Boojum Buddies

The international adventures of four geezers

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Boojum Buddies Invade California Gold Country

Destination: Sutter Creek and the International Jug Band Festival

Driven by the desire to hear jug band music, a thirst for Amador wines, and inspired by reality television shows such as American Pickers and Pawn Stars, Boojum Ron and Boojum Bebo hit the backroads of California Gold Country in the Hummer H1. Their somewhat random itinerary was selected by signs to estate, yard, and garage sales, small town antique stores, wineries, and roads on the map that looked as though they would best be traversed by the Hummer. A few historical sites were thrown in to give the illusion that the trip might have some educational value.Image

Sutter’s Mill in Coloma was where gold was first discovered sparking the California Gold Rush. It’s quite fitting that the Boojums came here since an earlier trip was to the Black Rock Desert where we traced part of the arduous route that the 49ers took to get here. One of the rangers told us that the site was on the California State Park “hit list” and might possibly be closed due to state budget cuts. It’s hard to believe that California would get so desperate that it would close such an iconic site. (Side note: Why would state park rangers carry side arms? To protect the gold? Inquiring Boojums want to know.)

One of the wineries we visited was Tanis in Ione. It’s the epitome of a boutique winery in that all of its sales are onsite or via their mailing list. Boojum Bebo wanted to taste their Primitivo, the varietal that is alleged to be the ancestor of Zinfandel. It was remarkable if you like heavy-duty almost dessert-like big-time fruity wines and as far as Boojum Bebo is concerned, gets 4.5 boojums out of 5 (though it’s unlikely that endorsement will make it to Tanis’ publicity).Image


The jug band festival was great fun. The new location on the grounds of the Sutter Creek Inn is outstanding – far better than the playground where it had previously been held for many years. ImageThe music – just what you should expect for a shoestring-budget, free festival – some outstanding actsImage plus some that had no business being on stage (except for the stage leaving town – an old joke but one suitable for Gold Country). The Quake City Jug Band never fails to please!Image


Boojum Buddies behold the ‘Ring of Fire’ – May 20, 2012

The first significant solar eclipse visible in California since 1992, was the carrot that motivated Boojums Bebo and Ron to fire up the humbugy at 6:30 am on a Sunday morning and strike out for a suitable viewing site in Northern California.    Not only would we be able to observe a rare astronomical event, but also photographing the eclipse would be an opportunity to rehearse our photography skills prior to our anticipated trip to Australia in November to view a total eclipse of the sun.

 The week prior was used to prepare equipment and research the upcoming event.  At the urging of veteran eclipse chaser Cherrill Spencer (10 events), we settled on the National Park sponsored site at Whiskeytown Lake, a few miles west of Redding, CA as our destination.


Cherrill provides some much needed advice

The Whiskey town site which combined mountains, beach and water, resulted in an easy-going crowd and a party-like atmosphere.   It was a mixed group ranging from preschoolers in water wings, teens in bikinis and locals selling Kambucha drinks, to electronic game programmers, chemistry professors, elementary school science teachers and so on.  The Astronomical Club of the Sierra kept everyone grounded with an astounding array of heavy-duty telescopes, equatorial mounts and computers. They graciously made all of the equipment available for viewing by the general public on ‘Telescope Row.”

Waiting for the eclipse to begin

 Most of us made use of eclipse glasses, welding glass filters, and pinhole cameras. The eclipse started almost imperceptibly, but the movement of the moon slowly progressed over the course of an hour to dim the sunlight and finally to perfectly align with the sun.  Since the moon was at its furthest orbit from the earth, the sun was only 96% covered resulting in a ‘ring of fire” around the rim of the moon.   The moment of maximum eclipse was met with applause, whistles and gasps.


Boojum Bebo does some last minute research


Creative viewing mask


Girl with meteorites

The maximum eclipse passed quickly lasting only about four minutes.  We continued to watch for another hour as the process reversed itself and the sun was fully restored to its former intensity.

Approaching maximum eclipse

Full anular eclipse

After an overnight stay in Red Bluff, the energized Boojums headed back to San Francisco.  Topics of discussion included:

       The Titanic: engineering and operational failures, recovery methods and the ethical implications disturbing this site and other burials for commercial or scientific justification.

       Torture: waterboarding, is it or isn’t it. Physical vs. psychological torture. Rendition. If or when torture might be justified.

       Drug trade: methamphetamine use and distribution in E and SE Asia. Iranian drug production, Mexican drug cartel violence, US drug laws.

       Immigration and Citizenship:  renouncing citizenship to avoid paying taxes, the duties and responsibilities of citizenship.

       Prison sentencing guidelines:  capital punishment – when or if ever appropriate, length of prison sentencing generally. Effects of long-term incarceration.

       Denigration of Presidential candidates by the left and right: Super pacs, dirty tricks, Republican primary, personal attacks and boycotts by activists against non politicians. German privacy laws.

       Lifestyles of the suddenly rich and famous:  effects on personality, lifestyle, and questions of social responsibility.

       Transfer of Intellectual property:  US regulations or lack thereof vs. advancement of emerging countries.

 Oftentimes the journey ‘eclipses’ the event.

Boy with glasses

“Clueless in Cluis”

From: Boojum Bebo

In mid-April Nancy and I spent four days in Cluis, France – what? you’ve never heard of Cluis? Not exactly on the beaten path, it’s a village of about 1,000 persons almost in the geographic center of France- 

Now what were we doing in Cluis? It seems that one of the world’s better known etymologists (that’s words, not insects), an ex-pat Brit, a modern day Dr. Samuel Johnson, lives there. Nancy spent four glorious days at his feet (not really), marveling at the roots of English words – I must admit that I enjoyed it as well.

Despite its size, there is a lot to see in Cluis. The city square is dominated by the church that attracts  

many pilgrims. Dating from the 12th century, it is dedicated to St. Paxtent and a massive painting inside illustrates how he earned his sainthood – nothing like a spike in the head to earn eternal glory! 

Also in the main square are some interesting sculptures of escargots – it seems that Cluis is one of the snail capitals of France. Every spring it hosts a huge festival celebrating snail gastronomy (it was happening the week after we left) that attracts thousands of attendees. 

According to our host, there is intense rivalry amongst the village parents over whose children get to ride on the snail floats and be the escargot royalty.

The Mairie (City Hall) in Cluis contains priceless Aubusson tapestries. This room is where the villagers come to vote – and from every indication, it was not for Sarkozy!

The fortress in Cluis played a major role in 100 Years War – one can only imagine how impressive it must have been before it was looted for building materials – apparently most of the buildings in Cluis contain stone from the fortress. 

Lots of great food in Cluis – the butcher, the fishmonger, the bakers,gardeners, and the cheese sellers all bring their wares to the city center. My cheese adventure included a 17 year old St. Nectaire and a Mimolette (which I have never had) that was hard enough the restore the fortress (it even looks like brick) but had a great subtle flavor. I don’t think that much of this is exported to San Francisco!

Dubai Gets a Bum Rap

From: Boojum Bebo

Why is it whenever many people hear Dubai they think wretched excess and over-the-top construction such as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa Image

or the world’s first AND second largest shopping malls Image

even one with a ski slope! Image

In fact, Dubai has a rich history dating back to antiquity – a crossroad for trade between the East and the West ImageImageImage

The historic architecture is a stark contrast (of beauty) to the new buildings…ImageImage

There are lots of tourists in Dubai –  mainly Russians, Chinese, Japanese, visitors from other Middle Eastern nations. But there are appear to be few Americans and I don’t know why. It’s a great destination, easy to get to, reasonably priced, very safe, English-speaking, and much to do (in addition to shopping) – dune-busting in the desert, boating on the creek, music, etc. If they don’t come because it’s a Muslim nation, WHAT A MISTAKE!

Following Bob’s Footsteps

From: Boojum Bebo

This past week Nancy had a conference at NYU so I went along for the ride. We stayed in Greenwich Village, so I decided to try and find some of Bob Dylan’s old haunts (Bob would be a great member of the Boojum Buddies). With the aid of the Web, finding these spots was quite easy.

It’s said that when Bob arrived at Greenwich Village/Washington Square he felt right at home

Musicians are still quite common here – even some playing jug band music –

We stayed at the Washington Square Hotel. It was once known as the Hotel Earle. The hotel claims that Bob and Joan Baez stayed there in Room 305. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Peter LaFarge were among some other folksingers to call it home. Next time, Nancy and I will request room 305…

Bob frequently played at the Cafe Wha? (115 MacDougal Street) which is still there and is pretty funky – the club clearly capitalizes on the Dylan (and Hendrix) connection.

Bob also played at The Gaslight Cafe and The Kettle of Fish (116 MacDougal Street). It’s said that he premiered Masters of War here.  No longer here, it’s a tattoo parlor. Is there something poetic about this? I have never heard if Bob has any tats…

The Commons was the club where, according to legend, Bob wrote Blowin’ in the Wind – it’s now The Fat Black Pussycat

Another legend is that Bob wrote Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall in the basement of The Village Gate. The club is gone, but the marquee has been restored and replaced

It appears that many of the Bob-related landmarks became victims of NYU expansion. For example, Gerde’s Folk City (71 West 4th Street) is no longer there having been replaced by huge university buildings.

I saved the best for last, this is Jones Street walking towards 4th Street – supposedly it is the location of the photo of Bob and Suze Rotolo that appears on the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album. I was humming Positively 4th Street here and surely some of the locals thought me to be a deranged old fart wandering aimlessly.

As Bob wrote, “wait only for my boot heels / To be wanderin’. / I’m ready to go anywhere” – a good motto for the Boojum Buddies.

The Boojum Budd…

The Boojum Buddies – not to be confused with the TV sitcom starring Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, the breast cancer support group or the baby nursing gear – are buddies of sorts, bound by a curiosity of the natural world, a love of travel and a special affection for the Boojum bearing deserts of the Mexican Baja peninsula.

The Boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) or cactus is related to the Ocotillo and  grows only in the Sonoran Dessert on the west coast of Baja California and in one limited area of the Mexican mainland near Puerto Libertad.

The Boojum can grow 60 to 80 feet high in grotesque Dr. Suess-like configurations.  The name ‘Boojum’ was given the plant by Prof. Godfrey Sykes who was inspired by the poem by Lewis Carroll, “The Hunting of the Snark”

“It’s a Snark!” was the sound that first came to their ears,

And seemed almost too good to be true.

Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:

Then the ominous words “It’s a Boo-”

Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air

A weary and wandering sigh

That sounded like “-jum!” but the others declare

It was only a breeze that went by.

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found

Not a button, or feather, or mark,

By which they could tell that they stood on the ground

Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,

In the midst of his laughter and glee,

He had softly and suddenly vanished away —

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

Fitting, since the Boojum Buddies can also be a little Snarky when provoked

Snarks, Boojums, Mexico, Buddies, Margaritas, did I mention Hummers?  What else could we be but the Boojum Buddies?

Actual Boojum, near Catavina, Baja, Mexico

Unofficial sponsor of Boojum Buddies offroad trips

Meet the Buddies:

Boojum Bebo:                                                              

Worked at SLAC as a Computational Physicist and Senior Computing Information Systems Analyst. He is also a Visiting Professor of Computer Science at the University of Hong Kong and an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Systems Management at the University of San Francisco.

In recent years, Boojum Bebo has been known for by his involvement with World Wide Web technology.  He was instrumental in establishing the first American Web site at SLAC in 1991.

Bojum Bebo has lectured and spoken internationally to academic and commercial audiences. He is the author of eight books and over one hundred journal/proceedings articles.

His current research interests are Web Science, Social Media in Education, and Cloud Computing, and …Jug Band music and history.

Boojum Bebo, El Marmol, Baja Norte, Mexico

Boojum Allan:

Allan is currently Director of Research and Research Training for the School of Commerce and Management, Southern Cross University, Brisbane, Australia.

Allan is the organizer of the AusWeb Conference series and the Chair of the International World Wide Web Conference Committee.

Currently serving as the Buddies’ Committee Chair for the” Great Gathering of Boojums Down Under” – celebrating the 2012 solar eclipse and the end of the world.

Boojum Allan, Near El Rosario, Baja Norte, Mexico

Boojum Neil:

Born in Scotland, now a citizen of the world, Boojum Neil has made a career out of translating Geek to plain French, English and Japanese for the rest of us.

  • 1989–2001: Head of Office of Communication,  European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva
  • 2001-2008: Director of Communication, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University
  • 2008–2010: Head of Communication, International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), Cadarache, France
  • 2011  Vice President for Communications and Public Relations, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Tancha, Okinawa, Japan

Boojum Neil, Bodie, CA

Neil also plays a mean shakuhachi, provides the Buddies with their Philosophical grounding and runs his own blog at  http://quietripple.

Boojum Ron:

Illinois native, retired San Francisco architect. Can use a computer, reads books, scans journals, attends lectures, listens to music and can recognize French when he hears it.   Serves as Buddies’ transportation coordinator, documentarian and armorer.

Boojum Ron, Taos, New Mexico

Photography for Helicopters

Hi guys,

TIme for an activity report and some photos. Lately I’ve been having fun learning to fly rc helicopters. Started with a little indoor model that you control with an iPhone – very cool.

Then upgraded to a bigger model and a dedicated 4 channel controller. A lot more powerful and good for outdoors.

The second machine also had enough lifting capacity to allow me to install a 5th channel to control a small camera.

It has 2GB card and records both stills and video

Here is image




PS I hope the linkS to  the images work for you. There is probably a way to display them on the page. I better start learning about WordPress.

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