Sunday, July 29, 2012

The English Language and Relativity

In Florida, I got to know an architect who was a Florida native and a well-educated person. He was born in a little town east of Orlando and I enjoyed, without having to ask him about this, observing the cultural difference of two people who had been born on opposite coasts of North America. Though lots of people in Florida have a twangy accent, he did not.

America is very homogeneous, so there wasn't much of a gulf. But there was one thing he said that hit my ear like a clang: his use of the word "whenever." He seemed to use it in place of "when" for indefinite times in the past. Ouch, that really grated.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

From Millennium Dome to the Olympics

I went to see the Millennium Dome, and all I got was this paperweight.

I noticed a photograph in the paper today of a woman bicycling in London--it was part of a story about how London is promoting bicycling as a way of attempting to stave off terrible Central London traffic jams during the London Olympics.  

At the edge of the frame I caught sight of something familiar. The old Millennium Dome from London's Y2K celebration.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Ascension Stamp to Honor Wideawakes

My father, Colonel William Ashley Chapman, on Ascension Island in the 1980s.

I've just had the nicest email from a fellow called Tim Underwood, who works for the company that produces the stamps for the Ascension Island Post Office--famous among philatelists around the world. 

Mr. Underwood let me know that Ascension Island will be honoring the 70th Anniversary of Wideawake Field with a new stamp cover and is at present awaiting Her Majesty's approval of the design. Now that is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A New Tax Even Crazier Than California!

If this new tax idea takes off, and I remain able bodied, I can easily run errands on my bicycle. Well, it will be hard to go to the Hermes Store in San Francisco. 

Just when you think our present tax system can't get any worse, some genius out there is ready to prove you wrong.

As I read my morning newspaper I thought for a moment my hair was on fire. No, it was just the proposal from the Bay Area Metropolitain Transportion Authority that was searing into my brain. They want to study (sorry, your tax dollars at work again!) what they are calling a VMT tax. That is a tax on Vehicle Miles Traveled. I am not making this up.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Making the Most of our Assets

An asset can be seen as a liability if people don't see clearly. Maybe, with luck, we can change the way our city views this one.

Growing up in California's Santa Clara Valley, I learned so little, as I have mentioned here, about the history and economy of the region. It is as if, since we were in a sort of paradise, no one wanted to break the spell.

I think in this way, my exile from and return to the region has been a blessing. I've been able to see it anew and love it anew in all its extraordinary beauty.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hoping Not to Crash and Burn ...

In H.G. Wells remarkable novel, War of the Worlds, the aliens are defeated, not by any weaponry invented by humans, but by disease-carry microbes to which they have no immunity. I'm presently reading about a real situation like that fictional one, that took the lives of huge numbers of indigenous people during the first century of Spanish rule in California.

But viruses come in all types, don't they? Now, in a new age, we have a new kind of virus that can steal, not your life, but the integrity of your computer.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Green and Golden California

California poppies around my Northern California neighborhood.

One of the many things I'm finding striking in my research about my home state of California, is how little I was taught about it in school. California history is fascinating. Its flora and fauna among the richest in North America.

The early contact between Europeans and native people, in this land so long isolated by the Pacific and the Sierras, had all the elements of a great drama. It was painful, sometimes humorous, always full of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, and ultimately tragic.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Keeping in Touch With Old Friends

A mini-reunion of my Los Altos High School Class, at the Oakland Museum.

Growing up in Los Altos, California, there were a group of kids I started out with at Loyola School (where we began in kindergarten) moved on to what was then called junior high school (seventh and eighth grade) at Covington, and then went on with to Los Altos High. We picked up new faces along the way. 

When I see any of these faces today, I feel as if I am seeing members of my family.  I can pick up the conversation, wherever we left it off, no matter how many years have gone by.