Friday, November 20, 2015


It’s later in the day but earlier we were at the great bastion of Excess, the Costco store. It was very crowded and the fact that it was Friday may have had something to do with that. We were there just as they opened and the rush was on. I detoured as quickly as possible and pushed the cart down a side aisle. We did need some more printer paper and I picked up a ream while we were back there. Sticking to the back and side aisles much as possible, we made our way down to the ‘Deli’ section. It’s far too large to be called a deli but I can’t think of anything else to call it. The ‘Butcher Shop’ portion is right across the aisle from the ‘Deli’ but I was looking for the hams and that’s where we found the kind we wanted, Kirkland Applewood Smoked Master Carve ham. It’s the ugliest looking thing you have ever seen when it comes to hams. But is it ever tasty! And super easy to cook and carve. We had some at a friends house last year and vowed that we would buy one this year. We have. A 20 pound one. It will be ready and waiting for Christmas.

After pulling into a safe space, we looked at our list and decided on our next move. We made our way across a stream of determined cart pushers to the paper goods. TP, napkins, and paper plates. That’s all. Normally we go back and forth, looking on each aisle and on both sides of the aisles. It’s good exercise. The walking is good physical exercise and we also get a chance to exercise our willpower as we attempt to avoid most of the offerings. To help us do that, we always get in early, before the vendor ladies set up their tables. Those ladies and their offerings cause a terrible and continuous traffic jam once they are set up. Today, we went to a few selected aisles and took what we needed; M&M’s were a bargain, really, so we bought two packages. Then a two-pack of cough drops. That was it, we were through and headed to the checkout. We were out the door in record time and had no problem getting out of the parking lot.   

Despite premonitions of a terrible shopping experience, it turned out quite nicely. It was our attitude that did it. I couldn’t have done this ten years ago. I hated shopping! Now I enjoy it and I m surprisingly mellow before, during, and after shopping. That being so, I decided to take the slow way home and enjoy the fall colors on the magnificent trees that line the Esplanade. And they were magnificent. All in all, a great morning. Here’s a link to a short video of the fall colors in Chico. The four lane road you see in the video is the Esplanade and it's lined with trees. The tall brick structure is Bidwell Presbyterian church and that is where we can be found on Sunday mornings. The Esplanade runs N/S and immediately west of the church is the Cal State University at Chico. Diagonally across the street, S/E, is Colliers Hardware, an institution here. Just West of the church is a restaurant, Tres Hombres, and the aroma that drifts across the street can sometimes lead your mind away from God and you will find yourself wondering if they will have an empty table for you once the service is over. A personal note; my oldest daughter was once a server here.   

A new entry has been made on the Tuesday Painters blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I've been reading some of the responses from the Republican candidates for President when asked what their response would be to this crisis in Syria/Iraq. It made me wonder about their level of sanity. And made me afraid for the future of my children and grandchildren, plus one great grandchild. And for the citizens of this country to vote one of these people into the office of the President would be an act of insanity.

Not one of these people knows what the President knows. They don't get the daily security briefing that Mr. Obama sees. They don't get the messages from around the world. Messages from Embassies and heads of State. They don't get the phone calls that he does. Yet they presume to know what the best course of action is.

Mr. Trump wants to bomb the oilfields of Iraq. He wants to reduce the oilfields to rubble. Hasn't he thought of the obvious? He would have to rebuild those refineries after he 'wins' his war.

I believe it was Jeb that said that we shouldn't allow any but Christian refugees into this country. Jeb said he was a Christian. He lied. There's dozens of quotes in the Bible that say he s dead wrong. And, those verses at the base of the Statue of Liberty? They were written by a Jewish refugee.

I forget which of the candidates wants to put troops on the battlefield. I heard 10,000 troops. They really should stop calling them 'troops'. They want to put 10,000 of our children on the battlefield is far more truthful. These are humans and not troops. I was a Hospital Corpsman, luckily not during war time, but I did work at the hospital on the Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune. And, yes, these 'troops' bleed. Some die.

If we as a nation are serious about starting another war, we need to bring back the draft. A fair and equal draft. A draft where a Senators child could be one of the 'troops. How can we say we are serious about war if we aren't willing to risk our best and brightest in this effort to win? Right now we pay them to be 'troops'. Just like we pay the gardner to mow and blow. If the war isn't going well; we just buy some more 'troops'.

We haven't finished pay the $3 trillion dollars that it's estimated to cost us for just the war in Iraq. I have no idea as to the cost of the war in Afghanistan. Our longest - 10 years- war in our short history as a nation. Yet, these candidates want to start another. Just like that. Just say the words and send the 'troops'. That's right after you have bombed and blasted all that you can see and not see. Call it collateral damage and it doesn't count that way. By the way, how many wars have we won when we were the aggressors; in their country?

I give. I need to take a nap and not think about these horrors that would ensue if someone wants to start another war in the Middle East.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not very wet

We had some rain last week and some snow is now on the mountains. Mt. Lassen looks much better with a snowy cap. But it's not the El Nino that we have been promised. They say it's coming, have patience they say. Like all Northern Californians, we are quickly running out of patience...but what can do?

More and more lawns have succumbed to the drought and more are being landscaped with drought tolerant native plants. It's Fall and the trees are losing their leaves. That's a very good thing this year as pretty soon you won't be able to tell the difference between the dormant trees and the dead ones. But Spring will reveal the truth.

We're going up to Lake Almanor for Thanksgiving at my son-in-law's family cabin. It's right on the shore, though the shore line is getting farther and farther away as the water recedes. The power company owns this lake they haven't drained it; a bonus for homeowners here. But, they do use the water for power generation just below the dam. The homeowners here are used to seeing a variable shoreline over the years. This year the water didn't recede till mid-summer.

I had an endoscopy last year around August and I have to have them yearly now after they discovered that I had Barrette's Syndrome. The appointment is for the day before Thanksgiving and the same day we planned on driving to the lake; an hour and a half drive. From experience I know that there is no pain after the scoping. But they don't recommend driving! The anesthesia they use is great as I am asleep for the full 15 minutes they take and then an injection of a 'waker upper drug' into my IV line has my eyes open and I'm good to go.

As a former Navy Hospital Corpsman I find it slightly embarrassing that I don't know the names of those drugs. In the Navy, I had to know the names of a wide range of drugs and know what they did.
Since I'm taking a lot of drugs, I make sure I know what each one does and what precautions I should observe. I have talked to my doctor about my drugs and he knows now that I'm very much aware of the effects and side effects of them. He also told me that very few patients know anything about the drugs they take. "I take 2 orange ones and great big blue one" is their usual response when the nurse asks about their prescriptions. The same thing happens at he pharmacy. I don't know how you can open your mouth and swallow something that you know nothing about. Ae they crazy??? And these people vote.

Yes, they vote and we end up with low intelligence wackos in both House and Senate. Ted Cruz is one with high intelligence yet he's still a wacko. He's probably driving the #RepublicanClownCar as he's the only one that has a good chance of getting a drivers license on the first try.

Shame on me. I should know better than to show my frustration like that. I'm frustrated because of my age. I remember how politics used to be played and it certainly wasn't like it is today. Respect for the President used to be the norm with occasional sharp criticism, of course. Today, it is like a high school gym class where everyone piled on the selected victim. And it's ugly.

I'm not a Republican or Democrat. If I had to join a party it would be torn between the Socialist or the I.W.W. The 'Wobblies' of The One Big Union. Yes, they still exist. I think we have the finest President during the past 50 years. He's intelligent and wise. I disagree with him sharply on many issues. But they certainly aren't issues that would make me utter threats and disparage his work.  So, the Republicans are wackos. Sorry I said it but it's true.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Why not?

I think I will post some more Farmer's Market photos. We were downtown at 7:30 and found the perfect parking space; right next to the market. Most of the photos don't need to be captioned. I took quite a few as I didn't buy my coffee till I had a good sampling of photos safely captured. Cane, coffee and camera make for a clumsy time.

It seems that Blogger is telling me that I've posted enough pictures. That is probably a good thing. I take a lot of pain medication and when I am trying to clamp down on that pain I take the most of the morphine and Norco that the doctor recommends. And I've done that, about an hour ago.  Now I'm making all sorts of spellings and grammatical errors. I apologize for all of those errors that I've made during the past six months. Those drugs also make me very alert and here's a blog posting.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Memories, far and wide

We were enjoying our usual Thursday morning coffee with our middle child, our daughter, Alicia. We've been doing this for years and we're not tired of it yet. Our conversation usually ranges a wide spectrum and it was no different this morning. We were talking about something that made me remember my grandfather. That's the grandfather on my mother's side; the grandfather on the other side was a scoundrel and we never spoke of him! Grandpa Ray was a very nice man and although he lived far away, I was always eager to make the trip to see him. A trip in those days meant about ten hours driving up the Central Valley of California, on our way to Sacramento, in a car with no air conditioning. I'm not sure that my dad shared my enthusiasm for the trip. He later moved to Bakersfield, making the trip closer to five hours.

Grandpa Ray was a quiet man, an introvert, as was his daughter and his grandson. I loved spending time with him as it was always 'calm' around him. Now thinking about Grandpa Ray brought to mind his father, Louis Riley Fifer. My great grandfather was not a quiet man. Quite the opposite; he was a 'joiner' and, apparently, the life of any party. I can't help but wonder as to how the two of them got along?

L.R was an early member of The International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo. Yes, that's the name of this ancient fraternal order. Wikipedia has a history of the order that's close enough to be good. Click here to learn some more. L.R. was a lumber dealer in Seattle and Hoo Hoo membership was limited to those associated with the lumber industry. And they still are. Moss Lumber used to have offices all around the country and their logo had the arched black cat  found on the Hoo Hoo logo. I think there are still some Moss Lumber offices still open. It appears that the Hoo Hoo's are still active in half a dozen states, plus Canada and Australia.

I have a couple of documents regarding L.R. and one is his obituary. At the time of his death, he was a Vice-Regent Snark, a position he had held before. At one time he was a member of The Supreme Nine, the governors of the Hoo Hoo's.

 It's quite obvious the L.R. was an extrovert. With Extrovert all in bold and underlined.
I'm pretty sure that my introversion or ASD didn't come from this man!
On another note, this man and his son, Grandpa Ray, had me worried for a full year. It seems that they both died at the age of 65. I had my fingers crossed for a year...about ten years ago.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Farmers Market

We went to the market this morning right around 7. It was still chilly; in the low 40's. With an early start it's easy to find a parking space near the market and we scored one right across the street. It was a sunny day and the colors were fantastic! Lots of flowers and bright colored fruit and vegetables. I always start with a cup of freshly brewed coffee from a older couple (our age) that have been selling coffee here for all the years we have been shopping here. Beans of Paradise is the name and the cup was good...though not heavenly. With a cup in one hand and my walking stick in the other, taking photos is problematic, but I was able to pass the cup off to my wife when needed or I put the stick between my knees. Here are some photos of what was happening at the market this morning.

The purple onions here are spectacular in the sunlight. Some shoppers were in my way and I couldn't get the best shot.

 Love those cauliflower colors!

Tomatoes were $2 a pound...all organic and pesticide free

Some carrots that we liked. The purple ones are for their looks...and expensive at $2 a bunch or 50 cents each

 Here are the two heirloom tomatoes that I bought for pleasure...taste and looks. And they were pricey at $2 each
After shopping here we headed over to Raley's, one of our preferred markets. Always clean and always friendly. They are more expensive than Safeway but I will never shop at Safeway again.

There were more than a few complaints with Safeway before we said 'never again', but one stuck in my mind. We asked the pharmacy clerk why she was shivering and had a heavy coat on; 'Can't you turn the thermostat up?' She said, "No. It's controlled at the corporate offices." What?

Enough of that. After getting some staples at Raley's, we drove over to Trader Joe's to get the rest of the things on our list. Trader Joe's; what a great store. Low prices and great values. Eggs, for instance, are half the price of the ones at Safeway. The same with butter and with milk. Safeway hammers you on the staples. Alvey, the corporation behind Trader Joe's is a German company and Trader Joe's are employee owned. You never wait for them to open another register when needed and they are always cheerful. I'm always happy as I walk out to my car after shopping here.

Now I am recuperating from the pain after the all the walking. I stopped the Nucynta drug trial on Thursday, calling it a failure. Now I'm using Morphine Sulfate Extended Release twice a day. The first day was great; just a little confusion. I snapped right out of it. This morning; no confusion but not as effective. I'll give it time. And it's a little over a month before I see the neurosurgeon and arrange for this useless gadgetry  to be removed from my spine. Can't happen soon enough!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Career choices

At the age of 18 I wanted to be an industrial designer...whatever that was. In my mind it was all very vague. I only knew that it could be done with paper, pen and ink and imagination. I'm sure I was wrong. I attended the local JC and took some design classes that I hoped would get me into the Art Institute. I soon found out that dream would have to be put on hold as I thought that the Design 101 instructor was an idiot and I left the class before finishing it. An Incomplete won't get you very far in the world of design.

So, what to do? I lived at the beach so I spent a lot of time there. I had a job as night manager at a Texaco station and a job being a delivery 'boy' for a liquor store. I wasn't lazy. Then, at the age of 19 I decided, with the help of two friends, to join the Navy. I did and I enjoyed it. After boot camp I went to Hospital Corps school and after graduating I was sent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I worked at the base hospital and at the end of my normal enlistment I was offered a bonus of $$ and the school of my choice. I decided to go for Aviation Medicine school...and then found out that they wouldn't guarantee that I could leave Lejeune right away and might have to do a complete enlistment of two more years. So I was discharged to civilian life and reserve duty.

After another failed attempt at college I had to get a job. I lived at home but I had to pay rent. I didn't resent that, I assumed that was what you did when you were an adult. I found a job driving a forklift for a new tech company, Space Technology Laboratories, or STL. After a month I knew that I needed to find something else to do or I would go crazy. The work wasn't hard and the pay was fine, but it was deadly boring.

My sister had a friend that worked at STL and I was talking to her one day and told her of my frustration. A few weeks later there was a knock at the door one evening and when I opened it, a stranger introduced himself as the father of that girl. He told me that he had heard I was unhappy with my job and would I be interested in a job in construction? Of course I was and he told me to come and see him the next day and we would talk. He lived right down the street and the next day I was listening to him explain that he was offering me a job in the drywall industry. I would have to join the Carpenters union and become an apprentice. After a little while of doing that work, he wanted to train me to be an estimator. He was the owner and estimator of his new business and hoped to expand quickly. How much money would I make? I was told $2.50 an hour with raises every 6 months for 24 months and then the journeyman's pay was $5.00 an hour. I was making $1.75 in the warehouse and few chances for a raise. Two days later I was an apprentice.

That knock on the door was the pivotal moment in my life. In 2004 I retired from a wonderful career in construction. I had been a journeyman, a foreman, superintendent, project manager, estimator, owned a construction company, left that and moved, where I worked in Reno and started the process all over.  then I had a chance to move to Sacramento and become a superintendent, then estimator, then an IT guy and programmer, software developer and finally an instructor to teach estimators how to use our software. I flew all over the US as we were an international construction company. People now ask me what did I do before retirement and I have to ask them, "Which year?"  


Growing old

I was reading the Time Goes By blog about conservatism being a normal part of aging.  I commented, writing that I was firmly a Liberal, despite my age of 75. In fact, attaining the age of 75 marked a time of change in my attitude about a lot of things. I'm free now, free to express my opinion on anything I darn well please. And I frequently do. And since I am 75, I am forgiven. Usually for the wrong reason...which is exasperating!

Living where I do, Chico CA, saying that I'm a liberal is an act of bravery or foolishness; take your pick. Chico is a 'purple' City in a 'red' county in a 'red' valley' in a 'blue' state. The City Council has been taken over by the conservatives of the Tea Party stripe. It's a 4 to 3 majority for them and they use it viciously. They hate the homeless and enact laws that will send them to jail or out of the city. They don't really care that 75% of the homeless are home grown...Chico has always been their home. They still want to get them on a bus out of here. Too many of the homeless are veterans as well. That doesn't cut them any slack with the council. They have enacted a sit-lie ordinance, making it illegal to sit or lie upon any public property. Want to take a nap on the inviting green lawn at the park? Go to jail!

If there was some way to engage the students at the University here, the liberals could take the council back in the next election. But the students are notorious for their record of not voting in any election. The conservatives are afraid of the students and have attempted many times to curtail their rights to vote. Twice now, they have tried to pass an amendment that would change the date for the primaries to a time in the summer, when students are absent.

I could go on and on but I won't. Time for a nap...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

That's smart...

As I mentioned earlier, we were selected to receive a 'Smart' thermostat from our power company and it was going to be free. Well, it's been installed and we really like it. It's an Ecobee3 and according to the installer, the best of the three types of thermostats they are installing in this survey to find the best. It's controllable from my phone, laptop, and even my Kindle. It has a remote sensor so that the thermostat knows the temperature in the living room...where we live. We don't live in the hallway where the thermostat is located. If the thermostat cannot detect movement after so many hours, it will shut off the planned comfort levels and go to the levels you set for away/vacation. If we go the lake this month for Thanksgiving. we can use our phone to turn the heat back up and since the lake is about an hour and a half away, the house will be at a comfortable temperature when we arrive.

The thermostat itself is the black object you see. It has a white ring around it is because it had to go where the old thermostat was located. The house has been painted twice in its life time. The white ring conceals the old coat of paint.

This is the remote sensor for the thermostat. It sits on a table in our living room.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A good day

It's Tuesday and that's always good. That's the day I get together at the Chico Art Center with my fellow artists. A morning of good conversation and some time to paint with helpful critics all around. I didn't get a lot of painting done as my acrylics weren't drying as fast as I needed. 

This post will be my 7,227th one here on Blogger. I started this blog on  March 6th of 2004; a Saturday. That's a little more than 136 months ago. That is also a little over 4,000 days and that's 11+ years and I've had 92,211 page views in that time. Those are not accurate numbers, just close enough for me. Also, it shows me that I used to post more than once a day. A lot more! I had just retired and didn't have much to occupy my time. I'm also embarrassed by some of those posts. In some ways I've changed over the years. And I'm glad that I have. One change I made over eleven years ago was my voter registration; I became an independent voter. The Democratic Party had left me. I was and still am a liberal. The Democratic Party had moved to the center, abandoning all of the liberals. 

Regarding all of the posts, I am very embarrassed by all of the errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. I was reading them from long ago as well as some closer to this date. I rarely found a post without an error. Okay, I'm human and I'm simply proving it...

Recently, I started taking a new drug, Nusynta. It's an extended release narcotic that is meant to enhance the Norco I take for pain. About four years ago I was using Fentanyl for severe pain. It was delivered via an adhesive patch on my shoulder and changed out every five days. It was powerful stuff. And one of the weird side effects of the drug was this; as I was reading a book, my mind would wander and I would start making up my own story as I read. I didn't know I was doing this until some time had passed and my mind would come back to the present and I was shocked to see what was on the page in front of me. It wasn't at all like 'my story'. I would start turning pages, looking for a clue as to where my story was. Well, the same thing happened a few minutes ago and I can only assume that it was the Nucynta that caused it. I'm taking it on a trial basis for two weeks and since it's not a life threatening side effect, I think I will continue. Who knows, some of these stories might be very good. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

A new day

Things are looking up. I've been put on a new pain medication and it seems to be working. Because of the hip and back pain I was up to using six or seven Norco each day; about twice what I had been before. This drug, Nucynta (tapentadol) is a very strong opioid unfortunately, but it is a timed release one, taken just twice a day. I started taking it last Thursday and until this morning, it hadn't done a thing for me. I was still taking Norco. It's noon on Monday and no Norco yet and the pain is at a manageable Level 3. I was even able to get into the pool at the gym...for twenty minutes. I used to spend an hour exercising; today it was simply floating.

This enforced sitting around the house has me frustrated. We were out for an hour last Thursday to have coffee with my daughter...she didn't show so we managed all by ourselves. It's a great little coffee shop and I get to indulge on a weekly basis because they have apple fritters. On Saturday we went to the Farmer's Market for 45 minutes. All very enjoyable minutes. I love the energy you can find here. Sunday found us at church (historic Bidwell Presbyterian) for an hour and that was the end of our outdoor adventures. Three hours.

I guess I forgot to mention Tuesday's. That's my day for art and I go to the Art Center here in Chico. Or my wife drives me if I have had too many Norco. There are seven other painters here and I'm the keeper of the key. I open and close ur classroom space. We don't meet as a class for instruction, we meet to paint and talk. Any medium is welcome as long as it isn't oils. The small room can't hide the smell of oil paints. The group has been meeting for over a dozen years and I've been coming for about six years. I'm also the only male and the only abstract expressionist among them. Some have started playing around with abstract painting and have been quick to blame me for it. I got the group interested in opening a Facebook page and then a few weeks ago were were asked if we wanted to put ourselves in the running to have a show of our own at the gallery next year. We did and we filled out the application quickly as they were deciding the lineup the next day. 

I noticed that the application asked us to fill the name of our website in two or three place. That gave me an idea and I went home and went to the Blogger website. I designed a blog and asked for the name Tuesday Painters as that was are Facebook page name. Strangely, tuesdaypainters dot com was available. I say strangely because Google told me that there are quite a few groups with that name. We're quite happy with the name and I'm doing the editing and posting right now. The design is a work in progress and when I can I will add some things to it. I can only sit for so long and stand for so long, so the editing has to take place during the sitting. Obvious, I know.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


We never win anything. I play the lottery a dozen times a year and never win. ( if I played more often I am sure I would be a winner!) I have always participated in the yearly raffle that the high school puts on and have never won the new car; donated by a local dealer. You name it and I've never won it.

But yesterday my luck has changed. I had entered our name with the power company for a chance to win a new 'Smart Thermostat'. It will be a 'Nest' or something similar. Our old thermostat is 14 years old and was new when the house was built. It's supposedly very simple to operate. I've never been able to master it and so I go to it quite often to change it...or, lately, I've found it easier to set it to one temperature and leave it 24/7. Bad! But when your hip hurts and you sometimes need a cane, getting up to change is not all that easy.

PG&E's Smart Thermostat Study

Thank you for your interest in participating in the Smart Thermostat Study. This 12-month study—only open to a small group of participants—will help us evaluate the innovative technology of smart thermostats.
Smart thermostats are considered “smart” because they automatically monitor and adjust themselves to better manage energy used for heating and cooling. Customers can control them remotely via Wi-Fi-connected devices such as smartphones, tablets and personal computers.
The goal of this study is to test new thermostat features and measure potential energy savings so we can gather information that will help us determine incentives we may offer in the future.

What to Expect

Study participants will need to sign our Participation Agreement at the time of installation. The agreement outlines all the obligations participants must fulfill including the following:
  • Completion of up to four online surveys about their home, energy usage and thermostat during the 12-month study period.
  • Maintenance of a fully operational central heating and cooling system as well as Wi-Fi service.

I'm really looking forward to the day, the 31st of this month, when I will be able to simply turn on my iPhone and change the temperature. I can do it when I'm far away or from the couch. Imagine; I'm at my sister's house in AZ and I wonder if we forgot to turn the system down before we drove to the airport? I open the app and verify or change the temperature. The thermostat will also be learning our habits and the times we want heat or cold and which season we want these temperatures. After a time of learning, the thermostat will automatically change the the temps for us. This is going to save some money! 

I wonder if they (the power company) realize that we recently became solar power users and they already owe us $16.72 for the past two months where we were selling our excess power to them?

Friday, October 16, 2015

It was time

for me to visit "Time Goes By" once again. I have gotten out of the habit of reading this venerable blog. A long time ago I was even featured as a substitute writer for the blog (one post) while the author (Ronni Bennet) was away. I suppose I stopped reading because of the changes, health/medical, that were happening to me. Still are happening, for that matter. When I looked at her list of blogs that she shares, this blog of mine was still there. She does cull that list from time to time and I seem to have survived the cullings.

 Ronni writes well and has many good postings to read. You should try it.

My life seems somewhat boring these days. I'm still waiting for December 10th to roll around and then I visit the neurosurgeon to find out about removing the Spinal Cord Stimulator. After that happens I can have some pain killing epidural injections. I could use some today. I never know how my day will play out, as the pain level varies greatly, depending on...who knows? I wish I did!

I have been painting recently and I had a breakthrough on a piece that I had been agonizing over for a month or more.
Strange, but when the inspiration came, it was like a sudden storm and I just kept painting and painting until it was finished. Abstract Expressionism is like that.

I have three other paintings on the sideboard. Rough paintings that I have just finished laying some color on them. I will put them on the easel, one at a time, and look for the storm of inspiration. Now that I have a proper easel I find it's much easier to paint. I can step away and see the whole painting. Painting on the flat, as I used to do with all paintings, can't give you the proper perspective when you step back to view them.'s a smaller painting. The one on the right is 24" x 36". If the painting is smaller than 24" x 24" then I prefer to paint on the flat.

The local alternate press here in Chico has a yearly "Best of Chico" contest where readers name their favorites in different services, such as Best Mexican restaurant, or Best Thrift store. There are 3 places to award; Best, Second and Third. Today was the day for the awards and my daughter's nursery and gift store came in second for the third year in a row. It's an honor for her, though she really wants Best. But, her nursery is out in the country and on a side road, 1/4 mile from the highway. The winner for the past few years has their business right on a main road and right across the street from a shopping center. I tell her that she really is the Best because all of her customers have to seek her out...and they do!

Our family doctor, a PA-C, is the best! And once again, the rest of Chico agrees. His boss, an MD, came in third. Truth is, that MD is the authority behind our PA and they are both in the Best Medical Service. All winners. And we chose them from the phone book. Argyll Medical was right there under the A's in the book.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

All the news that's fit to print

...maybe it's a lot of news and maybe it's only some odds and ends. Probably the latter.

I finally have an appointment, with our local neurosurgery group, to have the implanted spinal cord stimulator removed. I need it removed so that I can have some epidural injections in some pain causing troublesome spots on my spine. The implant has never worked as hoped for and since it is metallic it has kept me from having any MRI's. The appointment is with my favorite surgeon (do people really have favorite surgeons?) so I'm very happy about that. The troublesome part of the story is that the appointment is for December 10th.  There are just 3 neurosurgeons in this city of 80,000 and that's not enough. It looks like there will be a lot of Norco used between now and then...

We went to the Farmer's Market this morning. It's becoming a regular Saturday activity and although it's somewhat painful to shop this way, with my hobbling up and down the aisles using my cane, it's still my favorite thing to do on the weekend. I get to see all sorts of people; some I even know. And it's ethnically varied with a couple from Spain that sells churros and other Spanish breakfast foods, a family that sells Indian food, 2 or 3 families selling hot tamales, and some native Americans selling fry bread. Everything is colorful and everything is fresh. Different languages are heard. There is an air of excitement at the market!

We didn't buy a lot. I started with a cup of freshly brewed coffee at a stand operated by a friendly couple from Paradise. They have been selling freshly/individually brewed coffee here for years and I make it a habit to buy a cup from them every week. Now I can sip as we move slowly around the market. Slowly, because I'm not that skilled with my cane yet. I don't want to trip some poor stranger.

We have a lot of Hmong farmers in this area and they have some of the best looking produce. I bought some zucchini and some green beans from the Yang's. The elder Mr. Yang died a few years ago and his family continues to sell here. Mr. Yang was a very interesting guy and knew a lot about farming. His family had originally been settled in Minnesota and there he had taken many ag classes at the local JC. Armed with knowledge, he moved the family to a warmer climate. I learned all of this when I asked him one time about the taste qualities of a certain strawberry I had been looking at. 15 minutes later I had the answer and then some.

I have talked about my cane a few times but I don't think I have shown you a photo of it/them. I think I can show you 3 photos. I have two canes and a walking stick.

This is the latest one that I bought from Brazos Walking Stick Co. from Brazos, TX. It's made from hickory and is crafted by a local artisan. Local to Brazos. That's a heavy brass knob at the end. Very flashy.

The next one is also from the Brazos Walking Stick Co. and once more is made by someone local. This one is made from a hardwood root. It was a discount sale and was only $25 including shipping. It's very lightweight and the wood is beautiful. A favorite!

The last one is a walking stick that was hand made by my sister's brother-in-law. I had given him some Black Walnut and he had made this personally for me. The cap at the top has the pin I received at the end of my 3rd Portland marathon and last of 5 marathons. The pin, coincidentally, has 5 stars on it. It hasn't been used. I hope that there will be a time when I can use it.

If you ever need a walking stick or cane, I heartily endorse the Brazos Walking Stick Company.

Sad news is the killing of 19 workers at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. 6 of those killed were doctors. I am furious at the fact that the Pentagon refers to them as 'collateral damage'. Why can't they tell the truth? They killed 19 PEOPLE. 19 human beings. Each and every one of them had value. The pilots, the ground support staff and the officers involved should have to be there on the ground and help them pick up the parts that were once human. The parts that they call collateral damage. I suppose Jeb and The Donald will just say that 'stuff happens' once again.

enough...I'm mad all over again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Today is the day that I meet with our painting group, down at the Art Center. It's a 9 to 12 meeting and once a week. We have said that we would do it 5 days a week if circumstances permitted it...but they don't. It's a nice sized room for the 8 of us and there are tables and even some easels if you wish to use them. A small number of us (only 3) met today as the others had medical issues or real estate problems. Did I mention that I'm the only male in the group? There used to be another, but he died recently. He was the one that opened the room each Tuesday and locked up afterwards. I now have that job. Should I be worried? The pay and the retirement plan stink!

One of our members was going through her old paintings and putting them in the trash. She pointed to one as the kind of paintings she was tired of because they weren't worth the trouble to frame. I looked; I liked it and asked her to give it to me. But, I told her that she had to sign it first! Reluctantly, she did. I found a mat for it when I got home and I will look around for simple frame.

Sure, it's just a pleasant and well crafted watercolor and really not what excites my soul. But it reminds me of the artist and that's important.

This Tuesday found me painting something from a far different school of painting; Abstract Expressionism was my choice for the day. Joan Mitchell (1925 - 1992) is one of the artists I admire. Jackson Pollock speaks to me. Franz Kline's works are exciting to me. Emil Nolde and Mary Heilman are not always Expressionists and do some wonderful work as Abstract Impressionists. I could go on...but I won't.

I have 3 paintings in my 'studio' that are close to being finished. This morning, just before I left to meet with my friends, I grabbed a paintbrush and added something to one of the paintings. It was something I visualized while having my coffee a few hours earlier.

Here is a snapshot of my work from today. I will be doing something with them later. I always set a painting here on the hearth and just let it 'be' in the room for awhile.

You can't see the richness of the colors in the painting on the left. It's me. The one on the right reminds me of Joan Mitchell's work. That wasn't my intention, it just came out that way. The one on the left reminds me of Emil Nolde's paintings. His darkest paintings always contained a light that I would like to duplicate. No, this is not a duplicate. I wasn't thinking of his paintings while I was working. Perhaps I was 'channeling' him? And I may be comfortable with this one without doing much more to it. The one on the right needs blue. That's all I know so far...

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Good Book

I have just finished reading a very good book. It's title is Being Mortal and it's written by Dr. Atul Gawande, a most wise surgeon. I recommend it highly if you are an elder or even more importantly, a member of the generation with living parents and their own adult children. (I know there is a name for this generation but I can't remember it)

I think it's important that, if possible, all three generations read this book. It's about dying. But it's also about living to the end and being in control till that time. It's about ending with joy. Oliver Sacks, himself recently dying, praised the book. I think quite highly of Dr. Sacks and his books are always worth reading.

Look up the title of the book, Being Mortal, on Google and read some of the descriptive reviews for a 'feel' of the book. I think you will find it to be a book for your library. Mine is; as soon as my family finishes reading it.

Speaking of Department Stores

Got back from the gym & swim and was browsing through Pinterest (yes, I pin) and ran across a site named Department Store Museum. Now here is something I know a lot about! Starting with my grandmother, Nana, she worked in downtown L.A. at a store named J. W. Robinson's. She worked there till she retired at age 75. She worked in the lamp department 7th floor. Sometimes, dad would take all three of the kids (myself included) into L.A. to pick her up on a Friday afternoon. Once, I rode the bus, by myself, from Manhattan Beach to downtown. It wasn't my first trip and I remembered that I had to transfer once. I was ten or eleven at the time. I remember taking the elevator up to the seventh floor. I had to tell the elevator operator which floor I wanted. Then I walked through a maze of lamps till I found my very regal looking Nana. She always wore black with a simple pearl necklace.

But I didn't always go to Robinson's. My mother would take me to May Co., The Broadway (with wooden escalators) and Buffum's. I found them all fascinating.

Fast forward to the early 70's and I was making a living in construction; building department stores. Topanga Plaza Mall was being built and we built the May Co. and Montgomery Wards. After those came a long string of Broadway stores. We built them in Las Vegas, Reno, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, Phoenix, Scottsdale and half a dozen or more throughout the Los Angeles basin. In between building new store we also remodeled existing stores including the iconic Broadway store on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

We didn't limit ourselves to Broadway stores and we built half a dozen May Co.'s, a Buffum's or two and some ritzy ones in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs. As you can tell, we did a lot of traveling and it wasn't always on the west coast. We built a G. Fox store in Waterbury, CT and a Buffum's in Edison, NJ. I think the last store we built was a single story department store for Gottschalk's, in Chico, CA. Twenty years later and I'm living in Chico. (that last store has changed owners and is now named Forever 21)

Yes, the Department Store Museum website brought back a ton of memories; going all the way back to when I was five years old!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

You're Fired!

I was reading Schumpeter/Digital Taylorism in the Economist from last week. It's a great article and should be read. 

The short version; Frederick Taylor was an influential management guru of the early 20th century. He advocated breaking down each job to it's simplest components. Measure everything that workers do and link pay to performance. Bonuses to the best workers and pink slips to the lowest performers. Sounds far too familiar? 

For most of my career I was the guy that made the decision to let someone go. Even as an apprentice I was given the job of foremen. Let me tell you, it was painful for me to lay someone off that first time. For the journeyman that I was letting go, it had to be particularly galling to see an apprentice handing him his final check. But, as time went on, I found a management style that suited me and most times I was able to avoid laying someone off for cause. At the end of a job and without another job to go to, we all would be given the final check; that was expected and accepted by all of us. 

I found that if I respected the workers for their talents and was honest with them when I saw them falling behind in some area, I was given respect and loyalty. After awhile I had a crew that would go with me from job to job. Commercial drywall/steel framing work is hard and it's dangerous and so there is a certain sense of brotherhood that bound us together and it was gratifying to know that these men depended on me as much as I depended on them. I rarely had to say anything to correct them or to encourage them to work faster. Once a week at our safety meeting I would tell them of our progress and how much we needed to do to stay on schedule. As the foreman, I would usually have my tools on and would work all day, by myself, and only see the crew at lunch or at a break. They would come to see me only if they had a problem they couldn't solve themselves. 

Sounds like a nice setup doesn't it? Well, it was for quite awhile; then there was a change. We went to work for someone new to us. I was soon getting called in to the office because I wasn't 'pushing' the crew hard enough. We had been getting bonuses and praise for some time from other contractors. This was startling to me. I asked if we were behind schedule? I was told that we weren't but we could go faster and maybe I should layoff some guys so that they knew I was serious. I did a cowardly thing and said I would think about it. I should have quit.  

I didn't lay off anyone and told myself that I wouldn't work for that guy again. Easier said than done. It became increasingly difficult to find a contractor that was comfortable with my style of leadership. The years went by and for a time I was a contractor myself, trying to use the same style and it generally worked. Then I moved to N. California and found myself looking for work in the Reno area. There were lots of high rise hotels being built and that was something I knew quite well. I went to work as a journeyman; enjoying the fact that I was working, and at the end of the day I would go home and never take the pressures of leadership home with me.

That didn't last long; the higher-ups saw that I had some talent and asked me to be a foreman. I said yes  and it was back to the same demands; "why wasn't I pushing the crew harder?" "You ought to try yelling a little more often". Reno was a much smaller job market than Los Angeles so I didn't have the freedom to do as I wanted every time, though I did try. I'm not proud of some of those times. 

Fast forward 15 years to my first salaried job. I was now an estimator/project manager for a very large, nationwide, construction company.  In December of that first year I was called in to the Manager's office for a 'review'. When I first heard that I was going to be 'reviewed', I thought they were kidding me. In my long history of working in the construction industry, the only review you had resulted in keeping your job. Are you still working? Fine. End of review. I really felt insulted to be reviewed. If you don't like what I'm doing; fire me!

Well, I retired from that corporation and had plenty of reviews. All good. But I was never comfortable with the process. I'm still not. 

It is the way things work these days and the days of work that I truly enjoyed are gone forever. You can read the article and you will agree...


Saturday, September 19, 2015


It's so depressing. As you drive around the city you see brown lawns and dying trees everywhere. The drought has become very real. We're on a water budget based on our water usage in 2013 and because we used a lot of water that year, our mandated use this year is not so bad. We've managed to put a lot of water in 'the bank' and haven't felt the pinch as much as others. Even so, our backyard is brown; dead lawn. Plus three dead trees; birches that were depending on lawn watering for their own use. The front yard, a 12'x20' piece of greenery survives with a few brown patches. The parkway grass is dead. Very few homeowners have bitten the bullet and ripped out their lawns to plant drought resistant plants. Those that have done it now have nice looking yards. I've never been a fan of lawns (my wife likes the green but is resigned to the change) and won't miss it. We are waiting for our daughter, the nursery owner, to recommend a landscape architect for our backyard. In the meantime it's very sad to see.

Friday, September 18, 2015


I'm still downloading photos; this time from the U. of Oregon library website. I just downloaded a particular photo and that had wandering down old memories lane. As I said, I was never a logger, but this photo is of a 'Steam donkey', the power behind a series of large cables that would drag the logs from where they lay, up a hill to a spot where other cables would drag them away to be cut, stacked and loaded. I have increased the size of the photo so that you might see some detail. The 'donkey' was powered by a wood fired steam boiler. Water had to be piped from a nearby stream or spring; uphill from the 'donkey'. The 'donkey' is sitting on a skid made from logs...imagine that! At the end of the log is a short and heavy log with the top made flat so that 'blocks' could be attached to it. Some of what I'm writing is conjecture as there are no details included with the photo, but I'm using a short life time of heavy construction knowledge to fill in what's not included. One heavy cable goes straight out and down on the right side while a second cable crosses over and goes down to the left. Down near the feet of the tall man on the right appears to be a 'snatch block'. Blocks are best described as small pulley wheels, held in a metal framework. A snatch block has a swivel at one end so that it's free to move and always be in the direction of the pull. So you have a straight line pull from the donkey that is converted to a downhill and to the left pull by using a snatch block. Any time you want to change the direction of a fixed line pull, you use a snatch block.

All of this leads up to a memory. The memory of the building of a 14 story office building in downtown Sacramento. Our job was to cover the outside of the building with pre-fabricated panels. The panels were trucked over from our plant in Reno and then, while we blocked traffic on a main street, we would back the trailer down a narrow alleyway alongside the building. When we began the project, there was only a steel structure about 5 stories in height. Ironworkers were adding steel every day. We followed close behind them, welding on the supports that would carry the weight of the panels and allow us to move the panels in or out to maintain a flat exterior. We were also doing the fireproofing; the spraying on of a cementitious material to the steel. Once the building steel was topped out and floor slabs began to be poured, our fireproofing crew could begin. Our panel crew followed the fireproofers. We used machines we called a 'dinosaur' to do the lifting. These were made of a steel framework to hold a heavy duty single phase electrical motor, a winch, a short boom with a snatch block at the end that extended outside of the building  and a steel basket at the opposite end to hold about a ton of counterweight iron. All of this rested on six heavy duty wheels.

Here is a website that shows some of the lifting equipment that we used, including snatch blocks.

It all seems simple. Use a heavy duty lifting machine to lift the panels off of the trailer.. Hoist them up and weld them in place. Exactly. Except for the fact that buildings have four or more sides and our panels could only be stored in one place and alongside one side of the building. We had three 'dinosaurs' and half a dozen snatch blocks and that was what we used to move the panels around the building. The panels were usually about 16' long and 6' wide. Made of structural steel and a synthetic plaster finish on one side, open on the other side. We would attach our lifting cables to the top of the panel and rope 'tag' lines to the bottom. One 'dinosaur' would lift the panel off of the trailer while two men held the 'tag' lines. These ropes would help us to control the panel and stop it from spinning as it was hoisted. Once it was free of the trailer we would hoist it straight up about thirty feet and then use clamps to temporarily hold it to the building while we prepared to lift it again, but from a different angle, using a snatch block. The second dinosaur would then begin hoisting and the panel would now move up and sideways across the building. We would do this as many times as needed till we had the panel at the correct side of the building and at the right height. Then it was safely welded in place. I forget how many panels we had on this building but I do know that we never dropped one and we never hurt anyone. Those were my two biggest fears as this was not 'normal' construction. We had just made it up in our heads. I was blessed with having two very clever journeymen working for me and between the three of us, we made it work. We only needed a conventional crane at the very end of the project. We needed a special permit to block 7th Street for the crane and then only for 6 hours while we rushed to finish the job. The building still stands at the corner of 7th and L in Sacramento. I have worked on lots of taller buildings but this one stands out in my memory because of the complexity and danger.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I'm taking a break from coding. Yes, I'm writing code for a computer. It's my third project with my Arduino and although the computer is small in size, it does have some real power. I'm hooked on it now. The Arduino 'code' is written in C+, or that is what I determined it was. The instructions are a bit fuzzy about details. I've written lots of HTML code and a little bit of Ruby. When I was working, I went to a class in Magic. Magic is a piece of Israeli software that is called a RAD tool, or Rapid Application Development. You would write code in Magic and it would translate all of that into C++. We used it for all of our company software. I barely made it alive through that class. It was a five day class and I was lost on the second day. Afterwards, I knew just a little Magic and decided to remain an Instructor and part time IT guy.

The Arduino code is starting to make sense and that's comforting. Then, the other day I read about Udacity. There was a great article in The Economist about this on-line school and I decided to check it out. You can read about it here; after you read the article (you have to read it to the end) you can click on this link: and read the article in the New York Times about Udacity. After that you can go to Udacity and check out their website and what they offer. I did that and now I am enrolled in a free course, an intro to coding. I figure that even if I do know some of the code already I also know that it has been at least a dozen years since I last used any of it. And if Udacity doesn't suit you, there are half a dozen other free code instruction websites. I've been using CodeAcademy to learn Ruby.

The Arduino, Udacity and an Apple computer are all part of a plan of mine. I want to stay mentally sharp for as long as I can. My short term memory is the pits! And if you want a laugh, just follow me around the kitchen as I open cupboards instead of the refrigerator, put the milk in the microwave and various other insanities on my part. That may be funny but it scares me. My neurologist and his clinical psychologist say I'm fine and normal for my age. But...they don't see me in the kitchen!


A clear sky and bright sunshine again. I do love the sun now that we are a solar power family. I know that we need the rain and I welcome it, but I also love to see my power bill disappear into the sunshine. We are heading into the months of declining solar power and at 'True-up' time with the power company, in January, we may actually owe them something. But next year, with a full year of sunshine we should come out even at True-up. True-up is the power companies term for the date when they compare what we sold them to what we bought from them. Then one pays the other. One time a year.

I have not looked at the news this morning. We were too busy getting ready to go to the coffee shop for our weekly socializing with our middle child; our second daughter. But...I bet that the $100 that I bet yesterday is safe. I'm sure the candidates did not mention anything of substance. No, I did not watch the 21st century version of the old Laugh In show. Do you remember that one? Well, these debates are a poor imitation of that show. Imagine all the candidates mixed up with the characters from that show... now that's funny!

My ASD is in full gear these past few days and last night, and this morning, as I've been collecting old time logging photos. I've been getting them from the Universities of Washington and Oregon. Also Pinterest and various other sites. I already had a few hundred of them and now I have twice that. I was never a logger. My first daughter's first husband was a logger and we lived in a county that depended on the timber industry. My grandfather on my father's side was a timber cruiser in Minnesota; not for very long. My great grandfather on my mother's side was a lumber dealer in Seattle and a grand potentate in the Hoo-Hoo's... look that one up! So I guess you could say I have a slight connection to logging. Either way, I love to look at the old photos of these men and the magnificent trees that they were falling. Huge trees! The they would haul the logs out on plank roads, through the forest, using oxen or horses to do the hard work. Now I have done a little bit of falling, just enough for firewood each year while we lived in the woods; and I can tell you that even the small logs are very heavy. They are filled with hundreds of gallons of water and they are dense. So I can imagine just how hard the work was. No chain saws and no heavy duty Caterpillar tractors. They didn't even have 'hard hats' to wear and protect them from the 'widow makers' that fell from high up in the tree while they were intent on sawing and chopping. Then there is the ugliest side to this old logging business; they left a devastated landscape behind when they moved on to the next stand of big trees. Stumps that were four to six feet high, smaller trees crushed by the fall of the giants, rutted and churned up forest floor. In some places, a hundred years later and you can still see the damage they caused.

As expected, my pain is back. It had me awake at three this morning and I had to go back to drugs after two days without any at all. The people that want to highly restrict pain meds say that with meditation and yoga you can control pain. Which pain are they talking about? A headache? A toothache? I suppose meditation might work for those. I've tried that with my pain and I cannot clear my mind of the pain long enough to 'meditate'. And yoga? With a fused lumbar spine and inflamed bursa in both hips? I couldn't even consider it. As usual, the 'do gooders' don't know what they are talking about and they're trying to use one remedy to fit all.

Okay, enough about the pain...I must meditate now.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


A light rain is falling. Something we really need! I hope this small storm is a precursor to the events of the coming winter.

I'm also enjoying a pain free day. First one in a long time. But I am a fatalist. This is all temporary. The pain will return soon; I'm usually right. I saw my pain doctor last week and she wants to use epidural injections on the vertebra above my fused ones. Unfortunately, I have a Spinal Cord Stimulator implanted into my back, on the left side. The cable from it runs up along my spine until it ducks in closer to the spine and then delivers programmed bursts of electricity to a specific nerve. Very low current. Anyway, this device is in the way of her work. We both want the device out; me, because it never has worked.

Now I'm waiting for a response from the surgeon that she has referred me. It's the same one that put it in and I like the guy. I just hope it can happen soon. Now that I'm 75 years old, I want as many pain free days as possible. And when the battery and the cable are gone I can have MRI's once again. All diagnostics have been with a CAT scan. That's a lot of radiation and the images are not as detailed as the ones you get with an MRI. Besides, I like all the weird noises you hear in the tube!

There is a 'debate' on television tonight. It's not really a debate; it's ten or eleven candidates loudly insulting one another and lying in public. Trolling for dollars! I can safely bet $100 that nothing of substance will be 'debated'.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Short Vacation

We just came down the hill about three hours ago and we have emptied the suitcases while listening to the grinding and roaring of the excavators and other earth moving devices that are shaping the ground work for a 19 house subdivision...immediately behind our back fence. I might be a little bit angry if today was a Saturday. I would be even angrier if it were Sunday; but it's not, it's Monday and it's Labor Day. I'm not angry now...just resigned to the fact that the institutions that created this national holiday, the labor unions, are forgotten and losing strength every year. I have serious doubt that the guy on the 'dozer' that is interrupting my my peaceful afternoon is being paid overtime pay for his efforts.

We spent the past three days at Lake Almanor. It's a medium sized lake and my son-in-law's family has owned a nice two story cabin, that is right on the shore, for at least fifty years. They have a nice deck right off the living room and they have purchased a new dock for fishing, swimming and a place to tie up a boat. The dock has wheels so they can push the dock out as the level of the lake decreases. And it's gone down about 20', measured laterally, from where it was when I was last here. The lake's water is used to create power by going through about three powerhouses on its way to the Sacramento River. Everyone living near the lake is anxiously awaiting the promised El Nino winter.

From where I was sitting, the dock, the water level looked fine and I was enjoying a few days of fishing. Not 'catching', just fishing. My grandson was catching while I watched enviously. Okay, I wasn't really envious, I was proud to know he was my grandson and that he enjoyed fishing alongside of an old man.

The lake is only an hour and a half drive to our house but we anticipated a holiday crowd that would slow us down. It turned out to be a nice drive. There were lots of cars ahead and behind us as we made our way through the many curves of this road and yet, the speed was fine and we had just one car that was passing. Sure enough, it was just ninety minutes from door to door.

Our granddaughter, who is currently vacuuming our carpet, even as I type, came down the hill later today and she said that the traffic was terrible and a lot of the delay was caused by cars returning from the Burning Man event in the Nevada desert; the Black Rock Playa. She said they were easily recognized by the fact that they were covered in dust from the windstorms that are almost a daily occurrence on the playa. A friend of mine has gone to the Burning Man twice and she loves it. I am envious! Burning Man is on my Bucket List; my shortlist. I wanted to go, back in the days when it was held on the beach near San Francisco. But life interfered with all of those plans as it often does.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cars etcetera and more Cars Part lll

Ken, while working at the gas station, had met this guy that was really involved in drag racing. As a trio, Ken, Dan and myself loved going to Lion's Drag strip in Long Beach; the premier drag strip in southern California. We went every Saturday we could as that was the day that you could buy a pit pass, enabling you to wander around among the contestants and their cars.

Back to the guy that Ken met. We all went over to his house one morning and we woke him and his room mates up. It was around noon. We were invited in. These guys lived a little bit differently than we did. There were a lot of beer cans scattered around. The furniture was minimal and the drapes were bedsheets. But they were into cars! One of them was rebuilding a Chrysler Hemi. In the kitchen dining room. All the parts, including the pistons, were carefully stored off the floor; on the kitchen table. There were assorted carburetors and magnetos scattered around the living room and among the many beer cans. Outside there were half a dozen vehicles in various state pf repair or abandonment. This included two 'rail' dragsters. One was minus an engine and the engine was the one being rebuilt inside. All in all, we were in heaven! Car lover heaven.

Despite their quirks, they were all very nice and they suffered all of our questions with good humor. It was obvious that they were at least ten years older  and they could have told us to get lost, but they didn't. They even helped me rewire my Austin Healey overdrive so that I had 8 forward gears and 2 in reverse? That project came from their own imaginations. They knew that I loved to go to the drags and run my car. It was just a four cylinder with a 3 speed transmission. I had installed a 'hot' cam in it with the hopes of securing a trophy in my class, 'E' Sport. For some weeks now I had raced and beat everything in my class except for a Porsche Speedster. He would always show up late in the morning, just late enough to drive in, beat me in one race and take the trophy. I'm sure he delighted in it.

I tried out the newly rewired overdrive the following Saturday. I made two runs and had beat all the competition. And then, just before the drags were over, my nemesis rolled through the gates. He made one run and beat my time easily. That was the end of drag racing for me.

Many years later, a curious thing happened. My best friend was showing me a new book. It was a small coffee table book with lots of photographs in it. It was all about Los Angeles. I was going through the pages when I noticed a photograph that was titled "Racers at Lion's Drag Strip" I looked closer and I spotted myself! I was in my Austin Healey and was waiting my turn to race; just a car back from the focus of the photo. Most of my car was obscured by another, closer. car. But I couldn't help but recognize my dark horn rimmed glasses.      

Odds and Ends

We just got back from a trip to Costco. We just bought the necessities of life. Pork loin chops, popcorn, Danish butter cookies, shredded pork, cough drops, calcium, vitamins and 9 volt batteries. We went to the store for the last four items. Okay, we were shopping pretty light for Costco shoppers. But, there were plenty of shoppers making up for our stinginess!

On the way home we stopped at Cash and Carry, the store where restaurants shop. I love walking through this store and seeing all the restaurant sized cans of ...everything! Plus, they have lots of restaurant equipment and tools to buy. A four foot long pizza spatula. A three foot long potato masher. On and on. We weave through all the serious shoppers and bought our four little boxes of Stash Chai Spice black tea. It's my favorite.

On the way again, the dash screen told me that the car had successfully connected to my phone via Blue Tooth. I remarked on the fact that our cars are now loaded with technology. Dealers used to advertise horsepower and now they stress connectivity. Speaking of horsepower; I  have looked at the engine in my car one time and I doubt that I will look again. Why bother? There is nothing that I can do with the engine. Time was, you would lift the hood and imagine how the car would perform with a four barrel carburetor on it, or better yet, with three two barrel carbs! When I looked at the engine of my new car I could not identify the carburetor. Maybe it doesn't have one?  

The SI joint pain still has me on Norco and so I have not been able to enjoy the new backup camera that my son installed. Of course he used YouTube to help the install go smoothly. You know, Blue Tooth and YouTube and all the rest...they make life so much more pleasant. The 'good' old days simply weren't. In fact, I would probably be in a wheelchair if this was 1950. And would I have lived to be 75 back then? Sure, there are lots of little irritants in our lives but you can find those in every era. In fact, some of the things I will be sorry to have missed when I die will be the marvelous new things that technology will bring us. I'm pretty sure I will miss the final development of the quantum computer and that computer can or will change the world.

I have my own little computer to play with now. The Arduino Uno that my wife gave me for my birthday. Basic and very simple. I have a tiny 'motherboard' and a 'breadboard' to use when adding resistors, transistor, capacitors and all the other stuff I need to make this computer work. I've never done this before. I started my life's career hanging drywall and although I ended my career in construction as an instructor, showing our employees how to use their pc's. I was very good at repairing computers and networks and I had changed out various elements on the motherboards, but I really didn't know computers at their most basic level. Maybe I will now.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The first birthday celebration

Soon to be followed by the second and last birthday celebration (this year). My actual birthday is on the 1st, a Tuesday, which is not the best day to celebrate when relatives work, and, or are, a distance away from our house. So we celebrated my 75th yesterday on Saturday. And it worked out great as all three of our children were here plus four of our seven grand children.

The days haven't started out well for me recently as the pain from the SI joint has me pretty much crippled in the mornings. It takes a lot of Norco and time for the pain to subside. But the pain was easy to ignore with grandchildren all around. Grandchildren are a real blessing! And not just as pain relievers...

I wasn't allowed into the kitchen all day. The kitchen is normally my territory so that command to stay out was tough on me. What were they doing in there? Then my son got our old barbecue going; it hasn't been used in years. He put in a couple of large tri-tip roasts. Now I had an idea as to what the main course was going to be. And I could see my wife boiling a large pot of red potatoes. That had to be for the potato salad. That guess was verified when I smelled the bacon cooking. I knew this was going to be a memorable dinner. Especially so because I wasn't doing the cooking!

Dinner was wonderful, just as I had imagined. After dinner was time for some presents. I was given some great new heavy weight winter shirts, just in time for the El Nino that is coming to California. I was also given an Arduino! It's the beginners model and that's perfect for me. I already know some programming languages but the Arduino will test me. And I was given a Tessellation coloring book. My son probably didn't realize that this was a perfect gift for me. Since I have ASD, I have always loved repeating patterns. And patterns I could color was alway a plus for me. Whenever I start a new painting I have to stop myself from drawing or painting patterns. My wife gave me a backup camera for my Scion Xb. The camera was something that wasn't offered by Toyota at the time I bought the car and I have missed having one ever since. Being older, as I am, turning around far enough to see everything behind me is difficult...and no matter your age, you can't see a small child that might be behind the car. My son is installing it today.

After the present giving, it was time for dessert and it was far as I was concerned. I'm not much of a fan of cakes but I do love pies. My wife and daughter, though good cooks, don't count themselves among the finest of pastry chefs. So they went to the Upper Crust bakery here in town and ordered a marionberry pie plus a Dutch apple pie. Oh, heaven! Then there was Triple Vanilla ice cream to top it off. Heaven again! was a

It's Sunday now and I'm waiting, as usual, for the Norco to do it's job. I go back to the doctor on the 9th for a followup to the corticosteroid injection. I hope I can tell her it was a success. The last two injections were lifesavers. I need this one to be one as well.

Grrr...I'm typing on the keyboard of the MacBook and it always gives me fits. It has a built-in touchpad just below the keyboard and as I relax while typing, my hands get closer to the surface of the sensitive pad. They touch...and my cursor soars away and lands who know where. In the meantime I keep typing since I didn't notice the accidental touch. When I do look up I see that I'm typing far back up the page and in the middle of a sentence. Repair time...hopefully I find them all.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


I was recently reading some comments from pro-gun folks on a column in the NY Times; a column by Nicholas Kristof. And these anti regulation fans all have the same stupid, stupid, stupid argument! 'If we didn't have our guns, how can we protect ourselves from the government?' What if I happen to like the government and do not feel threatened by it. No one ever asks the other people, the ones without guns, if they want to be protected. Don't we have a voice in the matter. Personally, I don't want these anti-intellectual bozos to ever dare to speak for me. I do my speaking with a ballot and not a gun. It's far more powerful.

At times I am embarrassed and ashamed to be living in a country that is so backward. A third world country on the North American Continent.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

CARS and Junior and Senior years and more CARS! Episode ll

Back to the story of the 1940 Chevy. It wasn't long before Ken wanted more power than the old six cylinder  would give him, so he did some more trading and sold his model A and ended up with a almost new fuel injected Corvette engine and transmission. He also found a 1948 Pontiac rear end at the local junk yard. He put all of these things together in the Chevy and was rewarded with a very fast street racer. Street racing was common in the 50's  and it usually began with a cruise down Hawthorne Blvd. On any night of the week we wouldn't go past more than two or three signal lights before we were challenged to a 'drag'. And since the 40 Chevy still sported a single exhaust pipe (the other one was cut off short of the bumper and couldn't be seen) almost every competitor assumed it would be an easy victory for them. Ken would keep it in low gear all the way up to 60 mph and stay slightly behind them. Then, when they thought they had an easy victory, he would shift into second, leaving a patch of burned rubber as he did it, and leave them far behind. His car was soon the talk of all the drive-ins. Dan and I were only passengers but we basked in the attention that the car received. 

Ken decided that he had enough money for the next step; paint and upholstery. The car was painted a metallic blue and then we made plans for a trip to Tijuana for some of the famed south of the border tuck and roll upholstery. We left around midnight as we wanted to arrive early in the morning. There were no freeways in 1957. We arrived around 7 in the AM and parked in the inner courtyard of the upholstery shop. There was no one around. About ten minutes later, two kids on bikes rode in and without a word began to remove the seats from the car. They told us not to worry, that the shop owner would be there soon. They did their job and sped off on their bikes. So we sat. And sat some more. It was ten before anyone arrived to do the work and once the price and design was agreed upon, the work began. It was twelve later before we drove off. Once we arrived home, we slept for at least twelve hours. It had been a long, long day...and night and day again.  

During my Junior and Senior class years, I was fascinated by all things mechanical, especially cars. At the same time, I was getting grades of A and A+ in English and History. But, those were the only classes where I shined. In Chemistry I was a D student and in Spanish ll I was only a C- student. My teacher, the former Miss Murphy, had married an officer in the fascist Army of Spain. She was now Mrs. Ramirez-Cardenas and was quickly angered by any perceived criticism of Franco's government. We all had to think twice before we spoke because she was very sensitive to the kind of criticism we all felt towards that government. 

The point I am trying to make is that while I was 'car crazy' I was also into more intellectual interests than most kids that were drag racing down Hawthorne Blvd...I still had my library card and used it often.

I just realized that as I write these stories down, I am recalling even more stories from this period. I could write for days it seems. I won't. But I may come back at some later date and write about this time in my life.