April 15, 2020

Dogs just gotta have fun

Biscuit wisely uses Sylvia as shield
   POINT RICHMOND - Ask your dog if he or she is upset about the stay-at-home, shelter in place orders.
     I have never seen so many pooches out on patrol with their owners, a nearly endless parade of dogs and owners making sweeps up and down the street, around the paths in the Miller-Knox park or in the center of the 'downtown' of Point Richmond.
    There are plenty of dogs cavorting in doggie play dates, too. They don't have to worry about social distancing.
    This morning Biscuit took part briefly in a dog party on the grassy area close to the road here at Brickyard Landing. He was by far the smallest canine in the pack, but didn't let it bother him.
    Considering that yesterday he was attacked by a black poodle twice his size - and that the devil dog took a bite right next to his eye - I was happy to see Biscuit was still feisty enough today to mix it up with the big dogs.
    He thinks he's a big dog anyway.
    When the shelter in place orders are lifted, it will probably be boom times for dog walkers again.
    But not for Biscuit of course. He had us trained too well.

Biscuit looks like a wrestling referee, watching for the 'pin'

April 12, 2020

Memories of the Great Easter Beer Hunts

   PETALUMA, Calif. - There are traditions and there are traditions.
     And so it was when my oldest son was nearly 5-years-old and my daughter not quite 2-years-old, we added a special Easter Egg Hunt to the traditional search.
     We still had the traditional Easter Egg hunt, with colorful decorated Easter eggs hidden around the backyard of my suburban Petaluma home. (The house was on Rocca Drive off Payran Street, in case anyone knows Petaluma.)
     My children and children of friends would scour my backyard coming back with Easter Eggs and candy hidden all about.
     It was great fun, of course.
     But as soon as all the Easter Eggs were gathered, the children would take over the event, hiding cans of cold beer around the yard for the adults to find.
      As the adults would wander around, pretending not to see a silver-colored can of Coors Light under a lawn chair, the children would squeal "Look down, look down!" or give some other clue to the obviously bumbling adults.
     The party after the Easter Egg and Easter Beer Hunts was always fun, too, usually including a big Sunday brunch that included adults raiding Easter baskets for the children's chocolate.
     And somewhere in my photo archives is a picture of my daughter that first year of the Great Easter Beer Hunts, splendidly attired in a pretty yellow Easter dress, using two tiny hands to hoist an unopened Coors Light can to her lips.
     It's a family classic, of course.
     Happy Easter to all, and to all a good day.

April 10, 2020

Leaving 'shelter-at-home' to bust loose on the freeway

   POINT RICHMOND - A simple errand.
     Drive to a bank in El Cerrito, make a quick transaction and drive home.
     And that's pretty much what happened.
     After being totally on foot for too many days - with the fastest forward motion coming from running after Biscuit - I needed some speed.
Not the Prius we drive...
     And so it was - in a Prius of all cars - I got on the freeway heading east and jammed the accelerator to the floor. I tore along passing cars, trucks, a motorcycle and a vehicle so decrepit, it defies categorization. I didn't get that good a look at it anyway.
     How fast did I get up to? Not sure I should say, in case some CHP helicopter clocked me. But don't underestimate how fast a Prius can go when encouraged.
     BTW, I did pass a black Dodge Charger like he was standing still.
    Playing Hot Rod Lincoln by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen on the radio probably kept my foot down a few seconds longer than I probably should have.
     But man! Did it feel good to zoom. (Zoom as in vehicle zoom, not that ubiquitous computer conferencing program that makes us all look like we're playing Hollywood Squares).
     When I got to my destination I thought about the film, Steelyard Blues with Donald Sutherland, Jane Fonda, and Peter Boyle. Wildly speeding vehicles and car chases figure prominently in that flick.
     It also reminded me of the film Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. Perhaps the most famous scene from that movie is below.  If you watch the clip, view it all the way through to the end.
     After my experience with today's errand, I would say if you own a dark-green 1968 Mustang fastback, don't let me borrow it under any circumstances until long after this coronavirus, stay-at-home, shelter-in-place order has been lifted.

April 9, 2020

A face mask - the must-have coronavirus accessory

   POINT RICHMOND - The sewing machines have been, well, sewing like crazy for more than a week now here, across California, the nation - and maybe planet, producing face masks for people to wear to protect them - and others - from COVID-19.
     All the masks I have seen here seem very solidly made, including several Admiral Fox made specifically for my mug while she was cranking masks out like a factory assembly line for other people in Brickyard Landing and beyond.
     Everyone working those sewing machines deserves a lot of thanks for their efforts.

     On the Admiral's advice, at the end of every day, whichever of the masks I have worn is tossed into the washing machine for a good anti-viral cleaning.
     Makes a lot of sense.
     And I've noticed there's a kind of a protocol people seem to follow with their masks when walking out and about, at least here in the Point.
     Walking alone, the face mask is often pulled down, worn around the neck like a stylish scarf. But as someone approaches - whether they are masked or not - the face mask gets quickly pulled up into place.
     It's kind of the opposite of what knights used to do in the Middle Ages with their helmets when they approached each other on horseback.
     As they rode up, they would raise the front of their helmets so they could see each other's eyes and to signal a friendly intention. If the front stayed down, a duel was likely. Some historians say it's also the origin of the military salute.
     In digging around today I ran across an amazing array of masks - some famous, some funny and some downright weird. Some have real medical-protection value, others are just for style or effect.
     Here's a few for your amusement while you wait for your mask to finish getting scrubbed in the washing machine.

Doctor's plague mask, from the Bubonic Plague era
The Mask - from the movie of the same name
Planet of the Apes mask

Man in the Iron Mask

April 8, 2020

'We Gotta Get Out of This Place'

   POINT RICHMOND - Cabin fever broke out today in my condo.
     Even Biscuit is showing symptoms.

• Irritability 
• Jumping at loud noises 
• Barking at Sylvia

     Oh, those are mine, not Biscuit's.
     He has his own responses to being home-bound.
   My escape in this situation usually involves writing. And this morning writing and the manifold effects of COVID-19 collided when I joined a national Zoom conference for a story to be published in the Richmond Pulse newspaper.
     The one-hour session was fascinating but fueled my claustrophobia.
     "We have no vaccine. We have no treatment. You just need to stay at home," one doctor said.
     It was nearly word-for-word what he said weeks ago in another such session.
   As I have been tapping on the keys to write up what a half dozen experts had to say, I implemented another escape strategy.
     No, not drinking wine - that's for later.
     The escape strategy is listening to music, 60s music usually.
     And what song did my computer pick randomly from my music library?
     We Gotta Get Out of This Place by Eric Burdon and The Animals.
     Yes, I have it on a loop right now.

"We gotta get out of this place,
If it's the last thing we ever do..."

   But about Cabin Fever wine.
     That bit of fermentation is produced and sold by Hazlitt 1852 Winery in Hector New York, the same Hector where Admiral Fox and I have spent many summers. And we've spent a bit of those summers at the winery, though I must admit in all the hours spent socializing there I have never sampled Cabin Fever.
     Well, if we "get out of this place" and back to Hector this summer, I'm buying a bottle.
     Now that I think about it, they ship all over the United States.
  Cabin Fever to cure cabin fever? Why not?

April 7, 2020

Some funny, some not-so-funny, coronavirus humor

POINT RICHMOND - A friend in upstate NY passed along these tidbits of coronavirus & shelter-in-place humor...

  • Half of us are going to come out of this quarantine as amazing cooks. The other half will come out with a drinking problem.
  • I used to spin that toilet paper like I was on Wheel of Fortune. Now I turn it like I'm cracking a safe.
  • I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.
  • Still haven't decided where to go for Easter ----- The Living Room or The Bedroom
  • PSA: every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.
  • Homeschooling is going well. 2 students suspended for fighting and 1 teacher fired for drinking on the job. (Yancey knows someone to whom this applies!)
  • I don't think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks we'd go from Standard Time to the Twilight Zone
  • This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house, told my dog..... we laughed a lot.
  • So, after this quarantine.....will the producers of "My 600 Pound Life" just find me or do I find them?
  • Quarantine Day 5: Went to this restaurant called THE KITCHEN. You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have no clue how this place is still in business.
  • My body has absorbed so much soap and disinfectant lately that when I pee it cleans the toilet.
  • Day 5 of Homeschooling: One of these little monsters called in a bomb threat.
  • I'm so excited --- it's time to take out the garbage. What should I wear?
  • I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to Puerto Backyarda. I'm getting tired of Los Livingroom.
  • Classified Ad: Single person with toilet paper seeks same with hand sanitizer for good clean fun.
  • Day 6 of Homeschooling: My child just said "I hope I don't have the same teacher next year".... I'm offended.

April 6, 2020

Health-and-welfare checks on amigos

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - In the middle of this coronavirus muddle - and by middle I simply mean that the virus muddle is all around us, not halfway over - I try daily to do a few health-and-welfare checks on folks. The term health-and-welfare checks we picked up cruising our sailboat in Mexico.  
     When someone hadn't been heard from or seen on the ocean for a stretch, we would put the call out on the ham radio.
     Now in the middle of this virus muddle, for me doing a health-and-welfare check might mean a phone call, email, text message, FB message, FaceTime connection, Linked-in dispatch, a postcard (I have huge stack of Red Writer trailer postcards) or even an actual letter.
     I've been on the receiving end of lots of contact from people, too. It helps with the isolation.
     Of course I am hardly alone in our 1,431-square-foot condominium. Sylvia, the Biscuit and I are in nearly constant communication - whether it's convenient for each of us or not. I've actually been eyeballing one of my closets to see if it could be made into an isolation booth. You can do a lot in 16 square feet. Really.
     The consensus among most folks I contact is that they are doing okay. Very few say they are doing great. The most common adjective is "surviving," which in this case is certainly apropos on several levels.
     Most frustrating for many folks is the uncertainty of how long we may be in this stay-at-home, shelter-in-place limbo. May 1? June 1? July 1, August 1, January 2021. (I hope the 2021 reference didn't make anyone do a Linda Blair-like projectile-vomit imitation. I nearly did just writing it.)
     The amazing upside to making these health and welfare checks is that they act kind of like a chain letter. I will write to someone in Pittsburgh (PA) who will mention to someone else that I had contacted them. Then, voila!, I get an email or other message from that person.
     And the list goes on. It feels good on my end to hear from folks, too.
     I would continue to ramble, but my stack of postcards is calling to me. And Biscuit needs to go out, of course.
     Stay safe, stay sheltered, stay sane, amigos.

March 30, 2020

Ukuleles unite to fight the coronavirus blues

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - Point Richmond has a wildly active ukulele group that had been gathering at Kaleidoscope Coffee (still open by the way). But like other such gatherings, the ukesters shut down those mass get-togethers to help stem the spread of the virus we are all trying to avoid.
     The Point uke group is still getting together via Zoom. I'll let someone else - maybe BYL's Steve Birnbaum, a noted ukulele strummer - add details about that meeting and how to get involved.
     But today I ran across a bit of uplifting ukulele music performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. It should get your toes tapping and maybe even spark a little sing-a-long.
     They put the piece together while the fun group members are in self-isolation. So they came together electronically and the result is great.
   This bunch of talented Brits certainly dresses a lot better while sheltering-in-place than most of the folks I know - or with whom I've been on Zoom chats. (Zoom Chat Tip: Comb your hair, bed head is a real thing.)
     Here they are, performing elegantly while in Lockdown:

March 29, 2020

Who was that masked man?

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - Sunday was a day of mask production here in Admiral Fox's workshop office.
     No, not mass production. Mask production. 😎
     And no, no, NO! Not Lone Ranger-style masks, though it would be pretty cool if they could be used to fight infection. Hi-ho, Silver!
If Clayton Moore was still alive,
he could model medical face masks.
    The masks coming out of Admiral Fox's shop are to help people avoid getting infected - or infecting others - with COVID-19.
     Wait! Cloth masks won't stop COVID-19, right? Well, yes, that's correct. That's certainly the prevailing official medical wisdom.
     But a New York City doctor made a good argument last week that by wearing a mask, people are much less likely to touch their faces. The mask is a reminder that the mouth, nose and eyes are the weak spots in any human's defense against viruses and disease.
     The same doctor said compulsive hand washing is a virtue right now.
     Then, a few days ago, a well-respected doctor/medical researcher at UCSF in San Francisco said pretty much the same thing about masks when he was talking in a nationwide teleconference with journalists. Ditto for hand washing. Lots of hand washing.
     A mask can't hurt, he said, it can only help, even if only a little. And if everyone wears a mask, well, the overall risk of infection drops, as has been shown in other countries.
     So at least for the near future, masks will be the latest fashion accessory for all of our outside-the-condo forays.
     But will our Yorkie pooch Biscuit be willing to don a matching mask to what the Admiral or I wear?
     He's not saying.

The face mask manufacture workbench

Face mask Version 1.0

March 28, 2020

The only weather you control is whether you go out...

   POINT RICHMOND - Maritime bromides are filling my mind as I write about, read and ponder the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation.
     Situation. Now there's a damned vanilla word for this !@#%$#^#%$^$%#& mess.
     I am gradually turning into a coronavirus curmudgeon, a function of writing stories about the impacts of the disease - while also trying to write pieces that squash the swirling morass of misinformation out there about the origin of the disease.
     I won't repeat any of the nonsense now circulating.
   But Friday morning I spent more than an hour on a national media conference with other journalists (via Zoom) getting a briefing from medical experts on COVID-19 . The biggest takeaway is the same one being one hammered relentlessly for the last few weeks:

 Stay home.

     There's tons of messaging out there about this. But these docs were even more persuasive about protecting yourself - and others. It's actually so simple, it's pathetic. Stay home, hide out... Don't go to the store for Mallo Cups.
     (Wait! Aren't Mallo Cup-shopping runs exempt?)

   In our years of cruising our sailboat Sabbatical in the ocean and around San Francisco Bay, we often heard (and repeated) the expression, "The only weather you can control is whether you go out."
     Go out refers to leaving the dock, harbor or anchorage where you are sitting safe and secure.
     Once you hoist sails and embark you are in the weather, no matter how benign or battering it proves to be.
     More than once we discovered going out into sketchy weather was a mistake.
     And COVID-19?
     Provided you are keeping yourself secure inside your domicile, practicing good anti-virus hygiene in the house, and keeping outsiders, well, well outside, you are likely controlling 'whether' you are being exposed to the virus.
     But the best advice I read in the last 24 hours says to think of yourself as infected. Thus, by keeping inside and away from people you are protecting them! Looking at it that way makes it even more persuasive.
     Yesterday I drove Biscuit to a deserted parking lot on the edge of the Bay where he loves to take afternoon sniff tours. We were nearly alone, the only other humans were two bird watchers braving 15-knot cold winds off the water. By the way, the birders were scanning the skies and shoreline for sea gulls.
     Sea gulls, you know, rats of the sky.
     On the way home we drove by a half-acre dog park adjacent to a Point Richmond elementary school where there must have been 50 dogs and 100+ people wandering about.
     The dogs were far better at keeping social distance than the people. Most dog parks are off the list for now.
   Biscuit and I are discussing today whether we should continue to take our one daily outing to the ferry landing parking lot or suck it up and stay home.
     So far, his arguments to go take the drive are persuasive.
     We'll see.
     In the meantime, unless your dog convinces you of his or her need to step outside into the world, stay inside.
     It's the safest.

The Biscuit prefers going outside to sheltering-in-place

March 23, 2020

Plenty of time to drag out my ukulele

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - More than a decade ago, I set out to achieve three goals, not necessarily in the order listed below.

     • I wanted to become comfortable speaking - and understanding others speaking - a foreign language.
    • I wanted to publish a novel. (Publish, not just write)
    • I wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument.

     On the foreign language front, I am relatively comfortable with Spanish, though the longer I am away from living in Mexico, the weaker it gets. Still, two weeks ago I had a lively conversation - all in Spanish - with a mechanic who was fixing a dent in my Toyota Tundra.
     My novels (The Fracking War, Fracking Justice and The Devil's Pipeline) are all out there circulating.
     And the musical instrument?
   Well, after giving myself a frozen shoulder learning to play a full-size guitar, I was advised by a music pro to take up the ukulele. He said the best thing about a uke is that if you aren't that skilled on the strings, you can always just sing louder and cover up your ineptness. He was soooo right.
     The ineptness is more pronounced now, largely because I have barely tuned my eight-string in the last few years.
     But today I was encouraged by the video below featuring Neil Diamond. He performs a Covid-19-inspired remake of his classic "Sweet Caroline." It's great.
    And given that I (and probably you) have at least several weeks more of "sheltering in place" it got me to pull my uke down off the wall. Perhaps I can come up with a few parody numbers myself.
    Don't look for me on Youtube anytime soon, however.
Or for a reunion tour of The Four Headlamps.

March 22, 2020

Is your boat still floating?

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - Two decades ago we were getting ready to sail our 48-foot sailboat Sabbatical under the Golden Gate Bridge into the Pacific Ocean and - as Mexico-bound sailors still say - turn left.
     It would be the start of a trip I had been dreaming of for years.
Sabbatical in Zihuatenejo, Mexico
     Even so, for many of us heading south to Mexico as part of a race/rally called the Baja-HaHa, sponsored by San Francisco Bay's Latitude 38 sailing magazine, there was more than a touch of anxiety.
     Ocean sailing, even within 10-20 miles of the coast, has plenty of potential perils.
     But a year or so before we turned left, Latitude 38 published a guide for people getting ready to head to Mexico. It contained a reassuring checklist for captains and their crews about how to deal with the manifold problems - large and small - they might encounter.
     It advised that the first question to ask yourself in an emergency was simple:

Is your boat still floating?

     It was the best - and perhaps most obvious - thing to know, miles from shore or anywhere.
     From there the list branched out to things like, "Can you still steer? Can you make the boat move via sails or engine? Is the crew all healthy? Does your two-way radio still work? And so and so and so on down the list that I am sure had "do you still have beer?" somewhere towards the end.
     That article full of nautical (and life) wisdom has been on my mind ever since the coronavirus pandemic started buffeting people's lives like huge waves and winds on the ocean. I tried to adapt it to the complicated situation we face. But somehow saying, "Is your house still standing?" didn't have the same cachet as "Is your boat still floating?"
     But then this morning, a friend from Penn Yan, New York forwarded a very to-the-point helpful piece with advice about how to reset panicky thinking as we deal with COVID-19.
     You may have already seen it on Facebook or Twitter:

     Good advice all around, I think.
     What am I planning for today? Admiral Fox and will take a long walk with the family and Biscuit, our dog.
    And we will keep the above "mindset shift" advice in mind.
    We know the boat is still floating.

March 21, 2020

Waiting for Mr. Coronavirus

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - Everyone reading this is likely in the same boat, so to speak.
The coronavirus has us all hiding out inside our homes. Or if outside, we are wary of anyone getting within 10 feet of us.
     Yes, I know the recommendation is 6 feet. But when you are about to pass someone walking on a sidewalk it's hard to gauge. Ditto for having a small dog on a leash when you pass someone with young children who just have to pet your pooch.
    This is prelude to restating a bit of the bad news you have already received from screeching media sirens of disaster about how quickly this virus is infecting people - and spreading.
    For days I have been fascinated by a virus-case online graphic published by Johns Hopkins.
     Fascinated and horrified.
     The only good news - such as it is - is that it updates every hour of two and doesn't have a running tally in real time where you could watch the number of cases in 167 nations as they pile up.
     It is still startling to log on every couple of hours and see the upticks.

     The screenshot above shows that the total number of confirmed cases worldwide has hit 297,000-plus as of 10:43 a.m. Saturday, March 21.
     A couple of hours before, that number was about 279,000.
     A couple of hours. Jaysus.
     Of course, there's a lot of argument to be had about the world's population being 7.8 billion and that the infection rate of confirmed cases so far represents an infinitesimally tiny fraction of the globe.
     But if you start watching the numbers the way I have, and see how the totals are jumping (for the U.S., especially) you get a mathematical understanding of why health authorities are soooooo freaking insistent on people sheltering-in-place.
     Until we get reliable testing of everyone, any one of us could be carrying the disease, period.
     The cute little kid that wants to pet the dog. The grocery store clerk. The gas station attendant at Costco. Your neighbors who you normally enjoy a glass of wine with. 
     For the moment, we all have to be paranoid to the point of being, well, paranoid.
     The hardest part for me is sitting still while this unseen enemy steadily advances. Like most people, I can barely contain my anger at the federal government and the narcissist-knothead masquerading as president of the United States.
     How many people opined when he was elected that "Trump is going to get us all killed"?
     But at that point the fear was mostly about a nuclear Armageddon, not a microscopic enemy threatening life as we know it.
    There. I feel better having vented. Sorry if it rattled you even more than you might be rattled. But if you got this far, you might take a peek yourself at the Johns Hopkins coronavirus website by following this link:
     Or maybe not looking is a better strategy.
    Stay safe, amigos, wherever you are.

November 29, 2019

Dogs can't fly, but turkeys can when they really need to

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - If you have ever seen a Roadrunner cartoon (and who hasn't, really...) you're familiar with how the fast-moving bird lures Wile E. Coyote over cliffs and into all manner of hilarious, cartoon dangers.  
     Hilarious. In cartoons.
     But on Thanksgiving Eve, our 8-pound, 13-month-old Yorkie named Biscuit was chasing a flock of wild turkeys in Miller-Knox Regional Park when those wily birds ran to a cliff and took off flying for safety. Despite what WKRP in Cincinnati says in a famous comedy sketch, turkeys can fly.
     For Biscuit, chasing the wild turkeys is great sport, frequently a part of his regular early morning hikes with Admiral Sylvia Fox and her amigas through the hills right behind our condo. Those walks have been the highlight of most days for Biscuit.
     But that morning Biscuit didn't realize his pursuit would result in him launching into space - just like Wile E. Coyote.
    Unlike the cartoons, somewhere between his airborne launch and eventual crash landing at the bottom of a cliff, he broke his femur and got scuffed up. Admiral Fox had risk her own limbs to climb down and then carry him up. His leg was too busted to walk. Then it was a muy rapido 911 drive for the Admiral, Biscuit and I to the Pet Emergency Center of Marin in San Rafael where he spent 24 hours that included a longish surgery to install a plate and screws to repair his leg.
At rest, just home from the vet hospital
     The Biscuit now is taking pain medication, an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory and has strict doctor's orders of no-running, no jumping. He can walk short stretches if he wants to.
     He hasn't shown much inclination to do any running or jumping, except for brief moment this morning while out doing a three-legged hop in the bushes for his morning pee.
     Just as he finished his business, some wild turkeys started loudly gobbling about 100 feet away in the brush near the condo parking lot. He pulled on the leash like an Alaskan sled dog to get back upstairs to safety and his warm bed.
     The hardest part of the next four weeks - yes, four weeks - is that he can't lick the stitches or be allowed to try to pull them out with his teeth. And he has lots of stitches, clearly visible the photo above. Plus he has to be kept from all jumping to avoid re-injuring his leg.
     So, he gets to be a Conehead for the month. And unless we are holding him close or he is nearby enough that we can grab him to prevent jumping, he's now resides in a child's playpen.
     Although he can't say it, it's clear the Biscuit is pretty unhappy about the indignity of it all.
     Below are some photos and a video that tell the tale.
Moving slow, but already healing

Temporary quarters when not in a pack or on a lap
Biscuit got a new, inflatable cone/collar Sunday... He's much happier. Much.

Biscuit's favorite mode of transportation - even before his leg was broken 
The X-ray tells the tale - but it was a clean break

The scene of Biscuit's attempt at flight

Video narrative from the scene

March 23, 2019

A journal-calendar-organizer that offers inspiration, too

   SANTA FE - Nearly a decade ago I spotted a to-do list/organizer on the desk of author and educator Karin Lubin.
     It divided every day into four categories. What her exact categories were are long lost in my memory.
     But I borrowed the idea.
     With the help of Adm. Sylvia Fox we created small bound notebooks following the same theme.
     In my case the four categories are Priority, Phone/Emails/Letters, Writing & Projects and Other.
     Other, as you might guess, is damn near anything, but written down so it doesn't get forgotten.
     Saturday's added entry to Other was 'fix headlight on the Prius - soon!'
     Today Lubin is launching a new, sophisticated book that goes way beyond any simple to do list,  It's titled My Life Through the Seasons, A Wisdom Journal and Planner and adds all kinds of prompts for creativity, organization and thought to the normal dates, times and places you might expect.
     And while it can be used in regular paper book format, one of the most intriguing aspects of My Life Through the Seasons is the ability to use an online version. The online version is a digital version with clickable links for websites and emails.
     This is definitely not an At-A-Glance planner designed to make you more productive and on time. It seems more a guide to peaceful life with nature factored in. All organized, too, of course.
     "This Wisdom Journal and Planner can transform your life and place in the world," Lubin says in the beginning of the book. "I'm not kidding. It recognizes and existential imbalance within us and within the world."
     The book drew high pre-publication praise from a number of people including Kitty Fallon, a professional counselor and life coach:
     "Over the years, I have used a variety of structured planners in my attempts to balance my work and personal priorities. Most planners I have used focus more heavily on either work or personal goals. My Life Through the Seasons changes that," Fallon said.
     My Life Through the Seasons, A Wisdom Journal and Planner is available through Amazon.com and a fillable PDF version at this sitehttps://www.seasonalwisdomjournal.com.
    You can also contact Dr. Karen Lubin directly at info@seasonalwisdomjournal.com.

March 9, 2019

'Food for the journey' a book that feeds the soul

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - Joseph B. Lynch's latest book, Food for the Journey, Essays on What I Have Learned along the Way, delivers plenty of sustenance for the soul.
     But before I launch a laudatory review of this fascinating book, a disclosure: Joseph Lynch is a friend - and my brother-in-law.
     Because of those two things, at first I didn't think I would write a full review. A squib on Amazon, perhaps. Conflicts of interest are rife in the journalism business where I hang my professional hat.
     But as I read through the book I kept discovering more and more revelatory stories, concepts and thinking I wanted to encourage people to sample.
     It's an amazing compendium.
     I've written many hundreds of book reviews over the decades. Some were of best sellers, many of lesser known authors. But this is my first review of book that blends religion, personal experience and scripture so neatly and inspirationally.
     If inspirationally caught you by surprise, read the second sentence again. I did say laudatory.
     The book's preface and introduction are key to understanding why the book appears now. This book was written by someone who has read entire libraries, it seems.
     It's a spiritual memoir, but contains many of the trademarks of regular memoirs. There are details about his growing up, education, family, emotional growth and, of course, a life of spiritual practice.
     Perhaps most impressive is the intensive level of research and connection among people and ideas Joe makes throughout the entire book. (He is my brother-in-law, so I can call him Joe in a review. No need to call him Lynch.)
      Joe cites experts across a wide range of philosophy, psychology, history, science and theology delving deeply into explaining things in a comforting, non-judgmental fashion.
     After reading the book over several days, the word comforting jumps to the front of line when I have to find a single word to describe it.
     Food for the Journey, Essays on What I Have Learned along the Way, can be read straight through like any book. But it also can be sampled.
     Be prepared, however, to read a chapter and need to put the book down while you ponder what you read and how it applies directly to your life.
     In my reading, out of the book's 16 chapters, that happened about, oh, 15 times.
     Food for the Journey, Essays on What I Have Learned along the Way has a quote from Francis Bacon in the postscript at the end of the book. A printed copy of Bacon's words now hangs on my bulletin board at eye level where I am writing now.

"Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man."

     Reading Food for the Journey, Essays on What I Have Learned along the Way is a good start on that path.
--- Michael J. Fitzgerald

February 1, 2018

It's official: 'Red Writer' is the name of, well, the 'Red Writer'

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - The names poured in for the last three weeks since Admiral Sylvia Fox and I asked for some help in naming our new addition to the FitzFox traveling fleet.
     Because the T@B teardrop is red, it seemed like the red should be part of it.
     And so it was that names like Red Rider, Red Ryder, Little Red, Red Caboose, Red Cabbage, and Red Fox popped up among nearly 100 suggested names.

     Rosebud was a favorite, too - as was Well Read, suggested by a my high school music teacher Dalton Berringer.
     Another favorite, due to my admiration of Don Quixote, was Rocinante, the Don's trusty steed (or nag).
     Thank you to everyone who joined in and sent along a name - or five! They are all appreciated.
     In the end, every time Adm. Fox and I would refer to the now-named Red Writer, that name seemed to fit the best.
     And so sometime in the next weeks - when Admiral Fox and I are completely cured of the lingering colds & maladies that have struck us - we will throw some kind of christening party. It might happen out on the road in some campsite somewhere, perhaps the most fitting spot, I suppose.
     With the name decided, next is a cruising plan.
     But that's going to be pretty loose, too. We want to be able to stop when we want, where we want. In places like Monowi, Neb., for example: Pop. 1.
     And while the California trailer-cruising season has already started, it will be months before Red Writer heads to any of the places where folks are now watching snow drifting down.
     But if you live in any of those places, keep an eye out for us anytime after you put away the snow shovel for good for the season.

January 7, 2018

Please help name our T@B teardrop travel trailer

   POINT RICHMOND - After all the years of sailing on SF Bay, the California Delta and the ocean (as far south as Zihuatenejo, Mexico) Admiral Fox and I have purchased a land yacht, a bright red T@B teardrop trailer.
     This will come as no surprise to the 100 or so friends who already commented on Facebook in the last 24 hours in response to a post by the Admiral as we took delivery on the trailer Saturday and pulled it home from Santa Clara.
     Travel plans include a sojourn to Seneca Lake in NY this summer (no kidding, I know). But plenty of other destinations in California, Oregon, Washington State - and other west-of-the Mississippi states - are up for consideration, too.
     There's even some loose talk about driving the Calgary, Canada - if the snow ever melts.
   BUT the trailer really needs a good name, other than just the red trailer.
     Already in the running are two possible sobriquets: 'Red Writer' and 'Rocinante.'
     It would be nice to have more to consider, which is why I am tossing this out to the incredibly creative Fitz-Fox brain trust.
     If you have a red-hot idea (sorry, that's really an awful pun even from me), send it along via email or blast it up on Facebook.
     The reward for the person who comes up with the best name?
     A bottle of wine, of course.
     If the winner is in California, I have a bottle of Atwater Riesling Bubble waiting. If they happen to be in the Finger Lakes, I will bring a bottle of Mondavi's best when I travel east - if bringing California wine into the Finger Lakes is even allowed!