Tuesday, April 28, 2009

L'A dieu au voi


The beauty of Craigslist. Each and every time we get the bright idea to exit stage left for yet another adventure we have a typical (typical for us...not sure how that translates...) drill we follow. Order two of the door to door storage containers, fill with the usual suspects of beloved found articles from travel, books, artwork as well as a box of dishes, box of linens so where ever we are on the planet: it arrives to be opened like a mini time capsule. The rest you ask-where does it go? Good question as an 8 foot by 8 foot cube is limiting: The magic wand is Craigslist. If you build it they will come ala Field of Dreams. A mini pictorial of treasures available for sale, in our case Ikea furniture and random computer gear. Funny but it's being gobbled up as fast as I can post it. Hooray for extreme recycling! The question most people ask : But how can you mentally approach such a daunting task. For those of you who have moved a handful of times the concept is one you already embrace. To not embrace the concept is to remain tethered to your "stuff" and saddled with the responsibility or ability to convince yourself that the life you lead is the one you have choosen.

The only way I can describe being a serial mover is how the jones of the next adventure is as addictive as crack. New places means new food experiences, new artistic endeavors and new people to meet. For those of us in the nutty world of an all consuming passion for food a new adventure means new food cultures to be discovered. Think of it much like the ability to gather and collect bugs in a jar when you were a child, except now we don't capture such experiences we simply enjoy and in my case write about them then seek out the next experience. Which brings me to my most exciting news: the creative juju that I am funneling into my new blog that will be up and running soon. Bit of a paradigm shift from the suburban snore angst of my current suburbansubsistance. Think food, adventure travel, more food, wine, people, all surrouded by more food experience. Travel for me has always been about the food, oh and the scuba diving. Maybe photography too...you get it.

So with the madness that accompanies a move, I bid you all adieu... Thank you for reading, thank you for posting ( although I have given up the moderating weeks ago) and thank you for the life experience that will forever be a layer of my personality.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hey Troll: Is that your nose or just happy 2 C Me?

You know your old when___________. Yes, it has happened, the not so subtle sign that you may not have the complete skinny on certain things cultural. Yes, I can still rattle off most of the bands played on the radio but would I really possess that knowledge in a seemingly seamless way without the Shazam icon on my phone? Tough to say. Someone recently mentioned the term LARP or LARPing and for a moment I assumed it was some new beauty treatment or exotic massage. Wrong. Think adult games of pretend....wait that didn't come out quite right. Different metaphor: think dungeons and dragons but on a grown-up level ..too geeky ? Hate to place a value judgement but I think you catch the drift. Play a role and take it to an Oscar winning performance level while having fun within a scripted story-line.

Paint-ball had this type of cache a dozen years ago, although too boy centric to have a groovy feel.
Weirdly a handful of websites talk about the Live-action role play parts available and what they seek to get plugged into. Kinda creepy, but kinda cool. Like the opportunity to walk around a Renaissance Fair with a big Turkey leg to nibble while people yell nasty things at you? Well, you haven't lived until you have done this in part because it feels so great to whack someone on the head with the nibbled turkey leg after they call you wench. All in good fun I assure you.

The context of this discussion about LARPing came from a talk about its' sometime use as a tool
for therapy. Which reminded me of the time when both of my sons would sport super hero costumes (complete with capes) every day, and accompany me on my daily errands to the grocery, post office and cafe for coffee. Nothing like hanging with a superhero to attract attention. Clark Kent had it all wrong.

So, just for fun drop this newly learned concept into the next casual conversation, might be a nice mental form of fun. Funnier still is to see if the person would be game to play.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Healthy Habit


Organic. Can't dodge the label now even if you tried. Organic is not a new word in our household vernacular. What is new is the lengths products go to position themselves as synonymous with healthy wholesome and good . We also know that when you slap on that little seven letter word that starts with O (mind outta the gutter) the Other word: organic it's marketing piece for this positioning is typically the premium it demands. See the O word on the label: add another 20-30% to the bottom line. Mind you, I don't fight that battle, because I am a staunch defender of the farmer and the industry minions who support all things pesticide free. The beef so to speak comes from the inane marketing of things clearly not healthy, but when proudly displaying an organic tag line is made over magically ? Perhaps not.

Cigarettes. Yes, now even my favorite satirist Christopher Hitchens can embody the healthy marketing notion that he is doing something good for himself as he smokes two organic packs a day.

I became aware of this oddly positioned organic product from an insert in my favorite magazine, The Atlantic. Double truck magazine advertisement for you fellow marketing wonks- singing the praises of the American Spirit Cigarette, and it's use of Organic tobacco. I am not a smoker, but friends who do still smoke (yes, weirdly enough still on this continent) maybe even more weirdly in my own neighborhood- agreed to preform a taste test/price/value comparison.

The results? Since I am not affiliated with Consumer Reports, suppose I can share with you.. Local test results reported no difference in taste for a price premium, and the idea of smoking organic cigarettes really felt silly. Who do you suppose the market for this product? Surely not overweight Midwesterners who drink domestic swill and consider In and Out burger fine dining. The answer may allude us, but the marketing savvy gave me a laugh.

Friday, April 24, 2009

When Is 2 Much?


TheParenting Continuum hosted a bag lunch discussion this afternoon with speaker: Dr. Tonja Krautter Raising Boys in a Digital World. Questions of what constitutes 'screen' time? How much is too much? What types of games are they playing? Does this interfere with the development of our boy's communication and socialization skills.

The focus was really how to maintain a healthy parent/child relationship while placing limits. Speaker Dr. Tonja Krautter, Psy.D., L.C.S.W, has been named one of the National Top Mental Health Practitioners in the nation, and has been mentioned as one of Cambrian’s Who’s Who of Doctors in the United States of America.
Dr. Krautter opened up the discussion with an interestingly positive notion concerning video game use. Sighting a recent study of how video games that involve high levels of action, such as first-person-shooter games, increase a player's real-world vision, according to research in the March Issue of Nature Neuroscience. The ability to discern slight differences in shades of gray has long been thought to be an attribute of the human visual system that cannot be improved. But Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, has discovered that very practiced action gamers become 58 percent better at perceiving fine differences in contrast.

"When people play action games, they're changing the brain's pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it. Ability to Perceive Changes in Shades of Gray Improves up to 58 Percent.. Amazing right?

Speaker Dr. Tonja Krautter also outlined the not so Rosie side of video game use: addiction.
The question looms- what makes a game addictive. Is it the gore & guts factor? Fantasy aggressive play as an outlet? The University of Rochester also posted the following study that shows: Violence Does Not Motivate Video Game Players. Motivation comes from the healthy pleasure of mastering a challenge rather than from a disturbing craving for carnage. A Harris Poll survey found that 8.5% of youths 8 to 18 who play video games show collective signs of addiction that psychologists know exist in pathological gamblers.

The responsibility is ours to hold game developers accountable. The rating system for video games along with the integrity of marketing to the appropriate age level needs to be policed, but by whom you ask? Us. We are the parents, and as we want our children to have a sense of adventure and quest for learning . Sometimes reminding the corporate game world to remember: blood, violence and inappropriate sexual innuendo does not help the bottom line.

Looking for more of a safety net to research this sort of stuff? My favorite site is Common Sense Media. I like to think of them as the Consumer reports for the parental demographic.

The most important tid-bit of information learned today, play the games before purchasing. Knowledge really IS power.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Business Class Seating


I get it. My first "ride" in a big vehicle in many years...Crystal clear now why it is that so many women drive ginormous vehicles. No, it's not the obvious- not the extra legroom, or the ability to load it full of crap that you don't really need from Costco. The reason is clear: when riding/driving a Largemarge vehicle, size of ones' butt suddenly seems so very much smaller. My guess is that after many outings while driving such largess for the largeass psychological mechanics at work kick in to convince you just how "petite" one is behind the wheel. Of course it's flawed logic because next to this large leather seat is the expandable drink holder. My immediate thought, if this is the size of drink I might imbibe while driving there is no way in hell my behind would continue to feel as tiny in such a big luxurious seat.

I must apologize to any of you who resemble this statement. I am not making a value judgement here. Suffice to say that the beauty of democracy is the ability to make choices. I just thought I would share with the class that the ah-ha moment has arrived finally, I get it. Not saying that I will be coming over to the dark side of big comfy leather seats, just know that I understand and will ride shotgun with you anytime in the future.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not Worthy


How often do we take for granted all of the things that get accomplished with the sweat of others?
The orange blossom fragrance waifs through our pristine streets, after the immigrant labor has pedicured the landscape. Not much thought goes into the how, what or why of the economics behind the underbelly that grooms our quaint existence. Ever ponder the question of where and how this segment of society exist? Let me share a small bite from a day in the life.

My housekeeper ( legal status, pays taxes) resided here in Los Gatos with her two daughters (elementary and middle school ) until last month. When she couldn't renew her apartment lease she relocated nearby but out of LG . Her workday is still spent cleaning the homes of Los Gatans until she picks up her girls from school. I should mention that is the past tense, because as of two weeks ago she was forced to remove her daughters from the school district. Never mind that with less than two months of school left in the year, these children have been uprooted. Shortsighted and stupid are to adjectives that come to mind. Apparently a public school education is available to those of us lucky enough to wield our educational muster to support the change of circumstances. Unfortunately, this is something that did not apply in this particular case, yes I forgot....if one is cleaning homes, than one may not be in a position to argue the finer points of reason with our local school administrators.

Got a beef with that? Me too. Wanna share your frustration? Feel free to wield your mental muscle and articulate the short sighted approach with the school district. It's the right thing to do. Care to wager that this could conceivably happen to you or I if the same situation presented itself? Hate to say it...but the race card comes into play. Contact Fisher Middle School Principal Lisa Fraser, and Daves' Avenue School Principal Susan Von Felton. Wouldn't hurt to pen a quick email to the district superintendent Richard Whitmore. Think for a moment if your children were placed in this position.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gavin 2.0


Love that our local glamour pus, Mayor Gavin Newsom is tossing his jet black, hair gelled, smarty pants self into the gubernatorial mosh pit along with the other lightweights like Meg Whitman former CEO of Ebay, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (just recently re-elected for a second term.) Also running for the states' top office is the old school, nose hair sprouting crowd include state Attorney General Jerry Brown and Democratic Lt. Gov. John Garamendi.

Only 13 months to go before the 2010 gubernatorial primaries and the virtual world rocks with all things Gavin Newsom. What I love the most is the campaign strategy surroundings this newly announced campaign. To quote the Mayor of SF: "We can't afford to keep returning to the same old tired ideas and expect the same result," Feel the love radiate from your computer monitor with his three-minute YouTube announcement, part of the unprecedented "virtual fly-around" campaign announcement done entirely in the new media. Yeah!

His advisers hope the unusual new media-based campaign roll out reaches an estimated half-million computer users in the first 24 hours - which would underscore what Newsom has called a "2.0 campaign" for the 2010 Democratic nomination. A key target will be the "millennial" voters, those technology-bred Californians born between 1982 and 2003 - part of the largest and most diverse generation in history - who helped boost Obama to the presidency, his advisers said.

Never too early to get that merchandising out there... Tee shirts? Get 'em here!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Pot-Hole That Ate Your Car


My commute this morning was out of my ordinary hurry local scurry. Commuting 880 is not so bad as there is a car pool lane. I of course felt like the odd duck out among the steady stream of Prius drivers sporting yellow HOV stickers leading the parade of morning commute cars. Not so bad really. No complaints even with the driving habits. The complaint comes from having the ability to bust a move (not nutty speed mind you) but faster than the posted 65mph since we are talking rush hour traffic and not to point of the obvious, if this IS the only line of traffic moving then why not keep it moving?

The rub comes from driving conditions. The highways in Guatemala have fewer potholes than our local interstate. Pathetic.

So who do I bitch to ?

California has the worst road and highway pavement conditions in the nation according to The Road Information Program. Meanwhile Californians now pay the seventh-highest gas tax nationwide ( which btw I think should be even higher) 18.4 cents per gallon in federal gas tax and another 18 cents in state gas tax, plus 7.5 cents uniform state and local sales tax, plus any optional local sales taxes for transportation. Our golden state ranks next to last in transportation spending. California's $7.9 billion transportation budget comes out to only $251 per person. Only South Carolina pays less at $223 per person. Source: San Jose Mercury-News. Urban roads in Los Angeles are the third-worst in the nation, with 33 percent rated in "poor" condition. San Jose's rank fifth-worst with 30 percent rated "poor." San Francisco-Oakland's rank sixth-worst with 29 percent in "poor"condition. Source: Caltrans .

There is no surprise that
driving on roads in disrepair accelerates vehicle deterioration and depreciation much like the mound of uneaten kid-snack lurking beneath my car seats. Triple A calculates that drivers in California’s biggest cities pay as much as $700 annually for repairs and early vehicle replacement costs. The national average is $400. I suppose the bright side is that my car is just transportation, and the only thing brighter would be accessible public transportation but I shall save that rant for a future blog post. Mean while, today was a spare the air day. Be nice to see people actually embrace the notion. Wishful thinking on my part.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

....Is The Magic Number


People always remind me how certain things come in three's. So this auspicious number did indeed pan out today. Hanging on the boat for the weekend is a nice depressurization from the normal world, and this
morning we awoke to a knock on the hull of Tramuntana. Coffee in hand we went outside to say good morning. The couple visiting came by to say " we wanted to see your boat because we too have been contemplating a catamaran for world cruising." Weirdly enough, the woman was someone who has sat beside my husband at high tech board meetings for the last four years. Neither realized the other was a sailor. Top it off, said couple just sold a Los Gatos home and live bay side of where we reside here on the water...weird. Next The Pacific Strictly Sail show going on here in Oakland which made for a fun outing of all things salty. These delicious little dingies that resemble a margarine tub sporting a stick were available to test sail. Needless to say the instant my 6 & 8 year olds' hands held that tiller the rest was history. The representative for these cute little dingies lives near Boston and as he mentioned the suburb, I mentioned a friend who lives in the same enclave.. yes, he knows my friend. Knows the whole clan actually....weird.
The trifecta of the day was meeting the man responsible for my present day life as I know it. Richard Spindler is the publisher of the local sailing rag Latitude 38. Latitude runs a crew list to connect sailors and crew, and when I relocated to San Francisco from Chicago I was told this was the best spot to meet other sailors. Fast forward sixteen years and voila- I met Rob and went went sailing as a beta test and the rest of course is history. Anyways... I had never met Richard and was delighted to introduce him to my family. I think he hears these kinds of stories often as it is the Bay Area and LOTS of sailors have met as a common connection to Latitude.

The truth is things really may arrive in three's... for me it may be my third and last cocktail of the evening as we sit an enjoy this sultry Alameda evening that feels weirdly like somewhere else.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Feeling Lucky?


I am not one to play the lottery. Considering it a game for the mathematically challenged but with the announcement of a $5 donation, I rethought my bias on this one. Supporters enter a draw for several prizes including a day with the former US president Bill Clinton. As secretary of state, Mrs Clinton is banned from fund-raising but loyalists such as long-time Democratic strategist James Carville have stepped into the breach. I have decided to change my outlook on lottery chances- feeling lucky perhaps? The other prizes are tickets to the season finale of the hit talent show American Idol (boring...) and lunch in Washington with James Carville (could be fun) sounds as thought a pre-planned the day with Mr Clinton involves meeting him in New York and attending "several interesting events." I, of course have my own short list of fun things to do with Mr. Bill. Can you imagine how much fun one could have in a strip club with this chic magnet of a guy?? How about showing up at any event or concert- carte blanche seating and hob nobbing with who-know's-who.

Previous fundraising appeals have shrunk down the debt for Mrs.Clinton, she is still saddled with an I.O.U of $2.3m, which is owed to Mark Penn, a pollster and political strategist (whittled down from $25.2m .) The email that arrived today stated " Your contribution today not only gives you the chance at winning one of these fantastic prizes, it'll also help our dear friend, Hillary Clinton, pay off the very last of her campaign debt." Is it too soon to plan what to wear on my potential outing? I suppose sporting a blue dress may be out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Green Is Good


If you did not have an opportunity to get out today and enjoy all that is Spring, then let me give you a glimpse into a day in the life of a pitch perfect Friday. Dodging leaf blowers is not my forte as of late, but when is the last time you walked barefoot in that just-cut green grass ? Green fresh cut aroma should be bottled for the not so sunny days.. walking in freshly cut grass feels sooo good and is a great way to kick start the day. Followed by a very green lunch, packaged in, you guessed it- environmentally green packaging enjoyed alfresco. Segway to the afternoon, nothing like a little SFBay salt water lavage to clean up ones outlook on life-as if it could be any brighter. The quintessentially California vision of the great outdoors played like an infomercial today as everything unfurled effortlessly unplanned. What's not to like about a completely impromptu approach to life. Even if it is just for one day. Playing without a plan is a luxury, but what's a sunny Friday without a little diversion of deliciousness (pick your poison.) Don't feel bad if you missed the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent spring weather as tomorrow is supposed to be another stellar day-hooray!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

String Theory


I have my own duality of theme for string theory as of late. Creative genius reins in my little insular world, and with that a thematic course of action has lead to a path of cardboard boxes, duct tape, scissors, Popsicle sticks and of course string ending in an original artform developed by my artists in residence ages 6 & 8.

The imaginative play of kids remains the same regardless of societal norms, financial where-with -all, and geography. From experiencing kids in Thailand building "boats" from styrofoam washed ashore to my own mad scientists building cross bows from paperclips the concept is the same: left to imaginative play one will make due with what one has. I know this is not an epiphany for many but the idea that less is more in the current global crisis is at least comforting to put a happy spin on all things recyclable.

How does this translate to the adult world of responsibility? Supporting artistic programs like this one which inspires and serves up a creative twist for something as pedestrian as a trash can or bin. Our own community could certainly channel this type of creative juju. The Museums of Los Gatos is starting a Thursday Evening Lecture Series that brings a breadth of informational artistic concepts to light. The first of the series is April 23 from 7 to 9. Presenter Cathy Kimball will discuss art in the present tense. The community support of these grassroot endeavors ensures future success. Please consider attending, even if you have never felt "plugged" into the local art scene. Self actualization seems too airy-fairy but the idea is to stir a creativeness we all possess but maybe haven't tapped since the day of using paper and string.

At least that's my theory for what it's worth.....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cha-Ching

Is that baby giving you the finger? No worries..it's the mood dujour for many.
Feeling blue sorta boo hoo today as you mail your taxes to Uncle Sam? Apparently paying a huge amount of ones' earnings makes for happy campers, at least in Denmark where almost 70% of salaries are tax income for the country. It would be a curious beta test to live in a society where bankers earn as much as artists. So as we cry the blues today, this holiday for the IRS let's remember that it could always be worse. We could be Ukrainine. To be taxed in the Ukraine, is much like visiting the proctologist office. A global ranking of countries with the worse taxation system is awarded to this country. From a global perspective if anyone should be cranky it would be this part of the world which come to think of it the weather is just about as miserable. Prozac in the morning coffee is a lot like Cheerios for breakfast stateside. According to the WSJ America has a very small number of taxpayers -- the 10% of the country that makes more than $92,400 a year -- pay 72.4% of the nation's income taxes. They're the tip of the triangle that's supporting virtually everyone and everything. Why am I not Republican again?? Their burden keeps getting heavier. So take it to the streets, as many people did today. Tea Party antics this tax day against what the protesters believe are higher-than-necessary taxes and excess government spending, largely on the part of the Obama administration. The demonstrations mark the culmination of a movement spurred in part by a February rant from CNBC personality Rick Santelli that generated more than a million views on YouTube - and even a White House response. As you might recall, Santelli - surrounded by traders in Chicago - complained that Americans were being forced by the Obama administration to "subsidize the losers' mortgages" and called for a "Chicago tea party" to show his and others' anger. Gotta have a hobby.

Of course, the tea party that seems to have inspired the comment - the Boston Tea Party, that iconic 1773 protest in which Massachusetts colonists dumped tea into Boston Harbor - was tied largely to taxation without representation by the British government. That's no longer an issue for most Americans ( well- maybe the District of Columbia can bitch.)
The antithesis of party mentality this tax day: the tax professionals, like KPMG have the most boring, non creatively packaged information available on the world wide web. I suppose it's tough to break outta that beancounter mentality and think left brain creative. At least spending time reading about the world of taxes globally could be a more appealing experience but then again I can't imagine I would be considered a prime end-user of the website.

Remember cranky pants, the post office will be collecting/postmarking until midnight. Could be worse as you could be in Denmark, paying your taxes perhaps working at KPMG and dealing with that 24 hours of winter darkness thing. Could always be worse.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazon In The Police Business


Amazon is on the naughty list for the readers of all things feminist, LGBT and sexual-empowerment. The potentially "sexual" themes were removed from the sales rankings, which are numbers that show how well a product is performing on the website.

Angry authors and readers responded by launching a full-on social media assault, using blogs, Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness and to collect signatures on a petition. The beauty of petitions, especially online petitions like this one is the immediacy. Nothing like immediate satisfaction. The recent Mea Culpa from Amazon is laughable: we goofed as in technical hickup. I suspect Amazon was throwing it's weigh around as some sort of literature police and got spanked for it. Now the corporate marketing "line" is oops- we had a technical glitch. Yeah, right. It didn't take Amazon long to get the message loud and clear that it does not have the right to try and police what we buy. Amazon seemed to have forgotten that we’re the people it’s supposed to be serving–and right now I’m speaking as a consumer, Amazon seemed to be stripping the sales figures and accompanying rankings from GLBTQ books, erotica, and romance novels, particularly those with what they term “adult content.” Nothing pisses me off more than being told what NOT to do. I can't take on any more issues in therapy at the moment to address this zealot nature too, so what to do??

This is nothing short of discrimination; nothing short of censorship. This is nothing a business that claims commercial integrity at even the most basic level would do. Consequently, as a longtime Amazon customer, I look forward to an immediate reversal of this ridiculous and unconscionable policy. Otherwise, I will purchase elsewhere and encourage everyone else I know to do the same. Should you feel the need to vent, please feel free to cut and paste the following rant to the email listed at the bottom. Made me feel a bit better, maybe it will do the same for you.

Dear Amazon,

It has come to my attention that you are de-ranking books, supposedly on the basis of “adult content.” Apparently, according to the Amazon Dictionary, this is defined as books that have anything at all to do with GLBT characters, authors, issues, or references, with some general erotically-oriented works being roped in, as well. In the meantime, however, books on the illegal, inhumane, and horrifyingly violent sport of dog fighting remain ranked and appear on a first page search under “dog fighting”: http://bit.ly/18l70B. Further, a search under “playboy” yields as the first return “Playboy: Wet and Wild Complete Collection,” followed by “Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds,” and so on. At what point did “adult content” exclude nude women and dogs killing other dogs for sport? I choose to purchase my books from anyone other than Amazon, until this is addressed. Amazon executive customer service email is: ecr@amazon.com and the customer service phone number is 1-800-201-7575.

Curious about how this really translates? Here is an example, one of these books has been removed from Amazon’s sales rankings because of “adult” content; the other has not. “American Psycho” is Bret Easton Ellis’ story of a sadistic murderer. “Unfriendly Fire” is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it’s “Unfriendly Fire” that does not have a sales rank — which means it would not show up in Amazon’s bestseller lists. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon’s search results. So this is the global, publicly embarrassing problem for the retailer which prides itself on its online community and ranking system.

It's cathartic to share this short minded censorship and inconsistent policing of what ought to be accessible to the book buying public. Interesting to see how it will shake out.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Adventure Upon The Highseas vs. Movie Option= News Coverage Unparrelled


I smell a book deal for the heroic captain. When his book is optioned for a film I envision the scene of his heroic jump from the life boat with a knife concealed between his grit teeth as he jumps into the Gulf of Aden. Pirates shooting glow-in-the dark tracer bullets into the water. Harrison Ford might be cast as the hunky captain. Move over George Clooney Richard Phillips is the real deal.

Why this particular saga story lined on every major news agency worldwide? Even the puny Irish Examiner carried the headline. The true irony in all of this is the Maersk Alabama, an American-flagged and Danish-owned vessel, had been carrying humanitarian aid to Africa. Since the attack, Phillips and his captors had been floating in the life raft, out of fuel and shadowed by U.S. warships. I believe that because the crew fought back, and the captain has a certain photogenic quality, navy seals para shooting in, snipers hovering...stuff that readership is made of. Gimme gimme more. There is more. The soft-spoken captain had placed himself at risk in an effort to protect his crew, helping fight off the pirates and then offering himself as a hostage.
The pirates kept Phillips aboard the 24-foot lifeboat and repeatedly threatened him. They were seeking millions of dollars in ransom. "His courage is a model for all Americans," Obama said in a statement released Sunday by the White House.

Asked if he had any message for a public that had been captivated by his ordeal, Phillips was self-effacing. "The real heroes are the Navy, the Seals, those who have brought me home," he told John Reinhart, president and chief executive of Maersk Line.

Highseas vs. Movie Option= News Coverage Unparalleled. I am so smitten with Captain handsome...good manors too, whew.

What the main stream story doesn't carry is the non sexy bi lines from the other ships held for ransom. There's even a website that tracks the status. Perhaps if these pirates possessed a little more marketing savvy they would have their own website, with maybe a few corporate sponsors say maybe Haliburton or Blackwater.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy that the ships' captain is safe but what about the other poor saps still confined to the tanker awaiting who knows what. Nice to see a happy outcome to this ordeal. Can't wait for the movie version.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Egg-citing


Curse the Easter Bunny for the deluge of jelly beans that have magically found a home here in the confines of the boat bilge. For you non sailors, the bilge is the bottom of the boat. A dark potentially dank place specifically suited for lying down nice bottles of red wine. The temperature is near perfect whilst sailing non Caribbean waters. When we left France the first time around we had eight cases of Roussillon Reds squirrelled away. Jelly beans in the bilge just tend to rattle around before turning into gooey sludge. Certainly not as nice of a visual as those ageing bottles kept comfy in nearly pristine catacomb like conditions awaiting the uncorking, imbibing and sharing with other lucky travelers.

The egg-stravaganza is still in play as it seemed too much trouble this morning to go gather these plastic sugar bombs from a potentially watery grave as the lie in wait on the deck of the boat.

Sunny San Franciscan Bay is fog free and fabulous today. Happy Easter to those of you celebrating. My Easter bonnet this afternoon will be a baseball hat and SPF 70 as we sail around Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Meowwwww


The pomp and circumstance of all things gurrl-ummm delicious. I embrace all things girlpower as of late. Maybe it's the pussycat dance classes, maybe it's the wake up call of fleeting fabulousness. With a life of late too suburban blur and not enough urban renewal it's an overdue indulgence. What I do know is that should you require a day of mental pampering and perfect primping I am your go to girl for the short list. Why do you ask? Leave it to me to ask the questions, just realize that most of the Y chromosome are clueless when it comes to the details of deliciousness. Spring demands this: to be delicious. Okay, I made that up. I just seek a little rationalization for my splurgous ways.
(okay, that sounds like a pander but what the heck, if the shoe is custom made Italian have at it.)

Where to start, I say by deliciously self serving ones' self: The best facial- bar none is at Mary The'. Yes she has moved from her posh maiden lane spot of uber upscale Union square, to the decidedly downscale South Park. Price is still in the stratosphere but you definitely get what you pay for. Jeremy's is right around the other end of the park, so you won't have to venture far to score superb Manolo's at a fraction of the price Barney's sells them for. Btw This is the best place for shopping for chic boyz wear.. Manly men listen up, as you will not be over whelmed because it's only two floors with too many cute gay men to help you package your package. The bliss bar is now open at the W hotel. Nice mani & pedi, with cocktails how can one not indulge?

The best spot for lunch while you find your self helping to stimulate the economy is the cafe at SFMOMA . The museum gift shop next door has artist designed jewelry that is magnificent and affordable. Artisan expenditures that help the bottom line of this world class museum should make you feel so much better. Exit stage left and grab the number 30 Muni and head to North Beach. Time for that follow up cocktail, but with the added twist of historical literati. Imagine sitting where Jack Kerouac hung out with his unshowered and unshaven beat nick buddies at Vesivios. My fave spot is upstairs in the cozy corner over looking Columbus ave. Next door, a true breadth of historically relevant books live within the walls of City Lights Bookstore. If these walls could talk, it would be the best foreplay ever.

Where was I going with this circuitous route of a blog post? Dunno. It's a sunny superbly sensible reason to wander, and even nicer if less aimless. I think I like this new found angle of spring renewal..but I should call it what it is, urban renewal of the soul. I see the potential to partake a bit more often.

Friday, April 10, 2009

All Good In The 'Hood


The best part of returning to ones' stomping grounds is the walk down memory lane. In my case as we saunter back to Tramuntana this evening, I remember a very different scene 14 years ago. AT &T Park wasn't here, just a big dirt hill directly north east of where the harbor now sits, not much was here in the 'hood. My typical walk down memory lane usually goes something like..." Hey, I loved that place Embarco( not even google remembers this place) that was most likely the most successful of the bunch of haughty dining establishments to ever inhabit that space. Oh, this was my favorite place for lunch until my bike got pinched from the front gate while I enjoyed that dessert. Ended up being a very expensive creme brulee.. Except most of the culinary hot spots I soo loved no longer exist. Sucks to be me. What ever happened to the neighborhood watering hole that was the defining piece of the neighborhood much like the well loved piece of furniture that no one wants to inherit but a certain piece of mind is accrued just knowing that it rests in the same spot awaiting our return. My Yacht club is still fab, but again...it's gone way tony from way back when it was a great place to park a couple of lasers' and enjoy an anchor steam for two bucks.

The sunshine blasted down on my old neighborhood here in the city. My children may be bigger, but Philip at The Java House is always happy to reacquaint my guys with his menu of greasy spoon options as we dine alfresco along South Beach Harbor. The rats with wings, aka sea gulls (or sea girls, as my guys used to refer to them, still without manors or patience.) positioned to grab my lunch should I decide to look left.

It was a great photo op day, so I was certainly in my element with crystal clear skies. Funny thing about the home of the Giants 1) Pac Bell Park 2) SBC Park 3.) At&T Park... I have photos of all phases of naming. So maybe things never did stay the same for very long.

Still delicious to step back into my old life... I just don't want to sound like my grandmother " I remember when blah blah blah snore."

Kfog kboom anyone? I know just the spot for optimal viewing. Some things never change.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ports Of Call


Recent attacks upon ships in the area of Somalia make a slow news day a bit juicier. These types of news bites always bait me into discussions with people: is it really good judgement to sail with your family into international waters. The typical line of questioning includes this line of reasoning peppered with what happens if... We are planning such a trip at the moment. The threat of piracy has always been very real, and until recently pirates have pretty much only been interested in large container ships: ships loaded with palm oil, plywood, natural gas, and supertankers carrying all manner of freight are seen as an easy, slow, cash cow mark. Yachts are small fish relatively speaking.

The areas of most concern are located along with the waters off the coast of Somalia as is the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, the stretch of water between west Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra for those of you nautically challenged. But remember, there are so many ports of call, so a few off limits- no problemo. Really. just mark em' off the list.

As sailors, we have heard of fellow sailors finding them selves in harm's way. The few isolated incidents included one due to the ship anchoring off of a prison island in Panama, another was a botched robbery attempt and the boat owner was pistol whipped with his own gun. And no, we don't carry firearms aboard. It was a big enough arm twist to allow my spear-fishing spear gun along, and even today it's a source of contention. I usually remind the captain of all the amazing meals and this sore point fades to black, except when I covet a larger version gun.

As much as I enjoy the unknown and appreciate the unexpected, we take calculated risks in life whether its' setting sail for Australia, or crossing the street outside of the cross walk. I don't venture alone into the Tenderloin District in The City to visit my favorite tandoori spot. I assume it's human nature to worry about what could happen. I just don't chose to live my life as a worrywart. Besides if my number is up I would rather be a more tasty obituary with a more interesting bi-line than being hit by a bus jaywalking. So as we plot and plan our next adventure, know that we always seek crew that feels comfortable bringing boat parts into exotic ports. Just leave the firearms at home.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

R.I.P.



An art form of great magnitude seems to be fading to black as newspapers fold. One of my all time favorite editorial cartoonists, Ed Stein produced more than 8,000 drawings, many of which have been syndicated to newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. It's like the end of an era for those of us who live and breath the political world. To quote Mr Stein, being a political cartoonist is the best job in a newspaper: "I don't know that there is really anything else as satisfying." For 11 years Mr Stein also drew a comic strip, Denver Square, for the Rocky Mountain News.

One of the cartoons he drew was after the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999, in which 15 people, including the two attackers, died. "After the Columbine shootings I did a series of cartoons in my comic strip. I think they really helped people focus their feelings and thoughts. It was cathartic for me as well," Mr Stein says.

Ed Stein's last cartoon for the Rocky Mountain News was one he had been thinking of for months, as he says they knew for a long time that the newspaper was not going to survive. But the actual idea only came to him on the last day, he says, when he realised that there were going to be a lot of people who would miss it the next day. Denver's Rocky Mountain News printed its final edition on 27 February. The paper had lost $16m (£10m) last year, as advertising revenue fell.

"So I just drew a man standing there in his robe with a cup of coffee in his hand, looking down his long sidewalk, which is totally empty, going where is my paper?" The art of the political cartoonist often gives a visual to help lighten the political mood of the moment. My favorite tasty morsel of the newspaper is always the op/ed section. The political cartoonist, much like the more modern day blogist must create something that strikes a nerve while delivering wit. A tidy visual for those of us seeking a visual component to an otherwise dry and staid story.

The delicious nature of political cartoons is only palpable when the political angst has reached a certain height of disgust. The last few months of political detail must be like manna from heaven for those who seek to sooth the soul of political maniacs who live and breath politics. I like to think of it as visual objectification of all things politically obscene. Thank goodness we have had the wit and artistic acumen of men like Mr. Stein. The newspaper business will most likely continue to morph into something we don't recognize, but the political satire of the cartoonist shall remain a delicious bite of reality that is fleeting. Let's savor the after taste of such heady delights, I know I shall miss this art form as much as I miss..oh I won't bother as it's a long list.

I like the quote from Ed Stein, it sums up the spirit of this soon to be lost art "If we [cartoonist] are not there, it is just one more thing that weakens democracy."


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Change Your Attitude


Sailors have a saying change your latitude change your attitude. My wanderlust has made that saying a part of my DNA. The true gift of travel isn't the cultural, it's the observered differences that let you know just how good things are-fill-in-the-blank, moment, time, place. Sometimes these are the tiny things noticed that become added to your system of doing things. Maybe it's the one ah-ha observance that never leaves your psyche and is utilized every time you get behind the wheel of your car (wishfully thinking a zen experience, but I need to be a realist.) We all take home something from travel that's hopefully not tattooed.
At the moment I am experiencing exotic island living, home to some of the best kite surfing available within this latitude (Alameda.) The best observations so far this week: the local asian market has just about the loveliest blood oranges I've seen all season. For the same price as a small bag from whole paycheck I can fill the boot of my Mini with 'em and eat these beautiful blood-red beauties until July. The other observance is more applicable to my kids. In a twist of spring break tradition they are attending a local camp in the morning. Yesterday when we arrived to find the half asleep campers stringing Cheerios on a piece of yarn my eight year old replied "how creative" as he rolled his eyes. My response to him- supplement his breakfast with the Cheerios if not in the jewelry making mood. The sociological juxtaposition was appreciated by my camp aficionados noting that Camp Kennolyn it isn't but hey- never know until you try something new...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Heir To The Air


I have to admit that I have a serious affliction that has to do with turning off all the lights in the house when leaving, or retiring for the evening. Never tire to tease my energy flaunting family members by referring to them as Mr. PG&E (jrs) not that I have seen any turn of the energy tide forthcoming but ya gotta start somewhere. Shift forward to life on the boat this week, and there is no need to be the nudge as all power is solar, and we live pretty much off grid (boats are easier to keep tabs on from a power consumption stand point.) The BBC today has a great story about the greening of the Empire State Building. Soaring 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building was recently named America's most favorite building in the poll conducted by American Institute of Architects.

This green makeover is part of a $500 refit which the building's owners hope will attract bigger companies paying higher rents. Former President Bill Clinton's Climate Initiative has helped fund the project.

I thought it would be the common drill: change the light bulbs, turn down the thermostat but no... the building has an impressive list of energy saving measures like: reflective film upon each of the 102-story building's 6,500 windows, insulation behind radiators and improved lighting, ventilation and air conditioning. The plan is to cut the amount of energy used by 38% per year, saving $4.4m. Wow! that's some major dough. My house has the old wavy gravy style windows and I am always reminded by the progeny of PG & E that these old windows are completely inefficient. My retort, thanks to my friends at treehugger.com: In the end, the greenest window is the one that's already in the wall besides, love that look of the old glass.

I can't imagine my household is the only one to host these tug o war battles. I say fight all of those green battles equal opportunity. I just like the idea of such huge savings and saving the planet simultaneously even if it is one light switch at a time. Now if I could just convince Mr. PG & E that a new Tesla would help fight the good fight.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Safe & Secure


The joys of technology. Yawn. I soo want to toss my laptop into the ocean, but being cognoscente of the ability to undo that little temper tantrum and the fact I'd be needing it tomorrow I shall refrain.

Remember when it was easy to wi-fi squat anywhere. Now everyone and her sister who has a wi-fi network has learned to secure them. Oh sure, an unsecured connection can be found but it turns the whole blog posting experience into an angst filled pissing match with no one to argue with...so unfun, unfruitful and unbefitting for a hot head who seeks out the ethos of the ether. I remember similar connectivity concerns way back in the early nineties. The City embraced the dot com clamour and those of us geeky enough to travel with a laptop for creative pursuits used Ricochet. This was the modem/antenna that used radio frequencies transmitted via repeater boxes placed around the city..many cities actually. I had proudly procured modem number 100. Her royal geekness gloats, but I loved the technology at the time because it seemed seamless and sound.

Fast forward fifteen years, now it's all about being a squatter and keeping ones fingers crossed that the data transmits before you lose your connection (ala yesterdays' mysteriously missing post.) A little mystery in life can be edgy and add spice, but the tried and true approach to not losing data is not traveling. Like that's gonna happen. So seek and yea shall find: thank-you one and all (three of you) unsecured networks with super delicious names to boot- sexualchocolate, neighbor_bob, and free4u. Merci recoup.

Award for best named secured wifi network: fuck_off... Well that's the point isn't it ....so why be redundant in the naming of your secured site you selfish jerk.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pass The Peas

Call it a crazy marketing spin for Washington or another person fed up with the price of broccoli at whole paycheck...In mid-February, Tom Vilsack, the new secretary of agriculture, took a jackhammer to a patch of pavement outside his headquarters to create his own organic “people’s garden.” Two weeks later, the Obama administration named Kathleen Merrigan, an assistant professor at Tufts University and a longtime champion of sustainable agriculture and healthy food, as Mr. Vilsack’s top deputy.

For instance, the celebrity chef Alice Waters recommends that the federal government triple its budget for school lunches to provide youngsters with healthier food. And the author Michael Pollan has called on President Obama to pursue a “reform of the entire food system” by focusing on a Pollan priority: diversified, regional food networks.

Mr. Pollan, who contributes to The New York Times Magazine, likens sustainable-food activists to the environmental movement in the 1970s. Though encouraged by the Obama administration’s positions, he worries that food activists may lack political savvy.

“The movement is not ready for prime time,” he says. “It’s not like we have an infrastructure with legislation ready to go.”

Even so, many activists say they are packing their bags and heading to Washington. They are bringing along a copy of “Food Inc.,” which includes attacks on the corn lobby and Monsanto, and intend to provide a private screening for Mr. Vilsack and Ms. Merrigan.

“We are so used to being outside the door,” says Walter Robb, co-president and chief operating officer of Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain that played a crucial role in making organic and natural food more mainstream. “We are in the door now.”Whole Foods Market retained the lobbyist firm GLOVER PARK GROUP to assist in its efforts against proposed FTC rules that would block the company's approximate $565 million takeover of WILD OATS, according to TheHill.com (Nov. 17). Lobbyists working on behalf of the company are Joel Johnson, a former senior aide in the Clinton White House, and Kim James, a former aide to Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL). Glover Park Group, which is cited as having "deep democratic ties," will "[meet] with members of Congress to make them aware of FTC ...spoken like a true farmer. As Whole Paycheck fights the union influence. Yeah yeah it's your right to form unions, just not here within our mega corporate food conglomerate that was built selling over priced veggies from corporate giants. Nice. So neighborly...

The tide is turning. The first lady had a big chunk of sod ripped from the white house lawn this week to begin planting a kitchen garden that she will tend with the children. Maybe we shall see the rest of the nation follow suit. Salads for everyone!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Back Of The Envelope Estimate


El Camino Hospital is preparing to take over the Community hospital on April 11. The public was invited to hear CEO Ken Graham and board chairman David Reeder to discuss finances and goals for both hospitals this past Monday..The new facility will be renamed El Camino-Los Gatos and will be viewed as an expansion of the Mountain View hospital. After taking over the 113-bed Los Gatos facility, El Camino will have a total of 512 beds and close to 1,300 physicians.Here is a list of El Camino's current cost estimates for the purchase and re-opening our Community Hospital :
Land and building: $45 million
Legal and consulting: $2 million
Equipment: $8.8 million
Pre-opening (IT, seismic updates): $5.3 million
Working capital: $5.9 million
Year one capital: $10 million
Total: $77 million

El Camino will also spend an estimated $22 million more by 2013 to meet new state seismic requirements. We need to make a mental note as community members that many services at Community Hospital are slowly starting to shut down in anticipation of the takeover. When it reopens July 11, the hospital will continue to offer medical and surgical beds, intensive care and OBGYN services, according to El Camino officials. The hospital also plans to expand spinal, orthopedics and urology services at Los Gatos. Not much on staff retention, or how pre-exisiting contracts will be administered. Why is this important you ask? Many of our local residents are employed by Community Hospital. It would be nice to see them receive an olive branch from El Camino. Anyone in the know care to share with us?I would be curious to hear, and remember- I can keep a confidence.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Feel The Love


Oh the pull of that ole friend Technology. I love stirring the pot even if in an extraneous way. The Santa Cruz New Technology group had an amazing turnout for a school night. The idea? Get more of the technology scene over the hill and park that brain power near the sand and surf. It was simply lovely to experience so many geeks sporting flip flops, talking source code and refilling my wine glass. The venue was occupied by Nextspace. A sort of incubator for all thing seed tech stage. Lovely place to kick start an idea even if it is under the radar of the sand hill crowd.

Creatively speaking, trends are trends are trends until someone steps up and seizes the marketing opportunity to spin it off into the stratosphere for it to hopefully morph into the next cool technology play.

The caveat being this is the 831 zip code so venture capital typically doesn't travel so far a field, but perhaps it should.. surf lessons for KP.... might be the hook they need to come over the hill. Think they might leave the tasseled shoes in the Tesla and slip on the flip flops to look local? Probably not, but nice thought ... second thought, no...there goes the neighborhood. Keep Sand Hill on sand hill, but let the creative reign in the land of the beach boardwalk.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rest In Pieces


Charlie Brown has nuttin on me today. My harbinger of bad news a broken wristwatch and perhaps my mismanaged calendar. I was in Menlo Park for a 1:00 an hour early. So much for the hurry scurry. I haven't had my watch in months, thinking that it's good to have my dual timezone watch ready and willing for any unplanned trips, I seek out a battery and a new band. I will return to the watch drama a bit later as my real angst lies with the Easter Bunny. So where else but The Stanford Shopping Center to commandeer the watchband, battery, score some saucy lingerie and stop in at Sephora for cosmetics. Oh- the photo op is set up with the rabbit-yeah!

Neat and tidy. Swat team swiftness.

Except that the Bunny frowns upon pictures with adults sans children. After much explaining about my doubting-the-bunny-existing 6&8 yr olds I was given the big frown (meaning: go away weirdo lady.) Fine. The bunny is sorta pervvy anyways so off to Victoria Secret where I have my own express line, except when I don't or they won't simply give me a catalog without charging me three bucks. When inquiring why it is I must over pay for thread with a bow ( amounting to underwear) AND the catalog ms. salesgurrl shares that the catalog is available free online.
Have you ever received just one issue of a VS catalog? Thought so. The amazon deforestation is part and parcel due to these tri-weekly catalogs of soft porn. I prefer the real thing, so I will take a pass on the Victoria Secret version.
My true saga of saturation: the watch band/battery drill. Macys right? Oh how wrong...... The woman at the jewelry counter informs me they have neither a battery or band for me so she sends me to Safeway. I can't even elaborate on this one. Enough said.

My last errand of the day, a tweak to my writing class. I stop off at Stanford before heading home except that this too is so pathetically not working. Hop back in the car, roll the windows down and shift gears under the heart pounding thump thump sound track of the Pussycat dolls. 280 is a welcome sight. Enter stage right the dart of a squirrel and a quick zigzag from the furry road warrior leads to a very pronounced double tire thud at 75 miles an hour. Rest in pieces my friend.

Did I happen to mention I had an off day?

Turn the evening around. Ice cream and a few brownies would take the edge off my curveball of a day. Brownies are frozen so a quick nuke session in the microwave e voila..caught on fire.

Good Nite. Is it humpday tomorrow?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blow Me


The things that truly make us happy can most likely be counted upon one hand, but I gotta say talking from a place of endorphins, sun, and sand it can be summed up in one small word.
compound word really- kite surfing. Invented by the french, this newish sport has the potential for a screaming good time. I know a bit about the French and the world of wind & water from when I took delivery of a french built boat we had commissioned in Canet Rousillon. The french call extreme wind, the Tramuntanas' ( our boat name) but to enjoy this wind, which is considered sportif means to throw caution to said wind and make the most of it. Sportif can have a double meaning depending upon the nationality of the person seeking to enjoy any sport wind related. Americans would most likely have a moment of reasoning only to decide that screaming across the wake of the ocean tantamount to suicide with sunscreen. The french on the other hand extinguish their cigarettes so both hands are available to hold on to the kite, then launch into gail force wind. Love those sportif french.

I liked living in France, even if it was very french. The meal/wine/linger/talk have another glass of wine then enjoy dessert followed by a glass of port/Sauternes just made sense to the gourmand in me. What does this have to do with wind driven sports you ask? Nothing really, other than all that holding on to a kite is really a lot of work, and work makes one hungry and well there we are, full circle in the scheme of things..

The other thing the french are know for is the ability to work a 30 hour week, but make it seem as though it's so much more intense. Again that's where that long lugubrious lunch helps. Eek out an existence, while enjoying that daily two hour lunch. Oh how I miss those daze.

So hail to the french, this new sport I have discovered (or yet to discover, when I strap on the surfboard and the kite) is so intoxicating, so fun, it is no surprise that it is attributed to the french. Now to mandate the obligatory lunchtime routine, I would be set.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hail To The Impulsive


When is a long runway too long? I suppose much of the decision is completely subjective. My runway is typically short. Really, quite impulsively short. My comfort zone is the unknown, so the concept of plotting and planning for the perfect thing leaves me feeling like a creative failure. This past Friday was a prime example. Spontaneous cocktails with a dozen neighbors showing up to enjoy the evening alfresco. Just as I have never planned for fun in the past, I shall continue on my quest for random fun and frivolity where and when it presents itself- but it helps to have willing participants... so thank you all who joined in on the sultry spontaneous cocktails. The dancing later on in the evening was certainly a highlight.

Sometimes planning is a necessary evil, maybe even required. Concerts come to mind. Leonard Cohen is touring for the first time in many years, because of the babysitter-school night logistics it is always this hoop to jump thru just to have an evening of well orchestrated fun. But ever notice how these well planned and plotted events fail to deliver the same jolt of satisfaction?

Listening to KFOG this morning I was stopped dead in my spontaneous tracks. A radio spot promoting the upcoming concert of Billy Joel and Elton John for a concert in November. So those of you who embrace plotting and planning- this is your event. With eight months to plan it should be completely welcome evening. Should you wish to turn a new leaf- there's always the last min ticket available on craigslist.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Fun in DysFUNction


Director Sam Mendes knocks the ball outta the park again. Remember the little film that won best picture in 1999...American Beauty? I loved the sheer comet brightness of both screen play and cast. Certainly one of my top five all time fave flicks. The idea of yet another dysfunctional suburban story, Revolutionary Road told so spot on without missing a beat from the original book version, so elegantly written by Richard Yates and directed by Mr. Mendes. The screen version of this epic suburban tale left such an indelible mark on my heart. Translating an epic piece of literature to movie can sometimes leave gaping holes in story development. My question was: how can the film experience stay true to the book nature of loss, love and loneliness? Can it really be summed up within a two hour movie. The answer this time: a resounding yes.
When I first read the haunting book Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, I was still a city dweller. The description of such a mundane existence, dashed hopes and the muddled dreams of a bright young couple who find suburban life intolerable was as foreign to me as Mars. In the movie version Mendes takes the cruxt of the story: a couple that seems adrift in a sea of sameness, crying out for change, to break from the ordinary for this once extraordinary couple. The movie chemistry and book both chronicle the motions of life as if stuck in an emotional idle. Fast forward ten years....Geez- those shoes seem custom made for the suburban subset of my so called life.

If wishes were fishes is the thesis of this cautionary tale. Trepidation and denial lend itself to real life. Yates elegant manor begs for an introspective look at the unhappiness that lies just beneath the surface of suburban life. Thank goodness for safety nets. Life lesson learned from my own dabble in the mysteriously myopic world of 95030? Did I forget to mention my house is on the market?

Friday, March 27, 2009

War Stories


The Webby Awards have morphed into something substantial. I remember one of the first we attended in The City, during the Willie Brown Mayoral fiefdom. The awards were hosted in the posh city hall duomo. Ahh- to remember the dotcom nuttiness and all that conspicuous consumption. Pass the baton to the next techie wave of glitterati and the webbys' now have a real heft of creative genius. Veiled meaning: sucks that when I attended these back in the neophyte days...it was marginally fun. Now it resembles real fun with a creative tour de force to match the cache. BooHoo. But wait, could there be an encore? I have a groovey start-up idea that has legs.. Helps too that my double E yummy hubby can help with the geek aspect.

Nostalgic waxing makes me sound like the war vet bevvyed at the bar talking about the days when blah blah blah...snore. Concept is the same but instead of war stories you get to be regaled with the infancy of the Internet and how fun it was way back when, blah blah blah, snore. Feel free to flee this blog...it's reminiscent of the song from Bruce Springsteen, glory days. I think you get the idea.

The tech bubble was a footnote in the timing netaphor/metaphor..... all about being at the right place at the right time. So as I script a new business plan for a start-up concept that involves text messaging it's like opening a time capsule of creativeness that might be monetized. Gotta like that concept. Just when you think you've gotten to the end of your Karmic rope, it's another emotional roller coaster of timing but how fun to put that seat belt on knowing that uncertainty means fun and fun is good.

Cat like agility helps, but mostly it's timing. I suppose i need to bust a move on my business plan vs. the stream of consciousness blogshere mental masturbation.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nice Try


It's that time again...planning the summer vacation hoopla. This year thought it might be interesting to throw a wrench in just to monkey with the plan at hand. One of my finest epiphanies: take Amtrak to visit the in-laws in D.C. Think the antithesis of George Jetson...jetpacks give way to riding the rails..I suppose what I really miss is the train schedule board before electronic schedules erased the sound of all of those numbers physically flipping. God I LOVE that sound. Those flipping numbers represented the sound of places to be discovered. So yes, nostalgia still makes me want to travel by rail. So 1880's of me.

Washington DC is an amazingly fun place in the summer. The romantic notion of arriving in our capital, into the glorious Grand Central Station- well, what's not to like? Traveling early in the summer one can circumvent the crowd gridlock at places like the Smithsonian, Air and Space Museum. The hook could have been the visions of a relaxing book filled journey. Where these visions took a U-turn was when I assumed the cost would be on par with air travel. Wrong. The roughly three day trip is about what it costs to take a holiday break in Mexico, like a really nice ten day holiday. Did I mention I only researched a one-way journey? Round trip is what I would spend to stay in Barcelona-for a month. Serious dough.

After spending more than my fair share of time riding trains all over the planet, suffice to say I was saddened by the cost of a cross country Amtrak journey. I wasn't after all planning an excursion aboard the Orient Express (which by the way, mile for mile may be a better value.) Certainly better ambiance but I digress. Maybe another option could be my childhood notion of high adventure. Hobo travel ala sack tied stick and can of beans. Okay, no beans-pate, nice olives and maybe some brie. Sounds curiously like a skit from Yogi Bear and his little buddy booboo but with a gourmet picnic. I was so sure I could sell this concept of spending the first weeks of summer as stylized cartoon characters. Highly romanticized I agree, isn't that the point?

Remember a few years ago, a big bail out of Amtrak kept the nations railway alive? Subsidization is certainly acceptable in my book as long as the investment might be amortized to soften the blow of ridership. Interesting figures about federal funding for different modes of transportation in the USA: while the government funded highways to the tune of $35 billion last year, and air travel received $14.5 billion, Amtrak receives a measly $1.3 billion - the same as it got in 1980.

Slate has an interesting article from 2002. Our own VP Joe Biden is a big supporter of Amtrak so you think more stimulus money/grenntech porkbarrel/good juju would be in store for this essentially government owned service. Nope.

Bottom line is I couldn't sell it. The looks from everyone at the breakfast table was as if I had fallen and hit my head. The eight year old suggested Jetblue, no red-eye. Yeah...I'll get right on that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Brick & Mortar Wins


Do you think a name really matters when it comes to choosing an educational path? I was surprised at the sheer number of online universities as I have started down the exploratory road of returning to grad school. Could the online experience be equal to the brick & mortar university experience? The market for online courses and degrees has continued to grow in recent years in spite of an overall slowdown in the growth of Internet-related industries. It's tough to dodge the pop up window barrage of online ads touting the accredited programs that run the gamut of MBA to Public Policy to a masters of Fine Art ala basket weaving. A recent pop up for Slippery Rock University might have a different connotation on a CV for someone seeking a career in outdoor adventure. Why am I so hung up on a name? After all it's just that...Or is it. When you take into account the time, effort, and networking opportunities it sorta makes sense to question if the experience might be entirely different online vs old school. The Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation by Abilene Christian University - is a faith-based, 36-hour online program that prepares you to analyze, address and manage conflict effectively and professionally. My question is: does divine intervention add to the overall experience or help gain in-depth preparation for this field. Besides a larger question looms, just how in depth can this "study" be with just 36 hours of instruction. Do you get a recommendation from some higher power that makes the short time frame more enriching? Don't think so.
Could name equate to cache? I understand the attraction of an online degree program, but wonder about the core curriculum and student body make up. The big selling point behind grad school is also a new networking group with the added ability to springboard your skill set to a new plateau.Typically graduate school is almost entirely an endeavor with a power base of business contacts waiting in the wings, at least biz school. How does peer group translate online when the student base is global? Will widely-endorsed models of "blended" online learning, which require some face-to-face interaction, become the norm, or will most courses substitute chat rooms and bulletin boards for face-to-face interaction? One could look at the business networking from an online education as a facebook extension of a CV.

Ultimately it was a tough decision for me of brick & mortar vs. On-line. So as much as I enjoy
a glass of Full-Sail micro brew on a warm summer evening, attending the same named university was a non-starter. I settled upon the brick & mortar standby Stanford. Hey- what can I say, cache goes a long way.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Legacy Loans The New Laxative?


Did I miss something? Slap a shiny new name on all those loans nobody wants ( I would call it sh*t) but the marketing folks have something even better- Legacy loan.) You and I know that renaming doesn't really change the true nature of what something really is. But the new moniker of Legacy loan sounds soo...lasting? Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plan to remove banks’ distressed assets cleared its first hurdle yesterday as markets rallied. Geithner thinks that private investors will partner with the government to unclog the balance sheets of banks. Think of it as a kind of Metamucil for the banking system..Although taking into account how the markets reacted yesterday, enema might be a better description.
All key stock indices gained around 7%, with the Dow Jones index jumping nearly 500 points to close at 7,775 - its highest level in more than a month.

Listening to my fave-bearded financial economics wonk aka crushworthy Paul Krugman.. (winning that Nobel-prize makes him even sexier) Krugman used the following analogy of Zombies. Stating that Zombies(bad ideas) have won. Keep killing them but don't look behind the door- their back! The Economist blog carried this Krugman quote:

The benefits from nationalization come from (a) giving taxpayers a share of the upside rather than just a share of the downside, which is where we are now (b) ending the gaming of the system, even looting, that is encouraged by the current system of implicit guarantees (Simon Johnson has been very good on that) (c) making it politically and fiscally feasible to put in enough capital to revitalize the system. These advantages are there whatever you decide to do with junior bank debt.

That said, some decision must be reached on bank liabilities. Sweden guaranteed all of them. If forced to say, I would go the Swedish route; but of course we can’t do that unless we’re prepared to put all troubled banks in receivership. And I’m ready to be persuaded that some debts should not be honored — this is a deeply technical question.

Where's that magic wand when the FDIC needs it? It must feel like a daunting task (think Citi group.) The government is just a little too close to Wall Street for my taste. Free $ from the taxpayer, no quid pro quo.Bank stocks were the biggest winners yesterday with Bank of America up 26%, JP Morgan Chase jumping 25% and Citigroup ending the day with a 19.5% gain. Biggest' of big winner was Nasdaq-listed Frontier Financial Corporation, a regional bank serving the Northwest of the United States, which posted a gain of 52% - Always attractive to Wallstreet to obtain a non recourse loan, investors walk away. Cash for trash- really.

Can't Geithner take note? AIG should have undermined the Geithner task at hand. House financial services will hear Geithner Thursday....should be interesting. Will they flush Geithner? Could he be in over his head? Is President Obama squandering his credibility, backing this plan and praising his Treasury Secretary..

It's gonna be a very dangerous year. ouch.