September 2018 Newsletter - The Incomparable D's Thoughts as he thinks them!
A piece of candy:
Earlier this month, I was reminded of John D. Rockefeller’s practice of carrying coins in his pocket and handing them out to those he observed being kind, respectful or demonstrating industry. At the funeral of John McCain, Former President George W. Bush (Rep) was sitting next to Michele Obama (wife of Dem. President Obama). Without prompting, Pres. Bush reached over and handed Mrs. Obama a piece of candy, which she readily accepted – both smiled. My thought was that we need to pass a piece of candy to those sitting next to us much more often.
How to change the World: It seems to me that I do a great deal of complaining about the degradation of our society – it is the American way. I think that shows how far I have fallen along with a great many amongest out citizenry.
I recently ran across this video by Admiral William H. McRaven addressing a Navy Seal’s graduating class and was given the hope that maybe there are those out there that will change the world for the better of all. I truly believe that there is hope for us here in the USA. We simply need to make our bed each morning!
Movies, TV, Books:
1. “Puzzle”: Husband: Where’s dinner? Wife, as she works on putting together a jigsaw puzzle at the dining room table: I guess I forgot! Did you forget to buy my cheese at the grocery also? Wife: I did! Husband: This is bullshit!” This movie is loaded with scenes like this – it simply keeps you guessing as to what is going to next come out of Agnes’ mouth and keeps you laughing along the way. “Agnes (Kelly Macdonald), taken for granted as a suburban mother, discovers a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles, which unexpectedly draws her into a new world – where her life unfolds in ways she could never have imagined.” (Fandango movie review). It is not a movie for everyone because you have to think through the entire movie as to what is happening – it is not going to be explained to you. And the best part, you might think you know where the movies is going to end up, but it doesn’t. The movie is highly acclaimed but was only in theaters for one week. I can’t wait for it to come out on DVD.
2. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”: (Netflix): “"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" is an old-school, old-fashioned entertainment, a romantic drama bursting with scenic vistas and earnest charm that contains just enough mystery to keep us involved.” (L.A. Times, Kenneth Turan, 8/9/2018). Again, this isn’t for everyone. I enjoyed it because of the English scenery and because it is a period piece of the impact of WWII and German occupation. It has a number of plot twists that keeps you looking around the corner, although you figure out very early where it is headed with the main character.
Daily Observations: This section will be something that simply boggled my mind at the time it occurred which honestly turns out to be nonsense when I think of it later. I thought it worthy of my pen anyway.
A Devastating Discovery! (April 2017)
The cause for this devastating update began innocently enough yesterday at lunch. Most Tuesdays throughout the year are reserved for having lunch with a dear friend of mine. This friend is a very seasoned & knowledgeable doctor (hereafter referred to as “Doc” as I will try to protect the guilty who contributed to the horribly described events hereafter) in charge of the residency program at a local hospital.
After ordering our lunch, Doc told a story as to a recent patient who showed up in the emergency room seeking pain killers for back pain. Doc looked me directly in the face and said: “I told him he didn’t need pain killers, he needed to lose about 50 lbs.”
I didn’t give the story much thought until I went to bed last night. It seems that I can spend a good deal of sleeping time re-hashing the most insignificant things. One such thought last night was Doc’s story about losing 50 lbs. Was it coincidence that I am really in need of losing 50 lbs.? Would one of my best friends say this to me? I admit I have recently heard this suggestion from multiple sources, but a good friend?
By this morning, I was convinced Doc was right and action was required on my part. I vowed to start a diet and exercise program immediately to conquer this demon of being “obese” as repeatedly declared by the VA! I got up, put on my bionic knee brace and was out the door with my walking stick (after cleaning off the cob webs) for the 1.3 mile walk to Hardee’s!
Luckily, after about a half mile I ran into another friend who is out every morning and evening to take care of the abandoned cat population in our area. I was already exhausted and needed a rest. Meeting this particular friend has repeatedly raised the question in my mind: Why is it that so many kittens/cats are abandoned?
My friend, hereafter referred to as “Catcarer” (he feeds this cat population twice a day, has them spaded & neutered, takes them to the vet when they are injured or sick and gives them a decent burial) first stated that he had been checking the obituaries daily to see if my name would turn up. (Note: this practice of looking for me in the obituaries was later echoed this very same morning by two school crossing guards). I told all three of the year long process of having my left knee replaced.
After my attempt to explain the situation of my bum knee to Catcarer, he endorsed my theory as to the medical use of senior citizens. Senior citizens are the live testing pool for everything in the medical community. The use of senior citizens enables the insurance, medical and government communities to charge money while they experiment without complaint from the patient – right? Establishing “protocols” enhances profits while not having to take the blame for screw-ups if the patient dies – “we did everything possible using the latest and greatest” is often heard throughout the medical community. And then if the patient doesn’t die before the needed surgery, the medical community can charge for the surgery and “rehabilitative care”, meaning more money. (Note: sorry to get off the story, but, I tell this senior citizen story to everyone.)
By now I was feeling a little depressed, but I hadn’t made it to Hardee’s yet! So, I hopped the remaining .8 mile to Hardee’s on my semi-good leg as the bionic leg wasn’t really feeling bionic by now.
Having reached Hardee’s excited by the anticipation of getting my breakfast biscuit, I immediately noticed a new advertising bill board behind the counter. It was really nice, modernizing the area. Of course, my first thought was that Hardee’s had raised its prices. A quick review disclosed they had not. However, there was an immediate recognition that something had drastically changed. Each item had listed beside it the calories in the product being sold.
For many years at Hardee's, I have had a sausage & egg biscuit for breakfast; equal to 560 calories. Staring me in the face on the new billboard was a sausage & egg biscuit equal to 690 calories! Now, most people might think: “More for your Money” - not so when confronted by additional calories, especially when starting a new diet!
Well, this disclosure did NOT deter me from ordering a sausage, cheese & egg biscuit! But I was wondering why the additional calories. I called the manager over who explained two new rules in the food industry. First, any food item sold is now required to disclose its correct calorie content at the time of sale. Second, Hardee’s was required to change the recipe for its biscuits to healthier ingredients. I responded that I didn’t notice any change in the taste. The manger stated that food items now sold by Hardee’s were not allowed to have trans-fats in its product. Puzzled, I asked, so, if you take away trans-fats, it increases the calorie content? Yes is the answer. For a Hardee’s biscuit, the additional calories added up to 130, a 23% increase!
I ate my biscuit, enjoying every morsel and started crawling home, totally devastated as to what I had learned and suffered this day. It takes a good while to crawl 1.3 miles and I thought hard for the entire trip home as to my dilemma. Should I give up Hardee’s biscuits and push the dieting and exercise to lose 50 lbs.?
Of course, you know I am sitting here laughing as we both know the answer to that one! Tomorrow morning, I will get up, get into my car, drive to Hardee’s and get my sausage & egg biscuit! I might just pick up an order of hash-rounds as well! How quickly life goals change, even for us senior citizens!
Old Wooden Box: This section will be devoted to articles I have written as to my past life experiences which I have accumulated over the years or for stories from my personal past history.
Probably the oldest animal sport by the Thies clan is hunting skunks! My father who began the tradition around 1925 first told me of this special family skill when I was an impressionable teenager living at George’s Lake. Seems his mother, my grandmother, Pearly Boyd Thies was a local Matriarch in the sleepy Seminole Indian town of Wewoka, Oklahoma. Her Husband, Joseph was a local contractor of some reputation allowing a comfortable life-style until the Great Depression.
Joe, their oldest son (my father by adoption) was sort of a local celebrity himself. He was very much a Tom Sawyer type child, always up to some mischief that eventually was brought to the attention of his mother for the necessary correction of proper behavior. And this is where his skunk hunting skills comes to light. Seems that Grandma Pearly would have bridge parties at her big home once a week. Every lady that was of some import in Wewoka or who could at least play bridge was invited over for the weekly games. These ladies would sit around the card tables doing what they felt was important; things like playing bridge, drinking coffee and spreading all the latest local gossip.
This was simply more than Joe could tolerate and during these bridge gatherings he would leave the house to find greater adventures. So the story goes, one day, not having anything better to do, he was walking through the woods when he ran across a skunk. I am not sure how the skunk was caught, but I do know that Joe held it by its tail so that it could not do its special skunk business! He took the skunk home to proudly show it to his two younger brothers, at least that’s the excuse he always told. He took the skunk into the house right in the middle of his mother’s weekly bridge party. Well, the women being the anti-hunters they were and not understanding important boy things simply did not grasp the importance of capturing this special animal. They began screaming hysterically and running out the front door. Joe dropped the skunk and ran out the back door – not ever fully explaining why he left the skunk behind or how long it was before he came home. You can imagine the rest of the story – it was really a smelly event!
But the family reputation for skunk hunting was cast. Hearing this story, I could not pass up the challenge of a particular albino skunk that frequented the garbage dump behind our house on George’s Lake. This was especially true because that skunk was always spraying my poor old dog – Jeff! Jeff was a good hunting dog, but he never seemed quite sure as to what he was to do after he found his prey, especially skunks! The skunk would always get the best of Jeff by spraying him good and he would come home stinking only to be left outside for days while the smell wore off.
So, I found it to be my responsibility to rid our community of this particular skunk. Every night, I would take out the .22 caliber rifle (the only gun we had) along with a flashlight and walk up and down the dump trying to find that albino skunk! It wasn’t easy looking for an albino skunk with the two-cell flashlight I had, especially with the batteries almost dead! But finally, we met up eyeball-to-eyeball, which was a good thing for me because he couldn’t squirt me looking eyeball-to-eyeball. Upon seeing me, he tried desperately to get his tail turned around. But with my superior hunting skills and great luck, I was able to shoot him before he could do his damage.
I was a mighty proud teenager for killing that skunk and immediately told Jeff that he had nothing further to worry about, at least as to that skunk. All night as I lay in bed I was thinking what a great deed I had accomplished and felt I should be rewarded in some manner. By dawn I had the perfect solution. I would skin that skunk, tan his hide and keep it in my room as a trophy. I immediately found me a piece of plywood and some nails to stretch out the skin. I also got a box of salt from the kitchen cupboard which would be needed for this professional tanning project.
By now, Jeff was all for helping with this most important community project. He and I went to the dump and shortly found our trophy to be. Of course after being out all night, this skunk was covered in other vermin that felt they had found themselves a free meal. We gathered the skunk, washed him off and started on the skinning process. That didn’t work out the way I thought it would. My knife simply wasn’t the sharpest and skinning the skunk didn’t follow the pictures in the book. But, I was able to get a piece of the skin off the skunk. It was only at this point that I realized he wasn’t truly a totally albino skunk, he just appeared that way in the heat of the hunt. Even so, I stretched his skin out, nailed it to the board and poured the salt to it.
Now, history has a way of repeating itself. After completing my tanning project, I headed to the house for much needed food and rest. I didn’t really know that my mother was canning that day and that she had several other ladies over for the day’s events. I had hardly set foot in the house when I heard my mother screaming “What’s that smell?” I had no idea what the problem could be – truly I didn’t smell anything! But shortly I was handed a bar of soap and told that I was to go to the lake and scrub my clothes and myself until the smell was gone. And I was to take Jeff with me. Needless to say neither of us got anything to eat.
As for my father, I really think he knew what was going to happen by the telling of his story. He just walked around for weeks shaking his head and laughing every time he walked by me. And what happened to the skunk skin I had so carefully prepared for tanning? Well, it went back to the garbage dump and the vermin waiting for their evening meal; they appreciated my adding the salt!
And that’s the way the true story goes from the old wooden box about the Thies family’s propensity for hunting skunks. Until next time, hold on to your memories, they are the character of your life.
I said it first:
1) These mosquitoes are big enough that I can see their tail numbers without glasses! (To explain why I might need a blood transfusion after walking outside this summer!)
2) Those that cover their body with piercings and tattoos want to look different as opposed to making a difference – which holds its value longer?
Travels: I am often asked as to what places I like to visit and why. This section will cover such places.
China and Tibet – October 2013
I have been asked many times as to why I would be attracted to traveling in China as it is so far away and so different in political structure culture. Most Americans believe China is a dangerous enemy as to the economy and military. I am not so certain that is true.
From Orange Park, Florida, it is 7,466 miles to Beijing (formally known as Peking), China and 8,287 miles to Lhasa, Tibet, China. In the end, this trip actually took me further as I flew to Bangkok, Thailand for a few days which is 9,410 miles from Orange Park.
Outside the peripheral attraction that allowed me to take many photographs of this beautiful country and my amateur’s attraction to a history of a country always known to be self-reliant, the original inventors of many scientific and industrial items and never having participated in a world war, there were two driving forces to my curiosity to this country.
The first was the cultural and religious impact of Buddhism in a country with a population of approximately 1,415,984,000 as of September 1, 2018 (the largest population in the world at 18.54% of the world’s population). In comparison, the population of the United States is 1/4 that of China at 327,159,000 (4.28%) on the same date. China has a land mass of 3,624,807 square miles (population density of 390 people per square mile - $9,060 per capita income), which is slightly larger than the United States land mass of 3,531,837 square miles (population density of 93 people per square mile - $50,610 per capita income). Note: India is in second place and moving up fast: population 1,356,586,000 (17.74% of world population), 1,147,955 sq. miles (1/3 the land of China or the USA) – 1,180 people per sq. mile).
Depending on how populations of world religions are viewed, Buddhism ranks fourth (7.1%) in the world behind Christianity (31.59%), Muslim/Islam (23.2%), and Hinduism (15%). Buddhism is the only recognized religion of China and the government would state that 95% of the Chinese population practice Buddhism. Surprisingly, Christianity has a large presence in China, just no cemeteries.
The home of Buddhism is Lhasa, Tibet, China. Depending on whom you ask, Tibet is or is not part of China. Once you have been there, it is very clear the Chinese government rules Tibet – the Chinese National flag flies everywhere. However, equally clear is that Tibet has its own cultural history deeply based upon Buddhism. Interestingly, if a person in China has a picture of the Dalai Lama in his possession, it will result in a prison term.
The second and more personal attraction to China was my study and admiration of Joseph Needham who attended and became Master at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge. Needham was a world-renowned biochemist specializing in embryology and morphogenesis. He was clearly “outside the box” in his personal life.
He had two incredibly brilliant women who saturated his adult life. He married the first, Dorothy M. Needham in 1924. They remained married until she died in 1987 (63 yrs.). Joseph and Dorothy Needham are the only husband-wife team to ever be elected as fellows of the Royal Society. After Dorothy died, Needham married the other influential woman in his life, Lu Gwei-djen in 1989 and they remained married until her death in 1991. It is this second wife who came in to Needham's life in 1937 as a research assistant that changed the course of world history through Needham’s love of China. These three individuals, so different in many ways became and remained close until their deaths in a very open relationship. If you visit the Needham Institute today, you will observe the ashes of all three of them buried side by side under a tree in the front yard.
Gwei-djen came from China to Cambridge as Needham’s student researcher. In turn, Needham became Gwei-djen’s student in everything Chinese. The result being that Needham over the following decades became the world’s expert authority on China. His greatest strength was the fact he early on learned to read, speak and write Chinese.
Because Needham was a world recognized scientist and had self-educated himself to read, speak, and write Chinese, the Royal Society asked Needham to become the director of the Sino-British science cooperation office in Chongqing, China where he served from 1942 to 1946 (WWII). Remember that Japan had invaded and occupied China for years before the start of WWII. As Director with diplomatic privileges, Needham openly and freely traveled throughout China offering the world’s support to the scientific community while collecting documentation and data on the scientific discoveries and culture of China. At the end of WWII, Needham became the first Director of UNESCO at the the newly formed United Nations.
In 1948, this led Needham to propose to Cambridge University Press a project to publish the information he had collected over the years he had spent in China. That project has become the encyclopedia known as "Science and Civilization in China" which continues to be developed and published to this day at the "Needham Institute", Cambridge University by the Cambridge University Press.
I have been to the Needham Institute several times and have found it fascinating as to the data and memorabilia collected during Needham's life time. I now own a piece of that memorabilia from Needham’s time in China. All of my reading/research/visiting of the Needham Institute led to a strong desire to see what fascinated this fascinating individual.
The China trip was not designed for tourists. It was a professionally designed life-enrichment course offered to alumni of Oxbridge (Oxford & Cambridge Universities). For such programs, the universities enlist a world-renowned professor who is an expert in the field of study encompassing the particular trip. This trip was entitled: Tribal and Sacred China; A Journey through Laos, Yunnan and Tibet.
The renowned professor for this particular trip was Dr. Charles Albert Edward Ramble who is an anthropologist and former University Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the Oriental Institute, Oxford University. I found Dr. Ramble not only brilliant and informed, but a super down to earth individual. We all simply called him Charles. At the end of the tour, I told him that I had not memorized or could I even remember one name he had stated in his lectures – he simply laughed. His retribution was a photo-bombed picture of me sitting under the Chinese Communist flag!
My tour visited Yunnan Province (Kunming - 6.4 million people); Jinghong – 750,000 people); Dali Region; Lijiang (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain & Black Dragon Pool – my address card); Baisha – Dr. Ho Shixiu; Zhongdian – renamed Shangri-La; Lhasa – Potala, home to Dalai Lama until 1959; Gyantse; Shigatse; and, Beijing – 18.5 million people – Great Wall of China.
I was the only American on this particular trip. The other 20 participants were from England and Australia. I felt as if I was on the very bottom of the celebrity list as we had medical doctors, diplomats, college professors and leading experts in various chemical and engineering fields. Regardless, they were all interested in my areas of expertise, including the Chinese and enjoyed my "American perspectives on the English language and criminal justice systems throughout the world" including China.
My first reaction to my visit in China is that if I were a young person I would seriously consider following a career path within the country. Overall, China resembles the United States in the late 1700s/early 1800s at the start of the industrial revolution with opportunities around every turn. The large cities, such as Beijing are very “Western” in comfort, but, very Chinese in culture.
As to the culture of the Chinese people, I feel it is mediated and controlled by three powerful forces. The first is the political/government structure – communism. Under the Chinese governmental structure there is no direct input by the common population to choosing those individuals leading the country. Leadership is selected very similar to corporate America. They are chosen by the hierarchy that is structurally more powerful and in place when selections for political positions are made. Most biases found in corporate America are found in the Chinese political structure. However, there may be a greater patronage structure which may influence the feeling by the general population of corruption within government. Those feelings are well-founded. There is a lot of finger-pointing that those in government are proficient in graft leading to their own wealth, but nothing else, especially when it comes to the welfare of its citizens. For the several years since my return, the government has come down hard on corruption as free enterprise has expanded.
There is no question that religion plays a very strong role in Chinese culture. The government-sanctioned religion is Buddhism. The government officially states that 95% of the population is Buddhist. However, Buddhism is considerably like the Protestant religion; it has many different strands that practice a broad spectrum of morality in the name of Buddhism. Generally, Buddhism does teach core values that are used by the government to maintain control over the population. Buddhism teaches a very strong influence of family, loyalty, hard work, and dedication to the general welfare of the population.
Buddhist core values are the same as those generally found in most every religion. However, in Buddhism, there is one overriding principle that I heard over and over in discussing the motivation of the individual to follow the rules and control of the national government – the principle of “reincarnation”. The theme states that if the individual is good, takes care of their family, and is productive in his life (for the state), the individual’s reward is to come back in the next life with less suffering and greater worldly reward.
The third powerful force/control is simply one of resources. Keeping in mind China is nearly the same size as the United States in land, several more facts demonstrate this element of control. The population of China is four times that of the United States. As to that population, 75% of the Chinese population works in rural agricultural jobs. For the population of China, the resource of water is extremely limited. China has one fourth of the United States freshwater supply.
This Limited resource of water is a controlling force in rural China. There is no running water in the rural areas of China. People go to community wells and put their rationed water in jugs and carry it home. The water will be used repeatedly before being thrown out upon the growing vegetation. There are no sewage systems – sewage runs in open ditches. Public bathrooms simply dump upon the land. Water and sewage are not treated.
At the same time, almost every home has electricity. Electricity usage is limited, most homes having only one or two lights. Electricity for cooking, heating, and refrigeration is nonexistent. Most homes have access to a cell phone and/or a computer. The older Chinese population believes this “Western technology” is detrimental to the younger generations who in their minds are becoming lazy.
With the inadequacy of water/sewage and electricity comes tremendous costs in terms of the quality of life for the average Chinese citizen. The government spends tremendous resources on building, infrastructure, and production of products in the large cities. However, that covers only about 25% of the population. Government theory is that people will migrate to these larger venues as means of raising the standard of living for the Chinese people. That is a very slow process.
As to the country-side/Landscape I was exposed to, it is captivatingly beautiful. I was in China in the late fall/early winter when the countryside was in fall colors and crops had been harvested. I would anticipate the country is equally beautiful, if not more so, in the spring.
The negative side to the country itself is that it is not well maintained. There is garbage everywhere. When things are no longer usable they are simply discarded where they were last used – trash is prevalent everywhere.
I feel a very strong asset of China is its people. I did not find them to be extremely emotional in the sense of displaying drama. For example, public display of drunkenness, mental health problems or public displays of affection simply were rarely on display. At the same time, there was little demonstration of behavior that would create fear in a foreigner traveling throughout the country. I always felt safe and that my privacy was honored (of course, that feeling was from the people themselves as opposed to the government who are as, if not more invasive than the United States).
The Chinese people do display a curiosity of “Westerners”. There was no feeling the Chinese people felt envy, animosity or the need to mimic the Western culture. They were always polite and where possible helpful. Their very worn faces would always turn into a smile if I would interact with them. They were fascinated by my openness and my height. The people would quickly collect around me whenever I would take the time to spend a few minutes among them.
My idea that they are curious as to Westerners comes from the observation that they were measuring us as to our feeling towards them and as to our disposition in general. They are told that we are the enemy.
I definitely had the feeling that most rural Chinese are not extremely happy with their lives. They seem to live as a requirement to make it to their next life. They clearly believe that if they work hard and are loyal to everyone other than themselves, they will be rewarded in their next life.
I truly enjoyed this learning experience. In the broad range of cultures I have observed in my travels, I felt a certain connection with the Chinese people. I feel it is an exciting time in China if you are privileged in terms of finance, education, and opportunity. If you are not one of those fortunate individuals, life is extremely hard and not one I would enjoy living.
Obscured Thoughts: This section will contain items that might express some particular view more concisely than I ever could. For this newsletter, I have chosen several of the poems by the Lebanese-American poet Kahili Gibran published in The Prophet, first published in 1923 by Alfred Knopf. The book has been translated into 40 different languages and has never been out of print.People were gathered in the market place in the city of Orphalese asking questions of the Prophet. They would shout out their questions:
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children." And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Then a lawyer said, "But what of our Laws, master?"
And he answered:
You delight in laying down laws,
Yet you delight more in breaking them.
Like children playing by the ocean who build sand-towers with constancy and then destroy them with laughter.
But while you build your sand-towers the ocean brings more sand to the shore,
And when you destroy them, the ocean laughs with you.
Verily the ocean laughs always with the innocent.
But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are not sand-towers,
But to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which they would carve it in their own likeness?
What of the cripple who hates dancers?
What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest stray and vagrant things?
What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked and shameless?
And of him who comes early to the wedding-feast, and when over-fed and tired goes his way saying that all feasts are violation and all feasters law-breakers?
What shall I say of these save that they too stand in the sunlight, but with their backs to the sun?
They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.
And what is the sun to them but a caster of shadows?
And what is it to acknowledge the laws but to stoop down and trace their shadows upon the earth?
But you who walk facing the sun, what images drawn on the earth can hold you?
You who travel with the wind, what weathervane shall direct your course?
What man's law shall bind you if you break your yoke but upon no man's prison door?
What laws shall you fear if you dance but stumble against no man's iron chains?
And who is he that shall bring you to judgment if you tear off your garment yet leave it in no man's path?
People of Orphalese, you can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?
And an orator said, "Speak to us of Freedom."
And he answered:
At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,
Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.
Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.
And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.
You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,
But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.
And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?
In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes.
And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?
If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead.
You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.
And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.
For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their won pride?
And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you.
And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.
Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.
These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.
And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.
And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.
Favorite recent Pictures: What you might look at is considerably less important than what you see!
New photo postings:
1) Around Town – Summer 2018
2) I took a short trip out to visit my sister and niece in Texas. The few shots I took can be found at: Texas – August 2018:
Lincoln Memorial - Washington D.C.
Antietam Battlefield - Maryland
Niagara Falls, New York
Letchworth State Park, Finger Lakes, New York'
Watkins Glen State Park, Finger Lakes, New York
Corning Glass Museum, Corning, New York
The Incomparable D’s Thoughts as he thinks them!
08/04/2018 - This is the inaugural issue of my attempt to entertain probably no one other than myself. Every day many things go through my brain that by the next day I have totally forgotten (declining memory?) So, I have decided to bore everyone else with my ramblings as I think of them. Using the Internet for this project will allow you to simply hit “delete”. Alternatively, if there is something you particularly like, please let me know.
Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought - John F. Kennedy
Movies, TV, Books: I have recently watched a Netflix original that is simply delightful for its cast members that portray the characters of a 100-yr. old story. It is titled “Anne with an E” based upon ‘Anne of Green Gables” written by Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1908. Amybeth McNulty plays Anne Shirley who as a red-headed orphan is taken in by an aged brother/sister on their Canadian ranch. Anne is the “drama Queen” of the community with tremendous enthusiasm that generally leads to trouble. But in the end, she somehow wins over all of those that she meets. There are currently two seasons – well worth your watching.
I recently saw Ant-Man and the Wasp, a follow-up to Ant-Man. This movie stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas, all of which were in Ant-Man. Although the same theme as in all of the Walt Disney/Marvel movies, this movie is simply funny in many of its scenes. It takes away much of the stress built up in similar movies and allows one to relax in order to have a good laugh or two.
If you want a change in music, listen to Vanessa Paradis. This is the mother to Johnny Depp’s two children. She primarily sings in French and reminds me of the versatility and uniqueness seen in Depp’s movies, along with Depp’s partners Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. This won’t be music for many, but it is interestingly different.
Daily Observations: This section will be something that simply boggled my mind at the time it occurred which honestly turns out to nonsense when I think of it later. I thought it worthy of my pen anyway.
Cleaning out the Food Pantry: (Written April 2017)
Have you ever had a project around the house that just doesn’t seem to get accomplished? (OK, I know there are a few of you that will take exception to this idea right off the bat!)
It all started today when someone asked me if they could have an old fish aquarium (and stand! Go big if you want something, right?) that has been in my yard for several years. This is actually the best way to get rid of things you simply cannot live without! I always want to know the back story as to the interest and this gentleman’s story was this: He had bought a snake for his daughter for Christmas and the snake died. Now he had promised his daughter to replace it with an iguana (go figure, but that is a different story).
So, acting like I was losing my most prized procession, I told him to immediately load it up and take it home. I mentioned that there was a cover for the tank that had a light, but that I thought it was in my garage. This is where the real story begins, I went to the garage and found the light. It was buried under about 5 rolls of shelf-lining paper. I bought the shelf-lining paper about 5 years ago to re-line the shelving in the kitchen cabinets. This is where my question comes into play. For the last five years, I have repeatedly determined after much thought I profess, that really, it just wasn’t necessary to re-line my kitchen cabinets at the time.
I knew this answer wasn’t really the correct one for that dreaded cabinet, the food pantry! The shelves should have been re-lined 5 years ago as it probably hadn’t been done since the house was built in the 80s! And over the past five years, I might have contributed to the shameful condition I found the food pantry in on this date – who knew, right? Yes, I knew that the bottles of oil stuck to the shelf paper. Yes, I do put a cockroach trap under the stove and refrigerator…you get my drift.
So, today was the day. Honestly, it turned out to be a very interesting project. Here are a few of the things I discovered:
- If you store your new shelf-liner paper in the garage, over the years it sort of melts together and is extremely hard to peel off the roll!
- I really didn’t need to buy two more bottles of Ketchup a few days back, as I already had a bottle that was about to expire!
- If you don’t use the items you purchase and store in the food pantry, they expire! This was a big revelation to me. I really don’t like throwing food away. And most of the expired items I found had expired in 2015; almost within acceptable limits. However, there were a few items older; the oldest being 2010! By the time I finished tossing away the expired items, I really didn’t have much food left! What if there really is a hurricane this fall? Wait, we did have a hurricane this past fall, I think. And it seems I am well stocked with peas – 9 cans of peas……. Question - how long do you think teabags last?
- From where did all this Tupperware come? Honestly, I think these things multiple in kitchen cabinets. After sorting the blues from the greens from the reds, I learned I could store all the remaining food in the pantry in Tupperware containers, saving a good bit of pantry storage area.
- Good News: I did NOT find any dead vermin in the food pantry! And yes, I know the garage needs to be straighten. But I am afraid of all the other projects I would find that are yet to be completed if I actually started straightening out the garage.
Not to bore you further. I will assure you that I won’t be giving away anything else this week nor will I be rummaging through the garage! Last, I really think the jury is out as to whether this project was truly necessary today!
Something of History: The Bellamy Road – I grew up along the Bellamy Road in my later public school years. While in High School, I lived by “George’s lake” named after a famous, but probably fictitious alligator named George. The following is an article by Linda Kleindienst giving a little of the history of this important road in the development of Florida.
The Bellamy Road was the first major U.S. federal highway in early territorial Florida.
In 1824, only five years after Florida became a United States territory (and the same year that Alachua County itself was created), Congress authorized the construction of its first federal highway. It would be a 25-foot (7.6 m) wide road, connecting Pensacola to St. Augustine. The Territorial Council commissioned John Bellamy, a Monticello plantation owner, to build it. The project took two years to complete, at a cost of $20,000. The route would become known as the Bellamy Avenue. It was a major highway until the Civil War, when other roads became preferred routes. A few of the places it passed were the town of Traxler, the Santa Fe Taloca Spanish Mission, and what would become Newnansville.
U.S. Army Capt. Daniel Burch had the contract for the entire job and put Bellamy in charge of the $13,500 section from Picolata on the St. Johns River to the Ochlockonee River. To survey the route, Burch with a detachment marched from Pensacola beginning Oct. 22, 1823 and reached St. Augustine Nov. 25, 1823, a distance of 445 miles (716 km). Bellamy used his own equipment and slaves and completed his portion of the road in May of 1826. Construction was delayed by heavy rains and Indian attacks.
Tree stumps were cut within one foot of the ground to allow wagon axles to clear them. Sometimes one lone stump would be a bit higher and would strike the floorboard of a wagon, sometimes jarring it completely apart, resulting in the road receiving the ominous nickname "Stump-Knocker". The roadbed was typically not built up over wet areas. Instead, logs were placed in the path that resulted in a frequently bumpy ride.
The original road crossed Alachua County along the route of the Old Mission Trail, a trail widely used by Indians and Franciscan missionaries, running from near Santa Fe Lake through a swampy, forested hammock between present-day O'Leno State Park and River Rise Preserve State Park. It is here where the Santa Fe River disappears underground and travels three miles (5 km) before re-appearing. This area became a perfect natural crossing for the road. It was the first Federal highway in Florida and opened the interior of north Florida to settlers.
Old Wooden Box: This section will be devoted to articles I have written as to my past life experiences which I have accumulated over the years or for stories from my personal past history. This particular article is one of the older articles. As I re-read it today, I thought, what I might have written if I knew then what I know now.
Arlington Cemetery: (written: 6/17/11)
If you say you don’t really care for history, I am going to ask something of you. The reason I return to D.C. year after year is because so much of who and what this country has been and who we are today is represented in Washington D.C. I am going to ask you not to see the history, but to absorb the history - to bring it into your mind and more importantly, into your soul.
On this assignment, I will start out easy on you. Imagine that on a cooler day, in the early morning, you visit Arlington National Cemetery. If you can, get a book on the cemetery before you go so that you can read a little on its history, that will help. Upon entrance, they have maps of the cemetery. Walk, do not take the train tour. Walk every path and see as much as you can as to every grave. Stop, read the headstones and give one moment of thought as to who that person was, what did he give for this country. Now multiple that person times one thousand or ten thousand and realize you are coming closer to what those before us have given so that we can be who we are and have the opportunity to look upon their grave.
Next, go all the way up to Lee's estate. Plan to spend a great deal of time at this location. Go in the house and look for a big wooden chair that has writing arms on both sides of it - the last time I saw it, it was in the master bedroom. I asked the Park Rangers if I could have the chair and they told me I could, if I could get it out of the cemetery without being shot. So, you will get extra points if that chair arrives at my house - unscathed! (Note: all of Lee's Children were born in that little closet off the Master bedroom - talk about the dark ages!) Anyway, think about this. Lee was offered the Command of the Union forces to fight the Civil War. All of his sons did fight on the side of the Union Forces, against their dad! Lee sat in that chair and wrote out his letter of resignation. He then rode off the grounds never to return. All because he believed in the idea of home which was in his home state of Virginia. Isn't that incredible! Place yourself in that chair and think how history was to be written!
Now, go outside and look out over Kennedy's grave - raise your eyes and look out over Washington D.C. In the spring of 1963, John F. Kennedy stood where you are standing and said: (paraphrase) I am standing here today looking out over the home (seat of Government) of the most powerful country in the world (and of course without saying it out loud, but most assuredly to himself, and I am President of this great country and Marilyn Monroe is going to sing to me "Happy Birthday, Mr. President!" that very year). Kennedy was assassinated that November. Look back down on his grave - that is why he is buried where he is buried. Now look a little to the right - his brother, Robert is buried there and then further to the right, another brother, Ted Kennedy is buried - I haven't been back to D.C. to see that grave as of yet, but it is definitely on my bucket list!
As you stand there, look to your left - those are the graves of past Supreme Court Justices. The history that is locked away in those graves is incredible. And as you continue to the left are some of the greatest military leaders in the world's history. Also is the grave of William Howard Taft, the only person in American History to serve as head of two branches of our government; President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court - that feat will never be repeated.
After soaking all of that in, walk behind the house and pass the gardens towards the view of the pentagon. You can actually see the area in which the terrorist flew the plane on 9/11/2001. That plane flew right over Arlington Cemetery in order to fly into the pentagon. It was a flying feat, but more importantly, it was tremendously symbolic!
Next walk over to the tombs of the unknown soldiers. Sit down and relax and watch the changing of the guards. It is impressive to watch but think of this. Those men are soldiers 24/7 and they believe in this country. They have no idea as to the men buried there, yet they are there every day as we sleep, party and many times act like asses. They did not abandon their responsibility on 9/11 as the plane flew over and then into the pentagon - that is the American Soldier. Also know that every president since the lying of the first soldier at that spot has laid a reef at those tombs. That is such a powerful image in our minds - each President recognizes what they owe to the fighting soldier.
I could go on, but this is turning into a book and I do not want to bore you. But if I can get you to truly absorb Arlington and the lives of all of those buried there, then I will feel great success. We hear every day about so many idiots and their problems: they are pregnant, they are getting married, they are getting divorced, they are showing their pathetic bodies over the Internet. What Americans need to be hearing/learning is about those that made all of that possible for each and everyone of them! That is the true love of history and the true purpose of history.
I will mention one more of my favorite spots in D.C. It is at the feet of Abraham Lincoln. Sit on the steps in late evening when the moon is full and turn around and look up. Abe will be looking into your face. Ask yourself what else is he looking at? I like to think that he looks down the Mall and asks himself, "What are those people at the other end of the Mall thinking?" And then maybe asking " What are all of those people that have walked between here and there thinking or have thought about what those people at the other end of the Mall are doing or did do!" Last, I like to think that he keeps an eye out for all of the Military Monuments that are at his feet! There is a reason they are at his feet; he kept this country together when it was in its deepest crisis. He gave his life for his belief is this country as did all of those under his watchful eye.
One more thing about those steps: There is a movie about the secret service protecting the President starring Clint Eastwood and Rene Russo. In one scene, Eastwood is sitting on the steps eating some ice cream as Rene Russo is walking down the steps and away. Eastwood says, if she turns around and looks back my way, she is interested. You know she turns around and looks. Well, I keep sitting on those steps and looking, but no one has ever turned around and looked back my way - the story of my life. But, I would love to think that many have turned around and looked up at Ole Abe with that type of interest.
I can't leave this discussion without mentioning one more thing. Directly to the left of Abe and across the highway (is it Constitution Drive?) sits Albert Einstein - please drop by and say hello. What a fantastic compliment to Abe. You can ask him a lot questions also. But, my thoughts on that will save for another day. Just think this: He was a German Jew under Hitler. The image suggests a powerful suggestion within my mind as to how brilliant minds can impact humanity as immigrants!
I said it first: As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben would say: With great tasting Biscuits come many Calories! (To explain why Hardee’s Biscuits are the best!)
Travels: I am often asked as to what places I like to visit and why. This section will cover such places. I will start with one of my life’s most influential experiences that occurred in 2206/2007.
The Cambridge Experience (written March 2007)
I am often questioned as to why I find it necessary at this time in life to challenge myself with academia and more so why Cambridge? Granted, it does seem to be a waste of resources. And, believe me this question has weighed heavily in my own mind this session. It has been a challenging week physically with the less than optimum weather and the distance I must travel to the Institute and academically challenging, in the subject matter we have been covering.
But last night I was reminded in many ways why I have always been attracted to academia and a special attraction I find here at Cambridge. I had the privilege of attending a lecture by three of the more brilliant minds at Cambridge University and in the world. The most astounding lecturer was Lord Martin Rees who is the Royal astronomer of Britain and the president of the Royal Society. Either of those positions would classify an individual as being at the top of his profession; holding both of these positions at the same time is simply phenomenal. I do not want to distract from the other two speakers who are just as well-known as Lord Rees; William Sutherland, a conservation biologist and Andrea Brand, Director of Research in Developmental Neurobiology. Their presentations were as brilliant as Lord Rees.
The topic discussed was the "scale of science". This ranged from the neurological structure of the fruit fly, which is similar in development to that of the human, and experiences 75% of the neurological diseases of the human (Dr. Brand) to the age and size of our universe (Lord Rees). Somewhere in the middle, Professor Sutherland discussed the balance between ecological nature and man's interference with it.
It was not so much the subject matter that draws my comments, although the subject matter was fascinating. It is the fact that these three individuals are exemplary of the intellectual community at this university. The seminar was opened to the public and was free. Granted, the bulk of the audience was scientific geeks and those with less intellectual power, but a great deal of curiosity such as myself. Regardless, these brilliant minds were made accessible to all. And everyone in the audience was able to ask questions of the three speakers and the speakers were open and frank (as most British are) in their answers.
The bigger picture is that this lecture was part of a week of activities known as "Science Festival" which is meant to reach all ages from children as young as five years old to the oldest adult. It is a community effort based upon the idea that amongst all of us and within each of us is the potential for greatness and contribution across a large spectrum of human development (problems) in the sciences. This has been my attraction with Cambridge since my arrival here (except this block covering statistics -- which I am sure is part of the torture students are required to take). The opportunities for contact by anyone and everyone with the academic community is overwhelming. While here, I have had exposure to some of the most brilliant minds in the criminological, criminal justice and legal fields and to many practitioners at the national level from around the world.
The attitudes of those I've had the opportunity to meet is what sets the Cambridge experience apart from what is offered in American academia. First, American students are not afforded the opportunity to interact with such a broad range of our brain trust -- and America’s brain trust is many times larger than that of Britain’s. But American students are expected to morph their education from books. Second, Cambridge has an attitude that the student has something to offer to the process of his or her own education and it is the responsibility of the teacher to bring that out by being accessible and patient with the student.
Believe me, I have been the true test of this process by my "American" anomalies, which most European Nationalities find entertaining. Regardless, all have afforded me the same opportunities and courtesies as if I were one of their own. My time here, although probably of little use to society has been the most intellectually rewarding of my many years of academia. And all that know me know that I feel one is never too old to learn and is never too old to teach! Last evening just reminded me of that.
Favorite recent Pictures: Now that I have my vision acuity closer to normal, I am finding that some of my pictures did turn out closely resembling what I actually witnessed. It has been fun looking through the sets I have posted on Flickr. So, I have decided to post a few of my favorites here. The following are of the Coastline of Norway taken in March 2018.
The West Coast Adventure
As most know, it takes very little to motivate me to travel to the Western United States, especially the Northwest. So it is no surprise to learn that I have just returned from spending approximately 2 weeks traveling along the I-5 corridor from San Diego, California to the Olympia, Washington (just south of Seattle). The motivation for this particular trip was enhanced by visiting my son and his family who lives just north of San Diego and by visiting my dear friends that live in the Olympia, Washington area.
Beginning with the bad news; I knew from my previous driving experiences in the Los Angeles area that driving there on this trip would be a nightmarish experience. I can now say it was clearly worse than what I had remembered. Most of the major expressway/freeway systems are experiencing construction/reconstruction as a result of tremendous growth over the years where the infrastructure had been long neglected. Imagine traveling over an expressway system that is minimally five lanes wide where it requires four hours to travel 96 miles. True, that was the worst driving experience on this trip. However, similar experiences were common occurrences between San Diego and Sacramento for me, especially on Friday afternoons.
California venues: On to the good news; California weather is incredibly nice this time of year. Temperatures ranged from the 40s to the low 80s. For the most part the skies were clear and the humidity was low. Visitors such as me simply want to spend every daylight hour outdoors (but not in a car driving).
Discussing the various places I visited, the first major stop was the San Diego Safari Park. This was an excellent proposal suggested by my granddaughter. Basically, it is an 1800 acre open park used by the San Diego zoo for the repopulation of endangered animals (See note 1 below for more information). If you are ever in the area, it is well worth visiting – we had a blast. On the way home, we stopped by Mt. Palomar to see one of the largest telescopes in the world - the 200 inch “Hale Telescope”. (See note 2 below for more information).
I visited several parks in California. The first I will mention is McArthur-Burney Waterfalls. It is one of the best waterfalls that pour into a creek you can hike along that I have enjoyed through the various State Park systems visited over the years.
The set of pictures for these two venues are found in: California
Presidents and Capitols: When I travel through the various states, I make a point of visiting the state Capitols and any venues associated with the former presidents of the United States. The Los Angeles area holds two presidential libraries & museums; those of Richard M Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
Visiting the Nixon Museum was disappointing. The grave site for both Pres. Nixon and his wife, Pat are located there. However, although the grounds contain the birthplace of Pres. Nixon and one of the helicopters used during his administration, neither was open to the public. Additionally, the museum was under re-construction and therefore not open to the public. So, pictures were extremely limited. (See Note 3 for information on Nixon Presidency)
The Reagan Presidential Library and Museum was extremely more educational. It sits atop a mountain overlooking Simi Valley, located northeast of Los Angeles. I very much enjoyed the exhibit as to the assassination attempt upon Pres. Reagan’s life. The museum held a temporary exhibition on Reagan and his interaction with the Vatican. During his administration he had audiences with Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa.
Several of the more interesting exhibits on the museum grounds were those of the prior “Air Force One”, a former presidential helicopter (MH-1), and the presidential limousine used during the Reagan administration and the assassination attempt on Pres. Reagan’s life. The Air Force One and MH-1 were open for the public to tour. I was struck by how little room there was in each aircraft. Regardless, my mind kept drifting back to how much international power, especially that of the United States had been transported by these two aircrafts during the days of their use.
My last observation concerning the Reagan library/museum is one I would never have believed if I had not personally been there to witness it. Both Ronald and Nancy Reagan are entombed at the museum. However, you are not able to see their graves as they do not exist. As most know, the Reagan’s were very superstitious and relied heavily on the stars for direction. Part of that process was the fear of their burial site being part of some supernatural tampering; that most likely is on the part of Nancy Reagan since she arranged the funeral of President Reagan. Therefore, there was a secret vault built underground to house their individual caskets. (pix 5) That vault is not open to the public and can only be reached by secret passages underground. I asked several employees on site as to the location of the vault and they either didn’t know or were unable to disclose the location. On top of the ground and open to the public is a memorial; that is all you will see upon visiting as to a resting place for Pres. Reagan and his wife Nancy. The pictures in this set show the memorial for the Reagan’s, but not their grave site. I suspect they are entombed somewhere close by. (See Note 4 for information on Reagan Presidency)
Along with visiting the presidential libraries/museums of Nixon and Reagan, I visited the Capitol of California which is located in Sacramento. I have visited this Capitol several times, but this is the first time visiting inside. What is very obvious is the number of memorials to Ronald Reagan dispersed on every floor of the building. To me, the sad note is that they do not look like Reagan. But, his popularity with the citizens of California is well recognized. I would add the portraiture of Governor/Pres. Reagan is probably the best representation of him in the building. On the other hand, the portraiture of Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves a lot to be desired! And the portraiture of the longest-serving governor in the state of California is unrecognizable (Edmund Gerald "Jerry" Brown, Jr.), who previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983 and has been serving again since 2011. He is the son of former governor Edmund Gerald "Pat" Brown, Sr. who served from 1959-1967).
A little-recognized fact as to the state government of California and unique to State governments in general is that the California Supreme Court is not located in the same city as the Capitol; it is located in San Francisco. It seems that the Capitol being located in Sacramento and the Supreme Court being located in San Francisco was a compromise over the issue as to where the Capitol should be located when that decision was being worked out. What surprised me was the range of responses I received from employees of both law enforcement and the Capitol as to where the Supreme Court building was actually located – no one was able to give me the correct answer. I found the correct answer by looking it up on the Internet. Equally interesting is the make-up of the justices on the Supreme Court: the majority of Justices are women, including the Chief Justice. There is one Filipino-American justice, one Hispanic, one African-American, two East Asian-American justices, and two European-American justices currently sitting on the bench. (For information on the Capitol of California see note 5; for information on the Supreme Court of California see note 6)
I also had the opportunity to visit the Capitol of Oregon located in Salem. My visit was on the weekend and therefore the Capitol building was not open to the public. The grounds were beautiful and had several tremendously tall Sequoias located close to the Capitol building. Across the street on the backside of the Capitol complex is a university established in 1915 – Willamette. It was graduation day as I walked around campus and young faces were smiling everywhere. I mention this university simply because it had beautiful rose gardens throughout campus. Rose gardens are found throughout the Western states as the climate is conducive to their successfully growing. The Nixon and Reagan libraries/museums had their share of rose gardens as did the State Capitol for California.
For more information on the Capitol of Oregon, see note 7, below.
In that most viewers are not overly interested in venues such as presidential libraries and state Capitols, I have placed these four venues in a separate set of pictures titled: Capitols & Presidents, which can be found at: Presidents and Capitols
Yosemite National Park: The primary National Park I targeted for this trip was Yosemite National Park which is located northeast of Sacramento. It was not disappointing. Yosemite is ranked in the top 10 national parks for “must visit” and was the last of these parks that I have now visited. May and June are the recommended months for visiting as the waterfalls and streams are faster running with greater volumes of water. At the time of my visit, Yosemite was running at 97% water flow capacity thus really presenting itself for some nice photography. Yosemite has a number of beautiful waterfalls with the primary waterfall named “Yosemite”. It is the fifth tallest waterfall in the world.
The only downside to my early May visit was that the primary road that passes through the highest points in the park was not yet open. This main road was opened about one week after I was there. Without that road being open, it adds to the already opened areas being more crowded.
As I have written in a separate post, I did experience a car accident while parked in Yosemite and with me nowhere in sight of my car. A senior-aged couple from France had rented a motor-home in order to “See the USA”. The French have nothing traveling on the roads of France to compare in size to the American motor-home. Not realizing they needed a greater turning radius, they cut too short while turning next to my vehicle and busted out the left rear tail light. They took it in great stride as is the French way; upon seeing me about 30 minutes after the accident, they walked up to me like I was their long lost friend. So be the French!
As beautiful as Yosemite National Park is, Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks remain my favorites simply because there is a great deal of wildlife they can be seen in both of those parks. Even so, Yosemite National Park is well worth the visit. The set of pictures can be seen at: Yosemite
Oregon Venues: Oregon is one of the more beautiful states to travel through by car. It has a great variety of scenery along well maintained highways. That is not to say there isn’t Highway construction going on; but, it is not as interfering to the motorist as many of the more populated states.
For much of the route along I-5, mountain peaks covered in snow are visible. The most recognizable mountain peak is Mt. Shasta. I probably traveled two thirds of the base around Mt. Shasta. There was a great deal of mountain range covered in snow. I-5 in Oregon has elevations from approximately 1000 feet up to 6000 feet providing beautiful vistas along the way.
As I traveled north on I-5 heading into the Portland, Oregon area, I traveled east along the Columbia Gorge. This area has a number of scenic waterfalls. The route is deceptive in that you climb several thousand feet without realizing it as the roads are under a canopy of beautiful trees. Once you arrive at the top, you realize you have climbed approximately one-mile up. Upon reaching Vista Point, you are met by winds over 40 mph as a result of being in the Gorge and scenic views of the Gorge.
Oregon’s coastline is similarly beautiful. I traveled along the coastline in the vicinity of Florence, Oregon. The area is known as the home for Sea Lions. I did find a few in the area. There were few tourist visiting during the time I was there. This set of pictures can be seen at Oregon
Washington Venues: One of my objectives for visiting Washington State was to visit dear friends that live in the Olympia area (the capitol for the state of Washington). They truly have their own Shangri-La. As you stand in their front yard, you can see Mt. St. Helen and Mt. Rainier at the same time. Mt. Rainier is visible from Seattle. The wife is extremely creative and uses local natural resources to create beautiful art. She is also my expert “rock hound” buddy! That is not always to my advantage as she is always telling me my rocks aren’t exceptional finds. Although we always find great rocks, I have to sneak some when she is not looking as I simply like them. So, on this visit she gave me a book with rules on how to find my special rocks. Of course, I had to pass those rules on to my grandchildren.
While visiting, we ventured to the area of Mt. George Washington which is located on the southern rim of Olympia National Park. It rained most of the day, but we still had great fun. This northeast section of Washington State is well worth visiting. This set of pictures can be seen at Washington
With the exception of Los Angeles (I simply do not understand why anyone would want to live there), my visit to the West Coast was incredible. The weather is much closer to my liking and there is every kind of terrain and activity one could ask for. Until next time, get out there and enjoy the USA.
Notes on Venues I visited:
1) The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park until 2010, is an 1,800 acre (730 ha) zoo in the San Pasqual Valley area of San Diego, California, near Escondido. It is one of the largest tourist attractions in San Diego County. The park houses a large array of wild and endangered animals including species from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. The park is in a semi-arid environment, and one of its most notable features is the Africa Tram which explores the expansive African exhibits. These free-range enclosures house such animals as antelopes, giraffes, buffalo, cranes, and rhinoceros. The park is also noted for its California condor breeding program, the most successful such program in the United States.
The park, visited by 2 million people annually, houses over 2,600 animals representing more than 300 species, as well as 3,500 plant species. The main purposes of this zoo were to be species conservation, breeding of animals for the San Diego Zoo as well as other zoos and providing areas where zoo animals could be conditioned.
The San Diego Zoological Society became interested in developing the Wild Animal Park in 1964. The idea of the park began as a supplementary breeding facility for the San Diego Zoo, which would allow ample space for large animals and ungulates.
The development proposed would differ significantly from that of a typical zoo in that animals would be exhibited in a natural environment rather than in cages. In 1964, the park was assessed financially and then moved onto the next phase; this resulted in three alternative developments. There was an idea for a conservation farm, a game preserve, and a natural environment zoo. The natural environment zoo development was chosen over the conservation farm and game preserve even though it was the most expensive option. The estimated initial cost was $1,755,430.
Read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Diego_Zoo_Safari_Park
2) Palomar Telescope - In 1928 Hale secured a grant of $6 million from the Rockefeller Foundation for "the construction of an observatory, including a 200-inch reflecting telescope" to be administered by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), of which Hale was a founding member. In the early 1930s, Hale selected a site at 1,700 m (5,600 ft) on Palomar Mountain in San Diego County, California, US, as the best site, and less likely to be affected by the growing light pollution problem in urban centers like Los Angeles. The Corning Glass Works was assigned the task of making a 200-inch (5.1 m) primary mirror. Construction of the observatory facilities and dome started in 1936, but because of interruptions caused by World War II, the telescope was not completed until 1948 when it was dedicated. Due to slight distortions of images, corrections were made to the telescope throughout 1949. It became available for research in 1950.
The 200-inch (510 cm) Hale saw first light on January 26, 1949 under the direction of American astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, targeting NGC 2261, an object also known as Hubble's Variable Nebula. The photographs made then were published in the astronomical literature and in the May 7, 1949 issue of Collier's Magazine.
The telescope continues to be used every clear night for scientific research by astronomers from Caltech and their operating partners, Cornell University, the University of California, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is equipped with modern optical and infrared array imagers, spectrographs, and an adaptive optics system. It has also used lucky cam imaging, which in combination with adaptive optics pushed the mirror close to its theoretical resolution for certain types of viewing.
Read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hale_Telescope
3) Richard M. Nixon - (1913-94), the 37th U.S. president, is best remembered as the only president ever to resign from office. Nixon stepped down in 1974, halfway through his second term, rather than face impeachment over his efforts to cover up illegal activities by members of his administration in the Watergate scandal. A former Republican congressman and U.S. senator from California, he served two terms as vice president under President Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) for the years 1952 - 1960. In 1960, Nixon lost his bid for the presidency in a close race with Democrat John F. Kennedy (1917-63). He ran for the White House again in 1968 and won. As president, Nixon’s achievements included forging diplomatic ties with China and the Soviet Union, and withdrawing U.S. troops from an unpopular war in Vietnam. However, Nixon’s involvement in Watergate tarnished his legacy and deepened American cynicism about government.
Read more at: http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/richard-m-nixon
4) Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, to John Edward "Jack" Reagan and Nellie Wilson Reagan. His father nicknamed him "Dutch," saying he resembled "a fat little Dutchman."
Hollywood Career and Marriages: In 1937, Reagan signed a seven-year contract with the movie studio Warner Bros. Over the next three decades, he appeared in more than 50 films. Among his best-known roles was that of Notre Dame Football star George Gipp in the 1940 biopic Knute Rockne, All American.
In 1940, Reagan married actress Jane Wyman, with whom he had daughter Maureen and adopted a son, Michael. The couple divorced in 1948. During World War II, Reagan was disqualified from combat duty due to poor eyesight and spent his time in the Army making training films. He left the military ranked as a captain.
From 1947 to 1952, Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. During this time, he met actress Nancy Davis, who had sought his help after she was mistakenly listed as a possible communist sympathizer on the Hollywood blacklist. Over time he recognized Nancy as his kindred spirit, and they wed in 1952. The pair had two children, Patricia Ann and Ronald.
Governorship and Presidential Bid: Reagan stepped into the national political spotlight in 1964, when he gave a well-received televised speech for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, a prominent conservative. Two years later, in his first race for public office, Reagan defeated Democratic incumbent Edmund "Pat" Brown Sr. by almost one million votes, winning the California governorship. He was reelected to a second term in 1970.
After making unsuccessful bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976, Reagan finally received his party's nod in 1980. In that year's general election, he defeated Democrat incumbent President Jimmy Carter, winning the Electoral College (489 to 49) and capturing almost 51 percent of the popular vote. At age 69, Reagan was the oldest person elected to the U.S. presidency.
Assassination Attempt: On March 30, 1981, as President Reagan was exiting the Washington Hilton Hotel with several of his advisers, shots rang out and quick-thinking Secret Service agents thrust the president into his limousine. Once in the car, aides discovered that he had been hit. His would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr., also shot three other people, none of them fatally. At the hospital, doctors determined that the gunman's bullet had pierced one of the president's lungs and narrowly missed his heart. Reagan, known for his good-natured humor, later told his wife, "Honey, I forgot to duck." Within several weeks of the shooting, President Reagan was back at work.
In November 1984, Ronald Reagan was reelected in a landslide, defeating Democratic challenger Walter Mondale. Reagan carried 49 of the 50 U.S. states in the election, and received 525 of 538 electoral votes—the largest number ever won by an American presidential candidate. Yet his second term was tarnished by the Iran-Contra affair, a convoluted "arms-for-hostages" deal with Iran to funnel money toward anti-communist insurgencies in Central America. Though he initially denied knowing about it, Reagan later announced that it was a mistake partially at the behest of the first lady.
Berlin Wall: During his second term, Reagan also forged a diplomatic relationship with the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev, chairman of the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Americans and Soviets signed a historic agreement to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. That same year, Reagan spoke at Germany's Berlin Wall, a symbol of communism, and famously challenged Gorbachev to tear it down. More than two years later, Gorbachev allowed the people of Berlin to dismantle the wall, ending Soviet domination of East Germany.
Last Years: In November 1994, Reagan revealed in a handwritten letter to the American people that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Nearly a decade later, on June 5, 2004, he died at his Los Angeles home at age 93, making him the nation's longest-lived president at that time. (In 2006, Gerald Ford surpassed him for this title.) A state funeral was held in Washington, D.C., and Reagan was later buried on the grounds of his presidential library in California. His wife Nancy Reagan died of heart failure in March 2016 at the age of 94 and was also interred at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs.
Read more at: http://www.biography.com/people/ronald-reagan
5) California State Capitol: is home to the government of California. The building houses the bicameral state legislature and the office of the governor.
Located in Sacramento, the neoclassical structure was completed between 1861 and 1874 at the west end of Capitol Park, which is framed by L Street to the north, N Street to the south, 10th Street to the west, and 15th Street to the east. The Capitol and grounds were listed on the office of the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and listed as a California Historical Landmark in 1974, with a re-dedication on January 9, 1982 to commemorate the close of the bicentennial restoration project.
The building is based on the U. S. Capitol building in Washington, D. C. The west facade ends in projecting bays, and a portico projects from the center of the building. At the base of the portico, seven granite archways brace and support the porch above. Eight fluted Corinthian columns line the portico. A cornice supports the pediment above depicting Minerva surrounded by Education, Justice, Industry and Mining.
The California Senate chamber seats its forty members in a large chamber room decorated in red, which is a reference to the British House of Lords, also the upper house of a bicameral legislature. The chamber is entered through a second floor corridor. From the coffered ceiling hangs an electric reproduction of the original gas chandelier. A hand-carved dais caps off a recessed bay framed by Corinthian columns.
The California Assembly chamber is located at the opposite end of the building. Its green tones are based on those of the British House of Commons, the lower house. The dais rests along a wall shaped like an "E", with the central projection housing the rostrum. Along the cornice appears a quotation from Abraham Lincoln in Latin: legislatorum est justas leges condere ("It is the duty of legislators to pass just laws"). Almost every decorating element is identical to the Senate Chamber.
Read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_State_Capitol
6) Supreme Court of California: Under the original 1849 California Constitution, the Court started with a chief justice and two associate justices. The court was expanded to five justices in 1862. Under the current 1879 constitution, the Court expanded to six associate justices and one chief justice, for the current total of seven. The justices are appointed by the Governor of California and are subject to retention elections.
According to the California Constitution, to be considered for appointment, a person must be an attorney admitted to practice in California or have served as a judge of a California court for 10 years immediately preceding the appointment.
To fill a vacant position, the Governor must first submit a candidate's name to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation of the State Bar of California, which prepares and returns a thorough confidential evaluation of the candidate. Next, the Governor officially nominates the candidate, who must then be evaluated by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which consists of the Chief Justice of California, the Attorney General of California, and a senior presiding justice of the California Courts of Appeal. The Commission holds a public hearing and if satisfied with the nominee's qualifications, confirms the nomination. The nominee can then immediately fill an existing vacancy, or replace a departing justice at the beginning of the next judicial term.
If a nominee is confirmed to fill a vacancy that arose partway through a judicial term, the justice must stand for retention during the next gubernatorial election. Voters then determine whether to retain the justice for the remainder of the judicial term. At the term's conclusion, justices must again undergo a statewide retention election for a full 12-year term. If a majority votes "no," the seat becomes vacant and may be filled by the Governor.
Read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supreme_Court_of_California
7) Oregon State Capitol: Located in Salem, Oregon, the building houses the state legislature and the offices of the governor, secretary of state, and treasurer of the of Oregon. The current building, constructed from 1936 to 1938, and expanded in 1977, is the third to house the Oregon state government in Salem. Two former capitol buildings were destroyed by fire, one in 1855 and the other in 1935.
Construction of the newest building began on December 4, 1936. The third state capitol was completed in 1938 and is the fourth-newest capitol in the United States. The capitol was dedicated on October 1, 1938, with speeches from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Leslie M. Scott, Robert W. Sawyer, and Oregon Governor Charles Henry Martin. Chosen from 123 entries in a countrywide competition, the design of the new building deviated from the normal design of state capitol buildings. The design was labeled a combination of Egyptian simplicity and Greek refinement. Overall it is Art Deco in style, and is one of only three state capitols in the United States constructed in that architectural style.
The building cost $2.5 million ($43 million as of 2016), of which the federal government paid 45 percent through the Public Works Administration. Upon completion, the new Capitol was 164 feet (50 m) wide, 400 feet (120 m) long, and 166 feet (51 m) tall (50 by 122 by 51 m) and contained 131,750 square feet (12,240 m2) of usable space. The exterior was finished with Vermont marble. The lobby, rotunda, and halls were lined with a polished rose travertine stone quarried in Montana. The rotunda's staircases and floor used Phoenix Napoleon marble quarried in Missouri and have borders of Radio Black marble that, like the exterior stone, is from Vermont. 158 names of notable Oregonians are inscribed on the walls of the legislative chambers; of these, only six are women. The original cost estimate for the building was $3.5 million ($ 60 million as of 2016), but the state legislature only appropriated $2.5 million; committee rooms were subsequently removed from the plans. These rooms were added in 1977 as part of a $12.5 million ($ 49 million as of 2016) expansion project to add new wings containing legislative offices, hearing rooms, support services, a first floor galleria, and underground parking. This addition doubled the space of the capitol building. In 2002, the wings were remodeled at a cost of $1.3 million ($ 1.7 million as of 2016) to upgrade items such as antiquated wiring and to install new carpeting and lighting.
On March 25, 1993, the magnitude 5.6 Scotts Mills earthquake damaged the dome, requiring closure for repairs. The rotunda area remained closed for approximately two years for these repairs. This "Spring Break Quake" shook the building enough to shift the statue on top and crack the dome. Additionally, the quake created a three-foot (one-meter) bulge on the west end of the building. Repairs cost $4.3 million ($ 7 million as of 2016) and included reinforcing the structure with additional concrete and steel bars.
In April 2002, the building became the first state capitol in the United States to produce solar power through the use of 60 photovoltaic panels generating 7.8 kilowatts. One-third of the power is used to light the Oregon Pioneer at night; the remaining electricity is sent into the power grid.
On December 31, 2007, the Oregon State Capitol hosted its first authorized wedding between Oregon State Representative Tobias Read and Heidi Eggert. At Read's encouragement, the Legislature created a policy authorizing up to four public events a year. On August 30, 2008, the building caught fire around 12:30 in the morning and was quickly extinguished with damage to the Governor's offices on the second floor on the south side. The governor was forced to relocate some of his offices, including some time at the Oregon State Library across the street.
Read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_State_Capitol
8) Yosemite National Park (/joʊˈsɛmᵻti/ yoh-sem-it-ee) is a United States National Park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in the central eastern portion of the state of California, commonly considered part of Northern California. The park, which is managed by the National Park Service, covers an area of 747,956 acres (1,168.681 sq mi; 302,687 ha; 3,026.87 km2) and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. About 3.8 million people visit Yosemite each year: most spend the majority of their time in the seven square miles (18 km2) of Yosemite Valley. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, and diversity. Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness. Yosemite was central to the development of the national park idea. First, Glen Clark and others lobbied to protect Yosemite Valley from development, ultimately leading to President Abraham Lincoln's signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864. Later, John Muir led a successful movement to establish a larger national park encompassing not just the valley, but surrounding mountains and forests as well—paving the way for the United States national park system.
Yosemite is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a diversity of plants and animals. The park has an elevation range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet (648 to 3,997 m) and contains five major oak woodland,lower mountain forest, upper mountain forest, subalpine zone and alpine. Of California's 7,000 plant species, about 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada and more than 20% within Yosemite. There is suitable habitat for more than 160 rare plants in the park, with rare local geologic formations and unique soils characterizing the restricted ranges many of these plants occupy.
The geology of the Yosemite area is characterized by granitic rocks and remnants of older rock. About 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then tilted to form its relatively gentle western slopes and the more dramatic eastern slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream and river beds, resulting in formation of deep, narrow canyons. About 1 million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. Ice thickness in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet (1,200 m) during the early glacial episode. The down slope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that attracts so many visitors to its scenic vistas today.
The name "Yosemite" (meaning "killer" in Miwok) originally referred to the name of a renegade tribe which was driven out of the area (and possibly annihilated) by the Mariposa Battalion. Before then the area was called "Ahwahnee" ("big mouth") by indigenous people.
Read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yosemite_National_Park
The Paths We Cross
Note: This article is not about my travels nor does it contain pictures, but a piece written about observations of interactions I have had concerning several death row inmates. Its contents may not fit with your worldview and therefore it may not be one of interest to you. I truly do not wish to offend anyone’s sensibilities and therefore apologize if it does so in advance. jim
I ran across an article listing those that had passed away in 2015 in the NE Florida area. I was drawn to its opening comment concerning “three judges, including one known as the “hanging judge.” Since I have interacted with about every Judge in NE Florida over the past 30 years, I was interested to read about the “Hanging Judge”.
The Judge who the author was referring to was R. Hudson Olliff; a long ago retired Circuit Judge for the 4th Judicial Circuit, who for almost his entire judicial career had sat on the Criminal Bench. The article stated:
“R. Hudson Olliff, 90, was a judge from 1971 to 1995 and chief assistant state attorney from 1957 to 1964 who was nicknamed “the hanging judge.” He was a highly decorated World War II Army paratrooper whose injury in a combat jump resulted in knee problems the rest of his life and led to his wearing knee braces under his black robes. He also was known to carry a concealed gun in chambers. He became the first judge of Jacksonville’s repeat offender court in 1989 and prided himself on handing out harsh sentences to habitual offenders. At the time Judge Olliff retired, the Times-Union said he had put more people on Death Row than any other Jacksonville judge.
In a 1999 interview, Judge Olliff listed the 1970s murders of two of the young Dobbert children by their father, Ernest Dobbert Jr., and the 1974 race-related slaying of Stephen Orlando by self-proclaimed Black Liberation Army leader Jacob John Dugan Jr. as the murder trials that were his most memorable. He has a place in Florida history as the only judge to ever sentence a man to death when a jury recommended life, and then see the death sentence carried out. When Dobbert was convicted in 1974, the jury recommended life in prison. He overruled the jury and sentenced him to death. Dobbert was executed in 1984.”
Before moving forward, I will add that Judge Olliff had a cousin named Ambrose Olliff, a County Court Judge who sat on the county bench in Duval County, Florida. The truth of the matter is that both of the Olliff Judges were seen as mostly crazy and very few attorneys or defendants wanted to enter their court rooms. I had the duty to practice in both their courtrooms as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and can easily write separate articles attesting to the popular view as to their antics. But that is not the objective of this article.
This article will speak to a much earlier point in my career where my career path crossed Judge Hudson Olliff’s career, a point in time when we had not yet met. It was during the period of time I was working at Florida State Prison while earning my college degrees at UF. More specifically, it was while I was one of several correctional officer supervisors over Florida’s Death Row. In Judge Olliff’s obituary the author commented as to the murder trials of Ernest Dobbert & Jacob John Dougan, Jr. as being Judge Olliff’s most memorable trials and the ones that gained him the fame of being known as the “Hanging Judge”. When each of these men was sent to Florida’s Death Row, I was one of the supervising correctional officers that had daily contact with each. As such, I knew both of these inmates very well.
Ernest Dobbert was one of the most hated inmates ever to enter the gates of Florida’s Death Row because of the type of crimes he committed. He was the sole parent of four young children, ages 5 to 11. As the story goes, Dobbert repeatedly abused and tortured both psychological and physically all four children. Dobbert killed two of his four children – their bodies were never found; but stories abound as to what happened to them. He was convicted of 1st degree murder for killing his 9 year old daughter and of 2nd degree murder for killing his 7 year old son. He was also convicted of child abuse upon his 11 yr. old son and his 5 year old daughter. These crimes have been referred to as some of the most severe child abuse cases in the history in the State of Florida.
Upon Dobbert’s arrival at Florida State Prison (FSP), the entire prison was put on lock down so that no other inmate would see him. He was taken to “R” wing (the only death row wing at the time) and placed in R-2-15. That was the very last cell on the North side of the main floor. He was placed there so that no other death row inmate would pass his cell when being moved. Every time Dobbert was taken off the wing/out of his cell for any reason, the entire prison would be locked down until he was returned to his cell. He was hated that much.
From day one, everything grew worse when dealing with Dobbert. From day one, he refused to wear clothes, shave, or take showers. He would save his urine and feces in half-pint milk cartons placing them on the bars to his cell for easy reach so that he could throw its contents on anyone who aggravated him. This means most correctional officers that were over his day-to-day supervision. No, he never threw any of his collection on me as I was probably the one of the correctional officers that inmates were more afraid of than the other way around, but that is another story. Dobbert’s cell would become so nasty, we would have to take him out of it and use fire hoses to clean it out.
Dobbert never had a friend/family visitor the entire time he was there, at least until the time I left. He simply sat in his cell and grew extremely fat. That became a concern when he was finally put to death on September 7, 1984, after being on death row for 10.39 years. He was the 8th execution (by electrocution) in Florida after the death penalty was re-instated. At the time of the execution, Governor Bob Graham stated:
''Ernest Dobbert has been executed because of his brutal actions toward his own children, I hope that this indication of the seriousness of child abuse will be an example of the value which the people of Florida place upon the lives of infants and young people in our state, and a measure of the lengths the people of Florida are prepared to go to prevent and punish such crimes.''
The story of his surviving two children is equally disturbing. The State of Florida was sued for failing to protect them. The two children received a very small sum of $80,000 and were shipped to the State of Wisconsin where they ended up in Foster care after the biological mother wasted the money. The surviving son, Ernest John Dobbert, III, eventually committed suicide.
I was equally, if not more so, familiar with Jacob John Dougan, Jr. Let me state the legal facts to save time:
“On the evening of 6/17/74, in Jacksonville, Florida, Dougan along with four accomplices, armed with a .22 caliber pistol and a knife, set out to kill a white person, whom they termed “devils”.
While driving to Jacksonville Beach, the men picked up a hitchhiker named Stephan Orlando and drove him to an isolated trash dump. After arriving, the men ordered Orlando out of the car, threw him to the ground and one of the accomplices began stabbing him with a knife. Dougan put his foot on the head of Orlando and fired two shot to his head, one striking Orlando in the cheek and the other in the ear – killing him instantly.
A note was attached to the body of Orlando, which read as follows: “Warning to the oppressive state. No longer will your atrocities and brutalizing of black people be unpunished. The black man is no longer asleep. The revolution has begun and the oppressed will be victorious. The revolution will end when we are free. The Black Revolutionary Army. All power to the people.”
In addition to the note, the offenders recorded a number of audio tapes concerning the murder and sent them to the victim’s mother, as well as local media outlets.”
As part of my responsibilities in receiving a new inmate under sentence of death, I was required to be familiar with the circumstances of their crime. Before receiving Dougan in April, 1975, I had read his profile and was familiar with his crime and the BLA movement. The BLA movement was seen then very much like the terrorist movement is seen today.
Dougan has not been executed as of this date, now having been on Death Row for over 40 years. During that time and the appeal process, he has been sentenced to death three times, in: 1975, 1979 and 1987. His case is still on appeal, now in the Federal Courts. Interestingly, no other defendant in this case remained under sentence of death, although the Defendant Barclay was originally sentenced to death. These accomplices have been out of prison for years.
The day Dougan entered FSP, I spent his first hours with him in the medical clinic. He is asthmatic and suffers seizures. On that first day, I spent a great deal of time talking with him about his past, not his crimes. I learned he had served as a Sgt. in the Army “Rangers” and had been gainfully employed at the time of the crimes. He was very articulate, intelligent and communicative. If he were not sitting in FSP, one would never suspect what was really twirling around in his head.
After that first day, our relationship deteriorated quickly, although I feel he always maintained a level of respect for me. He had been a nightmare while in the Duval County Jail and had gained a great deal of notoriety with the local news channels. He was constantly notifying the news media that he was not receiving adequate medical care and that his civil rights were being violated. Somehow, the leaks to the press about these supposed abuses continued after he arrived at FSP. It was my responsibility to deal with those issues when I was on duty.
One particular day, I received notice that Dougan was having a seizure. At the same time, Administration called me to say that Channel 4 TV from Jacksonville was on the property having been notified that “Dougan was not receiving needed medical attention.” So, in conformity with institutional policy, I had a stretcher brought down to R-wing, had Dougan loaded on and personally escorted him to the clinic while Channel 4 taped the movement. After filming Dougan on the stretcher, Channel 4 was satisfied they had their story and left the property. Shortly thereafter I escorted a smiling Dougan walking back to R-wing. I called that one a win for Dougan!
Dougan had a very bad habit of not wanting to wear the T-shirt indicating him as a Death Row Inmate required when he was outside his cell. I would tell him to either put the T-shirt on or he wasn’t going anywhere. One day, he again was having a seizure and protocol required him to be transported by stretcher to the clinic regardless as to what T-shirt he was wearing. As usual, Dougan quickly recovered and was ready for me to walk him back to his cell. He was in great spirits because he had gotten up to medical without wearing the correct T-shirt.
Outside the medical clinic was a holding cell where we placed inmates until an officer could safely move the inmate back to his cell. Inmates did not like sitting in this holding cell as everyone in the prison corridor could see them. Plus, there was no way for them to use a bathroom as long as they sat there. On this particular day, I decided to put Dougan in the holding cell. I told him I would be right back. I walked down to his cell and retrieved his Death Row T-shirt and walked back up to where he was sitting. I put the T-shirt on the bars of the cell and told him when he changed into it, I would walk him back to his cell. I walked off and returned several hours later after I was notified he had decided he was going to wear the correct T-shirt. I lost a good number of points with Dougan that day, he definitely wasn’t smiling.
I have only shared the most printable interactions I had with each of these inmates. I had contact with each where things were not as pleasant – such is the life on death row where attitudes aren’t necessarily the most cordial. A person’s true personality can only hold a false face for so long when confined to loneliness of a small space for days, weeks, years.
As to Judge Olliff, we never discussed my history with these two men. I often run across cases like this where others have had contact with the same people/issues as I have. I am always amazed at the different perspectives that come from such crossings. It certainly illuminates how we reach future decisions and how those illuminations can be the same or different based upon the knowledge we have about the person or issue.
Where to go for Christmas 2015?
Our family celebrated Christmas a week early this year as it was the only convenient time for us all to be together. We had a wonderful Christmas, excepting our son & his family was not with us. Knowing our family plans, I started thinking as to where I was for Christmas 2014. Fond memories came to mind that I was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota practicing driving in fresh snow. I still had around 900 miles before reaching my destination of Helena, Montana. The NW at Christmas was a great adventure and I wanted to duplicate the excitement and fun for Christmas 2015.
I didn’t want to fly as I find it less stressful to drive these days. However, I wanted to go somewhere with cooler weather than Jacksonville, Florida. Surprisingly, I had never been to New Orleans, Louisiana even though it is only 550 miles from Jacksonville. So, I researched what the weather was to be and found it was going to average about 10° cooler per day over the Christmas holidays. It sounded like a good plan in the research phase.
In hindsight and now having returned to Jacksonville, my long standing reluctance to visiting what is clearly a partying venue turned out to be warranted. The core and historical city of New Orleans (to wit: Bourbon St. area and the French Quarters) is geared towards those who enjoy the nightlife of a bawdy, loud and somewhat inebriated population. Some years back, I would have fit right in but now I find that scene greatly conflicts with the necessity of being in bed by 9:30 PM each night! (I know what you are thinking, but I am not going to admit it!)
Another curveball to this particular trip was the weather. It rained for the majority of the time I was in New Orleans. That generally doesn’t bother me as I will venture out between rain storms. However, New Orleans is a little different. The rain hits the ground and immediately starts puddling – the puddles only disappear as it evaporates into a dense and hanging humidity. I always thought Jacksonville was extremely humid – but you can square the humidity saturation of Jacksonville and still not be close to the humidity in New Orleans. The bottom line is that in New Orleans when there is70° temperatures, but raining, one finds themselves sweating as if it were 100° and raining in Jacksonville.
Now that I have mentioned the negative of this trip, I want to talk about the positive. I made the decision to spend the first night of this trip in Pensacola, Florida. I wanted to visit the Naval Aviation Museum located on the Naval Air Station.
On the drive over and before getting to Pensacola, I visited Florida’s tallest waterfall (Falling Waters State Park, close to Chipley) – there are three waterfalls in the state of Florida – I have visited all three of them (not a “must do”). The waterfall I visited on this trip is interesting in that most of it flows into a sinkhole (when it is flowing) and I actually had to look down into the sinkhole to see the waterfall. The water flowing into the sinkhole disappears underground with the viewer having no idea where it ends up.
I booked a room in Orange Beach, Florida, which is close to the Pensacola Naval Air Station. What a wonderful area! First, at Christmas it is considered to be the off season – the area was practically deserted. I stayed in the Courtyard Marriott for $75 per night, which was located one block off the beach that likewise was deserted. I had a delicious and reasonably priced meal at a local restaurant – “Sea Harbor Grill”. The next morning it had stopped raining and I spent some time walking on the beach, sharing it only with the birds. This is a good destination if you want to get away from everything and you enjoy the beach.
Next, I drove over to the Naval Air Station. For security reasons, they now tightly control the ingress/egress to the base. This requires visitors to drive a different and longer route to reach the Museum. That presented the requirement of driving by several sites I had not seen on my previous visit. There is a beautiful National Cemetery located on the base. At Christmas time, Christmas wreaths are placed at each gravesite. It is an emotional and touching experience, one I always appreciate. I next learned that the Naval Air Station has one of the oldest (and best kept forts – it is actually a National Park) in the history of Florida. Located close to the fort is the Pensacola lighthouse which was first lit in 1859. I actually spent more time touring these sites than I did at the Aviation Museum.
I have not published many pictures of the Aviation Museum simply because people aren’t that interested in looking at airplanes. The Museum is well worth visiting if you are in the area or if you are interested in Naval Aviation History. I have published several shots of former presidential aeronautical rides, to wit: MH-1 (USMC helicopter) used by Presidents Nixon and Ford (that supposedly is Nixon sitting in the chopper), President George W. Bush’s plane that he flew while in the reserves, and, the airplane in which President Bush was riding that made the carrier landing – President Bush is the only president to have made a carrier landing.
An explanation to several of the other pictures: 1) the Trivision camera pictured was used on the Enola Gay
when dropping the atomic bombs on Japan – those cameras have come down in size considerably, 2) the Roy Geiger Plague represents a well-known WWII aviation leader from Clay County, Florida. 3) The information concerning the aircraft carrier “Enterprise” is of personal interest. I knew a pilot who flew off the Enterprise and was shot down on December 7, 1941 – he was recovered from the sea and went on to a great Naval career. The Enterprise was also involved with the Japanese invasion of Wake Island, maybe not in the heroic way indicated by the presidential unit citation displayed.
The photographs of the Pensacola area can be found at: Pensacola Area: Pensacola Area
Probably the best-known visitor attraction in New Orleans is the “French Quarters”. It very much reminded me of St. Augustine, Florida, but on a larger scale. Today, it is easy to see what has been recently renovated after Katrina. The French Quarters sit on the shores of the Mississippi River. What most visitors recognize by name the “infamous Bourbon Street”. In reality, the locals will tell you Bourbon St. is not considered to be in the French Quarters as it is blocks north of the French Market. The visitor quickly senses the Bourbon Street area has a different personality – it is more bars and adult entertainment as opposed to the restaurant district located in the French quarters. Regardless, aesthetically there is little to see in the area except the architecture, street performers of a variety. Overall, make sure to take plenty of money, but hide it carefully as there is a good number of homeless “needing a little help.”
I ate at two different restaurants in the French Quarters. Both meals were enjoyable and allowed me to taste local cuisine. I tried several different gumbos: one seafood and one that consisted of chicken and sausage. I thought the chicken and sausage gumbo was a lot tastier. I tried several different “Po Boys”, one seafood and one sausage. I think what made the difference was the roll used in each sandwich. I learned there is no advantage in asking your server if the food is spicy. Their answer is always the same: “no, you will barely taste the spices”. Take that as a warning – if you do not normally eat spicy food, you want to make sure to have a glass of ice water on hand – before you bite in! And as in baseball, don’t let them see you crying – there’s no crying in the French Quarters from eating Cajun Food!
Outside of downtown New Orleans, you will find two different types of neighborhoods. For the majority of the communities, I found there was no need for speed bumps as the roads are in terrible shape, making sure there was no speeding. While equally impressive, the more expensive communities were well-maintained, exhibited good roads and demonstrated some of the prettiest southern architecture to be found. The down side to the upper neighborhoods is the necessity these neighborhoods to be surrounded by berms/moats in an attempt to protect them from flooding. I included several pictures of what are grassy berms/moats.
In the outlying areas, what I found most attractive and were I spent several hours walking around were the cemeteries. The two cemeteries I visited were: 1) Greenwood Cemetery and, 2) Metairie Cemetery (established in 1872 and is on the National Register of Historic Places – they give daily tours through this cemetery). A high percentage of burials in New Orleans are above ground because of the water table. This has resulted in crypts that are architectural masterpieces. Additionally, the crypts are used repeatedly by the family. Of the two major cemeteries I visited, one was a little older (mid-1800s - Greenwood), not as well preserved and generally less expensive. After visiting the cemeteries, I asked people I met how they could afford a funeral.
I visited the Audubon aquarium located downtown by the Mississippi River. The Audubon Society has several downtown museums. I was greatly disappointed with the aquarium, especially considering its association with the Audubon Society. The exhibits were not well stocked, some having no occupants whatsoever. There was nothing unique about the aquarium in the way of exhibits. I would rank it in the bottom 10% of aquariums I have visited.
Understanding I did not visit New Orleans under the best of conditions weather-wise, I would still say it takes a certain personality to enjoy the French Quarters. I would guess the highlight season is Mardi Gras held in February; I understand there are a lot of beads being thrown then. Otherwise, the city is difficult to navigate, especially around the Expressway system, not well maintained and expensive. This adventure is one I would categorize as having been there, but finding no necessity to return.
This set of pictures can be found at: New Orleans Area: