Tag Archives: California

More Compuserve friends

The Women’s Forum wasn’t the only CompuServe forum I joined. I also signed on to the California Forum and from there, due to friends I made, the Travel Forum. Gretchen was a leader in both, and I really liked her style. She was kind, funny, well-traveled, knowledgable, and could stand up for herself and others. Even in the early days of the Internet, there were those who seemed to be spoiling for a fight.

The California Forum was great fun because most of the members lived in the state, but we got lots of questions from those who wanted to visit. California is a really big state, and that seemed a hard concept to grasp for many who were planning a trip. Especially those from Europe where one can travel to numerous countries within a few hours. They wanted to fly into Los Angeles, see Disneyland, and for some unfathomable reason, Death Valley, all in one day. Then they planned to take in Yosemite and San Francisco in the next day. Those of us who live in this wide-spread state, could only chuckle. It takes hours and hours of travel time to go from place to place. Even with a whole week in California, one would have trouble seeing everything.

Gretchen was a moderator for California Forum and she always had good advice as she lived in San Francisco. Bernal Heights to be exact. She wrote of attractions and restaurants there and in India where she also traveled during her vacations. As a tax consultant, she had summer and fall off to do many things. Many times she would put together meet-ups when those traveling from other places arrived in the Bay Area. I was able to join a few of these and get to meet many forum members in person.

In 2002, when I mentioned I had never had dim sum, Gretchen invited me to meet her and another Bay Area resident in Oakland for the “best of the best dim sum.” I stayed at my daughter’s apartment in Berkeley, took BART to Oakland, and met the two for a fun-filled and delicious afternoon. Another time, when staying at my daughter’s apartment, I took BART to the Mission District in San Francisco to meet Gretchen for lunch at a favorite spot of hers.

After our tax preparer of 30 years disappeared (that’s a whole ‘nother story), Gretchen offered to do our taxes, long distance. I would mail the paperwork to her and she would turn it around in a few days. A couple of times when we were in San Francisco, we actually went to her apartment to sign the paperwork. She lived in Bernal Heights, on the third floor of a small apartment building.

In 2012 Gretchen wanted to travel to India again but she didn’t have a housesitter which she needed for a 6-week trip. She had a cat who couldn’t be left for that length of time. I offered to do it but wanted to do a trial run first. It worked well as she had a week’s conference in Las Vegas. Terry dropped me off at the apartment and took Gretchen to the airport as he was headed back to Fresno for the week.

Gretchen never made that last trip to India. Her health was failing even as she made the trip to Las Vegas. Living on a third floor walkup was getting harder for her. She had diabetes and other health issues. Within a year she had given up the  apartment and moved to assisted living. Last week, as we were leaving for San Mateo, I received the message that Gretchen was in hospice. Thursday evening, as we were taking our grandchildren to a concert in the park, Gretchen slipped the bounds of earth and died. My heart broke. Writing these words brings me to tears.

Just think, I would have experienced none of this if I had not taken the plunge and joined CompuServe all those many years ago thinking I would be helping my students. There were many who thought I was crazy back then as the Internet was the wild frontier. Those connections have made my life so much better, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for a safe, cozy existence. Take risks.

The continuing saga of California’s drought

Although Governor Brown demanded a 20 percent decrease in water usage, most of California has done very little to conserve water.

Fresno somehow managed to decrease its usage by 25 percent, but that’s still not enough to stem the diminishing of the aquifer that we rely on so heavily for our pumped water supply.

Therefore, our watering days are being cut from three to two beginning August 1. Fines and penalties will be levied against those who insist on using water in wasteful ways.

Our yard refuses to grow flowers so we have hardy shrubs and trees in the front and back yards that should be okay in the short term. The front lawn will probably not do too well. There is no lawn in the backyard to even consider.

There is still optimism that next winter will be a rainy one. I’m not so sure. The world is being turned upside-down. God is in charge and He reminds us of that fact when He withholds water or sends it in an overabundance. We have no say in the matter except to give thanks each day for His blessings. Too many have forgotten to say ‘thank you.’

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Doing our part in drought season

While the midwest and eastern states are digging out of record snow and cold, here in California we are having high temperatures and no rain. It was 72 in Fresno yesterday, 88 in other parts of the state. Funny thing, though, is that it’s still cold overnight-37 this morning when we got up.

There is no snowpack in the Sierras. That’s where our water comes from. You see, we live in a desert but smart people saw all that snow melting, running down in the rivers and out to the Pacific Ocean so decided to dam the rivers, build reservoirs and use the water for agriculture. The soil here is very good for growing just about everything, but there is a lack of rainfall. Normal yearly rainfall for the Valley is about 11 inches. This year we’ve had less than one inch.

Governor Brown has declared a drought (surprise) and asked everyone to reduce water usage by 20 percent. Terry got out the manual for the dishwasher to check about water usage. Turns out our light wash, which we normally use, takes nine gallons of water whereas the normal wash takes only seven gallons. I guess the light wash uses more water and goes faster. Our dishwasher has a sensor that can tell how dirty the dishes are and adjusts itself accordingly. Some loads take less time than others for that reason. Doing our part, we are now using the normal wash cycle. We have a joke in our family about NORMAL. There’s no such thing as normal; it’s just a setting on the dryer, or in this case, on the dishwasher.

It’s election time

For those of you who live in the United States, that title is sort of a “duh,” but to those readers who live in other countries, and I’ve been getting quite a few showing up on the analytics WordPress so conveniently shows me, this is an American tradition, every four years, that can drive some of us, including yours truly, CRAZY.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE our democracy and I really believe in voting. I have voted in every election since I was 18 and was first granted the privilege. I was one of the first to be allowed to vote at 18 as the voting age had previously been 21, but when the Viet Nam War was raging, and the citizens were raging about the  war, and we all asked why the nation could draft young men who could not vote for the people who were doing the drafting. well the age was changed. That’s history. I vote, no matter how small or how large the election, I VOTE.

To be precise, I vote by absentee ballot and I just put my envelope in the mail today. My vote has been cast. There is no going back. That said, let me tell you about a visitor to my front door a few moments ago. By the way, it is local election time in Fresno as well as the national primary. California, for some strange reason, is one of the last to vote in the presidential primary, so it’s a done deal before we ever see the ballot, much less mark it. We are the biggest state, but we get the last say. Makes no sense to me, but I digress. Back to the candidate volunteer who showed up today.

She was decked out in red, white, and blue. Stars and stripes vest, straw hat with flag scarf tied around it. Sensible shoes, though. I think she should have some jazzy little red, white, and blue number. I graciously answered the door, and she started to hand her candidate for city council flyer to me as she’s rapidly telling me about him. She opens the flyer (of which I have an over-abundance of these left on my doorstep and also receive in the mail from all sorts of candidates) and starts to tell me he is against high speed rail. Have I told you, dear Reader, that I do not have a poker face? She must have seen my expression change from gracious and smiling to vicious with teeth bared. Ok, it’s not really that drastic, but close. I am very much FOR high speed rail and will only vote for those candidates who support it.

“Oh,” she said, closing her flyer and stepping back from the door, “you’re for high speed rail.”

“Yes I am.”

She then begins a litany of reasons for opposing it, all which I have heard, all which make it sound like we are living in the 19th century.

I can dispute all of the reasons, and I tell her, the bay area and the Los Angeles basin citizens are also opposed to the high speed train coming through the San Joaquin Valley as they see no good reason to spend money on this geographic area. There is nothing of interest to them here and they want all the money spent in their areas.

Those of us who favor the high speed rail in the San Joaquin Valley see it providing jobs and, here’s my main reason, a fast way to get to the bay area and/or Los Angeles basin. The people who live in those areas can take a plane trip for less money and get to the opposite end faster than by high speed rail. It’s almost impossible to fly out of Fresno to those locales unless you pay $300 and plan to leave very early or very late in the day. The citizens in those locales never fly to Fresno. Well, almost never, unless their company pays them to fly here for some business-associated visit. So, you see, they have no desire to see tax money spent on the line to go through the San Joaquin Valley. I have people in the bay area tell me, “There is nothing there. Why should we have a fast train that goes where no one wants to go?”

My votes are cast. The ballot is in the mail. After election day, June 5, we will see how it all shakes out. Probably not to my liking.

Cleaning up after the wind

Dear Reader, you may have heard about the winds that blew through California this past week. Although filled with sunshine and not too cold, the day was nearly blown off the calendar with these fierce winds. Many of my friends are cleaning up pools (we don’t have one, thank God), sawing up tree limbs, and raking, raking, raking leaves. I did that last one in our backyard when I came home Friday  from working at my friend’s house. It was good to be outside and doing some physical labor.

My poor husband, on the other hand, had this to contend with Friday and part of Saturday:

OUR palm fronds in the NEIGHBOR'S yard

The consequences of cool temperatures

As you may remember, dear Reader, I have been bemoaning the unusual cool temperatures we’ve been having here in the San Joaquin Valley. There are consequences for the strange weather, some good, but some bad.

This is the number one agriculture spot in the nation; our whole economy depends on our water, soil, and warm temperatures. This year we’ve had the water, and the soil hasn’t blown away, but the cool air is keeping the fruit from ripening and thwarting the growth of so many crops. The cotton is just standing out in its fields, shivering. You’ve heard about corn growing so fast, overnight, that you can hear it. The cornfields on the west side of the valley are silent. The ground is too wet to dig potatoes and onions. Basil and peppers are not growing. The grapes will have a hard time getting their sugar levels high enough for raisins.

I received my first box of CSA stone fruit yesterday–peaches, nectarines, and plums–that should be soft to the touch. Instead, rock hard. The big storm we had Sunday night has caused major damage to stone fruit and there is fear some of the crop will be completely lost. The winds and rain caused skin damage and mold and mildew is setting in. That is the bad news.

The good news, on the other hand, is that for the first time in history, the Zody household electric usage did not go over the baseline amount. By now, PG&E has changed the rates to reflect the usual hot weather we have, thus calling for the use of air conditioning. No air conditioning needed. However, our gas usage was double the baseline for this time of the year because the heater should have gone off and stayed off. Didn’t happen until this morning. So, we had a fairly low power bill.

Exit stage right

The whole state of California was in test mode yesterday and today with the major stakes Exit Exam, also known as CaHSEE (California High School Exit Exam).  The majority of the test takers were the sophomores, class of 2011; however, any junior or senior who has not passed must take it again.  And again, and again, and again…because this test must be passed to receive a high school diploma from a public high school in California.

I may have been the only teacher on our campus who was happy these past two days.  I did not test this year (usually I have sophomores and so proctor the test for my students), but rather spent the 4 1/2 hour period each day with my marketing 3 seniors.  We freeze the school in period 3 and those not taking the test spend the time in that classroom.  I used the days for a guest speaker and business plan presentation preparation.  

Most teachers see it as a waste of time and many kids get bored and want to go to other classrooms.  I have a few kids who spend some time in my room who aren’t my period 3 student, but they have to have a project on which to work.  They cannot hang out, or so I thought until today when I let a girl come in during the second two hours and she ended up being a goof-off.  I finally sent her back to wherever she came from.  The time is too valuable to waste, or so I believe.  I’m not in the majority on the campus.

Irony

I just received a news update that had this leading article: California adds 25,800 jobs in February

(AP) — California employers added 25,800 payroll jobs in February compared to a month earlier as information, hospitality and education jobs increased, while construction jobs shrank, state officials said Friday. How funny, and how ironic, that just when things look up, and more educations jobs are added to the State’s payroll, all these teachers are getting their layoff notices.   

King Holiday

On this weekend, when we stop to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I attempt to help my students look at a time when the liberties they know were not so.  I want them to understand that their place in the world might not be what it is were it not for those who came before them and whose shoulders they stand on.  I tell them a story I remember from my childhood when it was very much a different time and a different place.

I grew up here in California, in the heart of the state where agriculture is king.  We grow the fiber and food for the world, and although it is done by large conglomerates now, when I was a child growing up, it was done by small farmers, farmers like my father and his friend, Mr. Price.  Farmers who made a living on small plots of land and fed and clothed the world.

My dad met Mr. Price and his wife when they came to chop cotton on our farm.  They hit it off because, although handicapped, Mr. Price worked harder than any man my father knew.  My dad was always looking for hard workers because he believed that is how you make a way for yourself in the world, by the sweat of your brow.  Race, politics, religious convictions, they meant nothing to my dad, only how hard did one work.   That was his measure of a man, and Mr. Price filled it well.

Our farm had excellent soil, and my father, being an excellent farmer, worked it sun up to sundown,  growing high quality cotton on it each year.  Mr. Price owned a small piece of land not too far from our farm, and he too was trying to make a living by farming this hardscrabble land.   My father was sympathetic to his plight as the soil was highly alkali and so harder to coax a good crop from it.   He offered to help Mr. Price with his farming, especially since Mr. Price only had one arm and one tractor that was on its last leg.  My dad knew it was hard to farm with good soil, good equipment, and all digits.

Because my dad had an open account at the local seed and fertilizer store, he took Mr. Price there too so he could buy his yearly supplies and pay after harvest.  It’s the way farmers make their living, paying their accounts after they’ve been paid for their crop.  However, the fertilizer store refused to open an account for Mr. Price.   This was a store for the white farmer, and Mr. Price was black, or as we said in those days, Negro.  My dad, who had a fierce temper, was furious but not thwarted.  “Ok, then put Mr. Price’s seed and fertilizer on my account,” thinking that would solve the problem.  Alright, but all materials had to be delivered to the address on the account.  Every delivery that was made was dropped in the front yard of our home where Mr. Price and my dad would then reload the bags into the back of Daddy’s pickup and haul them another 3 miles to Mr. Price’s plot of land.  I would watch from the living room window as the two men, one with only one arm, would lift those bags from the pallets where they had been dropped into the bed of the pickup.  I learned the lesson, you do what you have to do to get the job done, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

My students get upset to learn that a store wouldn’t sell to a black man, but I point out it wasn’t that the store wouldn’t sell, it was that it would not sell on credit to a man who was a different color.  There was the perception that Negroes would not be good for the money when it came time to pay up.  Mr. Price always paid Daddy, by the way.   I also point out that this was only a few decades ago, and it was right here in California, not the deep south where we think of racism.  I remind my students of what people like Dr. King have done for all of society and that we should remember what it was like then and look for how we can continue to improve the lives of all people.  As my father would say, “hard work never killed anyone,” and sometimes the hardest work is just to change people’s attitudes.