Thursday, December 8, 2016

More memories...

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

Here's my mom (in the center), with my nieces Tami (left, the daughter of my brother Mark and his first wife Rolana) and Amber (right, the daughter of my sister Holly and her husband Warren).  The photo is dated (by the lab) as February 1986.  I'm guessing that my mom made the matching outfits.  The photo was taken in the living room of the house I grew up in, looking east.  Mark and his family were living at that time in the field off to the east, in a house that formerly belonged to my uncle Donald – a house that I helped build when I was nine years old, in 1961.  The door behind  my mom was our rarely-used front door.  The holly table I've mentioned before is to the right of it; it's now in my sister's home.  The rocker visible mainly in silhouette in the windows to the left is now in my barn.  In my dad's printing on the back: “Marci, Elinor, Tami”; my sister Holly wrote to tell me that this was wrong and gave me the correct IDs.  Marci wasn't even born in 1986!  She also notes that so far as she knows, this is the only “matching girls” outfit mom made that included one for herself.

These two photos look older than they actually are – the lab dated them as November 1969, but they look more like the '50s to me. :)  Both of these were taken in the living room of the home I grew up in.  They're showing a group of women quilting.  I remember seeing this a couple of times, and this photo was taken while I was still living there.  The only woman I recognize is the second from the left in the second photo; that's my aunt Marian (my uncle Donald's wife).  The woman just to the right of her, in a blue blouse, might be Mrs. Evelyn Denholm (and that's confirmed by my sister Holly), a family friend.  None of the others ring any bells at all, and unfortunately the photos are not annotated.  Since my mom isn't in them, I'm assuming that she's the photographer.  Holly tells me a story about one of these get-togethers, in which everyone was invited to bring some baked goods.  Our dog, Boots, “taste tested” every one of them by nibbling off the edges of the treats.  That must have been funny!  Holly also tells me that one of the quilters was Mrs. Kiernan, the first grade teacher that she, Scott, and I all had.  I have no memory of her appearance, so I can't identify her (and neither could Holly).  In the first photo you can just make out a thermometer mounted outside the large picture window.  That was an alcohol thermometer that a landscaping customer (I've forgotten which one) gave my dad.  He asked me to mount it, which consisted of screwing two screws into the outside window frame.  Sounds easy, but it was actually quite difficult: that frame was made of oak!  I didn't know about pilot holes back then, so I screwed those two screws straight into that oak and got a couple of blisters on my hand for my thanks.

This photo is undated, and is marked on the back in unfamiliar printing (large and crude): “Town Road”.  I've no idea where it was taken, by whom, or why; I include it here mainly because my mom kept it in the same envelope as some of her favorite photos of her dad.  Perhaps one of my siblings can give me a clue?

What a smile!  My mom printed “Marci” on the back, then scratched it out and printed “Tami” above it.  It's dated (by the lab) January 1987.  I can't quite make out what her shirt says – maybe “I’m a little Chillie”?  My sister Holly thinks this might say “Phillie”, but I think that spelling is actually “Philly”, and there's no sign of an “s” for “Phillies”.

The lab dates this as December 1958, and that is our Christmas tree, in our living room with the big picture window in the background.  I remember my mom taping those cards to the window a couple of years; the alternative arrangements was to have strings of them high on the walls.  I remember that coffee table well; I had to repair the legs on it several times.  Those legs screwed into metal brackets that were in turn screwed into the bottom of the tabletop; those screws kept stripping out of the soft pine when too much weight was put on the table.  The photo was apparently taken at dawn or dusk; you can just make out some of the scenery outside through the window.  In the distance there's a white house.  That would have been to our west, and it must have been the Ball's house, though I don't remember it as being so close.  I remember that big pot.  It must have been a gift for her that year.  I don't remember it as a gift; I remember it as the source of some of my favorite dishes. :)

Finally, here's one that's a bit of a mystery to me.  The photo is undated.  On the back, in very neat but unfamiliar printing:  “Took this at Mt. Ranier (sic) two years ago I believe Fawn Lily.  Remember?”  Google shows many images of similar flowers called Fawn Lily, so I suspect that's correct.  My father knew any number of people who might have taken such a photo, and who might have visited Mt. Rainier.  I found the photo in a pile of photos of nursery stock (plants in pots), where it stuck out like a sore thumb...

A better map of the 2016 election results...

A better map of the 2016 election results...  Friend, former colleague, and not-yet-escaped Californian Simon M. sent this along.  It's an interactive “prism map” of the county-by-county election results (a snapshot of this is at right).  The color of each county shows a summary of how the county voted, from dark blue for massively pro-Clinton to dark red for massively pro-Trump.  That much is familiar, as it's been used on many web sites.  The height of each county shows something else, though: the relative number of votes in each county.  Here you can see why even though most of the area of the country is red (pro-Trump), the massive number of votes in the blue (pro-Clinton) counties has even more votes.  Most of this map actually looks like a bunch of blue towers on a red lawn.  Utah has its own small blue tower, in the counties encompassing Salt Lake City.  All of the other blue towers are also counties containing cities.  On the entire map there are just a few reddish towers.

As I mentioned, the map is interactive.  Play with it for a few minutes and you'll gain some insight about the geographical dimension of our country's polarized politics.  For example, take a long look at Texas.  I spent some time looking at the population desert that is the part of the American West that I love, and that I live smack in the middle of – that bodes poorly for our future, I'm afraid, with massive populations all around us.  There's a blog post about the map as well.

Paradise ponders, broken weather forecast edition...

Paradise ponders, broken weather forecast edition...  The current weather forecast calls for a low temperature of 27°F today.  The current temperature is 7.1°F.  Apparently the weather man can't be bothered with looking out his window!  I ventured outside, very briefly, in just my jeans and short-sleeved shirt – I dashed out to turn on the yard lights when I let the dogs out.  I wasn't sure how awful it would be, but it actually wasn't too bad.  I got my coat on before I walked over to my office in the barn a few minutes ago – I think that 50' or so would have been too much in shirtsleeves at this temperature!  I enjoyed the crunchy granola sound my feet made in the snow; it's very different when it's so cold.

Well, yesterday I did manage to actually finish the last bits of the mud room wiring.  Even better: our builder showed up with the trim for the inside of the new front door, and he installed it.  This trim was tricky because it had to fit the curve of the arched top window – that's a bit hard to do with wood (though not impossible if you happen to own a steam cabinet).  Arched windows are common these days, though, and the construction industry came up with an alternative: flexible trim made out of a rubbery plastic, pre-curved to approximately the right radius and then adjustable (slightly) to fit the actual window.  Now I have a new job: caulk and paint that new trim. :)

I received a Fedex package from Tesla Motors, and of course my first thought was that they were going to tell me my car was ready.  Alas, that was not the case – though the first sentence was encouraging:
“Your Tesla Model X will be ready for delivery very soon.” 
Of course, “very soon” is one of those painfully ambiguous terms that could mean five minutes or five years.  Sigh.

So what was this package about?  Well, it turns out that it contained a temporary registration and an application for an actual registration, along with a form declaring delivery outside the state of California.  The temporary registration was for California, though – as was the application for actual registration.  Ack!  I thought there was some mistake, and immediately called my Tesla contact.

That's when I got a little education into the silly things that Tesla has to do in order to sell cars in Utah (and most other states, too).  They are not licensed to sell cars in Utah because the car dealers lobby has successfully (so far) lobbied to require new care sales to be handled through a dealer – not directly from the manufacturer.  Of course, Tesla has no dealers, they only sell direct.  This much I already knew, but I also knew that I could buy the car directly and then pick it up from the Tesla showroom in Salt Lake City.  I wasn't clear why that was ok even though the showroom wasn't a dealership, though.  Well, now I know.  It's because I have to buy the car through the state of California, then transfer my registration to Utah.  Tesla can deliver the car to Utah, but they can't actually sell it to me here.  So we play this silly game of buying it in California but delivering it to me here.  There's no money involved, just a bunch of paperwork – wasting everybody's time and energy but accomplishing nothing.

It's another great example of government getting in the way of a simple transaction, then of a business cleverly finding a way around the issue.  In this case, Utah – generally very much a pro-business state – is actually making it harder for Tesla to do business here, but is protecting a group (new car dealers) that donate a great deal of money to politicians each year.  At the same time, they're dealing themselves out of some sales tax revenue – I'm paying California sales tax, not Utah (and if you know me well, you'll understand just how much that pains me!).

The car dealership's behavior is certainly understandable: they make their money mostly on maintenance and warranty repairs, kickbacks on financing, upsells, and some on the direct profit margin of the car sale (though that's much less than most people think).  When cars broke down every few hundred miles (as they did when I was young), one could make a good case for the need of a dealer nearby, with a stock of parts and expertise.  Cars these days, though, are vastly more reliable than they used to be – and at the same time, modern logistics has practically eliminated the need for local stocks of parts (you can overnight a part from Shanghai if need be).  Then there's the fact that the Internet allows the instant delivery of any car's maintenance manual to any garage, almost anywhere on Earth.  What essential function does a dealer provide these days?  None, is the obvious answer.  So now that they can't justify their existence on business grounds, they've managed to get laws passed in many states that mandates their existence – and without those laws, they'd almost certainly be out-competed by alternatives.  One such alternative is Tesla with their direct sales model and manufacturer-provided maintenance, so they're fighting it as hard as they can.  I think they know that they're fighting a war they'll lose in the long run, but like a drowning rat they're paddling as long as they can...