Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why I Hate Government

Evil everywhere
Yeah, really I'm no different than anybody else. Except I seem to be the one idealistically bashing my head against the wall trying to make things better.

Last night we watched an episode of The West Wing in which the usual crises appeared and circumstances were such that there was no good way out or to solve the bigger problems of evil.

I have a difficult work assignment in personnel law, an area of the practice that I've been trying to get out of for a good 20 years now but can't seem to do so because there is no one else to do it and I have the experience and I'm stuck. I can't resolve the problems of right and wrong any more than an attorney in the practice of domestic relations (at least I have that to be grateful for, but personnel law is second only to divorce on the civil side for horrible situations - thank heavens I don't deal with too much criminal!!)

And then there's fired FBI Director Comey's testimony coming up this morning. Today will not be the end of the most disgustingly corrupt and morally evil man to inhabit the White House since maybe Warren G. Harding. Or what I'm afraid of is that trump is actually the worst ever. The Republican Congress still controls. They will not likely turn on trump as long as they think they can squeeze through things to help the wealthy or those who think they are or want to be wealthy (like a lot of Americans) to the disadvantage of the poor and especially disfavored minorities. There is some overlap there in the electorate. Kansas is starting to figure that one out. But it takes a lot of thought and some bad things happening for most people to get it.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Last Wagon

Nobody died. Nobody ate anybody. But we did have an adventure on the Donner-Reed Party's route along the Hastings Cutoff.
The Last Wagon by Lynn Fausset
We went with some great public servants from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). When I saw the notice of this trip on BLM's Facebook page, I immediately thought of my old friend from all the way back to grade school who is now teaching Law Enforcement at Great Basin College, Elko, Nevada. And he has a four-wheel drive.

In the old days, we did our exploring on bikes and in the woods. Sometimes our moms would meet at the grocery store and each would say, "I thought they were at your house!" while we were miles away from either. We found a lot of cool places but the golden hoard of some lost mine or buried treasure always eluded us. We did learn that the reward is in the adventure itself. That is the life lesson. So we took on another adventure yesterday on National Trails Day. 

The best part was to spend some good time together in one of those friendships that picks up after 40 years without skipping a beat. His wife came along and the night before our adventure, she and my wife found a connection in quilting and got along great. My buddy and I talked a lot about the old days but more so about who we are now and the mutual respect we have for each other. Friendship.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Latest Revelations on Jared Kushner

Would you buy a used car from these guys?
The latest news reporting on trump scandals is that first-son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may have attempted to set up secret, back-channel communications with Russian officials during the transition. This is reported independently by the Washington Post and Reuters who claim sources (i.e., leaks) from within US Intelligence Agencies.

This immediately tells us that trump's war with US national security interests is not over and they are fighting back. The leaks are troubling, not as much as leaks but what they appear to reveal.

First, they reveal that US security agencies do not trust trump and his family. Whether the underlying facts are true or not, there are powerful elements of the US government who are undermining trump. Some of these disclosures may be technically illegal. However, all federal employees, political or career, sign an oath that their highest duty is to the Constitution of the United States. It is not to the President or any party or political view. It is to the Constitutional Union of these United States. (If you need a Hollywood explanation, try the scene in Clear and Present Danger in which James Earl Jones playing he CIA Director (the voice of Darth Vader) tells Harrison Ford, playing  government agent, Jack Ryan (not Han Solo) that his highest duty is to the Constitution, not to the President. Now, it's still very troubling that this appears to be a silent coup of the security forces by leaks to the press and likely formal and appropriate revelations to Congressional Committees and the new Special Counsel. This is really big time.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Brown's Iris Gardens, Kirkland, Washington

Family History can get real strange. I planted irises this Spring. It kept reminding me of a relative/friend of my Mom's that I remember from growing up on Finn Hill. We were far away from family, but mom found one, a descendant of Daniel & Peninah Cotten Wood and she shared some copies of Wood Family history that I still have.

Her name was Alta Brown. And remembering that she and her husband ran Brown's Iris Gardens, a rather beautiful place up there when Finn Hill was not all houses, I thought I would try to find her on Family Search to see how we were actually related. It was a frustrating search as I ultimately found that her name was Hazel Alta McCarty Brown (1909-2003), so she was very contemporary with my grandparents.

I remembered that they sold irises. The internet informed me that they hybridized irises. Her husband, Rex, registered 93 varieties. Alta registered a whopping 267 varieties!

A few of the varieties developed at Brown's Iris Gardens

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

trump and the Яussians

At Yalta, trump would have said, "Do you want more than Eastern Europe? Sure, take Western as well! I know who my buddies are!"

trump would have resolved the Cuban Missle Crisis by saying, "Forget Cuba, I've got some great golf courses in Florida and NJ where you can park your missiles!"

Monday, May 15, 2017

A New Quest for the Welsh, Frond Finial

The roofers finished this morning. It's now lunch-time and I'm at home. The new roof looks great!

We really like the color as it is close to Welsh slate with a slight greenish tone.

Here's what we were going for:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dreams Found and Lost

The joke yesterday was that I was getting my wife a new roof for mothers' day. She'll still get her regular flowers--in the garden. The Saturday before is time for the family tradition of buying and placing bedding plants in front of the house as we are solidly in May and almost past the freeze threat in the shadow of the everlasting hills. With global warming and all, we're pretty safe. However, there are no longer any children at home to help me plant annuals which is just fine as gardening is one of my new passions (note the lilac hedge above, lower right, coming in just fine!).

Waking up too early this morning due to other stresses, the thought came to me that the number-one, cliché responsibility of a good provider is "to put a roof over your head." As we're getting quality shingles with a "life-time" of 30-50 years, they will last me out and I have fulfilled my obligation here.

Sol Hurok is credited with:
"The sky's the limit if you have a roof over your head." 
We are getting a slate-colored asphalt shingle "a cool gray with a beautiful green undertone--exactly like real slate." Green is my wife's favorite color and slate matches with our Welsh homestead. (Our house, like nearly every home in Britain, has a name, "Tŷ Fychan" or "Vaughan House.")

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What the WHAT!?

So, in case you somehow haven't heard, trump fired James Comey, the Director of the FBI for, get this:

Lying about Hillary's emails!

OK. I can't help it if I find it hilariously funny in a dark humor sort of way.

I just got an email from a friend who has been walking the world since retirement from my office. He says:
We got through Nixon. We will get through this. I am more concerned in the long term about global warming than I am about Trump.

He has a couple of good points there.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Bad Day for fascists

In honor of the French election in which the far-right, nationalist candidate resoundingly lost, we hope and pray for America and share the following:

Take that, fascists!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

I Guess I'm the Oddball

The New Standard of Patriotism
President Obama never hugged the flag enough
I get it. I understand.

I know why you like trump so much. Whatever he accomplishes or doesn't, it's just the way he says things. He uses that bigly edgy voice to bash Democrats, Illegal Aliens, the Liberal Elite, Government Workers, Godless Scientists, Abortionist Proponents, Muslims, Secular Humanists, Mexicans, it goes on and on.

I get that you are not racist because if only "those" people behaved like you, like real Americans, then they would be OK. That would be like Congresswoman Mia Love living in Saratoga Springs, Utah and acting just like all her neighbors regardless of her darker shade of skin. It's like Raul Labrador, Congressman of Idaho who may have come from a Puerto-Ricana family but went to BYU and goes to church and acts just like all the other Mormons and has conservative credentials for the non-Mormon Idahoans. You love the guy! You're not racist!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Family Burying Ground" on former Johns Ranch, Jacks Valley, Douglas County, Nevada Confirmed!

I've been trying to arrange some time to search archives in Nevada to access the local Genoa newspaper for any indication of Abednego Johns and Jane (Jeanette) Vaughan Lewis Johns. The prize would be a descriptive obituary giving their burial place. For some odd reason, I thought to search for an archived copy of the Genoa paper elsewhere and my search turned up the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. "D'oh!"

And I struck gold.

Genoa Courier, Friday, March 21, 1890
Genoa Courier, Friday, May 30, 1890
"Family Burying Ground in Jacks Valley" and "on the west end of Johns ranch." We are closing in.

This confirms my suspicions and possible inspiration from my last visit that there is a family burial plot on the ranch. I was thinking more easterly, but west up against the mountain does make sense and matches my initial thoughts. It would be a mile or so south of the well-documented Winters Family Cemetery on the current Ascagua Ranch that I visited last October.

Now that they are all securely archived and sourced on with enough evidentiary explanation and proudly proclaimed provenance that no one should ever try to delete them, I share them here. (Of course sharing them here gives me assurance that more people in the family have them in case someone has to go back in to FamilySearch to fix what someone else changed or deleted!)

This also gives a solid clue that at least as of 1890 (the year of the burned federal census) Jane and John Lewis's son, John Samuel Lewis, resided in Reno.

Still, the question remains, where are the graves? Do markers still exist? Has no one noticed them? The Washoe Tribe has not responded to my emails or letters. I'm going to have to try and call. I have some other potential contacts to try as well.

"Family Burying Ground" indicates a place already established by 1890. The others deaths in the family that we know of are in 1860 or '61. These are Mary Evans Johns (Jones), Abednego's first wife, who died in September 1860, and Jane's mother, my 4th-Great-Grandmother, Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, who died after the September, 1860 Census and before the January, 1862, Nevada Census, also in Jacks Valley.

As my Cousin Judy and I have agreed since we found out just a few years ago that Jane and her first husband, John Lewis, and son and her mother, Elinor Vaughan, came to Utah with handcarts in 1856, if we find Jane, we will find Elinor.

Well, we're pretty close to finding Jane "on the west end of the Johns ranch."

I think we need to talk to some Washoe archaeologists.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cholera Cemetery above Tredegar, Wales

Copyright Robin Drayton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
This is one of the bleakest, saddest places on earth up above Tredegar, Wales on Rhymney Hill. The cholera victims were buried up there because, well, cholera. While the story I am writing is not intended to be illustrated, this place makes an appearance.

We don't see much cholera today because of clean and safe drinking water and sewage systems generally through people united in governmental activity. During the Capitalist exploitation of the Industrial Revolution in Wales, there was no economic incentive to provide sanitary or sewers or clean drinking water. It was illegal for the workers to organize. The towns were controlled by the same wealthy men who controlled the pits and furnaces. When cholera struck, the masters left for houses deep in the country. If workers died, more were readily available from the poor of Ireland and elsewhere.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Unbridled Capitalism

Still working on my family history writing project, I said I wouldn't post. But, part of my project is the research, particularly of Tredegar in the 1840s and 50s. I am continually horrified by the abuses of unregulated Capitalism on the working poor in Wales during the Industrial Revolution. We're not just talking hard-working, tough guys, but women and children too.

I have yet to visit Tredegar in the Sirhowy Valley, but I was just one valley over in the Ebbw Vale and I drove by on the Heads of the Valleys Road, AKA the A465. And we visited Merthyr Tydfil two valleys over on the west side and went to church there in the beautiful Stake Center that sits with some irony up above the abandoned Cafarthfa Iron Works.

So, I share with you tonight some horrifyingly beautiful art pieces of what South Wales was like in the Industrial Revolution when the wealth of Britain and its Imperial war power was built on the blood and crushed bones of Welsh men, women, and children.

An Iron Forge at Merthyr Tydfil, Julius Caesar Ibbetson, 1789

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Note to Readers: Writing Project

Jane "Jeanette" Vaughan Lewis Johns
Born: 1827, Hay, Breconshire, Wales; Died: 1890, Jacks Valley, Nevada.
Mormon Handcart Pioneer of 1856
It may seem that I'm in a blog hiatus. There's not much more than I can say about the lunacy of trump in charge. I refuse to follow every foible and only hope and pray that the sleazy huckster does not launch off WWIII and nuke us all.

I am heavily involved in writing. It is far enough along that I can feel confident there will be some kind of finished product. It is a history of my 4th-Great Aunt, Jane "Jeanette" Vaughan Lewis Johns (1827-1890). Her life was fascinating and I have so many pieces of it but not the full story. So . . . I'm taking some poetic license to write in the historical-fiction genre.

I'm modeling after John dos Passos or Aleksandr Soltzenitsyn who wrote historical fiction interspersed with real documents and contemporaneous newspaper articles of the day. I have some of those things for Aunt Jane and family so I'm putting them in and writing stories around them. I also have some themes and I think I can work it into an artistic whole.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Art of No Deal

Let's face it, trump is a fraud. The spectacular failure of "repeal and replace" brings that home today. It's not a good day for Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, either. You should at least be able to get the support of your own majority party. The bill was withdrawn because neither the ultra-conservative "freedom" caucus would support it nor the more "moderate" Republicans in the House who might like to get re-elected in districts that went for Secretary Clinton.

Two of my predictions about trump as president have already come to pass. (And I'm hoping some of the others don't!)

It has been seven long years since Obamacare passed and the best the Republican Party could come up with was a last-minute, slap-dash fraud of a bill that would reduce coverage for millions and be a nightmare to administer.

Remember, trump said he would repeal and replace with something much better with less expensive coverage for all! And if you believed that, I've got some steaks, vodka, and a college degree to sell you.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Constitution Is NOT A "Negative" Document!

I know what they mean. It's the whole conservative line that the U.S. Constitution's purpose was to establish a limited government. Even though it came after the failed Articles of Confederation to give the national government more, not less power. Don't believe the propaganda. Read the document itself.

Today someone posted a clip from the Senate hearings to confirm (or not) Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Senator Sasse of Nebraska set him up for this "negative" document thing.

So I had to respond:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Russian Interference and Interests, Yes. Collusion? Maybe Not

Glenn Greenwald
It s necessary to share a warning that there may not be evidence to come forth in the congressional investigations of trump and Russia to show any direct collusion to subvert the recent election.

A recent article by Glenn Greenwald, liberal investigative reporter who has been publishing Eric Snowden's revelations, explains that Democratic leaders worry that there is no such evidence found to date and that it will greatly disturb the Democratic base. It seems too many dots are being connected even if some of those dots of Russian interference and financial influence back and forth do exist.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Holland Saves Western Europe!

The Red, White, and Blue, and Orange!
Ziko-C - Own work. Kerktoren Oude St Mauritius, Silvolde, Koninginnedag 2008. Toren uit ca. 1570.
Not that I'm a big expert on internal or external Dutch politics, but the weak election results of the Partij voor de Vrijheid - PVV (Party for "Freedom") of yet another nationalist populist who shall remain unnamed on this blog was a good sign yesterday. It shows that the march of nationalism that resulted in so many millions of deaths in the horrific wars of the 20th Century may be turning a corner in 21st.

A friend an I discussed the cycles of history yesterday and how we fail to learn to stand up for the rights of the oppressed. The struggle keeps cycling around but blood and horror always seems to rule on this earth. Before the nationalistic wars of the 19th Centuries, we had the nations battling over colonies and slavery and the oppression of peoples of different cultures and tones of skin color. Before that were the feudal kingdoms of "might makes right" and he who had the most gold or bigger sword lorded it over the serfs, peons, or peasants.

But back to the plucky Dutch (I have some ancestry there, by the way, on both my Dad and Mom's side. 19th Century Mormon converts on my Dad's and back to Colonial New Amsterdam Dutch on my Mom's). In the 20th Century, the Netherlands were rolled over by the Nazi war machine surrendering but never quite as their resistance was strong. Many helped Jews escape to neutral Sweden. The resistance wore the hidden safety pins to flash their unity that have now become a symbol of support of immigrants and refugees in this country as I wear them. After the war, Mormon Dutch gathered their potato harvest to feed the starving survivors in . . . Germany. It was such a relief to see their rejection of nationalism yesterday.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Yes, Perpetual Change

NPR had some show on about studies of the brain and how ones favorite music resides in the same portion of the brain as personality. Pop psychology or Science is beyond me. And if true, my favorite music in all its diversity might explain my warped psyche.

On the way down to Provo for Welsh class today, I had to take a break from the news and go to a "happy place." That was Yes's Perpetual Change from The Yes Album (1971). Not quite the sound poetry that followed on Close to the Edge, it still has odd lyrics and amazingly complex rhythms and themes on a tune. There are passages that grind in hard rock riffs and others, lyrical and anthemic passages that soar.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Civil Service Heritage

Odd Coincidence that. I was entering wonderful details of my Grandpa's education and work history onto from a civil service application dated 1943 when he applied for a management job at the Ogden Arsenal. It was the 33rd anniversary of my civil service computation date.

Yes, my Grandpa helped win the war building the bombs that blasted the Third Reich and Imperialist Japan to bits. A necessary job even with the tragedy of human suffering. Sometimes one must do the unpleasant things that are necessary. That seems the very nature of often disrespected government service.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Agents of V.O.I.C.E.

When trump announced his great, really great, idea to have a task force for Victims Of Immigrant Crime Engagement, a gasp and moan went up from the Democratic side of the House Chamber. I felt it too.

The problem is simply this:
Attempting to couch it in some kind of relief or service to victims, he doesn't hide the real nature that it is a list of crimes committed by immigrants. By so doing, he creates a new class that he can then treat differently than all other criminals because of their status as immigrants.

Maybe he only means illegal Immigrants. And I can see the point and don't even contest the valid interest of placing a priority on deporting undocumented immigrants who commit serious crime. But why create a victims list of only those impacted by Immigrants?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tweeting trump's Speech to Congress

  1. Babysitting Grandkids, this was the best I could do tonight. It's a miracle I could watch a whole hour-plus of a man frowning while reading from a teleprompter!
    1. "A Great GREAT Wall!"

    1. Harley Davidson will make America great again?
    1. The National Academy of Science calculated cost of immigrants to precisely "many billions of dollars."

Saturday, February 25, 2017

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Watergate

This is important. Republicans are starting to break in favor of independent investigation of Trump and Russian ties. Remember there are three problems starting from most solid to less so (and one and two are pretty solid):
1. Russian interference with US election.
2. Trump campaign and transition personnel contacts with Russia.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Historical Photos: Nevada to Australia and Back Again

There is this great guy in Hobart, Tasmania who became my friend through blogging. There ought to be a word for that like "Blogo-Amigo" or something except that he is probably a distant cousin anyway through the Welsh connection. He has photographic talents and helped out with a tricky little problem. 

We have our photo of Jane Vaughan Lewis Johns (1827-1890) through miraculous means. From the context, we believed the photograph to be taken in Virginia City, Nevada in the 1860s. It is a carte-de-visite of the period and the style of her dress fits the time.

All we had was her identity as "Jeanette Vaughan Servis Johns" and it took some work through the history of the Johns Family clinched with the 1860 Census for Jacks Valley, Nevada, that this was indeed Jane Vaughan, born 1827 in Hay, Breconshire, daughter of John and Elinor Vaughan, and handcart pioneer of 1856. The original of this photo has been donated to the LDS Church History Library as should all photos of handcart pioneers.
Then the other day, I was doing my usual googling around on the internet and found a couple of photos identified as "Mrs. Blasdel, wife of the first Governor of Nevada" (Sarah Jane Cox Blasdel (1826-1904)). I looked closer and saw what I thought was the same stand or plinth next to the first First Lady of Nevada that is in Jane's picture. Not having the skills to manipulate photos all that well, I sent it off to my friend in Australia hoping he might take an interest and do some manipulation.

Electronic ties that bind struck the right spark and my friend across the world sent me back this beautiful video analysis matching up the feature in the two photos. He, his wife, and I all agree with 99% certainty that it's a match!

Well, that's great! But what does it mean? As a skeptical historian, all we can only conclude is that the two photos were likely taken in the same studio with the same prop in close proximity of time and place. The photo of Mrs. Blasdel has 1867 written on it, some evidence of its date. Carson City was the capital of Nevada where we might conclude the Governor's wife would have her picture taken but the real boom town was up the hills in Virginia. (It wasn't known as Virginia "City" until later).

I only found one reference to a photo studio in Carson City that opened in 1873. It was the Sutterley Brothers who already had a studio in Virginia City and even one in Great Salt Lake City! The only other studios I could find in the 1860s were also in Virginia City, one by Hedger & Noe, the other by someone named E. Hurd. Some entertainment followed as I searched the web for cartes-de-visite from pioneer Nevada with much hilarity and not much help from Pinterest and some really good files from the University of Nevada-Reno. But I could not match anything up with that furniture in the pics with Jane and Sarah.

There was one that popped up from an auction site of a photo collection from Virginia City, Nevada. And there it was!

Sadly, some private collector won the auction an there is no further information about the specific picture. Why can't people put these in museums and archives where they belong?

So what we have is one more piece of a hint that the pictures are from Virginia City. I think it's pretty clear they were all taken with the same prop and most likely in the same studio.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump and Republicans Are Threatening the First Amendment

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
As entertaining* as Trump's Press Conference last Thursday may have been, it and recent actions of Republican officials are evidencing serious threats to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Not all the fault lies on the Right, the Left in certain college campuses have restricted the expression of views of unpopular right-wingers. As obnoxious as they may be, all voices should be heard. And the voices restricted at some campuses are still loud and clear in many other fora.

But let's address the issues of Trump and his party.
1. "No law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"