Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Driving home from Oregon yesterday took seven and a-half hours. As I rolled into the county, local radio announced a burn of 450 acres near Mountain Ranch, the area that took the brunt of the Butte Fire. The Butte Fire is considered the worst for home losses in the state from a single fire.
The day before I left, I managed a quick trip to the local Arts Council Gallery for a look at their exhibit entitled History From The Ashes. DSC08424 (Copy)
There is no joy in picking up cherished or simply common objects from your burned out property. Mostly sadness, tears and awe that anything recognizable survived the conflagration.
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We know art is healing. And there is something about picking through the ashes that must be common to all of us. I watched on television as folks did just that after Katrina. The flood, destroyed as completely as fire.
DSC08436 (Copy)When my house burned to the ground in Michigan, I remember finding  my melted marbles and my mother's  jar full of precious coins. The wafts of smoke coming from the ashes, the strong smell, the bent bed springs and melted cook stove didn't make me give up hope that I might find a heart shaped plastic locket my grandmother gave me that contained a tiny rosary. Of course, it couldn't possibly survive, but my 8 year self believed in miracles.
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Items found, were given an artful setting of remembrance.
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Or put together to form a sculpture or a mobile.
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One survivor made a fabric wall hanging, with burned out spars of trees surrounded by wild flowers. A reality, wild flowers, rain fed, follow a burn.
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Dead bushes and trees amid new grass on this canvas.
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You can see my face reflected in the glass covering a spectacular photo by John Slot of the borate bomber releasing its chemical fire retardant.
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And this photo by Katie Clark of a partially burned home with a surviving flag.
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The most spectacular piece in the show is this shawl, positioned like an effigy with burned offerings at its feet. The shawl was made from the ties that bound hay bales distributed to land owners. Hay spread on bare ground, an effort to help prevent erosion. This artist washed and dyed the pieces. She softened them enough for weaving and wove this shawl.
It is a good feeling that something pretty, or remembered or useful rises from the ashes of despair and we can all see through to their recovery and healing, as art surpasses the ashes.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


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It was a surprise party held at the Office of Emergency Services hall at Santa Rita Prison.  People crowded around the door waiting for former Sheriff Plummer to enter the building. Charlie holds "office" hours every Wednesday so it was easy to surprise  him. He was stunned and temporarily at a loss for words.
DSC08306 (Copy) Once he arrived, everyone began finding old friends they hadn't seen in years. I saw so many faces I recognized, but often the names wouldn't come to mind, so I decided to print none.  I'm going to let you guess who is who. You can always call Cynthia Crawford at the department for the answers.
DSC08308 (Copy)The place was mobbed and it was so much fun catching up on old friends, even if I didn't always know who I was talking to-at first. The way it worked,  we had about an hour to mingle and chat.
DSC08313 (Copy)There were many hugs and a constant buzz of happy voices.  Some were group hugs.
DSC08404 (Copy)Several officers took time off work to attend.
DSC08389 (Copy)I think everyone made it in time for the food.
DSC08329 (Copy)It was like a family reunion with stories and memories flowing.
DSC08319 (Copy)After all the camaraderie, we sat down to enjoy the food. I attempted to get a picture of each guest while they were still.
DSC08393 (Copy)These women put out the word, collected the money and greeted everyone who came. Events like this don't just happen as we all know.
DSC08369 (Copy)I've worked enough affairs like these to know that it takes many volunteer hands in the kitchen to feed 100 or more people, too.
DSC08396 (Copy)As one of many attendees, I don't know who planned and organized it. But our current Sheriff, Greg Ahern, presented Charlie with gifts from the group and I expect he was the ring leader.
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When Charlie got up to speak, that strong, commanding voice was still there, with a few cantankerous fighting words to keep us all laughing. An unforgettable character, his peers all over the state and the people who worked for him, hold him in high esteem. His accomplishments during his triple careers in law enforcement are innumerable. I came unprepared to re-hash his career. Let me just understate-that the man of the hour was a major force in Alameda County during challenging times. He left an indelible mark.

To see  the rest of the pictures I took click on the link below:


Wednesday, August 17, 2016


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I've blogged pink slime, before, but it is time to re-visit that subject in view of what happened to Michal and Reno Niemi.
As a reminder, Beef Products Incorporated produces a finely textured beef product known as "pink slime".  This ingredient is found in many fast food hamburgers. This controversial ingredient is not disclosed on labels. ABC news was sued for defamation for bringing the topic into the limelight. Hah! BPI lost, but the message was clear.
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Now enter the Niemi's. They are a hardworking couple, that do just about anything you ask them to do. It is their start-up HandyFamily Business. At the end of the day, they go home to cook and feed five kids. As a rare treat, they stopped and bought a bag of McDonald Hamburgers for the kids.  Somehow, one hamburger fell down and got under the seat. Months later, when the the truck needed some work, they pulled out the seat and there was this perfect little hamburger. No mold, no sign of decay, it was a bit smaller, because it shrank. But, there it was. A perfect little crispy burger as though you could pick it up and eat it.  It was nice and dry and looked like it was almost fresh. Hmmm!  I wonder what was in that burger? It makes you think twice before feeding your kids a fast food burger. If it can't grow bacteria, if it doesn't spoil, do you really want to feed it to your kids?

Saturday, August 13, 2016



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Old friends from Fremont visited me two days ago. They were camped nearby and called. With a little background, Sandy and David Barron were the youngest members of our square dancing group, the Kuntry Kuzzins back in the early 1970’s. Square Dancing is one of those activities that you have to drag your husband too in the beginning, then once he realizes how much fun it is, he’ll go without you if you’re sick. So we enjoyed them, often teasing Sandy that she was the “baby” of the club even though she was a mother of two. We were excited when they bought a house.  Sandy was always a bit shy. David, out going, from a large extended family. A nice young couple, building  the American Dream.
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We talked for several hours and I realized what an amazing couple they are.  They look the same.  Neither has aged much. David has less hair.  I didn’t know David was a disabled Marine from Viet Nam. It never came up.
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We checked through their pictures on the phone and I got to see the grandson David helped raise. Their son Mathew’s two beautiful daughters. A great-grandson. Neither Sandy nor Dave have a college education, but their daughter, Jennifer, has several degrees and a fantastic job. She worked during college days beside her mother as a motel maid, making beds and cleaning rooms.  Sandy worked outside the home for 22 years. But, even more revealing to me, Sandy and Dave took in nine foster children. I had two foster children and love them and have contact to this day.  But I was stunned at nine. What a commitment over all of those years.
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What a pleasure to sink back into a friendship, after a long gap. I guess you can tell I’m impressed. I enjoyed getting caught up with mutual friends from our club.  His sisters, brothers, step-father and some amazing tales. I didn’t know Sandy’s siblings.

They brought me flowers and I took pictures of the bouquet. This new computer is driving me nuts.  I could not get those pictures out of my camera. So, you’ll have to settle for a poem by David J. Irvine, called Ownership.

Man’s pet, the kitten, lives nine lives.
Man one: three score and ten.
Man claims the ownership of earth,
Of every glebe and glen.
What modest claim do kittens make?
The ownership of men.

It speaks to the bonds of love… for Sandy and David, those loving bonds are kids and grandkids and other people’s children.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


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A long time friend, Pam Munn came to stay with me for a couple weeks. We've been visiting old haunts in Calaveras County where she spent most of her life. We stopped in for a visit with her brother-in-law, Ken Munn and her nephew, John. Ken's dog is so protective that she couldn't get close enough to hug him.DSC08275 (Copy)

Ken is a character, and at 84 years old, hasn't lost his sense of humor and likes to "pull your leg."
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He likes to get out and water the plants in the morning. We enjoyed a day of balmy, beautiful weather. His place is remote and blessed with starry nights and peace and quiet. I discovered his place can grow olives, lemons, & cherries with no fear of deep frosts. The Elevation is equal with Mokelumne Hill.
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This is Roady, so named by ranchers who use the road. He hogs the road in the shade to soak up the warmth from the asphalt yet remain out of the sun. He moves slowly from obvious arthritis when you get him to move. Just another character revered by the neighbors.
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Colorful entrances beckon and guard. Beauty in an area so remote that few people get to see them.
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A colorful old barn with a stone foundation still in use. Makes me want to get out the paint brush and easel.
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Two flanking cupids guard the entrance to this ranch.
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Also repeated in an out building.
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I love the gnarled old shade giving tree. They belong together like old friends.
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No need for a locked mailbox in this country.

Ken's friend Betty stopped to visit and suggested we go to the Peach Festival in Copperopolis. We didn't see a sign and couldn't find it, so we drove around Lake Tulloch and made our way back to Murphys. It has been years since I've been in "Copper". I'm stuck at home with six more weeks of therapy, but guests get you out of your rut to places and things you've never seen. What a fun day.

Saturday, August 6, 2016



An innovative new bus that straddles two lanes of a freeway allows any vehicle 6.6 feet or under to speed under it as they both travel together. The bus stops the cars continue on.  I saw a video of the bus moving swiftly along the freeway with traffic zooming under it. Wow, I thought. It is now a reality.
You can go to Treehugger to watch a video of it in action.http://www.treehugger.com/public-transportation/straddle-bus-exists

It comes from China.

It's called a TEB, a Transit Explore Bus. It can travel at up to 60 km/h (37.2 mph) with passengers hopping on and off by way of ramps that fold outwards when the bus reaches a stop. Reportedly, the ETB could replace up to 40 conventional buses, save 800 tons of fuel and 2,480 tons of carbon emissions each year, all at around 16 percent of the cost of a subway.

The test bus does stretch over two lanes of traffic, though the model is only long enough for 300 passengers – the company imagines longer TEBs will carry as many as 1,400 people. Certainly could compete with planes if they can develop a higher speed TEB for cross-country highways.

The TEB-1 took to a test track in Qinhuangdao in China's Hebei Province, on August 2. This allowed for testing of the braking system, along with drag and power consumption.
China Xinhua News reports that the TEB has already received interest from governments in Brazil, France, India and Indonesia.

We should have them here on long haul freeways like Highway 5. All trucks would be directed to their own lanes. Lets go for California first!!

Monday, August 1, 2016


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Life is so condensed and exciting. My friend Michal Houston still has a house in Murphys but lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. She loves it there. She came to visit old friends for a whirlwind week. Michal, Madelaine Krska,  and I, Mary, Maddie and Michal once called ourselves the Three M's. Maddie is retired and living in Arizona. For lunch, we went to our favorite old haunt, Camps in Angels Camp, and toasted our missing friend. I expect someday, the three of us will find ourselves together once again.
Michal and I had a great time looking over pictures of a trip we took to China. It was such a refresher course to read over my old journal and remember fun things we did, and stuff we saw.

Michal and I with a Chinese woman in a roadside village. What would happen if a bus load of tourists pulled up to your house in Murphys and asked if the people could come in and talk to you and see inside your house, and ask you personal questions about your life and how you live?
She lives in the country and is allowed two children, instead of one. Her boys both graduated college. She lives in her family home where she and her husband grow cotton. They have a hog to butcher, and a pond filled with edible plants shared with neighbors. The tiny house had two rooms a large gas wok in the kitchen with a table;  one bedroom where the bed was in a corner with little room to walk around it.

Michal with the ladies of a small Naxi (Nah-shee) village, all dressed for town to meet with a government official. Everyone friendly and accommodating.

I looked for a picture I had of Michal watching a talented cryptographer showing how to paint Chinese script on a papyrus, but I couldn't find it. Here, in the lobby of one hotel, we are both fastened by an ancient, intricate, carving in jade.
We talked about the places on our bucket list, favorite or memorable experiences on the road. I love what famous travel host Rick Steves said about travel:  "You cannot be a bigot when you understand other cultures." He is so right.