January 2017

First Seven Days

We’re off to a huuuge start.

Day 1 – Roll Back EPA Restrictions

Day 2 – Gag Government Employees 

Day 3 – End Funding for International Health Providers Who Mention Abortion

Day 4 – Resurrect the Keystone Pipeline

Day 5 – Build the Border Wall

Day 6 – Place “Temporary Hold” on EPA Reports

Day 7 – Ban Refugees

Two hundred seven weeks to go.

 

Meanwhile, to take your mind off that, some winter beauty.

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Best Job

The secure communications device for the Trump Era: a manual typewriter with spare ribbons and a package of carbon paper.

 

I was asked recently what was the best job i ever had.  Oh wow,  what a memory trip to review them all.

My first job was Sacker at a new Brooks grocery store – summer 1957, but that didn’t last long because i was nowhere near the fastest and didn’t make the cut when they reduced the staff after the opening frenzy.

Assistant at the Ector County Public Library.  This was my first real job, and it paid the princely salary of fifty cents per hour, which added up to a decent wage in 1957, when i was a junior in high school and worked Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings and all day on Saturdays.  Then full time during school holidays and summers.  I quite liked this job.

Counsellor at a Boy Scout camp – summer 1959.

Counsellor at Camp Longhorn – summer 1963.  I was not all that great as a counsellor.  It would have helped if i’d liked kids more.

Communications Security Officer, USASA – 1964-66.  No, no, not the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association, nor the United States Adult Soccer Association, nor the United States Australian Shepherd Association, nor even the UniSA Student Association, but rather the United States Army Security Agency, a now defunct branch of the NSA.  Parts of this job were dreadful since it was, after all, the Army.  However, i loved the part that required me to travel all over Germany and to a lesser degree into France and the Netherlands as a Crypto Security Inspector.

Teaching Assistant at Texas Tech – 1966-70 while i floundered around for three of those years with writer’s block, unable to write my MA thesis until suddenly i was able to write one that was more like a short dissertation.  It was here, at the expense of my students, that i learned to teach.

Instructor at Midland College – 1971-75.  I was Acting Chairman of the English Department ’63-’64 while the Chairman was off working on a doctorate, but i did not enjoy the administrative work.  What i very much liked was the teaching.  I also got high ratings from my students in spite of being stingier with the A’s and B’s than most of the other instructors. What i couldn’t bear was Midland.  Too much like Odessa.

Part-Time Instructor at Chabot College – 1975-80.  Just as i had got my toes in the door at Midland College, a serious oversupply of qualified and overqualified teachers hit higher education, and the California community colleges were quick to exploit this by hiring lots of teachers part time, at much lower wages and with no health insurance or other benefits.  We worked under those conditions because we were foolishly clinging to hope that eventually we’d be hired full time.  I still liked teaching, but a growing sense of being exploited began to fester.

Part-Time Assistant Manager of the Nut Tree Store at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf – 1976-78.  I started as a clerk but rapidly rose in the firm to be the assistant manager.  Not much of a job, but with my work at Chabot, it brought in enough money to live on back before San Francisco gentrified and rents skyrocketed.

Part-Time Instructor at City College of San Francisco – 1978-80.  I quit the Nut Tree Store when i got this job because i could get along on two part-time salaries.  But then, my outrage over the exploitation grew so great that it undermined and poisoned my love of teaching.

Limousine chauffeur – 1980-84.  I quit teaching and got a job as a chauffeur, working first for Associated Limousines of San Francisco as a relief driver and then, after a couple of years, as a partner in Clipper Limousine.  This was an entertaining job because i got to meet a number of famous and/or interesting people, and i made a lot more money than i had in teaching, but there was no future in it.

Technical Writer at Qantel Corp. in Hayward – 1984-88.  My former landlord helped me get a job at Qantel in spite of my ignorance of computers, and i took to it.  I liked writing user manuals, got to be good at it, and made more money than ever before in my life.

Technical Writer at Bayard Systems in Hayward – 1988-92.  I followed my former boss at Qantel to this startup, where i was sole proprietor of all the user manuals for the company, which offered a complete suite of manufacturing and financial applications.

Senior Technical Writer at Oracle Corporation – 1992-1998.  Bayard flapped its wings vigorously but was never able to achieve cruising altitude, and as it was crashing, the principals networked to find jobs for all of us who’d worked for them.  Thanks to that, i ended up at Oracle.  Oracle was a difficult place to work, only made bearable by my prince of a boss, Rick Copeland, but they liked me and i ended up making more money there than ever before.  Better yet, i made some friends there who have stuck with me over the years since.  Thanks, Rick, Nancy, Kurt, Sharon, and both Susans.

And then, alas, my HIV infection progressed to the point that i had to go on medications.  Luckily, by December of 1996, the first effective medicine became available.  Unfortunately, it had hideous side effects, most particularly it scrambled the brains of its users even as it was saving their lives, and i went from being competent to being less and less able to perform my job.  So at that point i quit working.  Several years later, a second generation of the protease inhibitors more gentle to the brain was developed, and i was able to recover much of the brain function that i’d lost.  Thus, this website.

What was the best job?  The clear winner was Bayard Systems, partly because it was a tiny company, so all the employees knew each other and knew exactly what the others were doing.  If you had a question, you knew who to ask, and they knew you knew.  And in a small company there was a strong sense of cooperation with each other, so we were all very productive.  I became friends with two of them and am still in contact.  Thanks, Robin and LaVerne.

Even more important at the time were the two principals, Graham Jones, and Chris Stauber, both brilliant and both delightful men to work for.  Oh, and did they ever have me down.  They quickly learned that when i was asked how long it would take me to do something, i always factored in a healthy cushion, so of course the running joke became that they could safely slice a few days off any commitment i made.  Graham had a delicious dry wit and once remarked with a straight face and a menacing tone, “The point release is going out next Friday at 6:00 PM sharp, with or without the documentation.”  It went with.

But perhaps the happiest moment of my life came one day when Chris told me we needed to put out a technical manual and that all the raw data required for it was available in UNIX files but in nowhere near an appropriate format for a tech manual.  He sent me a UNIX file, i studied it for a few minutes, walked around the corner to his office, and told him that i could write a WordPerfect macro that would extract the information from it and format this data into a traditional tech manual.

A faraway look crossed his face, and after a moment he said, of course (knowing that i was a minor virtuoso with WordPerfect macros), but he could probably write a UNIX macro to do the same thing.

There was a beat, and with the faintest smile i turned on my heel but looked back as i left his office to see whether our rapport was as good as i thought.  It was.  He was grabbing his keyboard and the race was on.

An hour or so later, i ran into his office, but before i could speak, he shouted, “Mine works.”  So i was left to say, “So does mine.”  We burst into laughter and agreed to call it a tie.  I’d never felt so competent and have been tapdancing over that moment ever since.

I used my macro because the output was already in WordPerfect, which is what i used for the documentation, but yes, i admit that i did have to do some fine tuning on my race version.

What wonderful people to work for!  Such camaraderie!

Meanwhile, our winter rains have greatly augmented little Lynch Creek.  Here it is as a raging torrent pouring into the Petaluma River the day after a rain.

Lynch Creek

 

 

 

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Only a Catastrophe

I don’t care if solar power is cheaper.  God wants us to burn coal.

 

OK, let’s stop fretting so much.  Donald Trump’s presidency will not mean the end of the world and won’t even be the end of the United States.  It will merely be a catastrophe, and one from which we’ll recover in time.

Trump will not be reelected, nor, despite all the parallels in his election, does he have Adolf Hitler’s organizational skills.  So in four years, his reign will come to an end, and the nation can set about recovering from the damage.  Yes, the damage will be considerable, but there’s only so much harm he can do.

He’ll throw open our national parks to private enterprise, but in four years they will not be able to cover them all with oil wells, harvest every tree, or mine every mountain.

Yes, our air and waterways will become more polluted as the fangs of the EPA are pulled, but pollution is reversible, given time.  After all, it’s been only a little over a century since the mines above San Jose that supplied mercury for the gold rush have been shut down, and already it’s safe to eat moderate amounts of some fish from San Francisco Bay.

He won’t be able to replace all our public schools with private ones subsidized with vouchers, at least not in the blue states.

Yes, Heimat Sicherheit and the NSA will be given more powers to keep the government safe from the people, and thus, P2P encryption will be illegal for citizens.  After all, our leaders have already observed that if someone is encrypting his emails, then obviously he has something to hide and the government needs to know what that is.  Still, we can safely talk with each other so long as we abandon our cell phones for the duration and take simple precautions like talking only on large lawns and keeping one hand over our lips.

Our improved Supreme Court will reverse former decisions restricting religious freedom, and once again our bathrooms will be safe from the transgendered, gays will be forced back into the closet, contraceptives will not be covered by medical insurance, and all abortions will be illegal.  The good news is that all the new appointees will be dead in fifty or sixty years.

Social Security will be renamed Private Security and will be optionally available for citizens who wish to purchase it.  Similarly, Medicare will be privatized, and those who can afford it will be able to buy it freely.  Medicaid will be phased out, but most of us don’t need that anyhow.

The onerous burden of regulation will be removed from the shoulders of business, and profits will soar.  Wall Street will be able to bring us new and improved financial instruments in which to invest, and delicious new foods will be engineered and freely marketed without all that tedious nutritional information on the labels.

But we are a strong people, and we’ll adjust and adapt until we rise again in four years, chastened and hopefully wise enough to begin reversing our course.  Strong enough, one hopes, that most of us will survive the camps.

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Most of the Bridges

OK, i was overoptimistic when i announced that i’d be getting photos on this expedition of all the remaining bridges over the Sacramento River.  I already knew some of the railroad bridges would be impossible to get, but i hadn’t counted on some other problems conspiring against photos of other bridges.  Still, there were many successes.

I drove up to Redding in the early morning, parked in the lot at the foot of the Diestelhorst Bridge, pulled the Segway from the car, and set out west on the south side of the Sacramento River Trail, a paved and striped bicycle/pedestrian trail that goes all the way to Shasta Dam.

Sacramento River Trail

 

 

More importantly for me, since the dam is way out of Segway range, at the 2.5 mile mark there is the Sacramento River Trail Bridge, built in 1990 and popularly called the Ribbon Bridge.  The bridge itself is only sixteen inches thick, and i think it would be way more dramatic if they did away with those silly guardrails.  I mean, it would be so terrifying to cross that nobody would ever fall off from inattention.  And hey, Tom Daley routinely jumps into the water from a higher point.  OK, neither fully clothed nor on a bicycle.

Ribbon Bridge

 

 

Then i rode across it and took a shot looking into the mouth.

 

 

And then went east along the river trail on the north side of the river to get this parting shot.

Ribbon Bridge

 

 

Then east on the trail back to the Lake Redding Bridge, from the southern part of which i took this shot of the 1915 Diestelhorst Bridge.

Diestelhorst Bridge

 

 

Back to the northern foot of the 1996 Lake Redding Bridge, popularly called the New Diestelhorst Bridge, for this shot of the other end of the Diestelhorst Bridge.

Diestelhorst Bridge

 

 

Then a hundred yards east for this twofer shot of the Lake Redding Bridge in front of the Diestelhorst Bridge.

Lake Redding and Diestelhorst Bridges

 

 

Another two hundred yards east for this threefer, the 1939 Redding Trestle in front of the previous two bridges.

Redding Trestle

 

 

On to the Sundial Bridge, Calatrava’s spectacular 2004 confection.  The link there has some incorrect statements about its being a working sundial.  Picky sundial aficionados love explaining that while the bridge got its name because the pylon looks like the gnomon of a sundial, it is not actually a functioning sundial since the gnomon is at the wrong inclination to be accurate for this latitude.  Besides that, in the wintertime its shadow falls out entirely in the arboretum, so while it would still be inaccurate, it’s not even usefully visible.   Thus, owing to the abbreviated display area, the maximum timekeeping you get is only four hours a day in midsummer, and that, highly inaccurate.  Furthermore, many descriptions of this bridge call it the world’s largest sundial, and it’s not even close. Still, it’s gorgeous.

Sundial Bridge

 

 

From the deck.

Sundial Bridge

 

 

And an art shot.

Sundial Bridge

 

 

On the way back i couldn’t resist an underneath shot of the 1935 Redding Police Officer Owen “Ted” Lyon Memorial Bridge, still called the Market Street Bridge by the old folks.

Redding Police Officer Owen "Ted" Lyon Memorial Bridge

 

 

Finally, back over the Diestelhorst Bridge to my car, where a kindly bicyclist caught me struggling to get the Segway into the back of it and severely wounded my ego by springing to my aid.  Sure does annoy me that i’m getting so old and weak that lifting it into my car is becoming increasingly difficult even while my legs are becoming so impaired that it’s more and more necessary as a mobility device.

 

For my next bridge, i went north on I-5 to SR-151 to Shasta Dam.  I’d done my homework, so i knew i could drive over the dam and then take a little road around to the foot of it to get a shot of the first bridge over the Sacramento River below Lake Shasta.

Alas, when i got to the dam, there was this huge gate blocking the road and big signs saying “Road Closed”.  What? I wondered.  So i pulled the car off to the side in front of this guard post to make an inquiry.  Oh wow.

As i stepped out of the car, a jackbooted Heimat Sicherheit thug came running out at high alert, saying, “You can’t park here!”  I told him i wanted to know about bike lane access.  He responded, “Get back in your car.”  I started explaining that i was trying to reach the little bridge across the river just below the dam, but he then shouted over me, “Get back in the car!  You can’t stop here!”  Oh my goodness, i’ve never felt so dangerous.  How could he have intuited that i’d been radicalized by the Petaluma chapter of ISIS and packed the Prius to the gunwales with high explosives?  “OK, OK”, i said, “Don’t shoot”, leaving out the “hands up” part to keep it friendly.

When i got back in the car, i spotted fifty yards away the visitor center and drove over there, where i got a warmer reception and was told that the road over the dam had been closed to vehicles since 9/11.  Well yes, if terrorists blew up the dam, a hundred-foot wall of water would sweep down the canyon, taking out the little Keswick  dam and much of Redding.  Since the valley widens below Redding, only parts of Anderson and Red Bluff would be destroyed as the flood swept down the valley to the bay.  More importantly, thousands of people would die in Redding since they’d have little if any warning, the dam being only 14 miles upriver.

The good news was that i could, indeed, ride my Segway over the dam and down along the road to a point fairly close to the bridge although access to the bridge itself is blocked For Security Reasons.

So i went back to the car, pulled the Segway out, and returned to the vociferous gate guard who, having seen me go to the Visitor’s Center, knew i knew my rights and let me in.  Win win.  He got to play his role to the fullest, and i got to go onto the dam.  That said, i’m not sure i will ever adjust to being routinely perceived now as a threat to my country.

But then, when i rolled out onto the dam, i was transfixed by the vista it provided of Mt. Shasta fully covered in snow thanks to our substantial winter precipitation this year.  This was formerly the norm, but henceforth, thanks to global warming, it’ll be only during the good years.

Mt. Shasta from atop Shasta Dam

 

 

When i turned around and spotted the nondescript little bridge, i realized i didn’t need to ride down close to it since there was no way i could get a better shot down there than zooming in like this.

bridge below Shasta Dam

 

 

Well, on the way back up the road away from the dam i found a pullout from which i could zoom in on an end shot of the little bridge.  I could find absolutely nothing about this bridge on the Internet, but i assume that it was built during the construction of the dam.  There was formerly a campground down there that had been discussed on the BLM website, but the campground has been closed and the BLM discussion removed.  Security.

bridge below Shasta Dam

 

 

Then back north on I-5 for its crossing of the Pit Arm of Lake Shasta, where i stopped for a photo of the Pit River Bridge because, even though it’s not over the Sacramento River, it’s spectacular and famous.  If you were ever going to click on one of my links, do it on that one, as it’s great.

Pit River Bridge

 

 

And while i was there, i took another shot of Mt. Shasta over the water of the Pit Arm.

Mt. Shasta over Lake Shasta

 

 

Now back to Sacramento River bridges, so it’s north on I-5 to the 1941 Antlers Bridge.  That link provides information about the old Antlers Bridge, which is now being torn down since the new bridge was finally opened last month.  Here’s a shot of the old bridge through the trusses of a railroad bridge of which i could get no shot.  You can see pilings for the new bridge behind the old bridge as well as the tops of trucks running on the new bridge.

Antlers Bridge

 

 

The next morning on the way home i got this shot of the new bridge with a bit of the old bridge visible behind it.

Antlers Bridge

 

 

A couple miles north there are two railroad bridges, neither of which i was even able to see, but i was prepared for this and was thus not terribly disappointed.

Oh no, the disappointment came a few minutes later when i got off the freeway again at the community of Delta with the expectation of getting a shot of the 1934 Fender Ferry Bridge, located at the end of the eponymous road, well, except that the road is spelled “Fenders” on both the maps i found showing it.  Worse, neither Google Maps nor Mapquest accurately depicts the situation on the ground, both showing Fenders Ferry Road accessible off Delta School Road.  In reality, Delta School Road comes to an abrupt dead end after a couple hundred yards, so i fruitlessly drove the entire length of another road called Delta Road before i saw on the map a second road called Fenders Ferry Road accessible off Dog Creek Road.

So i dove under I-5 to Dog Creek Road, and sure enough, after two hundred yards there was on the left an unlabeled road, onto which i turned.

Oh. My. God.  The road was more like a trail – deeply rutted, punctuated with potholes, and periodically glazed with ice.  So of course i proceeded because i wanted that bridge!   Well, until after a few hundred yards at 4 or 5 MPH i came to a puddle fringed with ice covering the road.  How deep is this puddle? i wondered.

Let’s think about this.  If i roll forward until the front wheels plunge over the edge of the abyss leaving me hopelessly stuck and i take out my primitive little cell phone and confirm there’s no signal way out here, all i’d have to do is wrestle the Segway out of the back of the car and ride with the remaining juice in the battery back to where i’d seen houses in hopes of finding one that was occupied during the winter.

And if i couldn’t find an occupied house, i could probably stagger and stumble back up onto I-5 and flag down a passing motorist before i died of exposure although death might be a preferable alternative to the motorist asking what i was thinking when i drove a Prius down that road.

So i turned back.

Got onto I-5 and exited at Pollard Flat, where there was a crumb of success.  I was able to (barely) photograph this railroad bridge from Eagles Roost Road.

 

Pollard Flat railroad bridge

 

 

What i was not able to do was find North Salt Creek Road, for which i was hunting because my maps show it crossing the Sacramento River, presumably on a bridge about which i DuckDuckWent unsuccessfully.  Here’s a shot of what i suspect is the beginning of North Salt Creek Road.  Perhaps it’ll be open in the summer, but i was deterred as much by wondering whether i could get back up that patch of ice visible at the bottom as i was by the sign.

North Salt Creek Road?

 

 

But then, some success.  I followed Eagles Roost Road north and was able to get shots of two bridges on I-5 over the river.  The first.

I-5 bridge near Gibson

 

 

And the second.  Yes, it sure does look a lot like the first, but both were built in 1989 and i promise you it’s a different bridge.

I-5 bridge near Gibson

 

 

There were two more railroad bridges above this I-5 bridge that i couldn’t get, but i went on north to Sims Road to get a shot of the bridge on it over the river.  Alas, the road leading to the bridge was too thickly forested to get a shot, and there was no place to stop to even get a shot into the mouth.  So i drove on across the bridge in hopes of finding a good vantage there.  Grrrrrr, none.  And then, then, mirabile dictu, i veered into the Sims Campground parking area to turn around and blundered onto the Sims Bridge, a marvelous little suspension bridge for pedestrians, built in 1933 by the CCC and not shown on any of my maps.  How sweet that was.

Sims Bridge

 

 

I couldn’t resist a shot into the mouth since i couldn’t get it from the side, being afraid that if i took the Segway out onto the icy trail down to the riverbank, i’d not be able to get back up…with or without the Segway.

Sims Bridge

 

 

Then i realized, oh hey, if i very carefully walked out onto the footbridge, i bet i could see the new bridge for vehicles (about which i could find no information) fifty yards to the north.  The serendipity was Shasta in the background.

Sims Bridge (motor vehicles)

 

 

All the bridge shots the rest of the afternoon were in such deep shade that they’re not worth showing, nor were the ones i took in Dunsmuir the next morning, but on the way home there was a glorious success.

Remember how i’d let that puddle deter me from going on toward the Fender Ferry Bridge?  I took that exit again, carefully drove down that horrible little road, stopped at the puddle, snapped a dry branch off a convenient tree, and probed the puddle to determine that it was only about four inches deep and not concealing a bottomless mud pit.

So i drove through it, and fairly soon passed under I-5 where it crosses Dog Creek on the Dog Creek Bridge.  If you squint you can get an idea of the shape that road was in.

I-5 bridge over Dog Creek

 

 

And lo, after another two hundred yards, there was the 1934 Fender Ferry Bridge.

Fender Ferry Bridge

 

 

I crossed it and got this shot looking back with the old I-5 bridge over Puppy Creek in the background.  I’m not trying to document bridges over the creeks feeding the Sacramento River, but this old bridge was so handsome that i searched and found nothing on the Internet.

Fender Ferry Bridge with I-5 Puppy Creek Bridge in background

 

 

And then back across the bridge for this shot to display the trusswork.

 

 

I’ll go back up there next summer to get shots of this bridge in the sun…as well as all the others that were in heavy shade, a couple i somehow didn’t look for, one i couldn’t find a road to, and maybe some more railroad bridge shots.

It was a great adventure and i hope you enjoyed it.  One thing for sure, this trip underlined for me the truth of Henry Reed’s line, “maps are of time, not place” in his poem “Judging Distances”.  What they showed when made is no longer necessarily true.  Well, if it was even true then.

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