Posted by: bkivey | 20 August 2016

John Day Fossil Beds Day Three

Today was actually the second day off, but the third day of the trip. Up for breakfast at the Bend Black Bear Diner. Black Bear is a regional diner chain with locations throughout the West. I first discovered the restaurants in Bend when I worked here in 2006. Food is OK, prices are reasonable, and portions are American-sized. You will not leave hungry from the Bear.

Next was a trip up to Pilot Butte. The Butte is an extinct cinder cone in the middle of Bend that’s been turned into a park. Rising 500 feet above Bend, there’s a road to the top popular with hikers and cyclists. It’s one of my favorite spots to visit in Bend.

The view looking West:

Bend Pilot Butte panorama

Broken Top and Three Sisters on the left, Mt. Hood on the middle right. I noticed the trees have started to grow up some.

For the return trip I elected to take US 97 north to Madras, then US 26 west to Portland. This was the route I’ve taken many times, but it had been long enough that I’d forgotten some of the scenery along the way. I had a chance to look at the geology with new eyes given what I ‘d learned the day before.

Out of the high desert and into the Cascade foothills, then face to face with Mt. Hood:

East side of Mt Hood 1606.22

This is the east side near the junction of US 26 and OR 35. Just up the road off OR 35 is the Barlow Road, the overland portion of the Oregon Trail that allowed wagons to cross the Cascades. Prior to construction in 1846 wagons had to float down the Columbia river. I think it’s cool to have a living (drivable) piece of history here.

And that’s about the limit of what I want to do with two days off. Lots of drive time but a really enjoyable respite. I’m still smiling.

Portland Studio Building

Portland composers on building 9th and Taylor

Saw this building in downtown Portland at SW Taylor & 9th. Classical composers names are above the second-floor windows with busts below.


Posted by: bkivey | 18 August 2016

John Day Fossil Beds Day Two

Up early to get some breakfast and start the eastward drive to John Day. I filled the tank on the edge of town. I’ve driven through enough sparsely populated areas to understand that fuel management is critical. I figured there’d be a gas station somewhere around a National Monument, but I also figured that few, if any of the hamlets scattered about the landscape would have gas.

The plan was to drive north and east on Powell Butte road until it intercepted US 126 about halfway between Redmond and Prineville, then east until US 26 at Prineville.

Prineville sits in the Crooked River valley, and it’s the eastern outpost of civilization in this part of central Oregon. There’s an overlook before you descend.

Prineville view from the overlook

In recent years Google and Facebook have built data centers in Prineville. This seems counter-intuitive, as the servers must be kept cool and this is the middle of the high desert.

Prineville new data center

I’d never driven east of Prineville, so everything from here on was going to be new.

Up into the Ochoco National Forest on US 26:

Prineville east of town into the mountains

I believe there are three passes along the route. It’s a very scenic drive. It’s also an isolated drive. About an hour east of Prineville cell service ends. This part of Oregon is very much in the white area you see on phone company coverage maps. Phone service is generally by land line, although some small towns offer patchy cell service.

Late morning found me at the Junction of US 26 and OR 19, and the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

The Monument actually consists of three dispersed sites: Sheep Rock (where I was), Clarno, and Painted Hills. These sites are situated in a box roughly 40 miles x 30 miles. It’s possible to visit all three in one day, but it takes planning and the willingness to see a lot of desert.

The museum and visitor center at the park entrance. It was warm, but not hot.

John Day museum

There is some scenery:

John Day panorama near entrance

The museum interior:

John Day museum interior

The fossil record here is from about 44 million years ago (mya) to 7 mya. The terrible lizards are long gone: this is the age of mammals. Most of the animals from the period look pretty much like what we have today. There are numerous displays of plant and animal fossils; many integrated into dioramas. There are also a number of drawers on the fronts of displays. Despite years of training not to touch anything in museums, visitors are encouraged to open the drawers to see more fossils.

The displays ask some intriguing questions. One species displayed lasted 30 million years before going extinct. Humans have been around about 3 million. Would you say that was a successful species?

While the museum is nice, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting fossils in the ground, similar to Dinosaur National Monument. It is possible to see exactly that at the Clarno unit, but I wasn’t going there.

There are several points of interest as you drive through the park, including a sheep ranch, or maybe it should be a sheep station, given the environment. The ranch is long closed, but there is active agriculture in the area. I asked a ranger where people bought supplies, and they said while Dayville was the closest town, people thought the grocery store charged too much, so most folks drove in to Prineville. That’s a five-hour round trip for groceries.

North along the John Day river.

Goose Rock:

John Day Goose Rock

Cathedral Rock:

John Day Cathedral Rock

The river nearly bends back on itself here.

I’d noticed some blue cliffs alongside the road, and there’s a trail (The Island in Time trail) that goes up to them. The 1-mile trail starts from a picnic area equipped with facilities. The trail itself is easy enough, but there are a number of  bridges with metal grate decking. Not a problem for humans, most dogs do not like that surface, and signs warn that you may have to carry your dog across the bridges.

Along the trail:

These are the cliffs you see from the road:

John Day Island in Time trail blue rock 1

That’s not actually rock. Northwest geography is defined by volcanic activity, and these cliffs are ash deposits, as this close-up reveals:

John Day cloe up of hill texture

Looking down the trail:

John Day Island in Time trail looking down trail 1

John Day Island in Time looking down trail 2

There’s very little shade, and the trail signs note that there isn’t any the last half of the trail. There’s a trail that climbs to the top of the canyon, but at three miles was more walking than I cared for.

Interesting silt deposits in the creek:

John Day multicolored silt deposits

John Day green mud in streambed

A welcome sign:

John Day Island in Time trail end

Don’t need to tell me twice. The scenery here doesn’t look real. If you’ve got a sci-fi screenplay, here’s your location:

John Day Island in Time end of trail panorama

A short drive south from the park through the scenic Picture Gorge leads to the Mascal Formation Overlook.

John Day Mascal Formation overlook panorama

The top layer of rock was formed by volcanic activity 7 mya. Even in the desert, erosion can do a lot in that time.

By this time it was mid-afternoon, and I was getting hungry. The town of Dayville offers repast, but it was further east, and I wanted to start heading home. Mitchell just east of the US 26/OR 207 junction is just big enough to have a restaurant, and it’s on the way to the Painted Hills.

There was road construction at the junction for Painted Hills (they hadn’t gotten started when I passed earlier), so a half-hour delay. It’s a pretty drive up the canyon to the Monument.

Near the entrance you can see where the Monument got its name:

Painted Hills panorama near entrance 1

The hills are mostly made of sediments laid down when there was considerably more water in the area. Some hills are volcanic ash that has formed a clay. The colors are caused by the leaching of various minerals and salts. The composition of the hills will not generally support vegetation. It’s a testament to the dryness of the climate that formations made of mud have lasted millions of years.

All of the roads inside the unit are dirt and gravel, but nothing the average car can’t handle. Your paint may get dinged, though.

The Painted Hills are one of Oregon’s natural wonders, and a must-see. They are a ways off the beaten track, so even in the middle of vacation season the area isn’t overcrowded. This is one of those places you have to want to go to: you won’t casually happen upon it on the way to somewhere else.

There’s a visitors center near the entrance with information on the area. There are several trails, and with the exception of the Carroll Rim trail, are quite short. I decided to drive to the west end of the unit and work back.

Red Hill is at the west end:

Painted Hills Red Hill Trail Red Hill 2

A trial leads to the back side.

A flower along the trail:

Painted Hills Red Hill Trail flower

An ash deposit:

Painted Hills white ash deposit 2

The next trail working east is Leaf Hill. This is the site of a dig, and signs inform that thousands of fossils have been found here. It’s not really that spectacular to look at. There is some water in this country:

Painted HIlls water 1

The next attraction is Painted Cove:

Painted HIlls Painted Cove entrance

There’s a short boardwalk trail that winds among the hills. It’s along this trail that you’ll find the iconic Painted Hills scene:

Painted HIlls Painted Cove boardwalk

The nature of the hills is clearly visible.

There’s also what the Park Service is pleased to call a sinkhole:

Painted Hills Painted Cove Trail sinkhole

I’ve lived in Florida. That ‘sinkhole’ has work to do.

Views from the Painted Hills overlook. There’s a trail that ascends the hill on the left. I didn’t take it.

Painted Hills from overlook 1

Painted Hills near overlook panorama 1

By this time it was edging toward evening, and there was still an hour and a half drive to Prineville, and another hour after that to Bend. It was after 5, so I figured the road crew was done for the day, and they were.

I was concerned about fuel, because the gauge was near the 3/8th mark, and I still had several passes to climb. I’d figured by dead reckoning I had enough gas to get to Prineville, but I wasn’t overly confident. I already knew there were zero gas stations along the way. Ochoco reservoir is about ten miles east of Prineville and a popular recreation spot, but I hadn’t seen any service stations there, either.

I pulled into the first gas station I saw on the outskirts of town, and found out that when I’d had the fuel pump replaced the week prior, my car’s fuel mileage had increased significantly. I’ve had the car a couple of years, and it’s given an honest 25 mpg on the highway. When I refueled, I discovered I’d been getting 31+ mpg. That’s driving across mountains with the A/C running. Wow. What a nice surprise.

With that knowledge, the drive to Bend was more relaxing. Of note on the western side of Prineville are some low hills, the remnants of mountains and volcanoes that once rivaled the Rockies. It was this area that supplied much of the landscape material to the west.

Back to Bend, and I had to spend some time doing admin work for the business. I walked in to the hotel room, flipped on the light, and nothing happened. Turns out the whole hotel, and only the hotel, was without power. I talk to the manager, but I’m not overly upset: it’s obvious he’s doing everything he can to get the power company on the ball. I figured I’d walk to the bar across the street and use their wi-fi while I got dinner. But their wi-fi was unsecured, so I couldn’t use any of my stored passwords. Well that’s just great.

By the time I get this figured out, the hotel power has been restored, so I can work from my room. Eventually did get dinner at the bar.

A very long, but highly rewarding day.

Posted by: bkivey | 11 August 2016

John Day Fossil Beds Day One

Around the middle of June I had some time in the schedule, and cast about for something to do. I was reluctant to take two days off because this is the fat part of the year, and money made now will help during the Winter. I agonized over whether to take the time until I checked the last time I had two consecutive days off. March. I blocked off the days.

Now what to do. I’ve pretty much done everything I want to do for a while in the Portland metro area, and the coast, and the Gorge. I’ve always wanted to see the John Day Fossil Beds in eastern Oregon, but they’re 350 miles from home. It’s a bit of a drive, especially when I only had a couple of days off. I figured I’d make Bend in central Oregon my base and drive there after work. That would eat up 150 miles of the 350 and make the trip manageable.

It usually takes about 3 1/2 hours to drive to Bend. I left in the afternoon at 5; a bit later than I would have liked but nearly the entire drive would be through rural Oregon. But some parts of Oregon aren’t as rural as they used to be, and a four-way stop in the country with seemingly every car in the county trying to get through took some time. Then an accident on a two-lane road. I wasn’t too stressed. There was a baseball game on the radio, and I was on my way to a mini-vacation: I was looking forward to a couple of days of doing things I wanted to do for no reason but to see, do, and learn new things. I could get through the little tribulations.

South and east through Willamette valley farmland, then a short stretch of I-5 through Salem to pick up state highway 22. A good stretch of agriculture, then into the Cascades. Highway 22 doesn’t follow as direct a route through the mountains as US 20 further south, but I think it’s more fun to drive. There’s Lake Detroit, an impounded reservoir that’s a popular recreational area. Highway 22 joins US 22 before Santiam Pass at 4800 feet. I like this drive, and stress bled away with every mile. Just after the summit is Mt. Washington on the right, and then the long descent through the forest to the high desert.

By the time I made Sisters it was pushing 9 and getting dark. By happy coincidence there was a full moon on the Solstice. I tried for a picture:

Bend full moon summer solstice

A crappy picture, but I like the smeared paint effect. Hmmm. From the same spot, Broken Top and Three Sisters at twilight:

Bend Three Sisters at twilight

Bend around 9:30, and a welcome hotel room. The day had been long and I was tired. Recovery had to be quick: the meat of the trip was tomorrow.

Nag, Nag, Nag

On  local radio stations a series of PSA’s have been running called ‘Just One Thing’. The thrust is that people (you) should do ‘just one thing’ to improve your life quality. Most of the spots are relatively inoffensive. Get out of the house, move around, and the like. But this Summer they crossed the line.

There is a spot talking about ice cream. An announcer acknowledges that ice cream is ‘a yummy way to cool down’, but that ice cream ‘comes with a carbon footprint’.

Back the truck up!

Stop. Just stop.

Ice cream is a treat. A luxury. Everyone knows this. Ice cream is fun. Sticking strictly to plan, the killjoys want to make people feel guilty about doing something fun.

No. I reject the premise and the attitude. Get stuffed.

The Best Kung-Fu Movie Ever

I lived in San Francisco a while ago. There were two Chinese TV channels on UHF (look it up, kids). On Saturday mornings one channel would show kung -fu movies. No subtitles, but you didn’t need any. You could generally follow the story (such as it was) from the acting and other cues, but you weren’t watching for subtlety of plot: you wanted to see kung-fu fighting, and lots of it.

Watch enough of those movies, and you’d notice motifs and conceits, as well as some passing acquaintance with Chinese culture (and it helped that I lived a few blocks from Chinatown). But above all they are fun to watch.

Last week Willamette Week ran a blurb under the ‘Things To Do’ section mentioning that the movie “The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter” would be playing at the Hollywood Theater on a day I had off. The blurb said that the movie was considered “The best kung-fu movie ever made.” Could not pass that up.

It is.




Posted by: bkivey | 6 August 2016

Bad Day at the Office

On 27 July the Orlando Sentinel reported that a man was arrested for possession of methamphetamine (meth) with a firearm. The man had entered a 7-11 where drug activity was known to occur, and was pulled over when he failed to come to a complete stop on exiting the parking lot, and for driving 42 mph in a 30 zone.

When the man opened his wallet to retrieve his license, the officer noticed that he had a concealed carry permit, and the man said he had a gun. When asked to exit his car, the officer noticed white flakes on the floorboard.

“I recognized through my eleven years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the substance to be some sort of narcotic,”

Wrote the arresting officer in her report. Two roadside drug tests confirmed police suspicions. The man was arrested, booked, and spent 10 hours in the county lockup before he made bail. So far, so routine.

Whatever the man’s traffic offenses may have been, the white flakes in his car were pieces of donut glaze; a substance legal in all US jurisdictions. A Florida Law Enforcement Department (FDLE) lab test confirmed that the man was in possession of crystalline sugar, not crystal meth.

So an innocent citizen is arrested, spends a few hours in jail, and the state drops the charges (bet he still hasn’t gotten his gun back). While embarrassing for law enforcement, these things happen. But the inappropriate arrest is only half the story.

Recall that officers tested the substance twice using field testing kits. In any sufficiently large testing sample, false positives will occur. For two false positives to happen back-to-back indicates problems with the test, the training, or the procedure. Or this man was subject to a wildly improbable coincidence. The story notes that The New York Times reported FDLE field drug testing yielded false positives for meth 21% of the time. That’s an enormously high error rate. And yet, a spokeswoman for the FDLE stated that the agency has no information about the prevalence of false field tests. Another spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department wrote:

“At this time, we have no responsive records. … There is no mechanism in place for easily tracking the number of, or results of, field drug testing.”

This is bald-faced incompetence. One of the basic tenants of process management is to ensure that the process is in control. If you want to ensure that the process (field drug testing) is yielding the desired result (provide evidence for prosecution) then you have to ensure that the error rate is within allowable boundaries. For the Orlando police, that very much means having a “mechanism in place for easily tracking the number of, or results of, field drug testing.”

Considering that 1 in 5 field drug tests used by Florida law enforcement are not usable for prosecuting meth crimes, I cannot think that the process is in control. And if 20% is an allowable error rate, that’s a lot of people arrested for something they didn’t do, not to mention the wasted resources throughout the criminal justice system.

The worst part is the seeming ho-hum attitude on the part of law enforcement. From the story I don’t get any sense of urgency to address the problem. It seems a 20% failure rate for a tool used to help determine whether someone goes to jail is acceptable. I don’t know if other law enforcement agencies have such lax standards for field drug testing, but if they do, they are part of the problem.

An Arachnid Adventure

I drove to the store last week, not noticing that a spider had started a web between the driver’s side mirror and door, as spiders will do. After pulling out of the driveway, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, glanced over, and saw a spider trailing from the mirror on a strand of silk. I wasn’t going too fast, and the spider was trying to climb up the strand to the mirror. As speed increased, the spider hunkered down on the streaming strand with all eight of its legs holding on for dear life. Every time I’d slow down, the spider would climb a bit closer to the mirror. You just know the spider was wondering what the HELL was going on. It was building a web, minding its own business, when out of nowhere it finds itself in a windstorm.

The spider survived to my destination. When I stopped, it immediately climbed the remaining distance to the mirror, where it disappeared behind the glass, and with a great story to tell at the bar.

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.

Post 600

This is the 6ooth post on this blog. Not a tremendous output over 6 1/2 years, but I’ve enjoyed it. A warm Thank You to all who’ve read and especially to those who’ve taken the time to comment.




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.










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