A conference in Oracle, Arizona

A postcard from Sue & Jerry’s Trading Post in the center of Oracle

From Oracle’s Visitor’s Center

El Rancho Robles — the ranch where I stayed during the conference. Robles in Spanish means oaks.

The ranch’s office

The Stables — cosy rooms

I recently attended a weekend interfaith conference in Oracle, Arizona. The postcard at the top is apt since it snowed on the Sunday morning of the conference. About an inch accumulated but began to melt at midday. This is the first snow that I’ve touched in four years. Besides walking on it, I held some in my hands. The last time that I was in a snowy and icy storm was in Oklahoma City in early March 2019 when I was in the process of moving from Kansas City to Phoenix.

Oracle is not too far northeast of central Tucson — 33 miles or so. It lies along the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains of Arizona. Biosphere 2 is just outside Oracle to the west. To the east lies Oracle State Park.

The Triangle Y Ranch Camp was where the conference was held. Only several miles from Oracle, it’s already in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon, the highest peak in the Catalina mountain range. The Triangle Y is either in the Coronado National Forest or just adjacent. This part of the national forest is in the Santa Catalina District.

The center’s main building. Sleeping facilities are scattered around the ranch.

The Triangle Y is primarily a summer camp for young people. Sleeping facilities for the men who came alone to the conference included all-year cabins, each with bunk beds, where you bring your own bedroll. Six men shared one washroom. This for grown men on a budget! (We all paid a fee to cover the expenses of the conference including three meals a day. I brought my own kosher food, as did another Jewish attendee.)

It’s a far cry from the summer camp in Wisconsin that I attended in the mid 60s. Same bunk beds. Bedding was supplied, though, at my Wisconsin camp. Washing and toilet facilities were in a separate cabin. The cabins weren’t heated, so when counselors came before the campers came, a rough wool blanket didn’t serve to dispel the Wisconsin early morning chill.

A gushing mountain stream ran alongside the Triangle Y’s parking lot. At this time of year, the water is snow melt from Mt. Lemmon and its rain runoff. It had rained not long before the conference.

From the parking lot

Looking upstream, but downstream from the previous picture. Against the sky toward the left you can barely see a flag pole. The flag marks the ranch’s entrance.

Further downstream, looking out from the ranch’s entrance road

You see that most of the trees and shrubs have shed their leaves for the winter. No so in Phoenix. Some do, some don’t. At the same time, trees and shrubs that grow in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon don’t necessarily grow in Phoenix.

In two of these pictures, you can see Prickly Pear cactuses. I thought that they would grow in a colder climate so long as the freezes are not too long, only overnight for example. Someone I met in the Chicago area, though, had a Prickly Pear in his front yard where it would catch the sun all day long! He created a microclimate with flagstones around the plant to capture the heat of the sun. Even so, the temperature in Chicago gets bitterly cold, and the sun doesn’t shine for days on end. However, according to Wikipedia, the Prickly Pear “also occurs naturally in … sandy or rocky areas of northern Illinois.” But there are a number of species and varieties of Prickly Pear according to Wikipedia. What was growing in this man’s yard wasn’t necessarily the same variety that you see in the picture.

By the way, the Triangle Y served brewed tea in an urn on Shabbat morning. I sweetened it with sugar. So, I had a cup of hot tea with sugar to begin my morning!

So you’re interested in Limoges china. Beware.

One thing to know about “Limoges” is that it’s not a company. It’s a region in France centered on the city of Limoges. The region’s clay is excellent, so it has long been a source of fine porcelain. But, if you find a dot com with the name Limoges in it, you can’t be sure that everything that it sells is Limoges porcelain.

Limoges porcelain boxes are a favorite collectible. They’re based on antique snuff boxes and trinket boxes. The top lifts on a hinge and closes on a hand-made clasp. I inherited a box from my mother.

To know whether a box is genuine Limoges porcelain, you should look at the signature panel on the bottom or inside. The first line will say “Limoges France.” The second line should read “Peint main” –hand painted. So far so good.

If there is a third line, it shows the name of the actual firm that manufactured the box. I inherited from Mom a whimsical box shaped like an acorn with acorn meat inside. Like many Limoges boxes today, it is useless for containing snuff or a trinket. There’s no room inside. The requisite two lines are painted on the inside of the cover of the so-called box . Under these two lines appears the name “ROCHARD.”

My acorn Limoges box from Rochard.

Rochard is the actual manufacturer. They don’t have a website, though. A dealer with a dot com name seems to be unaffiliated with the French firm. This dealer doesn’t seem to be an exclusive distributor of Rochard’s ware either. It seems that you can also get Rochard’s ware elsewhere. However, none of these vendors show the signature panel for you to know what you’re really getting.

This is not the case with eBay. Sellers take pictures of an item from all sides. You can see the signature panel and know what you’re buying.

One of my sisters has a sewing box from the Eximious firm. It seems to be an English firm, but it’s clearly signed as a coming from Limoges. I’ve seen Charmart ware for sale on eBay, too. Artoria boxes are also on the market, however they don’t have a hand painted signature. It’s hard for me to determine whether anything about them is “peint main.” Most of what I see in the marketplace has no firm name. It makes one wonder why.

My sister’s Limoges sewing box from Eximious.

To call these collectibles boxes is mostly a fantasy. My sister’s Limoges is actually a box — small but still a box. But, my acorn is only a box because it has a hinge and clasp. Mostly, the boxes are a base for some porcelain figurine. Some figurines are tasteful like a dog or cat. Most are tacky and have nothing to do with France. Do you want the Empire State Building on top of your box? What about a golf club?

Mom had good taste. She bought boxes, not figurines. She was an inveterate collector, but not of figurines.

Lets back up. So you’re interested in Limoges china … Actually, no china comes from Limoges. Everywhere it’s clear that Limoges ware is porcelain. I don’t know what china is and how it differs from porcelain, but I’ve done enough research already.

Time for a cup of hot tea with sugar.

What do you put in your oatmeal?

Do you put something in oatmeal? Do you eat it with milk, soy or otherwise? Do you even eat oatmeal?

I have oatmeal every morning, summer notwithstanding. No milk for me. I let it cool a bit so I won’t burn my tongue.

No sugar for me, either. I’m diabetic, adult onset. When I do use use sugar — lightly in my tea — I have to trade it for another carbohydrate.

I cook my oatmeal with some oat bran to increase the fiber count. Otherwise, I add flax meal. The flax meal gives it some taste as well as more fiber.

To add real taste I add cocoa powder before I cook it. Otherwise, I add carob powder, which is slightly sweet. I get my carob powder from KosherVitamins.com.

I’ve been known to add honey (which is like sugar for a diabetic) and cinnamon. I’ve been meaning to add some cinnamon before I cook it instead of cocoa or carob powder.

For some reason, I don’t have a cup of hot tea with sugar with my oatmeal.

My four menorahs

Besides the menorah that I showed in the previous post, I have three others. I inherited this one from my parents. It dates back to the late 1950s. It takes candles as you see:

The camera’s close-up focus makes it seem lopsided.

It’s ready to be lit on the fifth night of Hanukkah which is December 22nd this year. The five Hebrew letters for the name Israel are crafted into the arms of the menorah. See if you can spot the angled, descending yud, sin, reish, alef, and lamed from right to left.

I bought this next menorah in Buenos Aires when I visited over Hanukkah 2000-1. This was Argentina’s summer, so it was short-sleeve weather.

This menorah is modeled after the one in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem of old. The Temple’s menorah had only seven lamps — on three arms jutting up from the stem on both sides and the seventh lamp on top of the stem. This seventh lamp was only as high as the other six. It was not a shamesh servant. The lamps were lit by a priest on the ground much like gas streetlights were lit many years ago.

The taller cup of this menorah is for the shamash — the servant light from which the other lights are lit. A fixed oil cup doesn’t work for a shamash, though. Only a candle holder that releases the candle.

The silver needs polishing, which I’m not motivated to do.

My third menorah (in no particular order) is electric:

This is not a substitute for candles or oil. The Rabbis of old enacted the rules, and the electric age changes nothing. It has to resemble the Temple’s menorah as much as possible.

I lit this menorah in a window that faces passersby — neighbors in the complex that I live in and their visitors and guests. Let them be reminded that a little bit of light banishes much darkness.

The menorah that I use every year is below. I posted a picture of it in yesterday’s post.

All eight lights are burning on the eighth night of Hanukkah three years ago.

There’s nothing better than sipping a cup of hot tea with sugar while studying the Hanukkah lights. What are they telling me?

Question of the month

Can you chill over a cup of hot tea with sugar, or does it have to be iced tea?

Question for next month (serious):

“If all you have are lemons, make lemonade.” In this adage, where does the sugar come from? Do you want to drink unsweetened lemonade just because you don’t have sugar? Actually, two questions.

Every so often I think about this adage. I’d appreciate feedback. Perhaps you know where the sugar comes from. Am I taking the adage too literally?

I’m not going to chill while I ponder these questions by sitting back to drink a cup of tea with sugar, hot or cold — or lemonade either.

A Blue Moon

Monday, August 23, 2021, Dawn | 15 Elul 5781

The Farmers’ Almanac explains the original meaning of what is called a Blue Moon. In short, it’s the third of four full Moons in one season. We’re now in the season bracketed by the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.

The solstice was on June 21st and the upcoming equinox is on September 22nd. The first full Moon after the solstice was on June 24th. The next full Moon was on July 23rd. Yesterday, August 22nd, was the third full Moon of the season, and the fourth full Moon is on September 20th. The August 22nd full Moon is the third of four full Moons this summer of 2021, so it is called a “Blue Moon.”

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the next Blue Moon will be in 2024.

This rule, third of four, doesn’t make sense to me. It seems to me that the exceptional fourth full Moon in a season is the special one so that it deserves a special name. I’m not going to argue with experts, though. I’m going to relax with a cup of hot tea with sugar.

SciTechDaily also has an article about the Blue Moon. It was through them that I found out that today’s full Moon is a Blue Moon. However, the rule of third of four didn’t make sense to me, so I looked it up in the Farmers’ Almanac also.

The first opportunity I had to photograph the full Moon was this morning at dawn. It looks the same to me as the Moon yesterday when astronomers declared it to be full. They peg it down to the minute — on Sunday, August 22, 2021, at 8:02 AM Eastern Time.

So here are two pictures at dawn on Monday.

When is the next full Moon? See the Farmers’ Almanac’s calendar.

But who picks up after their humans?

People around here are pretty good about picking up dog poop, especially in the parks. They rarely go out without a bag to scoop up the poop.

I’m posting pictures of a few signs that you see around the neighborhood that serve as reminders.

The first sign is vehement and tells people that to not pick up their dog’s poop is nothing less than a crime. And such criminals are guilty of creating a health hazard — that could come back to hit them.

The second sign is explicit but polite. It appeals to neighborliness and refrains from making scofflaws feel guilty of a crime or a social infraction.

One of the local park districts is earnest about helping the unfortunate soul who forgot a bag. By providing bags, no one has an excuse. The notice is polite — a kind reminder. This sign also has icons to teach dog owners how to use the bags. I really don’t know how many newbies there are, but anyone who has a dog has probably long ago figured out how to pick up the the poop in their own backyards.

So now on to my question. Who picks up after the human owners of the dogs? Human “excrement” is not literally poop of course. Americans are toilet trained long before they acquire trash to toss on the roadside.

The next sign is subtle about notifying humans that their littering is also a crime. It’s in legal code that the conscientious sign reader can figure out. “Here are two laws that you’re violating if you dump or litter! Just say NO!” This sign is on public open land which seems to be an inviting place for would-be criminals.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve noticed that I’m a person who picks up human waste (sometimes). When I take a shopping bag with me and pass along public or undeveloped land, I can usually fill it. When I take a thirteen-gallon trash bag, in the course of my forty-minute walk I can usually fill it if a few days have passed since I last passed that way with a bag.

I earn cups of hot tea with sugar for my public service.

So you’re planning to take a trip by plane

You’re vaccinated, and the CDC says that it’s safe for you to travel by plane when wearing a mask.

Vaccinated travelers should still avoid eating and drinking on planes, experts say. Robert M. Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, says that when passengers are allowed to take their masks off for meal services, his comfort with air travel goes away, as reported in The Washington Post.

I’m not comfortable either eating or drinking anywhere indoors. You simply have to take off your mask to eat and drink. But the advice from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is for vaccinated people to continue to wear masks indoors and to physically distance six feet.

I’ve been vaccinated, but no vaccine is fully effective. Experts agree, though, that vaccines also prevent serious cases of COVID in the off chance someone is exposed and succumbs. One reason that I wear a mask is to keep other people’s aerosol droplets out of my respiratory system. I’m insulating myself from such aerosols and doing my best to keep from becoming infected.

So no cup of hot tea with sugar on my next flight.

See: “Vaccinated travelers should still avoid eating and drinking on planes, experts say,” The Washington Post, Natalie B. Compton, April 16, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2021.

I’m G.L.A.D.

Do you meditate? What’s the content of your meditating?

I came across a structure that is called G.L.A.D.

Grateful — What am I grateful for today?

Learn — What have I learned today?

Accomplishment — What have I accomplished?

Delight — What delight is there in my life today?

When meditating in the morning, I would think about the day before.

It’s a good time after meditating to sit back with a cup of hot tea with sugar.

The A.V. era in earnest

March 18, 2021 | 5 Nisan 5781

I just received my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is really A.V. time — after the vaccine. (See my post “B.V. and A.V.”) The vaccine is supposed to be fully effective in seven to ten days. But no vaccine is 100% effective, of course.

The only substantive change in my life is that I’m considering attending synagogue services for about twenty to thirty minutes. They’ve already asked me to help make up the minyan — quorum — for Passover mornings. (The first day of Passover is Sunday, March 28, 2021. The holiday begins the night before with the first Seder.)

I don’t want to breathe shared air for too long. It seems that the unvaccinated body can handle breathing in a few viruses. All the more so someone who had a vaccine. But twenty minutes is the recommended duration indoors among people who haven’t been vaccinated, which includes the youngish rabbi.

We’ll be masking and keeping our distance, but distancing is not possible if I stand with three others around the Torah scroll when it’s being read.

So we’ll see.

Instead of getting bent out of shape over a decision, I’m going to have a cup of hot tea with sugar.