Tasmanian Devil

I saw my first devil (other than Trump)

Picture of the Moment

It only took 23 years of going regularly to the San Diego Zoo before I finally saw the Tasmanian Devil. It just doesn’t like people, or maybe it knows when I’m coming by and scurries into its hiding places. Nonetheless, on May 27 this year, it was all out and about, scurrying here and there, mocking the people standing around oohing and aahing, and generally being a devil.

Tasmanian Devil

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It doesn’t look too happy but maybe that’s because it was too early in the morning. Or maybe it knew that I was going to put its picture in my blog….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Yes, yes I am

Picture of the Moment

Now that I’m back to WordPress, I can catalog all of the pictures I have taken over the last year, and share some of them, too.

Whenever I go to the San Diego Zoo, I always make sure that I visit Flamingo Lagoon, right inside the entrance so it’s impossible to miss, and the Australian Outback, where the largest colony of koalas exist outside of Australia.

The koalas are not photogenic because they prefer to hide in eucalyptus trees and eat or sleep. Earlier this year, on May 27, many of the koalas were very active, and that allowed me to get several very good pictures. Here’s my favorite:

Koala

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those eyes and that face seem to know exactly what I plan to do: “You’re going to put me in your WordPress blog, aren’t you?”

Yes, yes I am.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Free, if you’re reading this

House Key News

Long-time readers know that I’ve been in transition for the last eleven months trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I already had retired twice and my own considered opinion is that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Thus, I knew I did not want to retire again.

While I was trying to figure out what to do, I had been driving for Uber, picking up and delivering people, and Amazon, picking up and delivering packages. Both were interesting jobs but that’s all they were, jobs.

Both jobs, though, provided me with the opportunity to meet lots of people, and my discussions with many of those people have led me to where I am today. I have decided to combine six of my lifelong passions— research, reading, writing, real estate, philately, and music—and have come up with House Key News.

I ended my 14-year career as a home inspector on December 31, 2015. It officially ended when I did not renew my home inspector insurance policies, all of which lapsed on June 30, 2016. So on June 1, knowing that, without insurance, I would never work again as a home inspector, I made the commitment to sink or swim with House Key News.

Well, I’m swimming. I feel like Michael Phelps, albeit without all the gold…. yet.

House Key News is a monthly eNewsletter for anyone working in the real estate industry. Say, for example, that you’re a Realtor. For a fee (always a fee, yes?), you provide me with the email addresses of your past clients and I send them a personalized newsletter each month that looks like it comes from you rather than me. The monthly newsletter keeps your name in front of your past clients, making you look helpful and knowledgeable so that when they need your services again, you’ll be at the top of their list.

My first newsletter went out in early July and the second in August. So it looks like I have a monthly schedule that works. I’m almost finished with September’s newsletter and will start emailing it within the next few days.

You can read the August newsletter right here.

A full-benefit annual subscription is $359, less than a dollar a day. I am giving discounts of $80 to home inspectors and Realtors whom I have known for many years.

What I am doing today, though, is letting my readers and followers here have an individual subscription to House Key News. FREE! The individual You don’t get the full benefit of a House Key News membership because you won’t be providing any email addresses to me with this free membership. You’ll simply get a monthly email newsletter from me chock full of helpful and interesting articles and original pictures (by Russel Ray Photos, of course) about real estate—our homes, taking care of them, and staying safe in them.

To sign up, use this link, enter the discount code
russelrayphotos
complete the rest of the information, including agreeing to the terms of service, and click on SUBMIT AND CHECK OUT. Once you enter the discount code, the screen will refresh to show a due amount of $0.00. That means FREE!

Or………….

If you don’t like such links because they could be bad boy misdirections, go to housekeynews.com, click on Register, select the Individual membership at $99 per year, click on the link to enter the discount code, complete the rest of the information, and click on SUBMIT AND CHECK OUT.

You don’t have to work in real estate to reap the benefits of all the good stuff in House Key News. If you live anywhere other than in a cave or under a rock, there’s stuff for you. So get your individual subscription now since this offer will expire September 30, 2016.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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It changed my life

I livew in my own little world

In 1979, at the age of 24, I discovered that my juvenile record in the State of Utah was long, very long.

My juvenile problems resulted in the State, in 1965, removing me from the care of my mom and stepdad, and placing me in the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden. It was at “The Dee” where I met Barbara Hunt, an 18-year-old woman, also a resident, from Bakersfield, California. She befriended me and helped me write a letter to my paternal grandmother in Kingsville, Texas. A month later, my grandmother arrived at The Dee to tell me that she was going to adopt me and take me back to Kingsville. All she needed was my approval. Although it took more than just my approval, by Christmas 1965 I was living with my wise old grandmother.

As we walked in the front door of her home in Kingsville, I noticed a huge picture hanging over the sofa. Elements of the picture included the corner of a house, an elderly couple sitting on lawn chairs under an old oak tree, a dog at their feet, and flowers blooming in the gardens. That picture has stayed with me although it took me many years to figure out why. I now know that it showed what I wanted—a love of life, a love of flora, a love of fauna. When my grandmother died in 2003, my oldest uncle asked me if I wanted the picture. I did. Sadly, he never sent it to me.

A few years ago, during my career as a home inspector, the house I was inspecting reminded me of my grandmother’s picture. My camera captured it:

House & chairs

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Music on Mondays—Some of my favorite music from 61 years of life

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

My mother was a pianist and organist, her mom played flute, and her dad played violin. I grew up playing piano and violin, starting at age 2 with piano and age 6 with violin.

I also sang, first in church choirs and school choruses, and then in college and community ensembles, choirs, and choruses. My two most memorable singing stops were with the Gay Men’s Chorus of San Diego (1993-1994 and 1996-2001) and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (1994-1995).

My music career, though, was focused more on violin than anything else. I made stops with the South Texas Regional Orchestra, the Texas Youth Symphony, the Texas A&I University Symphony, the Corpus Christi Symphony, the Houston Symphony, and the Brazos Valley Symphony. I gave up violin in 1993 when I moved to San Diego and became a beach bum. Violins, sand, and salt air just don’t mix well.

Although I no longer play the piano or violin, or sing, I listen to an average of 12 hours of music each day from my digital collection of over 3,300 hours.

Following is a short list of my favorite music, in alphabetical order. Links are to YouTube videos.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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My favorite movies

I livew in my own little world

My wise old grandmother instilled in me a passion for movies. Her favorites were musicals, and my list of favorite films includes many musicals from my youth, as well as films with great musical scores by such people as John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith.

The Eiger SanctionAn alphabetical list of my favorite films:

  • Any Clint Eastwood movie, either as actor or director. I like his style. Don’t like his politics but as long as I separate his politics from his work, I’m okay.
  • Dystopian movies that cause me to think about the future and the past. Some of my favorites are “12 Monkeys,” “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” “Elysium,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Hunger Games” series, “Logan’s Run,” “The Matrix” series, “Planet of the Apes” Star Trek--The Motion Pictureseries, “The Purge” series, “The Terminator” series, “Total Recall,” and “WarGames.”
  • Any “Star Trek” movie but “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” is my favorite. The music by Jerry Goldsmith was awesome, and Vger made me wonder. While I was creating this list, I discovered the two “Star Trek” fan movies, “Star Trek: Renegades” and “Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.” Both were excellent.
  • Any “Star Wars” movie. The original “Star Ben-HurWars” from 1977 still is my favorite. I was just out of college and in a strange town. All my friends had gone back to their hometowns for the Memorial Day weekend, so I went to the movie. By myself.
  • “Babes in Toyland” (1961 version)
  • “Ben-Hur”—Probably my all-time favorite.
  • “Braveheart”
  • “The Bridge on the River Kwai”
  • “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”
  • “Dances with Wolves”
  • “The Exorcist”
  • The Red Violin“Gladiator”
  • “Mary Poppins”
  • “Oklahoma”
  • “The Pianist”
  • “Psycho”
  • “Raiders of the Lost Ark” series
  • “Rain Man”
  • “The Red Violin”
  • “Schindler’s List”
  • “The Shawshank Redemption”
  • “The Silence of the Lambs”
  • “The Sound of Music”
  • “South Pacific”
  • “Titanic”

As an aside, not only am I back, but I’m visiting blogs again. It’s so wonderful! I look forward to visiting YOURS to see what you’ve been up to these past twelve months.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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My favorite novels from 55+ years of reading

I livew in my own little world

The first school I attended was Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah (picture below, ca. 2011, from Google Street View).

Lake View Elementary School, Brigham City UT

The school library was separated into grade sections. I had read the complete Grade 1 section by Christmas of my first year and had to get the Principal’s approval to start reading the Grade 2 section. By the end of Grade 3, I had read the complete collection in the school library, except for the encyclopedias and atlases.

San Diego TrolleyPart of my reading success was my reading speed. The other part was my willingness to read anywhere, and that I still do. I have reading material with me whenever and wherever I go. Waiting on car maintenance at the shop? I read. Standing in line at the post office or grocery store? I read. Sitting in the doctor or dentist’s office? I read. Riding the Trolley? I read.

Time and Again by Jack FinneyCurrently, I am reading Time and Again, a 1970 work by Jack Finney about time travel. Being quite an interesting book with an interesting premise and plot, it is a good read, but my senior English teacher in high school would be appalled by his love of the dangling participle. (Oh, how I had fun writing that sentence….)

I chose it because of Stephen King’s recommendation on the last page of his book, 11/22/63, which now ranks as my favorite Stephen King book of all time.

At the request of an unknown person from a craiglist advertisement, here is a list of my favorite novels, books that I specifically remember from my life of reading, in alphabetical order:

  • 11/22/63 by Stephen KingAny book by Stephen King (or Richard Bachman). Stephen King has never failed to immerse me in his writing, to take me to other places, to make me think about the known and unknown, to wonder. The books that particularly stand out for me are 11/22/63, The Dark Tower series, The Stand, and Under the Dome.
  • The Box-Car Children by Gertrude C. Warner. When I read this at the age of 9, I already had it in my mind that my mom and stepdad didn’t love me. I could identify with these orphans.
  • Charlotte's Web by E. B. WhiteCharlotte’s Web by E. B. White. This book taught me an appreciation  for all life, regardless of how small (and some might say, “icky”) it might be. As my wise old grandmother told me when I was reading this book: “All life has a right to live.” To this day, when I find a spider visiting me inside, I capture it in a cup and simply move it outside so it can go on living, perhaps even becoming part of the food chain for life that is bigger than it.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. This is the only book that I have read multiple times—1973 as a high school senior, 1984 (to see how close Orwell came), and in 2013 after watching “The Hunger Games.”
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I wanted my own secret garden, a place where I could go to get away from the bullies at school and parents who did not love me. This book was the start of my lifelong interest in gardening, an interest that continued to develop under the tutelage of my wise old grandmother after she adopted me.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I did not read this book until 1995 after I had left Texas and moved to California. I was in the process of changing my life, and this book helped me change my perspective and understanding of the many different people around me.

As an aside, I do believe I’m back!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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