Girl with magnifier

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

what condition my condition is in.

Shawn sent this one over; Thais make bulletproof vests out of old xrays.

Well, another year of blogging is set to pass, what does that make, five or six? Six. Definitely my most prodigious effort yet from a sheer numbers standpoint but most of the time I was in a groove and it never really felt too stale. Think that I did some decent work. Managed to make a living on the side, pay my bills and take a vacation, which is pretty much my immediate bucket list. Thanks to one and all for gracing me with your attention and cyber presence.


692,762 pageviews, at this rate it will be 2015 sometime before I break a million. Which is fine, I don't need a big audience, gets a bit stifling.

Edward Snowden is the Blast man of the year. If it hadn't been Snowden there would have been another Snowden with a different name. You can't amass all this private information on everybody on the planet and not expect the truth to get out and the information to be abused. It is a database rife with the potential for abuse.

Just because this administration thinks that it is being ethical and respectful of civil liberties concerns doesn't mean the next one will. I think that most Americans think that enough is enough. We don't trust government enough to cede it this kind of power and we never did. 

Ex NSA Director Michael Hayden says that Snowden is a treasonous traitor. Well, that is what I think of Hayden. People that don't respect the fourth amendment are traitors to this country as well.

Was reading about the concept of "hops" this morning. 

A study showed that the average person has 190 facebook friends. The government is allowed to listen in on a suspects primary friends, their friend's friends and friends of friends of friends. The latter tertiary sum is over 5 million. From one individual matrix. So you better figure they are listening to near everybody.

We can talk more about this stuff next year.

I am reading Meacham's biography of my favorite American, Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power. Meacham wrote the Jackson biography that I really liked, I like this portrait less so. He does his best from the outset to paint Jefferson as a promiscuous womanizer, tries to unmask the statesman's every possible flaw. I heartily accept that our late President was a mortal and not a god but Meacham goes out of his way...

This is the least satisfactory book on Jefferson I have ever read. Having said that there are definitely some pearls here and if you are a student of American history you might want to give it a read. He explains that our revolution was actually started by the rich and that they took their clue from events that happened in England a century prior.

Interesting how the British fought for emancipation as a way to start a slave insurrection and hurt the republic, while simultaneously entreating with the local indians to do battle with the nascent americans. I definitely learned some things reading this book.

Meacham has a rather plodding writing style, definitely lacks the prosaic gifts of his contemporaries Goodwin or McCullough. Worth a look anyway.

Monday, December 30, 2013

High Flyin Bird

Happy New Year! Be safe.

A soldier's return

Edwin Ware, perhaps the last Civil War soldier that will ever receive a proper burial, was laid to rest at the Miramar National Cemetery this morning with full military honors. A small crowd of family, friends and the curious gathered, exactly eighty nine years and one day after Ware's death. Because the Union veteran had the temerity to take a Maidu Indian wife, he had been rejected and disowned by his family and chose to live the remainder of his days with the Maidu people and the woman he loved.

Ware joined the Union Army at the age of 19 In 1864. He belonged to Company I of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment of California. He mustered out a year after the end of the Civil War and became a farmer.

Private Ware has lain in an unmarked grave and was largely forgotten since his passing in 1924. He was recently reclaimed to history thanks to the great efforts of his great-granddaughter, an only child whose father, Mario Olivieri, an Air Force Colonel with a distinguished flying cross, was also buried along side his forebear today.

I watched as the horse drawn carriage carried his interred ashes down the hill at the front of the cortege. The carriage had the words Final Honor written on the side and the assembled faces were somber as befitting an occasion where the last Civil War soldier is laid to final rest.

A chaplain named Tom Helmantoler spoke a stirring invocation for the departed veteran. The Chaplain is part of the group Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. His words were thoughtful, measured and full of respect. I was surprised but I myself had to suppress back a tear as he read a prayer for Ware.

 “May the soul and body of Private Ware rest in peace once and for all for all time.”

The color guard led a proper salute and a bugler fingered a plaintiff tune on the adjoining hillock. You could feel it on the wind, Private Ware is present and accounted for, Sir, and is ready to join his company.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Buzzy Linhart

Karen Dalton

Fred's amazing original version.

Christmas Bird Count

Prairie Falcon having a snack, Ramona
I went birding today. For the first time. Now many of you are aware that I have long been an admirer of our avian friends. I have dotted these pages with my pictures of raptors for many years. But I am no birder. In birder terms I am what is pejoratively known as a bird watcher. And today I found out that there is a really big difference.

I was invited by my friend Beth Cobb to participate in the yearly Palomar Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Beth is a birder, blast reader, horsewoman, a docent at the Santa Margarita Ecological Preserve down the street, she also jogs past my place every morning with her beautiful herding dog.

I jumped at the chance to go. By the way there are similar counts taking place all across our great nation. I must admit that I have always wanted to study the curious species known as birders at greater length.

Not that I carry a grudge or harbor any animus but I was once remonstrated by a haughty San Francisco client for confusing a scrub jay and a blue jay and frankly the sting still hurts.

Our group plumbed an area known as the Escondido Section. I now know that this is like High Holy Days for Birders. We were one group of many and several birders in our group had birded our designated "patch" in prior years.

We had a reporter and a photojournalist from the U-T in our group as well as our leader, a very bright woman named Phoenix Von Hendy who obviously really knew her stuff.

We left at daybreak with a couple of Beth's friends, the wonderful Bill and Dianne Atkinson, and headed for our sector, the Santa Maria Valley of Ramona. After watching and listening to these people for a few minutes I quickly realized that the real fascination for me was the birders and not the birding. That I can do at home.

Birders are a bit different and well worth observing. I learned about "needing a bird", lifelists, forked tails (a sobriquet for those unfortunate ducks and geese who have had their plumage creased by hunters who are bad shots), all sorts of new vocabulary and concepts for my cerebral quiver. Birders are a flock apart, a bit nerdy but extremely precise individuals who seem to quietly tend their own nest yet, as I saw, can still get quite nutty over a nuthatch.

These people certainly knew their quarry. Nearly half the birds in our first hour were identified by song alone. And I admit that in this group I was utterly lost. I know a few garden variety birds but I frankly couldn't tell a wren from a nuthatch on my best day. I am okay with big birds but little birds are well, little birds. Or lbb's, little brown birds as they are known in the business. These people had fifty birds on their list before I could identify a crow. My knowledge in this pursuit is as usual, a mile wide and a quarter inch deep.
lbb - little brown bird

Not being able to add much of value on the academic side, I was reduced to making bad bird puns, a pursuit that I indulged in for the better part of the day. Nobody dumped me in a wood rat mound, although we saw many of them and I am sure that they were sorely tempted.

I got the big lens back from Sigma and this was to be my shakedown cruise. They had to change the contact positions so that the 50/500mm would work with my Nikon. Unfortunately the camera acted out all day like a petulant child. I think the autofocus might be askew. Alas, another disastrous day with the camera.

But the day indeed had its moments. Saw a giant bald eagle's nest and then far away, I saw two bald eagle heads popping up in a majestic oak. Should have brought my converter, probably could have taken the shot. Those two white dots on the large oak you see below, sorry but that is all I got. Now that I know where the nest is perhaps I can revisit the area when I get my lens dialed back in. I feel great in their mere presence.

Another birds of interest were a burrowing owl in a large cairn of rocks, a ferruginous hawk, a harrier. mountain bluebirds bopping along the ground and the prairie falcon eating his meal. I really appreciated the birder's scholarship, Phoenix helped educate us with interesting tidbits about bird species behavior. These people know their birds and I learned about all sorts of things like swallow flight engineering, the parasitic nature of the cowbird, just too much stuff to process and share.

Phoenix told us how mockingbirds in the area sometimes liked to torment cats and occasionally pulled out their fur for their nests. She was obviously an all around naturalist. I have lived in the backcountry for over three decades and she was identifying native fauna that I regrettably had no clue about.  She pointed out buckwheat and wild radish and showed us a neat little trick with a native corkscrew and a palmful of water.

It was very interesting to me that bird behavior seemed to have such a vital role in the identification process, on a par with plumage and song. This song swallow is solitary, you must have seen this other swallow that lives in a small flock, that sort of thing. These birders are obviously all around students of nature.

burrowing owl and dark cow
There is an article about our group in today's paper and a condensed online article. I have to blush at the reporter's mistaking me for a birder, knowing now that I have really only earned the lesser mantle of bird watcher. The reporter's husband is in fact an avid birder, who bagged a life bird yesterday. Their two children were good sports and tailed along.

We toured some lovely, remote areas on our trip that were new to me and visited the Heritage Herd of B.L.M. horses. Saw burros and buffalos and the Ramona Grasslands Preserve, also gained access to a reservoir where the true birders miraculously counted and identified just ridiculous numbers of waterfowl of every feather and stripe.

Afterwards we met the rest of the respective sectors of Palomar birding groups at Kit Carson park for the compilation. I saw Ken Weaver, an ├╝berbirder that I knew from his birding near my place on the Santa Margarita River, he led the meeting and read from a long list of possible birds. People would shout out if their group had managed to identify one. Seemed like everybody had a pretty good day. Food and refreshments too.

I sat next to Mike, a great old guy who regaled me with stories about sighting a common blackhawk during the count of 1963, which another birder failed to come over and confirm. Would have been a real coup. The one that got away. We both laughed when I pointed out to him that he was talking about an event that happened fifty years ago. Some defeats one can evidently never forget.

As I have written before and now bashfully am quoted in the paper, San Diego is an epicenter for birding in this country, although getting a handle on exact numbers is quite tricky. I heard that they were ranked both first and second in number of species listed in the country last year. The number fluctuates, I guess depending on the whim of the birds and the independents, the birds known in the trade as vagrants. In any case I have heard that we have roughly 888 bird species in the United States, San Diego County is reported to have somewhere between 492 and 515 of the total number.

I really had a nice time and want to thank Beth for the invitation. She later said that she wasn't sure if she would be able to stand me for a whole day or words to that affect but I must not have been that bad as we all parted friends after a great day spent together. If I am to ascend to birder I see that I shall have to become more diligent in my study.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Two of Saturn's moons, Rhea and Titan - from Cassini: NASA

Elston Gunn - What Kind Of Friend Is This?

Valley of the Lost Tribes

My friend Wicki from Kauai visited us today. She got me thinking about our wonderful trip this year to the island that I most love, Kauai. This shot is pretty soft and sort of has an old postcard, Martin's Dyes feel. Thank you so much Wicki for your friendship and support.

Mother's little helper

My sister Liz sent me this, said it had some connection with our crazy childhood. Not sayin' our family was different but mom named our pet dogs librium, darvon and valium. I had never heard of the artist, Brandy Clark, she's not bad.


Fox plays the race card on the knockout game.

Knockin' Lost John

Better late than never

There is an interesting obituary in the Union Tribune this morning. Quite a story. Anybody want to go to the ceremony with me?

Ware, Edwin 08/22/1845 ~ 12/29/1924 CARIBOU, CA/ SAN DIEGO 

California settler and Civil War veteran, Edwin Ware, will receive inurnment 89 years and one day after his death. In the 1850/60's, Edwin's family settled 160 acres in what became the Northern California town of Paradise. Edwin, the eldest of six children, served in the Civil War in Company I, 2nd Cavalry Regiment of California for the Union in 1864-1866. After the Civil War, the Ware family continued to prosper and by 1879 owned 240 acres of prime farm land on the Paradise Ridge. Edwin also spent time mining along the Feather River in Plumas County, where he met and married Mariah Williams, a full-blooded Maidu woman, in 1888. With the Indian conflicts of the times fresh in their minds, Edwin's family was aghast at his marriage and disowned him. Edwin sold his Paradise lands back to his family, and he and Mariah made their home near Old Caribou in Plumas County. In later years, Edwin, a cheerful man who greatly resembled Santa, fell ill with Parkinson's. His siblings finally relented enough to help Edwin to a veterans' hospital, but they forbade his wife and daughter ever to visit, condemning Edwin to die alone on December 29, 1924 and keeping secret the place of his burial. Not until 2003 did the descendants of Edwin locate his remains and discover the circumstances of his burial. Edwin had been buried without services in an uncared-for, remote section of a Petaluma Cemetery at 10:30 at night on December 30, 1924, the day after his death. Edwin's descendants came together and obtained a court order in 2005 to reclaim his remains, which were moved to the family mortuary in Quincy, California. The family, then unable to obtain permission to bury Edwin next to his beloved wife Mariah (d.1/13/1930) in a Maidu Cemetery now on Federal land, has searched for a suitable resting place for the past eight years. That place, Miramar National Cemetery, will receive Edwin's remains 89 years and 1 day after his death. Edwin and Mariah had one child, Elsie, (d. 1988). Edwin had four great-grandchildren: Laura Mae (Ellis) Gentry (d. 1997), Bea (Ellis) Olivieri of Modesto, CA, Elsie (Ellis) Hill of San Marcos, CA, and Beverly (Ellis) Malarkey (d. 1981). Services will be held at Miramar National Cemetery, 5795 Nobel Drive, San Diego promptly at 11 am on Monday, December 30. Mario Olivieri, husband of Bea Olivieri, who died May 18, 2010 will also be inurned on this day at Miramar. Mario, Lt. Col Air Force (Ret.) and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross in addition to several other decorations, and Edwin will be laid to rest alongside one another. The day marks a joyful end to a long odyssey for this family. The family suggests that in celebration of this day, joyful and seasonal attire is appropriate.
Published in U-T San Diego on Dec. 27, 2013

I found some more information on this interesting man and his family, here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

when traveling to Zebulon, steer clear of the local produce © robert sommers 2013

Skippy visits the kin in Oklahoma

Sort of surprised he didn't blast it. Because he could. Props to him for letting it hop away.

Don't You Do It

It is sort of funny, I was never that big a Small Faces / Humble Pie fan when the bands were around and Steve was alive. Now I can't get enough of them. Marriott was arguably the purest growler of his generation, Mick Jagger included, thank you. Moody, bipolar, whatever, Steve brought something to the guitar and microphone that was totally unique, driven and intense. And what can you say about the late great Ronnie Lane? Phenomenal musician. All missed greatly.

Post Toasties

Zion Creek © Kip Peterson 2013
I managed to make it through Christmas, hope the rest of you did as well. I believe that I may be toting around a few extra pounds, pretty much ate like a swine yesterday at Bill and Jean's. Normally we do Christmas Eve with them and dim sum on Jesus's birthday but things got changed around this year. and we dined on superb Christmas lasagna.

I got way too many plates of cookies and cupcakes this year, every description, from every direction. If I was a stronger man I would gather them all up and throw them in the trash right now, but I lack certain intestinal strengths and fortitude so I will instead quietly eat and loathe.

One of my coffee chums, Tom, showed me the family portrait that they took in the park yesterday, all subjects color coordinated in matching blue, per his spousal instructions. I poked a little fun at funky, sixties style family portraits in matching sweaters and I guess it was the wrong thing to say because he let on that the family had once posed all bedecked in their reindeer sweaters. Very gentile thing, but I will fight for their right to wear them...

The christmas, happy holiday wars show no signs of abating, stoked on by the house organ of conservative theology, Fox News. War on Christmas, Iowa congressman feasts on Santa's favorite reindeer, film at eleven.

Leslie showed me the following letter in the San Diego Union Letters to the Editor yesterday, from a Fallbrookian no less;

While I am happy that Chuck got things squared away, it does lead to a few questions. Mr. Collins needed guidance from his pastor before he realized that someone wishing him happy holidays was not lobbing a cannon shot across his spiritual bow?

And the friendly greeting had to be morphed into a religious invocation before it became acceptable to him? Why do certain people require that others believe and worship the same way they do and why do non or dissimilar belief systems pose such a threat? Unless they are actually suffering from some absence of faith, of course.

Why does the majority, of any religion, seek to rule their sovereignty like bullies? Blunt force, majority rules is a rather weird concept in the kingdom of thoughts and ideas. You must think and worship as I do.

In most Arab countries it is against the law to renounce Islam. At least we don't do that round these parts. Kwaanza, Festivus, Solstice, Chanukah, Buddha's birthday, y'all have at it. You want to marry a guy, a girl, a hundred wives, a parakeet, ain't none of my business. Just don't tell me how to think or behave. The Sommers don't take direction well.

Of course the yids are playing the same game this week in Israel.

Stupid obviously crosses all creeds and boundaries. Religious states are so divisive and obtuse, ripe for inherent battles over what constitutes proper faith, adherence and religious doctrine.

God forbid they make the christian arab lawmaker feel included.

Daisy Deadhead once said, in all seriousness, that we needed religion or people would start killing and eating each other. I think I would prefer to take my chances.

Did you see that there is another American captive in Pakistan very irritated that his country has seemed to have forgotten him? Warren Weinstein. Last week it was Robert Levinson. Anybody see some kind of pattern here? Like maybe Islamic countries are not safe places for jews? Hello! Lucky they don't boil you in kreplach. Don't even try it. Next time, how about Miami? Not funny of course, tragic but hey, a Weinstein walking into Karachi is like having Oprah host a klan meeting. Don't do it.
Mr. Weinstein said that he had served his country for 30 years, and that nine years ago he came to Pakistan to help the United States government. “I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here,” he said. “And now, when I need my government, it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.”
Mr. Weinstein said his captors had agreed to let him meet with his family if Qaeda members held by the United States were released.
“Mr. Obama, you are a family man, and so you understand the deep mental anxiety and anguish that I have been experiencing for these past more than two years,” he said. “I am therefore appealing to you on a humanitarian basis, if nothing else, and asking that you take the necessary actions to expedite my release and my return to my family and to my country, to our country.”
Don't climb mountains and expect to get rescued on our dime and don't go to the arab world with a name like Weinstein and think that they won't try to kill you and don't expect this government to do a thing for you because they won't because you don't really fit into their current narrative. Winning hearts and minds in the arab world and all that.

Stan sent along some quite interesting photographs. Hi Stan, hope you are feeling better. And you too, Bill Priest. We need to venture into the new year feeling strong.

Infamous Pattaya from the deck of Cape Dara Resort
ML is back in Thailand getting his new line together and sends this picture of Pattaya.

Cameron Loughlin sent me a gift of a beautiful guitar strap. Cameron is Michael's son and used to be a rocker in San Francisco. This one is called Unique Batik Orange and I really love the look. Haven't put it on my Taylor yet but I will soon. Can't get my bad shoulder around the guitar quite yet. Cameron has a company called Tempest Leather and is putting out a top notch product. Check out his website here.

Thank you Cam, it's wonderful!

Jerry sent along this beautiful shot from Hilo, Nahko's waterfall.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013



Warning: This is going to be a fairly disjointed blog that has the capacity to bum out your Christmas cheer. There might be coarse language, not to mention profanity and poor syntax. Anyone venturing beyond the following punctuation mark does so at his or her own risk and management will take no responsibility for the consequences. You have been warned.

Hasn't exactly been a stellar week for god's favorite creatures. It seems not everybody is quite in the Xmas spirit. Poor Santa got capped in the back with a pellet gun this morning in southeast Washington D.C. The grinch purportedly stepped in to help poor St. Nick. Somebody is going to get coal in their stocking!

I have received a few twisted Santas in the old gmail bin from you folks this year, ranging from naughty to slightly demonic. I am merely an information processor folks, a conduit with no animus whatsoever towards the jolly pole dweller. Sometimes though frankly, you people scare me...

Real life is of course the scariest thing of all.

Trouble in Israel today. Gazan snipers killed a poor bedouin working on the border fence, Salah Shukri Abu Latyef, twenty two years of age. Israel, still obviously locked into that eye for an eye stuff, went old testament and a poor little four year old girl was killed in the reprisal attack, supposedly directed at military targets, three additional members of her family were injured. Poor Salah. He was driving a tractor, his first and last day to be working on the border.

Salah Latyef

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned what he called “cowardly” Israeli attacks. "The occupation will not terrify the Palestinian people by these actions and will not punish our resistance and will not halt its readiness to respond to any attacks on Gaza," he said.

“What we are witnessing is Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people,” said Hamas spokeswoman Isra Almodallal, adding that 14 other civilians were injured. “Israel is hitting civilians and not working in any kind of military way. They are targeting innocent people.”

This comes in the same week that there was a thwarted bus bombing in Bat Yam and a knifing of an Israeli border policeman in Jerusalem. Hamas and the other Islamic radicals want to be able to punish Israel with impunity and then are quick to condemn any reprisal attacks. They hide behind civilians in a strategic way and then lament the consequences of those actions.

Islam Shahwan, the spokesman for the Hamas government’s Interior Ministry, praised the killing, calling it a “heroic operation.” Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, condemned the Israeli strikes as aggression against the Palestinian people.

If they do not want to see their civilians killed they need to stop attacking Israel and ease up on the "noble resistance."


A Washington State legislator called Arizona a "racist wasteland" the other day, pouting over a stupid football game. KJ was watching Phoenix's Channel 3 news and the subject came up the other day. "We aren't a wasteland," the commenter said, the other characterization apparently copacetic.

One of the best things I did this year was lose my telephone land line. Disconnection is so pleasing to me in this day and age. I can't tell you how I love not seeing the stupid flashing red light and having to listen to messages. Very liberating. On a level with getting rid of the television, something else I have never regretted doing. Or killing Facebook. If I am ever to write a novel I am definitely going to have to disconnect further.

Several studies show many people have a greater chance of dying around Christmastime. 
Researchers say the three days of the year when certain people's risk of death is highest are: Christmas, the day after Christmas, and New Year's Day.
Nine gifts the NSA will hate.

From Alternet:

More than 95 percent of U.S. households own at least one copy of the Bible. So how much do Americans know of the book that one-third of the country believes to be literally true? Apparently, very little, according to data from the Barna Research group. Surveys show that 60 percent can’t name more than five of the Ten Commandments; 12 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife; and nearly 50 percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A Gallup poll shows 50 percent of Americans can’t name the first book of the Bible, while roughly 82 percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a biblical verse.


We ate the Carnitas Snack Shack leftovers for dinner last night. Leslie said they were the best carnitas she has ever had and I must concur, they were damn good, well worth the long wait in line.


I hope that everybody has a great holiday and a wonderful new year. I wish you all good health and lots of laughs, all the gold in china. And offer the words of Robert Hunter; "Without love in the dream it will never come true."

I want to thank those of you that have helped me in the last several years, materially, emotionally, spiritually, hell maybe even on the astral plane? Your love and support, the support of all of my friends, family, readers, is frankly palpable. I am so lucky to be able to grow close to people that I have often barely or never met. Yet we have got to know each other through this strange new, often intimate medium. Thanks for coming along.

Peace out.

Victor Moscoso