Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Having reached our destination, we spent some time with Ben, looking at his work place at Hood Technology. Hood Tech focuses on vibration analysis for turbines, jet engines etc. and on building cameras, camera gimbals, launch and retrieval systems, for an unmanned air vehicle, the Scan Eagle.

Ben concentrates on the development and installation of spin sensors as part of the vibration analysis team serving clients in India, Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, etc. On his desk, he has a computer with a double screen monitor and a complex keyboard; what looks like a safe is a vacuum chamber; what looks like a top-loading washing machine is vacuum spin pit; what looks like a hand sized set of connected bright metal pieces is a spin sensor. So I have been told.

All things spin smoothly thanks to Hood Tech.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Ashland is a small town, nestled in a valley surrounded by mountain ridges, in southwest Oregon. You can hardly find it on the map unless you know where to look, but Ashland is a phenomenon all by itself. It is the site of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival begun in the pre-WW II years and expanded in the late 20th century until today the town has four theaters with over 100 actors in repertory, performing for 150,000 persons from February to November each year. And what do all these people see -- everything from Hamlet to The Seagull to Animal Crackers. What a treasure!

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Saturday, March 17, 2012


Giant redwood trees grow only in a narrow strip along the Pacific coast of California and Oregon. Their full size is hard to envision and is hard to capture by camera. State and national parks now protect many from destruction by man and preserve them for future generations.

A few FACTS about these remarkable trees:
Height: As much as 380 feet
Age: As old as 2000 years
Bark: 12 inches thick
Base: Up to 22 feet in diameter

A MYSTERY: how this giant conifer evolved and survived to the modern day from when it dominated the landscape in the age of the dinosaurs.

In her poem, Trees, which we learned in grade school, Joyce Kilmer may have been reflecting on an eastern deciduous tree, such as an oak or elm. However, her classic lines came to mind in this majestic redwood forest.

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Fort Ross (an Americanization of Rosiya, the Russia of Tsarist days) is situated north of San Francisco on a flat tableland projecting out on the Pacific coast. It marks the furthest south that Russians ever settled in America. Russia founded Fort Ross in 1812 as an agricultural base to supply food to their trading posts in Alaska. In 1836, 260 people lived on the grounds of the fort – including Russians, Aleuts, Indians, etc. The Spanish and later the Mexican settlers in California were too few and too weak to evict the Russians. However, the Russians were not successful in their effort to provision their Alaskan workers from California, so they abandoned Fort Ross. Instead, in 1839, they contracted with England's Hudson Bay Company to send the needed supplies from the fields of Washington and Oregon to their trading posts in Alaska.

In 1841, John Sutter, the American of 1848 Gold Rush fame, bought the abandoned fort along with its extensive lands and contents. He transferred to Sacramento anything of value that could be moved.

Then, after victory in the Mexican War, the U.S. won all of California. America solidified its dominance with settlers and more settlers who became attached to the land. The war only codified what had already taken place—gone were the Russians, gone were the Spanish and Mexicans, and finally, in 1848, gone also were the English from Oregon and Washington --- all falling to the commitment of individual Americans – shopkeepers, farmers, and ordinary citizens who settled the land and made it theirs.

Last photo shows junior high students from Berkeley who come annually for an overnight - reenacting the experience at the Russian fort.

SOLYNDRA – A FAILED INVESTMENT (your tax dollars and mine)

FOR OUR LIBERAL-LEANING READERS: Along the highway in Fremont, CA is the abandoned Solyndra campus. We thought Solyndra's bankruptcy to be a tragedy of lost opportunity towards achieving a green energy future. Perhaps failure was caused by mismanagement, miscalculation of real demand or too much price competition. In any event, the time for viable solar energy lies in the future. The valiant effort by our government to support a budding industry unfortunately failed.

FOR OUR CONSERVATIVE-LEANING READERS: Along the highway in Fremont, CA is the abandoned Solyndra campus. We thought this bankrupt enterprise could become a National Historic Site dedicated to lost hope and failed change. It would be run by Park Rangers with audio tour guides prepared by free market economists. The building is beautiful; the parking lot is empty with weeds already growing in the cracking pavement; and no one is present.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


What can one say about Elephant Seals along the California coast? Big and blubbery, fat and lazy on land, basking in the sun, but great swimmers in the sea.

Driving the several hundred miles along the cliffs of the harborless coast, one can imagine the relief felt by the early 17th century Spanish captain SebastiƔn Vizcaƭnothe when he sighted the haven of Monterey Bay. This explorer sailed up California's coastline as far north as Monterey, where he put ashore and gave glowing reports of the area as an anchorage and as land suitable for settlement. His detailed charts of the coastal waters were used for nearly 200 years.


William Randolph Hearst’s home at San Simeon is now called the Hearst Castle, which it certainly is. A collector of art, he loved the Gothic, Renaissance, and Rococo periods. Hearst bought whatever he liked without focusing on any special needs for a collection or worrying about provenance --- as long as it appealed to him, he purchased it. Over a 28 year period, he worked with Julia Morgan, an accomplished architect trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Artes, to build his American version of a castle. She designed living spaces in which to set his church ceilings, marble sculptures, massive paintings, tapestries, refectory table, book collection and more. All this was a backdrop for his large house parties and designed for living the good life on a lavish scale. Guests included notables of the early 20th century -- Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Gene Autry, et al. In the midst of Prohibition, he stocked a complete wine cellar. However, Hearst strictly controlled the amount of alcohol consumed by his guests.

Like Bill Gates of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Hearst was a Harvard dropout with great ambitions. Although his father George had made a fortune in mining (see our blog entry -- May 2011, the Gold Rush), the son added to that fortune by building a publishing, radio, and movie empire of his own and on his own. They called William Randolph “The Chief,” and perhaps he may be considered the first media mogul. Like many driven and successful persons, he was able to get along on four hours of sleep. Clearly, this gave Hearst more time to think, plan, work and party.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Santa Barbara is a charming town showing off its Spanish heritage.

*An old mission from the late 1700’s. Pictured below is the laundry trough where local Indians washed linens and clothes. The water was supplied by an aqueduct which ran several miles from a source in the nearby mountains.

*A spectacular county courthouse dedicated in 1929, built in mission style with elaborate patterned tiles and enormous murals depicting the Spanish landing in
Santa Barbara. For almost 160 years the courthouse site has been the home of local government and a place of civic pride and celebration.

*A surfeit of red tiled roofs all over town and visible from the courthouse bell tower.

In the midst of this Latin American architecture, we satisfied our longing for something not easily available in the Adirondacks -- Vietnamese food!


A treasure trove of Levine relatives have recently been uncovered by Jane’s brother, Michael, and a second cousin, Doris Levinson – from careful searches on ancestry.com and other genealogy sources. Arthur Levine (Jane’s dad) now has 485 on his geni.com tree, while before his known relatives were few, primarily from the family of his identical twin brother!

Mostly, the Levines are an incredibly successful, friendly and cheerful lot. They go from an ambassador to a TV producer, from a baseball journalist to a professional baseball manager, from physicians to real estate developers. Their ranks include teachers, social workers, lawyers, stay-at-home moms and others in a variety of creative fields and new enterprises of the 21st century.

The progenitors of this cousinly group -- Noah Levine (1839-1910) and Rachel/Gruna (Levy) Levine (1842-1910) emigrated with 5 sons and 4 daughters** from Belarus to America - the land of opportunity. Clearly, their descendants have sought to make the most of the American dream.

**Very sadly, their eldest daughter, Sima Levine Hochberg, remained in Europe and was slaughtered in 1942 by the Nazi forces.

In the family photo, L to R - Len Hochberg, Kathy Hochberg, Gail Scherr, Ken Krainman, Jane Lewit, Doris Levinson, Bob Lewit, Dave Levinson

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J. Paul Getty (1892-1976) founded the Getty Oil Company. Using his immense wealth, Getty avidly collected art and antiquities.

The modern Getty Center in Santa Monica houses most of Jean Paul Getty’s eclectic art collection from medieval manuscripts to impressionist paintings. Pictured is our friend, Nina Diamond, a writer for the museum. The Getty Villa, a replica of the Villa dei Papiri from Herculaneum, sits on a hilltop in Malibu, about 20 minutes north on the Pacific coast. This structure, which Getty designed but never saw, houses his collection of Greco-Roman art, sculpture and architecture. Both locations reflect the success of the donor in structuring his foundation to fulfill his intent after his death – a remarkable art collection which carries his name in perpetuity.

At the Getty Villa- Harp Player, marble, early Cycladic, c. 2700-2300 BCE
At the Getty Center - Irises, Vincent Van Gogh, Saint Remy, France, 1889

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Bob Eisenman, a brilliant high school friend reminded me how the creative mind can think outside the box

Though he left high school after junior year to enroll early in a 5 year program at Cornell in Engineering and Physics, Bob refocused his interests and is now a renowned scholar of the ancient Middle East. His work focuses on the early Christian period, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls and their tie to the gospels. To learn more, check The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians and/or James the Brother of Jesus, along with his other scholarly writings.

What is this dismal looking boat anchored at the Long Beach public marina? It’s Bob’s idea of the least costly real estate along the water -- a boat that stays in port and serves as his professional office.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012


Hosted in Del Mar by our life-long friends, Liz & Alan Rubin (seen here in Torrey Pines Preserve). Jane’s mother went to Smith College with Alan’s mother in the 1920’s. As close to family without being so. Their daughter, Emily Jennewein, is President of the largest reform synagogue in the San Diego area. At Friday night services, we heard Professor Kenneth Stein discuss the left, anti-Israel attitudes on campus, anti-Zionism as the new anti-Semitism, and how these issues play out at colleges and universities. Not a pretty picture.


Another driving trip to explore the wonders of America. This time, having shipped our car from Brant Lake to San Diego, we drove north along the Pacific Coast to Hood River OR.

The Titanic Exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum commemorates the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the luxury liner. So much to learn from the artifacts brought up from the deep (10,500’ below). Message: Beware of going full steam ahead into waters with uncharted, potentially lethal obstacles. Slow down, think, and then exercise caution for there may be unintended consequences. Great ships can sink.