Thursday, December 14, 2023

Our 2023 Christmas Letter



     This has been a family and friends year as evidenced by the numerous photos on our Christmas card. A picture is worth a thousand words, but it helps if some words are added to give more meaning. 

Alice and I visiting her oldest grandchild Kevin and his girlfriend Alex in Minnesota this summer. 

Celebrating my 81st birthday with Alice and good friends John and Mary Alice Bastian.

Alice celebrates her Reseda High School 63rd reunion with identical twin schoolmates Jeff and Greg Schaffer.


My younger brother Ron and wife Kathy at our Point Arena High School reunion, his 62ndand my 63rd

Celebrating our 34th anniversary 

Alice admires a small portion of a mural that Point Arena artist Lauren Sinnott created on 
the side of a building in our Mendocino County seat, Ukiah. 

(On a photo not on our card, Alice and Radar admire the self-portrait
 of Point Arena muralist Lauren Sinnott)

     Last year’s Vulcan Wire Christmas party includes eight of its seventeen employees.


This year's Vulcan Christmas Party
Alice founded Vulcan almost 50 years ago and CEO Mike Graffio 
has been with Vulcan for over 26 years.

  We celebrate friend James Hopenfeld’s birthday.

Friends and family at our Point Arena High School reunion. 

 Our only foreign travel took us to Speightstown, Barbados in late February for ten days, our most relaxing vacation ever. Relaxing, that is, until our flight back to Miami from Barbados. Alice and I were in the third row from the front, left-hand side. We noticed that a fellow in the front row, right-hand side, was noisily laughing. After a while Alice went forward to the restroom, passing by the noisy fellow who  had moved into the flight attendants' serving area. Soon a female flight attendant came down the aisle from that area with a roll of duct tape in her hand, and stopped to talk to a large Polynesian fellow in the next row past me. She asked him to help with an unruly passenger and he said he would, but first recruited two other big guys sitting nearby to help. 

 I was worried about Alice so tagged along, then saw her exiting the restroom. A female flight attendant told Alice to go back into the restroom, and of course she complied. Alice did see me standing behind the big guys and said that she had never seen me look more worried. 

They then confronted the fellow and told him to get back in his seat. He profanely refused, then suddenly the Polynesian grabbed him, moving faster than I thought a big guy could, and threw him into his seat and advised him to shut up, which he wouldn't. However, he noticed red liquid on his seat and suddenly calmed. He was allowed to stand up when it was found that his wine glass broke under him when he landed in his seat. 

A flight attendant went to Alice's restroom and said it was OK for her to come out, although when Alice saw her holding a red-stained towel she wasn't sure that she wanted to. But the red was only wine, not blood. First the Miami police, then the FBI came on board after the boarding ramp was connected. Questions were asked. It appeared that some witnesses would miss connecting flights, but then arrangements were made to have smart-phone videos emailed to the police. 

A moral to this story: Do something dumb like this guy did and forget having your lawyer challenge the witnesses' memories, because there will be at least half-a-dozen video recordings available to be called for evidence.

     If Alice wasn’t still working so hard on Vulcan projects, each day here in Gualala would qualify as very relaxing since we take Radar to Cook’s Beach and walk five miles or more through the woods, up the hills, and across the sand every day. Alice also makes good use of her heated (90 degrees) indoor pool and I just completed listening to all 60 hours of War and Peace while plodding away in our barn on my elliptical trainer. 

     Remember the ant and the grasshopper? Alice works, I play. Coming in late February, early March I’ll perform in “The Greatest Show”, my fifth musical since I turned 71 ten years ago, a very late bloomer. Among my seven numbers, my favorite is the duet from “Gigi”, “Yes, I Remember it Well”.

Our PA reunion was so much fun that the next one will (tentatively) be on July 26, 2023, at Ellington Hall in Santa Rosa, since most Pirates live closer to Santa Rosa than Gualala or Point Arena. Our party is going to the people! Here is the link to our Reunion Page.

Alice’s memoir “The Lady With Balls” consumed her time for seven years, and now it’s Vulcan Wire, the industrial baling wire business she founded almost fifty years ago, that keeps her very busy. Earlier this month we attended Vulcan’s Christmas party in Alameda and all seventeen employees were there for the happiest company holiday party you could imagine.  

2023 Christmas Eve in Lafayette
Front - Josie, Debbie, Jack, Daniel

 Back - Kieran, Alice, Savanah, Kevin, Me, Jeanette, Hans

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!



Saturday, May 06, 2023

Living on the Frontier of Civilization

 Radar says that our road is open!

We lead exciting lives here on the frontier of civilization. We lost electrical power on Jan 4 and may have it restored by tomorrow – Jan 11 – but I lack confidence in PG&E’s estimates. PG&E keeps kicking it down the road. But not to worry. We have a propane-powered generator which comes on automatically when the power goes off and powers the whole house, except for the dishwasher. I power the dishwashing.

And about roads, ours was totally blocked by two trees falling across it a week ago and involving the power line which no longer was providing power. The trees didn’t break the line, just laid upon it and stretched it tightly while slightly bowing the power poles on either side.

The unpowered power line proved a problem because the Mendocino County road crew would not remove the trees until PG&E gave assurance that the power was off. I gave the road crew personal assurances that the power was off but that did not suffice.

When the trees fell we were fortunate in an odd fashion. We had driven to Cook’s Beach to play ball with Radar and were blocked by the fallen trees upon return - they fell minutes after we left for the beach. But by having one of our cars on the other side of the blockage we were able to walk to it and go to town for shopping and picking up mail – for all of our over 33 years of wedded bliss we have never had home mail delivery.

By far the most vexing issue, at least for Alice, was that over a week ago, before the storms hit, a part on our propane-powered hot water heater failed. When the replacement part arrived last Thursday, the plumbers would not walk through the downed tree area because of the proximity to the non-powered power line to install the repair part. I continued my daily exercise routine and took eight accelerated “Navy” showers – accelerated because, unlike normal hot-water conserving Navy showers, mine was taken with very cold water. Very water conserving. Alice conserved even more water – to my eight cold showers, she had one.

But more about the trees. After waiting patiently – we had no choice - for the county, PG&E, or AT&T to clear the road, I hired a tree cutter Sunday and in less than thirty minutes he cut a way for vehicles to drive through. Which enabled the sissy plumbers – Alice’s description – to drive here this morning and restore our hot water.

Our weekly newspaper arrived in the mail four days late and brought the sad news that “Robbie” Robinson passed away. Robbie used to tell folks when we met at occasions, such as his band playing for dances at the Wild Pig BBQs, that he used to be my Scoutmaster, and so he was. In 1956 he arranged for Ron and I, Paul Greco, and others who I can’t recall, to go to Boy Scout Camp Navarro where we had a really fun two weeks.

Jim Russell was the Scoutmaster prior to Robbie and we watched the coronation of Queen Elizabeth on his small-screen TV. It wasn’t live – it had been filmed and the film rushed to New York for broadcasting – but nonetheless a memorable occasion, especially since at the time I didn’t know that it wasn’t live. For years I told others that we had watched it live, and we all shared our ignorance.

Robbie and band were playing at the Point Arena Veteran’s Hall just after I had a bunionectomy – I think 1991 – and had a pin in my left foot at the base of the big toe to aid healing, so naturally Alice and I danced every fast dance. I almost knocked over Robbie's speaker while frantically protecting my foot from being stepped on by a heedless = inebriated dancer nearby.

Here is a digression - one of many. Alice usually sleeps with an eye mask to block out light and before going to sleep in a hotel room she roams about putting barriers on the little lights on the various electrical fixtures in the room. She envies that I just go to sleep anywhere, usually with her having a light on near me so that she can unwind reading a book. I unwind by quickly falling asleep.

The forecast for this area weather is more rain and strong winds, but it’s been clear and dry the past twelve hours. Alice believes in Camelot weather, where “the rain may never fall ‘till after sundown…” Agnostics we are, but still we entreat God to do this bidding, and since the Sun set almost four hours ago, God has our permission to let it pour – but please spare the trees!

It’s off to bed now to snore Alice to sleep.

Stay warm and dry,
Mike, Alice, and sweet little Radar – who doesn’t enjoy thunder

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Liberals are Selective about Diversity

          The opinion section of the March 10, 2023 ICO featured the ICO DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) tribe out in full force, as is usual. It reminded me of the ICO’s aversion to diversity if such includes conservatives, since this year is the tenth anniversary of the ICO informing me that henceforth any letters I submitted of a “repetitive” nature would not be published in the ICO. I’ve collected many of my ICO rejects in a blog The only thing repetitive about them is that they offended the ICO’s liberal sensitivities. 

        Since many universities now mandate signing a DEI statement as a condition of employment, the ICO may soon require one to be published.


The ICO editorial lamented states’ policies concerning drag shows, favorite childhood books, and gender reassignment. About drag shows, I’m surprised that liberals don’t label them “cultural appropriation” in their quest to control intellectual activity. For example, one of my writing instructors, Myriam Gurba, accused Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt, of not being a legitimate author because she is not “Latinx”. I guess that would also apply to Grapes of Wrath because Steinbeck wasn’t an Okie. 


About childhood entertainment, liberal banning includes some Dr. Suess books, Little House on the Prairie, Barbar, Curious GeorgeHuckleberry Finn, and a personal favorite, Song of the South. 


Concerning gender reassignment, many public schools allow students to socially transition — change their name, pronouns, or gender expression — without parental consent, to follow federal and state student privacy guidance. I doubt parents are told that some school policies prohibit parents to be informed of significant issues if their child requests it. I also doubt that schools are competent in such issues and could easily do more harm than good. So much for choice belonging to “the person and their supportive parents.”





Witnesses to Flight Rage!

         Our relaxing ten-day Barbados vacation ended March 8 when we boarded American Flight 1192 at 4 pm bound for Miami on a three-and-a-half-hour flight in comfortable First Class, row 3, seats A and B. The first two hours passed uneventfully. I read our Gualala Rotary book club selection, Ireland: A Novel, by Frank Delaney, on my iPhone, and Alice read a Barbados newspaper borrowed from a large, genial fellow, seated just in front of me. At sone point Alice remarked that a fellow in the first row, far left seat (seat D), was laughing often and quite loudly. 

Just past the two-hour mark I stood up and stepped into the aisle to let Alice go to the restroom located forward on the left of the cockpit door. Alice asked the two fellows from row one, who were standing in the Flight Attendant galley area, if they were in line for the bathroom and they said they weren’t, so Alice continued to the restroom and entered. 


Then the fellow who had been laughing, now standing in the galley area, started arguing with the male and two female flight attendants who were trying to work there. They told him to go back to his seat and he loudly refused. Then he pushed towards the door to the cockpit and the flight attendants continued to order him to return to his seat.


One of the female flight attendants left the galley area with a roll of duct tape and handed it to a passenger, a large man seated a row behind me. He took the duct tape and came up the aisle towards the front. On his way forward he recruited the big guy seated in front of me and an even bigger Polynesian guy seated across from me to go with him to control to troublemaker. As they passed I got up and stood behind them to see if Alice was in danger.


I saw the bathroom door open and Alice started out. She saw me and later told me that she had never seen me so worried. As she started to leave the bathroom she was afraid that there was a terrorist attack. A female flight attendant saw Alice exiting the bathroom and told her to go back in, which she did without asking the attendant why. 


The three large men confronted the angry man and told him to either get in his seat or be put in it by force and duct taped to it. The trouble maker continued angrily and obscenely to refuse to take his seat and the three men replied – with a few choice obscene words of their own - that they would make him take his seat. 


The impasse ended abruptly when the Polynesian guy suddenly grabbed the fellow and slammed him into his seat. This inspired him to protest very loudly while the three men demanded that he stay in his seat and shut up or be shut up. The shouting abruptly halted when the fellow realized that he was sitting on broken glass. The wine glass he left at his seat when he went to argue with the flight attendants shattered when he was thrown into his seat. He quietly got up and stood at his seat while a flight attendant removed the broken glass and wiped up the spilled wine with a white towel, then went to the restroom and told Alice to come out in order that the cleanup could be completed in the bathroom. 


When Alice saw the towel she thought that it was bloody and was relieved to find that it was just red wine. Alice weaved her way through the “big guys” still standing in the aisle and returned to her seat next to me. 


The remainder of the flight was uneventful until we landed in Miami and taxied to the gate and the ramp was attached. When the aircraft door was opened a uniformed policeman entered the plane and stood in the aisle near the troublemaker. A wheelchair was then brought for an elderly woman in the right seat of the first row, and she and her attendant who was sitting behind her and just in front of Alice left the plane. 


The policeman began asking questions about what happened, who was involved, and if anyone would volunteer to accompany him to an office area in the terminal to make a formal statement. Several passengers volunteered that they had videoed the incident on their smart phones and would transmit their videos to an address the policeman provided. 


The policeman then told the perpetrator to stand up with his hands behind his back and be handcuffed. The Polynesian fellow identified himself as the person who physically acted and arranged to give a statement in time to make his connecting flight. 


The process with the policeman lasted about twenty minutes and finally we were all allowed to exit the plane. When Alice and I left the plane we passed by the handcuffed fellow leaning against a wall in the hallway in the company of six policemen. His plight inspired me to think about his coming day in court. Not too many years ago, in similar circumstances, he could have denied doing what he was accused of and many people would have to be brought from far away at great personal expense and inconvenience to testify against him. Now everything he did and said is recorded in several videos; there is no need to have witnesses try to remember and describe all that they saw and heard in such a confused environment. 


It's plea bargain time!

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Our 2022 Christmas Letter

A long time ago when the World was young, two momentous events resulted in Alice and I both reaching eighty years of age this year. Alice, being more impatient, reached 80 first in March, provoking her beautiful daughters, Jeanette and Debbie, to fill our Gualala home with celebrants. 


Granddaughters Josie and Savannah, Me, Grandson Daniel, Alice, Grandson Kevin, Jeanette, First Husband Hans, Debbie, Grandson Jack, Son-in-law Kieran


If asked about this family birthday photo, Alice would say that it “tickles her tummy.” Hans and I are retired, Hans from captaining the Larkspur ferry, me from the Air Force and sundry other activities. Alice is semi-retired from the very successful corporation she founded, Vulcan Wire. Jeanette, Kieran, and Debbie are gainfully employed, as is eldest grandson Kevin in commodities and landlording in Minneapolis. Savannah, Daniel, Jack, and Josie are in a variety of college pursuits. We recently visited Savannah in Charleston, South Carolina, where she is in a graduate nursing program.

Birthday Girl

Each candle is doing the work of ten!


When my turn came in July, Alice pulled out all the stops, rented the Gualala Community Center, had Leslie Bates cater heavy hors d'oeuvres, and hosted a hundred of our friends and family. Almost all family from her birthday attended plus my younger brother Ron and wife Kathy. 

Andy Johnston telling tall tales about our Good Old Days

Also well represented were my Lions and Rotary friends, fellow musical performers, neighbors, and buddy Andy Johnston, who I first “met” in 1958 as we knocked each other around playing high school eight-man football, Laytonville vs. Point Arena. Andy and I faced each other twice, in 1958 and 1959, and my team lost both times. Andy makes sure I never forget.

Birthday Boy is undaunted by the huge candle 
and enormous (full sheet) carrot cake


Leading a Martinelli apple juice toast

With help from Chucky at Gualala Market, guests could also imbibe wine and beer

In January my eldest son Bruce and wife Lisa visited us in Gualala for the first time. Bruce hadn’t been in the area since we all visited my Pop and stepmother Ruth in Point Arena when we came back from Hawaii in 1982. My younger sons Scott and Jeffrey haven’t been here since then, but we hope Jeffrey can visit in January.


During the year we made frequent trips to our closest metropolis, Santa Rosa (75 miles away), for medical matters. Alice fortunately had minor cataracts that required cornea replacement surgery, as I had two years ago. Her eyesight is now that of a 26-year old. However, another problem, a pinched nerve in her back radiating pain to her right leg, is still in the process of repair.

May was a busy month with trips to Chico for Savannah's graduation from Chico State's nursing school and then to Walnut Creek for Josie's graduation from Las Lomas High School.

Savannah's boyfriend Eric, Hans, Jeanette, Jack, Josie, Me, Savannah, Debbie, Alice, Daniel, Kieran

    Good friend and neighbor Donna, Josie the Graduate, Debbie, and Alice


Alice, Jack, Daniel, Jeanette, Donna, Kieran, and Savannah

Ron and I. I was much bigger than Ron - his nicknames were "Peanuts" and later "Runt" - until about age 13, then he passed me and grew to 6' 5" as I stopped at 6' 2". Some much shorter friends still call him "Runt"

In June we visited my younger brother Ron and his wife Kathy at their home in Eureka for his 79th birthday. Every year we spend almost a month the same age because the doctor told Mom that she couldn't have any more children after I was born caesarean. Mom didn't want me to be a lonely, only child, and told that doctor, "Put a zipper in that incision, I'll be right back." Eleven months and four days later brother Ronald was born, the most wonderful gift Mom and Pop ever gave me.

We ended this short trip with a visit to my middle son, Scott, in nearby Fortuna.

A very good friend, Dick Soule, turned 100 the day after I did 80, and my Gualala Rotary Club honored him and his sweet wife Ellen at a luncheon meeting in the Gualala Community Center.

In August we went to Claremont for a Celebration of Life memorial for Alice's dear friend of almost sixty years, Miranda Chan, hosted by her daughters Yun-Lan and Oi-Lan. Then we went to Beverley Hills and the La Brea tar pits that have fascinated me ever since I read about them in grammar school over seventy years ago. Although Alice was an early Valley Girl, living in Tarzana and going to school and college until she married Hans in 1962, and I was born in nearby Torrance and lived a couple of years in Long Beach, we didn't recognize anything but agreed that Hollywood had seen better days. And we had fun regardless. We continued our Gualala routine of walking about three miles every day.


We went to Madame Tussaud’s and recognized almost all the celebrates depicted as long as they were famous over fifty years ago. 


As I was making moves on Marilyn – watched by Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart - Alice and John Travolta were steppin’ out.


The travel bug bit again – it’s actually been attacking us since we got the first of our five Covid shots in January 2021, so in September we went to Kiawah Island near Charleston, SC. Besides many miles of sandy beaches, the island is composed of golf courses garnished with tennis courts. Since we don’t indulge in golf and tennis, we had the most interesting parts of the island all to ourselves – especially when Hurricane Ian arrived, as a tropical storm, and all the restaurants and the premier hotel closed. What was left of Ian passed directly over us with some strong wind gusts that blew a few branches off trees and delivered 3.5 inches of rain. A stronger storm hit Gualala in mid-September and did not cause us to change any of our daily walks and playing ball with Radar on Cook’s Beach. 


With the empty prestigious Sanctuary Hotel behind Alice, we awaited what was left of Hurricane Ian on an otherwise totally deserted eight-mile sandy beach

The view from our villa. Alice loved the screened deck, but especially valued having two bath rooms, so that will be a requirement for future trips like our Barbados vacation this coming February.

 The view from our deck. The fawn didn’t molest the alligator.

 We spotted Albert sunning near a bike path as we peddled 

I assembled and mailed out over 225 Christmas cards and hope that none will be returned with the notation "No forwarding address on file."

Vulcan Wire, Inc., the company Alice founded in the 1970's, had its annual Christmas party at Paradiso Restaurant, San Leandro. hosted by CEO Mike Graffio. You can read all about it in Alice's memoir, The Lady With Balls.

From left, me, Alice, Jennifer Stafford and Edward Valenzuela (across from each other), Nicole Clark and her Mom, Mike Graffio, Chuck and Teresa Rodrigues, Steve and Cindy Brandt

From left, Deena Shine across from husband Nick, brothers Salvador and Gerardo Martinez, 

brothers Victor and Hector Hernandez

From left, Nate Rowland, Smita Patel and son, Kenji and Shauna Rodriguez, Pepe Balderrama

Of course I will be updating this Christmas letter as we celebrate Gualala Rotary and Lions holiday festivities, and wrapping up this Christmas with family cheer in Walnut Creek and Lafayette.

To my schoolmates from Point Arena High School, I plan our reunion July 22 at the Gualala Community Center and hope to hear from all who can make it - and from those who can't.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good year!


Radar says "Woof (Party!)"

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Lancet response to Bjørn Lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg Wall Street Journal article (Climate Change and the Lancet’s ‘Heat Death’ Deception With COP27 approaching, {Lancet} claims rising temperatures have killed people but ignores that they appear to have saved far more.) criticized a Lancet study that found a increasing heat deaths among old people without adjusting for the fact that there are a lot more old people now, thanks to medical and environmental progress as a result of fossil fuel use.

Lancet then responded by going wildly off topic: "Behind this discussion lies an ethical conflict. Older generations have enjoyed enormous benefits from industrialization, mostly based on fossil fuels. But global heating from fossil-fuel greenhouse gases leads to extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, wildfires, reduced crop yields, increased risk of infectious disease, biodiversity loss and sea-level rise, all with effects on health and survival. We are putting our children’s future in the balance. The generational injustice can’t be ignored."

Now it's not the old people, who are actually doing better because of fossil fueled progress, but the young in a distant future who are threatened by climate change events that, with all the scrutiny today, still haven't materialized. In fact, this chart shows that our children's risks caused by climate change have declined dramatically over the past 100 years of rapidly expanding fossil fuel use.

Heat and cold deaths?

The Lancet is hoist on its own petard.


Floods and droughts?

Extreme weather events?


Reduced crop yields?


Increased risk of infectious disease?

Apparently the Lancet physicians never heard of the pandemics that killed hundreds of millions in colder periods of past centuries: the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) that killed 200 million over six hundred years ago; Smallpox killed 56 million about 500 years ago; Spanish Flu killed almost 50 million only one hundred years ago; the Plague of Justinian killed perhaps 50 million 1,500 years ago; and AIDS/HIV so far has killed around 30 million. 

Of the roughly 259 pandemics spanning the past several thousand years, the probable link to climate change is rapid increase in population and cities after the end of the last glacial period (Ice Age) about 11,700 years ago.

Sea level rise?

Historic sea level higher for most of the past 3,000 years.

Honolulu sea level?

Honolulu rate of sea level rise is six inches per century and steady.

The key points of the Lancet response are all unsupported.

So I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal:


The Lancet response to Bjorn Lomborg’s article (Climate Change and the Lancet’s ‘Heat Death Deception’” was breathtaking in its deceptions. Its portent of fossil fuel doom didn’t acknowledge the 99% decrease in climate related deaths during the past 100 years due to wealth creation and development as a result of fossil fuel use. Placing the present in the context of the last 1,000 years, we find in the past greater weather events such as droughts and floods and over ten times the acreage burnt by wildfires annually. Rather than “reduced crop yields”, the world now produces record harvests without increased acres planted on an almost annual basis. Sea levels, now lower than during half of the past 10,000 years, are increasing at a rate of six inches per century with no signs of acceleration, per the world’s tide gauge records. 


The Lancet letter then goes off tangent about deaths caused by small particulate matter air pollution. Unmentioned by Lancet, these deaths are primarily due to burning wood and dung to cook and heat in enclosed spaces and have been since humans mastered fire. The growing use of natural gas and electricity generated from burning fossil fuels reduces these deaths dramatically.


“ Physician (Lancet), heal thyself!”