Thursday, July 30, 2015


   One can't live in California without continued thought of water.
    For some it is a shroud of angst, inescapable. Others step into the challenge to conserve, educate and find a better way. Most are someplace in between. 
   Growing up where we never gave a thought to water, there was plenty, leaves me "hypersensitive" to new realities. I think those of us who live with less, those who have adjusted to finite limits, have seen into the future.
     This is not limited to California, it can be anywhere. Refugee camps are full of people who have seen the end of life as they knew it. Working poor who barely can feed children and pay rent. Those who live in cars. The good life, the good old days do not exist and for some it never did.     
   The thistle, cursed by ranchers, farmers, gardeners and landscapers is a kind of signal. In this fourth year of historic drought, the thistle flourishes and spreads. It is a survivor.
 I see beauty in these frames. This is flora that thrives, even without water.
      It is about adaptability isn't it? Some of us, some things, are better at it than others, better at learning new ways and better at survival.
      This dynamic planet, a living, changing organism appears, by our short human lens at least, in the midst of profound change. Our specie may not be responsible for all of what is underway, but we have contributed mightily and in not helpful ways. A Beijing clouded by exhaust, rivers poisoned by chemicals, dead zones of trash in the ocean are examples of changes that now imperil all of us, even those who know better and have said so. Sadly there are those who have had no say because they are yet to be born into this change.
      Despite all our cleverness we cannot bring life out of death. We can not reanimate extinct species.
      There are millions of earth brothers and sisters who are desperate and certainly in more peril than we Californians, living in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We conserve, debate, pray for rain, bet on El Nino's, grumble, get angry about the arrogant wealthy who waste water, engineer conversion systems and wonder if luck may run out. In that way we are seeing what awaits this blue marble of a planet. 
        Forces of nature, forces of our own doing, accelerated population, advanced technology, religious and ethnic politics, bad choices, the commercialization of government and our capacity to elevate brutality over reason conspire against us. More fundamentally, there are no winners in the struggle of humankind vs "nature" or cosmic luck. There is only change.  Some of it might be good. Some of it will not.
      We bipeds are capable of great adaptation and invention and resilience. We can also make hard decisions. Making those hard and good choices, application of reason and our higher principles is how survival proceeds from here.
   In this context, it would do us all well to pay heed to the wisdom of 1000 of the brightest minds who have said we need to make sure our Artificial Intelligence systems, are not turned into weapons. 
    On this front we need to make sure the bankers, financiers, money boys and hustlers do not prevail. 
    The statement of the 1000 is the latest in a series of signals we've been getting about the future. Are we prepared to listen?

Cats in a box, redux
   Joy on the left and Hemingway have yet to meet a box they did not like.
 A box from a recent shopping outing and left in the garage was a place they needed to be, despite the bulging of the seams.
   At least they've learned to share.

    See you down the trail.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Out on a Limb

    He said it was a true liberal's dilemma.
My friend was miffed that he found himself in league with Ted Cruz.
     "Hate to say it, but the idiot's right. Mitch McConnell is a liar."
    If you missed it, the right wing ideologue called his Senate leader a liar. That set off fireworks in the clubby old boy, old girl parlor. Republican Senators railed at Cruz for his lack of decorum and civility.
     "That's the other thing about this. As bought and paid for as most of the Senate is, I like the pretense of civility, you know, "as my honorable friend from the great state of…." and etc. Cruz is just a cur dog cretin, but McConnell is a lying son of a bitch, among other things."
     I told him he wasn't damned by association, being in alliance with both Cruz and Republican defenders. He should enjoy the show. Between Cruz and Trump the GOP is getting taken through the sawdust of the side show tents. Historic establishment Republicans are likely spinning in their graves while living traditional GOPers may be seeking identity change. 
    I had my first Hell's Angels sighting the other day. It was a large public venue and in came a couple of fellows flying the colors.

    I was honestly terrified of the Hells Angels when I read of them as a high school kid. Their exploits of taking over little towns or running drug rings were no doubt amplified by movies but as a reporter a few years later I learned some of these motorcycle gangs are truly criminal gangs.
    I'm not saying these two gentlemen are anything but law-abiding and tax paying citizens who even volunteer at their church thrift shop, but seeing their famous logo stirred alive an old memory.
    The Monkey Brothers, Steverino and Dave, lived just around the corner. Monkey was not their surname but it was what all of the neighbors called them, even the vintage, proper, diminutive widow Mrs Picquaneou. Their heads were an interesting shape to say the least.  And maybe it was because they went through life being called Monkey Brothers they copped the tough guy, bully boy attitude. Dave was more passive, but older and bigger. Wiry Steverino spent his time spitting through his teeth, chewing gum or tobacco and making fists, if he wasn't pushing you, shoving you, knocking you in the back of the head or kicking over your bike.  Maybe because they lived so close, and their mother could speak to mine across the alley as they hung out wash, Steverino left my younger but bigger brother alone and gnawed at me only on rare occasions, however-
    When we went to the junior high school on the edge of the downtown, the Monkeys made friends with the Dork. They called him that, I certainly did not. He was huge for his age, and as we used to say in those days, a little slow. His upper lip hung over his jaw and it began to twitch when he was ready to "smash yer face," as I learned the hard way.
     Steverino and I were the same age and competitive ball players.  When I made the basketball team and he did not, he must have commissioned the Dork to kill me, one smashed face at a time.  
     I walked to school with a friend, Bill Paris. Bill was a good guy, a little too small for basketball but a great second baseman. A couple of times as we got to the alley where the Dork was standing by to "smash yer face" Bill tried to jump in and pull the big guy away, only to be tossed aside where Steverino started pumping away with his fists and spitting in his face. I was starting to get stomach aches thinking about having to get to school and past the face smashing. Basketball season was a blessing because we practiced after school and the Monkey Brothers and the Dork had gone their separate ways by the time I was walking home.
     I had a paper route in the same general area so some days after school I would detour to my route and collect. I was starting to feel better about things until the Dork and Steverino began laying in wait on the way to school. Two days in a row and my buddy Bill is also getting hammered and we show up at school, mussed, banged up and ashamed.
      I digress for a moment to tell you Bill had an older brother also named Dave. He was a high school guy, handsome, a letterman and popular.  He was a kind of neighborhood role model and Bill and I were embarrassed that he might learn we were getting our faces smashed and butts kicked.  
      OK, day three and I see the Dork coming out of the alley and Steverino coming at me to shove me into the Dork, when out of no where a high school letter jacket blurs into the scene and the Dork is up against a wall, his jaw being squeezed with a finger pointed in his eye. It's Dave who shoves the Dork to the ground and grabs Steverino by the back of the neck and lifts him off the ground. He tells the sprawling Dork and the shaking Monkey Brother that if they as much as say anything to his brother Bill and his friend Tom, he would be back to finish them off.
     I never saw much of the Dork after that. And Steverino seemed to go out of his way to avoid any contact. And our great Defender became a hero.  I thought about him the other evening when I saw those leather vests.
Lana has raised a couple of giant sunflowers this year…. 
and this one reminds me a bit of the Dork.

  See you down the trail.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015



   We had an opportunity to study the great expressions of Willie Nelson as he played Vina Robles in Paso Robles. He still knocks 'em down, back to back in a rollicking great show.  

    His legendary guitar shows the miles. Imagine the stories it could tell.

   She and Union Station continue to make great music. Her voice is magnificent.

    The extraordinary Jerry Douglas gave proof of why he is called a virtuoso.  
   Lana met Gregory Peck at Goldbatts Department store in Chicago as he toured the country for the release of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Wonder what he would make of the Atticus Finch as portrayed in Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman?

   Spotted on a recent hike.  Actually I'm sorry to malign this creature with such a characterization but the resemblance to a particular presidential candidate is astounding.  

 See you down the trail.

Monday, July 20, 2015


    This is no mere pedestrian shot of a rain barrel almost full, no indeed! What we see is evidence of great cosmic oddness and even history.
     A woman who has lived most of her 91 years on the Central California coast says she's never seen anything like it.
     "We've had rain in July but nothing like this. And I never in my life have seen lighting and thunder like that."
     A mid 70 man, a Californian, says he's never seen an electrical storm like it. He stayed up to watch it. In fact, that's been the talk up and down the coast. For many it was a first time ever event.
      We're referring to the storm that moved up from the south and dazzled the Central Coast and scared most of animals in the county. I grew up in Indiana and have witnessed many lighting storms, thunder that shakes a house and sometimes the tornados that are spawned by violent storms. What we saw and heard was in that league.
      Arcs filling the sky over the Santa Lucia range and then rumbling over the slopes and through the valleys. Our cats, Hemingway and Joy were traumatized and could not find a secure enough hiding spot. Poor Hemingway would have burrowed into the wall if he could have. Friends said their border collie actually "picked up" the approaching storm minutes before the first flashes or thunderclaps.
      Fortunately the thunderstorm was accompanied by rain-an odd commodity that is hugely deficit in this fourth year of a drought. We keep getting optimistic predictions for the rain the El Nino may bring this winter, but over an inch of rain in July, in Cambria California?!  Oddness. But we love it and the locals were on the verge of breaking into flip flop splash dash dances up and down the canyons and through the East and then West village and along the ocean bluff board walk. Rain! In July!
   A dry July is more tolerable when the Pacific blue is nearby providing entertainment.  Our friend Diane Norton caught great moments in San Simeon cove as a couple of visitors came calling.
Photo by Diane Norton
San Simeon Cove
Photo by Diane Norton
Photo by Diane Norton
   Meanwhile just down the coast in Cambria a fellow is looking for a smaller specie.

  What a difference a sunny day can make. It was last September, gray and misty when some of the behemoths were in the same San Simeon Cove. It is a great joy to live on the "commuter route" of these sea going mammals.
    See you down the trail.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


  Did you see the photo of all those confederate flags that greeted the President in Oklahoma City? Did you watch the Frontline detailing how Isis is treating women? Have you heard how millions are being spent to drain Lake Mead below the safety line? It's easy to get down on the human race. We make it so easy to disparage ourselves.There is a lot to suggest we're rapidly spiraling down to a specie of swamp dwelling, mouth breathing meatheads pulling back the throttle to our own demise or extinction.  And then…..    
  we do this.  We send a piano size and technology loaded craft on a 9 year 3 Billion mile journey to work for us. What makes this amazing feat more extraordinary is that with only hours to spare the team at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab discovered a vital piece was not operating. They managed a work around and got the New Horizons craft back on task and did so struggling against hours of information delay across billions of miles. Think of that the next time you have trouble programming your phone.  
     Designing, building and managing a project of this nature, spanning a decade, traveling to distant regions we are just learning of and doing it with success is evidence we are more than the stunted intellects we see waving flags, sitting in congress, running for office, running banks, working scams, destroying the planet for profit, forcing repressive beliefs, fighting wars, and on and on. Indeed,we are capable of marvelous, historic, boundary stretching heroic effort, creativity and thought. 
      In the next few months as we see wondrous images from the Kuiper belt and the loads of data and brand new knowledge, I'll be grateful for the keen minds, exploring spirits, extraordinary technology and information interpretation systems. And I'll take this as nod to our better angels who point us toward possibilities, solutions and hope. 

from San Simeon to Cayucos

  See you down the trail.