Thursday, December 18, 2014


      We look forward to the chosen December night when fortunate Cambrians walk the hill out of east village up to the historic Santa Rosa Chapel for an evening of strings, music, Christmas reflection and magic.
      Frequent readers may recall previous posts, this time of year when it as though we step into a slip stream of timelessness. 

2011 Post

2012 Post
2013 Post

      Cheer and anticipation fill the 140 plus year old Chapel bathed in candle light and greens. This evening has become our single favorite of the Advent season on the Central California Coast. 
       The acoustics, artistry of the musicians and the lighting create a dreamy mood. Ra Duncan's soulful a cappella Ava Maria set the mood and another memorable evening flowed into Cambria history.
       Judith Larmore's meditation on the love in nostalgic moments were heart warming. Recalling her father's devotion to providing hand made Christmas toys invoked a kind of universal remembrance and in that she reminded us was a connection. In Christmas memory, loved ones are with us still. As Lana said as we departed, Judith should collect and publish her reflections.
      Jude Johnstone put together the music program. She asked her daughter Emma, an accomplished actor/director and home from New York to write a poem. Her reading was yet another and unexpected gift of this wonderful annual event. Jude and daughter Ra performed and then lead the audience in a uniquely cheerful and entertaining round of carols.
     Santa has already delivered our favorite gift. 

      My family occupied an old farm house during one of Indiana's coldest winters and I slept upstairs in an unheated room. We had just moved to the state capitol of Indianapolis and rented a large, drafty house while our new home was being built in one of the new suburban divisions.
      The place was massive. Two bedrooms, dining room, living room, parlor, long kitchen, sun porch and bath down stairs. Upstairs had only recently been "finished," meaning there were floors and walls. Heat "entered" the frigid domain by virtue of a hole that had been cut in the floor of the bedroom and the ceiling in the largely unused "parlor." In fact we kept the sliding door to the parlor closed as it was so difficult to heat and made the living room too drafty.
      Since I worked and had late hours and was the eldest of three boys, I got the private room, while my brothers shared a downstairs bed room. When I took a glass of water upstairs, it froze or if temperatures were more moderate it created an icy crust. I didn't mind.  As a high school sophomore I enjoyed the privacy. I'd wear a stocking cap, socks and pile under the blankets and slept very soundly.  Any nightly trip to the bathroom was a bear-icy cold floor and stairs, and then leaving the warmth of downstairs to climb back into ice land made those rare ventures, teen bladders being good equipment and all.
      Years later I told our daughters I slept in a room so cold the candle froze.  A stretch, but the water did.
      Our eldest is visiting from Naples Florida.  The central California coast winter can sometimes chill into over night 40's and warm "only" into the 60's.  As she is digging out the wool socks, sweaters, gloves, caps and all, I'll probably remind her of what real cold is. If that doesn't work I'll drag her along to a tennis match where one of my foursome, Jim, hails from War Road Minnesota, where to hear him tell it, you risked freezing to death all but 7 days a year!
      I still like to sleep in a cool room with fresh air, but for the next couple of weeks we may well heat the overnight.

    Lana's centerpiece for an Instigators Art Salon luncheon 
    Cambria Historical Society 
   Victorian ranch house at Halter Ranch winery 

   West Village, Cambria 

  As a tribute to improved relations with Cuba, a couple of On Assignment Cuba photos from the file.
     I'm excited about easier travel. Cuba is a marvelous island. The above scene is from Matanzas.
 Pictured here with Jon Christopher Hughes, photographer and journalism professor at the front door of Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia east of Havana. Jon is an old hand on Cuba. This was taken while at work on a documentary in 1996.

a "selfie" in the mirror of Hemingway's

     Cubans are warm and wonderful people with an extraordinary culture and charm. Despite the decades long blockade and official sanctions, the people tend to understand Washington policy is one thing and the American
public is something else.

Previous Cuban Posts:

     See you down the trail.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Safe Google-Magnificent Undulations-Would you say Vivid?

 Sweet light on the California central coast.
more scenes follow below

     Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt opened the window on the tenuous world we inhabit at a Surveillance, Privacy and Civil Liberties conference Friday, but the light he let in captures a multi dimensional web where the map is being improvised as we go along and the perils are grievous.
     Schmidt explained how shocked he was to learn from the Washington Post that his own Google empire was being surveilled by the FBI.  Google now encrypts data between their data centers to protect privacy. Schmidt believes Google to be the safest information purveyor if you wish to avoid surveillance.
     The CATO Institute, a Libertarian think tank, sponsored the first Surveillance conference hosting experts across the disciplines and issues involved in surveillance, privacy and civil liberties. I spent hours at the conference, thanks to  C-SPAN, that special blessing of our information age.
      It appears all of us will move into a time of greater use of encryption. An affect of the Snowden NSA leaks is  everyone now knows a lot more about who is spying and how they are doing it thus the free market response is a series of applications, technology, services and methods of operation to protect privacy.  
     Schmidt observed the rules of this new world are hammered out in a cat and mouse game where governments seek and push Google and the other tech companies who then respond. Legal discussions or suits ensue and become  the process to negotiate a path to established policy. It's all new and the dynamic is ongoing.
     The Google leader said we could almost "end all criminal activity" with greater surveillance but said we should not allow that. Schmidt said even the kind of surveillance used in Britain, facial recognition and other means employed by GC Hq (General Communications Headquarters) is counter to the American way of life. He said we must be careful to protect information privacy.
     Law enforcement has never discovered a surveillance technique it does not like. It gives you pause to learn how many local and state police departments use the FBI developed Stingray technology. That's the system that mimics a wireless cell tower. It's a cell sight simulator that forces all phones in an area to connect with it where it then gathers all of the stored data on a phone.  It can also deny cell service.  Think about it for a moment. The police can turn on a Stingray, which penetrates into your home, car or pocket and makes your phone connect with it where all of your private information is gathered up. How do you think Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, George Washington and our other founders would respond to that?
      Don't American's equate privacy with freedom and liberty? We do not tolerate a loss of freedom nor should we which is why we continue to fight over civil rights, gender equality, economic fairness. We remember the Nazis, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, et al.  We even intervene in foreign wars to "spread democracy" or "guarantee liberty." How seriously then are we considering implications of our communication practices? Your phone, pad or computer are extensions of your life and often are repositories of your most private or valuable artifacts or information. Don't you have a reasonable expectation to privacy/freedom from surveillance?
      Already batches of metadata have been collected. Algorithmic data analyzers are at work. How long should that information be kept? Washington Post National Technology Reporter Eric Timberg asked Schmidt about what happens in 20 years, or sooner, when he is gone from Google. Schmidt deferred to  Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin saying they share values and a belief in privacy. Schmidt noted they are young men.
      So it seems that a "belief" by young entrepreneur tech capitalists is our firewall. The personal belief of the men and women who have created these marvelous systems and technologies is the wall protecting our privacy and information security? Sorry, being a rich inventor or genius seems a thin credential. Henry Ford, for example, was a notorious anti-Semite. Then off course this is a world with other players, China, North Korea, Russia, Isis, NSA, CIA, GCHQ, FBI, all of whom come with their own idea of privacy, freedom and liberty. 
      Still loving that cell phone or pad?

post rain greening

From a bluff near Harmony Headlands

    See you down the trail.

Friday, December 12, 2014


  A riled Pacific leads a wind and rain storm into the Central Coast.

   As you have probably seen or read, California is getting soaked by the "Pineapple Express."  Though the rain has created problems it is a beginning to make up the deficits of three years of drought.  There is still a long way to go.
   I wonder why communities who have been plagued by water shortages do not take more seriously the idea of rainwater capture or harvest.  Many of our Cambria neighbors have done so on a personal basis. Still, hundreds of thousands of gallons are washing away. These photos were taken hours after the last rain.

  Just in this one half block water flows away from the Pacific, down hill and away from potential use in a gray water system.  A French drain, perimeter drain and/or system of storm drain cisterns could harvest millions of gallons to be pumped for treatment or re-injection into the new multi-million dollar brackish water desalination plant.
  Living through drought ought to sensitize us to a more prudent utilization of a precious resource-don't you think?

   See you down the trail.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


  Rhapsodizing over the increasing appearance of green after three years of historic drought, I drew the interest of a party also occupied with a patch of green that I wanted to shoot.
  Perhaps ho hum elsewhere, this is a splendid early Christmas gift on the California central coast.
   Perhaps fences do make good neighbors.
  Another slope and more contented cows.
 Separated by a road and fence, a grazing field especially for bulls.

    A couple of things are clear. George W. Bush lied to the nation when he denied torture was being used. The US did to prisoners what repressive regimes have done elsewhere. The torture did not yield significant information. Senator Feinstein is correct, the US is big enough to admit wrong. Damage has been done. The torture empowered our enemies. It is and was dirty business.


  The Christmas scenes are from the Cambria Garden Center displays, always a favorite.
   A family gathering about this time of year in 1985 as we were expecting the arrival of Katherine, our second daughter. She arrived a few days before Christmas or she just might have been named Noel. As I recall Lana had just felt a couple of kicks.

    See you down the trail.