Thursday, September 29, 2011

The USS Macon Returns to Moffett Field

The model of the historic rigid airship USS Macon moored in Moffett Field's Hangar Two.

It was quite a day for retired engineer Jack Clemens. He has spent three years building a scale model of the historic US Navy dirigible USS Macon from the specifications of the original rigid airship.

Facing trials and tribulations that involved a cat pouncing on the delicate model (well, it did look sort of like a bird--to a cat), to getting the balsa-and-Mylar craft tangled in a tree, Clemens' journey has not been uneventful. Today, for the first time, he took the remote-controlled model successfully aloft at Moffett's Hangar Two. And a crew from Canada's Discovery Channel was there to record it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Deja Vu Development Loop: Again

Downtown Los Altos, California. Strict height limitations and zoning codes have kept its village character intact, thus far. This is a photo from the city's web site.

Greed is not good, in spite of what Gordon Gekko so famously said in the movie Wall Street. Bernie Madoff and the truly creepy underbelly of the "mortgage crisis" should be a lesson in that--if nothing else. But it certainly is ubiquitous.

In charming little towns across America where the real estate gets pricey, you can bet there will be a sudden symbiosis of developers-realtors-business property owners-Chambers of Commerce, and, ta-dah, politicians to "redevelop" the "downtown core" to get "more feet on the street," while, supposedly "preserving our village character." 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Teaching The Value of the True

It is autumn in Northern California. I heard, then saw, a flock of geese honking over the house this morning, traveling in their V-shaped formation to a destination further south. It made me think back to previous autumns, and lessons my father taught me, so many years ago.

Kim at left and Robin and autumn leaves from the apricot trees in our first Los Altos house. 

Among the finest things my father gave to me were the lessons he taught by example. He kept his word. He was on time. He did not do a job by half. He paid his bills. He was never intentionally cruel to anyone--though he sometimes was so without intent, through an excess of frankness. (I watched him all his life trying not to do this last thing.)

He operated openly with his fellow man and kept no hidden agenda. Most of all he sought the truth in everything.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ghosts of the Old Airship USS Macon

It's the U.S.S. Macon. Almost.

When you see it in a photo--in two dimensions and without the benefit of perspective--it looks like the reincarnation of the 1930s Navy airship the USS Macon. Its perfection is a tribute to one man's fascination with history.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fifty Jobs in Fifty States

I  just saw a very funny talk by a young man from Los Altos, California, who found himself in the painful predicament that only the scion of a privileged family could understand.

His graduation from USC unfortunately coincided with the serious downturn in our nation's economy. After three years of sending out resumes and facing chronic rejections--while enjoying the perfect environmental and intellectual climate of a hometown filled with professional families living in gracious homes--his father told him it was time--in the vernacular--to "get a life."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Fate of Ms. Gimpy

Ms. Gimpy returns. You can see her right leg isn't working and she is balancing on her left.

Ms Gimpy stopped by for breakfast again this morning! She has more pep and is doing a much better job of working around her still troublesome right leg. She did have a tough time with a shelled peanut:  the Blue Jays usually use both feet to hold one while they chip at it with their beaks. She perched on the top of the bench, had trouble with her balance and had to flutter to the grass. But she got the peanut and then hopped up on Dad's old umbrella base and looked around as if to say: "What? You've never seen a leg-challenged bird before?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Late Breaking News on Leg Breaking Jay

Ms. Gimpy.

I wasn't sure what I would find when I went out this morning, after reporting to you on my day, yesterday, watching the wounded Jay bird fledgling, who somehow managed to get her leg broken.

I sat out back this morning, with bird seed at the ready.  After about ten minutes, she flew over. She made it through the night!  Good show!

The Bird With the Broken Leg

One of my fledgling Blue Jay friends showed up at breakfast yesterday dragging her right leg. Then her sibling chased her away from the food and she limped and fluttered away and spent the morning hiding out in one of my shrubs.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Great Moffett Paint Out Concludes

Diana Jaye and Susan Watson paint Shenandoah Plaza at historic Moffett Field.

Thanks to the president of the Moffett Historical Society and Museum, Herb Parsons, and board members Diana Parsons and Tom Spink, we were able to open the museum on this Sunday, in order to accommodate more artists for our Great Moffett Paint Out.

Usually the museum is like that movie: Never On A Sunday. But the artists needed our Facilities. And I don't mean our drinking fountain. So we made an exception.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Great Moffett Paint Out: Day One

Artist Robin Mize gets down to work.

Thirty two landscape artists from all over the San Francisco Bay Area, converged on Moffett Field, Saturday, September 17, 2011 for Day One of the Great Moffett Paint Out. We had absolutely perfect weather. As my father used to say: "It was a CAVU day"--ceiling and visibility unlimited.

Artists spread out all over the 1000 acre property to paint whatever they wanted to paint in this sunny, breezy spot on the edge of San Francisco Bay. The event was sponsored by the Moffett Museum and Historical Society.

Great Moffett Paint Out!

I'm off this morning to Welcome the Artists participating in the Great Moffett Paint Out.  I had this sign made to hang above the Moffett Museum door to welcome them, and though in small form it looks humble enough ...

In reality it is eleven feet wide and three feet high.  I hope it will let them know how welcome they are.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

California 'Cots 2011

An apricot orchard in Los Altos Hills.

I drove up into the hills above my house today. The windy roads took me a couple of miles in distance and a few hundred feet up into the foothills of the Coast Range. And into the past.

If you don't look too closely, Los Altos Hills still look charming and rural, the way the Santa Clara Valley looked when I was growing up here--before it was Silicon Valley, the home of high tech billionaires.

Today, I was in search of apricots, and my quest involved a nexus of old and new.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tribute To Cliff Robertson: A Guest Post from Screenwriter Steve Latshaw

With the death this weekend of Oscar-winning actor Cliff Robertson, screenwriter Steve Latshaw looks back at meeting and working with this big-time star.

Charly and Me
Steve Latshaw

Cliff Robertson was 75 years old when we did a movie together back in 1999. Hard to believe that was more than twelve years ago. At that time, Cliff hadn't yet made his umpteenth comeback in the first Spider-Man (2002) movie for Sam Raimi. But he was still a formidable force of nature. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

An Old Party Dress for a New Baby

I keep finding old objects in the dark corners of Chez Chapman. When my sister pulled down an old trunk from the crawl space over the garage, we found several tiny baby dresses inside. My sister took a couple for her grandchildren and I saved one. I loved the white and red of it, and the detailed smocking.

My mother was an expert seamstress, and I'm sure she made this baby dress with its tiny little stitches and red trim. Since my niece is expecting a baby girl this month, I decided to launder and press it and send it to her as a gift from the past to the future.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Marking and Remembering 9/11/2001

The star spangled banner flutters over my walnut tree.

For starters, I hoisted a brand new Old Glory on the family flag pole at the corner of our property. The day was gorgeous, as it was on that September day a decade ago. The colors of the new flag seemed to shine against the blue of the California sky.

I'm not going to mark this artificial anniversary by reliving that awful day. I've seen enough of those photos and videos and I remember it all too clearly. I'm going to honor the day by remembering how lucky I am.  How lucky we all are.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Summer Garden Fades on the Lessons of Pumpkin Sex and Pumpkin Pajamas

You can't have a summer garden without learning something about life. One of the biggest surprises is that it takes a male and a female blossom to make a pumpkin, and they have to get together to do this. I guess that explains the whole "birds and bees" lecture one always hears about.

The other lesson is that hiding one's light under a bushel basket isn't always a bad idea--especially when avoiding rodents.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On Becoming an iPhone Junkie

I just discovered an new app for my iPhone that really has me wowed. I can scan the bar code on the side of my prescription bottles and when the scan has connected, the phone makes a little beep. A few hours later I go to my local pharmacy to pick up my order. No more annoying phone tree.

The last time I flew on Southwest Airlines, I learned you could scan your ticket bar code onto your iPhone and use it at certain airports as a boarding pass.

I love my iPhone. It is to the 21st century what the Jeep was to World War II. It is a utility vehicle that never lets you down.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Beauties of (Green) Bulk Trash!

Bulk Trash Day at Fort Chapman.

We have a new trash company here in my tony little Northern California burg and thus a new rubric regarding Bulk Trash. This is the stuff--like mattresses and pieces of Mom's old chairs--that embarrass my sister when she spots me, dressed entirely in black, hauling, on moonless nights, into my favorite local dumpster.

None of that, you guys!