When we are driving from California to Utah in the summer, we often taken the route through Yosemite NP with an overnight in Tonopah, NV.  We travel through a lot of territory that is pretty desolate.  Before the first time driving this route, I googled up the names of the small towns I saw on the map and asked for places to dine and stayover.  I got nothing.  After passing through them, I realized why.  These are really small, nowhere places.  Maybe they have a gas station/convenience store, maybe not.

So we’ve taken to packing a lunch and picnicking along the way.  We’ve eaten in Yosemite NP a couple of times but often it is too early for lunch when we are there.  This time we decided we would find a table in a park maybe in Benton Hot Springs or its sister city Benton.  The sign as you come into Benton Hot Springs says population 13 1/2.  There was no picnic table.  But the town of Benton boasts 279 people and actually has a little park.  A sad little park.  We stopped and had our lunch there.  We saw no people.

Now what does this have to do with hot dogs?  John and I went out for hot dogs before we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean part II.  (which I enjoyed – Johnny Depp, what more can I say?)  There is a place that we’ve been eyeing called The Dogfather’s.   It’s kind of a cute name and an occasional hot dog won’t kill us.  (hopefully)  We have a conversation with the guy behind the counter because he pegs us as non-Utahans from the getgo.  He admits that he is originally from California as well.  So we play the “where are you from”  game.  He mentions that he comes from near Bishop, CA.  “Oh,” we say, “yesterday we were near there are on our way to St. George.”  “Actually, I’m from Benton,” he says. 

What are the odds that we’d meet someone from a town that has a population of only 279?  While we were sitting in Benton the day before, we wondered why anyone would live there.  There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of jobs.  It’s ramshackle and depressing. I guess you’d only be there if you’re parents happened to have landed there.  And then like the guy at Dogfather’s you’d find a way out.

BTW -  the hot dogs were bland an unappealing.



I have to admit it, I don’t like to clean.  I think maybe I inherited this from my mom who didn’t seem to like cleaning either.  It’s probably that I am missing the correct gene – cleanastisine 409. 

 On the other hand, I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t like to clean.  At our house we have these conditions which John calls “forcing functions.”  These are events, like having people over, that make you do the things you’ve been putting off.  They are usually proceeded by my saying, “Oh, my god, we can’t have the [insert name of some friends] over for a barbecue unless we get new cushions for the deck furniture, trim the vegetation, clean the grill thoroughly, sweep the deck, etc!”

One of the ongoing forcing functions, and I suppose you’ll think this is silly, is having somebody come clean for you.  I can remember on the occasions when my mom would have someone in to clean, she would be like a banshee yelling at us to pick up and she would go about hiding all the rubbish that had been collecting for the last two weeks.  My kids will identify with this.  Whether it was Virginia (N.C. first time), Lydia and Virginia (N.C. second time) or Magda (California), the day that the cleaning person was coming I was rousting them out of bed and yelling for them to straighten up their rooms while I zoomed around downstairs trying to make it look like we are always neat.  I’ve wondered from time to time whether it’s actually worth it to have someone come clean.  It’s always such a trauma.

So today, I got a call from Guy, the guy who cleans windows here in Utah that he can come at 9 AM today to wash the windows.  John’s off playing tennis so I’ve got 45 minutes to get ready.  “What if Guy sees that I have my teacup in the sink?”, “What if Guy sees that the countertops are not completely shiny?” (By the way, I’ve just gotten a reprieve until 10 AM.)

God, sometimes I wish I weren’t so neurotic!



It’s just too hot.  The heat makes everything seem harder to do as lethargy and ennui set in.  We spent Thursday and Friday driving to St. George, Utah and we should be glad we are here.  On Saturday it hit about 115 in Pleasanton.  That smashed the record by lots of degrees.  Northern Californians aren’t used to that kind of heat.  In lots of places there is no air conditioning.  Here in St. George it was a refreshing 108.  At least there is minimal humidity.

We got up early today and played tennis at 7 am.  It was only 82.  Now it’s ten and we’ve played, swam and showered.  What to do for the rest of the day?  I guess we will watch Tiger hopefully win the British Open and then there is the final of the RCA Tennis Championships.  I think we’ll make a trip to Costco.   Sunday is a fine day to go to Costco since so many people here eschew shopping on Sundays.  Let’s see, that should bring us to about 3 PM.  Then a nap, feed the fish (who really seem to enjoy the hot weather), eat dinner and bed.  Another way too hot day successfully negotiated.

 Stay cool.




Yesterday, for our anniversary, we took a trip up to the Lake County wine country and then back to Healdsburg where we had a great dinner at Cyrus.  (Except my scallops were over-cooked, boo!)  Anyway, in thinking about what makes a successful marriage, I want to share some of what we talked about during the ride in the car.

1.  We started off we discussing the energy shortage in California a few years ago and how it was partly true and mostly manipulated by energy suppliers like Enron.

2.  This brought us to the topic of Ken Lay, recently deceased.  Or is he?  John thought maybe he was offed by his friends in the oil industry and politics – a permanent gag order.  I thought maybe he isn’t dead at all.   You know, private funeral and all.  Way to keep the profits in the family.

3.  Then we had a little quiet time while we negotiated the crazy drivers on the freeway.

4.  As we are passing Robert Louis Stevenson Park,  John asks, do you think his friends used to call him Bob-a-Lou?  I countered with whether Bob was a nickname for Robert at the time.  John rejoined with the fact that Robert Peel founded the London police force in 1829 and the policemen were nicknamed “Bobbies.”  Okay, but maybe Rob was more of the nickname.  Possibly true, John said, since Elizabeth I’s paramour, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was nicknamed Robin.

5.  Along the stretch of road where the park is, I noticed some rocks jutting out of a cliff.  I said, “You don’t usually see rocks in this part of California because, (and we said this together), they are part of the “incompetent Franciscan formation.”  And we laughed.  Okay, this is geeky to the max.  John and I have traveled the West with our set of Roadside Geology and are always referring to rock types, escarpments and subduction.

6.  To follow this up, we wondered,  as we passed by,  if Mt. Konocti were volcanic and whether it was part of the Cascades or whether Mount Shasta was really the most southerly.

7.  Over lunch, we noticed a fellow with a McDonnel-Douglas T-shirt with the Delta I, II & III rockets on it.  This evolved into a discussion of airplane engines and the energy efficiency of  high bypass turbine fan engines.

8. Then we got a great nugget of info about a racehorse named Stymie at the Steele Winery.  Apparently, the father of the guy who founded the winery moved his family to California on the riches he received on a bet placed on a horse named Stymie.  (He was a bookie)  The son was able to buy the winery after finding boxes of cash after his father passed away.  We talked about that for a while.

9.  That kind of led to, how much money is rich?  It used to be that a millionaire was a really rich person but now they’re a dime a dozen, so to speak.

10.  We also asked the woman at the winery if Mt. Konocti ( see no.6) was indeed volcanic.  It is.

So I guess this is why we are married 34 years.  We still find talking to each other endlessly fascinating.  No tunes, no talk radio for us.  We are still enamored.



Yay, it’s our anniversary!  After being married 34 years people sometimes ask us, How can you stay married that long?  John, being the sweetie that he is, answers, how could we not? 

In celebration of our big day we are going up to wine country, visiting a winery  and having dinner at Cyrus in Healdsburg.  We’ve eaten at Cyrus once before and it is wonderful.  Apparently it has been discovered because even for a Monday night it was difficult to get reservations.  Then we’ll stay over in Healdsburg and head back home tomorrow.

In other recent happenings, Jon, Ryan and Nathan came for a visit on Saturday.  It was very exciting.  Jon and John played some tennis and Ryan and I took Nathan for a swim.  Well, not quite a swim, more like dipping toes in water.  Nathan wasn’t too sure about the pool and was startled by the noisy water.  He is so sweet.  It is great to watch him learn about the world around him concentrating so hard on things as miniscule as the edge of his blanket.  He, of course, shows brilliance in doing these things along with a winning personality.  (Oh, excuse me, I must be his grandmother.)

So life is pretty happy right now.  We are heading off to Utah on Thursday to see if the house is still in good shape and not inundated with ashes from all the recent fires.



What is the fascination with the guns here in the U.S?  Do we actually believe we are a vigilante society and the only way to protect ourselves is by owning a gun and keeping it readily available?  Apparently so, because on Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives voted to overturn a recently enacted law requiring safety trigger locks on all hand guns sold in the United States to prevent children from accidently (or purposefully) firing them.
This was such a small potatoes law that even the gun aficionados were surprised by the vote.  They figured that having to buy an inexpensive trigger lock when purchasing a gun was no big deal.  What kind of enforcement could there be?  So you throw away the lock and in the meantime you’ve made the gun control fanatics happy.  But such is government these days especially in the House.
I looked up some of the arguments against having a trigger lock.  One is that you need to have your gun always at the ready.  Another is to cite that firearms are involved in 1.5% of accidental fatalities.  That’s way behind motor vehicle accidents, poisoning, drowning or even suffocating on an ingested object.  It makes it seem that the approximately 300 children killed last year are just an aberration.
Of course, then there are the un-accidental deaths.  Like suicide for instance.  In the last 25 years nearly 40,000 youths have committed suicide by using a gun.  States that had child access prevention laws had a significantly smaller number of these deaths.  And unlike taking pills or other methods, suicide attempts by gun are nearly always fatal.
For some reason, even common sense measures are an anathema to gun enthusiasts.  Surely the writers of the Constitution didn’t want loaded guns falling into the hands of children.




We are moving out of our apartment in Menlo Park this week.  I have mixed emotions about it.  In a lot of a ways, it is a relief.  Having multiple places to live was confusing and expensive.  Paying rent or property taxes and homeowner’s association fees, utilities bills etc. on three places that you only lived in a third the time seemed excessive.  Knowing where the extra paper towels or celery seed was stored was impossible.  Sometimes just trying to figure out which way the bathroom was in the middle of the night was a quandry.  It’s time to simplify. 

But there are things I’ll miss.  Being close to the kids will be one.  That didn’t work out quite the way that I thought it would.  It my mind I was thinking it would be like when I was a kid and my grandparents were near by and the family would get together frequently.  I think that’s a model that has seen its day.  And I mean this from both sides.  John and I have our life, the kids have theirs.  We cannot expect them to fill the void that our own endeavors and friends should.  They have very busy lives filled with their own friends and work. 

Now that we’ll be an hour away, we’ll all have to work a little harder at seeing each other.  John and I plan on staying over near them in a hotel the days that John works.  It’s much cheaper and someone else makes the bed!  We hope that they’ll come out and play some tennis, swim in the pool and have a family dinner.  We’d like Nathan to be comfortable in his Beeba and Zayde’s house.

It’s all good.  It was an experiment that didn’t quite turn out as expected.  Many thanks to John who indulged me by letting me have this past year.



In another edition of “You Must Believe the Way I Tell You To Believe or Else,” a businessman and a girl were killed yesterday in Somalia for watching the World Cup.  The hard-line Muslim fighters there have banned watching television and opened fire after a crowd of teenagers defied their orders to leave a hall where a businessman was showing Tuesday’s Germany-Italy match on satellite television. 

Anyone who reads my blog knows I am not a fan of organized religion.  Whether it’s the Hundred Years War, the Inquisition, witch-burning or the Crusades,  there’s a lot of bad that’s been done in the name of belief.  But killing people for watching something as trivial as soccer shows that extremism has reached a new low.



There is a saying, “dumb as a dodo,” to indicate that someone is basically clueless in fundamental knowledge.  It was interesting then to read, the other day, that a bunch of dodo bones had been found in one site on Mauritius.  Portuguese sailors discovered Mauritius in the 16th century and it was later colonized by the Dutch in the 17thcentury. That is when the dodo died out.

Of course, “died out” is really a euphemism.  And it wasn’t just hunted to extinction.  The settlers also destroyed its natural habitat and brought rats which ate the dodos’eggs.  Most animals have learned that not being afraid of humans is being as dumb as a dodo.  But it’s hard for them to learn to control the second order effects.