Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bonsai Relationships

By Julie Rahm
Bonsai means “plantings in tray”. It is derived from two words. The first is “bon” which translates to a tray or low-sided pot. The second is “sai” which means a planting or plantings. As you realize, bonsai is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in low-sided containers. The purpose of bonsai is primarily aesthetic. The miniature trees are visually pleasing. Also, the grower receives the added benefit of the “pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity”.  By contrast with other growing, bonsai is not intended for the production of food, medicine, yard-size gardens or landscapes. Instead, bonsai focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container.
A bonsai is created beginning with a specimen of source material. This may be a cutting, seedling, or small tree. Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub. The tree must produce true branches that can be cultivated to remain small. Pot confinement is maintained by crown and root pruning. Some plant species are popular as bonsai material because they have small leaves or needles that make them appropriate for the compact visual scope of bonsai.
Bonsai in Japan dates back to 603 A.D. when diplomatic missions were sent to mainland China. Japanese embassy personnel and Japanese Buddhist students returned to Japan with many souvenirs, including the occasional container planting. Bonsai is also evident in ancient Japanese hand painted scrolls. The earliest known scroll to depict dwarfed potted trees in Japan is the Saigyo Monogatari Emaki scroll which was painted in 1195 A.D. In addition, during the 14th century, Chinese Chan Buddhist monks visited Japan to teach at Japan's monasteries. One of the monks' activities was to introduce Japan’s political leaders to the art of miniature landscapes as ideal accomplishments for men of taste and learning!
Fast forward to the present. Today, the availability of specialized bonsai plant stock, soil components, tools, pots, and other accessory items is widespread. Bonsai nurseries in Japan advertise and ship specimen bonsai worldwide. Most countries have local nurseries providing plant stock. Potters around the globe provide material to hobbyists and specialists in many countries. More than 1,200 books on bonsai in at least 26 languages are available in over 90 countries. There are at least 100,000 enthusiasts in some 1,500 worldwide clubs. Now you know!
            So my message this week is to use the art of bonsai as a metaphor for building healthy relationships. Relationships need daily tender care and feeding. In a healthy relationship, the “grower” gets the benefit of “pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity”. My point is that relationships need effort and ingenuity! And, as with bonsai, relationships need patience. Sadly, our societal culture is predicated by the hour. Schools, sporting events and television all run by the almighty hour. However, the essence of a relationship is not managed by the clock. Relationships require patient bonsai-type skills. To learn some bonsai relationship skills, visit my website at Happy cultivating and pruning!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Steamship Ancon

By Julie Rahm

On October 10, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson telegraphically set off the detonation. The explosion demolished the dike that separated the Culebra Cut from Gatun Lake. The explosion was the culmination of 31 years of effort. This project was started by France in 1882. And, it first ended in failure. You guessed it, the Panama Canal.
     France had assembled a huge labor force of about 20,000 men. The French engineers were well paid and the prestige of the project attracted the best from France's engineering schools. But the huge death toll from disease made retention difficult. Engineers either left after short service, or died. In 1885, it became clear to the French that a sea-level canal was impractical and an elevated canal with locks was the best answer. So, in 1887, the lock canal plan was adopted. However, the mounting financial, engineering and mortality problems, coupled with frequent floods and mudslides, put the project in serious trouble. In May 1889, the project became bankrupt, and work was finally suspended. After eight years of French effort, the work was about two-fifths completed, $235 million had been spent and 22,000 lives had been lost.
     Enter the United States and Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt became president in 1901 and believed that a United States controlled canal across Central America was a vital strategic interest to the United States. On February 15, 1898 Roosevelt was able to push through the acquisition of the French Panama Canal effort. Panama was then part of Columbia. Thus, Roosevelt opened negotiations with the Colombians to obtain the necessary rights. In early 1903, a canal treaty was signed by both nations. But, the Colombian Senate failed to ratify the treaty.
So, in a controversial move, Roosevelt implied to Panamanian rebels that if they revolted, the United States Navy would assist their cause for independence. As a result, Panamanian rebels declared independence on November 3, 1903, and the USS Nashville in local waters prevented any interference from Colombia. The victorious Panamanians returned the favor to Roosevelt by allowing the United States control of the Panama Canal Zone on February 23, 1904. As a result, the term Gunboat Diplomacy was reinforced!
The Panama Canal cost the United States around $375 million. At the time, it was the single most expensive construction project in United States history. Remarkably, it was actually completed $23 million below the estimate, in spite of landslides and an increase in the canal's width. More than 75,000 men and women worked on the project. At the height of construction, 40,000 workers worked on the project. According to hospital records, 5,609 workers died from disease and accidents during the American construction era.
The Panama Railway steamship SS Ancon, piloted by Captain John A. Constantine, the Canal's first pilot, made the first official transit of the canal on August 15, 1914. Now you know!
The Panama Canal started with one person’s world-changing big idea. What’s your big idea that could make your neighborhood, town, or county a better place? 
Visit my website at!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sheer Magnificence

By Julie Rahm

     A few months ago, our friends from Ohio received a letter from an attorney. They thought it was the typical law firm advertisement. The letter resembled the ones we receive as a part of group litigations. You know the type; “You could be entitled to a settlement of a million dollars.” Anyway, when our friends opened the letter they learned they were being sued.
     Being sued usually causes turmoil in one’s personal life. This case was no exception. You see, our friends own a hot air balloon. On a particular day in June, the pair were out flying their balloon over the Ohio countryside. The flight was uneventful. The weather was perfect. Visibility was not restricted by clouds and the winds were light. However, as evening arrived, the winds began to diminish. The balloon stopped drifting and started to hang in one spot. Unfortunately for our friends, the balloon stopped over the median of interstate 70.
     The balloon hung right between the east/west lanes of the interstate. To make matters worse, their propane supply started to dwindle. They were unable to produce the hot air required to keep the balloon aloft. The huge colorful balloon started to settle. They stopped about twenty feet above the ground. The balloon hovered above the busy interstate. Onlookers slowed their cars and eventually stopped to watch the spectacle. In a matter of minutes the mother of all traffic jams ensued. Traffic was stopped in both directions for miles! As fate would have it, the Ohio State Police had a barracks less than a mile from the impending landing. They could see the balloon out the dispatcher’s window! The State Troopers actually drew straws and the loser was sent to remedy the situation. Needless to say, the State Police were not impressed with the situation. Luckily, as the State Trooper stepped from his patrol car, the balloon ground crew arrived. The ground crew grabbed a dangling rope and dragged the stalled balloon off the interstate and into an adjacent field. In short order, the balloon was collapsed and stored away. The State Trooper wanted to issue a citation. But, he was at a loss for an offense. Soon the traffic was flowing again and the incident seemed over...until the letter arrived.
     Evidently, the balloon had settled near a pasture containing “prized steers”. When these steers saw the balloon, they became overwhelmed by the balloon’s “sheer magnificence”. Two of the steers broke through their fence and into an adjacent alfalfa field where they over-ate, got the bloat and died! Our friends were being sued for 750-dollars, the cost of two steers.
     The good news is the balloon insurance company paid the claim. More than 750-dollars and the insurance company would have gone to court. Attorneys are savvy.
     So my message this week is to let your “sheer magnificence” shine, even if it is occasionally overwhelming to people and animals. Make the world a brighter place because you’re in it!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Curses and Bricks

By Julie Rahm
          The garage, which stood at 2122 North Clark Street in Chicago, was demolished in 1967. The site is now a landscaped parking lot for a nursing home. When the garage was demolished, the bricks from the north inside wall of the garage were saved and later sold at auction. These bricks were a novelty. According to stories, the bricks would bring financial ruin, illness, bad luck and death to anyone who bought them. Despite the curse, the bricks were purchased and saved by Canadian businessman George Patey. Patey’s original intention was to use them in a restaurant that he represented. But, the restaurant's owner did not like the idea. So, Patey ended up buying the bricks himself, outbidding three or four others. Patey had each of the 414 bricks numbered and shipped back to Canada.
There are different reports about what George Patey did with the bricks after he got them. Time Magazine reported that Patey reassembled the wall and put it on display in a wax museum. The wax museum later went bankrupt. In 1971, Patey opened a nightclub called the Banjo Palace. The famous bricks were installed inside the men's washroom with Plexiglas placed right in front of them to shield them. Patrons could urinate and try to hit the targets painted on the Plexiglas. In an interview Patey said, "I had the most popular club in the city.”  The club eventually closed and the bricks were placed in storage until 1997 when Patey tried to auction them off on a website called Jet Set on the Net. The deal fell through after a hard time with the auction company. The last known substantial offer for the entire wall was made by a Las Vegas casino but Patey refused the $175,000 offer.
In 1999, Patey tried to sell the wall, brick by brick, on his own website. The bricks came with signed certificates by Patey. Patey died on December 26, 2004, having never revealed how much he paid to buy the bricks at auction. The remaining bricks were given as an inheritance to his niece. She sold them to a museum in Las Vegas, which opened February 14, 2012. While the wall is no longer complete because of Patey selling a few dozen bricks from it, the wall still remains original. As you guessed, this is the brick wall against which the seven men, on February 14, 1929 were lined up and killed by Capone-hired killers.
On Valentine’s Day in 1929, a Cadillac sedan stopped in front of the brick garage. Four men emerged and walked inside. Seven members of the Moran gang were ordered up against the wall and gunned down by two machine guns. The seven men were shot with 90 bullets. The only survivor of the massacre was a German Shepherd owned by one of the victims. The dog was spared. Thus, the massacre was born into Valentine’s Day history. Now you know.
So if you’ve massacred your relationship, resurrect it with romance on Valentine’s Day! Then, visit my website at 
Top curve