Posted by: bkivey | 20 July 2016

Ft. Sumter

The last time I was in Charleston was 1986, the year after hurricane Hugo. Downtown was being repaired and rebuilt, and the city was still very much a sleepy Southern town.

That has changed.

Many parts of town have been rebuilt and gentrified, and the area overall is in about the same place Portland was 10 years ago. The city has been ‘discovered’, and large numbers of people are moving in. This is causing some friction between established residents and newcomers. ‘Established residents’ in this case are often people who can trace their family residency back 250 years or more. When two Southerner’s meet, they’ll often ask each other ‘Who’s your people?’ Parts of my family have lived in the area since the 1740’s.

The ‘International’ in the Charleston airport’s name is a bit of  a misnomer, as there are no international passenger flights to or from the airport. They must be referring to operations conducted at the joint Air Force base. The base is one of two home fields for the C-17, and they’ve been quite busy the last fifteen years or so. The airport is small, and dining options are limited. Best to eat elsewhere.

A curious sign:

CHS no concealable weaons sign

So, rifles, swords, and spears are permitted?

Haven’t seen this anywhere else, but it’s a good idea:

CHS service animal area

By the time I retrieved luggage and car, it was 0930, and I couldn’t check in until 1430 (I asked). Breakfast first.

During breakfast I cast about for things to do in a town that’s nearly 350 years old. Perhaps something historical. I found that there were still seats available for the 1200 sailing to Ft. Sumter. $19.50 buys admission to the museum, transportation, and an hour at the fort.

The museum for the Ft. Sumter National Monument is in downtown Charleston on the waterfront. There’s a parking garage across from the museum, so not too far to walk. The museum:

Fort Sumter building front

To the left of the building is a power pole evocative of what the harbor may have looked like in the days of sail:

Charleston harbor power pole

That’s the South Carolina Aquarium in the center.

The museum features numerous displays giving the history of Charleston and events leading up to the Civil War. The displays are almost entirely informational: there are few artifacts. One artifact is the original garrison flag that flew over the fort on 12 April, 1861, the day the fort came under fire from Confederate forces and so started the war.

Ft Sumter original flag

The flag is housed in a case equipped with sliding doors so different parts of the flag are exposed to light and UV damage is mitigated.

The view from the water side of the museum:

Charleston waterfront 1

In the center is the Patriot’s Point museum in Mt. Pleasant, featuring USS Yorktown, USS Laffey, and USS Clamagore, along with a number of military aircraft and other martial displays. I didn’t have time to visit that museum.

I spent some time chatting with a ranger and learned that upwards of 2 million people visit the fort annually. There’s a fleet of eight boats, and when all eight are in operation over 3000 people can be ferried out daily. Our boat for the trip was The Spirit of the Lowlands and several other ferries were seen during the transit. The Spirit has a capacity of nearly 300 people, and it was mostly full on the day. The boat had three decks, with an observation/seating deck topside under canopy, and two interior decks, one of which had a snack bar.

Interior Spirit of the Lowlands

The interior decks are air conditioned, which is welcome most of the year. I spent most of my time at the bow railing, partly to enjoy the view, but also because I’d spent the night inside an airplane.

There’s an auto transhipment yard next to the museum/aquarium complex, and two auto carriers were tied up when we departed:

Charleston auto ships

I’m sorry. Those are some ugly ships. They certainly maximize volumetric efficiency, but I imagine most crew have a hard time loving those things. The yard isn’t necessarily for import. BMW has been building cars in the state for a while, and Volvo is building a plant.

Looking back at Charleston:

Charleston from the water 1

The ships are moored in the Cooper River, and the Ashley River is on the left. The city proper is middle left. And yes, that’s a tower in the middle of the city with a beacon. No office towers, though.


Ft. Sumter from the dock:

Ft Sumter from dock

As originally built the fort was three stories high rising fifty feet above the water. After the Confederates occupied the fort, it was subject to more-or-less continual shelling for the duration of the war, considerably reducing its structure. There’s not a lot of the original fort left. Despite the reduction of most of the fort to rubble, the Confederates didn’t surrender until the war was nearly over, thus demonstrating the stubbornness Southerners are known for. The less charitable might say pigheadedness, or not knowing when to quit.

There is a story that as Sherman was burning his way from Atlanta to Savannah, frustrated Georgians asked him why he didn’t burn Charleston, ‘because they started it’. In fact, the Confederates finally did surrender Ft. Sumter when they heard Sherman was on his way.

The interior from the parade grounds:

Ft Sumter from parade ground

Ft Sumter parade ground view 2

The black building on the left is Battery Huger, built during the Spanish-American War and fitted with 12″ guns to command the harbor entrance. The fort museum is in this structure. Anti-aircraft guns were emplaced during WW II.

Gun emplacements:

Ft Sumter lower gun emplacement

Ft Sumter gun 1

The interiors were whitewashed to aid in lighting. During their occupation, the Confederates rifled some of the smoothbore cannon to increase their range.

A plaque giving the names of the soldiers stationed at the fort when it was surrendered:

Ft Sumter garrison plaque

At one point a Union shell found the powder room, and the resulting explosion bent the walls back:

Ft Sumter powder room wall

The fort from the top of Battery Huger:

Ft Sumter overview from upper level

The powder room is middle left. My visit was at low tide, and it would seem the Union forces would have little problem attacking across the sand on the left. The sand is spoils from dredging operations, and wasn’t present during the Civil War. Directly across the spoils on the coast is Ft. Wagner, scene of the climactic attack from the movie Glory. The initial attack was repulsed, but the Union eventually captured the fort.

It was 97F when I visited, with the humidity not far behind, but a sea breeze kept things tolerable. Most times of the year you are going to catch a lot of sun, so sunblock isn’t out of the question.

I enjoyed my visit to Ft. Sumter. It was interesting seeing the place where the bloodiest conflict in US history started, and a nice complement to my visit to Gettysburg. The entire experience runs about 3 – 4 hours, so a nice way to spend a half-day.




Posted by: bkivey | 16 July 2016

The Funeral

Some readers may know that my mother recently passed, so family and friends gathered in her hometown of Charleston, SC, to lay her to rest.

The burial was in the Carolina Memorial Gardens in North Charleston, fittingly enough directly across from a school. Hot and humid, as befits this part of the country in July. My youngest sister along with my uncle and a family friend organized the proceedings, and thankfully waived the suit rule. All my suits are winter weight. Not that it would have mattered so much. It’s a momentary discomfort to pay homage. Still, thankful for the dispensation.

There were perhaps twenty people graveside, including a couple of funeral home mourners to fill things out. Except for a couple of sisters and my youngest sister’s family, I hadn’t laid eyes on some folks for upwards of 45 years; and some not at all. A couple of the mourners were my Mom’s next-door neighbors for whom she’d tutored their daughter and written letters of recommendation for an Ivy-League school and med school. That’s some real commitment. For something I thought might be a few people around a hole in the ground, it was a satisfying turnout.

The service was not overly long: a few prayers and brief sermon from the preacher. Not a sermon in the sense of admonishment, but rather a reading and exposition of verses my Mom liked. I told the preacher afterwards that I was thankful a Southern gentleman had brought her home. My youngest sister told me later she appreciated the sentiment and that Mom would have approved. My Mom always did like propriety, so perhaps she would have.

After the service, I saw a couple of guys in work clothes hanging about away from the grave. I asked if they were the ones who did the actual burial, and when they answered in the affirmative, I told them that that was my Mom, I appreciated their help, and shook their hands. And I really do. Burial these days is a team effort.

A family friend had arranged for a limo bus to take us into downtown Charleston for dinner. They’d also managed to find a restaurant that could accommodate our party with two days notice on a weekend during high season in a tourist-heavy town. That’s no small feat: Leah, your kung-fu is awesome.

Dinner was at Eli’s Table. It’s not cheap. But then, this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime events. My youngest sister and her husband picked up the tab, and because I wasn’t paying for it, I was a bit cautious in ordering. Everything we did order was outstanding. There was good presentation and an amazing depth of flavor in every dish. The Key lime pie is simply superb. My Mom apparently attracted good people, because conversation was stimulating. A good meal with good people is one of the pleasures of life and despite the circumstances, a pleasant time was had.

The plan during dinner was to share memories of Mom, but the circumstances weren’t conducive, so we stopped at a grocery store for adult refreshments, then went to one of my Mom’s favorite Charleston spots: The Battery. The Battery is a walkway along the harbor including the eponymous gun battery. We gathered in the back of the bus and opened Champagne and took turns telling stories and sharing anecdotes relating to my mother. As wakes go, it was good, and I learned a lot about my mother that would have perhaps better served me in life, if I’d only paid attention.

So the funeral and memorial services are over, and with them the reason for the trip. There are a lot of unresolved family dynamics. We’re having lunch Sunday before everyone takes off to their lives. My uncle and sister both noted that there haven’t been this many family members in one room for nigh on 30 years. We’ve been a fractured family for decades, and that’s not going to change overnight, but perhaps change can begin with this weekend.



Posted by: bkivey | 12 July 2016

Carolyn Louise Cooper 1937 – 2016

I got a call from the Sanford, NC police department yesterday. My mother lives in Sanford. I knew with a high probability what the call was for. The detective on the phone was kind enough, and it can be no easy thing to call the relatives when a death occurs. A police officer has a hard job, and that’s probably one of the toughest things to do.

The police had been called to her house for a welfare check, and the fire department had to force the door. My mother was found ‘non-responsive’ in the bathroom. She was transported to Central Carolina hospital, and pronounced dead.

This wasn’t unexpected. She was 79 years old, and after a certain age, every day is a gift. She had beaten ovarian cancer some years before, but her health was never the best. My youngest sister lives in North Carolina, and was the unofficial caretaker of my Mom. She called her weekly, and in fact was concerned enough about my Mom’s health that she was going to take her to the hospital today (Tuesday). Apparently my Mom made it on her own.

I’ve never been a ‘good son’. Difficult to raise, not responsive to other’s desires, dismissive of advice; I’m not the poster child for ‘popular guy’. There were years when I wouldn’t talk to my mother. Not because of dislike, but because it wasn’t a priority. You can make excuses; but there are none, really. I knew she was getting up in years, and there were family efforts to get her to move into a retirement facility. But as a child you think circumstances will allow for your parents to take the long goodbye. Not this time.

The last time I saw my Mom was 2013 when I visited for my 50th birthday. My sister was kind enough to treat us to dinner at one of the better steakhouses in Raleigh, and my Mom was pleased to spend time with me on my 50th (‘However did you get so old?’) Given my history; not exactly a rhetoricial question. I hadn’t talked to her for over a year (got the VM on Mother’s Day), but, you know, there’s always the next round of holidays.

So family members will gather in Charleston, SC for a graveside service in the near future. Clients will be inconvenienced and plans disrupted, but so what. It’s my Mom. We didn’t have the best relationship, but right now, everything else can go hang.

The Wake

Not sure what form my Mom’s wake will take, or even if there will be one. Everyone has to come in from different parts of the country; I will have to leave either the day of the funeral or the next. Wakes are the best part of funerals. You have lost someone, but the wake is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the deceased’s life.

My favorite memory of my Mom in recent years was when I visited for her 75th birthday in 2012. We all went to a wine tasting and lunch at a North Carolina winery. After lunch we were all milling about the parking lot when a couple of F-15’s from Pope Air Force base flew across the field at high speed and very low altitude. I remarked to my Mom that even the US Air Force recognized her birthday. She liked that, and brought it up on occasion.

RIP Mom. May you find the peace in the next life you didn’t have in this one.

Posted by: bkivey | 6 July 2016

Civil Defense

‘You can’t talk to a man with a shotgun in his hand’

Carole King

Smackwater Jack 1971

Last month’s shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Miami was a national tragedy. 102 casualties. 49 dead. One shooter. A ‘gun-free’ zone.

And all our government can do is offer conciliation.

That’s not good enough.

The facts are clear. The shooter passed through any number of security screenings and was never ‘red-flagged’, although he was terminated from several law-enforcement programs. Despite warning signs, he was allowed a firearm license and security guard license in the State of Florida. Someone affiliated with a religion hostile to gays, and who had threatened to shoot people for casual infractions was allowed to own a firearm. In a free society, anyone should be allowed to worship however they like, but when the shooting starts, the standards change.

Gay folks by and large tend to vote Democrat. That party is all about non-judgement as long as the individual actions agree with the party line. Do what you want, and as long as it serves The Narrative, we’ll go along with it. Our national institutions have ‘gone along with it’ to the point where people’s lives are in danger, and respect for the necessary institutions is rapidly waning.

Despite what they tell you, government can’t protect you from individual action. There’s you, and there’s an imminent threat to your life. The cops aren’t there. What are you going to do? A growing number of police departments are realizing this and issuing PSA’s to that effect. We won’t be there when shit goes down. Get a gun: get trained. At one time the cops felt they could handle the situation. Now they realize that national leadership has failed to mitigate the threat, and they’re looking for partners. That’s us.

The fact is we’re on the front lines of a war unacknowledged by the national leadership. That in itself is deadly dangerous. There will be more mass shootings, likely religiously or politically motivated. Given the evidence, do you really think the government you put your faith in will protect you?

Perhaps it’s time for a paradigm shift.

I grew up in one of the hotter parts of the Cold War. Nuclear annihilation was a real concern, Living on or very near military bases, I understood that even in a so-called ‘limited exchange’, my chances of survival were not good. My childhood was after the ‘duck and cover’ phase, but there was some civil defense  training. Fallout shelters were common sights on the bases where we lived, and many civilian buildings were so designated. The point is that people were oriented toward protecting themselves to the extent possible, however passive those means may have been. But an active shooter isn’t an ICBM. There are defenses.

Because the Left adheres to the fallacy that saying something makes it so, you may find yourself in a ‘gun-free’ zone where someone has brought a gun. As a law-abiding citizen you are disarmed, but not without the means for self-defense.

A shooter is on a mission. They want to do the most damage in the least amount of time, and they have chosen their target(s) with an eye toward ease of execution. Running and hiding are viable options, as was shown in the Pulse scenario, but if you’re in close proximity to the shooter, not so much. Your life is in imminent danger.

Throw stuff. In a scenario like Pulse, there are any number of things you can use to distract the shooter, including the drink in your hand. To get off an effective shot, the shooter needs line-of-sight, a steady hand, and situational awareness. Anything you can do to disrupt those things helps you. Sure, you may take damage, but perhaps not life threateningly. In this scenario, you’re as good as dead. Make the price expensive.

Close with the attacker. Seize the initiative. This is counter to what most people will do, which is panic. The shooter is out to kill you. You have nothing to lose. They’ve made the decision for you. If you panic, you’re an easy target. Don’t be an easy target. You may die, but don’t die easy.

Let me be clear. I am not a military or security professional. I have never faced an active shooter. I do shoot regularly. I have learned the lessons of the schoolyard in my youth. I cannot say what I would do if faced with a mass shooting scenario. I may well panic, I may well die. My point is that like civil defense in the Cold War, people think about ways to survive.



Posted by: bkivey | 25 June 2016

Two Museums

I visited a couple of local museums the past several weeks, and was less than impressed.

Oregon Historical Society Museum

I’d originally planned to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), but the day I was off was Monday, and that museum is closed on Mondays. My Plan B was the titular museum. It’s located on the South Park Blocks directly across from the Oregon Art Museum.

OHS museum exterior

There’s a two-tier admission fee: free if you’re a Multnomah County (Portland area) resident, and $11 if you’re from anywhere else. I am not in Category A, so I paid. The original coin used to determine whether Portland would be ‘Portland’ or ‘Boston’ is displayed in the lobby.

The first floor contained the current special display on the Chinese in Portland. At one time Portland had the second-largest Chinatown in the US, but the Exclusion Act of 1924 greatly reduced it, and now Chinatown is a few blocks in one of the seedier parts of town. This was moderately interesting.

There are some items from Oregon history on the walls of the stairs:

OHS museum stairwell

Galleries upstairs:

OHS museum 3rd floor lobby

OHS 3rd floor lobby 2

The galleries contain the museum’s permanent displays, and include logging, farming, fish canning, Lewis & Clark, the various religious groups that settled the territory, and some information on the Oregon Trail. I’ve visited other museums that deal with these subjects in far greater detail. This museum is more like a sampler menu than a full-course meal. They did have a replica of an Oregon Trail wagon:

OHS museum Oregon Trail wagon

And information on washing clothes:

OHS museum how to wash clothes

There’s a display of all the Oregon official state artifacts:

OHS museum Oregon state symbols

A replica of a 1950’s living room, complete with period programming on the TV:

OHS museum 50s living room

For a museum that purports to represent Oregon history, there are two glaring omissions.

The first is that the display on religious groups completely fails to mention the Lutherans. This group settled the Tualatin river valley between Portland’s West Hills and the Coast Range. It’s an area of rich farmland, and Lutheran influence is still much in evidence.

The other omission is that there’s no mention of the 1980 Mt. St. Helen’s eruption other than a sign warning of ash removal operations. No ash samples, nothing. Yes, the volcano is in Washington, but it’s very close to Portland, and the eruption is arguably one of the biggest events in Portland since the event.

I saw everything there was to see in an hour, and for $11, that’s not great. If you’re a Multnomah County resident, the museum is probably worth a visit, otherwise, not so much.

After that disappointing experience, I wandered around for a bit. There’s this store:

Portland not a marijuana store

Which is not, in fact, a marijuana store. They’re a tobacconist. I salvaged the day with a visit to the Ground Kontrol arcade, and later to Powell’s World of Books. Visits to Powell’s are fraught with danger, as I tend to find books I didn’t know I wanted. This time was no exception.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

My next day off was not on Monday, so I took another stab at visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The museum is located on the east side of the river in the warehouse district, and is across the street from the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. I visited that museum last year and enjoyed it very much. I had similar hopes for OMSI.

The entrance:

OMSI main entrance

Admission is $13.75, plus $5 for parking. For twenty bucks, I wanted to see some Science and Industry.

The view of the river from the museum:

Willamette from OMSI

To the left is OMSI’s tame submarine, USS Blueback:

USS Blueback

For an additional $6 you can take a tour.

There’s a lost submarine memorial:

OMSI sub memorial prop

With the names of lost boats in the brick circle:

OMSI lost sub memorial

Hopefully no more names will be added.

There’s an enclosed grassy area with a utility box in the middle. It looks for all the world like we’re venerating the equipment:

OMSI object in middle of green

This isn’t the Museum of English Grammar:

OMSI ride slow sign

Back in the museum, one of the galleries:

MOSI gallery 1 overview

This space is located in a former powerhouse, and the pit on the lower left allows you to see some of the equipment. There’s also a clock mechanism that used to inhabit a building downtown:

MOSI clock mechanism

This is on the second floor, and the pendulum and weights extend almost to the floor of the machinery pit below.

Nearly everything else in the gallery is oriented toward hands-on experiments for children. Not much of interest for adults.

The only other gallery is this one:

OMSI PC hall

Behold the Hall of Political Correctness. That’s not what it’s called, but it may as well be. Again, the exhibits are oriented toward children. Everything in the place extolls the virtue of some aspect of Gaia-worship. Riding public transit, green energy, the astronomy of indigenous peoples, cultural appropriation, and inclusiveness. Tucked away at the back is the biology lab, where they keep critters live and fossilized.

A hissing cockroach:

OMSI hissing cockroach

Reason enough not to visit Madagascar. A walking stick from (no surprise) Australia:

OMSI Australian walking stick

There’s a selection of lizards, rodents, and reptiles. Other than the exotic insects, not much here I haven’t seen done better elsewhere.

There’s a planetarium and IMAX theater, but that’s it. Again, I saw everything in under an hour. They have a motion simulator, but it’s another $5. People I’ve talked to say the museum does special exhibits well, but there were none when I visited. If you’re eight years old and have $30 to spend, OMSI is probably a fun place. Unless there’s a special exhibit going on, I can’t recommend it.










Posted by: bkivey | 24 June 2016

Just Making It Up

I almost feel sorry for Progressives. They really believe they are on the right side of history, although they demonstratively aren’t. But they have passion and feeling, and to their mind, that’s all that counts. ‘I can change the world!’ ‘I will follow my passion and make people see the truth!’

The real world doesn’t care.

And by ‘real world’ I mean the observable universe. I won’t belabor points I’ve made in previous posts, but if your worldview doesn’t comport with the natural world, you’re in for a life of constant disappointment.

People are animals: we are as much a part of the planet and universe as any species extant.  People are governed by brains developed over millions of years of evolution. The most primitive areas of the human brain are active in modern humans. The most successful forms of government recognize this. Wishful thinking isn’t going to change this reality. You can’t fight biology: to do so is to war against oneself.

My motivation for the post is that Progressives have a particular mechanism for expressing superiority, and that’s the ‘We can’t do this because of that’ syndrome.

The general form is ‘We can’t do this thing because some group may be offended’. This is whole-cloth fabrication. I have never in my life seen representatives of the allegedly offended group represented by themselves in any forum. Almost invariably the self-appointed spokesperson for the allegedly offended are White privileged people. That in itself should be a clue. The utterers of these statements are not only making-up problems that don’t exist, they get to feel superior to those of us not ‘aware’ with no real effort on their part. It’s a win for the Progressive, and a loss for society in general. Society is ill-served when divisiveness is the order of the day.

But divisiveness is what Progressivism is about. The philosophy can’t stand on its merits, and even the most cursory rational examination shows it to be fundamentally flawed. The only way Progressives can establish power and give their lives meaning is to invent problems, pit group against group over these fabricated crises, then offer themselves as ‘the voice of calm and reason’ when they created the controversy in the first place. No rational being would stand for this malarkey for one second, but Progressivism is successful because our neurological limbic structures are far older than our intellectual cortex, so it’s much easier to get people to respond to emotional triggers.

No organization, institution, or species can long survive the willful ignorance of reality. In the long run nature will be what it is, and while nature can be circumvented in the short term, the longer the term of deviance, the more violent the correction.










Posted by: bkivey | 3 June 2016

Pittock Mansion Revisited

Given that Progressivism long ago devolved into a self-parody, I thought it would be entertaining to revisit my recent tour of Portland’s Pittock Mansion through the eyes of a Progressive. My grammar, form, and vocabulary are admittedly superior to most Progressive screeds, but you can’t have everything.

High up in the West Hills of Portland amongst the homes of the 1%, stands an unseemly monument to excess in the form of Pittock Mansion. George Pittock and his wife were born during the Slavery Years of Amerika, and George Pittock bought The Oregonian, thus depriving the masses of the means of production regarding the printed word. Built on the underpaid labor of the working class for the enjoyment of the undeserving wealthy minority, the house is open to the public. But only the public that can afford the $10 admission. That price is more than the minimum hourly wage, making it difficult if not impossible for those supporting a family on that wage to visit and see why the struggle must continue.

While the property is accessible from several hiking trails, there is a parking lot for the use of fossil-fuel burning vehicles. No EV charging stations are available. I nearly wept for Gaia when I saw this indifference to combating climate change.

The ticket office is located in the former garage:

Pittock mansion garage

At a time when cars were not commonly available, the gentry were cavalierly spewing greenhouse gases into the air. The garage contains a gift shop, where unenlightened people may enrich their corporate overlords. The public entry is at the rear of the house: a not-so-subtle reminder to the proletariat that they are in the presence of their betters:

Pittock mansion rear

Not far away is the stewards house:

Pittock mansion stewards house

The stewards residence is down the hill from the mansion, so that the hired help would know their place. Not content to pay the steward a living wage, the owners required them to live on the property. This kept them under their master’s watchful eye, lest they live in town and be exposed to the ideas of social justice and the workers struggle.

Further up the drive is a view of Portland:

Pittock mansion view from yard

Here the owners could literally look down on the masses as they toiled under the view of their oppressors. Women and minorities were hardest hit by the mean living conditions and dirty air they were forced to endure.

The front of the house:

Pittock mansion view from drive

Notice how the building culturally appropriates design elements from several peoples. The conical roofs were obviously lifted from the shelter designs of the Native peoples of the Great Plains, while the stone construction imitates the great Pre-Columbian works of the Mesoamericans.

The interior of the house is a study in White privilege:

Pittock mansion main entry hall

Pittock mansion main staircase

Even rooms rarely used required workers to send hours on details for the pleasure of their masters:

Pittock mansion smoking room ceiling

Compare the opulence of these rooms to the spaces occupied by the servants:

Pittock mansion servant stairs

Pittock mansion laundry room

The servants quarters on the third floor aren’t open to the public, so the masses won’t be infuriated by the poor living conditions of the time. Not ones to let the people rest, the owners had systems installed to let the commoners know when they were required to attend to the whims of the privileged:

Pittock mansion servant comm

And at a time when few people had even rudimentary indoor plumbing, this house was built with showers costing more than a worker’s annual wage:

Pittock mansion shower 1

Pittock mansion shower 2

Further evidence of the indifference to the worker’s plight is the fact that this house had two telephones. Not content to make do with what at the time was still something of a luxury, the Pittocks apparently felt that it was necessary to exercise power by being able to put someone on ‘hold’.

Pittock mansion secretary desk

It is offensive to those struggling for social justice that this property exists. Surely in a city as progressive as Portland, we could tear down this edifice to excess and turn the property into affordable housing, or even better, set up homeless camps. Then the least among us could enjoy the fresh air and panoramas once reserved for the rich.




Posted by: bkivey | 1 June 2016

The Intolerance of the Irrational and Ignorant

On 17 May the Portland Public Schools Board voted to ban any material that cast doubt on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). No longer will words like ‘may’, ‘might’, or ‘could’ be used in presenting AGW; it must be presented as fact. Board member Mike Rosen introduced the measure, and it passed unanimously. Mr. Rosen is also active in several environmental groups, and one wonders why no one thought to mention this conflict of interest, a conflict Mr. Rosen himself brings up. The editorial board of The Oregonian expressed concern over this action, noting that the purpose of a school board is to determine the most effective ways to educate students, not “to produce acolytes”.

But producing acolytes is exactly what Progressivism is about, and no dissension will be tolerated, no deviance from The Narrative permitted. Board member Julie Esparza-Brown gave an archetypal example of Progressive intolerance and cognitive dissociation when she stated at the meeting that she demanded ”  “assurances that … there will be room for safe dialogue and for multiple and diverse viewpoints.”, then turned right around and voted to ban diverse viewpoints. The Left welcomes diversity as they define it, which never includes opinions or data counter to The Narrative.

And the data doesn’t support the Progressive version of AGW. In their mind, we’re all going to suffer untold misery if we don’t do as they say and impoverish ourselves in order to save Gaia. Never mind that the only real misery is that which they inflict. They’ve been predicting disaster for decades, yet like preachers of old predicting Judgement Day, deadlines have come and gone and the world is pretty much the same.

The Chief High Priest of AGW is James Hansen, who brought AGW to national attention in the late 1980’s. Dr. Hansen is a climate scientist who focused his early work on . . . Venus. Venus is known for its thick atmosphere and very high surface temperatures. The Venusian atmosphere is composed almost entirely of CO2 (~97% by volume) compared to the trace gas status of the compound in Earth’s atmosphere (~0.04%). Dr. Hansen’s flawed leap of logic was to conclude that CO2 concentration was a major determining factor for surface temperature, glossing over the facts that that planet’s atmosphere is much thicker than Earth’s, Earth’s albedo is much lower than Venus (resulting in less infrared radiation to be trapped in the atmosphere), and the big one: Venus is about 30% closer to the Sun, giving a surface insolation value about 60% higher than Earth.

Setting aside the fact that AGW is based on a flawed premise, you’d think after numerous unfulfilled predictions, and the complete failure of Church-approved climate models to predict anything, the Church of Gaia would have lost all credibility. And in fact among those whom Progressives claim to represent but whom in fact they despise, the people who make society work, their credibility is shot. Just have a look at the comments section of any story on AGW.

Because Progressive philosophy isn’t grounded in any sort relation to the observable universe, and because its practitioners suffer from a guilt complex bordering on psychosis, the only way they can promote their agenda is by force and fiat. No aspect of Progressive philosophy can withstand rational scrutiny, so they must ban any dissent while engaging in ad hominem attacks on those opposed. I suspect that the only reason the Board’s vote was unanimous was because it was easier for some to engage in groupthink than be identified as Other, and so subject to the vicious attacks that are a hallmark of the tolerant Left.

Pittock Mansion

In my quest to find interesting things to do on my day off, I chose to tour the Pittock Mansion in the West Hills of Portland. Located off of Burnside where it goes over the hills, I’ve passed the sign for the mansion many times, but have never had a look. A story on the property in the local paper a couple of weeks ago motivated me to see what it was about.

Commissioned by local businessman and newspaper owner Henry Pittock, construction started in 1909 and wasn’t completed until 1914. The building was built from local materials and included the modern conveniences of central heat, central vacuum, and indirect lighting. The original Pittock’s didn’t get to enjoy their house for too long: Georgiana died in 1918, and her husband passed a year later. The last family member moved out in 1958. The city of Portland bought the estate in 1964, renovated it, and opened it to the public in 1965. The property has undergone several renovations since then. Very little of the original furnishings and wall coverings remain, and in most rooms the furnishings are not the same as were extant when the house was completed. Some 80,000 people visit annually, and the parking lot isn’t overly large, but for the middle of the week it’s sufficient.

The first thing you see is the garage, now the ticket office and gift shop:

Pittock mansion garage

The building never stabled horses, and this was the chauffeur’s residence when one was employed.

The public entrance is at the rear of the house:

Pittock mansion rear

There’s a porte cochere on the left where visitor’s could exit their vehicles out of the weather.

Floor plans of the publicly-accessible parts of the house:

Pittock mansion floor plan 1

Pittock mansion floor plan 2

The lower level is below grade. There is a third floor, really a finished attic, housing the servant’s quarters, but it’s not available for touring.

If you were visiting back in the day, the first thing you’d see would be the 2400 sq. ft. steward’s house. The steward was the property’s jack-of-all-trades. If it didn’t involve cooking or cleaning, the steward did it. You can see why you’d want to attract the most competent person available, and living quarters like this were certainly an inducement.

Pittock mansion stewards house


Pittock mansion stewards house rear

The house is open for tours ‘when volunteers are available’, but apparently none were available on the day.

Continuing up the drive, there’s a view of Portland to the east:

Pittock mansion view from yard

And then the house proper:

Pittock mansion view from drive

There were enough people where it was difficult to get unobstructed pictures, but there are some points of interest.

The main entry doesn’t open directly onto the main staircase, but instead there’s an entry hall:

Pittock mansion main entry hall

The music room is on the right, and the library is on the left. The main stairs are directly behind:

Pittock mansion main staircase

The house was built during a time when people employed live-in servants, and to me the more interesting parts of the home were the parts of the east wing that formed the services core. There is a servants staircase that connects all levels and allow the help to easily access the kitchen, laundry, pantry, delivery vestibule, boiler room, and other areas necessary to keep the owners comfortable.

The servants stairs:

Pittock mansion servant stairs

The intercom and annunciators that let the help know where their services are required:

Pittock mansion servant comm

The kitchen has professional-grade equipment, and the floor is covered with 8000 interlocking rubber tiles. It’s a nice amenity for folks who spent a lot of time on their feet. Placards note that such niceties helped to attract good help.

The laundry room:

Pittock mansion laundry room

Apparently the gentry didn’t employ a full-time laundress, but would have one come in a couple times a week.

The ceiling in the smoking room:

Pittock mansion smoking room ceiling

That’s all plaster. If you had money in the early part of the 20th century and built a house, you had a smoking room, even if you didn’t smoke, and the Pittock’s apparently didn’t.

A couple of showers:

Pittock mansion shower 1

Hot and cold water were mixed in the tank, and the chains controlled the overhead and ring showers. A more complicated way to bathe:

Pittock mansion shower 2

This contraption includes a bidet spout on the floor, heads to stimulate the liver and kidneys (obscured on the left), and shower rings for a whole body wash. There’s a ‘Test’ valve that let the user check the water temperature before going full monty.

More plumbing in the form of overhead radiators:

Pittock mansion overhead radiator

The view from one of the bedrooms on the second floor:

Pittock mansion view from bedroom

One of George Pittock’s daughter worked as his private secretary, and this was her office. At the time, there were two telephone companies in Portland, so to reach everyone, you had to have two phones and two directories:

Pittock mansion secretary desk

The museum staff solicit feedback on the direction preservation efforts take through a selection of donation jars. I voted for ‘Authentic Rooms’.

Pittock mansion donation jars

The Pittock Mansion is well worth a couple of hours and the $10 admission. More than the opportunity to see a nicely furnished home, the house gives a glimpse into the life of the upper class during the period. To me it was interesting to see how the house is laid out to facilitate the flow of daily life. One of the more impressive aspects is even though the home cost around $8 million in today’s money, it conveys luxury without ostentation. The arrangement and size of the rooms give the place a comfortable feel, as if this is a place one could actually live in, as opposed to occupying a trophy.

Small World

Earlier this week I worked with a gentleman wearing a US Army hat. I asked if he’d been in the Army, and he replied that he hadn’t, but his father had. I asked what his father had done in the Army, and was told that he was an airborne trooper with the 101st in Vietnam. I was a bit surprised, as my father spent three years flying Huey’s around Vietnam for the 101st. It may well be that my father flew his father around. The things you learn 45 later.


Posted by: bkivey | 26 May 2016

A Day in the Hood

With a day off coming up and a strong desire to get out of town, I cast about for options. Much as I like the coast, I’ve done all the day trip things I want to do for a while. Wine country tour? No designated driver. If I’d had three days off, I’d go up to Seattle and catch a couple of ballgames. I like the Gorge, and I’d done the waterfall tour last year. Thinking about the Gorge got me thinking about another place I’ve enjoyed, the town of Hood River. I checked out things to do in the area, and found a museum I thought I might like. Done deal.

It was overcast in Hillsboro, but the weather for Hood River was forecast as clear. I know that this time of year a marine cloud layer often extends inland and ends where the geography transitions from temperate climate to high desert. Five miles west of my destination the skies cleared, and 90 miles east of home is Hood River:

Hood River from event area

The Gorge is on the right. Hood River is a world-famous destination for wind-driven water sports, and on the day there was a 15 knot breeze blowing. In a few months as the desert to the east warms, sustained winds will often reach into the mid-20 knot range. The wind blows against the 3 – 5 knot current of the river, making for challenging conditions, so it’s not a place for the inexperienced. I learned to windsurf on the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and have never challenged the Columbia. Kite boarders were well represented and it didn’t escape my notice that a fair number of folks were wearing wetsuits. The water isn’t exactly warm this time of year.

Hood River waterfront area

The museum I wanted to see is the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM). It’s located at the airport, and their conceit is that everything on display is operational, so I was really interested to see what they had.

WAAAM museum front

The front of the museum. Two of the museum’s three hangers are visible to the right, with Mt. Hood directly behind to the south. If you turn around, you can see Mt. Adams to the north:

Mt Adams from WAAAM

Admission is $14, and the ticket is good for the day, so unlike most museums, you can exit and re-enter. After passing through the gift shop area, there’s this:

WAAAM interior from main entrance

Everything you’re looking at is operable and original. OK, restored, but you get the idea. There are nearly 300 machines on display, and they all work. It’s mind-boggling. Most of the collection is airplanes and automobiles from the 1920’s and 30’s, but every decade from 1880 to the 2000’s is represented. The oldest item is this 1883 bicycle known colloquially in England as the ‘penny-farthing’ for the wheels’ resemblance to the two coins:

1887 bicycle

Try riding that fixed-gear, slackers.

Near the entrance is this airplane:

200 fpm airplane

Built in 1912, this aircraft has a climb rate of 200 fpm. That is the slowest time-to-climb I’ve ever seen, and would be shamed by a hot-air balloon. It’s a slow climber even compared to contemporaneous aircraft.  Compare to the 65,000 fpm rate of the MiG-29 I saw a couple of weeks ago at Evergreen Aviation Museum. For perspective, if this aircraft could reach 65,000 feet, it would take it over 5 1/2 hours to reach the altitude the MiG could do in one minute.

I noticed that during the 1920’s, both airplane and auto designers tended to put the fuel tank between the operator and the engine:

airplane with fuel tank behind engine

car with gas tank behind engine

The Ford Pinto looks like a paragon of safety compared to this arrangement.

The first building is devoted primarily to aircraft, while the second building is more car-oriented. However, the two vehicle types are freely mixed. There are a number of bicycles about, mostly from the 1940’s and 50’s, along with motorcycles, and a couple of horse-drawn carriages. At one end of the first building is this:

1935 Packard convertible

Now that’s the business. A 1935 Packard convertible with a V-12. Back in the day, you bought a Cadillac if you couldn’t afford a Packard. Near the Packard is what I consider to be the museum’s crown jewel:

1936 Cord 810_2

Behold the 1936 Cord 810, considered by the cognoscenti to be the most beautiful American car ever made, and one of a very few cars to be displayed at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve heard of Cord’s since I was a boy, and of course seen pictures, but this was the first time I’d ever seen one in the flesh, so to speak. Only 3000 of these were built and yes, it runs.

There’s a 1932 Dodge firetruck:

1932 Dodge fire truck

It wouldn’t take much of a fire to exhaust the truck’s water supply, it seems. I noticed that cars built in the 20’s and 30’s have the horn mounted on a rail atop or alongside the engine. Just a curiosity.

To say the museum’s collection is eclectic is to grossly understate the case. There are vintage consumer electronics:

WAAM telephonoes cameras radios

Items from the travel industry:

WAAAM travel industry collection

And whatever this is:

WAAAM tangle of fishing lures

It looks like a tangle of fishing line and lures, and is located in a fishing lure display, but I have no idea why it’s presented in this way. There are examples of vintage laundry equipment, lunch boxes, toys, and firearms:

WAAAM firearms collection

I didn’t ask if the firearms were operational, but I would be much surprised if they weren’t. There are also some sleds:

WAAAM sleds

And not the 1960’s Detroit version, either, although there are some of those, too.

In the second building there are some automobiles:

WAAAM second building entrance

WAAAM cars 1

WAAAM cars 2

Again, all operational. Just left of center is a 1918 Stanley steam-powered car:

1918 Stanley steam car

Note the floor protection. There’s a 1910 steam-powered tractor next to it:

1910 steam tractor

I’d first seen a steam tractor in Death Valley (they replaced the famous 20-mule teams to haul borax), and imagined sitting behind that boiler when it’s 90 outside. This building has an electric car. From 1914.

Want to see a car built in 3 1/2 minutes? Here you go:

WAAAM Model T build up car placard

WAAAM Model T build up car

Some sailplanes:

WAAAM sialplanes and gliders

This area has training gliders from WW II. On the left is a small collection of micro cars, including a Mini when they really were mini’s. They don’t have a Nash Metropolitan, which is a surprising omission. There’s a rat rod which wouldn’t look out of place in a Road Warrior movie:

WAAAM hot rod

Given that the exhaust goes right into the cabin:

WAAAM hot rod interior

A few odds and ends:

A minimalist windshield:

WAAAM minimalist windshield

Carpentry was once a useful auto body skill:

WAAAM wooden auto bodywork

Instrument flight training is sometimes referred to as ‘going under the hood’: this image of the student cockpit in a PT 19 trainer shows why:

PT 19 trainer hood

An airspeed indicator on a 1910’s aircraft. No indication on what happens if you’re flying into a headwind.

1910s airspeed indicator

I spent the better part of three hours here, and enjoyed every second of it. Any museum presents history: WAAAM presents living history. Many of the ‘walls’ in the buildings are actually large garage doors, and on the second Saturday of the month they roll out aircraft and automobiles and run them. I’ve circled 8 October on my calendar when they’ll have a 1930’s-themed presentation. Period dress is recommended.

I chatted a bit with the young lady at the desk on my way out, and remarked that like my discovery of the Crater Rock Museum in Medford a couple of years ago, I felt like this museum was the coolest place nobody knew about. It’s like I know a secret. We talked about the Cord and she mentioned that during their Saturday excursions rides are offered in the vintage cars (not, alas, in the aircraft). The museum offers a course in driving a Model T for $150. If you think driving a century-old car is easy, look it up. It’s comparable to flying helicopter.

Now that I’d seen some of the more interesting machines on the planet, I had to make the walk of shame to my frumpy Ford. Which I drove to the Full Sail brewpub downtown. I like the Full Sail brewpub because there’s a view of the river, and the food and beer are decent. But they’ve made some changes since I was last there. The deck used to be much larger: apparently the pub has enclosed most of it. The view from what remains of the deck:

Full Sail brewery deck

The trees have grown a bit: there was an unrestricted view of the river. Now there’s a better view from inside the bar. After lunch I headed for the Mt. Hood Railroad. I’d hoped to take the ride into the Oregon orchard country, but the railroad runs excursions four days a week, and today wasn’t one of them. A shot of the train:

Mt Hood Railroad train

There are three classes of service, and the website offers no pricing or departure information. The two things most people want to know aren’t available online. Poor show, Mt. Hood Railroad. Tours run 2 hours for the round trip. For the record, seats in the rear car are $35, and don’t include food, although there is the option for purchase. Seats in the lower level of the dome car are $45, and seats in the upper level of the dome car are $55. The last two classes include a box lunch. Departures on the days they run (Thurs – Sun) are at 1100 and 1400. There, Mt. Hood Railroad: I’ve done your work for you.

Time to go home. On previous trips to Hood River I’ve crossed the river on the Hood River bridge ($2 for cars) and taken WA 14 back to Portland. This route affords spectacular views of Mt. Hood, but the cloud cover was such that no viewing would be done this day. I opted to go back by way of I-84, and pick up old US-30 near the falls.

Prior to the Interstate, US-30 was the east-west route through the Gorge. It’s slower, curvier, and more scenic than the Interstate, but in my opinion, more fun. You can see several falls from the road, and although I’ve driven this road a few times, why miss the opportunity to enrich your experience?

Unless your experience is driving behind someone going 25 mph. My goodness. I wanted to enjoy the scenery, but at a more reasonable pace, say, at the speed limit (at least) of 40 mph. There aren’t any passing zones on this stretch of highway, although there are a few pullovers, but not as many as one would perhaps like.

Only a couple of rough spots in the Portland traffic glacier, and not as bad as I’d expected. Back home after a much more satisfying day off than sitting at home.













Posted by: bkivey | 23 May 2016

Cleaning Up the Blog Pile

Some items from the bottom of the blog pile before they get too old:

From the 17 April Op-Ed pages of The Oregonian comes a piece written by a local landlord responding to hate mail he received to a Craigslist rental listing. Jeff Wallach absolutely lays the wood to the sorry excuses for oxygen thieves who fly the Progressive banner in Portland.

A 24 April opinion piece by Nishant Bhajaria provides a well-reasoned commentary on why Bernie Sanders isn’t qualified to run for dog-catcher, to say nothing of Chief Executive. It seems Mr. Bhajaria is a naturalized citizen voting in his first American national election, yet he has a better grasp of what this country is about and how it operates than the vast great majority of the native-born population.

Warm Springs Lumber Mill

About two hours southeast of Portland is the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Sitting somewhat incongruously in the high desert is a sawmill miles from any forest. Prior to construction of the casino and resort complex, it was the primary employer on the reservation. I’ve always wondered why the mill was sited where it is, as sawmills are generally built as close to the trees as possible. That’s all moot now: the tribe announced the closure of the mill due to curtailed supply. (The citation is a stub; I wasn’t able to find the full article online).

The Federal government controls the forest from which timber was harvested, and also administers the reservation. As restrictions were placed on timber harvesting, the mill ran into financial trouble, which caused the Feds to further restrict harvesting. Earlier this year the Feds cut off the harvesting entirely, depriving the mill of its raw material. Another illustration of government largess and deprivation.

There Goes the Neighborhood

Forest Grove is a town on the western edge of the Portland metro area known for Pacific University and a slower pace of life. It’s a place I’d consider living if most of my work wouldn’t be an hour away. Folks who live in Forest Grove like living in Forest Grove.

And that’s about to change.

Thrillist, described as a ‘men’s digital lifestyle magazine’, named Forest Grove as Portland’s best suburb. While the town may be something of a bedroom community for Nike and Intel, it’s a real honest-to-God town rather than a metropolitan add-on. I read a few articles on the site, and calling Forest Grove a suburb is indicative of the type of lazy editing that seems to be Thrillist’s hallmark. One of the attractions noted was ‘a decent commute’. Anyone who thinks Forest Grove is ‘a decent commute’ from Portland either doesn’t live here, or moved from Los Angeles.

It’s no secret that Portland traffic ranges from bad to impassable. It’s amusing listening to transplants complain about the traffic: I’m thinking ‘Why do you think that is?” A person living in Forest Grove commuting to Portland can expect an hour or more each way. Hillsboro (Intel) and Beaverton (Nike) are accessible, but Portland?

The fact is that urban sprawl is taking over the area. The 16 miles of road between Beaverton and Forest Grove are almost completely lined with infrastructure. Times change and people are going to live where they like, but the folks at Thrillist aren’t helping.



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