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Found this in my Facebook feed:

So true!

I might add that the modern German soul, to this day, has in its blood an aversion to overt displays of patriotism, like flags, banners, and military parades and all the pomp that comes with it. Germany spent the first half of last century focused on that, being consumed by that type of patriotism, and eventually it was destroyed. Tens of millions of people died.

Modern Germans tend to have an aversion to flag waving patriotism. When they land at LAX and you take them home in your car, they invariably start counting the American flags they see everywhere and ask: Why?

I was up at night in 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It was well after midnight in Germany, I was 12 years old, and I got special permission from my parents to stay up. I think I was up all night. I learned to dream early.

When I was just 8 years old, one of my friends had a topical encyclopedia, where one book was about the solar system. We didn’t have any high resolution photographs of any of the planets in 1964. So Mars was just a fuzzy red blob.

More than 50 years have passed, and now NASA has successfully flown the tiny helicopter named Ingenuity on Mars. To commemorate the momentous occasion, NASA included a scrap of fabric from the Wright Brothers flyer in Ingenuity. The Wright Brothers flyer was the first powered flight on Earth. Ingenuity was the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. And we got to watch it (after many light minutes of transmission delay).

See the entire experience here:

I am fascinated that we can see mountains on Mars in clear view. It’s an enormous journey from the grainy image in the encyclopedia. Mars is right now 180 million miles away, much farther than the sun, yet, we can see the little helicopter rise.

What an amazing time to be alive!

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LeBeouf) are a young and loving couple in Boston, awaiting their first baby. The room is ready. The expecting mother is radiant. Sean works in heavy construction, currently building a large bridge. When he comes home he becomes a doting husband and excited father to be. They are planning on a birth at their home, assisted by a midwife.

During the birth, things go unexpectedly wrong, and the baby dies minutes after birth. Their lives change as they are each independently trying to cope with the terrible loss. Her own mother, a domineering and challenging woman, meddles and makes Martha’s life even more impossible. Everything comes to the breaking point.

This movie is challenging to watch. The extensive birth section at a the beginning sets the stage. It is, by far, the most graphic and realistic birth scene I have ever watched. You’re right in the room with them, especially when the baby’s heartbeat starts slowing down.

I am not sure if I would recommend to young couples who are expecting childbirth to watch this, or not. I can say for sure, they’ll learn a lot.

The story is about the human spirit, and how it eventually transcends challenges. But it’s not a happy movie at all.

I had never seen images of Willie Nelson as a young man before. All I could ever remember is braids and a beard. Here is an early video.

I have to close my eyes when he sings and I get the familiar image of him in jeans and braids.

This story tries to speculate what it would be like to change the past. Quinn Black wakes up one morning, goes to work, and along the way witnesses a terrible accident in which is boss and friend dies in front of his eyes.

The next day, he  wakes up again at the same time, and makes small changes, but can’t avoid the inevitable outcome. Groundhog Day – they made a movie about this decades ago.

Quinn realizes that he can just will himself to any day or time, generally in the past that he can remember, and relive it. However, when he goes back to his youth to meet up with his best friend, he is not the old Quinn, he is the old Quinn in the young Quinn’s body of that time.

The “rules” of time travel are very nebulous in this story, and it’s not very scientific.

I simply got bored and lost interest. I read 104 out of the 307 pages, stopped at 33%, never to go back.

I usually force myself to finish a book, but some are so bad, I can’t do it. That’s why I have a category “books not finished reading” that you can search and see all the other ones.

Consistent with my own rules for reviews, I do not rate a book I didn’t finish.

As far as time travel stories are concerned, I recommend you skip this book, and its sequel. There is nothing original or even remotely interesting here.

 

 

Kodachrome is the brand name for a color reversal film introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1935. It was one of the first successful color materials and was used for both cinematography and still photography. Kodachrome film sales were discontinued in 2009 after nearly 75 years in use due to plunging sales and to the rise of digital cameras. There was one lab left in Kansas in 2010, and it was closing its doors.
This movie is based on A.G. Sulzberger’s 2010 New York Times article “For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas.”
Famed photographer Ben Ryder (Ed Harris) is dying of cancer. He has a full-time nurse and assistant named Zooey Kern (Elizabeth Olsen) who takes care of his health needs, but he knows he only has a few months to live. He is completely estranged from his only son, Matt (Jason Sudeikis). They have not seen each other in many years, when Zooey appears at Matt’s job and tries to convince him to go on a road trip to Kansas with his father, so they can develop the last few rolls of film Ben has stashed away.
Ben is a cantankerous old man, crass, inappropriate and self-absorbed. He has neglected his family – and his son – all his life so he can advance his career. Father and son do not appear to be reconcilable, until Zooey pulls some strings. The three of them hop into Ben’s old convertible Saab in New York and head for Kansas.
Kodachrome is a road trip movie about an old dying guy who has one last wish. We have seen many of those before, and this one is as predictable as most of them. But we love our road trips, and we love to reminisce about them. Kodachrome touches that nerve, and it offers a tiny glimpse into the world and soul of an artist, whose profession drives him to be away from those he loves.

Among my earliest childhood memories is going into my grandfather’s garage/workshop/toolshed. In Germany in the 1950ies,  that was a wooden shed with a dirt floor. He had a few motorcycles with side cars stored there. There was a workbench full of tools, and tools were hung all over the walls. I remember being grossed out by all the spiderwebs everywhere. The tools all looked ancient. They were rusty and heavily used, or so they seemed to my 4-year-old eyes.

In the current edition of Popular Mechanics Magazine, on page 67, I found this unassuming article in the side bar. The Forever Hammer. Here it is, and it tells about the Estwing Rip. I will let you read the article now, since it sets the stage for the rest of my comments.

This is what makes Estwing more than a hammer. It’s a piece of expertise wrought in heat-treated steel. Use it for all it’s worth, and pass it down to the next generation of hammer swingers.

This article, benign as it is, written about something as prosaic as a hammer, touched me deeply and brought out a flood of emotions, from nostalgia, to joy, to a sense of history and belonging.

Back to my grandfather: Why do old guys hang on to their rusty tools? When we’re young, we can’t understand that. But I have become my grandfather now myself. And the article reminded me of my own set of hammers.

Yes, you guessed it, they are Estwing hammers.

One summer afternoon in 1981, literally 40 years ago just like in the article above, I went to a hardware store in Phoenix, Arizona and bought two hammers. One was a 28-ounce framing hammer, the other a mason hammer. This is what it looks like new:

My framing hammer spent years of work on my toolbelt when I was in my early twenties and built houses. It has framed a dozen houses. The mason hammer was my trusty tool to lay foundations with cinder blocks, or to build brick fireplaces. After the initial several years of heavy construction use, both hammers became relegated to the tool box in my garage, where the salty Pacific air of Southern California has put a good coat of rust on both hammers. They are now 40 years old, but solid as steel, and they could easily build another dozen houses.

I will never need another framing hammer. I have one. It’s not pretty, but like an old rock ‘n roll song that brings back the feelings of that special moment with that special girl, just looking at my old hammers brings back the hot Arizona wind in my hair, perched on a roof, pulling up trusses and toe-nailing them down on the top plates, the beginning of my adult life, the feeling of endless years ahead with no limits, and the vigor and passion that comes from building something that I know will outlast me.

I will never need another framing hammer. I have one. It’s in my garage in my tool box. It’s rusty. I understand my grandfather now.

It’s one of my most precious possessions.

I just re-read a ten-year-old post about Devin is Off.

He went into the wilderness with the California Conservation Corps famed elite Backcountry Trails Program. About midway through his stay, I hiked in and documented that trip here.

You can see how the dreadlocks had grown over the months in the bush in one of those photographs.

Devin now works full-time for the California Conservation Corps as a manager. This is the back of his business card:

Hard Work. Low Pay. Miserable Conditions and More. That’s the CCC for you.

Now, 10 years later, Devin has been chosen as one of the six Backcountry Trails Program supervisors. He will go out and do the same thing again, but this time as the leader of a team of 18 corps members. He got a coveted slot in Yosemite.

Of course, that means I get to hike into Yosemite to visit him and the team sometime this summer. He says that I’ll only be allowed to visit if I teach a weekend course as a visiting lecturer in some related subject. I am very much looking forward to that adventure.

If you want to learn more about the CCC Backcountry program, visit their website here.

Ben and Leslie Cash live somewhere in the mountains in the State of Washington, off the grid, in cabin in the woods, with their six children. They gave each of the children a made-up name so they would be unique in the world. Their names are Bodevan, Kielyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai.

The children are homeschooled and unregistered. Even though they have no academic record whatsoever, the 8-year-old can recite the Bill of Rights and give an interpretation. The oldest, Bodevan, has been accepted at Harvard, Stanford and another 10 top universities. Ben is a survivalist and socialist. He teaches his children how to survive in the wild, by hunting, identifying edible plants, and growing their own food. The children have taken it all in and are remarkable each in their own way.

Leslie was a lawyer who gave up her practice to raise the children with their ideals. But she is bi-polar, and her illness starts escalating after giving birth to her first son. Even though he does not believe in modern medicine, Ben sends his wife to get treatment in a hospital near where her sister lives.

While at the hospital, Leslie commits suicide.

The family that can survive anything is almost broken by the loss of their mother. That’s when their battle with the “real world” starts.

In today’s gross-national-product-world, Captain Fantastic depicts a family that tossed it all away in favor of a simpler, yet much harder and harsher world. The elaborate idealism of facing the truth, no matter how adverse, how inconvenient, and how disturbing it might be, will work to some degree, but in the end the children all try to find their own balance and their own way. The question is, can Ben face that reality?

I needed a voltmeter to check why the dome light in my Jeep isn’t working. Is it because the light is bad, or is it because the wires going there are dead?

Last night I went on Amazon and found this device:

Less than 18 hours after I ordered it, today, on a Sunday afternoon, I had it delivered to my door. The entire bill was $12.90. That includes tax, delivery (I’m on Prime, so I don’t pay delivery separately), and the device.

It measures not only AC and DC voltage, it measures current, resistance and temperature, it can be used to test transistors and diodes, and you can test continuity.

This device was made in China.

How on earth can somebody design a complex device like this, manufacture it, ship it all the way from China, sell it on Amazon and give Amazon a profit, ship it to me in less than 18 hours, pay tax, all on $12.90.

That to me is magic.

Now to test my dome light.

Stonewall Peak is one of the more dramatic peaks in San Diego County, and I can’t believe that I haven’t hiked it before in all these years. I have been so focused on the other prominent peaks on the west side of Highway 79 at Cuyamaca, like Middle Peak and Cuyamaca Peak, that I have missed it all these years.

We parked the car at the Paso Picacho campground, which is just a couple of miles south of Cuyamaca Lake on California Highway 79. There is a $10 day use fee to park there, but it’s well worth it, not just for supporting the park, but for the bathrooms, waterspouts, ample picnic areas and all-around safety of a patrolled campground.

[click on images to enlarge]

Here is Trisha with the Jeep. I recently bought an offroad monster so we can get to remote areas at the end of dirt roads that would otherwise not be accessible to us. But not to worry about Paso Picacho. It’s right off the highway and a Prius can do it.

Here is the view of the peak from the parking lot.

The campground’s elevation is 4,881 feet. With the peak at 5,730 feet, the climb is about 900 feet or so. Here is a map of the trail.

You can see the trailhead starts directly across the highway from the entrance. It ascends steadily over exactly 2 linear miles. It took up a leisurely hour or so to make it to the top.

Here is a view of the whole mountain from the beginning of the trail, not obscured by trees.

The entire mountain is dotted with massive oak trees that burned many seasons ago and are now all white, making for some stark and dramatic pictures. You can see the trail is mostly well developed and easy to walk.

Well, mostly: Here is a picture of me at the top of a rougher section, of which there are plenty. In the lower left you can see remnants of the last snow, which fell about a week ago, which reportedly covered the Cuyamaca area with 18 inches of powder.

The peak consists mostly of exposed granite. There are some man-made stairs to help hikers across a few more exposed areas at the very top. You can see I am hanging on to the handrails.

 

And finally we reach the peak. It was 51 degrees outside, and the wind was whipping. I put on all my layers and I needed them.

The views are amazing. I took the picture below pointing the camera almost straight down. The stonewall, after which the peak is obviously named, is almost vertical. I would have loved to try this during my rock climbing years. Down in the distance, in the upper right of the picture, is the campground from where we came, and Highway 79 is clearly visible. Some traces of the trail on which we hiked up are also there in the middle of the picture.

Looking up from the same spot, and pointing the camera level to the west, we can see the broad expanse of Cuyamaca with the peak in the middle.

From the same spot, turning north, we can see parts of the mountains of the Anza Borrego desert on the right side. The ridge in the very back, right below the large cloud in the center, is the massive Mt. San Jacinto, with 10,833 feet (3,300 meters) one of the tallest mountains in Southern California.

And when I saw it there I decided to go back there this summer. It’s been a few years.

Hiking Stonewall peak is something you can easily do, waking up on a Sunday morning in San Diego, having a leisurely breakfast with the morning paper, then driving up to the mountains, doing the round-trip hike, and be back home well before sundown. That’s one thing I love about this area: the mountains are right there!

Here is an incredibly bad chart in Bloomberg Businessweek of March 8, 2021 on page 32.

[click to enlarge]

If there were only more colors in the human-visible spectrum to distinguish between Taiwan and South Korea (both yellow in the chart) and Japan, Europe and Other (all grey in the chart) and China and U.S. (both purple in the chart).

The colors notwithstanding, can anyone make sense of this cart, like ascertain the market power of the U.S. chip manufacturers over time using this?

It is incredible to me how obtuse some charts are, even in world-class publications. Somebody spent time on making this and it didn’t down on them that they could use red, green, blue, brown, orange to supplement the colors?

Truly crappy design.

The political right in the United States is taking issue right now about Dr. Seuss’ estate pulling back six of his books. Mind you, nobody was forcing them to do this. They did this after their own initiative.

[click to enlarge]

So check out this drawing. If you don’t see the problem with this picture, and you don’t think it’s objectionable in 2021, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

If we have people in the United States Congress who have issues with Dr. Seuss pulling back this book, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is 59 years old and lives alone in a housing development somewhere in Sweden. He loses his job by a forced retirement program. His wife passed away from cancer six months before. He grieves badly and visits her grave every day. He has no relatives or children. He is the self-appointed master of the condominium association of his little community, even when he was ousted a few years before and his friend Rune was made president instead. He does not care about the official roles, and he rules with an iron fist. Daily rounds include checking for garage doors being locked, gates remaining closed. Driving of any type in the community is forbidden, and leaving a bicycle out is a serious infraction. He is a true curmudgeon and the essence of a grumpy old man.

Parvaneh and her family are refugees from somewhere in the Middle East. She has two children, one of them already school-age, and is pregnant with her next. Her husband is not quite handy with driving, cars, and anything mechanical. Ove has them in his sights immediately. They are very different from the Swedish bourgeoise society, and Ove does not like “different.”

Ove is ready to die and he attempts suicide, only to be interrupted by Parvaneh and her family. An unlikely friendship develops, and gradually he gets drawn back into a semblance of purpose.

This is a Swedish film with English subtitles, but it’s easy to follow along. The Swedish village, the gloomy weather, the way the communities are arranged, elicited eerie memories of my childhood in Germany. Things looked just like it. I also could not help but notice that Ove is 59 years old and I thought of him as an old man. Then I realized that I am five years older than Ove and it was a bit frightening. Please, let me not be like Ove.

A Man Called Ove is a well-crafted film about an ordinary man’s life from childhood to retirement. The film starts at the current time, and frequent flashbacks tell the story of how he became the Ove he is today. It’s a comedy of sorts, but it’s full of life’s truths and realities, and it’s an ode to the human spirit, to friendship, to kindness and to the circle of life.

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