Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Editor's Corner


By Mary E. Adair

December 2021

“I’ve come to sing you a song called December.”
Ryan Murphy, Down with the Ship

How does December affect you and your life personally? Is it merely an ending of a time period known as a Year that may or may not have made precious memories to warm you during the month and throughout your future? Is it a grieving period that tells you daily that the end is drawing closer, be it of the year itself or a period of life when time shouted out daily to come enjoy? Is it the warmth of crackling fires and cosy afghans tucked around to hold close those moments and scenes of other Decembers, other loved ones, other songs of the season? Is it a bustling, trim the tree, decorate the home from threshold to the furthest corner by the back door time? Is it shopping desperatly, rechecking your lists of names, gifts, food for the night before and the day of your cherished traditional celebrations? Is it a time of sharing your bounty, be it material blessings or the blessing of kindness and caring, of laughter and hope, of music? Is it a shake off the past and seek new horizons to dispel any familiarity stage you find yourself within?

Whatever your answer to any of those scenarios, this issue could certainly chime with a few of them as it flows from joyful reminiscing to exhortation for wariness, to exuberant feelings, to fond recollections of peaceful silence. Let's find new opportunities for celebrations together!

Poems are the thoughts that sing inside until they demand being versed upon the page. Our poetic authors tap into their own and others feelings, saying aloud what we may have wished for words to express. Walt Perryman, who often does Cowboy poetry sessions in Luckenbach has a wonderful poem we are repeating for this December, "A West Texas Tumbleweed Christmas." He also shares "Happiness More or Less, " "On My Mind," and "Recipe for Sleep" this month. Bud Lemire's romantic "In Her Eyes," and the two more serious "Vacine." and "On The Front Lines" are a contrast. Bruce Clifford"s poems are usually composed as song lyrics and his for December are "Cause for Alarm," "Highlight Reel," and "Not Knowing What to Say."

Your editor includes her usual Christmastime poems "Tiny Miracle," along with "Make Mary Merry," and "The Season." Also included is a new poem "Squirrels," an observation that has nothing to do with holidays..

John I. Blair, still recovering from recent surgery, and although not up to doing his column, nor feeling poetic, sent along one of his articles we had not seen, "Music and The Blairs." Linda Tate 's article is "ESSAY: Amazing Life." Linda recently shared another article with us.

Judith Kroll's column "On Trek" asks the question "Are You A Believer or Unbeliever," citing a personal event. "Cooking with Rod" by Roderick Cohenour offers a succulent solution to preparing that dinner for the holiday that everyone will remember with his Christmas Posole.

Melinda Cohenour who does "Armchair Genealogy" embarks upon the project of helping to clarify comprehension of the history of DNA and its applicaton in numerous fields. December presents the first segment of this series.

Dayvid Bruce Clarkson, whose prose is as melodic as poetry, sends word pictures in his writing, and we are delighted to show some recent "Reflections of the Day." Mattie Lennon in his "Irish Eyes" does three gift suggestions for favored friends, and includes a few topics that started him musing on them. Marilyn Carnell whose column "Sifoddling Along" often causes us to reflect on our own family occasions, tells how an article warning against too many toys for children triggered her own "Toyland" memory of gifts.

Thomas O'Neill, our Pennsylvania native now teaching in China, reveals current status of Christmastime there, and his own resulting activities with pictures in his column "Introspective" and includes a link to YouTube as an example. "Woo Woo" the column by Pauline Evanosky travels further than that, reaching into the other side thru channeling, and tells how it has changed her personal concept of Heaven.

Mike Craner and wife Susie, who recently celebrated another Anniversary, are the backbone of this eZine which was co-founded by him and your editor. Mike keeps this informational and entertaining publication viable despite the many business, family, and personal demands in his and Susie's lives. I admire and bless them every day. Thanks, Mike, for everything,!

Merry Christmas!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

DNA: Complex. Tantalizing.
And Nothing Short of Miraculous


The history of mankind's search for its origin began thousands of years ago. It was not until recent times, however, that the basic mechanism by which humans are designed and modified was discovered. This incredible finding had its roots in controversy. There is a vast amount of information to be absorbed concerning the science surrounding DNA. Thus, your author proposes to present selected sources to clarify our basic comprehension of this complex subject over the next several columns.

The first source which captured my attention was a timeline of the history of DNA, which has been paraphrased from this article found online:

* Darwin: 1859, The Origin of the Species.

In 1831, Charles Darwin joined an expedition for scientific exploration. It concerned the study of fossils and a scintillating theory that the fossils held the secret of one biologic entity's transformation through successive basic evolution. Darwin began his in depth research upon his return to his own laboratory. After 20 years plus of study, testing, and exhaustive documentation of results, in 1859 Darwin published a groundbreaking scientific paper: the Origin of the Species.

This paper was deemed heretical in that common belief at that time was that God created everything in the universe in a 7-Day span of time. This belief discounted the hypothesis now held by most scientific and biblical scholars that evolution and creation are not in direct conflict. Most scientists who embrace biblical teaching believe the explanation set forth centuries ago was presented in a simplistic way that permitted common folk of that time to accept a basic premise of their origin.

Darwin's theory, in a nutshell, was that each species evolved through natural selection. That is, that the creature best adapted to survive in its habitation developed a mutation to be passed on to its descendants, thus permanently imprinting its core being with the essential changes necessary to survival of the overall species.

* Mendel: 1866, the Basic Principles of Genetics.

The next major advancement in the study of genetics came through the experiments of an Augustinian Monk, Gregor Mendel. He performed exhaustive studies between 1856 and 1863 on pea plants. He was attempting to "crossbreed true lines in specific combinations".

Through his studies, Mendel defined the terms of dominant and recessive traits in genetic transformation.

"In his 1866 published paper, Mendel described the action of 'invisible' factors in providing for visible traits in predictable ways. We now know that the 'invisible' traits he had identified were genes."

* Miescher: 1869, Identifies "nuclein".

A groundbreaking discovery went virtually unnoticed for more than 50 years. Friedrich Miescher, a Swiss physiological chemist desired to isolate and characterize the protein components of white blood cells.

"However, during the process, he came across a substance that had unusual chemical properties unlike the proteins he was searching for, with very high phosphorus content and a resistance to protein digestion."

His discovery was, in fact, the substance known today as DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid.

* The Eugenics Movement: 1900's.

Around 1883, the term "eugenics" came into play. It was the predecessor of the attempt to control breeding of human beings based upon the adherents of the movement to use the science of heredity to identify "Superior" traits by race. This movement spurred on racist beliefs that affected various countries and would, ultimately, lead to horrific research by Nazi scientists.

Thankfully, with increased understanding of the horrors of institutionalized eugenics by Nazi Germany, the Eugenics movement was extinguished.

* Mendel's Theories Rediscovered: 1900's.

"In 1900, 16 years after his death, Gregor Mendel's pea plant research finally made its way into the wider scientific community."

The rediscovery of Mendel's pea plant traits as having recessive and dominant aspects that were predictable in future generations, generated studies by Hugo DeVries, a Dutch botanist and geneticist; by Carl Erich Correns, German botanist and geneticist; and Eric Tschermak von Seysenegg, an Austrian botanist. Using his experiments as their basis, each reported hybridization experiment results similar to his findings.

"In Britain, biologist William Bateson became a leading champion of Mendel's theories and gathered around an enthusiastic group of followers. Known as 'Mendelians', the supporters initially clashed with Darwinians (supporters of Charles Darwin theories.) At the time, evolution was believed to be based on the selection of small, blending variations whereas Mendel's variations clearly did not blend.
It took three decades for Mendelian theory to be sufficiently understood and to find its place within evolutionary theory."

* Garrod: 1902, Mendel's theories associated with a human disease.

Sir Archibald Edward Garrod, a physician who studied medicine at Oxford, set out to research the human disorder Alcaptonuria. Dr Garrod collected extensive family history from his patients. He discussed his findings with William Bateson, the prominent proponent of Mendel's theories.

Garrod published The Incidence of Alcaptonuria: A Study in Chemical Individuality in 1902.

"This was the first published account of recessive inheritance in humans."
"It was also the first time that a genetic disorder had been attributed to 'inborn errors of metabolism', which referred to his belief that certain diseases were the result of errors or missing steps in the body's chemical pathways. These discoveries were some of the first milestones in scientists developing an understanding of the molecular basis of inheritance."

* Avery: 1944, identifies DNA as the 'transforming principle'.

"By the 1940s, scientists' understanding of the principles of inheritance had moved on considerably - genes were known to be the discrete units of heredity, as well as generating the enzymes which controlled metabolic functions. However, it wasn't until 1944 that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was identified as the transforming principle."

Avery's studies through many years brought about his discovery that mixing a harmless form of live pneumococcus with an inert but lethal form transformed the harmless bacteria into a deadly organism.

Avery joined forces with Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty. The trio began to purify 20 gallons of collected bacteria. The remaining substance was deemed to be neither protein nor carbohydrate, but a nucleic acid ultimately identified as DNA

"In 1944, after much deliberation, Avery and his colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, in which they outlined the nature of DNA as the 'transforming principle'. Although this paper was not widely read by geneticists at the time, it did inspire further research, paving the way for one of the biggest discoveries of the 20th century."

* Chargaff: 1950, discovers DNA composition is species specific.

Erwin Chargaff, a scientist, was deeply impacted by Oswald Avery's scientific paper. It changed the course of his scientific focus and led to some of the most significant findings regarding DNA.

"Chargaff was determined to begin work on the chemistry of nucleic acids. His first move was to devise a method of analyzing the nitrogenous components and sugars of DNA from different species."

Fellow scientists, even the elite, were largely ignorant about nucleic acids. Chargaff's first two papers submitted for publication to the Journal of Biological Chemistry met resistance. His pursuit of truth resulted in improved research methods and an ability to rapidly analyze DNA from a wide range of species.

In 1950, Chargaff summarized his "two major findings regarding the chemistry of nucleic acids: first, that in any double-stranded DNA, the number of guanine units is equal to the number of cytosine units and the number of adenine units is equal to the number of thymine units, and second, that the composition of DNA varies between species. These discoveries are now known as Chargaff's Rules."

* Franklin: 1952, Photographs crystallized DNA fibres.

"Rosalind Franklin was born in London in 1920 and conducted a large portion of the research which eventually led to the understanding of the structure of DNA - a major achievement at a time when only men were allowed in some universities' dining rooms.
"After achieving a doctorate in physical chemistry from Cambridge University in 1945, she spent 3 years at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de L'Etat in Paris, learning the X-ray diffraction techniques that would make her name. Then, in 1951, she returned to London to work as a research associate in John Randall's laboratory at King's college.
"Franklin's role was to set up and improve the X-ray crystallography unit at King's college. She worked with the scientist Maurice Wilkins, and a student Raymond Gosling, and was able to produce two sets of high-resolution photographs of DNA fibers. Using the photographs, she calculated the dimensions of the strands and also deduced that the phosphates were on the outside of what was probably a helical structure.
"Franklin's photographs were described as, 'the most beautiful x-ray photographs of any substance ever taken' by J. D. Bernal, and between 1951 and 1953 her research came close to discovering the structure of DNA. Unfortunately, she was ultimately beaten to the Post by Thomas Watson and Francis Crick.
"... PhD student Raymond Gosling then used the samples
(given Maurice Wilkins by Swiss biochemist Rudolf Signer) to produce the first crystals of DNA and with Rosalind Franklin, use them for the next generation of x-ray images.""

* Watson and Crick: 1953, discover the double helix structure of DNA.

James Watson met Francis Crick in 1951 when he visited Cambridge University. Their mutual interests inspired Watson to stay at Cambridge in order to study the structure of DNA at Cavendish Laboratory.

"Using available x-ray data and model building, they were able to solve the puzzle that had baffled scientists for decades. They published the now famous paper in Nature in April 1953 and in 1962 they were awarded the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine along with Maurice Wilkins.
"Despite the fact that her photographs had been critical to Watson and Crick's solution, Rosalind Franklin was not honoured, as only three scientists could share the prize. She died in 1958, after a short battle with cancer."

* Gannow: 1953, the "RNA Tie Club".

In the frenzy among scientists to decipher the genetic code following Watson and Crick's discovery, George Gannow, a theoretical physicist and astronomer created the RNA Tie Club. It was an exclusive group selected for their interest in "how nucleotide bases were transformed into proteins by the body cells." Gannow then "handpicked 20 members, one for each amino acid - and they each wore a tie carrying the symbol of their allocated Amino acid. Ironically, the man who was to discover the genetic code, Marshall Nirenberg was not a member."

* Downs Syndrome: 1959, an additional copy of chromosome 21 linked to Downs Syndrome.

The birth of cytogenetics, the study of chromosomes, occurred when an additional copy of chromosome 21 was linked to Downs Syndrome.

This was especially significant in the study of DNA overall as a result of the introduction in the late 1960s and early 1970s of stains such as Giemsa "which bind to chromosomes in a non-uniform fashion, creating bands of light and dark areas. The invention transformed the discipline, making it possible to identify individual chromosomes, as well as sections within chromosomes, and formed the basis of early clinical genetic diagnosis."

* Nirenberg: 1965, first person to sequence the basis in each codon.

In 1957, Nirenberg decided to focus his research on nucleic acids and protein synthesis while at the National Institute of Health.

Nirenberg and his post doctoral fellow, Heinrich Matthaei, spent several years attempting to show RNA can trigger protein synthesis. Their breakthrough experiment came in 1961 which showed that a "chain of the repeating bases uracil forced a protein chain made of one repeating amino acid, phenylalanine."

Their research on the chromosome coding project was but one such effort. Nobel laureate Severo Ochoa was also working on the coding problem. The competition was intense and inspired Nirenberg's colleagues to put their work on hold to help him in his quest.

"Finally, in 1965, Nirenberg became the first person to sequence the code. In 1968, his efforts were rewarded when he, Robert W Holley and Har Gobind Khorana were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize."

* Sanger: 1977, develops rapid DNA sequencing techniques.

Great strides had been made by the early 1970s by molecular biologists. They lacked the ability, however, to read the precise nucleotide sequence of DNA.

"In 1943, Cambridge graduate Frederick Sanger started working for A. C. Chibnall, identifying the free Amino groups and insulin. Through this work he became the first person to order the amino acids and obtain a protein sequence, for which he later won a Nobel prize. He deduced that if proteins were ordered molecules, then the DNA that makes them must have an order as well.
"In 1962, Sanger... Began working on sequencing RNA, as it was smaller, but these techniques were soon applicable to DNA and eventually became the dideoxy method used in sequencing reactions today.
"For his breakthrough in rapid sequencing techniques, Sanger earned a second Nobel prize for chemistry in 1980, that he shared with Walter Gilbert and Paul Berg."

* Huntington's Disease: 1983, first mapped genetic disease.

A rare neurodegenerative disease. Late onset, 30 to 45 typically. Marked by loss of motor control, psychiatric symptoms, dementia, altered personality, and declining cognitive function. Because the disease is adult onset, many people have passed the mutant Gene to the next generation long before diagnosis.

"In 1983, a genetic marker link to HD was found on chromosome 4 making it the first genetic disease to be mapped using DNA polymorphisms. However, the gene was not finally isolated until 1993"

* Breast and Ovarian Cancer: 1990, 1st Gene associated with increased susceptibility to familial breast and ovarian cancer is identified.

Through extensive research with families with predominant histories of hereditary breast ovarian cancer syndrome, scientists were able to link to a gene on chromosome 17. The first Gene so identified was marked BRCA1. It soon became clear not all breast cancer families were linked to that Gene. Further research identified a second Gene on chromosome 13 now marked BRCA2. "It is important to note that although everyone has two copies of both BRCA1 and BRCA2 (tumor suppressor genes), having one altered copy of either Gene can lead to an accumulation of mutations which can lead to tumor formation."

* THE HUMAN GENOME PROJECT: 1990, a program to map the human genome.

The Human Genome Project began and was funded by the US Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health. It was recommended in 1988, but officially started in 1990. Multiple purposes existed for the initiation of this project, not only the advancement of medicine, but for other purposes such as the detection of mutations that nuclear radiation might cause.

"The project's goals included: mapping the human genome and determining all 3.2 billion letters in it, mapping and sequencing the genomes of other organisms, if it would be useful to the study of biology, developing technology for the purpose of analyzing DNA and studying the social, ethical and legal implications of genome research."

* Haemophilus Influenza: 1995, first bacterium genome sequenced.

This milestone was achieved as a method of demonstrating the power and effectiveness of "shotgun" sequencing. "Haemophilus influenza is a bacterium that can cause meningitis and ear and respiratory infections in children."

After only a year of intense work by J. Craig Venter and his colleagues, their remarkable achievement proved the effectiveness of shotgun sequencing.

* Bermuda Principles: 1996, principles established among leaders of the Human Genome project in Bermuda.

Designed to ensure that 'sequence information led as rapidly as possible to advances in healthcare and research', leaders of the Human Genome project agreed genome sequencing data should be made freely available in the public domain within 24 hours of generation. Further agreed ". . .large scale sequencing centers would inform the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) of any intention to sequence particular regions of the genome. HUGO will then place information on their website and direct visitors to the specific centers for more detailed information regarding the current status of sequencing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ `

Over the next few months, our columns will focus on DNA and how it affects our family research..  Next month, we will continue with the history of DNA timeline.  It will also include a glossary of terms, words, and phrases essential to communicating clearly about DNA.

Next we will explore the Human Genome project in greater depth. Finally, our intention is to illustrate how these incredible advances in DNA permit us to utilize this vast knowledge to identify the sources of our very own inherited genetic makeup.

All this magnificent knowledge at our fingertips through "Armchair Genealogy."

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Cooking with Rod

By Rod Cohenour

Christmas Posole

In Albuquerque where I grew up, the holiday season was magic! Great food, marvelous parties, incredible home decorations featuring traditional luminarias, colorful wreathes, beautiful dried chile ristras, and fabulous music.

This is my favorite time of the year. New Mexico is aptly titled the Land of Enchantment and this time of year is proof positive that love, family, good food, and merriment are cure-alls for any blues or fears that have plagued in the past. Snow on the pines, air scented with the distinct aroma of pinon logs in an adobe oven (classically called the “horno”), the forest green of the pines beautifully contrasted with the rich red of the chile ristra that hangs from the exposed vigas of the classic New Mexican casa. “Bien venido!” (Welcome!) “Mi casa es su casa!” (My home is your home) is the traditional message to family and friends and especially true at this time of year.

Tradition has it that if you eat your Christmas Posole before New Years Eve you will have a blessed and prosperous New Year. For me, I was simply content with just eating this incredible meal. I am sharing this recipe with you and wishing each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Or, perhaps I should say, “Feliz Navidad y Prospero Nuevo Ano!”


  • 2 lbs boneless pork loin or shoulder, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2-4 Tbsp vegetable oil (no olive oil for this recipe)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chile powder
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups chicken broth (or 32 oz carton)
  • 2 cans (29 oz) cooked hominy corn, drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 batch Salsa Roja (recipe below)

Toppings and Sides:

  • Finely chopped cabbage
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Thin red onion slices
  • Avocado slices
  • Lime wedges
  • Fried tortilla strips or tostadas
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar or Mexican Mix cheese (Colby Jack, Monterey and Cheddar blend)
  • 2 dozen flour tortillas, warm
  • Sweet creamery butter

Season pork cubes with cumin and chile powder. Heat vegetable or canola oil over medium-high heat. (NOTE: I do not like to use olive oil for a Mexican soup because it imparts the wrong flavor.) Add seasoned pork and cook until browned on all sides, working in batches if needed to keep the pot from being too crowded. Keep heat on medium to prevent scorching but allow proper carmelization to begin. Watch carefully and turn often. Make sure all surfaces are browned.

Stir in water and chicken broth, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that might be clinging to the bottom of the pot. Add hominy corn and bay leaves.

Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce heat to low and let simmer, uncovered, until pork is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Just before serving, stir in salsa Roja and simmer for 10-15 minutes to heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Once the Posole is ready, set out an array of small dishes with various toppings in the middle of the table. Serve the Posole piping hot in large bowls, and let everyone customize their bowls as they please.

Tradition calls for this to be served with warm flour tortillas and plenty of butter.

Salsa Roja

  • 1 (one) 14 oz. container frozen Bueno red chile concentrate
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (Mexican, if possible)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of 1 lime (or 1 Tbsp lime concentrate)

Set aside frozen Bueno concentrate and permit to begin defrosting. Heat the oil in a small skillet set over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until onion is lightly golden, about 3-5 minutes. Add oregano and cumin, and continue cooking until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the Bueno concentrate and onion mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Process until you have a smooth puree, adding lime juice as needed to create a smooth consistency.

Editor's Note: Encore presentation from December 2015.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Sifoddling Along


By Marilyn Carnell


Recently I read an article about having too many toys being bad for children. It cited a study conducted at the University of Toledo (Ohio) that supported this theory. This was not a problem in my childhood. An excess of toys was hardly possible in the stark years of World War II. So, one could say I did not suffer from excess.

As I recall, I had three toys – a panda bear, a “soldier” doll and a baby doll. I treasured all of them and the panda has now served three generations and lives in my son’s attic. There were books, of course. Nothing like the plethora available today. My family had the odd habit of reading at the table. It was my father’s choice and the rest of us followed along. My sister remembers that as a baby in a highchair, I insisted on having a comic book to “read” as well.

When I was six, I acquired another doll. Mrs. Brown, the janitor’s wife made a flour sack doll for every little girl in first grade (I think there were about 8 of us). I treasured mine and nearly loved her to death (photo). The painting shows my naked doll and the one my friend Jane acquired the next year. Jane’s was pristine. Mom bought it when Jane had a sale of belongings before she and her family moved to Kansas City. The reason Jane’s was so well preserved was that she had many toys as she was an only child and grandchild in her family. Her sensible parents had a solution for that. Half of the toys went “on vacation” in the attic until July when a second Christmas was observed. Jane was very generous to share her toys with me and freeing the toys from exile was a great day.

When I was a little older, I wanted a bicycle. I dreamed of having one like the new blue Schwinn like Jane’s. That was not to be. My parents could afford only a used boy’s bike that had been carelessly repainted. I’m sure I showed my disappointment but came to love that bike. I must have ridden it a million miles.

I also got a volleyball one year. Hours were spent serving it to the garage roof and “playing” the ball that rolled back to me. It is easy to see that I got plenty of outdoor exercise as a child.

Not having a number of toys left a lot of time for other activities. We waded in icy cold Testerman Branch, collecting interesting rocks and attempting to build dams so it would be deep enough for swimming. We also clambered up the tall hill in front of our house and climbed the tallest tree (an old Oak) and surveyed our kingdom. We imagined images from the clouds that drifted by and dreamed of things we hoped to do.

At school, recess was a time of playing “Red Rover” to blow off steam, but a favorite activity was to create “houses” with small pebbles at the foot of a nearby tree. The earth was bare from our constant presence, so we arranged the rocks to outline rooms and used acorn cap “dishes” for tea parties.

Without a number of material toys, I had a wonderful childhood. After thinking about it a while, I realize I was blessed to have the opportunities and freedom a child of the mid-Twentieth Century had. We were fearless and carefree in a way that is not possible in the scary world we live in today.

Merry Christmas.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


Irish Eyes


By Mattie Lennon

Recommended Festive Reading

This Christmas, whatever age you are, you can join famous chef Neven Maguire in the kitchen. Once again the great man has come to the rescue of those of us who don’t want to do anything more adventurous than peeling the spuds. In his latest book Learn to Cook with Neven, he takes us by the hand and leads us through an incredible eighty recipes. Two hundred and thirty-one pages of advice from a man who started cooking aged twelve with his mother in Blacklion. He doesn’t brow-beat the reader. Neither does he keep his hard-won knowledge to himself. The book is littered with such phrases as “ . . . the one that I always use is . . . “ Or in a recipe from his memory,” . . . long before I had heard of mozzerrale.”

In 1992, having studied catering in Fermanagh College, Enniskillen, he won the prestigious Student of the Year Award. Still in his 20s, he was named Eurotoques ‘Young Chef of the Year 1999’, won numerous ‘Chef of the Year Awards’, and represented Ireland in the ‘Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Competition’ in Lyon, France. Later that same year, he was presented with a special Gold Medal Award by Charles, Prince of Wales, in London’s House of Commons for high achievement in his career. He has been winning awards ever since and was most recently inducted into the prestigious Food & Wine Magazine Awards 2015 ‘Hall of Fame’ for his years of commitment and dedication to the Irish food industry. Neven has been responsible for raising awareness around Ireland’s high-quality food producers, both nationally and internationally. He was presented with Ireland’s ‘Producer Champion Award’ at the Blas na hEireann national food awards. And now he shares his secrets between the covers of this beautiful hardback book. It is published by Gill Books.

Neven Maguire's Book

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Hannah Arendt, born on 14th October 1906, in Linden, a district of Hanover, and died on 4th December 1975, was a Holocaust survivor, political philosopher, and author. Recognised as one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century, her contributions influence political theorists to this day.

Hannah Arendt 9781789143799

Her family were Jewish and when she was three, her family moved to Königsberg, the capital of East Prussia, The fact that she was raised in a politically progressive, family paved the way for the rest of her life. After completing her secondary education in Berlin, she studied at the University of Marburg under Martin Heidegger. She obtained her doctorate in philosophy writing on Love and Saint Augustine at the University of Heidelberg in 1929 under the direction of the existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers. Her works are best known for those dealing with the nature of power and evil, as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. Author Rose Hill has fitted much lesser-known details of the great thinker into the 232 pages of her book, Hannah Arendt.

Author Samantha Rose Hill

It is a very informative piece of work. Details at;

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“This blog has been only a side-line to my main project: writing a novel of the main events in the life of Francis O’Neill. This has been a major undertaking for the last number of years, involving travel for research and lots of writing and rewriting.” The words of author Ronan O Driscoll on his labour of love researching and writing his novel Chief O’ Neill.

“I started by wanting to tell the story of the man behind the famous music collections: the adventures and struggles he experienced in a full and fascinating life. Along the way, I have learned many things myself, especially about how difficult and rewarding writing a book can be.”

Francis O’Neill, who was born in Tralibane (also called Trawlebane), near Bantry, County Cork, is still remembered for his canonical 1001 Gems: The Dance Music of Ireland. Much of the music was collected after he settled in Chicago as a policeman, eventually becoming chief of police. He wrote about how he would walk about as a cop, hearing a snippet of a tune from one of the many immigrants in the city and scramble to write it down. As he grew in rank, he wasn’t above giving the occasional Irish musician a job on the force to help them. Has his story ever been told in such a colourful manner?

Chief O’Neill is available from a number of fine book shops in Ireland, as well as online from Somerville Press. It is available in the UK from Waterstones and

Chief O'Neill

In North America, it is available from and

Any one or all three of the above will make a wonderful Christmas present for family and friends.

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“What is new can’t be true.” (Old proverb.)

Do we need new words?

We are now given a list of words that were added to the popular lexicon in 2021. It happens at the close of each departing year. Many readers will remember when Watergate was introduced to the English language worldwide in 1972. We had a few “gates” here in recent years. We had Golfgate last year. The EU lost Big Phil because of that. Come to think of it didn’t we have our own Watergate here when he was a Minister; when the water meter was a secret weapon.

And Swinggate. Former Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey, an alleged responsible adult, was messing on a swing, suffered some sort of injury took a personal injuries case against the Dean Hotel on Harcourt Street which she later withdrew. She later said that the “swing-gate” “destroyed” her and that she became fearful of doing her weekly shop or bringing her children to the playground.

Speaking of swingers, in Bantry Garda station we had Gate Gate. They lost a gate. How do you lose a gate? I wonder what Lady Bracknell would make of that. Of course “Merrion Gate Gate” is still alive and well. Achone, achone , Zapone, Zapone. And recently I heard Trinity Graduate Joe Duffy talking about Trinity Gate Gate. I nearly forgot. Ten years after Watergate we had GUBU here. “Grotesque, Unbelievable bizarre and unprecedented.”

GUBU was a badly needed acronym. We have needed it every week, and sometimes every day, for the past thirty-nine years.

But why am I writing about words that were added to our language. That is not what I intended to do. Before you accuse me of using a misleading title to this piece, let me explain. I sat down here to write about words that, in my lifetime, have become obsolete or almost so. Take the word “asunder”. People don’t pull anything asunder anymore. They dismantle it or pull it apart. Or those who want to live in the past and the present might “sunder” it.

And the word arris. It’s a noun spelled A-r-r-i-s. Nowadays even some people in the construction industry don’t know what it means. (Yes, erudite reader I know that you know.) It is, “ A sharp edge at the meeting of two surfaces at an angle with one another.” That is an arris. Many years ago my father was in the hospital and he wasn’t impressed by the lack of a keen edge on the razor used to shave him. He later commented, “I might as well have been shaved with the arris of a brick.”

Then there are words that are almost gone. How often do you hear the word “fortnight” used recently? You’ll hear “I’m going to the Bahamas for two weeks” or “The son will be out of jail in two weeks.” But “fortnight” is almost gone. The word “twice” (like Exits) appears to be on the way out. In the best-regulated media circles, you will hear “Two times”

The door between our hall and kitchen, when subjected to a not so gentle breeze tends to slam shut. We have young grandchildren and the wind-assisted closing of this door could result in serious damage to junior digits. I went to Woodies to buy a hasp. Since I have an aversion to shopping I took my usual action to accelerate the exercise. I asked a very pleasant member of staff where I would find a hasp. When I described it to him he apologized and informed me that they didn’t stock such an item. A quick perusal of the aisles and I spotted a number of brass hasps. I grabbed one and as I headed for the Checkout I showed it to the young man that I had spoken to earlier. “Oh,” he said “that’s a cabin hook.” Imagine, if you can, me walking into Hennessy’s hardware in Blessington in the middle of the last century and asking for a cabin hook. A CABIN HOOK!

Back to the title “Our is dying by the hour.” You will find that most married or co-habiting people will say things like “ our house, our dog our mortgage” and such like. Yet, it appears that there is a growing minority of partners in such relationships who drop the adjective “our” completely. I know one married couple and with one of the partners everything “my this and my that.” I only heard this person use the word “our” once. The occasion was a reference to “our DVD player.” Don’t ask me why.

It seems the couple was in bed one night and there was noise downstairs. The person to whom I have been referring nudged their partner with the instruction, “Go downstairs. I think we have a burglar.” Only to be told, “Go down yourself. Seemingly there’s nothing belonging to me down there.”

* * * * *

I’m sharing an audio clip with you. It’s my memory of Christmas Morning sixty nine years ago. Christmas Morning nineteen fifty two. Wav.wav


See you next year.

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