Saturday, April 18, 2020

It's been just over five years since I posted to this blog. So many changes in life have occurred, so many significant events. Without dwelling too much on any of them, here's a quick summary, by year. I'll probably update this from time to time.

  • 2016 - 
    • Cece and I finally visited the last of our 50 states, with a road trip to Kansas and continuing to New Mexico.
    • I retired from the Department of Water Resources after 38 1/2 years.
  • 2017 - 
    • Cece retired from Center Unified School District after 20 years.
    • My mother was treated for breast cancer, but died in August
    • My son Matt and his wife Sara had twins, Kendrick and Lauryn.
  • 2018 -
    • My father fell in his home, broke his hip, and had to move to an assisted living facility. He died five months later.
  • 2019 -
    • My siblings and I liquidated my parents estate.
  • 2020 -
    • The COVID-19 pandemic shut much of the world down. As a retired couple, our income is fine and we have had to find new ways to entertain ourselves during the stay-at-home order. We've done lots of puzzles, and Cece has been finding a number of exercise routines online.
    • I began reading my first novel online.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Little Golden Book

I am happy to announce that my Golden Fingers trilogy will soon be published as A Little Golden Book for children. While it will be condensed and the story line slightly changed to accommodate children's sensibilities, it is still an exciting moment for me to see it finally in print. I'm especially pleased with the artwork. More details at

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Test from iPhone

Just testing what I can do. Doesn't seem like formatting is an option.

I can enter HTML. That's a plus.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I’ve told you about my harrowing experience regarding the theft of my iPhone in April, 2010. To recap: I was riding Light Rail, a Young Fool decided he would rather be in possession of an iPhone instead of me. He made off with mine, and I ended up in the hospital with a dislocated shoulder. But that was only half of the story. To tell the rest of the story, I’ve invited my long lost friend, the iPhone, to fill you in.

I’m an iPhone. You’ve probably seen many of me around. I’m pretty popular. People have been known to line up for days to get me. I pretty much defined a whole new class of portable computing and entertainment devices. I’m old and retired now, but shortly before I decided to take that long-deserved rest, I had quite an adventure.

But let’s step back about a year and a half earlier. My siblings and I were part of what was known as the second generation. My older brothers and sisters from the previous year were getting a little long in the tooth, and there was that whole newer, faster telephone network to take advantage of. 3G. Third generation network on a second generation iPhone. I’m getting confused. Am I my own grandfather?

Hmm, well it appears that my friend iPhone is not really up to the task of telling his story, so I’ll have to step in here. When the original iPhone came out, just like many, I wanted one. Unfortunately, I was on a contract with my old-fashioned flip cell phone, and couldn’t take advantage of the initial iPhone offering. But a year later, I was ready, and I jumped at the chance to buy the next generation. Unfortunately, so did everybody else, and it became a difficult task to find a stock of iPhones unless you were willing to get up early, stand in line for hours and risk being told “Sorry, sold out!” just as you reached the head of the line.

I carefully watched the Apple Store web site and finally decided that a Sunday morning visit to the Arden Fair Apple Store was going to be my best bet at acquiring the treasured device. When I arrived the line was only about twenty deep, so it looked like luck was on my side. After about an hour wait for the store to open, and watching the line behind me grow, my prospects began to brighten. An Apple Store employee handed each of us early arrivals a ticket, essentially guaranteeing that we would get one of the elusive gadgets.

As I walked out of the store with my new phone activated, I couldn’t wait to try out all the features that I had been reading about. We hopped in the car, and took a drive up to Williams, to breakfast at Granzella’s Restaurant. The iPhone Maps application showed me exactly where we were, and for sake of adventure, we took the less-traveled route back home, just to see if it could keep up with us. It did not fail us.

Upon returning home, I began loading some of my vast music library onto it, and it soon became my constant companion, especially on my hour long commute to work via bus and train. Music, web, e-mail, books, video, games and other apps. It could do it all; the perfect distraction to whatever else was going on. Ah, my downfall. But you heard that, already. What you didn’t hear about was the iPhone’s continuing adventure, once it left my possession.

I’ll let iPhone tell you about it (dial tone). Hmm, it appears he’s worn out and apparently has gone to sleep. I don’t think he’ll mind if I continued.

I imagine he probably saw me through his camera lens as I fell, and he watched as the doors of the train closed and pulled away. He was on his way to parts unknown at a rapid pace.

His new master treated him roughly, punching at the screen, trying to get in some free long-distance calls. It was obvious he didn’t know his way around, and iPhone wasn’t talking.

But wait, now he was back on the Light Rail. Returning to the scene of the crime? How is that a good idea?

And now the Young Fool was back to his old tricks, harassing other passengers and generally making more trouble. iPhone had had enough, and decided to try psychic means of communication. Apparently, reaching me as I was suffering in the ER, he gave me the idea to have the phone service shut off. I asked my wife to call AT&T, she explained the loss, and they immediately cut off the phone service. My iPhone was gone, but at least I wouldn’t be accruing additional insult on top of injury.

iPhone’s psychic abilities only increased more once the distraction of listening for incoming calls went away, and he convinced Young Fool to get into a face-off with Big Burly, another passenger on the train. The two argued and exited the train, Big Burly pulled a gun on Young Fool, and shot him in the leg. Big Burly ran off into the neighborhood, and Young Fool waited for law enforcement to arrive. He was now the victim. Taking out iPhone, he stripped down his pants, and took two photos of his injuries on the back of his thigh.

When the police arrived, they noticed that some things didn’t quite add up. Young Fool was injured, but all he could talk about was “Where’s my iPhone. Where’s my iPhone?” The officer on duty recalled an earlier report about a Light Rail iPhone theft, and began putting two and two together, and discovered that the iPhone in Young Fool’s possession was not his own. Young Fool was arrested, and the iPhone was confiscated.

By this time, my wife and I were on our way home, when her cell phone rang. I answered it, and it was the Sacramento County Sheriff who recovered the phone. “I think we have your iPhone,” he told me. I was in shock. How was this even possible? He arranged to meet us at our home later that afternoon.

I called our son at home, to tell him the good news about the recovered phone. He had just seen a news report about a light rail incident in which a passenger had been shot by another. The report focused on the fact that the poor fellow was another victim of undeserved violence.

Meanwhile, iPhone was still trying to see justice served. He remembered the women from the train earlier in the day, and put it in her mind to contact the TV station and let them know there was more to the story than met the eye. Soon after iPhone reunited with me, a TV crew was at my house to hear the story of a theft, injury and recovery, and I, once a victim, was now the victor.


As I lay on the hospital bed in my first-ever visit to the Emergency Room, suffering from the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life, my distracted mind tried to piece together the events of the past two hours.

The late-April day started out just like any other, a pre-dawn bus ride to the Light Rail station, a short wait for the train, a seemingly innocent inquiry from another waiting passenger about my iPhone. A trip I’d taken literally thousands of times, with nothing worse than a few annoying loud talkers, minor delays, sometimes pleasant conversation, but often with me buried in a book, listening to music, generally ignoring the hubbub around me until I arrived safely at work.

Events that day began to take a turn when the young man who had earlier inquired about my iPhone began walking up and down the aisle of the Light Rail car, his long black trench coat flapping behind him, generally being annoying, and making loud references to his desire to make trouble. My response: push the earphones in deeper to block the distracting noise, then focus more intently on the web page I was perusing.

It was obvious that this was affecting the other passengers as well. The train operator made an announcement to the ride disruptor to cease or exit the train. Fortunately, he chose to exit at the next station, much to the relief of all. But, suddenly, he turned back to me, reached out his arm, and grabbed my iPhone. “I’ll take that,” were his words as he turned and began to exit. I sat in stunned silence for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality, could only have been one or two seconds. I decided to take action. I jumped out of my seat, grabbed for the phone, brushing the thief's arm, but failed to retrieve the stolen goods.

He succeeded in exiting the train, and I succeeded in falling to the floor, hard. After another seeming eternity, I picked myself up, fully embarrassed, and plopped back down into my seat, a partial set of destroyed earphones the only remaining evidence of being the former owner of an iPhone.

The train operator checked on my condition, and informed me that RT security had been contacted. Given the chance to stay there or move on, I elected to meet them at my destination.

My thoughts turned to my inability to communicate as I’d been accustomed. How was I to inform my wife of the incident? How was I going to replace my phone? Many thoughts ran through my head, all the while blocking out the fact that my left arm was hanging uselessly at my side.

The woman sitting across from me indicated that she was able to get a good description of the perpetrator. I thanked her, and in turn, explained to her that I thought my arm was broken, as I could not lift it on its own. Other passengers also inquired about my well-being, and I painfully endured the remainder of the ride to work.

Upon arriving at my destination, I was met by a Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy. He asked if I needed an ambulance, but I declined the offer, indicating I would contact my wife for assistance. He took my statement, as well as the statement of the witness, and in a few minutes I was safely into the building and at my desk.

My first call was to my wife, alarmed and annoyed to be hearing from me at 6:30 AM, as she was preparing herself to go to work. “My iPhone was stolen on the train, and I think I’ve broken my arm. I need you to pick me up and go to the hospital.” After the shock of my statement wore off, she began the preparations to meet me downtown. In the meantime, more time for me to reflect and suffer.

Luckily, only a few minutes later, a co-worker arrived. I explained the incident to him, and he immediately offered to drive me to the hospital himself. A quick call to my wife to advise her of the change of plans and we were on our way.

My co-worker dropped me off at the ER desk, ensured that I was going to receive the proper care, and returned downtown. I was rushed into a room and painkillers were administered but they had no effect. The doctor reviewed the X-rays and discovered that I had dislocated my shoulder, torn some tendons and experienced a small fracture as well.

By this time, my wife had arrived and was admitted to the room to be by my side. We were advised of the procedure that was necessary to repair my injury. I would be given anaesthesia, the same one administered to Michael Jackson that ultimately led to his death, a not quite comforting thought. However, when used properly, it had no side effects and was otherwise very effective. Then the doctor, a small, slight woman,  would pull my arm back into place while I was out.

My wife was asked to leave, I was knocked out, but came out of it almost immediately. I saw my wife, still in the room, and told her she was supposed to leave. She informed me that the procedure had already been completed, and the evidence was the immobilizing sling on my arm. I remembered nothing but the pain was gone.

I lay there, now on the road to recovery, still without my beloved iPhone, but thankful that my injuries were fixable. I was facing a few days off from work and a few weeks of physical therapy, but little did I know that my iPhone was having an adventure of its own.

But that’s another story.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Every 5,000 Days

Marilu Henner, one of the stars from the TV series Taxi, has what’s known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, where she can recall specific information of every day of her life since the age of eleven.

A 13-year cicada has a life cycle of 5,000 days.

What do you get when you combine Marilu Henner and a cicada? Essentially, me.

I have Highly Selective Autobiographical Memory, where I can only recall events exactly 5,000 days apart.

I was born, Monday, November 30, 1953. 1:57 AM. That’s a solid fact. You can look it up. But I know it, because I was there.

It was tough being born. Not only did I have to wait nine months, but the doctor forgot to tell me the same date he told my parents, and I didn’t get the word until almost two weeks had gone by. Let me tell you, I was not happy, and I came out screaming. I settled down a bit once I demanded and got something to drink. I was pretty thirsty, but it had taken a toll, and I pretty much slept off the rest of the day.

I don’t remember anything after that, but my next distinct memory was Wednesday, August 9, 1967, 5,000 days later. I was working a dead end job as a Local Media Delivery Specialist, bringing important information to dozens of people in my community. You might consider this to be a dream job, but the life of a Sacramento Bee Paperboy was not all it was cracked up to be. Oh, there were good times, but there were bad times as well. Whether dodging cars on the busy Boulevard, or facing the fury of a California thunderstorm, life was always an adventure. But no greater threat exposed itself than on that fateful day, when Brutus, the world’s meanest doberman pinscher, decided to break free of his restraints, and hunt me down.

Brutus taunted me as I tossed the family’s newspaper onto the porch, but I felt relatively safe, knowing that an industrial class chain kept him at an appropriate distance. Nice doggie. Man’s Best Friend, right? Wrong.

I spied the escaped Brutus when it was too late, he had already launched himself like a rocket when he spied me. Hitting the pedals, I thought I was free and clear, until I felt the sharp spikes of his clenching jaw close in on my tender buttocks. For a brief few moments, Brutus and I were one, he was practically airborne as he refused to relinquish his grip. But I did break free, and delivered the remainder of my route without sitting on the bike saddle.

I’m told a few important things happened during the next 5,000 days. There was that whole high school and college thing, I got married, I got a job at DWR, I had a kid. I don’t know; I don’t remember. What I do remember is Friday, April 17, 1981, 5,000 days A.B. After Brutus.

The physical wounds from Brutus had healed, the emotional scars remained. I remembered it like it was just the day before. But this was a new day, two days before Easter, Good Friday... It was anything but good. I guess I hadn’t learned a valuable lesson from Brutus: dogs are evil. Yet we had one: Fido.

Well, Fido wasn’t really evil, he was actually quite friendly. As a rather large Irish Setter, he was normally relegated to the back yard, and loved to run and play. But in the house he became a bull in a china shop, knocking into the furniture, and what he didn’t bump into directly, his excited tail took care of the rest. Nothing was safe, including our dear baby boy’s first Easter Basket, which we had just assembled. One swipe of the tail, and the contents scattered across the room. Fido’s only thought was to lay into the basket’s remains like there was no tomorrow: first went the marshmallow peeps, then the jelly beans, finally the chocolate rabbit, along with a large dose of green plastic grass. It proved too much for him. Dogs, chocolate and green plastic grass don’t mix well, and what goes down, must come up, and up it came all over the new Easter outfit we had laid out for our one year old son. Why that had to happen on my 10,000th day, I don’t know. I’d rather forget it.

But a sad reminder of our history of dogs and chocolate occurred next on the 15,000th day of my life, Sunday, December 25, 1994. Christmas Day. We were anticipating a nice quiet family Christmas in our new home (so I’d been told.) As we unwrapped the presents, much to my horror and disgust were not one, not two, not three, but four solid, milk chocolate replicas of my brother-in-law’s late Great Dane, Dana. At least, that’s what they started out to be. What they ended up being was four packages of flowing goo, which had melted under the hot Christmas tree lamps, seeped out from their packaging and virtually destroyed our new home’s carpet. Even from the grave, a dog was determined to curse us.

But... day 20,000; I shudder to think about it. Tuesday, September 2, 2008. My parents’ 57th Anniversary. My wife and I had just returned from a wonderful weekend in Las Vegas, and the furthest thing from my mind was dogs. It was the most horrible, most gruesome experience of all. I can’t even talk about it... so I won’t.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Little Orphan Cecelia Annie

I presented a slightly abridged and edited version of this to my Toastmaster's club on June 29, 2012.

On July 16, 2009, distinguished Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., returning from a trip to China, found himself locked out of his own home. Upon attempting to break in, a local witness reported the action to the police, presuming a burglary was in progress. A confrontation with police ensued, and Gates was arrested by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley for disorderly conduct. The arrest sparked a national media event, which even came to the attention of the President Barack Obama.

Charges were dropped a few days later, and the President invited the two men to share a beer with him and the Vice-President to discuss the incident. The “Beer Summit” was a success, and relations between the two men are now amicable.

While I don’t know much about Sgt. Crowley these days, I do know that Professor Gates most recently once again came to my attention as a co-producer and host of the PBS program, “Finding Your Roots.”

“Finding Your Roots” researches the backgrounds of a number of well-known people, revealing interesting and surprising information about their ancestors. A similar program, “Who Do You Think You Are?” also ran recently on the NBC network.

With dedicated personnel and the financial support of national television networks and sites like, it’s no wonder the results are successful. But what about the ordinary American, someone like Little Orphan Cecelia Annie?

Little Orphan Cecelia Annie wasn’t always an orphan. She was raised by a single, loving, divorced mother of four, who could barely make ends meet. Despite the difficulties, the family succeeded and each one made it in the world. The oldest son married and raised a family, another successfully completed a Master’s Degree education with honors and established a career as a medical librarian. Their younger sister also married and raised a family, and the youngest sister, Little Orphan Cecelia Annie, married me.

In 1991, Cece’s mother succumbed to cancer. With her father having left the family in the late 1950s, and subsequently dying in an accident in 1965, links to her family’s ancestry were virtually lost. Technically, she was an orphan, with no known surviving ancestors. Her mother kept few records of her father, and the only information surviving was a death certificate bearing his birth date, death date and where he was living at the time, a couple of photographs, and the names of his two daughters from his first marriage, Cece’s half-sisters, whom she had never met.

For years, I’d always been curious as to her father’s family. Were his parents still alive? Did he have any siblings? Are their cousins? And whatever became of her half-sisters?

My curiosity finally got the best of me after the death of a long-time family friend of my father’s and a surprising revelation in the eulogy presented by my father that my middle name, Dale, was in his honor. If, after 58 years, I was just learning something new about myself, why shouldn’t I also try to find out something new about my wife?

My quest began with a simple Google search in February. That turned up information on Cece’s grandparents, and led to some potential contacts with more information, including the names of her uncle and aunts. Further research revealed that her grandparents, and all of her aunts and uncles, were deceased, but there appeared to be the possibility that some cousins were still out there. I found one mailing address online, and sent a letter to Virginia Rose Lane, an 83 year old woman whom I believed to be Cece’s cousin, the daughter of her father’s sister. In the letter I provided enough information to identify ourselves and the family relationship, and provided mailing and email addresses and a phone number, inviting further contact.

Those of you who know me, know that I am a big fan of the musician Todd Rundgren. An opportunity to travel to Rockford, Illinois to see Todd in a special concert and fan gathering arose, so we decided to combine it with a trip to nearby Indiana, Cece’s father’s birthplace, despite the fact that we still had no confirmed contacts with any family members.

About a week after I wrote my letter, a phone call came from area code 812. Normally, I don’t answer calls from area codes outside of home, but this one was different. I recognized it as the area code for Indiana. I answered the phone, and much to my delight, it was Cece’s cousin, Virginia Lane, calling from 2,000 miles and three time zones away. Unfortunately, Cece wasn’t home, but I spoke to “Rose”, as she preferred to be called, for about a half-hour, confirming the family relationship, getting additional information on some other family members, and basically validating two months of intense research. We concluded our conversation with the promise that Cece would call her back in about 30 minutes, despite the fact that it was already after 9 PM for Rose.

When Cece returned home, she nervously made the call. How could she talk to someone who was a complete stranger to her, yet besides her own siblings, was one of her closest relatives? Thankfully, she found Rose a delight, and together we revealed to her our plans to visit in early June.

In another week, we received another call from Rose’s son, David, who was able to confirm and supply additional family information, and he indicated to us that he would travel from his home in Tennessee to meet us when we visited his mother. This was going to truly be a family gathering.

But my quest for more information on Cece’s ancestry was not over. I continued to pursue other leads, and found deep roots into colonial America, emigration from England and Scotland in the late 1500s, even tenuous links back into English nobility and royalty. But one of the most surprising discoveries was about Cece’s cousin Tom. Tom was not as close a relative as Rose and David. In fact, one would have to go back seven generations, to Cece’s five times great grandmother, Mary Nichols, who was Tom’s first cousin. And given that Tom was born in 1743, it was unlikely we would get a chance to meet him. Tom was born and died in Virginia, and that was not in our travel plans.

When our trip to Indiana finally happened, we did get our family “Union”. It wasn’t a reunion for us, because these were relatives we had never met, nor even known about four months earlier. The family gathering involved a couple of dozen folks, and was a highlight of our trip.

But another highlight of the trip was to visit seven area cemeteries where relatives and ancestors were buried. We saw graves for Cece’s three aunts, several cousins, her grandparents, great-grandparents, even two of her great-great-grandfathers. One of them was Elijah Hammond, the great-grandson of Tom’s cousin Mary Nichols.

But the most moving of all was visiting Cece’s father’s grave, her first tangible contact with something uniquely her father’s. Let me tell you, tears were shed. Little Orphan Cecelia Annie had finally found her father.

Shortly after the incident involving Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sgt. Crowley, Professor Gates appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He revealed that after some DNA tests, it turns out he and Sgt. Crowley shared a common ancient Irish ancestor. In a much earlier lecture, he also speculated that he might be related to Cece’s cousin Tom as well. While that hasn’t been proven, we do know that Tom went on to greater fame himself and that I regularly carry an image of him: among his many accomplishments, he authored a document titled “The Declaration of Independence” and became our nation’s 3rd President, Thomas Jefferson.