Archive for the ‘coyotes’ Category

Tucson, Mid-July

July 10, 2017

It’s 110° and the clouds are building up over the mountains for our anticipated monsoons, but the humidity is only 9%, so guess it won’t rain tonight.  Yesterday evening had eight drops of rain on my kitchen window!

For the Fourth of July we had BBQ with another family (also with a grandmother included).  The family room had an enormous television on the entire time with a miscellaneous movie.  Some of the kids watched it for ten minutes or so.  The living room was taken up by a jumping castle, kinda like this one.  Six kids, from three to eleven, make an incredible din!

Dinner.  It was much too hot to eat outside so we adults got the dining room, the kids the breakfast room.  The father smokes his own pork, and the pulled pork was incredible delicious. (I didn’t try the ribs.)  My daughter made sangria and marvelous hors d’oeuvres (prosciutto spread with boursin, wrapped around asparagus), I brought watermelon with a cute sculpture on top (which I copied from an internet video, but it’s no longer there!) all of which the kids devoured, and there was coleslaw and a potato salad and a red-white-and-blue cake which I didn’t even taste, I was so full.

Then fireworks in the street.  (In Arizona you’re only allowed fireworks that stay on the ground, so sparklers and smoke bombs are popular.)  After which we drove to a school parking lot above Naranja Park, so we didn’t have to battle for parking, and watched the fireworks with about a dozen other clever families, all with camp chairs.

The coyote wandered by my fence yesterday afternoon, which is no doubt why the ground squirrels are not agilely climbing over my fence today to dine on the wandering jew, with mint for dessert.  (Oops – until just now!)

There was a cactus  longhorn beetle at my door yesterday.  Then are very large, and eat chollas and prickly pear cacti.

Had the grandsons (six and eight) over Friday afternoon, as the rental agency had a guy fixing the leak in the drip system. (! I thought I’d have to do it, so spent two days digging a hole to the PVC pipe in this hard hard dirt.)  The boys got into my games cabinet and I taught them pente, mastermind, and backgammon.  The youngest wants to play monopoly all of the time, but I’ve gotten tired of it.  We played battleship, jenga, and Jamaican-style dominoes at their house the other day.  (You can only spend so much time in the pool!)


To get my mind off politics, and instead of streaming any more TV series in the evening (except for binging on Anne With an E, and the movie Okja), had read a few scifi.  Got an audio book from the library, an oldie, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein (used to read a lot of his novels), about a lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth.  Interesting look at the future.  The guy who does the reading does the many accents very well.  I usually fell asleep to it, then had to figure where I left off.

Next read The Mote in God’s Eye, by Niven and Pournelle, about the first contact between humanity and an alien species.  Creative take on aliens (not limited to two arms and two legs, as the aliens in the “gateway drug”, Star Trek, which were restricted due to budget – except for the tribbles).  Heinlein described the story as “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.”

Then I finally got A Man Called Ove,  an international bestseller, recently translated from Swedish, from the library as CD’s, as I enjoy someone reading to me at night.  Loved it!  Laughed and cried (numerous tissues).  Highly recommend it.  It’s now a movie, nominated for two Academy Awards, streaming on Netflix.  Wonder if I’d like that as much as the book…

The New York Times had an article, Summer Reading Books: The Ties That Bind Colleges (college-summer-reading), last Sunday.  Shall put a number of the recommended books (Just Mercy, Hillbilly Elegy, and possibly Silence, which is now a movie, as well as others) on my request list at the library after I get back from my next trip, visiting cousins in Colorado.


Speaking of which, also in the Times, was a commentary, The Problem With Participatory Democracy Is the Participants.  I was insulted.  You may wish to read it and comment: participatory-democracy

Back in The Heat

June 28, 2017

Seen Today

A quail with two young’uns crossing the road.  A ground squirrel climbing up the welded wire into my yard to break off pieces of my purple wandering jew; would have thought that it was poisonous. A pair of pyrrhuloxias on the fence.  (Photo of the ground squirrel on the other side of the fence with branch, and a pyrrhuloxia on the purple sweet potato vine.)

A gila woodpecker at the birdbath.  A dove on the barrel cactus eating the fruit.  A coyote behind my  yard chasing (unsuccessfully) the ground squirrels.  (Sorry – bad photo; he was moving fast.)  This hot (106° today) desert is home to many.  But the neighbor’s mesquite has rained seed pods all over; where are the javelina and deer who should be eating them?

My housesitter found a baby snake in the house (how did it get in?), said it refused to be caught, so she had to kill it and save its body for me.  It appears to be a baby kingsnake.

Missed so much last week!  Oro Valley police beat said that one woman was ticketed for illegally making a U-turn, and three teenagers were caught with a bong.

And hadn’t been watching the national news either.  Never heard of Kim Kardashian’s blackface controversy.  Nor of Randy Rainbow’s “Covfefe: The Broadway Medley.”  (He’s A Bit Much, but he has a nice voice, and you can google it.) Or that Jared Kushner finally speaks: Jared Kushner Speaks.

But yes, I do know that Bill Cosby got off, and that the Congressional Budget Office said of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 that The Senate bill would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million in 2026 relative to the number under current law.

(Have time to catch up on my blogs ’cause my daughter’s family is escaping the heat with another family in the White Mountains for a few days.)


July 11, 2015

I shall be teaching two computer classes in the fall – CIS (Computer Information Systems – this class is mostly Excel) and  CAD (Computer Aided Drafting).  I’m getting the books to peruse, and am setting up my computer.  Had an old version of Windows (Vista – yeah, yeah, from just after the mastodons died) and upgraded affordably to Windows 8.  Had to buy a portable hard drive to save my personal information in case the hard drive was reformatted.  Downloading Windows took a couple of hours.  But when I started to download 4.02 GB of AutoCAD (free for instructors), the screen displayed 691 days 14 hours remaining.  Boy, does someone have a sense of humor!  It only took 14 hours…

When Windows upgraded, however, it threw away my Microsoft Office, which contained Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which I need for CIS, so I had to download a new Microsoft Office (also free for instructors).  Another problem was that my McAfee didn’t work.  I had paid for that so I let the technician (who I was delighted to find was female) take over my computer remotely to rectify the problem.  What a way to spend a weekend.


Got up this morning, opened the drapes, and went back to bed to listen to the news.  A huge smash! as what appeared to be a dove crashed into the glass door, turned around and glided over the rosemary to the small wash.  A large hawk in pursuit flapped by.  A while later I went to wash off the patio – there was blood and guts and feces splattered about.  That dove was doomed.

Yesterday morning I was sitting in bed reading the newspaper when a juvenile bobcat looked in the door,  but it didn’t stop for photographs.

Three times during the past week I have gone out back in the morning, startling a deer munching on mesquite pods under the large mesquite tree. They are so skittish!

When this year’s pack of coyotes go at it a few times a day (now at 4:30 pm) they all sound young – a lot of yipping, but no soulful howls, no gravitas.

Omar Sharif

Doctor Z…died at 83.   We all fell in love with him as Doctor Zhivago, but did you know that he was also one of the world’s top 50 contact bridge players?  I used to read his newspaper bridge column.  You can buy an Omar Sharif Bridge App (video game), or buy one of his books on bridge or bridge instructions.

Was disappointed to discover that he did not lead tours down the Nile, as
Egypt with Omar Sharif would have you believe.  I pictured him on the boat, talking about the mysteries of the Egyptian pyramids, as he did with Jane Pauley in April 1988, and teaching bridge in the evening.

He was born Michel Chalhoub, an Egyptian Catholic, but converted to Islam to marry an Egyptian actress.   They were married for 12 years.  He made Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand during the Six Day War, and when he had an affair with her (a Jew!) Egypt almost took away his citizenship.  (Barbra Streisand tried to make light of it. “Egypt angry!” she said. “You should hear what my Aunt Sarah said!”)


Felt punk the other day, fluish but with what felt like cracked ribs on my left side.  Got a sub for the next day and saw my doctor who sent me for X-rays. Two hours later he called and told me that I have pneumonia!  I got online and discovered that you can contact it without even being in a hospital!   You can get pneumonia when you are in a hospital or nursing home. This is called healthcare-associated pneumonia.  You can also get it in your daily life, such as at school or work. This is called community-associated pneumonia.1

Plus, there are many strains, so the pneumonia shot, which provides immunity against the most common 23 strains of streptococcus pneumonia,2 which I had gotten, did not hit the bullseye.  (Like the flu shot that I had paid a few bucks for last year, only to pick up the flu from my grandkids at Christmas.) More than a hundred “bugs” (bacteria, viruses and fungi) can cause community-acquired pneumonia.2 Walking pneumonia (mycoplasma pneumoniae), which I guess I have, is most common in late summer and fall [and is] spread in families, schools and institutions…3

Was prescribed levofloxacin, which is also good for anthrax and plague, so I’m covered.  But, according to the pharmacist’s Medication Guide, the meds can cause photosensitivity (which is not being afraid of selfies, but being sun sensitive, a double whammy for blondes), tendon rupture or swelling (which worries me as my shoulder has finally healed) as well as cause serious side effects that can result in death.  Super.  Teaching is a dangerous profession.


The Dead Animal Museum

April 10, 2015

dead animal museumArizona always does so well in the news.  Now Tucson’s Dead Animal Museum (also known as the International Wildlife Museum) is getting zinged.  Don’t go there! 

Many many many years ago I had taken my visiting mother-in-law on an Opera Dames Tucson Annual Home Tour.  One of the foothills homes had a gymnasium-sized building next to the house filled with stuffed dead animals!  I was appalled.   Then, apparently, the owner decided that he could make money displaying his trophies, so he had a fake-medieval castle built on the west side of town and charged $6 to get in.  He even has dead penguins.  Who shots penguins?  Read the article.

TUCSON — ON the outskirts of this city stands a fake-medieval castle with an elk statue atop its battlements. In the courtyard is a bronze relief of a man shouldering his rifle — one C. J. McElroy, a Texan who founded both this International Wildlife Museum in 1988 and, before that, in the early 1970s, Safari Club International, the trophy hunters’ group that’s headquartered here.

…the McElroy Hall, where hundreds of disembodied heads, many from animals shot by the museum’s founder, are lined up in long rows on knotty pine walls. The room is a monument to the scale of these kills. (Mr. McElroy reportedly took more than 100 safaris on six continents; his obituary says he claimed 425 trophies in the safari club’s record book.)

More About SF

When I was in San Francisco I saw my nephew a few times.  At one point, we were in a Japanese restaurant owned by a friend of his, and she joined us at our table to say that she had to move the restaurant because the rent had gone up.  So we discussed gentrification and how the Google people in SF (who have their own free bus to the office compound), are able to pay higher rents so the price of everything has gone up.  Mom and Pop restaurants (the one we were in only had six tables) are being replaced by high-end bars, small groceries by high-priced gourmet food, and so on.  My nephew and his girlfriend will probably have to move out of the city, and he’ll miss being able to walk everywhere. Anyway, last Sunday there was an article in the Times on a similar theme:

Seen today

As I was on the phone at my desk this morning two young coyotes ambled across the driveway.  Probably the twins that had been in the yard last July.1  When I got to the college half a dozen students were staring up into a mesquite tree; there was a great-horned owl staring down at them.  (Aside: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… well, actually, just in the house my kids were raised in, a great-horned owl sat on the back wall.  I brought both of the dogs in so they wouldn’t bother it and was watching the owl from the sliding door when I looked down – both dogs, the cat, and both kids were staring, fascinated, at the owl too.)

Pima College 

Our beneficent governor has signed a bill which cuts $166M from K-12, cuts $99M from our three universities, and cuts all state funding for Pima and Maricopa community colleges for 2016.  (Regarding taxes, in Arizona if you earn between  $50K and  $150K you pay 4.24%; over that you pay 4.54%.  That hasn’t changed ’cause it’s so fair.)  Guess you can tell that he and the most of the legislature are Republicans.

pieI looked into the 2014 budget (couldn’t find 2015) for Pima College: Instruction + Academic Support get 33% of the pie. Student Services + Institutional Support (40%) = 53%.  And here I thought that the college was here for academics.  Silly me.

Then I saw an article in Sunday’s Times, 

Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.

Their administrators outnumber the faculty members, 12,183 to 12,019!



November 14, 2014

This morning as I was warmly ensconced in my down quilt, drinking a latte and listening to the news ( – does that only anger liberals?), my cat sat up, at attention. I noticed something just beyond my back yard fence, so I went into the bathroom (with an unobstructed view of the area under the large mesquite tree).  Three healthy coyotes were checking out the area, urinating as necessary over rival scents. Appeared to be a mom and dad and teen. I’ve never seen more than two coyotes together in my yard before (they were the two very young siblings1). No wonder the cat has been staying indoors so much lately.

Seen Today
At the college the cleaning woman had the door open to the cleaning supply closet near our classroom. On the top shelf were four healthy philodendrons (the only indoor plant my mother could grow), for decoration.

Speaking of cleaning, I’ve done a lot recently since my house has gone onto the market. Paid to have the windows professionally cleaned, and paid my friend’s housekeeper to help me one day with yearly maintenance on the deck, but didn’t want to get the carpet cleaned, as only the stairs and the hallway needed it.  I had finished a carpet cleaning spray for spots that hardly worked and took a lot of elbow grease. Online found a formula of peroxide and baking soda. Worked great, although with a modicum of scrubbing with a towel. Only problem was the baking soda doesn’t seem to dissolve well enough, and the sprayer kept clogging.

Saturday decided to empty my bedroom closet to oil the wood shelves which were incredibly dusty.  Was wearing my dreadful work shorts and tattered T-shirt and had just started unloading the  bottom shelf when the front door opened to a real estate agent and her client! She had called but I guess I had been upstairs eating breakfast and missed it. Oh well – luckily the rest of the house was clean except for dirty breakfast dishes.  I went back to work and could hear her extolling the virtues of the house (she must have been a cheerleader in high school), but her client seemed non-committal.  Darn.

Corporate Sponsors

Had to copy this from a friend’s Facebook page:



An interesting article in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago2 about a 40-year-old Swiss woman, Sarah Marquis, who hiked 10,000 miles (!).

…For that trip, Marquis lined up her first sponsor, the North Face. She doesn’t think she impressed the company by her pitch. She believes it gave her a few backpacks, a couple of tents and some clothes because, she said, “when I told them what I was going to do, they thought, We can’t let that little thing go out without gear.” To supplement the inadequate supply of noodles she could carry, Marquis brought a slingshot, a blow gun, some wire to make snares and a net for catching insects. In the warm months, Marquis ate goannas, geckos and bearded dragons. In the cold months, when the reptiles hid, she subsisted on an Aboriginal standby, witchetty grubs — white, caterpillar-size moth larvae that live in the roots of Mulga trees. (Raw, Marquis said, they taste like unsweetened condensed milk; seared in hot sand, they crisp up nicely.) Throughout, Marquis tried to minimize human contact. She hid her femininity with loose clothes, big sunglasses, hair piled up in a hat. When water was scarce, she collected condensation, either by digging a deep hole and lining the cool bottom with plastic or by tying a tarp around a bush. If those techniques didn’t yield enough liquid — and they rarely did — she drank snake blood. At night Marquis slept close to the trunks of trees, touching the bark in a way that she describes as “almost carnal.” She fell in love with a particular twisted and wind-bent Western myall tree on Australia’s Nullarbor Plain…

The rest of Marquis’s trip was not all Zen bliss. Seven months into the walk, she lost a molar. Her gum abscessed, and the attendant infection, which couldn’t be controlled with the antibiotics, started moving down her neck, and she had to be evacuated from Mongolia. Marquis returned to the precise G.P.S. coordinates she left and made it to China, where, one day, some children followed her. She sang with them and taught them how to set up her tent — and then they stole her BlackBerry. In Laos, drug dealers descended on Marquis’s camp one night, firing their automatic weapons into the air. Soon after that, Marquis contracted dengue fever. She tied her left leg to a tree so she wouldn’t wander off in her delirium and drown herself in a river…

Of course, if you don’t die — well, then the experience of extreme travel is fantastic. After swimming across a river infested with crocodiles, Marquis wrote that every time she finds herself in the bush, “my happiness increases tenfold.”


Family History

September 3, 2014

roadtrek-190-simplicity-interior-7dMy cousins, H and M, have been doing research into our Blair family roots.  They drove in their Roadtrek 190 camper van (outfitted like a boat, with everything having a place – like this photo from the Net) to Kansas:

We stopped in Girard, KS where your great Grandparents Blair, Joseph Sydney Blair and his wife Esther A McClure Blair lived and are buried. We found their graves, hers quite large, his a small flat stone. She died at age 38 of “consumption”. We went to the Carnegie library in town and got a lot of information about Sydney and Esther, including their obits and the land plat info.

We drove out to the land, which is now a rectangle of trees and flat fertile farmed land. We went into the woods where we knew the house was and Hal found the remaining concrete foundation walls which appeared to be two buildings, the first about 12 by 27 feet. The second building behind had two openings on each side, which made it more likely a barn. Hal took many pictures, which was hard, as there were trees and bushes growing up in the middle of the foundation. We took a small piece of the concrete.

There is a publication called the Seeker which is published by the Girard Geneological Society and it is on microfiche as were all the issues of the local newspaper. Sydney was a trustee for the local high school. Hal is now reading Esther McClure’s letters again to pull some of the new information we have. It is so fun to unravel the puzzles of the past.

Here are the transcriptions:

The Letters of Esther McClure

Several years ago, Aunt Rosalie Denyes gave me a shoebox full of old family letters written to Sydney Blair almost 125 years ago. She said that she had read some of them and to not expect much, just news of people long forgotten.

In the summer of 2003, I started transcribing them. It wasn’t easy. Most of the letters are in very poor condition. One wonders how they could have survived as long as they did, occupying forgotten corners of attics and garages.

The first letters I picked were from a woman named Esther McClure in Cutler, Illinois to Sydney Blair in Girard, Kansas. Here is her story, pieced together from these letters and other sources:

Esther and Sydney were 27 years old in the spring of 1880, living in Cutler, Illinois with their families and were talking of getting married. Sydney went with others to Kansas to find land and make a new life. Esther remained behind to help on her father’s farm north of Cutler in a prairie known, as it is today, as Six Mile. She kept house for her father, at least two brothers, and hired hands. Her mother was dead.

It was no doubt a quite self sufficient farm. She cooked using a coal stove. They raised crops and animals, made their own soap, and even wove their own carpets.

Presumably Sydney went to Kansas by rail. It wasn’t by horse because he didn’t have one when he got there. However, he did have money and bought some land outside of Girard a few miles from the railroad.

The letters contain a lot of trivial and tragic news about people long gone. There are births, baptisms, sicknesses, and deaths. The U.S. Mail obviously played a vital role for separated families and friends. The letters also reveal an interesting portrait of pre-industrial life on the edge of the frontier. Ordinary life.

Sydney thought “Kansas was the place to start at the foot of the ladder.” It was a rougher life than in Cutler, but he liked it there. By December of 1880, he had a “little black shanty” with a living area measuring 16 X 15. The primitiveness didn’t seem to bother Essie, who said “as far as rough times goes I have always thought a person can have that anywhere.” She was not interested in staying where she was—“Sometimes I think no person could hire me to live in SixMile”.

In early summer of 1881, Joseph Sydney Blair came back to Cutler and married Esther McClure on Monday, July 4, 1881. They moved to Kansas where they had three children—Harry McClure Blair in 1882, John Elva Blair  in 1884, and Ivan Sydney Blair in 1886. She was a small woman weighing less than a hundred pounds and preferred to be called “Essie”. She was devoted—to her family, her friends, and to Sydney. She died in Kansas on Monday, August 15, 1892. She was 39. Grandpa (John) Blair was 8. As far as I know, no stories about her were ever told. However, from these letters you can see a devoted, caring, and practical woman with common sense and a dry wit who is about to leave the only home she has ever known to go to Kansas, about which she knows nothing.

For the record, John Elva Blair was father to Rosalie Blair Denyes, Esther Blair Groves, Richard Blair [my father], Margaret Jane Blair Stimson, and Elva Blair Dewsbury.

Hal Stimson, 12-21-2003

Esther and Sydney knew each other in Cutler and were planning to get married. They were 27 years old in the spring of 1880. Their families were well acquainted. They also knew people in Kansas. Sydney went to Kansas in March of 18801 without much to get started, only a little money. I don’t know how he got there but it wasn’t by horse. In Kansas, a friend (Mr. Shaw) lends him “a beast to ride”, presumably a mule. They were married in Cutler on Monday, July 4, 1881. She refers to Sydney in her letters as “my dearest friend.”

Essie remained in Cutler, Illinois living in an area known as Six Mile, an area prairie north of Cutler—presumably six miles north. He thought “Kansas was the place to start at the foot of the ladder.” It was a rougher life than in Cutler, but he likes it there. By December of 1880, he is living in a “little black shanty” measuring 16 X 15. The primitiveness doesn’t seem to bother Essie, who says “as far as rough times goes I have always thought a person can have that anywhere.” She is not interested in staying where she is—“ Sometimes I think no person could hire me to live in SixMile”.

Essie’s mother is dead so the work in the home at her father’s farm fell upon her.

The work was obviously hard, and athough she doesn’t complain about it she does tell about it:

“[I] Have been cleaning kitchen today, [I] sat down to supper got up [and] walked to & from prayer meeting[,] read[,] up & washed dishes, made yeast, caked sausage for breakfast, had worship and sat down to write at half past nine. Will tell you something I did to day & never did before, I forget to eat my dinner to day.” 12-1-1880

“It was 20 degrees below zero, but we had 8 persons for dinner besides our own family (18 in all), My! But it was fearful work, getting dinner, but it had to be done” (1-3-1881)

“I must sleep as much as I can get for my work seems to increase instead of decrease. Father has hired Albert Harris for a mo[nth]. I asked him not to but he went ahead and hired [him]. I told father I had all the work on hands I could possibly do and not more to[o]; but we can not get thing[s] to go the way we would like sometimes. (3-22-1881)

She makes her own soap.

You will please[e] excuse me for scribbling. [I] am in a great hurry, the men have to eat their supper yet. How I do not wa[n]t you to think I am making a poor mouth to try to make you pittie me; not by any means for I have much to be thankful for. I just want you to have some idea of the reason why I delayed for so long.(6-4-1881)

In January of 1881 Sydney is having second thoughts about Kansas and has talked about returning to Cutler. The very practical Essie wrote to him:

“I don’t work so extreemly hard every day as I did the day [I] forgot to eat dinner; you might come out next summer and see for your self what prospects are. I do

not want you to sell your place[.] I feel like I have lived in Six Mile as long as I

want to and longer. Sydney, I know if we ask our Heavenly Father to make a way for us He will: let us trust him. If you put up a kitchen before I go out put up a shade by all means, looks does not concern me as much as cents.”

Sydney learns a trade in Kansas, possibly to be a carpenter.

Her father had help on the farm. Men were hired to butcher the swine. There were hands hired to do the work. Essie talks about making dinner for “four men besides our own hired hand.”

She enjoys music and singing, talked about “singings” and parties where “Davie and Elmer” brought their fiddles. She wrote “the singings are still thriving”. She writes of a woman, “She thinks we have splendid singings.”

She regularly attends church and her religion, Presbyterian, is obviously important to her. However, any church is better than no church. In writing about going to Kansas she says “I guess we will have to be either Methodist or Baptist, but keep up heart.” She laments that Christians cannot agree. There is a lot of discord within her church, but she takes it well. “I did not know it [Sunday School] was to be so interesting or I would have sent a telegram for you to attend.” She reports it started off with a “general explosion” and became “an amusing, interesting meeting.” She did not take part in the argument. “It is a shame for Christian[s] to quarrel so. Then there was another quarrel last Sab. Morn before Sab. School just after S.S. [Sunday School] was over. Wm. Blair got up and said Maynard would [be] Superintend S.S. next Sab., that J.C. Blair had no right to take his place. I think it would have been better for all parties if he had spoken in a quieter and milder way. This is the day [the] Presbytery meets … It is raining and very disagreeable.” (4-25-1881)

Mostly, however, church life was peaceful and a central part of their lives: “This is the week of prayer, the two churches have agreed to unite (sing the old version) [There] will be meetings at the churches alternately in the day time, and every night at Cutler School house.” (1-3-81)

She also wants Sydney to join a church in Kansas: “Have you been to church since you left home?” (3-27-1880)

There are parties where they sing, but probably don’t dance.

Because of the distances, when she visits people, she stays with them.

The McClures own a loom, which is used to weave carpets. She weaves one for Sydney in Kansas.

She’s small, weighing only 99 pounds. She even signs her letters, “Your Little Pet”. A scale was somewhat a novelty. She reports the weights of her friends.

Dry sense of humor: When she hears that he was caught in a snow storm, she writes of someone telling her to advise Sydney not to buy in the windy part of Kansas. She also asks him how many hats he has—a subtle way of referring to their tendency to blow off in the wind—not out of her curiosity about his clothing.

“One of the items of [the] Cutler literary paper; [it] was something like this “Mike pulled the fence down and let cows in the corn field; go to Sam for particulars”. Think you had better take the paper or you will miss some important news. (3-2-1881)

“[I] Was up at Cutler this eve, [and I] was so disappointed to not get a letter from you, they said George took the news out today so don’t know whether there was one or not. “ Obviously George was not a member of the town’s brightest and best. (3-2-1881)

“There was a wood chopping at Mr. Raulston’s last Friday. I think they should have let him chop his own wood; it would just help his digestion. “ 3-2-1881)

She tells of one gentleman staying with her (12-1-1880) who sat by himself in the sitting room reading aloud and trying to pace around the room for exercise. She was alarmed because Samie could hear him “clear out to the wood pile with the doors and windows closed”. She gave him a light dinner “for his stomach’s sake.”

Sydney buys land right away in Kansas. Essie was very practical about it. She had wanted good land and timber. She didn’t care much about a house. That could come later. I don’t think he lives on the land because Essie talks about his boarding arrangements.

Christmas was modest by modern standards. She talks of a new year’s tree instead of a Christmas tree and the gathering at Christmas:

“Richmands & Maggie were there, Maggie got a string of popcorn of[f] the tree and several other things, [I] don’t know what they were. I got about two double handfuls of candy, and don’t you think some fellow give me his heart but it was broken.”

Practicality: “Your head will be leavel [level] if you keep your property in your own hands; why I would go clear wild if I had that much money.” (1-27-81)

“John said he believed a person would be justified in taking their own life if they knew they would have to suffer as his father had done. (3-22-1881)

She wants to know if he has a garden started (3-22-1881)

but how do the folk keep the chickens off the garden stuff; do they not have chickens in Kan? what about getting a cow out there; which will be cheapest to buy out there or ship from here could you get a good young cow out there? at what price? I don’t mean for you to quit your work and scour the state looking for a cow: just keep your eyes and ears on the look out when you’re back in town or at any of your neighbours. (4-6-1881)


“I don’t know anything about out doors since last Wednesday, [I] have had the measles. Samie & Willie broke out [with measles on] Tuesday & Wednesday they did not break out on me until Friday night, I tell you I was a pretty sick girl Saturday & Sabbath. I was taking them as soon as the boys but I washed and helped scrub Monday

and got to[o] damp but when they did break out they came out good that was all that saved me. I’m glad to be able to tell you this evening that am improving fast. All most every thing tastes good now. The measles are just sweeping the country. “ (1-27-81)

A sense of propriety:

When Carry Manhunt’s brother died she went to a singing with Andrew 3 weeks later. What was so bad was that after the singing she went to the store with him and purchased 3 cigars and gave them to Andrew. The store was full of boys which Essie described as “I don’t want to get acquainted with no such.”

The drama of leaving her home:

and it will be four more long mo[nths]. before I can see you; well, I’ll not tell you again to go to Kan. without [me.]… I can go; you can be sure. We are trying to arrange so I can go when you come back. I don’t have, nor will [I] not have time to get lonesome but would be so glad to see Sydney occasionally, if it were possible. (2-17-1881)

Father has not said for me to “get up and git” yet, but he hasn’t said [I] shan’t go (3-22-1881) She is 27 years old, yet is showing strong deference to her father.

The most touching letter was written in April of 1881. It begins:

“as [I] will not have to work as hard as usual tomorrow (our fast day) [I] will sit up and talk to Sydney a while to night; [I] wish [I] could whisper it in your ear for then [I] would not have to wait so long for an answer.


I have thought and prayed much over this subject, all I ask of you will be to not think hard of me for being home sick, as I expect to be; yo[u] know I never was away from home except that winter in Sparta and I was just at home there[.] Mattie always seemed like a sister to me; you know she lived here until she married. I am sure of one thing I would not exchange you and your humble home for any of the Six Mile boys with their hundred of acres. I know I am leaving a good home but I feel like I was going to a good one. So far as waiting longer goes, I do not want even to think of putting in a whole year of waiting to see the one I love: My!  Three months is as long as I want to be in suspense. If [I] could see you once or twice a mo.[month] it would be quite different. I don’t want you to think I am half dead to get married; it isn’t that I want a change from this constant work: I don’t have any idea if I could stand up to the work here another year if I could get throug[h] another year I don’t suppose I would be worth coming after. I know we have to work any where if we get along; but people can work better to their own plans than to others. I do not know what Father will do he has not decided yet and these dear brothers; Sydney that is the only thing that trouble me. Father is able to take care of himself and his habits are settled, but the boys are just at the critical point of their life.

There was a grand moon light picnic in Cutler last night. So grand they sent for Pinckneyville brass band and they came. And the only entertainments were the band[,] Ed Gordons stand, of candies, peanuts, lemonade and ice cream. I saw what I never saw in my life before, ladies eating ice cream wrapped in heavy shawls. It was very cool, unusually so. What do you think, I was there. I had just got Emma persuaded to go with the boys & I would stay at home; when we went out to milk[,] the band began playing,

(as we did not know it was to be there). When I heard that soon changed my mind: would have enjoyed it a very great deal better if a certain gent[tleman] in Kansas had been along. (6-4-1881)

1In her letter of March 27, 1880 she is thanking him for a buggie [buggy] ride. This is obviously in Cutler or very nearby. She had never been outside of Illinois.

They emailed me the photo of our grandparents in Kansas leaving for their honeymoon which I posted in this blog:


home 001home 003Home from my travels, welcomed by my cat and an overgrown yard – I guess we had a lot of rain, but the Web says only 2.43″ in August!   My Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’), in a pot on my deck, loves the heat and is full of lavender flowers, and my Butterfly Vine (Mascagnia macroptera) is also abloom.

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There was a large wolf spider trapped in my water bucket (which I, of course, dumped into the rosemary), and a cottontail stopped by to drink from the plant saucer.  The hallucinogenic Sacred Datura (datura wrightii) plants1 have sprung up all over the yard and the three red bird of paradise (caesalpinia pulcherrima) plants are finally flowering. Yellow butterflies abound, but don’t seem to ever alight, and there is an occasional Monarch.

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Repairing a damaged drip line two months ago, exerting more muscle than a wimpy woman has, I ended up with tendonitis.

Tendonitis most often is caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden, more serious injury.  There are many activities that can cause tendonitis, including gardening…

Anyone can get tendonitis, but it is more common in adults, especially those over 40 years of age. As tendons age, they tolerate less stress, are less elastic, and tear more easily.

First-line treatment includes:

  • Avoiding activities that aggravate the problem
  • Resting the injured area
  • Icing the area the day of the injury
  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines

It may take weeks to months to recover from tendonitis, depending on the severity of your injury.2

The first week I ignored the problem, and continued to go to all of my exercise classes, although ratcheting down from 5 lbs to 4.  Then I was scheduled for my yearly physical and the doctor told me all of the above.  So I continued my qigong (no weights), but stopped going to Silver Sneakers, and stopped heavy yard work.

Felt better this weekend so decided to stop taking Aleve.  And started trimming back the enthusiastically growing bushes and vines and drooping tree branches.   And a new spouter occurred in the yard that I had to repair it this morning.  The necessary work has sent me back to Aleve.

It is 10am on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.  A young coyote, dragging from the heat (97° with 33% humidity, temperature to climb to 104° with supposed thundershowers), just slogged across my driveway.


This is more from my cousin about the parabens in my sunscreen and rosacea cream3:

This is info on oregano oil for rosacea4. We put a few drops in argan oil. Look up parabens on the site to see why you don’t want to put that on your skin.

Here is info on argan oil5. It is very healing to the skin and a good carrier oil for the four or so drops of oregano oil for rosacea. We have found that when H’s gut is inflamed, so is his face. The gut controls your immune system. Mites on the face are involved in rosacea as well. Oregano oil repels them and is antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. Argan oil is expensive but can be bought at a little cheaper. Or you could put oregano oil in a small amount of organic cold pressed coconut oil. Better than parabens that are toxic. Doctors are idiots! Patients must be educated.



July 1, 2014

Sunday morning a coyote strolled by the fence, but her young twins came into the yard to explore.  Only one came to drink.  (Bad photo through screen and window reflection.)  They roamed around doing their own thing, which is why I only have a couple of poor photos to prove that there were two of them.   One of them left the yard soon and the other tried to pull the cover off the spa.

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two coyotes 021two coyotes 038Bobcat

This morning I opened the bedroom drapes to see a large bobcat relaxing on the spa cover.  My cat growled at it.  The bobcat was startled to see the drapes opened, but then didn’t care until I went upstairs to the deck.  Guess it didn’t want any animal above it.  It allowed one more photo, then slithered through the fence and into the underbrush.

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1056The patches in the asphalt parking lot at the college are starting to melt.  But it’ll really be hot by Sunday.


June 26, 2014

tomatoes 002I love the cherry tomatoes from my garden.  Ten times the flavor of those from the market.  However, the birds love them too.  So as the bush grew I added one, two, then three levels of chicken wire that I had sitting around.  The happy plant has grown beyond that!  If you look close up (click on the photo, then hit the +) you can tomatoes 007see that the red one not screened on the upper left is half eaten.

But tomatoes do not all ripen at the same time, as the plums on my tree did…  Forty years ago I had an older house In Town with a fabulous garden –  apricot, peach, plum, fig trees, roses, and lots else (plus lawns front and back).  The birds loved my plums but only took one bite out of each one. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if they’d finish one at a time!  At any rate, the tree was large, so I decided to use bird netting on just one branch, and let the birds have the rest.  (I actually don’t like eating plums, but I love the jam.)  So all of the plums on that covered branch grew big and lovely, and the branch, being too heavy, broke off.  So much for trying to subvert Nature.

Anyway, the tomatoes were scrumptious with a bit of olive oil, za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend), some grated Parmesan and toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top.


coyote 006The morning after the Resting Bobcat1, a large, lean coyote nosed along the fence. I thought about how slim both the bobcat and the coyote were. Imagine if our 11 million obese adults (34.9% of 318,281,000, total resident population of the United State as of June 26, 2014 – statistics from Wikipedia) had to chase rabbits to eat! They’d be thin too.

Wolf Spider

Went to sit down on the couch to watch a movie and there was a wolf spider in my place.  Put a cup over him, a card under him, and dropped him into my infamous rosemary.  Later, noticing a few ants doing broken-field running around my kitchen, thought that I should have taken him there.  Don’t think those tiny ants would have filled him up, but might be a nice solution to the ant problem.


Continuing my study of Landscape Architecture, I have read most these books so far:

  • Cool Plants for Hot Gardens by Greg Starr, award-winning horticulturist, nursery owner, and master gardener in town.  The book is subtitled 200 Water-Smart Choices for the Southwest.  I emailed him asking why he hadn’t included one of my favorite trees, the Vitex, which I have planted at the last three houses, and his short answer was, I had to stop somewhere.  It’s a great reference book with nice color photos and good Descriptions,  Landscape Applications, what to plant with what, and Precautions, such as Rabbits will probably eat young plants…  If you need a book on desert plants, this is the one to buy.
  • Landscape for Living by Garrett Eckbo, was first published in 1950, and even though it was reprinted in 2002, it is quite dated, both in the language (not Politically Correct), landscape for living2and the photographic examples in black and white.  On the other hand, contrasting housing developments developed with landscaping included, as opposed to the Ugly Houses2 being built down the street on scraped land, Eckbo wins. The book is wordy (by today’s standards, and I’m not even thinking about Twitter) and a good soporific, so I may never finish it.  But this is one paragraph I enjoyed:landscape for living
  • Desert Landscaping: How to Start and Maintain a Healthy Landscape in the Southwest by George Brookbank is an excellent book for newcomers to the desert.  Both Part 1 – How to Start and Maintain a Desert Landscape, and Part 2 – A Month-by-Month Maintenance Guide are great.  Having lived here for over 40 years and having maintained gardens in six different houses, I knew most of Part 1, and Part 2 is something I google most months (mostly on which veggies to plant), but I think a lot of people around here could use Brookbank’s practical advice.brookbank

For “fun” I am “reading” (ok – it’s an audio book) I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb.  Malala is 14 now, and after many surgeries in England has recovered from being shot in in the head for saying that girls should be able to go to school (in the Swat Valley of Pakistan).  The book is interesting, adding details to a lot of what we know, and I think that all middle school girls should read it.


Cazadero, 1/2/14

January 17, 2014

Flash Forward 1/17/14: back in Tucson.  As I was listening to the news this morning in bed wolf-vs-coyote(as classes at the college have not started yet), my cat came to attention.  A beautiful large coyote strolled by the fence.  Not quite as gorgeous as a wolf, which has much thicker fur, but almost.

We’d had our freezes back in November; these weeks have been back to tourist weather, 74° today.  The living room gets pretty warm in the winter afternoon with its low sun, so turned on the AC for last Sunday’s Open House.  (No offers on the house yet, but have left out a pile of my business cards in case someone wants to hire an architect.  Should have thought of that months ago.)

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The rosemary flowers have seeded and the finches abound – goldfinch and rosy finch.  Now back to the blog I started in California:


Visiting my brother in upper Sonoma Valley.  No wine tours this trip. His friend with connections at one vineyard said that there were no deals this year.  (The last time I had been here with my son at Thanksgiving a few years ago, and their son had driven up from San Francisco, the four of us – my sister-in-law had to work – went on a wine tour in Sonoma, sharing flights, and I bought a case at 50% price.  But I had to pay $25 for an extra bag at the airport, with did make the wine cost more.)  Now he says you can’t get a bottle for less than $20, too much for me on my new limited budget, so I can afford this trip.)


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Today was my brother’s day to volunteer at the Santa Rosa Bird Rescue Center.  I had written about it a few times previously (1,2).  So I went along and took photos of him with a Cooper’s hawk, Orion, “his” red-tailed hawk, Star (which he is officially monitoring),  and a peregrine falcon, Rosa Luz.  (Shown above, in order.  Click on them to blow up the photo to see the great details I got.)  All had been injured and cannot hunt on their own.

mewsHe takes them out of their mews (shown here),

The term mews is plural in form but singular in construction. It arose from “mews” in the sense of a building where birds used for falconry are kept, which in turn comes from birds’ star 9cyclical loss of feathers known as ‘mewing’ or moulting.

on tethers called jesses,

A jess (plural “jesses“) is a thin strap, traditionally made from leather, used to tether a hawk or falcon in falconry.   Jesses allow a falconer to keep control of a bird while it is on the glove or in training.

to feed them, weigh them, check out their condition, and walk them about to see the fields and the sky.  They often bate for exercise, flying about on their jesses, and Star likes hanging upside down, shown here.  (Kinda like my brother bungee jumping when he was in Australia.)

In falconry, to bate is, for a falconry bird tethered by the jesses, to attempt to fly; a bird hanging from the jesses is said to be “in a bate”.

I really loved the red-tailed.  Photos here of her fluffing her feathers out, or rousing, and her beautiful tail.

star17Rouse The action of a hawk erecting its feathers and then shaking them; part of grooming; a sign of a relaxed and content bird.4

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Fort Ross

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christmas 2013 104Yesterday we had gone to Fort Ross, which had been settled by Russians, and has been reconstructed.  (I never knew that Russians had settled in North America.)

Fort Ross is a California State Historic Park showcasing a historic Russian-era fort compound that has been designated National Historic Landmark status. Located north of Jenner on California Highway One, one of the most scenic coastal routes in the world, Fort Ross is surrounded by sandy beaches, panoramic coves, and redwood forests, with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The 3,400 acre park also offers historic structures and exhibits that bring to life the former Imperial Russian settlement, early California Ranch era, and the Kashaya territory.





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Sonoma Coast State Park

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Also went to the Sonoma Coast State Park where the Russian River (hey – now I know why it’s the Russian River!) usually empties into the ocean, but it was stopped up.  (Last time there the Army Corps of Engineers had just unblocked it.)  Lots of harbor seals, that looked like rocks, and a myriad of seagulls.  Plus a paraglider.

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San Francisco

When we got to San Francisco, we stopped in to see my nephew at the Flower Mart4.  He lives in SF and delivers flowers by bike for Farmgirl Flowers.  (His photo here.)

photofarmgirl flowers

Farmgirl Flowers duplicates one arrangement each day, in three prices, $30, $50, and $70, obviously dependent on size.  Each day is different.  (Example above, as my nephew explains it, looking like you picked it in your backyard.)

Farmgirl Flowers offers one sensational arrangement of the most beautiful and fresh San Francisco flowers each day, grown in the Bay Area.  (70% of the flowers that are made available by florists in the U.S. are grown overseas, soaked in chemicals and shipped here.)

This simple approach we have adopted reduces waste, reduces our carbon footprint and minimizes environmental impact, and allows us to pass our savings on to you with our super-cool bike delivery partners for incredible flower delivery San Francisco!

Sure, the hills are A Bit Much for ordinary mortals, but this is a guy who jumps on his bike to ride 90 miles to visit his parents in Cazadero.

de Young Museum

The de Young, in Golden Gate Park, had a great show on yosemite1(76-year-old) David Hockney, A Bigger Exhibition.  Even his recent “paintings”, done on an iPad, are incredible.  (We were not allowed photos –  although I bet a few people were sneaking them with their iPhones – so all photos here are from the internet.)  Shown here one of the huge blow-ups of his iPad drawings: Yosemite I, October 16th 2011. iPad Drawing printed on six sheets of paper, 143 1/2 x 128 1/4 in. overall.

David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition [which ends in three days] marks the return of the celebrated British artist to California. Expansive in scope and monumental in scale, this show is the first comprehensive survey of his 21st-century work and represents one of the most prolific decades of his career. Renowned for his use of traditional media as well as evolving technologies, Hockney has selected monumental paintings, Photoshop portraits, digital films that track the changing seasons, vivid landscapes created using the iPad, as well as never-before-exhibited charcoal drawings and paintings completed in 2013.

I had loved his his acrylic paintings of California pools in the 60’s and his photo montages in the 80’s, but now he has gone in another direction. The digital films were interesting, winter, spring, summer, fall each taking up an entire wall of one room.   Here is the video, shrunk:

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Another of Hockney’s iPad paintings from The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate.

Bulgari sapphire pendantjapanese garden 2We skipped The Art of Bulgari, which included a lot of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels, and walked over to the Japanese Tea Garden for tea and mochi (Japanese rice cakes).

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The Legion of Honor

b matisseThe next day to The Legion of Honor for shows: Matisse from SFMOMA (shown here, The Conversation), and Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter.

The Matisse show was OK, but Zorn blew us away, especially with his watercolors.  My favorite was River under Old Stone Bridge, 1884, watercolor, shown below.  (We were not allowed photos, so these are from the museum’s web site.) Neither my brother nor I had heard of him, but he had even painted presidents in the United States (Cleveland and Taft) during our Gilded Age.


By the turn of the 20th century, the success of Anders Zorn (1860-1920) rivaled that of the most famous artists of his day, including John Singer Sargent. A virtuoso watercolorist, bravura painter [In painting, vigorous, brilliant treatment in both color and technique], and etcher, Zorn had risen from humble beginnings in the Swedish countryside to travel the world, captivate American artists and politicians alike, and paint some of the most sought after portraits of America’s Gilded Age.5

Below are Reveil, Boulevard Clichy, 1892, watercolor, and Self-Portrait in Red, 1915 oil.

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Coyote v. Deer

October 5, 2013

Wednesday afternoon’s excitement – was on my computer when “my” young coyote ambled across the drive, stopping to check a drip emitter (no doubt needing water).

I ran upstairs to see if he’d come into the yard.  He was nosing around what I think is a packrat nest outside my fence (last time he did that I heard horrible yelps, like maybe he stuck his nose in some cholla which the rats use to protect the entrance to their burrow) and all of a sudden a deer started to chase him.  He probably didn’t even know the couple with their young fawn were nearby.  (Photo when they were crossing the drive the other day.)

deer 008The other parent and the fawn bounding (white-tailed deer do not stot, pronk or prong, according to Wikipedia, as you see the African springboks doing on Nature programs) approached the fence until the other parent returned.  Deer 1 coyote 0.


This morning as I was getting ready for work I noticed a movement in the yard.  A very large bobcat had strolled through the fence.  But just as I was grabbing my camera it walked back out, to inspect the supposed packrat nest and smell the area where the deer had been yesterday.  I sat my cat down to watch it so that she won’t want to go outside for a few days.

The Orphan Master’s Son

koreaMost of you missed the marvelous talk by Adam Johnson, professor at Stanford, who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Orphan Master’s Son, a realistic piece of fiction which takes place in North Korea.

The son of an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents, and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong-Il.

(If you get the book on CD, which you can at the library, it is read by Koreans, so you get the accent.)

Unfortunately there were only two dozen people on the lower level of the U of A bookstore for the talk and reading.  I sat with friend D and past prez of U of A, Henry Koffler.

First Johnson talked about a Korean orphan who ended up founding an NGO that has an orphanage in South Korea and planted 14,000 apple trees in North Korea.  When I googled it I found this quote from Entertainment; of course Johnson gives canned speeches.

The first person I interviewed for the book was from the North. He was an older gentleman, and he was born before the Korean War. During the war, he was orphaned. He spoke to me about what it was like to lose his family in the war. He was adopted by an American tank crew who let him sleep on the back of the tank in exchange for helping them navigate the countryside. Even as a young boy of 10, he knew some English. When they got to an air force base, they put him on a cargo jet and he landed in Seattle. That was back when I guess you could take a child and just put him on a plane. [Laughs]

All I knew when I was beginning the book was that my character was beginning to have such an origin. I was so moved by his story. Since then he went on to become one of the founders of Holt International. He had his own orphanage in South Korea dedicated to disabled children. In the North, he had an NGO planting apple orchards, and he and his friends had planted 14,000 apple trees in the North. He was friends with a man named Kim Myung-gil, who was the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ambassador to the U.N. So my friend — I don’t want to say his name — was trusted in both the North and the South. He was professor of international relations. He knew that I was working on this book. I actually showed him most of the book before he died a year and a half ago. He just really believed in the project. He said there was nothing quite like this, and he said I think I can get you into North Korea. So he personally took me there.

I hadn’t realized that the north is 85% mountains, so they can grow corn, but not rice.  They have timber and minerals.  Then he talked about Kim Jong-il cutting down trees in 1994 which contributed to flash flooding and the great famine in which +2 million died.  No future, no possibilities, no hope.  This from Wikipedia:

The economic decline and failed policies provided the context for the famine in the early 1990s, but the floods and storms of the mid-1990s provided the catalyst. Specifically, the floods in July 1995 were described as being “of biblical proportions” by independent observers. Arable land, harvests, grain reserves, and social and economic infrastructure were destroyed.
The major issues created by the flood were not only the destruction of crop lands and harvests, but also the loss of emergency grain reserves, as much of it was stored underground. Due to the declining economy and devastating natural disasters, the DPRK did not have the resources to import food or resources, and people were faced with death and starvation. Estimates of the death toll vary widely. Out of a total population of approximately 22 million, somewhere between 240,000 and 3,500,000 people died from starvation or hunger-related illnesses.

Lots of miscellaneous details.  He pointed out that Bush added North Korea to the Axis of Evil so that it wouldn’t look like a war against Islam.  And that spontaneous bark carving appear each morning in Pyongyang with party slogans – the trees carve their own bark.  (Similar to what the trees do in the scifi sequel to Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead.)

That of Mongolia, China, Japan, Korea, North Korea had the longest run of independence in a thousand years.  The Joseon Dynasty was one of the longest running dynasties in the world, ruling from 1389 until they were annexed in 1910 by the Empire of Japan.  The Japanese subjugated North Korea for 35 years.  They could not teach Korean in the schools, and had to teach Japanese.  (Kinda like us getting Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California after the Mexican–American War and insisting that the former Mexicans now be taught English in the schools, not Spanish.)  This ended with WWII and the division by the super powers along the DMZ – where we have 13 million landmines (I couldn’t verify that number on the Web, just 1.2 million, as if that weren’t enough) and why we can’t sign the landmine ban!

Then he got into the Korean War, bad except for our one good TV program (M*A*S*H).  It’s been 60 years since but “no one has read the book”.  korean war memorialThe text on the memorial in DC is Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never  met.  (I’ve been to DC several times and didn’t even know that there was a memorial.)  It’s called The Forgotten War.  Toni Morrison has just written Home, a novel about the war.  A traumatized soldier returns from the Korean War to his segregated hometown in Georgia.  (She was one of Johnson’s students.)

Johnson spoke of his fixation, which started in 2003, to read every book he could regarding Kim Jong-Il’s dictatorship, such as the 36 book written about the 36 people who escaped the gulags.  He obsessively studied North Korea for six to seven years before he could get security clearance to visit.  His wife finally said enough! Recommended – Nothing to Envy: ordinary lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick, interviews with women who escaped.  North KoreanCourt Poet‘, Jang Jin-sung, who escaped in 2004, is to publish his memoirs.  Look for that this spring.

When Johnson did get to North Korea he saw few old people, but veterans got housing on the first floor of buildings.  He saw the goats on the roofs in Pyongyang.  In Pyongyang the most desirable thing is to speak with a South Korean accent, which means that you get away with listening to South Korean soap operas.  People there have cell phones, ipads, and so on, like us.

Kim’s personal sushi chef, Kenji Fujimoto, defected in 2001 and has written three books about his experiences.  (Johnson interviewed him for GQ:  A couple of details about his life.  He grew up with a combative father whose signature move was punching out people’s front teeth, including Fujimoto’s mother’s.  When working for Kim Jong-il, Fujimoto spent $650,000 on cognac for the dictator each year.  And he never spoke Korean.  For eleven years he was nanny to Kim’s three sons, who were presented with whatever Fujimoto said children on the outside liked – a waterpark at each of his seventeen palaces, roller skates, video games (yes, DHL delivers to Pyongyang), and a basketball court at each palace.  Unfortunately, Fujimoto and the boys had to pretend that there was an opposing team.

Kim became crazy for basketball.  The Chicago Bulls became his favorite team after their 1992 win of the NBA Finals.  (Fujimoto’s sister recorded the final game and sent it to him from Japan.)  Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ended her summit with Kim by rodman-north-korea-cartoon-mckeepresenting him with a basketball signed by NBA legend Michael Jordan.  Michael Jordan was invited to the DPKR and declined, but Dennis Rodman accepted.

Kim was responsible for every death, every person in his country.  He would marry people on the spot, if he thought they should be married, or divorce them on the spot at parties.  Kim Jong-il had South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee kidnapped, and become “his pet” because he liked her movies.  But just this August his son, Kim Jong-un, had 12 people of a pop band executed by machine guns, including Hyon Song-wol, well-known pop artist and his longtime girlfriend.    This is now the third generation of the regime; it is durable.

Pima Students

Eating lunch in one of the Pima College lounges.  Over a dozen students sitting in the comfortable upholstered couches and chairs, or at one of the bar-height tables each surrounded by three pale turquoise chairs.

Eight students texting on their phones.  (Does anyone talk on a telephone anymore?)  Four working on their tablets or laptops.  One (with lavender hair) actually reading a book!  One doing homework from a book.

I have some students with interesting decorations.  Lots of tattoos, and one woman, in addition to tats cascading down both arms, has a flower on the front of her neck.  (In Sunday’s NY Times Social Q’s column Philip Galanes said, If the desired tattoo would adorn her face or neck, lock your daughter in her bedroom until further notice. Because nothing says “future C.E.O.” quite like a cobra crawling up from beneath a Peter Pan collar.)

One young women has cotton candy pink hair, another a robin’s egg blue.  One young man has a four-inch Mohawk (yes- standing stiffly up – he says he uses paraffin on it) in a pumpkin orange.

lady-gagaSome multiple piercings.  One young man with dreadlocks (he’s white) and half-inch holes in his ears (called ear stretching or lobe ‘gauging’) has a ring between his nostrils, rather like Lady Gaga.

But no one as decorated as Dennis Rodman.