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What A Difference A Hill Makes….

September 8, 2014

It’s a twenty minute drive.  Okay, maybe 45 when traffic is thick, or an accident slows things, or when a tree falls in the road.  The drive over the hill (I call it a hill because with an elevation of 1800 feet it is hardly a mountain) can be unpredictable at times.  But in any event that is the separation between Sunnyvale, California and the quaint village of Aptos.  The time separation may be short but the quality of life, the pace of life, the essence of life is a world apart.

When you walk down the sidewalk, or along the beach (okay, so in fairness Sunnyvale doesn’t have a beach) people actually say good morning or good evening or just hello as you pass.  If people are running with earplugs they will smile at you as they go by.

When you are at a crosswalk cars actually stop.  Even if you are not at a crosswalk, cars stop to let you cross.  A young man of about ten carrying home a pizza stopped at a point where the sidewalk narrowed for only one person to pass and let us go by.  In Sunnyvale you’re lucky if kids don’t run into you on skateboards or bikes.

The neighbors came out and greeted us, introduced themselves, and welcomed us to the area. There are still neighbors in our old house we have never met or even seen.

We found a small independent pharmacy, the pharmacist gave me her card and said if you have any issues or problems call me.  In the local CVS an employee asked us if we needed help, twice.  I have never been asked if I needed help in the Sunnyvale CVS, much less have the pharmacist do more than dispense the pills.

The mailman actually said hello and was not talking on a cell or walking with an MP3 player plugged in his ear.

At the end of each story that’s continued, the local paper prints “please turn to page #”.  Please!! Now that is a word you rarely hear much less see in print.

The local restaurant we found actually pours a full glass of wine, instead of to some line fixed by corporate to maximize profit.

At the Armitage wine tasting room the woman working the counter came around and hugged us when we were about to leave, having purchased two bottles of an incredible Pinot Noir.  I have been in a lot of tasting rooms and have never been hugged before.

Sitting on a bench, looking out at the ocean, sipping wine, we had a man come up to us, also with a glass of wine, and toast with us for the gorgeous sunset.  Now in fairness we did have great sunsets in Sunnyvale, but somehow having the ocean as backdrop just makes it all better.

We had a good life in Sunnyvale, but on this side of the hill life is and will be so much better.  So if you head this way just look for the guy with a white pony-tail, wearing flip flops, black cargo shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and a big smile on his face, walking with the love of his life beside him.


America’s Worst Shortage

August 12, 2014

If you live in California you are aware of the water shortage.  Some predictions say that we have twelve to eighteen months of water at current usage levels.  Predictions for an El Nino which would ease the shortage have diminished and our rainfall may just be normal this next year.  If you go into a restaurant there are signs saying water is served only on request.  It is a badge of honor to have a brown lawn.  Some cities like Santa Cruz have instituted rationing , limiting monthly use to 7,480 gallons for a family of four.  Mandatory rationing for the state may be around the corner.  As bad as this shortage is, it is not the worst.

If you were around in 1974 you remember the gas shortage that came about when OPEC gathered to impose an oil embargo due to our involvement in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In May of 1973 the average gas price was 38 cents a gallon and by June of 1974 it had skyrocketed to 55 cents.  Gas stations began rationing and most had a flag system to warn drivers of their supply.  Green meant we have gas, anyone can buy.  Yellow meant only commercial trucks and cars plus emergency vehicles could buy gas.  Red meant we are out of gas.   (A side note to this: at the time I was working as a sales engineer for General Electric Medical Systems and had a sign on my dash that said GE Medical Emergency Service which was for being allowed to park in areas of a hospital not open to public parking and normally used by our service technicians.  When I went into a gas station with a yellow flag, the attendant would see the sign and having no clue what it meant, allowed me to get gas.)  Anyway, this shortage was the catalyst for gas prices to climb and as we all know finding gas for less than $4.00 a gallon is getting hard.  As bad as things were in 1974 this was not our worst shortage.

If you look at our history, our country has had all kinds of shortages, some still going on.  We have or have had a shortage of nurses, doctors, grain, propane, drugs, even guns and ammunition.  In 1973 the country even thought we had a toilet paper shortage, thanks to a news item Johnny Carson  read and joked about on the Tonight Show.  All of these are serious shortages and have devastating effect on those who suffer from the shortage, except the gun and ammunition one which came about when Obama was elected in 2008.  But again, none of these are the worst shortage this country has faced.

The worst shortage facing America, daily growing beyond any sign of recovery, is the lack of turn signal fluid.   Okay, so there is no such thing, I know!!  But drivers are more and more acting as if there were.  The use of one’s turn signal has become a lost art.  Drivers switch lanes abruptly, no signal. Drivers turn left or right in front of you, no signal.  The worst is facing a driver at a stop light with your turn signal on.  There’s isn’t, so when the light turns green, you wait for them to come across, then they turn left.  How much effort does it take to tap the lever on the side of the steering wheel and announce your intention?  Evidently more than many drivers want to exert.  The attitude of “I can do whatever I want, and why should I think about others” is the driving force beyond this and just about all other shortages.

If we would conserve water the way we conserve turn signal fluid, we would all be taking 20 minute showers and are lawns would all be greener than the Emerald City.


A Little Help From Above?

June 23, 2014

One of the many things my wife and I have in common is decision making.  It doesn’t take us long to decide on anything as we usually know what we want or can quickly make a choice given options.  The beauty of this is also that we most always agree with whichever one of us speaks first about a choice.

This allows us to move quickly where many might linger in anguish about what to do.   Shopping is a good example, as we both hate it.  If needing new clothes or shoes or just about anything else we are like Navy seals on a mission.  We move in quickly, grab what we came for, and extract ourselves even faster.

Our quickness in decision making does have one drawback.  We get impatient when we can’t do things at a speed we would prefer and when something to be decided is out of our hands, our patience gets tested fairly quick.   The most recent example of this was in buying a new house and selling ours.

We had made a rather fast decision to put our home up for sale and look for a house near the ocean.  Getting our house ready took some time as we had to get an agent, go through the inspection and disclosure process, and do all that was asked of us to “stage” our home for an open house.  Having done all of that we began to look at areas where we might want to be that were close, as in walking distance, to the ocean.   On our second trip trying to get ideas, we found the house we wanted.   Boom, we put out an offer, and now just needed to sell ours.

Here is where the trauma began.  After two open houses and multitudes of people traipsing through our house, we had some interest but no serious buyers.  Our agent would tell us how people were confused by our floor plan, or that they thought is was a charming home but just not what they were looking for.  Disclosure packets were sent to a few agents but nothing was happening.  The clock was ticking as we had made an offer on what we felt was the perfect “beach house” for us, but we were running out of time to lock in a buyer.

One evening, sitting in our living room, feeling down and frustrated that we might never sell, a car pulled up in front of our house.  Now you need to know that if someone wanted to see the house other than the times of the open houses, they were to go through an agent who would set up an appointment to show the house.   Two men came to our door and asked if they could see the house, and apologized for just “dropping by”.  Not wanting to discourage a possible buyer we said sure

Neither one was an agent, but one of them said they had been at the open house.   They introduced themselves and asked if we could give them a tour.  As we talked and walked through the house, one commented on the many Egyptian objects we have and told us he was from Egypt.  The other on seeing my library of seminary books, said he was studying for a degree in religion and hoped we might have time in the future for a good discussion.  In checking out our floor plan, which is an unusual layout, they said it would work perfectly for what they needed.  We talked for a good hour and found out both of them actually like Scotch, which my wife and I are known to like also.

They said they needed to talk with the two other people who would be living here. I gave them my cell number and said even if they don’t buy we need to stay in touch.  As they were leaving one of them said, “Don’t accept an offer til you hear from us”.

In that short hour my wife and I went from depression to excitement and a re-energized belief our house would sell, and soon we would be walking on the beach, a short distance from our new home!

We never heard from these two again, and realized after they had left they did not give us their number.  But we were now confident that everything was going to work out.  Which about five days later it did when the perfect buyers made the perfect offer and we are now just waiting for the final close so we can move.   photo

Who were the two men that came to our door?  Why when we were on the verge of giving up did they show up?  Why was it that everything we enjoy or relate to: Egyptian things, my seminary background, good Scotch – they appreciated.  Why did they not get back in touch even if just for a drink?

We have concluded that they must have been angels sent to just let us know, “Hey, chill, it will all work out, some decisions just take longer”!!


Why I Don’t Fly The American Flag

July 4, 2012

So it is the Fourth of July, a day for BBQ’s, parades, and hanging out Old Glory.  But, wait.  I look around my neighborhood and there are very few houses with an American Flag flowing in the breeze.  Oh, and there is not one on my house.

Since the flag is a symbol of the United States of America and our country’s strength and unity, shouldn’t there be a flag on every house, including mine?

Originally our flag was designed to represent the first thirteen colonies and our independence from the tyranny imposed by the British.  The thirteen stripes stood for each of the original colonies, the stars on a blue background were symbolic of a new constellation, the red stripes reminding us of the hardiness and valor it took to gain our freedom, the white standing for purity and innocence. 

All of what our flag represents, the hardiness, the valor, the purity, the innocence, the newness, the strength, and the unity should make all of us fly a flag at every opportunity.  But we don’t, I don’t.  Why?

Since the late sixties the meaning of flying an American flag has changed, at least for me,.  Although the term “Love It or Leave It” was used prior to this time by Walter Winchell, it became a popular rant against the “Make Love Not War” protesters of the Vietnam War.  The flag became a symbol of the love it or leave it mentality that said if you question or disagree with the way things are going get out. A complete contradiction to the ideals that founded our country and brought about our flag in the first place.  Our nation was forged on freedom of thought , speech, and healthy debates that led to us being unified as a country.

Today it seems we can’t have a rational discussion about anything. Take an issue and there are those on one side and those on the Imageother, neither one willing to listen much less compromise on how to handle or resolve the issue.  Be it abortion, immigration, health care, government control, taxing the rich, or any other issue where we can’t seem to find a middle ground.

Caught in the middle of this division is our flag. The symbol of strength and unity has become a symbol for division.  Right vs left, fundamentalist vs moderate, pro-life vs pro-choice, hawks vs doves. One side claiming the flag as the symbol of the only way to truly be an American. The love it or leave it mentality is stronger than ever.

One can love this country and still question, be pro-choice, be moderate, be behind make love not war, be willing to discuss rationally the issues facing us.

When the flag once again represents all of us, our combined strength, our unity as a people, our willingness to work together for the common good then you just might see Old Glory hanging by my door.

Stepping Into the Fray

January 15, 2012

Currently, thanks to Mitt Romney, there is a lot of discussion about the Mormon faith and Christianity.  Both the New York Times and The San Jose Mercury News have published articles relating the two and how they are different. Neither one seems to grasp the full difference.

If we use the simple definition of Christianity, the belief in the death and resurrection of Christ, Mormons and Christians, at least on the surface, appear to agree.  Herein lies the first distinction. The “Christ” in that phrase is not the same to a Christian as it is to a Mormon.  Christians believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and is One with God and the Holy Spirit.  The Christ in Mormon theology is a physical son of God and a separate being from God.

This distinction is enough to make them different.  If we call Mormons Christian, we may as well call Muslims Christian for they recognize the existence of Jesus also, as a prophet not a savior.

From here the other distinctions are not as important but simply add to the gap between what Christians believe and what Mormons believe.

For a Christian the Bible is the word of God and the last written authority, for Mormons the book of Mormon combined with other writings (The Doctrine of Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price) are their authority.

Mormons believe that if a man lives a perfect life now, he will become godlike and have his own planet to rule and populate.   While this belief has been played down it is still a difference between Christian thought and Mormonism.  They also believe that a man and woman, if married in the temple, are together for eternity, and the woman’s role is to help populate his realm, essentially being eternally pregnant.

For Christians, one is justified by faith, while Mormons belief it is by works.  Mormons believe that one’s salvation is based on such good works as baptism, good deeds, missionary work, and following Mormon teachings. In The Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, justification by faith in Jesus Christ is called a “pernicious doctrine” twice and he states that it has been “an influence for evil.” (pp. 107, 480) Bruce McConkie once stated at Brigham Young University that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is “improper and perilous” (Church News, March 20, 1982, p. 5)

While Mormons and Christians are free to believe as they wish, the two are different and to try to make them the same is a deception.  What is a little sad to me is that most of the Mormons I know are better role models than most of the Christians I know.


November 13, 2011

It is a good thing that we eliminated the color coded homeland security system. Otherwise we would have had to add another color, brown, which would mean we are in deep doodoo.  According to a group of retired military leaders, known as Mission Readiness, one in four Americans are too obese to enlist in the nations armed services.  The group sees this as a direct threat to our national security.  What makes it even worse is that 75% are ineligible if you add in those with criminal records and those who fail to meet the educational requirements.   If there was ever a reason to bring back the draft, this would be it.  (Now that would be quite a political shit-storm).

In the sixties, when we all were under the threat of being drafted, the only thing that kept you out of the military was admitting you were gay, which ironically is no longer the case.  If you were overweight you just had to try harder in boot camp and if you didn’t pass the first time they sent you back through until you did.  I can remember men now considered obese who were pushed beyond their limits by drill instructors who never let up.  By today’s standards they would have never been let in.

So what does this all mean for our national security.  First it means that the 4,475 who have died in Iraq and the 1,815 who have died in Afghanistan were among the fittest, brightest, and least criminal our nation had to offer.  Now to me that is the threat to our national security.  The retired generals are concerned about fitness because as one said, “in Afghanistan there is no time for rest”.  I am more concerned that we are sending our best to die for two wars that are as meaningless as Vietnam turned out to be.

Second, this all shows how out of touch this group of retired generals are.  Their solution to obesity is to have the schools make sure that the physical education requirements  are being met and that adequate instructors and equipment are available.  Which rock have they been hiding under.  Our schools are all struggling just to teach the fundamentals with adequate staffing and resources.  While I agree physical education is important, if they want it done right, how do they suggest schools finance it.

Finally, maybe we need to rethink our priorities.  This country does need a good defense structure, a well manned armed forces. But let’s use them in situations that make sense and we will be able to get by with a leaner, meaner, group of well trained men and women.

As for the 25% of obese recruits that will never be, they have their own hymn to rally around.

From the halls of McDonald’s

to the shores of Taco Bell

We cannot fight our countries battles

For we’ve had too many  slurpees.

First in line for burgers and fries

and to ask for super size,

We cannot fit in a uniform

We cannot keep up with the other guys.

Assualt With An Odorous Weapon

August 31, 2011

One of the pleasures in my life, besides, my wife, my step-daughters, my cats, golf, scotch, cigars, and my Jeep, is cooking.  There is something therapeutic about chopping, mincing, mixing, and sauteing the different ingredients of a meal and seeing them all come together in a delicious presentation that would rival any restaurant.  It is especially pleasurable watching others sit down and enjoy the fruits of my labor as they chow down.

The story behind me doing the cooking is simple.  When my wife and I were first married, the agreement was whoever came home first, cooked.  Over time it seemed I was always the one getting home first and it just evolved into me doing all the cooking.  I tease my wife that she used to drive by the house and if I wasn’t home yet she would circle the block until she saw me pull in the driveway.  Needless to say I enjoy cooking more than she does so it has worked out well.

You may know the story of how I got into Rachael Ray’s cookbooks, and if you don’t you can link from here.  Having started with her 30 minute recipes I have moved on to meals a little more complicated and actually healthier.  So besides other cookbooks, I subscribe to several magazines that are geared toward recipes, like Cook’s Illustrated, Cuisine at Home, and Bon Appetit.  It is the latter that has generated this blog.

When I cook I have a stand that holds the book or magazine that I am getting the recipe from.  So the particular one I am using usually sits in the kitchen, in the stand for at least a week as I prepare meals.  All of this works or worked fine until the September issue of Bon Appetit arrived.  Having grabbed it from the mailbox I sat down on the couch anxious to see what concoctions I was going to create in the weeks ahead.  My wife was sitting next to me quietly reading ghost stories, by the way she writes them also.   About eight or nine pages in I turned to an ad for Calvin Klein’s Euphoria, a perfume for women.

Now if you have ever subscribed to a woman’s magazine like, say Cosmo, you might expect an ad like this that reeks of the odor of the perfume.  I say odor as opposed to fragrance on purpose here.  But in a cooking magazine which one will hopefully be using and keeping in the kitchen, (remember the stand), having an ad that reeks of perfume is beyond comprehension.   As I quickly turned the page, naively thinking I could get away from the smell, my wife began to cough and say what is that smell.  Now to be fair, my wife has a nose that can detect the slightest odor, aroma, fragrance, or any deviation in the atmosphere in a nanosecond.  However, I too, who can hardly smell anything, knew we were being assaulted by this affront to our nostrils.  I had to rush the magazine out to the garbage bin and then rush to the sink to scrub my hands to get rid of the smell.  Needless to say, we were not euphoric!

This came as a total shock, much like when you enter Macy’s and some sales clerk sprays you with the scent of the day and says, “do you like it?” I immediately emailed Bon Appetit and canceled my subscription.  Or thought I had.  They emailed me back and said I would be put on the list for receiving non fragant issues, WTF!  I emailed back and said, you misunderstood, I don’t want any issues, period!  They are sending me a check for the balance of my subscription.

In the meantime, I am looking over the new issue of Cuisine at Home, laying out my menus for next weeks meals.  Bon Appetit!!




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