UPDATE: Marin Co. Sheriff Office press release on Robin Williams death

1600 Los Gamos Drive, Suite 205

San Rafael, CA 94903

Marin County Sheriff’s Office

Coroner Division

Investigation into Death of Actor Robin Williams

On August 11, 2014, at approximately 11:55 am, Marin County Communications

received a 9-1-1 telephone call reporting a male adult had been located unconscious

and not breathing inside his residence in unincorporated Tiburon, CA. The Sheriff’s

Office, as well as the Tiburon Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Protection

District were dispatched to the incident with emergency personnel arriving on scene at

12:00 pm. The male subject, pronounced deceased at 12:02 pm has been identified as

Robin McLaurin Williams, a 63 year old resident of unincorporated Tiburon, CA.

An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently

underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office.

Preliminary information developed during the investigation indicates Mr. Williams was

last seen alive at his residence, where he resides with his wife, at approximately 10:00

pm on August 10, 2014. Mr. Williams was located this morning shortly before the 9-1-1

call was placed to Marin County Communications. At this time, the Sheriff’s Office

Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a

comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made.

A forensic examination is currently scheduled for August 12, 2014 with subsequent

toxicology testing to be conducted.

Breaking News: Robin Williams dies of apparent suicide

The CBS Evening News Scott Pelley reported on air this evening that comedian and actor Robin Williams was found dead today at his home in Marin County, Calif.  The 63-year-old who first came to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s TV comedy “Mork and Mindy,” apparently committed suicide. Entertainment Weekly’s Danielle Nussbaum reported via Twitter that Williams, who also starred in a number of films including “Good Morning Vietnam” and won an Oscar for “Goodwill Hunting,” had experienced periods of deep depression recently.

Although Williams could be an acquired taste in my personal opinion he was nonetheless a comedic genius and a talented actor. It is needless to say he will be missed.

The Admiral and Tennille. If only it were true.

In a call for new nautical leadership, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced he was promoting Daryl Dragon to admiral.


The “Captain’s” longtime spouse and singing partner Toni Tennile filed for divorce in January. Court documents in the case had allegedly referenced health issues or health insurance issues, according to TMZ. Tennille said on her blog that Dragon suffers from neurological conditions not unlike Parkinson’s disease, which caused his hands to shake so badly he could no longer play piano.

 “Not really ‘full blown PD, or Parkinson’s Disease, but enough of a handicap to stifle (stop) his (keyboard) playing, as well as his typing skills, etc.,” said an update in Toni’s blog.

Oh well. Best of Luck, Admiral Dragon (just joking, he really wasn’t named an admiral, but maybe that would put him in better spirits, or perhaps he could be made captain of a real ship like the USS George H.W. Bush, which is now launching warplanes for sorties in Iraq.) I have shaking hands that I don’t know from what source for sure. I hope it doesn’t affect my typing skills.

As for Toni, keep those big pearly whites polished. It makes listening to “Muskrat Love” all that more appealing. Well, not really. But whatever.


Smoking up history 40 years ago today

It was 40 years ago today that my fellow Navy boot camp “shipmates” were summoned into the “Smoke and Coke” lounge. I realize that since this was 40 years ago it must seem ancient to some. Just that the lounge included “Smoke” makes it equally dated since smoking itself was banned in boot camp quite awhile ago.

I can’t remember what our company commander — these days called a “recruit division commander” — said or if he said anything. He just turned on the TV and, about the time I had lit up a Kool or whatever I was smoking back then, on the tube came our commander-in-chief.  The president of the United States back then was Richard Milhous Nixon, a.k.a. “Tricky Dick.” After a wordy introduction he came to the meat of the matter:


 ” … I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.

 “To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

 “Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.”

The thunderous applause and cheers from my boot company of about 80 guys quite frankly amazed me. My fellow boots came from Bed-Stuy, Boston, from the Caserios of San Juan, the Fifth Ward of Houston, from the never-ending cornfields of Iowa, from Philly, the Rocky Mountain high of Denver and, of course, from the pineywoods of East Texas. Not to mention from everywhere in between.

Boot camp was the place I was introduced to the true “melting pot” of the U.S. of A. But for some reason, I figured the kids from the ghettos were out hustling or shooting up smack all day, or the farm boy riding their tractors or the rest of us out smoking weed being oblivious to what ailed America. But these guys knew as much, some probably more about our nation’s leadership and what an awful five-something years it had been with Tricky Dick presiding. One only has to remember that Nixon was elected amid the height of the Vietnam War and many of us in boot camp didn’t have any idea as they entered high school or the work force or college whether we would have to some day join the fun fighting the Viet Cong or the NVA.

The postwar 1970s were a pretty cool time to be a young person with an open mind. Being a military guy didn’t make you hero as some are anointed these days. Still, it was a time to release ourselves from the dreaded conditioned called “uptight.” One didn’t have to head for the ivory towers to enjoy those days either. And one didn’t have to be around the news all day to know what was happening at the top of our political food chain.

We came, we saw, we got rid of Tricky Dick. And we cheered and thrust our fists in the air. Ding dong the Tricky Dick is gone. Long live President Ford.

HS Football: Not just your lions, tigers and bears (oh my!)

Football season is only weeks away. In the homelands, the families are snatching up their season tickets and dusting off their stadium seats. In the smaller towns and around colleges may one find those watching their home team’s “two-a-days” in the blazing sun.

I have friends from high school to whom their school football team is a religion. While these friends might be found occasionally in the pews at the local church, one can bet they will be found religiously on the home stadium bleachers or those seats in the stadium of the opposing team.

My team name carries a lot of weight in the Texas high school football world even though its mascot is one of the common ones — the Eagles. That is because our name is synonymous with winning. Over the years our school has played some wild teams even though the team name might prove rather run-of-the-mill: the Wildcats, Bobcats, Lions, Tigers and Bears, oh my! Then there are Bulldogs, Cougars, Pirates, Mustangs, Lumberjacks, Panthers, Hornets, Bumblebees, and yes the sometimes offensive Indians. Why even one area school is generically referred to as “the Tribe” and the stadium is known as the “Reservation.”

But offensive or imagined, like the Bearkats or an occasional Unicorn, Texas has some imaginative team names that do battle under Friday night lights: One of my favorite, the Winters Blizzard. A team my high school played against and whose drill team once included TV star, hostess and LGBT activist, Ellen Degeneres, is the Atlanta Rabbits.

Others for chuckles include: the Farmersville Farmers, Hutto Hippos, New Braunfels (the aforementioned) Unicorns, San Antonio Lanier Voks (for vocational school), Hamlin Pied Pipers, Mesquite Skeeters, and Itasca Wampus Cats.

Of course, Texas does not have a lock on the strange mascots. Some of the others in the US of A have my vote: Hickman (Mo.) Kewpies, Tillamook (Ore.) Cheesemakers, and perhaps the best in the country, the Hoopestown (Ill.) Cornjerkers.

Enjoy the football season and your home team. Watch the Eagles fly away, the Cheesemakers make cheese of their opponents and  the Cornjerkers … well, I suppose they’ll be jerking something, maybe corn for half-time.


New technologies: they can help, or not

Here is an interesting article I came across today. For those who use all the relatively new methods to communicate one must as well take caution. I just pass this along without comment.

Opinion: New technologies are making it harder to communicate.

Waste some time. Look at buildings!

Sometimes you surf and find something that is a dud. Other times you find an interesting time-waster. This site I have been checking out this afternoon, Houston Architecture Info, has an unassuming and perhaps even ugly launching page. But click and ye shall find. Let us say you “Browse the Guide.” You can search buildings by size, type or city, which is pretty limited to Houston and surrounding cities though there are plenty of links worldwide. Beaumont, the city in which I reside and is about 80 miles east of Houston, is not listed.

Granted, Beaumont doesn’t have the grandest skyline. Edison Plaza, formerly known as the Entergy Building, probably catches one’s eye the most driving by on Interstate 10. At 17 stories, there are a few surrounding buildings that are taller, but the architecture does make you look no matter whether you think it is ugly. I don’t but I have looked at it from various angles and been in it quite a few times although mainly to eat at the former Le Peep. I’ve not yet been to the new Green Light Kitchen which opens in its place. It’s a “healthier choice” supposedly. That might or might not mean a “tasty choice.” You can check out their menu and decide for yourself.

Back to Houston, the architecture site provides a decent array of information on Houston skyscrapers, be it in Downtown Houston or Uptown Houston. If Houston isn’t your bag then you can find links to many cities in a number of countries other than the United States. Let’s say you want to explore the buildings of Prague, then click away.

The photos on the HAI site will blow one away if anything on the sites do. But I find buildings interesting and on the site and its links one can find the good and bad.

Do you know enough to live in the “promised land?”

It seems as if our great folk here in the “Promised Land” that is America would just take those little brown children illegally crossing our borders and throw them out of the US of A onto their little asses.

Well, that is the way it seems if you watch the national news on TV. Those pictures, every picture, tells a story don’t it? Loved Rod Stewart’s song by that name, by the way. But sometimes the pictures don’t tell the whole story. Such is true when it comes to complex stories such as the current border problem.

A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute shows the juxtaposition of thought when it comes to the so-called “border problem.”

The poll finds that more than three-quarters of those interviewed believe immigrant children should be allowed to stay as refugees if it can be proved that their lives are in peril upon being returned home.

One has to wonder why the media, especially the electronic variety, take their time showing the opposite view? Their view from the camera makes it seem like hordes of people — children and young thugs — are virtually breaking down the walls of the borders only to be faced with angry sign-carrying opponents.

It could be that the electronic media has found itself an issue that can keep emotions rolling and viewers watching. Oh that Anderson Cooper wouldn’t do that. Yeah, tell me another lie.

Here is something else to ponder while we are talking about the immigration issue. There are a lot of those tough-talking Americans out there who would otherwise cry to see their favorite flower cut down or the sight of a fictitious doe deer die. But still with the signs! The damned signs!

I came across something I wish these sign-carrying bunches denouncing immigration of little children could sit down with and spend a little time. It’s a list of sample questions that immigrants are asked before becoming U.S. citizens. One needs 58 percent correct to pass. I must say I was a little shocked and somewhat ashamed that I scored only 94 percent rather than 100. I am, after all, someone who has made his living writing over time. I minored in political science in college. So what? I still missed six questions.

But what about you? Let’s see what you make, smart boy. Take the test and see if you make an ample score that ensures your citizenship, if you had to vie for it. If you don’t do so good and are honest about it. Maybe you should take down your anti-immigrant signs and posters, and put them somewhere the sun does not shine. That would seem appropriate.



The telecom boom doesn’t solve all of society’s woes

We are closing in on the 120th year of flight. That is rather amazing in its own right. Flying made the world closer, in certain respects. One needs to look at the good with the bad and flying has had plenty of both in those century-plus years.

The tele-communication boom will be the “turn of the century” bookmark of social history. One only has to go on social media to find more than enough of the good and the bad.

I keep a semi-running commentary on politics and society with my college friend, Paul, who lives in Tokyo. It is rather amazing that we both can communicate with one another at such speed and such a distance. It’s easy. Just look at your phone and view the clock you set for Tokyo. Then, if you are super bored, take a picture of yourself — known in today’s lingo as a “selfie”– and just for the hell of it you can take a look at the compass on your phone to find what direction is Tokyo. Or what direction your life is taking. All of this with a phone and more.

My iPhone is probably the best digital camera I have had to date. I’ve used some professional digital cameras, the big suckers real “shooters” for the media use. Or at least used to use. It’s been some 10 years since I have used one. The iPhone is better than my Fujifilm XP. It is time to upgrade to a better digital camera, if I can find one that is better than my iPhone and is as affordable.

I didn’t come here to talk about cameras, you might be surprised to hear. I just wanted to make a notation about life before cell phones. It wasn’t all that long ago, if you don’t call 30 years or so long ago. Maybe a 30-year-old does.

My pick of three decades is arbitrary. That dates back to the year I graduated from college, which was 10 years after I graduated from high school, joined the Navy, was discharged honorably and became a professional firefighter. Actually, I want to pick the days I worked as a firefighter and just afterwards when for two whole semesters I was nothing but a bearded college student. Then as well include that time right after I graduated and moved to a new town. That is when I dated Liz. More on her later.

The first apartment I rented in college was adjoined by two and then later about four other apartments. I had two different neighbors living — one after another — in the apartment in the back of the building. Both were girls. Both were very cute girls. I dated one later on, during the time I worked at my first job out of college. I imagine I should have dated the other one instead.

I had my first very own landline phone in my apartment. So did Liz, the girl who was literally, as the Cars song went, “my best friend’s girl.” The late, great Waldo and Liz been long split by the time she and I dated.

But awhile before that short “bliss,” I remember Liz calling me one morning after I came home from my shift at the fire station. She asked me if I could turn my music down.

“Sure. Happy to.”

The girl who moved in after Liz moved out worked with my sometimes girlfriend back then, Karen. I can’t remember if Debbie, my neighbor had a phone. If she did, she never called me. That’s because she could just walk next door. If my car was home Debbie would knock. We didn’t really need a phone to communicate. For instance, Debbie came outside one morning as I was about to go for a jog. She asked how far I was going. I said about two miles. So she asked if she could go.

“Sure. Damn straight!”

In ran Debbie who quickly pulled on a pair of sweats. Man, if only more women could wear a set of sweats like Debbie! I wouldn’t call running enjoyable but along with some weights and jumping rope, and racquetball, it helped keep me in shape for fighting fires. I would call it enjoyable running with Debbie.

I remember Debbie telling me after I moved to the shotgun shack, that Karen said she would have to work somewhere else if Debbie and I went out, or whatever one would call it back then. I don’t think it would have bothered Debbie. Or Karen either. Things could get complicated.

My friends rarely bothered calling to tell me they were coming to visit back then. When I moved out to the farm, some might call just to make sure I was there. But even if I wasn’t there, some would still park at the locked gate and hang out. Others who knew the location of the spare gate key would “come on in!” It was a nice place, the country.

Now it seems one has to let others know when you have to take a crap. Not that I tell anyone, that’s a metaphor, or a simile or personification or whatever the hell it is.

Perhaps the communication revolution doesn’t answer the big social questions, like why  did I date Liz and not Debbie? I guess it just wasn’t to be, damn it to hell! It is an outcome that can’t be solved with an iPhone and a You Tube video of a dancing monkey.

Boomtown SE Texas: Let it rain

We had a hell of a rain on Friday. The thunder started booming about 4 a.m. and didn’t seem to stop until nearly 8 a.m. Normally, I can sleep and sleep well through thunder and a heavy rain, but this stuff just kept on rolling. The rain did likewise, falling and falling some more. Some areas in Jefferson County were hit with 4 inches to 6 inches from only several hours of rain. Consequently, some of the same old underpasses went under water.

The city of Beaumont has spent millions to install better conduits for flood water to flow off into the Neches River. The river, which is the Beaumont-Mid Jefferson County-Northern Orange County portion of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, is located on the eastern side of Beaumont. Still the area floods when we get a lot of water in a short period of time. And people still drive their cars into the flooded underpasses. I think I saw a figure of like 36 cars had to be pulled from underwater. Fortunately, no one was killed. Such is the price you pay when you live in an area that is at most about 20 feet above sea level. But, I guess the river can always use some refreshing.

I see different figures but the Port of Beaumont — on the Neches end of the waterway — usually runs from about the 4th largest port in the country to the 7th. I used to like to go down to the port and take a look at the big ships in port. Now they have a more restricted are around the port due to maritime security, a.k.a. MARSEC.

 “The Coast Guard employs a three-tiered system of Maritime Security (MARSEC) Levels designed to easily communicate to the Coast Guard and our maritime industry partners pre-planned scalable responses for credible threats,” says the Coasties.

A liquid natural gas tanker is assisted by tugs on the Sabine-Neches Waterway on the Upper Texas  Coast.

A liquid natural gas tanker is assisted by tugs on the Sabine-Neches Waterway on the Upper Texas Coast.

President Obama signed a bill last month that is meant to boost water projects across the country. Southeast Texas is to get the largest bucks from that legislation, the Sabine-Neches Navigation District said last week. The district said there are 71,000 vessel transits — meaning in and out  each year — in the entire Sabine-Neches complex. Those group of ports are located in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange and Sabine Pass. And since the modern petroleum industry began “right cheer,” as our Cajun Texans say, I suppose it is only logical that most of the cargo sailing around the area’s ports consist of crude oil and it’s byproducts.

 “We produce about 13% of the nation’s gasoline daily,” said Clayton Henderson, assistant general manager of the Sabine-Neches Navigation District 

Oh, and I forgot to mention there are big ol’ liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals at either side of where the Sabine-Neches and its bay, Sabine Lake, empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

If the remainder of the Keystone Pipeline gets allowed and built, it will end up right cheer in Jefferson County. And for something kind of completely different, some of the stockpiles of chemical weapons being taken from Syria for destruction — where do they go? Want to take a guess? Those nasty “weapons of mass destruction” are being sent to Port Arthur.

Now one may ask, why did he start with heavy thunder and rain, and end up with tons of petroleum products and weapons of mass destruction?

To look at it one way there is certainly a lot of stuff to go boom were the wrong people to get hold of all those dangerous product made and transported to and from our area. We would probably need a lot of foam if something caught fire, but we have plenty of water or so it seems.

Texas is a huge state and not even the biggest in the U.S. It is second in size to Alaska. But one gets a feel for its size when it looks at average rainfall from the nearly 60 inches per year we average here in Jefferson County to the 9-something inches received some 800 miles away in El Paso County.

I have to say that the LP terminals at the terminus of Sabine Lake bother me the most. But what can one do? Boosters of the project to deepen the Sabine-Neches channel by 8 feet say this will “promise” 78,000 new jobs in the area. It’s all about the jobs isn’t it? Or at the very least, the promise of jobs.

It seems as if someone needs to use the existing channel to transport to us a big ol’ “paradigm shifter.” Get that sucker rigged up like snappy, and working. Then, we should ask our Native-American friends who live about an hour away to the north on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation if they might be so nice to come down here somewhere and do some rain dancing. Because even with all the rain we already receive if things get rough we might need even more liquid gold.