View of Okmok's ash plume emitting from multiple vents near intracaldera Cone D, taken at about 1:30 pm on August 3, 2008 by Jessica Larsen, Alaska Volcano Observatory, Geophysical Institute

Oh, Sure, Blame Alaska


Now Alaska is being blamed for the fall of the Roman Republic. Sheesh. WC doesn’t remember that being discussed at all Edward Gibbon’s classic Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. . An environmental researcher named Joe McConnell and his colleagues examining ice cores from northern Greenland found volcanic ash and sulfuric acid in ice layers laid…

Yes, you are right -- I am a moralist in disguise; it gets me into heaps of trouble when I go thrashing around in political questions.

The 110th Anniversary of Mark Twain’s Death


Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a/k/a Mark Twain, had a huge influence on WC as a young man. In particular his later works, stuff like The Mysterious Stranger, “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg,” Letters from Earth and A Pen Warmed Up in Hell have an obvious impact on WC’s writing even today. Twain’s critical essay on James Fenimore Cooper, “Cooper’s Literary…

James Drury as the title character in “The Virginian.” Credit: Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images

R.I.P. James Drury, 1934-2020


WC seems to have been writing a lot of obituaries lately. It’s a hazard of being a geezer blogger: your friends, childhood heroes and the folks who wrote the soundtrack of your life get old and die. The world is depressing enough without back-to-back – three of the last five blog posts – obits. WC…

Wang Laboratories Headquarters in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1992 (Photo AP/Townson)

Adventures with Wang Labs


Many years ago, WC attended a course on business valuation, the art of determining the fair price of a business. It’s more complicated than you’d believe. And fraught with risk.  That course came to mind as WC was sorting through old papers and came across a memo WC had written to the shareholders in his…

WC Demonstrating Nansen Bottles, Kodiak, Alaska, 1967

On the Importance of Washing Your Hands


Occasionally, WC’s blog posts carry a lesson. This 2012 post (slightly revised here), carries a lesson for the times. And the story may even make you smile. WC alluded to this minor event earlier. The story may not be suitable for every reader. You’ve been warned. In the summer of 1967, it was WC’s great…

FileMaker

How to Ruin Software


Once upon a time there was a small software startup called Nashoba Systems. Nashoba was made up of four refugees from Wang Laboratories, a one-time minicomputer manufacturer. Nashoba saw a niche in the infant personal computer industry for an easy-to-use database software product. So in 1985, Nashoba published Nutshell for the PC and, a few…

Cave Art, Leang Bulu’Sipong 4, Sulawesi, via Nature Magazine

Notes on Art History


WC, to the dismay of a number of his undergraduate classmates, has never been especially interested in either anthropology or archaeology. Partly it’s because WC believes the history of humankind on the planet can be tracked by extinction events in the natural world. WC finds history depressing enough without studying prehistory. Partly it’s just that…

Bierce Nails It

And On a Personal Note


WC has been a lawyer for 44 years, 1975-2019. Across three law firms and a solo shop, WC has represented a cross-section of Alaska’s worst and best. It’s still mind-boggling that for forty-four years smart people have paid WC serious money for his advice. But it won’t be 45 years. Because WC will be retiring…

Part of Flanders Field Cemetery and Memorial

Veteran’s Day and Armistice Day


(This is a re-post, explaining WC’s ambivalence to Veteran’s Day, first posted back in 2012.) WC’s maternal grandfather served in France in World War I. He wanted nothing to do with Veteran’s Day. He regarded it as a cheapening, a betrayal of Armistice Day. He solemnly, sometimes tearfully, celebrated Armistice Day with a minute of…

Beer Can Collection, April 1974

That Time Mike Royko Called


When WC was accepted to Northwestern Law School in 1972, he only knew two things about the Second City: the police riot he had seen on national television during the 1968 Democratic Convention, hosted in Chicago, and what WC had read in Mike Royko’s excellent book, “Boss,” which was mostly about Hizzoner, Richard J. Daley.…

P F "Flip" Sloan with Barry McGuire, undated photo

How Flip Sloan Was Wrong


The late P. F. “Flip” Sloan (nee Philip Gary Schlein, 1945 – 2015) wrote the folk pop tune, “Eve of Destruction.” For those who have forgotten, or are too young to remember, here’s the lyrics:1 The eastern world, it is explodin’, Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’, You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’, You…

Eight of the nine Bartley kids; Grandpa Walt is in the front row, second from right

Some Notes of Grandpa Walt


Today would have been Grandpa Walt’s 130th birthday. Alas, he didn’t see his 70th birthday, dying in a telephone booth, calling his oldest daughter, Helen, to tell her he wasn’t feeling well. Walter was the 6th of 10 children. He lost everything in the Great Depression, and moved from Iowa to Central California. Three kids,…