Tag Archives: John

New Jail Curriculum

Collaborating with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell, this month I have been designing a new curriculum for studying faith and literature at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). In 1980, at the University of New Orleans (UNO), Canon Barnwell started developing a program which would eventually be called The Transforming Literature of the Bible (TLB). TLB is based on his original class in the “Bible as Literature” in the UNO English Department. From the mid-eighties, Canon Barnwell continued to work on TLB for both the university and at his churches: first at Trinity Episcopal in New Orleans, then at Trinity in Boston, and finally at the Washington National Cathedral where he served as Canon Missioner. TLB has been presented dozens of times in a variety of settings.  The TLB version we are updating now is dated 2008.

I had been looking for a shorter course to offer at Elmwood Jail where I have been leading seminars in Education for Ministry (EfM) since 2015. Unfortunately, EfM takes nine months per program year and many of the inmates are not at Elmwood that long. EfM continues to be the right program for some Elmwood dorms; however, I was glad to find TLB for faster-cycle dorms.  I think we can complete both Old and New Testament studies using TLB in about four months.

With Canon Barnwell’s enthusiastic support, I have edited the first six TLB sessions. I plan to edit the next 30 sessions starting next week. The first six sessions cover “The Hebrew Scriptures, Part One: The Great Stories of Genesis”. In addition to reading all of the Bible book of Genesis, students will also read:

I am grateful to have Diane Lovelace and my husband, John Plocher, as my Co-Mentors in this new venture.  I am giving the inmates Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, dictionaries, pencils and journals to support their studies.  Some books are in Spanish and some in English.  Ten inmates came last week to hear about the new program.  They are a varied group from many faith backgrounds: Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim. We are looking forward to developing the TLB pilot program together.

This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.


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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Chairs Carved by Ella Bolli Van Gilder

Thanks to my husband, John Plocher*, for reassembling and restoring one of the fumed oak chairs carved by my Great-Grandmother, Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder.  We found the chair in pieces in the attic of 2125 Broderick Street, my parents’ home in San Francisco, when we were clearing out the house for sale in 2012.  I have several other pieces carved by my Great-Grandmother – including another of her chairs. I am delighted to have one more.

Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder was a remarkable woman who early in her life worked with Jane Addams at Hull House – a settlement house for European immigrants in Chicago.  She later returned to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she married Walter Van Gilder.  They were both were enthusiastic craft workers (in the Arts and Crafts style) and gardeners, in addition to his founding and managing Van Gilder Glass Company.  My mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, grew up in their house at 1007 Circle Park Drive in Knoxville.

* with help from John Gibbs – Workshop (Campbell, CA)

This is what the chair pieces looked like when we pulled them out of the attic:

Here is the chair today, after much effort by John:

1911 portrait of Ella Bolli Van Gilder:

1007 Circle Park Drive in Knoxville: photo taken by Eleanor Creekmore when she was 10 years old, in 1941:

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Images Copyright 1941 by Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, and 2016-2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Filed under Eleanor Dickinson Art, Home & Family

Easter Egg Hunt 2018

Easter was on Sunday 1 April in 2017 (also John’s Birthday!) and as usual we had friends, family, and neighbors over for a potluck brunch and Easter Egg Hunt in our back garden and on WP668. The Associate Easter Bunny wrote a very difficult set of riddles for the adults to find the Gold and Silver Eggs.

Gold Egg
The clue has 3 words; each quatrain is a clue for one of them.

Birds circle in their dances, bright pinions
a-spinning as they whirl; making circles
and ovals and untracable-shapes to
describe with their sleek bodies this first clue.
The second clue is the colonial name
of an Alaskan burb, whose name now means
either a place for gathering potatoes
or snowy-owl in old Iñupiat.
Third clue: what do snakes and shells and people
and varicella-pox and cats and dogs
and lizards and chameleons and rats
and nematodes and bats do in common?
Hold up one finger, tap three on your arm:
that’s quatrain one and two. A charades charm!

Solution: The Gold Egg was in a brown paper bag behind a storage shed next to a yellow wheelbarrow.

Silver Egg
Literary references may require a search engine for non-English majors

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote |
In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a
song. | queer / old balloonman whistles / far and
wee and bettyandisbel come dancing |
Can curls rob can curls quote, quotable. As
presently. As exactitude. As | [Here]
keys in hand, I’ll reach the landing and / you’re
there—the one lesson I never get right. |
It has taken / seventeen years. This trip,
these characters patterned / in black ink, curves |
having been previously hardened, tempered
or sprung. Precision Steel’s inventory |

Solution: The Silver Egg was in a brown paper bag tucked into the end of a leaf spring under the WP668 caboose.

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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson (with one from Jessica Dickinson Goodman).

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Coolest Office in San Jose

WP668 Railroad Caboose in San Jose California

Thanks to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (and Ahmad Chapman, his Communications Specialist) who created the Great 408  community celebration program for San Jose which says about “77. Backyard Railroad Caboose” –

You can have your glass-walled high rises and ergonomic standing desks; Katy Dickinson has the coolest office in San Jose. That’s because it’s a 1916 Western Pacific steel framed wooden caboose in the backyard of the Willow Glen home she shares with her husband, John Plocher. The couple purchased the caboose in 2006 from the Golden Gate Railroad Museum in San Francisco after it lost its lease. It was in storage in San Jose for more than a year until it was moved to their backyard in May 2007. The couple has been restoring the caboose bit by bit for more than a decade. Be sure to check out Katy and John’s website for more photos and the history of the caboose.

The web page features the 2007 video by Sam Fineberg of WP668 moving into our backyard. WP668 is the office for my company, Mentoring Standard.

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Photos Copyright 2008-2017 by Katy Dickinson.

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Filed under Caboose Project and Other Trains, Mentoring & Other Business, Mentoring Standard, News & Reviews

Africa: People, Food, Technology, Business

Katy Dickinson and John Plocher 2014 Church of St. George Lalibela Ethiopia

Tomorrow, I am giving a presentation to my home congregation of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) about my nine trips to Africa since 2010. The talk is called “Africa: People, Food, Technology, Business”. I have linked the talk here so that my audience can access my pictures and stories after.  My bold intention in giving this talk is to present a small part of the wonderful complexity of the African continent, and to encourage them to visit and get involved in African enterprises.

“If you only visit two continents in your lifetime, visit Africa – twice.” – R.Elliot

TechWomen and TechGirls in Tunisia 2015

Katy Dickinson presenting to AIMS and TechWomen at in Cape Town by Rejoyce GaVhi Feb2015

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Images Copyright 2010-2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Sierra Leone Trip – Families Without Borders

Families Without Borders Gala 10 June 2017

Terri Khonsari, my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman, and I are traveling to Sierra Leone in a few weeks to visit the Families Without Borders school Terri manages in Makeni.  Jessica and I will be making technical and business presentations in Makeni and in Freetown. Terri and I are both long-time Mentors for the TechWomen program.  We have been discussing this trip for years.

More about Families Without Borders:

    We believe in building communities from within through education and empowerment of local youth. We begin by recruiting top students from disadvantaged families. We enroll them in a four year Bachelors Degree program of their choice complemented by a full servant leadership and personal development program. The program includes: advance computer skills, communication skills and financial management.

On Saturday, John, Matthew, Jessica and I joined TechWomen IdaRose Sylvester (with her husband Neil Hendin) and Samera Edwards at the Families Without Borders annual fundraising Gala. We enjoyed good company, good food, and good music. Jessica even learned some drumming.

Terri Khonsari Families Without Borders Gala 10 June 2017

Jessica Dickinson Goodman and John Plocher with drummers at Families Without Borders Gala 10 June 2017

Here are Hamid and Terri Khonsari with four TechWomen Fellows from Sierra Leone at the Families Without Borders Gala in 2015:

Hamid and Terri Khonsari with Sierra Leone TechWomen 2015

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Images Copyright 2015-2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Story of WP668 – Western Pacific Railroad Historical Convention

Katy Dickinson and John Plocher with UP1983 engine, Western Pacific Railroad Historical Convention, Reno Nevada, May 2017 IMG_1038

John and I took a road trip from the Silicon Valley to Reno and Carson City Nevada a week ago. I presented the “Story of Western Pacific Caboose 668” to the annual Western Pacific Railroad Historical Conference in Reno, Nevada.  The convention is put on by the Feather River Rail Society.  I was the only woman speaker! While in Reno, we toured Jim Petro’s remarkable model train layout – Jim is a master railroad modeler and scenery builder.  His layout runs on the JMRI software that John helped to create – and uses John’s DCC Brakeman as well.  We also were able to visit Union Pacific’s UP1983 locomotive in the old Western Pacific colors that was brought to Reno for the convention.

On the drive home, we looped through Carson City, Nevada, to visit the WP657 caboose (sister to our own WP668).  WP657 was moved to the Nevada State Railroad Museum from the Ponderosa Ranch.  The inside of WP657 is intact.  We enjoyed our special tour, seeing all of the original furniture, cabinets, and fittings that are missing from WP668.  We came back to California over Carson Pass in the snow and fog, and saw the very-full Carson River dumping its snow melt.

Katy Dickinson telling Story of WP668 - Western Pacific Railroad Historical Convention, May 2017 IMG_0995

Western Pacific Railroad Historical Convention, May 2017 IMG_0842

John Plocher with Jim Petro's model train layout control, 5 May 2017 IMG_0915

John Plocher and Jim Petro, 5 May 2017 IMG_0930

Reno, Nevada, May 2017 IMG_1079

Caboose WP657, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Carson City Nevada, IMG_1135

Inside Caboose WP657, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Carson City Nevada IMG_1176

Sierras waterfall, Carson River West Fork, IMG_1334

Near Carson Pass, Nevada, May 2017 IMG_1366

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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