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A Measure of Success

The email was a surprise and then it wasn’t. The man was in my scout troop in San Francisco thirty years ago and as a teen was not the best example of the principles of Scouting. In his first interaction with my son, Matt was left in tears. The man tracked me down on the Web in order to make amends. Although unnecessary from my point of view I recognized this step in recovery and agreed to help. I became a scoutmaster mostly to insure that Matt had a safe experience. Boys can

So Long Dick

An old family friend passed away about six weeks ago. Last weekend I flew to San Mateo, California and attended a memorial service for him on behalf of my family and, in particular, on behalf of my mother and my late father. Dick and his late wife Sally went back to 1950 with our family. Here are my remarks. Dick Patton was Dad’s best hunting and fishing parter. They met in 1950 when they were both waiting for the phone to ring in the Sims and Grupe real estate office in Stoc

Ashland

For the first time in about ten years, we visited Ashland, Oregon and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We enjoyed two Shakespeare plays, a musical by Steven Sondheim, and a dramatization of Lyndon Johnson’s struggles between civil rights, The Great Society, and the Vietnam War. Ashland is a wonderful setting for attending plays, shopping, eating, and relaxing. We “discovered” Ashland in 1973 when Lorraine had a business trip here in connection with her insurance career. I tag

I don’t know, Roku?

I often consider what normal features of daily life would be incomprehensible 20 or even 10 years ago – smart phones, tablets, online shopping, etc. DVD players were the coming thing 10 years ago and now are on their way to the electronics recycling center. One thing we now can no longer do without is streaming TV. I have Roku, the little set top box that allows online access to venerable Netflix and behemoth Amazon. (Be nice, they are watching.) It allows streaming of dozens

Family Gathering

I attended the funeral of my cousin Al in Colville, a small town in northeast Washington. Colville is in the mountains not far from what used to be the Columbia River. It’s just a lake now created by Grand Coulee Dam several hundred miles downstream. Timber and mining are still big and the big sawmill is a prominent feature as you drive through town. Al was much loved and highly regarded if the turnout was any indication. He was a fisherman whose day job was CPA and business

Passings

My cousin Al died this past week from cancer. He was three years older than I am and is the second cousin my age to die in a year and the third in three years. John was two years older than me and succumbed suddenly to an undiagnosed ailment. Phil was a year or so younger than I and did not survive a surgery. Last night my mother-in-law, Kay Howell died, aged 90. Her daughter Patti was with her at the end. Kay was a Marine in World War II, raised five kids, and had her own bu

Where is Norman Rockwell when we need him?

I got up at 6 a.m. to discover gifts on the front porch deposited by Santa’s helpers in the brown trucks. Saturday Evening Post of the 1920s. Santa does not drive a team of reindeer from his sleigh to land on rooftops and come down the chimney. His elves are all dressed in uniforms and drive brown trucks to deliver presents to good little boys and girls. Rockwell’s heirs could conjure up images of men and women elves in brown shorts snacking on cookies and drinking from bottl

Holiday Tradition

As a youngster one of the rituals exercised by my mother was, “David, would you go find some chairs please?” I then had to go about the house, not that it was very big, and find all the extra chairs and bring them one at a time to the dining room. For some reason this exercise annoyed me. It was natural that I should help with the dinner and finding chairs is about as low-skill as you can get. It’s not like the chairs are not done or cold or too salty. How simple can it be? W

Joshua Monday

With two of us, one can keep and eye on him while the other works remotely. Joshua has not one, not two, but three wi-fi networks at his house. I am partial to music from Pandora while Lorraine prefers watching yet another picky HGTV family buy or remodel a home. As if it was not all made up. One wonders what sort of information is being imprinted on this little mind. If I watch him alone I will plug into an audio book. We usually get dinner out of the deal, which means we ca

Home Movies

I just completed a couple of desktop home movie projects, another genre of the technology revolution. I was a participant in the growth of amateur movies starting with silent Super 8, graduating to sound, then to video tape, then to digital. Now I’ve done home movies, really good quality, on my phone. How great is that? Thomas Edison gave us the motion picture, but it was a commercial and industrial mystery with little being done by the amateur. Camera equipment was expensive

Christmas 2009

It’s been a year of premiers, the big events that mark chapters in life. Where to start? We all strolled the red carpet to meet Kellen Richard Wilma on August 29 (don’t ask what we wore). He is our first grandchild and he continues to enrich all our lives. He even has his own Facebook page. One forgets how, with an infant around, the conversation changes to erp rags, oneseys, and the contents of diapers. Lorraine and I have signed up to watch him one day a week when his mom g

Turkey Day

My ancestors were at the first one in 1621. Teenagers Elizabeth Tilley and John Howland survived that first winter when her parents died along with many of the other Mayflower passengers. The new settlers had much to be grateful for and not the least of the gratitude was toward their neighbors, the Indians. The Indians taught the English how to survive. Apparently the locals forgave the English for plundering their food stores upon stepping off the Mayflower. They were pretty

The New House

My wife Lorraine and I tagged along on this property hunting trip because it seemed like a harmless way to spend a Sunday. I hadn’t been up to Whidbey in 30 or 35 years. My son, Matt, a realtor, had been showing houses and lots to my sisters Patti and Sally for some time. We all had a mild fantasy of some day owning a large family vacation property together, but for me, it was mild fantasy, very mild. Who has that kind of money these days? I have never owned vacation property

The Birth of the Tank

The title and the photo are related, really. I grew up in Stockton, California which was home at the turn of the 20th Century to Benjamin Holt and his Holt Manufacturing Company. Holt invented a moveable track on agricultural tractors to cultivate the fertile but boggy peat soil of the San Joaquin Delta. He called this system the Caterpiller. In 1914 the British Army needed to move artillery through the mud of France and dispatched officers to the U.S. for an alternative to h

For Opening Day

(This is from last year.) Somewhere it is written that boys must join Little League where they will learn about physical fitness and teamwork and self reliance and the other manly virtues. Introducing boys to baseball is an ideal way to develop them into young men. This benefit is now extended to little girls so that virtue no longer belongs to men alone, but the premise is the same: Baseball is good for America. Little League is viewed as wholesome and American and baseball

Pickups I

I drive a pickup these days, but it isn’t my first. My dad bought our first pickup in 1965 for $100 from a Japanese gardener named K. Sera. It was a ’53 Chevy, 110,000 miles, with corner windows and a three-on-the-tree stick shift. Someone had hit the truck on the passenger side stoving in the door and smashing the window. Dad and I hammered the door out and he scared up some new glass. After we painted the thing red, I had a serviceable set of wheels to get to school. In tho

The News

In this case the news is of the family variety. My son Matt and his wife Tiffany announced to the family a couple weeks ago that she is expecting a baby next September. Yesterday they got her first sonogram. The funny thing is that if it’s a boy they might name him after his grandfathers David and Richard. The little boy could be Dick Wilma. #family

Good Wood

One of my distractions is the construction of furniture for me, my family, and friends. I have a small-but-respectable wood shop in what would be our garage/basement. My current project is two benches for my sister. These are designed to compliment a dining table I built for her several years ago. Sally moved to a new house with a smaller dining room. Benches make more sense than chairs and they stow out of the way. I have always enjoyed working with wood and, over the years,

The Annual Letter

I got such good comments about our letter for the holidays I thought I would post it here. The year 2008 has been a wonderful one for all of us. Our biggest news is that Matt and Tiffany got married in a lovely sunset ceremony in September followed by an even lovelier party ­– three days of party all told. One nice thing about all the runup and followup events is that we had time to meet their wide and delightful circle of friends. It was like that Bollywood feature Monsoon W