Sunday, January 30, 2011

Georgia Pacific is squeezing my brain

Please...I need your help.  This has reached crisis  proportions and I am, indeed, an island.  One man against a huge corporation...Georgia Pacific.  I would do anything to get this post to go viral...if you can feel my anguish after reading this, please pass a link on to everyone you know.  Let me see if I can actually talk about it...I may need to medicate.

 If I see another Quilted Northern toilet paper commercial all the synaptic pathways in my brain will mimic a toaster being dropped into a bath tub.  Ok...the cartoon bears were cute...sort of...but did any of you think, like I did: "This is offensive.they're using Yogi and Boo Boo's GI issues to hawk TP because of that old sarcastic adage, "Does a bear shit in the woods?"  Somebody tell me I'm wrong.  I can just see the ad-schmucks in that meeting.  Then they took it a step further.  The little dude had little chunks of TP all over his bear butt.  OK...too much.

But...Mein Gott und Nuestra Senora, Maria, Madre de Dios or OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  These new ones /, just in case.  They have all these horrendously icky women that are like 50s housewives/feminist activists/attendees of empowerment seminars...the kind where the real point is it's society's fault that men don't worship us and being hideous and shrill and emasculating are actually our positive qualities.  (sorry, complex stereotype).  And...all these creatures are speaking in 1960s militantesque making manifesto-like proclamations that they're going to "get real about what really happens in the bathroom."  And, apparently, what happens in the REAL bathroom...Can I bring myself to actually say it?  Again...apparently, if they do not have the canvas like strength and ermine like softness of Quilted Northern, they smear themselves with fecal matter.  I guess they just can't help it.  If it isn't Quilted Northern, poo goes everywhere.  Really?  No, Really?  Did the really have to go there?  They must be stopped, please help with any and all suggestions.  Western Civilization awaits your support and sacrifice.  Thank you

A title would steal the drama

One very cold and snowy afternoon several years ago, Whitny and I were up at the Yosemite house.  I don't remember what I was doing.  Whitny was sitting in front of the fire with her laptop.  Suddenly there was a brilliant flash and one of those peals of thunder that kind of click and sound and feel like a train has slammed into the house.  Then, there was a flicker and that weird little cacophony of everything that requires power shutting down.  It is the sound of death.  As we sat there discussing all the ramifications of being without electricity and anticipating the prospect of hours of having to exist as primitives, a walking tour of the property in the remaining daylight seemed like a good idea.

The original stagecoach road into Yosemite Valley runs the length of our property.  At the time, it had been neglected for many, many years.  Not only could you not drive it, there were places where it was difficult to walk it.  Our standard walk of the property is to go down the stagecoach road to the big meadow on the far side of the property where we used to camp, cross the creek on the bridge my uncle built and walk back to our driveway on the paved county road.

As we crunched our way through a foot and a half of snow, the gray and white silence was ripped with a plaintive cry with a bird like quality. But, it was no bird I had ever heard.  We looked at one another and began to speculate as to what it was and where it might be coming from.  Our place is in a little hollow that gives very odd acoustic variation to sound.  The melancholy sound intensified as we seemed to come closer to the source.  Essentially at the same time, Whitny and I looked at one another and said: "That's a woman screaming...isn't it?"  We slogged on for a couple hundred yards and then entered the section of the road where it borders the creek and is still heavily forested.  By this time, we could clearly tell that is was indeed a woman screaming.  In lower tones, coming in staccato bursts was the voice of a man, panicky and full of mounting anger.  Then, the occasional revving of a large V-8, tired and in need of a tune-up.  We still could not make out the words, nor the direction from where they were coming.  I felt a little shiver of apprehension as I realized it was all somewhere in front of us.  The fact that the sounds were in front of us meant they were on our property.  The only way they could have gotten where they were was via the gate at the other end of the property which had a substantial chain and lock securing it.  I would have been somewhat more optimistic about what we were about to encounter had the weather been different.  But, in my experience in those woods, the only people out roaming about in those conditions, under those circumstances, are tweakers.

For those of you unfamiliar with the species, tweakers are former human beings who have traded their status in the evolutionary chain for a life of wandering the forests in search of anything of value that they might trade for meth.  As we rounded the last corner, my worst fears were realized.  Tweakers can be identified upon sight.  They look like they just stumbled out of a concentration camp, covered with open sores, and they manage to acquire a filthiness that I have never seen anywhere else.  Sitting in front of us was an old Ford F-150, jacked up at least 18", but as we looked on, it was sitting on the frame in the mud.  We were still mostly concealed by foliage and the occupants had not seen us.  Again, because of past experience, I don't go out into the woods unarmed.  On this particular occasion I not only had a pistol in a shoulder holster, but I had dropped a another in my jacket pocket that had a tactical light.

 As I handed Whitny the Glock I had a very disquieting emotional disconnect.  My daughter was in danger and I would do anything to protect her.  At the same time, I was glad to have her there to back me up.  I very cautiously approached the driver's window with the pistol in my hand, down, against my side, but visible.  I asked the guy what he was doing on our property, but in the middle of the question I saw that he had a 12 gauge shotgun with the barrel and stock cut off and wrapped in duct tape between his legs.  This is a weapon with the sole purpose of blowing a very large hole in a person at very close range.  At that moment, I was the person who had just been pigeon-holed in this a-hole's brain most likely to need a large hole in them.  My pistol came up, muzzle right in his face.   He went through a number of contortions and facial expressions that gave no clue as to what he was thinking.  He completely ignored my question regarding the reason for their trespass.  Instead, he chose to state the obvious.  "We're stuck.  Can you help us out?"  My reaction surprised me again.  I was feeling anger.  I was feeling indignation.  I had an odd sense of violation.  And, I had a gun in this guy's face.  It's so odd to think of what ran through my mind...inane things like...yes, I could get you out...I have a backhoe, but I'd rather not, because you are not a good person.  And you've placed me in an odd see, I'm tempted to say, "Yeah, let me go get my backhoe."  because that's the kind of guy I am, as opposed to the kind of guy you are...a guy who broke into my property and you have a gun sitting there that only has one purpose and that purpose is to kill people like me and my daughter who accidentally catch you doing things you shouldn't be doing. While I was thinking all these things, some other autonomic part of my neurological system made my mouth say, in a civil, yet, sarcastic tone: "Not without a Chinook.  You are really stuck."  Then my mind raced again.  I thought, you know, there really isn't good etiquette information for situations like this.  He is completely ignoring the fact that I have a gun in his face and really placing me in an awkward social position.  The other thing that popped into my head was that in my peripheral vision I was fairly certain I was seeing the woman slamming crank  (colloquialism > v. to inject meth) in the back seat.  Now you have your tweakers, and you have your really hardcore tweakers who would actually shoot up.  And, so, Jim was thinking...what do I do next?  I'm kind of in a life and death situation with people who are in that second category and totally spun and if they feel any emotion at all its going to be paranoia. (random, racing thoughts don't have grammar or punctuation really).

Then he asked me if Whitny and I could stand on his rear bumper to give him traction.  This was good.  I turned and whispered to Whitny to just take off as fast as she could toward the meadow.  I started walking backward, my gun pointed at him.  This was the most tense part of the whole ordeal.  I had no idea what level of cognitive function this guy had going on, but I had to assume he had perhaps done something similar before and knew that...given the weapon he had, putting a little distance between us, especially where I couldn't see if he was going for it, gave him an advantage.  Anywhere from  the time I left the window to, let's say, 75 feet away, in a situation like that you don't get to use the sights.  I was trying to watch two people, walk backwards in the snow and if that shotgun did come up I would have to point and shoot...not aim and shoot...point and shoot.  Whereas, should he decide to shoot when I was still within that range, he couldn't miss.  I explain all this just so you can appreciate my relief when I got out of range and caught up with Whitny.  I suppose I was giving this guy more tactical thinking ability than he deserved.  But, it wasn't like I had a choice regarding what was going to be running through my head.  In retrospect, I have thought I should have taken the shotgun before backing up.  But, I had no clue what was going on in the back seat and getting away as quickly as possible seemed the most appealing choice at the time.  Since I am sitting here writing this with no superfluous holes in me, I suppose I made the right choice.

We got to the meadow and saw where they had broken in and driven through the snow.  The tire tracks explained their movements and it appeared as though they didn't really mean to try and come up the stagecoach road.  They were just so high, I think they got confused as to which way to go to get back to the county road.

All the way back to the house, Whitny and I could hear them.  It's a bit difficult to describe if you haven't been there, but we had to walk away from the house to get to the paved road, and then back toward the house.  The paved county road and the stagecoach road parallel each other with the creek in between.  So, since we knew where they were, the acoustics were no longer an issue.  We could tell they were still trying to get the truck out.  It took maybe 20 minutes to get back to the house and call the sheriff.  We're in what they call "north county" and Mariposa is almost an hour from us.  You never know how soon the sheriffs will show up.  This time, there were some deputies at the north county substation which is only a couple of miles from us.  I have no idea how long it actually took them to get there, but it seemed like Whitny was calling downstairs to me telling me they were coming up our road as I hung up the phone.

Two deputies showed up, each in their own 4X4 with AR-15s in the racks.  I walked out to meet them.  One drove to the front of the house, the other drove up the cement driveway part way that leads to the upstairs portion of the house.  After Whitny and I explained what had happened, they decided it would be best to box them in.  So, one went down the stagecoach road straight toward them and the other asked me to go with him and show him how to get in the back way.  We had to park in the meadow and walk in.  As we were walking, the deputy said, "I hope they run.  I love it when they run."

 It was 12 degrees and the woman was in a tank top and men's boxers.  That's it.  No shoes...nothing.  They didn't put up any resistance.  They were so high still I just can't even imagine what was happening in their brains.  I shouldn't say they didn't put up resistance.  He didn't.  She was still screaming.  The first time I actually understood words was when she was protesting to the deputies that she wouldn't step out of the truck into the snow without shoes.  It was all so surreal.  One of the deputies carried her to his truck.

When they told the deputies their names, one said to the other, "Man, we finally got 'em."  I asked what he meant.  Apparently they had found the cabin these two had been living in and it was filled with stolen property, including a phone booth.  Don't ask me....  And...wanna guess?  Her birth certificate.  Looking at this pair, as Whitny put it: "They looked like they were about 35, but a really hard 35."  As it turned out, he was actually 21 and she was 18 and they had two kids in the foster system.

I really wish the story ended there.  But, at some point while I was helping the deputies look through their truck to see how much of the stolen property was mine, something felt wrong.  I felt light on my left side.  Seriously, when I reached up and felt my empty shoulder holster, I had more of a sick feeling in my stomach than I had when I saw the shotgun.  My mind started racing.  It wasn't like I lost my watch.  As I stood there, probably with my mouth hanging open it just got worse and worse.  OK, on the positive side, it was obviously on our property somewhere, so, it wasn't going to fall into the wrong hands.  The only other place it could have possibly been was in the deputy's truck.  That seemed unlikely...didn't it?  I was getting frantic.  The deputies left and I told Whitny what happened.  And then, I was one of the guns listed on my CCW.  Great...I get to go tell the sheriff that I lost my gun during that fiasco.  What a nightmare....

I walked the quarter mile loop probably 6 times while it started to snow again.  Eventually, at like 3am Whitny convinced me to stop wandering around like an idiot in the snow and go to bed.  As I laid in bed reliving the entire experience it occurred to me what happened.  I had taken it out of the holster when I was calling the sheriff.  When Whit called down that they were coming up the road, I shoved it in my shoulder holster and didn't snap the strap, thinking I was just going to come back in the house and take it off and put it away.  So, when the one deputy asked me to go with him and my pistol way just shoved in the horizontal shoulder holster sans retaining was inevitable.  The next morning I woke up to another 6 to 8 inches of snow.  OK...there was no way I was going to find it by just looking.  My anxiety was peaking.  Fortunately I have a brilliant daughter.  She said, "Dad, what about a metal detector?  Do you have a metal detector?"  I felt a surge of hope.  "No, I don't, but we can go buy one." I said happily.  After a number of phone calls we found a place in Merced that sold metal detectors.  Only an hour away.  So, we jumped in the truck and drove to Merced.  When we got there, I thought Mapquest had led us astray. Our directions said to turn left, away from the shopping centers, down a farm road.  A couple miles down the road, there was the address.  It was a farmhouse.  At least we had cell reception.  So, I called the shop to see where we had gone wrong.  The gentleman said from the metal detector shop listened to my dilemma, instead of explaining where Mapquest messed up, he said "Is that you outside in the red Avalanche?" OK....I mean, the ad in the phone book....well, he was a nice guy and he had a metal detector.  Yes, one metal detector.  His Yellow Pages ad itself would wipe out his profit margin.  Oh well...not my problem.  But...I did have another problem...this guy was a cash only guy and he hadn't bothered to mention that on the phone.  I just realized I still owe Whitny for the metal detector.

So, we get back home and I start walking the loop.  I start finding old nails, license plates, barbed wire...just cool stuff in general.  I mean, why didn't I think of this before?  The original stagecoach road...there is all kinds of cool stuff.  But no gun.  I spent all day walking that loop.  I couldn't imagine where it could have gone.  Finally, I resigned myself to the fact that I had lost an $800.00 gun that I was going to have to report to the sheriff in disgrace.  I was sitting on the porch, looking out across the meadow and noticed some tracks in the snow.  I was staring out at them, wondering what would have left such big tracks so close to the house.  Bears wouldn't be out that time of year.  Oh...I felt foolish.  That was where the deputy and I had run up to his truck parked on the driveway.  A light bulb visibly appeared above my head.  I ran to get the metal detector.  What a brilliantly beautiful melody the metal detector played.  What a glorious light show....little green LED lights dancing as if to tell me that all was well with the world and there really is a Santa Claus.


If we're being honest, this is not an attractive gun.  In fact, it is an ugly, ugly gun.  But, as they say, and they do is all in the eye of the beholder.  When I pulled this beast from the snow drift, it was beautiful.  I am elated just remembering the feeling.  And, I think a night in the snow was good for it...toughened it up.

Saturday, January 29, 2011



OK, What the heck is this now?  I may be the only person in the world that would make this connection, but I find it fascinating.  This Hi Standard 102  Supermatic Trophy .22 target pistol is one of my favorite pistols.  The Esterbrook "J" fountain pen is one of my favorite pens.  They were both made about the time I was born.  I have many of each in all their different varieties.  But, for the sake of mood, I chose rich, dark hues for the comparison.  The contrast is irrelevant. The similarities are almost bizarre.  Hi Standard was the only manufacturer to come up with the idea of removable, interchangeable barrels.  Except for the earliest of Hi Standards and the fact that they changed the mechanism shortly after implementing it, essentially any Hi Standard barrel will fit on any Hi Standard frame.  Esterbrook, America's oldest pen company, until they went out of business, about the same time that Hi Standard also pulled the plug is the only pen company to market a fountain pen that had interchangeable nibs.  Rather than being press fitted into the section, the nib and feed are one unit that screws into the section so, one pen can take essentially all Esterbrook or Venus nibs.  The marketing idea was the same.  One pen barrel (yes, the body of a fountain pen is called a barrel) and several nibs rather than several other entire pens. 

 Hi Standard sold some of their higher end target pistols with sets of three barrels of different lengths.  This particular model, or series, the 102-104 Supermatic series, was called the "Space Gun" because with the weights and the futuristically shaped muzzle compensator made it look like the Ray Guns in the robot from space movies of the 50s.   Well, ok, the marketing was probably a good idea, but imagine for a moment what they did to me.  Yep, I've got barrels and nibs....barrels and nibs.  Don't say that fast too many times.

Now that you've read this...can you admit that two things that you thought you had absolutely no interest in actually are quite interesting now that you know some stuff that you probably wouldn't have ever heard anywhere else?

Friday, January 28, 2011


Product Placement Impaired Polar Bear

This morning, I was photographing some things and something just told me that I needed to take my Glock stress squeeze ball and let Gail's Polar Tanker Bear hold it for a photo.  Then, not unlike seeing the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast, there was a piece of art on my camera screen.  It says so many things and it says nothing.  When you look at it, your first reaction is: "What the hell is that?"  If that isn't the very definition of art, I don't know what is.  I may have to change my profile.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


If I may digress from my primary point to set this one up...  Gail has been quite ill for some time.  It's amazing to me how long she went with every diagnosis from MS to Lupus, to Chronic Fatigue and on and on.  Finally, she was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease and because of all the time gone by with all the misdiagnoses, she is in the tertiary stage.  So, some of the damage is permanent and she is about as miserable as I have ever seen her as they as giving her massive doses of antibiotics to kill off the stuff.  So, back to the point... When she was feeling better, but not good enough to do much of anything, she would just look around online for things she thought I might need, especially as I worked on the Yosemite house.  Well, she saw these and bought one to see if I liked it.  I have actually found them quite useful.  They are a very bright halogen light that fits on my head.  So, they are very useful for fixing things in the middle of the night.  So, she bought me a whole bunch of them so I could just stick them everywhere I might use them.  They aren't very expensive.  I have used them for several years, occasionally opening a new one as I needed.  The only downside is the batteries are very hard to put in.  Somehow I did this without ever even noticing the packaging.  I hate this kind of packaging and it is one of the reasons I always carry a knife.  For some reason, I actually looked at this one before I opened it.  That is when it struck me.  What in the hell does this light have to do with playing golf?  Was there a meeting, or did they just have a photo on a card the right size?  I really want to know if there was any actual thought put into this package.  I really want to know and have no idea how to find out. 


Buffalo Clip from Sundance and Indian Head from Orvis

If you have read much of my blog, I think we can all pretty much agree that I have OCD.  This is just one more facet of it that I share for your entertainment and my purging, hoping to get a bit of control over it.  The whole money clip thing has been going on all my life.  I like them because I've never been big on carrying a lot of money in a wallet and with a money clip, I can sort it by denomination and make sure its all facing the same way, you know, OCD stuff.  It got a lot worse a few years back when I was actually in the business of buying estates and always carried a lot of money on me because if you don't have the cash, you don't get the deal.  It came to its worst when I picked up a camo money clip at the Shot Show at Las Vegas.  Gail thought I had just gone too redneck.  Then, to make it even worse, I was up at the Yosemite house by myself and in a hurry one day.  I had gone to the little market in Greeley Hill and when I got back home and emptied my pockets, my little camo money clip with all the money I had was not there.  I realized immediately what I had done.  My keys were on a lanyard, and I paid for whatever I bought and shoved the money clip in my pocket on top of my keys.  Obviously, when I pulled my keys out, with the lanyard, it took the money clip with them.   It couldn't have been 10 minutes, but by the time I got back to the market...someone had found it.  I just kept telling myself that I hoped that it was somebody who really needed the money and not some tweak who used it to go buy meth.  That's about a  50/50 chance there.  Well, I actually stopped carrying money clips for a while.  Then, Gail bought me the one above on the left.  I really like this clip.  It matches a whole bunch of others little things I have, and its just cool.  I have also stopped putting lanyards on my keys.  (except for my quads and backhoe and things like that...whole different purpose)  Then, one day I realized I didn't know where my money clip was.  I had no clue where I had lost it.  I was slowly losing my mind over this and quickly driving Gail insane by mentioning it every day.  One night I was on the Internet, kind of out of it from back pain and lack of sleep.  I came across a money clip very similar to the one I lost.  I think at the time I thought to myself, "If I buy another one, I'll find the lost one."  Things usually work that way for me.  I remember thinking that...not actually buying it.  Just a couple of days ago I got this strange visual image of my briefcase tipping over in the back seat of my truck and spilling out.  Even though I had looked under the back seat for it maybe 10 times, I went outside at like 3 in the morning and looked again.  Just as I was about to give up, I saw something that looked kind of strange.  I reached for it and it was as if my money clip just appeared in my hand.  It had fallen against the seat rail in such a way that it had looked like it was part of the mechanism.  Then, the next day, the other one showed up in the mail.  Well, looking on the bright side, they aren't identical.  Gail bought the original one from Sundance,   I bought the second one from Orvis.  The new one is a bit bigger and has slots for cards.  Though, the clip is magnetic, so I wouldn't carry credit cards in it.  Well, all in all, I am really glad to have the one Gail gave me back...and in a way, I almost wonder if I would have found it if I hadn't bought the new one.  I at least got a story out of it.  Even if it is one that makes me look foolish.

It's kind of hard to see, but "Sundance" is embossed in the one and "Orvis" in the other.

Just a few of the money clips I've used over the years
Is anyone surprised that I still have all these?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Miller Photo Company, Klamath Falls, OR
Street Scene, East Rochester, Nevada, No. 293

This is one of very few pieces in the puzzle that was the original Uncle Ernie.  The back story on that is that a lot of people, especially people that worked for him, called my dad Uncle Ernie.  That always made me think of Uncle Ernie in The Who's Tommy.  This is the story of his Uncle Ernie, my grandfather's older brother that kind of just falls off the map.  He was a miner who seems to have left home when he was 13 or 14 years old.  Most of what I know about my grandfather's family I had to research.  I don't remember him talking about them at all.  Even though I lived with him for a while when I was in college, he didn't seem to want to talk about his parents or siblings.  There was a lot of pain I wasn't going to intrude.  It wasn't until 2002 that I finally found out who my great grandfather was.  I'm just about at that same place with great Uncle Ernie.  He was the eldest of my grandfather's half siblings.  My first introduction to his existence was when my dad gave me  a very nice set of prospector's magnifying glasses and a Smith and Wesson Revolver and told me they had belonged to his namesake.  I'll add photos of those when I have access to them.

I had tried to research him.  Once I knew who my great grandfather was I had a little better idea of where to start looking.  My great grandmother, Rosa Goerke, had come over from Austria in 1876 to live with her brother Paul in Rosita, Colorado.  The family story was that she was kind of an arranged marriage for Frederick Braun.  I'd probably still think that, but by the strangest coincidence, looking for something else entirely, I found an article in a Pueblo, Colorado paper about Frederick Braun leaving to go back home to Germany for a two year trip and, his ship sailed out of New York the very week that Rosa, Paul and his wife Ida arrived.  So, I feel fairly safe in saying it wasn't an arranged marriage.  I guess people just thought that because Mr. Braun was 20 years older and she was quite an attractive woman.  Later, doing some other research, I found them all in a census and Frederick Braun and Paul Goerke were next door neighbors.  So, I assume this is how they met when he came back from his extended trip.

This is where Ernie comes into the picture.   However the courtship happened, it happened quickly because, between 1878 and 1882 they married and had Ernest, Helen and Anna.  Braun just disappears in 1882.  I am still looking, but am surprised at how much I have looked without results for the details of the death of such a prominent man.  The family seems to have gone through some very hard times and Rosa somehow met and married my great grandfather, Ory T. Davis.  They were married just about long enough to have him and learn to truly hate one another and divorce.  This is the most puzzling part of my family history to me.  I grew up hearing that Ory was a horrible man.  But, when I did find him in 2002, I found the biggest prize this kind of research can bring a person.  My cousin...Debbie.  She was such a gift in so many ways.  Not only did I discover that Ory was a truly great man from her.  It is almost surreal to me because when I was young and thought about my great grandfather, I imagined Debbie.  I can't explain it.  I just knew she was out there.  I pictured her, even down to what she looks like.  Then, 
in 2002, Gail and I were on a trip and found a historical society in Colorado that was putting on a display of Ory's photographs.  They also put us in touch with Debbie.  It was just so weird.  

Well, I didn't mean to put so much in this post about Ernie, all this has other places to go,  I guess it's because Ernie is still such a mystery to me.  I have no idea how close he and my grandfather were.  I was thrilled to find this post card because it is the only thing I have of his that gives any insight at all to him as a personality.  It is a frontier, typical boom town post card of East Rochester, Nevada, dated April 1, 1913.  It is addressed to Edmond Braun, Barstow California.

On it Ernie said: Hello Ed Old Kid,  It has been a long time since I wrote to you so I'll drop you a card.  I have been doing the carpenter stunt but not having any tools or being an expert at the business, russling has been tuff.  I am playing the mining game, trying to peddle some claims or commission.  Maybe into the money later.  With best regards, Ernest

Ernest never won any of those games.  As of right now, all I know is that my grandfather made a trip to Nevada to bury him not long after this post card.  I believe he died in a mining accident, but I'm not even certain of that.  A Smith & Wesson break-top, a set of magnifiers and a post card.  I do hope this isn't all I will ever know of him.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Deceptive Death Awaiting

I found this picture as I am trying to make some sense out of the mountain of slides and prints we have.  I mentioned him in another post.  My friend Paul and I got a little too close to his harem.  Paul is just out of frame here.  This dude weighed 700 lbs if he weighed an ounce.  When he came sliding out of the surf and started heaving his blubber at us, we ran...I mean, WE RAN!!!  Somewhere I think I have a shot of Paul's pant leg in his mouth and that grill looked a lot like a really big, unpleasant dog with 3" canines.  Thinking about it now, I'm not sure how I managed to grab this photo.  This fellow really wanted to do us harm.  Loathe though am to admit this...after the first significant adrenaline rush, we both thought we had discovered a fun new game.  It was:  "Let's see if we can run in hiking boots across 50 yards of beach  to escape this brute who was really quite adept at it"  The subtext was:  "Let's not think about what might happen if he actually catches us."  The bottom line was, I'm glad we both survived, but I feel bad that we were so stupid and actually kind of thoughtless concerning how Mr. Bull felt about the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


A very dead rabbit

Any of you who have been following my posts, I said I would tell you more about this accident.  Debbie, this makes the Pantera accident seem like a fun day.  This happened at the end of a three month trip Gail and I took to Mexico and Guatemala.  Originally, we were planning to go to school in Jalapa, a University town near Veracruz.  But, when we got there, the gentleman who had told us he had made all our arrangements looked at us kind of like, "and you are....who?"  He was a professor there and the brother of one of Gail's good friends.  But, we soon found out he was nothing like his brother.  By the next day, we did our usual, sync-think and at the same time looked at each other and basically said, "You know, we have the Summer free...a car that will go almost 1,000 miles on a $5 fill-up, and...we were kids and sleeping in the car seemed reasonable.  That has always been one of the greatest things about Gail.  As long as what I suggest doesn't appear to involve painful death, she is up for it.  So, we had a great Summer...drove all over.  One of the dumbest things I did was:  One night in Cristobal de las Casas, the only place we could stay, which was actually very nice, didn't take credit cards, and I felt we were running very low on pesos.  These were the days when there wasn't an ATM on every corner.  You had to find a Western Union office or knock over a fruit vendor.  And...Villahermosa was just on the other side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  The facts that crossing the Isthmus required climbing thousands of feet on the south side and then descending same on the north and none of the roads were paved and it was raining so hard that Noah would have been nervous just didn't seem like deterrents.  Then, one night we stayed in Palenque and we were truly enjoying ourselves because we were the only ones there. Thus, we decided to wash our car.  Just as soon as I borrowed a hose from the gardener and found some implements to complete said task, and Gail donned a bikini in anticipation of the inevitable water fight our sense of well being vanished.  A VW van and a water truck pulled in and 8 guys piled out, all carrying Uzis, MAC-10s and M-16s.  They looked at Gail the way one might expect and those that looked at me seemed to be contemplating how best to remove me from the picture.  We ended up being left alone.  Apparently Tequila was sufficient to entertain these guys who seemed to be drug runners or some of the early members of what became the Zapatistas.  

A few days later, we really were just about out of money so we decided to get on home.  On the very last day, after we crossed the bay of Tampico on the same ferry that was in the 1948 Bogart movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre and were patiently awaiting our turn to exit, a very impatient vaquero in a Ford F-150 just floored it and dragged his bumper all down the side our car and sped away.  Fortunately,  la rubia looks at such thing far more philosophically than do I.  As she attempted to calm me, out of nowhere, she suggested that we pull over and put on our seat belts.  It seemed odd, as these were pre-seatbelt law days and we essentially never wore them.  But I do not question her in such situations.  Not 10 minutes later, a 2 1/2 ton cattle truck that appeared to be parked on the side of the road, but was actually idling, waiting to make a U-turn, failed to see us and went for it.  Then, he saw us and slammed on his brakes, totally blocking the road.  You know how they say your life passes before your eyes?  I didn't experience that, but is was strange how many thoughts passed through my head in that millisecond.  Its an odd decision to have to make.  I had two options.  I possibly could have pulled hard to the left, which would more than likely resulted in us cartwheeling across a soccer field with some boys playing on it.  I couldn't do that one.  The other option was very strange because in that very short period of time I distinctly recall thinking that if we went underneath the truck, we would just be decapitated.  So, I did my best to hit his rear duals as squarely as possible.  There was an explosion like I've never experienced, despite other similar collisions.  Lights out.

I don't really know how long I was unconscious.  But, I awoke to Gail saying, "Are we going to catch fire?"  She was hearing the radiator dripping on the exhaust manifold.  The engine was actually underneath us.  I didn't stop to reason, I just realized that my door was jammed shut.  Ironically, my worst injury came from knocking that door open with my left shoulder.  When I got out, I realized what Gail had been hearing and it occurred to me that the car was a diesel and fire was not likely.  Then, I noticed the cattle truck, upside down in the ditch.  After checking on Gail, I went over to see how the truck driver was.  He was gone is how he was.  Then I noticed that there were two guys checking on Gail.  I realized that they were the guys who had been driving alongside us, passing and getting passed for the last couple of hours.  They were in a car identical to ours and I remembered that I had seen them pull over just before the impact.  Turns out, they had picked that very moment to change drivers and were like 300 yards back from the impact site.  They were brothers and the older one was a hospital administrator in Tampico.  He told me that God had saved them...that they should have been to ones that it the truck.  Oh, he also informed me that the truck driver was muy drunk and had taken off running.

So, as we were trying to figure out what to do, everybody that drove by asked me where the bodies were.  Then, a big crew-cab pickup pulled up.  A very pleasant woman climbed out.  It was very comforting for Gail to finally hear English.  Judy was an American.  Her husband, Rafael, worked for the Department of Agriculture.  They both stressed what we all already knew.  Time to get the hell out of there before the federales showed and tossed us in jail until they figured out what happened.  So, we threw our stuff in the back of their pickup (they had three kids), so we rode with the brothers.  It was all a bit disconcerting.  We just left our car in the middle of the road, having paid the local cop to take care of it.  But, Gail had hit her head on the dashboard and was hit in the back of the head with something heavy.  I broke the steering column with my chest and the windshield with the top of my head.  And we had no idea how badly hurt we were.  Many, many hours later we crossed the border into McAllen, Texas.  The border guard looked at us like, "Do I really want to know what this story is?"  Because, the brothers couldn't take their car across.  We weren't supposed to leave our car in the country.  So, their brother came across the border and picked us up.  Gail and I just tossed our tourist cards and showed out passports like we were just visiting for the day.  The fact that we were with three Mexican nationals and covered with blood wasn't going to be easily explained.  Fortunately, the guard decided that he was probably better off remaining ignorant of our circumstances.  We met up with Rafael and Judy the next day.  Fortunately, we didn't have any serious injuries, so we just hung out with our new friends for three days until we could get a flight home.  The second evening, we eventually got around to actually introducing ourselves.  Judy said, "You're not related to a Lester Braun from Chowchilla, are you?"  Turns out Judy grew up in that little Central Valley town where my uncle was the only doctor and he actually delivered her .  She and Rafael met in college at University of Tucson.  And, as I said in the first post, that close of a brush with death made us reevaluate our timetable on going forth and multiplying.  Nine months later, we had a goofy little baby girl.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Here, Gail and Helen, (different Helen from the porpoise picture) in the midst of a stand-off with some bulls in the back country of Isabella island.  They were not being friendly at all.  Gail eventually had to wrestle one to the ground to establish dominance.


This dude was getting some serious air time.  He's probably eight feet out of the water here about 200 yards off the starboard bow of our boat. Helen...if you happen to read this, please go easy on me.  This was a Nikon F2 with a 300mm lens and I didn't have much time to do anything but focus...the F stop was all wrong...I tried to fix it in the darkroom, but it was what it was.  I just saved it because I've never seen a porpoise just this high in the wild.


This sea lion very nearly could have broken me.  I mean, wandering around Ecuador and the Galapagos, those sucres just burn a hole in your pocket.  Then, right in the middle of it all, there's always a diva.  The only thing that saved me was that her currency was fish, not money.  But, did she ever love the camera.


Yes, Pollo Frito de Ecuador...had to go in. OMG!!! ICK!!!  I also decided to share this because of the strange timing of it all.  Shortly before coming across this photo, Gail...literally, just totally out of all context asked, "Have you ever had a chicken come running to meet you when you call it by name?  I have.  That's why I could never eat chicken."  End of discussion.  Living with Gail is so much fun.  It's fundamentally impossible to be bored.  I've known her essentially all my life and I have no idea what's going to happen when the hamster starts the wheel spinning inside that blonde head.


Does this really require any explanation?


I stumbled across this little guy after and obvious run in with a shark.  I know it might look kind of bad, but he was going to heal up just fine.  How he got away with this is pretty amazing.  Actually, these guy are fast.  My friend Paul and I were kind of checking out a harem of female sea lions, giving the 700lb. bull in the surf a little less respect than he deserved.  Suddenly, he was out of the water and coming at us in a hilariously terrifying fashion.  Waves of blubber rippled as he did this hyperdrive impression of a caterpillar.  Thank God for lava floes...or we would have looked a lot worse than this little guy.


We went to the Galapagos on our honeymoon.  These are some for the goofiest, most aptly named birds in the world.  Their feet are actually bright blue.  This is a mating ritual.  They dance around making clown sounds.  One sound is lie one of those bicycles horns with the rubber bulb.  The best part is watching them land.  They are really quite graceful when fishing, sometimes, from over a hundred feet up, they'll tuck in their wings and hit the water like an olympic high diver and essentially always come up with a fish.  But, when they come back to land, they don't quite know what to do with their giant blue webbed duck feet, so they actually tuck and roll.  Truly entertaining birds.


Which one of these photos was taken first?  Einstein said the time exists so that everything doesn't happen at once.  It takes time and effort to wear a body out like this.


The stereotype of in-laws did not apply here.  There was a real bond of love and respect between these two people


How much more bucolic could this picture get?


Catching Gail off guard at times like this is like snapping a picture of an angel.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Whitny likes this picture because she can see herself in her mother.


Personally, I loved this car because it really didn't look like a muscle car.  Yet, with 690bhp, my only problem was keeping rubber on the rear tires.  Gail thought I ruined it because it really was a nice car, appointment-wise...but when I finished with the engine, she knew when I was coming a block away because the windows in the house would shake.  This is one of the few cars that I didn't manage to keep.  It just got used up.


OK, now we're talking fine automobiles.  This was known as the Klingon War Cruiser.  It even had a "WARP DRIVE" toggle switch on the bridge (some might call it a dashboard).  This was a wonder of GM innovation.  I mentioned it in another post.  For some reason, some people thought that converting a gasoline engine to diesel was a good idea.  It wasn't.  But timing is everything.  Just at  about 100,000 miles, GM did a recall on these and put actual diesel engines in them.  Well, just after that, my parents were driving down the freeway and a wheel bearing did something that I never fully understood and the left front wheel actually came off at full freeway speed.  I suppose to repay me for all the hell I had put them through up to this point, they asked me if I wanted it.  I was in grad school at the time and figured, "why not?"  My best friend was from London and thought these titanic American cars were wonderful.  Among my little group of Nahuatl scholars at UCLA, this car became iconic.  Despite the fact that Gail would not ride in it, I knew its profound value as a symbol of American decadence and poor taste.  In this picture, we are somewhere in New Mexico.  I was doing my dissertation on Colonial New Mexico, Matthew, the Limey, had a '58 Bel Aire that needed a new bumper so he came with me in the hopes of finding one amidst the sea of abandoned old cars that adorned every Pueblo and little village.  Why Kevin was there...not sure.  Amazingly enough, on the way home, just outside Farmington we found a '58 Bel Aire with a gleaming front bumper and nothing else.  We tracked down the owner and bought the bumper for $5.  I have no idea how long it took to get that stupid thing off.  The experience was heightened by a couple of really drunk Apaches who cheered us on by giving a UCLA war cry in homage to Kevin's sweatshirt.  You might be surprised how quickly something like that can become annoying.  Eventually, Matthew and I broke each and every one of those rusted bolts loose and we were on our way.

I must admit, after a couple of years, the iconic status of the War Cruiser was wearing thin.  But, being a bit short on funds, I could not justify getting a new vehicle until the warp drives gave out.  Then, to my great surprise, as I walked out to strap in the pod, I noticed an empty parking space between our new Mustang and our neighbor's new Corvette.  Yes, some hooligans had made off with the ship.  I was at first mystified, then somewhat elated and then dismayed as I realized that the back seat was full of rare library books.  Three weeks later, some very sly detectives noticed that an abandoned puke yellow War Cruiser had been docked in a "No Parking on Thursday for Street Sweeping" zone.  A broken driver's window, a split steering column housing and a screwdriver jammed in the ignition along with three weeks worth of tickets led them to suspect something might be amiss.  Thus, the Cruiser returned to me.  Fortunately, the books were still there.  I was shocked, because I figured that's why the gangbangers stole it in the first place.  Perhaps they read them and had no further need of them.  I could no longer keep her however.  She had been defiled.  Aside from that, I was afraid I was going to be flying that ship for the rest of my life.  It just wouldn't die.  I put 200,000 miles on it after my parents bequeathed it to me.  Good memories.


2000 Pontiac Trans Am WS6

For Nancene and Byron:  This one was easy because all I had to do was go out and photograph it.  Back in 2000, Gail was ready for a new car and was going to get a 7 series Beemer.  Then she heard that this WS-6 Ram Air Trans Am was the last one they were going to make with a real engine.  She's kept it garaged the whole time.  It only has 30K miles on it.  Every once in a while when we leave the garage door open, guys come to the door and ask if we want to sell it.  I'll keep looking through our photographs and see what other cars I can come across that we've owned.  I still have the International Travelall too and have completely unrealistic plans for it.  I don't really have a place to restore cars right now because we are restoring 5 Airstreams.  Eventually, if that ever happens and we get them set up in the meadow at the Yosemite house, I want to build a shop up on the hill where they are now and restore the Pantera and the International.


Please don't think I'm just being overindulgent in displaying images of us in a long lost universe.  I am in the midst of trying to scan and save all our old slides and Whit's bff and our "other daughter", Chastity, said that looking at pictures of us as kids gets her through the night at work.  I kind of look like the Pillsbury Doughboy here, don't you think?  This is at Oak Glen in probably, I have short hair.  This was '77 or '78.  This is also for Gail's cousin, Nancene, because if you don't remember, you were on the other side of the camera here.  We haven't been there in years.  It was kind of a mandatory thing in the Fall to go there and pick apples and eat at Law's Coffee shop.  Best Apple Pie ever. Anybody know if it is still as good as it used to be?  Few things are.  If you look right above my gigantic 1970s belt, you can see the heartbreak of the dread disease, acute APO, more commonly known as Apple Pie Overload.  

This is also a lesson in the difference between men and women.  A woman would never post a picture this unflattering.  But, as a man, I don't really care.  I have not gotten through life on my looks (understatement extraordinaire).  Well, you know, that's not entirely true.  I remember once when we were dating, Gail told me that she always felt safe around me because when she would go out with other guys, leering, lecherous types would make remarks of the stereotypical construction worker nature to her right in front of her date and they never did anything about it.  But, she said that when she was with me, that never happened.  I am not  sure I completely understand this but I believe it may be due to the fact that for reasons unknown to me, even when I feel that I am smiling pleasantly, I tend to non-verbally communicate something along the lines of, "Hey, give me a reason to hurt you."  I don't mean to and I have always thought of it as problematic but being the eternal optimist that I helped me score the perfect wife.


Abbott Pharmaceuticals give away from the 60s

Amazingly enough, I was actually looking for this.  Just the other day Whitny and I were going through all the stuff in the room over my workshop, looking for something.  Its a room that serves absolutely no purpose but to house all the things that I could never bring myself to throw away.  This is an icky little rubbery thing about 2 inches long.  It says Abbott on the back and I believe it was a give away from Abbott pharmaceuticals.  I got it from my dentist when I was about 7.  Dr. Lau always had a box of toys to choose from when you were done and this little guy just fascinated me.  He told me it was what bacteria looks like and if I didn't brush properly, I would have millions of these in my mouth.  Fair enough.  I have always wondered what the "E" stood for.  After all these years, the best part was when I actually found it in a box of old toys.  When Whit saw it, she screamed, thinking it was a dead rodent of some sort, despite the green color and the obvious fact that it is rubber.


This is the hospital staff my dad was in charge of on a Strategic Air Command base during the Korean war.  When I came across this photo I was reminded of one of my favorite stories that is a great illustration of my dad and the military at the same time.  Oh, by the way, Dad is third from the right in the back row.  This was a 100 bed hospital.  So, every night, they got 100 meals, even if there were only eight beds full.  The mess hall was on the opposite side of the base so my dad would tell his staff to just eat the patient meals that were going to go into the dumpster anyway.  Dad was not one to tolerate waste of any kind.  Of course, the base CO got wind of what he was doing and called him in and told him that he could not let the staff eat the patient meals, it was against regulations.  OK...typical military mentality.

A few weeks later, the CO had to come in for his physical.  My dad grounded him.  The CO looked shocked and asked what was wrong with him.  "Nothing." My dad replied. "Then why the %*&# are you grounding me?" the CO demanded.  "Because I can." my dad replied.  "OK, Doc, you can have the meals."  That was my dad.  I don't remember anything ever defeating him.

Friday, January 14, 2011


1971 DeTomaso Pantera

This was one of my favorite cars of all time.  This was my Freshman year in college.  This was back in the day when they still had Auto Shops on college campuses.  So, I was actually getting college credit for using the shop to build my '69 Grand Prix SJ.  Also, one of my favorites.  If you will allow me to digress (sorry Nancene...I know technical details aren't interesting) but the Grand Prix had a 428 that put out 390 bhp from the factory.  When I got done with it, I put it on a dynomometer.  I milked 690 horses out of that thing.  Anyway, whilst I was doing this I was driving this 1971 Pantera.  My dad bought it for himself, but my mother wouldn't ride in it.  If you've ever been in one, its a bit like a luge inside a jet engine.  So, I managed to weasel it away.  Afterall, a young scholar does need transportation and my main ride was indisposed.  My dad was an interesting guy.  He wouldn't just buy me a nice car, but if I were willing to build it, well...that was educational and nothing was more important than being educated.  To dad, education covered a very broad spectrum.  He had a reputation at the hospital because he was the only doctor who knew all the maintenance guys by name.  He loved building.  Thus, when I needed and Edelbrock high rise intake manifold and twin Holley problem.  Back to the Pantera.  I was driving one morning, April 15, 1974, 5:36AM, (some things just stick in one's head) on campus.  It was still dark and there was this weird intersection that was kind of blind and definitely uncontrolled.  Like me, a guy who was late for work, driving a 69 Camaro, made the acceptable assumption that at that time of day there was no real reason to slow at that intersection because who the hell else would be up there at that time of the morning.  I never even saw him.  It was kind of an uphill sweeping curve that was fun to take fast.  And, as I mentioned, the other gentleman was late for work and guessed that he was going about 60 mph.  There was just this blinding flash.  I awakened in the passenger seat at some point.  Later, one of the cops actually said I was really lucky that I wasn't wearing a seat belt (pre-law days) because the way the Camaro center punched the driver's door, I probably would have been killed.  How's that for weird irony?  The other guy had a broken femur and was stuck in the Camaro.  So, I climbed out and surprisingly, I seemed totally fine.  I waited around for the other guy to be taken to the hospital and the cars to be towed.  One of the officers asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital.  I said, "No, thanks, I don't have a scratch on me, weird, huh?"  So, satisfied that I appeared lucid, suddenly I found myself alone in this intersection, contemplating what to do.  I started to walk to my grandparents house which was about a half mile away and it occurred to me that the shock was wearing off.  I think I started mumbling "Owww, no, really Owww....OMG!!!! totally Owww"  Somehow I made it to my grandparents house and called my parents.  They immediately left work and came out to get me.  A few hours later I was looking at an x-ray of my chest.  Every rib on my left side was broken at the spine and pulled out of the sternum.  By now, every time I breathed it felt like a dozen swords were being run through my chest.  Morphine and I became really close friends.  Fortunately my dad was a big believer in opiates and he had no problem just giving me a giant bottle of it.  I don't think I could have functioned otherwise.  Not to be a wuss...but my cousin Cindy had to come over and help me out of bed.  I've never experienced pain like that again.  Well, maybe when my dad removed my big toenail without anesthesia because it was ingrown...but that was short term.  Anyway, I healed...the Pantera was fixed. But...that was sort of its demise.  When my dad insured it, the agent didn't know what it was.  In describing it, since it's a Ghia body with a mid-engine 351 Ford Cleveland, the guy insured it as a Ford two door coupe.  Repairing it cost in excess of $10k...which was a lot in 1974.  So, they cancelled the policy.  I never really understood why, but my dad just stored it in our back garage.  I got it running and drove it for a couple months in 1984.  But when the voltage regulator blew,,,I know, it makes no sense whatsoever, but it just sat.  I still have it actually  Every once in a while I think I'm going to restore it.  Its actually a fairly rare car.  1971 was the first year they imported them and only 1000 came over.  I've only seen one other.  I think I haven't restored it because Gail's first car was a 1967 Triumph TR4A and in the early 90s I did a frame up complete restoration on it.  I converted all the Lucas crap to real electronics and those SUs were replaced with Webers.  I was really quite proud of it.  Gail said, "Thank you, I appreciate the thought, but that car was fun when I was a teenager.  I don't really want to be stranded on my way to work."  Its been in storage ever since.  I apologize for the length of this post, but...trauma....what can I say?

The most unlikely couple

As I go through our old photos, this one just screamed at me.  When Gail and I started dating, everyone told her to stay away from me.  At 17, I wasn't exactly a model citizen and Gail was the epitome of one.  Our senior year, she was voted class heartbreaker and I was voted wittiest boy which I believe actually translates to "smartassed a-hole" or something similar.  But...Gail ignored all those well meaning people and so far, it looks like its going to work out.


This is a trip Gail and I took to the Grand Canyon in 1981.  I am posting it because it reminded me of another great trade off in my life.  That VW Rabbit behind me...we bought that because we were planning to spend the coming summer in Mexico.  It was diesel and had two tanks, with the price of diesel in those days, we could fill it for about $5 and get almost 1,000 miles out of a fill up.  So, Gail and I wandered all over Mexico and Guatemala.  Then after risking our lives in a hundred different ways, including spending the night alone in Palenque with a group of guys armed with Uzis and M-16s (guessing drug runners), the very last day, just a few hours from the border, coming up the East coast out of Tampico, a drunk in a cattle truck pulled out in front us.  We hit this 2 1/2 ton stake bed truck hard enough with that Rabbit to flip it over.  How we survived clue.  But, obviously we did.  We left Mr. Conejo in the middle of the road and caught a ride out before the Federales showed up.  This is a long story that I will tell in greater detail if I ever find the photos of the actual accident.  The trade off?  Gail and I got home, got our other car, and went to Death Valley.  We still had a few weeks free and Gail thought the heat would help with the aches and pains.  Well, obviously, we discussed the fact that we came really damn close to dying and that led to us wondering why we were putting of having kids.  Nine months later, Whitny suddenly appeared.  So, Whitny can attribute her very existence to a drunk and a horrible accident.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I went to Lynwood Academy from first grade through my junior year.  Long story, but the general consensus was that I had worn out my welcome and I wasn't thrilled about staying there longer either. Foolishly, I thought I would transfer to the local high school.  Instead, two days later, I was a resident at Newbury Park Academy.  It was truly like going to prison at first.  I almost got kicked out my first day there because one of my female friends came to see me and nobody told me that girls weren't supposed to be in your dorm room.  All that, and all I got was this stupid sweatshirt.  Oh, and the girl in it.  At first I was really bummed being set off to the pen, but, in the long run, I think I did pretty well in the deal.  Philosophically, that and other things that have happened to me throughout my life have led me to the conclusion that things that seem really horrible at first...if you allow enough time to pass so you can look at them retrospectively, in most cases, you can see where that horrible thing was a catalyst in bringing you to a better place.  That's been my experience anyway.  It may simply be perspective, but it has worked for me.  You may want to try it.

Gail and Runt

This is Gail with Runt.  I had a cat named Mabel that we saved from a farm near where Gail lived.   I think we were about 18 at the time.  Soon, it was obvious that Mabel was with kitten(s).  She was only a kitten herself and didn't survive the pregnancy, so we kept all seven kitten with us all the time and had to bottle feed them.  We ended up only keeping Pudge and Checker and Porky.  Porky got out one night and well...then we just had the two.  Pudge lived for over 20 years.  She was a great cat.  One time I saw her with a pigeon in her mouth and I was just shocked, because we have always been able to discourage that in our cats and Pudge was especially good about it.  As it turned out, the Mr. Pigeon had a mishap and Pudge was bringing him to me.  She was carrying him in a way that she didn't even leave a tooth mark and she laid him at my feet.  Yes, the pigeon was rehabilitated and released.

Best Russian Wolfhound Ever

Whitny and I have our work cut out for us now.  We got ourselves set up with a professional scanner and a slide copier and we're digitizing all the family pictures.  Scanning the slides is going to be a lot of work...well, they both are.  There are just so many more slides.  Why I started with this one...don't ask me.  This is Amy, our Russian Wolfhound from many moons past.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


My dad did his residency in Radiation Oncology and Nuclear Medicine at M.D. Anderson.  I found this in his things years ago.  It always makes me think of Apollo 13.  Those guys at NASA brought them home with less sophisticated equipment than I carry around in my pocket every day in the form of an iPhone.  They were using slide rules, not computers.  My dad used this in the 50s.  It was kind of like a slide rule for time/dosage in radiation treatments.  I remember when he got his first computer which basically did these same calculations.  It was like 6 refrigerators with humongous reels of tape.  I was amazed when I found this, because I had remembered a story he told when I was barely old enough to understand it and I didn't know what the thing looked like and had no clue there was one still in existence.  Dad's story:  Another resident came up to him and said "Hey, Ernie, have you seen this thing?  It's amazing."  He then proceeded to condescendingly show my dad how to use it.  According to my dad, his tone was kind of like my dad wasn't quite capable of grasping the intricacies of the mathematics.  My dad just listened and thanked the guy for explaining it to him.  It would have been interesting to see that other doctor's face whenever it was that he noticed the lettering on the innermost circle.  If you can't read it in this photo, it says: "Designed by E. J. Braun M.D."

Just a busy day

Well, sorry, I don't have anything visual for you today.  But, its because of what happened today that caused me to just run out of time.  But, I will make up for it tomorrow.  The day started out taking Whitny to drop off her Mini Cooper at the dealership.  Several things happened there.  BTW, I really dislike Mini Cooper dealerships.  They are essentially BMW dealerships.  You can't work on them yourself because they have all their own tooling.  Just to rotate her tires and align the thing...$400.00.  The explanation?  because they can only be aligned on their particular alignment machinery.  But, on the bright side, they had a really cool original Mini which Whit and I photographed and I got a great idea for a coffee table.  Mine will look considerably different from theirs, but just the idea of using an engine block as the base...I like it.  I have a 1930 Marmon engine I found in the forest at the Yosemite place.  Actually, I found most of the car, but, a horrible accident and 7 decades of laying in the forest has taken its toll on pretty much everything but the engine...not like it would ever run again, but it would lend itself to an artistic endeavor.  I also found an International stake bed which really only has the block left...but I have plans for that now as well.

More importantly, after we left the Mini dealer, we went camera shopping.  Gail has a new laptop and I got a Nikon D3100.  We also spent a lot of time talking to a guy at the local camera shop who is still into 35mm and he gave us all kinds of ideas.  So, if anyone is reading this, in the next day or so, there will be much more detail and in the weeks and months to come...maybe some really interesting stuff.  I also found my postcard collection, so we're going to start scanning them on a new website for people to use as clipart, or whatever they want.  It's a pretty substantial collection that covers most of the 20th century. So, just some things to come.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The fun of flying post 9/11

Muela Commemorative Dagger

OK, there are many elements to this one.  When we were in Spain in 2004, we went to Toledo.  Well, being a historian that concentrated a lot on the Spanish Conquest of America, the phrase "Toledo Steel" was bandied about quite a bit.  A lot of the older historians used that as a big part of the explanation at to why Cortes, with 500 some "conquistadors" (in reality, most of them were out of work lawyers) managed to topple the Aztec empire.   The fact that, like half the indigenous population joined the Spaniards kind of makes it less dramatic, so that used to get left out a lot.  Anyway, I just always wanted a sword made out of Toldeo Steel.  Well, this gaudy, silver encrusted dagger was the closest thing I could find.  All the swords had "made in Pakistan" on them.  So, since that was an actual Spanish made knife, I had to have it.  The reason I bothered to mention when we were there is because the day before we were going to fly home, the United States invaded Iraq.  This made the airport a thrill a minute.  They pulled everyone going to the United States out of line and took us into a back room to make sure we weren't terrorists.  OK...reasonable, I suppose.  But, to be honest, if any racial profiling was going on, it was 180 degrees off.  Realistically, I looked like the most likely of everybody to cause trouble.  But, they went through Gail and Whitny's suitcases with the proverbial "fine-toothed comb" and confiscated all their shampoos and lotions, etc.  Gail had a bunch of matchbooks from different Paradores we had stayed at.  Of course, they were all confiscated.  I could accept all this had I not had my own experience to compare it with.  The woman who was assessing my potential connection to Bin Laden, Baader Meinhoff,  Abu Sayyaf, the Zapatistas or whatever, asked me, in Spanish, what was in this box.  Politely, in Spanish, I replied, "A knife"...she didn't bother to open it.  My carry on bag was actually an old Colt range bag that was just the perfect size for this purpose.  It was filled with matchbooks as well.  They were left untouched.  The one that really took me by surprise was that, being a range bag, that on occasion I had actually used as a range bag, I had a 9 mm cartridge stuck down in the bottom of one of the slit pockets that I had no idea was there.  Of course, being the thorough security professional she was, she found it.  I actually felt a bit of a lump in my throat as I saw her dig it out and hold it up to the light to inspect it.  She actually kind of closed one eye as if to focus in on it, like Al qaeda engraved on the side of the casing.  Then, without saying a word, she dropped it bag in the bag and I was done with my inspection.  Very little surprises me any more.

Weird memories

United States Military Mess Knife

This is one of several of these I have.  I didn't try to collect these.  They are from WWII mess kits.  The reason I have them is because my parents were seriously involved in Pathfinders when my older sisters were kids.  For those of you not aware of what this is, its co-ed Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts that is part of Seventh-day Adventism.  I had to go on all these "camp-outs" as they were referred to at a little bitty kid so, when it came time for me to join Pathfinders, I lasted about a week.  My parents were long out of it, and I never quite figured out what it was for.  Everybody had to dress in para-military uniforms and every Wednesday night we had a meeting that seemed mostly to center around learning marching drills.  Even at 13, I remember thinking, "Isn't this kind of how the Hitler Youth movement got started?"  I don't know if it was me, the times, the people in was just too weird for me.  I had good memories of it when my parents did it and I just tagged along.  I guess it was because my dad knew how to keep a bunch of unruly adolescents in line without scaring the crap out of them.  He was the kind of guy who just commanded respect.  But, by the time I got I said, Hitler Youth Rallies.  But I did end up with a lot of interesting WWII surplus stuff...5 gallon aluminum stock pots, mess kits, pup tents.  Geeze, when I posted the picture of this mess knife I didn't realize how much Pathfinder baggage I had bottled up in me.  I'm probably going to have to think about this now.