Saturday, March 21, 2009

Calls in the middle of the night you actually want

Here's a bit of good news about people going out of their way to help absolute strangers. It came via an email from a grateful subscriber to The Californian who credits a good-hearted carrier with potentially keeping her house from burning down. Let Janet Hopkins tell the story of how contract carriers Leola and Glenn Moore (shown here) went above and beyond:

"This morning at 4 a.m. our telephone rang and a gentleman who said that he was a Californian deliveryman could hear a car horn going off in our garage. My husband thanked the man for calling and when we got to the garage, the horn on his truck was indeed honking and we could smell an electrical smell. When my husband opened the garage door, the man from the Californian was still waiting in his car to make sure that we were okay before he drove away.

"My husband disconnected the battery and when it was re-connected the horn had stopped. He is going to have the truck looked at to see what happened. We very much appreciate the extra time and effort your employee took to call us. There could have been a fire resulting from the wires overheating and my car was in the garage as well as the truck.

"Please see that the deliveryman is recognized for being responsible and caring to his clients! This time, he was the "good neighbor" which is usually my job.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The man behind the images you love

Sad to see that John Harte, a 20-plus year employee of The Californian, taking a buyout as the company struggles with the down economy. John has taken some of the iconic images of our community (check out his gallery here) including the one shown here of Garth Brooks on one knee proposing to Trisha Yearwood at the Crystal Palace. John will continue to freelance for the paper but has his own side business (his website is here). We'll miss his news photographs and his special eye.

Kevin McCarthy: AIG scandal tops week on the Hill

Second in my weekly updates from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) on his priorities in Washington. In his words:

"Another busy week on Capitol Hill as I catch a plane to head back to the district.

"The four issues that stood out this week are:

1)AIG and the economic stimulus - AIG dominated the discussion in DC this week. The House Financial Services Committee, which I serve, held hearings trying to get to the bottom of these now infamous AIG bonuses. You were kind enough to post my interview with Chris Matthews on Hardball, but we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen again and that we get to the bottom of this situation.

2) The Budget - The size and scope of the budget remains a major concern among many members of Congress. Some of my Democratic colleagues in the House are now echoing my concerns that we should not be saddling future generations with tremendous amounts of debt. With the retirement of the Baby Boomers, the federal government faces difficult choices that will only get worse. In 2016, federal spending is projected to be 22.4% of GDP and federal taxes will be 19.2% of GDP, which will only continue to rise if we don’t make a commitment now and make some tough and transparent decisions.

3) Veterans Health Care – Our nation must maintain its commitment to ensuring that those who risk their lives to defend our nation will receive the care they need when they return. That is why I was outraged that the White House was considering having veterans pay for their war injuries, and I stand ready to fight that idea. In addition, I've sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs supporting their efforts to utilize telemedicine and technology in increasing access to health care for our local veterans.

4) Water - Our water needs locally and in California need greater attention, and this issue remains one of the most complex issues in the next decade. I've had extensive conversations with other California legislators on the state and federal level on the need to act. We have a situation where we have created man-made droughts driven by lawsuits that will have long-term negative impacts to our local communities and economic growth.

Do 8th graders really need a graduation ceremony?

Following up on a report in The Californian, Scott Cox over at KERN 1180 talk radio is reporting that the Panama Buena Vista School District has canceled the traditional junior high graduations to save money. Cox is outraged (of course radio hosts are always outraged) as are some moms calling into his morning show. Yet it raises an important question: have we put too much emphasis on kids reaching a level of achievement that - let's be honest here - should be expected? All the limos and hoopla over eighth grade? Shouldn't parents in a county with one of the nation's highest high school dropout rates and lowest college graduation rates demand more? What do you think?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Monarch butterflies and their annual migrations

Was out driving on Taft Highway yesterday in western Kern County when I ran into swarms of the migrating (and quite lovely) Monarch butterflies. This is their annual migration up from Mexico and Kern County is swarming with them. Beautiful, certainly, but they sure can make a mess of your windshield and front grill of your car. Picked this up from a website (here's a good link if you are interested):

"Across the USA monarchs soar and glide in the warm sunshine from March through October (depending where they are born), but what happens in the fall when the brisk cold winds set in and winter looms in the air? Monarchs cannot survive cold winter temperatures of the northern states. So what does a monarch do to keep warm? It MIGRATES south and HIBERNATES! This means that it rests, with a very slow heart rate, just like bears in their hibernation caves. Monarchs east of the Rockies migrate 2500 miles to the Oyamel fir trees of Mexico. Monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to southern California to the eucalyptus trees of Pacific Grove and surrounding areas.

"The monarch's flight to Mexico has been compared to the migration habits of birds flying south for the winter. It is the only insect that can fly 2,500 miles to a warmer climate. Their unique wing structure and yearly life cycle makes it possible for the fall generation monarchs to travel thousands of miles (on those amazing little wings) to the warm nesting grounds of Mexico and southern California."

Generosity in the midst of a recession

This nasty recession has given everyone plenty of reason to pull back their charitable giving. Which is why it's so encouraging to read about companies and individuals who have continued to give when everyone else is pulling back. Picked up some of this in the annual report of the Golden Empire Gleaners, which reported in 2008 it served 188,000 people, distributed 1.5 million pounds of food and racked up almost 7,000 volunteer shifts. This is a group that relies entirely on the generosity of others to keep feeding the hungry, so it nice to read that:
a) Chevron gave the Gleaners $20,000 to sponsor five senior sack sites for 2009.
b) The Robert Raskind Charitable Foundation gave $15,000 for general support.
c) Claude and Shirley Fiddler donated $10,000 to the Gleaners Endowment Fund.
d) The Bakersfield Californian Foundation donated $7,500 to sponsor the Food for Thought program.
e) St. Francis School donated $6,010 from their student Christmas store proceeds.
f) The Lake Family Foundation tossed in another $5,500 to sponsor costs for a volunteer program.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

McCarthy: follow the money on AIG scandal

Congressman Kevin McCarthy made a strong appearance on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on MSNBC today regarding the bonus scandal at AIG. Turns out someone modified the stimulus bill and inserted language to allow those bonuses. Coincidence? Hear Kevin and Matthews go at with this video clip. This won't be the last we hear from this story.

Investing during a recession: signs of spring?

It's always a good sign when small businesses - certainly the backbone of our economy here in Bakersfield - choose to expend scarce capital during a deepening recession. So I was heartened to read in the Downtown Business Assn. newsletter about the number of businesses honored for major renovations or new construction. Among the honorees were The Dream Center and Coffee Shop, Elaine's Cafe and Market, Goose Loonies, Larry McAbee Construction, American Sound Recording Studio and the Marriott Hotel. Alexander and Associates, Memorial Hospital and Little White Dress (owner Jennifer Cantelmi shown in picture) were cited for new construction. The DBA also talked about the possibility of 20th Street becoming a "great street," providing an east-west walkable connection from the new Mill Creek Linear Park (Central Park) to the historic Fox Theater.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A soldier returns home from Iraq (almost)

Nice to hear from Barry Zoeller, vice president of corporate affairs over at Tejon Ranch, that his son Jordan is now safely out of Iraq and on his way home. Jordan Zoeller is just one of countless local kids who have done their duty overseas, but I feel some kinship with the lad because Barry would brief us on his wellness over lunch at Rotary. (see earlier post here) In Barry's words:

"... belated thank you for your blog post mentioning Jordan's return to Bakersfield. I have an update for you. My wife and I were able to greet him last week when he returned to his base on Oahu. Needless to say, it was great to see him. He has quite a few stories to tell, including how body armor saved his life last Spring in Sadr City. After spending about a week-and-a-half at the base, he'll be coming home next Monday, March 23. He's scheduled to arrive at Meadows Field at 9:40 a.m.

Again, thanks for your support and your on-going interest in his well being.



Monday, March 16, 2009

Of cancer, love and a boy named Danny Klancher

Danny Klancher was just 15 when he died of leukemia almost exactly seven years ago, but his memory remains alive thanks to a determined mother and the power of social networking. I know Barbara Reid as a local artist (see her website here) and fellow former member of the of the Bakersfield Museum of Art Foundation Board of Trustees, but what I didn't know until recently what that she lost her son Danny (his website here) to cancer in 2002 when he was a student at Stockdale High School. And now she's using the power of Facebook to build a community not only to remember Danny, but also to rally around the cause of beating childhood cancer. It's a testament to Facebook that communities can form virtually overnight, and in this case it's for a good cause. If you think Facebook is something just for kids, think again. Barbara has been getting commitments to donate at the Cure Children's Cancer website supporting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. About the same time I was checking out Barbara's website, 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong posted on Twitter a new cancer fighting commercial funded by his Livestrong Foundation. Check it out here. In Barbara's words:

"I used internet support groups as far back as I could to share information when Danny was first diagnosed (1997) and particularly after he relapsed (1999). At that time, the internet was not as sophisticated as it now. I was delving into medical research as best I could, but it was raw, and some of it from other countries. No filters--I had to take the precious time to read it all myself. Now there is CureSearch ( ) which compiles protocols for families and is a wonderful roadmap during a difficult time."

A congressman, Twitter and a field of dreams

Spotted this moving picture on Rep. Kevin McCarthy's (R-Bakersfield) Twitter feed and asked him to give me a paragraph or two about the event. The picture speaks for itself - a wonderful day in our community for special needs kids - and it is yet another example of the power of social networking tools like Twitter, which Kevin used to distribute the picture. Kevin has also used Twitter to get feedback on more esoteric concerns like mark to market reform, but it's clear that Twitter has become an important tool to reach out for feedback. Said Kevin, who was in town for a district tour:

"I was honored to participate in the
League of Dreams Baseball Day at Fruitvale/Norris Park by throwing out the first pitch. For a lot of parents like myself, we certainly want to see our children learn the values of competition and teamwork. Today was a chance for us to cheer on and encourage those local children who may not always have the chance to put on a jersey. Children with disabilities were able to play baseball and experience the joys of achievement, like crossing home plate. To see the smiles on the kids’ faces as they cross home plate is something every parent should enjoy, and we should recognize Tim Terrio, his staff at Terrio Fitness, and the volunteers for the work they put in to making today possible. The drive and dedication shown by each child today is an inspiration to our community."