* ... 21st CONGRESS: Had a chance the other day to catch up with state Sen. Michael Rubio, who is gearing up to run for the empty 21st Congressional District. Also expected to enter the race is state Assemblyman David Valadao, the former Fresno dairy farmer who has the blessings of Karl Rove and the Republican establishment. Democrats enjoy an 11 percent edge in registration in the district, and word is that this is one of the Republicans' top targets to wrest from the Democrats. Rubio is an astute politician, good at fund raising and willing to outhustle any opponent. A Rubio-Valadao match could only be derailed if former state Sen. Dean Florez enters the race, setting up a bruising Democratic clash between Florez and Rubio. Florez has yet to announce. (photos of Ruio with his family and Valadao on the campaign trail)
* ... DESIGNER: An old pal in Texas alerted me to a story in the Austin American-Statesman about a former Bakersfield native who has made quite a name for herself in the world of fashion. The designer is Dawn Younger-Smith, who left Bakersfield in her 20s and has since moved to Austin where she markets under the name "the Boudoir Queen." Apparently selections from her work were used in the fall print and video campaign for accessories and handbag maker Nine West's Vintage America collection. Younger-Smith is also known for her 2009 lawsuit against rocker Courtney Love, who allegedly skipped out on paying for a $4,000 dress. (photo courtesy of The Austin American-Statesman)
* ... RILEY'S JOURNEY: Doctors will tell you it's never too late to start eating healthy and exercising, and no one knows this better than Riley Parker, a local private investigator who let his exercise routine slip in recent years. A routine physical found he had "blossomed" to 226 pounds and some of his key readings - cholesterold, triglycerides, blood pressure - were in the danger zone. "I had three choices," he told me. "Start taking a handful of medication every day, lose a boatload of weight or develop diabetes and have a crappy fourth quarter of life. I have opted for number two." Thanks to the folks over at Action Sports, Riley is now riding a new Specialized cross bike and is serious about shedding the pounds. He promised to keep me posted, and knowing Riley, I think this story will have a happy ending.
* ... GOOD SERVICE: I am always appreciative of good service when it comes my way, so here's my partial list of local retailers (excluding eateries) with the most helpful and friendly employees: Bed, Bath and Beyond, Hoggz Surf Shop, Wood-Dale Market, Trader Joe's, Action Sports, Williams-Sonoma, Stinson's, and Urner's, among others. What's on your list?
* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield is you remember "field parties," not "house parties."