Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: Edward Curtis and Native Americans

Although I grew up in a region of the country that is home to reservations and still is heavily influenced by the coastal Native American tribes, there was never much concerted effort on my part to learn more about those who inhabited the land before us. I’m not certain America is ready to fully confront the tragedy that our ancestors wrought upon entire civilizations, and we typically gloss over this part of our history.

For my birthday this year, my grandfather gave me a copy of Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, by Timothy Egan. It traces the life story of a young Seattelite and photographer who, in the late 1800s, started a journey to document as much of the Native American culture and religion as he could, before it disappeared forever. Quickly consuming his life, this project led him to become nationally famous and highly sought-after portrait photographer. However, he dedicated decades to field expeditions and publishing a 20-book series of photographs and essays on various tribes and regions.

Curtis was relatively unknown for much of the latter half of this century, but he has seen a revival as the tribes themselves have re-discovered his work and used his reference to bring back the traditional culture that our government had forced them to abandon near the beginning of the 20th century. It’s a fascinating read to trace his journey, and I’d highly recommend the book.

MiG-25: Sovietest of the Soviet

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25

It’s big. It’s fast. It’s the apex of mid-1960s Soviet interceptor technology. It’s the MiG-25 Foxbat. Capable of sustained Mach 2.5 flight, this heavy interceptor could be pushed to over Mach 3.2 with the risk of permanently melting its turbines. Made in response to the rising speed of American strategic bombers, and before we truly figured out high-speed accurate missile systems, the MiG-25 was built for speed.

Surprisingly, the MiG-25 is somewhat of the Soviet analogue to the SR-71; the Foxbat was the second fastest military aircraft after only the Blackbird.

Copyright Leonid Faerberg;

After a Soviet Pilot defected with a MiG-25 in 1976, Western Intelligence learned a great deal more about this aircraft. 67 days of study later, the United States returned the MiG-25 back to the Soviets, in pieces. Due to its mostly-steel construction, the Foxbat weighed over 32 tons unarmed, and the welding was done by hand. Additionally, it only had a combat radius of 186 miles and used vacuum-tube technology for its avionics. Vacuum-tubes, although older technology, were more rugged and could withstand a nearby EMP generated by a nuclear blast.

The first time a manned aircraft engaged a drone in combat was an Iraqi MiG-25 and MQ-1 Predator in 2002. The Predator was destroyed in the incident.

B-58 Hustler: best named aircraft?

Meet the Convair B-58 Hustler

B-58_HustlerNice looking plane, isn’t it? Capable of going Mach 2 and designed as a supersonic bomber, the Hustler was only in operational service for a little under a decade: from 1960 through 1970. See that pod under the cockpit and running along the main body? That’s the external bomb bay. And the ‘Hustler’ name? Totally real, and I’m fairly certain it wasn’t even ironic. We truly believed this plane would hustle the commies. For reals.

As it was designed for high-altitude penetration attacks, the crew was protected by clamshell-style ejection pods. They could even act as a life raft if required, and that’s awfully swell.


To help with their super spiffy 1950s-era cockpit design, the Convair folks hired an actress of the time to notify the crew of various conditions and changes to the aircraft. How did they store it? On tapes, of course! The folks at Palamar have a copy of these tapes, but they’re in a extra fun flv player:

I extracted these mp3s into a slightly more accessible format:

More Information

Wikipedia, of course:


Labor and Civil Rights History Archives in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects has an amazing set of historical records, photographs, and newspapers tracing labor and civil rights movements along the West Coast, with focuses on Seattle and San Francisco.

Featuring multitude of resources including Labor History Encyclopedia, Communism in Washington State, and Civil Rights Movements in Seattle, there’s a ton of interesting material contained in these fascinating sites. Of particular interest is the photo archive.

Classic Photo Log: A Beginning

One of the projects I’ve always wanted to work on was scanning all of our family photos into digital format. Now that I actually have a) time, and b) money, I’ve bulked up on storage, scanning capabilities, and computer monitors in preparation of this project.

My great-grandfather, George, was an avid photographer, and I inherited his Nikkormat FTn and lenses. I’m currently learning how to master this wonderful mechanical camera just like how he wielded it decades ago.

George lived into his mid-90s, and I remember visiting his house in Port Angeles. During his last years he seemed determined to help us document and remember what life was like when he was growing up. I never really understood that drive until we discovered all of his carefully organised and filed slides amongst his possessions. They’ve been sitting in our basement, waiting until someone had the time and drive to begin documenting and scanning these slides. He took his pictures with positive film, and they’re preserved in the form of Kodachrome slides. Even today they show off their spender.

All of the pictures are located on my flickr, but I’d like to point out a few specific ones that I particularly enjoy. This will be a regular series, and I hope you share in the sense of discovery that I’m experiencing as I slowly peal away decades of photographic history.

George lived most of his life in Port Angeles, and many of the pictures share the traits of that area: the beaches of Puget Sound, the beauty of the Olympic Mountains, and the lush forests of the Olympic Peninsula.


George loved shooting flowers. He had a bellows lens, many remote shutter mechanisms, and precise mounting brackets.


Along with flowers, he also had an eye for mushrooms.


They went on hikes often.


And occasionally spotted a mountain goat.


Snow nor elevation stopped them.


Beaches are also a common theme: he seems to be much like me in that we ventured out when the weather was less than perfect.


George also fished the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. This was taken in the mid 1960s.

People don’t show up too often, but when they do the results are beautiful. This is my grandmother and one of her daughters: most likely my mother.

Lunch Time

Preparing for a nuclear family picnic.


Ferries looked quite a bit different back then!


On the deck of a ferry. He liked taking pictures of seagulls.


This looks like Northern California, but I can’t quite place it.

Lions Gate Bridge

This appears to be three-lane bridge, but nobody seems to be using the middle lane, nor are any of them marked with yellow lines.

View of Polaroids

When I was growing up, I had a Polaroid camera that I used on random occasions when I didn’t feel like using the traditional 35mm film camera for some unknown reason. After beginning the process to clean up my room at home, I found a cache of saved pictures taken with this camera. There were exactly thirteen in this batch. This is their story.

Nikky Starfish

Growing up on a protected bay of Puget Sound, my sister and I frequently were fascinated by the sea creatures we found while swimming. Immediately behind me you’ll see a large number of blue starfish, but I was attracted to this bright orange one for some reason.


This is my mom. She often led these beach expeditions and taught us to respect nature.

Nikky and Dave

It’s “Uh-Oh” Dave, my uncle! Nina and I usually pestered him until he picked us up and threw us outside. In a manner of speaking. Just what is on my feet?

Nina and Eileen

Sometimes we went on picnics.

Nikky Subaru

I was that emo kid who always sat alone.

Nina and Mom

Nina is my younger sibling, and appears to have lost her front teeth in this adorable picture.


Others collected Beanie Babies. I was a hipster and collected Puffkins. They often hung out together on this chair, which was shortly thereafter destroyed by the interior decorator police despite my protestations that it made an excellent home base for Puffkins.


Sometimes they hung out on my bed. I have about 30 now, and they’re hiding in a storage chest at home.

Nikky Birthday

Approximately once a year, I had a birthday.


Nina and I would bake a lot of things with mom. But we often got distracted and let mom do all of the frosting. Or we were too stuffed with cupcake batter. Delicious cupcake batter.


My grandfather, Ray, lived next door (and still does!). He got my foreign coin collection started and introduced the topics of engineering and electricity to me.

Grandma Carol and Mom

Sometimes my aunt Carol and grandma would visit.

Nikky's Desk

And probably would comment on my perpetually messy desk.

Old Site Posts

I finally found a good database dump from my old news archive structure, and after a few minor tweaking and some hacks, the old news posts are now integrated into this site. If you amble over to the archives, anything from October 2006 and earlier are from the old site.