Thursday, October 24, 2013

Unidentified War Dead

This hits a little closer to home for me than most WWII stories, but not because I have any family members like these.

The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday on the continuing failure of the U.S. government to identify the remains recovered from the battle of Tarawa 70 years ago. The article opens this way:

In September 1943, Tech. Sgt. Harry Arnold Carlsen wrote a letter to his mother and ailing father in suburban Chicago. The Marine told his parents he wouldn't be home for Christmas but was hopeful he'd visit them the next year.

"I would like to see you and dad once more," he wrote.

Carlsen still hasn't made it home.

About two months after writing to his parents for the final time, the 31-year-old died in a battle with Japanese forces on a Pacific atoll called Tarawa, part of the present-day nation of Kiribati. In west suburban Brookfield, where Carlsen grew up, the news arrived in a grim telegram sent two days before Christmas.

Carlsen is among tens of thousands of Americans who fought in World War II whose remains have never been identified. At Tarawa alone, where more than 1,100 U.S. troops died, upward of 500 service members were never found. Another 90 or so sets of remains still haven't been identified.

But a historian who once worked for the Department of Defense said Carlsen is a "most likely" match for a body cataloged decades ago as "Schofield Mausoleum No. 1: X-82" and buried as an unknown in a Hawaii military cemetery.

"I'd bet my house, your house and every house down the block that it is Tech. Sgt. Carlsen," said the historian, Rick Stone, a former chief of police in Wichita, Kan.

Carlsen's grand-nephew, Ed Spellman, has pushed without success to have the government exhume X-82's grave and test the DNA against a sample submitted by the Marine's family. He has been discouraged as bureaucrat after bureaucrat politely noted his request without seeming to act on it.

My dad didn't serve in World War II. He turned 15 about halfway between VE Day and VJ Day. His dad, though, was career Army. Born (as far as the Army knew) in 1900, Grandpa was a Major in his 40s by the end of WWII, and he spent the war stateside, training troops.

After the war, Grandpa was assigned to Graves Registration in France, and he was able to bring the family with him. From 1946 to 1948, they lived in three different cities: Paris, Fontainebleau, and Strasbourg. My dad was free to explore on his own much of the time, while Grandpa worked at identifying the remains of our war dead so their families could get the closure Tech. Sgt. Carlsen's family has yet to be given.

When the remains in the Tomb of the Unknown from the Vietnam War were identified in 1998, then-Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced at the opening of the grave, "We disturb this hallowed ground with profound reluctance, and we take this step only because of our abiding commitment to account for every warrior who fought and died to preserve the freedoms we cherish."

Apparently, that abiding commitment doesn't yet extend to the thousands of World War II dead who have not been identified. My grandfather would be ashamed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Message to All Women (and All Men)

A friend tagged me on Facebook for this video. Made me cry...

There's another one for men:

It's interesting that the comments on the women's video are overwhelmingly positive, with many saying they listen to this every day (sometimes multiple times a day). But the comments on the men's video are largely negative, with a lot of the negative comments being from Christian men who see the affirming statements as being too self-focused and therefore satanic in origin. It makes me wonder if those men don't have an ache to be loved, or if maybe their strongest ache is to be right.

I'm with the women (surprise!). God didn't make me so I could spend my time beating myself up. No, we're not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to, but at the same time I don't believe we should think less of ourselves either.

God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, loves me so much that He thought I was worth dying for so He could have a relationship with me. He loves you that much too. These videos remind us that, though we see our flaws and doubts and sins written large in our lives, because of the saving blood of Jesus covering our sins, God sees past them to the beauty and strength (and all the rest) that He gave us when were fearfully and wonderfully made.

I'll be watching the women's video quite a bit, because I still need it.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Conversion Decision Part 3

It's a given that I need to get a lot of my slides scanned, but what about the photos? In the back of my three-ring binder with the slides in sleeves are some black-and-white photos. The snapshot-sized photos have sleeves of their own, and three 8 x 10 prints are loose. None of either size are dated or labeled.

As near as I can tell, all the snapshots were taken sometime between mid-1981 and early 1984, but I'm leaning toward the '81 - '82 timeframe. The pictures were all developed together, with rounded corners. There are half a dozen photos of the white-water canoeing trip we (my then-husband and I, and possibly his youngest sister) took up to the Kern River when we were taking some safety-oriented canoeing classes through, I think, the Red Cross. That puts us in California, either pre-mid-1978 or post-July 1981. Between those dates, we were in Spokane, Washington.

The other photos from that roll of film include two shots of our cat, Quackenbush. We acquired him and his best-buddy, Wickersham, when they were teeny-tiny kittens in Spokane. So the pictures had to be after we returned to California in 1981.

There's a picture of me when I was 24 or 25:

There's a picture of my husband and another of him and his sister talking, but I haven't asked for their permission to publish those photos. Quackenbush doesn't care if I post his picture:

He wasn't a very smart cat, so he had to get by on his looks, which he did just fine. See how he's wearing his flea collar? It worked great in Spokane, where the fleas die down during the winter. In California, though, which has year-round flea season, the collar didn't do anything. And nobody had invented Advantage or its like at that time. And the fleas liked me better than they liked the cats. Aaarrrrgggghhh!!!!

OK. Enough whining.

The 8 x 10 photos were from the photography class I took when we were still new to Spokane. This is the class that first taught me about the Rule of Thirds. Part of the class was working in the darkroom to develop film and make prints. We only used B&W for the darkroom portion of the class. When it was time to use color film, our instructor had us use slide film. We had an assignment to choose a tree, any tree, and take a whole role of slide film of that tree from different angles and times of day. The second assignment was to take a whole role of slides of one person, and of course I picked my husband for that. We had to include at least one double-exposure shot.

One of the requirements of the photography class was that we had to have a 35mm camera. All I had was the Kodak Instamatic I got for my birthday one year in late grade school. It took the 126 cartridges. But my husband had an old Argus C3 manual camera that used 35mm film, and you had to use a separate light meter and then set the aperture and shutter speed accordingly. That's the camera I used for class, and the instructor kept telling the other students (who all had SLR cameras), "If she can do this with that C3, you should be able to do it too!"

Here are the three 8 x 10 shots that I developed. First is Wickersham:

He's the smart one. The white patch on his chest extended all the way up to his chin, and he had a good-sized black dot in the white just behind the jawline. Whenever he slept with his head upside-down, the black dot would show. Very cute!

This is an old concrete bridge over the river in Riverfront Park:

I had hoped it would be more contrasty for the black-and-white film, but it wasn't.

This was one of my night shots, also in Riverfront Park:

I had thought that since I have the printer/copier/scanner, I could scan the photos myself and just concentrate on sending slides to the scanning company. But after I scanned all these photos, I checked the properties on the files, and they were all scanned at 200 dpi. ScanDiego will scan them at 4000 dpi. So I'm going to have to factor into my decision-making any photos I might want to blow up and frame.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Conversion Decisions Part 2

The first step in getting my slides converted into digital format was to find the darned things. I went to the shed and looked at every one of the boxes in there. At times like this, I'm thrilled that I'm organized just enough to use a Magic Marker on the side and end of every box to record the box's contents. My slides were not in there.

In the garage, where all my boxes of books that I can't fit in my house are stacked in three six-high stacks and all the other boxes that didn't fit in the shed are piled, I hunted some more and finally found the box marked, "Photos/Slides Japanese Plates.' Inside the box was all of this:


Out of respect for my back (that's a different story), I waited for my daughter to come home and bring the box in the house.

Back when we were taking our pictures as slides, we had a Bell & Howell slide cube projector, not a Carousel projector like everyone else, and the brown fake-wood-looking box had the cubes with all the slides from our big bicycle trip through Europe in 1983, plus a few cubes with slides from other trips.

I was able to make a good light box by using my computer and opening my Nook application to a book with two nearly blank pages together. By holding the slides up to the monitor, it was easy to see what they were.

After looking through all those cubed-up slides (which I had labeled with the date, location, and subject), I pulled out the photo album to the left of the fake-wood box. I opened it up, and it looked like this inside:

Ick! I'm SO glad there were no photos inside the "magnetic" pages. There was just one loose black-and-white photo, complete with photo-album-induced discoloration:

I remember making this little guy but not where or when it happened, though I have this vague sense that it might have been at Mt. Palomar and that it was before we had kids. It was a week when it had snowed in the mountains, with a pretty low-elevation snow line, so that weekend we drove up to the mountains to play in the snow. Of course, by then almost all of the snow had melted. We found one turnout on the north side of the mountain where there was still a patch of slushy snow, so that's where we stopped. We were barely able to form three regular-sized snowballs, and we stacked them on top of each other, set them on the asphalt curb, and found some acorn tops and twigs to give him personality. He's a charmer, isn't he?

After throwing the photo album in the trash, I turned to the blue binder full of slide sleeves. There were more slides from the Europe trip (all properly labeled), plus the Grand Canyon trip with the youngest sister-in-law before she got married, several shots of my nephew (who just turned 34) when he was 22 months old and I visited my sister and her then-small family in the Panhandle of Texas, and photos from the hot-air and helium balloon festival of 1981. I even have pictures of when the Greenpeace balloon got away from its handlers before it was completely filled with hot air, and it ascended (but not enough) and the basket hit the roof of some grandstands, tipping out the guy inside the basket, who was injured. The story made the local TV news that night, but I wasn't able to find a link to it for this post. Apparently 1981 was a very long time before the internet came on the scene. Anyway, I really love a lot of the balloon pictures.

The problem with most of the slides in the sleeves is that, other than the bicycle trip photos, the slides aren't labeled. I had put stick-on labels on the sleeves themselves for the first picture in a series, for example, "Grand Canyon 1st Day 11/81." I'm afraid to choose 500 of my favorites, send them in, and then get them back and not know what they are from. So my decision-making process has just become a bigger production than it already was. I found some clear return-address labels (1/2" x 1-3/4") in my supplies, and I'm printing two slide labels on each, at 6.5 pt. font, and cutting them in half lengthwise.

It's going to be a while before I get this done.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Barrycades and Iron Fists

Photo source:

Dang! If Dave Carter at Ricochet writes this well all the time, it could become a really tough tie to break for my intellectual affections between him and Mark Steyn. I saw Carter's piece when Pat Sajak (@patsajak) retweeted it today. Both men have columns this weekend raking the Obama administration over the coals for its over-enthusiasm for inflicting pain on the American public during the government "shutdown."

First, Mark Steyn, who borrows the term, "punitive liberalism:"

Nevertheless, just because it’s a phony crisis doesn’t mean it can’t be made even phonier. The perfect symbol of the shutdown-simulacrum so far has been the World War II Memorial. This is an open-air facility on the National Mall – that’s to say, an area of grass with a monument at the center. By comparison with, say, the IRS, the National Parks Service is not usually one of the more controversial government agencies. But, come “shutdown,” they’re reborn as the shock troops of the punitive bureaucracy. Thus, they decided to close down an unfenced open-air site – which, oddly enough, requires more personnel to shut than it would to keep it open.

So the Parks Service dispatched their own vast army to the World War II Memorial to ring it with barricades and yellow “Police Line – Do Not Cross” tape strung out like the world’s longest “We Support Our Troops” ribbon. For good measure, they issued a warning that anybody crossing the yellow line would be liable to arrest – or presumably, in extreme circumstances, the same multibullet ventilation that that mentally ill woman from Connecticut wound up getting from the coppers. In a heartening sign that the American spirit is not entirely dead, at least among a small percentage of nonagenarians, a visiting party of veterans pushed through the barricades and went to honor their fallen comrades, mordantly noting for reporters that, after all, when they’d shown up on the beach at Normandy, it, too, had not been officially open....

The World War II Memorial exists thanks to some $200 million in private donations – plus $15 million or so from Washington: In other words, the feds paid for the grass. But the thug usurpers of the bureaucracy want to send a message: In today’s America, everything is the gift of the government, and exists only at the government’s pleasure, whether it’s your health insurance, your religious liberty, or the monument to your fallen comrades. The Barrycades are such a perfect embodiment of what James Piereson calls “punitive liberalism” they should be tied round Obama’s neck forever, in the way that “ketchup is a vegetable” got hung around Reagan-era Republicans. Alas, the court eunuchs of the Obama media cannot rouse themselves even on behalf of the nation’s elderly warriors.

This kind of spitefulness has been making my blood boil: Barrycading the WWI memorial, the Vietnam War memorial, the Lincoln memorial, in addition to the WWII memorial; blocking scenic roads and turnouts that might give people a view of Mt. Rushmore; and closing the ocean. Their purpose is to make us suffer as much as possible, as visibly as possible, so they can blame Republicans for the pain.

Here's how Dave Carter opens his column:

Whatever the perceived shortcomings of Ted Cruz and his hardy band of stalwarts, they've performed a remarkable public service by highlighting the fate that awaits all who rub wrongly the translucently thin skin of King Barack the Petulant. The Spartans may have had their shields, Native Americans their tomahawks and arrows, the Samurai may have wielded his sword with all the deadly grace of a tiger in mid-attack, but pound for pound, nothing comes close to the audacious stupidity of "Barrycades" and people in pointy little Smokey the Bear hats, poised to protect America's monuments from law-abiding citizens.

Welcome to liberal utopia, where barriers are not erected against terrorists or illegal aliens on our nation's borders, but rather against citizens, and where wheelchair-bound veterans enroute to honor their comrades face tighter security than terrorists enroute to murder a US Ambassador.  This is where up is down, wrong is right, illegality is celebrated as progress, and where Constitutionalism is derided as racist.  No longer relegated to the fever swamps of academic fancy, utopia has acquired real estate and made known its demands.

"Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual…" the First Lady warned us, and she wasn't just whistling Alinsky either.  Under King Barack's Reign of Error, your life is no longer your own, for you are now commanded to enter into private contracts by virtue of your simple existence on the planet.  Why?  Because our Sovereign and his fellow travelers are compassionate, of course. Their hearts bleed for you,…almost as much as your pocketbook will bleed for them.

We expect to be blindsided by the unforeseen effects of the shutdown's furlough of non-essential personnel. One case was a man at my work who needed to put air in his tire. The gas station he went to was having trouble with the customer air machine, and there's a number for the station to call to try to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, that number is for a federal government bureau, and the recording said they're shutdown and unavailable to help. So the guy drove to work, slowly, with 28 psi in that tire. We expect that sort of thing.

It's the vindictive nature of the shutdown that costs taxpayers extra when there's theoretically no money available that really sticks in the craw. May the real perpetrators feel the wrath of the American people, and may all of them in Washington get this shutdown shut down soon.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Conversion Decisions Part 1

A few weeks ago I went to the Home and Garden Show in Del Mar. I went there because several months ago my bed broke.

One of the supporting pieces of wood along the side rail cracked along the grain, and the corner of the mattress fell to the floor at bedtime. With help from my daughter and her friends, we disassembled the bed frame and moved it into the garage. Now the mattress and box spring are on the floor. Where spiders can get on them more easily than before.

My hope in going to the home show was to find a cabinet maker or woodworker who was willing to take on teeny-tiny projects like bed repair. I found that, or rather a referral to a handyman who repaired the bed of the lady at one of the cabinetry booths. My hopes for reduced spider opportunity increased.

But I found even more than hope.

I'm not a homeowner right now, so it was very freeing to wander around the home show and  just to say, "I'm renting," when the various artisans and home-equipment salespeople tried to part me from my money. Most of them shut up after that, though a few suggested that I speak to my landlady about their windows or solar systems or pavers. Ummm.... No.

One of the booths sucked me in, because it had very little to do with homes and gardens. They convert slides and photos into high-quality digital images at an affordable price.

I cannot adequately convey how much this is a dream from the depths of my heart.

Eight years ago I went to a travel photography workshop in Washington DC. They had two main instructors, one whose focus was more on the art side and one whose focus was on newspaper and magazine publication. I connected more with the art guy, but the other one said something about having to convert his slides to digital. When I asked him how much that costs, he said it was $2 per slide, and my heart sank. I have slides from so many trips:
  • New England in the autumn of 1982
  • The four-month bicycle trip through Europe in 1983
  • Grand Canyon with the youngest sister-in-law in 1987
  • The long-weekend trip to Paris with my airline-job office mate in 1988 (she said she wanted to go to Paris to find the name of this one Impressionist painting, and I said, "I'll go too!")
And of course, there are family pictures from way back when as well. At $2 a slide, I'd have to be a millionaire to convert even half of them to digital.

But at the home show, the guy at the photo booth told me that $2 is still the going rate for professional slide conversions out in the world (which fits with the last time I asked at the good-quality photo store in town). The photo-booth company, ScanDiego, normally charges $.39 a slide (the same price as Costco) to produce 4100 dpi digital images, whereas Costco produces 1800 dpi images. And if you buy the package at the Home and Garden Show, they'll do it for $.29 a slide. I bought the package. They'll convert 500 slides (if they don't require special processing, which some of mine will) for $149.

I got a box in a bag to take home.

When I've selected my 500 slides, I put them in the box and call them to arrange pick-up, or I take them down to Mira Mesa and drop them off.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Adventures at Wal-Mart

I was out of Sudafed, and the last few nights I've had some sinus congestion that was making it a bit challenging to breathe at bedtime. So I decided I'd better head over to Wal-Mart before the pharmacy closed at 9:00 and get some more.

Everything went smoothly inside the store. I got my drugs, picked up a couple bananas, had no wait in line, and then walked out the door toward my car. I had a really great parking spot very close to the door, and on the way I saw a couple cars, one of which was a police car, coming down the next lane where a tall man was waving his hand up above his head, trying to get someone's attention. It quickly became clear that the man wanted the cop.

He walked around to my lane with the police cruiser following him, and by that time I was at my car. The man pointed to another car two spots over, and the cop got out of his car while I got into mine and settled my stuff on the passenger seat. I wasn't overly filled with curiosity as I started up the car, but when I looked in the rearview mirror, the cop car was blocking me.

Okaaaaay. I stayed put.

After a little bit, I got out of the car to see if the policeman was nearly finished, just in time to see him shining a small flashlight in the car with his left hand while he held his cocked gun in his right. He said, "All of you in the car, put your hands up and keep them there."

I was stunned into motionlessness. Then the cop straightened further, pointed his gun more menacingly at the windshield and said, "If you put your hands down one more time, I will shoot you."

I got back in my car.

The police officer stayed there with his flashlight and gun pointed at the car until another officer, also with flashlight and drawn weapon, arrived at the front of the car and then moved out of my view, which was partially blocked by the car next to me and by the reflection of one of the parking lot trees in all the side windows of the suspects' car. But not long after that I saw in my mirror that the second cop was cuffing and frisking someone, who he led away to one of the (now) two police vehicles.

When the second cop came back, the first one had the driver get out of his car, which he did by sliding out the window. Police #1 proceeded to search and cuff the driver and then lead him away, presumably to police car #1. The second cop was talking to someone who was still in the suspect car, and I rolled down my window a bit and heard him saying there had been a report of one of the people in that vehicle having a weapon, so they were being arrested and he really appreciated the suspect's cooperation. This conversation happened with the gun still trained on the car.

After cop #1 came back, a third suspect was taken out of the car, cuffed, searched, and made to sit on the curb next to the rear of my car. Finally, the fourth person was arrested, and as he was led away, the other two officers (a third had arrived by then) searched the interior of the empty car with their flashlights as best they could through the windows.

Then one of them saw me watching, and I gave him a smile that I hoped conveyed appreciation without any exasperation. He walked away from the car and said to the first cop, "I'm going to move this vehicle (police car #1) so she can get out." Before he did, he apologized to me, and I said, "No, no. I'm fine."

As soon as it was clear, I backed out of my really great parking spot very close to the door and stopped when I was alongside where the police car had been moved. I told the officer, "Thank you. And thank you for what you do."

I drove home with my Sudafed and my bananas and a shifting sense of the world I live in.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Good News Indeed

I was checking the news before bed tonight, and I saw that Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, is dead. It was a little strange for me to learn this, because it comes on the heels of a conversation I had with my son just a few weeks ago. Before that I hadn't thought of Ramirez for years.

My son had come over to hang out, and he asked me about Ramirez and what it was like then. The question came up because my son had posted about the killer on his tumblr blog, Today in Depressing History, back in April.

We lived in the city of Orange in the year of 1985, with our brand new baby boy, when Ramirez was doing his serial killing. CNN's Greg Botelho describes that time this way:

A serial murderer, a serial rapist, a Satan worshiper, a man who inflicted physical and emotional pain on his victims in myriad ways. Richard Ramirez was all those things, but to Californians terrorized during his violent spree in the spring and summer of 1985, he was simply the "Night Stalker."

Botelho didn't come close to capturing the feeling. Yes, we were terrorized, but it was a terror that went on, night after night, week after week, seemingly without end. At first they called him the "Walk-In Killer," because he simply walked into the homes of so many of his victims, through slider doors or windows left open to the cooling night air. Even after checking that every one of our windows and doors was firmly locked before we went to bed, we didn't sleep well. The word was out that his victims all lived close to freeways, and our house was just a few blocks away from three different freeways (just below the "O" of "Orange" on the interactive map (move the map up a bit), two towns south of Fullerton and Yorba Linda).

We lived on a short cul de sac and knew our neighbors pretty well. Every morning we checked the paper for news, dreading there being another victim and hoping for word of the killer's capture. Every evening the neighbors would all talk about the latest that we'd learned, trying to glean some bit of information that might make us safer.

The men on our block, especially, felt the burden of trying to safeguard their families. Finally, three or four of the men, all of whom owned guns, decided to mount an all-night, armed patrol. Each one took a two-hour shift on the roof of his own house and watched over the street. The neighbor a couple doors down told us one morning that during his shift that night, a van had cruised into the cul de sac as though casing the place. When the neighbor made his and his shotgun's presence known, the van turned and rushed away.

We slept well, in peace, through the nights of those two weeks of patrol, but the men were getting tired. They started talking about reducing the patrols. And then the news came that Ramirez, who had only a day or two before been identified as the suspect, was caught and had the crap beaten out of him by some people in Los Angeles. It was satisfying to hear that, but I was disappointed that the police stopped them before they finished him off, because the relentless fear he put us through--millions of us in the greater Los Angeles area--deserved so much worse than the beating they gave him.

The death of Richard Ramirez today doesn't make us safer, since he was securely behind bars, but it does remove the possibility of his escape. He was an unrepentant, savage murderer, and I for one am glad he no longer draws breath but is enduring the torment he chose for himself while he lived. May God have mercy on me for my hard heart.