Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Happy and Furry New Year

To celebrate in style, I present a review of the cats who welcomed me into their homes on my recently completed road trip.

Midnight & Socks - Weed, CA.
Alley - Shakopee, MN
'You Crazy Cat' - Hinckley, OH

KC - the new kitten in Florida

Little Bit - the even newer arrival

Gus & Gordo - Austin, TX

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reflections from My Window

Regular readers know I live with a truly amazing view out my windows on the San Francisco Bay. Previous photographic evidence may be found and fondly remembered here, here, here, here, and, of course, here.

But there is also a neighborhood below my view. Just in the last week I have had several quixotic experiences through my personal looking glass. First came the new municipal lighting. Berkeley changed out all the old sodium street lights with LED canisters. The savings in electricity apparently was well worth retrofitting the entire city. Good for the earth but a side benefit is that all of the LED illumination is direct downward to the street. Up here on the eight floor it is suddenly dark at night. No, not out in the forest dark, but much less bright than before.

I came home christmas day to find a colony, not a flock, of seagulls wheeling around outside my window. Being close to the Bay, it's not uncommon to see gulls in the sky but this was at least twenty birds. They were all engaged in some swirling flight pattern over the adjacent buildings. Since I live in the tallest structure in the neighborhood, the aerial display was both above and below my floor. The contra flight went on for fifteen or twenty minutes before a loud cacophony of squawks and cries heralded a disbanding. The colony flew off in all directions.

Brief internet research turned up no explanation for the behavior.

Directly below my windows, eight floors down are two parking spaces, designated for contractors and/or maintenance staff. Early last week a thirty foot dumpster was delivered to that space. One of the units in the building is being emptied of old furnishings prior to being completely remodeled. The bin is half full of old furniture and detritus of someone's life. This next week deconstruction refuse will fill it to the brim.

But work slowed over the holiday week, which means that the discarded stuff would be picked over by any number of scavengers, urban miners and street people. A few days ago, I heard a loud conversation and looked down to see that one such scrounger had been surprised to find an obviously homeless man nested in one end of the dumpster. He had built quite a cozy space with discarded chair cushions for his bed and the chairs as windbreaks. He had a meal from KFC and then settled in for a long day nap.

A hour or so later, I was down in the garage and dropped him a twenty with wishes for his new year being more stable. He thanked me, our brief interaction finished.

Two nights later, I was reading and heard a shout and a thump. Now my building is all concrete, I hear nearly nothing from neighbors above or below. So hearing the noise was unusual. The sound was metallic, heavy metal even. I thought of the dumpster but at night the area is pitch black. From eight floors up I could see nothing. I watched and waited but still not a sound, until I started to slid the window shut -- then there was a low moan.

Shoes, jacket, keys and a flashlight, I went down. Different guy. Disoriented, couldn't tell if it was his normal state -- off his meds or perhaps the side effect of the lump on his forehead. Either way, I offered to drive him over the the ER. He declined. I asked him if he could stand up. He did and fell back into the trash. "Maybe I should go to the clinic," he said.

Don't know where the clinic is but there's a hospital ER three blocks away. I got us there and got him inside. He gave terse, rambling answers to the nurse at the desk. The second in charge gave me a sign to step aside and deliver my side of the story.

They took him right in, it could have been the six inch knob on his forehead or not, but they were going to find out. As soon as he disappeared into the treatment area, the security guard asked me to move my car out of the entrance lane.

"Go home," the nurse told me, "we'll keep him for observation until morning. You've done your holiday good deed. Go back to your book."

How did she know I was reading?

-pictures from Pinterest

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wish I was back in Florida . . .

On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prancer and VIXEN
On Comet, On CUPID, On Donner and Blitzen

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Long and Winding Road

With apologies to my several New Mexico, desert and Los Angeles friends, I got road weary and certain pressing personal items beckoned to me for an early return to Berkeley. I'm back in the Bay Area. Holiday order placed with Whole Foods. Friends here to be visited and many, many, so many words to write.

Many thanks to those who put me up in places all over the Midwest, South and Southwest. Purrs and pets to all the felines who welcomed me, official pictorial recognition is coming.

Again, apologies to my missed friends, hope to see you all soon.

Total trip Sept. 8 to Dec. 15th - 6700 miles

photo credit: National Geographic

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Spreadsheet Sex

While I'm tempted to say -- "Now I've seen it all." I know better, we ain't seen nothin' yet. But this is one hell of a giant leap into the strange and prurient arena.

The Spreadsheet App measures several aspects of sexual performance. You load the app to your smart phone and then toss it on the bed next to where you plan to do the dirty deed.

The app measures duration of event, total number of thrusts and decibel peak. Screamer, you know you are a screamer. For any ladies in my immediate future -- no, I do not have the app. For everyone else out there in the wide world of sexual experience. Be very careful when your lover tosses his or her phone on the pillow, your performance might well be posted on the internet.

I mean we all have off nights . . .

But what if you're sleeping alone you ask. Well, there's an app for that too! I mean doesn't everyone need their personal sleep score . . .

Addendum: are there even stranger sex apps out there? You bet, take a look, if you dare.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Flight Behavior - Book Review

Another audio road trip book review. This time I listened outside of my normal comfort zone. Barbara Kingsolver is not my type of author and her subject matter is not in my wheelhouse either, but the reviews were good and I took a shot.

One reading experience I truly enjoy is when the lead character is very introspective, that is certainly true of Flight Behavior. Set in the hills of Carolina among "regular folk," I found the interactions between the various characters to be compelling. The story itself around separation, bad decisions and monarch butterflies was more than enough to hold my interest.

I found the opening chapter to be completely misleading and therefore a truly inventive introduction to the work. My only criticism is that after a wonderful story the author had to go to a big Ta-Dah ending. It was rushed and just too over the top to fit with the rest of the story. She had it nailed just a scene or two earlier but had to go for a wee bit more.

In any case, I give it a recommended for audio time-distortion while on the road. Next CD launches when I leave Texas for parts even further West.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Austin, Texas

After a most successful gaming weekend in Biloxi, the trek has moved further west to Austin. I have a few friends to visit here in Texas. Starting first with a stay here at Amy & Eric's place. Gordo and Gus pictured above are also in residence, though Gordo has yet to accept my presence.

For the poker boyz, a final trip report. That's me in my gaming hoodie about to take out the third place player on the way to a two-way chop of the PLO event.

Road Trip to date: 5,925 miles

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Biloxi, Mississippi

The little grey Cube has at long last turned West.

On the way from Florida to Texas and eventually California; I just had to stop in Biloxi, Mississippi to see my red-neck, libertarian, Tennessee fanatic and poker room boss extraodinaire -- Mr. Johnny Grooms.

A few of my poker buddies have joined me for a weekend of poker, war stories and debonairs. For those familiar with skill game which is poker, our report is as follows: bubble, suck-out, bubble, bad beat, asshat, bad beat.

Total Road Trip to date: 5,350 miles

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Villages at a Month (with pictures)

Corey, Robin and grey kitten

Had a Happy Gobble with niece Robin and her betrothed Corey. They drove up on Friday from Sarasota to share a bird and a porcine hip with Dan, Sue, me and the two kittens. This week will see my farewell to The Villages and a move to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi for some poker with my buddies.

an ornament in a pear palm tree

Yesterday was holiday decoration day, accompanied by Mimosas and generalized frivolity. Dan and I took to the exterior aggrandizement, which included my adding accents to the indigenous flora.

Dan, Sue and aforementioned kitten

My final words on The Villages of Florida for this trip are: 'I will be back.' I enjoyed the quality time with Dan and Sue, plus this is a very interesting place. Hopefully, next trip my health will allowed a more participatory engagement with all The Villages have to offer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Harry in Orlando

Yes, the late middle-aged clan made a trip to Orlando to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The reviews couldn't be more different. The two Universal parks each have a Potter attraction. Hogsweade is interesting, architecturally fun and has five roller coaster type rides. Not being 'ride people' we were done in about an hour. Then we took the Hogswart Express to Diagon Alley in the other park for a completely different experience.

Dragon Alley is large, has lots of shops and great visuals. The dragon on top of Gringotts Bank spews fire every few minutes. The butter beer was -- well butter beer. You can purchase wands, robes, quidditch equipment and uniforms all at outrageous prices.

If you're going, do as we did, see Hogsmeade first then train over to Diagon Alley. Reviewing at least the first two films (or books) will completely reimmerse you in all the Potter lore you need to enjoy your visit.

Insider tip: we chose the coldest day we could find, a brisk 50-55 degrees, which meant the crowds were smaller by at least half. If you go mid-summer or around the holidays; well I'm very sorry.

One final warning, if you have resisted the rides at Hogsmeade do not, repeat do not make the mistake of taking your final ride opportunity at Gringotts. We saw several slightly green faces leaving that ride. Do take the tour of Gringotts (great goblins) and the Castle just take the last exit before boarding the stomach wrenching rides.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Villages -- An Update

Three weeks into my adventures in Leisureville. I have some semi-insider observations:

If you plan to move here or to any other 'exclusive community' you should try a vacation rental first. They all have rental units available for a week or a month. Most of the current residents did exactly that and therefore understood what the community they were getting into was all about. Almost to a person they love living here.

The few, who are unhappy and will or have moved away, they didn't give The Villages a good trial run. If I haven't been clear before, this is a very different lifestyle. Several of the locals I've met had just come back from a Caribbean cruise. They all said something like: "It was like living in The Villages but on the ocean." This really is permanent resort living.

Yes, you can get around nearly the entire community on a golf cart. There are over 100 miles of paved golf cart paths. Population now hovers at around 108,000+ over a 50% increase since the 2010 census. About 20 people move into The Villages every day of the year. There are new subdivisions and more golf courses being built. For the golf nuts, there are currently 540 holes with build-out projections at 621 holes, the largest concentration of greens in the world.

As for the singles scene, it does exist but in truth the majority of the residents are couples. Sure they might spend their days at different activities, pools, clubs and golf courses but in the evening they tend to show up to happy hour together.

Is The Villages for everyone? Absolutely not. For like minded individuals this really can be paradise, but you had best be sure this is your cup of tea or glass of wine because this is definitely not for everyone. Might I repeat -- definitely not (but then again).

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Look away if you are a dog person. My brother and sister-in-law adopted the frantic KC just a few weeks ago. That's her with the blue ball.

This past week, we went to the Cat Protection Society in Eustis, Florida to get her a playmate. Now they have a two kitten household, KC and the new kitten on the block currently referred to as "the little one" or "gray kitty" or "Ouch! Don't bite!".

"the little gray one"

Yes, there were two cats in the frame when I took the picture.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Correlation or Cause?

What issue do these five groups have in common?

1) Police Unions
2) Private Prisons Corporations
3) Alcohol and Beer Companies
4) Pharmaceutical Corporations
5) Prison Guard Unions
Hint: They are all opposed to a current reform issue favored by a majority of U.S. citizens.
Yes, indeed it's the legalization of marijuana. Too much federal drug enforcement money flows to police departments. Too many prisoners locked up for minor drug offenses. In fact, we wouldn't need a single 'private prison' if pot were legal. Alcohol and Beer -- Duh! 
But the truly sickest opposition comes from the pharmaceutical industry. If cheap pot replaced dozens of their high-priced pills what would happen to corporate profits. Never mind that cannabis is safer and more effective than the chemicals being pushed by the corporate drug giants.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Leisureville: A Book (and a lifestyle) Review

"Behind all the gated age-restricted leisure, ersatz architectural nostalgia, and nightly hanky-panky, what I saw in The Villages is a concerted effort by a segment of older Americans to find community--something that in today's turbulent world can be hard to chance upon, particularly for the elderly. Many Villagers simply don't care if they live in an autocratic fantasyland founded on a policy of segregation; they just want a place to call home, a geritopia where they can be comfortable among their peers.

Most of the Villagers I met were blissful--thankful that such a place existed and that they had been lucky enough to find it. Retirement can be a stressful stage of life. There's no script to follow for the decades between giving up work and reaching advanced old age. Private developers such as Webb and Morse are filling that void for some people, peddling a glamorized vision of serene, financially predicable leisure living in segregated resort-like communities. It's a powerful vision that has proved to be very appealing to a sizable segment of aging Americans."

So opens the penultimate chapter of Andrew Blechman's book based mostly on the place where I am staying this month -- The Villages in Central Florida. I strongly recommend the book to anyone who ventures near this blog. If you are a progressive, you really need to inform yourself about what is happening far from your door. If you're conservative, there are a huge flock of like-minded individuals congregating in a land not so far away. And for my very few readers who actually are moderates, this place is fascinating or creepy or both at the same time.

After yesterday's election, one might consider just how far apart the red and blue sides of this country are. The stark contrast is geographically played out here at The Villages. The residents and snow-birds dominate local elections. Republican candidates flock to campaign here, paying homage to the mass of aging, white, conservative voters.

There are so many aspects to this place: political, social, anthropological, even constitutional. Read the book, I promise you will open your eyes a bit wider at what the Boomer generation hath wrought.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Why Would You?

I had a really long and clever rant ready for this space, but after witnessing the vile political ads in nearly every state I have visited, I decided we could all use a break from those talking heads from Washington and other related parts of the unknown universe. None of them seem to come from where any of us actually live our lives. Total disconnect.

So I will leave you this election with my now 42 year old whisper in your ear.

If you again make the choice for the lesser of two evils, you still get evil. Make the leap of faith and vote for a third party candidate.

Saturday, November 01, 2014


I have arrived in Florida and am now living in Leisureville (32162). Of course, I am reading the book and will be anthropologically investigating with intense participant-observer dedication. Reports to follow over the next 30 days. I do recommend the book for an interesting look into what some Baby Boomers are doing with their (our) golden years.

Berkeley to The Villages via Mt. Shasta, Boulder, Shakopee, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Hinckley and overnight stops in between: 4,845 miles.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Road Trip: I-75 -- Locust Grove, Georgia

Streaming ever further into the Deep South, I rest my head tonight just South of Atlanta,Georgia. One more day until I reach my November retreat in Florida.

Today's adventure 415 miles due South.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Road Trip: I-75

Interstate 75 runs 1786 miles from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan nearly to Miami. Fortunately I am only driving 1100 of those miles over the next several days as I shift my location from the fully autumnal environs of Michigan to the sunny, warm welcoming embrace of The Villages in central Florida.

On the wet and soggy road today -- Ann Arbor thru Ohio to Lexington, Kentucky a mere 330 miles

Friday, October 24, 2014

Road Trip: Book Review -- Anathem

For long road trips, I have become a big fan of audio books. Back in Northern California I launched the first of 28 CDs of Neal Stephenson's Anathem. I have several more audio books ready for the next few phases of my sojourn but for now I give Anathem a big thumbs up.

Audio books tend to shorten the driving experience if they engage you at the level you want, need or desire. For me that means a solid storyline that meanders a bit. Short, fast and direct is not what the long road provides, so the stories need to avoid brevity as well. Trust me when I say 28 CDs is not short. I do take breaks for music and once in awhile some crazy ass right-wing radio commentary. But mostly I go with the audio books.

Anathem is science fiction set on another world, which strangely resembles earth. The characters as a whole have the same social and political failings as do we earthlings but Stephenson knows how to tell a tale. All of the side stories keep you moving towards the big finish but nary a once does the true nature of that finish get revealed. Hints, yes. Distractions, plenty.

A great listen for a lengthy road trip.

Monday, October 20, 2014

More Reunion Photos

The gang at the B&B

 Welcome to campus

Hoben Hall on the Quad

 Kalamazoo House B&B

Tom, Tim & Jim

 Pat & me

Stetson Chapel

photos compliments of Tom Matzell

Early Reunion Photos

Yes, there are more to follow as soon as everyone gets home and  the girls photoshop out the ones they don't like.

The weak backs relax after a long day of reunionizing.

photos from Marci Cameron

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Road Trip -- Kalamazoo

This weekend saw the unfolding of one of the ceremonially significant events anchoring this lengthy road trip.

Forty-Fifth College Reunion

Class of '69

pictures to follow . . .

For those not familiar with my Alma Mater -

Road Trip Total: 3750 miles

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Road Trip -- Hinckley, Ohio

 Brother Tim, Brother Jim, Brother Dan

Mini-family reunion in Ohio.

Yes, of course, they have cats.

Adding round trip to Hinckley and back to Ann Arbor -- trip total to date: 3550 miles