Cal Fire

No wisdom or humor today.  Instead a little update on how things are out here.  I’ve received a couple of emails from concerned folks.  Heather and I are fine.  California is a big state and the closest fire to us, the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA, is a 3.5 hour drive northeast (about 180 miles).  The other big fire is the Woolsey in Malibu is a 6 hour drive south (about 360 miles).

I personally know one person who has lost a home in Paradise.  The numbers rolling in each day just get worse.  Currently there are 66 confirmed dead in both fires. 600 plus are still on the missing list. Over 250,000 acres have burned (the size of some states), and over 12,000 structures have been destroyed.  Full containment of the fires isn’t expected until the end of the month.

It’s expected that all the numbers will get worse.  I think the final death toll will be close to 200 and a number of people will never be found.  There will be close to 30,000 homeless.  In the Paradise area shelters are reporting full and the evacuees are going to have to find new places to live soon.  Not an easy thing to do in a state that is already critically short on housing.  Many of the victims are elderly on fixed incomes, making their problem even worse.

I expect many will have to move out of state to live with relatives and will never be able to return.

The smoke from the fires has made the air very unhealthy and both Heather and I are having minor issues because of that.

But we have a home.

Others are in worse air with no home to return to.

We sent a donation to our church’s relief organization, UMCOR (  Money is the best thing to donate as it lets the victims and relief groups buy what is really needed.



Posted in General | Tagged , | 32 Comments

The Blue Man

I called him the blue man. It was in 1988 on a Sunday afternoon as I crawled through heavy traffic on highway 205 through Tracy that I saw him. 

I wrote a poem about him.  Once I showed that poem to my mother, but that was before I considered myself a poet.  It was a time when I was in love with the word, “doom.”  I was young then and returning to San Jose from Stockton where I had visited my mother for the afternoon.

I still see the blue man when I drive that road – even though the place where he stood is now the Walmart parking lot.

I still see the blue overalls he wore and the blue truck he was standing near.  The small barn he was standing near was dark brown – the almost black-brown of decaying wood.  Smoke was filling the sky as I watched.

The car in front of me moved four feet and I let my car creep forward.  In the distance I saw the flashing lights of a fire engine turn off the freeway.  The engine made its way down the ramp and onto the narrow frontage road below the line of slowly moving cars.

The smoke grew and I saw the first flames dancing on the roof of the little barn.  My heart broke for him as it was clear that he was going to lose that little barn.

Traffic started moving a bit faster as the fire engine pulled into the little pasture passing the barbed wire fence and the two horses standing near the gate.  As the engine came to a stop, four figures sprang from the vehicle.  One ran towards the blue man, one stood looking at the scene with a radio to his ear, one started pulling a hose off the engine as the last one helped.

The car in front of me started moving faster and soon I was looking at the scene through  my rearview mirror.  Great clouds of smoke were rising and I saw the blue truck moving towards the horses.  On the other side of the freeway another fire engine was speeding along with its lights flashing.

All the way home a poem built in my mind. I still remember the opening lines that poem.  It wasn’t a good poem, but it started:

In a blue land
under a blue sky
a blue man lived
with burnt dreams
and smoldering hope.

On days like today, when the news is filled with fires and pictures of burnt towns – I see the blue man in my mirror sadly driving away and reconsider using the word, “doom.”

On days like today, I remember driving past the same place weeks later and seeing a barn burnt to the ground, blackened scorched ground and half burnt fence posts.  I never saw horses again.

These days when I read of whole towns destroyed in a day and hundreds of thousands people being evacuated – my eyes look up and to the right, to that rearview mirror so many years ago.

To a blue man and dreams and lives turning to smoke.



Posted in General | Tagged , , | 28 Comments

Friday Wisdom – Creative Engineering

Engineers like to think of themselves as analytical, but true solutions are born of creative thinking and not cold calculation.

The analytical is only used to prove the correctness of the creative mind.


More wisdom next week,


P.S. Thanks to Jacqui over at Worddreams for the spark that inspired today’s thought.

Posted in wisdom | Tagged | 10 Comments

I voted

Thanks to the magic of being a permanent vote by mail voter I was able to complete my ballot and drop it off on Saturday.  Being in California, there were plenty of wacky ballot initiatives to vote against.   But I do take my job as voter seriously and spent time researching each candidate and proposition.

Wednesday morning I’ll compare the election results with my votes and we’ll see how many times I’ll say, “Idiots” or “Court case starting in two weeks.”  It was interesting to note that one ballot proposition was so wacky that the courts removed it before it could be voted on (it wouldn’t have passed or would have been struck down later in any case).

Of course it’s just possible that there are other people as smart as me and I’ll get to say a few times, “Smart people – good job.”

Get those ballots in.


Posted in General | Tagged | 18 Comments