Archive for February, 2010

Cited from “The War of French Dressing,” The Economist:

“Intelligence sources suggest that 90% of them are under 40. Two-thirds are French nationals, half of them second – or- third generation immigrants, and nearly a quarter are converts. In other words, this is not an influx of women from the Gulf, but a statement by young French Muslim women, whose own mothers did not cover their faces.”

–Thanks to “borrowed words” in little moments by tokobetsu


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Cousin Nancy
T. S. Eliot

Miss Nancy Ellicott
Strode across the hills and broke them,
Rode across the hills and broke them —
The barren New England hills —
Riding to hounds
Over the cow-pasture.

Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked
And danced all the modern dances;
And her aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it,
But they knew that it was modern.

Upon the glazen shelves kept watch
Matthew and Waldo, guardians of the faith,
The army of unalterable law.

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Sasha and Roman Zaretsky grew up in a country with only one major skating rink.  Now they’re ice dancing in Vancouver, with a good chance of making the top ten.

Check out the Zaretskys’ sizzling free skate to “Hit the Road, Jack”–performed last April at an ensemble benefit at the Floyd Hall Ice Arena in Little Falls, New Jersey.  A suitcase scrambles along with the skaters.  URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–DN8rDiq-k.

Born in Belarus, the young brother-sister pair skates for Israel, where they grew up.  The Zaretsky sibs won the very first event they ever entered.  International contestants since 1999 and Olympic contenders in Turin, the team recently took seventh place in the European championships and third, in Skate America.

All skaters in these ice dance events start out with some basic moves.  These are the foundation from which competitors face compulsory dance tests. The Zaretsky pair was well trained initially by their mother, a world-class skater herself, and by former Olympic ice dancer Galit Chait.

Despite the familial nature of their real-life relationship, on Friday night the Zaretskys quite convincingly skated the “Tango Romantica,” a compulsory dance both sensual and dramatic.   Three other sibling pairs competed with them for credibility.  In a field of 23 (well, 46 competitors), Sasha and Roman placed tenth.

In their upcoming original dance event on Sunday evening, the skaters will get much more creative.  Dancers can choose their own rhythms, program themes, and music for original dance competition.  Unlike pairs figure skating, this event may feature vocal or instrumental music.  The strenuous acrobatic moves of pairs dancing are not required, but the footwork and ballroom glitter give the sport tremendous appeal.  Free dance will come on Monday.

Journalist and hockey player Paul Shindman sees great promise in these two Olympic skaters.  “With hard work,” he states, “they might be going for a medal four years from now.”


Photo:  http://iisf.org.il/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/NEbelhorn2009ZarOD12.jpg

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Move over, Jamaican Bobsled Team.  As tropical competitors in an icy sport, your coolrunnings captivated the world in Calgary.  You won gold at the at the World Push Bobsled Championships in 2000, but these days you share your unusual status with quite a few world-class athletes at the winter games.

The 2010 roster features competitors like Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, Ghana’s alpine “Snow Leopard,” the African nation’s first-ever entry at a Winter Olympics.  Also in the running–Tugba Karademir, an Ankara native and Turkey’s first Olympic figure skater, and Cypriots Christopher Papamichalopoulos and his sister Sophia, who are alpine skiers and the sole athletes representing their sunny Mediterranean nation in Vancouver.

The stories are many.  Foreign Policy magazine chose ten such unusual players to highlight in its stunning photo essay on February 20.  The Getty Images pictures illuminate their feats in sparkling split-second color.  Catch it if you can.


photo: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article5891502.ece

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The 21st Century Resume

Jobseekers have a new tool for entering the lean, mean working world of the twenty-teens.  And it’s not just a four-color desktop-published resume on classic laid paper, a snappy photo, great references, work experience, the cleverest cover letter, or three minutes of brilliant video on the recently polished screen of your $2000 notebook.

The best way to a steady and fulfilling career these days may be through the seemingly easy portals of social networking.

Imagine: broke, busted, disgusted, you turn to facebook or twitter for a chance to vent.  You know the virtual world will satisfy, with one of its many broad offerings, be it online scrabble, the kaleidoscopic YouTube, gaming, or chatting with old and new friends.

What you may not know is that the world wide web can save your sorry ass from threadbare unemployment.  Social (inter)networks can open the doors to an unlimited number of satisfying job options.  And it requires no money down, no high fashion outlays, and no magic wands for the nervous or gawky.  All it takes is a functioning brain and nimble fingers.

This week, the Christian Science Monitor offers 10 top tips for facebooking your way to a good job.  Their best sugggestions:

1.  Do it.

More companies are searching for employees on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.  Over the next 10 years, people are going to find more and more  jobs through the social media.

2.  Be interesting.

Don’t oversell–but do show potential employers that you’re both engaged in your industry (show and tell) and have an interesting perspective to share.

3.  Stay balanced.

Start out small and have reasonable expectations.  This process won’t deliver instant fame or rival the Publisher’s Clearing House lottery.  In a tough economy, though, the new social media edge might make all the difference.

Have a look at the original article for more helpul hints.


photo:  www.ipjur.com

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My Grandfather Enters the World

Three days after her birthday—on Friday, November 29, 1895–Louise Dechert delivered a son at the hands of Dr. James Hendrie Lloyd.  We do not know if the boy arrived in the hospital, with its thoughtless constraints on a woman’s dignity, or at home, but we do know that the event took place at 3:06 in the afternoon.  It is also a matter of record that Dr. Lloyd weighed the boy in at 8 pounds 12 ounces, fully a pound over the average weight in that day.  This child would go on to father my father, and to grandparent me.

Louise and Harry Dechert named the boy “Robert” after his great uncle the general, Robert Porter Dechert.  Harry was adamant about not giving Robert a middle name.  He had seen all his classmates at Penn addressed by their middle names, and he did not wish to burden his son with something awkward like “Howard,” his wife’s maiden name, or “Taylor,” his own loathed moniker.  Called “Bobby” in early life, Robert would later be known to everyone except his first wife as simply “Bob.”

Bobby grew up in west Philadelphia.  The family first lived at 1021 South 46th Street, near Woodland Avenue.  During his military service in Bob’s childhood, Harry occupied a succession of temporary billets, sometimes accompanied by family, at other times not.  As Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, Dechert commanded five companies in the year-long Spanish-American War.   One of the men he served with, Major Charles C. Norris, was also his law partner.   Later, Dechert and Norris had coal-strike duty together in Ohio and other locations.

While Bobby’s father was often in uniform, his mother typically dressed in a long dark skirt, a high-necked cotton blouse with long sleeves, and always a decorous hat.  Louise–whom my father and aunts later called “Dandy” for “grandmother”—worked hard to be a model Victorian housewife and parent.  To her husband Harry, who was often away, she was an apt moral and intellectual partner.  To her son, she was playmate, nurse, comforter, and counselor.  Later on, in her increasingly male-dominated family, she exercised the notable power of the early 20th-century American woman to create successful diversions from the important issues facing the men.

Almost as important to Louise as fulfilling her duties as wife and mother was carrying out her role as mistress of the house.  Like many of her peers, she paid attention to giving her servants regular wages and allowing the due holidays.  She practiced economical housekeeping, without being stingy, and expected things to go like clockwork in return.

Bobby’s birth was a relief to everyone, and to his family a great joy.  A rubber ring from his dad was the brown-eyed boy’s first plaything.  A little colicky at first, Bobby had his first outing at a little over one month of age.  Louise took him to visit Dr. Lloyd’s office and to see his grandfather, Henry Martyn Dechert, and cousin Bertha (“Aunt Bee”) on Walnut Street, in the busier section of west Philadelphia.  Bob’s first photograph, taken by Kuebler Studios on April 17, showed a big boy with somewhat unruly dark hair and a definite spark of intelligence in what the love of his life would refer to as his “heaven-sent eyes.”

As was customary in western countries in the days of higher infant mortality, six months after his birth Bob was officially “named.”  His baptism took place at the Protestant Episcopal church of St. Philip’s, an expansive stone structure at 42nd and Baltimore.  In July, his brown hair was cut in a drake’s tail style.  By September, Bobby was crawling, and at a year he weighed an impressive 23 pounds.  On February 5, 1897, his proud mother could report, “Robert has been walking with a little help for several weeks, but started out by himself for the first time today.”

That summer brought a severe drought and high temperatures to the humid Delaware Valley.  The Decherts decided to spend the hottest months in a more moderate climate.  Less than 20 years earlier, a director of the Pennsylvania Railroad named Henry H. Houston had begun to develop a 3,000-acre parcel of land along Germantown Avenue north of the Schuylkill River.  The Hewitt brothers, both architects, designed the upscale neighborhood of Chestnut Hill on Houston’s land.  Although it was part of Philadelphia, not a suburb, Chestnut Hill became a leafy retreat that served downtown commuters by both rail and trolley.

Too, vacationers discovered and quickly adopted the town for summer holidays.  Its easy proximity to center city, higher elevation (400-500 feet above sea level), markedly cooler temperatures, and the amenity of over 1,300 acres of parkland along Wissahickon Creek proved a powerful draw for residents of the increasingly crowded and busy city.

The Decherts spent the beginning of the summer at the Wissahickon Inn, a new resort hotel across from the Philadelphia Cricket Club.  Then and now full of character and gracious ambience, the Wissahickon Inn has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Land adjoining the inn and the club hosted the nascent Philadelphia Horse Show before it relocated to Devon in 1897.

Chestnut Hill retained a thickly forested region around the stream with the romantic feel of a remote and untamed wilderness.  Edgar Allan Poe described the beautiful watershed thus: “Now the Wissahiccon is of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard….  The brook is narrow.  Its banks are generally, indeed almost universally, precipitous, and consist of high hills, clothed with noble shrubbery near the water, and crowned at a greater elevation, with some of the most magnificent forest trees of America….  The immediate shores, however, are of granite, sharply defined or moss-covered, against which the pellucid water lolls in its gentle flow, as the blue waves of the Mediterranean upon the steps of her palaces of marble.”

However, even in Chestnut Hill, the drought and sunny days of the summer of 1897 fostered a mortal hazard for the very old and the very young.   The heat made it necessary for visitors to the Wissahickon to consume more fluids than usual. However, fresh water and ice supplies were constrained by the drought.  Caffeinated diuretics like the newly invented cola drinks exacerbated a body’s dehydration.  These conditions, coupled with exercising more strenuously than in the city, overwhelmed eighteen-month-old Bobby Dechert.  He almost died from heat exhaustion.

The warning signs of Bobby’s medical emergency included heavy sweating, pale skin, unusual weariness, muscle cramps, 
and unremitting headache.  Everyone was crippled by the heat, however.  But then his child’s skin became deathly cool and moist, his pulse rate, fast and weak, and his breathing turned to pants.  Bobby fell dangerously ill for over a month.  Unable to find relief in Chestnut Hill, Harry and Louise retired to the Atlantic City seacoast for several weeks so Bobby could recuperate.

Bobby’s health resumed, only to deteriorate again the following summer.  While the Dechert family was staying at Curtis House in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, he contracted whooping cough.  I had this disease for a month and can testify to its waves of breathlessness, uncontrollable coughing, and hardly bearable pain.  Dr. Katzenbach, Bobby’s New York physician, said he had “a bad case.”  It lasted almost eleven weeks.

But Harry and Louise’s son persevered.  Ill or well, with his straight, shiny brown hair, brown eyes, well-proportioned body, serious expression, and adept mind, Bobby charmed family, teachers, and friends alike.  He was, one of his closest friends later noted, “someone with a vast desire for action.”

When he was five, the family had a bang-up long Fourth of July weekend, again at Point Pleasant.  Bob was delighted to be shown how to fire a cannon.  The next day, his “Aunt Bee” married Charles Gale, a lawyer from the Cleveland, Ohio, area.

The wedding provided an opportunity for family fun by the Atlantic with Bob’s two cousins, Esther and Marjorie.  The girls lived in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.  Their father, Harry’s brother Edward Porter Dechert, had moved there from Philadelphia when he married Margaret Foye.  Uncle Edward’s early career as a writer, with his journalistic connections up and down the East Coast, certainly gave Bobby precedent for his later literary pursuits.  Unfortunately, Edward eventually fell prey to an combination of substance abuse and mental illness.

Bobby also saw his Aunt Emma Blakiston on occasion.  She had two daughters nearly his age.  The Blakistons gave an obligatory family party at their distant house near Ambler on Christmas evening every year, sometimes occasioning more than casual cursing on the part of the Decherts at the snow, ice, cold, and distance—not to mention the second turkey of the day.

The Dechert house quickly began to fill with Victorian children’s books and toys.  These included a rocking horse, drum, two dolls, two tops, a horse and wagon, a tin goat, a tin merry-go-round, a bird in a tin cage, a music box, a jack-in-the-box, and a five-dollar gold piece.  A cannon was added later.  And an array of about forty cunningly made toy soldiers occupied Bob for hours on end in the parlor.

The Decherts would pack up and move again soon, however.  With Bertha’s marriage and relocation in Cleveland, widower Henry Martyn Dechert found himself alone again and beset by housekeeping.  In 1901, Henry, Louise, and Bob gathered all their belongings and settled down to live with Bob’s grandfather in the ample three-story home at 3930 Walnut Street.

Copyright (c) 1999-2010 by Sandy Dechert.  Worldwide rights reserved.

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“Top health insurers post 56% profit for 2009”

 Investment tip:

Buy stock in

  • Wellpoint,
  • UnitedHealth,
  • Cigna,
  • Aetna,
  • Humana.



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