Monday, January 31, 2011

Things Ain't What They Used To Be

I just started reading a book, and in the foreword the author says "Like all journalists, I'm a voyeur. I write about what I find fascinating."

So it is with me, although I have yet to write in this blog about that great experience we call technology. We had no clue 50 years ago what we'd be launching into today. This morning I finished a Scott Turow novel, Ordinary Heroes, that I had downloaded to my Kindle. When that was done I noticed my Blu-Ray player sitting there, fully aware that since I bought it about 6 months before they began to build in a wireless internet option, that I should upgrade that software, so I went on-line, downloaded the upgrade, and while it was working I headed off to the library to pick up the book I ordered on-line a week ago.

Our school library (wasn't Celia Ramsey the librarian?) was located on the stage of the study hall where Billy Roberts showed me how to blow bb's with abandon. It had electricity, I'm sure, and that's as close as it got to today's technology. We checked out books that we most likely found by browsing the hard copies, or occasionally thumbed through the index cards of the Dewey Decimal System.

Honestly, we shouldn't be putting down that Dewey Decimal System since to a large degree it's the forerunner of all the sort options utilized in the modern computer. But we've come a long way, baby.

In grad school in 1975 I had this feeling that I should learn more about computers, so I took a basic computer class, one centered on programming, if you remember what that is. One of the requirements was to build a program that works. With program cards. If you remember what they are. The net outcome of my program was to sort a dozen or so cards into a matrix that would reflect the data on the cards. And I could not believe that it actually worked when I ran it. I did NOT try it twice because I had indeed met the requirements and there was nothing left for me to do but look humble when I got an A.

I tend to be curious and persistent, thus leading to the strategy that "by golly I'm going to figure out how this works", as Marilyn Ulve and I have discussed. That's the demon that drove the creation of this blog, and having a compelling mix of left- and right-brain attributes I figured it out, hopefully with some artistic view that people will enjoy seeing and reading. And I guess it takes a certain discipline. I am bothered, for example, that the Turow novel mentioned above is in italics, not underscored as it should be, knowing that Wilma Helgeland would give me that sideways look that I did wrong. Hopefully she will forgive me when I insist that the blog post does not have an underscore option.

As to my curious side, the book I mention that started all this? It was a suggestion of my brother Kevin, who does research at the University of Iowa. The title is Stiff, the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. I suppose you have to be curious to read a book like this one. It's probably not available in the Northwood public library but you can get it through cooperatives such as the Western Wisconsin Indianhead Federated Library System. Email me at if you want to know how I liked it. With this one I'll be flipping the pages, but will check my online library account from time to time to be sure it doesn't go past due. Past due: the practice that will never go away. Maybe things ARE what they used to be.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Richard Holstad, Ma and Pa Kettle, and Spike Jones the Wolfman

This came in a recent email from Richard Holstad, who was reminiscing about his youth and a breakfast conversation with Evy and Harvey Patterson.

"(Evy) didn’t think I am old enough to remember Ma and Pa Kettle movies. I COULD take that as a compliment about my young and tender age group and let it go …… BUT I DO REMEMBER MA and PA KETTLE, don’t you guys? Didn’t Pa Kettle have an American Indian that he ordered around to do his farm work while he read the paper and slept in his hammock?

Evy, Harvey and I were having breakfast when they were here last month at the Egg and I restaurant ….. I could not recall where the name the Egg and I came from but it had a “ring to it” … that is about all I could say. Evy said she thought the name came from a Ma and Pa Kettle movie ….. But then I probably don’t know who Ma and Pa Kettle are.

Evy --- I even know who Spike Jones is ….. I have a Spike Jones record album with Mike Lien’s name on it ….. I was about to get it returned to Mike when his health really went on the decline; he said just keep the album a little while longer for me …. sad, sad, sad.

This memory is for Harvey to recall…. Harvey, do you recall when I had that big old load speaker propped in the water cistern in my folks back yard at 102 4th street? It was in the cistern in order to get the neat echo chamber effect.

The neighbor kids were sleeping outdoors in their tent during the summer time ……. It was too hot to sleep indoors …… about 12:30 at night things were pretty quiet all around. I cranked up the attached mp3 audio file thru that speaker in the cistern …. just to see what would happen …..

Ahhh that sounded soooo cool ….. way better than I expected. Of course the kids in our neighborhood (and the surrounding neighborhoods) all “high tailed it” in doors scared and bawling. Not too long there after the infamous “inspector Mel Horgan” came around patrolling the neighborhood looking for who knows what …… I don’t think the mystery was ever fully solved by the NWD law enforcement department. Anyway …. the attached clip is the real honest to goodness sound taken from Mike Lien’s Spike Jones Spooctacular album…. Listen close, you can even hear the real scratches that every record album had back then.

The Wolfman Howls at Richard's (You will need to click the link to go out to a Google page, then click "Download" or "Open" in order to play this.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Coach Mounts

Larry Holstad sent a note last week informing us he had met recently with Coach Mounts. Here is what he reports:

Just a quick note to inform you that I was at the NCA meetings last week in San Antonio and gave Coach Mounts ( he has a 12 acre ranch where he raises dogs) a call and had dinner with him and his youngest son. He is now 78, retired (even though he doesn't want to be) and we talked about the good old days at NKHS. It was very interesting and the next time we get together will be an interesting conversation.

Bobby Holtan

My recollection is that Bob was in the class of '59. I recall him as a very good athlete playing football and basketball, relatively quiet, and a good fellow. Here's what we received recently from Janis Hendrickson:

A service will be held for Bob Holtan at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Houston on Wednesday, January 19 at 1 PM. Bob was a pharmacist in Houston until severe arthritis in his hip and heart issues caused his early retirement. He was diagnosed with two kinds of liver cancer about a week ago and passed away quickly.

Bob was married to Judy Nelson (class of '59? - older sister of Jim Nelson class of '63). She was on the first heart transplant team with DeBakey and Cooley as head OR nurse.

I recall seeing the two of them dating while in high school, with the perception that they were the "perfect couple." Clearly Judy found great success in her life and I am confident that Bob did as well. Coach LaVerne Rohlfson always referred to him as Bobby so in my head that's the name associated with him.