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Papa's House

This is the entire content of a blog that I had at myopera.com. I rescued it from there when they closed their blog service. Unfortunately, it looks like the reader comments did not survive the migration.

Papa's House


Monday, January 3, 2005 7:46:56 AM

This journal is a response to a suggestion by my grandchildren that we have a place where I could post "memories" (similar to those at "Bucketfull Of Memories") and they could add their own comments to them.

So here we are: my family and friends are welcome to post their comments here (most likely no one else will care much about what's here anyway).

Now the family and friends have their own journals:

Remember that anyone in the whole world (including the personnel director where you just applied for a job!) could possibly read what we post here, so let's not embarrass ourselves by what we say here.

We usually hang out somewhere around here:

Thanks A Lot!

Sunday, April 17, 2005 6:39:05 AM

Carol flew to Illinois today to visit folks there. It is the first time she's travelled by herself in maybe twenty years or more, so she was feeling both excitement and apprehension. Like so many of life's adventures, this trip had its bright spots and its dark moments. We really must say thank you to some of the people involved.

With deep and sincere gratitude we say "thanks a lot" to the Northwest Airlines pilot who gave service well beyond what would be normally expected. With a big dose of sarcasm we might say "well, thanks a lot" to some unthinking or uncaring passenger who caused the problem.

I suppose now I should tell the whole story.

When she landed in Minneapolis she was scheduled for about a two-hour stopover before her next flight, plenty of time to get some lunch and find her way to the departure gate for her connecting flight. Apparently, as people were leaving the plane one of the other passengers picked up Carol's carry-on bag and took it off the plane with them. It is a black canvas bag with wheels on one end and a telescoping handle at the other, like hundreds or thousands of similar ones you see in any busy airport. It is entirely conceivable that someone made an honest mistake in thinking it was one of their bags.

Unfortunately, whoever it was discovered that it wasn't their bag (or, if I wanted to be cynical: discovered there was nothing in it worth stealing) and simply abandoned it inside the terminal building. Were they too embarrassed to take the bag back to the gate agent and admit their mistake? Were they afraid they'd be accused of thievery or some terrorist plot? Were they too rushed to make their connecting flight to take the time?

Carol searched the plane from top to bottom and fore to aft looking for her bag. Finally the staff said that she'd have to leave the aircraft and work with the gate agent to try to locate the bag. Of course this person was efficient and explained that security precautions now require abandoned bags to be removed and there was no procedure by which a passenger might reclaim them.

Carol is an experienced traveller, and among those experiences were instances when checked baggage didn't arrive at the same time as the passengers it was supposed to be accompanying. We've even had checked baggage disappear completely and permanently, never to be seen again. She's learned to keep her medications and other essential items in her carry-on bag. And now it was gone.

She was feeling frantic before, but now it was sheer panic. About this time, the pilot was leaving the plane and overheard Carol's distress. He asked the gate agent to call the lost-and-found and enquire about the bag. Whoever answered the phone in that department was reluctant to give out any information but, since the pilot was insistent, finally admitted that there had been two unattended bags removed from the terminal during the day.

The pilot offered to help Carol get to lost-and-found. When she got there she was told that unattended bags were not opened or inspected, no effort was made to identify who they belonged to, and there was no way to release those bags -- they must be destroyed. The pilot intervened again and proved to be very persuasive; they eventually returned her bag.

Of course, the two hour stopover for lunch has been consumed by the search and the negotiations with the bureaucratic system. The pilot called the gate agent for her connecting flight and advised them that she had been delayed but would be boarding the flight. She rushed off to the gate -- without lunch.

I'd guess that the gate agent and the security people were doing their jobs and following all the rules. The pilot was caring about individual passengers and going beyond the requirements of the job. They all work together to provide us a safe, efficient transportation system and we're thankful for each of their contributions, but we really appreciate the extra care we received from that pilot.

My Days As An Eco-Terrorist

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 7:20:00 AM

The Fire

When I was in the first grade in school there was a vacant lot across the street from our house. It was a sometimes-interesting place to play. It must have been summer, because the grass and weeds had grown to about knee-high but were then mostly brown.

I was an explorer, an adventurer -- OK, I was just a normal little kid with curiosity and imagination -- who wanted to learn more about the world around me. Matches were interesting: fire in a neat, tidy, instant-on/instant-off little package. Light a match and blow it out. Light a match and use it to light a piece of paper, then blow them both out.

Of course, matches are contraband for folks this age, so I couldn't normally experiment with them. I watched others use them. One afternoon my brother and I managed to acquire some matches but we knew we would be in trouble if we tried to use them around the house. Into a pocket they went, and out the door we went.

We played in the lot across the street often enough that no one would think it unusual that we were there. By the time we hunkered down in the middle of the lot to conduct our experiments we were all but invisible anyway.

Do cigarette filters burn? What colors are the flames when you burn an old sock? What do the various plants smell like as they burn? All very scientific, you see. We learned much about fire that day, but the most important thing we learned is that small fires tend to become bigger; and although you can easily blow out a burning match or a small piece of paper, blowing on a larger fire only makes it burn better.

Now we had a problem: the little bit of grass that we burned was now igniting all its neighbors.


Hey look, here's an old cooking pot. We quickly placed it upside-down on top of the spreading flames and figured the problem was solved. Yup, the flames were totally contained. We'd had enough fire education for this round, so we left in a hurry.

As we headed around the side of the house so we could go in the back door (as we usually did) we could hear sirens in the distance. Of course the sirens got louder and closer, and soon we were watching out the window at the front of the house as two fire trucks and a police car stopped right across the street. It is amazing that I don't remember seeing the smoke and the licks of flames until after I saw the first fire truck.

Apparently the neighbor who noticed the smoke and called the fire department also noticed a couple boys had been playing there a few minutes before, because that policeman came knocking on the door of our house. Of course we got stern lectures from the policeman and firemen (but I also got to sit on top of the fire truck, pretty cool huh?), and my mother had to sign some papers, and there must surely have been some discipline imposed by the adults in our house. But what I really remember was the panic when we realized that you can't blow out all fires, and the fear-inspiring demeanor of a great-big policeman with a real gun.

Wanton Destruction

Two or three years later we lived in a different house, on a half-acre lot with a few fruit trees and plenty of room for us to play. This house was sort of at the edge of town, on an unpaved dead-end road with no curbs or sidewalks.

At the end of this road was a wooded area where we loved to conduct our adventures. There was a short trail of sorts that led into the heart of the woods. Along this trail, or more accurately: in the woods near this trail, grew berries of various kinds.

There were blackberries of course, and we enjoyed those greatly. But they grew in huge thickets that towered above us, and there were the thorns to deal with, and there always seemed to be spiderwebs on every branch. The wild strawberries had the most delicate flavor, but they were hard to find and never were there more than just enough to tease you.

And then there were huckleberries. These were never as plentiful as the blackberries, but were available in large enough quantities to be useful. If I'd pick the berries Mama would bake them into a lovely huckleberry pie. This was one of my favorite delights, still slightly warm from the oven.

Well, one day I was down in the woods picking huckleberries and I had about half the amount I needed in order to get me some pie. I was getting tired of standing there picking berries, and I figured I could more easily sit at home on the front porch and pick those berries in comfort. So I found a bush that was well-loaded and broke off a large branch of it right near the ground, then carried that branch back to the house.

I stripped off all the berries and took them into the house so the pie-baking process could begin. The house was filled with the aroma of baking pies when my father got home. He was never much of a fan of fruit pies, but he did seem to enjoy these.

My father noticed more than the aroma though: he saw that denuded huckleberry branch and called me outside. Discipline was often experienced as a brief dance around some adult who was swinging a belt or other implement, followed by a burning sensation on our backsides. This time I only remember what some would call a lecture. To me it seemed a calm and very grown-up, rational discussion; wherein I learned how it would be much better to leave the branch attached to the bush so that the bush could continue to grow and produce the next season's crop. It was a lesson I learned and appreciated well -- perhaps because I didn't have to sit gingerly for the next couple of days.

The Explosion

That same house, the wood at the end of the road: a few yards into the wood there was a huge ant-hill right in the middle of the trail. Now these ants didn't bite or sting, but we found them annoying nevertheless. Me and my gang (OK, it was just my brother and one of the other hooligans -- umm, I mean "kids" -- from down the street) had somehow acquired an explosive device. It wasn't just one of those firecrackers you could find over at the five-and-dime store, this was one of those really powerful ones. I can't remember whether it was a "cherry-bomb" or a famed "M-80", but we were sure it would blast that ant-hill clear to kingdom come.

We used a stick and poked it down into the top of that ant-hill to make a hole. Of course the ants were mightily disturbed by this and were swarming all over. We lit the fuse of our bomb and dropped it into the hole, then ran as if the devil himself were chasing us. Running and hollering and running and laughing and running and... waiting-for-the-bang while we were still running as fast as we could.


We turned and looked back to see dirt and twigs and leaves and ants flying in every direction. As the dust settled we approached cautiously to discover that, for all the fury and excitement, only about the top quarter of that ant-hill was gone. It still stood there menacingly right in the middle of the trail. Within a couple of weeks the ants had dutifully rebuilt it, and we continued to give it wide berth whenever we traveled that way.

Are You Serious?

Saturday, February 5, 2005 7:29:46 AM

Not Serious

One afternoon last week I returned from the men's room and commented to some of the folks in our office that the sign on the door as you entered there said "wet floors". Then I added "when got inside I noticed the floor was mostly dry so I sprinkled some water on it like the instructions said." Everybody had a good laugh, and later RK remarked how often a word can be both an adjective and a verb, with sometimes amusing ambiguities as a result. His example was the sign in the park that reads "Fine For Littering", which suggests that one could simply toss their refuse anywhere willy-nilly and that would be perfectly acceptable.

Not Serious?

We have had a part-time temporary staff member with us for the past few months. Today was her last day working for us. The boss ordered pizzas and we had an impromptu party to celebrate her success.

It was a relaxing time, with good conversation (which was almost completely free from any reference to our work). KM mentioned the recent hazing event at California State University, Chico, which resulted in the death of one of the students there. Then other folks discussed other, similar problems at that university and at others -- noting that many times people end up at hospitals (or morgues) with extremely high blood alcohol levels. Most agreed that the general attitude seemed to promote such activity as if it were a virtue.

RK said he just didn't understand why folks had to carry it to such an extreme; why couldn't they go just this far (drawing an imaginary boundary line on the table-top) and then say "that's enough"? KM responded "Well, what should we expect? For years now we've been told that self-expression is a good thing." There seemed to be general agreement with that statement.

Then I said "but isn't self-restraint a form of self-expression?" If I've willingly chosen not to engage in some activities am I not expressing my own desires and asserting my right to do so? The conversation paused for the briefest of moments; one of those awkward times when everyone seems to be trying figure out whether they should laugh, cry, or run away screaming. Then RK said "well, that's like the 'wet floors', isn't it?" Everyone chuckled and the conversation moved along.


I guess I'm kind of weird. I do tend to take most things in life quite seriously, and I'm sometimes frustrated when others don't. I'm not a talkative, socially active person. It takes quite a while for most people to get to know me, but once I've established a friendship I relax a bit and then I do make jokes and have a bit of fun occasionally. That's how we got to the "wet floors" incident.

I'm certain that everyone there clearly understood that I didn't *really* sprinkle water on the floor. But the assertion that self-restraint is actually a form of self-expression was not intended as a light, off-handed comment.

The Lesson

Don't try to conduct political or philosophical discussions at a party. Folks are interested in having a good time and it's just out of place there. Save the serious stuff for times and places where people are *expecting* to deal with them.

I guess that it's another one of those subtle social skills that I didn't master in kindergarten. Oh well, it hasn't killed me or caused me to kill anyone else. And I promise, the next time I'm invited to a party I'll try to stick to party-appropriate topics and remember that not all of life must be lived with my neck-tie on.

What Do You Want To Be If You Grow Up?

Saturday, January 29, 2005 10:39:58 PM

Some of my family recently forwarded another round of one of those e-mail chain letters that asks a bunch of personal questions and encourages you to fill in the answers and then forward it to all the folks you hope are your friends. These can be a fun way to get to know one another a little better. Sometimes, though, the questions provoke a response that requires more than the single-sentence answers that are typical of that e-mail format.

This one included this question: "What did you want to be when you were little?", which folks tended to interpret as "When you were little, what did you want to be when you grow up?". (It might actually be interesting to interpret it more literally.)

When I was young I wanted to become a nuclear physicist. When I mentioned that to my wife she wasn't surprised, she said "you probably could have, you know". Perhaps. I had expected a response more like "that's kinda weird, most kids want to be firemen or policemen or doctors; but a physicist?" She's probably learned not to give me such an opportunity.

Nevertheless, I can carry on here as if she had asked that question.

So how did I come to such a preposterous aspiration as nuclear physicist? It was the late '50s and the world was caught up in the excitement of the Atomic Age. We had a set of Compton's encyclopedias at our house, and a series of books written for kids about my age, the titles of which all began "All About "; All About Automobiles, All About Airplanes, and dozens more. My favorite at the time was "All About Atomic Energy". And the guys who got to do all the cool stuff in this exciting new Atomic Age were the "nuclear physicists".

So how did we, as a struggling young family, afford encyclopedias and sets of children's books? They may have been a gift from grandparents or other family (I just don't remember). What I **do** remember is that my father sometimes had extra jobs. Seems like he might have even sold encyclopedias for a while, and maybe he sold copper-clad pots and pans for a while. He was one of the dreaded door-to-door salesmen, like the Fuller brush man, and the Avon lady, and the vacuum-cleaner guy -- it was a much bigger part of our culture then.

The one thing I clearly remember him selling was a product more closely aligned with his interests and skills. It was the Porta-Shop. I remember him occasionally conducting his sales presentations at home and describing the wonders of this product. To emphasize its durability he would pack all the tools and components into the case and then jump up and down on top of the case. He was not a small man, so this made an impression (on me, at least).

So what did I want to be when I was little? I guess I sorta wanted to be one of the cool kids. Safety Patrol was almost cool, and that's about as close as I got.

Hey, I Really Made A Mistake

Sunday, January 23, 2005 2:40:00 AM

"I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong."

A few of you have heard me say that. Of course we all know that even the best of us is prone to error; I am not exempt.

Debbie asked us to send her a copy of her birth certificate. I looked up the County Recorder's office on-line, paid the fees, downloaded the forms, found a notary and had them notarized, then faxed the forms back to the Recorder's office. Great, all taken care of.

The next morning the Recorder's office called and said they could not find the record I had requested. Then we realized that Debbie wasn't born in that county, her sister was. OOPS!

Today I started all over. The other county doesn't offer on-line ordering, and processing mail requests typically takes 90 days. But you can visit their offices in person and pick up the documents within about an hour. Ordering the document from the state government only takes six weeks by mail, and they don't offer walk-in service at all.

So now it is up to Carol. She'll either have to make the two-hour drive into the big city and deal with parking, crowds, and waiting in line at the government offices (and the two-hour drive home again), or she'll get to find a notary, mail the forms, and wait, wait, wait.

I'm sorry, I made a mistake.

All Together Now

Tuesday, January 18, 2005 7:37:09 AM

 three kids at drinking fountain [IMG]
three kids at drinking fountain [IMG]

On a Saturday morning in mid-September 2001 we visited Martone Tot Lot in Modesto.

It was a good time, especially when Micah got thirsty. Noah lifted him up to reach the drinking fountain, while Kaylee pressed the button to keep the water flowing.

We've seen them argue and complain, but here is proof that it is not always that way.

I still can't remember why I might have been in that neigborhood on a Saturday morning. Oh well, might as well have some fun since we're here anyway.

A Walk In The Park

Wednesday, January 12, 2005 9:01:01 AM

Okay, it wasn't really a walk in the park; perhaps "romp" would be more accurate.

 children playing in park [IMG]
children playing in park [IMG]

 child running in park [IMG]
child running in park [IMG]

 children feeding ducks in park [IMG]
children feeding ducks in park [IMG]

 child playing on playground structure [IMG]
child playing on playground structure [IMG]

 child playing on playground structurek [IMG]
child playing on playground structurek [IMG]

In the afternoon of December 31, 2000 Kaylee and Micah took Jamie, Carol and I to Donnelly Park. Jamie supervised the feeding of the ducks and the running, bouncing, climbing, swinging, crawling, and jumping expedition through the playground, while I took several dozen photos.

Carol watched from the van, and I suspect Noah was at school.

The Nutty Nutcracker

Tuesday, January 11, 2005 8:00:06 AM

Remember when Noah sang and hummed the songs from his school's production of The Nutcracker Ballet until we all thought we'd go nuts? I do!

But we didn't; instead, we went to school to see his performance. It was fun!

Carol's Quilt For Kaylee

Monday, January 10, 2005 12:42:10 AM

Carol is making a quilt for Kaylee's new bedroom. She wanted to show Kaylee what it would look like, so we took a picture of it and posted it here.

 quilt [IMG]
quilt [IMG]

She also wanted to post a current picture of herself, so here it is:

 photo of Carol [IMG]
photo of Carol [IMG]

More photos are available at Flickr, but most are currently marked private so you may need an invitation from me to view them. Just ask me. :-)

Old And Older

Monday, January 3, 2005 9:01:56 AM

We (Carol and I) drove to Colorado for the Thanksgiving holiday recently. There are some interesting stories to tell about that trip, but most of them will wait for another time.

As we drove through Barstow and out toward Calico I described for Carol the time that Debbie, Noah, Kaylee, Micah, and I visited the Calico Ghost Town, and how we had driven over to Peggy Sue's Diner for a snack afterward. Carol and I stopped at Peggy Sue's for pie and coffee on this trip as well. Debbie had commented that she now had some appreciation for how her mother had felt a sense of panic watching her and her sister scramble over the rocks to explore all the hidden treasures. Oh! and all the questions: about the school, and the bathtub, and the train, and the glass house, and.... It was a fun visit. Even the "boring" drive afterward around the Marine Corps Supply Center and past those acres of solar collector panels provided some interesting things to remember later.

We also remembered our first visit to Calico, when Debbie was the little girl; how the wind blew that morning, and how Debbie impressed the operator of the Shooting Gallery with her marksmanship. These older memories enhance and are enriched by the newer ones, and now even more by their retelling here.

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