Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Today!

The wooden candy plate, centered with a miniature pumpkin and Otto's artistic arrangement of assorted small packets of M&Ms, is waiting by the door for small goblins. Now, at 9:pm, we no longer expect to greet our first trick-0r-treater. No one came last year either. Our neighborhood seems devoid of small children. Where are they all?

This photo is of great-grandson Jon a few years ago. He is now in kindergarten. This is just my attempt to remember halloweens as they used to be...

Monday, October 29, 2007

photo by Cedric Shock

Enjoy your Hallowe'en!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Elnor Ragan, 1914-2007
(This photo was at her 90th birthday celebration in 2004)

My beautiful sister-in-law died early this morning. Until a little over a year ago, when she fell and broke her hip, Elnor was super active. She taught violin, trained trios for competition, repaired stringed instruments for orchestras and schools, planted extensive gardens around her self-designed earth-sheltered house, went on Elder Hostel trips that involved long hikes, cared for her latest well-trained dog, etc.etc. I will miss her, although we didn't see each other often. She lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a long way from Berkeley, California. She was a lifelong peace activist and, as older sister, introduced Otto to her ideals, now his - and mine.

This week's Sunday Scribblings has the word "hospital" for its prompt. I don't need to stray from the subject of Elnor to find an amusing story. While Elnor was still in the hospital with her broken hip, her daughter Lenore asked her what she might want that would make her happier. What she wanted was her violin! Not flowers or pretty nightgowns or goodies to eat. She couldn't play it, but having it nearby gave her a sense of well-being.

Yes, that's the whole of my Sunday Scribbling. Do I get an award for brevity?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

If I Were Queen Of The World

Sunday Scribblings( Prompt-"If I were king or queen of the world")
The first thing that I would do, were I queen of the world, would to make breakfast for the king. Just kidding! Otto and I have been working with the same motivations for so long (66 years) that I can't imagine going solo with what have always been our shared dreams. Granddaughter Daria took the above picture (which I have abridged) at the August Smith reunion and birthday parties, showing that sometimes we even are arrayed like king and queen.

I will assume that we have but one lifetime to accomplish at least one of our many goals, and we would almost surely choose the one with the most urgency - global warming. It isn't that we would wish to ignore our dreams of world peace and universal brother/sisterhood, for instance. But to neglect the accelerating rate of global warming would be to exacerbate the rest of earth's problems in the struggles for survival that would follow. The naysayers to the dangers of global warming don't understand the nature of positive feedback systems. Global warming is not just a steady state of increase in earth's heat. It is an ever increasing rate of acceleration. If any readers of this wish to joust with me on these points, feel free to do so. I would welcome the opportunity to explain further.

I am assuming that if we are Queen and King of the world we would have a rather large treasury. From this treasury I would draw enough money to build solar-thermal electric power plants in desert areas - such as the Gran Desierto of northern Mexico, the Yuma desert of Arizona, the Sahara and Gobi deserts. The power plants would be the conventional steam turbines now used, with the schematic below showing a more economical design than any current solar plant. Low-cost parabolic trough concentrators would boil water. The wet steam would then be dried and superheated by the focused solar light of tracking heliostats..
This would significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuels. It would be a first step toward slowing the accelerating pace of global warming before it reaches the point of no return.

This leaves the problem of transportation. I trust that we are not the only ones tackling global warming issues. Very good work is being done to improve batteries, which would make electric cars extremely desirable, and an electric car can be plugged into the electric energy generated by the afore-mentioned solar power plants.

Oh, yes. I wasn't entirely kidding about making breakfast for the king. Most days I do just that. But most nights the king brings me a dish of mint chocolate chip ice cream at bedtime. Who could ask for more?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

First Job

Kristin's photo of a jellyfish
at the Monterey Aquarium
First job, worst job, dream job.

This prompt from Sunday Scribblings must extract a confession from me: I have seldom had a paying job. None-the-less I have had a busy and productive life. I have always been part of a cooperative, communal family
who paid little attention to which member brought home the actual cash. This was true of my birth family and of the one that Otto and I created after our marriage 66 years ago.

My first job “professional” job was undertaken when I was somewhere between 11 and 14 years old. I know it was within that time because my family lived on McKendrie street during those depression years (1932-1935). My father represented Fibreboard Products in a large area that stretched from San Jose to Monterey, and helped create boxes in which to ship everything from Santa Clara dried prunes and apricots to sardine cans from Monterey with its extensive sardine harvests. My ever-changing career hopes had turned from astronomer, aviator, cartoonist or movie maker to a fairly steady desire to be an artist - any kind of artist including commercial art.

One of Daddy’s sardine canneries needed a logo for their shipping boxes, and Daddy asked me if I might like to design one. Ever the over-confident older child, I was sure I could do so - and did design one, after the use of much poster board and India ink. It was adopted by the cannery for shipping Portola brand sardines. I don’t remember whether or not I was paid for my work.

Skip over many years to the near extinction of sardines in Monterey Bay and the advent of the magnificent Monterey Aquarium in the old Portola cannery. The aquarium underwent several remodelings as it continually improved. After one such remodeling several years ago, we took a visiting grandchild to see it - and - tremendous surprise! There, at the entrance to the aquarium, was my Portola sardines logo enlarged to wall size!

Susan photographs jellyfish at
Monterey Aquarium
Last August several folk at our family reunion spent an afternoon at the aquarium. The picture below is the only picture that I currently have of my artwor. Daria, who is the photographer being photographed as she arranged her brother and children in front of it, has not yet sent her photograph of the logo and of them to me.

Looking at it now, I recall the reason for those squared ESSes at the edges: I couldn’t figure out how to make even curves that didn’t lean the letters one way or another. And why do some of the letters have serifs while others in the same word are plain block letters? Someone must have thought it was artistry not ignorance.

No time to go into other jobs I have had if this is to be posted by the deadline...

Except to say that I must now get busy with another computer job for Otto’s and my joint project of energy conservation and reducing global warming. I do circuit diagrams and schematics for his various innovations. Here is my schematic of a more effective solar thermal power plant.
I wish you happiness in the week ahead!

Friday, October 5, 2007

The best laid plans...

I had such wonderful plans for this week... To be sure, I started out fairly tired after cooking a birthday dinner for Joni (whose birthday it was) and Sterling and Roxanne. It was fun, though, and we had a good visit. Then on Monday I went to a meeting of the Writers' workshop, which lasted much of the afternoon. (good meeting, too).

But so what? I had two days to rest up before the BIG event. On Thursday I planned to attend, for the first time since high school graduation, a reunion of the class of 1948. I had recently renewed correspondence with two of my high school friends who urged me to be there. So I sent the money for very expensive dinners for Otto and me, planned what to wear, rubbed on lots of lotion to try to get rid of wrinkles, etc. etc.

Then guess what happened? I got out of bed Tuesday morning, called Otto because I was feeling weak, then, when I tried to walk, my knees suddenly turned to water and I slithered to the floor (slithered because Otto moderated my fall although he couldn't stop it. For the very first time in my life I was taken to Kaiser hospital by ambulance, where I was kept until yesterday (Thursday) afternoon.
I also had a meeting of my Book Discussion Group scheduled for Friday (today) for which I had hurried to read Inheritance of Loss which I had been slow to acquire. But we had to go to Kaiser for another test, so I missed that one too. At least Kaiser and I know that I wasn't having a heart attack (determined after every sort of test they could think of)!