Friday, November 30, 2007

The GOP marches on towards the cliff

- The reports of the GOP debate the other night are alternately hilarious and frightening.

Hilarious because you have candidates like Mitt Romney who won't say that waterboarding is torture. (Hmmm... maybe that's frightening.) And you have others who are screaming that the biggest issue in this election is illegal immigration.

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney

It hard to say for sure, but most of the nation seems a lot more worried about whether they will be able to afford their homes when their ARMs adjust in a few months - and whether they will still have a job - than if we should be concered about the influx of labor, legal or otherwise.

Oh, and do you have any stocks? Or been to the gas station this week?

Interestingly, Ron Paul keeps moving up in the polls, his plain talk eclipsing John McCain. The GOP would never let a true conservative like Paul loose. But his ideas are not as nutty as his opponents claim. And the money he is raising - via the Internet - is amazing.

Ron Paul
Ron Paul

Here's a link to a NY Times story passed along to me this morning from Capt. Sanders Lamont of the sailing vessel Good News. It looks at the recent debate and is very illuminating.
  • Gail Collins column
  • Saturday, November 10, 2007

    Rethinking Journalism Education Version 2.0 - a hit

    - I generally dread academic meetings with faculty. There have been waaaaaay too many since I started teaching in 1982 at California State University, Chico. And last year as chair of the Faculty Senate at CSU, Sacramento?

    Don't get me started.

    So it was with great relief that even before the meeting began on how to best educate our students in the Digital Age, I was able to chat with one of the guest speakers, Jeff Pelline the editor of the Grass Valley Union, in Grass Valley, Calif.

    Yes, that's the same Grass Valley Union where I hung my hat from 1977 to 1981 before I left to take over the newspaper in Chico, Calif. Jeff and I joked about the state of the industry (sad), the state of the community in Grass Valley (not much changed since I was editor) and a fellow who worked for me in 1981 who just celebrated his 50th year working for the newspaper.

    Fifty years. Jaysus.

    But the day was peppered with good conversations from very earnest professors from all over the state who are trying to figure out the best way to get our university students up to speed with the skills they need.

    The session, sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and chaired by Professor Sylvia Fox, was a followup to meeting held in the spring of editors and publishers who spent their time putting together a squawk list of skills they hoped college graduates would bring when they arrived at their various newspapers' doorsteps. The list hasn't changed much since I was an editor hiring right-out-of-school grads: graduates should understand ethics, be incredibly curious, be able to find information, relate to their audience, and, and, and...

    But new to the list is that students should have video skills, be able to upload stories, photos and video to to the Web, tell a story in many formats and perhaps even be able to use HTML.

    I marveled at the conversation, remembering the fights in newsrooms I worked in over whether reporters should even be allowed (allowed!) to carry cameras. Photographers didn't like the idea (nor did the union representing them). Technology has blown past all those concerns.

    As my part of the day's events, I shot some quick video with my Flip video camera and then quickly threw together a brief 'movie' (see below) during the period after lunch, which I played for the group in the afternoon. I actually got some applause.

    It's always nice to get applause.

    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    The dilemma facing the Republican party - Rudy or?

    ACRAMENTO, Calif., USA
    - The conservative radio talk shows are buzzing (pehaps fawning) over the various GOP candidates for president, all salivating over the possibility of another Republican in the White House and spending as much time as possible demonizing Hillary Clinton.

    No surprise there, of course.

    A local radio station features three national hosts daily: Michael Medved, Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt whose various patters are all pretty similar, though if you didn't allow the use of the words unbelievable, astounding, amazing or incredible, it's doubtful they could get through a 15-minute segment, let alone the hours-long programs they put on day after day after day after...

    But these shows are interesting to listen to now because they wrestle daily with the GOP's awful dilemma this year of selecting a candidate who the most conservative elements of the party will back.

    And that is a huge problem.

    Topping the voter polls is Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who only wants to talk about 9-11, and not that he supports a woman's right to have abortion - a position that makes him a real problem for the majority of conservative voters. When you add his three marriages and the photos of him in drag, his family values credentials are pretty weak and many evangelicals (who hold tremendous sway) say they can't vote for this guy.

    Rudy Giuliani in drag
    Rudy Giuliani - presidential candidate?

    The other candidate that has generated a lot of excitement is Mitt Romney whose Mormon faith keeps him off the boards for most Christian Evangelicals who consider Mormonism to be practically a cult. Romney's 'family values' credentials are impeccable, but a recent San Francisco Chronicle story points out that some of the evangelicals are reconsidering how stident to be - more afraid of a Hillary Clinton than someone who might believe in polygamy.

    Mitt Romney
    Mitt Romney - his Mormon faith has him in trouble
  • Chronicle story on Evangelicals and voting

  • Rounding out the GOP field are John McCain (considered to be too old and perhaps too liberal), Mike Huckabee, a trained Baptist minister who opposes abortion but who is unlikely to have enough money to be a serious contender, and Ron Paul, a congressman who in GOP debates has taken on the war in Iraq, saying it's a mistake and should be ended right now.

    Paul has been pilloried on the talk shows for that view, though the talk show hosts are fascinated with the guy and can't get through a show without taking at least a few cheap shots.

    Mike Huckabee
    Mike Huckabee - former governor and short on cash

    Ron Paul
    Ron Paul, the candidate talk show hosts hate

    And then there is Fred Thompson, an actor-turned politician (does this sound familiar) who is so unenthusiastic in public appearances that people are starting to compare him to the late Gerald Ford when it comes to charisma. The best things he has going for him so far are his gorgeous (and young) wife, and the fact that most people remember his acting roles on Law & Order and as a commander in films like The Hunt for Red October.

    Fred Thompson & wife Jeri
    Fred Thompson and his wife Jeri

    The Democratic convention will be fun to watch this year, even if it is just a coronation of Hillary. There will be some antics. They're Democrats, after all.

    It's the GOP confab where the catfight might take place. We might have a real GOP convention for the first time in, well, I can't remember. Perhaps since Barry Goldwater grabbed the nomination, only to lose disastrously to Lyndon Johnson.

    Can we hope for a repeat of history?

    Sunday, October 07, 2007

    Adding video to websites - a nice touch

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - After much procrastination, I finally put up some video Saturday on Captain's Blog (link on the left of this column), my first foray into using video.

    OhMiGod - it works and it is sooooo easy.

    Adding to that mix is that my cell phone can take a limited amount of video, which means that I don't need to carry a camera (particularly my bulky video camera) to snatch short videos. Later today I'll post an experiment in that, provided I can get it all to download. Saturday's footage was shot with a regular video camera and then compressed using a special program... Ok, you've heard enough.

    So watch out Costco, this citizen journalist is headed your way this morning.

    Citizen journalist
    The Citizen Journalist

    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    The next logical step is to move over to YouTube

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - In recent months more links to the video hosting site YouTube have come this way than links to articles, a sign that communications are twisting again, this time in the form of videos versus print.

    And in the last few months, the software for this blogsite now allows the posting of videos, which might actually happen here - if I can get the technology to cooperate.

    In the meantime, two very different videos came to my attention, one by Taryn Southern about Hilary Clinton, another by Gory Bateson, the nom-de-video of a university colleague.
    Taryn Southern

    The Southern video is a song performed by web star Southern called Hott 4 Hill, and was produced and posted in response to another YouTube piece posted by Obama Girl.

    As you might guess, the Southern posting is a tongue-in-cheek paean to Hilary Clinton, quite funny and musically, a pretty catchy tune.
  • Hott 4 Hill

  • Her posting has had nearly 900,000 views (add one more if you just watched it) and while the gay references might bother a few people, it's a damn clever video.

    At the other end of the YouTube media world is a video personality created by a colleague who is having great time putting together short videos and posting them to YouTube. Gory Bateson first sang Light My Fire at the grave of Jim Morrison and most recently posted a song he performed while standing knee-deep in the American River near the Sacramento State campus.
  • Gory in the river

  • My goal? To get my video alter-ego to join Gory's group (the Ethnogs) for a YouTube duet - at least as long as it is Two Pina Coladas and I don't have to stand knee-deep in 50 degree water.

    A nice cantina with two pina coladas within reach would seem a more fitting spot to film it.

    Watch out Taryn, Gory and I will be challenging you pretty soon for the most web hits.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Ann Coulter demands the wrath of Allah upon her

    LOS ANGELES, Calif., USA - Conservative talk-show personality - and rapidly aging - Ann Coulter has been complaining that no matter what nasty things she says about Islam and people in the Middle East, she can't get any Muslim clerics angry enough to issue a fatwa, calling for her death.

    And this is a woman who knows how to insult. Ask John Edwards, or actually anyone in public life who dares agree publicly with any progressive position these days. Her resemblance to a harpy at rest is not just a pose.

    Ann Coulter

    She told Esquire magazine (the British version) that she is jealous of writer Salman Rushdie who had such a fatwa issued (calling for his death) after he published his famous book The Satanic Verses, a book which clerics said was blasphemous.

    It seems the darling of the rightwing nut-job talk shows thinks that such a death sentence would sell a few more of her books and perhaps get her some notoriety since her shrill speeches and performances are starting to fall flat with even the most conservative of audiences.

    She might have more luck baiting the Hell's Angels in Oakland. They have their own version of a fatwa.

    Ann Coulter fires gun
    Ann Coulter practices

    Here's a link to an animated cartoon that puts Ms. Coulter in context:

  • Coulter Cartoon

  • Thursday, August 02, 2007

    Lake days and work days ahead for August

    VALOIS, New York, USA - The dog days of August (Where did that expression come from, anyway?) have come in with a combination of work that needs to be done before we jet back to California in September, and some of the best lake weather we have seen. Light winds, about 85 degrees and barely a cloud in the sky.

    And the lake water has even warmed up to about 75+ degrees, making swimming a pleasure again. We took the Spirit of Louise out the center of the lake and simply drifted for an hour, joined after a short time by Ruth Bills in her new boat. We rafted up the boats and drifted around with them for awhile. For the first time in years, I didn't have to worry about the currents or tides while swimming.

    Oh, or anything biting in the water that was likely to see me as food.

    Ladies of the lake
    Ruth Bills (right) and her amigo, Cece, enjoy a dip

    While we were drifting, cousin Roger Beardslee roared by with a tubeload of teenagers in tow, with the screams echoing across the water to the boat, where our foster dog Arnold stood guard to make sure no seagulls would come near the boat.

    Plenty of them seem to have found the boat when it sits in the boat lift in front of the house. Arnold belongs to a friend staying in the guest house on the property. During the day, when Brad works at Hazlitt winery, Arnold stays with us. He likes the boat, but so far hasn't been willing to help me with the gardening or shovel work. Perhaps its the lack of opposable thumbs.

    Arnold watches the tuber
    Arnold on guard

    But while the lake days are great, the projects around the house remain and as absurd as it seems, the deadline clock is ticking loudly with what needs to be done. A lot of it is small items, some large and already we are paring the list to make it fit the time we have left.

    And in among the projects, we have a three-day weekend in New York City and an overnight sojourn to Toronto planned. (Let's see, one month minus five days, minus two days travel time, minus.... Gawd...) And yes, we are going to use the 1992 Buick to get us both places.

    Workin on the farm
    Sylvia practices driving while Dan practices digging

    The last major project (Who am I kidding?) we hope to finish in a few days involves the plumbing to the guest house, a repair job that required the above tractor work. Although the tractor looks like a lot of fun, I have stayed away from it, except for short spurts of moving it from place to place. I get carried away when using such things and would likely start to knock down the small trees on the property I have wanted to clear out.

    But we could sure use the machine in Mexico when we go to build our house this winter.

    Hmmm. Perhaps we could trailer it down behind our new Isuzu Trooper?

    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    Days on the lake and visit from Ric & Rose

    VALOIS, New York, USA - When we first arrived back after our California trip, everyone asked us if we had brought back good weather.

    Somehow, we did - or at least we are going to take credit for it.

    The weather has been great with lots of boating (and outside projects) and also featured a visit from friends Ric Brown and his wife Rosemary Papa from Sacramento. Ric retired this year from Sacramento State after serving as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Faculty used to say he was the last honest man in the administration at the University. Don't get me started on all that. I'm retired, too, after all.

    Ric's wife Rosemary ran the Center for Teaching and Learning at the university, about the only bright spot around the school which was (and is) much beloved by faculty. The center, of course, was (is?) under constant attack from - you guessed it - the administration. Don't get me started on that, either.

    The subject of the university never really came up - we were too busy wine tasting at Lamoureaux Landing and also out on the Spirit of Louise for a tour of both the east and west sides of the lake. No Lamoureaux Landing wine was consumed on that voyage but when I opened the champagne and lost the cork overboard (OK, I was trying to hit a seagull with it), we did polish off the bottle.

    wine conference
    Ric studies the wine list while the Admiral and I confer

    Rose on the bow
    Rosemary and the Admiral on the bow

    Rick at the helm
    Rick at the helm, with a captainly looking cigar

    Our boating has been slightly hampered by the sudden growth of seaweed - so thick that we actually got stuck several days ago right off the end of the dock and had to shift the boat motor in and our of gear several times to break free.

    A little problem when you go to back up

    After that experience, we borrowed a weedcutter from cousin Ruth Bills and my mornings now include a half-hour or so of weed harvesting - usually when there is a nice offshore breeze blowing. Otherwise, it all comes ashore and smells like Lake Erie did in the 1970s when industrial pollution killed everything in the lake.

    Don't get me started on that, either.

    Today's project, in case you are interested, is plumbing - repair and replacing the toilet and system in the guest cabin.

    Give me those weeds on the lake anytime.

    weed cutter
    Weed-cutting tool

    Thursday, July 26, 2007

    The last party on Sabbatical - at least until?

    ALAMEDA, Calif., USA - The last cocktail party in a looooong series of such things was held last Saturday on Sabbatical in her slip at Marina Village, commemorating six years of ownership/cruising and the transfer of the ship back to her builder, Don Tiffin.

    Don will be arriving in Alameda this week to start getting the boat ready for a trip across the Pacific and asked me for a list of things I would suggest he do before he starts out.

    Quite the reversal, as I am usually on the receiving end of such lists.

    The party including Dan & Lorraine Olsen, their sons Scott and Lance, as well as Capt. Sanders Lamont (who just moved his boat Good News to the slip across the dock). And, of course, the Admiral and I were there with son Dylan, too, from Berkeley.

    And the headline says last party with a question mark because Don Tiffin has already invited us to come back to the ship when we return to California in September. By then he will have worked at least partway through that list I'm preparing and a celebration will definitely be in order.

    Three Olsens
    Scott, Lorraine & Lance Olsen

    Last cocktails on Sabbatical
    A subdued party - compared to most

    While Captain Lamont and I were readying Sabbatical for her party guests early in the afternoon, we spotted a rare sight on the sailing vessel in the slip directly adjacent to Sabbatical (and across the dock from Good News) - a sunbather. While Alameda can get warm, it's rare someone gets brave enough to wear a bathing suit.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE: This photo was taken strictly for historical purposes to note the rarity of the event.)

    Neighbor at marina
    Sunworshiper in Alameda

    The weekend also included a surprise visit - in Sacramento - from Alex Schwartz, Alex of the Seneca Lake/Horseheads, NY Schwartz clan, now a student at Sacramento State and a resident of Davis, Calif., where he resides with his girlfriend.

    Alex pedaled the 15 or so miles from Davis to Sacramento and stopped by to say hello, where by happenstance his cousin, our son Dylan was about, cutting a deal to buy our much-loved (and much driven) red Miata, purchased three years ago from Alex's father, Dan. (Is all this as confusing to you as it is to me?)

    Alex, Sylvia and Dylan
    Alex, Sylvia and Dylan

    Dylan head out in new wheels
    Dylan give the new-owner wave

    What I neglected to give Dylan, before he headed out Sunday, was the same kind of list that I have to give Don Tiffin for Sabbatical - the car needs new rear brakes, there is a troubling oil drip from the transmission and the back window in the convertible top has given up all its stitching in favor of the always-open mode - great in summer, less great in the rain.

    Cars and boats have a lot in common.

    Saturday, July 21, 2007

    The tale of the lost pooch has a happy ending

    ACRAMENTO, Calif., USA
    - The tale of the lost dog ended happily late Saturday when the owners of 'Cassie' showed up to pick her up.

    It turned out she lives about 15 blocks away and had dug herself out of her backyard, wanting a little free running room.

    She got it, but unfortunately, couldn't find her way home after a little burst of freedom.

    Her very-worried owners posted a notice with the local Animal Shelter, which Admiral Fox contacted and after a few phone calls, the dog is now back with her family and we have a very nice 5-pound bag of dog food for the next stray that takes up residence in our front yard.

    Case closed.

    Cassie the dog goes home
    Happy to be at home

    What to do with a lost canine who has adopted us

    ACRAMENTO, Calif., USA
    - This morning's walk was interrupted before it even began when we found a pooch, wide-awake, camped out on our front lawn.

    At first, the dog was very skittish - she jumped up when Admiral Fox approached and looked like she was going to bolt. But after a handful of dog treats thrown in her direction, and a few motherly mutterings by the Admiral, she calmed down.

    And right now she is sleeping at my feet inside the house, having eaten enough dog treats and chicken strips to fill the belly of a dog twice her size. She has also made herself completely at home by taking a world-class dump in the middle of the backyard.

    Admiral and new friend
    Admiral makes a new friend

    We sprang into action when we found her at 7 a.m. and within an hour we had a notice (and photo) posted on Craig's List, as well as posters with a photo of the dog posted all around the neighborhood. Unfortunately on many of the light poles where I posted my signs there were lots of other notices for lost dogs and cats, too, sprinkled with those ubiquitous yard sale signs.

    And so the burning question is what-the-hell-to-do with this pooch?

    She's not flying to New York with us Monday at 6:35 a.m.. (And whether she is a she or a he has not been determined.)

    But at the same time, while taking her to the dog pound (ok, Animal Shelter) is an option, the likelihood she will be found by her real owners there - or adopted - is remote at best.

    I hear the question: Yes, the dog has a collar; no, she is not sporting any tags.

    This adventure will have to play out for the rest of the day and perhaps Sunday before it's resolved.

    A lost python on the front lawn would have been a lot easier to deal with.

    Well, maybe.

    Lost dog
    Do I look familiar?

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    Caught by surprise and without my camera handy

    ACRAMENTO, California, USA
    - The doorbell rang about 10 a.m. this morning, a ding-dong that would bring Jimmy Hoffa back from wherever he rests.

    I knew it wasn't the UPS or FedEX guys - or even any of my neighbors. Nobody, I mean nobody rings doorbells in Sacramento, unless they are with the Jehovah's Witnesses on a neighborhood sweep for lost souls.

    Now if you think this is going to be a rant about those people who go door-to-door, handing out Watchtowers and keeping an even keel while people slam doors in their faces (and worse) you are dead wrong.

    But a doorbell? Kee-rist (sorry).

    Aha, I thought, looking through the stained glass window.

    On my doorstep were two of the most gorgeous blonde women I have seen outside the pages of Playboy magazine. (I read the magazine for the articles, like everyone else, but the women are hard to miss.)

    I realized that I had been harsh in saying that the only group in Sacramento who would ever ring a doorbell was linked to the Witnesses. I had forgotten about the one group of people ranked down at the bottom of the social order with journalists, used car hacks and lawyers - Realtors!

    So when I cracked the door (after quickly making sure my shirt wasn't sporting any remants of my morning's tea) I expected that these two long-legged women would quickly ask me if I was interested in selling the house, or if any neighbors might be willing to talk with them.

    But that's not what they wanted. They asked me if they could help me with my soul.

    Nope, they weren't demons, I was right the first time, Jehovah's Witnesses. And looking up and down the street, I quickly saw that it wasn't just the two runway models on my doorstep. Damn near (oops, sorry again) every doorway up and down 4th Avenue had two well-dressed tall blondes ringing doorbells. I was so stunned I neglected to run and get a camera. Without a photo, I find it hard to believe myself, now 12 hours later.

    But what a great strategy for the Witnesses. Instead of guys in poorly fitted suits, or mothers dragging kids, you have a pair of every middle-aged man's dreamboats showing up on the doorstep. Hell (oops, sorry one more time), I even took the literature and dawdled at the front door for a few minutes before the two angels wandered off to find other souls to save.

    One neighbor up the street - who golfs religiously every Sunday - kept chatting so long with them while he raked his yard that he wore his newly planted grass down to bare soil in a three-foot circle.

    I'm sure he'll tell his wife the gardener did it, though he could be more accurate and quote the late Flip Wilson:

    "The devil made do it!"

    typical jehovah's witness rep
    A more typical doorbell ringer

    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    Off the lake and into the air to Sacramento

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - There has been a lot of water under the keel since I last posted anything - and a lot of air miles, too.

    Close readers will notice that this is being entered from Sacramento.

    Sacramento? What the hell????

    We received word a few days ago from Don Tiffin - former owner of Sabbatical, about to become owner of Sabbatical again - that he would be winging his way from Australia to San Francisco to take delivery of the ship early next week. And so, frequent-flier miles in hand, we bravely boarded a Southwest Airlines' flight from Buffalo, NY to Sacramento early Wednesday morning. Very early Wednesday morning.

    And it went off without a hitch. I mean, the flight attendants were even, well, pleasant.


    But before all that, we had lots of adventures and a few minor mishaps.

    Spirit of Louise gets towed home
    The Spirit of Louise gets towed home by cousin Roger

    After days of fun - and about 18 gallons of gasoline - the now-named Spirit of Louise pontoon boat (named for Sylvia's mother) had its first serious hiccup, a burned-up waterpump in the engine. We were headed home after a day of touring the lake when suddenly some white steam started coming out of exhaust port where water is supposed to stream out. The Admiral spotted it before it became an issue and already the folks at Morgan Marine have fixed it so we can pick it up when we return in about a week. I burned up a lot of those pumps on Lake Chautaqua many years ago.

    Spirit of Louise captain relaxes
    Relaxing at the Bills' dock early in the day

    We had plenty of wild boat times before that, with a good part of it spent down at Ruth and John Bill's dock. July 3 - arguably the nicest day on the water I've had in years, we swam off the dock and also watched cousin Roger pulling a three-person tube with his boat (that can go about 70 mph). I had the opportunity to jump into the tube and ride with Jen Bills and her friend Kristen, but decided that my slowly healing shoulders might not be able to stand the excitement. To show how conservative I am about these shoulders, the Admiral encouraged me to climb in the tube and I still opted out.

    Carumba! What was I thinking?

    Instead, Jen's cousin, Brett (Roger's son) hopped in the tube for a wild run around the bay. Only a single scream punctuated the air when they took one particularly sharp turn. I'm not sure if any of the three owned up to who let out the yelp.

    When three is not a crowd
    When three is definitely not a crowd

    Jen & Kristen test the waters
    Jen and Kristen test the waters before the tube ride

    The adventures of early July included an old fashioned barn raising, except that there wasn't a barn, it was a dock. And instead of a legion of Amish farmers and women dressed like the 19th century, it was a lot of sunburned beer drinkers in bathing suits, adding a new piece onto the dock at the Bills, a dock that now will have nice shady deck for those broiling days.

    A nautical barn raising
    Karl, Jen & Michael pound nails

    Nautical barn raising with Jen & Michael
    Jen and Michael hammer away

    As in any construction project, it's important to have the right tools and so when I arrived to work on the deck, I discovered that John Bills had made sure that the nailing crew would remain hydrated through the day by putting a cooler full of cold drinks on the end of the dock. We dipped into the cooler lightly early in the project - our fingers needed protection from poorly aimed hammers, after all - but by 3 p.m. when the deck was all but permanently tapped into place, we relaxed.

    Right tools for the right job
    Keeping hydrated is important

    Although being back in Sacramento for a short time is fun, (like having lunch with daughter Anne today and getting to see grandaughter Samantha over the weekend and next week, too), my mind is already thinking about a proposed new stairway to the water at the Valois house, the three huge bonfires we are going to have with the debris from the beach cleanup, and getting back out on the Spirit of Louise with our dock-building mates and everyone else.

    Captain Karl at the helm
    Karl take a turn at the helm

    But first there are some California adventures ahead, too, including going on a San Francisco Bay cruise with several hundred newspaper publishers tomorrow night - one of the Admiral's perks for being a California Newspaper Publishers Association consultant.

    I'll try not to mention that I use Craig's List all the time and haven't bought - or even read - a classified advertisement in a newspaper in probably three or four years. If I do slip up and mention Craig's list, I'll make sure I am nowhere near the edge of the boat. Accidents happen when you mix smartass Journalism professors, free liquor and newspaper publishers who are watching their advertising revenues spiral down like water in a kitchen sink.

    The SF Bay water is only about 59 degrees right now. Hell, that's colder than Seneca Lake.

    Sunday, July 01, 2007

    The boat is secure, the hot tub is, well, hot...

    VALOIS, New York, USA - Our Mexico (and California) amigos Dan & Lorraine Olsen arrived two days ago, bringing with them some colder weather after a visit with their son Scott in Chicago. (It was about 42 degrees last night.) But since they arrived we have started the Great Beach Cleanup Project (nearly done) and tied up the Lady Louise FloteBote more securely to project the ship (ok, boat) from summer storms.

    Yes, it seems like Lady Louise is sticking as a name for the boat, but lobbying for another name is heavy - very heavy.

    Despite the colder weather yesterday, I waded out into the chest-deep water to add some heavy docklines to secure the boat. The lake temperature was in the 70s last week (some people claimed), but now I would bet it's in the mid 60s.

    But the hot tub - after two days of slow heating - is finally up to its max of 104 degrees.

    Hot tub therapy
    Michael thaws out slowly after a dip in the lake

    Later last evening a windstorm rolled down the lake from the north (don't put too much money in the forecasts from, at least for this part of the globe), testing my work, which I am happy to report held just fine. With luck it will warm up today enough to take a little lake tour. says it will be cold all day. Hmmm...

    As July 4th looms, people are starting to arrive at the lake and the sound of fireworks started last night and will continue through next weekend, I'll bet. Recent arrivals included Sylvia's brother Dan and his wife Diane, and Sylvia's other brother David. A family party is in the works for tonight from which there should be lots of photos. We have some of the finest of box wines in the refrigerator already chilling. (Thank God for my camera's autofocus.)

    Roger & Nancy's soiree II
    Ruth Bills (left) with Dan & Diane Schwartz

    Our July 4th plans include a cruise down the lake to Watkins Glen to watch the fireworks from the deck of the Lady Louise (work on that name, will you please?) weather permitting. If we do head down, we will be bobbing around in the waves with several hundred other boats, all vying to see who can get the closest and who can have some fireworks debris land in the water nearby.

    And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air...

    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Boats and falling trees and thunderstorms, Oh My

    VALOIS, New York, USA - The last few days have been filled with boating, getting my shoulders stretched by Amanda Smith-Socaris (the anonymous physical therapist from the last posting) and almost - note almost - becoming a victim of lightning in a wind storm that rocked the entire state.

    But first, the good news.

    The Admiral and I are the proud owners of a 20-foot FloteBote, which on Tuesday we used all up and down the lake, stopping at lots of docks, ending up at John & Ruth Bills' dock well after dark Tuesday to tie the barge, er, yacht up.

    Lady Louise
    Lady Louise at rest next to our dock

    The boat was brought over from neighboring Keuka Lake on a trailer about 1 p.m. Tuesday and for the rest of the day we did a classic Seneca Lake tour with the Admiral and I, Ruth Bills, and Roger & Nancy Beardslee aboard. We would motor a few miles. Stop at a dock. Drink a beer. Use the restroom. And then repeat.

    So I was pretty exhausted Wednesday morning, when I had to make it down the lake to see my physical therapist who is actually making some progress on my shoulder. I'm even trying to do all the exercises she has given me.

    But the weather forecast Wednesday morning warned of afternoon thunderstorms, which on all these upstate New York Lakes have to be taken pretty seriously.

    So after my stretching session, the Admiral, Ruth Bills, Ruth's dog Carbon and I motored the Lady Louise (that name is subject to change, by the way) up the lake past cousin Roger's house where we picked up some heavy pipes and a large maul to pound them into the lake bottom to make a secure mooring for the boat.

    Had we started that project about two hours earlier, life would have been a lot less stressful and I might have a little more adrenalin today.

    Storm tree
    Tree on lakeside path, knocked down by 60 mph winds

    We had barely arrived at our dock when the first peals of thunder rolled over the lake, not nearly as charming as when you read about them in some Washington Irving novel. It was too late to get serious about setting metal posts in the bottom of the lake - standing waist-deep in water, holding onto a metal pipe and swinging a lead sledge hammer is not recommended to do when lightning strikes are imminent. (Not to mention, they are not on my exercise list for physical therapy.)

    But I was able to put in one post on short, thrown out the stern anchor and tie the boat six ways to Sunday against the dock, hoping that the storm would come from the southwest (as predicted), which would blow the boat away from the dock and away from any real danger.

    And it did just that!

    But only for the first 15 minutes of heavy rain, lightning and wind.

    Suddenly, the rain let up, the wind clocked around and, as the French say, Voila! The strongest winds I have ever experienced on Seneca Lake came roaring out of the northwest, blowing out screen frames on our porch and dropping the big tree in the photo above.

    And the Lady Louise?

    Well, she survived with barely a scratch, though it was obvious that the boat did ride up on the dock a couple of times. But before the storm had completely abated, cousin Roger showed up with more lines and together (with the Admiral) we pounded in a proper set of pipes into the lake bottom to hold the ship.

    It seems ironic that we have crossed many hundreds of miles of open ocean aboard Sabbatical, been in crashing storms and wild seas to nearly lost a boat to a thunderstorm on a lake.

    Mother Nature has a great sense of humor.

    Thursday, June 21, 2007

    A new Isuzu , a boat in the works and what else?

    VALOIS, New York, USA - The adventures of retirement continue to be, well, adventuresome.

    Six hours before we left for New York, we closed the deal on the purchase of a 1997 Isuzu Trooper, a nicely kept 4-wheel drive vehicle which we hope will serve us well in Mexico for many years. It is a blue version of the wheels that both son Dustin and Dustin's amiga Cami drive. Ours was driven by a school teacher (I am NOT kidding) and would seem to be a great rig for 4-wheeling around our beach property and La Manzanilla, where fording a river is a common occurence.

    The new Troopy in the the family
    The latest Trooper to join the fleet of family vehicles.

    Our original plan was to buy a 4-wheel drive unit here in New York and drive it to California. But after a little reflection on that plan - and the 15 mpg average that many 4-wheel drive vehicles get - we decided buying the California car made sense. Sort of. At least as much sense as ever buying a 15 mpg vehicle makes in a $3.50 per gallon world.

    When we get back to Sacramento in late August (very late August, given that we don't start teaching until the day after Labor Day), we will sell our much-loved Prius, a car that not only gets 50 mpg, but has a carpool lane sticker that is transferable to the new owner. Selling the Prius should not be a problem.

    But because we are sans 4-wheel drive car here, we had to put some energy into the Lake House Buick, a mid-1990s vehicle that was owned by the Admiral's late mother, Louise (a retired schoolteacher). This year the car started great, but the brake fluid poured out more quickly than a milkshake at a Dairy Queen, so the car was dispatched down to Watkins Glen to the shop from which it was purchased, where, I learned today, that it can be repaired - and with a new set of tires on the rear - for about $200.

    Upstate New York comes as close to rivaling Mexico in its bargains as anyplace I know.

    Buick in for repairs
    Buick heads to the repair shop

    The fun part of the day (not counting the weeding, scraping wallpaper or taking apart the dishwasher) was going to look for a lake boat so we can have some on-the-water transport this year. Last year we used the Bud Boat, but its engine gave it up in August - as in really gave it up - and we decided that rather than buy a new engine for it, we would start over.

    We found a late 1970s Mark Twain (no kidding a boat named Mark Twain - Sam Clemens probably want to puke) that has a 40 hp Mercury on it. But the owner and broker want $2,50o dollars - a little steep, if my reading of Craig's List prices for local boats is accurate.

    A few miles down the road, we found what we think could be our next Seneca Lake Boat - a 20-foot pontoon boat, complete with a 35 hp Mercury. These are the ultimate party boats, plus, with a enough horsepower, can actually get up on plane, Waterskiing is probably out of the question, but considering that tomorrow I have my first appointment with a new physical therapist to work on my shoulders, waterskiing should probably not be much of a consideration.

    Boat possibility
    One possibility. but a little small

    The boat pictured above is actually only 14-feet long - really too small for any serious partying, er, I mean navigating. But the same broker shown here telling Admiral Fox about this unit is busy getting a 20-foot version ready for show. And we are ready to take a quick test spin when it is ready. If it works out, it might be in the water and ready for Dan and Lorraine Olsen's visit next week. I know Captain Dan will help me figure out the navigational possibilities for this, our latest of boats.

    On our way home from looking at the pontoon boat, we spotted another small runabout - this one costing about $1,200 - with a nice-looking, late-model 50 hp Mercury outboard attached.

    Perhaps we should buy both, and have a spare engine to swap back and forth.

    Not the worst idea I have had today.

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    An ode to the late great Bear Lamont

    CAMP CONNELL, Calif. USA - The bad news reached us in the airport on our way to Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Elmira - all stops on our way to Seneca Lake.

    Bear Lamont, an ageless - though aging - Labrador had finally died.

    Bear has been a fixture in our lives for years - as long as we have known Sanders and Pat Lamont. I first met Bear when I did a short housesitting stint seven years ago, and Bear was still frisky enough to bolt out the front door after squirrels.

    When the Admiral and I moved in to take over more permanent housesitting duties a couple of years ago, we agreed to joint custody of Bear with Sanders and Pat and traded off watching the dog many times. Whether we watched Bear, or Bear watched us, was always up for debate.

    Perhaps one of most fun times we had in recent years was putting up the Christmas lights on the Sacramento house - with Bear's help, of course.

    R.I.P. Bear. Maybe now you will be able to catch those damned squirrels that eluded you for so long.

    Bear Lamont
    Bear ready to celebrate Christmas, two years ago

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Even the retirement parties can be a lot of fun

    - Many retirement parties can be somber affairs, endless reviewing and rehashing of careers. Lots of, if I only had more time I could have...

    In the case of my friend and CSU, Sacramento colleague, Bill Dorman, his grand soiree Saturday was a celebration of the next phase of his life after a 40-year teaching career.

    If Bill's life was a movie, it would be called "A Teaching Life."

    Bill at blackboard
    Bill at the blackboard
    teaching War, Peace
    & the Mass Media

    The sequel to "A Teaching Life" would likely be called "Bill & Pat's Excellent Adventures."

    I was asked by Bill's wife Pat to do a bit of minor league emceeing of the event, lining up some speakers and trying to manage the order of speakers so that various people could have their say and yet keep it light enough that no one had to reach for the Kleenex.

    That didn't work so well (there were a few tears), but all the speakers had good things - and many hysterical things - to say about this guy who has been a great friend and mentor to me during my 20 years at CSU, Sacramento. Bill's son Chris could fill in for Jon Stewart anytime - and maybe get higher ratings.

    I introduced Bill in the fall semester when he gave the Livingston Lecture on the CSUS campus. Being chosen to give that talk is arguably the highest honor the university faculty can bestow on a colleague. I pulled out all the stops in that intro, managing to choke him up a little before he gave his speech.

    Bill with former Pres
    Bill with former CSUS President
    Don Gerth and Bev Gerth

    Admiral Fox worked the video camera to capture the speakers at Bill's retirement party and also got lots of B roll of the event and so the next Fox-Fitzgerald rockumentary will likely be based on Bill's retirement party.

    No titles come to mind just yet, though I'll bet after I review the video many will come to mind.

    Already, one is bubbling its way to the surface, something like "Walking Tall on Campus."


    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Photo page updates available at

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - We are home safe in the USSA after more adventures in flying with U.S. Airways.

    No whining about that here - I will post something about our trip and the &#$^$&$*&^(( people at U.S. Airways on Captain's Blog later today.

    But in posting a number of photos from our trip - many of which may not make it to the actual blogs - I updated my links so that readers can view all the photos I put up on Flickr, not just those I blog about.

    The link is listed to the left as Michael's photo page,
  • Photos
  • just above the Santana Real Estate link.

    More later, amigos

    Wednesday, June 06, 2007

    The frozen shoulder problem and computers

    PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - The frozen shoulders are not thawing as I had hoped - though retirement is less than a week old, so I shouldn't be too impatient. Stretching, saltwater therapy and tequila tranquilizers at sunset haven't really made a dent. Ditto for any drugs for relieving the pain.

    But even before I left Sacramento, I asked my amiga Marcia Carlson Hein in the UK about using voice recognition software to avoid all this keyboarding. I don't know for sure if the keyboard work is adding to the problem, but after a long session typing, the shoulders do kink up.

    I had a colleague at CSUS who offered me a copy of a program called Dragon Speaking Naturally, but it only works on PC-based machines, not Apples.

    Que lastima.

    Marcia - an Apple user - recommended looking at at new Apple product, IListen.

    Ilisten photo
    IListen software

    The biggest problem I see is training myself to dictate, rather than type.

    You have to say punctuation marks aloud,(comma) or else you would end up with a stream of consciousness piece, sort of Jack Kerouac in the computer age. (period)

    So it's one more thing to put on the list to do for when we make a cameo appearance back in Sacramento in about 10 days. (period)

    Monday, June 04, 2007

    Adding a blog, a retirement kind of thing

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - A few days ago, in a weak moment, I created another blog (one more not to keep up with, right?), this one aimed at retirement adventures. (Does that sound like an oxymoron?)

    If you are reading this, then you probably already have taken a peek at it: Captain's Blog.
  • Captain's Blog

  • I think the name struck me as much as anything, but now I'm sort of stuck with it for awhile.

    I will be posting on both this blog and Captain's Blog, just depending on, well, depending. And already I've crosslisted a few pieces.

    It was probaby reading that damn book about William Randolph Hearst! I'm trying to create blog empire, and, like Hearst, I'm short on resources.

    In any event, Captain's Blog will be updated this evening with tales of wildlife - and some not-so-wild-anymore life here in Tenacatita Bay.

    Lobster anyone?
    Lobster anyone?

    Sunday, June 03, 2007

    The 45 peso dinner - and why we love Mexico so much

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I just returned from dinner at a streetside restaurant adjacent to la iglesia (the Catholic Church) at which we had dinner for the equivalent of about $4 U.S.

    Yup, $4 U.S.

    Last night, our dinner was about $4.50, but that's because we had four tacos, instead of three. Our drink order was the same - one Pacifico and an agua mineral.

    The restaurant is owned and run by a Mexican family, the members of which pitch in and cook and serve. The girls, in their late teens, aren't thrilled at being waitresses, but seem faintly amused at my attempts to flirt with them in Spanish. At least I hope what I hear them saying back and forth is amusement.

    There is no menu - you simply tell them what kind of taco or quesadilla or whatever - and they bring it. No wine served, but beer and soft drinks and the ever popular, agua mineral (carbonated water).

    There are plenty of upscale gringo restaurants in town, where the same meal would cost $20 U.S. or more for basically the same fare. Plus, you have to listen to loud gringos talk about how their real estate investments are going or how the Mexicans they hired aren't working fast enough on their new, gazillion-dollar homes.

    Que lastima.

    But most telling this evening was when a little boy (un niño) spilled a glass of Coca-Cola across the table. His father only glanced at him - no placating 'Oh, it's all right," and no quick angry disciplinary backhands. It was simple. He spilled the Coke, he cleaned it up, sort of. No big deal.

    Another day of retirement, another 45 pesos spent on food.

    Ah, Mexico... The adventure continues mañana.

    A visit to the future Casa Admiral at Tenacatita

    ENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico
    - Three days into our stay in La Manzanilla, we decided it was time to take a Sunday drive out to our beach-front lot in Tenacatita, about 14 miles up the road and near the pueblo of El Rebalsito.

    It was the same 85 degrees with 85 percent humidity we've had since the evening we arrived, but the wind was blowing off the ocean a good 20+ knots so it wasn't too bad - particularly in the mighty Tsuru on the drive out with the airconditioner blasting at full force.

    Crashing surf
    Big surf, big waves

    The wind had whipped up the ocean big time, giving me some serious pause about whether or not I would ever be doing much swimming right in front of the new place. As a backup, while we surveyed the property again, we figured out just the right spot for a swimming pool in front of the house. The waves were hypnotic, though, and we sat for some time admiring their power as they carved channels all up and down the shore. The wind also covered us with salt spray and I notice my camera is making kind of a grinding noise when I turn any knobs.

    The most startling thing though was walking up and seeing the monstrous rock formation - right in front of where we will be building our house - covered with a few tons of bird crap. Yup, we looked out at a lovely whitecapped mountain that represents a whole season's worth of bird poop without any rain. As soon as the monsoons arrive, we're betting the guano gets washed off pretty quick.

    At least we hope so.

    Guano rock
    Mt. Guano Grande

    And the time is going slower now that we have retired, though how it got to be 4 p.m. already, I don't know. On my 'todo list' I still have: take a major nap, practice guitar, & go to saltwater therapy (swimming) all yet to complete.

    How will I ever get it done before it's time for dinner at 8 p.m. at the taqueria down the block?

    Sylvia practices the violin
    Sylvia fits her musical practicing in