October 27, 2010

Here comes a head cold - 48 hours before leaving for D.C.

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Just 48 hours before heading east to cover the Rally to Restore Sanity, a head cold has started creeping its ugly tenacles into mi cabeza.

So far, just the beginnings of a stuffy head, a few sneezes, a scratchy throat and those aches that will make flying six hours on a United Airline flight to Dulles Airport lovely. Just lovely.

Ironically, I've been looking into wearing a protective face mask on the plane so I wouldn't catch a cold from another passenger. Perhaps I'll still wear one - so I don't give this cold to anyone!

I have been pumping vitamins for months and this could simply be a reaction to the drastic change in climate we've had in the past week. Sacramento went from 90 degrees every day to highs barely in the 60s. And last night it was probably as low as 40 degrees outside. It was very cold when Adm. Fox and I left for school an hour ago.


Sorry. I'm back.

A couple of Bayer aspirins, a little salt-water gargle and I should be ready to finish out the day here at the University with three classes still ahead.

Ah-choo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Redux.

But while I ponder my options, from the hallway outside my office I hear enough sneezing, deep-lung coughing and wheezing among the students to generate a Centers for Disease Control code red health alert.

Maybe I should fly out a day early and get over my cold with some room service in Washington, D.C.

Or perhaps a bottle of brandy might be the cure this evening.

This evening?  What time is lunch?

October 26, 2010

Failure is not an option, except, well, sometimes it might be

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - I heard the catchy phrase 'Failure is not an option' first uttered by Nancy Maynard, the wife of the late newspaperman Bob Maynard, who I knew in the 1970s when he was publisher of the Oakland Tribune newspaper.

I loved the expression. I put 'Failure is not an option' right up there with 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.'

That little gem came from the locker room wall at Southwestern Central High School in Jamestown, New York, where my high school football coach alternately terrorized and lauded his players, depending on the rate of success. With Coach Ed Stupka, if you didn't perform beyond your abilities, you were slacking.

I slacked a lot.

But during this same period, I  spent most daylight summer hours on Lake Chautauqua, skimming across the water on skis. I loved every minute of it, except that I was a very cautious water skier and took great pains to avoid falling.

A friend from those days, Bob Fulcher, wasn't just good, he was great. He would jump the wake, flying over the foaming water. He did all kinds of tricks. Sometimes he would even try to hold the rope in his teeth. Much of the time his acrobatic antics ended in wild crashing falls into the water.

And he didn't care. In fact, he seemed to revel in how spectacular a fall he had.

When I kidded him once about his frequent-faller program, he offered this nugget: If you don't fall sometimes, how are you going to learn how far you can push?

Indeed, Bob, indeed.

That sage advice - from a 15-year-old - has stuck with me all my life. I am still cautious on water skis (no doubt largely because of various back, neck and shoulder ailments in recent years). But I have learned to take chances. Sometimes they work, like jumping from being a newspaper editor to a journalism professor. Sometimes they don't, like buying property on a beach in Mexico, then having it seized by a developer at gunpoint who claims it is his.

As Frank Sinatra says when he croons, My Way, '...Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.'

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, there is an interesting story about a program for entrepreneurs to learn that if they want to succeed, they have to flop sometimes. Maybe flop in spectacular ways. LINK:Failure is an option

The history of innovation and great discoveries is filled with flops, in business, science, education - and sports.

But while all that is being pondered, here's a video introduction to a TV program I watched every week growing up, along with most of the nation.

It gives graphic evidence why ski jumping (in snow) has never made it on my list of things to try - at least so far.

October 23, 2010

Writing and receiving letters - real letters - not emails

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The mail arrived today at the post office around the corner and there, buried between political ads for California gubernatorial candidates (Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman), was a letter from my sister Anne.

A letter! And actual piece of paper, tucked neatly in a small envelope with a first class, forever stamp affixed in the corner.
A 'forever' stamp

The letter was in response to a missive I sent last week (a real letter, too), when I decided that sending electrons across cyberspace in an email to communicate was getting tiring.

Of course, writing a letter, printing it out (my handwriting is beyond atrocious), addressing an envelope and then - gasp - taking it to the post office, had its tiring moments, too. But there is something soooo satisfying about dropping a letter into the mailbox to be delivered. And it's even more satisfying when you receive a letter.

I know my granddaughters Samantha and Kami love to get mail, and from time to time, I dash off a letter, usually adding a sheet of stickers and sometimes some photos - or even toys.

My late mother wrote letters every week of her life. And at Christmas, her card list had more than 300 people - old roommates from college, relatives and professional acquaintances with whom she had become friends. Starting sometime in early November she would pen a few cards every day, sending them out with personal messages to each person, inquiring about families and health and other such things.

Not all responded, though I remember our roadside mailbox in Lakewood, New York being quite full in the spring, as people wrote her back.

For me today, the best part is holding the letter I just received, then setting it in a place of honor, from which it can be picked up and read again later. And read again.

I have a full sheet of first-class, forever stamps, waiting to be put to good use, as I type this. Perhaps it's time to leave the world of electrons and get put together another real letter.

October 21, 2010

Launching *subject2change Media - this is retirement?

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The countdown clock to the Rally to Restore Sanity Oct. 30 in Washington D.C.  is ticking very loudly - more so now that Adm. Fox and I have launched our newest enterprise: *subject2change Media.

*subject2change Media? Whaaaaaaaaat? some people have been asking me.

Well, in a nutshell, we really are going to do all of our writing, editing, publishing and now video under that title/umbrella. It's a way to collect all of our various projects (articles, reviews, planned books, and videos) into one sort-of-comprehensible structure. (Emphasis on sort-of.)

And yes, there will be a web page showing up sometime. Maybe logo wear, too. Woo-hoo!

New subject2change media card
New business card

Our first foray of course into the multi-media world starts at the Rally to Restore Sanity - which will be the official launch of *subject2change Media, too. LINK - Rally to Restore Sanity

For the rally, I will be writing standard-issue freelance pieces for both the Sacramento (Calif.) News & Review and the Ithaca (New York) Times. In both cases, I am going to be hooking up with local people (from Sacramento and Ithaca) at the rally to get their take on things for the stories.

But besides the copious notes, still photos and eventual print articles that will come out of that, Adm. Fox and I will be shooting video of people and the whole event with the idea of putting together a timely multi-media package for TV and websites.

So as I feverishly work on lists of people to talk with, stay awake drafting a script for what I think a rally video might look like and use the mornings to contact possible publications, TV and websites, I have to ask myself again: Didn't I retire three years ago from all this?

Well, sort of. But this sounds like so much fun.

Cue the cameraman, we're rolling.

While we make up some promo videos for  *subject2change Media, here's a video promoting the Rally. It's pretty funny - as you might expect for a rally organized by The Comedy Channel.

October 9, 2010

The deafening roar of - silence? Life along the Kern River

KERNVILLE, Calif., USA - Except for the ever-present whooshing sound made by the Kern River (about 75 yards from our door) our cabin in this high desert campground is nearly as quiet as Valois, New York on a hot summer day.

And that's quiet, considering last summer, sitting on the end of the dock, I often could clearly hear the flapping of ducks' wings as they flew overhead. And once, very early, I could make out the sound of a butterfly's wings in motion, as it hovered near my ear.

That's quiet, amigos, quiet.

The nearby campground does resonate on and off at times with a buzz created by the upcoming wedding of Greg Retkowski and Cherie Sogsti. After Friday night's hillbilly themed party, tonight we are looking forward to a pizza, beer and mustache event.

Mustache? Yes.

Everyone will receive a stick-on mustache of some kind. But where you choose to wear it, well, that's your choice. There's a rock band set to play, too. Last night people danced until past midnight - and that was to a hillbilly band. (Photos to follow later tonight...)

Admiral Fox and I have made many forays out and about, first to breakfast at a store within walking distance, then a trek along the river, and most recently, a wine-and-beer run into Kernville itself. We bought Mexican beer, of course, though we forgot the limes.


Kern River, Kernville
Scene along the Kern River this morning

And besides the sightseeing (and beer and mustaches), I have been trying out my new Panasonic video camera in anticipation of our Washington, D.C. trip Oct. 30 to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity. We are going to be writing stories about it. The video will be a bonus and a trial run for using more multi-media.

If anyone reading this knows someone who is going to attend the rally, please send their name along to me. Adm. Fox and I want to hook up with folks from NY, California and, well, wherever, before the rally. And maybe after, too.

Jon Stewart and rally sign
Jon Stewart announces the rally

Here's a short video of the Admiral at work in her Kern County office this morning.

October 7, 2010

Off to the wilds of Kernville, California - then it's Washington D.C.

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The next few weeks are going to all-travel, all-the-time, with a few interludes of teaching at the university for the Admiral and I, of course.

First up, is the wedding Sunday of Cherie Sogsti and Greg Retkowski, a three-day affair that begins Friday night with a hillbilly themed party and ends Sunday with most of the men wearing tuxedos at the wedding and reception. (Do you know the words to the song, The Beverly Hillbillies? Come and listen to a story bout a man named Jed...)

Because all this is taking place at a campground on the Kern River, northeast of Bakersfield, it makes the whole thing just that much more interesting. Yee-haw!

Taken outside the double-wide  (photo from WheresCherie)
Cherie has a website, WheresCherie? that gets more web traffic that I can dream of for any of my blogs. She is one travelin' woman, and has been since we first met her years ago in Mexico, aboard a sailboat son Dustin was captain of at the time - Mistress (a San Diego-based boat).

And she marrying the perfect guy, because Greg loves travel, too, and even has a plane now to zoom them around the country, when not in their very upscale RV-motor home-land yacht.

The photo here is from their engagement party. The theme? Trailer trash. Hoo-boy!

At the end of the month, we are going to take a sojourn to Washington D.C., to check out the Rally To Restore Sanity, sponsored by Jon Stewart and the Comedy Channel. Of course, we will also be checking out Stephen Colbert's simultaneous event, March to Keep Fear Alive.

Keep Fear Alive
Rally To Restore Sanity

And we are going to D.C. as journalists to get a story, take some pictures and shoot some video with a new, very snazzy, Panasonic video camera.

The whole enterprise, including the writing assignments, are the first paying gig in our latest foray into the business of publishing and video.

The name of the new company is *subject2change Media' - something our children (and many friends) have said is a good description of our lifestyle. To paraphrase the Three Stooges, I resemble that remark.

No website up yet, but it's in the planning stages and should be up soon.

Or perhaps, that's subject to change, too.

Here's two brief test videos, taken with the new Panasonic: