September 27, 2009

A farmer's market of vegetables with some political spices

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Part of the Sunday morning ritual for the Admiral and I for years has been a visit to the downtown Sacramento farmer's market, a collection of about 75 vendors selling all kinds of farm produce.

The market is under the Interstate 80 freeway, which on weekdays is a parking lot filled with the cars of state workers. At least those that still have jobs.

Today's visit showed that if anything, the market is growing bigger - and better - all the time.

Piles of green veggies
Piles of fresh vegetables

The shoppers were all scurrying about, picking out the best squash, tomatoes, beans and an assortment of fruits that is mind boggling. Vendors selling honey, flowers, freshly caught salmon and sometimes wine also do a pretty brisk business.

And this Sunday the political petition people were out in force, too, with people trying to get registered voters to sign petitions to legalize marijuana and get fresher food into school lunches.
(Or was it to get fresher marijuana? Hmmm....)

The usual cadre of musicians were missing, however. Usually at least two of three guitarists take up residence near the politicians (where people gather), leaving their guitar cases open on the ground in hope of getting some cash from fans.

I should have brought my ukulele and perhaps paid for the vegetables.

Come tip-toe, through the tulips with me ...

Pot initiative petition
Marijuana petition

Tomatoes everywhere

Vegetables at farmer's market
A pile of potatoes

What we couldn't find at the Farmer's Market - which wasn't much - we stocked up on at Corti Brothers grocery store, a company that was almost forced out of business last year when the lease for the landmark grocery wasn't renewed by the landlord - and a competitor snapped it up.

Some public protestations - no, make that a lot of public protestations - made the landlord relent, the competitor backed out of the deal and the Corti family was able to renew the lease.

We're happy. Corti Brothers still has the best deli in town.

Corti Brothers in East Sacramento

September 24, 2009

A furlough day from one university, but a protest at another

DAVIS, Calif., USA - In this first 'furlough' day from my teaching at California State University, Sacramento, I studiously avoided any schoolwork, and tried to do anything that was unrelated to my teaching or other university service.

So it was a morning of laundry, reading newspapers, walking Tucker the Dog around a block and chatting for awhile with Berta, the Spanish-speaking house cleaner who comes in once a month to chase away the dust bunnies, among other dirt-related creatures that lurk in difficult spaces to clean. My rusty Spanish proved sufficient to talk un poco...

Tucker the dog
Tucker, always ready for a walk

But during the morning I also received an email from a Capital Public Radio news guy who had interviewed me a week ago about what effect the furloughs were having on students and faculty at my campus.

And after listening to it, it prompted to me to use some of my CSU, Sacramento furlough day by going to the nearby University of California, Davis campus to hoot and holler in support of the faculty there, who have been furloughed like me, but cannot take off any days from teaching, despite taking a pay cut. (Of course, they teach one or two classes per week, compared to our four, but come on, solidarity is solidarity.)
  • Interview

  • The protest eventually drew probably between 700-1000 people, with many lurking in the shade of the trees, listening to various speakers thunder about the lack of foresight on the part of the state legislature in slashing higher education budgets so drastically this year.

    Many of the students in the crowd - when not shouting slogans like "More Privatization Means Less Education" and "UC Slay-Very" - were debating whether to show up for their classes or cut. In several cases, the decision was easy because the speakers were faculty members who had canceled classes - on the very first day of school - to protest not only their plight but the steep increases in student fees with which UC students were being hit. And more UC fee increases are on the way, just like in my university system.

    A physics professor told a longish tale about the University of Texas, which he said is actively recruiting faculty from the UC system, knowing that the furloughs might tip the scale in favor of faculty choosing to teach in the Lone Star State. Such notions seemed far fetched in the past few years, but with the pay cuts, perhaps not.

    (But would UC faculty be able to pronounce Yee-Haw properly and name the entire cast of the TV series, Dallas?)

    Physics professor speaks
    UC physics professor warns of potential faculty exodus

    The protest and rally also drew plenty of people with petitions to sign: some supporting San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for governor, others to be sent to lame-duck Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger protesting the cuts.

    And the media was out in full force with TV cameras all over the place, trying to get some good footage of outrage for the evening's newscast.

    But at least while I stood there, no one yelled "You lied," at any of the speakers, or even in reference to the University of California Regents and UC President Mark Yudof who may have told a fib or two on occasion.

    The protest was quite civilized in that regard.

    TV reporter packs up
    TV reporter packs up and heads out

    Natural purple hair at Davis Calif protest
    A protester and fan of the book, The Color Purple?

    Crowd at Davis, Calif rally
    As the crowd gathered

    The UC Davis campus is no different from any other in one regard - the parking enforcement officers tend to be genetically linked to members of some past Reich and so I was pleased that after sweating for an hour listening to speakers and taking photos I got back to my Little Red Nissan with 10 minutes to spare on the meter.


    Meter with 10 minutes left
    10 minutes left - and no ticket

    Below is a brief video of one of the better speakers - Bill Camp of the Sacramento Central Labor Council who got the crowd roaring during his five-minute speech.

    September 19, 2009

    Several days of All Family - All the Time in Sacramento

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The first hint of what was about to happen was when son Dustin Fox called from Puerto Vallarta and said he and spouse Cami and daughter Sasha had decided to come to the U.S. for a 10-day vacation, to visit us - and to escape the insufferable heat of coastal Mexico this time of the year.

    Then, because they were coming, son Jason Fitzgerald, (temporarily ensconced in nearby Chico, Calif.), decided to drive south to Sacramento for a visit, too.

    And rounding out the family reunion was daughter Anne Fitzgerald Allen and her daughter Kami who live in nearby Rancho Cordova.

    All we were missing was son Dylan Fox (who lives in the Berkeley, Calif. area) and Anne's other daughter, Samantha (who was always at softball practice when we were having get togethers) and Anne' husband Steve. We will try to remedy that next week and get everyone together for a farewell soiree before the Mexico Fox family heads back to Puerto Vallarta.

    Jason, Michael and Dustin
    Jason, Michael, and Dustin

    Jason, Michael and Sasha
    Jason, Michael and Sasha

    It was a great couple of days, getting the Mexico contingent hooked up with cousins and brothers and sisters and... We almost needed a flow chart to figure it all out.

    And one upshot is that after two days of hearing tales of Mexico (and surfing, most likely), son Jason is planning a foray south this winter, either for a short vacation, or for the whole season.

    Beach volleyball in La Manzanilla will never be the same. I don't know anyone else who carries around professional volleyball gear everywhere he goes.

    The Cousins, Sasha and Kami
    Sasha Fox and Kami Allen, the cousins

    Below is a short movie of one family dinner in Sacramento - at a Mexican restaurant of course - followed a by short clip of Jason with one of his two much-beloved dogs who travel with him everywhere.

    September 13, 2009

    An afternoon at a softball luau with jury duty ahead

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The Admiral and I spent a couple of hours at a luau this afternoon/evening in Roseville, a fundraiser for the softball league that granddaughter Sami plays in.

    The mai-tai drinks were, well, industrial strength and we would have liked to sample the food, too. But the line for the food looked like it would take 45 minutes for us to chow down on pork, chicken and rice, so we opted out to go home for dinner.

    And dinner at home, cooked by roommate Suzanne, was fabulous. (Still, a third mai tai might have been good, too...)

    Luau greeting committee
    Luau greeting committee

    Steve and Nicole
    Son-in-law Steve (Sami's dad) with Nicole at the luau

    The party atmosphere was great, helped by a cooling trend of temperatures that brought the usual 90-degree days down to about 75, perfect luau weather, even if I didn't have a true Hawaiian shirt to wear.

    Instead, I wore a T-shirt I got in Mexico for the Banderas Bay Sailboat Regatta from a few years ago which seemed festive enough to fit in with the decor and the rest of the attendees. Most of attendees were young families with players on the teams. But the rest of us more senior citizen types enjoyed watching our grandchildren at the party, too.

    Luau scene
    Luau scene

    Granddaugther Kami at the luau

    Monday morning I head off to the courthouse to report for jury duty. A far cry from the mai tai drinks and pulled pork dinners of today.

    But, justice must be served.

    I guess.

    September 11, 2009

    Car crashes, classes and city clatter - welcome home!

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The Admiral and I have been back in Sacramento for a little more than two weeks and already packed in two road trips (San Francisco for a birthday dinner and Camp Connell for a Four Headlamps reunion), taught two weeks worth of university classes, and dealt with matters automotive.

    Because our two Mexico vehicles are in, well, Mexico, we are relying on the little red Nissan truck that I purchased new in 1990. With 105,000 miles on it, it's practically a new vehicle, except that it lacks one necessary accessory for this latitude (and this time of the year): an air conditioner.

    When I bought the Nissan in February of 1990, air conditioning seemed like such a luxury. Today, driving to the university in 100-degree heat, it didn't seem so.

    Nissan gets a new muffler
    Nissan gets a new muffler

    When we picked up the Nissan from its winter, spring and summer home at Ruth and Brian Gray's house in Murphy's it was obvious that either Brian had put on a new hot rod muffler or - and more likely - the muffler had a hole in it the size of Rush Limbaugh's mouth.

    The Rush's-mouth theory won out when I inspected it and we made a quick trip to a muffler shop in South Sacramento, where we had a new muffler installed. When I went to pay the bill, I thought I had accidentally warped to Mexico. It was $53, total.

    Fender bender in Sacramento
    Fender bender near our Sacramento house

    No matter where you live, people always seem to claim that the worst drivers in the world live there.

    Sacramento is no exception, except there's evidence that people do drive like maniacs, particularly on the freeways that criss-cross the town like a tic-tac-toe board. The Admiral and I have had a few close calls, but mostly been witness to numerous cases of horns blaring, people shouting and much wild gesturing involving fingers. One fellow swerved across three lanes of traffic to shout at me because he thought I was going to swerve into his lane.

    Three lanes!

    Luckily, we have two bicycles (my ancient KHS and a borrowed unit from Sanders Lamont) to provide most of our local transit. Less time on the freeway and less wild gesturing of fingers and shouting will be good.

    Class at Sac State
    One of my classes at CSU, Sacramento

    Admiral Fox has already started her countdown-to-Mexico calendar, now that we have two Sacramento weeks behind us. I'm a little more sanguine and won't get really excited for, say, another week or two.

    Part of the reason is my four classes are taking up much of my attention - as they always do at the outset of the semester. But the other is we are seeing our granddaughters Sami and Kami more and they are a hoot to be with.

    This morning I spent an hour chatting with daughter Anne while granddaughter Kami decorated my head with her collection of plastic bugs.

    Kami at her birthday party last week

    I will really miss her decorative skills this winter and spring while I'm in Mexico and real bugs are climbing on my head.

    But that's, oh, three months from now.