Thursday, April 20, 2006

A couple of mysteries to keep you curious.

I"m home and I'm productive, but I'm heading out again for another journalistic journal -- my destination is Mystery #2.

But the picture to the left is Mystery #1. Your task is to identify the object and then explain why machines of its type are not in use today -- at all. Nowhere. No other hints. No big prizes for the winner, but if you're under 50 years of age and you come up with the right answer, I'll be impressed. Please send your guesses or answers to (for my visually-impaired readers, the photo is of a wooden, boxlike contraption that stands about four feet tall and maybe 24-20 inches in width and depth. It has what looks like viewing slots, shaped to shade the eyes of up to three observers. There's a switch of some type and a guage of some sort. By the way, two people would apparently view from the left and right of the front of the machine -- the other viewer would view from the back side of it).

Mystery #2 is coming up. But first, news from Don Ray's world.

I arrived back in the U.S. on March 31st and went straight to work moving things into my little Burbank house. I had hoped to use it as a weeknight crash pad and evening office so that I could eliminate eight legs of the commute from home in Hesperia to the newspaper job in downtown Los Angeles. However, as management folks warned might happen, they put advertised my position and were trying out new recruits.

So now, I'm back to freelancing again and I couldn't have a better title -- except maybe "millionaire freelancer" or "Pulitzer Prize winning freelancer" or "soon-to-anchor '60 Minutes' freelancer or something like that. I spend much of the week in the Burbank office/home where I'm close to the markets I serve and far from the distractions that surround me at home (I'm not speaking of my wonderful wife and son -- it's all the clutter that calls out to me that distracts me).

I knew that this outcome was more likely than not, so now I'm gearing up to complete projects that I am passionate about and darned good at (positive thinking at work).

Armed with a new, industry-adored DVX100A digital video camera and a top-of-the-line platform that runs the industry-embraced Final Cut Pro editing suite, I'll be able to produce any kind of videos I desire -- including television documentaries and even feature films. The camera has the ability to mimic the 24-frames-per-second that a film camera uses. Quite cool, indeed.

Many of the projects will be personal, family documentaries in which I combine my 30 years of oral history interviewing experience with my televison and writing experience. For the most part, the final documentaries will center around senior members of families -- families that know that their parents and grandparents will not be around in 50 years. The yet-to-be-born great-great grandchildren of my clients will be able to see and hear and learn from ancestors that were born a hundred or two hundred years earlier. Imagine being able to sit and watch your grandparents' grandparents talk about their lives. I'm excited every time I do this.

Books. Yes, I'm also working on finally updating my California Investigator's Handbook. The listings are almost completely updated and new chapters are ready to by typeset. In fact, the typesetter is all lined up.

There's a biography of a most wonderful person that I want to write. She's promised me she'll consider giving me the go-ahead. My book agent has told me he's sure that a publisher will agree to take it.

I'm already getting back on the speaking/lecturing/training circuit. I'll now have the freedom to travel to train law enforcement folks, attorneys, journalists, genealogists and other curious folks.

Keep your eyes open for news stories because they are now my bread and butter. I'll be writing for newspapers and magazines and doing stories for television and maybe even radio. Remember, if you see or experience something that you end up telling your family about at dinner, it's likely that it's a story that I might be able to write or produce (of course, that is, if you saw it on the Evening News or read it in the L.A. Times).

I'm certain that some of my long-time lawyer friends will occasionally call on me to track down people or information that others are unable to find. I don't solicit the work, but over the years a handful of lawfirms have been tapping into my knowledge and resources.

I may put on some seminars of my own as I've done in the past. Now it will be easier to videotape the presentations and offer them to people who cannot attend. It has worked well in the past.

But most important to me is the ability to travel to interesting places in the world and help journalists improve their work product. That leads me to the next mystery.

Mystery #2. Where is Don Ray going next? I'm let the word slip out to a few of my readers, so you don't qualify for this contest. I'd like to hear from anyone who thinks they have the right answer. Again, please e-mail me at

Some clues:

I'm going to a country where I'm looking forward to C-ing (seeing):

At least three distinct CLIMATES,
A CRUDE ecomony,
Remnants of CORRUPTION,
CRUX in the springtime,
CONTAGIOUS problems in a
CANCER zone,
Twice that of CALIFORNIA.

And to make the contest even more fun, your answer must be in the form of a title to the my blog (as in Bloggin' the Balkins, its former name) that identifies the country.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Posted by Picasa

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