Monthly Archives: October 2020

Introducing the Dorothy Roth Loftus Saga

Summary: Read the fascinating and colorful history of gold-rush era Fairbanks, Alaska, and of my grandmother, Dorothy, who grew up there.

Dorothy Roth Loftus

I regularly try to impress on people the importance of interviewing parents, grandparents and so on.

Stories of my Japanese American grandparents’ journey to America, raising their children in Oregon, and living through WWII were preserved by my mother. She took the time to write them down, publish them in a book, and share in regular public talks over the years. I have shared many of these stories in another blog.

Although, I never got to know my mother’s Japanese American parents personally (they died just before and after my birth), I was blessed to grow up next door to my father’s parents. I got to know them well.

Now the story of my paternal grandparents is being retold.

Back in 1984, my eldest brother spent the summer interviewing our paternal grandmother, Dorothy Roth Loftus, using a tape recorder. Over 14 hours’ of recordings:

“I asked her everything I could think of: what the town of Fairbanks was like in the early twentieth century, who were the people her family knew, what she studied in school, what the seasons and holidays were like, what foods they ate and how they prepared them, which books she read, how she pursued her love of music, and whatever she knew about her German forebears in California and Pennsylvania, as well as her husband’s Norwegian immigrant family in upstate Wisconsin.”

Grandmother sitting in her home in Coos Bay, next door to where I grew up

The stories paint a vivid picture of a boisterous and disorderly frontier town.

For example, the Episcopal Church was one of the oldest buildings in town and built of rough-hewn logs with bark still on them. Wood beetles occasionally fell onto parishioners and the choir. It was “the only public place in town where one could sit and relax, which was not a liquor shop.” This is where my grandparents were married.

You will learn about my great-grandfather, Rinehart Roth, a lawyer and “internal, eternal, and infernal optimist,” who dragged his pregnant wife and two daughters (my grandmother was just one year old) to the wild and woolly gold rush town of Fairbanks. There, he squandered his money and abandoned them to fend for themselves. Grandmother’s mother died when Dorothy was only 18. She and her younger sister, Florence, had to fend for themselves, even having to pay the long overdue bill for their mother’s funeral.

Great-Aunt Florence, and Grandmother Dorothy, in Fairbanks, Alaska, circa 1910

My brother is writing a book based on his interviews with Grandmother, archival newspapers and photographs, and other interviews. He is making installments available on his Patreon. Five episodes are available for free:

THIS IS IT – The Dorothy Roth Loftus Saga

Dorothy 1: A cold day in Januray, 1928…in Alaska

Dorothy 2: Gathering the wedding party…but still undecided

Dorothy 3: A wedding…at last

Dorothy 12: Assaulted by a dog team…and the security of piano boxes

To read the rest, become a patron of my brother. You can do so for any amount.

The stories are interspersed with my brother’s other writings on social policy and debate and our hometown of Portland. He has written extensively, for example, on the protests on the streets of Portland and the city and federal law enforcement actions – reports that, in my humble opinion, offer a much more accurate, first-hand account of reality, compared to the often breathless and sensationalized reporting found on broadcast media.

Eventually, he may also blog about his encounters with Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Daniels, Harlan Ellison, Hoyt Axton; his travels in West Africa, Greece, and Eastern Europe; and his own adventures as a film, video, and stage actor.

The Tower of Terror Online Haunting

This Friday and Saturday night consider joining the Halloween fun in:

The Tower of Terror
Recommended for ages 16 and up.

Enter the interactive elevator to see any of 6 live performers, a horror-filled basement, and a screaming room featuring clips from classic horror movies.

When: Friday, October 30th and Saturday, October 31st, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time.

Cost: Pay what you can. Come check out the fun and leave a donation at the door.

I will be performing live both nights. I’ll perform from 7:15-8:15 p.m. Friday night, and 6 – 7 p.m. Saturday night (Pacific time). Just take the elevator to the 4th floor when I am performing.

Come watch and hear me! Chat with me online. I would love to see you!

Here’s the website:

Here are the Facebook events:

Friday, October 31, from 6-9 p.m. Pacific Time

Saturday, October 31, from 6-9 p.m. Pacific Time

I Voted

I opened my vote-by-mail ballot this afternoon around 3:30pm. I completed filling it out and deposited in the nearby county ballot drop box just over an hour later.

Oregon has had standard vote-by-mail since 1989. I have vague memories of voting in person at my former elementary school. I think I only voted that way once. I voted absentee when I was away a college and overseas, and ever since, it’s been vote-by-mail.

I love vote-by-mail! Let me count the ways:

  1. I can review and research my ballot in the comfort and privacy of my home, where I have easy access to any magazine, newspapers, video interviews, etc. if I need more than what the voters’ pamphlet provides.
  2. I don’t have any time pressure to figure out which lever to pull, which button to press, etc. I can take my time.
  3. I don’t have to worry about finding the correct polling location (which county, ward, division, parish, etc. am I in?).
  4. I don’t have to worry about taking time off from work to vote, nor do I have to deal with fighting traffic to make sure I get to the polls before they close.
  5. I don’t have to worry about waiting in line to vote (especially a concern this year due to the pandemic).
  6. I can easily check the status of my ballot (has it be received) online.
  7. Places that have instituted vote-by-mail have seen an increase in voter turnout.
  8. In Oregon, vote-by-mail has a favorability of over 75% for both registered Democrats and Republicans.

There are some who oppose vote-by-mail, worried that it is susceptible to voter fraud. However, numerous studies have found the overall voting fraud rate to be extraordinarily low:

  • From 2000-2019, Oregon has found 14 fraudulent votes attempted by mail. Since 15,476,519 votes were cast during that time period, that amounts to a fraud rate of .00009046%
  • Colorado, from 2005-20018 experienced 8 fraudulent votes attempted by mail out of 15,955,704 votes, or a rate of .0000501%
  • Washington, from 2004-2010 found 7 attempted fraudulent votes by mail out of 10,605,749 votes, or a rate of .0000660%

Source: Brookings

As a comparison, here are some comparison odds:

Donating Platelets

I am a frequent blood platelet donor.

Holding my fresh donation of platelets suspended in plasma. Recipients often call these “bags of gold.”

I often donate every month, sometimes even more frequently. Unlike whole blood donations which can only be made every 56 days, platelet donations can be made as often as once a week.

What are Platelets?

Platelets (aka thrombocytes) are the part of your blood that form blood clots to stop bleeding. Biologically, they are fascinating: although they are cells, they contain no nucleus and are found only in mammals.

Why are Platelets Important?

Platelets are especially needed by people fighting cancer or leukemia, those undergoing major surgeries, and those who have suffered traumatic injuries (e.g. car accidents, etc.).

There is a great demand for platelets, and they can only be used for 5 days after they have been donated (contrast this to other blood components which can be preserved for weeks or even up to a year).

Here is more information on platelets from the Red Cross.

By the way, the Red Cross donation center in Portland is, I have heard, tied for the largest donation center in the country with 17 donor beds – the other is in Minnesota. Moreover, I have heard the Portland center collects more units of blood products than any other place in the country. Our donations are sent all over the western U.S., and to disaster areas all over the country when needed.

Whenever there is a disaster (hurricane, fires, etc.), the need for donations goes up because a) the disaster-struck area may see a spike in need, plus b) the area hit often sees a reduction in donations from the local area. So consider donating, especially when you hear about bad news in other parts of the country.

Why Do I Donate?

a. Facing My Fear
I first started donating whole blood decades ago. Part of it was to do good for others, but a major part was to face my fear of needles. I never fainted or anything, but getting shots and blood drawn always made me anxious. Afterwards, I always thought, “that wasn’t so bad.” So I began donating blood.

After one donation, the Red Cross contacted me after a whole blood donation and said, “you know, you have a high basal platelet count. Have you ever considered apheresis?”

“Apher-what?” I asked.

Apheresis, they explained, is where they take your blood, separate it, keep a portion (e.g. platelets), and return the rest back to you (the machines that do it are really amazing!).

Apheresis machine

b. Competition
My oldest brother has been donating whole blood for decades and has earned many Red Cross gallon pins. I believe he recently has been doing power red donations, which are concentrated red blood cell donations. You can only do those every 112 days, up to 3 times a year.

Brothers donating side-by-side

Since I have a relatively high level of platelets in my blood (it varies from person to person), I could donate a triple amount of platelets. Most people can donate a double.

That, coupled with the fact that I can donate very frequently, I have quickly added up my donations to where I’m eligible (as of this writing) for my 31 gallons pin.

c. Because I Can
Eligibility requirements for platelet donations are a bit more stringent than for other donations. Common disqualifications are recent travel and some prescription medications. Here are the Red Cross eligibility requirements.

d. I Feel Great Afterwards
After any donation, you are cautioned to take it easy – don’t do any strenuous work or lifting, etc.

After whole blood donation, you may feel run down. That is because you have lost some of your red blood cells, which deliver oxygen to and remove carbon dioxide waste from your body. With reduced red blood cell quantity, the efficiency of this process is reduced.

However, with platelet donation, all your red blood cells are returned to you. I therefore don’t feel run down after a platelet donation.

e. Gratitude
Platelet donations take a long time. For a typical triple donation, I am often connected to the apheresis machine for two hours. Add the prep time before and the snack time afterwards, and the whole affair often takes three hours.

Classmate and good friend, Joe, doing his part

During donation, both arms must remain still (I nickname it the “crucifixion”). During that time I cannot text or surf the web. They have TVs so you may watch news, sports, movies, and Netflix. I often bring my headset and listen to podcasts to pass the time.

Crucifixion scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”

During that time, though, I often contemplate how lucky I am to be healthy. I know so many lovely friends and family members who have battled cancer – some who have succumbed. I think of the children at the two area children’s hospitals. One unit of platelets can potentially save three lives.

Platelets cannot be synthetically manufactured, nor can they be preserved beyond just 5 days. I have plenty, so why not share them?

My hat is getting pretty heavy

Hopefully, I can keep donating for years. And if the day comes when I am in need, others will be there to help me out.

Does it hurt?

It depends. Certainly the insertion of the needles tends to sting a little bit. But usually that stinging sensation dissipates within 5-10 seconds.

The needles they use are much smaller than the large ones you often see for whole blood, so that helps.

Keeping your arms immobile for that long can get uncomfortable. Sometimes my elbows or wrists start to ache. Don’t move them yourself, but speak up and a nurse will be happy to adjust your arm for you.

Cushions for your wrist, lumbar, neck, etc. can help – ask if you are in any way uncomfortable.

I know I can get cold during the donation process, so I ask for extra blankets and heating pads. They have them too.

Just don’t be shy. Let people know how you are feeling and they will do everything they can to make you comfortable.

Is it safe to donate now during the pandemic?

I’ve been very careful about staying home, always wearing a mask when out, washing my hands, and keeping physical distance. I assumed the Red Cross would take great precautions and having donated twice since the pandemic started, I feel safe.

They have greatly reduced the number of things you must touch during the donation process. For example, someone signs you in for you, there is hand sanitizer available whenever you need to use a touch screen, and of course everyone is masked all the time.

You still need to touch door knobs and handles, and fixtures if you use the bathroom.

But all in all, I feel they are taking proper precautions and will be donating again in a couple days.

Are you still scared of needles?

Over the years, I’ve gradually desensitized myself to the point that I can watch the whole process: preparing, inserting, and removing.

I still flinch a little when I see needles inserted on TV or in movies, but for myself, I know what to expect and am comfortable with it.

Any other tips?

Yes! Here are some additional suggestions:
1. Hydrate! Drink lots of water the day of and the day before your donation. Juice is okay, too, but limit your coffee and tea intake as both may dehydrate you.
2. Use the bathroom before you donate. Just before you are placed on the donating bed, you are encouraged to use the bathroom. Go, even if you don’t feel the need. Two hours on the bed can get very uncomfortable if you need to answer nature’s call. If you have to go during your donation, they must disconnect everything and abort your donation.
3. Avoid fatty foods the day before and day of donation. I once had fish and chips for lunch, just an hour or two before my donation. The impact was immediate: the amount of fat in my blood prevented the sensors of the apheresis machine from operating properly, and we had to abort the donation. Some websites recommend eating a hamburger to boost your blood iron levels. I disagree with this advice.
4. Tell others about your donation. I continue to hear from friends and acquaintances who benefited or who had family members who benefited from these life-saving donations. Some have joined me in donating too!

Curious, interested, nervous? I have invited and accompanied many friends to donate platelets. If you are in the Portland area, I’d be happy to join you.

Wallet Honesty Test

Despite the great chaos, strife, and polarization in our world today, I still stubbornly cling to the belief that there is more good, kindness, generosity, and love out there than is readily apparent.

You just don’t see it reflected on the news or on social media. What grabs the eyeballs and attracts mouse clicks are conflict and outrage.

That’s why, despite a significant drop in crime rates since the 1990s, public perception often is that violent and property crime rates have been on the rise.

Popular YouTuber and former NASA engineer, Mark Rober, put out a recent video that bolsters my optimistic belief. You may know him from his wildly popular Squirrel Ninja Obstacle Course and his Glitter Bomb vs. Package Thief videos.

After having lost his wallet and not having it returned, he wondered what kind of people would or would not return a lost wallet. So he prepared 200 wallets and had them dropped in 10 cities to see which would be returned.

Would there be any trends based on the city location or size? What about the age, gender, socioeconomic level, or religion (if any) of the finder?

I think you, like me, will find the results of his little test uplifting and reassuring.

Another outdoor chamber party

I enjoyed reading string quartets with friends this afternoon.

We musicians acutely miss playing music with each other and performing for others in concert. So the opportunity to play together these days is a special treat.

Here are some excerpts of works we performed outdoors to an appreciative audience.

Brandenburg Concerto #3 by J.S. Bach, arranged by M. Naughtin
The Old Refrain by Fritz Kreisler, arranged by M. Naughtin
Golliwog’s Cakewalk by Claude Debussy, arranged by M. Naughtin
The Girl with the Flaxen Hair by Claude Debussy, arranged by M. Naughtin
String Quartet, Op. 18, No. 2, fourth movement, by Ludwig van Beethoven