Monday, May 31, 2010

Uncle Keith's Twenty Acres

keith_stearns_mailbox.jpgOn Saturday evening I took a walk around the four corners of the property, practicing with my new camera.

the_boat_dock.jpgKeith dammed up the creek and built a pond. My brothers and sisters and I swam there every summer.

woods_from_the_east_pasture.jpgSeven acres are in timber, and the rest is pasture, fenced and cross-fenced.

wood_fence_on_east_line.jpgwood_fence_steel_posts.jpgKeith built his fences to last.

out_building_in_woods.jpgWhere the pasture ends the woods begin.

into_the_dark_woods.jpgthe_forty_eight_inch_blade.jpgAt one time he ran his own saw mill.

sawmill_gear.jpgParts of it are strewn about on the forest floor.

sawmill_pulley.jpgKeith could fabricate anything he could imagine.

cedar_bough.jpgThe forest is a mix of Douglas fir, cedar, and hardwoods, mostly maple.

dark_wooded_path.jpgWe got some estimates from some professional loggers this week. We don't plan to cut it, but in order to put a fair price on the property, we need to know what it's worth.

uphill_in_the_dark_woods.jpgThere's four hundred thousand dollars worth of timber here. Maybe more.

south_east_corner_bearing_tree.jpglumber_shed_and_deer_stand.jpgBehind the lumber shed, over the creek, Keith built a deer stand.

tree_as_structural_member.jpgThat tree's not just growing out of the shed — it's holding it up.


no_trespassing_sw_corner.jpgThe farm was originally forty acres. When Grandma died, Mom and Joy sold twenty.

from_woods_to_pasture.jpgKeith guarded the rest to the end of his life. Now his ashes are scattered here.

house_from_the_west_pasture.jpgIt's a beautiful piece of land.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

'Pieces of Eight': The Constitution and the Dollar

Seth Lipsky talks with Edwin Vieira Jr., author of the long out of print Pieces of Eight, about the prospects for real money.
"What are you going to do when the currency doesn't function any more?" is one of the ways Mr. Vieira puts the issue to me as we tour his study, a trig garret crammed with such books as a multivolume set of the Colonial Records of Rhode Island, where Mr. Vieira, the son of a U.S. Navy physician, was brought up. "If you look at the hyperinflations of the 20th century—Weimar Germany, Hungary, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia—in every one of those systems, there was, somewhere in the world, a first-class currency that they could use, directly or indirectly [when their own currency collapsed]. What happens now, when the Federal Reserve Note goes down, what are we going to use?" He pauses and then asks, with a chuckle, "Are we going to stabilize the euro?"
In this morning's Wall Street Journal. Premium content, unfortunately. Email me and I'll send you a copy.

Or carry a handful of quarters down to the corner drugstore.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Manual Exposure

18-55mm at 18, f/3.5, 1/40 sec. Click to embiggen.
I love full manual mode. This is not the aperture or shutter speed the camera, with all its vast artificial intelligence, would have chosen for me.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Stairs to Cabrillo Street

secret_stairs.jpgA while back I mentioned Charles Fleming's book Secret Stairs, and wondered if he knew of the stairs Philip Marlowe had climbed. Mr. Fleming wrote to say that he had forgotten that particular passage, and which book was it in? Farewell, My Lovely, I replied, and after a bit of sleuthing he wrote back with a fascinating footnote to that novel:
I am about 99% certain Chandler based this segment on the Castellammare section of Pacific Palisades, where it borders on Malibu. The description of the beach and the coast highway, and the pedestrian path over the highway, and the long staircase up from the highway, are about right. There is no 280-step staircase, but there is a series of staircases that could certainly add up to that. Many of them have been destroyed by earthquakes and landslides, to which that area is subject. Some of them are still open. I believe Chandler could have walked up two or three connecting ones to get up to "Cabrillo Street." Which in reality is probably Revello or Posteano Street. The "sidewalk cafe" that Marlowe is told about is no doubt Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe, which was a hot spot and mob hangout unti Ms. Todd's sudden and unexplained death. She lived in a house three streets above the cafe, up three flights of stairs, in about the location Chandler uses for the Marriott house. The cafe building is now the home of Paulist Productions, a religious filmmaking organization.
Thank you, Mr. Fleming.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Judicial Review Meets General Semantics

Two centuries after Marbury v. Madison, there remains a deep confusion about quite what a court is reviewing when it engages in judicial review. Conventional wisdom has it that judicial review is the review of certain legal objects: statutes, regulations. But strictly speaking, this is not quite right. The Constitution prohibits not objects but actions. Judicial review is the review of such actions. And actions require actors: verbs require subjects. So before judicial review focuses on verbs, let alone objects, it should begin at the beginning, with subjects. Every constitutional inquiry should begin with a basic question that has been almost universally overlooked. The fundamental question, from which all else follows, is the who question: who has violated the Constitution?
Via Instapundit, a must-read.

So now, if you'll excuse me, I must go read it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Deranged Gunman Opens Fire On Shooting Range

Yeah, I know just how he feels.

Monday, May 24, 2010


On Saturday we had a big garage sale to get rid of some of Keith's junk. Two of my brothers, two sisters, Mom, Dad, Auntie Joy, and a dozen or so customers were wandering in and out of the old farm house when a lady in a small car drove up and got out carrying a clipboard. She walked up to the front door, looking a little bewildered.

"I'm here," she said, "From the Census?"

We looked at her.

"How many, um, people live here?

My brother took the question.

Holding up a finger, he said, "One used to. But he's..."

He made a gesture with his hands.

"Laid out flat."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Revolution From Below

Alan Pell Crawford reviews two new books about the American Revolution, American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, by T. H. Breen, and Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, by Jack Rakove.

As with all good reviews, this one is worth reading in full even if you don't have time to read the books.

Especially if you don't have time to read the books.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Heirloom Boom

Keith left behind a few guns. It's pretty much up to me and my brothers to decide who gets what. There's a vz24 in 22-250, a varmint rifle. Randy wants that. There's an 8x57 Mauser with a hand-made stock, and quite a story behind it. I wouldn't mind having that.

side_by_side_12_gauge.jpgThere's a pair of Remington 721s in .270, both with Leupold scopes. Personally, I think Greg and I should each get one. But I'd also settle for the Savage Stevens 311 side by side 12 gauge.
no_agents_or_peddlers.jpg It kind of goes with the No Agents or Peddlers sign, if you know what I mean.

There's also a 16 gauge something or other and a Hi-Standard that looks like it's seen better days.
But one of the most intriguing is the Winchester Model 06, a little pump action .22, described elsewhere on the web as "about the best behind the kitchen door farm gun ever invented." Yep. That's where Grandma kept it. Varmints in the garden? Bang! Dinner.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Specter Is No Longer Haunting Congress

The Senate has been exorcised.

And Rand Paul had a nice little sound bite:
I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thirty Years Ago Today

tempting_camel.jpgI quit smoking.

I have a cigarette on the desk in front of me right now.

Left there by my brother Jim.

It sure is tempting.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Keith's House

keiths_house.jpgGreg called on Wednesday and said let's go so I grabbed my present and my cake and we went. We spent my birthday digging the Buick out of Keith's garage, out from under a pile of debris which included twelve chain saws, dozens of power tools in various states of repair, and thousands of hand tools of every kind, and all of it covered with a thick layer of dust, garbage, and bat droppings. It took us until Friday noon to clear enough away to open the door and the trunk. No treasures, but the interior is in remarkably good condition with 80,000 original miles.

my_canon_camera.jpgMy present? The Canon Rebel XS Digital SLR. I haven't learned to use it yet.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Uncle Keith and Mom

keith_and_mom_1935.jpgkeith_and_mom_2.jpgkeith_3.jpgkeith_and_mom_4.jpgkeith_and_mom_5.jpgkeith_and_mom_6.jpgkeith_7.jpgSome old photos my sister scanned. My mother and Uncle Keith as children, in Six Corners, Oregon, in the mid-1930s. Grandpa owned a service station.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Antiquarian

Apologies to my regular readers (all five of you) for the light blogging, but I've been a bit distracted.

On Sunday my Uncle Keith, a recluse, was found dead in his driveway. He was 76. No one has seen the inside of that big old farm house since Grandma died 23 years ago. Unfortunately for me it's at the other end of Oregon, so I've been following the story through email, phone calls, and the family blog — sorry, restricted viewing, but here's something my brother wrote today:
Mom and Dad puttered around on various things. Dad worked on the cabinets next to the front door (and had a mouse jump out of one drawer at him), and also began collecting ammunition into a box. Mom and Barb worked mostly on the kitchen. I finished cleaning Grandma's room that Sue and I had started yesterday. It is now cleaned. Its closets and drawers were mostly empty anyway. I spent the afternoon on the bathroom.

A curious note: . . The glass door bookcase in the living room and the curio cabinets and built-ins in the dining room appear to be completely unchanged and untouched since Grandmas passing. In fact, many of the objects are in the same positions they've been in since I was a child. The ceramic, red velvet covered dog. The dolls with crochet dresses. The glass vases filled with marbles. I'll try to remember to take some photos tomorrow and post them.
I'm itching to get up there and have a look for myself.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In All of History...

Failure in the Falklands would have been the end of Thatcher, Thatcherism, and the rollback of socialism in Britain. Her confidence under these inauspicious circumstances was, surely, a miracle of Providence. Leaders who become legend almost always display this strain of preternatural confidence. In all of history, the number of women who have both possessed it and achieved the power to exercise it may be counted on one hand.
— Claire Berlinski, There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, p. 169.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Something New to Fight About

In this morning's Wall Street Journal.
For their analysis, Dr. Pääbo and his colleagues extracted DNA mostly from the fossil remains of three Neanderthal women who lived and died in Croatia between 38,000 and 45,000 years ago. From thimblefuls of powdered bone, the researchers pieced together about three billion base pairs of DNA, covering about two-thirds of the Neanderthal genome....

...the researchers compared the Neanderthal DNA to the genomes drawn from five people from around the world: a San tribesman from South Africa; a Yoruba from West Africa; a Han Chinese; a West European; and a Pacific islander from Papua, New Guinea.... Traces of Neanderthal heredity turned up in all but the two African representatives.
Update: Turns out we noted this research four years ago.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Urban Chickens

urban_chickens_network.pngRaising your own chickens seems to be all the rage these days. Home grown eggs are so much more nutritional, we're told, and I know from my own experience that the flavor beats anything you can buy from Safeway.
urbanchickens_logo.gifThere's plenty of support on the web: The UrbanChickens Network, the Urban Chickens organization, and The Urban Chicken Underground. On my own blogroll, Eugene Rant seems rather fowl, and Chas and Patrick are both into naked redneck chicks.
I've often thought that we would do well enough just to buy the surplus eggs from our friends, but now Leslie and Marielle are lobbying for their very own coop. Looks like I've got another spring project.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Thanks to John Derbyshire I have a name for my condition.
I am an iatropohobe; I avoid doctors as much as I can. It takes several months' relentless nagging by Mrs. Straggler to get me to the "annual" check-up. This is a family trait, though whether nature or nurture I would not venture to speculate. My father's attitude was fixed firmly in the 19th-century conception of hospitals as places where poor people go to die, and of physicians as being at least as likely to harm as to heal you. In forty years' close acquaintance with Dad, I don't recall ever seeing him take prescription medicine, though he suffered from the average number of minor ailments — colds, cramps, colics. He died aged 85 from pneumonia, "the old man's friend."
My brother Randy wrote a wonderful screed about the health care system a few days ago. Unfortunately it was in an email to my wife. I wish he would post it on his blog.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We don't want to be done good to.

Claire Berlinski was discussing with Sir Bernard Ingram the hatred that Margaret Thatcher inspired. "What was it about her," she asked, "that so rubbed people the wrong way?" It was a class thing, she discovered. Ingram described it this way.
BI: The British establishment was in the grip of a sort of pale-pink socialism. There are still a lot of them around now who believe, who have this sort of naive, ths romantic view of the working classes...

CB: Where does this romantic notion come from? What are the origins of that?

BI: Oh, I would have thought the origins are in the Fabians, you know, that we must do good. We know how to do good, and we have the money to do good, and we have the security and we will do good. And that inevitably became, and you will be done good to!
And then Thatcher came along, and she was from the working classes, and she spoke for the working classes, and she said in effect that they were tired of being done good to, and that enraged the establishment, the upper classes, her betters. How dare she.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Venezuelan Decaf

Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal.
The late Milton Friedman once quipped that "if you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand."

Friedman was using hyperbole to make a point about central planning. Or so I thought until Hugo Chávez put himself in charge of Venezuela's coffee sector. Last year, for the first extended period of time in the country's history, Venezuela did not produce enough of the little red berry to satisfy domestic demand. It has now become a coffee importer and is facing serious shortages.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Next on the Stack...

goddess_of_the_market.jpgI just closed the cover on Jennifer Burns' Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.

A fascinating slice of twentieth century history. Ayn Rand connected with everyone from Cecil B. DeMille to Rose Wilder Lane to Alan Greenspan. Worth reading twice, but I have other books waiting....
no_alternative.jpgThis one's been sitting on the shelf for months now. There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, by Claire Berlinski.

Update: It has footnotes. I love footnotes! The modern trend is toward endnotes. Stop where you are, jot down numbers, insert bookmark, flip to the back pages, lookup reference. Drives me nuts.

When I see a ref, I want to drop my eyes to the bottom of the page, grab what I need, and go on reading. Footnotes. Wonderful.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Range Bag or Flight Bag?

If I grab the wrong one going out the door this morning the DHS is going to be very upset.