Wednesday, December 14, 2005

An Obituary for my Father--

Lloyd Z. Maudlin - February 20, 1924 - January 20, 2005
Noted physicist, beloved husband, father, and friend.

"He had a very, very great soul and he made the world bigger everywhere he went." Mike Glyer, Hugo Award winner, upon hearing of Lloyd Maudlin's unexpected death.

Lloyd was born in Miles City, Montana. His mother homesteaded in northern Montana and Lloyd was raised in a log cabin near Rosebud, not far from Maudlin, Montana, which was named after his father Loyd. Every winter the Yellowstone River would freeze and the spring thaw brought massive ice floes that burst up onto the land, flattening everything -even buildings- in their path; the family would retreat to higher ground across the railway embankment and Lloyd had a vivid memory of riding the back of the buckboard, horses racing, while a block of ice ten feet tall gained on them.

The family moved to a farm in Iowa in 1932 but three years later Lloyd's father died and, as the oldest son, Lloyd became the farmer at the age of 11. Despite the hard demands of running a farm through the Depression years, he graduated valedictorian of Ladora High School and then served 30 months in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943-46, primarily as the Lead Crew radio operator on a B-24 bomber ("the Liberator") flying missions out of Norwich, England.

In 1946, in fulfillment of his ardent hopes and dreams since first dating her in 1941, Lloyd married his beloved Lauralee Rose and they moved to Los Angeles where Lloyd earned his Bachelor's degree in physics from UCLA in 1949 and his MS in physics from USC in 1952, often studying with his young son on his lap. His thesis on the absorption of thin plastic film in the vacuum ultraviolet resulted in a new discovery and was presented before the American Physical Society in 1955. Lloyd did additional graduate work in physics and engineering at MIT in 1954.

Lloyd's career roughly paralleled the development of the computer: his professional life started in 1951 as a civilian working for the Navy at the Pasadena Annex of the U.S. Naval Ordinance Test Station, China Lake, California, and for the next 30 years he worked for the Navy through various iterations of the name (Naval Oceans System Center, Naval Undersea Center, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, etc.). Lloyd was a pioneer in the use of computers, working with such early computing luminaries as Grace Hopper (co-inventor of COBOL). When he started, "automatic computers" (to differentiate the machines from the men and women whose job title was "computer") filled huge rooms, used vacuum tubes, and were in constant danger of overheating - but a day before his death Lloyd was editing on a PC some of the World War II era love letters he had exchanged with Lauralee.

Lloyd shepherded the development of real-time torpedo simulation (the hydrodynamic simulator), which began as a flight table made from a surplus gun mount controlled by an early analog computer but thirty years later was a highly complex system utilizing a UNIVAC 1110, numerous array processors, ancillary support computers, and versatile graphics terminals. Their expertise in real-time simulation enabled his team to accurately predict outcomes of underwater torpedo performance tests and solve many problems in advance, at a tremendous cost savings to tax payers. He was instrumental in the development of the Polaris missile.

Lloyd was passionate about protecting America and influenced the development of anti-submarine warfare technologies, regularly traveling to Washington D.C. for meetings with elected officials, Naval personnel, and the President's Scientific Advisory Council.

When his meetings with other Navy labs were scheduled in the summer, Lloyd would load up the whole family, now numbering six, and drive cross-country for a month at a time, pulling a 21-foot travel-trailer, stopping to visit relatives still in Iowa. For all his brilliance as a physicist, Lloyd always laughed about his errant sense of direction and on the long road trips he taught all his children to read maps and navigate.

He was awarded a patent in 1964 for a three-dimensional means of describing underwater acoustics. In 1973 the Pasadena lab moved to Point Loma and Lloyd and Lauralee moved to San Diego. In 1979 he led a team of physicists in conducting a study of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident (March, 1979); the committee's recommendations were included in the last Congressional Act signed by President Jimmy Carter.

After retiring from the Navy Lab, Lloyd worked for several small technology companies and his work covered such diverse areas as: the Arctic, including studies of Arctic ice and survival in Arctic weather conditions; the ability of oil platform rescue boats to withstand a drop from the platform into Arctic waters, which might be at zero degrees Fahrenheit; undersea surveillance systems using advanced acoustic techniques; and utilization of desk-top computers on board ships for various command and control problems. He performed systems analysis to predict damage areas associated with explosive/radiation hazards and was responsible for the design of a computer based system to predict surf conditions in selected coastal regions; anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aspects of homeland security; and later conducted a study for the Department of Energy on the practicality of using methane gas recovered from pig farms.

In 2000 the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) awarded him a Millennium Award and in 1984 Lloyd was one of 1,984 recipients of the Centennial Award out of 300,000 members. The morning after September 11, 2001, he received a phone call from Washington D.C. asking what he knew about al-Qaeda.

In the last decade, although Lloyd's professional focus was on counter-terrorism and global warming, he was most proud of his 58 year marriage to Lauralee, his "beautiful redhead," and within the last few years spent much of his time writing his memoirs and transcribing hundreds of pages of their World War II love letters. He delighted greatly in his four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, as well as his church family. He continued to have reunions with his WWII flight crew.

Lloyd always generously served his community, both Los Angeles and San Diego, through involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, the YMCA, and as a founding member and president of the Gifted Children's Association, to name a few. He was a particularly gifted grandfather and, though he could not carry a tune, he could nonetheless sing any fussy grandchild to sleep. His commitment to the United Methodist Church was steadfast, serving the church at the local and District levels, both in Los Angeles and San Diego, in dozens of different ways over his lifetime. He found no conflict between his orthodox Christian beliefs and his observations as a scientist. He noted, "At the high school physics level we understand things and have laws - at the graduate and post-graduate levels there is a real understanding that we really don't know anything; there really are no ultimate 'laws' that we know or understand." One of his favorite quotes came from Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727): "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

Monday, December 12, 2005

England Sank (Cinq - Part the Fifth)

Being the Fifth Part in Lord Only Knows how many parts!

I'd better hurry up before I forget!!!

Another day of excessive driving through Cornwall - we drove out to the Chysauster Roman Village, another English Heritage site, this one dating from pre-Christian times, and spent several hours wandering the hillside, speculating how the buildings were used, enjoying the view, and taking lots of photos (these aren't the ones we took, but there's quite a good selection here). We eventually left and drove to down to Penzance, getting a fabulous view of St. Michael's Mount along the way, where we inadvertently turned right instead of left and drove through Mousehole (but after Fowey, it wasn't nearly so bad as most people would lead you to believe! yes the streets are narrow, but now THAT narrow!!!). After we worked our way back to Penzance we had lovely fish'n'chips on the seashore and pondered - what next?

We decided we were close enough to go to Land's End but when we got there we were horrified by the presence of a monolithic, garish hotel and "Land's End Experience" structure - Ellie was terribly disappointed, having really enjoyed Land's End before the appearance of this "improvement." We refused to be dismayed - we simply eschewed the modern atrocity and drove a few miles up the road to Sennen Cove where we spent several idyllic hours climbing the hill (view in the photo is very like ours from the hill - including the flowers!), watching the sun set, and eventually wandering up the little road to a lovely pub for one of our favorite pub meals in the whole trip; the place was a well-populated, half-timbered building, with good music on the soundsystem, a good selection of real ales, and some very fine homemade soups as starters. YUM! Long drive home after a long day of driving, but very satisfied we were.

One day we stopped and took a picture of me and "my village" and when I figure out how to post the photo to this blog, I will.

We stayed pretty close to "home" the next day, heading in to Bodmin, (here's a traffic circle I remember well!) having a pub lunch at "The Weavers" - heavy on the atmosphere but not such a great lunch (or perhaps it was merely the crab salad which disappointed me)and then we tried to use computers in the library but Bodmin was offline for bizarre reason. We were nonetheless able to drive to nearly Wadebridge and use their library computers - it's such a different travel experience to throw internet access into the mix! But Ellie was still getting details for the Mythopoeic Awards that she would present the following week in Birmingham, so she needed it. I don't remember if it was Monday or Thursday but one of those days, in wandering close to our digs, we drove through Lostwithiel and here you see the great juxtapositions of architecture and culture! (and, boy, do I remember those road signs!).

Friday we drove back out to the Penwith peninsula and St. Ives and saw a number of mine engines spotted along the coast and drove back in daylight, back to Trernython Manor where I'd booked a massage (!!! yes !!!) while Michael took pictures in a nearby woods. Ellie and I went for dinner in the hotel's "bistro" (as the restaurant proper was booked for a wedding) - but the bistro was fabulous - the best meal yet, and very possibly of the whole trip - yum!). I was such a happy soooooothed soul, between an hour-long massage, a bottle of vino rosso, and excellent food. Michael eventually joined us and they scared him up a sandwich (which was also great - we kinda kicked ourselves for not eating there until the night before we left!).

And in the morning we ate up the rest of our breakfast foods, packed our bags, cleared our bill, and hit the road. We drove together to Exeter where we dropped Michael at the local Hertz (he got a great deal on a 4 day one-way car rental up to Birmingham) and then we continued along the very busy road back toward town. Cornwall is a glorious place to visit, but in the summer school holidays the roads are all VERY crowded and the traffic abominable - and I speak as a regular L.A. driver, so I know from abominable traffic!

Next installment: STONEHENGE!!!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

England, Part the Fourth (Cornwall)

A continuation of the very gradual reportage of the English trip this summer... incorporating Mythcon XXXVI at the Tolkien Conference in Birmingham.

So August 1st we made ourselves yummy breakfast of eggs and English bacon and toast (with lime shred - yum!) and tomatoes - we basically planned to have one meal out per day, and if we ate a big breakfast at the time share (nicely equipped kitchen, btw - they aren't always) we were good until early dinner time; on the days when we ate smaller breakfast (say, scones & clotted cream! - no protein) we'd have a pub lunch and then make supper back home. And off we went to Castle Restormel, a ruin of a Norman motte and bailey castle in a beautiful setting;
check it out here or here for some cool pictures and more info, if you're interested. Spent hours there while Michael took photographs from nearly every conceivable angle but, to be fair, it was a glorious day and a gorgeous setting and I took plenty of photos m'self!

Stopped in Liskeard to check email at the local library (we were EACH able to sign on to a computer for 30 minutes free service - cool, eh?!) because Ellie, as administrator of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (etc. - there are actually 4 different annual awards) was looking for emailed acceptance speeches from the winners.

We eventually wandered up to Bodmin Moor to see The Hurlers, a series of 3 stone circles, estimated ca. 1500 BC. It's a long hike up to the top of the hill and the "Cheesewring" (a hike I didn't do, in its entirety, so I didn't see the Cheesewring up close...!) but I did take some fun photographs; I particularly like one of two sheep grazing by one of the standing stones. Cornwall is just full of ancient megaliths, like the Trethevy Quoit (more pics here) which we accidently blazed by in the course of driving up to the Hurlers - it's perhaps the one thing I regret: I saw it out of the corner of my eye and I could have parked in one of 2 or 3 little spaces right by it, but I asked Ellie and Michael if we should stop and they said, "no," and then we were gone, opportunity past, continuing the elaborate drive (thanks to the ordinance maps Michael bought the day before in the Daphne Du Maurier bookshop in Fowey--!), heading up roads too small to even be numbered, coping with a bizarre detour, and a rather large car, for the size of the lanes.

In fact, we'd just weathered the most horrific bit of driving I had to do during the whole trip (I didn't know it at the time, of course - until you turn in the car and DON'T have another more hair-raising experience, you don't know that was it! surprisingly stressful, and I'm a good driver. Ellie and Michael both begged off driving in such circumstances - cowards!!!) - we had to go down a country lane, hedgerow-lined as per usual, and THIS one even had a little sign before entering advising that vehicles longer than 35 feet (if I recall correctly - it wasn't terribly long, in other words) shouldn't drive the lane. Well, it was the MOST narrow of lanes! Technically it's a two-way lane (nearly all of them are) but our wing-mirrors are slapping the hedge on both sides of the car, simultaneously - NO IDEA how I would have managed if we met a car coming up. It's also quite a winding lane and we're going downhill. I am beseeching God to have mercy on us, especially me,
as the driver, and delay any oncoming traffic until we're in a more commodious spot (silently, because Ellie is not a fan of religion and I push that envelope with her enough as it is; no point in stiffening her resolve against all things Christian) - it was quite a long lane, too, well more than a mile - which you really feel in that kind of stressful driving environment, especially when you've already noticed that the locals drive through the lanes at a great rate of speed - they have lots of accidents and you see many cars with NO wing mirrors on them because they were sacrificed in some motoring mishap. In any case, we got to the bottom and just as it widened out for us to turn (a T-junction) a car came from the left, turning into the narrow lane - I did say all my, "Thank you, God!" acknowledgements outloud (!!!) and this was certainly one of many occasions when I saw His mercy (pity, even!) at work on our trip. So, to go BACK and see the Trevethy Quoit up close would require driving that lane again and nobody was up for it - so on we went, up to the Hurlers. I can tell you, however, that even from the little glimpse I got, it is one LARGE quoit!!!

My camera was running low on batteries and we were now not far from Bodmin itself (largest town of size in our proximity) so we stopped by the ASDA again and bought dinner foods and new batteries for my camera (and more WINE, of course!) before driving back down toward the coast, noticing once again that there is a tiny community between Lanhydrock (a very serious "stately home" Naitonal Trust property) and Tywardreath called "Maudlin" - once again we drove past, saying we really must stop and take a picture of that...

More yummy food and Michael attempting fruitlessly to phone his wife (cell phones which were promised to work in the UK weren't, there was confusion about the phone in our lodge, etc.) and we pondered maps and activities for the morrow.

Tuesday we drove out to Tintagel (check out the additional "click here"photos on this BBC site), the purported site of King Arthur's birth, and spent hours hiking that impressive coastal ruin. I visited Tintagel before, with my friend Wendy and her 18-month old daughter (now nearly seven years!) and Madelyn walked ALL the stairs ALL by herself (here's a glimpse of what I mean!). Having learned from Michael's shooting habits the day before, Ellie and I simply told him to meet us back at the car at 4 pm (it was now 10 a.m.). In fact, we all wandered the ruin in our own way and our own timing. Ellie re-connected with me in the early afternoon and we had an ice cream cone, visited the gift shop, and eventually walked the long uphill track back to the town of Tintagel where we shopped and meandered (saw some amazing hand-sawn wooden puzzles in a shop called "The Silver Tree") and eventually strolled back to Pengenna Pasties for a supper of Cornish pasties and salad (cider for me, beer for Ellie) - serious YUM! My friend Jason has made an intense study of *where* one can acquire the best pasties and he swears by Pengenna - I quite thoroughly agree (a pastie is the Cornish equivalent to a lunchbox - basically a meat and potatoe pie whose crust has been folded over and sealed, so it's a hand packet of a meal - a bad pastie is quite stodgy but a good one is a true delight). These guys do vegetarian AND vegan pasties as well - amazing!

We reconnected with Michael and then drove a little ways out of town to visit Rocky Valley to check out the labyrinth which, it turns out, is quite a hike down toward the coast and required navigating some narrow, damp, and slippery terrain which I decided it would be *wiser* to avoid. So they continued on and I went back, enjoyed a book I was reading, took a little stroll myself, and eventually they came out and reported in detail the stone labyrinth carvings and the beautiful view up the coast from that particular inlet - and then we drove back to our lodge for another good night's sleep.

                        -- Understated British signage at Castle Restormel --

Sunday, October 30, 2005

England, Part Trwah (trois!)

I know, I know - I'm slow. But a lot has been happening and NOBODY has been beating down the door saying, "what next, Lynn?!~ what happened next?!!!"

Weelllll - since you ask (!!), I got up early Saturday morning, check the computer for flight arrivals and learn Ellie's flight is about 20 minutes early but Michael's is more than an hour late, creating about a hundred minute spread. The clear blue sky has clouded over and started pouring down - I wait for a little break in the weather and load up the car w/Colin's help, clutching his directions to motorway to my chest and then hug and kiss C&M goodbye and drive down their little lane, still reminding myself with some frequency on WHICH side of the road I'm driving, in case I meet anybody in the lane (I do, in fact, and it's fine).

I couldn't have driven in England the first few times I visited - I had a hard enough time sitting in the front passenger seat, feeling around for non-existent pedals and wishing for a steering wheel. But I started driving over there 15 years ago or so - there are times when having a car just gets you to places you can't otherwise go and, if there are two or more of you, it may not be any more expensive than public transport (which I am a fan of, at least much of the time). Still, I couldn't POSSIBLY drive in the UK (or any left-side-of-the-road nation, e.g. Australia or Japan) in a left-hand-drive car - so the fact that my friend Trevor actually drives his British automobile over to Europe just impresses me no end (of course, makes it VERY exciting to try to pass that slow lorry up ahead on a two-lane road!!!). Thus most of the work is done for me, sitting down in the right hand side of the car and finding myself behind the steering wheel. THIS trip I even got the mirrors down within the first day - amazing! There was one trip, 6 yeras ago or so, when I didn't EVER get used to the mirror placement and I'd be looking in the middle of the car down on the dashboard and out the right hand window up at roof level - NOT helpful!

But this Saturday the only problem is not yet being familiar with the operation of the Vauxhall Vectra - like, where the heck are the windscreen wipers?! Little things like that. I had to almost continually trigger the "intermittent double swipe" to get me through the heavy rain on the hour-plus drive up to Gatwick (and that's the CLOSER airport!). And, of course, getting used to the size of the car versus the size of the parking spaces... gulp! There's a moment, as I'm driving through the parking garage, when I wonder if I'll be able to park what suddenly seems like a behemoth. But I drive up to the 4th level and park as far from the elevators as possible, where I've got a little extra room simply because I'm not crowding into a single vacant space but have room to park a little more easily (yeah, American parking spaces are a lot bigger - even the "compact car" spaces!).

So I wander in and find Ellie waiting (her flight was early, after all) and she's doing great - nothing like a self-sufficient traveler! She's bought a coffee and discovered Michael's late-arriving flight, has been checking its progress, etc., knew full well I'd show up SOME time (!!). She goes off in search of a "Time Out" (London activities weekly magazine) but it's the wrong time of week & they're all gone (besides, we're about to drive to Cornwall, not London) and I stay at the arrivals gate. Eventually his plane lands and eventually he makes it through passport control and customs and comes wandering out, looking about as funky as I've ever seen him (Michael is a very attractive man-- nice of his wife Sue to loan him to us for the week! Actually, we love Sue and her presence would've added greatly to the trip, but she was teaching a college class that wouldn't end until the day before the Birmingham conference began). I buy us both a cup of decent coffee and we head off to the pay machines to buy an exit token to get out of the garage. We stop by a car rental satellite and add both Ellie and Michael to the contract so they can legally drive and then load up the car.

NOW is the time we appreciate the size of the Vectra - we need every bit of that trunk and we've still got stuff loaded on the unoccupied portion of the back seat. A smaller car while in Cornwall would have been great - but a smaller car GETTING to Cornwall would have been a pain...

Nearly all of Saturday is spent driving... driving... stopping for traffic... driving... slowing down... gawking at the accident along with everybody else... driving some more... Yeah, you get the picture. We wave at Stonehenge and Michael (the photographer as well as University English Professor!) drools at the thought of shooting there in a week when we return. I'm learning how these guys are as navigators (Ellie's better than Michael but neither are as good as I am... not to brag, but I am a VERY good navigator - give me a map and we're there. I've navigated Paris on the fly with an aggressive driver, and that takes some doing - it was fun!). Pity was that neither of them were as comfortable driving as I was, so I did 90% of that, too. I did force Michael to take the wheel for awhile that day, just to give my poor cramping foot and leg a rest (I hadn't yet figured out all the 97 different things I could do to adjust the seat better to the steering wheel, etc. - it was better, later). Stopped for some nondescript sandwiches in a pub (just missed their open kitchen) and continued the long drive. I've never had to drive during school holidays before - something I will continue to avoid, in future! Roads get busy...

Eventually we got to Bodmin and left the motorway, stopping at the ASDA for assorted stuff (food for supper, breakfast, WINE, etc.) and then meandered our way down toward the coast, ending up with about 3 miles of hedgerow-lined lane just before the manor (right by Castle Dore! An old mound from an earlier castle - don't know if that falls into the "barrow" definition or not... hmmm). By the end of the week, I'd recognize that THIS was a nice wide lane and that you could pass another car just about anywhere along that 3-mile stretch - but for NOW, it was harrowing!

We pulled in to find the manor proper quite busy (a wedding - they had loads of weddings scheduled that week) but we waited at reception and they gave us our lodge keys and a map telling us where to go and where to park. It was a nice timeshare in many ways but it was considerably smaller than I'd been led to anticipate (they said they could sleep SIX!!! yikes! felt plenty crowded with the 3 of us). Having paid 3/4 of the fee, I took the master bedroom, Ellie took the smaller bedroom, and Michael encamped in the living room (which worked out fine - it meant that only I walked through the living room on the way to the loo, as Ellie's room was across the hall.

I made a nice chicken curry and rice dinner, we drank a bottle of wine (just right for 3 people), and we crashed pretty early - it had been a long day of driving, especially for me.

Michael is hairy-chested and gets warm at night and I was continually amused to see that he sleeps like an effigy of a dead king - flat on his back, straight as a board, hands clasped upon his chest - I really did want a fake sword so I could take a "King Arthur in Repose" photograph! I should've taken one anyway, but somehow at the time it felt *intrusive* ("Look, Sue! It's your husband sleeping!!!").

Sunday we went through 2 carafes of coffee before leaving the lodge (!! - Michael and Ellie both drink a lot of coffee; I think I only had 2 cups) and then we wandered down to Fowey (pronounced "Foy"), a lovely small harbor town not far away. As we drove through, I could see that parking was up a steep hill and the town was down, down, down - and, not liking the thought of walking back UP the hill after roaming through the town for hours, I decided to go in search of closer parking. The signs indicated there was limited parking down in the town, but we decided to risk it.

Within moments I knew I'd made a terrible mistake - we were in a one-way system winding down extremely narrow streets, fighting for room with meandering tourists and I was not yet confident about the dimensions of the car (should've driven up on the edges of the hedgerows to *hear* where that left side really is!). We didn't move any faster than 5 miles per hour, I'm sure, and it took a good 15 minutes to wind our way down to the bottom, often stopping for an especially narrow bit of road to clear before navigating it. There was one point, thankfully didn't last more than 20 yards or so, when I had Ellie and Michael keeping an eye on their side of the car while I drove by keeping my wing mirror about 3 inches from my side of the car (!!) - they were saying, "You're close! close!" but it wasn't until later that I asked, "Just how close was I?" and they both agreed it was less than an inch on that side - yikes! Probably best that I didn't know it, at the time! (actually, I could've folded in both wing mirrors and gained about 6 inches total). There was no parking in the town proper but as we drove out there was a small lot with a few spaces in it, down at sea level, so we gratefully grabbed one of those (I was already much more confident parking The Behemoth) and walked into town.

Lovely quaint place with a rich Daphne Du Maurier history (in fact, a lovely little museum shop in her honor - I never realized she was such a hottie as a young woman! wow!) - we all took lots of photos and eventually stopped for a cream tea as Michael had never had clotted cream before (well! We must break you in!) - I found a charming hotel with a restaurant and two balconies overlooking the water offering a reasonable cream tea and in we went. Michael was hooked, of course, and we had a good time sitting in the sun and scarfing down scones and clotted cream and strawberry preserves. I had coffee and they both had tea, but there you go - they'd had a lot more coffee earlier in the day!

We eventually wandered back to the car before the "pay and display" ticket expired (and the gate would be locked and closed), wandered back out another way and stopped again at another lot on the other side of town, much closer to the harbor mouth. Now the sky was threatening a bit (it had been sunny and glorious all the midday) but we took some fun pictures at a castle outpost and considered hiking up the ruined trail to the castle proper (decided against it and I'm glad - probably would've been risky for me, large with wonky ankles, and it started raining shortly). On the drive home we passed the Tristan Stone and got out to take pictures (yes! we are tourists! that's why we're here, bringing you our money and investing in your economy! appreciate us!!!) and then went off looking for a pub meal, forgetting it's SUNDAY and they close up earlier than usual.

We finally found someplace with an open kitchen and had a wonderful dinner; Ellie and Michael were tickled it was a free pub and they had a wonderful array of ales and beers and they tasted their was through several pints respectively while I stuck with cider (I love English hard cider, especially the more primitive stuff - scrumpy, even! But I'll settle for Strongbow). Ellie and I split an order of pate (sorry, missing the accent circonflex and grave - or is it aigue?) for a starter and hardly touched it, so we asked if we could take it home. Much to our surprise, they wrapped the whole thing, little stoneware ramekin and all, in aluminum foil and we happily carted it away to enjoy another day. We managed to find our way back to our digs (yay! Lynn starting to build the map in her head) and crashed shortly after getting in.

Michael snores. I turn up my white-noise surf-sound generator and am a happy camper myself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The English Trip (part two)

Next morning (now Wednesday, having lost most of Tuesday to the diverted flight), I see Marjorie for the first time and I'm thrilled - I haven't seen her since spring of 2001. We have a visit from Rebecca, their oldest daughter, and her daughter and my goddaughter, Emily, now 13 - we all have a cup of tea and a fun conversation and I present Emily with a HUGE bag of "scrapbooking" materials. It's a new hobby in the UK and most of what they have is imported from the USA at great expense; thankfully my good friend Sharon is a scrapbooker over here and we went shopping for things and she donated a lot of materials to the cause (yay! Sharon!) - Emily is beside herself! As they leave, Rebecca tells me that's she's taking me to dinner with her girlfriends on Thursday night (the 3 of them try to do this every week; it works out to about 3x a month) - okay, fun.

This is perhaps a time to talk about origins of relationship - WHY am I so connected to this English family?! Well, back in 1978, four months after getting married to Phil, we were planning to go on this rock'n'roll gospel tour of England; Phil had toured with this band 3 or 4 times already and the leader was his good friend. As it turned out, Phil got a gig at the Music Center (pit orchestra for "Pal Joey" with Lena Horne and he couldn't afford to turn down months of work for what was, essentially, a missions trip) but he still wanted me to go and they needed my voice (as it was, the band used a handful of my songs in every concert, so I was the most featured of the four singers and played piano and guitar much of the time). The set-up for this tour was through a small parish outside Gravesend which sponsored the tours by putting all the musicians and singers up in homes - so now, instead of needing a home to accomodate a married couple, they need a home to accomodate a single woman - but they need some mad English folk who can cope with the mad American! THIS is how I met Colin and Marjorie and we all hit it off famously - I have visited them dozens of times since 1978 and they've stayed with us twice; we took them all over the southwest, including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, San Francisco, San Diego, and Catalina. They are lovely, lovely people who were profoundly grieved when Phil left the marriage. C&M's daughters, Rebecca and Rachel, were about 13 and 10 when I first came (Rebecca has also come to visit - Rachel has yet to come). In the course of some phone calls made before the trip, I realized that Bec's kids, Emily and Harry, are the same ages that she and Rachel were when we all met.

We made a run out to a local garden center and have lunch there (!! - see, we don't tend to have sit down cafeterias in garden centers) and shortly after we get home there's a phone call from Rachel and she wants to come by with her kids - apparently she'd come by Tuesday late afternoon (remember, I was supposed to land by noon) saying, "I've come to see the American!" Rachel is hysterically funny but so much of it is delivery - she has a wonderful wonky sense of humor and I love seeing her. All the kids are out of school since the school holidays have started - she took her kids, Rosie (6) and George (4) and a friend of Rosie's up to Bluewater, the largest shopping mall in the UK (well, it was - I think it still is - built in an old quarry!) where they were doing all sorts of special kid stuff - they all had their faces painted, except George had a lion face pained on his arm instead - good fun.

Thursday we decide to head out to Chartwell, a relatively local stately home (Churchill lived 30 or 40 years of his life there) and have lunch there, but we run into horrible traffic and eventually give it up, turn around and go the opposite way to Oad Street Craft Centre where we had delicious soup before rushing back home because Colin has to drive up to the outskirts of London and take his aged (nearly 90 years old!) sister in to one of the London hospitals for a regular appointment. The shape of Colin & Marjorie's life is rather challenging right now: they moved from Gravesend to a little community between Meopham and Sevenoaks and they're living out in the country (which they love - they adore driving around the country lanes) in a lovely little farmworker's cottage (a row of 4 or 5 small homes). But Colin is the youngest of 6 children with about a 20 year range in their ages and the eldest (this sister) has no children and therefore looks to Colin to step in with all that care, as does one of his brothers! Eeeep! But it's a real question - who will take care of the elderly without children of their own? So at the time they'd enjoy travel and their four grandkids, they've got lots of demands on specifically Colin's time and energy from elderly siblings.

Marjorie and I spend the afternoon in the garden, drinking tea and eating these lovely little chocolate "bites" from Marks & Sparks (lethal!). Colin wasn't late picking up his sister and it all worked out okay and he made it home so I get ready for dinner with Bec and her friends while Colin & Marjorie have fish and chips (!! - rats! I love fish and chips! almost as much as curry...). Bec picks me up and we drive up to an upscale Italian restaurant and meet up with her friends.

It's a lovely dinner (I started with a carrot and coriander soup - one of my favorites and not something you ever see here in the USA) and a fascinating conversation - these women have all been friends through school, so all of them remember the rock gospel band with which I toured and that became part of the focus of the conversation - remembering what it felt like to be 13 and excited about an American showing up to stay in your home, excited to be at a concert and see your houseguest performing. One of the women, when asked by her son why she was more than usually excited over a Thursday night dinner and she answered, "I'm having dinner with a rock'n'roll star!" You just never know how other people see you, especially from a distance - so while I'm uncomfortable with the description of myself as a "rock'n'roll star" I'm also flattered that I ever appeared to be one, even to that small community - amazing. Fun night, bright clever women sharing their lives with me - it was delightful.

Friday we have a bunch of errands to run - Colin realizes that he has to have the MOT run on his car before the end of the month, so we drive in to Gravesend and leave it with their mechanic, quite near the port (a part of town I never visited before!) and then we drive out to Bec's where all the family is getting together for lunch (except Daniel and Gary, the two son-in-laws; they're both working - poor fellows!) and we are busy eating lasagne and salad and drinking wine; the kids pile into an above-ground swimming pool in the back yard and a grand time is had by all. But *now* it's time to drive in to Rochester to pick up my rental car, drive back to Gravesend and pick up Colin's car from the mechanic. Turns out the computer-directions to the car hire location are *completely wrong* but, thank God (literally) we found the place anyway and I wind up behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Vectra. It's a *very* nice car, but larger than I would like. I follow Marjorie back through Gravesend to drop off Colin, then back through Meopham to their little community. We have a nice quiet supper and then drive back up to Bec and Daniel's so that I can have a little time with him, not having seen him since he rescued me at the airport Tuesday night! Finally we're back at C&M's and I pack up my bags, anticipating my early-morning departure for Gatwick airport.

Saturday morning the sky is clear and blue and then quickly clouds up and we kick ourselves for not loading the car while it was clear, because NOW it's bucketing down (it really is amazing how quickly the weather changes in England - I know everybody jokes about it, but it REALLY is true!). I check the computer for flight arrivals and learn Ellie's flight is about 20 minutes early but Michael's is more than an hour late. We load my bags into the car during a relative lull in the downpour and Colin gives me directions to the motorway; I put my big British road atlas in the front seat along with my bottled water (!! - through the years I have learned that changes in water are the hardest thing for my system to tolerate and I do much better if I just stick to bottled spring water) and then we all hug and kiss goodbye and the first part of my journey ends as I drive away from my friends in Kent.

The AP Article

July 26, 2005

L.A.-London Flight Diverted to Boston


BOSTON (AP) - A flight from Los Angeles to London was diverted to Boston early Tuesday because three Pakistani passengers were acting suspiciously, but nothing amiss was found and the three were released after questioning, authorities said.

United Airlines Flight 934 landed in Boston shortly before 3 a.m., Logan Airport spokesman Phil Orlandella said. Three people he described as Pakistani citizens were taken into custody and questioned.

All three were later released and no charges were filed, said Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston.

"The flight crew made an observation of their behavior which caused the flight to be diverted to Boston," she said. "It's all being resolved. They will be on another flight this morning for Heathrow."

Flight 934 is expected to depart for London later in the morning.

Police searched the aircraft and found nothing suspicious, Orlandella said.

State trooper Veronica Dalton said the three passengers had been "acting suspiciously and making the passengers nervous."

"The crew made the determination that they were going to land the plane in Boston," she said.

The three passengers were not identified.

The English Trip (part one)

What a great, amazing trip! Four weeks exactly from departure on Monday, July 25th to return on August 22nd, although it started oddly enough.

First, the shuttle service I called is one I'll never use again (kind of a generic service) - first, the driver was late and couldn't find my house. He phoned from in front of my neighbor's house and I told him to drive down to the first driveway on the right hand side, which he never did. In the meantime I was schlepping my bags to the front of the house - then I walk outside my fence and see him down in front of the neighbor's house, looking wistfully over the fence - bozo, there is NO driveway there! I wave and yell and finally get him to drive down to my place - and there's an extra person in the car - turns out it's his *girlfriend* - NEVER tolerate a driver who is your private car who brings his *girlfriend* with him! Flakey. He needed help getting through downtown L.A. and getting to the airport; just not a good driver.

Once on the plane everything seemed fine: I had dinner and a little wine and set about trying to go to sleep, as my approach to international travel is shifting into the time zone of the target airport as soon as I board the plane. I slept for awhile and then woke up, not quite sure what awakened me, but I sat there with a particular praise song fixed in my head, so I sang it softly (nobody can hear soft singing in the ambient noise of a jet!) - and then the pilot came on and announced that we had a navigational equipment failure and it wouldn't be safe to cross the Atlantic in that condition and we'd be setting down in Boston, shouldn't take long to repair and be back in the skies.

A few minutes later he came back and added, "When we land in Boston, please remain seated with your seat-belt fastened." Okay. Perhaps five minutes later, another member of the flight crew came on and made the same announcement and I think, "wait a minute, something's going on here." But I dismiss it; I'm just being dramatic (moi? dramatic?!). Then the same "remain in your seat with your seatbelt fastened" announcement is made a third time. Then a fourth time. By now I am quite certain something other than a navigational equipment failure is up and, sure enough, when we land, the first people on the plane are carrying assault rifles - which I expected. What I didn't expect was for them to remove a man from my own row (he was seated by the window and I was on the far side middle aisle). Then another man came on and tore apart his seat and environs. We're all sitting there, watching... turns out there were two more men taken out of coach (I'd upgraded to business class). FBI and Transportation Security Administration and local law enforcement are all talking, interviewing flight crew in the doorway, planning to bring in dogs to search the toilets.

Somewhere in there United Airlines and the feds decide to put us up in hotels for the night - it's now 5 a.m. in Boston and it takes them about an hour to get hotel vouchers arranged. I decide to leave my bags on the carousel and just take my carry-on (it contains all I need for the moment), which will give me an extra hour in the morning. We'll fly out at 11 a.m., so I need to be back at the airport by 10 - I got 3 hours sleep in a bed (yay! horizontal!), took a quick shower, and then from the airport I call Colin and Marjorie, my friends in England - we'd planned for me to take the airport bus from Heathrow to Gatwick (!!) and Colin would pick me up at Gatwick; there are no really convenient ways to get from Heathrow to Southeast England (Kent, basically) without going into London and I'd decided to avoid the Underground - at the moment, they're not allowing bags and I'm coming in with two pieces of checked luggage and a carry-on bag and I've DONE that in the past, jockeying for space on the crowded tube, trying to get from Paddington to Charing Cross. There is a stationlink bus which circles the city, stopping at every train station and the Central Bus Terminal (I have a cool story about the first time I used that bus - maybe I'll tell it later, if you're interested) - it's cheap and convenient for bags but it's sloooow. Now, arriving so late at night, it's unworkable and our plans to connect via coach from Heathrow to Gatwick is the best option - so I promise to phone when I arrive at Heathrow so Colin can get in his car and drive the hour or so up to Gatwick.

It's a zoo re-boarding the plane because, as far as the computer is concerned, we've already embarked so it can't generate a new boarding list - they finally generated an alphabetical list and we boarded alphabetically (!!) and took off closer to noon than eleven a.m. Considering that we should have landed in London seven hours earlier, we are running seriously late, but there's nothing I can do about it so I try to sleep a little on this second leg of the flight.

--It made a very strong impression on me that the captain apologized for lying to us about why we were landing in Boston; he explained that he didn't want to alert the passengers in question that they were under suspicion. He made it clear that it was his call to divert the flight, based on the concerns of passengers and flight crew, and he apologized for the delay in our travel.--

We arrive at a very empty Heathrow about 11 p.m. and clear passport control and customs very quickly; I hoof my way to the Central Bus Terminal (it's all underground and it sits between Terminals 1, 2, and 3 - it's probably close to a mile of walking). I've been informed that the bus will run until 1 a.m. or so, but it's now running once an hour, so I'd rather catch it sooner than later - I find the quay where the coach will load in 15 minutes so I call Colin and he says, "Don't get on the bus! Daniel (his son-in-law) should be there to pick you up!" So I ask him to phone Daniel and let him know I'm walking back to Terminal 3 and to wait! I am thrilled - how nice to have someone you know greet you at the airport (even if they initially miss you) after such a goofy flight experience. Sure enough, I come back up the ramp into the terminal and there he is, drinking a coffee and pacing.

It's raining lightly and it's nice and cool - we pile into his car (yet another in his collection of spiff Jaguars; he runs his business well and enjoys his perks) and drive down to Colin & Marjorie's - Colin is wearing his bathrobe and Marjorie is already upstairs snoring (it IS 1 a.m. by now, so that makes sense) - he makes me a hot chocolate, heaves my bags upstairs, and says goodnight.

Next morning I go online and read the coverage of the flight (United 934 on July 25th) - turns out passengers and flight crew were nervous about the behavior of these 3 Pakistani gentlemen (because one was in business class and the others in coach, they kept going back and forth between cabins, following each other in the toilet, etc.) and the captain make the call to divert the plane. They were questioned and released, put onto an earlier flight to London (so they got there before we did!) - I can't blame people for being nervous and I think it's better to be "safe" than "sorry" - but I never felt at risk, personally. The AP story follows...

More later--

Dorothy Sayers as Lay Theologian

Dorothy L. Sayers as lay theologian
My friend Laura Simmons is *now* a professor of theology at George Fox University - but when I first met her she was still at student at Fuller Seminary. We played on the worship team at church together (Laura plays great rhythm guitar! can double time 'way better than me!) and within a few years we were 2 of a group of 5 who started a creative arts support prayer group called "The Ninos" (with the tilde over the second n, I forget the html code numbers for it! So it's "neen-yos" and means "children" in spanish) about 8-9 years ago. Over the years the Ninos have become increasingly "heavy" in college professors, especially from Azusa Pacific University, and now the regular e-mailing goes out to about 20 different people and we routinely see 8 or 9 at a meeting, where we share dinner (themed foods - for instance, "animal food," "zoo food," "blue food," "Eat at Joe's" etc. - there's always some weird link to what's going on, what the nearest holiday is, what folks are going through, etc. - very entertaining! I once made a bas relief dragon out of garlic mashed potatoes and sliced sausages; I also made lunar landers out of corn-on-the-cob for a "moon food" theme... good fun), catch up a little, but mostly we pray for each other. From the very beginning, it's been a powerful prayer group and lots of good things have come out of it (God shows up powerfully!) - 2 people have finished their doctoral theses (Laura being the first), 4 books have been published, 4 more have contracts, and Lord only knows how many more are "in the pipeline." The most recent book published is Dr. Laura's "Creed Without Chaos - Exploring Theology in the Writings of Dorothy L. Sayers" and it's fabulous. For those of you who only know Sayers as the author of the "Lord Peter Wimsey" detective novels, this book will pique your interest in Sayers' nonfiction (wide, varied nonfiction writings). So - go buy a copy! You can get it on Amazon for under fourteen bucks (such a deal!)... Buy Laura's book HERE! and then let's tawk...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Slow Drive Home

There's a stretch of freeway I'm quite fond of (I actually wrote a song set there, "Night Sky Fall") - the 134 between Glendale and Pasadena.

So tonight I'm coming back from dinner with friends - we're celebrating a young man at my church having finished his master's degree in screenwriting and we've had a terrific evening of Japanese food and great conversations. I leave Burbank about 11:45 p.m. and I ran into a completely unexpected traffic jam as I'm coming up on Eagle Rock - I was able to get a traffic update at 12:01 a.m. and realized I was going to be stuck for awhile... a small plane crash landed on the freeway a few miles ahead of me, flipped over on its back (2 occupants taken to the hospital but okay, no cars involved!) and along that particular stretch of road there are no exits for 3-4 miles. The news said they were taking the traffic off at Figueroa but, in fact they didn't and shortly before coming to that exit the traffic picked up and started to move - so I figured, ah, the news is behind the curve and the freeway has been opened up again. In fact, I think what happened is they stopped taking cars off at Figueroa and started taking it off at Linda Vista (another 1+ miles down the road) so the traffic opened up and then shut down again. Took me an hour and 10 minutes to go about 5 miles - eep! Glad I went potty before leaving Burbank! I squeaked off the freeway and drove up by the Rose Bowl and was VERY happy to walk into my house! whew!

Never did get to see the plane... sigh.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Like Rice Crispies In My Brain--!

A week ago I had the most strange mental cognition experience I think I've ever had, at least without the benefit of self-applied pharmaceuticals for entertainment purposes, so it's been DECADES, at least! A friend of mine has been planning, for well over a month, a driving trip from Southern California to Estes Park, Colorado, for her nephew's wedding, incorporating a week in Durango with a tutor very talented at assessments of children, having this woman spend some time observing my friend's three-year old very precocious 3 year old. I spent some time trying to work out driving with her and going to the wedding (having been invited) and finally, sadly, recognized it was simply going to be too much time and money. I didn't realize how seriously my friend wanted an adult companion until she asked me to consider driving out with her and the 3 year old and then flying back home (eep!) - so I prayed about it, considered it, checked out frequent flyer tickets and saw that I could do it without too much expense, giving myself a couple of days in southwest Colorado after the drive, before spending hours on airplanes coming back ("you deserve a break today" -- at least!).

We talked about leaving on Wednesday and she called me last Tuesday morning, caught me walking out the door, and I said, "I'll have to call you when I get back from San Diego for my Mom's birthday," and she said, "but I need to talk to you about the trip - we leave tomorrow morning!"

Snap! Crackle! Pop! "No, we leave a week from tomorrow!" "No, we leave tomorrow!" I was well and truly flummoxed - I recognized very quickly that we'd been talking days of the week and not *dates* but the sensation was so very extraordinary. In sorting it through, it turned out she was spending not only a week with this tutor in Durango but nearly a week in advance of the wedding in Estes Park (thus an additional week, one for which I had not accounted). Simultaneously, I was realizing that I'd spent the previous day getting ready for the Colorado trip, running various errands, and being pleased with myself that I was doing it so early (I confess to inveterate procrastination - I repent, but I have yet to reform - would that it were so easy). So I went to my appointment, trying to mentally juggle all the assorted balls and see if it was feasible to drop everything and just go. I ran home to make a few inquiries before running to church (a long-standing prayer commitment) and I called my priest only to learn that the two other available pray-ers had just called and cancelled, so I was free for the rest of the afternoon.

Everything fell into place so quickly and effortlessly (even to changing my award-travel flight home) I had to laugh because, of course, none of this is a surprise to God, but it sure was a surpise to me - and such a curious, bizarre sensation, mentally!

I am now home from my whirlwind tour of four states, but still intrigued by the mental experience...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

L'Escalier Spiral du Mort

I did, in fact, come back and share my amusing story of humiliation with the landlady (well, the owner of the hotel, where I've stayed for years - they indulge me, laugh at my bad French but encourage me nonetheless) and told her all about "L'escalier spiral du mort." Several years earlier, I met my good friend Wendy's future husband in the lobby of this hotel (I'd heard of Michael but never met him, and here we were, about to set off traveling through France together for 10 days!) and the owners had a lovely large German Shepherd (Alsatian) dog and Michael turns to me and asks, "Does your dog bite?" and we proceeded to do the entire Clouseau routine, much to Wendy's dismay and confusion (she was entirely unfamiliar with the Pink Panther movies) - so the lobby of this hotel has witnessed a lot of interesting behaviors (and questionable accents) - happy, the lobby cannot be subpoenaed...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Spiral Staircase of Death

being a good soul (generally speaking, at least), I've been pottering around the various other blogs and, due to the use of my name in Miranda's Maudlin Meanderings, I visited a site she mentions, McSweeney's Internet Tendency and *there* (is this becoming sufficiently obscure? I do so long to be sufficiently obscure...!) I found Kevin Dolgin Tells You About Places You Should Go In Europe and, as I like to go to Europe and have been to a few places worth going to, I figured I'd check out his list, where I found "The Door To Hell: Paris, France" and I knew immediately he was talking about the Rodin Museum which does, indeed, include Rodin's magnificent bronze doors which are titled "The Gates of Hell."

I was further delighted to see him follow the theme and write about the Catacombs of Paris (not just in Rome anymore!), where I spent a wonderful day wandering and pondering (which *almost* rhymes) with my pal Ellie as we recuperated from the week-long Tolkien Centenary Celebration at Keble College in Oxford back in 1992.

You slo-o-owly make your way down underground and might not realize how deep you've gone - until you finally realize you're hungry and tired and desperately need a pee, so you make your way to the exit, only to discover The Spiral Staircase of Death - a narrow (one person wide) ancient spiral staircase that rises probably 5 stories (maybe more, but, if so, I don't want to know about it!) back up to street level. Ellie makes like a young gazelle, being slim and fit, a resident of San Francisco who walks a good deal, but I begin huffin' and a'puffin' about the 3 round and finally I have to stop for a breather. I apologize in my childish French to the family behind me who now must stop and wait for me to recover enough to continue, and they respond that they were grateful for the rest and felt they couldn't stop as long as the fat lady in front of them could keep going... (!!!).

ah, life... at least I didn't sing for them.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Thomas Wolfe was right--

My dad died in January - he was exactly 80 years and 11 months old. My siblings and I have all rallied around our mom; married for nearly 59 years, it's a huge adjustment for her but she's really doing well - I'm VERY proud of her. But this has required the selling of the home they lived in since the early 1970s (side note: my three siblings all lived in that house with them, at some point, for some years - but not me; I never lived in this house with the rest of the family). Still, even though I haven't lived in it, it is nonetheless the home to which I've returned for Christmases and Thanksgivings and assorted birthdays and other holidays, the home in which loads of childhood memories reposed, having moved with them from Los Angeles to San Diego.

Back in 1973 when they sold the house in L.A., I wrote the following song - and it's been resonating in my head for weeks now...

Cannot Go Home Anymore *redux*
Feeling awkward and clumsy - and fallen from grace
the doors and the windows are closed in my face
I feel displacedall the locks have been changed
and we cannot go home anymore

The woman is awkward, the child is wise
so look at this placed through those innocent eyes
they don't see the lies that live in the woodwork
and we cannot go home anymore

I wish that I could do without it
sing and laugh and shout about it
wish I could see through the walls
and the curtain calls
that put on this show, but no--

The lighting is different, you can see that at a glance
and standing divided we are trying to dance
they sealed the past
revealed at last
that we cannot go home anymore
(copyright Moonbird Music Co., 1974 - all rights reserved)

The past is converging on me--

In the last week I got phone calls from my first ex-husband (hey, when you have MORE than one ex-husband, you have to find humor where you can) and my favorite lover (the one I didn't marry, the one *between* husbands). I really don't have any relationship with either one now... well, I suppose that's not entirely true - the old lover and I have kept in very loose contact over the years, but it's been 3-4 years since we talked. It's like, the bombers are circling... strange sensation.