John Marshall – Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith.

Last summer I decided to start a project to read at least one biography about each of our presidents. If you would like to read about the books I have read so far just click on the Presidential Reading Project category in the right hand column.  I enjoy learning about history through the lives of the people who lived it. I've enjoyed reading about the first fifty years of the United States so much that even though Marshall was not a president I decided to read John Marshall – Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith. Marshall was chief justice of the U.S. supreme court from 1801 until he died in 1835.

In many ways Marshall created the supreme court. As much as any of our early  presidents he played a key role in defining the meaning of the constitution. In this biography Smith describes Marshall as a gregarious and affable man liked by almost everyone who knew him.

In addition to his 35 years on the Supreme Court Marshall also fought in the revolutionary war and was with Washington during the awful winter at Valley Forge. In the 1790's he represented the U.S.  as a diplomatic envoy to Paris. This was not long after the French revolution  and U.S. relations with France were not good.  In what became known as the XYZ affair the French Foreign Minister, Talleyrand tried  to extract a bribe from the American delegation. Marshall, Pinckney and Gerry refused.

Reading and learning about Marshall has been fun. Smith's book is very readable. The intricacies of  constitutional law as addressed by the supreme court could be a boring subject but Smith's descriptions of Marshall, and the supreme court cases he was involved in are fascinating. I highly recommend this book.

Snowshoeing at Tahoe Meadows

Duke and I and our friend Bonnie went snowshoeing at Tahoe Meadows yesterday. We were only out for about an hour and a half because we had stuff to do in the afternoon. But it was wonderful. The snow and the trees and the mountains were so beautiful. If you would like to see my pictures you can see them here.

I love that we can be go out snowshoeing and be home by noon!


My Sister’s Christmas Gift to our Family

When I was eleven years old I moved with my family from Bismarck, North Dakota, USA  to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. My Dad worked for Standard Oil and was working on a project to build an oil refinery in Brisbane. It was an adventure. Before we left I had lived in North Dakota and Minnesota my whole life. I had never seen the ocean, a lizard or a cockroach all of which were commonplace in Brisbane. It is a testament to my Mom and Dad that they were willing to take on such an enormous change with four young kids. I was the oldest and my brother who was three at the time was the youngest.

I had lived a few miles from my grandparents for as long as I could remember. We wrote a lot of letters. The phone was expensive and we rarely talked to my Grandparents or anyone in the states. Grandma and Poppy kept all our letters and  Dad took a lot of pictures chronicling what we were experiencing.

Recently my sister Barbara decide to sort through the letters and pictures and put together a book about our families experiences in 1964. Using Blurb she put together some of the old pictures and excerpts from some of the letters. She created an amazing book. It was a lot of work, she typed all the text, sorted through all the old pictures and added comments and memories. The resulting book is of interest only to our family but for us it is an amazing reminder of that pivotal year in our lives.

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Reno Newcomers Club – Let’s Learn About Nevada meeting

Duke and I have joined the Reno Newcomers Club. It is a very active group of over 1000 people with lots of activities. A couple of weeks ago we went to the welcome coffee, got the newsletter, paid our dues and joined. We went to our first event last night. The Let's Learn About Nevada Meeting was held at the Coney Island Bar one of the oldest establishments in Sparks. Named Coney Island because there used to be an amusement park across the street. It was originally a tamale factory.

The speaker for the meeting was Guy Rocha, the soon to retire Nevada State Archivist. He talked about the importance of getting historical facts right. A few of the facts he talked about include:

  • The dome on the Nevada state capitol is not now and never has been made of silver.
  • When Reno was the divorce capital of the country the 'tradition' of going form the courthouse to the Virginia Street bridge was created by a marketing brochure and the movies.
  • The name Nevada is from the Spanish word nevada for snowfall. Sierra Nevada in Spanish means snowy sawtooth mountains.
  • The iceberg should not have sunk the Titanic.  The Titanic broke up and sank so quickly because it was built with defective rivets. 
  • Nevada senator  Key Pittman who served in the US senate from 1913 from 1940 was not kept on ice so that he could be elected after he died. He had heart attack before the election and died a few days later.
  • Our speaker Guy Rocha would be interested in the position of Archivist of the United States.

Guy Rocha said "Ultimately I believe the truth matters."

Broken Brezaire Wine closet cooler

Our new house has a wonderful wine closet where the front hall closet used to be. When we first walked into the house it was a real Wow feature.


Unfortunately the cooler in the closet doesn't work. The cooling unit is a Brezaire WK1060. It is a 14 x 16 x 18 inch box installed in the top of the closet. Duke has taken the unit out of the closet to trouble shoot the problem. You can see the hole where the unit used to be in the top of the picture above. Right now the unit is in the back seat of our truck.


The compressor and fan in the cooler seem to run just fine but the unit doesn't cool. Duke talked to Breezeaire, the manufacturer and they said we could send it back to them in San Diego but since it probably just needs to be recharged with coolant it would be cheaper to find someone here in Reno to repair it. The problem is that we are having a heck of a time finding someone who will work on it. We have called or stopped by at least 10 different places. We'd just buy a new cooler but they cost about $700!! As I started writing this one place did call back and say they would have a look at it. So maybe we are in luck. I'll keep you posted. If anyone out there has any experience with something like this please let me know.