9800 Savage Road by M.E. Harrigan

In the fall of 1973 I was a senior at Iowa State University
finishing up my degree in Computer Science. Several times a week I went to the
placement office and signed up for interviews with companies who were coming on
campus to interview. After the on campus interviews I was sometimes called for
follow up interviews at the company’s headquarters. It was a heady experience flying
all over the U.S. imagining myself living and working in the city I was interviewing in.   Probably the most unusual
interview I had was a two day interview in Baltimore with the National Security
NSA does super secret work figuring out foreign signals intelligence.

The interviewers couldn’t tell me what I would be working on
and part of the interview process was taking 
a lie detector test. Unfortunately they had to get me a security
clearance before they could offer me a job and they told me it would be several
months before I could get a job offer. I had been working at Boeing in Seattle
for three or four months when I finally got their job offer. I’ve always kind of
wished I had gone to work for them.

This is my draft security clearance application. I occasionally pull it out if I wan to remember one of the many addresses I had as a child.


I just finished reading 9800 Savage Road by M.E. Harrigan.  
Harrigan worked for NSA for thirty seven years. 9800 Savage Road is her first novel and it was
great. It was a story of  espionage and murder inside the NSA complex and in Afghanistan. It was full of suspense and very believable. I could easily imagine myself in the middle of what was going on. I don't think anyone has ever written a story set inside the NSA which makes the book even more interesting.

I would highly recommend it.


Should my Genealogy Postings be a Separate Blog?

I'm torn! I'm trying to decide whether to start a new genealogy blog or whether to start publishing genealogy content along with everything else here on this blog. On one hand it makes sense to start a new blog because family history and genealogy are very interesting to me but to most people they are pretty boring. On the other hand readers can skip the genealogy content if they are not interested and there is something to be said for keeping all my content in one place. It is also possible to select a tag like Hiking or Reno or Genealogy from the list at the right and get the content you want.

As I say in my tag line I am a renaissance woman or what Barbara Sher calls a scanner. I have a wide variety of interests and enjoy moving from one interest to another. My blog has always reflected that diversity of interests.  It means that I can't market my blog as being about one topic but it also means the blog reflects me.

Here is a list of some of the Genealogy content I want to post.

  1. The more detailed story for each of my Grandparents.
  • Marion Etta Bagnall Gibson – Born in Prince Edward Island, married in Vancouver British Columbia, Lived in Jasper, Alberta, emigrated to the U.S. after the death of my Grandfather. She started and ran a sanitarium in Spokane, Washington.
  • Robert Alexander Gibson – Born in Kilmaurs, Ontario, Canada, died in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Worked as an Engineer on the Canadian National Railroad.
  • Mary Ruth Erb Robinson – Born in Boone, Iowa. Homesteaded with her family in Dunn County, North Dakota. Married, lived for more than 50 years, and died in Bismarck, North Dakota.
  • Ray Robinson Born on a farm near Viroqua Wisconsin. Homesteaded with his family in Dunn County, North Dakota. Served in the Army during World War I. Worked for the North Dakota Highway department for 45 years eventually as Chief Maintenance Engineer.

    2. Stories of some of my research and the brick walls I am running up against

    3. Stories of some of my exciting moments of discovery

    4. Descriptions of some of the tools I use. Like this post.

    5. Stories of other ancestors

    6. Questions that I would like answered.

One of the advantages of blogging about this kind of stuff is that when people Google search a name they are researching they will be led to my blog and I may find 'lost' relatives.

Blogging about a question like whether to start a separate genealogy blog turns out to be a good way to work out what I want to do. After composing this post I am leaning towards leaving all my content in one place.

I'd be interested in input about this question from anyone reading this. Thanks!


Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer

A few months ago I listened to a talk by David Hackett Fischer about his book Champlain's Dream. In the question period I asked him for advice about how to become a better amateur historian. I blogged about his answer here. Fischer quoted Francis Parkman who said that in studying history one should  “First, go there! Do it! Then write it!”

I just finished reading Fischer's book Champlain's Dream about the French explorer and the founder of new France Samuel Champlain. Fischer spends his summers in part of the area that Champlain explored. This sparked his interest in Champlain and the writing of this Champlain biography.


To quote Professor Fischer "Champlain’s greatest achievement was not his career as an explorer, or his success as a founder of colonies. His largest contribution was the success of his principled leadership in the cause of humanity. That is what made him a world figure in modern history. It is his legacy to us all."

I found Champlain's interactions and relationships with the Indians fascinating. Today one tends to assume that all Europeans conquered the Indians and were constantly taking advantage or them or fighting them. Just the opposite is the case with Champlain.

"Many stories have been told about first encounters between American Indians and Europeans. Few of them are about harmony and peace. The more one reads of these accounts, the more one learns that something extraordinary happened in New France during the early seventeenth century "

"Samuel de Champlain was able to maintain close relations with many Indian nations while he founded permanent European colonies in the new world. He lived among the Indians and spent much of his time with them, while he also helped to establish three francophone populations and cultures—Québécois, Acadien, and Métis."

"More young lads were exchanged by the French and the Algonquin, so as to learn each other’s customs."

One downside of reading a book like Champlain's Dream on the Kindle is that the pictures are very small. I just discovered that by downloading Kindle for PC I can see the pictures in a larger size.


Champlain's Dream is the third Biography of a French person that I have read in the past year or so. Coincidentally they have given me a overview of French history from the early 1500's to the mid 1800's.

Catherine de Medici – Renaissance Queen of France lived from 1519 to 1589.

When she died Henry IV was King of France. Fischer makes a strong case for the hypothesis that Champlain was an illegitimate son of Henry. Champlain lived from about 1580 to 1635

The third French biography I read this year was Dancing to the Precipice by Caroline Moorehead. It is the biography of Lucie de la Tour du Pin who lived from 1770 to 1853.

Reading biography is a fascinating way to learn about history.

Champlain's Dream struck me as a primer for future Champlain scholars. 55% of Fischer's book is his detailed biography of Champlain. Champlain's Dream also includes an essay titled Memories of Champlain Images and Interpretations 1608-2008. I found it thought provoking to see how historians' interpretation of Champlain has changed in the last 400 years.

In addition Champlain's Dream includes several essays that discuss everything from Champlain's money to Champlain's Favored Firearm: The Arquebuse a Rouet. The notes and bibliography are of course extensive. They complete the book.

Professor Fischer practiced what he preaches in writing Champlain's Dream. He makes me want to explore the places Champlain explored.To Parkman's original words “First, go there! Do it! Then write it!” David Hackett Fischer has with this book  added – and Inspire others to do the same!.

Sign of the Book by John Dunning

It has been a while since I read a good murder mystery / thriller. John Dunning writes a series that I really enjoy. It is about a former Denver policeman and antiquarian book dealer, Cliff Janeway. Part of why I like the Cliff Janeway series so much is the book connection. I love books. I just finished reading The Sign of the Book. It was fun to just curl up on the couch and lose myself in the book. It is a good mystery, very exciting and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Pat Black – We Talk About Tissue and Organ Donation, Family and Friendship – Episode 10 The Marion Vermazen Podcast

Pat Black -  We Talk About Tissue and Organ Donation, Family and Friendship – Episode 10 The Marion Vermazen Podcast

To listen to the show you can click below.


When My friend Pat Black and I recently sat down to talk we discussed a wide ranging group of topics including her family's over 150 year history in California, her parents meeting in England during World War II, her work helping to promote organ and tissue donation and our more than 30 year friendship.

If you would like to know more about organ and tissue donation Pat recommended that you check out the Donate Life web site.



Snowshoeing at Donner Pass

Wednesday night a few inches of new snow fell at Donner Pass. Thursday morning Linda, Ray, Duke and I went snowshoeing there. We parked at the snow park on the frontage road south of Interstate 80. From there we headed generally southeast to Azalea Lake. 


The trees were all covered with fresh snow and as we hiked every so often we would hear a womp as a pile of snow fell off a tree. Some times a little bit of snow would fall  and roll down a hill. I Iiked the cinnamon roll effect you can see in this picture.


Azalea Lake was covered with ice and snow. It is through the trees in this picture.  Really!


Here is the GPS detail of the trip. If you would like to see all my pictures they are available on Flickr here.

GPS detail

One Man’s Wilderness – An Alaskan Odyssey

I haven't been doing much reading lately but today I finished One Man's Wilderness- An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith from the Journals and Photographs of Richard Proenneke


In 1968 Richard Proenneke built himself a cabin on lake in Alaska 40 air miles from the nearest people. One Man's Wilderness is the story of the building of the cabin and his first 16 months living there.  The book was originally published in 1973. I read the 1999 edition. It is a wonderful book which makes me almost want to move to Alaska and live in the wilderness. The wonderful color pictures are worth enjoying even if you  don't read the text of the book.But the story is wonderful and engaging too. It is a great book.

According to Wikipedia, Proenneke lived in the cabin pretty much full time most of the next 30 years, coming to the lower 48 states only occasionally to visit family. I didn't read the introduction very carefully so as I was reading I assumed that he was in his 30s. Actually he was 52 when he built the cabin and lived there until he was 82. He died in 2003 at he age of 86. What an inspiration!

Here is a great quote from the book. Words to live by.

"I have often thought about what I would do out here if I were stricken with a serious illness. if I broke a leg, cut myself badly, or had an attack of appendicitis. Almost as quickly as the thought came, I dismissed it. Why worry about something that isn't? Worrying about something that might happen is not a healthy pastime. A man's a fool to live his life under a shadow like that. Maybe that's how an ulcer begins."

Two Great Snow Shoe Hikes not Far From Reno

Tahoe Meadows to Chickadee Ridge

One of the wonderful things about living in Reno is that there are great opportunities nearby to hike in the summer and go snow shoeing in the winter. Last Thursday I went for my first snowshoeing outing of the winter. My friend Linda had only been on snow shoes once before and agreed to go along on what I told her would be an easy hike. We snowshoed from Tahoe Meadows to Chickadee Ridge. It was an absolutely beautiful day. The sun reflecting off the snow reminded us of the glitter our friend Pat sometimes uses.


The only thing was that the hike turned out to be a much more difficult than I remembered. It didn't help that we started just below the top of the Mount Rose Highway at about 8,550 feet altitude or that by the time we got to Chickadee Ridge where we could see Lake Tahoe we were at almost 9000 feet. We still had a wonderful time and Linda was a great sport even when I am sure she wasn't quite sure what I had gotten her into.

We stopped for hot chocolate and snacks on the ridge overlooking Lake Tahoe


Here is the view from the ridge.

Here is the GPS plot of our route. I guess it was a bit steep!

GPS - rpoute Chickadee Ridge 

  If you would like to see all of my pictures from our trip they are available on Flickr here.

Donner Lake

In spite of our misadventures last week Linda and her husband Ray agreed to go snowshoeing again today. We snowshoed along the shore of Donner Lake in Donner Memorial State Park. It is a wonderful place to snowshoe. It is scenic and right off interstate 80 just west of Truckee. Our route was out and back and was a total of 2.3 miles.

Donner Lake GPS route

It was overcast today and we even had a bit of wind and snow falling but it was a lot easier than last week. and we had a lot of fun.


If you would like to see all my pictures form today's hike they are available on Flickr here.