Earthquake

I live in earthquake country, but I don’t have a lot of earthquake stories. Maybe that’s a good thing. Nothing gory, or heartbreaking. Just a lot of dish rattling, and a few pictures bouncing off the walls. The television always has a number of the worst case scenarios, broken wine bottles at stores, collapsed ceiling tiles, and a few chimneys toppled in the neighborhood. Fortunately it is very rare that lives are lost.

I do have one earthquake story that I would like to tell before it is lost forever. For a time I lived in Point Richmond, which is a small residential area in the low hills directly across the bay from San Francisco. Nearly every home has a wonderful view of the evening sunset across the Bay, and the lights of the City.

Many of the homes were built in the early 1900s when the first population boom encouraged lots to be purchased, and individualized homes built. It continues today, with any open lot that has been left. The effect is that there is a range of architectural styles, and age, throughout the neighborhood. Stately Victorians, next to 1950s, next to Post Modern homes.

On one particular street where I walked, there was an older, one story Victorian, facing the setting sun with no houses on the other side of the street. This was a ridge road that led to a popular vista point. Well, popular to the locals who knew how to get through the maze of streets.

On my way walking to the vista point I noticed an older gentleman sitting in a chair, taking in the afternoon sun. He was still there when I came back, so I stopped to say hello. After a few pleasantries, we began talking about the view that he had everyday, and how special it was.

He related that he was ninety-two years old and had been born in this house, so he had seen quite a few remarkable sunsets. I asked him if there was one that stood out in his memory, and he quickly replied that there was one.

He was about eight years old and it was a day after the big quake. Nothing much happened in the neighborhood, some bookshelves fell over, and some dishes broke. It shook for a long time, but the house just flexed a bit. Across the bay the brick buildings had broke, and some fires had started. That evening he stayed up and watched San Francisco burn. It was April 18, 1906.

As horrible as it was to see, the thing that struck him was what he saw the next morning. He got up early and walked across the street to still see some fires burning, and billowing clouds of smoke. There on the grass all around him were some of the ashes that had traveled all the way across the Bay, riding the prevailing winds.

Something caught his eye, it was the front page of one of the City’s newspapers, laying draped on a rose bush. The thing about it was, that the paper was completely burnt a dark black, but the ink was white! It was like a negative, but still very readable. The fact that it stayed in one piece all the way across the Bay, and then was so readable, draped on the bush, was amazing. He tried to pick it up to show his parents, or perhaps save it in some way, but it crumbled in his hand.

All he had was the story of the wind delivering the morning paper, as readable ash. And he told it for eighty years.

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Once

She had her morning coffee on her balcony, and I walked underneath on my way to school. She had unnaturally black hair, or maybe it was just her pale face. I tried to walk without moving up and down, conscious that the wind was moving my hair over my face.

She was going to work in a few minutes, but took the time to come out on her second floor balcony, to watch the world go by. I had a thirty minute walk to my senior year in high school, so I was like clockwork.

After a month, I noticed that she watched me, not noticed me, she watched me pass. I started to watch back. She had probably just graduated, got her first apartment, her first real job, and she was not used to being alone.

After two months she said “Hello!”. I was stunned, but managed a smooth reply, “Hello!” After that we just nodded knowingly.

Three months, she asked if I liked music, I nodded. She suggested that I stop by sometime to listen. I hadn’t stopped walking so I turned my head backwards and nodded.

A few days later she said that she would be home in the afternoon, if I want to stop by. It was less awkward that she didn’t say, “stop by after school.” At this point I had only vocalized one “Hello!”, and dozens of knowing nods. I wondered what a conversation would be like with a woman, alone, in her own apartment. So I replied, “I’ll see you then.”

Later that day, after finding my way to her front door (a guess), I knocked, instead of ringing the bell. It seemed more manly, but I intentionally didn’t apply any rhythm.

She answered the door, dressed in black, holding a wine glass, wine matching the red of her lipstick. The impact of her blue eyes, dark eye-shadow, black pageboy hair, black blouse, and turquoise stone necklace was startling. I was way out of my comfort zone, with my Madras shirt, brown baggy cords, and Thom McCann sandals. She said come in.

It was a one bedroom apartment, with the bedroom hidden somewhere, but I saw the bathroom, kitchen, living room, and the door to the balcony. There was a small sofa with pillows, and a plush chair. She said have a seat. With my brain working fast enough to create some beads of sweat, I chose the plush chair. Best not to assume anything.

She had a record player on a small table. It wasn’t part of a stereo system, it wasn’t even a stereo. I had one like it for about four years. I got a subscription from Columbia records, and my mother bought me a “Hifi”, short for “high fidelity”. Apparently her salary didn’t allow her to purchase the newly available stereos.

I looked at the small stack of albums, I didn’t see any 45s. We called the albums LPs because they were “long playing”. The one on top looked like it was used a lot. It was Sam the Sham. and the Pharaohs. All of the albums were by Sam the Sham, and the Pharraohs. I wasn’t aware that they had that many albums.

“Do you like Sam the Sham? I really love them!” And the first record went on the record player. “Would you like a glass of wine?” “Ahm, sure!” Man, woman, music and wine. It was almost a script to a movie, except I missed rehearsals, and didn’t know what to say. I did bring my notebooks, with my rants, scribbles, and bad haikus. I was terrified that I would have to share them, considering that I was mostly mute.

The first song was finished, we had said nothing beyond the greeting at the door. So I told her my name, she smiled, and replied with her name. And the second song finished.

I figured a natural break would come when the sixth song was done, and the record was turned over to play the B-side. Then another break would occur when the album was changed. I did the math, it looks like we have about three hours of listening, and about 12 breaks. I could be home by dinner.

Unfortunately she was very practiced with the album flip to the backside. Not enough time to ask a question, or to make a statement. She did ask if it was loud enough, and I nodded.

Someone was in charge of what was happening, and it wasn’t me. My wine was untouched, and hers was half done. I studied the room, and when she was intent on the music, her eyes shut, and I studied her. She had clear skin, with fine lines around her eyes, she didn’t blend the makeup onto her throat, so her face was several shades lighter than her neck. Her lipstick was left on the wineglass, and slightly removed from her upper and lower lips, making it almost two-toned.

There was a brass camel on her bookshelf. The books were few, and looked to be from the Reader’s Digest collection. Kitchen counters clean, and stark. Everything in their space, and hidden behind doors, and in drawers. A small B&W TV with rabbit ears next to a rack of TV trays. It could have been my mother’s house.

Then things got ugly. If her flipping the album was fast, the changing of albums was just slightly slower. The new album was pulled from the cover, the old album was popped off, and for a moment there were two disks being juggled (only touching the labels of each record. The new album was on, with the record arm placed on the first song. Then old album was momentarily placed in the wrong cover.

Frustrated, she shook the record out, and it took flight directly at my wine glass. The glass tipped over on the table, splashing my cords, her couch, and the rug below. Oh yeah, the red lake on the table also soaked my notebooks.

It took less than 15 seconds, but we stared without saying anything for at least 30 more seconds. She took several hops to get paper towels, and a wet dishrag. All the while, she was muttering something. I could only hear part, “at least he could have drunk some of it.”

She blotted and wiped everything, but my cords and my notebooks. I wrapped the notebooks in paper towels, but decided not to blot my pants. I left her standing there with red stained hands, saying that I had better get home to change clothes.

When I got home I opened my notebooks, there were places where the ink ran, and wine left blots, like psychology tests. All in all, the notebooks had more physical character than content character.

The next morning, she was not on her balcony. I never saw her again. For some reason, I remembered 56 years ago, and wrote the following

I once knew the killer of poems,

She lay on pillows of satin red,

Because they didn’t show the stains of words.

I was young and foolish,

I thought that smoke didn’t mean fire,

I thought whispers made mysteries.

I was lost in a desert of comfort,

The ghost that was me, pale and silent,

Looking at notebooks soaked in wine,

Ink swirling in burgundy.

.

I dunno, a little wine could improve it.

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My Parents

I was thinking about my parents recently. I was thinking about the depth of our relationships, and the trials and tribulations of growing up in their household. Make no mistake, it was their household. It wasn’t as if it was declared every morning, but it was implied frequently.

I had a great childhood, a few bits of drama here and there. And my experience was quite different than my brothers, as they were seven and seventeen years older. That makes a difference, but we were different people as well, and buttons that were pushed were different. I can only state what I felt by the relationship, based upon the events of my life.

From my father I think I got intense focus, a love of reading, independence, a love for the outdoors…he introduced me to archery, sailing, camping, many things that remained most of my life. We didn’t talk much about deeper things. He never tried, and when I did, he just nodded, and blinked. I think he was uncomfortable.

My mother was the perfect example of motherly love, always supportive, always quick with a smile, hug, kiss. She was independent as well, and had a variety of interests, good with her hands, loved pets, plants, and the care of the same.

The point is that the core of my being was shaped by these people, like it or not. Yes, certain teachers had an impact, a favorite relative or two, my brothers for example. Also, the books that I read, they had a final shaping.

And later on my marriage had shaping and polish! For me, my family had much more impact on the person that I am. I realize that this is not true for many people. But is it usually true? Or are we mostly raised by ourselves, and perhaps wolves?

I think this might be a question worthy to ponder for most people, because it can have a huge impact on cascading influences. Is there generational impact? A popular thought is that each generation is slightly better than the previous one. I think this is skewed by increased technology. If you believe this principle, then going back dozens of generations would reveal that we had the practice of eating our children, and that would have ended the line.

Some genealogists have talked about cycles, or waves. Some have postulated that we are pretty much fixed to our DNA, and we have been the same, plus or minus, for eons.

I don’t know about the long term effects, but I’m fairly certain that my short term effects are cascading. In other words, what I feel is what my parents felt about their parents. I did not know any of my grandparents as an adult, and only one was alive when I was very young, but the possibility is that a pattern was fairly consistent for at least three generations. What about the next three generations? And the next three generations after that?

There is no proof, I haven’t found a detailed written document that wrote about this concept. I know their names, dates of birth, and places of birth, but I don’t know how they thought. History can be accurate about some facts, less so on meaning and content.

The point of this thread is that I feel something unique when I discover a brand new great grandfather, or pair of great grandparents. It’s the factual unbroken line of DNA, close or far. The possibility that my 30th great grandfather thought pretty the same as I do now. I find that important, particularly if there are stories written about that individual.

So that partly explains my passion about genealogy. The next reason is not as clear, or even reasonable. I got the sense that they have been forgotten. I know this because they have been forgotten! Their children didn’t forget, and maybe even their grandchildren, but eventually their descendants became completely unaware that they have lived. Well, I suppose we all know they must be back there somewhere, but not as individuals. When I look through the various lines, I pause my finger on the names, and I try to pronounce them aloud. After generations of silence, I speak their names. They are once again remembered.

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Great Grandfather

I haven’t written about my great great grandparents for a while. I would like to tell about the common stories told around their dinner table, but no one recorded them, so they ate lost to history. I know that some of them lived in challenging times, in challenging places. But without recorded history it’s just a good guess. So I suppose I will have to settle for those ancestors that actually made the history books, or a combination of history books and Wikipedia.

So let me tell you about my 52nd great grandfather. Kind of an interesting guy, lots written about him from widely different sources, so you can parse together a certain truth. There have even been a few movies! My 52nd great grandmother has also found history kindly, and portrayed by an accomplished actor. She even gets a great quote to remember her by… “Come back with your shield, or on it!”.

Yes, my 52nd great grandfather is none other than Leonidas, King of Sparta.

Well, why not! He had kids, and his kids had kids. Someone gets to be related eventually.

I don’t think we get to know the Queen’s name in the movie, but apparently it was Gorgo, and they had one son, his name was Pleistarchus, not a name that rolls off your tongue. By the way, he grew up to be no slouch himself. He was very active in Greek politics and wars, and found himself on the winning side due to his skills.

Eventually he met a young lady from the island of Thera, the famous one that blew-up in pre-history. Removed from the mainland they were on the edge of civilization for centuries. They eventually embraced the Roman culture, even while Alexander was making his run for history. For the most part they stay rooted on Thera and kept their family records like good Roman citizens.

I’ve alway said that genealogy can really be trusted if you can get into royal records. They were fanatics about accurate family history and employed court scribes to write it all down. The other fanatic group was the Romans. So if you are lucky to find a lowly count or Duke, then ride the information until some barbarian royalty marries into a Roman family, then you have decades of records. In this case a Greek family that embraced the practice of Roman culture.

So Pleistarchus’s son lived on Thera and took a Greek/Roman name, Aulus Plotius Leonides. Kind of a nod to his grandfather.

They apparently stayed on the island for about seven generations, then moved to Rome itself for a couple of generations, finally they moved to the edges of the Roman Empire in France. They became a minor royal family in Brittany for seven of eight generations, and began moving up in power and wealth, though talent and marriages.

The big improvement is when they married into the House of Butgundy around 1000. Everybody wanted to marry into the Burgundian’s, the Mauvoisins, the Bethencourts, the Bracquemont, the Grainvilles, the Meluns, and the Hammerstein.

The Hammersteins are important because it was a family going in the wrong direction, not richer and more powerful, but poorer and not “land owners”. Sometime in the 1400s there was a great movement to trim the royal families. There were too many of them, seeking privileges without the ability to pay taxes. The wiser families married into the richer commoners. Ha! Some of my German peasants married ex-royalty… So I get to claim a micro connection to Leonidas!

Do I trust the information? The Roman and European lines have been checked and triple checked for generations. The poor agerman fathers have had records digitized by Ancestry.com and that is vastly improved from a few years ago when the data was barely on microfilm. I still don’t know where my grandfather died, he left and just disappeared, so nothing is absolutely known, just a pretty good guess for recent history, but better when it got written down.

So, back to Leonidas, what do we know? Well, he appears to be a badass. He led a core group of personally chosen Spartans, he gathered 300 men for the battle. Not necessarily the best fighters, but older and courageous. He made it attractive for other men from other cities to join him at Thermopylae, “the Hot Gates”. At the start of the battle he had maybe 5 or 6 thousand Greeks, fighting against 200 to 300 thousand Persians. The battlefield was narrow so very few men fought at one time. The Greeks created mounds of dead Persians. He delayed the Persian army for maybe a week, giving the main Greek army time to organize. He didn’t come back from the battle, not even on his shield. It is written that the survivors tried to bring his body back, but the Persians wouldn’t allow it, and then mutilated Leonidas. His head was put on a stake, and his body was crucified at the battle site.

In 1955 a statue was erected at Thermopylae with the words: “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ” (“Come and take them”). This was Leonidas’ answer to the Persian demand to drop your weapons. Yep, badass, was my 52nd great grandfather.

Leonidas, King of Sparta

Death: 19 September 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae
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What Do Dead People Know?

First, as an instructor, I would always remind the class, “There are no silly questions, there are just questions.”

I just watched a rented Google movie, “Emily, @ the Edge of Chaos”. It was a remarkable movie, perhaps touching at the edges of the most important parts of the known universe. How’s that for a recommendation? It introduced me to Emily Levine.

And quite appropriately, as this is the source of the title for this rant. I’m sorry to say that if this movie is the first you have known about Emily Levine, then you will be sad to know that within a few short years, she died of cancer. There is a hint of her lack of the fear of death in this movie, and in a TedTalk video, she announced her Stage Four prognosis, which came to the conclusion within a year.

So, the question still is, how much do dead people know? The answer is blunt, and perhaps obvious. How much did they know when they were alive? The secondary qualifier is, what was the measuring technology of his/her life?

Did they live in a small tribal community that was mostly preliterate, primarily oral? In that case, the dead person’s knowledge lasted as long as the collective survivor’s memory. The accuracy of that knowledge is highly subjective.

Did the dead person write things down, or did someone with personal knowledge write things down for them? In that case the knowledge is passed through the decades, as long as the transmission medium survives, or is copied for another cycle. The accuracy is again subjective, but can be more accurate with multiple copies to use as comparison.

What about Emily Levine’s knowledge? We have her books, blogs, and videos. And we have her film. The knowledge is fixed, her death stops any new knowledge that can be fixed to her life. But knowledge that is based upon ideas that she proposed… well! , that might fall in the joint ownership category. The Great Shared Knowledge of the universe. That place is filled with the knowledge of dead people. Unfortunately all of it is dependent upon some sort of successful storage medium. I do not mistrust oral history as a medium, although there is a difference depending upon decades. Older appears to be more accurate than newer. And of course copies can be edited. Video and film can also be modified but it is much more difficult. Talk to any professional editor of film and you will find out that context can still be changed dramatically.

Emily Levine died, she reminded us that we shall also die. How can we live with death? Because life is death, Emily said this. I think she was/is right. I few years ago I had a significant heart attack. I learned a few things. I did not have pain in my right arm. It turns out that women do not generally have a right arm pain either.

I had a golf ball knot in my back, like a pulled muscle. Good to know, I could sit or sleep wrong, or I could be having a heart attack. I could clean the garage, and later feel muscle tension, or I could be hours from major heart failure. I love the dilemma.

It does generate some thought to some sort of existence after death. On a spiritual level I’m pretty good, on a worldly level I ponder how it works out. I’m not famous, nor am I widely published. I have some parts of my existence saved in the digital world, and less recorded on canvas or paper. How much will be seen or read? Will there be knowledge shared? Will someone, at sometime, find anything important in my participation of “shared knowledge”?

I’m not even sure that I will know about it, even if my existence changes in the future. Clearly I’m investing in the possibility that I might contribute, less clearly that it matters. I will say this, I’m very glad that Emily Levine took the time to save bits of herself on a medium that I could access. I an better for it.

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Pharoah’s Dream

According to the biblical story, Pharoah had a dream that no one could interpret for him. His chief cupbearer then remembered that Joseph had interpreted a dream for him when he was in prison two years earlier. So, Joseph was “brought from the dungeon” and shaved and changed his clothes. He then came before Pharoah and told him that his dream meant there would be seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt followed by seven years of famine. Joseph recommended that “a discerning and wise man” be put in charge and that food should be collected in the good years and stored for use during the famine. This seemed like a good idea to Pharaoh and Joseph ended up with the job (Genesis 41).

Okay, so let us look at the actual verses. I’m using the Hebrew translation as it is probably closer to the original.

1 It happened at the end of two full years, that Pharoah dreamed: and behold, he stood by the river. 2 Behold, there came up out of the river seven cattle, sleek and fat, and they fed in the marsh grass. 3 Behold, seven other cattle came up after them out of the river, ugly and thin, and stood by the other cattle on the brink of the river. 4 The ugly and thin cattle ate up the seven sleek and fat cattle. So Paroh awoke. 5 He slept and dreamed a second time: and behold, seven heads of grain came up on one stalk, healthy and good. 6 Behold, seven heads of grain, thin and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them. 7 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy and full ears. Pharoah awoke, and behold, it was a dream.

I want to pay particular attention to the central premise of the verses, and it isn’t about cows of ears of corn. “a dream that no one could interpret for him”. What? Let us be perfectly clear, the government of Pharoah was extremely well organized, with thousands of specialized jobs. All kinds of job, people watching the calendar, teams of people for each god (and they had hundreds of gods}, cupbearers (wine tasters), chefs, secretaries, poet laureates, musicians, I could go on and on, the point being is that Pharoah had well paid “dream interpreters” whose job it was to tell Pharoah the meaning of the dreams that he had.

Now, I do believe that sometimes God creeps in and gives a dream that is more of a prophecy, and maybe it doesn’t come from Pharoah’s subconscious. Given that this can be true, would God go through all that trouble to make it a total mystery that no one can interpret?

Let’s look at the two separate dreams using common logic. Both use a common number 7. Seven cows, seven ears of corn, both are food items. In fact, the lean cows eat the fat cows, and the lean ears of corn eat the fat corn. I’m not sure that follows logic, but you can get the idea that we are left with hungry cows, and hungry corn. Even if they had just eaten their friends.

So, what does the seven mean. The common choices are seven days, seven weeks, seven months, or seven years. Growing cycles for planted food is usually marked in years to get the full seasonal impact. Even cattle are measured in years in order to accommodate the birth cycles.

So logic tells us there will be seven good years for food, and then seven bad years of famine. Joseph tells Pharoah to prepare for the coming famine by forming a storage facility, and most importantly to convince the people to put work twice as hard, once for the normal good times, then once again the store for the bad times.

That really wasn’t that hard. If God gave the Pharoah that dream, he made it very easy to work it out. If Pharoah made up that dream it was that hard either. Using logic it is obvious that the most intense dream a Pharoah could have is one that would negatively impact his people. Realistically, the Pharoah would never suffer a famine.

So the real question is why did the “dream interpreters” say they couldn’t figure it out. Indeed, why did Pharoah say to himself, “I can’t understand this. Let’s listen to the cupbearer (who will probably get poisoned soon), and let him bring that slave up from the dungeon, in order to see what he says.

Someone has to take the blame for the plan. Certainly if it doesn’t work, but more importantly if it does work. Convincing people in the midst of prosperity to work twice as hard will not make anyone popular. The Pharoah wanted no part of this, he punted. And the Dream Interpreters also saw the dilemma, so they agreed, get the slave from the dungeon to enforce the plan. And until the famine hit, the people probably griped a great deal.

This is part plan of an overall plan to take all of the miracles out of the Bible. I know this is popular for some people. This was never in the “miracle bag”, but it has been glossed over without looking at why everyone feigned ignorance, when the answer was obvious. To me, this is evidence that the Bible relates events that were true!

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Three Times

I’m a believer in three. Two times, well that’s not quite the same as three. It you are driving down the road and you see a parked yellow Volkswagen with a flat tire, you might notice it. If another mile goes by and you see another Volkswagen with a flat tire, you may grip the wheel a little tighter, but you still drive on.

If another mile goes by, and another Volkswagen is stopped with a flat tire, I will do more than just notice. I will stop my car and check to see if my tires are okay. I’m a believer in threes.

So today, my pastor called me to see if I could find the time to come to the church and pray for an hour or so, in preparation for the coming Easter. I had already said that I thought it was a good idea. So I told him I could do a Mondays from 9-10. He said that would be great, and he said he would send me a guide.

My first thought is that i’m pretty sure I know where the church is… I’ve been going there for more than thirty years.

Ten minutes later im checking Facebook and see a message from I friend that tells me about their upcoming birthday on Sunday, and that they are now old enough not to care about anybody’s ideas or bucket list suggestions. My first thought was to be helpful as I can.

My suggestion was to not have birthdays anymore because while it is nice to have one day where people are nice to you, and there might be presents, and maybe a celebratory dinner. Look at the cost! You are older, and you will just keep getting older. I thought I was addressing the problem logically.

The finally there is the Jeep, the third thing of my trilogy. My daughter had borrowed my Jeep for about a month while she was in the area. I wasn’t using it and she is very familiar with the weight and size of the vehicle. Being the person she is, she returned it cleaned up, oil changed and filled with gas. But she couldn’t fix one of the problems she noticed. According to her the fabric top had shrunk and now the top was letting the wind whistle through the cabin and soon the rain would follow.

I went outside to verify, and I could immediately see what she meant. Either the top had shrunk, or the Jeep had gotten fat, and a little muffin top was showing. I had to make a choice. Shrunk or Fat?

I’ve had the vehicle for more than ten years, what would cause it to do either thing in the last month?

My solution was obvious, I bought a brand new fabric top. If it fit perfectly then the Jeep didn’t get fat, the roof shrunk. If it didn’t fit, then the Jeep somehow expanded in the last month when I wasn’t driving it.

I brought the fabric top and tried to replace the old one. It didn’t fit. I thought about returning it and getting one size larger. I got it through Amazon, so I could return it like the pants I mistakenly purchased.

The problem was that I didn’t use the handout that came with the replacement top. So I read that, and watched a few YouTube tutorials. In the afternoon I backed up to the point of removing 32 screws for the header. It took three hours and I actually had the roof on all the way to the back. Unfortunately there were several inches right next to the windschield that would let wind and rain come flooding in. Apparently the Jeep was fat.

I slept on it. There was someone wrong with my logic. In the morning I again went backwards removing 32 screws, laying the roof upside down on the hood, tightening the screws and folding the fabric the header. This time, three hours later, the rooftop was tightly stretched, and it fit perfectly. The Jeep was not fat. It’s a good thing because tomorrow it is expected to rain.

It took the third instance to point out the fallacy of my logic. Perhaps birthdays don’t create age, it just marks the time.

Perhaps there won’t be someone in a raccoon cap and buckskins that will guide me to the church.

A warning… the power of three is for all of you!

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A little self promotion

I’ve tried organizing some of my work. I haven’t removed anything that is already here, but most of the latest stuff needed a home, so I created a new blog, with a new address.

Www.Divinesarah.art.blog

If you are interested in seeing the artwork I’ve done for the “Sarah” musical project then go to this new blog… I don’t know how to make it active, so copy/paste or type.

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A Little Brain Surgery

I have a daughter that will soon undergo a little brain surgery. What am I saying?!? How little can brain surgery be???

I mean, she was walking by a local health care facility, so she walked in to inquire about a possible elective brain surgery. After all, she had a few weeks open in her calendar.

Obviously that didn’t happen, and the complex formula of “cost analysis” is not the point here. She, and the doctors, agree that this “little brain surgery” is important.

So two things come to mind right away. One, we live in remarkable times. Developments in medicine are remarkable. Things unheard of just a few years ago are now commonplace with great success. But that reality is slow in our collective minds. A “little brain surgery” is more accurate than we know.

Two. Still, for those of us that fear root canals, this is a big deal.

It does take faith, confidence, and tons of bravery. I remember as a child watching TVs Ben Casey, neuro-surgeon. I remember the end of the introduction, when the older doctor draws the chalk symbol of infinity. It was so graphic and mysterious.

We challenge the small definition of infinity when we are brave. There is a longer view, not only for the immediate success, but the longer success of adding knowledge for future success.

Sure, I worry. Sure, I cover in prayer. But I applaud in the selfless commitment to the future. I love you Nikki.

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The Brown Van

The are a few family legends, most of them about our family characters. Some of them are about our family characters that are not alive and never had been.

I’m speaking of our brown Chevy van. I can’t remember the year, but it had that 350hp engine that ran forever. It was an automatic, but somehow the lug that put it in reverse had sheared off, so technically it was Park, Neutral and Drive only.

I drove it to work daily, the kids called it the “kidnap van” because it had no windows in back. On one rainy Halloween night, I had all the kids in the back, driving very slow in the street with the sliding door wide open. There were no seats in the back, just some side benches. The kids just jumped out at every stop to beg for candy, and then jumped back in the van. They still talk about that Halloween.

It was brown, a very soft brown, a very “oxidized” soft brown, kind of mottled in parts. I once drove to a vendor friend of mine, and we spoke for a few minutes in the parking lot while he leaned on the van. The next day he called me and asked why I had poisoned him. He developed a very bad rash where his skin had contact with the van.

So now I had two issues, I never drove into a spot that required me to use reverse to get out, and I tried not to park where someone would touch the paint.

Actually, I did keep a large screwdriver in the glove compartment. When I absolutely needed reverse, I would put it in neutral, set the emergency brake, them pop the hood. With the hood up I could use the screwdriver to pry the transmission into reverse. It would take a minute to overpower the emergency brake so I had time to shut the hood and get into the drivers seat. Most times… eventually it was moving while I was swinging my but into the seat. Fortunately I still used the reverse to get out of the position, the van was too heavy to push. My best trick was to use gravity to back myself out of danger.

It had character, that brown van. It ran forever, but the rest of the vehicle just fell apart. I gave it to my son and he tried to clean it up, but too much was wrong, so for safety sake we got rid of it. It’s engine is probably still running.

It joins the list of other vehicle characters, like the Jeep Wagoneer that never backfired unless we were in a underpass. This was where the sound was magnified. There were dozens of Vietnam veterans that had hit the sidewalk with PTSD. I waved an apology but it was hard for them to see me from the ground.

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My Friend

I have a friend that I have known for 67 years. We been close, and we have drifted. In some of the most important parts of our lives we never spoke. We had families that never met, yet now we still meet periodically and have coffee.

We lived next door to each other from 1st grade through 10th grade. Volatile years, filled with close companionship and banishment. We were radically different, Jack was athletic, I was not. I had official Army gear from my brother, Jack did not. We were both interested in blowing things up.

We had heard a rumor that wooden kitchen matches could be a source of pyrotechnics. Sitting on my garage floor, we made a pile of matchheads as we clipped off the striking heads of two full boxes. The rumor suggested that we fill the space between two bottle caps.

We went scrounging the local mom&pop stores. There were three of them with bottle openers nailed to the outside walls. There were folks that even then collected various beer and soda bottle caps. In a short time we had collected a bag full. Screw caps did not yet exist, they were all the crimped kind, with a thin cork disk lightly glued to the inside to help seal. Out process was to remove the cork.

Taking two bottle caps we carefully scooped into the mountain of matchheads, lightly twisting until the space was completely filled. The rumor did not specify how the caps were secured together. We had tape, lots of types of tape.

We had Scotch tape, we had masking tape, we had electrical tape, and we had plumber’s tape. We didn’t know which was best so we made a half-dozen of each type.

We loaded our pockets with our taped experiments, not considering that any one of them could explode and set fire to our pants. Safety was rarely considered.

We got to the junior high school playground, a vast area of asphalt covering almost a square block. The rumor had it that all you needed to do was throw the bottle caps. When they landed the caps would bend and compress the matchheads. The matchheads would rub one another and combust. The entire collection of matchheads would light in an instant. What happened next was not known, but we would find out.

It turns out that the tape and type of tape was important. Too much tape would cushion the blow and the matchheads would not light. Too little tape would cause the caps to separate and scatter unlit matchheads on the asphalt.

The perfect tape wrap caused a fiery explosion! The paper based masking tape blew apart, and there was a fiery, smoky cloud filled with flaming matchheads, scattering in a circle about ten feet wide. Marvelous!

The cloth or plastic tape did not separate, but the gasses inside the bottle caps had to escape, so the caps went spinning away with a shriek, and lots of smoke.

It was a great success, with the two of us throwing a half dozen at the same time. It looked, and sounded like a WWII battlefield, with smoke, shrapnel, and flames.

That Friday we made dozens of the little bombs, in order to chuck them at the opposing crowds at our weekly football games. I think we threw two, them ran away in terror.

On July 4th we had fireworks, but for us it was little black snakes, and sparklers. The grownups had wisely banned bottle-rockets. Sparklers were approved, we could light them, wave them, stick them in the grass, and toss them lightly in the air. They lasted about a minute.

Back in the garage we hit them with hammers, and broke them off of their metal wires. Soon we had a pile of sparkler chunks, and we ground that into a fine dust. We knew that bottle caps would not set it on fire. We suspected that it would burn a lot faster as ground sparkler dust. We would find a small container and jam a sparkler in as a fuse.

We found several empty CO2 green containers. We drilled out the bottoms and filled the containers with dust and a regular sparkler jammed in opening. We could light the sparkler, stick it in the ground, and wait for the explosion. We never thought about the shrapnel.

The sparkler lit the dust, the dust burned super quick and sent the CO2 cartridge high in the air with a trail of sparkler smoke. It may have gone 500 to 600 feet in the air. It landed on the neighbors roof across the street. We tested several more, until it landed in our own yard.

We thought that if we could place it in a tube, like a bazooka, then we could aim it. And if we could fill a larger CO2 cylinder we could perhaps aim it to the junior high school asphalt yard, a few blocks away. Jack offered to be the bazooka man.

Before we fired the bigger container we thought to test it one more time. We propped it up in a garbage can but it leaned over, and it hard to light the sparkler fuse. So we nailed the tube to a 2×4 placed it acrossed the can. The tube pointed straight up. We lit the fused a stepped a few feet back, feeling that the metal garbage can provided some shrapnel protection. At the last second we additional ducked behind the corner of the backyard shed.

Seconds later there was a huge explosion and lots of smoke. When the smoke cleared we checked out the garbage can. It looked like a giant colander, peppered with hundreds of tiny holes, with larger ones here and there. We looked at the fence right next to our hiding spot an found a twistedbazook piece of metal with sharp spikes firmly embedded in the fence.

Jack was planning o hold that tube next to his head as he aimed the “bazooka”.

Somehow we survived, later I went hitchhiking around the country, Jack went to college. We both went into the Army. Jack was an MP and I was a technician. Later, I became a graphic designer, and Jack joined the Oakland police force. We both survived.

Now years later, we drink coffee and talk about our dangerous times. Not about our careers, not about our “Wartime” experience. We talk about making homemade gunpowder and sparkler dust rockets.

We also talk about watching our volcano with binoculars, waiting with several buckets of water to put out the fires. It turns out that Mt. Tamalpais is not a volcano.

When Jack retired he took up a hobby of flying ultralights. Not satisfied he bought plans to build his own airplane. It took almost two years. On the day of the first test flight, he took it on to the runway and went to the field gas pump to fill the tank, and then take off. Something happened, a spark occurred. The flames engulfed the plane and everything was consumed, but Jack was safe.

To compensate, Jack brought a Shelby Cobra sports car and refurbished it. It was beautiful. So beautiful, that he bought another in kit form and built from the ground up another Shelby. Now he was has two. Neither one has burned to the ground

Happy birthday, my friend.

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Lost…

I’ve lost a very dear friend and member of my family. I first met Joanne Townsend sometime in late 1962. I’m not sure how long it took for my brother to introduce her to the family.

He had met her on 23rd street, in Richmond, nearly in front of Richmond Union High School. Those were the days when young adults “cruised the main”, in order to see, and be seen, even during the late afternoon.

Joanne was with a girl-friend in her pristine black Ford Fairlane, called “a two door hardtop convertible”, not the one that stored the hard-top in the trunk, but something similar. It was a busy time on 23rd street, lots of stopping and going.

My brother Eddie (I called him Cork), was also on 23rd Street, but for different reasons. He was helping a friend drive a racing motorcycle from somewhere in the South Bay, all the way to San Pablo. He was nearly home, only a few blocks away. It was only a remarkable trip because the motorcycle had no brakes. It was a racing machine. If you wanted to slow down, you just down-shifted. Why have the extra weight of brakes?

So naturally, there was an accident, but Cork didn’t crash into a delivery truck, or a beat-up clunker driven by an underage ditty-bopper. He was behind a beautiful blonde in a black Ford Fairlane. And she suddenly stopped.

Joanne would say later that she briefly saw him in the mirror before impact, and then he disappeared. She thought that perhaps he slid under the car, but then after a second she heard a crunch on the roof, then silence. After some moments passed she saw a person roll off the roof, onto the right fender, then land in the street. Certain that he was dead, she did not immediately open the door. Her friend was crying!

Finally Joanne rolled down her window, and he asked if everyone was all right. They nodded, and they asked if he was all right. He didn’t know it at the time but his wrist was fractured. He was still in the Army, so he would have some explaining to do when he came back from leave, Then he asked for her number, told her he would pay next week, and ran off, leaving her in shock in the middle of the street. I think she would have called him, “Gink!”

He had to make right the dent in her rear bumper. He left so quickly because didn’t want the police or insurance to be involved. I suspect it was issues with the motorcycle’s registration, or the lack of it. It was only for racing, not riding on the street. The Ford was so badly damaged, the bumper and trunk had a big “V” dent, as if hit by a ship.

So that’s how they met, and within weeks of contacting her for the repairs, they were dating. It took Joanne’s father several years to trust Cork entirely. He was a crusty character in any case.

It wasn’t long before they were married, and Cork still had a few months left in the Army. Joanne and I bonded quite a bit, while she waited for Cork to become a civilian. Later, I babysat their baby boy Robert John (Bob) in their rented house on Burbeck Street. Strange house, everything painted the same grey color.

Later on, when Bob was in school, my mom and Joanne started a business, a second hand store on 23rd Street. I went down to help out. Most of the time Joanne and I would play cards, games, and just laugh a lot. Eventually, I graduated from high school and started my independent life. Joanne was always there to support me when I circled back “home”. My parents had moved to Tacoma, WA, but Cork and Joanne maintained a local residence when I had none, and all the while that I was in the military.

We even shared the duplex for a time when I got out.

It’s true that we didn’t see each other as often as I would have liked. My life spun wildly for some time. But we did not drift apart. As I settled with my family, we always had Uncle Cork and Aunt Joanne in our lives, and our children become close to both of them.

Joanne had so many gifts, as a great wife, homemaker, mother. We will share stories about her for years. But there is one thing I would like to share now. She was known far and wide, as the “Knowledge”. In London, it is said that you can’t be a taxi-cab driver without the “Knowledge”. In the Bay Area, you can’t make money finding treasures in garage sales or thrift stores without the “Knowledge”.

Venders and garage sale pros were in awe of Joanne’s abilities. Some would even give up if Joanne had beat them to a sale. They knew there would be nothing of value after she had gone through the items. Second hand store employees all knew her by name, and asked her opinion on suspicious items: “Was this a fake or knock-off?”. If it wasn’t a fake, then she would have already had it in her cart, ha!

Joanne would often bring the employees small jewelry gifts, or donuts, and they would save items for her that they thought she would like.

For the last five year’s, Parkinson’s has taken a deep toll on Joanne’s health, despite her courageous patience and perseverance, and it has brought out Cork’s ability to be a caretaker. An entire book can be written on the inventions that he came up with in order to make her life better. He never rested, or waivered

As Cork said, “… she grew weaker, and I grew stronger.”
That was her gift, and she shared it with everyone. I loved her so much as did our entire family.

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Refrigerator Story Update

Well, it’s Christmas Eve’s eve, and we have a refrigerator. And it came it the most unexpected way. Sherry got a call from an unknown number, and wisely ignored it. We were not expecting a call.

The second time they called, she did answer, and our refrigerator spoke, and said it wanted to come home. Actually it was the delivery company. Weirdly, it came out of the blue. We had been trained that they call the day before to see if we will be home, then they tell us the three hour window when we should be there. There is a process. It takes two weeks to just get in line.

But this was different, the voice asked if we were home to get the refrigerator, Sherry said “yes, when can we expect you?” The voice said they were thirty minutes away. Less than an hour to get all that food out of the old refrigerator and into boxes and cold bins. Sheesh!

Frantically we dumped years of frozen food, and possibly years of normally refrigerated food. The mounds grew higher, the kitchen counter space disappeared, we went to the pool table, we went to any available horizontal space. As the last bag of four year old frozen peas was removed, I heard a truck stop in front of the house.

Just two guys with belts came into the kitchen. Four minutes later the old refrigerator was gone. They carried it out!

Ten minutes later the new refrigerator was settled into the little alcove and humming very quietly. The long ordeal was over.

In the process there was a lot of conversation. This team was the elite “fixer” team, sent out to resolve problems. No one ever even suggested there was a fix-it team. They were employees of the big box store, something the last person told me was impossible. They were polite, very professional, and we thanked them.

We have had the refrigerator for three or four days, and the only problem is that some vagrants have moved in and made it difficult to open the door. As soon as the door is opened, they freeze, and look at me with some distain. I wish they would move on.

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The Refrigerator Story

It was on a whim. Buying a refrigerator on a whim is never a good thing.

We went to a “big box” store to buy tile for our bathroom. We entered and found the signage helpful. From several aisles away we could see that aisle 7 was the place to go to find tile. We went, we saw, we decided. But we could find anyone to help us. We did find someone in an apron, but he was from gardening and didn’t have any knowledge of tile. He called for help. Help never came.

Finally, in a fit of independence, I went for a cart. It would be self service. If I can’t reach it, I could steady my smallish wife, standing in the shopping cart, while she nudges it to the edge of the shelf. Tile and bullnose edging is conquered and in the cart.

No problem finding checkers, they are everywhere!

Our contractor says we didn’t buy enough tile. In a panic, a quick search of the internet for the other “big box” stores nearby. All post that they can order it, but that there is none at hand. I think that perhaps someone has an open box, selling the tile we need one at a time. The internet is silent on this.

We determine to visit the store again, and we find an open box and purchase five individual tiles. Success… until we get to the checkout. The clerk insists that the bill is well over $200 dollars. She believes that each tile has the same inventory number as a box of twenty tiles. It takes a longtime to show the error of her calculation. Maybe the store isn’t even self-serve.

We need to search someplace else for vanities. We try a competing “big box” store. I know where one is, and we drive in intense traffic to get there. I was wrong, it is across town, and probably another 40 minutes of traffic. We end up at the nightmare of the same “big box” store. Drawn like moths to a flame. We calm ourselves, and resolve that we will just look, decide on what we like, then buy somewhere else.

The same helpful signs direct us to bathroom vanities. Then it is only a few more aisles, and we are looking at kitchen cabinets. I don’t know why, we are fine in the kitchen.

Another aisle and we are surrounded by appliances, in particular, refrigerators. Our refrigerator works but several of the drawers have issues, we could see what a replacement might offer, then buy somewhere else. We have always bought our appliances from another local appliance store.

We found a reasonable refrigerator for $1500. There was an appliance salesperson right there. He was charming, he shared his personal story. He was a veteran. For all these reasons and more, we bought the refrigerator. That was Nov. 12th. It is now Dec. 11th, and we still have not seen our refrigerator.

According the the paperwork we were given, the refrigerator was to be shipped to our home on Nov. 24th. Twelve days seemed like a long time, very close to Thanksgiving, and slightly inconvenient, but it is what it is. According to the policy, they will call on the day to arrange to deliver the new, and pickup the old. It will be nice to have a brand new refrigerator for the Thanksgiving leftovers.

Nov. 24th comes and goes, no refrigerator. We call the phone number for troubleshooting. The person contacts the delivery people, they say that they called, but no one answers. They did send us e-mail a few days before they were supposed to come, but no email that they couldn’t find us. Then the truck driver says that they came to the door, and no one answered. Okay, now that was a lie. We were home waiting all day. We were told by email that they were coming.

I explained this to the person, and I might have used an unfriendly tone. I did not swear, but I did take umbrage to the statement that I wasn’t home. I think I told them that I had ordered a $3.50 vacuum cleaner belt from Amazon, they delivered two days later and took a photo proving that they were there. The person on the phone said they had a photo, but it was dark and they couldn’t tell if it was a house or just a bunch of trees. They didn’t share the photo with me.

I suggested that perhaps they should refund my purchase price. They said they can’t do that, I would have to come into the store where there was a register. I said that they must certainly have a way to handle this, and asked for a supervisor. She said she was the supervisor. I asked for the supervisor’s supervisor. She said it doesn’t matter, policy is policy and I would have to come in to a store to get my refund. I said if the vice-president of your “big box” store needed a refund I bet he wouldn’t have to come in, she assured me that he would. I threatened to cancel my credit purchase if they couldn’t delivery the refrigerator by Saturday. She asked if I would like a Saturday delivery? Yes, I would like the refrigerator that I bought. She then hung up.

Apparently she wrote a long electronic note that used some unfortunate language, not necessarily towards me, but towards the whole mix-up. I know this because I had to call again when the Saturday delivery failed to show up, II and I had to call the hotline once more.

The next agent I talked to was Justin. Justin was amazed about what the notes related. It took a few minutes to read them all. Justin mentioned that there was a $430 refund coming my way, and that he could arrange to have the refrigerator delivered on Dec. 10th. I thanked him for his diligence, and asked to speak to his supervisor. I was passed to Jason and I told him how wonderful Justin was, and how he tried to resolve my problems.

I was surprised about the $430 refund so I asked if that was a discount for Black Friday. Jason told me that Justin had set that up because I was inconvenienced. That was another surprise, Justin took no credit for that. Suddenly I was rooting for the “big box” store to succeed. All I had to do was to wait for Friday, Dec. 10.

On late Thursday I had not heard anything about specific times. I had another e-mail affirming the Dec. 10th delivery but not the time. I called the hotline once more. An agent took my call, read the notes, then called the warehouse. She said the refrigerator was lost, not only that, but in her experience, a refrigerator lost for this long was most likely scratched or dented by the time it was found. So she offered a total refund, and I need not come in to the store.

An earring can slip into a crack, or drop into a random box. A hair dryer can get reshelved in a strange place. But a six foot tall, three foot wide refrigerator can’t sprout legs and run away. I wanted my refrigerator.

I found out the I didn’t use my credit card, I had used my debt card. They took my money immediately, but I didn’t get my refrigerator. They had kidnapped it, they. We’re holding it hostage somewhere. At two different times it was on the truck, then it went back to the warehouse, shoved into some dark corner. A warehouse supervisor physically walked in a “dock search” looking for my wandering refrigerator. She was supposed to call me when she found it. She never called.

Another agent by the name of “Princess”, gave me another $150 refund. It will come to me by mail, 4 weeks from now. I still haven’t seen the first refund.

Princess tells me that the “notes” have been edited, or modified, but it still reads like a novel. I just want my refrigerator.

I have a vision of a 25 cubic ft. appliance, hitch-hiking east on Interstate 80, looking for America. I hope it turns around and finds my kitchen by Christmas.

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Sarah Bernhardt

A few years ago I decided that I didn’t know enough about color. I knew the color wheel. I knew the different levels of complimentary, colors and I even had a good idea of color frequencies. Basically I knew the graphic design elements of color, the Pantone system for printers. I hadn’t developed a painterly palette.

So I thought, what better way to learn than to colorize some old black and white photos, not in a Ted Turner movie fashion, but in a more artistic impression. I started with my own archive of black and whites. The trouble was that the people were generally way too small, and by the time I enlarged the image I was getting too low of a resolution.

So I began to look to the internet for high quality black and whites. I found the great collections of early movie stars. For about a year, on and off, I played around with some classic “stars”. I learned a lot, most of them were familiar, some were very familiar. A few I only knew by name. One of them was Sarah Bernhardt. I really did know the name, but that was it. The image that I choose to colorize was this one…

The odd thing was that it reminded me of one of my favorite portraits that had just worked on as a tribute to Edouard Manet of Berthe Morisot…

Magnet’s Berthe Morisot

Okay, this was odd. The Manet was painted in 1872. Certainly Sarah wasn’t from 1872? Or was she? Then I realized I didn’t know much about her, apart from her name. Was she French, and not English? Was she from Paris, and not NYC?

I must admit I was not particularly interested in the image, or the person behind the image. I finished it and went on to colorize Audrey Hepburn, and I promptly forgot about my questions on Sarah.

A few years later, a good friend sent me a wonderful email, as is her habit. And she included her signature “last sentence” in the paragraph, about something entirely different, knowing that it would interest me. June wrote, “After nearly fifty years, I’m finally considering to finish that play I wrote on Sarah Bernhardt.” WTF?

I hadn’t the slightest idea that she had started to write a play on Sarah. Naturally I knew Sarah, I had made an image of her with the Hollywood crowd. I looked at my source. Sarah Bernhardt had a star on the Boulevard of Stars, she made movies, she has the earliest birthdate of anyone on the Boulevard. She was born in 1844 and died in 1923. What the hell? 1844? And she was French! And mostly a stage actress, although she made some of the first movies. And she sang, she sang remarkably, she was the “Golden Voice”.

Okay, time to learn some more about Sarah.

The best thing occurred, I got a copy of the original script written years ago, by June. She had made this after years of researching Sarah. She was going to update it with current information, but it was a wonderful summary of what was generally known.

At the end of Act I I knew hundreds of things, at the end of Act II, I was completely sold out on Sarah, and yearned to know more. June had once again deployed the “famous last line in the paragraph.”

So, for the last few months I have made several dozen images from sketches of artists, faded photos on cabinet cards, and a few great photographs from excellent photographers. It is safe to say that there are at least a dozen different looks of Sarah, as she had her image captured at least once a month for about sixty years. Yes, she did age, but it wasn’t just age, and it wasn’t the costumes or make-up. She just projected different images!

I recall reading about her performance in “Joan of Arc”, when she was 65. She had a line in the script where she had to state to her interrogators her characters age. The line she said was, “I’m nineteen!” At 65 she was was playing a 19 year old! Successfully!

It was not lost on the audience, because they consistently broke out in applause after she said her line.

I am by no means an expert on her life. There is so much that can’t be known. In some cases there is a void… in most cases there are multiple conflicting stories. My favorite is that she is actually French Canadian, and she moved to Iowa as a child, then to Paris, to enter the theatre. What was the source of this? As near as I can tell it is based on three things. 1) America is the greatest, so she must be American. 2) She had nine different tours of America in her lifetime. 3) And someone wrote once that she spoke French with an American accent. Hahaha!

It’s safe to say that she was French, and always performed in French wherever she traveled.

The following images are some of the favorites that I’ve done…

From a sketch by Mucha

I am so excited for the play to be finished.

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The Beginnings of Cancel Culture

According to one Wikipedia article, “the Concord Spirit Poles were a controversial public art project installed in the Bay Area city of Concord, California in 1989, at the direction of artist Gary Rieveschl, at a cost of approximately $100,000. They stretched along the median near downtown on Concord Ave. Rieveschl has said that the poles signify “our increasing interdependence in an electronic age of digitized information.” The 91 pointed aluminum rods ranged from 8 to 50 feet in height and weighed as much as 100 pounds each, prompting residents of the suburban bedroom community to object to their harsh appearance. The city used the poles to hang banners and flags in an unsuccessful attempt to soften the sculpture’s look. The Spirit Poles ultimately became unstable and cracked, with one toppling during a windstorm. The Concord City Council voted in 1999 to remove the Spirit Poles.

At least that is part of the story.

Ordinances had been adopted that required 1 to 2 percent of new building projects to have a budget for public art. Building office complexes had art, traffic circles had art, even paving streets had artistic manhole covers. concords medians had Spirit Poles.

This wasn’t a direct gift to artists, there was a selection process, there was a proposal, there were conceptual drawings, there was a presentation, and there was a budget. The committee apparently had no difficulty with the selection, no one remembers the other presentations, and soon enough the installation took place. There was something called “the Heritage Park Project” that was budgeted for $400,000, and the Spirit Poles were just a part of that. Perhaps that’s why it had an easy pass through committee. Installation for the poles went forward in 1989. That’s when opinions came pouring in.

In either case, for the general public they missed the artist’s intention, and called for their removal. It was public art, paid for by the public, and they felt they had the right of an opinion.

Unfortunately the contract was negotiated by a representative for the public, and the contract had a clause against the removal except for safety reasons.

The public was outraged, as more and more people offered their opinions. As for the falling spirit pole, I have not found proof that any pole fell during a wind storm.

Finally, a enterprising city inspector looked at the base of a few of the “pointed aluminum” poles, and found some suggestion of aluminum “corrosion”. With the remote possibility of one or more poles falling onto the roadway, all the poles were removed and placed into storage, until a plan to fix the problem appeared. No plan appeared, it was never assigned, the contract didn’t allow the city to recycle them. They remained in storage for years. In 2001, the artist was paid $75,000 and he released any claim for the art. They were cut up and recycled. Perhaps you have had a beer, or soda, from the recycled aluminum poles.

The end result was so concerning that Concord repealed the two ordinances for public art, instead of fixing the process of selection.

So how did the “cancel culture” begin? The internet was too new to be involved, so it was the traditional media: letters to the editor, talk radio, media outlets. They took up the banner and found that the public wanted more of the story. The National Enquirer called them “the ugliest publicly funded sculpture in America.” What gave the National Enquirer the skill to critique public art? No one asked. Everybody can have an opinion, and anyone can shape further public opinion.

Gary Rieveschl was a respected visual artist specializing in “landform” installations. Working with earthmounds and flowers, he has art installed throughout the Midwest and Europe. He actually had a small book published on his installations from 1973-1987. It’s curious that I haven’t found anything that he has done since the Spirit Poles. He is now 79, and living in Indiana.

I did find an article from Cincinnati, that mentions another work of his, “Autooasis”, that was a 1973 Chevy with doors, trunk, and hood open, filled with growing vegetation. It was a vehicle as a potted plant. Eventually it was evicted from its space and crunched as scrap metal.

They most common photo of his art was one from Germany of a bank of earth, and a weaving “snake” of daffodils. Perhaps it’s gone as well.

Interesting fact, Gary’s father, George Rieveschl, invented Benadryl, and this helped Gary by having the financial support to send him to Harvard and MIT. Maybe he wasn’t cancelled, maybe he inherited.

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Granular

Further thoughts on time.

Are thoughts granular? If so, then what is the space called between thoughts? Also, if thoughts are granular, do they have hard edges, or soft, squishy edges that are sticky? Are thoughts in three dimensional clumps? Are they linear? Or they only appear linear from the thinker’s perspective? Is there any other perspective possible?

If thoughts are electrical firing of synapses, do they flow, like electricity? Electrons being “excited”, bouncing around, exciting their neighbors, not actually moving like water molecules flow, but the “excitement moves from one regional synapse to another. Cascading like billiard balls on a table.

Watching television, I see movement. An actor walks across the screen. Being interested, I get closer. It’s harder to see the actor because I’m beginning to see the dots of the actor. The actor is made of thousands and thousands of dots in a rosette of red, green, and blue, against a dark background. The actor continues to move, and I get closer.

The dots don’t move, they just change color. There is no movement. The actor moves because the dots change color. Our eyes follow the changing color and interprets this as movement. Is it movement because I see it as movement? The actor on television is an image. It is only two dimensional, but when the actor turns it appears three dimensional. If the image was a photograph, the actor would get distorted as he turned, eventual he would disappear as a two dimensional figure on edge. The actor doesn’t turn, the dots simply change color. The turn is not real, it simulates a turn. There is no movement.

Images are not the actual object. Even the projected image on the back of our retina is not the object. Objects exist, but we only see shadows of the object, full color shadows… an image, not the real thing. Things do not have resolution, they have edges. Images are dependent upon resolution, edges depend on resolution.

Finding the edges of things determines the shape. Recognizing shapes is rewarded in the Cave of Socrates. Mere shadows, but real rewards.

This is what happens when the mind wanders.

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Time 3

“This glass is empty”, yet filled with air. Unless it is in space, when it is filled with… space?

The edge of a cloud exists at a distance, but slowly disappears the closer you get. In fact, there is no edge, only the appearance of one.

The distance around the island of England is infinite, unless you take the short cuts, and avoid the fractals.

So… I finished all three sections of Rovelli’s “The Order of Time.” I know less now then when I started. I’m not sure that I understand “when”. I’m certain that I don’t understand “now”.

Strangely enough, I had three separate thoughts while finishing the reading, each one more disconnected. The first thought was directly related to a phrase in the text, “glass half-full”. The then thought was tangentially connected to a statement of clouds, the third thought was a distant memory of “infinite” fractals of a natural seashore. I don’t know why it came up.

I’m not sure I enjoyed the book. If I reread it, will I know even less. If I keep rereading it, will I eventually disappear?

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Time 2

I have previously written about time, well… I wrote about my reaction to a summary of the current ideas of time, set out by physicists. To their credit I agreed with a number of their statements. How can I disagree you might ask? What degrees do I currently hold in physics?

My disagreements are based upon the fact that I am human, and I don’t let my lack of knowledge hinder my opinions. Basically, my disagreements were based in the absolute statements made. We can’t measure yet… not that we can’t measure. No evidence yet… not that the lack of evidence is absolute. It’s a clever way to disagree without understanding the salient points.

I have a good friend that suggested a book by Carlos Rovelli, “The Order of Time”. According to the reviews, this book gives a very good summary of the current views concerning time. The author suggests that his book is in thirds. The first third is a very simple explaination, the middle third gives a little more detail, and the last third is a wild ride through the cosmos.

I may have made that up because I forgot the details of the last third, but you get the idea. I am barely through the first third. So far I’m wondering where the simple is… I know that it is there, because the illustrations include characters from the Smurfs. I can see the smiles from the copyright lawyers. A book about time written by a leading physicist wants to use Smurfs to illustrate his points.

I’m a little stuck on the first point. Time is slower at my feet, and faster at my head, compared to a reference at my navel. Hmmm. Second point, time is slower if I live on a beach versus living on a mountaintop. Time is slower if you don’t move, time is faster if you run around. Time requires heat. Heat only goes towards cold, never cold to heat. Time only goes forward. I think I listed a few more points in this simple chapter, each with Smurf explainations.

Oh yeah, time is slower if you move the watch faster, like on an airplane, so speed can make time slower and faster… depending.

I can’t wait until I get through the middle part of the book.

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BlueTeethEyes

Maybe he liked blueberries, or more likely, he had poor dental hygiene and his front teeth had died at the roots. In any case, history now knows Harald Gormsson, king of Norway in 895, as “Bluetooth”. This becomes important to us because the inventors of the technology to connect devices to computers, named their product “Bluetooth”, and even used the Nordic runes to create their logo. They could have given a nod to Hedy Lamar for her contribution, but an early medieval Norse king was chosen.

Millions of devices use “Bluetooth”, from speakers to microphones, earbuds, printers, and headsets. It’s the most popular wireless conn ection. With clever renaming, a new device was named “Blueteeth”, referring to a pair of glasses that acted as a “heads up display”.

Several attempts had been made by different tech companies to create monitor glasses, but this one had great promise. Heavily mirrored from the outside, it was almost impossible to tell if they were projecting an image or just acting as sunglasses. The technology was so small that the frames easily concealed all electronics, using common hearing aid batteries. The glasses were designed to blend in as just another pair of sunglasses.

The user had a finger ring as a controller, to scroll through and select menus that were on screen. There were several choices of transparency from complete opacity to a faint display. The practical theory is that using close focus you saw the information on the glasses, and the distant focus saw straight through information to the outside world. When the opacity increased it was like putting on blinders with two tiny monitors in front of each eye.

No one studied how this might affect normal vision. Produce a thousand units, test them, and then see how it goes,- that was the manufacturer’s concept.

Most people used a smart phone for the computing source, but that was somewhat limited; a powerful laptop or tablet was a better connection. The best connection was an even more powerful desktop unit. Of course the ability to be mobile was a huge attraction, so text based information was optimal for use and battery life. Apps on the phone made this an easy choice. Full blown color animation and movies were still best by using desktop or gaming units.

Wallace was one of only six beta testers for the device. He was given a Series 2 device, by a separate company that hired screened users, and had applicants sign a non-disclosure agreements, and also have a security background check. Wallace was someone to be trusted, and would use the device in normal, and unusual approved tests. Wallace never asked what happened to Series One, it could have caused brain cancer but, he didn’t ask. Wallace accepted the technology, and immediately focused on the mobile text based apps, and then took the glasses on a tour through the city.

The GPS apps made navigating a breeze. It did take a few trips around the parking lot to get used to the switching focus, but after a few minutes it was very natural, and Wallace thought that even the state police would approve, so long as only the GPS was used. Connecting to social media while driving was probably not a good idea. Wallace made a few connections but didn’t tell anyone how he was connecting. Typing using the finger ring was tedious, but he was getting faster, better than his one finger hunt and peck, and the built in AI helped with auto-correct.

After a while, Wallace parked his car and went for a walk. He stopped at a sidewalk vendor and bought a latte, then strolled along the waterfront. He was scrolling through the menu choices when he approached some steps. He switched hands to grab the handrail, and the latte splashed a little though the hole in the lid. Wallace didn’t notice that the latte splash had hit his finger ring. The display blinked a few times then settled. The menu options seemed longer, then it blinked some more. Wallace walked on, but the finger ring no longer seemed to change the menus, and suddenly there were different text messages being displayed.

Wallace read with interest, then the message disappeared before he could finish reading. At first he thought some friend was texting him, but he was getting both sides of the conversation.

He was eavesdropping! The conversation disappeared as he walked away from one of the sources. Wallace looked around at the other people nearby. Someone appeared to be texting a little further ahead. It should have been impossible because he hadn’t “paired” with any device. Somehow his glasses were allowing his phone to connect to nearby Bluetooth transmissions.

In another minute or so Wallace was near enough and the text came through, he could actually scroll up to see the messages he had missed. The messages were directions to a local coffee shop that he could see directly ahead. Before he had gone too far the messages disappeared as a man crossed his path with an angry expression, and a finger jabbing at his phone.

The message came through to Wallace immediately. The man was angry with Alice and demanded that she stop seeing Stephen. Alice did not respond. Wallace could see that there was much more jabbing at the phone, and the indicator was telling him that the man, his name was Sam, was typing. It was a long paragraph, Wallace had kept walking and was soon out of range.

Was it the latte that caused this to happen? Or, did the device have a setting to piggyback on Bluetooth pairing? Wallace decided to sit on a bench and scroll through the various menus. The finger ring didn’t appear to be permanently damaged by the splash of latte. The messages had disappeared. Maybe this was just a one-time glitch, something worth a paragraph in his report to the company? He accessed the notepad through the glasses, and wrote a brief summary of his encounters, planning to expand it later.

“There was a brief flicker, and it appears that the device can pickup nearby Bluetooth based messages. It’s probably something that should be checked as a simple security update. It isn’t steady, and has disappeared, but should be checked out.” Wallace had dozens of security updates on his phone system.

Wallace thought about the potential problems of this type of security leak. Eavesdropping might be an interesting past-time for jealous partners, but the hard-core gamers that wanted this device, wouldn’t be interested in that feature. He thought the commuters would be the biggest market, checking stock prices, catching the latest news, maybe even watching music videos. It was the same activities that occur now, just with a better monitoring device. We get security notices all the time, no big deal. What reason would cause it to be intentional?

Wallace thought he would take a short train ride to the civic center, and headed to the station. While adjusting the finger ring there seemed to be a spot where the screen flickered once again. And the messages came back! Different messages kept appearing, and quickly disappearing, as more powerful signals shoved their way through. Wallace could not read them completely. There were dozens of people on the platform with their phones out, and busy jabbing fingers. Wallace caught one message, “Authorized to clean it up…” then it disappeared, replaced by a recipe for tuna salad. Then someone wanted to meet for a hotdog and beer at 5:00 pm. Finally,a cryptic message “…make it look like an accident.”

Wallace noticed the train coming, and the sign blinking for the civic center destination. He moved to the marked area where the train doors were to open. He barely felt the hand between his shoulder blades, as the train approached. Then he was flying towards the tracks.

The station was closed, it was arranged for buses to take passengers to the next station. Emergency services were still working on the tracks to clear the remains. One of the EMTs spotted the broken sunglasses, and said, “This might explain everything. I’m surprised that he could see anything with these on, they’re so dark!”

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You Are Not Supposed to Be Here!

My mother on her boyfriend’s motorcycle

So… I’m coming back from my physical therapy in Berkeley, I could take the freeway, but instead I like to take the “back way” on city streets. It’s a tangled process to climb up to the Caldecott Tunnel, two lanes merge into one, right only lanes peel off into neighborhoods. You have to choose when to be in the “right” lane in order to avoid stopping at all the lights. A novice might add ten minutes to their travel time by the wrong choice.

I am making all the right moves, legal moves, choosing the left lane at times, avoiding the right turn only lanes… I notice a motorcycle to my right. We are stopped at the light, but her lane will turn into a right only lane once we get across the intersection. Not many people use that lane so I expect that the motorcycle will cut over in front of me, so I move carefully when the light turns green. To my surprise the motorcycle stays in the right lane all the way to the point where you must turn right, but then it cuts over to my lane. Very unexpected. Very illegal!

I was planning to let the motorcycle go in front of me, now it is seven cars in front of me. In terms of the cycle of traffic lights, it is now fives minutes in front of me. In terms of “the plan”, the driver, through force of will, is not where it’s supposed to be. It’s five minutes sooner!

I thought about this, and just yesterday I was behind a slow truck. I was heading to the same tunnel and I didn’t want to breathe diesel fumes in the tunnel, so I made several legal lane changes to put myself at a distance ahead of the truck. After the tunnel there was some sort of a traffic jam that slowed my progress. I again shifted a few lanes and got myself clear, only to find that I was once again behind that diesel truck.

Temporarily I was ahead of myself by five minutes, then I was back in sync behind the truck until my freeway exit. I hit the downtown at exactly 10:15, the roads were clear, I made it to my driveway safely about ten minutes later. I wonder what I would have encountered if I was five minutes earlier? I wonder if the motorcycle made it to the destination safely? Or is she now hours ahead of herself?

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Backyard History

Flexy, 1950s

It was probably 1960, I was about ten or eleven years old. Old enough to collect rocks, I even had a geological sample as a toy. It was a 12×6 inch piece of blue cardboard, with a couple of dozen rocks glued on it, and descriptions printed beneath. Over the years more and more rocks were torn off, leaving jagged patterns of white where the rocks had been. The sample of obsideon lasted for many years. I loved the smooth green stone, glass-like.

Two houses away in my neighborhood there was an empty lot. It was a corner lot so maybe it wasn’t as attractive for speculators to build on. It was part of the level flood plain near the two creeks that were a few miles north. Nothing but Spanish cattle roamed here for years, and before that it might have been on the coastal trail for migratory Costanoan Indians.

There were four or five kids that were roughly the same age, children of the post-war generation that settled into homes after building Victory ships in the local shipyards. The empty lot was a perfect neutral meeting place where parents weren’t always looking over things.

We had cleared an area of weeds in order to use the flat ground as a playing field for our purees and cat’s eyes. Marbles! The only problem was this small rock that protruded about an inch from the surface. A couple of kicks should have dislodged it, but it stood steadfast.

Someone produced a pocket knife and we dug around the edges to loosen it. We went several inches and we discovered that the small rock was looking more like an iceberg, much larger below the ground than above. There was a moment when I thought we were looking at the top of an undiscovered future mountain. I thought maybe it was best just to break off the top and level the surface with dirt. I went home to get the sledge hammer out of my garage.

With the heavy hammer over my head, I came down hard on the left side of the peak. Perhaps hundreds of kids had tripped over that peak, but now it was going to be history. Smack! A sizable piece went flying off. It worked!

Then I examined the piece and found it was smooth, and shiny green. Obsidian! It was a giant iceberg of obsidian. A few of the other kids recognized it as well. We talked about it awhile, and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the top of a granite mountain, nor was it a house sized boulder. Obsidian was generally smaller. Perhaps we could actually dig it out. We each went back to our garages to bring back tools.

After several hours of excavating, we had a good sized boulder laying in a pit. I estimated it was about the size of a large pumpkin, about 70 lbs worth. It took all of us to roll it out of the pit. I think we just set it aside, in order to fill in the pit, level it, and get on with our game of marbles.

This morning I woke with a question. “Where did it come from?”

Sixty years later I asked the question that was unasked at the time of the obsidian iceberg. In fairness, all rocks come from the dirt so I simply accepted that at the time. Later I took a college class in geology, and I learned obsidian was volcanic. There were no volcanos nearby that corner lot. Mt. Diablo was twenty miles away, but the same college class told me that Mt. Diablo was not a dormant volcano. It was once a pimple, an island in the inland sea of California. There is even a ridge of shellfish fossils near the mountain.

The nearest active volcano is Mt. Lassen in Northern California, 240 miles away! That’s a long ways to eject a boulder. i know that the last eruption of Mt. Lassen was in 1915, and that a cabin sized boulder, called ‘Hot Rock” was ejected and ended up five miles away. It was still sizzling three days later. If the obsidian came from Lassen, it was carried to that empty lot.

It’s possible that someone found it on vacation. Then brought it home in the trunk of a 1954 Plymouth, eventually cleaning the garage out by dropping it off in the lot. People do that. But I was thinking that this was a Neolithic treasure. Something that the local tribes had traded for, chipping off sharp edged tools anytime there wished. Arrowheads, spear points, skinning knives. It may have come all the way down from the Cascades in Oregon, traded from on tribe to another, incredibly valuable until it came in close contact with a culture that had iron and steel.

In the flat tidelands of San Pablo, near Wildcat creek, there was a small settlement near the Rancho San Pablo Abode. A few buildings were there, a hotel, a few saloons, the Catholic Church. The local Natives passed by, no official reservations. If they stopped, it would have been aways off to eliminate trouble, perhaps to lighten their load by discarding things that were no longer necessary.

The obsidian came from somewhere, for a time it was treasured and valued. It ended up in a neighbor where it was dug up by children. I know for a fact that is was loaded into a toy wagon, or on top of a deadly vehicle called a “Flexy”, brought to a garage, and then hit with a sledge hammer until it was in dozens of hand sized pieces. I know this because I held the hammer. And I gave the pieces to my friends..

Always follow through with a morning question.

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Nest of Teeth

This topic is one of those things that just makes you wonder. Is this the best way?

We have the phrase “Bite your tongue”, we say this to suggest that it might be best to stop talking. It makes sense because a bitten tongue is very painful and sometimes it is very difficult to speak after accidentally biting your tongue. Of course, it is almost impossible to intentionally bite your tongue, so the phrase isn’t very practical.

Since all bitten tongues are accidental, you might want to spend some time thinking about how to reduce the accidents. I tried to look up the accident rate of biting your ear. There isn’t any. There are some rates of biting other’s ears, but nothing on biting your own ears. The reason there are rates of biting your tongue is obvious. It is almost completely based upon the close proximity of tongue and teeth. In fact, the tongue is nearly completely surrounded by gnashing incisors and grinding molars. The tongue is in a nest of teeth!

This makes perfect sense if you think of the tongue only as a tool to position food for chewing and digestion. I suppose if we didn’t have a tongue we would use our fingers, but that would be unsightly at the dinner table. And we would still have a few accidentally bitten fingers. We need our fingers for other more important jobs.

This brings up the dilemma, our tongues also has other uses. Speaking and singing have brought our species into better communication. It would be safe to say that speaking led to writing, and writing led to civilization, so the tongue is possibly, (next to the brain), the most valuable organ of our existence.

(The brain is mostly safe, it has natural shock absorbers, it is almost completely enclosed in armor, the cranium. It is thoughtfully designed. The tongue, however, sleeps in a bed surrounded by knives and hammers.)

I’m writing this because I have recently been diagnosed with “geographic tongue”, where the surface of the tongue is slightly debrided, which irritates the tongue, causing it to swell slightly. I now have “Fat tongue”, which means the tongue does not sleep completely in “the nest”, and accidentally biting the tongue causes even more swelling, so it is an endless dilemma.

It would not be that important if I didn’t have to use my tongue to communicate. I’m taking this whole thing ae a lesson of sorts, I’m trying to listen more and speak less.

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The Cherry on Top

The ice cream sundae, a split banana, three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream topping, and a special cherry on top. It is a dessert like no other. In some way the cherry on top makes it special.

Have you ever had”fruit cocktail”? For some folks it is the best way to enjoy fruit. I do not have that opinion. For three different seasons I worked in a cannery owned by F&P. They canned fruit. The first season I was on the clean-up crew. I sprayed the machines, the belts, and swept the floors with live steam. I also wore a rubber suit while doing this. I had a hot steam hose in my hand, and I had two quarts of body sweat in my boots every night.

The second season I was hired to put the lids on canned peaches. I sat by a machine loaded with the lids that I maintained, sitting between a cooker of peaches in cans without lids, then my machine, and right behind me a cooker for peaches in cans with lids. Hundreds of thousands of cooked canned peaches.

I always looked at the lines of workers that sorted the peaches. As long as they had peaches on the conveyor belts, then I had to load lids in my machine. When the peaches stopped, then my day was over.

I watched the peaches get sorted with interest. Periodically a peach would come by with a spot of rot. The worker would dig into the peach with a coring knife and pop out the rot. The peach would then be tossed on a different conveyor belt. Peaches that fell on the floor would be sprayed with water and then go on that same belt. Only pristine peaches would stay on the belt heading to my cooker and lid machine.

Where did the other conveyor belt go, with the diseased and rejected peaches? On a break I followed the conveyor belt to another room in the cannery. It went into the Fruit Cocktail Room, where the rejected peaches were joined with the rejected pears, where both were chopped into bite-sized pieces, then grapes were added, and finally, nine cherry halves per can (depending on the size of the can). Then the can was filled with a syrup before going into the cooker.

Fruit cocktail was once rejected fruit, (except for the grapes and the cherries).

Later that week I made a plan to visit the fruit cocktail room to bag some samples. I headed straight for the cherry station. No one was around, so I got a paper cup and dipped into the 55 gallon barrel of cherries, making sure to include a little syrup with the full cup of cherries. As I turned down a secluded alley between the steam cookers, I took a big gulp of the paper cup. The first thing I noticed is that the syrup was nasty, tasteless water. The second thing was that the mouthful of cherries was completely tasteless, not even a shred of the expected taste of cherries. What a shock! I had to spit the half-chewed cherries into the nearest garbage can.

Somehow the cherries absorbed the syrup favor after the steam cooking, but the fruit itself had all the cherry flavor removed before being added to the can. That was a serious life lesson for me, and my opinion of “the cherry on top” changed after that.

The third season I was placed in charge of the machine that put nine half-cherries per can. The cans were empty in the machine, they were tipped to their side at the right position, and a narrow conveyor belt with a line of cherries riding on top would then be aimed at the empty can. Like a machine gun, you could hear nine half cherries hit the bottom of the can, and then the can would tip right side up, while another can behind it would be shot with another nine half-cherries. The cans would then go to the next station and receive a load of grapes before getting the rejected fruit and syrup.

My job was to keep the funnel full of cherries. I had a very heavy 55 gallon barrel of cherries to keep the funnel filled. It just so happened that I ended my time in the cannery because of the cherries. I was moving a barrel of cherries into position when I slipped slightly, and the handle of the moving dolly jabbed my right side with some force. Later that night I passed out from a swollen appendix.

The next day I made the local hospital famous for removing the largest infected appendix without having it burst. My appendix lived in a jar in the basement of the hospital for years afterwards. And after recovery, I never went back to the cannery.

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The Last Sentence in a Note

The note is consequential, not tremendously important, but at least relevant. The note was written for a reason, and it met all of the requirements. Except for the last sentence.

I have a friend who specializes in the twist of the last sentence. I need more instruction from her, but so far it appears to follow a pattern. Write a note that responds to my note, give responses to the salient points to show that you are tracking, add a few personal references to show that you are not a robot or clever app. Then, at the very last, add a sentence about something intriguing, something that you would really rather write about, but haven’t quite worked out how to introduce it. It’s masterful!

This last sentence in a note was…

“In the meantime check out Alice Neel’s brilliant exhibition at the met.”

Okay, I’m assuming “the Met” is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. And Alice Neel had an exhibition there. Hmm, so who is Alice Neel? If she was an unknown my friend would have added a short description. She didn’t. Alice Neel is a person that she assumed that I’ve known, or that I should have known. But I’m totally clueless… writer, poet, artist, sculptor painter, dead or alive. Never heard of her.

This is the “tipping point”. Do I follow up with a quick Google search, then be able to return a pithy statement on a return note? Or do I shelve it in the mental drawer of “things that I’ll get to someday”? The third possibility is that it will be a crack in my “wall of known things”. Whenever that happens I’m thrilled but also sad, because I always feel that it would have been better to know this 10, 20, 40 years ago.

Alice Neel, 1900-1984, American portrait painter.

I spent the next three days finding everything she had drawn or painted, and she painted every day of her life. It was a lot of stuff. But she found her niche quite early and found that portraits was her thing. I really loved them.

So I began to redraw the ones I liked best. I wanted to experience her creation. Thank you June, for your last sentence

Tribute to Alice Neel, Helen Merrell Lynd, 1969
Tribute to Alice Neel, The Soyer Brothers , 1973
Tribute to Alice Neel, Roberta Johnson Roensch. 1946
Tribute to Alice Neel, Abdul Rahman, 1964.
Tribute to Alice Neel, Josephine Garwood, 1946
Tribute to Alice Neel, Unknown
Alice Neel
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Gunther, of the Borderlands

Gunther, King of the Burgundian, was a Frankish leader, born in approx. 385 and died in 437. He was my 31st great grandfather,

The Roman Empire was now in the first stages of decline. It is said that the armies were less Roman and more full of mercenaries, and in general the leadership was less than exemplary. For hundreds of years the Empire relied on it’s natural borders, the Mediterranean, and the Adriatic on the West, South and East, and the two great river systems in the North, the Rhine and the Danube.

On the west side of the Rhine was the conquered territory of Gaul, rich with resources, settled towns, farms, and Legionnaires. Great Britain was also well settled, with retired Legionnaires. The border was the great river system, on the other side were barbarians, dense dark forests, and terror. Even today, the sense of foreboding that comes from the edge of a forest comes from that time. Of course people lived there, but they weren’t civilized. For hundreds of years there was a status quo.

While the barbarians were happy to trade with the “civilized’ Romans on their Western border, their Eastern borders were in flux. A continuous push of Huns from the steppes made life hard, and there was a domino effect. Sometimes the Huns pushed right on through, and came up to the Rhine and Danube.

The Frankish and Germanic tribes pleaded with the Romans to be allowed to cross the rivers to safety. Mostly they refused. Then the Romans allowed one or two tribes to come across, as a political favor for military aid, but it did not go well. They were seen and treated as barbarians.

Finally on Dec. 31, 406, thousands of barbarians crossed the Rhine with the quasi approval of Rome. Quadi, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alans, Gepids, Herules, Saxons, Burgundians, Alemanni and the armies of the Pannonians, slipped across both rivers, and the Northern border of the Roman Empire vanished.

Also, about this time there was a leadership conflict, a Roman general in Britain had his men proclaim him Emperor. Several Germanic kingdoms still on the eastern side of the rivers, backed Jovinus of Britain, instead of Honorius of Rome. For a few years it looked as if Jovinus had won. King Gunther and his Burgundians were invited to the West Bank of the Rhine near Worms, but then called Borbetomagus. Worms is easier to say.

Within a few years Gunther wanted to expand Burgundy and attacked his neighbor. The Roman leadership issue changed and Jovinus was out, and the Emperor Honorius attacked and devastated the Kingdom of Burgandy. The Romans couldn’t field an army of native Legionnaires, so they hired an army of mercenaries made up of Huns.

So Gunther fled to the safety of Rome, and was killed defending his city of Borbetomagus by Huns hired by Rome. So ended my 31st great grandfather.

By the way, Jovinus and his brother Sebastianus were captured in Narbonne where they lost their heads. The heads were then sent to decorate the walls in Ravenna, where the Emperor Honorius lived. Then after a few years they were sent to Carthage, where four other heads of usurpers were already mounted. The Romans were fond of putting heads on walls.

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Krum, the Great Khan of Bulgaria (756-814

Khan Krum

Otherwise known as the Fearsome Krum, or Krum the Horrible, depending upon who you were talking to. He was born in Pliska, Bulgaria, and his father was Kardam of the Bulgars. The Bulgars may have come from Central Asia and they have appeared in Chinese texts. The Old Greater Bulgarian Empire was in the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This empire fell in the 600s and the Bulgars migrated west into the Byzantine Empire occupying Thrace and parts of Macedonia. This was the Second Bulgarian Empire with many conflicts with the Byzantine Empire. The capital city was Pliska, where my 43rd great grandfather, Krum, was born.

Krum led many raids into the Byzantine Empire, slowly adding villages to the expanding Bulgar Empire. This led the Byzantine Empire to refer to him as Krum the Horrible. The Emperor decided enough was enough and led a great army all the way to Pliska, and ravaged the land. At one point killing the children of Pliska in the capital’s town square.

In response, Krum gathered troops and fought the Byzantines, decimated the army, and killed the Emperor Nikephoros. The Bulgars started referring to him as “the Fearsome“. The replacement Emperor was wounded and died a few years later. The next Emperor was also defeated and forced to become a monk.

Krum is known as a strict, but fair ruler, who brought laws to the Bulgarians and protection for the poor and elderly.

Eventually his descendants moved further west, married into Hungarian royalty, then Frankish royalty. I was happy to find him as my 43rd great grandfather because I thought his name was awesome.

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Out of Fish Sauce

This afternoon I tried to put my favorite condiment on my sandwich. No luck, none in the refrigerator, none in the pantry. I was doomed to a bland sandwich. It was my own fault. I had been purchasing the giant size bottle, where you stored it upside down so you could easily see how much was left.

Not like the old days with the narrow necked bottle that allowed the sauce to cake up the narrow opening, disguising how much was left. The art of getting the sauce to flow was to hit the bottom with the heel of the other hand, then perfect spurts would be perfectly placed. Sometimes this was tried with a full bottle, but only the “masters” of this technique could make it work. The rest of us would jam a butter knife to slide up the narrow neck and break the “log jam”, to allow the sauce to flow. Half the time half the bottle would drench the plate. Yech!

As soon as I could read, I was in confusion. Sometimes the sauce label was “Ketchup”, sometimes it was “Catsup”. I couldn’t really tell if there was a difference. Like some tribes where people were given baby food in labeled jars, I feared the contents of the sauce. Perhaps they had discovered a way to process dead cats as an ingredient, so they changed the label to “Catsup”. At least it wasn’t ground up cherubic grinning babies.

Much later I learned that Catsup came from the popular pickled fish with herbs sauce, called “ketsiap”. Wait… fish sauce? When did the fish turn into tomatoes? Apparently around the early 1800s.

How lucky for me that it wasn’t cucumbers, or yams. Catsup doesn’t have a thing to do with tomatoes, neither does ketchup. So, when the recipe changed it could been been anything…Locusts, or grasshoppers, or pickled grapes!

A little Google research suggests that Catsup is more popular in the South. I’m not sure that is true. I know soft drinks are more often called “pop” instead of “soda”.

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Who are You?

Facebook is sometimes useful because it can sometimes bring you YouTube videos that you don’t even know that you wanted to see. Okay, maybe that isn’t always useful.

Today was useful, I saw a video clip of a new talk show that had an interesting “hook”. The host of the show is a nationally known comedian, but only in a small niche. She is also somewhat famous for not being aware of television or movie talent. The premise of the show is to bring on a famous guest, but not one that is known by the host. Of course the success of the show is based upon the lack of common knowledge of the host. This is probably the first warning of something wrong.

Way back in the day, when there was only three commercial channels and one public television channel, there were a few daytime shows that were successful but with questionable concepts. One that I remember was “Queen for a Day”. The premise was to interview 5 or 6 suburban moms, who detailed a variety of problems in life. The stories were sad and unfortunate. Somehow, one woman was selected and she was given a Scarlett robe to wear, a crown (not a tiara), and a scepter. The prize she was given varied. Sometimes it was a vacuum cleaner, sometimes a washing machine, and sometimes an oven. Appliances were heavily represented.

One would have thought that “Queen for a Day” would have a bigger budget. Perhaps later it changed, but I remember even then that it didn’t take much to become a Queen.

There was another popular show called “What’s My Line?” It was about a panel that had to guess the occupation of a guess, based upon asking pointed questions. Generally the occupations were unusual. Sometimes famous people came on, but the panel had to wear blindfolds in case they recognized them.

So this new show was like the old “What’s My Line?”, except that the host was sadly unknowing. What a strange premise! Why would I care about the level of ignorance? The host wasn’t even blind folded, this famous person sat three feet from her, but she had no idea who they were.

I’m thinking of a possible new show. A show that opens it up to everyone. Have a guest show up that was just a normal individual. Have the host try to figure out who the person is. Not famous, nor have an unusual job. No one will ever be found out, but it could be fun, depending upon the questions, and the answers.

Whoops, the show is probably on now!

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Queen Nana of Iberia

Nana was the daughter of Oligotus, which could have been a corruption of Aurelius Valerius Sogus Olympianus, a Roman governor of Theodosia. Or he could have been a younger daughter of Theothorses, a Bosporan king. Either way she seems to have a Greek heritage from the area of the Bosporus.

At the greatest, the Kingdom of Bosporus ringed the Black (or Euxine) Sea, centered around the north eastern shore. Later it was also known as the Kingdom of Pontus.

Nana seems to have been a pagan who was staunchly opposed to Christianity. But then she contracted a mysterious disease, and was cured by a captive Christian slave. She immediately asked to be baptized. Her husband Miriam was a Zoroastrian from Iran. Historically they were contemporaries of Emperor Constantine who was thrilled to have another Christian on a nearby throne.

Nana and Mirian are traditionally considered to have been buried at the Samtavro convent in Mtskheta, where their tombs are still shown.

Iberia was a neighboring kingdom north of Armenia and together they are often called the Georgian kingdoms, along with Circassian and Colchis. Colchis was thought to be the place where the Golden Fleece was found, and the destination of Jason and the Argonauts. Today it is generally called the Caucasus Region.

Curiously, two areas, Iberia and Albania are better known as countries in Europe, Albania in the Balkans, and Iberia which is Spain. There is no known connection between the countries. Early Visigoths from the Steppes May have brought the word Albania to the Balkans, but Strabo seems to have used Iberia for the area that became Spain. And the Romans had changed it to Hibernian.

Iberia
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Words

On my birthday we played a game which included guessing what “Dad” would say. One question was “What irritates Dad?” The winning answer was, “Dad hates to be told what to do or think!” But that’s not entirely true. I hate being manipulated. A clear order can be ignored, dismissed, or agreed. A question posed like, “Do you want to go to the store and pick up a few things?” What am I to do with that? I haven’t been sitting there considering my desires, especially the one where I want to go to the store for something unnamed. And of course I want to be helpful… so, my answer must be yes! And I end up shopping for female sanitary items without knowing that I’ve been thinking about that for several hours.

The phrase “Do you want…” sends me into a deep personal search of my feelings, and whether or not I have been signaling my desires to those around me. Almost like when I was a child, and I was jiggling around in my chair, “Do you want to get down? Do you want to go to the bathroom?” It takes a few moments to run through the analysis, so I never respond quickly. Often I simply respond honestly, “No, I haven’t thought about that, but if you need something I’d be happy to go get it.”

The clerk at the counter asks, “Can you give me your birthdate?”, I say, “Yes, I can!” Trying to be helpful, and proving that I have the ability. Then I realize they actually want me to verbalize it. That wasn’t the question!

I’m bothered by the lazy choice of similar words. Well, they may seem similar but actually at their core they are vastly different, yet they are used as if they are interchangeable.

The first pair is “to yield” and “to surrender”. Both are often used in reference to combat. Surrender has by far the greatest use. It generally means giving up, I am ceasing my action against something. I am surrendering my arms, my army, or my nation. Often the word is accompanied by the modifier “unconditional”. Although I’m at a loss to find a surrender that had conditions, but perhaps there were a few in history. Some armies were allowed to keep their arms, some cities were allowed to vacate citizens. I’m not sure how often these were in the demands of the defeated, but more often were granted by the victors to encourage the surrender. To surrender is to truly give up, but not necessarily as a choice.

To yield is something different, to yield is a choice. Go to any traffic circle and you can see people who choose to yield and some who don’t, even though the sign tells you to yield. Yielding comes from a position of strength and thinking. You could fight on, but something has factored a different decision, so you yield. I love yielding, it isn’t done enough.

Dislike and hatred is a classic parenting mantra. You are constantly telling your kids to not “hate” something, but instead you say you “dislike” it. It’s tough to hate broccoli, or Lima beans. They are innocent victims of emotion. You are even told to hate the sin, but not the sinner. So there are some things to hate, but not as many as we verbalize.. I remember the most impactful understanding I had as a child. I was reading a Superman comic book, and Lex Luther, the arch villain, was addressing Superman, he said “I don’t hate you Superman!”. Good, he was going to slip in a much better, “ I dislike you”, his mother would have been pleased. But then Luther took a turn, “I don’t hate you, Superman, I loath you!” Wow, there is another category I had never heard of. I wondered what things I loathed? Perhaps Lima beans?

Systemic and systematic is a current favorite and misused on a regular basis. Systemic is all pervasive, worthy of completely destroying, no redemption. No matter where you turn the evil pops up, it has surrounded you, and the only option is complete eradication. This is rarely the truth or the only solution. Mote likely is that something is systematically pervasive.

You can impact the specific system. A person has cancer, you attack the cancer, defeat it, and the person lives. A nation has systematic slavery, you have a civil war to end the system of slavery. It still surfaces in sneaky ways. You attack the systems until it’s gone, but you don’t destroy the nation. Instead you realize that the nation is systemically opposed to slavery.

Looking and seeing is all about the awareness factor. Looking at something is a positive step, much better than ignoring. But if you don’t see it after looking at it then nothing is accomplished. There are too many witnesses that rest on the laurels of looking at a problem. You have to see a problem in order to fix a problem.

Listening and hearing is another issue that is the same as looking and seeing. A microphone listens, a person hears and hopefully takes action.

Speaking and talking is all about intent. Weirdly I’ve never heard a person say, “I was just speaking to myself”. Too much talk, not enough speak.

Wishing and hoping is a great line in an old song, and it even reverses the words, implying that it still makes sense. I get “hope”, it is constantly with us. Wishing is much more fuzzy. I’m not sure that wishing is helpful.

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Art Filtering

This is a 11 minute video on how you can use standard filters to get a custom effect. I have tried filtering everything.

I have filtered great photos into different great photos. I have filtered medium to bad photos into better images. I have even filtered sketches into interesting blended works. I am not a purist. I want the image that I want.

I love all the filtering programs that automatically do what took me hours to master in Photoshop. Generally these programs are automatic and you must accept the entire filtering of your image. This isn’t acceptable to me, sometimes I want only a part of the files with a specific filter effect.

I found Sketchbook, a free program that has layers like PhotoShop, and the ability to erase parts of the layer. So basically I start a file in Sketchbook and populate it with dozens of filtered layers. You can reduce the transparency of one layer then merge it down to the next layer. Or you can merge it down with darken, screen, overlay, etc. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

In the end the image is closer to the idea that you want, it isn’t necessarily better than the photograph, but it stands unique. I encourage all image makers to play with the concept.

I remember going to an art festival where the booth had a sign “No PhotoShop Here”. How sad to not use a useful tool. Perhaps the owner thought this guaranteed that his/her work was of better quality. It’s true that awful images can be made with PhotoShop. Awful images can also be made with cameras.

Some people avoid filters because it may make images that “pretend” to be canvas prints. Shame on you if you use technology for fraudulent art. That does not give you an excuse to ignore some wonderful techniques. Digital Art is Art!

Seek the image that you desire!

https://youtu.be/CWJlv-CQT6U

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

No, not the 1966 classic Western movie. I’m thinking about the problems of history. I am by no means an expert on how we must understand history. I do declare my love for the subject, and I have collected an eclectic library of historical events. I do not have advanced academic degrees in history, and my written opinions will not shape the opinions of future historians. And yet, I do have opinions, and I am witness to a number of changes that are dramatic, and in some ways refreshing, and in other ways very problematic.

It is quite possible that some of the changes will become an academic standard, and history books will become completely useless, until new books are written with more accurate presentations.

There is a cultural “sea change” in our social fabric. Views that were once on the edge of social acceptance have morphed into center stage opinions. Some of this is based upon the increased concerns of “social justice” in response to events that have become important to current culture.

It is true that some of these events are the end result of many years of beliefs that are basically flawed. Beliefs that have grown from insignificant errors, that have found fertile ground in thoughts, or ideas that have major social errors.

Unfortunately, there are other problems in history that have always been there, or at least obviously apparent from the earliest written records. As historians we try to read these things in context, with the caveat that society had not developed the finer points of civilization. I disagree, I think that much of our problematic history was a societal choice, and that other more ethical choices were available, but rejected.

So now what can we do with the factual history we are left with? For me it will be a constant search for the truth. In most cases it will be a mixture of realities from different parties. The old adage of ‘history is written by the victors’ is something to consider. Another is ‘history is written by the literate at the expense of the illiterate’. Another is ‘history is written by the side that benefits the most from the narrative that is presented’.

It is difficult, but we can research most of these points. It is more difficult to research the opposing sides. In some cases the victors made considerable effort to destroy all records that existed in the defeated culture. This creates the historical problem of “omission”. Often our guesses create a higher standard of ethical positions that are not merited by the actual truth. Historians should not guess.

I’m writing this because I believe humans will always have a choice of “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” And the problem is that all three are subjective and open to debate, and criticism.

One would think that “the good” is a safe bet. What could be wrong in writing about “the good”. This is probably the most dangerous area in history. There are few “good” absolutes. Some folks even say there are none! I’m not that cynical, but I do agree that universal agreement on “good” has a long way to go. Our worst historical events are based upon a disagreement upon what is best, and for who it is best.

The “bad” is actually much easier to isolate and write about accurately, even if technically “bad” is also subjective. There hasn’t been too many cultures where deceit, murder and theft were the highest societal standards. In some cases it may have been okay to treat strangers, or foreigners, as sub species, but not generally.

The “ugly” is where most reasonable histories are found. The higher standards are articulated, and the failures are documented. In general, that creates an “ugly” written account. It is very hard to be proud of the most ugly events. Even the best of the “ugly” is embarrassing, and it seems so unnecessary.

Considering that a lot of history comes from the actions of humans, we have a responsibility to modified our actions, creating more good than bad, and making the “ugly” more beautiful. That does take a stand on moral absolutes, but I’m okay with that, providing there is tremendous effort taken on both sides.

In the meantime, I try not to get trapped in the dungeon of “bad history”, or to ‘cancel our history’ because it is “ugly”. Going down that road is living with opinion makers who create narratives for their own agendas. History is living, history is exciting, and history is always surprising.

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Drones

No, not the mechanical flying kind. They are cool, but I’m thinking about the worker bees, or the mass of individuals in the ant hills. The drones maintain the structure of their societies. It’s imperative that the drones exist, even if they are sometimes sacrificed for the sake of their communities.

First, it might be useful to look at the YouTube video at the following link…

It’s a TedTalk link of Sir Ken Robinson on the topic of “Do schools kill creativity?” He doesn’t ask a question unless he already believes he has the answer. It’s a very funny, yet sad, 20 minute talk. He really believes that even the best art colleges failed at fostering creativity, and the reason has everything to do with how the schools are funded, and the strings that are attached to that funding.

I’ve dedicated 40+ years of my life to higher education and I must agree with his statements. Colleges are successful, but only if you look at completion rates, and job placements. Colleges have morphed into institutions that provide society with workers, but not necessarily educated citizens.

Our understanding of the definition of “being educated” has not kept up with the changes that our colleges have faced. Most of our classic novels mentions “going to college” for different reasons that are currently used. In fact, the first universities in Bologna, Italy and Paris, France are vastly different today than what was stated in their first charters.

Being educated for nearly a thousand years meant that you studied under a “master” teacher, well schooled in the classic disciplines. And the purpose of the education was to create citizens that appreciated art, science, history and languages , and that reflected the growth of mankind, “the rebirth of our humanity.” It is not an accident that the Renaissance came soon after the creation of universities.

Robinson makes the statement that today’s colleges have only two missions; to provide drones for the corporations is the majority, the second is to provide future teachers for the colleges that teach the drones for corporations. At the very top there are researchers, but even the researchers are motivated by the profits made by their discoveries. It is as if colleges do not the need to teach the finer points of humanity. We have already arrived. We have achieved that goal, now we need to focus on making a living.

A college education wasn’t meant for the masses, it was meant for the leaders, the 1% of the 1%. The guilds and trades councils took on the training of apprentices destined to work in industry. Things had to change when education became possible for a population that wasn’t meant to have higher thoughts. Colleges just replaced the guilds. That way the “higher thoughts” are protected from the masses. The trappings of a college education were gifted to the ever expanding need to have more drones.

The hard numbers

In 2020-2021 there were:

880,000 associate degrees

2,000,000 bachelor’s

800,000 master’s

200,000 doctorates

Almost 4 million “educated” drones per year.

And the expectation is that the numbers will be slightly higher for the next ten years.

Robinson is fearful that creativity will almost disappear from colleges and our society.

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Time

Time happens to all of us instantaneously.

Time Has Come Today

Time has come today young hearts can go

Their way can’t put it off another day

I don’t care what others say they say we

Don’t listen anyway time has come today, hey

The room has changed today I have no place to stay

I’m thinking about the subway my love has blown away

My tears have come and gone oh, Lord I got to run

I got no home no, I have no home

Now the time has come nowhere (place) to run

Might get burned up by the sun but I’ll have my fun

I’ve been loved, pushed (put) aside I’ve been crushed

By tumbling tide and my soul has been psychedelicized

Now the time has come there are things to realize

Time has come today Time has come today

The Chambers Brothers

The Chambers Brothers is a soul-music group, best known for its 1968 hit record, the 11-minute long song “Time Has Come Today”. The group was part of the wave of new music that integrated American blues and gospel traditions with modern psychedelic and rock elements. Based on their Southern roots, the brothers brought a raw authenticity to their recordings and live performances that was missing from many other acts of that era. Their music has been kept alive through heavy use in film soundtracks

About Time according to Quoro

Brief answer:

“Time and space are non-matter existences. They don’t exist in physical state. Therefore, unlike matter existence, they don’t have physical properties. And they cannot have interactions with matter existence.”

I disagree. That doesn’t have the ring of experiential truth. I’m not discussing space, but time is something that I experience. It’s not the same way as wind, where we see the effects, but not the wind. I feel time passing, I see the results and sometimes I can see the future effect (not always).

“Time has no dimension. Space only has three dimensions. No more. Time cannot be incorporated into space to form a dimension.”

I disagree. The certainty shown by these statements automatically places them as suspect.

“Time is measurable but measurable does not mean tangible — non-matter existence cannot be tangible, only matter existence is tangible.

And due to we only can measure time with matter movement process, so regardless how accurate this measurement can be, it is still a relative reference for time. It is the same case for space on this issue.

Non-matter existences are intangible, therefore they cannot be proved directly but they only can be proved indirectly by matter existence:

There is no way to prove the existence of space but the matter exists and moves within it; there is no way to prove the existence of time but the matter existence and movement process elapses with it.”

I agree. This is a very rational observation.

“Non-matter existences are self-evident; because you only can prove them with the existence of matter existence and due to matter existence is always changing so this proof is intrinsically relative to approximate the absolute existences of the non-matter existences. But if you take the relative proof of the non-matter existences as the proof of the relativeness of the non-matter existences that is wrong — the matter existence is used for approximating the measurement of the non-matter existences but the absoluteness of the non-matter existences is not depending on the relative approximation of the matter existence.”

I don’t know if I agree or disagree. I confess that I could not completely follow the argument.

“And an object moving through the spatial dimension is not the same as a process elapses through time. An object cannot move through time, while a process cannot move through space. Time only can be related to process, space only can be related to object. Use other expression: Time has nothing to do with object; space has nothing to do with process.”

Again, this might be true, but the assertion is too absolute.

“Unlike space, Time has no dimension, it only has a direction. And it is one way direction — irreversible process.

When we travel, we travel through space. We cannot travel through time — it is physically impossible. It is the process of our travel elapsing through time irreversibly into future.

Time and space are different and independent non-matter existences that cannot interact or incorporate with each other. The intrinsic property of space — dimension, cannot be applied to time, and vice versa for the one way direction of the time.”

I disagree, we are not completely sure that there is no interaction. At this point in time, most theories say there is no interaction.

“Space is three dimension that allow matter to exist and move within it, but time has no dimension therefore matter cannot exist and move in it but the process of the matter existence and movement elapses with the direction of time irreversibly.”

I disagree. I don’t know that space makes the determination that matter exists. I don’t know that time has no dimension, it might be measured in the future.

“And due to space and time are non-matter existences which are the absolute existences that can be used as the only absolute reference frames for matter existence. But due to matter existence is always changing, it cannot be used as absolute reference frames for anything — regardless it is for matter existence or non-matter existences.”

What?

“Matter reference frames are intrinsically relative. Matter existence only can be used as relative reference frames.

When matter existence is being used for measuring the space and time, they are the approximation of the absoluteness of the non-matter existences.

So the approximation of the absoluteness of the non-matter existences works as the approximation of the absolute reference frames for matter existence.

There are only three existences in this world: space, time and matter (matter is the abstract term for mass with regard to all its existence states, energy is not substance but the existence states of mass).”

I disagree. The certainty of words like ’only’, makes this statement suspect.

“So, if you messed up the concepts of the space, time and matter, you can get nothing right because there is nothing else left in this world.”

I totally agree. In general, theories of existence have built in ‘mysteries’ that should be considered, ‘certainty’ is impossible.

“That is where modern physics start to get into astray.

The social cost is enormous, especially at the moment of human future crisis.”

I agree. We often get things wrong, and there are consequences.

The simple definition of time, should have a simple answer. The fact that there isn’t a simple explanation is inconvenient for us, but forcing reality into our own narrative is laughable. Again, there are things we don’t yet know, perhaps there is more unknowing than knowing. Things will change and we should be comfortable with that without declaring absolutes before their time. At best this can only be a guess.

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New Tribute Versions of Vincent

Farmhouse in Provence
Head of a Young Peasant in a Peaked Cap. 1885
Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity). 1890
La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin). 1889
Sunflowers. 1888
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New Tribute Versions of Albrecht

Self-portrait with fur lined robe, 1500
Self-portrait with glove, 1498
Study of Apostle’s hands, 1508
Study of hands, 1506
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New Tribute Versions of Egon

Elisabeth Lederer, Seated with Hands Folded. 1913
Madchenkopf (Frau Sohn). 1918
Seated Woman. 1918
Portrait of Fraulein Toni Rieger
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The Flow

The Gate

“Just go with the flow”, was a popular saying in the 1960s. I’m not sure that anyone really thought about it in depth. It just seemed a ‘chill’ statement, semi-mystical, with a slight philosophical flavor.

Hopefully it meant that you are floating in a substance, and not tumbling in a rip-tide or undertow. Flowing also implies a current, and the current can be a gravity issue, meaning going from an upper elevation to a lower elevation. Current can also be cause by pressure. The flow created by a squirt gun is caused by a piston compressing in a cylinder, forcing material out of a nozzle or opening.

A flowing current can also be created by a reservoir of a substance that is controlled by a gate. The perfect example is a dam creating a lake, and then the gate in the dam being opened to create the flow. In this example the substance is water, but perhaps the substance can be other things.

‘Going with the flow’ has also been used with social movements, implying that getting onboard with ideas and general consensus creates the flow.

When I was taught about basic electricity the example mentioned is that electricity flows. We were to imagine that the copper wires were replaced by a liquid. In different circuits there were also gates. Some gates were basically on or off, some gates were variable constrainers, some gates were amplifiers. It was important to note that amplifiers didn’t really create more liquid, the amplifier gate simply controlled a larger reservoir that could be dumped into the flow.

It occurs to me that the flow may be spiritual, in which case the gates can be very small spiritual issues that open very large spiritual reservoirs. An example: going to prayer for others can eliminate the rage within you. Or, said another way, prayer is the tap (gate) that causes flow from great reservoirs of peace.

I kinda like that idea…

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Blue Ridge

A friend is currently reading about the Appalachian Mountains, one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet. It was supposedly formed 480 million years ago, and has been in the process of weathering for quite sometime. In it’s youth it was similar to the Rockies or the Alps, and sealed off the east coast from the interior. This was pretty much true until the mid 1700s, when Daniel Boone opened the Cumberland Gap, which was a flood gate into Kentucky and the Ohio valley.

I had read about the Appalachian\ but in 1971 I was privileged to live in the Blue Ridge mountains for almost two years. I lived in Rouzerville, which was right next to Blue Ridge Summit, and just a few miles from Cascade, where Ft. Ritchie existed. It started as Camp Ritchie and it was a semi-secret post, training interpreters during WWII, over 20,000 were trained in German and Japanese. In 1998 It was one of many installations that were decommissioned, but in the early 1970s it was a busy place, for all the services.

After WWII and during the buildup of nuclear weapons, the military turned its attention to organizational bunkers. The facilities of Adolf Hitler in Europe were well known and that was before atomic bombs. In the 1950s, plans were drawn up to build a bunker deep inside a granite mountain on the east coast. The Blue Ridge Mountains were selected. Camp Ritchie became Fort Ritchie, and was selected to be the organizational support unit on the surface, and the actual underground facility was a few miles away, on the other side of the border in Pennsylvania, at Raven Rock. This was to be the Joint Chiefs Command Center for every branch of the service. It was technically the Underground Pentagon.

When I was not underground, I roamed around the Blue Ridge Summit area, hiking the Appalachian Trail, visiting the small mountain towns that were off the beaten path. The mom and pop stores were often mini versions of Target or Walgreens. They were stocked with a complete variety of products. If something had sold once, they bought three more from various vendors. Rolling ladders were against the wall to reach the shelving that was ceiling high. It may have taken several years to memorize the row, and the height of the stored merchandise.

My favorite was the local items, sold by individual “mountain people” on commission. There were whistles, good luck charms, yarn goods, mostly hand-made with accompanying stories.

I remember a collection of “fairy crosses” being offered, very small stones in the shape of a cross. I had forgotten about them, but was reminded by an article by Charles Fort. He had researched an article that had been published by Harper’s Weekly in the late 1870s. “In parts of the Blue Ridge Mountsins, there have been found small carved ‘fairy crosses’, that attest to a race of small people that crucify cockroaches. The crosses are in the shape of St. Andrews, Roman, and Maltese. The local people believe the collected crosses have a power that will provide good fortune.”

What was published in Harpers Weekly is still true, but things have changed. In Virginia it is now illegal to dig for “fairy crosses”, they are protected from collectors. It is unknown if they are still used to crucify cockroaches.

What is known, is that the “crosses are the result of a natural formation. The stones are staurolite formations of silica, iron and aluminum. Formations created under great heat and pressure, when the Appalachians were rising 480 million years ago. Thomas Edison and Teddy Roosevelt both believed in their mystical properties.

I haven’t been back to see if the local Mom & Pops carry them at the checkout counter, but I suspect some still do. I thought they were cheap trinkets carved by “local mountain folk”, glad to know that they are natural and organic.

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The Jeep is in the Garage

It’s all in the title. Why would a Jeep be in a garage? To protect it from the weather? Well, it’s a little late by now. I’ve had garages in every home that I’ve purchased or rented. I’ve never parked my vehicle in the garage of any home. I may have driven it in for a day or two, and some homes not even that. Everything I own is in the garage, except my vehicles.

So why now? I’m trying it out in order to please my wife. There, I’ve said it.

There is nothing wrong with trying new stuff, particularly when it would never cross your mind. The issue is why did this “parking in the garage”, cross my wife’s mind? Husbands know that this line of inquiry is not beneficial to anyone. But there may be an answer. We had an ugly driveway.

We have always had an ugly driveway in every house that we have lived in. It makes perfect sense to cover up ugly driveways with the current vehicles, (even if they as just as ugly).

About a month ago we pulled the trigger on upgrading our driveway. First we painted the house. It looks nice. It made the driveway look even worse. The drive way was not the usual cracked, and earthquake damaged piece of concrete we usually had. It was old, cracked, blotchy, asphalt. It was also the only asphalt driveway for blocks in either direction. Asphalt driveways seem proper if we had twenty acres and a five minute ride to the house. Our driveway was just over twenty feet long and at an angle of about 25 degrees.

Pavers was the dream, concrete was at least the rational option, repaving the asphalt with new asphalt seemed pathetic. In the end it was a financial decision. If $X is asphalt, then concrete was approximately 4$X, and pavers was a whopping 7$X. We are still the only home for miles with a very short asphalt driveway, with room for two cars.

The house has a new coat of paint, we have installed stairs for the steep hill to the right of the driveway, and we have a very black, clean, asphalt paved space for two cars. For the last month we have been parking in the street in front of our house. It’s not bad. We live on a cul-de-sac, I parked in the street for years because our kids had vehicles, and my wife always got the prime spot in the driveway, closest to the front door. Now the kids are gone, yet the driveway is empty.

Yes, the installers did mention to park in the street for a few days. During those days waiting to come back to parking in the driveway, there was a “sea change.” I was planning to take my place on the left side, when my wife suggested that I park in the right side, in the garage.

I looked at her with some amazement. I asked her why. ‘I’ve always wanted at least one of our cars to be in the garage.” That was a new desire, one that had never been expressed before. I thought, okay, I can arrange some things, I can clean out a space for your smaller vehicle. “No, I’ll park in front of the house, your Jeep goes in the garage.”

Wha…?

There are times in every relationship when you know that several futures are on the edge of being very present. It does take some experience and much wisdom to pick a path that is considerate.

My Jeep is big, it took three days to rearrange the various treasures in the space to be used. Once that was done, I drove across the driveway on tippy toes, into the empty space, completely filling the garage like never before. There was a sliver of space to edge out sideways, once I got down from the Jeep. I’m thinking that much of the treasures will have to vacate.

My wife’s car is still in the street, the driveway is still very black, empty, in sharp contrast to the newly painted house. I’m still wrapping my mind around the concept that I have a Jeep in the garage.

Apparently I will have to open the garage door, sweeze sideways to get in the door, back out with only inches to spare on either side, and then reverse the process when I get home after driving. And the benefit?

It’s obvious, to assist in a very long dream of an unvoiced concept. I hope it works out.

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Cities Beneath the Waves

I do like finding things, or actively going out to find things. I also like having things brought to me. We have been to Hawaii several times and with very enjoyable results. It was always best to find a good spot and just park there. No packing up, moving to another hotel, find transportation, etc. that’s a fine way to travel but it is quite a production.

One year we flew to Hawaii, and jumped on a cruise ship for eight days.

Obviously this was pre-COVID days, but we spent the extra money to get a suite with a balcony, and it was very nice. It didn’t take long to realize there something different about this trip. We weren’t going to the islands, the islands were coming to us! A wonderful perspective. Each day a new island view from our balcony.

It is this same concept with the internet. I have the complete power of various search engines, I can go anywhere, use Google earth to see anyplace that I’m thinking about. But sometimes, out of the blue, the internet brings me something. I don’t know if it is artificial intelligence that determines what is presented, or if it is just random choice, but today I was presented with the continent of Mu.

The term was first introduced by Augustus Le Plongeon, who used the “Land of Mu” as an alternative name for Atlantis. It was subsequently popularized as an alternative term for the hypothetical land of Lemuria by James Churchward, who said that Mu was located in the Pacific Ocean. I believe he looked at a globe and determined that the Pacific was just too big to be only about water. The place of Mu in literature has been discussed in detail by one of my favorite authors of sword and sorcery novels, L. Sprague de Camp, in Lost Continents.

So Mu could be Atlantis, but now is something different. And Atlantis is still sunk just outside the Mediterranean, and stories are bountiful about other lost lands. It got me thinking.

Where does this concept come from? I propose distant memories, that have the concept being passed on, but the specific details get confused. As people on this planet we have experienced floods. Floods that have displaced us from our homes, forcing us to move to dryer, and safer lands. I’m not sure about sinking continents.

The immediate thought is about Noah. It has been mentioned many times that other cultures in the Middle East have stories similar to Noah, and not because they were influenced by the local Hebrew population. The most logical explanation is that a widespread flooding event occurred and was remembered by those living around it.

The Black Sea can be thought of as a lake where several major rivers drain into it, and then it drains into the Mediterranean, and then it drains into the Atlantic. Atlantic storms rain onto Russian soil, and then it drains into the many rivers going to the Black Sea and the cycle repeats. But it was not always so.

Thousands of years ago, when humans had been in the land for centuries, they had built hundreds of fishing villages on the edge of the Black Sea. The Dneiper, the Don, the Volga, and hundred of other rivers had all drained into the Black Sea, but the balance was that the water evaporated at a steady rate, so the shoreline was relatively stable. There may have been a smal river that drained into the Aegean Sea but the Black Sea was a fresh water lake.

The Mediterranean Sea was connected to the Atlantic Ocean and the level there was also balanced except for the melting of the ice packs covering much of Europe. There was a lot of water involved, so much that the levels rose in the Mediterranean. On the east shore of the Mediterranean, there was a small river that flowed into the Mediterranean coming from the mountains in the east. It’s still there, it flows right past Istanbul, Turkey. When the Mediterranean rose the water went up river to the mountains. Eventually it reversed the flow of water, broke through the ridge, creating a tremendous waterfall down to the Black Sea, estimated at two hundred times the flow of Niagara Falls. This may have occurred 8 to 9000 years ago.

It didn’t take long at that rate to completely engulf the thousands of villages on the shore of the Black Sea. Not like a tsunami, but perhaps a steady few inches a day. But people remembered, and perhaps it rained as well.

So, there is a possibility of remembering cities under water, but what about a land?

There is recent scholarship concerning Doggerland. This was a boggy area between England, Denmark, and Belgium. It is now one of the prime fishing grounds in the North Sea. It used to be slightly above water. It disappeared at roughly the same time as the Black Sea villages. Dredges have picked up bones of mammoths, lions, and deer. Also some Stone Age tools, so people lived or traveled there.

We apparently have real evidence that some of our “cities” have disappeared beneath the waves. But Mu, I’m afraid, is just a good story.

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The Tiny Coffins of Edinburgh

Something was found in 1836 near Edinburgh that has remained a mystery for well over 250 years. Naturally, we tend to end mystery with speculation, and you can imagine where the different storylines have gone. But first the known facts.

A group of boys found these “coffins” on a hillside near Edinburgh, Scotland known as “Arthur’s Seat”. They found a large piece of slate partially buried, and when they removed it, there was a small opening in the earth. In it there were 17 tiny wooden coffins, in three tiers. Two tiers of eight coffins, and one tier of one coffin. It appeared as if the coffins were placed one at a time with some interval between. The oldest coffins seemed to have suffered damage, the last coffin seemed much less damaged. Of course this might be due to the dampness & weathering.

What becomes interesting is that each coffin contained a small wooden doll, male, eyes open, 3 or 4 inches tall, dressed in common weavers cloth. 17 figurines placed with care in a hillside “cave” above Edinburgh.

This is not a natural occurrence, it is not successive natural tree root formations. It is not ginseng grown in the shape of a human. It is a human construct, constructed for a purpose, carefully planned, and possibly maintained over several years. The similarities seem to suggest that one person one responsibility, but left no written reason for the “dolls”.

It is also fairly clear that the coffins were not expected to be found, so the reason for their construction appears to be personal. Over the years it has been suggested the dolls were the work of witches, or represent the bodies of sailors lost at sea.

It has also been suggested that they are a memorial to the victims of the notorious and murderous bodysnatchers William Burke and William Hare, who carried out their gruesome deeds in the capital during a 10-month spree in 1820. Several movies have been made detailing with the business of providing fresh cadavers for the use of future doctors. The problem is that Burke and Hare have the right dates, but most of the victims were women, and all the dolls were men.

An on-going shrine for sailors lost a sea seemed like the most likely reason, based upon the style of clothing and common material.

Eight of these coffins are on display in the national museum of Scotland, and remain a very popular exhibit.

Recently a new theory has been proposed, referencing a long forgotten rebellion that was severely repressed by the British government. In Edinburgh there were factories as part of the Industrial Revolution. Weavers of cloth had moved from small local looms, to great buildings with looms run by a collection of belts powered by water wheels. The conditions in these factories were horrific, with hundreds of children working the looms. The workers protested and struck.

The authority rounded up the leaders of the protest and hanged a number of them. The rest were placed on ships that sailed for Australia. For the out of work weavers, Sir Walter Scott recommended that they should be put to work making a road around “Arthur’s Seat”. Not a very fit thing for weaver’s to do. But perhaps the coffins were a memory of those hanged or sent to Australia.

In either case, the Rebellion was forgotten, Britain lost control of Scotland’s governance, and the little coffins are displayed in the National museum, still a mystery, but honored.

(Inspired by a story written by Charles Fort)

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Tribute Van Gogh

Road men

Heading to exhibit in SF next month.

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Doubt

I’m getting philosophical again, pondering the word “doubt”. Is this a good thing? After all, there is something absolutely the same for people who believe nothing, and people who believe everything. They do not think! Thinking requires doubt, or at least doubt kickstarts thinking. Presuming that with enough thinking, doubt will disappear, and certainty will reign. Or, with enough thinking we can be certain that we do not know. The question might be whether doubt will actually motivate thinking. Perhaps doubt is perfectly fine being static.

Rene Descartes had a thought about thinking, and he used the technique of “methodic doubt”. He looked at three different categories of knowing: authoritative, empirical, and mathematical. Each category had serious issues of being fallible, thus dubious.

He found knowledge from tradition to be dubitable because authorities disagree; empirical knowledge dubitable because of illusions, hallucinations, and dreams; and mathematical knowledge dubitable because people make errors in calculating.

He proposed an all-powerful, deceiving demon as a way of invoking universal doubt. Although the demon could deceive men regarding which sensations and ideas are truly of the world, or could give them sensations and ideas none of which are of the true world, or could even make them think that there is an external world when there is none. The one thing the demon could not make men think is that they exist, when they do not. Thus, “I think, therefore I am.”

Doubt appears to be a “way station”, a good thing for a time, but a place to gather facts and feelings. It is not a place to plant roots and stay. How long can we linger in doubt? Ahh, there’s the rub, too short of a time and you are lazy, too long of a time and you are indecisive. It may be similar to buying fruit, too soon and it may be green. Too late, and it’s well on the way to rot. Again there is no hint of what that timing is in hours, days, weeks, or years.

In some circles “doubting Thomas” is a negative stereotype. In other circles he is proof that reality can be tested.

I think “doubt” is fungible, in some cases it is necessary to decide in seconds or parts of a second. This may mean the difference of life or death. In most cases doubt has timing that is appropriate to the importance. The “lifetime” doubt is only a problem if it isn’t resolved by the time of death.

Descartes envisioned a demon to explain his view of knowledge. I’m envisioning an individual walking around full of certainty. This is an individual that I would actively avoid. Give me a portion of doubt, periodically.

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I’ve Been Making Things

Everybody very sharp and beautiful!

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She Was a Dancer

She was a dancer, she was always a dancer. From the time her memories started she had already been taking dance lessons for two years. Admittedly it was mostly disorganized jumping and spinning around, but she had several costumes from several ensembles. And one more thing, even the parents of other children began to watch her when she came on stage. She had presence, stage presence.

Her father watched her every rehearsal, and remembers almost the exact week when the joyful romp became a joyful performance. She counted out the choreographed steps and used concise, but shortened hand and wrist movements to memorize the routine . She could do this anywhere, waiting for food at restaurants, watching television, anywhere at all. The dance floor was in her mind, and the shorthand was an extension of her body.

When the actual rehearsal came, her body mimicked what her shorthand had already worked out, except for the spinning. The shorthand for spinning was a little twirl of the wrist, but that was not at all like the real thing.

Initially, she spun and just got dizzy after a minute. It took years before being able to “spot” off stage by keeping your head fixed, then quickly spin it around to complete the next turn. We have all seen the technique in professional dancers, but it was amazing to see this in pre-teens. By the time she was a teenager she had the technique down pat. And she  was improving her speed of turning her head after having it fixed on a point.

All the while her body was perfectly vertical, arms and legs in exact pose. It was powerful to see, and powerful to experience. And then something happened.

Her eyesight began to fail her. The snap turning of her head to the fixed point began to give her blurred vision. She said nothing at first, worrying that she might have to stop dancing. She continued on, and unless the performance required a tight spin, she never noticed the blurred vision.

Unfortunately a new choreographer like to introduce several star dancers by writing in long spins, longer than she had ever done before. As it turns out, she could easily outspin everyone in the class, so she got the starring lead. Happy as she was, she began to worry about the blurred vision. Could it have longer lasting blurring for the next series of steps?

For several days of rehearsal she studied what was happening. It seemed to her that it was just blurred vision, not dizziness or nausea, certainly not upset stomach. That was a relief, so she focused on what she could actually see, something that a fast camera lens could capture.

It took several weeks before she was certain it wasn’t blurred vision, it was blurred objects, not her vision of the objects. She was seeing clearly , but what she was seeing was blurry. She tested this theory by slowing her spin slightly, and the result was that the box shaped object that she used for her focal point was sharper and less blurred,

She knew that this might seem like a perspective issue. Logic told her that the perception of the box being in focus could be the effect of going slower. It just seemed unusual that it was so consistent, by going just a little bit faster there was an exact degree of blur that postured . After a time it didn’t seem reasonable that her body was that responsive. Some days it shouldn’t be as blurry if it was her fault.

Her final conclusion is that it didn’t matter what she thought she saw, she wasn’t dizzy and she came out of the spin exactly when she needed. The show was a hit, and everyone agreed that they couldn’t take their eyes off of her .

It’s now years later, she is still dancing, but also taking physics in college. The professor offhandedly states that nothing is created and nothing destroyed, just states are changed. Very typical sophomore concepts to open the inquiring mind. Nothing destroyed, just changed.

She thought about this, and reasoned that it made sense when times were simpler, and change was slower, in a practical sense it meant that all atoms, or even parts of atoms are already existent. Nothing new created since the Big Bang. Everything made since is using the current storehouse. The question is, when do we run out of supplies. We want to make sometime new but there aren’t “parts” available. Where do the parts come from if nothing new is created. The answer is simple, some things must be taken apart so that new things can be made.

This balance would be perfect if we don’t mind losing some things in order to have new things. The trouble is that the timing can be all wrong, millions off  things  are  still needed  in  the  modern world and billions  of  things  want to be  made.  The  young dancer  thought  that  physics  was  starting  off badly. How would we know when there was a parts shortage? It  didn’t make sense to her ordered mind. But  it was a problem that she tried  to  work out the  best  she could without  asking her professor. It was too soon  to ask a silly question. Where was the raw material for new things?

Obviously, the earth was mostly untouched, the bottom of the sea floor, plenty of things die off each year. It was a silly question. But is it an infinite supply? The sand of a desert seems infinite, but there are countable grains.

And who collects the supplies to make them available? Suddenly the dancer studying physics thought she might need a second minor in theology.

Then it came to here in a dream, she could technically see a little less than 180 degrees. She doesn’t know what the state of the molecules are for things she can’t see. What if reality is only that which we can observe? That’s very egocentric but maybe that’s only a perspective thing.

Suddenly a memory flashed from years ago. A box sitting off stage right, getting more blurry the faster she turned. More blurry because the detail is in the molecules, and if the molecules aren’t there, then it’s half formed, blurry. Getting out of bed she felt unsteady on her feet. She had heard about first year college students having delusional thoughts. She worried that the stress of leaving home does funny  things.

She went to the bathroom to splash some water on her face. She looked at her image in the mirror and laughed inwardly. She couldn’t see the room behind her head. Maybe the world doesn’t exist there. Perhaps as she moves to one side, the world is being taken apart in order to build the world that is coming into view on the other side.

She thought she could re-create the dancer’s spotter vision, by not focusing on anything, but intently looking just the same. And with her dancer’s reaction, she could move from side to side to see if anything is out of the ordinary. She tried several times, but nothing seemed strange except the dancer’s slight jerking from side to side. She decided to get the toothpaste behind the mirror while she was finishing her jerking routine.

The movement of the mirror magnified the speed of her body’s jerk movement, and for a nanosecond there was a blurry line around her head. Blurry on the left as the room decomposed, blurry on the right as the room was being built.

Using the scientific method she repeated this a dozen times. Her vision was not blurry, parts of the room that she could see in the mirror were blurry, just like that box years ago. She thought that in the morning she should go see a counselor… and change her major to physics with a minor in dance. There are new things to explore.

(a story)

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Fredegund

This is a story first told by Gregory of Tours, who lived from 30 November c. 538 – 17 November 594 AD. He was a Gallo-Roman historian, and the Bishop of Tours. His position and training made him very knowledgeable of the times, and he is the primary source for the history of the Merovingian kings.

Fredegund was a maid to Audovera, the first wife of Chilperic I, the Merovingian Frankish king of Soissons. Fredegund convinced the King to put Audovera in a Monestery and divorce her. Fredegund did not go with her and soon became the King’s favorite. This did not last long because the King put her aside in order to marry Galswintha, 561–584. Galswintha was the daughter of Athanagild, Visigothic King of the Iberian Penisula, and the sister of Brunnhilda, who was married to King Sigebert I of Austrasia. Yes, she is that famous Brunnhilda.

Fredegund did not take kindly to Chilperic marrying Galswintha, and responded by strangling her within a year’s time. Brunnhilda did not take kindly to her sister being murdered and this started a 40 year bitter feud between the two women. It is not recorded what Chilperic thought, but he married Fredegund soon after. Together they had four sons and at least one daughter.

There was an outbreak of dysentery in Gaul which affected the king and his two sons Chlodobert and Dagobert. The king survived, his sons did not. Perhaps Fredegund felt bad about her sons, but when her son Samson became ill soon after birth, she set him aside, fearful that she would become sick. He soon died.

Her daughter Rigunth was quite beautiful. Gregory of Tours relates a story that Fredegund was jealous of her daughter, and tricked her into looking at a chest of jewels. When Rigunth bent over to look more closely, Fredegund shut the lid down on her neck to choke her to death. Rigunth was saved by the sudden appearance of some servants. She was then sent to Spain to marry a Visigoth prince.

Gregory paints a very negative story of Fredegund, a vicious murderer, an evil treacherous queen. She is the archetype of every dark queen that we see in the movies or read in fairy stories. And she gets worse as she gets older. She uses her power and position to arrange the assignations of dozens of political enemies. There is even the suggestion that she arranged the assignation of her husband Chilperic.

Fredegund certainly ordered the assignation of King Sigebert and Queen Brunnhilda. Finally, in 573, she successfully had Sigebert murdered. Brunnhilda fled to Guntram, the King of Burgundy, who protected her for several years, but Fredegund still tried to have her killed.

Fredegund ruled the kingdom until her son Chlothar II became of age. The hatred she had for Brunnhilda was transferred to her son, and it became his mission to make war against her.

Fredegund died of natural causes on 8 December 597 in Paris. Death did not create peace. Her son Chlothar had captured Brunnhilda and had ordered that she be tied by the arms and hair to the tail of a young, untamed horse, and dragged through the entire army. As soon as the king gave this order, it was carried out. The first time the man who was on the horse dug his spurs in, the horse kicked up his heels with such force that Brunnhilda’s head flew off. Her body was dragged through the bushes and brambles, over hills and dales, so that it was torn to pieces, limb from limb. She was about 70 years old.

Fredegund was my 39th great grandmother, and every time I see or read about an evil queen, I think about her.

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Benjamin Bathurst

Benjamin Bathurst, 1784-1809

I came across this name in a book by Charles Fort. If you have read any of his writing you know that he doesn’t spend too much time on a subject. He may have invented “just the facts, ma’am”. Unfortunately most of what he writes is gleaned from newspaper articles written at the time, so “the facts” are debatable.

The article in question states that Benjamin Bathurst “walked around the horses, and disappeared.” That statement alone is loaded with questions. In my brief research I discovered many things. I discovered that their was a book titled “He Walked Around the Horses”, by H. Beam Piper, 1948. Not only that, according to Wikipedia, Benjamin Bathurst was mentioned in at least ten written works from 1924 through 1992, mostly science fiction. All had made much of the strange disappearance.

So briefly, who was Benjamin Bathurst? He was a British diplomat sent on a mission to Emperor Francis I of Austria in 1809. He was the son of a powerful politician that actually ordered him on the mission. On his way back to England his carriage stopped in the evening at a small village near Hamburg, Germany. He was traveling with an assistant under disguised names. It was about 9:00 pm, so even though the horses were ready, they were considering if they should spend the night at the inn. Going outside, Bathurst was slightly ahead of his assistant and went around the horses to enter the carriage. When the assistant entered the carriage, Bathurst was gone.

A massive search was immediately started. Nothing was found. The river was dredged, woods were scoured. Several days later Bathurst’s expensive coat was found in the home of a woman who worked at the inn, she probably lifted it after he was found missing. A month later his pants were found in the woods three miles north of the inn. It had a letter to his wife in a pocket, mentoring that Bathurst “was surrounded by enemies”. According to some reports there were two bullet holes in the pants, but no bloodstains.

England, Austria, and Prussia were all at war with France, and the French border was not that far away. Napoleon was suspected of having sent a detachment of troops to capture Bathurst. In a meeting withBathurst’s wife. He denied knowing anything about it. This was still a big newspaper story at the time, and was covered by many newspapers in Europe. The story continued to be fresh in 1854 when a mysterious skeleton was discovered buried in a stable near the inn. Bathurst’s wife apparently went to see if it was her husband. Nothing more was written on the visit.

The latest research brought out that Bathurst had been commited a year earlier with a mental breakdown due to stress from being a diplomat to Sweden. There were some letters that suggest Bathurst was having some sort of outbursts in the carriage, saying that enemies were after him. It included that Bathurst had physically shaken his assistant by his coat lapels. Perhaps the letter was written to his wife to puff up his trip abroad. Or perhaps Bathurst had really seen French agents stalking him.

The studied research does suggest that he was murdered by someone who disposed of the body in some way. Because we don’t know exactly what happened we can suppose all sorts of possibilities, even if the “possibilities” are completely in the realm of science fiction

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Today I Was Naked

At my age this would not be a pretty sight. Maybe at any age. But I’m not talking about clothing, I’m talking about leaving the house without my cellphone. Now if you are a younger person, you can easily relate, your cellphone is your lifeline. Of course, if you are a younger person it is more likely that you have never left your cellphone. It would be like leaving the house with no clothes on.

I remember hard plastic-like, black phones, with a rotary dial, connected by a hard wire via a party-line (cheaper), and no area code yet. The concept of a wireless phone meant that it would be even larger, and not fit in your pocket.

So for about sixty years of my life, I left my phone in the house when I left. Because it was attached to the wall. Later on we had area codes, and special rates for “long distance”. Somehow we were all convinced that it made sense for higher rates because something was used up the further that you called, like gasoline in your car. The phone companies allowed you to be ignorant.

Leaving the house without a phone wasn’t barbaric. They had these things called “phone booths” or public toilets, they seemed functional for both purposes. Superman was always able to find one in an emergency, and so could you!

Nearly every public parking had a phone booth, and most could give you a five minute call for a dime (remember, something was used up). Lots of young people wore buttons that they pinned to their jackets or purse straps. It was very wise to put a dime in the back of several buttons. You could always make an emergency call. Some people still wore “penny loafer” shoes, but replaced the penny with dimes. Later on it was a quarter for three minutes, so the buttons had to get bigger, and the shoes were out.

In addition for being the model for future airplane bathrooms, the phone booth did provide a measure of security. Not only did it deter thugs from a snatch and grab, but it muted the conversation that you might have, unless there was a lip reader nearby. There is a federal law that talks about “the expectation of privacy” and government agents cannot listen in or record any conversation between individuals if there is “an expectation of privacy” without a warrant signed by a judge. That stops the police from tapping your business or your home. It also stops them at the phone booth.

But time rolls forward, now we all have cellphones, and we feel naked if we leave it at home. And by the way, there is a limited “expectation of privacy” with cellphones. No warrant needed to listen in or record anything said through the public airwaves, just purchase a scanner.

Ever wonder why those public phones that don’t live in a phonebooth have those little “wings” on either side? It does stop some extra noise, but it is supposed to give you that “expectation or privacy”. Plus the new design allowed the phones to be lower, and no booth meant that it was wheelchair accessible.

There is one more thing that is different about nearly everyone having a cellphone, and that is “connectivity”.

I want you to envision your close circle of friends, it could be anywhere from two to a dozen. How many of you have that one close friend that is slightly off the rails, wears aluminum foil hats in the house, listens to radio talk shows about aliens, and hangs out near Area 51 on vacation. We might know someone like that, but rarely are they close friends, unless you do the same things.

Now, expand to relatives and acquaintances. Expand it even further to one hundred people. With one hundred people you might find one of them that fits this description. That’s one percent of your acquaintances that are slightly wacko. You can handle that, your particular group will not be taken off the rails by one percent of the people you know. You are safe.

However, now most people are connected by cellphones, many of them “smart phones” allowing for deeper connectivity. If the population of the US is 328 million folks then one percent is 3,280,000 people that can be connected with the same mindset. If they were all told to move to Denver, and taken over the city, there might be anywhere from 32,000 to 328,000 people that actually show up.

Yes, back then, with our Bakelite phone tied to the wall in the house, we might have felt isolated compared to today. But there is a positive side to isolation.

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Rocks of the Playa

I having been pondering about the “sailing stones of racetrack playa”. I know, what can we learn about stones that move upon their own accord, besides the fact that no one has seen them move. Is it because Racetrack Playa is so far removed from civilization? Or is it part of a vast conspiracy of stones being moved by aliens for their own amusement. I have even heard that this was a training ground for individuals learning the “black arts” of telekinesis.

If somehow you have missed the story… Racetrack Playa is a dry, mud cracked, lakebed, just north of Death Valley in California. It is rather scenic as dry lakes go, but in addition it has over a hundred stones from ounces to hundreds of pounds, that have moved on the dry lakebed, leaving furrows that meander hundreds of feet. And there are no footprints, thus the name “sailing stones”.

Shades of “crop circles”.

First discovered in a documented account in 1915, it was officially suggested the stones moved as the result of hurricane force winds. This was an absurd idea, but it was the best that early science could provide. Privately, they were uncertain. It wasn’t long before underground theories began to fill in the void of “uncertain knowledge”.

Many different theories were put forth in the following 50 years. Finally, in May, 1972, a sailing stone movement monitoring system was put into place. A corral was built to isolation approximately thirty stones, in order to measured their movement from month to month. Each stone was measured and given names, like Karen, Mary Ann, Nancy, etc. Mary Ann moved a whopping 212 feet during the first winter. After seven years of study, Nancy had accumulated 860 feet. Karen was the big disappointment, she had not moved an inch in seven years. It’s 570 feet of trail may have been from it’s first walk, but nothing since. Some say it was reasonable because Karen was approximately 700 lbs. I think that’s a little “fat shaming”.

Now, of course, Karen is not there. She disappeared in 1992 or 1993. There may have been a sighting in 1994, but nothing since then. Looking for her photo on a milk cartoon, “700 lb dolomite rock, answers to the name Karen.” You can be sure that there are several additional theories of what has happened to Karen.

Finally, modern technology caught up to the mystery. ‘If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, does it make a sound?” Sure it does, prove it with with a remote audio recorder. So, a group of researchers set up time lapse video cameras on several stones, and placed special GPS devices on as many as 60 sailing stones. The results of this study was published in 2014.

Warlocks did not appear to move the stones. Aliens did not use force beams for curious reasons. A thin layer of ice had formed during the rainy season, and even a mild wind could cause a stone to sail. They actually video taped movement on a pleasant day.

My question is… why is it so easy to believe the impossible, instead of maintaining, “I don’t know yet”?

Now, one more fact for conspiracy people- why is it that the highest and lowest points on the North American continent are only 90 miles apart?

I forgot to mention, if you plan to visit Racetrack Playa and the sailing stones, it’s only 6 miles from Teapot Junction, a stop sign corner. Bring your own teapot, (now that’s a mystery)

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The Best Cat

I lost a good friend today. She wasn’t a pet, I’m not sure any cat is a pet. We might be their pets, but the nature of the relationship cannot be defined as “petness”. Megan was a Queen, and she knew it. She tolerated us for about 18 years. She died suddenly in my lap.

Because cats and dogs have so much shorter lives, we experience a lot of “pet grief”. It doesn’t get easier, but it does get familiar. For so long they have been a part of our lives. The unconditional love, the forgiveness of being ignored, the amazingly weird things that they were caught doing. Stories about our pets keep their memories alive.

Meg was a typical cat, she assumed everyone loved her, and they did. She tolerated a belly rub for a few minutes, but would soon depart if it continued. Not a big fan of anyone touching her ears, but loved a rump and tail stroke. And of course, the under the chin scratch. For the last four or five years she moved from my lap, to snuggling under my beard, with her back to my neck. If I left her alone she might stay that way for a few hours. Naturally I had to be reclined in my chair.

She hated her litter box, and would demand to be let outside. We were good with this during the daylight, but the coyote population made letting her out in the evening problematic. If I went for my evening snack in the kitchen, she would be right there, looking out the glass door to the patio, vocalizing. I’ve been told that this type of vocalizing is strictly for humans. I certainly knew what she was saying, and it wasn’t very nice.

When I finished, I would turn off the light, while she was still sitting there, staring off into the night. I would walk back to my recliner, and before I could sit down, I could see her “zoftique” form padding across the wood floor, heading to the fireplace ledge behind my chair. This was necessary because she didn’t like “the floor to chair” leap all at once. I would barely have time for the lap blanket before she would jump on my lap. Most times I would have to pick her up to arrange the blanket under her, and that was difficult because she had her claws out, kneading my thighs.

Two minutes before she was “cat cussing” me, and now it was all forgiven, giving me three or four licks on my arm or hand. Not a big licker, sometimes the nose for two licks if you were face to face. Then she would settle in. If you happened to be reading or looking at your iPad, she knew that was rude, so she would work her way to get between you and the media. It took a great deal of effort to ignore her by moving the book around, she would just counter the move with one of her own.

She had her quirks, and they were specific to people. Sherry would often have a glass of water on the table near the couch. Megan would demand to drink from it. She had her own bowl of fresh cool water on the kitchen floor, but she noticed that no one drank from it, so she didn’t either. Sherry got in the habit of bringing two glasses of water to the table. Sherry even placed a water glass on the kitchen floor. Megan preferred crystal over plastic.

All of my children have Megan stories. Maybe Amy has the most, because of her “cat dancing” videos. Megan was very tolerant, and good with children.

We were fortunate to not have a lengthy sickness, Megan didn’t suffered from cat leukemia. She did have a lump, or growth in her throat that was quite large a few years ago. We even had it checked out, and the surgery was very intensive, and expensive. Megan took care of that on her own, and it started shrinking pretty quickly. It was still there if you searched for it, but it didn’t bother her.

I believe she must have suffered a stroke, or possible a heart attack. She actually fell over in my lap, and appeared to be dizzy. Then several sharp pains caused her to complain loudly, almost as if her tail was caught in a door. Then she stooped breathing for about 30 seconds. I didn’t move her, and I was hoping this was just a temporarily thing. It was so fast.

She even purred while I was calming her down. Her eyes were dilated and unresponsive, but she was still purring until her breathing stopped again. Maybe this repeated four or five times until she was still. She had died in my arms.

The night before, it had started raining about ten, and I had forgotten to put away some tools from earlier that day. While I had left the back door open, she darted out in to the hard rain. I didn’t think she would like it, so I held the door open to call her in. Megan didn’t answer to “kitty kitty”, she never did, we always had to say “meow, meow”. Even that wasn’t a guarantee.

She had gone into the gloom, and I had fears that a wet, cold coyote would have her for a late dinner. I shut the door and went to the refrigerator for a snack, and when I walked back, there she was, pacing to get in. I went over to the door and opened it expecting a wet confused cat to race for her food dish. Instead she turned left, refusing the open door, and went around the side of the house. Perhaps she remembered the cat litter inside, and decided she had business elsewhere.

Now, she was truly gone and it was raining so hard that it was impossible to follow. I went to the back porch, thinking she would get out of the rain under the awning. A few minutes later I went downstairs to the front porch to see if she ducked in there. Each time I did my “meow, meow”, wondering what the neighbors might think. No luck, she probably was out hunting. In the last week she had brought two “presents” for us to dispose.

Around 12:00 midnight I heard a “meow”. I made a fast descent down the stairs to the front door. She wasn’t there, it was still raining. I made a few low “meows” but no luck. Then I thought maybe I didn’t hear correctly so I headed for the kitchen door. I went upstairs, I repeated my cat call, but nothing happened. I even gave the door a second opening, but there was only the rain falling.

Walking back to my chair I heard one more “meow”, I went back down the stairs, opened the door and walked a few steps out into the rain. Nothing! Where was she? Feeling defeated, I walked back up the stairs, to check the kitchen door one more time.

I think as soon as the light came on, she ran from her shelter, to pace back and forth behind the door. I couldn’t get there fast enough. Sure enough, once opened, she made a rush for her food dish, and I left her there, relieved, to head for my chair. The same standard routine then occurred, like thousands of times before, she was already there on the fireplace, ready to jump in my lap. Her food would still be there later. She was a frequent snacker. More important to find a lap.

This is the process of grieving, to tell tales of the one you have lost. To laugh at their unique character, to smile at their forgiveness and loving nature,

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Traffic

1917 Nash

An article in the San Francisco Examiner, Jan 13, 1918

San Mateo Arrests 1500 Traffic Violators

Redwood City- Jan 12

Since August 1, 1917, when the San Mateo officers began a rigid campaign against violators of traffic ordinances, more than 1,500 auto violations have been hailed before San Mateo courts. Nearly all of the cases have been for “cutting in” or carrying blinding lights, little attempts being paid during the crusade, to speeders.

Exactly what do they mean by “speeding” in 1917? A fast walk? A quick average of internet posts suggest that a 1917 could go as fast as 30 mph on a flat road, but roads at that time were pretty rough, so that might be a death wish.

“Cutting in” was, and is, a problem. We don’t merge, and we don’t yield. What we would like are roads wide enough so that we could all go side by side. That’s why we build multi-lane freeways. This problem of yield is a metaphor for other areas in life. Signs tell us to yield, and we just ignore them. When people tell us to yield, we say they are on a power trip. A “yielding spirit” is a character flaw. We are destined to crash into one and another.

The interesting item is “blinding lights”. What did the ordinances say about lights? Did they rate them in candlepower? Did they have candles?

Another article mentions 1,300 vehicles were stolen in 1917. Statewide? Area wide? All but 106 were recovered by local police. 72 Fords, 6 Buick’s/Chevrolets, 3 Dodges, 2 Stutz, and one each for Mitchell, Overland, Locomobile, Empire, Maibohn, Saxon, Dort, American, Maxwell, and Oldsmobile.

The numbers don’t quite add up, but I am impressed by the number of makes and models.

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Reminders

Things pop up, from time to time, and very unexpectedly. My nieces are cleaning out my eldest brothers home. He doesn’t live there, no one could. It’s possible that he invented “hoarding”. He certainly had a head start because he was “dumpster diving” for decades. In fairness, he once built a two story cabin in the woods with found lumber, windows, fixtures, and pool tables.

He has a nice in-law cottage with his youngest daughter, and he rarely goes back to his home with treasures. I don’t think they would let him.

Thoughtful as the girls have always been, they found some stuff that they thought I would like, and packed it up, shipping to me first class. It was some photos, some documents, and several old newspapers. One paper in particular was from my home town, The Richmond Independent. This paper is what I grew up with. It was swallowed by one of those communication conglomerates, and nothing was left but memories.

My godfather, my namesake, was a printer at the paper, so I always felt a deep connection. Even for a bookish teenager, the writing was pretty good. There was one feature that stood out. A customer could have a free two line ad in the classified section, if the item you were selling was $50 or under. In the 1950s or even 1960s, that was pretty cool. All sorts of interesting things ended up being listed.

So naturally, when I got this newspaper in a box with others, I immediately looked for the “Bargain Counter”, section 601. I suppose it should be the bargain column, but…

The very first item gave me pause. It listed an engagement ring, appraised at $200, selling for $50 cash. Call after 5:30pm. Three or four things to think about. This was Dec.4, 1954. Didn’t everybody deal with cash? Maybe the seller feared some sort of a trade deal. Secondly, call after 5:30 implies a working person, probably a hard-working person that needed the cash. And lastly, what is the story behind this broken engagement? Typical breakup, ghastly accident, troubled second thoughts? It was only two lines, but I spent several minutes thinking about the possibilities.

I was actually looking for something very specific, very important. It wasn’t there, there were toys, bicycles, furniture, ovens, and fur coats, but not what I was looking for.

Another rite of passage for a sixteen year old was to get your drivers license, buy a car, park it in the driveway and smoke cigarettes with your friends. If the car actually ran, then you would “drag the main” at .25 cents a gallon, and buy a Giraffe at Gordon’s (think Orange Julius) at the end of the night.

It all hinged at being able to buy a vehicle with grass cutting salary, or saved allowance. That’s where the “Bargain Counter” came to fame. Dozens and dozen of my friends and relatives brought their first car from the classified 601 column. And now I have my very own copy, and there isn’t a car listed. Wait….

The next to the last item, a 1936 Buick, good tires, good condition, $40

Wow, not even the full $50. We would have ten dollars for gas, that would last the whole summer!

Yep, reminders pop up when you least expect them.

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Know Your Father

It’s a right of passage. You are first a child, and you think like a child. Your parents are simply there, providing everything you need, or you cry louder. Later on, your parents become people, but they are so ignorant. Somehow, even later on, they become brilliant, and sometimes wise. It makes you wonder if they were the same people.

My father was different than my brother’s father, and both of us never even met my oldest brother’s father. It was the same man, but ten years difference between the first two boys, and then seven years difference between the last two, this made quite a difference in personality and energy.

I was shocked to find out that my father was a jock, a five sport athlete. He was an outstanding baseball pitcher, played in the minor leagues all over the Midwest. He once pitched three games against Satchel Page, won one. He was pretty constantly batting .390’s, sometimes in the middle .450s. He also boxed, he had massive heavy hands, I don’t recall his record but, I would not want to receive a punch from those hands. He had a college scholarship for football, but the Depression hit right after high school, so he looked for work. He was an good bowler. When I was growing up I remember only one plaque on the wall, it was small, maybe3x5 inches, metal, engraved with the score of his “Eleven in a Row”. He liked it because the first frame was a spare, and the next eleven were strikes. He never gave up. And then, lastly, there was/were horseshoes. Pretty big things, more popular when there were still horses around.

I did know about the bowling, I was raised in a bowling alley. My father was always in at least two leagues all the while I was growing up. That meant most Friday and Saturday nights we would all go to the bowling alley for a few hours. It was fun hanging out, peeking in the adult pool parlor, reading comics, talking with my mom. We could always tell when my father was ready to bowl. He had this technique of standing at the line, staring at the pins, then he would raise the ball with both hands over his head, step forward to swing the ball back, another step forward to release the ball about an inch from the floor. He had a gentle curve, but it went right in the pocket, and the sound of ten pins flying in the air, the ball hitting them, the pins hitting each other, everything bouncing off the three walls of the alley… it was deafening.

He never taught me to bowl, or to box, or to play baseball (maybe a few games of catch), and definitely didn’t teach me to play football. I did toss some horseshoes but they were massive, and heavy. I tried to imagine the size of horses that they would fit.

It wasn’t that I was deprived, my father was simply done with these things. He taught me camping skills, tried to teach me fishing (boring), he really taught me archery, and we would go out to courses often. I still have the first bow that he bought me. The biggest thing was that he taught me sailing. He never sailed a boat larger than 12 feet. Mostly he would convert some old rowboat with matching side-keels, and a makeshift mast with a tarp. Finally, my oldest brother gave him a sailing dinghy from Norway. That was the boat I learned on. I did take him out on the 30 ft. Yankee. I think he liked it.

So, back to the beginning, who was this man who was forty years old when I was born? He was pretty well read in high school, but read mostly dime novels when I was home. He didn’t talk much, and played solitaire a lot. There is a family joke that he wore the spots off his cards because he played so much. It isn’t a joke. He had a deck that he liked so much that the ink was gone. He could only tell the cards apart by the faint indentation left by the printing press. Ghost cards!

Most people define themselves in social situations by the careers that they choose. Except, most people rarely choose their careers, unless they are very lucky, or extremely driven. The average persons falls into something, then stays because it isn’t too bad, and the money is good. My father was a welder. He came west to build ships during WWII. I think he learned something about welding, working for the Conservation Corp for a few months in the middle 1930s.

When the war ended, he applied for a job at Chevron Standard Oil, as a boilermaker. He made, and repaired boilers. They boil a lot of oil at Standard Oil. I went to Richmond Union High School, our mascot was an oil can. We were “the Oilers”.

Apparently, my father was a master welder, and could weld any size pipe, connecting to different sizes of other pipes, and at any angle. He would cut the ends of a pipe, with a matching hole in the other, then seal it with a single matching bead. I learned this from one of his co-workers. He didn’t teach me welding either.

I know he had a hard life, his father left the family when he was young, and he had several step-fathers that were a disaster. Another family story is that he hid in a flour barrel fearing for his life. His final years in high school he lived with his older sister, and that was fairly common in large families.

I knew a little about his former work life before he became a welder. He found a job at a meat packing plant in Fargo, North Dakota. The Armour Meat Company had a large plant on the west side of town. I asked him what that was like. He said it was okay, he rose through the ranks and became “the Hammer”, the guy with a sledgehammer, hitting cows between the eyes. I may have been ten years old at the time. I don’t think I talked to him about that for at least another ten years.

When I did talk to him again, he said he thought it was far better, and more humane than using a pistol. They had changed policies after a while, and gave him a .22 pistol. Every now and then the cow would not die, and it was a mess. For years he had hit them with a hammer, and no problem. He finally asked for another job.

Apparently he had also started to pitch baseball for the company team, and they were winning! He negotiated a raise, and a position on the company’s police force, or he would leave the team. The police force also provided services to the city. He rose through the ranks pretty quickly, and with those massive fists, he became Chief of Police for Fargo, ND. He never saw the movie Fargo.

So my dad was a LEO (law enforcement officer) for a time. I remember playing with this huge badge that he kept hidden in the garage.

All this, and I still say that I have a hard time knowing my father, I’m not certain that it’s anyone’s fault. It was just a different time, and a different generation.

This blog started because I recently received a gift of some old documents from family members. Lots of old newspapers, and there were three certificates with my father’s name in impressive Old English letters. The certificates were from the Armour Meat Company in three categories; Beef, Hogs, and Sheep. In each category there were eight or nine skill areas that actually had a numbered ranking, supposedly out of a hundred points. My father scored mostly in the 90’s, but none lower than an 85. He had 98 in hog curing, 97 in hides.

The skill areas were killing, skinning, offal, coolers, pelts, casings, sausage, curing, smoking, and cutting. I was grossed out like I was ten years old, but I knew him a little more.

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Lost?

Being retired, I have the unique privilege of doing basic research to support my claims.

I have spent many years hiking in the High Sierras, Nevada desert, Yellowstone Park, Washington North Cascades, and Oregon’s Three Sisters. Not just your normal weekends, but backpacking for a week or two at a time (mostly weekends by count). I think by conservative standards I have clocked somewhere around 11,000 hours.

Now of course, this includes sleeping, eating, and resting…so let’s say we cut the number in half. That means 5,500 hours of staring at a map, trying to find ribbons in the trees, deciding with my gut which trail to choose, sometimes making my own trail when there wasn’t one.

In all those hours I have never been lost. If I had, my bones would still be out there, in summer sun, and winter snow.

In fairness, I have been woefully misdirected for a few days… but never lost!

A few months back, I was driving home alone at night. I wasn’t using my brights in the neighborhood, and we live far back, so there are multiple turns, left and right.

They are arranged in a pattern that you memorize if you are returning from the normal route. But there are several ways to come home, and several patterns to remember. I must point out that there are no street lamps and on moonless nights it is a challenge.

So, on this night I made several left right left turns, and then suddenly I was at a dead end. Not the right dead end, but a completely different dead end. I can now understand the drunk that entered a stranger’s house because he was tired. I was tempted.

But I don’t drink! I also had no clue to back out to where I had made the mistake. I resorted to firing up my GPS, and I was only blocks from my home.

Okay, I still wasn’t lost, because I got home.

We all have “brain farts” where we can’t remember a name, or some sort of common data. Once, in high school I forgot how to spell “a”, and I couldn’t even remember the first letter. (That sounds like a stroke now!) But I recall it was a significant day when my father-in-law could no longer visit us, because he couldn’t remember, and that was in the daytime.

With age, it can creep up on you, there is an issue with various forms of dementia. It probably is at the back of most people’s minds until it suddenly presents its self as a serious question.

I’m not obsessing about it because I have taken a few steps to get a little warning.

A few seasons back I got a present of a large collection of Sudoku puzzles. A very thoughtful gift, because someone had noticed that I play Sudoku on my phone/iPad.

What they didn’t know is that I hate Sudoku. I’m not a big game player in any case. All the PlayStation stuff, or even Mario, just passed me by.

But Sudoku was different, it had numbers associated with the timing and strategy of play. I fail miserably at the strategy, but I have been consistent in the numbers.

If I score somewhere close, plus or minus, to 80,000 then I probably won’t get lost driving home. It’s a great check on my system. If I forget a book title, or a name, then I play a round of Sudoku, and everything is fine!

Isn’t it amazing how well we neutralize our fears? Now, if only I could remember where I put my phone.

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Brain Cells

I’ve been thinking about brain cells. Obviously they are in the brain, so…the thing that I am, is safe behind a skull, which used to have a cushion of hair around it. Is male pattern baldness the first step to eventual oblivion? Is the brain in danger?

Then it occurred to me that a certain percentage of brain cells may have escaped and taken up residence somewhere else. We talk about “gut feeling”, is it really “gut thinking”? Or, what about the heart? Why is it that the lungs never get feeling/thinking credit? Or perhaps the tip of the little finger on the left hand? Could millions of brain cells decide to migrate to the little finger, knowing that age has exposed their native “homeland” to danger? They are “brain cells” after all, they could think of these things.

As always, Google search can offer some suggestions…

Aside from the structural tissue and blood vessels, the brain consists of two types of cells, neurons and glia cells. Neurons have this wonderful electrical ability to pass information from one cell to another. Neurons group together in nuclei, and are connected to other nuclei by tracts. Their “homeland” is the cerebral cortex. However, neurons exist throughout the body and fall into three categories: sensory, motor, or interneurons. Sensory is massive throughout the skin, and they send messages about the world back to the brain. Motor neurons are in the heart, intestinal system, diaphragm, and glands. They assist in the primary functions of those tissues.

Glia cells are the most numerous and mysterious. They assist the neurons but nobody is quite sure of everything they do. I’ll just repost this paragraph because I’m not certain how to reword it.

“Glial cells are the supporting cells of the neurons. The three types of glial cells are astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and ependymal cells, known collectively as macroglia, and the smaller scavenger cells known as microglia. Glial stem cells are found in all parts of the adult brain. Glial cells greatly outnumber neurons and apart from their supporting role to neurons, glia – astrocytes in particular have been acknowledged as being able to communicate with neurons involving a signalling process similar to neurotransmission called gliotransmission. They cannot produce an action potential as generated by a neuron but in their large numbers they can produce chemicals expressing excitability that exert an influence on neural circuitry. The star-like shape of the astrocyte allows contact with a great many synapses.”

Very suspicious, and maybe glia does some thinking as well. I bet that if some independent minded neurons left the brain, a good many glia cells would follow and help set up camp wherever they went.

Interneurons provide the inter communication between the sensory and the motor neurons. So, knowing this… which neurons think? I’m betting that thinking and communication are linked, it makes sense that interneurons throughout the body provide some sort of “thinking”. We somehow accept a “gut feeling”, but what about the skin? If you say no, then why does your skin “crawl”?

Your lungs appear to be somewhat empty of neurons, but the diaphragm has a bunch. Ever catch your breathe? Taste, hearing, smell and sight also has tons of interneurons, but we never (or rarely) give credit for them thinking. There maybe something special about smell neurons connecting to memory storage.

The possibility of brain cells intentionally migrating to safer parts of the body is intriguing, but going to the extremities seems not logical. Stubbing your toe, or getting your hand caught in a door is proof enough that it is dangerous out there.

My bet is that the “colonists” would head for the “Vagus Nerve”. Look it up, it’s a spinal nerve, completely protected by the torso, with quick exits to all the major populations of interneuron activity. Apparently there is a major collection near the tail-bone, where it is no longer needed to wag something.

Perhaps we can “think” from our butt in future decades.

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Heroes of History

Is it fair that some of my hero’s/heroines may not be entirely historical? I have written before about my attraction to individuals who made impacts coming from an isolated existence.

Temujin is a perfect example, his tribe nearly wiped out, living alone outside of the community, with only his mother able to help him. Eventually he challenged the leader of a small clan. He won, then he used those men to challenge a larger clan, he won. This repeated over and over, like a winning streak at a roulette table, Temujin became a man of importance and the tribes renamed him Genghis Khan.

My personal favorite is Harald Hardrada. His life story sounds like an action movie. Wounded at age fifteen when there was a battle for the Norwegian crown, and the victor tried to kill all the remaining contenders. Harald escaped to Kiev, ended up in Constanople, fighting for the Emperor, grew rich. Harald then used his wealth to return to Norway to take back the crown. At the age of fifty he set his eyes on the crown of England, and died trying to take it. His defeat ended the Viking Age. He also managed to kill 2/3rds of the English army, which made it much better for William the Bastard, to become William the Conqueror at Hastings two weeks later. The world changed because of the life and death of Harald Hardrada.

There was a time that was called the Dark Ages, only because there wasn’t much written that survived, plus this was before great strides were made in all forms of human effort. A driving force at the turn of the millennia was Hildegard von Bingen, 1098-1179. Many scholars believe that her intelligence, and grasp of new possibilities far exceeded anyone on earth, even to include Einstein and Hawking. She was given to the Church at a young age, but it did not hide her talents.

She wrote music that is still played, she wrote and illustrated a botanical encyclopedia, she was a healer, an adviser to kings and emperors, she was the first woman to begin and run an abbey. She was also a pioneer in math, and was one of the first to popularize the Arabic numeral system. Imagine trying to do trigonometry with Roman numerals. The world was different because of Hildegard.

I can think of dozens of individuals that just made one difference, but we don’t know where, or what their name might have been. The first person who made fire, and was able to teach others. The first person to tie reeds together to make a craft for the water. The first person to attach a keel to their round bottomed boats, for better directional stability. The first person that harnessed the wind with woven material acting as a sail. The first person that made standardized marks that became a written language, the first person that turned a chant of grunts into music and found instruments to accompany the song.

The list of first is truly endless if you think about it. We also look to individuals that took on leadership responsibilities, to protect the people and begin to create culture and civilization. This is a hard category became with power comes so many abuses. I do have my favorites however.

I’m very fond of two Romans who had absolute power, and when they were done, they retired and went back to their farms. Cincinnatus, or Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, was a Roman statesman, 517-430 BC, who accepted the role of Dictator offered by the Senate in a time of crisis. He solved the problem, then resigned. Another problem occurred and he did the same thing, he did not profit from ultimate power.

The other Roman was Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, or commonly known as Sulla. He was not a better person than Cincinnatus, but he was offered the Dictatorship. The difference was that he decided later to seize it on his own. It was the first time that a general used his army to seize ultimate power. He was brutal in enforcing his reforms. Yet, he fulfilled his promise and gave up power to retire to his villa. Roman historians were not kind in retelling how he spent his retirement. Later historians said that Sulla provided the model for future military takeovers.

His rival, Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, described Sulla as having the cunning of a fox and the courage of a lion – but that it was the former attribute that was by far the most dangerous. This mixture was later referred to by Machiavelli in his description of the ideal characteristics of a ruler.

He wrote his own epitaph carved on his tomb, “No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full.” This was also his personal motto, “no better friend, no worse enemy.” Maybe I like him because he might be a relative.

By far, my personal favorite king/leader is Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty in India, 321–297 BC. Alexander the Great was taught by the philosopher Aristotle, he conquered much of the world until he invaded India. He found the Nanda Empire too strong, his men rebelled, and Alexander turned around, leaving a few satraps in charge.

Chandragupta was also trained by a philosopher named Chanakya, he conquered the Nanda Empire and beat the Macedonian Satraps that Alexander had left behind. His rule was amazing and changed the Indian sub-continent forever. He truly was in same category as Alexander, and Charlemagne, yet most people in the West barely know of him. What I find fascinating is that at the end of his reign, he gave it all up, and became a monk. He also repented of all the violence that occurred while he was building the Empire, and eventually became an ascetic, stopped eating, and died.

The man is worth studying.

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The Purpose of History, pt. 2

Yesterday I wrote that the biggest threat to history is the lack of truth. Will Durant, an eminent historian, once said that history is mostly guessing, and the rest is prejudice. This is similar to “History is written by the victors.” It may be true in some cases, but is this a general truth?

Unfortunately, it is almost completely true in the “Classic History” category, where scholars dived deep into source material. My daughter reminds me that “truth and evidence” for the professional historian is barely two hundred years old. So what drove the classic historian before that? Patronage and ego!

One of the great mysteries in history is the event that occurred in the late Bronze Age. There were hundreds of cities that had archeological evidence of being destroyed within a very short time in a broad are of the world. Cities and cultures that had been developing for a long time didn’t just slowly morph into sleepy villages. They were burnt entirely to the ground with thousands of arrowheads in the ash. There was only one superpower the survived the assault. Egypt!

Egypt had a complex writing system, and artisans trained in illustrative ability. They could have documented what had happened, and instead, a giant temple complex provides a blank slate for Pharaoh Ramesses III to record his “victory”. To his credit, he did seem to fight off the invasion, but this rest of the known world was in chaos. Egypt was highly involved in trade, there were connections made, and markets established. Egypt had no place to sell her goods, and no place to buy the goods they required. Ther may have won the battle, but it was the first stage of a long decline. If “truth and evidence” had been applied maybe the decline would have been shorter, and less steep.

So what do we know from the temple of Medinet Habu? It appears that the attackers were a confederation of different peoples. Today’s scholars simply lump them together as the “Sea Peoples”. Ramesses gives us some names, and even illustrates the differences in dress, armor, and facial characteristics. Later Pharaohs even hired some of these tribes as mercenaries. Unfortunately there was no effort to record where they came from, or what was there purpose. They were simply pirates and barbarians looking for plunder and delighting in destruction. We are not even sure that some of the tribes even existed, perhaps Ramses inflated his enemies to give himself more credit. It is no accident that the officially approved style of illustration was to represent Ramses as a giant twenty times larger than the other individuals in the battle.

I can understand this, there is no question where Ramesses stood in the thick of battle. If you look at the Bayeau Tapestry of the Battle of Hastings , it can be hard to spot William and Harold.

Some of the Sea Peoples are quite different from the Egyptians, with feathered headdresses and horned helmets. Not the great horns of the Wagnerian opera, but small goat horns, or small disks on a stem. we know them as the Peleset, Sherden, Deneen, Ekwesh, Lucca, Shekelesh, Teresh , Tjerker, and the Weshesh.

The only definitive statement was their connection to the sea. Like the Vikings centuries later, they showed up suddenly, with no warning, fought hand to hand, and with bows and arrows. The late Bronze Age had highly developed chariots powered by horses, they were destroyed by lightly armored runners with javelins.

This “propaganda” was repeated thousands of times by the victors as history was mostly about war.

The first great historian, “the father of history” was Herodotus, 484 BC. His book The Histories, a detailed record of his “inquiry” on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. The bulk of his writing has been verified by scholars and archeologists. Herodotus did receive some criticism by Athenians in his own time. They called him a “storyteller.” It is true that Herodotus included many fanciful tales in his book, as supplemental material. He did provide the caveat that it doesn’t mean that he believed it, he was just repeating what he had been told. At one of the Olympic Games in Athens, Herodotus read the entire Histories to the crowd, and they cheered him on with great applause.

The other great Greek historian was Thucydides, 460 BC. There is a great deal of difference between the two historians. Thucydides was much more “scientific” and did not record “facts” told by travelers in taverns. Thucydides was also a general so he had an inside perspective on warfare.

We actually only have three or four authors whose works have survived. There were many more historians that we known only by their names, not the actual books. The third Greek historian was Xenophon, my personal favorite. His book, The Anabasis, is about the ten thousand Greek mercenaries that found themselves trapped in the middle of Persia, having to fight their way back to the Black Sea and safety. Xenophon was a minor leader of the troops, but after the Persian had murdered the Greek leaders at a banquet, Xenophon was elevated to lead the remaining men back to Greece. The book was essentially about the journey and difficulties faced when behind enemy lines, but was very informative about the customs of the times. Xenophon was also great friends with Socrates.

If war and military exploits were the subjects of Greek historians, it didn’t change much with Roman authors. Livy, Strabo, Plutarch, and Tacitus stand out for me. It’s true that much of what they wrote was the military victories of Rome, but they also included snapshots of daily life. Fortunately we have quite a few lesser known author’s works.

The interesting one for me is Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Jewish War. Josephus had the unique perspective of having been a former Jewish general who had been captured, then worked with the Romans to put down the rebellion. He was rewarded by citizenship in Rome, a villa, and protection by powerful leaders. The fact that he reported on the destruction of Israel and the beginning of the Diaspora, was in his favor because his readers were Roman.

Because I’ve introduced Rome, I have to mention the historian that organized the best concise history of the fall of Rome, Edward Gibbon. His book, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is a Western classic. What most people do not know is that Gibbon is not a modern writer, he was born in England in 1737, and published his book in 1780. He a perfect example of the Enlightenment of the times, but later critics question the central reason that he presented for the cause of Rome’s fall. Gibbon believes that Christianity was the reason of the collapse. He specifically states that the wealth of the Church siphon off money that could have been used the beef up the military to stave off the barbarians. Remember, he was an Englishman in the late 1780s, and no friend to the Catholic Church.

Recent historians have traced the negative stories of the Crusaders to Gibbon. In his view the Crusaders were pawns of the Popes, and the Crusades were entirely caused by the Church. From that premise, the Crusaders were pirates, interested only in greed, power, and regions bigotry. There is no doubt that some of that is true. Modern scholars now believe that the Crusaders were also motivated by a number of issues, including a desire to protect pilgrims. Muslim invaders had invaded Spain and created independent states, the Crusaders also invaded to create the Latin States. It was the way of the world.

I jumped right through the medieval period, bypassing many historians that I have enjoyed. My favorites are:

Gregory of Tours (538–594), A History of the Franks

Bede (c. 672–735), Anglo-Saxon England

Adam of Bremen (later 11th century), historian of Scandinavia, Gesta

Anna Komnene (1083–1148), Byzantine princess and historian

Ambroise (fl. 1190s), writer of verse narrative of the Third Crusade

William of Tyre (c. 1128–1186)

Snorri Sturluson (c. 1178–1241), Icelandic historian

Templar of Tyre (c. 1230–1314), end of the Crusades

Of the Modern historians, I haven’t decided on my favorites. I’m fond of Carl Sandburg’s work, and Will Durant. But there are so many, and so many with specific agendas. I have trouble enough with my own agendas.

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The Name Game

In Genesis, Adam spent a great deal of his first days, naming everything that he saw. This is a good thing. Asking for the “whatcha-ma-call-it” can present some amazing results. Existence can be broken down into discrete objects. It is a tree, or a bush. It can also be a redwood, or a primrose. This does not come with genetic evolution. It is entirely conceived by humans thinking, and breaking things into manageable chunks. Fish swim, birds fly… uh oh.

Okay we do have flying fish, and penguins swim, but these are exceptions. And sometimes birds walk, and fish walk… more exceptions. Structured naming is still a difficult process. A little historical background…

In pre-history people seemed to function with one name. The name could be passed down from generation to generation. It could be an object, an animal, a characteristic, or possibly even a place name. Sometimes the culture was large enough that further naming was necessary to differentiate one individual from another. Often this was done by adding the father’s name as a second name. This became a classic standard in the Scandinavian naming pattern. My name is John, my father’s name is Edwin, so I could be known as John Edwin to be set apart from all those other Johns. Except that in the Scandinavian system the addition of “son” would be added, so I would be known as John Edwinsson, my brother would be Robert Edwinsson. My sister could be similar, or she could also be Gayle Fargo, because she was born on a farm in Fargo. Girls would generally use “datter” or “dotter”, so it would be Gayle Edwinsdatter. Then, shorter constructs were used, like “sen” or “son” for boys and “dtr” for girls.

This went on for hundreds of years until sometime in the late 1800s the patronymic style of naming in Scandinavia faded away. The “last name” became fixed. Today, only Iceland still uses the patronymic system.

The European and American naming system often uses three names, first name, middle name, and last name. The last name is the family name. The middle name could be anything, but often it is remembering a relative, or close friend. The first name could also be a family tradition. Many German families rotate two names from brother to brother, Frederick William, and then William Frederick. This doesn’t sound very organized but the source for most of the three name patterns was very organized. It was the Roman naming system.

In fact, the tri-nomen pattern was the most obvious sign of Roman citizenship. It started as a bi-nomen system with less than twenty different names used for the personal name, the praenomina. This identified each member of even large families with a personal connection. The second name was the nomen, or the family name, sometimes called the gen. This looks very similar to a standard that we have now. But even the nomen was limited.

As Rome grew, and the republic turn into the empire, Romans added a third name, the cognomen, a very complex name that served many purposes. The cognomen was at first a nickname, then it became hereditary and the aristocracy used it to further differentiate their families from others.

What is interesting is that generally, there were no more than twenty male names, and twenty feminine versions, that were used in combination for all Roman citizens. A scribe, or a clerk, knew everything about the individual by knowing the “nomens”.

Today we pride ourselves in knowing the “trinomial nomenclature.” of botany. Rome lives on!

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The Purpose of History

I love history, but I don’t often question the “why” of history. In some way, I delight in knowing something that is important, but widely ignored. Is this an ego thing or is it a process of bringing attention to something important? The most often used quote is from the writings of Winston Churchill “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But he wasn’t the first to ponder the concept.

Edmund Burke is often misquoted to say, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” What he actually wrote was, “People will not look forward to prosperity who never look backward to their ancestors.” George Santayana is credited with the aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” Burke may have started the conversation, Santayana simplified it,and a politician made it popular.

Edmund Burke is widely misquoted by the way. The other “quote” that he may never have said, is “The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. This might have been a mash-up of Thomas Jefferson’s, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Scholars have not found this quote in his published books, the closest is “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice, in a contemptible struggle. “. That’s a lot of words for a declarative sentence.

A little Google search on history quotes gave me the following…

1. “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”, Napoleon Bonaparte

2. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”, Desmond Tutu

3. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”, Confucius

4. “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”, James Baldwin

5. “History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.”, Ambrose Bierce

6. “The history of mankind is the instant between two strides taken by a traveler.”, Franz Kafka

7. “What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.”, Victor Hugo

8. “History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.”, Alexis de Tocqueville

9. “History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.”, Will Durant

10. “History is a race between education and catastrophe.”, H.G. Wells

11. “History is a vast early warning system.”, Norman Cousins

12. “A myth is far truer than a history, for a history only gives a story of the shadows, whereas a myth gives a story of the substances that cast the shadows.”, Annie Besant

13. “Isn’t history ultimately the result of our fear of boredom?”, Emile Cioran

14. “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.”, Lord Acton

15. “Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.”, Hermann Hesse

I think Hesse has it right. The very concept of humanity is the purpose of history. Yes, we should use it to learn our mistakes, but we may make the mistakes for a long time before learning. This is not a formula but a process.

The essential problem of history is about truth. History documents change, but the truth of change is elusive. Have we honestly looked at what we have gained, and what we have lost? After that, we need to look at the price we pay.

In many ways, history is used to punish others. This can change almost overnight, leaving people confused and disoriented. Generally, no one looks to the agenda of those who wish to punish. Is it simple revenge? Is it justice? Or is it just another tool in the quest for power?

To simplify Hesse’s statement to the most simple- “History is an attempt to discover a recipe for better tasting food.”, John Diestler

I gather my utensils, my appliances, raw materials, supplemental ingredients, and then I write down what I did. If it is good then I save it, if it is not good, I save it so that I won’t go down that road again. This is what is so often missed about the quotes of history. The mistakes are many, and yes we need to save them for reference. But the successes are what we can give to others, recipes for the future!

Phoenicians sailed nearly around the world before we even knew the extent. Scholars asked “How did they do that?” You don’t have to invent help from “ancient aliens”. You just have to invent an alphabet to write the truth! They sailed near the coast and wrote down the days, and the descriptions of the shoreline. Then they doubled checked on the way back, gave their “book” to another captain, and he went a little further and added to the book. And he checked the accuracy on his way back. Later on the Portuguese called the books of “sailing directions”- rutters. Eventually the word described the rudder that determined the direction the boat would go.

So maybe, “History is the Rutter for movement in the world.”

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Common Ratios

2/1 = .5, 3/2 = 1.5, 5/3 = 1.666, 8/5 = 1.6, 13/8 = 1.62, 21/13 = 1.615, 34/21 = 1.619, 55/34 = 1.6176, 89/55 = 1.61818, 144/89 = 1.61797

Math is an exact science, carried out to infinite sequencing, such as pi. The same is true for the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. The ratios above are expressions of lengths to widths that have eventually been called the Golden Mean, or Divine Ratio. (The curious thing is that as the ratios continue, the “Golden Mean” approaches the mathematical formula of the Fibonacci Sequence. They are related!)

Supposedly these ratios create a rectangle that is the most pleasing to the natural eye, so that compositions in art or architecture are said to have these ratios imbedded in them. To a certain extant this may be true.

Classic photography has taught the rule of thirds for decades upon decades. Then, the more advanced courses modified it to 8/5s. Basically meaning that the best division of a rectangle is to divide it into 1/8s and then draw a line at 3/8s or 5/8s and that gives the “best” dividing line. The ratio is 1.6, and the most accurate Fibonacci sequence is 1.61797. We used to that this is “Good enough for government work”.

The “Golden Mean” and the “Fibonacci Sequence” are said to be a part of a standard composition practice. It may be true in a sense. We compose things to patterns that are most familiar. Because these ratios are so similar in so many images and objects, we are certain to find them as ongoing patterns in our own work. But in general, the exact nature of the mathematical basis is rarely found in art or architecture, approximations yes, exact no.

The one area that appears to have the most accuracy is in nature. The pattern of leaves and seed pods seem to reflect the formula with the most accuracy, far more than random chance. Unfortunately, the most famous example of the appearance in nature of the Fibonacci Sequence is the Nautilus Sea Shell, and that probably is not true. It is a spiral but not as exact as other more naturally occurring Fibonacci spirals. The controlling factor appears to be rain and sunlight. The Fibonacci Sequence give the optimum distancing to give each leaf/seed the most exposure.

So why do we see this ratio in art/architecture? It most certainly has been intentionally used in some cases. Mostly, the ratio we see is the “learned patterned”. We see repeated ratios of television/monitors, magazines, architectural facades. Sometimes they are so close to 1.6 we just assume that it was intentional. In point of fact, there isn’t a “perfect rectangle”, only the most observed rectangle.

Even still, I intentionally use the 8/5s ratio in my photographs and my artwork (when I remember that I can, hehe)

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Rules for HitchHiking

Two things that are odd. 1) that there should be rules for something as iconically free spirited as hitchhiking. 2) that I haven’t thumbed a ride in nearly forty years. There is a chance I’ve forgotten a few things.

So perhaps these are not rules, but instead, strong suggestions. And that these suggestions come from five years of experience, three years that were pretty steady. In truth, it was almost entirely the summer months in the west, so we are not talking about rain and snow. Bad weather introduces an entirely new set of suggestions that I haven’t practiced very much.

1). The first rule is do not hitchhike. The salad days of freely hitching down the road are over. It was never safe, but the safety factor is easily ten times what it once was. Are there more Landsharks than then? Hmm, no, I don’t think so. We haven’t entered into an age of rampant lawlessness on our nation’s highways. I think the number of bad guys are about the same. The problem is that the number of good guys that extend the safety of their vehicle is far less. People are fearful and perhaps have good reasons for that.

In my humble opinion the ratio has gone too far in the wrong direction. There are still more good people than bad, but the odds are now skewed so that the chance of running into a landshark is much higher.

I use the phrase landshark to describe an individual that will harm you because of their nature. It is not something that you did that causes the harm, it is simply the nature of the beast. If they are hungry they will eat you, and they are not hungry they may still bite because they can.

There should be no more rules or suggestions after this cardinal rule but sometimes there are circumstances where hitching is the only solution. The following suggestions are meant to be helpful.

2. Always be the first to ask where they are going. Vague answers are a red flag. A quick response of a town further down the road has a much better chance of being truthful. The real reason to ask this is to have the time to assess the driver and the interior of the car. Much information can be gleaned from a quick inspection. Next time you see a highway patrolman you can bring up this subject and you will learn far more than I can state here. In general, the cleaner, orderly interior, will be safer. The cleaner and more orderly driver likewise. I do not fit this model in either case so I know it is not absolute, but merely playing the odds. Landsharks do not care where they are going, as long as there is food there.

3. In all cases, protect what is valuable to you. With enough temptation, a landshark will bite. Keeping this in mind the thing that is most valuable to me is the pack that I carry. Never put the pack in first. Enter the vehicle then grab the pack. I know this is awkward in many small cars. It is so natural to open the back door, or trunk, and throw the pack it, then wander over to the passenger door, hoping that it is unlocked. The advantage to traveling in pairs is obvious. One person enters, one person loads gear then is the last inside. Even if you are a single hiker, open the passenger door first, then open the rear door with the idea that you might quickly jump in if the car lurches ahead. One thing to consider, if the vehicle is actually speeding away, you might want to count your blessings that you didn’t jump in. If at all possible I had my pack on my lap, last in, first out. Landsharks take advantage.

4. Always consider that women are possibly targets. Never let women enter first, always let women exit first. Landsharks are often sexist.

5. Engage the driver in conversation, but do not dominate. It is always good to assess the character of the driver beyond a visual once over. Be careful if there are landmines in the conversation. Getting no response to questions about relationships and family can be natural and not an issue if you are at a cocktail party. A chilled no response, trapped in a moving car doing seventy, is an entirely different animal. Landsharks are touchy.

6. Never give away your right to exit at any time. It may be awkward but I quick “Could you pull over at the next safe spot?” is always correct, if you feel it necessary. Telling an untruth is also an option. “I feel sick!” Is pretty good, “Oh, my gosh, I left my ID back there!”, is another. I once jumped from the backseat (it was a two door) when the drivers were in the station office selling the almost new tires to the attendant for gas money. Selling off parts of the vehicle is a red flag. Landsharks are very inventive.

7. Never sleep while the driver drives. Catching some sleep while your partner is on watch is a better solution. Having everyone watchful and awake is the best solution. Too many things can happen if you are not watchful. Take nap before hitchhiking if necessary. Landsharks love to bite when you are not looking.

8. Never volunteer “gas money”. You are hitching because you are broke! Landsharks are greedy!

9. In conversations, ask more questions about them. If they do most of the talking they will consider the conversation positive and good things will flow. Useful for hitchhiking, useful for job interviews. Landsharks are egotistical.

10. Refrain from smoking, eating or chewing in their vehicle. There may be rules, better to assume that they are there, than to find out that you have broken them.

There are more things to consider when you are on the road, but these relate to basic safety.

Other examples:

11. Do not upstage hitchhikers already in position. Walk downstream and allow the first ride to pick them up. Go down far enough that if a ride does pass them but picks you up… well, go far enough to not hear the yelling.

12. If you make camp mid-day, be out of site, out of mind. Pick higher ground, with good visibility of anyone coming. No fires!!! If fire, no smoke, and block visibility!!!

13. Walk for miles to find a spot where you are visible for at least 500 feet, and that there is a safe turnout for them to pull over, regardless of their speed.

And finally, never break rule number one. Do not hitchhike!

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Songs of the Heart

Imogene Heap- The Moment I Said It

The moment I said it…The moment I opened my mouth…Letting your eyelids…Bulldoze the life out of me…I know what you’re thinking…But darling, you’re not thinking straight…Sadly, things just happen we can’t explain.

It’s not even light out…But you’ve somewhere to be …No hesitation…No, I’ve never seen you like this…And I don’t like it, I don’t like it…I don’t like it at all.

Just put back the car keys…Or somebody’s gonna get hurt…Who are you calling at this hour?…Sit down, come round, I need you now…We’ll work it all out together….We’re getting nowhere tonight…Now sleep, I promise it’ll all seem better, somehow…In time.

It’s not even light out…Suddenly, suddenly…Oh, you’ve somewhere to be…No hesitation…Mmm, I’ve never seen you like this…You’re scaring me, you’re scaring me…You’re scaring me to death.

Don’t! oh, (smash…) please…Don’t! oh, (And another one) please…Don’t! oh, (smash…) please-…Don’t! oh, (And another one) please

I’m losing you…Trust me on this one…I’ve got a bad feeling…Trust me on this one…You’re going to throw it all away…With no hesitation…(Smash…)

Anouk- I Don’t Want to Hurt

We’re breaking things we cant repair…None of us will take them blame…No nothing can be done this time…All the memories that we’ve made…I threw them all away…There’s no need to talk it over…Dont let me get you down…Let’s just move on…I am setting you free.

Cause I dont wanna hurt no more…I dont wanna make you go …Through one more rainy day…No I dont wanna hurt no more…Strange enough I always knew…I’m taking off today…Dont wanna hurt no more.

Darkness you left in my soul…Now do we know how much we’ve lost?…Will the moon be shining as bright as before…And as I am singing this song…The tears went up in my eyes…And I will always wonder…Why I will never have the life I wanted…Now I’m letting it go.

Cause I dont wanna hurt no more…I dont wanna make you go …Through one more rainy day…No I dont wanna hurt no more…There’s not much more to say…Cause it’s to late now…I wont hurt no more..

So I’ll wait till morning comes…You made it clear it’s been only pain loving me…Things that we dont do for love…I am setting you free

Cause I dont wanna hurt no more…I dont wanna make you go …Through one more rainy day…No I dont wanna hurt no more…Strange enough I always knew…I’m taking off today…I’m letting you go…

Beth Hart- Take it Easy On Me

God bless this,…God bless that….God I’ll miss you now.

All the people left,…when the blue sky crashed…and I can’t do this alone.

I am scared to change, …To stay the same,…When I’m calling out your name..

Take it easy on me,…Take it easy on me,…I will trust you,…I will let you hurt me carefully.

Take it easy on me,…I break easily and…this steel butterfly will learn to fly…eventually..God take it easy on me.

When I talk like that,…When I tear me apart….When I raise my voice,…I break my heart.

But if I gave it up,…let the wall come down,…Would you take my hand?…Would you show me how?

I don’t know my place,…I don’t know my own face,…Just the lines I can’t erase.

No, I was never one to lean on….Fighting this war against the wind. ….When I find ground to rest my feet on. …I will lay my weapons down..

And another one bites the dust…But why can I not conquer love?…And I might’ve got to be with one…Why not fight this war without weapons?

And I want it and I wanted it bad…But there were so many red flags…Now another one bites the dust…And let’s be clear, I trust no one

Sia- Elastic Heart

You did not break me..I’m still fighting for peace…Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart…But your blade it might be too sharp

I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard…But I may snap when I move close…But you won’t see me move no more…Cause I’ve got an elastic heart

I’ve got an elastic heart…Yeah, I’ve got an elastic heart…And I will stay up through the night…Let’s be clear, I won’t close my eyes…And I know that I can survive…I walked through fire to save my life

And I want it, I want my life so bad…And I’m doing everything I can…Then another one bites the dust…It’s hard to lose a chosen one

You did not break me (You did not break me, no, no)…I’m still fighting for peace…Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart…But your blade it might be too sharp

I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard…But I may snap when I move close…But you won’t see me move no more…Cause I’ve got an elastic heart…Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart…But your blade it might be too sharp

Lamb- Gorecki

If I should die this very moment…I wouldn’t fear…For I’ve never known completeness…Like being here…Wrapped in the warmth of you…Loving every breath of you…Still my heart this moment…Or it might burst

Could we stay right here…Until the end of time until the earth stops turning…Wanna love you until the seas run dry…I’ve found the one I’ve waited for

All this time I’ve loved you…And never known your face…All this time I’ve missed you…And searched this human race…Here is true peace…Here my heart knows calm…Safe in your soul…Bathed in your sighs

Wanna stay right here…Until the end of time…’Til the earth stops turning…Gonna love you until the seas run dry…I’ve found the one I’ve waited for… The one I’ve waited for… All I’ve felt was leading to this

All I’ve known…All I’ve done…All I’ve felt was leading to this…All I’ve known…All I’ve done… The one I’ve waited for… The one I’ve waited for

Wanna stay right here… Til the end of time ’till the earth stops turning… I’m gonna love you till the seas run dry… I’ve found the one I’ve waited for

Wanna stay right here… Til the end of time ’till the earth stops turning… I’m gonna love you till the seas run dry… I’ve found the one I’ve waited for

The one I’ve waited for… The one I’ve waited for

Songs of failed relationships, songs of relationships completed. What a wonder… the heart drives words and rhythms.

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Trophes

I was thinking about Venusians. Venus had been an early target for space probes, but we haven’t been back there in decades. Why? Perhaps because the probes sent back all the inportant information we needed. Perhaps it was because the Soviets beat us there with the first of many probes.

Perhaps because the surface is so harsh that nothing sent there lasted more than 54 minutes. Why go back?
If there were life, it would be life unlike anything known on this planet. Perhaps a little bit like the life found around the sulphur vents in the deep ocean.

Yes, the Venusians, if intelligent, would have very little in common with us.

I wonder what any other life forms would think of us? I’ve learned that we are heterotrophs. In fact, all animals and most fungi are heterotrophs.

Fancy word for life forms that live by eating other life forms. This is not an encouraging fact for creatures from another planet. Where are the boundaries?

I mean, let’s just say that Venusians are found to be intelligent, but also the best tasting, high protein, gluten free, low calorie, low fat, low sugar, non-allergic, food that provides all the essential nutrients and vitamins. Literally the perfect food!

Okay, sure, they are intelligent, but they don’t have to have a first name, (my current rule for the question, Is it edible?) And their thoughts, stories, philosophies, might have no relation to anything we can understand. But somehow we found out that Venusians make a great barbecue. And there is also a tremendous amount of Venusians, almost inexhaustible because there are no heterotrophs on Venus.

Hmm, decisions, decisions. By the way…autotrophs do exist. Most plants do not need living food, but that does not mean that they are safe. We find most autotrophs quite tasty if prepared well.

It might be said that vegetarians are kinder because the only eat plants. Kinder? Eating defenseless autotrophs, plants that can’t even run away?. Heterotrophs that eat other heterotrophs seems more fair. At least for the main entree.

Gotta stop thinking, I must be hungry.

(Reposted from 2017)

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The End of Childhood

I think Jack Nicholson copied Obert

There can be a lot of discussion about this. It happens to every person. One day, you are a child, the next day you are not. It certainly is not a calendar thing, or a particular age. It may also be different for every person. For some it might be an event, not necessarily an event that causes the change, but an event that brings the change into focus. For me, it was Halloween 1964.

It was the first Halloween that it seemed too ridiculous to dress up and go trick-or-treating. It was an end to a decade of crafting the methods to scam the neighborhood out of candy. It wasn’t just a full grocery bag, it was multiple full bags of candy. Enough candy to last through the winter and perhaps some stale candy corn into the summer.

Now, that was all in the past, and we were adrift, not old enough to drive, and too old to ride bicycles. What to do on Halloween?

It was the three of us; Jack (the athlete), Obert (the musician), and myself (undetermined). We thought it would be a good idea to walk the neighbor, and perhaps beyond. Actually, we thought it would be a good idea to walk by the house where the cutest girl in high school lived.

We certainly didn’t have eggs to throw, we weren’t planning any mischief. If we had a car, or a driver’s license, it would have been like “dragging the main”. We wanted to see, and to be seen.

Only one thing was unusual. Obert was wearing a shiny, deep blue football helmet. It may or may not have had a face guard. Later he did remove the face guard, but it might have been attached at this time. This was Halloween, but Obert was not dressing up as a player. Every time Obert left his house he had to wear a football helmet. Sometimes even in the house he had to wear a football helmet. It depended upon what he was doing.

Obert had a hole in his head. Specifically, he had a half-dollar sized hole in his skull with a thin layer of skin over his brain. When he had the helmet off, you could touch the spot with your finger to feel his brain pulsing, probably not with thought, just blood. Also the stubble of his hair was growing back.

That summer Obert had lived in Battle Mountain, Nevada. Not much to do in Battle Mountain but drive around. Obert didn’t have a driver’s license but he could be a passenger in the back seat. I can’t remember who was in the front seats but it is safe to say they weren’t careful drivers. On a long uphill incline they decided to pass a slower vehicle. They had done this several times. This time, near the crest, another vehicle was in the lane, and it was a head on crash. I don’t think anyone was killed, although everyone should have been seriously hurt. Obert was in the backseat without seatbelts. They didn’t often exist at that time. No one is quite sure exactly what happened, but Obert flew over the front seats head first, and perhaps hit one of the radio knobs, and punched a hole in his skull.

The surgeons removed the bits of broken skull and sewed over a flap of skin. The intention was to allowed the skull to grow, causing the hole to shrink and -provide a ledge to drop a steel mesh to protect the brain. In the meantime, go home and take two aspirin.

So, Obert came home and joined us on our stroll through the neighborhood. Everything had gone very well, especially considering one guy seemed to partially dressed as a nondescript football player. We did not beg for candy, nor did we trick anybody.

We were several blocks from our destination (the pretty girl’s house) when we heard a car come to a quick stop. Three or four guys jumped out and proceeded to jump on us. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. No real fists swung, but they were armed with cans of shaving cream. Jack resisted, so at least two of them were wrestling him to the ground. Obert had the attention of one guy with the shaving cream, and I was free to run up the nearest porch to bang on the door. No one answered.

Jack had broken away and ran up on the porch next door to bang and yell, “Mom, Dad! Open up!” Looking back I could see that the guys were heading back to their car, but not before they had all emptied their shaving cream cans into the holes of Obert’s helmet. Jack yelled something about Obert being hurt, but they didn’t listen. Obert lay half in the street trying to scoop out the shaving cream from behind his glasses. We both came down to help him stand up. We could see the car about halfway down the street with their brake lights lit up. I don’t know if they were intending to turn around, or just stopping for another victim.

Jack stood there with a lot of anger building up. Frustrated, he reached into his pocket and found a decent sized pocket knife. Without unfolding it, he heaved the knife down the street at the car. To me, it looked to be at least a football field away, 100 yards! It was dark so we couldn’t really see if Jack’s aim was correct, or that he could throw it that distance.

Seconds later we heard glass breaking. Apparently the pocket knife had hit the back window of the car and shattered it. For a second no one moved, then we turned and ran, zig zagging around the corner and hiding in the bushes. We believe the cat turned around the follow us, but we hid so well that they didn’t see us.

Making it back to safe territory, home turf, took a long time, especially hiding from any oncoming headlights. Then we thought that they might have been searching on foot, so we hid from anything moving. Halloween was a busy night, we hid every few minutes.

We finally made it back, we had vestiges of shaving cream, a lost pocket knife, and a right of passage from our childhood. It was a good night!

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Latest Art

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Tamara de Lempicka Inspired

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Reflections of Online Teaching

Susan,

I am so completely with you on your reflections. There are issues that are limiting by their very nature. As a visual artist I have spent years teaching students to “look through their tool”, to see the work clearly, to be so comfortable with your tool that it becomes transparent, and then your image will truly be successful.

This is easier when the tool is a pencil or a brush, it gets a little harder when it’s a computer with system and application software. (Easy is a relative term, I’m good with a pencil, horrible with watercolor, great with Photoshop.)

The point is to be so comfortable with the tool that creative energy is not diverted from the true purpose… making an image!

I’m a little disappointed that when I see something I can’t just click in my head and the image is saved. No, I have to find my camera, load the film, set the dials, develop the film, and finally make the print. Oh yeah, and then there are all those decisions I have to make on lens, shutter, aperature, etc.

There is a lot of crap that suddenly comes between my vision and the final print. So, now we have digital and even more crap, the final image seems to be pushed further and further away.

This is all true. What is also true is that it is different. A digital image is immediately available for correction or editing. Digital cameras are in everyone’s hands. Images present themselves everyday, and everyone now has a camera. Running out of film is no longer an excuse (mostly). There are dozens of significant differences.

So on-line teaching may be the same thing. It doesn’t give the same face-to-face experience. We don’t see the “aha” moment that makes it all worthwhile. My (your) passion may not come through as easily, and spontaneous teachable moments harder to capitalize.

It may take a few semesters to fully understand the benefits. Access to more students? Consistent education that can be fine tuned? Flexibility for student and faculty? A longer teaching life? Better and more current resources?

Is everything new better? No, but everything new and tested should be!

I think it takes an educator to embrace the change, with the understanding of what is lost. And then assess the importance of that which is lost.

I am hopeful!

(Ha! And then be clever enough to do all this writing in Notes, because Canvas is crashing every two minutes.)

(Written in 2015)

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Testing Some Ideas

The first idea that I would like to ponder is “nature versus nuture.”. This is an idea that has gone through vast swings in popularity. Since the 1990s, with advanced studies in genetics, the importance of nature has increased. The idea of “tabla rasa”, or “blank slate” has been more the standard concept for the last 300 years. Several philosophers have suggested that humans have no instincts at all, unique among animals, and that everything we known or become, is based upon nurturing. Doctors become doctors because of training, kings become kings, and criminals become criminals, all based upon experience entirely.

The idea that there might be a genetic propensity was completely dismissed. There is a very good history of the argument of “nature vs. nuture” in Wikipedia, with decent references to current studies.

I have not partaken of any advanced studies in this area, but I have “noticed” some things in my life that have given me some questions.

I do not like swimming, hated being in the water, yet I am a natural sailor, and understand the concept without training. The training I did have only improved my natural abilities.

I’m very good at needlework, any type of sewing by hand. It just seems very natural, comfortable, and the products are strong, durable, and functionable.

Ancient weapons are more comfortable than modern, although I am an expert marksman. Edged weapons most natural, archery the next most natural. Practically there are two “sighting” systems in archery. One is based upon placing the tip of the arrow on a point of ground in front of you, then adjusting the arc of the shot until the arrows hit the target. The other in “instinctual”, where you just shoot your best shot. I can do both, but I almost entirely use the instinctual method.

I have never been comfortable with horses, and they seem to know that.

I have always been comfortable with dogs, and they seem to know that.

I’m very comfortable with “linear mechanics”, simple systems of cogs, shafts, levers. Being a watchmaker is not beyond my abilities. While I understand “programming”, it is not comfortable. I was trained in quite complex digital cryptography, but it was hard work and not natural.

I can see and think with three dimensional accuracy. I was not great in algebra or trigonometry, but a complete whiz at geometry. Even my math teachers saw this as a little odd.

While I believe humans are mostly social, I have always been comfortable by being alone, or mostly on the edge of crowds. Sailing alone around the world presented challenges, but not because of isolation. Backpacking alone was not fearful, except for accidents.

Part of my interest in genealogy was looking at the known experiences of my direct line ancestors. I don’t know enough now to draw any firm conclusions, but I always think about the possibilities.

DNA tells me that I am 64% Scandinavian. The waters are too cold to encourage swimming, but sailing and boating have long traditions. Is this too general to make a conclusion?

Vikings did ride horses on occasion, but they are not known as horse mounted warriors. Axe, sword, spear, and archery were their weapons of choice.

Nature is very dependent on survival. Organisms with natural abilities to a successful survival continue to breed more organisms that survive. Definitely training can assist with increased survival. But can training alone give the best percentage rates?

I do believe the actual process is “hand in hand”, both are important. Particularly when one experience fails slightly. To deny either is foolish, to support one concept excessively is also foolish. In today’s culture we give more credibility to training and not enough to instinct.

I would encourage people to simply look at skills that seem “natural”, and ask the question, “What was the source of this skill?”

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Strange Beginings

Much of my reading history began at “Lane’s Hole in the Wall”, a store that was a collection of used items, either found or purchased. There was an auction hall right next door, so I suspect in the beginning that many items just drifted in from about 25 feet.

You could buy or trade just about anything at Lane’s. Later, I learned that he had one of the largest collections of WWII Japanese weapons in the Western States. He walked with a limp, so he might have been a veteran, or maybe from a motorcycle accident, or maybe both.

I wanted to buy a sword, but they were always too expensive for a thirteen year old. But Lane would certainly sell sharp edged weapons to kids. To pass the time after looking at bayonets and swords, I would look at his collection of used paperbacks. They were always less than a dollar each so I could buy several.

I had no knowledge of writers, so I purchased by genre and the cover design.

This was my first introduction to science fiction. I picked Robert Heinlien. I liked him so much that I went back to get every Heinlien book that he had. I did that with at least 12 other science fiction authors. One day I found a novel by Henry Miller. The cover said it was banned in many cities. I read it, it was racy, and I bought every Henry Miller book that Lane had. They were all published by Grove Press. I found out that the only bookstore that carried Grove Press in the East Bay was Cody’s Books in Berkeley. Three blocks from the Berkeley campus on Telegraph.

Naturally that placed a thirteen year old on the streets of Berkeley during the early 1960s. Probably the most exciting environment in the whole country. I remember I was a veteran of the Telegraph community when I heard about a new neighborhood in San Francisco at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. Ha! Newbies! Anyway they didn’t have bookstores, just poster shops.

My last two authors that I obsessed with were Jack Kerouac and Alan Watts. I rotated paperbacks in my back pocket with the titles facing out so people could read, “The Way of Zen” one week then, “On the Road” the next week. Oh yes, I also read them several times.

That was probably the place of my beginning, “Lane’s Hole in the Wall”. And yes, he finally sold me a sword made in Toledo, Spain for five dollars.

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Cleaning up Language 2

‘At the end of the day”, or it’s even more inane second cousin “In this day and age” is clearly my number three and number four most irritating phrases.

Both suffer from the position that the speaker implies, namely, that the speaker has superior knowledge that trumps any refutation of their argument. I’m using the classic definition of “argument”, not that there is an actual confrontation.

It could be two friends who have a slightly different take on a subject. After a few minutes of give and take, one person makes the statement, “at the end of the day, blah, blah, blah.” End of the discussion. This is a classic denial of any arguments, or compilation of arguments, because when it is all added up it is meaningless. I win!

The only thing I can think of is to counter with an even more disrespectful response, “But in this day and age, blah, blah, blah!”

Gosh, I hope this hasn’t actually happened, because if I would have overheard this, I might have run away screaming as if my hair was on fire. maybe my beard, because I don’t have much hair left.

Both statements area last ditch efforts to “win” the argument with a wise and knowledgeable “last word.” The problem is that they are rarely coupled with actual facts that support the premise. “At the end of day…” is a compressed statement that suggests, dozens or even hundreds, of facts that have been looked at, assessed, and rejected. This vaguely works when the individual who states this has some credibility, and it is a very lazy way to sum up an argument. Make a list, provide assessments, like the old math adage, ‘show the work’.

“In this day and age…” has the same problems, it vaguely works when the speaker has great credibility, with appropriate knowledge. But it also has a back-handed quality that insults the other party. It is actually saying, “I know more than you about this, so you should stop talking.” The unfortunate thing is that the speaker may actually know more on the subject, but telling the individual to cease arguing is not the most productive way to have a discussion.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos of average citizens having discussions with authority figures. When the authority figure runs out of reasonable arguments, one or both of these statements are used. It is like everyone has been trained from a standard script.

To me, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

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Cleaning Up Language

1st- “It was a miracle!”

So overused. “NES” the normal Hebrew word for miracles. The word actually means “banner” or signal. In Ancient Hebrew it is not the same word for miracles as Biblical Hebrew. Using NES is not wrong, but it isn’t direct, it references the miracle, it is mostly evidence.

In Biblical Hebrew, the word miracle is “mophyet”, from the root word of ‘bright’ or ‘wonderous’.

We need to put the word “miracle” into the spiritual context. It is not a word to describe the results of successful baking, or a successful car repair. It is a word connected to traditional issues in the world of faith.

Technically a miracle is based on eight principals

Healing disease…The deaf hear…The blind see…The mute speak…The lame walk…The lepers are clean…The demons are banished…The dead become alive

Again, all these things are only temporary. Only the miracle of salvation is permanent.

The forgiveness of sins can be said to be the greatest of miracles, the gift of everlasting life.

Basically, using the word “miracle” references the absolute impossibility of an act, without divine action. So many folks use “miracle” to describe acts that are possible, but only very remotely. It needs to be completely impossible.

(with thanks to Galen Peterson)

2nd- “It was meant to be!”

It would seem to be a very faithful response, but in a practical sense it is most often the exact opposite. A faithful response is understanding that your own reasoning is not relevant to the reality. When this statement is made, the first thing that should be considered is “according to who?”.

We are generally so self serving that it is tempting to place all statements in that context. I think that is unfortunate because it is so cynical. We are capable of higher thoughts. But it is reasonable to look through the filter of “self-serving”, particularly when we are justifying some action that could be G-D given, when it is really your own desires.

“It is meant to be” can only be true when the individual making the statement has been elevated to prophet status. This might have happened, but it is not a position that is self-defined. Being a prophet is not generally a choice. It fact, most individuals actively refused the position initially. And by the way, being a prophet does not give the individual a “golden pass” to being a good person.

There might be even more examples of individuals that were seriously flawed that performed for G-D’s will, and still had the same character as before.

There are so many ways that I find problematic in living a life of faith. The number one issue is to presume to absolutely know G-D’s will. The next is to help G-D without first asking “What can I do?”. And finally, “To give judgement,” based upon your own understanding.

Obviously they are all connected, and having a “humble nature,” is a safeguard for all things.

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Yes, this is Weird

Why does this happen late at night? Because you can’t see so well, dummy.

Well, I can hear twice as well at night to compensate.

About thirty years ago we lived in a house that had a central hallway that was a straight shot from the left outside wall, all the way to the right outside wall. It was a very wide house, from master bedroom, past a bathroom, two bedrooms, the living room, all the way to the kitchen. You could peek out the bedroom and see all the way down to the kitchen. We had a hanging basket of fruit and vegetables right there next to the door going to the garage.

Our garage was secure, no cars, just full of junk. But the yard was not secure. The side door to the side yard was the only serious issue of rot when we bought the house. We had been meaning to fix it. I was afraid it would come apart in my hands if I tried to open the door. I would be left holding a brass knob in my hand, a plank attached, and piles of door parts at my feet. It was on my list to do.

One night, quite late, I woke up. Sherry still asleep, Zach sleeping soundly for a change, but I heard something. It sounded like it was coming from the garage,this wasn’t the best of neighborhoods, the county patrolled, the backyard ended with a drop down down to railroad tracks, and the bay beyond. It was a nice view, but sometimes during dinner, the Southern Pacific dining cars would go by slow, and we could watch them eating, while they were watching us eating. Sometimes we would lift a glass.

The point being, is that anyone could drive by the front yard, and anyone could walk the tracks next to the bay, and then come up through our yard. Before I put up a fence, we had fishermen, and duck hunters with shotguns, regularly cut through our yard to get to the bay. Like I said, not secure, they would walk right by the rotten side door to the garage.

All this went through my head seconds after I heard the sound that woke me up. Now this is important, “Was the sound real, or was it in my dream?” My choice was to take a peek down the long hallway and see if I could see anything.

It was summer, it was hot, I wasn’t wearing pjs. I had seen enough TV shows to know that I should peek while I was laying on the floor, nobody is watching down that low. I looked, and just then I heard another sound, not a super loud sound, but it was coming from the kitchen or garage, I couldn’t tell. I recoiled backwards to consider my next steps.

I was young and foolish, I woke Sherry up, had her grab Zach, while I grabbed my semi-automatic that I used while going backpacking in the wilderness. I was armed. I quickly got down, spread eagled on the floor, looking down into the kitchen. It was dark, very dark, I couldn’t even tell if the door was open to the garage, but then I saw movement. Very distinct movement.

I said in a very loud and authoritative voice, “Freeze! don’t move an inch”. To my surprise, he didn’t move anymore. He was frozen, I was frozen. It was clear that we had a stand off. He was dressed like a ninja, all in black, I couldn’t see if he was armed. I was armed, and laying naked on the rug. Who was going to move first?

A few seconds passed. Maybe a few minutes. Finally, I worked to my knees, telling him again not to move or I will shoot. I moved to the next door opening to a bathroom. I could see a little better, but still not enough, so I went down to the next door opening. Now I could see the fruit basket slightly swaying. Was that the movement I saw? Did it start by brushing up against the garage door? I moved very cautiously forward.

Finally I hit the living room area where there was a light switch. I could now see him, and he could see all of me. Except there was nobody. I flipped the safety back on, and lowered my weapon. The basket was still swinging very slightly. I opened the door to the garage and turned on the lights, it was still full of junk, and the rotten garage side door still in one piece.

The only thing that came to mind is that the cat had gone berserk and jumped into the basket looking for something to eat. She had never done that, but it was possible. The second noise I heard was when she jumped out. I couldn’t see at the time, Nissai is a black ninja cat.

Okay, I do not share this often. I have friends and relatives that assume I have weapons, it is just politically not correct to suggest that there might be a time when I might use the weapon.

That was more than thirty years ago. That’s a long cycle. I’m staying up late, looking at my genealogy database in my recliner, with my back to the window with the air-conditioner. That’s important because it’s winter and I should have removed it, so that I could shut the window. There’s a draft, and I can hear outside real well. Everything is dark except the one room where I’m sitting.

We had a crew here, painting the house. This side of the house is almost three stories tall, so there are several long ladders leaning against the house, leading to the roof. During the day I could actually listen to one of the painters breathing heavily as he was stretching out with his brush, right outside the window behind my chair.

But this is not the daytime, this breathing was sometime around 1:00 am, no moon, and very dark, except the one dim reading light, and my iPad screen. Outside it was zero visibility. Then I heard the sound. It was a breathing sound but not regular like a sleeper. My dog and my cat both make breathing sounds while sleeping. The cat was in my lap, and the dog was downstairs, and besides, this was behind me, outside the window, perhaps standing on the ladder. At ONE in the morning!

Okay, that’s the first thought, you don’t get up and run like your hair is on fire. You test the hypothesis. “Is the ladder still there?” It was there at sundown. “Could he see inside?” Oh yes, most certainly. “Can you still hear the sounds?” Yes, but faintly. “If I move do the sounds stop?” No they don’t. It’s a power recliner, if I hit the switch, it will make a noise and he will see me getting ready to stand up. Their breathing was still soft, but irregular, almost as if he was busy doing something with his eyes closed. Gross!

Yep, too busy to notice that I had gotten up out of the chair. I hit the lights in the dining room, knowing it will light up the whole side area, including the ladder. Then I could race to the back doors leading to the deck, and I could go out and see him before he has even gone down the ladder. So, I did catch him in the act. He was not up the ladder, he was right below it, and that was his bad luck. He wasn’t alone.

It’s still pretty dark but I could still see the tangled up bodies right below the window, and I was right about the odd breathing patterns. Suddenly they could see my outline above them and they scattered in different directions to the street. It was darker there, so I couldn’t get a description, but I could hear their hoofs as they clattered towards the creek.

Maybe I saw just a shadow of some antlers, but this time I didn’t yell “Freeze!”

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We Make It So Easy!

There was a moment there, when I first heard it, that I felt that I had been asleep, or inattentive for some time. Like a Rip Van Winkel, deep asleep, while bowling is all around him.

But then I woke up, and this new thing was being said, and I wanted to act like I knew what was going on, as if I was on the ground floor, or in the group that originated the word. It was one of those “short cut” words, packed with meanings that everyone understands, a word that came out of nowhere, but it was meant to be a help.

Or was it? As I get older I ponder these things. How does packing a word with just the right things so that everyone will agree that it is accurate make it helpful? The word that mysteriously appeared while I was sleeping is “Karen”.

It’s not a new word, it’s a perfectly good name, held by a lot of friends of mine, now, suddenly it is a shortcut to be used to define a particularly obnoxious, probably odious, creature of the political right. Yep, basically a political label. In the same basic category as “jap” during WWII. It’s a way to describe a person without getting into the specific details. Helpful in a sad, mean spirited sort of way.

It is defended by people because initially it is funny. Long after the funny is gone it will still sting as a rebuke, like most “short cut” words. Labels are also short cuts, but it’s easier to drop them when the excuses get long and tedious.

There are still a few negative short-cut names floating around. They are no longer amusing, but they appear useful. Like my own name John. As a child I was tortured by the rhyme “Johnny Pawny”, why that was the choice I was never sure, but the police knew what a John was. He was a sad, sex starved, customer of sexual favors. The women had other labels, but the customer was a John. Somehow it also got applied to the hapless victim, the famous John Doe. Short cuts!

The playground didn’t torment me with the phrase for a toilet. At least that “short cut” I could understand. The first successful wall mounted water flushing toilet was invented by John Crapper. So naturally, when nature calls you went to the John and took a crap, or left a crap load.

I digress…

Now, how long will the Karen’s of our culture suffer with this label. I dunno. People like their “short cuts”, it doesn’t challenge their thinking, so change comes fairly slowly.

I am reminded that when a young lady was cute, it originally meant “knock-kneed”. It only took about thirty years for the use to change. There is a bit of passion with this “Karen” label, it might take longer.

Perhaps if we act as if we have been asleep, and simply asked the users of the word to explain what they mean in longhand.

It’s a thought.

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My Connection to The Stooges

Okay, so the biggest connection is that I married my wife. Her mother was born in Pittsburgh, but her grandmother Jennie, was born in Yurburg, Lithuania. A sad story, because in 1941 the Nazis, along was some local Lithuanians, murdered all of the Jews that had lived in Yurburg. Jennie, Esther, and Meyer had made it to the US. Taube did not make it and perished,but one of her six children, her daughter Esther did make it,

Jennie was my wife’s grandmother, her brother Meyer settled in Ohio. Meyer married Lillie and had three daughters, the eldest daughter was Doris. It had long been rumored that Doris was somehow connected to the Three Stooges. I could not see how.

Doris married to Norman Howard so that was the connection, except there was nothing. Then I found that Norman’s real last name was Horowitz. Ah ha! The last names of Stooges was also Horowitz!. Things began to fall into place. Norman’s father was BJ Horowitz, and he had four brothers. Three of the brothers were Moe Horwitz, Shemp Horwitz, and Curly Horwitz. Larry Fine was the third Stooge, and Shemp had replaced Curly for a time.

BJ’s father was Solomon Horwitz, and he had escaped from Lithuania as well. I saw that he was born in Kaunas, the regional town that had a prison, where the Jews that had survived the first days of the invasion had been taken.

1,000 Jewish citizens were murdered the first day of the invasion, in the woods, in the cemetery, on the streets. Another 1,000, (the rest of the families of Yurburg), were taken to Kaunas and placed in the prison. If Solomon had stayed, he would have been placed there with his other relatives. Within a few months all of the prisoners were murdered as well.

They say that comedy comes from pain. The Pazer and the Horwitz families know about great pain.

I’m glad that I am related to the Stooges, even if it is only through marriage. But my children have a direct connection, they need to celebrate.

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Dracula

No, not the Hollywood version, the historical guy! Vlad the Impaler “Tepes”, “Dracula, Prince of Wallachia “. Yep, he was a relative, not a direct line grandfather, he was an 8th cousin, 18 times removed, not a close relative but still a blood relative.

Speaking of blood, he did not drink it, nor did he have hollow fangs to suck the blood out of young women’s necks. He just had lots of 12 foot poles sharpened at both ends. One end went into the ground, one end went into the person, then the whole thing was pulled upright, and the person looked like a popsicle, slowly sinking on the pole. Sometimes it took days to die of blood loss, or organ damage. The pole wasn’t so sharp that it acted like a spear. It was rounded enough to just shove organs to one side as gravity did the rest.

Impaling was made into a fine art in his kingdom. There was a time when an invading Turkish army passed by a valley where 20,000 of Vlad’s victims were impaled. The generals decided not to invade the country, saying if Vlad would do this to his own people, then what would he do to an invading army? Okay, that might not be true.

Another famous story is about a jeweled, gold cup that was available at a public well. Anyone thirsty didn’t have to drink from the bucket, or a ladle. They could freely use the cup. When a traveler asked how come the cup hasn’t been stolen, they were told that stealing was a death penalty by impaling. The cup was never stolen in Vlad’s reign.

Decades later Vlad is turned into a Count that sleeps in a coffin. It was scary when I was a kid. I would have been more scared if I had known about the historical character.

One story that appears to be true is that Vlad had a dinner party that he throwing for his royal telatives and the power elite. They gathered outside at long dinner tables, being served by the castle staff. Midway through the dinner, at least a dozen condemned criminals were led out and impaled, completely surrounding the dinner guests.

Vlad commanded that the guests stay, saying it was the price of their privilege. Quite a dinner party!

Vlad is too interesting to not write about, just because he isn’t a grandfather, sometimes cousins make the grade.

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Follow the Truth

Yes, that is a good thing. But how do we know it is the truth? So many things seem to on the basis of “a consensus of opinion”. Well, what if my opinion is different? Am I knowledgeable enough to have an opinion? Is my difference just a gut reaction to a collective mindset?

Truth can be a squirmy thing, with a mind of its own. It doesn’t take it’s existence on the basis of a group of people agreeing or disagreeing. It doesn’t care that not one single person understands. I used to think, truth is patient in a way, or perhaps I’m just putting a conduct that totally foreign to its essence, truth just “is”. Embrace it or ignore it, it doesn’t matter. It just has consequences. /

Hah! I’m reminded of a small town in New Mexico that was nothing special, they had no claim to fame, nothing particular about the town. This was also during the explosion of radio and the various offerings the networks placed on air. The nation was totally thrilled with a new game show that everyone enjoyed, it was “Truth, or Consequences”.

Yep, that’s right this small town of Hot Springs, NM changed their name to win a radio contest based upon a desire by Ralph Edwards, the host, to have a city called Truth or Consequences. In May of 1950, the town changed its name. Edwards visited the town in May, every year, for the next fifty years. It’s called Fiesta Week. Later the radio show became a television show.

The truth was discovered, but everyone was thrilled to observe the consequences.

Last week, I was faced with my own “truth or consequences”. I admit that I have a passion for genealogy. It’s mostly harmless, I’m waiting for a grandchild or great grandchild to take interest. Mostly my immediate family just smile and nod their heads politely. Hey, my Uncle Ben colleceted buttons when he was older. He just looked at your shirt, reached up and ripped one off if it was interesting. Older people need a hobby.

Anyway, I got a message on my Ancestry program about a new hint concerning my great great grandmother, she is not that far away in the timeline, yet a pivotal person that led to future connections to thousands of interesting people. People that I have written about, people who I spent some time doing additional research. So I clicked on the hint, and about 8,000 interesting people vanished from my database. Poof!

Reflecting about it, I wondered about the proof of the truth. Why should I except this “hint”? It was one silly piece of data, that had huge consequences, but was it the truth? It really was from left field, the individual was the father of the child that led to thousands. Now the thousands were only connected to the step-father. The child, and me,were on the other side of the genetic gap. This was the consequence!

The new father had no history, it was impossible to find a connection that he had ancestors. I did find several references that he was the real father of the child, so I did find the “truth”, but it left a bitter taste. Oh well.

Then I happened to look at a backup database that had more individuals, but was undeveloped. I sometimes looked at it to get additional information. I went to the break in the line, and sure enough it was there all along. The step-dad was there, the real father was there, the genetic gap was there. What was also there is that the mother of the child, the wife of both the step-father and wife of the blood father was also from the same family line. It seems that she was a cousin of the step-father.

The result, or consequence, was that the 8,000 missing individuals in the database were suddenly back! Not only that but somehow one generation closer. Initially I never traced her background, because the given hints came from the step-father.

Embrace the truth, it may lead to great consequences!

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A Wise Saying

There is an old Jewish saying, “the death of one man, is the death of a nation!”

Well, no truer statement can be made as I have learned so painfully in the last few minutes. I have been known to collect interesting stories based upon my internet research of my family tree. I’ve told many folks that the records of royalty can be much more trusted than the earlier records of commoners. Who double and triple checks farmers? Well, I do!

Yet, the danger is that one little error in the bloodline that leads to royalty can wipe out the same connection to the whole family. Poof!, they still exist, but they are no longer connected. I have been very careful to only research grandparents, not uncles or cousins. I wanted a solid paternal/maternal connection. It’s difficult when so many people have multiple wives or husbands, you can’t just assume that the one you pick is the right one. I’ve done pretty good, and I have lost several generations of people when I discovered that I picked the wrong marriage (or consort).

But this one was bad. I got a new hint from Ancestry. A new connection was found. I looked at the data. It seemed pretty conclusive that a new birth father was found for Catherine Bergmann, an important grandmother in my line. She was important because her father, Johann Bergmann lead to the Hammersteins, which led to al the royalty that I found. Hahaha, thousands of them!

The problem is that apparently Johann Bergmann is now proven to be her step-father, no actual blood relation! Catherine’s blood father was another poor German father with no records. Hahaha, he might be connected somehow to the same bloodlines, but I’ll never know.

With one stroke of a keyboard, hundreds, thousands, of individuals disappeared from my record. Hundreds of hours of interesting research now belong to her step-fathers line, but not hers, or mine.

I’m just amazed about the ups and downs of genealogy.

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Black Friday Thoughts

I’m trying hard to wrap my mind around the day after Thanksgiving being called Black Friday. Clearly, this isn’t a thing where “Black is bad!”, but it also isn’t “Black is beautiful”. It’s just the day after a national holiday to celebrate giving thanks, but somehow, it’s gotten known as the start of shopping season. Okay, so maybe it’s a way to keep your company “in the black”. Perhaps shopping for Christmas, but maybe just shopping for shopping sake.

It’s not widely known, or even remembered, that President Franklyn Roosevelt actually changed the date of Thanksgiving. It had been on the first Thursday by one president, and the fourth Thursday by most presidents. In 1939 FDR changed it to the third Thursday for federal employees, but half the states still celebrated on the fourth Thursday. Confusion reigned for two years, but finally Congress passed a law saying that President can’t change the date, and mostly it was going to be on the last Thursday of the month, so long as it wasn’t later than the 28th of the month,

Why was it changed? The National Retailers lobby. Apparently it was thought to increase sales, perhaps by having two Black Fridays before December comes around. When you want out of a Depression you will try anything. Who knew that a war was coming?

Now that the virus is keeping people out of the stores, there is a big on-line shopping push. This has been going on a few years before the virus, I remember back in the day, before the dot.coms, that selling things online was verboten. Two big problems, no one trusted credit card numbers on the internet. It was the height of stupidity to use a credit card. They even created credit cards with limited cash, cash that you would deposit just before using the card, for only the internet purchase.

The other reason was that most of the early users of the internet wanted to keep it pure of commercial purposes. If you tried to sell something you got swamped with bogus emails, crashing your system. They finally created the dot.com domain so that the purists could have .edu, .gov, and .org to themselves. How soon we forget, or never knew!

I’m still not in the shopping mood. Isn’t isn’t until three days before Christmas that I realize that I’m missing some joy, and then, the terror hits that I do not have enough time. I never learn, it’s the same every year. Perhaps this year….

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