What I See ~

Sprinter Build

LostDutchman(18)A Dream Becomes Reality

Winters in Wisconsin don’t work well for me. Cold, snow, gray. Especially the gray was bringing me down. People said I got cranky. Really? Me? Cranky?

Dang, I had to admit that it was true. I need to be outdoors – hiking, bicycling (for my physical and mental health)…. ahh the mountain bike, road bike. Outside, in the sun, blue skies, warm weather. I needed to leave Wisconsin over the winter.

Easy solution. Buy a winter home in the Southwest. Great idea, problem is I couldn’t afford a second home (and didn’t want to leave WI permanently). A couple years ago while traveling the California Coast I first saw the Mercedes Sprinter at campsites. I never knew they existed before this. I was enamored, big enough yet small enough. Instead of crawling into a tent I could drive my tent and explore the West and Southwest during the winter. I had to have one of these babies!


The happy day I picked up the Sprinter from my local Mercedes dealer

When I got home from that trip I started looking. What I saw were $60 to $100 thousand dollar plus vehicles. Like buying a second home. There had to be a way I could do this within my meager budget. So here’s what I did.

I located a used 2013 Mercedes Sprinter at a Benz dealership with the 170 wheelbase and only (only!!) 170,000 miles on it. But really, after looking at extremely used overpriced vehicles for two months, this Benz was clean and had records of all service since it was first sold. As a bonus the dealership just completed a major service on it.

[click on pictures to enlarge]

20161218_085200It was an empty cargo van used by an expediter shipping pallets of product across the US. In the purchase price, I negotiated the dealership installing the must have C.R. Laurence screened side windows. These windows make a huge difference living in this vehicle letting you see the world outside and putting you more in touch with your surroundings.

The windows are tinted so you can’t see in from outside. To complete my privacy needs I had a seamstress sew some custom fitted blackout curtains with magnets in the hems to “stick” to the window frames. With all curtains drawn you see no light coming from my Sprinter at night – or sunlight during the days – or those harsh Walmart parking lot lights for those desperate moments looking to park for the night.

My plan was to keep it simple, no holding tanks or toilet, at least for now. Minimal electronics. House battery, solar charger. Insulated and vented. Comfortable without trying to carry everything including the kitchen sink. What do I really need to be happy?

First Things First

First thing I did was strip out the flooring as I wanted to insulate the whole vehicle including the floor. There was a tar paper like substance under the sub-floor that I wanted out of there. Saving the original flooring would come in handy to use as a base for the hardwood floors.


The Mercedes flooring worked great as the base for my hardwood floors as it had all the cuts done to fit the floor perfectly.

Next Came Insulation

First the floor gets Reflectex, don’t forget to cover the wheel wells. Not only does the Reflectix have insulating qualities but it also deadens sound.



The factory flooring is reinstalled.

Styrofoam squares were glued into the panel walls and ceiling of the van. There is some debate as to what materials and adhesive to use. The Dynamat (sound deadening) material is exceptionally expensive and originally I thought I HAD to have it… I didn’t. The styrofoam works great and I used 3M adhesive spending about $30.00 on the glue.


I got the styrofoam sheets from our local Habitat for Humanity’s Restore, cost me $21.12 and ended up having much more than I needed, so donated the leftover back to them. Other than tiny styrofoam balls flying around everywhere, the foam is easy to cut to the shape of the van’s panels. Besides insulating properties it also offers excellent sound deadening qualities.


Walls and ceiling are covered with Reflextix which offers great insulating properties and again, deadens sound, both very important. The Reflectex is easy to cut to size with a common scissors. Again using the spray adhesive to secure the Reflectix. The Reflectex came from several sources, some I had from a previous project, got several rolls through Craigslist for cheap, and had to buy from a big box store to finish things off.


I found some remnants of batt insulation at  a big box. Pulling it apart I stuffed all the nooks and crannies with the insulation.

Also used spray foam insulation for some of the nooks (but not any crannies).


Laying the Floor

I found some great hardwood flooring on Craigslist. Actually it’s laminate which holds up better to water and liquid spills. Underlayment also came from Craigslist for 20 bucks. I decided not to put a water barrier in. From hearing different opinions about water barriers I decided it was more important not to chance trapping water under the floor. I have to admit, traveling over the winter I’ve spilled liquids on the floor. Thankfully my MB doesn’t smell like beer.


$50.00 for new, still in original packaging laminate flooring from Craigslist.

The flooring was a real pain to install. Especially since I didn’t know what I was doing. Not having a table saw I rigged one to make accurate (semi-accurate?) cuts. Leave space around the edges of the floor to allow for expansion.


My “rigged” table saw – couple of saw horses and C clamps

After a couple do-overs I finally finished the floor install. All in all, it turned out pretty nice. Funny but as you’ll see in later pictures, it is completely covered by a Persian rug and the bed, you never see the floor.



It was a bit scary but I needed to cut a hole in my Sprinter’s roof for the Fan-Tastic fan roof vent. You need venting in your van. They have several models, from a basic fan to one with remote control and rain sensors. Mine is somewhere in between with three speeds and two way action… it sucks and blows.

Fan-Tastic gives you a stencil to lay on the roof. Place it in the “right” spot and outline. With your outline drawn, drill four holes in each corner then get a jigsaw with a new “fine” blade and cut the square out.


The hardest part was lining up, and cutting the interior ceiling hole. This was done before putting the ceiling/header covering on (more on that later). The unfinished header was mounted and marked using the square hole I just made in the sprinter’s roof. I marked the corners from above, drilled holes then connected the dots. Or should I say used the jigsaw to cut along the lines I made to each corner hole.

That was it. I lucked out and everything fit perfectly. Also, I was able to find the ideal spot on the roof that had no ribs and was flat. If you are doing this yourself, measure and fit 3 or 4 times before you cut. After the cut, file the newly cut surfaces to smooth them out then paint the edges to prevent rusting.



Ceiling before header material installed

Consider that you will have to plan ahead to wire your fan. The Fan-Tastic fan runs directly off 12 volts. In my case I ran directly to the “house” battery (through a fuse of course).


The fan comes with a gasket. Lay the gasket under the fan and tighten down with screws included. When done, fill the seams AND the mounting screws with waterproof sealer/caulk. After a year and several nasty rain falls, I have had no leaks.

Raising the Walls

The walls must go in before the bed frame otherwise it is too hard to move around in there. It’s tricky because nothing is square, the van’s walls are curved so it is narrower near the roof than at the floor.

The walls are planks from Menard’s. I didn’t want to create a frame to mount the walls to because that would squish the interior space. That meant I needed 12 foot planks to span the structural bracing of the van. This was a special order from the store and my biggest expense. Around $250.00 including several in stock 8 footers.

I didn’t need to mount planks all the way to the floor as the bed and frame would be covering all the lower parts of the van walls. Above you see that the insulation was covered by the original paneling that came with the van.

Thankfully a friend had pity on me (thanks Glen) and insisted that I borrow his portable table saw. My home jig was okay… well not really, but better that trying to cut freehand as I’m not that good. For those of you attempting a project like this and not being a carpenter (asked, “What’s the opposite of a carpenter?” – the answer would be – “me”), borrowing or renting a table saw can make all the difference in the world. I should have gotten one from the beginning for the flooring.20170601_152940

I used stainless steel sheet metal screws as I was screwing into metal. Using a jig made from a small block of wood with accurate holes in it allowed me to install the screws and decorative washers so they all uniformly lined up.


The upper corners were difficult. I created custom angled wood block spacers to mount the angled pieces to the walls.

Lookin’ Up

The ceiling/header is made from lauan, a light weight type of plywood.  I have mixed feelings about lauan because although it is light weight and easy to work with, it tends to have ripples along it’s longer edges, so the long 6 foot sides can have waves. Most won’t notice it, but I do and so would a finish carpenter. The lauan is cut to size and covered with duck canvas sourced from Joann’s fabric store.


The duck canvas is glued on with a “made for fabric” spray on glue. The LED lights are mounted and the wires are routed before mounting the header.

Using two different coverings for the header gives the interior a feeling of having two rooms; living room and bedroom.

The “bedroom” header is a wall mural mounted to the lauan. Yes I like trees (I do recreational tree climbing) and love waking up in the limbs of a mighty oak .


My Plan

My plan was to carry my mountain and road bikes under the bed frame. This evolved as I realized that I would have to give up head space above the bed. Beside being afraid I would wake up in a start and bash my head on the ceiling, I would have needed a ladder to get into bed, ugh.

Below you see the second of my early bed frame designs.


OK, don’t laugh. And yes the 2×4’s (besides being warped) are bowed


The bikes fit in a space the width of about 15 inches

The final bed frame design came from my carpenter friend Kevin C. who mercifully rebuilt the frame I had in about 1/2 hour making my rickety warped frame solid and stable. The frame is finished with 1/2 inch plywood adding even more stability to the frame. It is all screwed not nailed.


Final bed frame design – passenger side bolted to the wall – blocks were added to the driver side to put it solidly against the driver side wall.



Queen size memory foam mattress. Underneath: dresser, Coleman stove, cooler and water just behind the blue and white blanket covering it all


The dresser on the left easily holds all my clothes

There was enough room along the side of the bed to build in more storage. Again my friend Glen came to my aid building the roomy storage box you see here.

It has three separate compartments. The rear section is open so that the right side handlebars of the mountain bike slides right into it (along with a collection of shoes).

I Need a Desk


Forget the built in stoves and such, I needed a desk. The desk came cheap from a salvage joint in Milwaukee. Had to replace the desk top, stain then cover with polyurethane. Did the same with the dirty ugly white adjoining cabinet. Came from the Restore for $5.00. Stained and covered with poly. Holds pots, pans, plates and other kitchen and household items.

The desk draws are deep and hold everything from my coffee and pour-over outfit to electrical gear and dominoes. Above you can see the Persian rug I found at an estate sale for $10.00. Love having a rug rather than the hard floor.

The first time I road tested the van, all the drawers flew out after a left turn. Child proof locks were a temporary solution. I’m working on a better system. The desk and cabinet are bolted to the van walls, my roller chair gets bungeed to the desk.

Power Up

A deep cell marine battery is used for the house battery that fits perfectly under the passenger seat. I don’t use much electricity, mainly using power for the LED lights and charging my laptop and phone.


The red key switch connects/disconnects the house battery from the chassis battery. The blue yarn is wrapped around my nose so I don’t forget to disconnect the two batteries when parked – risking running down the chassis battery. The two black dots are toggle switches for the LED lights.

I have a 75 what solar charger donated by my brother-in-law Jim (thanks Jim) after he saw the ridiculous 5 watt charger I was using. When my tiny power saving LED lights didn’t work (found this out the day I left on my first trip) it turned out the house battery was run down from just sitting and wouldn’t even power the meager lights.

With Jim’s help I wired the 75 watt solar charger to the battery. It’s connected through a regulator that protects the charger from over charging. We ran a wire from the house battery to the Mercedes battery so when I’m driving, the Mercedes alternator is charging both chassis and house batteries. We connected an isolator switch so when I’m parked and using the house battery, it doesn’t run the chassis battery out of juice.

A power inverter is connected to the battery that is used to run anything that can be plugged into it. Laptop, phone, desk light, etc. Ii is only a 400 watt (800 watt at peak power) inverter so it won’t run a refrigerator, heater or anything like that.

20170531_113141Finally everything needs to run through a fuse to protect the system from itself.


Maxifuse on the right (red and green).  The blue wires connect the isolator. On the left you see the back of the toggle switches for the LED lights. The Fan-Tastic fan wires go directly to the Maxifuse.

The idea was to keep it simple asking myself what did I really need. To cook I simply pull the stove out and the desk becomes my stove-top. Same with the cooler, slides out from under the bed frame. I’ve found that block ice keeps for a week or so when the cooler is kept under the bed. I keep a separate cooler for beverages.

The desk serves as a table, stove, game table… but mostly it’s a desk. I need a desk to work. The Sprinter is nimble enough to park in any grocery store parking lot but big enough for me to stand up in and I love having a queen size mattress.

There’s tons of storage under the bed. The biggest hassle is having to move the bikes if I need something from under the bed frame. Needless to say I keep what I use daily within easy access.

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Camping at the Lost Dutchman campgrounds


Superstition mountains looming over my Coleman Stove and morning coffee.

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Questions or comments… leave a message



Tank Man – The Unknown Rebel


Who was he…

…the man who stopped a column of Type 59 tanks on the morning of June 5, 1989? Just the day before, Chinese troops and security police massacred hundreds of pro-democracy protesters. Reporters on the scene estimated that at least 300 but possibly thousands of protesters were killed. As many as 10,000 were arrested.


Nearly a million Chinese, mostly students, crowded into central Beijing protesting for greater democracy in the Chinese political system. They called for the resignations of Party Leaders they thought were overly repressive. This went on for three weeks. Then, on June 4th, Chinese troops stormed Tiananmen Square firing into the crowds of protesters.


This photo taken on June 2, 1989 shows hundreds of thousands of Chinese gathering around the Goddess of Democracy, in Tiananmen Square demanding democracy despite martial law in Beijing. (Photo by CATHERINE HENRIETTE/AFP/Getty Images)photo37230

China Hong Kong Tiananmen Crackdown

The bodies of dead civilians lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in this June 4, 1989 photo. A leading pro-Beijing lawmaker in Hong Kong insisted that Chinese troops did not massacre people during the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square (AP Photo/File)

crushed remains

Crushed remains

The very next day, along came Tank Man. He stood in front of a column of approaching tanks. When the tank maneuvered to go around him he repeatedly shifted his position to obstruct the tank’s progress.


As others flee you can see Tank Man in the background walking out to meet the tanks

After talking to the tank’s driver, video footage shows two figures in blue pulling the man away and disappearing with him into a nearby crowd.maxresdefault

There is no reliable information as to the man’s identity. Most think he is alive and possibly unaware of his international recognition. The Chinese are very good at repressing media events. Many young Chinese born after 1980 are not familiar with the Tiananmen Massacre and when shown a picture of the Tank Man have no idea who he was or what it meant.

141003-tiananmen-01_ea999945464a208eec75525cdfb898dc.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000The Goddess of Democracy (look familiar?) was a 10-meter-tall (33 ft.) statue created during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The statue, built by students of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, was constructed of foam and papier-mâché in only 4 days. The Goddess stood for five days before it was destroyed by a tank from the People’s Liberation Army. As the statue fell, protestors shouted “Down with Fascism!” and “Bandits! Bandits!” Since its destruction, numerous replicas and memorials have been erected around the world.


Perhaps the need for freedom is in our genes. No matter how oppressive a regime is, could it be that humankind needs to be free. It can take generations, years, centuries, but the desire for freedom will always live on. Sometimes painfully slow, inch by inch, step by step, the human spirit can not be bound.


Every Moment of Light and Dark is a Miracle

Whitman_at_about_fiftyWalt Whitman

Born today, May 31, 1819, Walt Whitman was America’s poet and the father of free verse. Friend, Mary Whitall Smith wrote, “You cannot really understand America without Walt Whitman, without Leaves of Grass… He has expressed that civilization, ‘up to date,’ as he would say, and no student of the philosophy of history can do without him.”

Ezra Pound called Whitman “America’s poet… He is America.”


The literary critic, Harold Bloom wrote, as the introduction for the 150th anniversary of Leaves of Grass:

“If you are American, then Walt Whitman is your imaginative father and mother, even if, like myself, you have never composed a line of verse. You can nominate a fair number of literary works as candidates for the secular Scripture of the United States. They might include Melville’s Moby-Dick, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Emerson’s two series of Essays and The Conduct of Life. None of those, not even Emerson’s, are as central as the first edition of Leaves of Grass.”


Whitman spent his life writing, rewriting and revising Leaves of Grass. The final edition, his “Death Bed” edition, was completed in 1891 and published in 1892 just 2 months before his death.

walt-whitman-lgA rare first edition of Leave of Grass sold at Christie’s auction in 2014 for $305,000, twice what was estimated it would sell for. The first edition was a small book of just 12 poems. The last was a compilation of over 400 poems.

waltwhitman-940x1408If interested Gutenburg Press has made available this e-book, Leaves of Grass.




Come To The Dark Side


May 25, 1977: Star Wars Released

Yes fans, it was on this day in 1977 that the film opened to become the world-wide pop culture phenomena that it was and still is. Star Wars earned $461 million in the U.S and $314 overseas totaling $775 million, surpassing Jaws (1975), being the highest-grossing movie until E.T came along in 1983. Now if we adjust for inflation, it becomes the third highest-grossing film in the world. [click images to enlarge]

Star Wars won six Academy Awards at the 50th Academy Awards:

  1. Best Art Direction
  2. Best Costume Design
  3. Best Film Editing
  4. Best Original Score
  5. Best Sound
  6. Best Visual Effects.

A Special Achievement for Sound Effects Editing went to sound designer Ben Burtt. Additional nominations included Alec Guinness for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and George Lucas for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture, which were instead awarded to Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

What makes the Star War experience unique, though, is that it happens on such an innocent and often funny level. It’s usually violence that draws me so deeply into a movie — violence ranging from the psychological torment of a Bergman character to the mindless crunch of a shark’s jaws. Maybe movies that scare us find the most direct route to our imaginations. But there’s hardly any violence at all in Star Wars (and even then it’s presented as essentially bloodless swashbuckling). Instead, there’s entertainment so direct and simple that all of the complications of the modern movie seem to vaporize.”

Roger Ebert, his review for the Chicago Sun-Times


Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and announced three new Star Wars films, with the first film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, planned for release in 2015.

Little Known Star Wars Facts:

Yoda’s face was based on Albert Einstein, and initially his first name was Minch. Yoda’s original voice was done by Frank Oz who also did the voices for Miss Piggy and Cookie Monster.


Skywalker’s original character’s name was Starkiller but Lucas wanted to soften that up some reflecting a more peaceful character.

The iconic poster for Return of the Jedi featured Lucas’ hands. He didn’t trust Mark Hamill to do it correctly so those are his hands holding the light saber.


In The Phantom Menace, the communicator used by Qui-Gon Jinn is a women’s electric shaver.


Darth Vader’s physical presence was played by English actor and body builder David Prowse. He was a bit pissed that Lucas used James Earl Jones’ classic voice for the role and not his. Good call.


Film makers were originally going to use a real monkey for the Jedi Master, Yoda. Thankfully they called on “Muppets” creator, Jim Henson, to help bring the puppet to life.

While filming the first movie few people in the crew knew that Vader was Luke’s father. Lucas had James Earl Jones record “I killed your father” for the big scene so the crew thought that would be the big surprise revelation.


Jen Burtt created the sound of the light sabers by recording the sound of television feedback emitted when he carried a microphone past the TV’s speakers. He combined this with the hum of an old projector which is heard whenever a light saber is active.

Going one step further, he achieved the Doppler effect when characters were swinging the weapons around by swinging a microphone cord back and forth in from of a speaker while playing the hum of the saber.


The Wookiee Chewbacca language was again created by Ben Burtt. He recorded the screams, squeals and moans of camels, walruses, bears, badgers and sick animals. He collected sounds that he felt had emotion behind them.


There is one line featured in all six Star Wars movies, sometimes slightly altered – “I have a very bad feeling about this”



The Steamiest Happy Birthday


May 19, 1962: Marilyn Monroe Sings to the Pres

Today in 1962, more than 15,000 people attended a fundraiser for the Democratic Party celebrating John Kennedy’s 45th birthday. [above image is Bill Ray’s iconic photo of Marilyn alone in the spotlight]marilyn_monroe_1962 (2)

The highlight; Marilyn Monroe in a gorgeous, sexy, scandalous, skin tight dress singing a sultry rendition of Happy Birthday to the President.

The dress designed by Jean Louis, was a shear flesh colored fabric with 2500 shimmering rhinestones sewn in. It was so tight she had a hard time getting into it. At the time some believed she was sewn into it. And ah… she wore nothing underneath.

BTW: The dress which originally cost $12,000 and was sold at auction in 1999 for $1.26 million.


Peter Lawford introduces Monroe

Monroe sang the traditional Happy Birthday song in a sultry, intimate voice. She adding lyrics she wrote specifically for the President and sang those  to the tune of the classic song “Thanks for the Memories”.

Thanks, Mr. President

For all the things you’ve done

The battles that you’ve won

The way you deal with U.S. Steel

And our problems by the ton

We thank you so much

Two Kennedys & A Monroe

The only known picture of John Kennedy and Monroe together as Bobby looks on

Afterward Kennedy came on stage and joked about Monroe’s birthday song, saying, “I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way,” alluding to Marilyn’s delivery, skintight dress and image as a sex symbol.

Marilyn was 35 at the time. It was one of her last major appearances before her death 3 months later.

Mrs. Kennedy did not attend.


A Connecticut Yankee

quote-Mark-Twain-whenever-you-find-yourself-on-the-side-206Mark Twain

Mark Twain died on this date in 1910. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, November 30 of 1835, Twain is considered our greatest American humorist. William Faulkner called him, “the father of American literature”.


Mark Twain at 15

Oddly enough, in 1909, he predicted his death saying:

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

His prediction was pretty spot on as he died of a heart attack April 21, 1910 one day after the comet’s closest approach to Earth.


His first successful tale, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, was my first venture into Twain’s work. I realized I was more than just a young smart ass, I could be a satirist! The piece was published in the New York weekly, The Saturday Press.


Twain was a science and tech fan. He was friends with Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Spending much time in Tesla’s lab he liked fooling around with the scientist’s experiments. One of Edison’s earliest films is also the only known record of Mark Twain on film. To watch video click “watch on Youtube”.

Consider his novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”. It was about time travel which became a staple in science fiction story lines.

Twain even patented three inventions himself; an improvement to suspenders, a history trivia game and a self-pasting scrapbook. The scrapbook was his most commercially successful invention as you only needed to moistened the dry adhesive on the pages to stick things into it.


Mark Twain’s opinions evolved as he got older. Though he was always a stanch supporter of the abolition of slavery and emancipation of slaves he changed his opinions regarding imperialism and religion.

He was anti-imperialism and eventually anti religion. A supporter of woman’s rights he campaigned for woman’s suffrage. One of his most famous speeches was his “Votes for Women” speech as he pressed to grant voting rights for women.

Here is a link to text of the speech:


Being an animal lover he was also opposed to the then current vivisection practices. Vivisection was the experimentation on live animals often without anesthesia.


To this day we still don’t have a complete bibliography of Mark Twain’s work. He was so prolific publishing in numerous small publications and obscure newspapers. As recently as 1995 and again in 2005 researchers found newly undiscovered material of his.


  • The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
  • The Prince and the Pauper (1881)
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
  • The American Claimant (1892)
  • Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
  • Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
  • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)
  • Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896)
  • The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)







Samuel Langhorne Clemens
September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople

A Little Rebellion Now and Then is a Good Thing


Thomas Jefferson…

…intellectual, architect, philosopher, musician, essayist. He collected and studied fossils, was known to be down to earth, relaxed, unconventional. A common man with a fondness for receiving White House visitors in his robe and slippers. Thomas Jefferson was born on this day in 1743. [above image from Freaking News]

jefferson_portrait-P (1)


Portrait by Charles Peale

Jefferson’s role in shaping American politics was monumental, not only being our third president but drafting the Declaration of Independence. He was afraid that some of his contemporaries would try to model the new nation after a monarchy – hell, we had just freed ourselves from a monarchy. Jefferson denounced oppressive government and was a fierce proponent of the freedom of speech and religion.

Though Jefferson desired the abolition of slavery, he owned human beings who worked on his plantation. In the context

Sally Hemings

Sally Hennings

of the times he treated his workers well. There has been much controversy concerning one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, being his lover. Sally was a mixed race gal who gave birth to six children the first of which was their son Eston. Jefferson ended the foreign slave trade beginning January 1, 1808. [Image below: Eston Jefferson]

Carl Smith Jefferson

By Richard Cosway

Maria Cosway by her husband Richard

Jefferson was a widower since the death of his wife Martha in 1782 but was thought to have a relationship with the beautiful (married) painter and musician, Maria Cosway. Jefferson met her while serving as minister to France. The relationship inspired him to write his famed romantic essay, A Dialogue Between the Head and Heart.

A Dialogue Between the Head and Heart:


A few Jefferson achievements and contributions

1. Wrote the Declaration of Independence (1776). Jefferson was responsible for writing the first draft of our Declaration of Independence. He did the first draft within 17 days which was reviewed and revised then presented to Congress.


2. Wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1777). He declared freedom of religion a “natural right” which became the model for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

3. Advocated for free public education (1779)

4. Served as the first U.S. Secretary of State (1790–1793)


5. Made the Louisiana Purchase (1803). For about $15 million, he effectively doubled the size of the United States.


6. Launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804). Jefferson appointed his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, who enlisted William Clark, to explore the new American landscape.

For More on Lewis and Clark


7. Participated in the founding of the Library of Congress (1815). In 1815, Jefferson sold his personal library, consisting of almost 6,700 volumes, to the federal government. These formed the core collection of the beginnings of the Library of Congress. The current Librarian of Congress, James Billington wrote, “If ever a library had a single founder, Thomas Jefferson is the founder of the Library of Congress.”

8. Founded the University of Virginia (1819). Jefferson believed that universities should educate leaders rather than just preachers and professors. He founded the University of Virginia as the first nonsectarian university in the United States as well as the first to use the elective course system.


9. Popularized macaroni and cheese in the United States. When Jefferson traveled to Europe he became enamored with pasta and the many ways of enjoying it. He would serve mac ‘n’ cheese to his guests at his home in Monticello and even had plans for a macaroni machine. He has been referred to as “America’s First Foodie”. There is even a mac ‘n’ cheese recipe in his own handwriting.


10. Revolutionized gardening and advanced sustainable agriculture. Jefferson was a huge fan of vegetables. He experimented with his garden and loved tomatoes. At the time people thought they were poisonous and “from the devil” because they were red. He also pioneered techniques in sustainable agriculture.


A Little Rebellion Now and Then is a Good Thing 

The quote came from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison. Jefferson was expressing himself in regards to Shays’ Rebellion. Farmers in Massachusetts were angry about their conditions in 1786.

Not being able to “pay up”, they were losing their land, cattle and homes to taxes and “rates” demanded by the state and courts. Jefferson was prompted to express the view that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing” for America. Jefferson felt that the people had the right to express themselves with grievances against their government.

Jefferson aired his sentiments in a letter to James Madison on January 30, 1787, expressing justification for the series of protests led by Daniel Shay and a group of 1,200 farmers.


Excerpt from Jefferson’s letter.

“Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our Indians. 2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in a great one. 3. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 1st. condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.1 Unsuccesful rebellions indeed generally establish the incroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine necessary for the sound health of government.” – Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 1787



Four Dead In Ohio


March 29 of 1974: U.S. District Judge Frank Battisti dismissed charges…

…against 8 National Guardsman for shooting Kent State students. Judge Battisti said the prosecution’s case was too weak to warrant a trial.


John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Jeffrey Miller lying dead with Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body.

The shooting killed 4 and wounded 9 students. All of them were in good standing with the University.

Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; was 265 ft. from the Guardsman. He was shot through the mouth and died instantly. Jeffrey was nearest to the soldiers. When he was shot, he was unarmed and facing the Guardsmen standing on an access road.


Jeffrey Miller

Allison B. Krause; age 19; was 343 ft. away. She suffered a fatal left chest wound and died later that day. Allison was an honor student at Kent State. Days before the shooting, she was known to have said, “flowers are better than bullets”.


Allison Krause

William Knox Schroeder; age 19; was 382 ft. away and also suffered a fatal chest wound. William died almost an hour later while undergoing surgery. Schroeder, who was not involved in the protest, was walking to a class. He was also a member of the campus ROTC battalion.

William knox schroder

William Knox Schroder


Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20; from 390 ft. suffered a fatal neck wound and died within minutes from a loss of blood. Sandra was a Speech Therapy honors student and was walking with one of her students when she was gunned down. She and her student had nothing to do with the protest.


Sandra Lee Scheuer


Civil actions were brought against the Guardsmen, the State of Ohio and the President of Kent State. After an eleven week trial unanimous verdicts were awarded to all victims for all claims. However the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the verdicts stating the trial judge mishandled the case. On remand the case was settled awarding $675,000 to all plaintiffs.

kent state guard fire

The following are those wounded and their distance from the guardsmen:

Dean R. Kahler; 300 ft; back wound fracturing the vertebrae, permanently paralyzed from the chest down.

Joseph Lewis, Jr.; 71 ft; hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg.

John R. Cleary; 110 ft; upper left chest wound.

Thomas Mark Grace; 225 ft; struck in left ankle.

Alan Michael Canfora; 225 ft; hit in his right wrist.

Douglas Alan Wrentmore; 329 ft; hit in his right knee.

James Dennis Russell; 375 ft; hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot, both wounds minor.

Robert Follis Stamps; 495 ft; hit in his right buttock.

Donald Scott MacKenzie; 750 ft; neck wound.

Lest we forget

Where’d This Come From?


Ever Wonder Where This Came From?

ERIC_AUSTEN_FIRST_CND_BADGEWe’ve all seen it. Been used for decades. Ever wonder how or where it started? Who designed it? On this day February 21, 1958, Gerald Holtom [image below] completed his design commissioned by the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Holtom was a professional designer and artist who had been invited to design the artwork for use in a protest organized by the Action Committee against Nuclear War.

The symbol was inspired by flag semaphore, a telegraphy system for conveying information at a distance by using hand held flags. The symbol for the letter “N” is formed by holding two flags in an inverted V. The letter “D” is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up with the other pointed straight down. If you superimpose these two signs they form the shape of the peace symbol.

 N    nsemaphore     D   dsemaphore

The “N” and “D” stand for Nuclear Disarmament.

The symbol first appeared in public on Good Friday of 1958 in Trafalgar Square in Aldermaston (a ward in Berkshire, South-East England) during the weekend march for Nuclear Disarmament. Five hundred cardboard lollipops on sticks were produced for the protest.



BayardRustinThe peace symbol crossed the Atlantic almost immediately. Bayard Rustin [image left], who was a close associate of Martin Luther King, participated in the Aldermaston March. He brought the symbol back to the US where it was used in civil rights marches, later appearing in anti-Vietnam demonstrations. Hell, we even saw it on necklaces and the helmets of American GI’s.


Though the peace symbol was specificity designed for the anti-nuclear movement it has never been copyrighted. No one has to pay or get permission to use the symbol. As a symbol of peace it is free for all to use.


…And Yet It Moves!


Galileo Born

Galileo Galilei was born today, February 15, 1564. He’s been referred to as the father of modern astronomy, the father of modern physics and the father of science. Dang, that’s a lot of fathering.

Galileo Portrait by Leoni

Galileo portrait by Leoni

He is considered the first person to use a telescope to observe the skies, discovering the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, sun spots and solar rotation; that solar rotation thing got him thrown in jail. He confirmed Copernicus, that the Earth orbits the Sun. This didn’t sit well with the “powers” that be as he was going against scripture and the Church’s teachings. Boy, were they pissed.

In September of 1632 Galileo was ordered to come to Rome to stand trial in front of the Roman Inquisition. In view of Galileo’s rather unconvincing denials, his final interrogation concluded with him being threatened with torture if he did not tell the truth. The sentence of the Inquisition was delivered on June 22. It was in three parts:

Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that:

– the Sun lies motionless at the center of the universe,

– that the Earth is not at its center and moves,

– and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared               contrary to Holy Scripture.


Cristiano Banti’s 1857 painting “Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition”

At the pleasure of his Inquisitors, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. On the following day his imprisonment was commuted to house arrest which he remained under for the rest of his life. His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden. Not only that but even anything he MIGHT write in the future was also forbidden.

According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly turned and muttered the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves”!

Galileo showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope (Fresco by Giuseppe Bertini)

Galileo showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope (fresco by Giuseppe Bertini)


I’ve always admired Galileo as he displayed a peculiar ability to ignore established authorities. He questioned Aristotelianism, which happened to be the established mode of thinking for his times. His work marked steps towards the eventual separation of science from both philosophy and religion, a major development in human thought. He was even willing to change his views in accordance with his observations.


Galileo introduced the basic principle of relativity; that the laws of physics are the same in any system that is moving at a constant speed in a straight line, regardless of its particular speed or direction. Thus, there is no absolute motion or absolute rest. This principle provided the basic framework for Newton’s laws of motion and is central to Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

According to Stephen Hawking, Galileo probably bears more of the responsibility for the birth of modern science than anybody else. Albert Einstein called him the father of modern science.




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