Saturday, October 29, 2016

More memories...

More memories ... from my mom's photo collection...

I start with a bit of a mystery today.  I have no idea who either of the people in the photo at right are; it is undated and there are no notes on it.  It's obviously a studio portrait, presumably of a married couple.  The man is wearing a U.S. Army uniform; the insignia indicates he's a Master Sergeant – that's an E-8, the next-to-highest enlisted rank in the Army.  He has 7 “hash marks” (the stripes on his left sleeve), indicating that he has somewhere between 28 and 31 years in service.  Do any of my siblings have a clue who these people are?  Update: My brother Scott recognized the man as “Bernice” a friend of my brother Mark.  Mark then identified him as Bernice Dill, and his wife Sherry Dill. He's still in the Army, and the two of them still visit Mark and his wife Gina in Maine every year.

The woman at right is Rolana, my brother Mark's first wife.  The sweet young thing at left is one of her daughters, Tami.  The photo is undated, but must be from the early '90s.  I have no idea why it's black-and-white.

On the back, in handwriting I don't recognize: “1/10/98 I sunk 2’ (feet) (sleet) when I took this picture of a camp on Long Pond”; right below that, in my mom's printing: “Old Camp - tear time - many, many good times here”.  Truer words I cannot find.  That's the back (i.e., away from the pond) side of my family's old camp on Long Pond, now long gone.  What you're looking at was built in four stages: first the main cabin (the part with the tin stove pipe sticking out of it), then the front porch (not visible as it's on the opposite side), then the bedroom extension off to the left, and finally the bathroom and storage room closest to the camera.  There used to be an outhouse just to the right of where the photographer was standing, and there were more trees (I'm not sure what happened to all of them).  I've only seen the camp once in the winter, in '73 or '74, while on leave from the U.S. Navy.  When I saw it, there was much more snow! :)

For some reason my dad annotated this one: “Grandma + Marci”.  The photo is undated, but I'm guessing it's from the late '80s.  I have no clue where it was taken; I'm not familiar with that merry-go-round at all.

I know this place well – it's the front yard of my maternal grandparents' home in the '50s; the place I remember them the best.  On the back, in my mom's handwriting: “Dad & Sliver looking over the nursery”.  On the left is Sliver Sturgeon; on the right my mom's father (my grandfather) Donald MacLaughlin.  Behind the photographer was their home.  They often had parties on that front lawn, usually involving cards, beer, and highballs.  That hand-dug well with its massive bluestone cover was often my perch on our visits when I was quite small.  My grandmother once chalked some squares on that sidewalk for us to play games on, games that she taught us.  My memories of those visits are mainly all about the happy faces, laughter, and general high spirits of the people there – including, especially, my mom.  My grandfather's retail nursery included the stock field across the street that they're looking at, but most of the facility was left of the photo's field of view.  Down there was some parking, the greenhouse, the potting shed, and several display beds under some grand old shade trees.

On the back, in my mom's handwriting (in fountain pen): “Sliver Sturgeon Lincoln Maine”.  The photo is an original, but unfortunately undated by the lab.  It's on cheap off-brand photo paper, so I'm going to guess it was processed by someone in Maine.  From Sliver's appearance, I'll guess this was taken in the early '50s.  Note his cap and plaid shirt: he and my grandfather (my mom's father) dressed quite similarly.  He was a great friend of my grandfather, and to a slightly lesser extent, to our extended family; I have lots of memories of him laughing, joking, playing cards with my grandfather and the rest of us.

This is a duplicate on photo paper of a slide I posted before.  The color fidelity on this print is better than the slide, so I'm posting it again.  This is Doc Johnston; follow that link to read about him.

Finally, this is my brother Mark and his wife Gina, along with their two dogs, outside (I believe) the camp on Long Pond in Maine.  I say “I believe” because I don't recognize the stairs.  I suspect this photo was taken after Mark took possession of the camp (in the early '00s) and fixed it up; I've never seen it.  That certainly looks like Long Pond behind them, and the floating dock is right.  I certainly don't remember a lawn in the front, though!  The two of them look very happy in this photo, don't they?  Several things in this photo jump right out at me.  For one, the neatly edged gravel walkway – I can't even imagine such a thing when my grandfather owned it! :)  Then there's the lattice work hiding the crawlspace; again, that would never have happened (it was a total mess under there; we loved to explore it as kids).  But most of all, the propane tank and grill (presumably that's what's under the cover): we cooked meals inside the house on a wonderful wood-fired cook stove.  Grilling on a propane grill?  Get out of here!

It's been a long, long time...

It's been a long, long time ... since I last built a Heathkit.  The last one I remember building was a CW DX receiver, vacuum-tube based, probably in '67 or '68.  Heathkit went out of business several decades ago (or at least stopped making kits), but a year or so ago I stumbled across an article saying that they'd somehow come back to life.  I don't know the details of how they did that – in particular, I don't know if it's actually the same company or if someone just bought the name.  When they announced their first kit availability, for the Most Reliable Clock (GC-1006), I decided to give it a whirl and ordered it.

One thing you should realize is that for me (and probably for many other hams or electronics buffs my age) this was a real nostalgia-fest.  I probably built 15 or 20 Heathkits in the '60s, including ham transmitters and receivers, test equipment, bench power supplies and function generators, etc.  The quality of those kits was unbeatable back then, and (to my knowledge) completely unobtainable today.  The manuals were excellent, the support stellar, and the designs and build quality superb.  This particular kit is a nicely-executed digital clock, but at $100 is really rather absurdly pricey.  I got it anyway, just on the chance that it would be like building the Heathkits of yore.  Also it's my little financial contribution, sort of like a Kickstarter for Heathkit. :)

And you know what?  Largely, it was like building a Heathkit back in the day!  This Heathkit had an excellent manual, in which I only caught one (trivial and obvious) error.  All of the parts were present, along with a few extra of various things (including two extra resistors, which had me going for a while!).  The design is modern, using a modern microprocessor, LED drivers, etc.  The execution is nice: easy to use, all the really necessary features, not any useless fluff.  The assembly takes a moderate amount of skill, especially for a few areas that were sort of “redneck” construction.  For example, the manual leads you through a tricksy bit of heat-shrink tubing manipulation in order to make a couple of LED light shields.  But I'm not complaining about any of that; in fact, it was all very reminiscent of the old Heathkits, which often had some redneck assembly or fabrication to do.

I made one mistake during assembly, and it was entirely my own fault: I installed the first (of five) switches after very carefully reading the manual.  Then I noted the four additional switches on the PC board mask, and just assumed they would be assembled the same way.  Whoops!  Bad assumption!  Instead, they were mounted on the back of the board.  That's why I needed the desoldering tool yesterday. :)

If I had to cite a disappointment, it was this: when I got all finished building the kit, everything worked on the first try.  I was sort of looking forward to troubleshooting it, but there was no need.  Dang it!

So now I have a very expensive new bedside clock, and I'll smile every time I think about the pleasure I got building the silly thing.  And if Heathkit ever comes out with another kit I might enjoy, quite likely I'll buy that one as well.  Right now the only other kit they're offering is a not-so-good AM radio.  I haven't listened to any AM stations for 15 years or so, and even if I were to start listening again, I'd do it on a much better radio than that!

Sure wish I'd known...

Sure wish I'd known ... that this was coming down the pike.  Over the last two years we've put standing-seam steel roof and solar panels on our home and barn.  If Elon isn't lying to us, the cost for his solar roof will actually be less than what we paid.  And it will look better.  I sure didn't see that coming!

The McMullin scenario...

The McMullin scenario ... as explained by Jonah Goldberg:

Here, the vanilla rule might apply. Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors in America not because it’s everyone’s favorite, but because it is the least objectionable to the greatest number of people. There are probably no Democrats who wouldn’t prefer McMullin to Trump. There are almost certainly no Republicans who wouldn’t prefer McMullin to Clinton. Picking the least objectionable option is often the essence of statesmanship. If 26 state delegations pick the least-bad option, McMullin becomes the first Mormon president.
That's from this article, in which Jonah sounds like someone (besides me!) who's going to vote for McMullin.  After yesterday's news on Hillary, Jonah thinks McMullin's chances are much higher.  Still very low, but much higher.

All this gives me the tiniest ray of hope for a palatable outcome to the 2016 election.  Also much Hillary schadenfreude.  Go, McMullin!