Joe Carlson in the Army Air Corps

Bette’s dad, Joseph Carlson, was married and went right into the Army Air Corps (now the USAF) in 1943. Before he died in 2006, he and I sat on the screen porch and I pumped him for info on his Army career. His memory was a bit fuzzy, and he repeated things, but it was still REALLY interesting. I transcribed the recordings into a text file.

Fast forward to 2011, where at Bette’s school they are having a Veterans Day program today, and are going to read information about vets to the kids. So Bette asks about her Dad’s interviews, which I have yet to edit for the Veterans History Project. I spent an hour editing it up, here it is for your Veterans Day.


Joseph A Carlson in the Army – 1943

Joe got married, and went into the army. He was sent to boot camp in Rockford, Illinois. Joe was smart, and very good at math, and passed all his tests, so he had a choice of what he wanted to do. He joined the Army Air Corps (now the US Air Force) and went on a train to Blythe, California to work on bombsights.

His job was to clean and care for the Norden bombsights, a calculator installed in the B-17 and B-29 planes to compute the correct time to drop the bombs and hit the target. These were mechanical, not electronic, and made from clockworks.

The bombardier was the crew member who dropped the bombs. He came to the shack in the evening, Joe would check his ID, and issue the bombardier a bombsight and a pistol to protect it. The bombsights were top secret, and he never could let one get into enemy hands. One guy took his bombsight, but left it on the runway—he was kicked out of the Air Force. The bombardier took the pistol and bombsight out to the plane, installed them, and after the training mission, brought it back. Joe would check it over, clean it and test it, and put it back in the locked shack.

Missions were generally at night, because when it was very hot during the day, the runway would melt and the planes could not take off or land. When no mission was leaving or returning, Joe could do whatever he wanted. Got out of bed whenever, went to bed whenever, it was almost a leisurely life. One soldier would answer for all at roll call. Sometimes a repairman from the Norden company would come, and Joe would have him repair the broken bombsights he couldn’t fix.

Blythe was a small town with 300 people in the desert. There was not a lot to do. The town restaurant had a sign that said, “Dogs and soldiers not allowed.” There was a swimming pool in town and Joe, a good swimmer in high school, swam a lot. It could be 120 degrees during the day, and 85 at night. The bombsights needed to be cooled to protect them, so the shack was the only building with air conditioning. Joe would take his cot in the shack to sleep sometimes because it was cool. Some soldiers stored their drinks there to keep them cool.

After a year or so, Joe was sent to a base and Waco, Texas, and left the Army.

Joe liked the desert – sometimes he would walk out and just sit in the sun in his big army hat. He talked a lot about going back to visit, but never did.


Holiday 2009 – Sara Jean at Schubas

Our Sarah’s High School friend Sara Jean performed with Tom Schraeder and His Ego on Dec 28th at Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago. She had done this before last year and I had asked her to tell us when she would be preforming again. She Facebooked me and since both Bette and I were on vacation the week between Xmas and New Year’s, we went for it.

We got a cheapish ($90) room at the Hampton Inn at 33 W Illinois (careful though, taxes are an automatic $15 and overnight valet parking was $42!!!) THe hotel is a nice place, with a Prarie style decor in the small lobby and the usual Hampton coffee bar and free breakfast. After checking in and grabbing some coffee, we head to the room to read and have a bit of a nap. My cell phone goes off at 5:30, and we are off to Elizabeth and Nick’s.

They live north of Belmont on Ashland in a new condo. We cab to the place – Lake Shore Drive is backed up a bit, and traffic on Belmont is terrible, so cab fare is over $20 with tip – and find the buzz box. We are buzzed in. ON the 3rd floor, none of the apartments are marked with a letter. Elizabeth calls us on our cell, and we say “we are in the hall!”. She opens the door. Guess the association does not want condos marked…

THeir condo has lovely dark brown wood, 15 foot exposed concrete ceilings, and a couple of bathrooms, but at 1200 sq ft, it is not huge. But it is nice, and overlooks Ashland. THe kitchen is modern, small and would be a galley kitchen but the space between the kitchen and living room is open with a granite counter. Nice. We are served hors d’oeurvres and wine.

The door knocks, and it is Chellie. She was let it by a resident, who gave her explicit instructions on how to get to the apartment — “2nd door in the left”.

We visit an hour and grab a cab for the 3 blocks to Schubas at Southport and Belmont. I tip the cabbie well – we could have easily walked.

It is an old bar, lots of dark wood. My parents seem to remember going there back in the day. We have dinner. I had the Texas chili, listed with the veggie chili mac. Bette and Chellie have salads. We get sweet potato fries and a small mac-and-cheese (house specialty), which is free, when you prebuy tickets on line as we did. It is also 1/2 price wine night, so Chellie and Bette split a bottle of a French Sauvignon Blanc. I got a Guinness.

The fries are thick, not the thin curly ones everyone has. The Mac is hot and good. Bus staff keeps up with plates and water is refilled.

When our entrees come, the salads are wonderful, but my chili is just – no mac. I want mac. They give me a plate of buttered macaroni with a name for $5. Yow.

So we finish, and the line at the will-call is building. At 8:30P one band is still doing a sound check and our entry is delayed. We head back with the leftover wine, stamp our hands and Chellie pays her cover. I get a Goose Island IPA for $5.50 and we head for the church pews along the south side of the room. On the north (Belmont) side are some small tables with a few chairs; these are filled (the reason for the line). A line of coat hooks is behind our pew, people are hanging coats. The center of the floor is bare. You expect a Christmas pageant to break out at any time.

The first act is Dick Prall, who, as it turns out, is performing his last gig at Schuba’s before he goes on hiatus. (As his going away present, I bought two of his CDs for $10.) I really liked him, and I have since found some concerts from Schuba’s from 2005 on Rhapsody and have enjoyed them.

The next act is John Henry & the Engine from St Louis. Eh. The lead singer kind of moans and is not 1/2 the vocalist Dick is. The band is good, and they have an electric fiddler which is cool. Chellie leaves; we give her cab fare. We are glad we brought our earplugs.

Between acts, Bette sees a girl that could be Sara. I walked up to her and saw her tattoos on her arm — it is indeed Sara. I say hi and she gives me a big hug and comes over to Bette. We chat for a while; then she must prepare.

At 11PM, Tom (and Sara) come out with the other zillion members of the band. Sara has a wonderful voice, but at times is way down in the mix so is hard to hear. But she is having fun, and so did we. I have listened to Tom’s music on Rhapsody, and was familiar with some of the songs. He makes very interested facial expressions up on stage! One song brought all the bands from the evening up on stage – that was fun.

Post show, we said our byes, cabbed back to the hotel. Next morning, headed down to the free breakfast — big mistake! Crowded, food ok but nothing good, loud — we should have gone out. As we walked down to river afterwards, and later when we were driving out Ontario toward 90, we passed a bunch of places we could have breakfasted. Nuts. Next time. Let us know, Sara…

Cousin Joe’s 15 minutes of fame

Or as Cousin Mike puts it – “Joe versus the volcano. My brother Joe’s 10 seconds of fame….”


Here is a link to the video that the Post had briefly Friday morning. It is one of the few that has me talking….. in case you care. John asked for the video where I could be heard, but it seems silly not to self promote given all the bloody self promotion that I just went through.

This was a piece put together by AP international and then sold to whomever, I was interviewed at the conference

and then the UW site doing some self promotion (ed note: some maps of locations and more video)

and finally there is the Seattle public radio station interview over the phone from my hotel room. (ed. note: videos and other info here too)

I did a recorded interview with BBC, and a live interview with CNN-International during what must have been a newscast in London, I missed a real interview with the Seattle times, and didn’t connect up with BBC’s “UP ALL night” program.

A whirlwind tour…..almost done. Hypothetically I will be on Fox and Friends on Monday morning 3:50 am my time…. They are sending a car to get me. Maybe they will change their mind and I can sleep instead.

What a nutty idea. I told my boss no, but he twisted my arm. Certainly this must be the end of this stuff? We’ll see. Maybe I will still get NPR??


Most scientists labor in obscurity. May Joe be a little less obscure now. Uncle Hank is very proud of his boy.

Some short quiet videos with ominous rumblings from magma exploding 100 feet away.

Browns Lake 2009

Spent another long weekend at Browns Lake, Burlington WI. Arrived Friday afternoon, unloaded, hung out and opened up the boat.

Headed out to Charcoal Grill, on the Fox River in town. We decided to sit outside, and it was warm, not too, low breeze, and sundown. Perfect. With the river a few feet away.

Charcoal Grill, 580 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington, WI 53105

On the way out we asked the waitress about a custard stand someone at work mentioned. She pointed and said “Adrian’s. Right there”. We literally drove around the corner, and pulled into an old fashioned family ice cream stand.

I ordered a medium cone of vanilla. Good and huge. Sat on the table out in front and watched the kids and grandparents come out of Echo Park across the street after the band concert.
Adrian’s Frozen Custard, 572 Bridge St Burlington, WI

Then off to get the fishing licenses at Reineman’s.

Next day up early to prepare all the food for the onslaught and the 50th Wedding Anniversary party for the parents. Things went well, only one trip to the food store required.

Next day, golf at the Browns Lake Golf Course down the road. Hop in the boat.

Note to self: boat gas is 50:1 mix.

8/3: Went to BJ Wentker’s, a small restauarant in a pointy building in Burlington. We had been once in the winter a few years ago, but dragged my parents along. Luck with us: 1/2 price Wine Bottles – Rosenblum Paso Robles ($36). Nice. Some Brie Wraps ($8) for appetizer – Dad even liked. Mom and I had the Cowboy Ribeyes – a little chewy but very tasty ($24). Dad had the NY Strip – can’t miss ($28). Gorgeous old bar, wonderful restored building. Nice place. Recommended.

BJ Wentker’s, 230 Milwaukee Ave. (Hwy 36), Burlington, WI

Madrigal Dinner

Kat was in the madrigal singers at Wheeling High School. We went to the last of her dinners in the school cafeteria. They used to be at Chevy Chase Golf Club, which is a beautiful place for a madrigal dinner, as it looks just like a castle. The cafeteria is a little less overwhelming.

The kids sang great of course. The food was miserable. I have never had catered food as bad. The Chicken Vesuvio was cold, chopped unidentifiable meat in a juice of unknown origins. Cold beans, cold potato chunks.

I wish I remembered the caterer so I could rant on about them. Something Pasta Mobile. Better try a different caterer next year, kids.

Sanibel Spring Break 2009 – Saturday & Sunday

On Saturday we went to the Twins game. The spring training park is in Ft Myers at the home of the Miracles, Hammond Stadium, and Sam had obtained tickets. We headed over early sans Bette who was still feeling sick. We parked on the ball fields ringing the stadium, and crawled over the tailgaters who must have arrived sometime last night.

The tickets were a reasonable $21, seats in 203-5-3, with a great view of the field. I love small parks. We briefly considered selling the extra ticket, but thought the extra space might be nice too.

I was waiting in line in the right field bar/concession area, and after a subliminal crack, a foul ball bounced off of a garbage can not 4 feet from me. If the garbage can was not there, I would have a) made a spectacular grab, or b) been killed. I prefer not to know how it would have ended.

Premium Beer Served: Lots to choose. Started with a Land Shark, but switched to Dominican Republic Presidente beer, which had a nice color and taste. Plus, very fitting for a baseball game.

We spent Sunday sand castling. Sam & I dug, Bette snoozed, and Karin sat in the beach chair for moral support.

We headed out to dinner to Il Tesoro, located in the old Twilight Cafe location. This translates to “The treasure”, but all we treasured was finally leaving.

Sam and I split a bottle of Colle De Duca for $30. Was good. We decided on the Grilled Calamari for an appetizer for $9. We had never had grilled Calamari before, and it was quite good. I miss the oily part though.

We had various salads; Arugula and the Tesoro Spin Salad. Ok.

I had Pollo Fiorentia ($19), a chicken breast folder over some filling. We also had Lobster Ravioli ($28), Pollo Fiorentia ($19), and Pescatora Risotto ($24).

The sad thing was, the food was good. It just took over an hour to see it, and the waiter (coded AJ on our receipt, but since the head chef is A.J. Black, probably not correct) was a condescending jerk. He would run over once every 20 minutes and say, “it looks like it is up next” and then scuttle up to the counter to bring food to another table. Other tables came and went before we got our salads. We had to ask for bread brought automatically to other tables. I like to dawdle over dinner, but come on. Finally the preggers Karin blew up at him and he pretended to care. No offer of free entree, no offer of free dessert, no apology. He got a bad tip, and I will never go back. Never.

Il Tesoro, 751 Tarpon Bay Rd, Sanibel. (Zagat Review from yours truly)

Sanibel Spring Break 2009 – Friday


Arrived on time. Waited a bit at the Enterprise counter, got our car, a Toyota Camry. I kind of liked it, Bette found it hard to back up – bad visibility. It had a little storage area in the front with AUX jacks for the MP3 player. Zippy. Nice. Uneventful drive down from Tampa. Took a little side trip to North Fort Myers to see old family friends, Dorothy and Ron, who winter on a golf course and move to Wisconsin in the summer. Not a bad deal. Nice to see them.

Karin and Sam rented a Mitsubishi convertible. The back seats were impossible to sit in, especially with my hip. It was fun in the front seat, though. We ended up driving when all four of us had to go anywhere.

First night dining was at the resurrected Twilight Cafe. We had visited the previous incarnation twice before, and were sad to see it missing last year. They took over the old Riviera restaurant digs on West Gulf and reopened, with the same wonderful marinated grilled broccoli. We met the chef, Chef Robert Parks, who seated us and confirmed, yes, this is the same Twilight Cafe, and yes, they had the broccoli…

Based on a NPR story, Wine critics Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher from the Wall Street Journal said to never buy wine by the glass, cuz you don’t know how old it is. So Sam and I split bottles this trip. For this night, we did a McWilliam Shiraz. And we had the Combo and Mozzarella appetizers.

Karin had the Build your own Pasta, with the Sausage and Bolognese options. She complained that the pasta was not cooked enough and the dish was very wet. Sam had the paella (Shrimp, scallops, grouper and mussels tossed
with saffron rice, peppers and chicken stock), and seemed to enjoy it, even though it was different than the classic Spanish paella. I had a wonderful New York Strip, done rare (topped with crumbled bleu cheese and crispy fried onions with roasted garlic and red pepper mashed potatoes – not South Beach!). Bette had the blackened grouper and loved it.

We left happy (except for Karin, perhaps) and I welcomed Chef Parks, standing behind the bar/counter back to Sanibel. Nice to see a good place come back.

Twilight Cafe,
2761 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel Island, FL

LunaR Brewing Company

While on a mission in Glen Ellyn, we popped over to Villa Park for an impromptu pre-Saint-Patty-Party with Bette’s cousins, one of which has a boyfriend, Charlie, the proprietor of the Lunar Brewing Company, a small neighborhood bar and microbrewery.

The bartender was personable, and cheerfully handed me my two pints of Total Eclipse Oatmeal Stout and four cokes for the rest of the party. I tasted while standing at the bar, and found thick chocolate notes. He agreed and said they use a lot of malt. It was good. He was having some trouble getting the stout out of the tap, but said they were not filtered beers and tended to clog things up occasionally. The stout tasted slightly flat to me; was it just low on CO2? I am not able to answer. Maybe handmade beers are a little less bubbly, but I loved it anyway. Charlie, fill me in…

After a family-and-regular-only dinner (they don’t normally serve food) of corned beef and cabbage and a wonderful NON-South-Beach-Diet Irish grandma recipe of mashed potatoes with onions and something green, I had a McRed Red Ale for dessert – think Killian’s with taste. Wonderful.

Bette was driving, so as I chatted with Cheryl, I got a Raspberry Cream Ale. Yes, it tasted like raspberry, but was very light, not overwhelming like some. Not sweet either. Thick nose, luscious. Bette got a taste and approved. Nice.

The bartender was great, he even made a Margarita (gasp) for Jill which was she said was good. He apologized in advance for its composition, and said, “this is a brewpub, and I mostly just pour beer”. Well said. They also sold some top-shelf Tequila shots, and Cheryl liked those.

Some gentlemen at the next table had snifters of something. I asked them; it was the Neil Armstrong Ale, a 10% kicker. They liked it. I will order one next time before I have three pints.

The place is like an old Chicago style neighborhood place, clean, a few kids running around, and a band was getting ready to play later that evening. Cheryl said that the place is busy on Saturday nights with the live music, but the proprietor is very careful to keep the sound level down during shows (even trolling the venue with a dB meter) which I appreciated. In baseball season, Cubs fans are at one side of the bar, and Sox fans at the other. And check out the cool custom moon-face tap handles. And you could tell the regulars – there were a lot of them stopping in.

Sounds like a great regular place if you are close. We are not, but will try to visit again when in the hood. Just look carefully, it is invisible and everyone drives right past it the first time.

Highly recommended.

LunaR Brewing Co., 54 E St. Charles Rd, Villa Park, IL (630) 530-2077
Roughly E St Charles Rd at Illinois, 2 blocks east of Ardmore.