Wednesday, May 31, 2006

When News Becomes News

It would appear that the Today Show, NBC’s venerable morning news program has reached the end of an era. The 15-year reign of the presiding morning news show queen, Katie Couric, has come to a close. This is no longer news – the headlines have long since passed. The buzz, the speculation, the breaking news and ultimately the official announcement of the changing of the guard culminated in today’s (or Today’s) obligatory farewell show. Although not an extravaganza of unprecedented proportions… indeed, the stops were not all pulled out, it was a fitting farewell to the perpetually cute and perky Couric.

There is little question as to Couric’s domination of the morning news-show female co-host position. Many would argue that she was instrumental in defining, or at least evolving the role. Whatever personal perception one may have of Couric, it is impossible to ignore the length and breadth of the experience she has acquired during her tenure at the Today Show. How will that experience serve her in her future endeavors at CBS News? Only time will tell.

The next step in her career goes well beyond the hype. She is breaking new ground. She is going where no woman has gone before. Amazing as it seams, 2006 marks the first time a woman will have her own solo weekday anchor chair of a major network news program. That... is news. Indeed, her first lead story very well may be about one Katie Couric smashing through the glass ceiling – entering the heretofore hallowed ground of the network news anchor.

Imagine the irony - Katie reporting on herself, “Good evening and welcome to the CBS Evening News. I’m Katie, ahem, Katherine Couric. Our lead story tonight…” Ok, granted - unless it is an exceedingly slow news day, the “Katie” story would probably not lead. The fact still remains that when she takes that anchor desk, it will be news. Even if she does not do the story herself (likely) someone else will and it will be echoed across all major and minor news outlets alike. The novelty, the pressure, the questioning of her qualifications and her persona as well her ability to “fill some very big shoes” will all be reported, speculated and commented on. Does she have what it takes?

It is always newsworthy when a major network news anchor position changes over. Although perhaps journalists first, at this level they are celebrity in equal measure. Indeed names like Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Tom Brokaw, John Chancellor and Peter Jennings are ubiquitous. There have been some women allowed temporary or peripheral membership into this fraternity as well. Connie Chung, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Elizabeth Vargas are perhaps the most notable. They failed, however, to meet the one requirement that would guarantee lifetime membership: a solo weekday anchor chair.

Couric’s bubbly persona, her perkiness and innocent charm hide a fierce determination and courage that cannot be underestimated. The time for this “equality” is well past, yet the scrutiny that will be leveled against her will be like none before. Every blink of her eye, tilt of her head… her attire, her makeup and a million other details will be analyzed to the nth degree. To some she will be able to do nothing right and for others she will do no wrong. It takes guts to enter this lion’s den. The risks are not insignificant and they are hers alone to bear. The rewards, however, will be shared by all women and as a consequence, all mankind.

It is inevitable that one day, women and men, blacks and whites, gays and straights and all religions (or lack thereof) will be on equal footing. Equal rights, not just in law, but in perception are progressing slowly. There are, however, pivotal moments in which punctuated, rapid change occurs. Katie Couric’s ascension represents one of those moments. Give CBS and Couric credit – this is more than just a business decision.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We're Not Going to Take It!

I just finished polishing up a new post that was not my work at all. Yes, credit was given and I did dress it up with the layout, a picture of the writer, etc., but I did not write the lyrics of the song I posted. It’s a rather dark song about the nature of the human race. Although there is a great deal of profound and prophetic truth in it, I took it down after I read it two or three times - it doesn’t represent how I feel. Not right now anyway. I am far more optimistic and grateful… dare I say, even hopeful, than the post would allude. I did, however, post it on Overflow for those that wish to read it; the words still hold a great deal of relevance.

I have had a feeling of stagnation for the last several days. I wouldn’t necessarily call it boredom, nor would it be accurate to define this sensation as complacency. It’s unusual in that I don’t have anything that is pressing to be done; yet there are things to do. I haven’t been reading the paper or keeping up on the news (much) for two or three days. Perhaps I just needed a break. I know that in a week school will start for the summer session and I will be starting a journalism internship that will not only keep me busy, but quite likely provide me with the most effective motivation possible – a deadline!

So here I am, sitting at my very messy desk, popping the keys on my iBook at 2:50 a.m. I was sound asleep (or so I thought) on the sofa two hours ago – not a care in the world. Ok, that is patently false. I care about an awful lot ranging from the personal (the welfare of my children and their futures) to the global (environmental, societal, and political) and virtually everything in between, not the least of which is the sorry state of my office. Apparently I care about one or more of those things right now, when I should be sleeping.

My perception about writing is that one must answer the call whenever that may be. One of the attractions I have to this profession is the freedom it offers. That freedom, however, comes with a responsibility to indulge the process either when required such as with an assignment or deadline, or when compelled, like now. In all honesty, I was hoping the urge was just to publish something, to put up something new but not necessarily original. Ah, the best laid plans…

I have grave concerns about where the world is heading and perhaps even graver concerns about the direction of this nation. I still consider the United States the greatest nation in history, but I’m afraid it has lost much of its luster in recent years. Some of that is due to circumstance, some due to poor leadership and some is due to arrogance. Unlike so many others, however, I have not lost hope that this nation and the world can re-group and work together. Indeed, I don’t have a feeling of dread or impending doom at all, quite the contrary.

I know that world affairs aren’t looking too good - and for good reason. This is not even close to the first time the world has entered a tumultuous period. In fact, in modern history, the periods are getting shorter, albeit possibly more frequent. Indeed, the differences don’t stop there – one could point to the level of consequence in terms of the environmental, the humanitarian, the prejudicial, or the polarized as being much more extreme - even unparalleled. The presumption is that maybe this time it has gone too far, that this one can’t be pulled back. It’s almost as if the bomb has already been dropped, the trigger has been pulled and there is nothing that can be done.

The following is a comment I posted on Cyberkitten’s blog in regards to a post about Orwellian predictions and the current state of affairs. Part of this same line of reasoning also appeared in a comment I posted on Saur Kraut’s (Saurly Yours) and Michelle’s (Sweet N’ Sour) blog regarding local governmental issues.

I've said this before and I still believe it. This machine that is this country - political, economic, social, etc., exists at the will of the people. It is about as inefficient as one could conceive a system of government to be. It is also so big and complex and multi-faceted that no one person or even a coalition of like-minded egocentric ideologues can bring it down.

The American people are slow to anger and reluctant to rise up, but once riled, there will be no placation. We are approaching critical mass. The mid-term election will be interesting. The First Amendment's guarantees are being more frequently and (pardon the term) liberally applied everyday. The press is coming out of hibernation... people are starting to get interested again.

And we're pissed. We don't want to deal with this crap. We want a responsible, capable and ethical group of representatives to deal with the business of government so that we can attend to our lives. Right now, we have to handle our own affairs while simultaneously keeping a close watch on what our "leaders" are doing. That is because they are not doing the job they have been hired for. They are not working for us.

Change is in the wind. If a few good Democrats can't figure this thing out with the help of a few good Republicans then they’ll all be shown the door. It's happened before and rest assured it will happen again. These bozos are confusing complacency with stupidity, quiet with acquiescence and apathy with approval. Americans are tolerant to a fault, but once riled, we will be on you like white on rice - just ask our commander in chief how that's working for him. And the rude awakening is coming; it is going to show where the power still rests. That a "government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth," -Abraham Lincoln

Although slightly edited from the original, this represents a certain brand of defiant optimism that asserts itself when things start to get sideways. Indeed, it is this spirit of defiance in the face of authority that gives this nation its character. I feel the same can be found in all the peoples of the world – true power ultimately has to reside with the people – they just may not believe it yet. It’s an attitude that sends the warning that at some point, we’re just not going to take it anymore. The last straw is close at hand.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Holiday Well-Wishing

Midway through Memorial Day weekend and all is well so far. This unofficial but traditional start of summer is primed for disaster. What with sobriety check points, vacation planning, family get-togethers and the like, it is little wonder that come Tuesday there will be reports emanating from gossip all the way to national news about the tragic events that unfolded. Ranging from the trivial to the catastrophic, all manner of the manifestations of Murphy’s Law will be told and retold. Some may obtain legendary proportions while others will fade into just another forgettable holiday.

Many well-wishers expressed their cordialities prior the commencement the first three-day weekend of the summer season. They all hoped for a happy Memorial Day and many included the additional caveat that it be a “safe” weekend. The implication is, of course, that additional caution should be exercised. Sage advice indeed, but why should it be necessary? Does this holiday mark the beginning of the “party season” as well? Is it just understood that this class of holidays is inherently more dangerous by nature? Does this heightened security level return to normal after the danger has passed or is it a seasonal phenomenon?

Rhetorical questions mostly. The sad fact is that there are enough intoxicated revelers in all the usual places to grant this and other like holidays its unfortunate but deserved reputation. Although a general harbinger of virtually every summer weekend, the big holiday weekends not only bring out the worst in the worst but also, it seems, the worst in the otherwise responsible and respectful. The regular duty drunks are out in force and the part-timers, the reserves get into the action too.

Perhaps it is pent up frustration of an extended winter - all cooped up inside with no escape in sight. Oh, sure there’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Veterans Day, Presidents Day, MLK Day, Cesar Chavez’s Birthday, etc., etc., but they don’t really count. After all, those holidays didn’t mark the beginning of summer! Maybe it’s the “hot summer days” that compel celebrants to consume enough liquid refreshment to keep their thirsts quenched. Could it be the “heat of the moment” that requires so many “cold ones?”

Regardless, the irresponsibility has done something that was painfully apparent as this weekend approached: The well-wishers’ well wishes now include a warning - to be safe. It’s not like the warning of “drive safely” that some are known for saying every time someone gets behind the wheel. That really is a synonym for goodbye, much the same as “How are you?” is a synonym for hello. Most of the time, we don’t really mean it literally. However, when I was told to have a safe weekend, I didn’t get the feeling that it was just idle conversation.

It’s almost planned, temporary anarchy. The cops are ready, the partiers are ready and the rest of us are “being safe.” There's a veritable feeding frenzy. The emissaries of summer acting with impunity versus the defenders of order deployed en masse. The carnage has already begun as preliminary casualty reports trickle back from the front. By the time the first of the three nights had come to a close, several had already died in this immediate area alone. I guess they didn’t heed that warning well enough – be safe.

Have a great three-day weekend everyone... and a safe one!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Last Sunday, a new blog was born. It made its appearance amid no fanfare, no pomp and no circumstance. No announcements were sent and it entered the blogosphere almost unnoticed. Almost. Now there is a link on my sidebar, but two of those who frequent this space regularly found it before any convenient access had even been established. Its name is “Overflow” and for the immediate future at least, that is exactly what it contains.

On Friday night, I started a project that was equal parts tribute, appreciation and promotion. It was far more work than I ever envisioned but worth every minute. Except for repairing typos and fixing links, it was written in one sitting. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction to recognize those who had recognized me and I wanted the post to enjoy prominence on my blog for at least a couple of days. Early Sunday morning, that plan was in jeopardy of failing.

I woke up early with my mind going a million miles per hour. My head was just chewing on it… I needed some relief. I was not all that thrilled to be up so early on a Sunday morning. Alas, I had to put something – anything - into print. I was soon to discover that it would not be enough. Oh, I got something down all right… some pretty darned good stuff too, but my tolerance has grown since entering the blogosphere. Just seeing the thoughts in print was not doing it anymore – I had to publish it!

Here in lies the problem: I didn’t want to burry my tribute post behind 600 words of Sunday morning revelations. Ok, fine – just save it in draft form for a day or two, no problem. There are two problems with that plan: First is that it was day-of-the-week specific. In other words, it really had to be posted on a Sunday morning. Second, there would always be something more current to concentrate on. The chances of the post never getting published were very good. This was a dilemma that begged for a solution.

I have toyed with the idea of introducing a second blog from time to time. I thought it could be a different format or “side” of me and I thought about just making it “The 25 Year Plan II.” At the moment, it is the latter. Overflow is a place to put stuff that comes at times when I may not necessarily be ready for it. I can call upon the creative process pretty much on demand, but it also has a way demanding attention on its own, often at the most inconvenient times. Overflow gives me a place to put these posts instead of overloading just one blog with too many posts.

For now Overflow is just a “plane Jane” blog. With nothing fancier than perhaps a hit counter for now (suggestions?), this blog will give those wanting more (you poor deluded souls!) a place to get it and me a place to keep the outflow... um, flowing. Overflow will be the subordinate member of the family for the foreseeable future, but who knows? It could grow and evolve into a blog with just as distinct a personality as its big brother. Before long it could be blazing new trails, breaking new ground and making its name, no longer obscured by the shadow of its older sibling. It could be another of my alter egos - altered.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Debaters and Instigators...

This space, in a very brief period of time, has come to mean an awful lot to me. Obviously it is not the binary bits of data that represent the characters that form the words to create the sentences and so on. It is not even so much the translation of those symbols into thoughts and ideas. It is the human interaction – the meeting of the minds in a medium so new that it barely registers on the radar of human history. The relationships, the concurrence and dissention, indeed even the friendships can be just as real as if a physical interaction were present.

In some respects, it is an even purer medium than other forms of communication. It is based in the clarity of words and words alone. The ancillary distractions of gender, appearance, ethnicity, religion, nationality, even tone of voice are secondary to the written words. In fact, it is most often the case that these other characteristics can only be known through what is written, if at all. Although my challenge is to convey some kind of tone or attitude clearly through only words, when successful there is little doubt as to what I am actually saying.

The other side of that coin, and all to often a very ugly side, is that many will use the anonymity of the black-and-white to hide their agenda. Their true intentions can be hidden by lying about certain key characteristics such as age and gender to take advantage of the innocent, the naïve or the vulnerable. Sexual predators exploit children, the elderly are taken in by con artists and most everyone runs the risk of identity theft. The medium, however, does not create these people – these people exploit the medium as they would anything else.

My affection for the blogosphere has not been tarnished by these ne’re-do-wells . Sure they do drift into this little corner of cyber space with irregular frequency, but they don’t stick around long. Perhaps they are outclassed by this and other blogs in the neighborhood; blogs that have owners who don’t react in the knee-jerk manner that so many under-informed members of the human race do. Maybe the unflappable opinions only appear static to those who can’t present a cogent argument. Could it be that for some it doesn’t matter how the game is played, that it is only winning that counts?

I am attracted to reason. The blogs I read and visit regularly are written by those who possess a couple of qualities that I was beginning to think had gone the way of the dinosaur. Being of a particular religion or ideology are not among the requirements. In fact, I would be hard pressed to label – consistently - anyone of them. They all have respect for other's opinions and they all are civil. Even when debating a position in which the participants are diametrically opposed to one another, there is no animosity when it’s over. There are no winners. There are no losers. What there is 99% of the time is the respect earned through measured, reasoned and responsible debate.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Good Guys and Bad Guys

Vice President Dick Cheney came to town yesterday. Yes indeed, the VP himself. Motorcade, closed streets, protestors… all the pomp and circumstance one would expect of such a high level visitor. On a very personal note, I wish he had consulted with me first. It just so happened that I had an appointment in downtown Sacramento at the very same time he came rolling through. I knew he was coming… everyone did; I just didn’t know where, exactly. As it turned out, luck was on my side and the inconvenience I suffered was negligible. And the spectacle was worth it – sort of.

I have been in the immediate vicinity of a high level state visit in the past. I saw Air Force One fly into NAS Moffet Field and the subsequent motorcade when President Clinton visited the Silicon Valley during his presidency. That is not the spectacle that I’m talking about. I have seen a great many protests in the past; many seem to attract the same crowds. These protesters, however, were somewhat different. It might have been that I was “in disguise” or perhaps the general disposition of those protesting has become totally intolerant, or maybe I still retained some degree of naïveté, but I came away with a foul taste in my mouth. And… wondering which side I’m on.

I am no fan of this administration. I don’t think it’s competent and I don’t think it’s intelligent. Mistakes have been huge. However, for the most part, I don’t feel that the administration is necessarily “corrupt.” I don’t think they are intentionally trying to harm anyone. I believe that they believe they’re acting in the nation’s best interest. I think there are major issues that have, at their core, an egocentric view of the world that doesn’t allow for any deviation from “staying the course.” Faults? To be sure. Incompetence? Probably; Ignorance? Absolutely. Maliciousness? I don’t think so.

All this brings me to the protestors that came from out of nowhere yesterday. They appeared to take their disagreements rather personally. It is almost as if Cheney knew these individuals, decided that for whatever reason he did not like them and went out of his way to do things that he knew would piss them off. Like they’re that important! I saw them chant; I heard the accusations and I get that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with this administration and the Vice President in particular. I not only get that, I share it. I do not, however, take the actions of the Vice President as a personal affront.

“Rumor has it that the asshole is going to J and 13th. We can catch up to the asshole there.”

This is a direct quote from one of the protestors. There was an odd kind of glee in her tone. It made me cringe. I don’t know Cheney well enough to refer to him in such personally derogatory terms. I can’t identify with such juvenile behavior. If I want to change the way things are, I certainly wouldn’t go about alienating those “less radical” than myself to further my cause. What they have effectively done is reduce the argument to one of civility versus anarchy. Guess which side I choose? My eyes forced open, I started to look around and I didn’t like what I saw.

I don’t look like your normal downtown urbanite. I’m usually wearing jeans and a T-shirt; I have long hair and generally consider myself a non-conformist. Because the appointment I had yesterday demanded a certain level of decorum, I had my hair tied back in a ponytail. I was wearing a modest pinstriped suit, blue dress shirt and a tie. I looked “respectable.” The numerous law enforcement personnel present also treated me respectfully. It is a dichotomy I have been aware of in the past and I know being a “rebel” or a “renegade” or an “individualist” requires a certain level of acceptance.

Yesterday the difference was glaring and quite frankly, I am glad I was not associated with the protestors. Not so much because of what they were protesting, but how they were protesting. The myopic, egocentric and intolerant view that the administration is so often accused of was exhibited ten-fold by many of the protestors (of course, the most vocal and visible) with the added bonus of sporadic, but regular maliciousness thrown in. No matter how much I disagree with the administration, I won’t lower myself to a shouting match.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Six Months Blogging... so far

***EDITED***All of the links now work!

When I write, it is ultimately to be read. I dig comments. I like leaving them, I like reading them and I love it when my comments on other blogs are acknowledged by the writer. It is in the last respect that I am most lacking; I want to get mine and not deliver yours. I am not intentionally failing to acknowledge those who have commented on my posts, however, it is also true that if I intentionally made the effort to respond, then I wouldn’t be writing this. It is some latent selfishness that I do not enjoy acknowledging.

Needless to say, I apologize to those that took the time to comment and have not been extended the same courtesy in return. Apologies, however, can be somewhat hollow if not followed by action. It is indeed the very inspiration that my six-month blogging anniversary needed. In addition to setting this oversight straight, I think it high-time I give some credit and recognition to the blogs listed on my links and a few others that are soon to be added. They are listed in the order they appear on my list, which is to say… in no particular order.

Saurly Yours: Authored by my multi-talented blog buddy Saur Kraut, just about anything may grace her blog and often does. She is articulate, worldly and very opinionated. One may agree or not, but one thing is for sure – she does her homework. A keen and wry sense of humor combined with the intelligence to match, she has one of a handful of blogs I make an effort to read everyday. Leave her a comment and nine times out of ten, she’ll acknowledge it with one of her own. Saur Kraut was an early and frequent visitor and supporter of the 25 Year Plan and gave me the encouragement to keep going early on. She has been on the top of my links since the very start!

The Zombieslayer: Another one of my early reads, the Zombieslayer has a mixed bag of current events, humor and some introspection. He is a music aficionado who knows his stuff. I am greatly indebted to him for helping me understand some of the ins and outs of blogging and how to add html codes to my posts and comments. The Zomieslayer (ZS or Zomb for short) has been busy on projects that have taken him away from the daily blogging he was known for, but he makes his rounds occasionally and like Saur, is very good about acknowledging remarks.

Women on the Verge of Thinking: This blog out of Southern California is written by the very literate BARBARAFROMCALIFORNIA. She writes about world and current events, politics, spirituality and the heartfelt issues of daily life. Women on the Verge of Thinking has new content frequently and sometimes new postings appear daily. Barbara is a sharp cookie and she does not shy away from controversy. Her comments are usually very relevant and well thought out. I have the utmost respect for her opinion.

life and times of mckay: McKay’s blog is a relatively recent addition to my favorites. She shares some of the trials and tribulations of modern suburban Americana. Her postings are an eclectic mix of everything from the very personal to the very funny. She combines a unique perspective with a refreshing writing style that is sure to entertain… or enlighten… or give one food for thought. I identify in a curious way – one that I can’t quite put my finger on…

My Life is a Cartoon: This is Jenn’s blog. Jenn is a cartoonist from New York. She posts often and at least half of the time she shares her original artwork with her readers. She also shares other off-the-wall stuff such as strange products, old advertisements and other out of the ordinary miscellanea. There are a couple of unique qualities to Jenn’s blog: Many of her illustrations reflect events in her life – and she’ll set the stage for her readers. The other is that she shares her work in various stages of undress – doodles, sketches, etc. It’s a rare glimpse into the creative process.

Ramble On and Barbara’s Journey are the two sides of my friend Barbara. Ramble On has more light hearted, fun, often classic rock oriented musings. She will sometimes have questionnaires and other entertaining items from the blogosphere and the web in general. Barbara’s Journey is her more philosophical side. She gets deep and spills out her heart and soul. The hurdles many of us face in private are bared publicly here; her courage and perseverance shine through. Her enlightenment and triumphs are shared for all as she makes her way through this thing called life.

Mind Blowing Insanity: This is a blog that could contain great hope as well as hopelessness - followed by more hope. Jinsane chronicles the day to day in her unique way that keeps the insanity of life at bay, but just barely so. At any moment it would seem that all hell will break loose and on at least one occasion it did just that. But Jen is a trooper, she gets through it all with insight, revelation and wisdom. Coincidentally enough, often just the things I’m looking for.

The Secret Garden: This is Ellen’s blog. Ellen can write! One never knows what one might find here, but rest assured it will be understandable, cohesive and descriptive. She doesn’t post everyday… more like one to three times per week. Hers tend to be longer than the average post so I usually will come back when I know I have a few uninterrupted minutes to fully absorb her prose. It is not uncommon for my comments on her blog to be equally wordy, but what can I say when I’m inspired so?

Sadico Junction: Sadie Lou doesn’t live too far from me. We haven’t met, although it is certainly within the realm of possibility. She has very strongly held moral views and doesn’t have any problem getting into it with anyone. As long as the parties involved are respectful, debates in her comments section are allowed to rage on. It is not uncommon to see Sadie Lou and Cyberkitten spar over certain hot-button issues for what seems like days sometimes. I like Sadie because she’s down to earth. We don’t always agree, but I like her style!

Seeking a Little Truth: This is the afore mentioned Cyberkitten’s blog. Cyberkitten recently revealed that his gender is not female. Yes, I was among those that assumed that he was a she! The content of his posts, however, really do render his gender moot. Cyberkitten’s posts are concerned with international politics, the role of the church and religion and his opinions on both. He and Sadie Lou often find themselves with differing views on issues and neither is shy about saying so.

Random Thoughts… by a girl in her jogging pants: From Canada, K’s blog takes the form of an (almost) daily journal. K is a journalist, which makes us almost colleagues since I’ll have my degree in journalism in about a year. I follow her career through her postings and it gives me great insight into what I might be getting myself into. She doesn’t sugarcoat the struggles or minimize her triumphs. I am still there… I am so there. Oh yea, she names her stuff. Her car is Guillermo and her iPod is Geoffrey. Too cute!

Life… Just Passing Through: This is Neal’s blog. Recently Neal has been posting about the illegal immigration crisis. Neal has an opinion and he does his homework. He has also posted famous and inspirational quotes and knows a thing or two about Eastern philosophy and Bonsai gardening! Neal is an interesting guy – no trip around the blogosphere is complete without stopping over on his page.

Castle of Nannbugg: Welcome to Lee Ann’s castle. You never know what might be headlining at the castle. Could be a little of this or a little of that. Even on Thursday, when she celebrates HNT (Half-Nekkid Thursday), the potential is limitless. Her posts are always in good taste and usually upbeat. Her site makes my Mac’s browser freeze about 30% of the time, which is frustrating. However, I still visit everyday – that should be testimony enough.

someone elses horoscope: Not long after I discover her blog, Kate decided that she had had enough of the blog world. I was disappointed, but understood how we all have to make changes. I did not remove her link from my blog because I had hoped she would come out of retirement and because even if she had nothing new, there is a wealth of postings in her archives. Needless to say, she wasn’t gone long. She could have anything and everything – be prepared!

SNABU: An infrequent poster, Bohica has an edge to him. He’s brash, opinionated and smart. He comments on other blogs more often than he posts on his blog, but hopefully that will change. He offered to design my header, and I graciously accepted, not really expecting anything. Next thing I know, I get an email with the cool header my blog now has. He then instructed me on how to install it. Bohica – Thanks

VancouverCalling: This blog has a distinct humanitarian edge to it. Vancouver Voyeur is into nature and things natural. She posts photos often and could feature anything from poetry to stinging commentary. She posts often but not daily. Her insights are genuine and her perspective is uncompromised.

Here in the Hills: Sporting a brand-new look (which, by the way, loads significantly faster), the OldOld Lady Of The Hills’ blog is one of the most popular on my list. Her photo essays are magnificent and the stories she can tell? Amazing. Read her blog, read her archives – there is so so much. Got more questions, ask her in her comments – she’ll get back to you!

A Little Bent: This is Marcy’s story site. Her stories are true and hilarious. There is something for anyone and I find myself checking back for another installment frequently. Unfortunately, Marcy is dealing with a condition that makes typing difficult, so her postings are spread far apart – but always worth the wait.

JAI BHAKTI: Bhakti’s blog appears to be all about meditation but if you can get beyond the initial appearance, you’ll find that it is that and so much more. Bhakti has an outlook on life that is refined and oh so spiritual. Her writings show that she is also human and subject to many of the ups and downs that we all have to face. It’s the grace she comes through it with that is inspiring.

The Blair Project: Blair doesn’t post very often but when she does, it’s usually something I can identify with – and I’m not exactly sure why that is. She is a recent discovery, relatively speaking, so I do not have much to go on. Yet, I keep watching and waiting for something new and then BAM… there it is!

ExitStageRight: Snaggletooth blogs about what’s really going on. It’s life in her world and she explains it in a tone that feels like a lazy afternoon conversation – a well written one. She can get through the minutia without discounting its importance while at the same time staying on course.

Wooley’s Rant: Wooley is a motorcycle enthusiast and that would be good enough for me. The fact that he is also a Harley-Davidson owner puts him over the top. He doesn’t write just about motorcycles, he also writes about many of the issues of the day – and intelligently.

KT Did: Kathy’s blog is busy! Flashy lights and sounds… animation, whew! Kathy posts a lot of pictures. Pictures of Harleys and hot rods! ‘Nuff said.

These are new blogs that I just started to visit. They are likely to be linked in the not too distant future.

Biker Betty: Betty doesn’t ride a Harley, but she rides for the same reasons I do. How do I know? I read her blog.

ink on my fingers: Susannah is a professional writer and it shows. Hers is a brand-new find for me. So far, I like what I’m reading.

LUX LUCIS VITA: Without a doubt one of the more interesting blogs I read. Lux has an interesting style and content. Check her out.

This is very long, I’ll comment more later.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

55 Days

I don't have anything profound today - maybe later. I'm taking my last final in a few hours. That will mark the end of my junior year and the beginning of my senior year!!

I am also approaching another major milestone: I have been cigarette free now for 55 days. In about one week, I'll have surpassed my previous record and from that point on everyday will be a new record. I haven't spoken much lately about this latest effort to quit smoking for a couple of reasons: First, because I really don't think about it all that much anymore - and thinking about it sure doesn't dominate my every waking hour like it did at first. Second, the obsession appears to be gone, which is really the same as the first reason. I went one day short of two months last time before I started smoking again - and it was that first one that did it. By this time next week, It'll be record territory. The message: If I can do it, so can you!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gators & Hurricanes

I remember going to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in River Ridge, Louisiana. River Ridge is in Jefferson Parrish, about ten or 15 minutes from New Orleans. (Yes Katrina left her mark there, but compared to the devastation in the immediately surrounding area, not so bad). Although visiting the suburban and metropolitan areas of New Orleans was a blast in its own right, it only became significant after I was old enough to appreciate it.

What really made these summer excursions from California special was going to the “Camp.” The Camp is (was) a vacation home. My parents have one too. Theirs is on a beautiful little reservoir called Lake Tulloch nestled the low foothills of central California – we call it the “Lakehouse.” The Lakehouse isn’t a house and the Camp isn’t a camp – it’s just the code our family uses so that we know what we’re talking about. No one discussed it as far as I know, these terms just sort of evolved.

The Camp is on a lake too. It’s on the Mississippi gulf coast just outside of Waveland – not too far from Bay St. Louis. Several families jointly own the lake, the shore and some of the surrounding acreage. All of the families have a “camp” of their own on the lake and collectively pay a caretaker to maintain the common areas and to keep a watchful eye over the entire compound. I don’t know if they’re all called “camps.”

I remember those halcyon days as a California boy on the bayou. I was in a different world – and I looked like it, but I didn’t care. There was wildlife that I had only read about and some I had never even heard of. Fishing, boating, shooting, crabbing and swimming, enjoying a certain Huckleberry Finn kind of freedom while still in the confines of the Camp, however, came with warnings (which I headed) about not just alligators, but also water moccasins and a host of other not too pleasant wild life.

Although out in the far reaches of the lake and further out into the swamp (ultimately leading to the Gulf of Mexico), alligators and other critters were everywhere – so much so that spotting them became commonplace, in the more “civilized” part of the lake where the homes and docks and swimming areas were located, they were considered a nuisance.

I remember hearing talk of the alligator being endangered – both in grade school and while getting a more “hands on” education in Mississippi, but the two versions didn’t add up. In the classroom, they were about to become extinct and in “the field” they were everywhere, a nuisance, and could be (on at least one occasion for sure - I was there) killed for the sake of public safety, if indeed a reason was needed at all.

Life at the Camp had a very laid back, easy-going feel to it. It didn’t resemble in any way, shape or form the kind of “easy-going” lives Californians fancy themselves enjoying. It was true; it was real; and it was genuine. There was never any real hurry to do anything or be anywhere. Life on those muggy summer days years ago was like the slow southern drawl spoken there – at least when viewed through the filter of youth and naïveté.

Of the four or five extended visits to the Camp, there was only one time I felt any sense of urgency at all: when Hurricane Andrew was heading our way. Coincidentally enough, I was no longer a kid - I had kids of my own. There are things to do when bracing for a hurricane – evacuating is the last of them. Boats have to be moved, windows have to be boarded up and anything of value, sentimental or otherwise, that can be saved needs to be moved. Then we got our tails back to Jefferson Parrish. Andrew missed us and disaster was averted, this time.

Katrina would not be so kind. As told earlier, the homes of my family members were – for the most part, spared. The same could not be said of the Camp. Although large parts of the greater New Orleans area were flooded, the Mississippi Gulf Coast was leveled. There is precious little left of the camp. This was not the first time that a hurricane’s wrath has visited this part of the country and in all likelihood will not be the last.

Look at these pictures! How do you prepare for this? It appears as though nothing could survive. This in not, however, the case. True, the wildlife did suffer, but it is probably fair to say that it is better adapted and faired far better than we did. The alligators are still there and probably quite happy that those pesky people are gone for a while. They probably consider us a nuisance.

Monday, May 15, 2006

As American as Apple Pie

Commander Mark Boettger has less than two months left to finish equipping a brand-new police department. On July 1, the city of Citrus Heights will have completed its 11 month project to provide its own police services - and there is much left to be done.

“We don’t even have uniforms yet, we are literally building the department from the ground up” Boettger said.

No uniforms, but ask him about the motorcycles the motor officers will be riding and his eyes light up - “Wanna see them?”

Although they will not officially be “on the streets yet,” Boettger said the city will use its annual Red, White and Blue Parade on June 24 as an opportunity to display their new officers, their new uniforms, their new patrol cars… and their bright, shiny, brand-new Harley-Davidsons.

Since incorporating in 1997, Citrus Heights has contracted its police services from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

Although the current vehicle markings and the uniforms signify the Citrus Heights Police, it is not a city police agency, but rather contracted sheriff’s deputies. That will soon change.

Boettger, a former motor officer in Menlo Park and Brisbane, knew what he wanted. “The minute your eye lands on these, you know why,” he said.

Everything at the department is new and state-of-the-art. Boettger’s excitement is readily apparent as he ticks off the items that the department either has or is in the process of getting like so many toys on a Christmas wish list.

Boettger’s primary responsibility at this stage is the procurement of the equipment the police will be using. This includes the facility, the vehicles, and the electronics such as computers and radios.

Although he must answer to Police Chief Chris Boyd and City Manager Henry Tingle, the facility and equipment decisions are initially his, while the chief is concentrating primarily on staffing.

On the way to view the three new motorcycles already at the police station, the commander stopped to show off the new police cruisers, one of which has been outfitted with the new logo and the state-of-the-art electronics.

A Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. Nice – but every law enforcement agency in the county uses them. It’s the de facto police cruiser of the day.

There is construction everywhere. When the commander said that this department was being built from the ground up, he meant it quite literally.

Finally arriving at a small roll-up door towards the back of the building, the commander asks, “Are you ready to see what’s behind this door?” smiling a kind of knowing smile.

Inside were three brand-new Harley-Davidson Road King police motorcycles. These are the first three of the total of 10 bikes the department will receive. They are arriving daily from Rocklin Harley-Davidson.

Commander Boettger approaches the first in line, turns on the lights and smiles. “Want me to turn on the others?”

Boettger flatly denies that he is just a little more passionate about the motorcycles than the police cruisers or the other equipment. He says that he is equally excited and as passionate with the cars as he is with the bikes.

He then approaches that same first bike and wipes a little grease off the chrome, reconsiders his answer and says, “Well, I guess I wasn’t wiping smudges off the Crown Vic.”

The bikes are not yet equipped with decals, radios, radar or sirens. A separate vendor will install those items, but the appearance, according to Boettger, will remain “clean, without a lot of gear hanging off.”

“We got them equipped with a windshield,” he said. “We want to be as visible as possible.”

Boettger starts one of the motorcycles. The signature sound so unique that Harley-Davidson attempted to copyright it dominates all within earshot. He shuts it off and smiles, “That’s why.”

“As they’re coming to us down the freeway, down the back streets, down the city streets, kids are pointing out the windows, cars are slowing down to look at the trailer because they’re looking at these motorcycles. That’s what I experienced as a rider myself, that’s what we’re experiencing here, before they’re even outfitted,” Boettger said.

Harley-Davidson delivered its first police model to the Detroit Police Department in 1908. More than 3,000 police departments were using Harleys by the late 1920s. After dropping to only about 400 law-enforcement agencies by1983, there are currently more than 3,000 agencies once again using Harleys.

Harley-Davidson’s loss of market share was due to a number of factors including quality concerns and foreign competition first from Kawasaki and more recently from BMW.

“The Road King Police model is an American tradition for law enforcement,” Boettger said.

As the price tags at any Harley-Davidson dealership will confirm, these bikes are not cheap. Elk Grove Police Chief Bob Simmons’ recommendation to the Elk Grove City Council cited a base price of $22,345 for each of their 11 Road Kings.

The police equipment (radio, radar, etc.) that must be added to each machine costs an additional $11,330.

In his analysis, Simmons found that the maintenance cost of the Harley-Davidsons is three cents per mile less than the BMW and the resale value is substantially better.

For Citrus Heights it’s as much about identity as anything else. When their contract with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department comes to an end, the “Citrus Heights Police,” a component of the sheriff’s department, will come to an end.

It will be replaced by the Citrus Heights Police Department. The CHPD is a fully staffed, funded and controlled component of the city of Citrus Heights.

A city’s identity is represented, in large part, by their police department and its image. The Road Kind personifies that image.

“The officers wanna ride the Harleys,” said Rocklin Harley-Davidson sales manager Jim Hill. Rocklin Harley-Davidson won the contract to supply Citrus Heights with their motorcycles.

The bikes are an awesome sight - black, white, chrome and big. Weighing in at over 750 pounds with engines displacing 88 cubic inches, this machine dwarfs the BMW.

The Harley comes with an attitude, an image and prestige that are not available at any price from the other manufacturers and that is what Boettger was after for his motor officers.

“It’s more than just traffic duty,” Boettger explains. The motorcycles represent the city; they are meant to be seen and heard. They won’t be found hiding behind billboards and trees, but out in the open, on the road everyday.

There is a slogan that applies to Harley-Davidson riders and the machines they love that goes like this: “If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.”

Perhaps, but one doesn’t have to ride a Harley to experience the mystique that only a Harley-Davidson can deliver.

Commander Boettger asks whether this would be a story if the city had decided on BMWs or Kawasakis. “What about the new Honda police motorcycles,” he asked.

These are rhetorical questions; he knows the answer. It wouldn’t be news. In the motorcycle world, there are Harleys and then there is everything else.

“I bet you’d like to ride one,” he says.

That’s a safe bet.

Michael Althouse is a freelance writer and journalism major at California State University, Sacramento. He can be reached at
 2006 M.K. Althouse

Saturday, May 13, 2006

(Not So) Ancient Wisdom V

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.

David Brinkley

1920 - 2003

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Grass! (No... not that kind!)

It’s in the low to mid 90s, not a cloud in the sky and there’s a gentle breeze blowing. Spring is in full swing in central California. The late and long-lived rainy season has come to an end – everything is green and blooming. We may have hated our overtime winter, but the foliage sure didn’t. In fact, it’s celebrating at this very moment by sending plume upon plume of pollen into the air. I hate the rain!

This time of year - where the Sacramento and the American Rivers converge and turn into the Sacramento River Delta on its way to becoming San Pablo Bay before merging into its more famous Siamese twin, the San Francisco Bay - it’s the grass pollen. Trees are a big offender too this time of year, but the trees and I have an agreement: I respect them and they leave me out of the allergy wars. The grass, on the other hand, has no such mercy.

Perhaps it’s from the acres of lawn I mowed as a kid. Maybe it’s the years of disregard shown toward the grass when running it down playing football, baseball, Frisbee or tag. Perhaps this is the grass's way of making up for the discrimination their first cousins the weeds have had to endure. Whatever the case, they are armed to the teeth this year and pulling out all the stops. My only defense is the well-filtered air available from a “controlled” environment. Thank God for air conditioning.

When living at 6,000 feet, the grasses didn’t have the strength to mount much of an attack. I was therefore largely symptom free for the 4+ years I lived in Truckee. Upon my relocation to the flatlands (2002), the combination of only moderate rainfall and the new allergy medications (Claritin, etc.) made a long-time seasonal malady a thing of the past. I thought that these new medications were my ticket to freedom and hailed their effectiveness to anyone who would listen.

This year, however, no such luck. Maybe the pollen count is so high that it’s overpowering the Claritin. Perhaps I have acquired a tolerance to it. Maybe my genetic predisposition to such a condition is progressive. I don’t know, but I think it’s that damned rain. It’s still relatively early in the battle, however, and I have not exhausted all my resources yet.

Indeed, the treatment of seasonal allergies has come a long way since the release of Claritin, Allegra and company. Up until now, there has been no reason to do any further research – it wasn’t broken… no need to fix it. However, if I want to enjoy this beautiful weather as much as the grasses are, I’ll have to retaliate. This hay fever is holding me hostage… no camping, no hiking, no biking, no windows rolled down and worst of all, no Harley.

It’s time to fight back; the war is far from over.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How Do You Spell Relief?

Phew! Done! Well, almost done, I still have to add the citations and put together a reference page, proof it several times, add headers, footers, page numbers and a title page. Like I said – done. I have been putting off this research paper for a few weeks. Why? Well, unfortunately because I can. Yup, the gift that is a curse – two for the price of one. I can write pretty well and usually on demand. My research skills are adequate for the level of depth required and if I have access to an APA, MLA, APSA or whatever style guide to the format that a particular discipline uses, I can re-learn how to correctly format my paper and be done with it. Eight to ten hours spread over two to four days is usually sufficient.

The bad part is that because I don’t respond well unless there is some pressure, I waited – again – until there was some. A lot of words just to say procrastination, really. It is a terrible habit – even worse when left unchecked. Believe me, I know. True, there is a latent thrill of getting in just under the wire, but the pain of falling on my face if missed isn’t worth it. Ask me how I know.

So this term paper I’ve been putting off – wait, I can phrase it better… writing in my head, brainstorming… ya, that’s it – is due on Thursday morning. “But this is only Tuesday night” you say? True enough, and close enough. I don’t have to cut it so close today to get the motivation I need. However, it is apparent that if I’m given more time than necessary, one may rest assured it will not be done until near the deadline.

The point of all this is that for the last week to two weeks I have been stressing on it. Not so much writing it in my head, just stressing. I was experiencing real procrastination, the likes of which I haven’t felt in quite some time. I did not want to write this paper. I did not find it interesting; it was too vague, too narrow, too this and too that. Fortunately, the bigger picture kept my focus on what I needed to do and the positive aspect of being able to pull this stuff together quickly played its role. And now the rest I’ll put off until tomorrow.

Hey! What’s the rush?

Monday, May 08, 2006

South Park

Here's a cool little activity I found over on Sadie Lou's Blog. Click the title or here for a direct link to make your own South Park character.

This is as deep as I intend to get today... Happy Monday!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Artists and Scientists

Do you ever wonder about things? I mean really deep things, not how they figured out how to do all the industrial, micro-electronical, medical, higher educational or other silly intellectual stuff. More important things - like what it’s all about? I find my mind going there from time to time and I think that there is inspiration in those moments. It is the realm of the hunch, the intuition, the bright idea and the hypothesis.

Where did things like language come from? Some one had to think of it. There must have been a seed that was nurtured by untold generations of peoples until we arrived at the array of language we have today. What about the other social institutions… their similarities and differences? Moments of inspiration punctuated by flashes of brilliance over and over again for millennia. And then carried on to the next generation.

Origins and destinations. Where have we been and where are we going? It’s fascinating and bewildering. Any one of us could have that next hunch… that idea that will enable us to peer into a world beyond our four dimensions. The intuitions that will enable travel at light speed or even be able to manipulate time. Maybe less ambitious goals may be realized, perhaps by building a source of cheap, clean and unlimited energy. Remember, it was just one simple, beautiful equation by a man named Einstein that unlocked so much of the development that we take for granted today.

It starts, I think, with wonder. We have a curiosity about us, an ingrained thirst for knowledge. It is present in the artist; it is present in the scientist. It’s in all of us and at times the amazement is too strong to ignore. Yet, I’m afraid that the older we become, the more jaded we become and the less mesmerized we’re left. It becomes more about the next dollar rather than the next discovery. Being right becomes more important than finding truth.

Stare at the night sky. Study the ocean waves. Feel the quiet of the forest and the solitude of the desert. There is so much more. Doesn’t it just make you wonder? Tell me it doesn’t leave you in awe.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

(Not So) Ancient Wisdom IV

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
Carl Sagan

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


As I approach my Blogger six-month aniversary (in two weeks), my 100th post (this is 82 or 83) and my hit counter inches ever closer to 3,000 visits (sometime tomorrow), I find that there are times when I haven't got much to say. Those that know me know that nothing could be further from the truth and, to be perfectly honest, I have to agree. Nonetheless, I often feel an obligation to post something, yet I don't have anything pressing to say. In other words, the well is dry. The following is what happens when I just start throwing words down and let something develope. Is it genious? Dribble? Somewhere in between? You tell me...

I started blogging last December to explore a new venue for my writing. It was during a five-week break in between semesters at school and I simply was not done riding the wave of momentum that the fall semester had created. In a very real way, I missed the exploratory nature of the written word. It was and is a craft that I apparently have a knack for and I had finally come to a point where writing was not work. It is still the same today; I write not for money (yet), but because I enjoy the brainstorming, the word assemblage, the final product… and of course, the feedback.

Those five weeks therefore were an exercise in patience. It took a very, very long time to embrace this skill and even longer to be able to nurture it to the point where I may be able to capitalize on it. OK, so I’ve made that decision – taken that leap into the unknown and unfamiliar, now the last thing I want to do is… wait. Blogging eased that downtime. It was a forum that had everything I needed to hold me over and I didn’t even know what that was. Among other things, it provided an audience, a sort of peer review group. That, in turn, gave me motivation – to write.

The first entries were relatively easy. The first two were about me and where I am in life. Easy writing - according to my freshman comp professor, the easiest subject to write about is oneself. It didn’t make much sense to me at first, but is much clearer now. Easy though it may be, it can be challenging in other respects. It is by definition introspective and as such may reveal some things that I’d rather not know. Furthermore, those introspections have a tendency to creep into all waking (and some non-waking) moments of my life, manifesting themselves as epiphanies, revelations and intuitions. It can all be very inconvenient sometimes.

I feel as though I miss more than I get. I can’t begin to relate the wonderful ideas… the sudden flashes of brilliance (or the obvious) that I have been too busy or too lazy to document. Then there are the times that, even when the moment is right, I can’t find the words. Yes… it’s all about the words. You see, when I write, I am trying to convey not just ideas, but feeling, color, vision, emotion, wonder, empathy, pain – so much more than just little pixels of light or geometric splotches of ink have any business portraying. Most of the time I can get across how I feel it when I read my words – and that’s a start, but it’s when I can’t even feel what I feel when reading my own thoughts that my frustration is at its peak.

If this all reads like what a very scrambled mind must look like, then I have, in part, done my job as a writer. It is not complete, however, unless I have also related the growth that comes with exploring ones own thoughts, one’s soul. It should account for the search for truth in the written word; the understanding of the vast degree of difference of individual perception and the unity that the linkage of language – written language gives those perceptions. It should be a window into my life not to show what I know, but rather what I don’t.

It is with these words I share that which is me with you – and that is really all I have that’s worth anything anyway.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Monday, Monday

This is about as good as it gets, a Hallmark day to be sure. The temperature is in the mid 70s (on its way to a high in the mid to upper 80s), there is a gentle breeze and the sky is “brand-new” blue. Perfect. People – college students mostly – are milling about in their spring clothes seemingly without a care in the world. Indeed, yet another school year is less than a month away from completion. Looks, however, can be deceiving.

This is an odd time of year. The beautiful weather, a sense of summer vacation in the air and a silent uneasiness come together like the calm before the storm. In fact, that storm is practically knocking on the door – but the weather is so nice. Maybe it can wait a day… two. Denial has set in and for some it may be too late to run. The “big” projects that so many classes require towards the end of the semester, the one that was assigned right after spring break six weeks ago, is coming due.

Whether it’s a term paper, an art project or some other kind of presentation, these projects have to be completed and soon. These things rarely take the time given to complete them, but often take more than a day or two. Such is the situation I find myself in this afternoon. Out of five classes, three of them had one of these assigned. Two have been turned in on time and one is due Thursday morning. Plenty of time if I start right now, which will pretty much kill a beautiful day. And probably the next two.

Although it does not appear so at first glance, it is apparent on closer examination that I am not alone. Everyone around me has their nose in a book, jotting down notes and typing on their laptop’s keyboard. Although not a time of desperation for those prepared, only those prepared are here. Those who are not will be running around like chickens with their heads cut off in the next several days. Then comes finals. The feeling here, just outside the library, is that of a quiet confidence - those who can see past a wonderful day and get down to business. Or perhaps it is because of it.

If I decided to exercise my God-given right to enjoy myself at the river, go up to the mountains for some t-shirted snowboarding or laze around the pool all day, could I really be at ease? Really? Knowing what I have before me, how much would I be able to relax? Can I get it done in half the time? Probably. A quarter (one day)? Maybe. And what if something came up? It did last Friday. What then? It is with an eye to the future that I can set foot in the library to commit myself to a few hours of boring research, writing and documenting. It is because I know that there will be more perfect days that will be more perfect the only way possible – when I have absolutely nothing to do but enjoy them.