Sunday, December 31, 2006

That frozen concoction that helps me hang on

Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - It's New Year's Eve and the world here is gearing up for a night of wild dancing, loud fireworks (There are quiet ones?) and plenty of that 'frozen concoction' that Jimmy Buffet sings about in his song Margaritaville.

It's 7 p.m. here and the neighborhood is eerily quiet, the calm before the real action starts just before midnight.

The city culture here doesn't really even start most nights until after 10 p.m. and tonight, given that everyone has to claim that they stayed awake to bring in the New Year, the parties will begin even later.

The wild card is that it is Sunday - traditionally a very quiet time for most of the Mexican families. Several of the neighborhood restaurants where I thought we might dine tonight were closed when we walked by an hour ago.

No matter, there's booze in the blender already, but I don't dare push the button to start that train rolling for a few more hours if there's any chance I'll see midnight.

I regret to report that there are no gratitious bikini photos with today's missive - I was too busy have a great time in the surf to snap any photos, though it was a remarkable day for photography. (Great lighting, you know.)

But I did snap the photo below of a Mom and her daughter aboard their four-wheeled cycle, out having a fun day. Mexico's laws about helmets, et al, are a tad less strict than those in the U.S.

Nina on four-wheel cycle
Out for a ride

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Escaping the madcap woman doing braids

Hair-do in process
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PARADISE VILLAGE BEACH, Nayarit, Mexico - I narrowly escaped having to spend the first part of the New Year with my hair neatly braided in some kind of Rastafarian 'do' when a very polite, very insistent young lady came by our palapa today seeking to do both my hair and Admiral Fox's.

She was much more interested in getting her hands on my hair than the hair of Admiral Fox - even offering to do a few braids 'gratis' just to show me how cute I would be.

When I told the young braider that my wife didn't speak any Spanish, and that I would interpret, she told me in whispered Spanish that I should get my hair braided because it would be a surefire way of attracting a lot of women. I didn't pursue that conversation in either Spanish or English to get a clarification.

Admiral Fox did get her hair done and is happy as the proverbial clam, saying that she will keep the braids in until she returns to the U.S. in late January. Me? Well, I'll continue to avoid the Bob Marley hairstyle for now, mon.

Finished hairstyle
The finished product

It was a great day at the beach - even better waves than the day before and I was thrown off the boogie board twice and landed on the sand without screaming from shoulder pain. This is definitely good therapy. I just wonder if I can deduct the cost of the trip (and assorted expenses like tequila, beer, wine, hamburguesas, etc..) as medical expenses.

The chair tango - which I described a couple of entries ago - was in full force again today, except that many people had simply changed their minds about even going to the beach and there were dozens of vacant chairs and plenty of palapas for shade.

But, of course, there were a lot of people at the beach risking serious sunburns again, including this young lady.

Gratuitous bikini photo
Gratuitious bikini shot

Church's Chicken joins Chili's and Starbucks and...

Church's Chicken sign
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
LAS JUNTAS, Nayarit, Mexico - We explored an area between Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta yesterday called Las Juntas and there in the middle of it all was a Church's Chicken - a big chain the states.

Since last year, the PV area has started sprouting American fast food chain outlets all over the place, including a Starbucks and Chili's. And for fans of Hooters Restaurants (Great food!), the second Hooters just opened.

We tend to stay away from these joints, mostly because we certainly have enough opportunity for such foods in the U.S. Also, when I was in Spain years ago, the only time I had any kind of gastrointestinal distress when after my amigo Jack Brown convinced me to eat at a Burger King in Barcelona. After eating the most exotic of foods all over Spain - including raw octopus in Santiago (Raw octopus!) I finally got that down-on-the-hands and knees sick for hours after a simple cheeseburger and fries.

We had a good dinner at Cafe Tacuba last night, tequila-filled of course, as owner Victor is insulted if you don't drink at least a straight shot or two with him. (No headache this morning, which is good, except that I think I am building a tolerance for tequila. Hmmm...)

One chain that most of the boaters would like to see open up here is West Marine, a semi-discount outfit that sells all manner of marine gear. Amigo Dan Olsen bought a compass yesterday for about $200 U.S. The same compass in the U.S. costs about $115 (retail) at West Marine.

There is one big marine store with the unlikely moniker of Zaragosa's where we stopped yesterday to pick up some sandpaper (papele abrasivo) and other goods for son Dustin's projects. It has become Americanized in recent years with lots of boutique marine stuff like sunglasses and fancy shirts. But, it's almost the only game in town.

The store for boaters
Zaragosa's - the Puerto Vallarta West Marine

Front door
Zaragosa's entrada

Friday, December 29, 2006

Old Neptune's statue stands tall at Marina Vallarta

PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - The statue of Neptune stands very tall at the entrance to the marina area of Marina Vallarta, a few miles north of downtown Puerto Vallarta.

Whenever I see the statue, I marvel at its intracies, little of which, I'm sorry to say, can be seen in this photo because of the massing storm clouds behind him. We drove by on our way home after a day of boogie boarding and swimming (topped with rum-filled lunch) at the Vallarta Yacht Club.

Well, it was run-filled for me. Admiral Fox and son Dustin remained sober, letting me stock up on anti-flu medication. It's a dangerous time of the year for colds.

The beach area at the Paradise Village Resort is quite crowded at this time of the year, filled with vacationers mostly from the U.S. and Canada.

Every morning at 6 a.m. (just about dawn here), people rush out of their hotel rooms, grab lawn chairs and create little family/group compounds around the shady palapas. They (the arranger/creators), of course, don't stay out from 6 a.m. until around noon; they simply leave a few towels (owned by the hotel) and a stray tennis shoe or shirt to mark their territory. Some really awful novels are usually placed on these chairs, too.

The Admiral and I erroneously got too close to one fellow's staked-out territory when we tried to sit in the shade of the palapa nearby at about 11 a.m. It seemed he had arranged the 24 or so lounges just so, and our dragging in two chairs (10 feet off to one side) was going to crimp the family style, when the balance of the people arrived, later that day.

How do I know this? He told us in excellent, slightly accented New York City English. It might not have been New York City, actually. But I suspect you've heard the dialect.

Here's a photo of the compound:

Protector of the beach compound
The beach compound

The surfing, however, was better than the company (which we abandoned for a spot closer to the surf), with great waves and clear water, making the day overall a 9.9999999999.

After we go to the Cafe Tacuba for dinner in a few hours (where the owner, Victor, drinks tequila at the table with you), well, I think I will be able to change that 9.9999999999 to a 10.

If I can type.

More manana.

Cats always know who the allergic person is

Cat's rule
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
VERSAILLES DISTRICTO, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico - Son Dustin's cat Lattie has the same gene as every other cat I've ever been around.

It's the gene that allows cats to figure out who is likely to get a stuffy nose if the cat gets too close. If you're lucky, it's only a stuffy nose and not a sneezing fit that clears the room and makes people nervous.

I had cats for 20 years and thought that you were supposed to have trouble breathing a good part of the day. A doctor ran an allergy panel on me years ago and found that both cats and hair spray trigger a strong reaction. One type of woman's perfume, called Emeraude will actually induce my gag reflex, but I digress.

This is Lattie's house so I have done my best to be a good guest without flinging her away. We are both adjusting and the only time it's an issue is when I crawl into the bed in the upstairs loft where she has easy access to - yes, you have it - curl up next to my head.


On a totally unrelated note, the Admiral and I visited neighboring La Cruz two days ago, a small town about 10 miles from downtown. We were on assignment for a story about the new marina being built and where the developer simply backfilled the beach in front of people's million-dollar homes and started the project.

We saw lots of dogs (but no cats, Gracias Dios) and we found a novel use for old outboard motors.

I once did the same thing in my backyard with an old wooden rowboat (named the Guppy) that had lost all hope of ever floating again. It became a playboat for the kids and occasionally was filled with ice and beer for parties.

When old outboards die
When old outboards die they return to the soil

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Just another day on the beach, again (sigh)

PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, Nayarit, Mexico - Thursday was spent on the beach at Paradise Village, doing a little boogie boarding and keeping a watchful eye on people who were likely to get sunburns.

There were enough Canadians on the beach to start an entire hockey fan club and their lobster-like skin was pretty easy to spot.


We took pity on one young couple - he was on crutches and she was toting all their assorted beach crap - and had them share our thatch-covered palapa with us. Then it struck me: What a great gimmick at this always-overcrowded beach! I should just get crutches and limp around until someone takes pity on us - preferably close to the water so I don't have so far to fake a limp when I boogie board.

My physical therapist (Hi Cary!) will be happy to read that I was able to boogie board with a minimum of shoulder pain. The rush of the waves covered up the straining quite nicely. Also, the waves were very small: kind of the bunny slope of boogie boarding. Tonight I did have a margarita with dinner as a preventative for any pain that might keep me away. Hmmm. Perhaps a second to ensure sleep might be in order.

Mid-afternoon, Admiral Fox received a cell phone call on the beach, drawing lots of stares from Canadians and non-Canadians alike (see photo above), but was polite and walked away from our enclave to talk. Her call started a trend however, and by the time we left the beach for the swimming pool (more physical therapy, I swear), I saw a half-dozen folks on their phones, no doubt telling the people back in Canada what a hard life we have in Puerto Vallarta.


And the sunburn patrol?

Well, I spotted these young ladies at risk. You decide if I should have gone up and warned them of their impending danger.

Dangers of sunburn
Sunburn victims?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The tiger in the cage was just the beginning

Tiger, tiger
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, Nayarit, Mexico - I had forgotten that the Paradise Resort has a small zoo on its property until we wandered by the cages with tigers and pumas and monkeys and all sorts of other animals, eclipsed only by the startlingly white legs of the tourists all gawking at the animals, animals who seemed blinded by the reflected light.

Ok, the whiteness included me, in spots. Most of the rest is a lovely pink. And sore. (Sorry Dr. Silva.)

Before anyone from PETA emails me (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or is it Edible Treatment of Animals?), I need to point out that the animals at the zoo are all rescued critters and not bagged in the wild for the zoo. Of course, they are now in a zoo, the difference to them might not be that much.

We visited the harbormaster's office, in part to check on slip availability for next year for the sailing vessel, Good News, owned by amigos Sanders and Pat Lamont who have been bitten by the Mexico bug and want their boat snugly in a slip here. There's a lot of water between Marina Village in Alameda (where Good News tugs at her lines) and Paradise Village (1500 miles, give or take), but gawd it's nice here.

At the harbormaster's office, Sylvia got to hold the latest rescue, a four-week old mountain lion cub. So tiny today, so big in a year!

Sylvia with new kitty
Sylvia with mountain lion cub

The marina is filled to overflowing with boats, many of them the massive mega-yacht kind of vessels that are money buckets for son Dustin's Fox Marine Services. Last year he made a boodle fixing a mega-yacht's hot tub.

Their hot tub.

Sweet Jaysus.

The contrast today - between the yachts and a Mexican fisherman using a hand net in the harbor to catch a few fish - is quite stark.

Opulent yachts at Paradise
Opulent yachts at Paradise Village

Fisherman in Paradise Harbor
Fisherman in the harbor

But no day in Mexico is complete without:

a. An icy margarita
b. Lunch at the yacht club
c. Surfing the waves
d. Doing the laundry in a hot laundromat

If you picked D, you are correct. It was laundry day, but we squeezed in lunch at the Vallarta Yacht Club with amigos Bob & Karen O'Hara (answer B.) and a swim at the pool. Tomorrow is 'test-the-frozen-shoulder' day with the boogie board and most likely, one of more of the letter A from above, too.

My Spanish was sorely tested when we read the instructions for the washers and dryers, but the clothes and towels and sheets all came out fine, some of them even the same color as when we started.

Laundromat instructions
Put in the soap and what?

What's that sound I hear in the background? OH-MY-GOD it's a blender. It must be 5 o'clock somewhere.

Madre mia! Es 5 aqui!

Hasta luego, amigos.

Catching some rays in sunny Sayulita

Catching rays
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
SAYULITA, Nayarit, Mexico - A lot of the beach residents of this town north of Puerto Vallarta were out getting sun Christmas Day while I hunkered in the shade, trying to stay out of the sun.

(Yes, Dr. Silva (my dermatologist), I was staying out of the sun, for the most part.)

I still got a fairly impressive sunburn, but nothing like in years past when I first hit the beach after months and months of no sun at all.

We were at the famous surfing spot to spend Christmas Day with Dustin, Dan and Lorraine Olsen, and a lot of other gringos on the shore. A lot of other gringos.

The surf was huge - way beyond my boogie boarding abilities, even without my shoulder problems. I still haven't dipped the 'frozen shoulder' into the warm waters of the Banderas Bay to see if it will help.

Maybe today.

Surf's up, amigos
Surf's up at Sayulita

We also had the company of a beach dog for awhile, well known to the locals, who begs food, but is a true Mexican gentleman most of the time, waiting patiently for people to feed him.

Dustin lost patience with him early on, though and chased him away several times.

Later on, Dustin discovered that the dog has lifted his leg on Dustin's beach bag, which was sitting in a row with a group of others. Smart dog to know which one was Dustin's.

Adopted dog
Smart dog

Here's some other photos from the Christmas adventure:

On the beach
On the beach at Sayulita

Packin' the truck
Packing the truck

Thursday, December 21, 2006

'Rocky Balboa' - a fitting end to the film series

Rocky with Marie
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PHILADELPHIA, Penn. - Who would have ever thought that Sylvester Stallone could have written a movie that was tightly knit as a Charles Dickens novel?

In a mostly empty theater I watched the last in the Rocky film series, a movie that is more about relationships and the passing of time than boxing.

The fighting, in fact, is quite secondary, though spectacular as it was in the previous five movies, spanning 30 years.

The film is full of surprises and non-Rocky afficiandos might find parts of it hard to follow. He reunites with Marie, a minor character in the first Rocky movie. Spider Rico, the man Rocky pummeled in the opening scenes of the original Rocky is back, too.

Rocky prays with Spider Rico
Rocky prays with Spider Rico before the fight

But some of the most powerful scenes - and a denouement of sorts - involves Rocky with his son, who believes he is living in his father's shadow and forces a showdown of sorts.

Worth seeing? Yes. Worth seeing more than once? For me, absolutely.


Rocky & Son
Rocky with his son

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Rocky Balboa about to step back into the ring

Rocky Balboa
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PHILADELPHIA, Penn. - I watched the original "Rocky" movie the night before I was about to take a new job at a newspaper in Grass Valley - a job I had bluffed my way into.

I had about a thimbleful of experience for the editing and page layout job I had gotten and the night before, I was terrified of what might happen the next day.

Rocky got me through the next day, the 'can-do' images burned in my brain.

Now I see that the Rocky franchise has one last hurrah left in it and all over the country those of us who have watch Rocky Balboa keep coming back as he gets older - and winning - will no doubt cheer.

The critics, of course, are already groaning that this is just a pathetic attempt by Sylvester Stallone to revive his flagging movie career.

So what?

I hope he keeps making Rocky movies until he has to fight his way out of assisted living to get to the set.

It's a better alternative than having him become the governor of California.

Rocky Balboa II

The blogging system is giving me gas

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The blogging website seems to be down this morning, which is mildly irritating, of course.

So this is a short test post to doublecheck all the settings from this end.

Apologies for readers.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

We celebrate Thanksgiving in the mountains

CAMP CONNELL, Calif. -- Our normal Thanksgiving in recent years has been in Mexico, usually on a beach, and with margaritas and surfing.

This year, with Sabbatical in the boatyard in Alameda getting its three-year, out-of-the-water haulout (and being in Northern California) we accepted a great invitation from Sanders and Pat Lamont to have T-Day at their 'cabin' at 5,000 feet elevation, not too far from Angels Camp, the site of Mark Twain's story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, published in 1867.

Admiral Fox has been practicing her violin since last night with 9-year-old Delaney, (Sanders and Pat's granddaughter) while Sanders and his son-in-law Brian have been strumming on their guitars.

Pat has several instruments ready to play, but hasn't joined in the musica too much yet - too much cooking going on in the kitchen with her daughter Ruth.

And downstairs, sick as a dog, is Brian and Ruth's son Connor, 6-years-old and not having a very good time.

The Lamont's dog, who we often get to dog-sit in Sacramento, is laying low, her place under the table reserved for the Thanksgiving dinner later today when she has high hopes there will be some careless children dropping food. Or careless adults, I suppose.

Our son Dylan (who lives in Berkeley) was supposed to come up today, bringing along Don Tiffin (the builder of Sabbatical) who arrived this morning in San Francisco after a long flight from Australia to stay with us and help with our boat haulout. But Dylan is as sick - maybe sicker - than Connor and so later today, after we stuff ourselves with turkey, we will roll back down from 5,000 feet to sea level again and have a second dinner with Don and drop off a plate of food at Dylan's house.

Here's two morning shots from today:

Bear takes a break before Thanksgiving
Bear at rest under the table

Pat's Thanksgiving breakfast
Pat gets ready to dig in to her breakfast

Sunday, November 12, 2006

November brings on the season of slow Sundays

Sunday scene
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - I don't know if it was walking home from the farmer's market a mile away from our house, dropping by the public library to gather another half-dozen novels to attempt to read, or the idea of having beef stew tonight that made me realize we have fallen into the easy rhythm of fall.

The scene I found to illustrate this doesn't really give much of an indication of what life is really like for the Admiral and I.

We have a dog right now, not a cat, the Admiral doesn't own a dress that looks anything like the painting, and while my hair is slicked back, it goes into a longish ponytail, not a starched collar.

Our home scene includes a hot tub in the backyard (to which I will adjourn as soon as this blog is written) and a new Nordic Track recumbent exercise bike that has been challenging my calves for several days.

Despite the langorous days of fall and long evenings, in only six weeks or so, we will be in Mexico getting ready to challenge the surf off Puerto Vallarta and need to get into shape.

For tonight though, all thoughts of such activities have to be banned while we get ready for another week of school.

And, after all, there is that beef stew to consider.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A movie for the ages (and laughs) Galaxy Quest

MILKY WAY GALAXY - There are heroic movies, like "High Noon," with Gary Cooper, and then there are other heroic movies, silly movies like Galaxy Quest that even with their parody make a point.

In Galaxy Quest, the producers manage to make great sport of Star Trek but ironically also created a cult classic in which the space ship captain (played by Tim Allen) has his signature remark: "Never give up, Never surrender."

It might not be as good as Captain Jean Luc Picard who always said, "Make it so," but it works for some reason in this film.

The movie came out in 1999 and received reasonably good reviews but is probably doomed to the back film vaults of sci-fi films with movies like Spaceballs by Mel Brooks.

So what in the name of Jehovah sparks an entire blog about Galaxy Quest?

Simple. Struggling in my new job as Faculty Senate Chair, I keep reaching for different leadership images and just a few days ago, found myself quoting Captain Picard to a group of faculty.

At least it has helped me break loose of my habit of quoting lines from Casablanca, my favorite film of all time. "Of all the gins joints, in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine."

When the cold fall and winter weather closes in even more - and the on-demand movie list runs low - consider finding a copy of Galaxy Quest. Between Sigourney Weaver (as Lt. Tawny Madison) and Alan Rickman's Mr. Spock spoof, it's worth it.

And, of course remember: Never give up. Never surrender.

Tim Allen fights the Pig monster
The pig monster

Crew of the Protector
Crew of the Protector spacecraft

Sunday, October 22, 2006

'Tis the season - for hurricanes and tropical storms

Australia Hurricane
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
NEW CALEDONIA - My friend Don Tiffin, builder of Sabbatical and a sailor of much renown, may be pinned down in a tiny harbor on Noumea aboard his Tayana 42 sailboat, while a hurricane gets ready to kick the snot out of the place.

Don was supposed to leave that area weeks ago for the safety of Australia where he was ready to dock his boat and fly to the U.S. to help us with the haulout of Sabbatical in a couple of weeks. Don has helped us with the two previous haulouts and we have been looking forward to his company on this one too. Sabbatical Chief Engineer Scott 'Scotty' Noble is hoping Don beats the odds and comes in too, so Scotty can do a mind meld and learn everything about the ship before we all take off in a couple of years and head back to where they really know how to make a margarita.

Some problems with rigging kept Don at the dock and even if they get fixed, it looks now like he may have to ride out a whopper of a storm with a couple of anchors out in the harbor. Being at the dock might not be the best option.


But just as I read about his travails, I noticed that there is a storm brewing off the coast of Mexico, only a week before the 160-boat fleet of the Baja HaHa sailboat race is set to take off from San Diego. It's the same race we did in 2002 and hope to do again before I get too old to hoist a margarita.

The hurricane season officially ends in Mexico Nov. 1, but the hurricanes have a bad habit of not checking their calendars carefully. In the 1980s, Cabo San Lucas was devastated by a hurricane in December, beaching a number of boats and wreaking havoc with the tiny town. Now the place is a small city and instead of a few boats, there are hundreds of yachts in the marina and after the HaHa arrives, easily 50-100 more at anchor and exposed to the weather.

Here's the tracking map for the tropical storm in Mexico.

Mexico storm

Let's hope that Paul doesn't have a brother lurking out in the Pacific.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gala event, a tux that fit, and sitting with a Trekkie

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It was a week ago tonight that I was sitting wedged between two gorgeous women - Admiral Sylvia Fox on my left and Michele Foss-Snowden on my right - at the Second Annual Green & Gold Gala at Sacramento State.

I haven't seen so many tuxedos since the last time I walked into a Men's Wearhouse. And the women and their beautiful dresses! Be still my heart.

At dinner, we discovered that Michele (who this fall joined the faculty of my academic department) had done her graduate studies on Star Trek. Yup, Star Trek. And during dinner, I was able to trade various Star Trek plot lines back and forth with her. We debated James T. Kirk vs. Jean Luc Picard and decided that the Next Generation series was the best.

It was definitely an evening that suggested we will live long and prosper. For a moment, I considered a Vulcan mind meld, but Michele's husband might have had questions about why I was squeezing her head.

My new colleague James Sobredo and his wife Lourdes sat with us also. James shot a lot of photos of Sylvia and I - my camera was safely tucked away in the back seat of the car. I had meant to bring in both my still cameras but in the excitement of parking and getting inside the University Union where the Gala was held, I forgot both.

James came to the rescue with a camera that made both of mine look likes toys so I'm glad it worked out that way.

At one point, the young female president of the Associated Students asked me to dance. What could I say? Of course! And for what seemed like an awfully long song, we spun around out on the dance floor while a contingent of her student-government colleagues stood around us in a circle, clapping. They probably were worried that I might fall down and they would need to catch me.

But I was reallllly glad I had taken some dance lessons last spring so that I was able to at least show a few slick dance moves that didn't date from the Pleistocene Age. (Jurassic maybe. But definitely not Pleistocene.)

The tux is put away and it will likely be another year before it makes another appearance. One thing is for sure. I have to stay at my current waist size - the seamstress let the trousers out as far as she could, enough that I was able to quaff plenty of champagne, eat a wonderful dinner and even cram in some dessert.

Live long and prosper, amigos...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sudafed, wine therapy and fighting head colds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The first cold of the season dropped me like a old growth redwood tree.

After attending a black tie event Friday night - in tuxedo, of course - I awoke Saturday with a crushing headache, sore throat and packed sinuses.

I didn't have that much fun the night before. In fact, my champagne and wine intake was waaay below average for such an event, controlled perhaps by the tux and/or the fact that there were enough photographers around to make the whole thing look like it was the People's Choice Awards.

But back to the cold.

A quick dose of Sudafed took care of most of the stuffiness, though it also lifted the top off my head and filled it with cotton, so most of the writing I did Saturday had a certain, well, odd quirky quality to it.

Still, when coupled that evening with a few glasses of cheap, er, thrifty, Sauvignon Blanc from Trader Joe's, most of the symptoms disappeared.

The worst part about the cold was having to skip attending the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Phil Angelides debate, to which I had a ringside ticket. I was too much out of it to attend, plus I would have likely infected half of the university administration.


Last year in Mexico I got a terrible sinus infection New Year's Eve that stuck with me for a few days until I found just the right combination of Sudafed, aspirin and margaritas to make me feel, well, great, frankly.

Salt water immersion on a boogie board probably helped a lot, too.

Today the cold seems better, but the thought of Tequila therapy and soaking in some warm salt water seems like just the ticket.

Maybe I can put salt in the hot tub and break out my reserve bottle of Don Julio to knock the last of this cold out of me.

Andale! Andale!

Friday, September 15, 2006

How many people are going to be in the crowd?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The task was a fairly easy one: Introduce the president of the university before he gave his annual fall address.

In my new job, Faculty Senate Chair at CSU, Sacramento, this kind of things pops up all the time. I spoke more before large groups in the first week of school than I had in the five years previous. (I'm not counting standing up in front of class of 25 undergraduates. They have to listen.)

This day, I knew there could be a sizable crowd and so uncharacteristically I wrote out a few key phrases and actually pulled the president's resume to be able to give him a nice warm welcome.

Unfortunately, I waited until the morning of the introduction to actually do that and by the time I had my talk all ready and my tie knotted in a nice Windsor, it was a half-hour before I was expected to be on stage.

And I live 20 minutes from campus.

Miatas are very handy in such situations and I blasted to campus in the requisite time, breezing in 5 minutes before showtime where I was faced with a somewhat frantic aide-de-camp of the president who was afraid I was not going to show.

Not show! Please! Ye of little faith. (And speaking of faith, thank God that I found parking right away - or I would have been late.)

Then I walked into the University ballroom and realized that there were hundreds of people in the audience - maybe close to 1,000. And their wasn't just a simple podium, it was a real raised stage with a podium, a sound system with plenty of horsepower, cameras all over the place, and teleprompters.


The teleprompters were not for me - they were for the president - but they made a great thing to joke about. And getting a laugh when you utter your very first sentence in front of that big a crowd takes all the steam out of any potential stage fright. The laughs continued through my introduction (and not always during the laugh lines...hmmmm...) and after about five minutes I got to say, "Please welcome the president..."

But the real surprise came a few hours later when I walked into a faculty member's office and heard my voice on his computer.

The speech - and my brief introduction - was posted on the university website and there I was, in full living color for the university and the world to see.

I am very glad I didn't tell the joke that I was considering about how many university presidents it takes to screw in a light bulb. It seemed hysterically unny when I wrote it...

But perhaps I should save it for another day. Maybe I'll refine it a little and use it in the spring when I get to introduce him again at his spring campus address.

Or the other one I made up.

There were these three university presidents on an airplane...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Smartest Guys in the Room, sort of...

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Free movies are hard to turn down, plus, the tale of Enron was too good to pass up, so a normal Friday-stay-put-at-home turned into a night at the University at a showing of The Smartest Guys In the Room.

I had seen snippets of it earlier on PBS, but seeing it on the big screen - and all at once - gives it much more power. clearly calling into question the power of corporations.

And it pretty clearly says that corporate ethics is an oxymoron, at least at Enron, I thought last night.

But after mulling over the movie and then reading a few headlines today, the smart guys at Enron are hardly alone in their arrogance and total disdain for the havoc they wreak.

Twenty-five years ago, when I was a newspaper editor, I debated with a free market friend of mine about corporations and the lack of personal accountability. I opined that the invention of the corporation was one of the worst ideas ever conceived. We argued for hours because although he was a free market advocate, he also believed that corporations were very necessary to shield people (people running the corporations).

My point exactly. No personal responsibility.

Unfortunately, the corporate make-money-at-any-cost mentality has so pervaded society, that even the few students who attended the screening last night seemed more upset that Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling got caught than that their hubris ruined the lives of thousands and thousands of people and actually cost California Gov. Gray Davis his political career.

Were Dante to revise his Inferno today, I believe he might describe a new circle set up for corporate executives who put profits (and their salaries) over any thought of people. It's probably one of the most crowded spots in Hell.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the film is a description of the budgeting practices of Enron and how no one could figure out how it was making so much money.

It wasn't, of course, it was all sham, all lies and ultimately collapsed in a heap that wiped out the life savings of many people and will have ramifications for the retirements of a big chunk of the nation for years.

I would not recommend watching this movie and "Who Killed the Electric Car?" in the same evening, unless you have studied with Zen masters about how to control your blood pressure.

But do watch it.

In the meantime, the following website is worth taking a look. Be sure to check out the brief movie trailer.

  • Enron movie
  • Saturday, August 26, 2006

    'Who Killed The Electric Car?' - worth watching

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - I have to be dragged to see some movies and this was one of them.

    Not because I didn't believe that the EV-1, produced briefly by General Motors, was the victim of corporate greed. But because the movie would reinforce that and just raise my blood pressure.

    It did both, but the movie has a surprise ending which I won't convey here.

    But I will give you a hint: I'm really glad I'm buying a Toyota Prius. Really glad.

    The arguable star of the film is the EV-1 car itself, but in a supporting role is Chelsea Sexton, who was a GM employee in charge of selling these vehicles. She's now an advocate for electric vehicles and if she weren't so honest, could have a great career in politics.

    Chelsea Sexton
    Chelsea Sexton at a rally to save the EV-1

    She's the kind of bright young person I love to see in my classes at the university - far brighter than the people at GM (and the oil companies).

    The movie makes a brief mention of the last time the big players teamed up to force the automobile on the American public - back in the 1930s when the oil companies, tire manufacturers and automakers sold many American cities buses at well below their real cost (as well as promises that tires and fuel would be very cheap) so that cities would get rid of their electric trolley systems.

    They also required the cities - to get those big discounts - to rip out the rail tracks and in many cases, even give up their rights of way to ensure there would never be another electric railway - just buses that needed parts, tires and of course, oil. Pretty ironic that as a nation we are spending billions of dollars to build new electric light rail lines when we had them 75 years ago - and they worked just fine, thank you very much.

    The saddest part of this film is seeing stacks of the destroyed EV-1 vehicles - perfectly good cars, perhaps too good to survive. Remember the expression 'planned obsolesence?' GM forgot to program that in for these sporty - and fast - little cars.

    Crushed EV-1 cars
    Stacks of EV-1 autos ready for the shredding machine.

    Who Killed The Electric Car? is well worth watching. But before you do, check out this website:

  • Plug In America

  • And check your blood pressure before and after, too.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Sunday - a time for boating, barbecues and music

    Leigh Graham
    Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Most Sundays in years past I would have been aboard Sabbatical today, either closing the boat up after a weekend cruise or frequently fixing whatever we might have broken while out sailing (or was about to break).

    But this Sunday was stay and home and catch up a few things, one them rest and relaxation, which included listing to a lot of music - mostly on the IPod, of course.

    One of the songs that just played is Perfidia, sung by Leigh Graham, a Toronto-based chanteuse who has a wonderful voice. She sings a lot of the old 1940s songs, as well as swing numbers and big band stuff. Her rendition of Hernando's Hideaway is not to be missed.

    When Admiral Fox and I were in the east this summer, I tried to make arrangements to go see Leigh perform live with the Toronto Starlight group, but it turned out she was off the singing tour for most of the summer, pregnant with her first child.

    What a warbler of lullabyes she will be!

    The other song that just popped up is "As Time Goes By," sung by Dooley Wilson, shown in the photo here toasting with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a famous scene from Casablana.
    Casablanca toasting with champagne
    Dooley Wilson, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman

    Did I say a famous scene? All the scenes from Casablanca are famous, aren't they?

    Right now dialogue from the final scene is playing with music in the background.

    "Here's looking at you kid."

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    On stage 'The Music Man' as magical as it ever was

    The Music Man
    Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
    RIVER CITY, Iowa - I revisited River City, Iowa on Sunday in the company of Admiral Fox and the lovely and talented Miss Samantha Allen, who loved the musical as only an 8-year-old might.

    It was at a small Sacramento venue called The Music Circus and with the play/musical performed in a theater-in-the-round, the music took center stage.

    I had forgotten how many great songs - songs still showing up on playlists on FM radio - The Music Man has.

    The easy one to remember is 'Seventy Six Trombones," but "Trouble In River City, Goodnight My Someone," and "Lida Rose," all are stuck in my head today.

    I saw the film, The Music Man when it came out in 1962 and have viewed it a number of times since, always enjoying the late Robert Preston's characterization of Prof. Harold Hill, the erstwhile charlatan who comes to town to sell band instruments and uniforms, romance the librarian (played by Shirley Jones) and eventually try to scram with the help of his friend, played by Buddy Hackett.

    Shirley Jones
    Shirley Jones

    I thought I would have trouble letting the stage actors take over the roles after the great performances in the movie. But I was wrong, by the intermission, I was as smitten with the actress playing Marian the Librarian as I ever was with Shirley Jones. And the actor playing Harold Hill became Harold Hill quite easily after a few songs and scenes.

    Granddaughter Samanatha said she's ready for any musicals we want to take her to from now on.

    Me, too.

    Preston with Ron Howard
    Robert Preston with Ron Howard and Shirley Jones