Friday, December 28, 2007

adventures in the underworld

Nine year old Andrew sends in his second story
Adventures in the Underworld

The six crab like creatures stood in the fading light, drawing nearer, and I stood on the shore transfixed as one struck by lightning. It was a small matter of time before I gathered my wits. I ran with these creatures very near behind me, and then saw some kind of pit, or well, with rungs attached for a way of descending. Seeing this I climbed down, knowing the monstrous creatures behind me were much too large to fit through. As I descended, I was increasingly aware of a growing heat emitting from the depth.

I considered going back, but I knew certain death awaited me if I chose to. So I kept climbing down into the blackness, and the heat that, as I descended yet farther, cast a reddish light upon the walls. At last I reached the bottom, and I felt very tired and fatigued. I threw myself on the ground and slept as the day wore away.

I woke the next morning and felt very much refreshed. A loud booming sound echoed in what appeared to be a neighboring hall. My own was built in the likeness of a vast cathedral without windows or anything else in it, save a small table in a desolate corner. On this were the remains of a half-eaten meal, of what I cannot say, but I ate it readily and with haste.

At the north end of the hall, I found what I had least expected: a door that appeared to be wrought of bronze and several great chests of another metal that was very brittle. I found this out when I pried one open with an iron bar that tapered to a fine edge. I had found it on a great rubbish heap near the chests. They were filled with a coarse black stuff that possessed a strong magic, as I would soon find out.

I easily forced open the door and found myself in yet another vast hall, not unlike the room I had just left. But this hall was occupied by a number of shadowy figures, and they were evidently unaware of my presence. They were eating the thing I had seen on the table in the room where I entered.

I stealthily drew nearer, and I perceived that they were also eating another strange food that seemed to be a kind of vegetable. I wanted to get a closer view. I developed a contrivance that would prove very effective for my escape.

I found a pebble under the door, and threw it to the north end of the hall. The creatures looked suspiciously in that direction and walked to the noise. I walked in complete silence up to the table and tried some of the strange food. It had a sort of bitter taste, and I immediately disliked it.

I thought I could make the creatures scatter into the neighboring halls, for by what I had heard on my entrance there were many halls, each possessing its own shape and size. I took some boiling water, of which there was a cauldron of upon the table, and with it I mixed some of the black powder in the hall. When the mixture was ready, I crept up to the creatures who were already seated at the table again, and then out of the shadows I jumped and spilled it’s boiling contents on the table. It worked as effectively as I had hoped, and the creatures scattered off in all directions, bumping into each other while plates crashed to the floor. Before I knew it, not a single form remained.

I sighed in relief and slowly made my way to the room with the distinct shaft built into the wall and table on which I had eaten my first meal in this strange new land. I wanted to return home and turned to the ladder, but to my great horror, the rungs had vanished! I ran about the hall in despair, thinking all was lost, and hurling the black coarse powder in all directions.

I happened to throw some powder on the shaft and as it fell to the ground, a tiny speck alighted in a crevice between the stones. Suddenly, the nearly invisible dot began to glow, brighter and brighter, until a blinding light shone throughout the room. Then there was a blast and all was dark.

I woke up within the next hour, and to my delight the rungs were now plainly visible in the ill-lit room. I climbed them with more gracefulness and swiftness this time, and I was delighted when I finally reached the top, blinking in the warm sunlight and filling my lungs with the fresh spring air. I ran away from the place with haste, and was very glad when I reached my own home. But what now inhabited the little cottage filled me with a burning fury and a terrible fear.

It was a large beast, in the likeness of a dragon, and very small innumerable teeth. It was a dangerous creature, and loathsome to behold. Surely it must be the fabled Creature of Destruction that in those same legends had destroyed many a ship at sea and the many humble dwelling-places such as my own. And indeed it was, for the marks of destruction were over my home, and there were signs of my wife and children having left in a great hurry.

I seized my pocket-knife and slashed at the thick hide, but the creature took only slight notice of my presence, and very little blood was drawn. So I fled, following the footsteps of my departed family. The creature laid waste the doorway and wall, using it’s powerful wings for short distances. I turned round and ran between its legs, tripping it up even as it ran. Then I turned round and went to find my family.

They were in a small grove of trees when I made my discovery, and they were equally as glad to see me as I was them. The children squealed with delight and jumped up to run about me in circles and danced for joy. I took up every one in my arms in turn, and then it was time to settle down to sleep. The next day we returned to our cottage. We found a great heap of rubble in its place and my wife shook her head in disappointment and muttered, “it is hopeless.” But the next day we began work on a new dwelling.

Day after day we labored, and it was finally finished. Unfortunately a very bad thing happened then. I should have known that the very youngest of my children had hardly hammered the main post in. The whole structure was very precarious, and as we stared at it in admiration, a soft breeze began to blow, and I thought I saw the structure tilt ever so slightly, and then again, and then yet farther, until I knew something was dangerously wrong. As the wind picked up, the structure tilted even faster, making terrible creaking and groaning noises. We saw the newly established cottage tumble into yet another pile of wreckage before our eyes and we ourselves groaned to see our second home smashed to the ground. The children began crying.

But after several more failed attempts, we finally re-constructed our home, and settled down. I never saw the monster again but he still lives on in our legends and myths. As soon as we were properly settled into the new home, we all sat around the fire and the younger of my children snuggled up close to me as I told the story of my adventures.

I am an old man now, too old to live with my wife and children, for they have all long since passed away. But sometimes I dream of the adventure I had, right from the beginning, and of my wife, children, friends, and everyone I knew when I was younger. I dream of the wonderful times I have had in my life. I have lived an exceptionally long time, one hundred and twenty-five years, if I am correct. Most of all I dream of my family, and of my adventures in the underworld. I now began to write my diary, for I have seen enormous wonders. Whenever I read it, I will remember it all.

The End

Friday, December 21, 2007

man in black video jukebox

"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" is the way the Man in Black began his concerts. Over a 50 year career he had many hits including Ring of Fire and I Walk the Line . As a testament to his popularity he sold over 90 million albums during his lifetime.

Just before Johnny Cash died in 2003 he wrote and performed what I think is one of his best songs - Hurt

Thursday, December 20, 2007

harry chapin video jukebox

My wife and I saw Harry Chapin perform at the Circle Star theater in Redwood City,CA, in the late seventies. This theater in the round had a rotating stage which made it great for seeing the performance from any viewpoint. I remember Harry was about 45 minutes late for the performance when suddenly he ran down the aisle in tattered jeans and guitar in tow. He hopped on the stage, sat down on a bar stool and said "I'm sorry I'm late, but now I'm gonna sing my &#! for you"! And he did! He gave a high-energy performance that covered his hit songs like Taxi,and Cat's in the Cradle to some of his lesser known songs like Mr. Tanner and A Better Place to Be. Of special note was the band's performance of Life is a Circle on the rotating stage.

Sadly, Harry Chapin died in a car crash in 1981. His music and his advocacy for fighting world hunger is missed.

weird al parodies video jukebox

Weird Al Yankovic has the uncanny ability to create a parody of a song that frequently achieves greater popularity than the original song itself. For example, I'll bet not many of you have heard the rapper song Ridin' Dirty but I'll bet most of you have heard of Weird Al's parody White and Nerdy

In this video jukebox I have Weird Al's parody in the left column and the original in the right column. Watch both and decide which one you like better.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

land's end, san francisco

San Francisco really is at land's end. Beyond the Pacific horizon it is about 2500 miles to the tiny specks that are the Hawaiian Islands. Beyond these islands it is another 3000 miles to the Asian land mass.

I took these photos recently in the Land's End Western part of the city ,Ghirardelli Square, and the maritime national historical park.

I've never lived in the city but have visited it often when I lived and worked in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. It truly is a world class city and should be on anyone's list of places to see before you die.

Monday, December 17, 2007

steven wright video jukebox

I firmly believe some people's brains are just wired differently. Consider the
strange case of Steven Wright ...

amazing grace video jukebox

Some great musicians sing Amazing Grace. My favorite is Judy Collins, but Lee Ann Rimes also gives a great contemporary performance. And how about the Blind Boys from Alabama singing Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising sun or Amazing Grace in the Cherokee language?

kristin andreassen video jukebox

Kristin Andreassen is a very versatile musician. She sings, clogs, writes and plays instruments in both the Uncle Earl and Sometymes Why bands.

Two of the songs she sings that I especially like are Crayola from her new Kiss Me Hello CD and Bony on the Isle of St. Helena from the Uncle Earl Waterloo,Tennessee CD.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

tree frog on tree man

I took this photo of an unusually decorated tree along side West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, California.

The tree frog critter was created by Adam Bowman -- a very clever javascript programmer.

old tyme murals of oroville

The city of Oroville in the Northern California has a rich mining history. To depict that era many gold mining murals have been painted on older buildings in the downtown area.

I recently took some photos of these murals which are really fine paintings in their own right. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

an evening walk around kelly ridge

Kelley Ridge is a pleasant neighborhood in the Northern California Sierra foothills.

On a recent evening walk I captured a few photos that give a flavor of the area.

Monday, December 03, 2007

the folk art of e.t. wickham

In the 1950's and 60's along Buck Smith Road in Palmyra, Tennessee,USA my Grandfather created a folk art world of larger than life concrete statues of politicians, Indian chiefs,religious figures, war heroes and others. After his death in 1970 the statues were vandalized and little remains of them today, but I have undertaken with the help of old family photos to recreate this art world on the web. I invite you to take a virtual tour of these statues at Wickham Stone Park

Friday, November 30, 2007

scooter the blue fronted amazon

Introducing Scooter the blue fronted Amazon

This is Scooter, a Blue-Fronted Amazon parrot. He's about 28 years old and has been with our family for most of his life. Our children have grown up and started families of their own, so he finds it much too quiet here. His cage is by a sunny window looking out at the front yard so that he can keep an eye on what's going on in the neighborhood. A fairly good watch bird, he lets out sounds at the approach of strangers that are different from his sounds at the approach of friends and really raises the roof when he sees our grandchildren getting out of the car. Although he likes to be around most children, our grandkids have a special place in his heart, as does the daughter in whose bedroom he sometimes stayed when she was growing up. (She now has a parrot of her own -- a Moluccan Cockatoo named Peaches.)

After children, his favorite things are showers, music and having his head scratched. He also likes to watch TV and seems to pay special attention to the Food Network. And speaking of food, he always expects to get a little something extra when we have our meals and clucks at us until we give him something. I am sorry to say that his favorite treat is scrambled egg.

Though Scooter can be pretty good with sound effects, he's not a great talker. Sunrise and sunset are usually greeted with enthusiastic noise, and anyone who laughs or sings around him almost always inspires him to join in. He coos, crows and trills in response when someone talks to him, mimicking a conversation. He likes to have the last word.

peaches the moluccan cockatoo

Heather introduces her new cockatoo

Here is our new 'baby' - Peaches the Moluccan Cockatoo. She nestled in very well to our home last month and provides no end of snuggles and laughter to the household. Lately she's been experimenting with being 'batwoman' and hanging upside down (completely!) from her play top. She holds a fork with food on it and is many other ways quite the clown. She loves her sentinel perch, goes through toys like crazy (we should have named her 'Chewy') and thinks it's great fun to play 'catch' with our daughter. (She gives ball, Peaches hucks ball to ground with gusto. She picks up ball and game repeats while Peaches mimics her laughter.)

Peaches transitions in mood swings almost as much as she does in height (when 'compacting' herself she is at about a foot long but when she is animated and the crest goes up she grows to two feet!) She's loud and boisterous one moment, and 'melted butter' wanting to snuggle the next. The woman who hand fed her did a beautiful job in encouraging such a trusting creature.

My favorite vocalization of Peaches is her attempt to sing opera. They weren't kidding at the pet shop; she does get LOUD, but thankfully it's contained to 10-20 minutes of late morning and early evening vocalization.

She's still a babe - a one year old with a 75+ year life span, and not quite full grown. Her breed is the largest of the Cockatoo species and known more for being a good mimic of human behaviors (hence eating with fork) than for language imitation, though her breed does some talking, too. Her short stay in the pet shop next to a VERY vocal African Grey parrot seems to have made an impression on her and it's quite interesting to hear her now imitate another bird who's imitating humans (and everything else.)

I'm pleased to officially introduce her. She's a very special bird and very dear to me as my friendly companion.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

the not so wild turkeys of lockhart gulch

Heather sends this photo/description of some pesky residents

This crew is frequently found roaming our neighborhood, and often in the middle of the street. The years of people accommodating them have given them a very arrogant complex. The family of 15 or so don't sense any urgency in the slightest with a car approaching and will flamboyantly settle down to rest in front of one. Honking your horn is apparently taken as a sign of aggression to the males. They stand up defiantly in front of your vehicle and flare their tails making menacing sounds. I've learned that they utterly snub you if you try to feed them. At least with food agreeable to chickens. I rolled down my window and cooed at a family, flinging some cracker crumbs out and expecting them to appreciatively gobble. The leader of the pack barely cast an eye toward the flung crumbs and truly did give me a dirty look before sauntering away disinterestedly. What do turkey's eat, anyway?? They're very amusing with their regal complex. We in the neighborhood have learned to simply drive around them and let them have the run of Lockhart Gulch (near Santa Cruz, California).

google fixes the firewall

Eight year old Andrew writes this fanciful story

GOOGLE Fixes the Firewall

Chapter 1: A Byte to Eat

Google was a perfectly normal gigabyte. One day he was trying to break through a firewall. Then he was hungry so he went down to the supermarket to buy a bag of memory chips. He heard his Motherboard calling for help.

Google raced home as quickly as a command. There was a virus stealing every kilobyte of memory in the entire Exabyte!

So he snuck up on the virus.

Ever so silently, ever so stealthily he tiptoed up and carefully fell flat on his face. He saw ?????? before his eyes. And then he unknowingly took a big byte out of the Office Assistant.

With what was left of him he gathered all of his random access memory and got through the firewall. He waited.

He waited for a packet-or even his motherboard to rescue him. But he was safe from his enemies. Finally an anti-spyware packet came through. Google asked him for Help. But all he got was a ??????

Finding that he was no good as a translator he decided to say: ithinkyouneedanewfirewall. And for a good reason.

THE ADVERTISEMENTS WERE COMING LIKE BITS! Pretty soon 11-bit pictures were popping up everywhere.

It was true, unauthorized packets were coming through. And a human had gotten through that very corporate firewall and was playing Reversi on the internet.

Chapter 2: Repairing the Firewall

Never before had anyone broken through the firewall before, so they decided to fix the firewall together. Google and the anti-spyware packet.

Suddenly his friend Goooooooooooogle burst into the wall panting. He held three large objects. My toolkits! He said. How did you know I needed those! When I saw those advertisements I knew the firewall was damaged. He grinned.

Oh, and one other thing. What’s that? I got rid of that virus for good. With, of course, the smartest guy on the computer: the Office Assistant.

vanishing trees

Vanishing Trees

Trees are priceless plants to behold,
It’s time for their virtues to be told

Their lofty flowers are a pleasing sight,
And their fruits are a squirrel’s delight.

Trees are ablaze with color in the fall,
Except for evergreens, so stately and tall.

To fierce winds they are a calming brace,
And their deep roots hold the soil in place.

Tree leaves catch hot sunlight, cast cool shade,
And from their wood, sturdy homes are made.

The trees clean and refresh the air with O2
While removing the greenhouse gas, CO2.

They provide wildlife with countless niches,
But human greed robs the forest of its riches.

We cut and burn the forests much too fast,
Soon we must find ways for the trees to last.

To reduce global warming and air pollution,
Conserving trees is just part of the solution.

For the world's trees to flourish and increase,
Human population growth has got to cease.

The fate of trees is tied to human destiny.
If all the forests vanish, so too will we.

by Joe Schibig

This young toddler and chestnut tree may inherit a hotter, more polluted and forest-depleted world.

Solution -- have fewer children and instill in them an appreciation of Nature. Practice conservation, grow more trees, and do what you can to leave our children fresh air, clean water and healthy forests.

bird over lake oroville dam

This is a photo of the Lake Oroville Dam Spillway in Northern California. The dam itself is 770 feet high and 6,920 feet across, making it the tallest and one of the largest earthen dams in the world. Lake Oroville, behind the dam, has a surface area of 24 square miles and a shoreline of 167 miles.

The bird above the spillway is most likely a turkey vulture which is common in the Northern California Sierras.

fall reflections on the feather river

This photo catches the reflection of Fall color on the Feather River near the Lake Oroville dam in Northern California. The river flows 80 miles downstream from the headlands of the Northern Sierra mountains before emptying into the Sacramento River. Along the river's banks can be found wildlife of all sort incuding deer,muskrat,elk and badgers. Many different kinds of waterfowl also live near the river.

The Feather River is a major source of water for California's agriculture in the Central Valley and drinking water for the populous southern part of the state.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


A friend recently took this photo of a homeless person in San Francisco. How hopeless to be in this situation. I know that San Francisco tries to get the homeless cared for but sometimes for whatever reason the system just doesn't work.

Photo by Frank Castello

If you zoom in on the paper bag you see the words "hurt","chest",and "heart".

I wish this person could be helped but do not hold much hope that will happen.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

leonard cohen video jukebox

Leonard Cohen is a Canadian songwriter,singer,poet and storyteller. Leonard is different and I like that. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

dave allen video jukebox

Dave Allen (1936-2005) was one of the funniest stand up comedians ever. Always a great storyteller, his only props were a cigarette and a glass of whiskey. Enjoy some of his funniest clips from You Tube.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

abigail washburn video jukebox

Abigail Washburn is a great singer and banjo player. She is equally comfortable singing in Chinese or English. Perhaps the only time she is uncomfortable is when she is without her banjo which she considers to be a required fashion accessory.

Abigail Washburn is currently a member of the Uncle Earl and Sparrow Quartet's band.
She has also performed with the Canadian Duhks band.

uncle earl video jukebox

The musical group Uncle Earl is not what you might think. It's an all female band that plays a lot of old-tyme music with a contemporary flair.

I saw these g'Earls, as they like to be called, in concert at the Freight and Salvage Coffee House in Berkeley recently. They all are very talented ladies who can write, sing, play instruments and even clog on occasion.

Speaking of clogging, checkout the first video below. It's a recently released one showing the g'Earls participating in some mean Kung Fu clogging!

If you enjoy these videos, I'm sure you would like Uncle Earl's new Waterloo,Tennessee CD

sixties music video jukebox

The sixties were a decade of great social upheaval. It was also a decade when some music was created.

Revisit these times with some of the best music that came from this era.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

around port orford , oregon

My wife and I visited the quaint town of Port Orford along the Oregon coast July '08. It's a town populated mostly by fishermen and artists. I can understand why artists migrate here because this town is set against one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere along the Pacific.

But I warn you, if you come in July bring a sweater and long pants. For the evening Fourth of July fireworks, the temperatures were hovering in the high 40s.