Jim Schrempp

Jim's Journal 2008

   My musings...

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November 22, 2008

The election seasons are finally over. Thank God the Dems swept the ticket. The last six years have seen a deepening erosion of the core values of our country and I have to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the right wing of the Republican party. Now that those fellows are out we can start making America right again. I'm ecstatic that Obama won and I'm so disappointed in what McCain became.

I wonder if McCain had this badness inside him all along, or if he lost his way in the terrible advice of his team? Or did he just turn too old over the last two years? Don't get me wrong, I don't think even the old McCain could have won - the country wanted more change that McCain would bring - but during the campaign he morphed into a spearhead of the intolerant right. How did that happen?

No matter, we made the right choice and America is back on the road to righteousness. I predict that Obama is going to end up angering the far left Democrats as he hews to centrist politics. In 2012 we will probably see a stronger splinter-left candidate and to win a second term Obama will have to capture the middle majority. I predict he'll do it.

As to the far right? I can only hope that the angry media keep feeding red meat to the extremists. I don't think the Republicans have the strength to isolate them yet and so we need to keep them pumped up so that the next loses are clearly pinned on the far right. It will take another drubbing in 2010 and 2012 before the Republican party leadership realizes that the xenophobic, bible thumping, big government, spend-a-holic, far right is electorally bankrupt. But then watch for the Republicans to mount a come back in the 2014 mid terms.

Ah, but what about the home life? Between checking the financial market on Google and the latest election poll on fivethirtyeight.com (wow, that guy called the election!), I did manage to do a few things...

Dad had some surgery and I took a week off to spend some time with Mom. We drove over the hill to visit him each day. It's two months later now and he's doing great. I spent a few nights in Pacifica so Mom and I made a couple of dinners. We made the beef ribs in chocolate one night and chicken mole another. Just last night we made a new recipe of carrot ginger soup. I enjoyed spending the extended time with them. I set Mom up with a portable DVD player and some discs. She watched Young Frankenstein and found it hilarious. I think they'll take the player to dialysis with them - they have more than a few hours to kill there every week.

Jon and Carson and I did another trip to Pine Mountain Lake. While I managed to catch the first bass, I didn't get much else the rest of the time. Carson was barren until near the end. Even Jon didn't do well, though he managed to land a 5.5 pounder(!) After casting right under a tree where we both said, "that looks like a good spot." He must have hit it on the head because that bass just jammed the lure. The rest of the time even Jon had trouble getting a bite.

One night we ate at the Hotel Charlotte. The food was ok. Pricey, but nothing special. Even the exotic sounding specialties were disappointing. The staff was very entertaining and we had a rather ribald exchange with several of the servers. Perhaps we'd had too much wine? We also ate at Cocina Michoacana - one of our favorites - two nights. One night I had the excellent mole; the next a superb red chili Colorado. My God that was good.

In the vestibule of Cocina we met a couple on holiday from England. They had spent four days in LA and disliked it so much they were considering going home early. But they made the drive North and their whole perspective changed. "California is so beautiful," they told us. On my recommendation they had the mole and as we left they stopped us to say how fantastic it was. "We've never had a dish like this before!" If you're in Groveland, Cocina is a good stop.

The lecture series started with Gingrich v. Reich. This was much better than last year's non-debate. They traded friendly barbs and told a few jokes. But we also got a view on how they see the problems we face as a nation. The two were closer than expected. Newt distanced himself from the current administration whenever possible and ended up sounding like a moderate. We enjoyed the back and forth. We also saw Mark Russell - the political comedian. He was funny and light. He made jabs at both sides of the spectrum.

I ran into Kyle and Lisa again and this time we made dinner plans for JZ Cool in Menlo Park. Don and Cindy came along and we had a nice time catching up. The food was very good and I love having live jazz in the background. It's owned by the force behind Flea Street Cafe, where Jon and Kwok had their 125th party - which was a most excellent time. I'm surprised that JZ Cool was almost empty on this Saturday night... the place is too good to go. The braised pork chop - ummmmm.

We were invited up to Lindy's again and enjoyed hanging out. Lindy made a nice roasted chicken and a very good vegetable risotto. We had a nice long day chatting about the state of the world and whether Obama would make it or not. On Sunday morning the four of us worked the NY Times crossword to completion! It's hard to believe that four people could work a NYT puzzle without killing each other over the pen, but we laughed our way through it. I'd like to spend more time with them.

Continuing the election buzz, we had dinner at Marty's La Honda hop. Work to stabilize the slide is very far along. We could see where they were preparing to pour concrete. Marty roasted some root vegetables and bbq'd a flank steak to perfection. Over wine we discussed the candidates and the propositions. We agreed on most, some we didn't know enough about.

Gary and Rhona came over for the third debate. We cheered Obama on and made faces trying to imitate John McCain. What was that wild eyed, creepy stare all about? I think he got bad coaching there. Obama seemed to have honed his message. McCain seemed to become more shrill. Maybe that's just my view.

Our Halloween party fell on a dark and stormy night. A number of friends emailed last minute regrets due to oncoming flu - we appreciate that they didn't spread the sickness. Those who came were again in clever costumes. I came as the failed economy, wearing sandwich boards that offered a bet on when the Dow will break 5000 - maybe it's a good sign that no one took the bet.

Then came election night. We spent it at the SJ Rep, entertained by Splitting Infinity. A lively romantic tale of two physicists. As we went in Obama was only ahead by a bit. At the break everyone was celebrating that Obama had won. You could see the relief on the faces of so many people. One woman told us she'd been making get-out-the-vote calls for the last month. The audience was too polite to cheer, but it was clearly a victory for the good guys.

We wrapped up the election season with a trip to Forestville and a stay at the Russian River Studios. Sue and Cindy were closing a gallery show and many friends came to celebrate. We enjoyed the accommodations, just across the street from the river. 20 of us ate another fantastic meal at Mosaic in nearby Forestville. My choice of pork chop marinated in vanilla and star anise was unusual and delicious. I had a taste of her eggplant and it was also very good. I wish I'd saved room for dessert - they had that look. We sat with the owner of the RRStudios and had a most interesting talk of running a gallery, running a hotel, and creating health care provider networks.

On Sunday we visited Dave and Sue's place for brunch standing on their deck overlooking the forest. Oh so quiet. Cheri made two overnight souffl├ęs which were excellent. I've had them before, but never the recipe. Now that has been captured too.

We sped back to San Carlos for Matt's 50th birthday. Bonnie provided a spacious ridge top setting with magnificent views of the valley. The ambiance was more than matched by Vivian's spectacular array of homemade food. I haven't seen this much home made food in a long time. Paella, a neat deconstructed meat loaf, savory tarts, ravioli... every time I turned around there was more food out. Many of Matt's friends are also creatures of the Plantation Roasting Company. We got a chance to chat with some of the people we just nod to on our Saturday and Sunday morning sojourns. This crowd has more mixed political views and so our conversation stayed on the great food.

I need to add a few more words about this election. We were overjoyed that Obama won. A McCain victory would have given the darker forces in America more time in control - our future would have been bleak. This November we took our country back. I can't say that I always vote Democrat, but even my normally staunch Republican friends have become disgusted with the far right movement of the Republican party. I think Obama is going to be a moderate president, taking our country back to the center. I think my fiscally conservative friends will be satisfied.

This season I talked politics with anyone who would engage. I really wanted to know what the other side was thinking. I can understand that some people like McCain, or dislike Obama and I enjoyed hearing their side of the argument.

Positions on Proposition 8 were the most surprising among my friends. This proposition to ban gay marriage passed; I am very sad about that. It was interesting to find that people who agreed we me on every other political view were so completely opposite of me on this. In each case their reasoning was religious. They said they do not have a problem with gay anything, but they could not reconcile "gay" and "marriage" in their faith. I heard several times, "I'd vote them the same rights as married couples, but just not use the word married."

I happen to know that some of my friends holding this view have been personally subjected to discrimination of another kind in their lives. And yet they can not see this as one more instance of discrimination. Their understanding of their faith has led them to deny basic human rights to someone less fortunate than themselves. That is indeed a sad situation; and a sad statement on their understanding of their faith.

On the whole these were very interesting discussions. The post election protests and legal challenges will keep the issue alive for a while. At some point we'll again legalize gay marriage. Let's hope it's soon.

Lindy's part of the state has Tom McClintock running for the House of Representatives. McClintock is a guy whose politics I do not endorse. It's hard to believe a guy from Los Angeles can run to represent a northern California district, but I guess that's the constitution. As of today it's still a nail biter with 4,000 uncounted ballots McC leads by 1700. Let's hope the remaining ballots all vote against him.


November 4, 2008

America is now back on the road to righteousness after
the worst period for our country in the last 50 years;
a period that history will show almost destroyed our
constitutional government and civil liberties.

History has been made. The darkness is about to end.


PRAISE THE LORD, but thanks to YOU for voting.

There is much to do... and so much to undo.

Mr. King ended his Hawaii speech by quoting a prayer from a preacher who had once been a slave, and it’s an apt description of the idea of America today: “Lord, we ain’t what we want to be; we ain’t what we ought to be; we ain’t what we gonna be, but, thank God, we ain’t what we was.”




September 1, 2008

The end of summer is near. But let's be truthful, in this part of the world summer doesn't really end until the first cold days of November. Until then it's still beach weather.

Ray's place sold, so he's now loose upon the world. We see him and the Coulters and Brent quite a bit these days. Our camps make a convenient jumping off point and I'm always glad to have old friends make use of my place. Sometimes we just get a few fleeting moments, but other times they stay a few days. It makes for a great life for us.

Erling's opera Mordake opened in SF, around the corner from the EFF offices, and we were there. It was a stunning stage setting. Dual rear and front projection screens transformed the small setting into a trip through the protagonists decent into a personal hell. At times the rear projection of a bedroom spun as the character wandered dazed and confused. Other times the front projection lit up his profile in a burst of fiery energy as his manic self took over. All with Erling's music showing the way. Truly a good show.

Then there was Thom's sonic installation at a performance of the Debra Slater Dance Theater. He lined a 100 yard long corridor with speakers, each playing their own riff of ambient sounds. Entering this gauntlet we were assaulted with clashing urban sounds that actually propelled us ahead. As we moved along the sounds became more accepting to us and of us. When we reached the end we were bathed in the sound of harmonious strings and the tinkle of a music box. Thom tells us it was intended to take us from our outdoor urban setting to the quiet interior of the dance theater. And the dance was excellent as well!

The first week of July had me at Indian Lakes, just North of Vermilion Bay. It was a repeat of last year's walleye shootout; this year the results were equally satisfying. I have some photos on Facebook to peruse. Jon came along this year and so did Jim E from Colorado. We met up with Kim and Pete in Winnipeg for the drive out. This year the weather was colder and wetter than last. Jon brought in some nice sized fish, but Pete took the champion spot with a huge walleye that he returned to the lake to breed.  Jon is a fishing machine and was out no matter what. I followed him into a couple of downpours. Some worked into nice sunny floats. Others turned into such torrential downpours that we headed back after only an hour with our lines down. On one notable return, our last chance to fish, we stopped at the little islands near the cabin for one more drop. Low and behold we found a ledge with some good size fish. The rain was filling up the boat but the fish were biting so we kept repositioning and drifting over it. After unhooking a fish we'd look at each other, rain running off our hats, mean black clouds in the sky. We'd glance to the cabins on the shore and say, "well, one more drop can't hurt." And then we'd laugh like idiots. It was a blast.

Barely back and dry, we helped James celebrate his graduation. Good Lord man. You've done it! We met a number of his family and friends and sister's friends (it was a dual graduation). We love a social party like this and had a number of fun chats. His aunt from Germany set up an easel and everyone was invited to apply some acrylic paints as a gift to James. I did the best I could - sorry James.

Then it was off to Laguna Beach for our almost regular Pageant of the Masters. To our horror, Eiler's Inn is now in transformation to a $500/night kooky looking spa hotel. Damn. We were back to By The Sea Inn. Under new management it has been remodeled to a much nicer style. They've also replaced the desk hag. We actually enjoyed the staff this time. The POM show was good, as expected. And the food was overly filling - also expected.

Back to The Rep for Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking. I called early and we sat center stage, row 2. There was a slight panic before the curtain opened as we were warned that "Ms Fisher often likes to interact with the audience in the front two rows." Super! Oh shit! We negotiated to remain on my firm promise to protect against any embarrassing stuff; it worked out fine. The play itself was interesting. Funny at times. Awfully sad at others. It was like spending an evening with a very open, very entertaining addict who is off the junk - for now. Overall I enjoyed it. It is not for the faint of heart. Not for strong language or inappropriate humor (although there is some of that) but more for the sadness that grew over me as I realized how painful so much of her life has been. Still, the end result seems cathartic for Carrie and I think she says more than once, "better to be alive than dead." (I think wikipedia gives a good bio of Carrie.)

Then back on the road for five days at the Engelhorn family reunion in Branson, MO. We flew into Little Rock so we could see some of the beautiful Ozark Mountains. We managed a quick visit to the LR historic museum, which has some houses from the 1820's on their original foundations. We also spent hours at the Clinton Presidential Library. This is worth a visit. On our way to Branson we saw the "Grand Canyon of the Ozarks;" it was a nice valley. Branson itself is the country music capital of the world, if you don't count Nashville. But, of course, you do have to count Nashville.  And it is complete gridlock for most of the day. At one point some family members spent two hours locked in traffic on the way to the store and they just returned empty handed. The parts we saw were 100% white - all the shows, all the audiences, all the wait staff, all the actors; that surprised us.

The family gathering itself was a huge success. Gary and Esther did a wonderful job hosting. The planning was fantastic and the food was heavenly. Ann and Blu made big contributions to a smoothly running show. We had fun getting to know them, I hope to see them before the next reunion. We had about 60 family members attend. What a crowd. You can see photos of it on our family site. They raise certified Angus on their ranch: AnniBlu Farms and Ester runs a fabric decorating business called MrC's Caps.

We managed to see The Presleys (a good show), The Baldnobbers (an ok show), and The Sheppard of the Hill (a bad show). The shows didn't cost much, so we were not expecting Vegas, but the shows just didn't deliver. The Presleys were good musicians and made a big deal of how many family members were on stage. We enjoyed their show. The Baldnobbers had a lot of family up there, but they didn't trade on that. As a result I'd expect them to replace the weak performers with better ones. And for our show the sound engineering was terrible. TSOTH was just bad acting. It was overly emotive, the pacing was slow, the dialog uninteresting. TSOTH needs a new producer.

On the advice of Craig and LaVon we took a day trip to Eureka Springs. It was raining so we only drove the town. It has a long history as a heath spring, at one point they put the water in milk cans and shipped it all over the country. They have a nice little museum that took us an hour to see. I'd like to spend a few days at one of the old hotels in town. On the way back to Little Rock we drove past a large farm machinery building on its side. Houses had tarps on their roofs. At one spot trees 24 inches in diameter had been snapped in half. We later came to believe we were seeing the aftermath of the season's tornado that ripped through Arkansas. 

This summer the Filoli Jazz series had some good shows. Le Jazz Hot of San Francisco was fabulous. I love that Django Reinhart sound and they do it so very well (if you go to their web site you can hear a sample). We also saw Darrell Grant and Dmitri Matheny. Grant was spectacular on the piano. He lightly danced across the keys in a way that brought each note out as he played. Dmitri plays the flugelhorn, too bad his was broken. When the valves worked he sounded brilliant, but too often he'd just blow air. He apologized right off for having an old, but cherished instrument. Unfortunately he lost 10% of the audience at the break. I felt like I needed to apologize to my guests. I hope that he's now using a new horn  and the cherished one is just for studio work.

Looks like I'm off to England again for a few days of business. I hope I'm coherent after the red eye lands.



May 21, 2008

Time rolls by... and I roll with it. Our first trip this year was a very nice five days in Santa Fe with Marty. She's been living around looking for the perfect retirement location and I think she's found it. It was early March and there were still little drifts of snow in the shade of trees. The air was brisk, but not cold. This was my first trip and I was delighted to find a place of moderate weather, liberal people, excellent museums, and fantastic food. It's Half way between Albuquerque and Taos in so many ways. Not as hot or as cold. Not as urban or as rural. It somehow avoids the tourist area feeling of its neighbors. One night we had a drink at Cowgirls - rough wooden floor - and listened to a three piece blues band. Then we went to an immaculate place and watched a guy from Dallas belt out show tunes in front of a Liberace style gilded mirror.

The folk art museum was showing Gees Bend quilts. It also has an installation of a bazillion wooden figures. All collected by a wealthy patron with a collecting jones. Now about 10% of them are on display. Some are interesting, some are quirky, but most are just the purchase of one of everything from some factory.

We also drove to one of the Pueblos. The locals were buying beads and we walked by the stalls. We easily struck up a few conversations. Then the drive to Tent Rock national monument. The moderate hike through slot canyons ended with a panoramic view of the entire New Mexico plateau. I hope to get some photos out here for you.

 We also did some hiking in Twain Harte. Bob and Carolyn took us along an abandoned narrow gauge mine right of way. The wild flowers were out and she was surprised to find that I knew the names of a few. We paused over scenic views deep into the Tuolumne river gorge. This was the weekend of the pregnant man on Oprah - it was all the talk among the other visitors to Ironstone. We tried to ignore it.

We found a new restaurant in Redwood City: Angelica's Bistro. In a cleared area of an antique shop sit tables and chairs. The food is good and everything you see has a price tag on it. While the live music plays on you can browse the upstairs area looking for deals. On our first trip Peter Beagle rose from the audience to play a few tunes. He's the author of The Last Unicorn; you never know who you'll meet. We liked the place so much that we returned for dinner three weeks later to celebrate my 51st with a few of the local domino crowd. Cindy and Don were there too, and I just happened to see a huge diamond ring on her finger. Did it belong to her grandmother? I don't think so.

Michelle and Bob sold their place and had us over for one final brunch. I enjoy hearing about their adventures, and this is just the beginning of another. We'd seen them only a month earlier, or was it two?, to take in another sample of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Catching me in the office one day, we were talking about weird things and she mentioned that she and Bob wanted to see it. "How about next weekend?" A plan was born. Greg and his friend joined us for another night of bawdy theatre. It's fun to see people so actively involved in a happening, but the constant shouts of f*** y** got to be tedious. Still, it's a fun night out every three or four years.

The CNPS plant show gave us a chance to connect with Georgia again. And we saw them both at the Native Garden Show wrap up party. The Elm house had 100 visitors again this year. The weather was arctic, so the poppies were not fully open. I think the visitors all enjoyed seeing how native plants can make for a good looking garden.

Bob and Katie were up for the Maker Faire. They were off for a bit installing hardwood flooring in their house and ended the vacation (?) with a visit north. Once again the faire was like taking a bath in a vat of creativity. I think my favorites were the 3D plotter that used cement, and the big remote controlled steel spheres.

The astronomy lectures have provided good diversion - I really enjoyed the SETI one. SJ Rep has also been fun, but I'm getting tired of this one actress who uses the same dramatic elements in every role she plays. One more of these "I'm frustrated" hand on the forehead moves and I think I'll do it too.

I managed to make a new YouTube video about Hillary Clinton. No politics here, just a good subject. I also caught some local road rage on video, but the results were a bit disappointing - I should have moved closer.

I've left out many events from this journal. I hope to have a bit more free time in the near future. Cheers.