Jim's Journal 2006

jim schrempp

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December 4, 2006

Wow, what an election. Thank God it ended so well. Two years ago I donated what I thought was a good chunk of change to various political groups and GW was still elected. Arrgghh. This time I again threw money at the problem but I also decided to make some calls. Gayle made calls in 2004 but I hate telemarketers so much that I couldn't do it. This time I sucked it up, swallowed my pride, and went to the dark side. MoveOn.org had a massive get-out-the-vote effort called "It's too close *not* to call!" I was timid at first, but quickly overcame it. Over the course of three weeks I made 300 calls to close races all over the U.S. The whole campaign claims to have made over a million calls to likely Democrat voters. I don't know what made the difference, but the result is what matters. I'm happy to see that we have a chance to get our country back on track.

Getting ready for the season, I spent a week at Ray's cabin. She was there for the first weekend and then left, taking the car. Charlie had a dinner at his place Sunday night and supplied me with a pile of homegrown tomatoes. The next three days I spent in the sweet isolation of the cabin. Hiking isn't an option, I had no car, no cell phone, no phone. No TV. I did have a rocking chair, a sketch book, my camera and myself. I haven't been off the 'net for an entire week in the last 10 years. I don't think I have ever gone three entire days without speaking to a single person. It was a bit scary at first. A bit weird. And then it became very calming. Charlie came by Tuesday night for an hour to make sure I was ok. Other than that it was just me and the sky.

I was glad when Ray arrived on the scene, but I also had to share my space again. He had the radio playing. He had a say about what to fix for dinner. Small things, but interesting to reflect upon. As we drove back to civilization I was acutely aware of things that demanded my time and attention. The road, the noise, the people, my work, even my house requires some of my attention.

I never really understood the value of a solo retreat. Now I do. I recovered a bit of myself in that short week. I will go back again.

Ray is on his own sojourn around the Mediterranean. He's revisiting places and getting into new nooks. He's documented it all himself. And speaking of getting out of town, Brent is doing four months of Danish immersion. Language, history, social studies. He's back in January.

Photography is pulling me back again. The Nikon D50 I bought last year is still a joy to hold. It just feels right. On the advice of Cindy, I took a UC Santa Cruz class in composition. Barbara Brundege taught the weekend class and I learned soooo much. She covered elements of design to give me a way of describing my photos. I particularly liked her perspective that photographers are stuck with what exists, while painters can create any composition they want. So if we want to learn about great composition, study great paintings. Since then Cindy and Don invited me to a photo outing with their class in SF. I got a few interesting shots. Leonard and I went out the next day to Half Moon Bay harbor. Leonard likes all the equipment, but I have to admit that he puts it to good use. The quality of his work has improved dramatically. I am so impressed with his photos - I wish I could do so well.

Sean turned 40 and Jen's surprise party was complete - he had no idea. The funniest times came when the old family photos were projected on the wall of The Tide House. Jen was aghast to see her mother, back in the day, wearing the exact same stylish rectangular ebony framed glasses that Jen is wearing now! Talk about a double take.

The dinner club discovered The Poor House Bistro in San Jose. Set in an old craftsman style house, they serve absolutely fantastic Creole dishes. BBQ shrimp is not what it sounds like and was the best dish on the menu. Live jazz on the weekends and outdoor seating make it a winner. Hally K'Ono in San Jose was our first yearly meeting of the Rep crowd. The shrimp salad and Jay's sando were very good.

Speaking of The San Jose Rep - it seems like the institution may be doomed. Two years ago they made an appeal for donations because of the tech bust - I gave a chunk. One year later they stood in front of the audience to say, "we took our eye off the ball" and we need more cash. What? That was just a year gone by. I decided to not give more than my yearly ticket plus donation. (I mean, the tickets are sooo cheap.) Then this year they have another appeal, "we have not managed our finances..."  Now I feel really bad. I feel like I'm being played for a dope. I wrote a letter to the new director and he wrote a nice note back saying that he hoped he could win back my confidence. Ok, that sounds good. The city is bailing them out to the tune of a million bucks - turns out The Rep as borrowed against their endowment (I didn't think you could even do that (or even *should* do that)). Then I read in the paper that the new controller used to be the office manager. Is that right? Then Timothy got up at the first performance this year and glossed over the whole fiasco. I think her words were, "you've read about us in the paper... don't worry... not that big a deal... look at how great that set looks!"  And now I read that they're bringing back McCluggage to direct a show. He's fantastic, but he left the area for a bigger shindig. How can they afford to bring in someone of his caliber from out of town? I thought they were under strict financial management. I don't see the signs of serious financial management that I think it needs. I'm afraid this is probably the last year for the SJ Rep. How very sad.

Entertainment has been full this season. Already the lecture series has brought in Dave Berry  (very, very funny), Christiana Amanpour (interesting, but not that great a speaker), and Bill Cosby (always funny). They billed Bob Dole and Tom Daschle as "civilized debate of the issues" and then there was no debate. Dole did a very funny 30 minutes of standup - if he'd done this on the campaign trail he might have been elected. But when it came down to brass tacks, there was no debate. Daschle spoke the most about the Democratic position on issues and Dole just dodged questions with quips. I think they must do it the other way in conservative venues. It's easy to be polite when you don't really articulate where you stand. I think they blew an opportunity to demonstrate real political oratory.

We traveled to Twain Harte for the Oktoberfest and spent a nice evening with that crowd. It's always pleasant to hang in the woods. We also managed to make a weekend in SLO with the old gang. We went to the Basque restaurant again and the food was just as spectacular. We also hosted a movie night featuring Shawn of the Dead. If you haven't seen this one, it's an interesting social commentary with lots of laughs.

This year's Halloween party was graced with both Lindy and Jean staying over. They helped us set up and then they did most of the clean up - I couldn't believe it. They were most excellent house guests. Jean's web business is chugging along. We talked about enhancements; there's always more to do on any software product. Lindy tells us that Arielle is enjoying Univ of Nevada. I hope we get to see more of them.

Lastly, Thanksgiving was a warm family time. Bob and Katie came up from Atascadero and brought a SLO ham. Mom and Dad came down here and we spent the day playing games, just like old times. Bob brought Evolution and we played Blokus too. On Friday we went up to Pacifica to install the new TiVo and I'm happy to say that went easily into place. More games of Settlers of Catan, and a new one called Sequence. I like them all. Sequence is fast and fun so we might try that on a dominos night.

Christmas is just around the corner. That should give me plenty to write about. Ciao.


November 8, 2006

There was dancing in the street.


Is it already August 2006?

The end of another summer is right around the corner? Wow. Way back in February cousin Brian's Atomic Bear Press had a booth at Comicon in SF. As usual, I went up to lend a hand. Unlike years past, this time I didn't make it. Camera in hand I parked at the 25th and Mission garage and walked down the stairs. This year I was confronted with a line of people a block long. A long block long at that. One look at the line and the voice inside said, "looks like Brian's on his own this year."  I stood on a corner for about 45 minutes snapping a few photos and just watching. I hear a man on his cell phone: "who's the fire inspector today?" and "have you seen how many people are here?" Apparently Comicon was such a huge success that they had to stop letting people onto the floor.

I was more successful in April with the Alternative Press Expo. Fewer people, but - IMHO - more interesting things. I doled out about $40 and came away with some very interesting pieces. As always, I bought little things from artists who had engaging personal stories.

Bob and Carolyn invited me to Twain Harte at the end of the month. This time a group of friends met for dinner at the local Indian casino. The food was just terrific. Afterwards we all went to the family fun center in the basement for a bit of bowling. I sat next to a lawyer who practices in Sonora. He does contract law, with a sideline of public servant malfeasance investigations. This part of the law is difficult to prosecute because it is so complex. I was telling him about the Mike King case in San Carlos, and he regaled me with other tales from across the state. He's a former District Attorney so he claims that when he puts together a case the local DA will listen to it. Fascinating.

Drew and Julie did the annual bottle party. The theme was monster mash, so you can imagine the pile of potatoes! Drew had his latest slide show of close ups of California native plants. He does spectacular work. This year he was showing off the camera he uses. It's an old pocket camera that he's fitted a loupe to with a cardboard tube. He says he wants to upgrade but is afraid he'd have to relearn his technique!

I've been getting out with the D-50 quite a bit. You can [no longer] peruse the photo gallery for my latest work. I am just so happy to have that camera in my hand. I feel like I'm back in the photo business again. Leonard has made the same move. We hooked up for a hike in the park. We hiked Pulgas Ridge for four hours and yet we covered just two miles!

One opportunity for photos came up in Angela's backyard. In February she applied to have her house on the California Native Plant Garden Tour. I told her not to get her hopes up. Then they did a drive-by and accepted her house! She's worked like the devil to get it ready and when the weekend came, it sparkled. The late rains delayed many other's gardens but hers was a full blush of magnificent poppies. Every plant was labeled. I worked the welcome table and ushered in about 120 visitors. It was a big success. A few weeks later we went to the post tour pot luck at a huge house in Los Altos, just off Sand Hill road.

Karen Wolff invited us over for the last party at her house in Almaden. And it was her birthday as well! We had to park a block away from her house as the street was lined with cars. As we stepped out we were assaulted with a horrific din of rock 'n roll. We looked at each other and said, "if it's this loud out here..." We agreed to say hello and then get out. Well, it turns out that we were the first guests to arrive. The loud party was at the house next door to Karen's! The neighbor was having their own birthday party with 200 guests and live music. You can't imagine how loud this was for a residential street. We spent most of our time inside Karen's where the music was just normal-loud. That was fine because her house is lovely. The extra large living room used to hold a grand piano that the previous owner used for concerts. When the band took a break we'd step under the pergola for Rod's wine tasting. He had about 15 bottles. Luckily I was driving. Unluckily, Angela was not. Angela won two of the door prizes. She gave one away to the person standing next to her and made an instant friend. We closed out the quiet night sitting around the fire pit with those few friends who stayed to the bitter end.

Joan's been involved with the IDEX charity for many years. I was honored that she invited me over for a fund raiser. It's better to read about IDEX on their web site, but suffice it to say that I like their approach. Joan took off to India in March and told IDEX that she'd like to visit a local agency. You might imagine that the places they fund are not the nicest to travel. Joan ended up in a very poor part of Eastern India where she participated in a goat ceremony. The local charity was loaning one goat apiece to eight men who had been disabled from working in the local mines. The men could use the goat for a year with the hope that they would raise a baby as well and return that as payment. I can't tell Joan's story here, but it was incredibly moving. One small act of kindness can make such a difference in someone's life.

In our own trek to the hinterland, we went to visit Chez Paul in PS. While there the daytime temperature soared to 100 degrees. This was nothing compared to a week later when the mercury hit 120, but it was plenty hot for me. We'd get up at 7am and sit on the veranda in the early warm breeze. About 9:30 we'd close the heavy curtains to give us some shade. About 10:00 I'd snap awake from a short snooze and say, "holy cow, this is way too hot" and we'd retreat to the air-conditioned inner sanctum. By 5pm it was cool enough to venture to dinner, as long as the restaurant was spraying us with misters. We made a day trip to the artist's colony of Idyllwild. It's in the mountains, and thus cool. There are a vast number of art galleries, a few places to eat, and a couple of coffee shops. We visited a couple in each category. On the way home we spied a big Scientology outpost. How can anyone believe that stuff? In my mind you'd have to be very lonely and have a horrible self image to get involved with it. It says a lot about our times that so many people do. We finished that day with a disappointing dinner at a new PS tapas place. The menu has interesting ideas, but the execution was lacking. Oh, let me not forget to mention the local baseball team we cheered on. Maybe Palm Springs is not as much a hinterland as we think?

The highlight of the season was my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. All the immediate family was in town. Plus cousins. Plus my mom's cousins from Seattle. We set off early to Vasona Park to set up shade. That was a good idea as this turned out to be a 104 degree day. We had tons of water and lots of food. Armadillo Willy's did the catering, and they did a great job. I was careful to make sure that their Carolina Pulled Pork was gluten free - I wanted to make sure that there was something for the celiac crowd. But it came covered in BBQ sauce. Of course the delivery guy had no idea. I called the store and the manager on duty said, "gluten free? Sure, no fat in the sauce." Errrk. I wasn't mad on the phone, just very disappointed. However, she called me back 10 minutes later to say that now she'd figured it out and was sending us another 5 pounds of pork without sauce! Wow, we had enough meat for lunch, dinner, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My God.

After we'd had our fill of BBQ and heat, most of the group tripped back to my Saratoga digs. It was crowded, but it was family. We listened to a recording made by Hugh Turner at my folks wedding reception. It was a bit long, but we got to hear voices that have been absent for years. That was very special. Then we put on a DVD of family pictures over the years. It was fun watching us all grow through many different styles. Big hair, little hair, polyester, and cotton. The last guests left at 10pm and I fell into bed exhausted. On Sunday I was in Pacifica for some family time and we went bowling with Nancy's family. I almost broke 100. 'nough said.

Marty had us up to her place for dinner. She's got her place on the market and is just waiting for it to sell. The La Honda slide is just down the street from her so we took a sunset walk to view it. What a massive movement. I had no idea how big it is. It's easy to hear that five houses were lost, but when you see where the yards used to be - when you see that the road has been split and the ends are now tossed 100 yards apart - when you realize that you can't see the end of the slide because it is down there over that other hump that is part of the slide itself. Wow. The slide is huge. Really huge. It has ruined several lives. Marty is lucky that her place is above a part of the slide area that seems stable. The slump has left a 50 foot cliff in her direction and the sliding is moving off in another direction.

We've done a number of other events. Several Filoli jazz concerts, including one night's dinner with big band sounds on the tennis courts. Len and Holly had us over for their joint 40th. It was Hawaiian themed, so my natural tendency to wear fish shirts fit in perfectly. Spam sushi was the delicacy of the night. Bob's been down to stay several times, once with Carolyn.

Charlie has been down and I went to see Lyle Lovett with him at Paul Mason. What a great show. The show started when Lyle walked out on stage with a bass player and started doing his thing. Since there wasn't a warm up band, this screwed up that part of the crowd who has front row seats but can't be bothered with a warm-up band. I am happy to report that these boors missed out on almost half the show. As Lyle continued to play other band members would tiptoe onto the stage and join in. By the end his whole 12-piece band was cranking out the tunes. It gets chilly up there and I had to loan my jacket to some unknown woman sitting next to us. She was not prepared for the icy wind that can whip through the bowl.

We all met again in Laguna Beach for this year's Pageant of the Masters. Joining us was Bob's cousin and husband. This year Cindy and Don joined us. It was their first ever POM and I think they enjoyed themselves and the gang. They certainly fit right in. One night's dinner at the Aegean Cafe was good. Two of Don's friends from Wharton joined us. They live nearby and were a nice addition to the team. The last night we ate at Rick's Partners Bistro, which is absolutely fabulous. Perhaps the best restaurant I've been in this year. The menu offers a range of interesting dishes and every one I managed to stick a fork in tasted incredible. We walked out stuffed, but managed to still buy a truffle at the shop next door. And at least a few of us had a dollop of gelato. I would be happy eating my way through the Partner's menu.

Lastly, a diversion. You may have heard about the well intentioned, but crazy, release of AOL search history? It was removed from their web site the same day it was put out. Afterwards some enterprising netizens posted it for posterity. As soon as I read about it I snagged a copy for meself. I now have a MySQL database of 35M queries. A search for "schrempp" turns up three hits, but all looking for a sports star. I guess I should be happy about that.

Well, more adventures are in my future. I hope you have some in yours as well.

Semi Quarterly Update, March 2006...


That old back breaker is history - almost. After suffering three years in the otherwise great Toyota Matrix, I finally found a car that fits me better. Maybe it fits better because it's bigger? Close friends know that I have proven several different times that the Matrix was the certain cause of my back pains. Maybe other things contribute, but extended driving of the Matrix trips the switch. Now I'm in a Nissan Altima and I feel fine. The Matrix is not a bad car but to take advantage of its headroom I had to adjust the seat in a way that left me sitting in a well. If I put the seat back up, then the roof line kept me from seeing more than 25 yards ahead. Gahh!

This blog is not often political, but somthn' has been burning a hole in my heart and I have to get it off my chest here.


I am fed up with these anti-anti-war protesters (self proclaimed "pro troops" people) labeling anyone who questions the current administration's policies as "un American" and by implication "anti-troops". For years we've heard this knee jerk, non-thinking crap from Bill O'Reilly and his ilk, but I don't really care what he says. He's an entertainer; he's not a serious commentator. You can see by watching him on talk shows like Letterman and The Daily Show that Bill doesn't take himself seriously. He switches his "righteous indignation" on and off in the blink of an eye.  He's just a comedian and his shtick happens to be screaming about things. I take him as seriously as I take Louis Black. It's just theater and they both know it.

However, I have recently heard comments from common folk that have really angered me. Both came from pro-war demonstrators when describing anti-war demonstrators. Both said something along the lines of "I support our troops and their mission in Iraq and I am tired of these un-American protesters questioning our government." How dare they imply that the anti-war demonstrators do not support our troops. How dare they label all anti-war demonstrators as un-American for openly questioning our government! How narrow minded can these pro-war people be?

The kind of blind "my leader right or wrong" mentality that these war mongers (since we're throwing around honorifics try that one on for size) spew out is reminiscent of the blindness that kept Stalin in power. Or that keeps Kim Jong Ill in power in North Korea. Or that keeps women enslaved in all parts of our world.

In point of fact, anti-anti-war protesters who talk this way are in reality the most un-American people in the house. Maybe those pro-war folks who want to stifle free speech, who want to stop thinking and march in lockstep to the edicts of their government, who advocate ripping up our Constitution, should all go to North Korea or China where you're not allowed to question the government! Fascists! Those pro-war folks are all Fascists! (OK, Bill O'Reilly should get out of here too just because I tire of him.)

The right to openly question government and engage in debate is the principle that underlies every American value. Citizens who bravely speak their mind, sharing their views on policy in the open, is exactly what our exceptional troops fight to protect. Those who participate in open debate are so-American. Let us not forget that there is a war being fought at home - a war to protect our way of life from the current administration. Those anti-war protesters are on the front lines of that war. We all have to step out to protect real American values.

So, now that I've flamed the other side by painting them with the broad un-American brush, let me say that their point of view has a place at the table too. We need to be accepting of everyone's right to free speech. Let's settle down and talk about what we should do to help ourselves, help the world, help ourselves (why not mention that twice?), maintain peace, feed the people, and raise everyone's standard of living.

<EndRanting> <BackToBliss>

2006 got off to a weird start at Denise's traditional post holiday white elephant exchange. As always it was fun. I brought a he-she romantic evening bag. It was filled with body lotions, scrubs, and scents. Oh yes, it also had a bottle of BBQ sauce too. After some trading I ended up with a little package containing someone's extracted wisdom teeth. Yeek. Someone else ended up with a bag full of paintballs and as he was leaving I made a quick trade. I don't know why I wanted the paintballs, but I sure didn't want the teeth. OTOH he didn't want the paintballs and I think he felt he could just toss the teeth in the bushes on his way out the door. Can't wait for next year.

Thom Blum was performing at this year's fixed media music festival so we gathered up Marty and Wendy to make a day of it. First stop was the DeYoung Museum. It's newly redone and fabulous. The exhibition area is well laid out and the building is so interesting. I love the modern art. We went up in the tower which offers a tree top view of a part of the city you can't see anywhere else. Inside are a few Chihuly pieces - I always enjoy his work. (As an aside, Angela had a chance to visit Fairchild Gardens which mixes Chihuly glass with exotic plants.) Then we were off to Cafe Gratitude. This neo-hippy place serves all raw food, but in familiar forms. My enchiladas were made of seaweed wrapped around macerated pumpkin seeds with cashew "sour cream" on top. Sounds abominable, but is actually delicious. Lastly we spent two hours at ODC surrounded by the sonic stylings of various artists in the world of tape music, what used to be called electronic music. Weird sounds, odd movements, they call it theater for the ears. I like it.

The very next day was Cirque du Soliel in San Jose. Another great show this year. Tumbles, jumps, high wire acts, and eerie music combine to awe the senses. My only complaint is the sensor that is attached to my backside. That sensor registered "squished" the whole time. Same as last year, the seats are so narrow that few Americans would be comfortable. I'm not small, but anyone beyond petite would find it unacceptable.

Superbowl Sunday was spent in Aptos again. This time we rented Jackie's place. Just one block off the cliffs we had marvelous views of the water. The weather was perfect and the food excellent. Carolyn made a modified paella using chorizo that came out sooo good. Bob brought ribs that he'd smoked at home. Paul reprised poached pears - with the big surprise being how good the poaching liquid tasted. We brought gazpacho for a lunch. Good times were had by all. We have a few photos of the trip here too. (Paul also filed a report.)

Alan was out for a week's visit. We haven't seen him in years and it was so nice to catch up. He, of course, brought out another bottle of scotch and we drank up his visit! Bob was in town to work that same week and I ended up with him as my date to the San Jose Rep. Always good shows there.

I should mention the new Nikon D-50 that is spurring my renewed photography binge. What an absolutely perfect camera. I love it. Feels good to my hand, great to my eye, and takes technically excellent photos. Bob touched it at Christmas and now owns one too. Paul handled it in Aptos; now he has converted. If you have been missing your SLR from the old days, now is the time to make the move. Mike has a Canon which is also nice. The Canon is lighter, but doesn't fit my big hands as well. You would be happy with either.

So that brings us up to the present. I won't mention the sleet storm that put snow on the beaches and a layer on my car. Or how much fun I'm having doing babysitter duty for the twins. I'll leave all that for the future.

Semi Quarterly Update, January 2006...

Being so early in the new year, this entry is really about last year, although things have been happenin' 'round 'ere.

A quick review of what got us out of 2005:

Way back in September we made a trip to Lindy's place in Grass Valley. Lindy is a most gracious and entertaining host. This time we spent all of Saturday chatting about common interests, including a lot of bemoaning how the Bush administration is trying to change the face of America by increasing government spending beyond belief and simultaneously taking away our rights to personal freedom by implementing what the novel 1984 predicted. The non-patriotic whacko-s running our country should scare every citizen to death. Instead, the American public is being led like lambs to the slaughter. I fear that by the time the masses wake up our country will more resemble imperial Russia than America. I pray every day for the next election to end the horror.

In local politics, we worked hard to elect Len Materman to the San Carlos city council. Three of the five seats were up for grabs. Matt Grocott was the only incumbent running for re-election. Matt is an excellent guy and we had a chance to put two more open-government candidates onto the council. Len waged a good campaign. We went door to door for him, handed out flyers, gave away balloons. In a local election it is often about name recognition. In the end, Len didn't win. Matt came away with the most votes ever - over half the voters in the polls voted for him. Len came in a close tie for fourth, but he also got more votes than many candidates in previous elections. I'm sad that Len did not get a seat, he would have done a great job. However, the two other new councilmen look like they will be good for the city as well.

I managed to get a fishing trip in with Jon to PML. As always, it's nice to get away. Vance and Carson both made it this time, and you can imagine how the four of us got along. The biggest surprise came when we pulled out the trailer for the trip home - the two tires each had huge chunks of tread gone. So much that you could see the steel belts. We spent several hours dealing with that and in the end the boat had to be left in PML for a later pickup. I can only imagine that the tire pressure was low on the Spring trip up and Jon just barely made it to the cabin.

Three more lectures happened last year. Far and away the best was Robert Ballard. Deep sea oceanographer extraordinaire, he was the one who found the Titanic. He was also on the submersible that first saw life at the mid-Atlantic trench hot springs. I was enthralled for the entire 90 minutes. He is an incredible speaker.

Colin Powell spoke in November. He was very interesting. As a socially moderate Republican, he does not fit well with the current radical-Republican traitors in charge of the place. He made that very clear in his comments without ever saying anything bad about the current administration. He regaled us with numerous views inside the  diplomatic process. And the protests! A large group gathered outside the hall. Then, in the middle of his talk, two people stood up. They had put on white shirts with pseudo-blood on them and wore Colin Powell face masks. "Powell lied, Iraqi's died" they chanted. Colin handled them extremely well. He told the audience that freedom of speech is one of our most precious values and that protesters were part of the process that keeps America strong. The protesters got little attention and eventually they left. I love the theater!

Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke as well. She covered anecdotes about her latest book on Lincoln. The material was interesting, but her speaking style was bad - a droning monotone that never stopped. No inflection, no dramatic pause. Just a constant buzzzzzzz. She could use a speaking coach. Even the simple kind of tips I got at HP. A few simple changes and she could become an electric lecturer.

I was invited to speak at the GIG meeting by my SO. As you know, I'm a bore on Efficient Portfolio Theory and a tireless promoter of Financial Engines. I was surprised to find that FE had nothing to offer me in the way of brochures or sales pieces. I ended up putting together about 15 slides and some screen captures from my own FE account. GIG had lots of questions, of which I could even answer a few. It was a fun evening for both me and them.

This year's Halloween party has been documented elsewhere. It was a super time.

Jennifer sent me an email a few months back, looking for friends to split a side of organic, grass fed beef. "Count me in!" was my immediate reply. I love it when someone else plans and all I have to do is pay.  I remember that my folks did this once when we had a chest freezer and I've wanted to try this for a while. I should have paid more attention to that chest freezer. In the end, there were only three of us, but to every email I replied, "Just tell me what I owe!" Then we found out that the ranch would not have a steer for a while. Damn. "What about a pig?" Jen found that they had one. OK, we're on again. A few weeks later we found out that they would have a steer after all. "Why not do both?" I asked. At last the final email came: "I have the meat. Come by and pick up your hundred pounds." What? 100 pounds? Cripes, that's a lot of meat. Oh man. So I threw everything else out of my side-by-side freezer, cleaned out two big coolers for transport, and headed over to Yen's. Over burgers that Alain made of the new beef we split up our take like waiters dividing up tips. In the end I had a huge pile of beef and pork. We are still eating it. The pork is incredible - the best I've ever had. The beef is only so-so. Being grass fed it does not have the marbling that comes with the normal corn finish. As a result it is very, very lean and it has a stronger taste than other beef. OTOH, it is said to be very high in Omega-3 fatty acids - as much as in salmon. We'll see what my next cholesterol test says about that.

This year we did a late gathering in SLO. So late that camping would be cold, so we were at the Holiday Inn Express instead. It's always good to see the gang. Tom didn't make it this year. Diane was also a late drop out. The rest of us had fun. We played some poker, tried to golf, and hung out at what used to be The Network. I found a fantastic leather coat. The sales guy originally thought Sheila was my sheila and kept trying to get her to push me to buy. "Looks great on him, doesn't it?" Then She came in and changed the dynamic. Then Rick came in to claim Sheila. The sales guy was all confused, and we did not help him. In the end he made the sale, and I'm really happy with the coat. We also ate at the Basque restaurant in town. The food was incredible. My cassoulet was just delicious. I can still taste it - no doubt my heart can too.

We celebrated the Solstice with the California Revels production in Oakland at the Scottish Rite Center. The production is a fun one of songs and dramas and music all set in old world Irish castle. I recommend it. Nancy's daughter Elaine lives almost next door to SRC and we had a picnic lunch in her living room first. Afterward Elaine took us to a favorite diner in the Lake Merritt area. The food was good, but the ambiance and patrons were classic.

I managed to get visits by Gail and Linda at different times. They are two great people and I enjoy talking with them. I took them both down to the Blue Rock Shoot for sandwiches and coffee. Both days were clear and cool. Fantastic times to be outside in Saratoga.

Bob was working in the area on several gigs so he was able to stay over at my place. When he's over it's just like old times. Watch some TV, get some BBQ at Sam's, drink some scotch. Paul made another trip our way - he is an excellent guest. At one point we even had some competition for the Inn when we made a massive rendezvous for the annual Godfrey-Prince movie night. This time the movie was Cover Girl; it certainly speaks to a different time.

I spent four days with the Coulter-Gunn group in Twain Harte around Christmas. That was a relaxing time. It rained a lot but we still got out to see things. I was energized by Paul's report to drag out my old manuscript and give it another pass. You know, that story isn't half bad. Years ago Marty read it and provided me tons of advice. I finally took that advice. The story is reading better and better. Now I need another trusted reviewer - any interest?

This new year found us at the Saratoga Drama crab feed. The feed was delicious, but how can cold Dungeness be bad? We met Deann there; turns out to be a close neighbor. And after too much crab we then spent too much time at the chocolate fountain. We will have to see a production this year. I just hope the 20 piece banjo band is not at every performance!

Lastly, I think the new year will be interesting. As a start, out of the blue I got a call from Ann Hilo, a high school classmate that I haven't seen in 25 years. She was one of the brightest ones at Terra Nova. I hope to see her next time she's in town. Then, two days later I run into Jack and Adrienne Frost at the local YMCA. I haven't seen them in five years. They're looking good. Three days later at the Peninsula Orchid Show I run into Claudia Carhart (about 6 months since the last time we met), Jeannie Bruins (about 6 years), and Mei Lin Chen (about 15 years). (Ken Jacobson was also there, as a working member. I met him for the first time just two days previous.) What's the chance that all four of us would be at the same show at the same hour? Then two days after that, I get an email from Linda Interiano (haven't seen her in 12 years). The same day I get an email from Carl Cicero (20 years ago)! Since the new year I've also managed to have lunch with Danny Wong, Brad Maihack, and Rachael Kornblau. While dining with Rachael, Mike Pechulis walked into the place. What kind of cosmic conspiracy has brought us all back in touch? Now the remaining question: where's Vicky been?

2006 looks to be a fun one.