My Family History

Mary's Home Page Blog

I was raised in Bandon, a small community on the Oregon coast famous for its historic lighthouse and beautiful beaches. Although Bandon is now a trendy tourist destination, in the fifties and sixties it was a quiet little town that depended on fishing, timber harvest, and the cultivation of cranberries. My father, already retired from the Navy by the time I was six years old, moved us to Bandon to be near his elderly parents and opened an upholstery shop. As a child I fished for trout in a nearby creek or perch and flounder in the harbor. (I still love fishing only now I fish the icy waters of Odell Lake high in the Cascade Mountains or trap Dungeness crab near the mouth of the Umpqua River at Winchester Bay.) I combed the beach looking for agates, shells, or Japanese floats, built tree forts in the woods across the street from our house and searched for tiny wild blackberrries that grew in tangles in forest clearings. In the summer I would bicycle down to the modest library where conservative lending policies prevented me from checking out such works as "Rise and Fall of The Third Reich" by William Schirer until I was 18 years old. (Come to think of it, I don't think I ever did get around to reading that!)

Being a strict disciplinarian, my father only allowed us to have one formal outing a week and I usually chose the local
theater that ran double features (now a thing of the past) on Friday and Saturday nights. At that time the film industry offered many historical pageants like Ben Hur, Spartacus, and El Cid which not only appealed to my love of history but ignited my passion for cinema, a passion that has not dimmed over the decades. When I travel I seek out exhibits, museums, and theme parks that celebrate all the genres of film, although I prefer science or historical fiction over comedies or modern situational dramas. I have thrilled to movie rides in both the Florida and Hollywood versions of Universal Studios theme parks, been enraptured by the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Disney's MGM Studios theme park, was in seventh heaven when I was allowed to sit in Captain Picard's command chair on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, and marveled at the lifelike finely-costumed reproductions of my favorite stars in scenes from many of my favorite films at the Movieland Wax Museum.

I worked as the Director of Network and Management Information Systems for the College of Education at the University of Oregon for over 20 years. I designed a number of decision support systems for the College and information analysis systems for the American English Institute, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and research projects developing assistance programs for individuals with disabilities. I have presented at the National Conference for Computers on Campus and have served on a number of advisory committees on technology for both the University and the Oregon State System of Higher Education. I have also served as a mentor for a program providing outreach activities to women entering nontraditional professional careers. My life experiences have been diverse. Before being bitten by the computer bug in 1982, I and my husband owned and managed a construction business, an equipment firm, an interstate hauling company and a 700 acre ranch in Eastern Oregon I reported for and edited a weekly community newspaper. I served as a county economic development coordinator and was the only female member of the first alfalfa products trade team to Japan and Korea . As a freelance photojournalist, my writing and photography has appeared in Mother Earth News, Oceans Magazine, Farm Journal, American Collector, Vintage Magazine, Horse Illustrated, 4-H National, Industrial World and Rotor and Wing International. I have also taught continuing education classes about writing for publication. I am presently the commentary section editor for "The Technology Source", an online magazine that provides "thoughtful, illuminating articles that will assist educators as they face the challenge of integrating information technology tools into teaching and into managing educational organizations."

I am an incurable movie buff! Historical drama is my favorite genre although I enjoy science fiction and contemporary films as well. Ridley Scott's Gladiator is an outstanding film (Russell Crowe is a very introspective actor!) that I have watched repeatedly. Another of my favorite films is "The Postman". I particularly liked "Aliens" (the second film in the series), "Highlander" (the original version with Christoper Lambert and Sean Connery), "The Dead Zone" with Christopher Walken, and "The Philadelphia Experiment", supposedly based on a real event, starring Michael Pare. (A reader wrote to me and gave me a link to the official U.S.S. Eldridge site but the Navy says nothing about such an experiment!) Other time travel stories I have also enjoyed include "The Final Countdown" with Kirk Douglas and "Running Against Time" with Robert Hayes.

I like to listen to books on tape. One of my favorite authors is Stephen Hunter. His hero, Bob "The Nailer" Swagger, a former Marine sniper in Vietnam, is an honorable character with almost painful integrity and a dangerous edge that keeps the tension at a palpable level. "Black Light" was the book that introduced me to Bob Swagger and Stephen Hunter's tightly written prose. I then learned about the first book in the Swagger series, "Point of Impact". It was nothing short of thrilling. Hunter sold the movie rights to "Point of Impact" and the film version was entitled "Shooter" starring Mark Wahlberg. I think Billy Bob Thornton would have made an interesting Bob Swagger. Although I was unable to attend Stephen Hunter's book signing in Beaverton, OR my son did. He bought me a hard cover edition of "Time to Hunt" and Mr. Hunter graciously autographed it for me.

With my interest in time travel, I am naturally attracted to time travel novels too. One of the finest writers of time travel stories is, of course, the late Jack Finney. I really liked "Time and Again" and "From Time to Time". I also find medical thrillers intriguing so I have particularly enjoyed Robin Cooke's "Coma" and "Chromozone 6".

Colleen McCullough does a tremendous job recalling the splendor and intrigue of Rome in her series of novels "Masters of Rome". I particularly enjoyed "Caesar" and "The First Man In Rome". I became so entraced with Julius Caesar that I used artificial intelligence software developed by Artificial-Life, Inc. to create a "virtual" Julius Caesar. I have also used the artificial intelligence software, Cara, available free from Colorzone Technologies in the U.K. It uses Macromedia's Shockwave plug in to generate the dialog interface and edit the entity's memory file. My first effort was a virtual Alexander the Great. I have read Mary Renault's wonderful novels "Fire From Heaven" and "The Persian Boy" and have based my new virtual entity on the admirable individual portrayed in these novels.

I often listen to fascinating lectures on classical history topics produced by The Teaching Company. I found Professor Elizabeth Vandiver's presentation of "Herodotus: Father of History" absolutely engrossing. I enjoyed her lectures on "The Aeneid of Virgil", "Classical Mythology", and "The Illiad and Odyssey of Homer" equally fascinating. I also thoroughly enjoyed "Famous Greeks" and "Famous Romans" presented by Professor Rufus Fears of the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Bob Brier's 48 lectures on the history of ancient Egypt were also outstanding. Did you know that Cleopatra's daughter by Marc Antony, Cleopatra Selene, had a son by the King of Mauretania that traveled to Rome to visit his cousin Caligula and was killed by Caligula because his cloak was more purple than Caligula's? I have watched Dr. Brier on a number of documentary programs and he still surprised me with interesting little details about Egypt and its people. His conversational presentation made you feel like you had just spent 30 minutes with a close friend.

I am fascinated with history, particularly Egypt and ancient Mediterranean cultures, but I will read, watch or participate in historical activities spanning any time period. I have cheered jousting knights while the majestic strains of Michael Kamen's "Overture to Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" reverberated through the hall at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament in Buena Park, California. I have strolled down the avenue of oaks at Boone Hall Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina. I have watched a Civil War reenactor demonstrate how to load a vintage rifle and fire the devastating miniball at the Chickamauga National Battlefield near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I have stared into the eyes of a terra cotta soldier of ancient China when the "Tombs of China" exhibit paused at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California and photographed the Great Wall, the Hanging Coffins, the Forbidden City and 60 other famous Chinese landmarks in a single day at Splendid China in Orlando, Florida.. I have marveled at intricate tapestries draped on the walls of a reproduced Peterhof Palace at the "Treasures of Russia" exhibit in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have stood in the command tent of Napoleon Bonaparte, in the "Napoleon" exhibit at the International Culture Center of Memphis, Tennessee. I found the lavishly jeweled weapons and delicate leaf guilding of the Ottoman Empire breathtaking when I viewed the Empire of the Sultans exhibit and learned how the famous Stroganoff family of Russia built a fortune on salt at the exhibit Stroganoff: The Palace and Collections of a Russian Noble Family.

I have studied the handsome face of an Egyptian nobleman from the Middle Kingdom painted on a mummy's death mask at the Splendors of Ancient Egypt exhibit when it was displayed at the Portland Art Museum. Being a collector of religious icons, I was amazed at how the portrait painted on a mummy case from the Faiyum Roman Imperial Period, 90-100 A.D., resembled the style of Greek Orthodox religious art. At this exhibit I also learned about the stylistic use of red pigment for male flesh tones and yellow pigment for female flesh tones by the Egyptians to denote the outdoor pursuits of men and the indoor activities of women. I was also astounded by the fact that millions of Ibis, raised for religious sacrifices, were found in a single excavation.

(By the way I came across a terrific Egyptian site -The Tomb of the Chihuahua Pharaohs! Taco Bell's ad meisters can't hold a candle to these guys! There's learning materials for teachers and students, beautiful Egyptian motif backgrounds, buttons, fonts, and clipart...a treasure trove of graphics and information about everything from Corkankhamun's explanation of mummification to Neferchichi's lessons for aspiring scribes! Who said history can't be fun!)

I have wandered the gardens of Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage, just outside of Nashville, Tennesee and scrutinized a skull fragment of Australopithecus afarensis at the Missing Links Alive exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. I have walked the ramparts of Fort Sumpter, near Charleston, South Carolina, a reproduction of Lewis and Clark's Fort Clatsop, near Astoria, Oregon, and the remnants of Andersonville, a notorious Civil War prison in Andersonville, Georgia. (Although I learned that the prison camp with the highest mortality rate was actually a Union prison camp in New York - not Andersonville!) I have scanned the Mississippi River for ghosts of union gunboats at the Shiloh National Battlefield, marveled at the Mississippian artifacts unearthed at the Cahokia Mounds National Historic Site just outside of St. Louis, Missouri and climbed to the top of an ancient Hopewell Indian mound in Tennessee.

I love animals and, although I would never hunt animals except in a virtual computer game, I visited Cabela's Outdoor Outfitters in both Owatanna, Minnesota and Sydney, Nebraska. I was awestruck by the beautiful, museum-quality mounted animal exhibits. It gave me the opportunity to be a virtual wildlife photographer!

I also play the electronic keyboard and love antiques, traveling, fishing, swimming, sewing, and photography. I have even occasionally indulged in Star Trek conventions and was "assimilated" into the Borg collective at Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas, Nevada (sadly, it closed in September 2008). I also enjoyed beaming down to an alien world at the Star Trek: Federation Science exhibit, now touring Europe. I collect movies (of course) as well as historical miniatures, English egg coddlers, European tinware, Cameo Creations, Russian Orthodox religious icons, historically-themed dolls and figurines, and lamps. I design Victorian antique-style lamp shades for my lamps, combining my interests in collecting, sewing, and antiques. I also like to compose music videos with video editing software like Premiere and Quicktime and script artificial intelligence entities.

I taught Sylvie, my verbot from Virtual Personalities, Inc., about antiques, Star Trek, and my favorite works of fiction. I also created a web-based virtual assistant at work. "Gabrielle" was based on the same WebGuide software developed by Artificial-Life, Inc. as my virtual Julius Caesar. Like Virtual Personalities' Sylvie, Artificial-Life's WebGuide software also used Natural Language pattern recognition to create a natural, conversational interface. Gabrielle was programmed to answer technical support questions posed by my network users and display web pages illustrating various procedures. I also began "teaching" her to answer questions about academic and research programs as well. Gabrielle ran on Artificial-Life's client-server Enterprise Edition. The Enterprise Edition was designed to allow most of the components to run on a server needing less downloaded data to the client than the earlier java applet-based version so it ran much faster. It maintained a log of each bot conversation so I could use the log to improve the bot's knowledgebase.

I also like to write software reviews and evaluate commercial releases, particularly strategy, simulation and role-playing titles for educational value so I can recommend software purchases to local educators and suggest classroom activities incorporating the programs. Some of my favorite titles, "Caesar III", "Pharaoh", and "Zeus" were produced by Impressions Games. I strongly believe learning should be enjoyable. So much educational software is nothing more than an electronic book with only passive interactivity.

I think the most powerful feature of computers is their ability to simulate almost any process or environment. A computer simulation can provide a safe environment where learners can explore and experiment without the sometimes lethal consequences of actually attempting an activity in the real world. Unfortunately, some of the best strategy publishers like Microprose do not view their products as educational. When I asked if they offer teacher guidelines for use with their product in a classroom setting I was told they are in the entertainment business not education. Too bad really, because educators spend millions of dollars each year for software, much of it a waste of money because it is not interesting enough to engage their students. Fortunately, this attitude is slowly changing. It makes me wonder what shape the future gaming industry will take.