Thursday, March 31, 2016


close up
Grazing slopes on Turri Road, San Luis Obispo County

    Silly to ask perhaps, but at what point and for what reason does a cow decide to stand or to rest?
   Frequent readers may recall recent photos of this year's fava bean crop, showing great promise. The days of promise have arrived.
     As Lana noted and as memorialized in this 2013 post Romancing the Fava, the Fine Art of the Shuck, it takes a lot of work to get the fava ready for inclusion in a menu. Picking, cracking the pod to shell it and then freeing the morsel from an inner skin. But the flavor is unlike anything else and thus coveted.
     I told Cambria artist and Italian cuisine maven Bruce Marchese, who seemed overly pleased that we had harvested our first batch, I was putting barbed wire and guard dogs around our fava bed.
    My friend Bruce Taylor, who blogs as the Catalyst at Odd Ball Observations, frequently treats and teases his readers with posts of food. Often they are items that he has made or that his beloved SWMBO has created. SWMBO, also known as Judy has delighted Lana and me with delicious dishes for more decades that would be polite to mention.
    Recently Bruce posted about a crispy fried egg. This is not that, but something he may wish to try. It begins skillet life as a fried egg, but at a propitious moment is suddenly scrambled, but only briefly. The white is set and the yolk is only a few moments from still being runny. By the time Mr. Camera arrived to snap the evidence, the yolk had set up a bit more than is desired. If you try it, get to that moment of scramble, then spatula it onto your plate and begin to eat. Leave the camera out of the equation and you'll have yolk that is that special exquisite place between solid and liquid. If you like that sort of thing.


      Though I do not see eye to eye with David Brooks on some policy questions I think he is a thoughtful essayist. I find agreement with much of what he writes about ethics and philosophy. I urge you to read this piece on the sexual politics of 2016.
     It is my belief that all are welcome in the American political rumble, even those with views I deplore. However people are responsible and accountable for their behavior. That means of course that voters should be thoughtful and even studied. That is not the case too often. We acknowledge it with the identification of LOW INFORMATION VOTER. Regardless, candidates are still liable for what they say, do, advocate and for the effect they have.
      I suspect some of you are offended by the images above but as I follow Trump and his artful manipulation of the media and his use of propaganda techniques, and read again his racist, sexist, ethnocentric remarks and see a void when it comes to specific policy objectives, other than building a wall, and see his bullying and bellicose manner I am reminded of history. So I've spent time reading about Germany from the end of WWI, the rise of Nazism, Adolph Hitler's oratory, the consolidation of the workers movement, the outrageous beer hall putsch, the writing of Mein Kampf, the growth of the Nazi party and all that followed.  Of course there many differences and circumstances.  But it is the similarities that worry me.
     Here we are when conservatives and liberal are both surprised and even outraged by Donald Trump's ascent. His own party is worried sick. Pundits, commentators and analysts are surprised his quest for the Presidency is real. Donald Trump is not Adolph Hitler nor is he a Nazi. But the similarities should worry us all.

     See you down the trail.

Monday, March 28, 2016


"The death of dogma is the birth of reality."
Immanuel Kant, Philosopher

Passport Tenacity
      This is a great planet to travel, if it weren't for a class of human being, the damned trouble makers-zealots and maniacs.
      That suicidal terrorists can strike is something to weigh as travel plans are made, but we hear more frequently "we can't change how we live or they win."
        Heroism can be mustered up in small ways, like courage to live undaunted. Living unfettered of worry, fear and paranoia is no small thing when we do it together. Fearlessness and stoutheartedness are powerful responses.Valor can be an attitude, too. Refusing to dwell on the what if, frees us. After all, it is our freedom the zealots and maniacs target. Determination and spirit can make us gallant to live as we wish, to live free. 

"The tragedy of man is what dies inside him while he still lives.
Reverence for life is the highest court of appeal."
Albert Schweitzer, Doctor, philosopher, humanitarian

Can you see me?
   Joy on a romp in our paperbark tree. Almost hidden.
    Ooops! Busted!

    See you down the trail.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


    Looking at nature has become my lead antidote when news like that of Brussels rips the fabric of civilization. Heart break and mourning struggles against a sense of anger that fuels a desire for revenge. Isis must be destroyed, but there is little I can do, here. Sages tell us peace starts with our self. If not solace, if not reigning peace, at least a glimpse of that in the abundant resurrection of spring life. It helps. 
          I'll be glad to return to Cuba. It will change, now that we are warming our relationship with the Island. Eventually it will be painted, rebuilt, refurbished and brought into the 21st Century. 
      The Cuba of Hemingway was an exotic brew of colonial aftermath and Caribbean passion but it was changed by the money of those who went to party, becoming a storied and sensual playground. After the revolution the Island fell into a prismatic melancholy, tattered and even rejected but still vibrant, alluring and intoxicating. Ghosts of the grand elegance and shadows of revolution curled like opposing shapes, unhappy companions, blown by trade winds down the decaying boulevards past crumbling mansions where squatters claimed grandeur and made their own joy. Music in alleys, dancing on stoops, laundry like flags on balconies, old cars Mad Max like, restaurants in homes, buildings falling into piles, areas of blackouts, festival spirit and poor but happy people. That is the Cuba I will remember and long to see again. But it will morph. 
      Obama's visit is the flipped switch that will now begin to 
return modernity, tourism and business. The forbidden jewel will be accessible again and that special, unique place trapped between diplomatic war and its inherent desire to make merry will begin to disappear. The new Cuba will shine no doubt and perhaps in ways like before the revolution. But that Island stuck between Castro's rise, Hemingway's departure and Obama's arrival will shrink away. That is the Cuba I love.
       Links to previous posts from the Cuba File.

The Cuba File Archive

    Once these older boys were part of a creative factory that changed radio and influenced television, advertising and promotion.
     These fellows are part of Jim's team. From the left, Mike Griffin, Bob Christy, Jim Hilliard, this blogger, George Johns. Hilliard began as a young radio star who ended up a broadcasting mogul and business genius. He had that genius and ability to inspire when he assembled a team in the late 60's that created new forms of modern radio. We had fun and  made it up as we went along. Recently we gathered in Cambria. For some of us it was our first time together in almost 40 years. Wow!  Did the stories and memories flow.
      It would sound like tooting our horn to detail the accomplishment and impact of that Fairbanks Broadcasting team. We just did it and back then kept moving on to the next goal. Now with benefit of hindsight, the record gives us a sense of pride. But more important was the warmth of old friendships and simply being together again. The old National PD, George put it together. He can still format winners and Jim can still lead us over the next hill. Winners, willing to pay the price.

     See you down the trail.

Monday, March 21, 2016


   Lone chimneys dot California wilderness and mountain areas. Sentries, guarding the past of what was once a place of life and settlement they are also powerful testament to enduring. Some things last and remain. So it is with life and human legacy.
   The Detroit Free Press said it was his "most impressive moment after the worst loss," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in tears, voice cracking after his highly ranked Spartans lost to little Middle Tennessee State. One of his key players Denzel Valentine said it had been his job to carry a team but he let them down and that's when a tearful Izzo reached out to touch the neck of an obviously hurting kid. Tom Izzo is one of the real and genuine guys in big time college coaching. Of course he was disappointed in the team's play and their loss but he was more concerned, even compassionate about how much it hurt his kids.
     Chris Mack coach of Xavier that lost on a last second shot  was interviewed live after trying to console his highly ranked team. He emerged solemn and shaken and was asked what it was like. He said, "that is a tough locker room right now, really hurting."
     There were other such moments as the NCAA tournament  played down to the Sweet 16. Even the professional analysts, Clark Kellogg, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley were moved by the emotion, especially the Izzo comments and concern. Some may poo poo the emotions but one needs to remember despite their size and skill, they are still  really kids, many in their teens and most will never go on to play professional ball, so a tourney loss is the end of a dream and the ruin of hope. A coach, a good coach, cares about that as well. And so it is healthy, I think, to see a man who has drilled and trained an athlete, to respond to the kid, or young man with concern and compassion at one of the worst moments of their young life. And if tears flow, that's not only human, real and caring, it is also manly. Real man, manly!
     It didn't take long for most of tennis and much of the media world to fire back at Raymond Moore. He is the now besieged CEO of the Indiana Wells Tennis Garden and BNP Paribas tournament, one of the prestige venues in the world.
      Players, commentators, journalists and fans heaped scorn on Moore for his comment, on the day of the Championship Finals, that women tennis players had ridden the coat tails of men and that women players should go down on their knees to thank players like Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.  
      Even if that was true, and it is not, it certainly is not wise to make such a sexist and outrageous comment to anyone, especially the media. Patrick McEnroe quickly said Moore should resign. Serena Williams and others have called the comments offensive. 
       I have not seen marketing studies to verify it but my hunch is the women professionals are every bit as much a box office draw as men. The top ranked women, like their male counterparts are millionaires from prize money and endorsements. 
       Oracle mogul Larry Ellison who owns the complex and tourney is expected to have the last word on Moore's unfortunate comments.
   We caught this lovely scene and sound as we drove home from dinner in Cambria.
      Someone hired Voces Tapatias Mariachi to serenade those living in this apartment just off Main Street.
   It was a lovely pre sunset desert.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016


   Stretches of the Pacific Coast in central California are breathtakingly rugged.
  And there are stretches that break from jagged to sand. About 30 years ago a colony of elephant seals migrated to one of those sandy expanses north of San Simeon and this late in the "season" those who remain behind are a few adult males, a lot of juveniles and those recently born. They share a habit-napping. Soon they'll depart for their solo journeys north. Males to Alaska and females to Canada for the eating  season. Once they've had their fill they will return for birthing, mating and more napping.

    Sunshine Week is observed by what is left of America's Newspapers. It has been a time to reflect on the public's right to know including openness and access to public records. This year essays and articles have explored the First Amendment in light of new communications technology.
    Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president for news at McClatchy wrote an especially thoughtful piece which you can read here, courtesy of the American Society of News Editors.
    The Apple - FBI issue is undergirded by our first freedom amendment. I wonder when we will confront whether artificial intelligence is also entitled to our full constitutional rights, especially as regards freedom of speech and freedom of the press. That day is coming, but in the meantime there are more mundane questions about whether advertising is covered by the First. Corporations are trying to find shelter there.
     As political correctness and what some call our new social media activated "shame culture" continue to erode our skill of reason, what happens to freedom of speech? Should a professor not raise a controversial concept in fear of perpetuating a "micro aggression?" What does that say about academic freedom? Can Texas school boards get away with eliminating slavery from their texts teaching of the civil war?  Is a computer generated search of information covered by the first freedoms? Thorny issues and as Gyllenhaal points out those who have stood up for the first amendment in the last 200 years have been news papers, news groups and journalists. In 2016 those groups are shrinking and loosing influence while tech companies and social media are gaining power and users. They do not have the same raisons d'etre or mission as a news organization. Their values may not be founded on the First Amendment. Ultimately it is the role and even responsibility of citizens to know, understand and act wisely about these matters. Sunshine week is a time to let a little light into your brain.

   The formation of pods is a good thing. A first harvest can not be too far off and that means prepping one of my favorite dishes; orecchiette pasta, browned sausage, sautéed favas in the appropriate seasoning, grated parma-reggiano and topped a dollop of creme fraiche.

    Be of good cheer.
    See you down the trail.

Monday, March 14, 2016


 Courtesy of Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Indianapolis
Vonnegut in his writing studio
Courtesy of Henry Miller Library Big Sur
Miller in his writing studio 
     Intriguing as they are these images cannot begin to capture the depth of thought, soul searching, intellectual ardor, soaring imagination and the just plan hard work of writing.
     Words matter. They build our world; hope, love, peace, war, inspiration, desperation, life, death.
      I can't decide if many of the current crop of presidential candidates are lazy and refuse to think deeply and consider the words they use or if they are specimens of a declining intellect. Donald Trump is coarse, vulgar, impulsive, childish, mean spirited and a braggart. He is also the leading Republican in America.
     Journalist Ezra Klein tweeted recently "Violence is scary. But violence-as-ideology is terrifying. And that's where Trumps campaign has gone."
      It will be telling but not surprising if violence continues to hound the Trump campaign. His tone has been violent and provocative. He advocates violence even actions that would put the US outside the Geneva Accords. He appeals to racists, neo-nazis and some of his supporters have been photographed giving a Hitler style salute.
      We've seen a few Republicans begin to move toward Trump as others become apologists. It is beyond me to know how any one of intelligence can condone or support Trump, regardless of how fed up with conventional politics they may be.
      While analysts and pundits track the Trump ascendancy to the recent behavior of the Republican party arguing he is the logical result of their coddling of kooky fringe elements, lack of constructive proposals, naked political obstructionism, denigration of a federal government, poor choice of leadership in congress and other legislative sins, I want to put blame elsewhere, as well.
     Political media. The proliferation of saturation coverage has brought us to the age of a crowded set where political operatives of dubious experience and background shout and yammer while another crowded desk of political journalists weigh in with their own interpretations. Everyone talking, nobody listening. Each with their own "expertise" or take. Contrast that to time when political reporters spent more time asking questions and digging than pontificating. 
     A 24 hour news cycle fills time and space. But the tone of political discourse has continued to devolve. It is verbal combat and spew.
     I wonder how a Lawrence Spivak, Bill Monroe, Marvin Kalb, Herb Kaplow, Nancy Dickerson, Cassie Mackin, Bob Clark, Doug Kiker, Tom Petit, Howard K. Smith, Sam Donaldson, Sander Vanocur, Carol Simpson, John Chancellor, David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and etc, etc would handle a Trump, or a Cruz.  Previous generations of journalists would  not permit what has been said to go unchecked, unchallenged and not confronted for the sake of civility and decency. 
     We joke that Trump is good for ratings and so the hustler is allowed to insult, demean, embarrass, rant and in general lower the relative decorum of public discussion and no one calls him out, until now. It appears protesters are doing just that.
     The other dynamic is how anger and frustration with a broken system-entitled professional politicians enjoying the perks of office while doing little to benefit the public-has welled up to such a point where just being angry is more important than having ideas. The words we hear are anger. The words we don't hear are constructive ideas or solutions. It takes little thought to rant and rave. It requires intellect to craft workable plans and find a way forward. 
     Once there were gatekeepers. Today our future may well be in the hands of low information; low information candidates, low information voters, low brow culture and low performers.
      It is as though the D students have taken over political operations and even news sets. 
There is beauty in this season, the crop of fava beans Lana has cultivated.

      Good things are coming.

      See you down the trail.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


    About 3:30 AM Monday Lana said it sounded like something fell over in the garage. I mumbled groggily about the cats and went back to sleep.  A few hours later I spotted this. What she heard falling was the power pole with PG&E, Charter and AT&T lines. 
      We were back in the old west and stranded. We were unable to leave our driveway, even on foot. The road was closed as well. 
    Some 12 hours later a PG&E crew that had been following the storm damage down the coast showed up and began the first step of liberation, cutting the lines across the drive and removing the downed pole. 

    The drama heightened. 
    Fortunately our gas fireplace and gas range permitted us some heat and the opportunity to prepare warm food as the power remained off into the night. We read by lantern. I dug out my shortwave radio that had been my steady companion on assignments when I was off the grid and in the wilderness or in areas of conflict.
    The already tired PG&E crew was surprised to learn a pole was down. Their assignment said lines in trees. None the less they labored on until 4:00 AM Tuesday and after about 24 hours we had a new pole and power again.

   But as one day lead to another and to another and to another we were without those essentials of life-the internet, cable tv and phones.  But the high drama continued

   The shot below is of one of my new heroes. Evan was the cable tech who put us back into modernity. He and a delightful local Charter employee Harmony are stars on this street. Neighbors compared notes as we chatted around our drive ways. Trying to speak to a human, let alone a local person over the course of 3 days gave us plenty to talk about. The tech calls were frequently frustrating, useless and it seems we never got a straight answer. When? That is all we wanted to know. Just give us an idea, a guesstimate, tell us something!  Instead we sometimes heard, "we have no report of an outage in your area," a not particularly soothing response, or "turn on your television and tell me what you see." What did they not understand about "my cable is in a mud puddle!?" To be sure there were a few helpful and sympathetic types, but it was not until I was able to speak with Harmony that we finally got straight and knowledgable answers.
   This adventure leaves me with a couple of new wonderments.
       As one of the Charter guys said of an AT&T man who was in the area-he's not a happy guy. Nor were the Charter guys who there a couple of days ago.  Cut lines like these are still
     stringing through the area. When the PG&E crews arrived a lot of lines got cut and tossed. So I wonder why there isn't some courtesy or first response protocol that would enable these utilities to watch out for each others back. Shouldn't/couldn't there be a kind of combined mutual protection? There's a lot of useless hardware, cable, lines and etc. Ever the Scot, I see this and calculate loss that translates as increased costs.

    Another wonderment is why can't businesses and utilities  respond with greater facility when it comes to keeping customers informed. PG&E has an exemplary service of texting or calling with frequent updates so even though you may be in the dark, you are not in the dark about where the recovery is. 

   So with lots of reading caught up on we can now rejoin the 21st Century just in time for the beginning of March Madness!

    See you down the trail.