Thursday, December 22, 2005
M and R celebrated an early Christmas receiving many gifts from their parents, who decided that it would be hard to transport presents back and forth to Redlands. R received a bow and arrow from Santa Claus. But there was even more weaponry to come: M & R also received some money from their Uncle Rexie. W, although he identifies most closely with the pacifist Quaker religion, reluctantly allowed it would be ok if M & R were allowed to buy airsoft guns with their money. Within an hour of bringing the guns home, R managed to shoot out a light on the deck, learning a valuable lesson in physics. W also found that it was quite fun to shoot arrows in the backyard.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Sunday, December 11, 2005
W celebrated his birthday by playing his bassoon in the Merawood orchestra. He did not wear a geocaching hat while playing, and in fact does not even know the coordinates of the concert hall, but he is aware that the closest cache to the concert hall is "The Savage Beast"
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Friday, November 25, 2005
Meanwhile life went on in Israel. There was a border skirmish with Lebanon thirty miles away and Ariel Sharon resigned from his Likud party in order to further his goals of disengaging from the Palestinians.
Due to his recently sprained ankle, W traveled to Israel while walking on crutches and using a wheelchair in the airport. This provided a new perspective on travel, and aside from slowing things down a bit, was not too trying. W was thrilled to discover that upon removal of his cast in his hotel room that he could walk with only a slight limp and would no longer require the crutches. The hospitality of the company that W visited could only be described as fit for a king. As soon as W and his colleague got off the airplane, even before passport control, they were met by a company representative, who whisked them through security to a waiting driver. The driver drove them two hours north to Haifa, a medium size city quite similar to La Jolla, California. One difference from La Jolla was that there are a few hotels on the top of the hill, one of which, the Dan Carmel, is where W stayed. The view from the hotel could only be described as spectacular; the Mediterranean could be seen on three sides, along with the not too distant mountains of Lebanon to the north. W was additionally impressed to note that he had been put up in the “Marc Chagall” suite; his room contained four Chagall prints signed by the artist.
The first evening W and his colleagues were invited to a dinner in the “German Colony” portion of Haifa to a very nice restaurant called 1867. With one exception, every restaurant that W went to during his stay in Israel had a security person sitting at the front. The next day W visited Biosense Webster Israel, which was the actual purpose of his trip. He called Dany Rasz, who is one the two sons of Aunt Leah, and found out that Dany Rasz owned a company only 300 meters from Biosense, and also that Dany had done some contract work for them. The evening featured a very sumptuous dinner at a restaurant called Neptune. A huge fish was served on a platter along with all manner of Middle Eastern salads and spreads, and other seafoods. None of the Biosense workers appeared to practice kosher eating practices, and indeed were thrilled to be eating shrimp and scallops.
View of Haifa, with W's travels overlaid
W’s weekend plan had been to rent a car and visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, but the Biosense representatives offered some tour possibilities and discouraged the idea of traveling by private car, so W and Paul took them up on this. Thus on the weekend W took a tour of Bible sites around the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights, followed the next day by a drive to the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. The Golan Heights was the most interesting to W, as he could see Syria and Jordan across mine fields and hear a lot about the history of the area from a veteran of the Six Days war. W began to space out on all the places that Jesus had been, feeling lucky that Jesus had only lived to age 33 or else he would have had to visit more places with the tour. Still there were interesting things to learn, how Jesus had traveled from Nazareth to Caphernaum so that he could preach where he wasn’t known simply as a carpenter, how there were so many Jewish laws that they could only be represented by the number of seeds in a pomegranate, and that the mall in nearby Haifa was nicknamed the “Scud mall” because that is where Saddam’s scud landed rather than on the oil refinery that it was aimed for in the Gulf war.
The drive to the Dead Sea was long but interesting as the crammed van (18 tourists) passed through some West Bank areas along the border between Jordan and Israel before arriving for a very brief visit to the northern end of the Dead Sea. W took a quick dip and found it saltier and cleaner than the Great Salt Lake of Utah. W revels in healthy Dead Sea mud
Then it was off to Jerusalem. W finally understood the big conflict there. Apparently Mohammed blasted off to heaven in almost the exact same place as Jesus, and the Romans destroyed the original huge Jewish temple that stood in almost the same place. The famous Wailing Wall was the only thing left where the temple had once been, and meanwhile the Muslims had gone ahead and built a mosque on top of it, since Mohammed had gone to heaven there. But this seemed to W to be the only thing that protected the Wailing Wall, since if somebody blew up the wailing wall, they would also blow up the mosque, and vice versa. W decided to slip a prayer in the wailing wall simply hoping that Muslims, Jews, and Christians could live together in peace. From there it was up the street to follow Via Delloroso, which is the road that Jesus carried his cross up. At the top was of course a church, apparently controlled by Greek orthodox Christians that contained the actual location of the crucifixion, and the burial place of Jesus (he was entombed and then resurrected three days later). At the coordinates of the crucifixion there was a shrine and a small hole that a person could put his hand into and feel the place where the cross had supposedly been pounded in. W wondered if he would receive any revelation as he inserted his hand, but came away with no grand spiritual awakening, but it was Saturday (Shabat), which is the holy day for Jews, rather than Sunday and perhaps this prevented any communication from getting through. No sooner had W walked away from the crucifixion than he was upon the site where Jesus had been encrypted. In contrast to other sites, this site had a long line required for visitation. After about 15 minute wait in a surging/pushing line, W finally was ushered in, but almost as quickly he had to be hustled out because somebody lit too many candles. A holy guy came rushing in to get the candles, and then there was a wait while more holy people went back to purify the area, and then W was allowed in. Finally, the tour was led to a german church, populated with actual Germans (in Israel?), this church was the place where Jesus had his last supper. This was simply a room, surprisingly bare of adornment, and with some Muslim writing and ancient (ca 500 AD) german graffiti in it.
Picture shows Efraim(?) (son of Dany), W, and Dany Rasz
W’s visit with Dany Rasz was extremely interesting. Dany met W at Biosense and they had lunch together at a nice seaside restaurant. W learned that Dany’s father Ernst had been an outstanding inventor and had come to Israel in 1934. There he invented some kind of device that could detect water underground using some kind of seismic analysis. The device was of enough interest that the King of Jordan invited Ernst to dinner in Jordan and they sat down together in a huge tent and ate food on the ground in the Arab manner with their hands. No slouch as an inventor himself, Dany took W to his company and showed him some of his own inventions which were extremely impressive and comprehensive, covering a wealth of technologies. W was most impressed by a video of a wheelchair that could go up and down stairs, using a very clever mechanism embedded inside the wheels.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Walter has left for Israel. Unfortunately, shortly before leaving for Israel he sprained his ankle badly. It happened not because he was leaping for joy, but rather because he was retreating rapidly from the possibility of a swarm of stinging yellowjackets. W and N had noticed the strong evidence of a yellowjacket nest in the backyard, but were unable to find it due to thick weeds. W made the unwise decision to tell Renny about it. R, despite repeated commands from his father to cease and desist, could not resist, and raised a stick and beat the bushes where the yellowjackets were. At the same moment, the famous dog Bingo was being held by W so that he wouldn't unleash nerve-shattering barks at the 7 year old neighbor kid who was innocently asking "what'cha doing". W attempted to retreat rapidly with the dog in hand and as he came down some steps managed to severely sprain his ankle. Badly enough that he thought it might be broken and so it was off to the emergency room. There W received x-rays and a temporary cast and some crutches. W is looking on the bright side. He did not get stung.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Bingo dressed up as the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Renny went as a mugger, carrying a tire iron, which proved surprisingly effective in drumming up about 10 pounds of candy.
The next evening began a storied Blume tradition. Torch the pumpkins! Here we see R torching his hand as well, but he survived the incident without incident.
Friday, October 28, 2005
After three years of working with the Johnson & Johnson owned company Biosense, W, who does not go by the nickname "Dubya", will finally visit the company headquarters in Israel as part of an ongoing software integration project with Stereotaxis. The company is located on the outskirts of Haifa. In related news, the president of Iran noted yesterday that Israel should be wiped off the map.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Marcel, a slight latecomer to the Webster Groves High School cross country team, surprised himself and other observers as he turned in a 15th place performance in his first cross country meet, the Webster Groves Invitational . Exhausted from his blistering 20 minute 50 second performance (a 6:42 min/mile pace, moving at over 13 feet/second, or approximately 0.0118 the speed of sound), M felt after finishing as if he was going to pass out, but maintained conciousness to enjoy his medal and a drink of water.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Friday, September 30, 2005
Monday, September 19, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
Monday, September 12, 2005
Sunday, September 11, 2005
William snaps moloch horridus!
Yes, the picture of this dangerous ant-eating lizard was taken in the wild. It was quite difficult to get the shot because William had to lie in the hot sand which had a surface temperature of approximately 75 degrees C. and it was right next to a nest of deadly Taipan snakes. On top of that, the lizard himself does not like to be photographed and has been known to sting photographers who get too close; a sting which causes a pain unimaginable to most inhabitants of North America. Only bustards and goanna are known to brave this sting.
More about this lizard
Monday, August 29, 2005
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Saturday, August 20, 2005
WNMR played nine holes of golf today. N scored an impressive birdie on the 9th hole with a tee shot that landed about 6 feet from the hole. W hit one very high shot in which the ball embedded itself in the green, and generally played well, scoring five pars. M and R earned $1.25 each, as W, in the tradition of his father would pay his kids a quarter for each par. M also scored his own par, earning an extra quarter.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Mr. and Mrs. Stokes (click to enlarge)
Completing a whirlwind romance of a little over a year, cousin Ben wedded Sandra Desmond today at the Chenery House, in San Francisco. Right about the time W saw the elephant sculpture in the garden of this house, he knew that it was his kind of wedding. As if to confirm this good feeling, shortly thereafter an artificial tree spontaneously began to spew large columns of propane-fueled flame from its branches while simultaneously spraying water down into an artificial green pond from other branches. W instantly regretted that he hadn't thought of such a contraption for his own wedding. Not all the columns of propane had ignited. As the smell of unburnt propane began to permeate the immediate area, wedding guests inched somewhat nervously away from the tree, though not too far, because drinks were being served nearby. The threat of a huge explosion became imminent, and the tree was finally turned off without too much fuss.
In the background, music from the Wizard of Oz would occasionally issue forth from a statue, but not so often that it ruined the nice music being played by a jazz trio. With the atmosphere thus set, Ben appeared at the top of some steps, waiting nervously for his bride. As Sandra's nieces provided vocals, members of the wedding party came up the walkway, followed at last by Sandra with her parents. So far, things looked pretty conventional. Ben was wearing an elegant white tuxedo, and Sandra looked stunning in her wedding dress.
A vast cloud of smoke issued forth from a fog machine, making it look a little bit as if a bridesmaid had recently exploded. This seemed to break the ice, and at this point a large animated head appeared on a video screen behind the couple. Looking vaguely like a cross between the Wizard of Oz and Beavis or Butthead, it quickly became apparent that the Head was the minister. The Head was an excellent emcee and he led the couple through their short, sweet, and humorous nuptial ceremony. A special "built for two" wine glass was produced, and the newlyweds smashed it with a hammer after drinking the wine. The couple were pronounced man and wife, and they walked down the steps to much cheer.
The party proceeded inside the house, which had just as many interesting oddities as the outside. There was a life size painted reproduction of Rembrandt's "The Night Watch", which somebody noted was a copy that was made to fool the Nazis in WWII so that they didn't steal the real painting. Another portrait featured Prince Philip, but without a shirt, with a tree growing out of his finger and a fly on his shoulder. There was a little news article next to the painting, explaining that the portrait had been comissioned by Prince Philip. When Prince Philip was asked by the artist if he had captured the prince's likeness, the prince glowered at the painting and snapped: "I bloody well hope not!". Thus the painting became available on the market, allowing the owner of the Chenery house to buy it for a mere $47,000.
The same jazz trio continued playing numbers inside the house, but occasionally an ethereal sound would join the music. W thought it sounded like a theremin, so he went to explore and found that another man had joined the trio, making it a quartet, and he was expertly playing a saw with a violin bow. Vibrato was achieved by shaking his leg to adjust the tension, and pitch was controlled by further flexing of the saw with his free hand. The saw actually blended quite well with the music, and it was evident that the man was a quite skilled "sawist". W noticed later in one display case a saw with art on it. The artwork showed a man playing the saw and was signed by Leonard Bernstein. This clued W in the the "sawist" was actually the owner of the home, Bob Pritikin. He had built the house in the 80's buying up some property that aws in the center of a bunch of homes, and creating his own little center of opulence. A former ad agency director, he had delved into many interesting things, of which there was ample history of in the house.
M and R entertained(?) the guests with various practical jokes, including their all time favorite, fake dog poop. After Ben and Sandra cut the cake, the bouquet was thrown with a surprising result!
Tonia catches bouquet!
Ben declared that it was the best day of his life, which sums up this wedding pretty well.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
W took the plunge and got his shortest haircut in over 42 years, exchanging the "comb-over" look for a buzz cut, completing his transform to Mr. Midwestern. Actually, mid-westerners to do not sport full beards, if one can generalize about such things.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Aerial view of Garrapata hike
Topo view of same hike (click on photo for larger view). Density of contour lines is intense!
Monday, June 20, 2005
Renny relaxes on a rock overlooking a two to three thousand foot vertical drop. W, who does not suffer terribly from fear of heights, was nonetheless only able to look for very short moments at his son on this rock.
Waking up at 4:00 a.m., the family walked from Curry Village to the Happy Isles trailhead at 5:00 a.m. It was still relatively dark as WNMR began the ascent. In the hopes of motivating R and M to get up, W had bought doughnuts for breakfast. M wolfed down three doughnuts, which made him feel quite ill. The day hike to Half Dome is much hyped as a fantastic but strenuous hike featuring a 4000 foot elevation gain. The beginning of the hike features a steep three and a half mile climb to the top of two consecutive waterfalls, Vernal Falls, followed by Nevada Falls. As M struggled to climb towards Vernal Falls, it looked as if the hike might have to be abandoned. He complained of a headache and some nausea. However, he was still climbing faster than N and W. Near the top of Nevada Falls, M finally lost his breakfast. This helped him to feel much better, and he gradually recovered his strength. M and R passed one group of hikers, who described them as "bounding" up the rocks. Meanwhile, W and N trudged slowly but surely upwards. The first part of the hike lived up to its reputation. The waterfalls were tremendously powerful, disgorging a massive snowpack, and soaking WNMR thoroughly with mist. It was still relatively cool due to the early hour.
At the top of Nevada Falls the trail becomes flatter. R found a lizard, which was content to sit on his hat as he carried it ever higher for several miles. When the family turned a corner and Half Dome came into view, R and M were incredulous. They thought that W was surely joking to suggest they were actually going to climb it. But climb it they did. The trail became very steep, with only steps cut into the granite. In the end, there are cables to get to the very top. It was at this point that the lizard was jettisoned. WNMR donned gloves to hold onto the cables (one is not tied to the cables). First N and R went up, followed a few minutes later by M and W.
The cables prevent climbers from falling an extremely long distance. WNMR tried not to look down too much as they climbed it. Finally they were at the top at about 11:30 in the morning.
The family spent an hour napping and lunching on the top. N & R sat unwittingly on a large rock formation called the "Diving Board" because it overhangs a sheer drop off. The wind was extremely strong, gusting to perhaps 40 or 50 mph at times. But nobody blew off.
The descent was long. W felt his feet begin to ache, but after a rest soaking his feet in Nevada Falls, he felt recharged and headed down the Muir trail towards the valley below. NMR returned via the Mist trail. They all met with Grandma Harriet and Grandpa Mark, who had remained down below, for some pizza and beer to celebrate the hike.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Actually, his special "flea hopper" travel bug has landed in Vienna, but Bingo's picture is now world (if you consider Europe "the world") famous, having traveled to Italy, Germany, and Austria in the past year.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Friday, May 27, 2005
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
The car immediately in front of her did hit a fan. N pulled over along with an off duty cop and watched and tried to help as the rest of the traffic tried to weave around all the fans. Fortunately nobody was hurt. Unflustered, N recovered to pick up an undamaged fan for the family, where it is now cooling off the Blume household.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
W, in true nerdy fashion, decided to track the movements of the Blume family as they visited Castlewood state park (click on photo to enlarge). The river is the Meramec. Two snakes were sighted at the park along with the "Raiders of the Lost Arc" geocache.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Monday, May 09, 2005
After some phone calls, it appears that the rent check is being sent by FedEx, and there is some possibility of having leverage over final walkthrough in June.