec 042014

Mark’s news: Work continues on the final draft of “Street Song,” and a Japanese translation of “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” will be released in Japan in early January.

If you live in CA, NY, MA, TX, HI, NH, PA, CT, ME, MO, OH, FL, WA, OR, NC, or SC, “Pelican Dreams” is already playing or will open as of this Friday, December 5th. Most runs last a week, but if audiences are good the first weekend, the theater might hold it over. Come see it! Tell friends!

Updated booking info:

We’ve gotten great reviews in the NY Times, LA Times, WA Post, and elsewhere, and we have a 100% “Fresh” rating on, but we still need to make sure we fill those seats, and word-of-mouth is key. Thanks for your ongoing support!
Copyright © 2014 Pelican Media, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Pelican Media
1736 Stockton Street #2
San Francisco, CA 94133

The Wild Pacific Trail

 Environment, Miscellaneous, Travel  Comments Off on The Wild Pacific Trail
May 092014

Wild Pacific Trail 2b Wild Pacific Trail 4b“The earth is not inherited from our grandparents, it is borrowed from our children [and grandchildren]” – a quote (author unknown) defining why The Wild Pacific Trail is so impressive.

The Wild Pacific Trail is on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The three completed sections of the five section plan start with the Lighthouse Loop that surrounds the lighthouse in Ucluelet and travel north along the coast. See

Photos were taken on my iPhone, with gratitude to Mark Turner, Bellingham photographer and Whatcom Community College instructor of a course on getting the most out of one’s iPhone, and with apologies to him for not applying everything I learned–    rah



Wild Pacific Trail signWild Pacific Trail 3

Wild Pacific Trail 1

Vegas on the Cheap

 Miscellaneous, Travel  Comments Off on Vegas on the Cheap
Jan 072014

Most years since we came together we have flown at Christmas to visit Ruth’s son and his family in Bexley, adjacent to Columbus, Ohio.

Sometimes when we fly east we drive down to SeaTac. Often we can get an early, and cheaper, flight so we go down the night before and stay in a motel that provides free parking while we’re away. An alternative is to take the airport bus that now goes more often and more regularly.

More enjoyable – this is a holiday – is to fly from Bellingham on Allegiant that does not fly direct to Columbus. So we fly Allegiant to Las Vegas, then take Southwest to Columbus. This costs a little more than flying the whole way with Southwest (from Seattle) but we get a couple of days in Vegas with Casablanca Express providing a hotel room. Casablanca is a front for companies that sell time shares; we sit through sales presentations and hard sell for an hour and a half in return for two nights lodging. We’ve done this before, and we are confident that we can resist hard sellAirport Parking

This year we saved at a bit more by parking at the $2.00-a-day lot on I-5, just south of Ferndale. You have to balance the number of days you will be gone with the “cut-rate” taxi fee to get to the airport that is $15.00. This is two businesses with one owner. The taxis have been operating in Whatcom County for some time. All the vehicles are Lincoln Town Cars, all white. The owner buys used – there are no new ones – with low mileage as he can find. You pay in advance with a credit card for the parking and the driver at the time of your trip to the airport. The drivers could teach seminars on customer care – and earning tips.

 The day we were prepared to leave, December 20, was the day it snowed. Our flight was scheduled at 8 a.m. and we were told to be at the parking lot by 6 o’clock. Even though we were all packed the night before and got up before 4 a.m., we were late because of the snow. A little after 6 a.m., with us still on the highway, our driver called to ask where we were. When we reached the lot he had a space for us near the office, and quickly pulled his Lincoln up to load our bags.

 But through Check In and Security we soon learned that the airport was closed and what snow removable equipment was available needed repair. After boarding once and then disembarking, we were told that our plane couldn’t take off in slush. After the snow plows started working, all we could do was watch out the windows. About 3 o’clock we were told our flight was canceled. While our baggage was unloaded from the plane, we called the parking lot. Bags in hand we found our car waiting across the road, parked at the head of the taxi line. The driver – this time a woman – saw us and came to help with our bags. A little after 4 o’clock we were eating an early dinner at CJ’s Beach House Restaurant in Birch Bay. That evening an e-mail from Allegiant advised that our flight was re-scheduled for 12:30 p.m. the next day. Everything that day was routine.

Allegiant really understands Cheap. Everything costs extra, even water. But we weren’t complaining, although Ruth says she fears they will soon start charging for the air we breath. We were pleased to be able to buy a $14 round-trip bus ticket to our hotel on the plane In previous years we had paid much more for cabs.Binions in Dome sm

Casablanca put us in the Plaza, two relatively-new towers downtown. That is where Las Vegas began. The bus driver, whose patter suggested he was a moonlighting standup comedian, told us about Oscar Goodman, “the former mob lawyer,” who became mayor. After Oscar retired his wife of more that 50 years was elected mayor. Downtown is the focus of their passion. Fremont Street has been covered over with a dome where brilliant light shows are projected. There is no vehicle traffic and that first evening we walked the distance of about three blocks seeing open – and free – stage shows and a variety of individual buskers. One saxophone player used a variety of instruments from bass to alto. The whole scene made for one big party – and free!

A short distance from the end of the dome we found an Hennessey’s Irish pub. The house beer was Guiness, very Irish, tasting a little bitter. Yet a perfect match for Al’s Ahi Poke, made with raw tuna. Ruth enjoyed hers with Jameson’s short ribs. We stayed there for a trio that we had watched for an hour getting ready but left after the first set – too noisy (but then, all of Vegas is raucous).

Our first morning we had breakfast at the Plaza’s Hash House, too many carbs and too much money. (The second morning we went to a Mexican place in the Food Court where the food was OK and the cost economical.) We walked around the hotel looking for a comedy club. Only possibility was a pudgy guy who appeared only on weekends and whom the front desk wasn’t enthusiastic about. The casino was mostly slot machines. We didn’t touch a one during our stay, even though the hotel desk had given us both $100 chits on check in.

Now it was time for our session with Casablanca that was on the third floor of the hotel. On the way we sniffed at Oscar’s, the ex-mayor’s fancy restaurant on the second floor. Very high prices; we figured our budget could handle appetizers and a glass of wine or two.

Casablanca turned out to really be TLC, Timeshare Liquidators Company. We drew Thierry, a Frenchman who had visited his grandfather in San Diego 30 years ago and decided to stay for college. He was well dressed and well groomed and, of course sincere. Thierry (pronounced Terry) explained that many timeshares owners were forced to sell their properties when the real estate bubble burst. TLC’s business is taking those timeshares off the hands of banks. Each morning the Las Vegas office – there are nine others – gets a fax with the properties available that day. We liked Thierry and our resistance was working well until Mike showed up. We laughed, “Here comes the closer,” and assured Mike that Thierry was great for us. But Thierry was quick to beg off that Mike had an important role. And indeed he did.

When we went into that meeting we owned 6,000 time share credits, enough for a good holiday every year or so. Now we own 24,000 points attached to a complex in Olympic Valley, California, where the Winter Olympics were held near Tahoe 50-some years ago. We will never need to go there. We can chose destinations from the RCI directory that has locations around the world. We will spare you the details until we publish our article: “Why your retirement planning should include timeshares.”

Mike was irresistible, a smiling bundle of TLC. When we finished signing all the papers, Mike took us to a small machine with three knobs. “Punch them quickly,” he said. Out came a hundred dollar bill. It covered most of our tab at Oscar’s.

Altogether in our 43 hours in Las Vegas we spent $175.17 of our money including $3 for the hotel maid in addition to the two hundred dollar chits that we left for her by the TV

About how much we spent for more points with TLC, you need to wait for another article.




Birch Bay author holds workshop and book signing

 Birch Bay Issues, Miscellaneous, Wellness  Comments Off on Birch Bay author holds workshop and book signing
Sep 122013

Our friend and fellow author, Maureen Kelly, is offering a workshop and book signing on Saturday, September 28, 2013 from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm at Kula Yoga, 1920 Main Street, Suite 4, Ferndale. Her latest book, Chakra Play – The Magical Vibration of You, upon which this workshop is based, explains how combining sound, affirmation, motions and more can bring balance to your life. She is also offering a drawing for a one hour personal chakra play session. Workshop fee i $20. To preregister, please visit for more information, call 360-920-1125.sageatbeach-web

You Could Contribute to an Islamic Relief Fund (or Invest in a Fund that Follows Islamic Principles)

 Miscellaneous  Comments Off on You Could Contribute to an Islamic Relief Fund (or Invest in a Fund that Follows Islamic Principles)
Sep 072011

Next weekend undoubtedly there will be anti-Muslim stuff about “the enemy” but, really, we should recognize that a great many people of that faith in the world had nothing to do with the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the plane that was forced down in Pennsylvania. When politicians harangue about “the enemy”, it would be better to express kindness to the many Muslims who bear no ill against our country and—in some cases—are suffering from our actions.

Last month we enjoyed a dinner with a remarkable group of such people. The program included a film about the suffering from the famine in Somalia, and we contributed to Islamic Relief, a fund that is providing water and food for those Somalian drought victims—$20 each, the requested donation, feeds a family of four for a month.

We owe this opportunity to Ruth’s attendance at Western. In one of her first classes she became friends with Alaa, a young man from Egypt. He and his professor friend came to our cottage for Thanksgiving that year. We had a long, lively conversation about Muslim customs, including relations between men and women—courtship, marriage and divorce.

Back then, Alaa washed dishes in a Bellingham restaurant to cover some of his expenses. This spring Ruth re-connected with him, and we had lunch at the Skylark Restaurant where he had worked. Alaa was excited about the revolution in Egypt. He had just heard from his brother who had gone from his home in Alexandria to Cairo to be part of the demonstrations.

Alaa was now working at Saturna Capital in Bellingham, an investment company sponsoring a mutual fund that follows Islamic principles (or Sharia) that preclude interest paying investments, such as bank stocks. While some of the investors are Muslims—Alaa’s ability with Arabic being an advantage— many are not. This is not a charity. The Amana Income Fund has averaged an annual return of 7.49 percent over the past 10 years versus the S&P 500 Index that has averaged only 2.70 percent. Only one other fund in the Schwab list of income funds did better in that period.

Alaa also was doing well in his personal life. Through mosque connections he was introduced to a young woman in Southern California. Shortly before our lunch date, his mother had come from Egypt to meet the girl’s family. That went fine but Alaa would need to go back to meet her father, a businessman who was visiting Afghanistan. If all went well, they would become engaged and she would move to Bellingham. There was also the possibility that Alaa might move to California to work with fund clients there.

In early August we received an e-mail from Alaa inviting us to the fund-raising dinner. Nothing about betrothal, but we were hopeful.

The dinner was held in the RESources meeting room. Prior to the meal some of the participants prayed on rugs in an adjacent room before breaking the Ramadan fast.

Meanwhile, we talked with a magnetic young woman who was acting as hostess in the absence of the Iman. A graduate of Blaine High School, she has been holding down a full-time job at the BP refinery while taking a full schedule of courses at the community college and the university. She is preparing to be a physical therapist in an eight-year program that will graduate her as a doctor.

The food was much like a typical American pot-luck—several pasta dishes, rice, roast lamb, deep fried chicken and shrimp. Desserts came later. Pepsi was the most common drink. Alaa’s wife was mentioned. We kept looking and asking. Finally, there she was. Beautiful – and sweet!

ak & rah

It’s Valentine’s Day

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Feb 142011
We buy an estimated 250 million valentines each year based on a myth and a desire to share the love.
According to Wikipedia, there are at least 14 martyred saints with the name Valentine. “Of the Saint Valentine whose feast is on February 14, nothing is known except his name and that he was buried… north of Rome on February 14. It is even uncertain whether the feast of that day celebrates only one saint or more saints of the same name.”
 Saint Valentine of Terni oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni, from a 14th century French manuscript
Wikipedia further states that historian Jack Oruch, cited in the Wikipedia article, has made the case that the traditions associated with “Valentine’s Day”, did not exist before Chaucer. He argues that the speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among 18th-century antiquaries. 

One legend, found on, contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor’s daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It’s no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
In Great Britain, goes on to tell us, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology.

Ready-made cards, states, were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. 

And now we’re up to 250 million sold – and that doesn’t count hand-made cards or cardless gifts.
Happy Valentine’s Day.

A Big Celebration

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Aug 102010

Lucy and Gary Smythe (Ruth’s sister and brother-in-law), are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and both 75th birthdays this year. Their three daughters, Sheila, Barbara and Sharon, decided the best way to mark these events was to organize a party when all the family and many friends could attend. That was August 7, at the Smythe home. Our photos do not give a complete picture of the event, but are offered as a taste of it.

In the converted garage-reception hall, grand daughters Cami and Clo joined Logan (Spencer’s friend) and grandson Spencer in preparing the feast. The collage behind them outlines the generations from Lucy and Gary to their “greats”.

JF (husband of Sharon, working in background, father of Clo and Cami) and Lucy share a moment.

Diane (JF’s mother), Norma (Lucy’s cousin) and Gary chat in front of Lucy’s wedding gown.

Grandchildren Connor and his sister Cassidy (back to camera), doing what they do best: Connor eating and Cassidy photographing (children of Sheila and Dan).

Dan and Sheila take a break from the

Tod and Barbara (middle daughter) walk on the beach; not pictured, Barb’s daughter Dakota.

Evan (Cassidy’s husband and Spencer (Sheila and Dan’s youngest) are captured in the kitchen.

Great grandson Kieran (son of grand daughter Cassidy and Evan), and great grand daughter Brooklyn, the newest member of the family, shown with her dad Trevor and mom/grand daughter Rebecca, rounded out the generations.

A replica of the original wedding cake was the center-piece of the celebration.