Saturday, December 28, 2013

He survived

According to the South Whidbey Record, the man spent fifteen minutes in the water and was rescued.

Huzzah to the first responders of South Whidbey.

Here is the whole story.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Island Drama

Yesterday afternoon Matt noticed something odd on the bay, properly called Holmes Harbor. There was an aluminum boat with an outboard engine spinning out of control a mile distant. We couldn't tell if the boat was occupied or not, but from the only moderate reaction from a couple of boat owners, there was no urgency. Our hunch was that someone was starting the outboard, had it set to full throttle, and it got away. Once the engine fell to one side the boat simply spun in tight donut circles.

Our neighbor had a view of a dock and saw the first responders there. They were seen to remove a stretcher and bag from the area. The boat owner either suffered a heart attack or fell in the water and drowned. We have yet to see a news item with details. 

The boat spun and spun until it ran out of gas. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Blog Fodder

If you follow the annual Christmas letter you are familiar with Lorraine's quote of the year. I start collecting them for a year before I compose the letter. I thought I would post the quotes that didn't make this year's message.

I’m organizing my desk to a certain extent. I’m missing some things.

That’s a lotta damn fish.

I don't know how you go from having enough time to not having enough time

I don’t want to do anything, I just want to goof off today.

I’m not going to subscribe to Real Simple. I don’t have time to read it.

If all my neuroses were fixed, what will you make fun of?

I need to meditate more.

I’m going to have a goddamned Christmas tree.

Where is Norman Rockwell when we need him?

I got up at 6 a.m. to discover gifts on the front porch deposited by Santa's helpers in the brown trucks. Saturday Evening Post of the 1920s. Santa does not drive a team of reindeer from his sleigh to land on rooftops and come down the chimney. His elves are all dressed in uniforms and drive brown trucks to deliver presents to good little boys and girls.

Rockwell's heirs could conjure up images of men and women elves in brown shorts snacking on cookies and drinking from bottles of Coca Cola. The trucks could be named after the members of Santa's team. Not very colorful, though.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Tradition

As a youngster one of the rituals exercised by my mother was, "David, would you go find some chairs please?" I then had to go about the house, not that it was very big, and find all the extra chairs and bring them one at a time to the dining room. For some reason this exercise annoyed me. It was natural that I should help with the dinner and finding chairs is about as low-skill as you can get. It's not like the chairs are not done or cold or too salty. How simple can it be? Well, it still annoyed me.

This morning, I got a text from my sister: find chairs at the island house and bring them to her house for Christmas dinner.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Island Life

Last night I was minding my own business here on Whidbey when the living room lit up with flashing red lights. This happened once before when a sheriff's deputy made a stop of some erratic driver or something. But I had to see. The lights increased and there were two units of our local volunteer fire department in the park. Then it really got busy. A rescue in the bay? That has happened, but not in the evening. More lights and now sirens. This was a major response.

More lights came over the hill and the cause became apparent on the flatbed – Santa's sleigh, all lit up and escorted by the firefighters who probably don't get to roll all their equipment all that often. I tried to get an iPhone vid, but wasn't quite fast enough for the whole show.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Selling and Buying

Today I bought and I sold via I tried to buy toys for my grandsons the old fashioned way, but when I got there, the toy store was gone. I walked into the mall and they don't have a toy store there. So I drove ten miles to another store. But they had only one of the things on the list. After two hours and twenty miles all I had to show for it was some dumb Play Doh.

I went online and ordered the things off the Amazon list which I should have done in the first place.

Then I got an notification that I sold two books through Amazon. I have some copies of one of my titles, a premium from the publisher, that I have listed on their site. I feature a discount and the option of my signature and a custom endorsement. One person bought two copies. As soon as I hear what sort of notation she wants I will ship them off to her. Amazon collects the money, I do the fulfillment, and we split the money.

Amazon is everywhere. We will need a nickname for, maybe something alluding to the phallic nature of their logo.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Joshua Monday

One of the compensations for slower metabolism, increased health care premiums, gray hair, a free gym membership, no copays, and countless mailings from AARP, that comes with maturity is grandchildren. I have two, Kellen, age four and Joshua, age nine months. Every Monday, We get to spend the day with this little sweetie to give his mom a chance to improve the lives of the affluent in need of home makeovers.

With two of us, one can keep and eye on him while the other works remotely. Joshua has not one, not two, but three wi-fi networks at his house. I am partial to music from Pandora while Lorraine prefers watching yet another picky HGTV family buy or remodel a home. As if it was not all made up. One wonders what sort of information is being imprinted on this little mind. If I watch him alone I will plug into an audio book.

We usually get dinner out of the deal, which means we can avoid traffic on the way home.

There are many worse ways to spend a Monday and not many better ones.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What are you reading? Hearing?

I usually have two books going at once, one a work of fiction and the other some kind of history book. With the Kindle I can have three or four going at once. I've been nibbling at the Memoirs of Ulysses Grant for more than a year, but that doesn't count in the two. The basic Kindle has a limitation in history since maps don't do well and maps are pretty important.

The iPad* does maps better, but it's not as convenient as the Kindle. The iPad is prettier, but heavier. The iPad is also good in bed if you don't have a light. My Kindle cover has a light. I can have a downloaded book on both the iPad and the Kindle.

It was time to experiment with audio books. Modern technology make book "reading" as confusing as job hunting. Where to start? The two logical places – technology cannot accept having only one place to start – are and the public library. Oh wait, iTunes. Three places.

Amazon and iTunes offers audio titles of popular books, but these tend to be rather expensive. Creating an audio version is another level of expense beyond that of writing and hard-copy and electronic publishing. An audio book can cost more than a retail hard copy since an actor or the author has to sit down and record the whole book which can take hours and days. One popular non-fiction work is $7.50 for the Kindle, $15.95 hard cover online, and $21.95 audio. I am definitely one to actively support authors and publishers, but I do look for bargains.

The public library, if properly funded, offers thousands of audio titles. The library purchases licenses for a title and lists them online. If all the licensed copies are checked out, you place a hold. When it's available, you get an email and have a chance to check it out.

Then it gets complicated. There are several formats available to download and read an audio book depending on your device. The Kindle requires that you download to a home computer then transfer to the Kindle. Devices like iPad and smart phones use apps which supposedly make it easier to browse and download titles. When the process works I have a book I can listen to for three weeks.

I do my listening in my pickup and during child care duties. I spend Mondays with my nine-month-old grandson Joshua and I can watch him as he learns to crawl while I listen on my phone and ear buds. My current read is Simon Winchester's The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible and is read by the author. As Joshua happily explores his world I can stand there and explore the North American continent. Things don't work so well when I need to get close to Joshua to pick him up or change him. Babies like ear buds and don't give them up easily. A minor cost of readership.

So far I've only listened to history books. Fiction is yet to be explored aurally. I'm the kind of reader who likes to dwell on a beautiful sentence. Stay tooned.

*I inherited this first generation iPad from Lorraine. She left it in the seat pocket of an airplane which gave her an excuse to go buy another. Still, she filed a claim with Alaska Airlines and eight days later they called and offered to send it home. Now I have it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Neighbor Lady

In my history projects I get to talk to a lot of retirees about their memories. In addition to important facts and clarifications that do not appear in the written record, these are the details that give any story texture, like what kind of cigars a man smoked, how he dressed, or the real reason a family moved. Even though an interview might result in only half a sentence, the rest of the information reinforces other evidence or discounts it. Better to learn a fact is wrong than to see the error in print.

One interviewee was a woman in Longview, Washington. Her name was passed along to me in the context of the paper mill project as, "She knows everyone and everything." She was also 90 years old so I had to move fast.

I called the number and she picked up on the third ring. She proved bright and cheerful and full of details about the families who founded the mill. She also knew my family. "I remember Dick and Sally," she remarked. "She was a real pistol. They liked to party."

Whoa. Dad grew up in Kelso and Mom lived there a few years in the early 40s before going away to school. When they got married in 1945, they moved to California where I was born. We moved back to Longview for a couple years, then back to California. But the lady knew them and even remembered the block we lived on and what my dad did for a living. That was all 65 years ago!

As with all investigative and research projects it is important to find the right neighbor lady. What stories.

The Mill

I really need to get better at blogging. That's a good New Year's resolution, but I've never done New Year's resolutions.

Longview Fibre, 1927
Courtesy Cowlitz County Historical Society
My newest project is a history of Longview Fibre, a pulp, paper and containerboard mill in Longview, Washington. The mill was built in 1927 in the planned community of Longview by industrialists from Wisconsin who managed to recruit a brilliant engineer and businessman named Harry Wollenberg.

In the interest of full disclosure, my paternal grandfather helped build the mill in 1926 and my uncle, is eldest son, worked there as a papermaker for 42 years. Another uncle and four cousins worked there summers. But that is not how I got the gig.
Harry Wollenberg, 1923
Courtesy Wollenberg Family

In 2012, I got a gig to write a bio of Harry Wollenberg from the German Historical Institute an agency of the German Government in Washington, DC. The gig paid a small honorarium, but a gig is a gig. They surfed the web and saw that I was an historian in the Pacific Northwest and figured I could do it. I accepted and then discovered that my subject did not live in Longview, he worked in San Francisco. But being a good investigator I made contact with his grandchildren and put together a satisfactory article. I made about a dollar an hour.

The grandchildren were impressed enough with my work to suggest that I take over a project documenting the history of the company that the family ran for 70 years. The Cowlitz County Historical Museum superintended the project and had collected quite a bit of research including some priceless interviews of former mill workers and managers. I say priceless because some of the narrators have passed on since the interviews. (One thing you learn about the history biz is that if you get the name of an eyewitness, you get a hold of them immediately.)

I jumped into four or five boxes of transcripts and photos and books and annual reports. Word got around and I got some invitations to speak at the union hall and at the museum. Each presentation results in more contacts and more wonderful information and quotes. And I enjoy talking about my projects.

I even got a tour of the mill which was reminiscent of visits to my maternal grandfather's pulp mill, also in Longview, when I was four and five years old. It was dark and wet and noisy and terrifying.

With any luck the story will be a book in 2014 published by the Cowlitz County Historical Society and I will do more slideshows.