A Daze Work

Avery Robert Fisher (1906-1994)

In the early 1950’s I was hired by the Navy Department, in particular, by the Inspector of Naval Materials (INSMAT).  I had to go to electronic companies in the Long Island City area of New York and inspect electronic items and assemblies to ensure that they had no defects (or an acceptable few cosmetic defects) before they could be shipped to the Navy. This job gave me a deeper insight into the workings of small companies than I had ever had before.

The companies included: Mark Simpson Electronics Co. (MASCO) a maker of Audio Amplifiers, the Fisher Radio Co. making Fire Control servo amps for Naval guns, and a company making power resistors and another company making high current fuses.

There were two ways to inspect a product before I approved it for shipment to the Navy. In the first way I inspected fully each item that they produced.  At the Mark Simpson Company every record player and amplifier passed across my worktable where I inspected it and tested it in every detail before I put my USN stamp on it.

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And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

This morning

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Domehenge: Sleeps 30!

This year (2012) was the 8th Annual 4th of July Moynahan Family Reunion. Thirty of us were here over a period of at least 10 days––and within the 10 days all of us were here at once for three days and nights; all 30 of us slept here!

It wasn’t always that way. In 2004 when we had our first gathering and many didn’t have tents, some of the family slept in the old inn at the foot of the mountain. This building belongs to a friend who gave us permission to use it––and she hadn’t used in ages. The refrigerator had rotten food in it from her last tenants, which we had to clean out, plus we had to clean the place in general. We had no electricity for awhile and we had to call the electric company. The water pipes were broken so Mark and Barry hooked up a hose from the outside faucet to flush the toilet, and the propane never did get hooked up. Not a fun way to start a family gathering!

The “small dome” had been cleaned out and a loft put in during the spring. It still wasn’t finished inside. Kim, Barry, Andrea and Dana slept there. Moya had the luxury of the guest bedroom, and Xan (who had no way to carry a tent on the airplane) got the studio futon! Those who did have tents put them up in the lower field next to the Sowers’ camper.

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The Non-Gardener

That’s what I am, a non-gardener. I’m not one to kneel among the weeds, pulling them out one by one, nor one to enjoy planting. I just want flowers to appear magically and remain beautiful throughout the growing season – no planting – no weeds – no work.

“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade…”    Rudyard Kipling

Frankly, I think those who do love gardening are wise. It takes them outdoors in the fresh air, and, as the cliché goes, “busy hands are happy hands”. The mind is free to soar from place to place while the seeds, bulbs, and plants get placed and covered with mulch. From time to time weeds are pulled. The garden eventually blooms. It’s a creative effort. It’s a product. It’s rewarding – but I don’t do it.

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Protecting Domehenge: When Lightning Strikes!

As we were spending our first night in a tent on the top of Backbone Mountain, say about summer of 1992, it came to pass that we had a small thunderstorm.  The rain whipped about and the lightning flashed and with each crash I began to wonder if this was a good place to put up a tower with antennas or to even build a house.  Later, back in Crystal City I researched the subject and finally came upon bulletin number 78 of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Here was the golden truth.  NFPA-78 (now NFPA 780) is totally devoted to the protection of buildings, towers and other constructions from lightning.  And, the research has been blessed by the insurance industry, which have the greatest interest in good construction.

I decided that the best time to install a lightning protection system would be before the electrical wiring was put in.  After all, a house full of #12 copper wire would attract lightning just like a lightning rod. So, the installation of a good lightning protection system had to precede the electric wiring of the house.

Lightning rod on the cupola

The first subject was “Ground”.  Well, that seems proper as we all imagine the lightning bolt coming down from the clouds and looking for a path to the earth.  So, on my next trip to the mountain I took 6 ft ground rods and a hammer and my volt/ohmmeter. I would measure the resistance between the ground rods.  NFPA 78 gave me typical values.

The first rod went into the ground about 2 feet and then decided it wanted to be a bell not a ground. Each time I hit it, it rang with a beautiful tone but refused to go another inch deeper.  The second rod went in about 6 inches and then turned up and went the rest of the way parallel to the surface. The measured resistance between the rods was over 600 ohms. Clearly I had discovered the famous Glass Mountain.

I was building on a giant, leaky insulator!

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The Eighth Annual 4th of July Moynahan Reunion

This year our gathering was special, as we celebrated our granddaughter’s (Xan Gerson’s and Noah Williams’s) wedding, which was held in Seattle on May 25th.  Twenty-eight family members and friends plus Pink Panther joined us.

See pictures of our Wedding Extravaganza!

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The Little House that Grew

School 13, Valley Stream Long Island

When I was in kindergarten (early 1940s) in School 13 in Valley Stream, Long island, NY, I remember a story the teacher read aloud to us on more than one occasion. I always loved it, although can’t remember the exact title. I call it “The Little House that Grew”. It was about a family of four who lived in a very small house. The mother wanted a room to sew in, so they built her a sewing room. The father wanted a workshop, so they added that. Next, each child wanted a room, and then they wanted a playroom. I don’t remember what other rooms they wanted, but on and on they built until finally the house was so big they had to roller skate from one end to the other.

I thought of that when we decided to build the addition to this house. The dome alone was fine for weekends and vacations, but there were no walls to hang our art collection, no room for our furniture, not enough closets, the bedroom was too small with room for only one dresser; Mark had no workshop and where would my drawing board go?

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A Summer Job in the Days of Telegraph

When I was fifteen or sixteen I got a summer job with RCA as a messenger boy delivering and picking up RCA Radiograms in the Wall Street area of lower Manhattan.  The RCA Central Office for New York City was at 66 Broad Street, in the same area as the Cunard White Star line office and all the other shipping lines offices.

Across the street was the Western Union office. And a block north was the financial district of Wall Street.   The RCA building had a small room open to the street in which I waited to be called. Then there was a large window that separated the street side from the inside of 66 Broad St.

Behind that window, taking telephone messages, was the most beautiful of all God’s creations.  She smiled at me whenever I arrived and pushed messages to me or grasped messages I had picked up.  Each time I just about died at her recognition of  my mere existence.  I never spoke to her. I never learned her name. I never forgot her.

As I recall, there were two floors dedicated to outgoing messages and incoming messages respectively at 66 Broad St. Outgoing messages all went to the RCA transmitting site at Rocky Point Long Island. Incoming messages were received at Riverhead Long Island, about 30 miles away, and forwarded to the receiving operators at 66 Broad St. There they were typed onto RCA message forms for delivery to the recipients.

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Lessons in Pottery

1913 Norman Road

Back in 1958 BC (Before Children) we rented a little house in a subdivision called Harundale in Glen Burnie, MD. Our yard was non-descript except that we didn’t have much soil and what there was had been put on top of a layer of red clay. During rains the red clay would ooze to the top and any soil that wasn’t anchored down by grass just washed away.

Grass wasn’t so important to us back then. All we could see was the potential of the red clay––


We could become potters and the clay would all be free!

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Adventures in Strange Lands Part II : Meteor Reflections

The plane from Goose Bay, Labrador slowly drops into the narrow crack , thousand foot cliffs on either side, no sign of an airfield anywhere, nothing but the glacier dead ahead. Greenland—-the world’s largest ice cube!  It’s two miles thick in the center! Then, suddenly, a sharp turn and “Plonk”—we immediately touch down. Engines roar as the propellers reverse pitch. We stop with a few inches of runway to spare before we would become a shiny aluminum cross on the glacier. The Air Force sergeant stands and announces:

“Welcome to Sondre Stromfjord.” My inner thought is “What did I do to deserve this?”

A few months ago, in the spring of 1954, I was working at Baird Associates in Cambridge Mass. I got a phone call from Jim Hollis, an engineer of a strange radio communications company called Page, Creutz, Garrison, and Waldschmitt, actually a partnership, in Wash. DC.  Later it became known as Page Engineers Inc. He said that I should meet him at Logan airport for a job interview, where he was changing planes in an hour.  We met.

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