Friday, February 23, 2007

Mayall's British Blues and Dave at the Belly Up

And this is a good thing.

John Mayall and the BluesBreakers perform at the Belly Up Tavern “Ain’t no brakeman on this train” wailed John Mayall and the BluesBreakers. Mayall (British bluesman and harp player) pumped up the raucous, blues-lovin’, guitar-appreciative audience for a good 90 minutes before Dave Mason took the stage and once again poured hot-fudge guitar notes all over his delicious ice cream songs. It’s rare that I see the same artist within a six-month time span, but the Belly Up Tavern offers such an intimate setting that it’s hard to stay away.

Dave Mason's liquid notes fly

Monday, February 19, 2007

Above Malibu and Montecito

Malibu and Point Dume with Santa Catalina floating on the horizonLast weekend we took a mini road trip. Day One was to Westwood to visit son Kellen at UCLA, where we watched the UCLA basketball team win another one. The next morning leaving Westwood, we drove west on Wilshire Blvd. and picked up the somewhat hidden ramp that leads down to the coast and hooks up with the Pacific Coast Highway (known in these parts as PCH, or simply Highway 1). From Santa Monica, PCH hugs the coastline in a lazy loop out towards Point Dume, a landmark in Malibu. Around Point Dume the Santa Monica Mountains go straight down to the ocean, leaving a small bit of land for the road. Here, several roads lead up the many canyons into the mountains, giving day hikers ocean vistas. On a clear day, the view is spectacular.
The Channel Islands (Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands) are visible from the bluff-side trailWe drove through Malibu to Encinal Canyon Road. Our destination was a day hike that would give us great views, be not too arduous and 2 or 3 hours long. We consulted John McKinney’s Walking Southern California: A Day Hiker’s Guide to choose this Malibu area hike. The road snakes up a canyon and at about 4 miles we turned into the Charmlee Natural Area, a nature preserve run by the city of Malibu. The Ocean Vista Trail is an apt-named series of trails that traverse meadows, shady oak groves, and a fabulous bluff offering inspiring views of the Pacific, Catalina Island, and the Channel Islands off the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara. The trails are fairly level. We saw no other hikers and briefly shared the trail with a lone woman on horseback. The steady breeze and Santa Ana temperatures gave us a sparkling day that felt like summer.
Interesting rock formations and scattered oak trees above MalibuWe continued up Pacific Coast Highway past Point Mugu to Oxnard, Ventura, and headed to Santa Barbara, where we used to live while Paul was in graduate school at UCSB. My heart tugs at the immediacy of the coastal beauty here: the islands are in your face right off the coast (as shown in the photo below) and the mountains are so near that they seem much higher than their 3,000-plus foot peaks.
Santa Cruz Island view from Shoreline Park in Santa BarbaraThe day following our Malibu trek, we took to the mountains above Santa Barbara (dubbed the “front range”). From Montecito, we started at the Cold Spring trailhead and took the McMenemy Trail fork to Montecito Overlook (majestic, indeed). From Montecito Overlook you can see (northwest) up the coast to Goleta and beyond. Looking south you see Santa Cruz Island, one of the Channel Islands that dot the coast off Santa Barbara. Looking southeast gives you more coastline towards Ventura and its range of mountains. Ventura, Oxnard and Point Mugu from Montecito Overlook

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Meeting Barack Obama

Barack Obama speaking at Scripps Birch Aquarium
The ’08 election is more than a year away, yet already the campaigning and fund raising has begun. Today, I somehow find myself at Scripps Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, rubbing elbows with like-minded San Diegans, excitedly awaiting the arrival of the guest of honor: Barack Obama. As a bonus, the wine and cheese reception featured one of my favorite music groups, Peter Sprague. Indeed, it was Peter’s weekly email newsletter that let me know the Barack Obama meet and greet event was planned. How could I pass up such an opportunity?

Even though Senator Obama arrived late, he did not disappoint us. He spoke for 30 minutes, and even answered a few questions. Many of us brought copies of Audacity of Hope for him to sign—and he signed as many as he could before being whisked off to the next event (each succeeding event had a steeper price tag). This was, after all, a fund raising trip, not really a campaign trip. But, he spoke of the need to fix America, to end the bleeding (literally and financially) in Iraq, to take advantage of the opportunities that addressing the challenges of the environment gives us. He spoke of how America has the ability to contribute to the global economy in a healthy way. He answered questions about prescription drugs and medicare and the threat of Iran and North Korea. He urged us all to go to and participate in his candidacy and email our friends and family and get them involved as well. Americans are ready to get serious about their government. I know I’m ready to take back my country.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Patterns in the Sand

Just as artist Kirkos (Kirk Van Allyn) was climbing the steps at Stone Steps beach with his artists’ tools in his backpack and his dog Cody close by, I happen to arrive at the top of the stairs. What greeted me below was the sand art pictured here.
Sand Art and Photo by Kirk Van Allyn
Kirkos creates public art on the beach at low tide, leaving intricate geometric designs in the tidal wet sand for any who happen by to admire. I have seen his art many times, but today I was lucky to meet and greet the artist himself. He so kindly sent me these pictures so I could post them in time for a Valentine’s Day greeting! Thank you Kirk.
Sand Art and Photo by Kirk Van Allyn

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Nectar-Laden Blossoms

Since late January this tree in my front yard has erupted in a snowy show of white blossoms. My poor tree is clearly confused. It's Springtime! We enjoy the warm weather—how can you not?

As I stood beneath the blossom-laden branches, a low-pitched humming emanated about my head. Bees, lots of bees, were taking advantage of the nectar bounty on this tree.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Super Day at Tidy Bowl XXXI

Tradition rules at the Tidy Bowl.
(Click the pictures to see a larger view.)JP, Sam, Brent, Wese, PA, Billy, Bruce
JP, Sam, Brent, Wese, PA, Billy, and Bruce at the very first Tidy Bowl
(Gail took the picture).

Way back in 1977 we had our first Tidy Bowl, a flag football game played on Super Sunday. This picture is Tidy Bowl I (10 years behind the Super Bowl), played bare-foot and in the mud. This is the before-shot—we never took the after shot, since the game ended when I sprained my ankle. At the end of the game, we were covered in mud and the name “Tidy Bowl” seemed apropos. We started the tradition to get us all in the mood to watch the network extravaganza that the Super Bowl has grown into. Over the years we’ve had anywhere from 8 to 30 participants, with the down-side of the participation level now being filled in with next-generation players (our kids). This year we had a great time at Tidy Bowl XXXI and the game, as usual, ended in a tie. Tyler Strause both played and took photographs. Here's the red team in their huddle with Kyle providing patterns for his ends.
Red team in huddle
Red team in huddle. Photo by Tyler Strause
Each year we have these goals:
Have fun
Don’t get hurt
Make the teams even
Have as many people catch passes as possible
End the game in a tie

Heavy rushing provided by PA and Kellen with JP blocking
Heavy rushing provided by PA and Kellen with JP blocking. Photo by Tyler Strause
We start playing around noon, take a half-time break, and continue playing until the game is tied or until around 2:30PM—time for us to collect our aching bodies and make our way to Chuck and Jocelyn’s for the Super Bowl viewing.
Gail, Sara, Kellen and Paul: a flag football playing family. Photo by Linda Strause
Gail, Sara, Kellen and Paul: a flag football playing family. Photo by Linda Strause
Tidy Bowl XXXI Participants
Tidy Bowl XXXI Participants. Photo by Tyler Strause
Tyler has posted his all of his Tidy Bowl XXXI shots online here.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Wait, Wait Don’t Lie to Me!

While Congress and Bush are grappling with what to do with Iraq, it’s time to remember some of the verbiage emitted from the White House in 2002 and 2003. Al Franken has a radio segment entitled Wait, Wait! Don’t Lie to Me! It’s a “quiz show” and the object is to listen to an audio clip (presented in context) and declare if what you hear is

The Truth
A Lie
A Weasel
A Weasel is defined to be technically true, but used in a way to intentionally mislead.

Today’s contest is well worth reviewing in that it uses quotations from late 2002 and early 2003 as the Bush Administration was making its case for a preemptive war in Iraq. Today’s contest is also much easier than the typical contest which tends to be subtle and nuanced. (In other words, you can associate the words “blatant” and “bold-face” with the following excerpts.)

Clip #1. Vice-President Cheney, August 26, 2002, VFW 103rd National Convention. “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” Correct Answer: Lie.

Clip #2. President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, September 8, 2002, CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: “We do know that he [Saddam Hussein] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance -- into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to -- high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.” Correct Answer: Lie.

Clip #3. President Bush, October 7, 2002. Cincinnati Museum Center - Cincinnati Union Terminal Cincinnati, Ohio: “The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" -- his nuclear holy warriors.” Correct Answer: Lie.

Clip #4. President Bush, January 2003, State of the Union Address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Correct Answer: Lie.

How did you fare?