Friday, March 31, 2006

A trip to LA - and to see the famous Hollywood sign

Hollywood Sign
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - On the flight in, there it was, the famous Hollywood sign up on the hill, not far, it turns out, from our suite on the 16th Floor of the Wilshire Grand Hotel in downtown LA.

But I can't see the sign because our room faces the ocean. Not a bad trade-off, I suppose, but I would like to see the sign from the room. The foul weather and rain has kept the air so clean you can hardly believe it's Los Angeles. At least until you try to cross the street and nearly get run over by traffic.

The admiral and I came down from the provincial capital of California to attend a journalism convention. She has to give an award at an evening dinner soiree. I get to play 'the spouse' and sit around sipping margaritas while watching the 400 or so college coeds at the convention diving into the heated pool.

It all sounds good, except heated pool or not, it's too cold for anyone to really venture out, unless they are members of the Polar Bear Club.

But who cares how cold it is when you have a margarita nearby? Cowabunga!

Other trips to LA I've always stayed over on the ocean, Huntington Beach or Redondo Beach. So being downtown is a real change after constantly looking at surf.

But I've driven by this hotel dozens of times in trips in and around LA and wondered what it was like inside. It does have all the modern perks: wireless internet, a gazillion channels of TV, a room-service menu to die for (mostly when you get your credit car bill after ordering food and drink).

Wilshire Grand

During a normal business week, it can be a bear to get to with snarled downtown traffic and construction. But today our cab from the airport slid around the corner of Figueroa to arrive without a hitch.

The only journalism convention session I'm likely to attend is tomorrow: Podcasting, put on by some Apple computer geeks. I already have a podcasting & video website lined up, so as soon as I get some technical knowledge I may be able to make it all happen.

Then From Where I Sit can make the jump from just print to audio and video files. What great possibilities.

More on that after the presentation manana, amigos.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hooters flight attendants go back to the bar

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Friday, the admiral and I head out of town to fly to Los Angeles (another journalism convention, Jaysus) on Southwest Airlines, the Greyhound of the sky.

So, how is it, exactly, that I somehow missed that the Hooters restaurant chain, famous for, well, things other than the food it serves, has been operating an airline? Really! With three planes, even.

I'm not sure I would have transferred over all our frequent flyer miles just to check out the peanuts on the Hooters' flights, but still. I'm shocked that I can keep up on arcane developments in the California legislature, track terrorists as they are on trial in federal court and analyze mind-numbing education budgets but miss something as significant culturally as this airline was.

Thanks to rising fuel costs, it apparently is closing much of its service and will shift to offering charters. So there's still some chance to see if their peanuts are better than Southwest Airlines.

Here's the link to the story:

  • Goodbye Hooters Air

  • If you look at the top photo with this blog, take a closer look at the fellow sitting on the right hand side of the picture. He seems to be having some trouble swallowing - or maybe breathing.

    His tie is probably just too tight.

    Here's a photo of a crew of one of those three planes in the now almost-grounded airline:

    hooters air crew and girls story

    Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    The rainy weather isn't very funny anymore

    RICHMOND, Calif. - The constant rains of recent weeks - including the week that cousin Ruth Bills was here and we went sailing, twice anyway - was bearable because March is generally the beginning of real spring in this part of the world. All we had to do was wait, we thought.

    The temperatures in mid to late March start jumping up consistently over 70 degrees, the flowers all bloom and convertible tops drop quicker than Janet Jackson's top at the Super Bowl.

    But today's forecast, which runs until mid-week next week, calls for thunderstorms and rains almost non-stop for the entire time. And if the Pacific High pressure ridge doesn't re-establish itself at that point?

    More rain, more storms and more colder-than-normal weather.

    OK, before people living in New Jersey start piling on, I know. I know! What we have is still better than sleet and snow and a spring that might not arrive until, say, June?

    But we live in California, and a part of California in which this crap is supposed to be all over by now. Maybe a sprinkle or two, but Jaysus.

    With today's blog, I posted a photo from one of my favorite anchorages in Mexico, Tenacatita Bay. I took the shot in January when we were on our sojourn along the coast (via automobile).

    The temperature there right now (according to my on-site, at anchor sources) is 80 degrees, it hasn't really rained since November and the sea temperature is about 75, just right for snorkeling. In fact, that's what my source was about to do: get some snorkeling exercise before margarita time.


    In the meantime, I've worked it out with my electrical guru, Ernie, of Ernie Foley Electronics, to come to Sabbatical Thursday (the only day the rain is predicted to even slow down) to reinstall our inverter/battery charger unit - the one I tried to cook with 250 volts last week.

    He has a strong aversion to working with electricity on wet boats in rainstorms and particularly when there is a likelihood of lightning.

    Can you imagine that?

    In the meantime, here's the chant for today:

    Rain rain go away,
    Come again another day.
    Little Mikey wants to play;
    Rain, rain, go to Spain,
    Never show your face again!.

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    The American River is different in the winter

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The American River has spilled over its normal watercourse, but not so bad that anyone cares much.

    Each year, enough water is let out to flood this parking lot, (a block from our old condominium that) and no auto traffic is allowed down to the water's edge.

    With more rain forecast for the next week, the dam operators (damn operators?) are not taking any chances and Saturday the water started rising. Today the parking lot is probably completely under water.

    Last summer and fall, I kayaked at least once a week out past where you see this photo, though the water was about four feet lower and very clean. I parked under that tree in the center on numerous occasions to keep my little Nissan pickup truck from getting boiled in the hot Sacramento sun.

    The photo below is of some newly formed rapids, caused by the 3,000 gallons of water per second being let out of Folsom Dam (yup, right by the prison from the Johnny Cash song). In the summer, this roiling water is calm and flat and you can see the fish swimming about six or seven feet below.

    Rapids in American River

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    Journalist & friend, Dave Bennett, requiescat in pace

    TERRA HAUTE, Indiana - A little over a week ago, a journalist friend of mine passed away, a guy who took a chance on me in the mid-1970s that led to my moving up the journalism food chain, leading to my teaching and most of what I call my professional career and success.

    David Bennett was an incredibly talented journalist and writer. What Dave taught me was speed, accuracy and to never be afraid to ask questions. He had very high standards and a worth ethic that wore out other people just watching him.

    But he knew how to relax, he loved nature, and always seemed a little lonely, too, in a way many men are. He certainly had lots of friends, but few close ones. The three years we worked together he and I were very close, though I always played the apprentice to his role of master.

    When Dave was fired suddenly by publisher Jack Moorhead - he was the scapegoat, blamed for union organizing of which he was quite innocent - Dave encouraged me to hang in there and not quit. "Leave on your own terms," he said. "Always leave on your own terms."

    Sage advice, which I have given to legions of young journalists - even my children - over the years.

    We lost touch after he moved to Fresno, pursuing his master's degree. I stayed in the newspaper business for another couple of years, bailing myself to get a master's degree from Chico State, where I was welcomed by the faculty and even went to Spain to teach on the university's Fulbright money.

    Every few years we would get in touch, promise to stay in touch, and promptly fall out of touch again. The connection we had, The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, was the bond that really kept us together.

    Dave took that newspaper in 1976 from a backwater, typical small-town rag to as professional a publication as could be. We published some great stuff, won a lot of prizes and also had a helluva lot of fun doing it.

    While I've had lots of successes since those days, I was stunned by the accomplisments listed in Dave's obituary in the Terra Haute newspaper.

    He never stopped swinging, he never slowed down, even towards the end when he knew his health was failing.

    Requiescat in pace (rest in peace) Dave Bennett. And good luck inside the pearly gates, making sure the Celestial Times is publishing heavenly stories, making deadline, and writing exposes to keep the devil where he belongs.

  • Dave Bennett's obituary from the Terra Haute newspaper

  • The Grass Valley Union's story about Dave
  • Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Captain at rest after a long St. Patrick's Day

    Captain at rest
    Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Vacations are great, except that I usually need another vacation after my vacation to catch up on my sleep.

    But Saturday after St. Patrick's Day, the sun was glorious in San Francisco, so warm that I took a snooze in Sabbatical's aft cockpit and managed to get my first sunburn since Mexico.

    I'm glad my dermatologist never reads this.

    The cruise to San Francisco (with Admiral Fox and crew Ruth Bills from Hector, N.Y.) was marked by several things.

    First, the weather was drop-dead gorgeous, better than anything we've seen for months here in soggy Sacramento. And I didn't bring any shorts for the 15 minutes they would have been appropriate to wear.

    Second, I managed to plug in our shore power cord (A.C. electrical source) to a 250 volt, 50 amp receptacle at San Francisco's South Beach Harbor. Sabbatical is set up to handle 125 volt, 30 amp service.

    Anyone smell anything on fire?

    We didn't have a conflagration, but the battery charger and inverter are going to the shop later this week for an overhaul, or replacement.

    Ouch $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

    A highlight of the voyage, however, was getting to see a Jack and Charmian London photo exhibit at the California Historical Society. The Londons took photos of the devastation of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, including shots from all around the greater San Francisco Bay area which was nearly destroyed in the historic temblor, too.

    Here's a photo of the entryway to the museum exhibit. No cameras were allowed inside to make copies of his photos.

    Jack London exhibit

    One the last day of the trip, the sun really came out strong and wind came up just enough to give us a little push past Angel Island while Ruth steered Sabbatical.

    Ruth at the helm

    Entering the channel to Richmond Harbor we spotted friends from Mexico - Jimmy and Jane aboard their Morgan 38 Dry Martini, recent returnees from Mexico, too.

    We laid plans to get together soon to swap tales about our Mexico adventures from the past few years and plot our next escape from the USSA and back to Margaritaville.

    At least once our battery charger and inverter are back from the shop, reinstalled and field tested by ship's engineer, Scott Noble...

    Sabbatical's Chief Engineer, Scott Noble
    Scott at the wheel,
    February 2006

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    The sun did shine for Sabbatical's cruise to SF

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Sabbatical dodged a stormy-bullet on Saturday, sailing (actually motoring) from Richmond Harbor, past Angel Island and across the cityfront of San Francisco on its way to Oakland for an overnight stop.

    The forecast was for severe thunderstorms and the entire bay was under a full winter storm watch.

    Just a fine day to leave the dock, eh?

    The weather was, as they say, crisp, but sunny and with very little wind. Cousin Ruth Bills from Hector, New York and Chief Engineer Scott Noble were aboard with Admiral Fox and the Captain, coasting into the Oakland Yacht Club 3.5 hours after departing Richmond.

    Then the wind came up about 4 p.m. and Saturday night the boat was buffeted by repeated rainstorms, leading to Sunday's departure when the weather was so bad that the marina harbormaster in Sausalito called Sabbatical to wave us off.

    She said the weather was too foul there to visit. When a harbormaster says, "don't come here," it's bad indeed.

    Here's a link to what we could see as we traveled across the bay on Sunday:
  • View from the Bridge

  • So instead of a second night traveling about the Bay, we headed back to our snug berth in Richmond (and now Sacramento) to rest up for a Friday cruise back to San Francisco proper itself. We will be staying at South Beach Harbor, right next to Pac Bell Park at the foot of the Bay Bridge.

    It's St. Patrick's Day Friday and the captain and crew are all primed and ready for a St. Pat's in a city full of bars with names like O'Douls, O'Shaunessy's, O'Leary's, and any other O's you can name.

    On Saturday, it will be probably be O' My God my head hurts, so we are staying a second day in the city harbor to recover.

    But we are all sailors, after all, and hope to make up a dozen new verses for the famous sea chantey "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor," one of the few tunes I'm able to play with any grace on the guitar lent to me by amigo Sanders Lamont.

    Here's some of the song, with one verse of my own.

    What do you do with a drunken sailor?
    What do you do with a drunken sailor?
    What do you do with a drunken sailor?
    Early in the morning...

    Shave his belly with a rusty razor...
    Shave his belly with a rusty razor...
    Shave his belly with a rusty razor...
    Early in the morning...

    Put him bed with the captain's daughter...
    Put him bed with the captain's daughter...
    Put him bed with the captain's daughter...
    Early in the morning...

    Send him out hunting with Dick Cheney...
    Send him out hunting with Dick Cheney...
    Send him out hunting with Dick Cheney...
    Early in the morning...

    What do you do with a drunken sailor?
    What do you do with a drunken sailor?
    What do you do with a drunken sailor?
    Early in the morning...

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Science fiction series called "Firefly" worth watching

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Ok, it's a been a long winter, even here in California. But as a result, the rain has drive me to learn several dirty songs to play on the guitar and introduced me to a great science fiction series - Firefly.

    Unfortunately, of course, it's been cancelled and you need to drop by Blockbuster Video if you haven't gotten on the Netflix Express yet. (Better get on that train quick, because it won't be too long before you order all your movies direct, sans discs. Better upgrade your computer, too. Looks like movies may be coming in that way.)

    Among the characters on this western-in-space program is the young lady with today's blog. She's the ship's engineer and whiz at it. She's been in lots of different films and some of the glamour shots of her on her website are, well, kind of glamourous.

  • Jewel's website

  • I think Captain Kirk really blew it hiring Mr. Scott, but that's another issue.

    And, ahem, the other characters in the show are worth watching, too.

    The premise is simple: there's a bad group called "The Alliance," that seems to control most everything. Very military looking and acting. Very full of themselves. A lot of bullies from a superpower (any of this seem familar?)

    But this ship, a Firefly-class vessel named Serenity, generally flies just outside of Alliance territories and control. Sort of a futuristic pirate ship, more along the lines of Jean Lafitte than any others.

    Unlike Star Trek, this is a band of almost-renegades who break the law and don't worry about prime directives. But then again, in the eight or so episodes I've seen there's nary an alien intelligence to be found.

    Lots of bad earthling types, however.

    If the rain doesn't stop soon, I'm going to run out of episodes and have to start watching public television again.

    What was the name of the Aztec sun god again?