Thursday, December 31

Going for nothing

In keeping with the serious and meaningful intention of this blog, here is my entry for the last day of the year. To the right is a simple game where you move and drop five numbered circles and try for the highest score you can get. Quite by accident, I discovered a foolproof way to get all five circles in a zero slot. So far it hasn’t failed me.

Here is your challenge: Get a zero score consistently; it’ll put you in the proper frame of mind for the new year. From there, everything is up.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30

Serious scientific observations

You never know when my blog entries can be taken seriously, so it’s good to stay on your toes and not be too trusting. I made some observations while in Death Valley that may be interesting to you. But you’ll have to figure out which are true.

When it’s cold here, it’s the coldest cold you’ll feel for a given temperature anywhere in the United States. I noticed that when we were walking outside at night at the Furnace Creek Ranch, it was downright chilly even though the temperature wasn’t anything to write home about. When the air is 45°F, 7°C, it’s no big deal at my normal elevation of 1,600 feet, 487 meters. That’s because air is not a very efficient heat conductor, and is thinner at my place. But when you’re nearly 200 feet, 61 meters, below sea level, the air is packed more tightly and is a better conductor of heat. Your skin loses heat faster.

I remember reading about a person who lived in Denver and was surprised by how much colder it felt in San Francisco at the same temperature. Same reason—Denver’s high-elevation air is much less dense than San Francisco’s sea-level air.

Unlike my last visit to Death Valley, this time I remembered to add a little air pressure to the tires before going below sea level. I’m sure you’ve heard of submarines going below their rated depth and getting crushed. Well, the same thing happens to your tires. So I pumped them up a little to keep them from getting flabby. (Oddly, the National Park Service has not put up any warning signs about this anywhere in the valley.)

But I couldn’t do anything about another effect of increased air pressure—slowing of the vehicle due to greater wind resistance. I noticed that I had to use more pedal to the metal in order to maintain speed. It was subtle, but it was there. Streamlining the truck might help, but I soon discovered that retracting the radio antenna made no difference. Same for folding the outside rear view mirrors against the body, removing the windshield wipers and all external decals, duct taping all the body seams and shrink-wrapping the entire truck in wet Teflon. Not wanting to attract the attention of the Highway Patrol, I decided to put everything back the way it was. Besides, the increased accelerator pressure could be offset by the increased amount of oxygen available to the engine, so maybe it’s a wash.

In conclusion, some of this is true. Some isn’t. I’ll leave it to my dear readers to decide what, if any, to believe.

Tuesday, December 29

Tripweed, sheep bed

We found a curious plant species on the floor of Jensen Canyon. After walking over some of it, it became obvious that this was one of Death Valley’s oddities—a carnivorous plant! Not unlike the more well-known Venus Flytrap, this low-growing plant actually traps its prey, usually unsuspecting humans on a solo hike. Tripweed grows only where there are lots of surrounding large rocks. It sends its tendrils out across the path between boulders, waiting for its prey. Tough strands snare the shoe of the traveler, causing a fatal blow to the head when the person trips, falls and hits a boulder. Then the weed invades the body, quickly reducing it to nothing. We know it completely consumes its victims since we were unable to find even a trace of any bodies. Early prospectors found small bits of gold near tripweed, apparently the indigestible gold fillings of its victims.

Here is a bighorn sheep bed. A species of tumbleweed, when it dies and dries up, is pulled from the ground by wind and tossed about, spilling its seeds. Wherever there is a depression in the ground that’s big enough, the spent weeds finally come to rest. Bighorn sheep are rumored to use these pits as comfy beds, though we didn’t see any of them on this trip.

Jensen Canyon

Here is a place that’s not on any maps of tourist spots in the Death Valley area. It’s something Hilary and Luke discovered awhile ago, near the highway heading away from the Park. On the way in, we discovered this rock with T.A. JENSEN 1862 pecked into it. The carving looked fresh, which is something that desert carvings share since there is little weathering.

Going up the canyon, the walls get closer and higher.

After not a very great distance, the canyon ends in a covered grotto with a natural bridge crossing overhead. The spookiest thing about this place is that the walls aren’t very solid.

Time to leave. This shows the depth and narrowness of the canyon walls. On the way out we stopped to examine some other features, to be shown in another blog entry.

Monday, December 28

The dunes of Tatooine

Leaving Death Valley this morning, we passed a familiar sight. In 1977 we went to Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood to see a new movie. We had noticed announcements of the film on small billboards on Vine Street on our way to work, driving to our office in Los Angeles. “Star Wars, eh?” we thought. “Sounds interesting.” The day the film opened we walked right up to the box office, bought our tickets, and went in and sat down. The movie was a transforming experience! The sound in the Chinese was superb; the floor actually shook during the really intense scenes. We told a couple of our friends that they HAD TO SEE THIS FILM! We took them the following weekend, and were surprised to find a line of people that stretched over a block from the box office. We finally got tickets and went in for our second helping. Unfortunately the sound was disappointingly diminished. Our friend told us that she knew the projectionist and that he had had a rather rough night. He had a terrific hangover and couldn’t stand the sound being too loud. Star Wars demands a robust soundtrack to be truly effective. Oh well.

This morning we stopped to look at the Death Valley sand dunes that were traversed over 30 years ago by C-3PO and R2-D2. The dunes looked pretty much the same, but were silent. We thought of the projectionist who turned the sound down at the Chinese 30 plus years ago.

Panamint Valley wormhole

Boy I tell ya, the past few days have brought so much dèjá vu it feels like I’ve been here before! Like this picture of the road across Panamint Valley. Seems that when I was living on Alderan, before it blew up, there was a similar road and at the end of it was the entrance to a wormhole that skips all the drudgery of travel through space and time. I told Karla and the cat to hold on and got the truck up to near-light-speed (something you can do only with a Dodge truck with a Cummins turbocharged diesel, in case you’re wondering). I hoped we would come out near Fresno. I was wrong. We popped out right north of Lima, Peru! Dang! This was going to make the trip home a real bummer, especially since the diesel fuel sold in South America is so crummy.

So to save time, I put the truck in Warp Reverse, re-entered the wormhole backwards (highly not recommended!) and popped out about twenty miles before our entry point. We re-drove the whole entry to Panamint Valley, and I simply refused to listen to the cat’s yowling about my incompetence. Karla, wisely, kept her mouth shut until we got to the Tehachapi snow-removal fans. Then she gently suggested that I was an idiot. We celebrated our return to the United States at a nearby Denny’s.

What a trip.

Sunday, December 27

Hiking up canyons

Look familiar? Break out your copy of the original Star Wars movie. This is Tatooine. The sand dunes are north of here, also appearing in the movie.

Here is a whole home improvement center’s worth of sheetrock. Just peel and stick on some cardboard.

Apparently not noticing what’s right there beside them, Karla and Hilary pass a whole canyon-side of mud crystals, a very rare phenomenon.

Saturday was a day for doing some serious hiking. We only drove about 30 miles round trip, but it feels like we hiked 50! First, up Golden Canyon. The scenery was spectacular, and we got a slight feeling of déjà vu when we spotted one of the settings for a scene in the original Star Wars movie.

It was as much a geology field trip as a sightseeing venture. From what I’ve heard, Death Valley has more geology than any other place on earth. It’s wall-to-wall geology, plus more. I’ll have more in a later blog.

Friday, December 25

Tehachapi snow removal fans

We drove past a place where someone has installed a whole bunch of really big fans. Getting out of the truck, we were almost blown over, the wind from them was so strong. The last time I was at this place, there was a whole bunch of cows munching on grass that was cleared of snow, blown away by the enormous fans on the nearby hills. To me it seemed a terrible waste of resources. Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to simply put some heating coils in the ground to melt the snow rather than use huge fans to blow it away? Unless electricity is nearly free, wouldn't it be even cheaper to simply move the cows to lower ground where it doesn't snow? The picture shows just a few dozen of the hundreds, maybe thousands of fans on these hills. Makes you wonder.

Christmas morning in…

…Death Valley, of all places! We took a very long drive yesterday and arrived after nine hours at the kids’ place (kids meaning Hilary and Luke) at Furnace Creek Ranch. Karla is assuring a youngster that Heston, the horse she’s sitting on, is way better than any pony she ever rode. The young’n is looking longingly at, and really wished she was riding the horse her mom got—a genuine mustang! I told his mom that her horse, Golondrino, was actually captured in the wild and that his most fervent wish was to return to the wild. “So you better hang on,” I said.

A total of eleven people went on the morning’s first ride, and when they got back it was all smiles. What a great way to spend Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 23

Angry sky

Tuesday afternoon Karla and I headed back from a big shopping day in the Big City during a big wind storm. The rain had ended, but clouds remained and expressed their defiance by threatening to explode. We just had to pull over onto a side road and stop to get pictures. In the distance, the Sierra was gray with new snow that was still clinging to the trees. Not white, gray. That’s because there was a mix of a thin veneer of snow with the colors of the things beneath the snow. In a few hours, most of the new snow would be blown away.

The valley air was especially clear since all the crud blew away to Nevada. There are too few people in Nevada to make much of their own smog, so I’m sure they welcome this early Christmas present from California. It will probably take days for significant smog to be blown back into the Central Valley from the Bay Area. Millions of gridlocked commuters plus the thousands of diesel trucks hauling freight from the Port of Oakland have their work cut out for them. Until things return to normal, I hope valley people remember to protect against the glare of a brilliant sky with sunglasses, and slap on another layer of sunscreen. Hats on, bald guys!

Monday, December 21

A worthless exercise

I can’t remember which of the online petitions I “signed” to get the attention of both of California’s senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, but I got a response tonight from both of them. The petition provided a space for the sender to type a personal message to the senators, which I did. Both senators’ replies to my inquiry about the pending health care reform legislation were pure boilerplate. Senator Feinstein sent a “rich text” response, while Senator Boxer’s was “plain text.” Is one trying to be more regal while the other is more down-to-earth? I have never gotten an email response to any letter to a millionaire US senator, so I don’t know what to think.

Several decades ago I sent typewritten letters to both of California’s senators regarding pending legislation establishing the John Muir Wilderness, and got typewritten responses. Senator Hayakawa’s response was crafted on an IBM Executive typewriter, with proportional spacing. Very elegant, since he was a semanticist he put his best words forward in a very respectable form. Senator Cranston, however, was being a minimalist; his response was pounded out on a manual typewriter, probably by a haggard old wench who hated her job and deliberately hit some of the keys so softly they barely registered—perhaps she was undernourished. Both responses, sadly, were boilerplate.

I guess as mere citizens of this country we don’t deserve a measured, thoughtful response to our concerns. I can understand that when a million letters arrive, it’s difficult to sort them out for individual responses, but with today’s technology perhaps the robots that respond could be programmed to recognize patterns and select from a menu of individual pieces of boilerplate. Toss in a few unique rivets or weld seams to make each response different; maybe even use different primer and top coat. Or ship the letters off to China where child laborers can actually read them and come back with their odd expressions of English.

An analogy is in order. Say you’re the ultimate chief in charge of feeding flies. You sit in your elegant office, advisors flow in and out suggesting what you should use as fly food. Some say nourishing meals, certified organic fly food. Others suggest sewage. You make your decision: Sewage. As part of your job, you are required to open your window occasionally to hear what the flies think. They swarm into your office, buzzing around and ruining your day. You take a long shower. You step into your Gulfstream and jet off to home and your super-wealthy spouse and adoring supporters. Somehow it’s all worth it. Life at the top can be very nice. As for the flies? Feh!

Sunday, December 20

Preparing to see “Avatar”

By now you must know about Avatar, James (Terminator, Titanic) Cameron’s new movie which opened worldwide this weekend. So far it’s a record-breaker, despite the US east coast’s blizzards keeping millions of people away from theaters. I checked to see where it’s playing locally; Oakhurst has it in 2-D, and the IMAX theater in Fresno has the movie in 3-D. I usually hate to see movies in theaters, what with the audience being so rude with their cell phones, screaming infants, milling around getting snacks, yakking, munching, slurping, coughing, stinking, being way too fat, thinking bad thoughts, picking noses, making tortillas on their bellies—you get my drift.

IMAX theaters have not only humongous screens, but surround sound that includes speakers not just all around you, but beneath and above you. (For an additional charge, they’ll stick a speaker up your—just kidding.) The problem thus far is getting in. A Web site that lists showtimes for the film indicates every performance sold out so far, not only in the IMAX but the adjacent stadium-seating multi-screen theater. Plus this is the week when every kid is out of school and free to go to his or her second or fifth or seventeenth showing of the film, so the din in the theater should just about drown out all 50 of the speakers surrounding them.

What’s the alternative? Avatar will be available in 3-D on BluRay discs. We have a BluRay player but we don’t have a 3-D TV. Besides our puny 40-inch Sony just doesn’t cut it magnificence-wise. We’re going to have to see it at the IMAX. Wait! I just remembered that I know the manager at the IMAX theater! We worked together at the local ABC TV affiliate when we were youngsters back in the late fifties! I can get a command performance for Karla and me! Problem solved!

Yeah, right.

The film is way over two hours long. I don’t know how much popcorn it takes to last two plus hours. A bag? A box? A bucket? A barrel? Where do you put your Coke between gulps? As I recall, a lot of sticky dried Coke ends up on theaters’ floors, providing a good way to keep your feet anchored during the really exciting scenes. With a mouthful of gummy Giant Jujubes clamping your teeth together, how do you scream without swallowing your tongue? I forget. This could get dangerous.

I’m going to have to think this over.

Image: Twentieth Century Fox

Saturday, December 19

Alarm clock grows new tail

This morning at 7, the usual chirps told me that Renault was in the bedroom. We named the house wren for the fact that after the cat encountered him and removed his tail, he became Wren-No-Tail, shortened to Wren-No, which is spelled Renault in French. Circular? You’re right. He’s obviously not afraid of the cat depicted in the little stained glass piece hanging in the window; perhaps it’s too abstract.

He has been back every morning for about a month now, flitting and chirping to get us up to let him out through one of the roof windows.

Here he poses right before taking flight out to the big world. He has been working on replacing his tail, and it’s now about half the length it was when he first appeared to us.

Tuesday, December 15

A great day for eating

We had been hearing commercials on the radio for a new restaurant in Fresno (well, Clovis actually, which is joined at the hip). Its owners moved from San Francisco where their restaurant was rated number one in its category by the Chronicle and Examiner newspapers and the Zagat folks. We found it and walked into a beautiful setting with a waterfall in the lobby. The seating capacity is over 300, and the room we entered was nearly full at 1:30 in the afternoon. Immediately we were escorted to a nice booth by a lovely server. I told her we were neophytes regarding east Indian food so she described several of the numerous items on the lunch menu. She suggested an appetizer to help familiarize us with the offerings, and we selected a couple of curry dishes. This was culinary heaven, and the clouds weren’t cold and wet (a complaint of mine about dying and going to heaven has been that wearing thin white robes and sitting on cold wet clouds wasn’t my idea of heaven!). To say the food was delicious is a major understatement. Even the water was delicious! The prices were surprising—about twice what we would spend at In-N-Out Burger for a number three meal. Karla had chicken curry to die for. I had lamb curry to die for. Come to think of it, both the chicken and the lamb did the dying for us. Bless them. Every morsel was a new and delightful taste and we will definitely make the North India Bar & Grill a habit.

Now we have to try a Chinese place that, once again, was on the top-rated must-go list of every epicurean in San Francisco. The owner/chef loves fire! In a magazine I saw a picture of him standing in front of an astonishing stovetop conflagration. He relocated to Fresno a couple of years ago and it took a while for his old Bay Area customers to find him again and get their fix. Imagine, San Francisco snotties making the trek to Fresno of all places to sate their lust for gustatory excitement! Who woulda thunk?

[Addendum: I forgot to mention the reasons these two brilliant chefs relocated to Fresno. In the case of the east Indian, it was for health reasons for his children. That’s all I know about that. As for the Chinese chef, he wanted to be closer to the source of his ingredients. A lot of people from Asian countries grow their native-land vegetables locally, which lose their essence quickly after being harvested. When the chef says fresh, he means fresh! He’s especially picky about fowl, and wants to be sure they are raised on the correct diet. He knows a lot of local farmers and keeps in close touch with them.]

Sunday, December 13

Thank you, El Niño!

The result of the last few days’ storms is finally putting some water where we need it. The nearby mountains are getting a whole lot of snow, which will become next summer’s water. Sometimes when there is an El Niño, the storms hit California all right, but go either north or south of our location, leaving us dry.

Our lemon crop (one tree’s worth) got a slow start due to my having to ration water last summer, but now it can pick up enough to give us some nice fat fruit. Recently the price of just one lemon in the supermarket has gotten close to a dollar! We may have to put a fence around our tree and hire an armed guard if this keeps up.

Saturday, December 12


I don’t know what came over me, but today I decided to
1. Break the law
2. Be otherwise bad
As for the first item, I was looking for a different vessel to hold my morning shot of OJ. Hey, we have some old ceramic Hires Root Beer mugs up on top of the cupboard that haven’t been used in decades! They’re so cool—older than dirt (covered with same) and interesting looking. So I got them down and washed them.

When I turned them upside-down, I noticed some type on the bottom: USE AS CONTAINER EXCEPT FOR HIRES IS ILLEGAL. If I fill them with OJ I will be a law breaker!

Hires Root Beer is one of the two oldest continuously made American soft drinks. Introduced in 1876 by Charles E Hires in Philadelphia (he was a pharmacist)*, it has been in continuous production and is now owned by Cadbury/Schwepps/Dr Pepper/Snapple/etcetera. I wonder if the new owners will enforce the law or maybe they’ll leave it to the local prosecutor. We could draw the blinds and unplug the phone during breakfast and no one will be the wiser. Kinda gives you a chill knowing that the act of sipping OJ just might get you packed off to the pokey if you’re caught. Puts a little tingle in the dull old bowl of oatmeal, if you get my meaning.

As for item #2, we have a little tabletop dispenser for soy sauce. We’ve used it for at least a couple of decades, and it’s been refilled countless times. Oddly, the soy sauce leaves a brown residue inside the bottle, so today I scrubbed it out. While doing so, I noticed something printed above the UPC symbol:

REFILL ONLY WITH KIKKOMAN. Omigosh! This will be a day of rebellion! All these years I had ignored the warning, using who knows how many brands of soy sauce to top it off. In fact, the only reason I got that little bottle out of the cupboard was to refill it with about a dozen unused packets of soy sauce we had saved from numerous sushi purchases. NONE of which were KIKKOMAN!

The whole reason for this blog entry is to warn my sister and loyal reader Pat, who I know has kept and refilled a bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce that she has used since getting married mid-last century. It is so old it has a glass stopper! Definitely worth keeping, but Pat, protect yourself and check the bottle for any warnings of misuse! It’s too late in life to spend the rest of it using a heavy sledge hammer to smash large rocks while wearing horizontal stripes for gosh sakes!

*Here is an example of a pharmacist promoting sugary drink. Kind of like physicians in later years promoting cigarettes for their mildness and calming effect. What does this say about American medicine? Don’t get me started.

Friday, December 11

How do they do it?

I finished off the last few scraps in a bag of Ruffles® Potato Chips. That created a desire for more, so I grabbed a couple of red skin potatoes and sliced off a few thin pieces on the flat blade of our cheese grater (which is known around here as the Swedish Cuisinart, so named by one of the ranch’s cooks since the one at the high ranch was made in Sweden). A splash or two of canola oil in the big frying pan on the wood stove was all I needed to start making fresh chips (crisps, for you Aussies it seems crisps are what they’re called in England). Since the hot oil was shallow, I had to turn the chips as they cooked, not an easy task since it took a two-handed effort with a fork and tongs. As they browned, I pulled them out one at a time and laid them carefully on a paper towel. There was still a sheen of oil on their tops, so I dabbed them gently with another paper towel, taking care not to break them. I dusted them with very fine salt, then jiggled and flipped them around on the towel to spread the salt evenly.

Soon the potato slicing on the Swedish Cuisinart had to stop because as I reached the thick middle of the potato the slicing blade was too short. Now I had to break out the real Cuisinart and find the slicing blade in the messy cabinet where all the odd things that are rarely used are stored—things like the apple peeler/corer, the hand-cranked grinder, the 86-year-old electric waffle iron that still works beautifully, and various lidless storage containers and piles of lids for no-longer-owned storage containers.

Our Cuisinart blade cuts a 3-millimeter slice, which is not really what you want for chips/crisps since they come out too thick and tough, so I made what ended up as round thin French fries (chips). Again, the turning, draining, patting and salting took so long that what had started as a project with the potential to be really fun turned into a drudge.

Eventually I finished cooking the two potatoes and had a big mess to clean up. I remarked to Karla that I couldn’t imagine how the Frito-Lay company made any money doing this. Then I figured that they probably didn’t use frying pans on a wood-burning stove, and they probably had a bigger Cuisinart with a thinner blade. But their paper towel bill must be staggering unless perhaps they use cloth towels that they wring out at the end of every shift. Still I can’t imagine how they reach such a high volume of production without going batty with boredom.

Then there is the thing that makes every bag of chips so dismaying to the consumer—packing the large, whole chips on top, broken ones beneath, and finally the teensy flakes and potato grit at the bottom of the barely half-filled bag. Now that must take real skill!

Wednesday, December 9

Is this for real?

A strange sight appeared over Norway just hours ago. Many sources validate its authenticity. But still, is this for real? Here is the link for finding out (it really helps if you read Norwegian).


The temperature got down to 24°F, -4°C this morning. It’s supposed to get less chilly soon, but it can’t be too soon for me. The vintners are happy since cold like this kills the insect pests on the grape vines, but the citrus growers are not happy because it ruins the unharvested fruit unless they spray the trees with water, turn on the big fans in the orchards to bring down some warm air, or hire a bunch of helicopters to do the same thing. Any way you look at it, citrus from California will be more expensive. But maybe wine will be cheaper. It’s all a matter of balance.

Monday, December 7

The Foundpersons

Whenever I hear about how far the country has moved away from the principles established by the Founders, I remember that not too many years ago this country’s founders were called the Founding Fathers. I guess that’s sexist nowadays, or at least way too male-centered. While the US Constitution was being hammered out by the Founders in Philadelphia, they would end their day by going home to their spouses who I’m sure would query them relentlessly about their deliberations. So it is very likely that the distaff sides’ ideas were entered into the document they finally agreed upon. But nowhere do we honor their wives’ input; nowhere do we talk about the Foundresses. Somehow the politically correct loonies have missed out on that angle. It’s only a matter of time before they merge the Founders and Foundresses into the Foundpersons.

Yay! It’s gone!

I waited until nearly all the snow melted before heading out with the camera. I could have gotten more “dramatic” shots earlier when the sky seemed to be filled with falling popcorn and the ground was white in every direction. But I really don’t like snow, and I flat out hate cold. The storm started late last night with rain, and didn’t turn to snow until almost noon. And it really came down! Since this is the first of three coming in, and it’s supposed to be the second one that has enough cold behind it to make significant snow, and the forecast is changing almost every minute, who knows what’s going to happen. I heard on the radio that snow was falling at sea level in San Francisco, and Los Angeles’s surrounding mountains are expecting huge amounts of snow. We’ll see, we’ll see.

Sunday, December 6

Snow? Here? No!

At about 9:30 tonight I went out to the wood shed, pulling our little red wagon to get a load of wood for the night. I wore a headband flashlight and saw things descending from the sky. Rain? Snow? I got some wood and brought it back. Then on the computer I called up the forecast. Rain tonight. Snow tomorrow! SNOW!? This is California! Our elevation is far below where it snows, so something must be wrong. The forecast says that we could get 6" (150mm) of snow. I have an appointment in Fresno on Tuesday, and if it snows here we could be stuck for a couple of days. Hm-m. This could become bloggable. Stay tuned.

An interesting day in Raymond

At noon we showed up at our neighbors Bruce and Candy’s ready to head out to the nearby town of Raymond. It was a special day because we would get to tour the town museum’s new caboose. Lynn Northrup, the curator of the museum held the stepladder as we ascended to enter the car, made in 1941. It desperately needed some restoration, and Bruce was elbows-deep into the project. The entire caboose, above the running gear, was wooden. And the years had taken their toll. The sidewalls had been replaced years ago with plywood, and the top was covered with leaky composition roll roofing. On the interior, the tongue and groove woodworks were mostly sound, but some of the flooring needed replacement. Bruce talked with one of the volunteer restorers about what it would cost to make plain old douglas fir boards into tongue and groove, which was used throughout. Fifteen cents a foot, and that’s if you supply the wood. And there would be the need for a whole lot of wood. I suggested a place that would charge much less.

We then entered the museum on the site. It was the restored house of the man who founded Raymond in the late 1800s. Lynn pointed out the hand-dug well on the property, “33 feet deep, dug by hand, and it still supplies all the water we need.” Inside the house was an intriguing collection of artifacts contributed by the people of the area, everything from baskets and arrows from the Indians to tools and utensils from the pioneers. The most intriguing thing about the museum is that almost everything on display can be handled by the visitors. Very little was protected behind glass.

Lynn is so contagiously enthusiastic about the whole town. It was a much more interesting place than just about anybody would suspect. Mainly it had a very busy railway coming up from the San Joaquin Valley that brought people to the stage line that took them to Yosemite. “Two trains a day, and right out the window was where they turned it around for the return trip.” She pointed out the grass-covered space where the turntable used to be. The track split into three to accommodate the passenger cars and the freight cars that were loaded with Sierra White granite from the nearby quarry. Raymond granite is widely on display in San Francisco, from common curbstones to the steps of the US Mint and the façades of many other prominent buildings. Lynn excitedly told the story about John Muir, on hearing that President Theodore Roosevelt would be in San Francisco, raced to the city to try and convince him to come to Yosemite. Roosevelt agreed and rode the train to Raymond, got on the stage, and a couple of days later toured Yosemite with Muir. Roosevelt was convinced that making the place a national park would be a wise move. I told Lynn that I had read that Roosevelt and Muir traveled around the park alone—no Secret Service accompaniment. What a different time!

Lynn is interesting in her own right. She and her husband made their living being actors in soap operas, As the World Turns and Days of our Lives, if I remember correctly. Several years ago they came to our area and bought some property. (Their land abuts ours about a mile north of the house.) Lynn fell in love with the funky, stuck-in-time town of Raymond and is now its chief promoter. She bought the museum property and got the railroad track installed by the road and rounded up a caboose to sit on it. Sometimes it takes an outsider to wake up the populace to the historic treasure they inhabit. I have a feeling we are going to get involved in her vision of Raymond’s renewal.

Friday, December 4

650 posts! That’s 2.5 Miles!

When I logged in to create another mesmerizing blog post for my dear readers, I just happened to notice that I had already done 650 posts to this blog. If these were fence posts, I would have pounded out (on a keyboard) the equivalent of almost two and a half miles of (pounded in) fence posts, if I spaced them 20 feet apart, which works for horses.

It seems all kinds of numerical milestones are occurring all at once—3,000 solitaire games, 4,600 ReCaptchas—the mind reels. Speaking of reels, I wonder how many fish I could catch on 2.5 miles of line with hooks every 20 feet. Depends on where the line is put in the water. I’ll have to ask reader Ed, who lives in Hawaii where the fishing is good. Or David in southern Sweden where the fishing is good. Susan in Queensland, Oz, may snag a saltwater croc or two. But I’ll skip Hilary in Death Valley, where the fishing stinks, though the rat-size scorpions could make pretty tempting bait.

Thursday, December 3

More achievements…

More ReCaptcha milestones. I happened across the link in my list of bookmarks and thought it would be neat to pound out a few more ReCaptchas. I got to 4,500, which is kind of landmarkish, and decided to pound out another hundred.
Wow. Another hundred. [Yawn…]

I’ll put this accomplishment right alongside my 3,000 wins at solitaire. With all these accomplishments adding up, I’m going to have to order up a really large tombstone because the epitaph just keeps growing. Might have to order two plots, one for my enlarged head. Oh well, later. Now back to solitaire…

Tuesday, December 1

Took a hit in the tail—still flying

I got a letter from a friend who mentioned that she liked the wren story of a few days ago. I wrote back saying that the silly bird still keeps managing to get into the house. Every day at about dawn, he comes in, flitting back and forth, chirping loudly. Karla calls him our natural alarm clock.

I am surprised that he keeps coming back because one day I saw him flying around, looking a whole lot shorter. At first I thought it was a different bird. Then I discovered what had happened to him—there was a pile of tail feathers on the carpet in the bedroom. He had met Raven, the cat! He seems none the worse for wear; I guess wrens don’t really need tail feathers!