Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bakersfield Observed recognizes the new year with a look past at the hits and misses of 2013

 * … NEW YEAR: In honor of the new year, I will devote today's blog to some of the hits and misses of the past 12 months. Here's to a new year free of litter, discarded diapers, running red lights and other
examples of bad behavior.

 * … HIT: Has our community finally awakened to the trash and litter that make our streets looks like a Third World country? The city spent the year getting serious about responding to complaints about litter, and the Homeless Center is providing workers to clean many of the freeway on and off ramps. It's still a mess, but this is a good start.

 * … MISS: But clearly there are people who view our streets as their private trash receptacle. Do you remember the two women in the battered older green van downtown who casually tossed all of their fast food wrappers on L Street? When confronted by a concerned driver, one of the women threaded to punch her out.

 * … HIT: The Westside Parkway opened and was an instant hit, absorbing a lot of the traffic off Truxtun Extension and Rosedale Highway and providing a quick commute to folks who live out in Seven Oaks and other westside neighborhoods. When you see former Rep. Bill Thomas around town, you might want to thank him for helping secure the funding to make this happen.

 * … MISS: The attempted implosion of the old PGE power plant on Rosedale Highway was a catastrophic failure and left one man fighting to keep his legs. By the time the lawyers are done with this case, the utility will feel it in its checkbook. And meanwhile, when are they going to clean up the pile of twisted steel that remains out there?

 * … HIT: There were many acts of good deeds last year, but one of my favorites was the young businessman who bought the lunches for 18 Vietnam veterans at the Roadhouse Grill. Now that's a class act.

 * …MISS: Bakersfield College missed badly when it forced out Athletic Director Ryan Beckwith after the football team was sanctioned and had to forfeit a championship. And yet, all the misdeeds by the football team and its booster club had been going on for years before Ryan arrived at BC.

 * … HIT: I wouldn't recommend this at home, but you had to admire the guts of the downtown homeowner who chased a burglar off his properly in the wee hours of the morning, hopped in his truck and found the offender riding a bicycle with a box of stolen goods on his handlebars. The result: a citizen's arrest and a felon behind bars.

 * … MISS: And what was the middle aged woman on the electric power scooter thinking when she left a local grocery store with her very young daughter riding on the handlebars while the mother casually smoked a cigarette and crossed four lanes of traffic in the middle of the day?

 * …HIT: Downtown Bakersfield had another great year with new restaurants, businesses, downtown lofts and potted trees sprucing up the arts district. Get ready for another year of fun First Friday celebrations, new restaurants and a lively night life scene.

* … HIT AND MISS: And my favorite hit and miss of the year goes to the young couple who changed their infant's diaper on the Panorama Bluffs and indecorously left the dirty diaper next to the curb. Shame on them, but kudos to the runner who spotted this and then tossed the dirty diaper into the offender's car via an open sun roof. That's karma.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bako Bits: A new restaurant prepares to open downtown, Wienderschnitzel tests a Fritos Pie for the Bakersfield market

 * … EATERY: The same couple that owns the popular Japanese restaurants Toro at the Marketplace
and Enso downtown are at it again, opening a swanky new eatery on L street between 18th and 19th streets. It's call the Wall Street Cafe, occupies a spot that used to specialize in macaroni and cheese, and should be open in a week or so.

 * … COSTCO: Reader Susan Peninger wrote that the friendly man who checks receipts at Costco is named Alan Acres. "He its a true gem," she wrote, "gifted with the ability to engage people with words or song and like so many others, I walk away uplifted by his genial spirit." Peninger also mentioned that our own Woolgrowers restaurant was featured in her latest Saveur magazine.

 * … FRITOS PIE: Given our appetite for high calorie fast food, this shouldn't surprise me. But Wienerschnitzel is testing a new menu item here at its seven Bakersfield locations. It's the new Chili Cheese Fritos Dog and Chili Cheese Fritos Pie until January 27. Pass the antacid, please.

 * … BAD FORM: Check out this bit of bad form submitted by reader Andy Wonderly. "Earlier today, a man in scrubs posing as a dental assistant trespassed into my job's passcard-protected office building near Truxtun and Mohawk and began going from office to office attempting to sell a discounted teeth-whitening service. He apparently held the side entrance security door open after my coworker and I went in as to be undetected by reception. He walked in my office and targeted me first.  He had a very official-looking ledger card complete with a space to write down my credit card information (and likely any other personal information he could elicit). I declined his services and immediately notified our office manager, who promptly found him and escorted him out of the building.  He was friendly and not menacing, so my initial reaction was not shock or anger, but I knew he wasn't supposed to be there  The audacity of the human spirit never ceases to amaze.  Hopefully he can find a legitimate way to pay for his Christmas shopping."

 * … GOOD DEEDS: More good deeds from the Rotary West club. Said Vija Turjanis of the county Mental Health-Children's Services: "(The club) brought the joy and wonder of Christmas to 20 very needy youth for this holiday.  About two months ago, the children wrote Dear Santa letters,  which were delivered to Rotary West, and the awesome Rotarians made sure all the children's  Christmas wishes were going to come true. Many of these children would not have had much of Christmas if it were not for Rotary West. The Rotarians did the shopping and Bakersfield West High School Interact Club wrapped all the gifts. There were piles of gifts from bicycles, skate boards, doll houses, to electronic devises and gift cards just to name a few. A very special thanks to Rotary West for making the magic a reality for these children."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Rep. Kevin McCarthy's year-end review from Capitol Hill

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, gives us his year-end view from Capitol Hill.

 "As the New Year approaches, we look forward to the future and the many opportunities that lie ahead. Whether we stay up with friends to watch the ball drop in New York City’s Times Square or spend a quiet night with family, it is a time of optimism and new beginnings.
 "So as we count down the days to 2014, let us remember what makes our nation great – faith, family, freedom, hard work, and free-enterprise. As President Ronald Reagan said, “… America is no stranger to challenges. We need only live up to our convictions to set things right. We need only believe in ourselves, in our country, and in tomorrow.”
 "Let us also take a moment to recognize the hard work and achievements of the players and coaches of Bakersfield Christian High School (BCHS) and Bakersfield High School (BHS) who competed in this year’s CIF State Championship games. Our community could not have been more proud as we all watched these two schools play and compete with tremendous heart as they left everything on the field.  And as a former BHS football player, I want to personally congratulate the Driller football team for bringing the Division I State Championship home to Bakersfield.
From my family to yours, let me wish you all a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Bakersfield … a time to reflect and to show some grace … happy holidays to all

* … MERRY CHRISTMAS: My best to everyone this year and let's not forget the true meaning of the holidays. Whether Christian or Jewish or non-secular, this is the time for grace and appreciation and
finding that inner peace that often eludes all of us. And how nice is it that when the rest of the country is battling floods and snow, we are enjoying sunny days, mild temperatures and clear skies?

* … AIR TRAVEL: If you think air travel is bad now, it's about to get much worse. The major air carriers, eager to find more ways to make more money, are squeezing more seats into the planes, making lighter seats with less cushion and in many cases restricting the ability of a seat to recline. According to The New York Times, some airlines are reducing the space between seats from the old standard of 34 inches to 30 or even 28 inches. That, and the fact that the average American is getting bigger, not smaller, adds up to the sardine-like environment we all experience in coach.

 * … THEFTS: This is the time of year with burglaries and petty thefts spike. Across our community there have been reports of packages being stolen off porches, of car break-ins and of burglaries. One neighbor of mine had her laundry stolen off the porch in the morning and her Christmas reef in the afternoon. Many of these thefts happen during the day and police say they have increased as more prisoners are paroled because of prison crowding. Beware.

 * … GOOD DEED: This is always a difficult time of year for Margaret Lee, who lost her husband almost exactly two years ago, which is why she was so touched by a recent random act of kindness. She was at the Subway on North Chester and learned that her sandwich had been paid for by a young man in front of her. "I was overwhelmed. I was able to thank him but he will never know just what he did for me. How can you feel down when you find wonderful people like him.  It really changed the way I felt.  I will always remember this act of kindness and will do my best to forward it to others."

* … SPOTTED: Here's something you don't want to think about. Joe Moesta said he spotted "a young man in a local restaurant stuck his knife into a catsup bottle in order to make the catsup flow from the bottle more freely.  When he removed the  knife he licked it with his tongue and reinserted it into the bottle a couple more times. When he had finished his meal and left the restaurant, I mentioned my observation to the waitress who promptly threw the bottle of catsup into the trash. But it makes you wonder how many times this sort of thing happens that is not reported  and the bottle of catsup with someone's saliva is passed on to the next customer. Enjoy your meal."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bako Bits: The kindness of strangers, good form and Kathie Lee Gifford weighs in to congratulate the Drillers on their state championship

* … KINDNESS: In the spirit of Christmas, Norene Tidd shared this random act of kindness. "I was so flustered last week. A pretty young woman who was in front of me at Von's on Stockdale paid
for my basket of groceries. Nothing in my 78 years has anyone ever been so kind. And I didn't even get her name.  I was in a mental fog and I can only hope that I thanked her. It was a kindness that won't be forgotten. Hope an  opportunity comes my way so that I can do the same."

 * … DRILLERS: Congratulations to the Bakersfield Drillers who brought home another state championship in high school football. Even Kathie Lee Gifford noticed, sending out this Tweet after the Driller victory: "Hey Drillers! Frank Gifford, an old Driller, congratulates the young Drillers! You made him proud!!!

 * … GOOD CHEER: Michele Corson, public affairs director at Kaiser Permanente, is delighted with the Costco employee who checks receipts. "It was a special treat to be sung a holiday song by the Costco serenader as I recently exited Costco on Rosdale Highway. I don't know his name, but he always sings to me as he reads my receipt to ensure I am 'good to go' with my shopping basket. Thank you to this fine gentleman for making my holiday shopping trip brighter!"

 * … YOUNG REPUBLICANS: After reading about some good deeds the Young Democrats have done locally, it didn't take long for the Young Republicans of Kern County to weigh in. This from Matthew Braman, chairman of the KCYR: "Over the past month we have donated a Wii-U gaming system to Redwood High School for at risk youth for the Kern Crossroads Juvenile Treatment Facility, we have an ongoing blood drive at Houchin Blood Bank, we have an ongoing donation of can tabs to the Ronald McDonald house, and we’ve donated $500 to the American Red Cross for relief in the Philippines. Now there is an energetic group of young adults who want to give back to the community."

* … BAD FORM: This thoughtful note came from a parent who weighed in on how adults behave at youth baseball games. "As a parent of a child who is involved in sports it is sometimes challenging to block out negative remarks made by families of the opponent… Everyone has the right to cheer or root for their child, niece, nephew or grandchild but when remarks are made about your own child while they are up to bat and grown adults are shouting 'strike him out'…  These negative remarks have an impact on these children at this age level. We are not sitting at Dodger Stadium watching over paid Major League baseball players. We are watching nine to twelve year olds playing their heart and soul out hoping to win and not be a disappointment to their families or to themselves. Maybe my response was a little harsh but the most upsetting part in all of this is that this Bakersfield grandmother didn’t see anything wrong with what was said, 'its just baseball.' As a Taft baseball mom and a proud parent of a son who pitches, I have never once shouted, 'strike out that kid' while my son has pitched in a game. It saddens me to think that there are parents/grandparents out there that don’t think about the feelings and the negative impact it has on our children. I would have enjoyed this game and our win more without having to endure rude comments about our team’s talent."

Friday, December 20, 2013

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy taps Kern County high school seniors for the nation's top service academies

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, announces his appointments to the nation's service academies.

 "Every year I am honored to nominate local high school students to attend our United States Service Academies. And today, I am proud to announce the students who I have nominated for the coming
academic year. These nominees were selected in a competitive process in which a number of highly qualified 23rd Congressional District high school students applied for consideration.

 "My principal nominee for the United States Air Force Academy is Mickey Cushine, who attends Independence High School.  He is a captain of the Boy’s Baseball team and a member of the Ford Dream Builder Program.  He obtained his private pilot license in November and has achieved perfect attendance in Kindergarten through the present grade. He expects to major in Aerospace Engineering or Biology.

 "My principal nominee for the United States Naval Academy (USNA) is Kyle Mathes, who attends Tehachapi High School.  Kyle is Senior Class Vice President and the Captain of the Men’s Varsity Soccer Team. Outside of school, he is a Line Boy for Skylark North Mountain Valley Airport in Tehachapi. He aspires to be an officer in the Navy and command warships, submarines, or aviation squadrons.

 "In addition to Kyle, Sarah Manges, who attends Centennial High School, received a competing alternative nomination to the USNA. She has received a letter of assurance to USNA that guarantees an offer of appointment after the remaining admissions requirements have been fulfilled and a nomination has been received.  Sarah is Forensics Team Leader, ASB Commissioner of Community Services and actively involved in We the People and Key Club.  She has also participated in Cross Country and Swimming. She expects to major in Aerospace Engineering and aspires to be a Naval Flight Officer.

 "My principal nominee for the United States Military Academy at West Point is Drew Francis, who attends North High School.  He is active in the North High Future Farmers of America (FFA) Chapter, where he has received numerous awards and accolades, most recently a National Finalist and State Winner in Agriculture Mechanics Design and Fabrication.  At North High, he participated in Wrestling and is also active in Ranch Rodeo. He is interested in mechanical design and agricultural systems.

 "My principal nominee for the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point is Garrett Silong who attends Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest.  He is Varsity Swim Captain and Secretary of the Burroughs High Chapter of the California Scholarship Federation (CSF).  His expected major is Biology.

 "These individuals are tremendously talented and we as a community should be grateful for their commitment to serve. I also want to thank Cam Martin of Tehachapi who works at External Affairs in NASA and is a parent to two Naval Academy graduates; Colonel Lars Hoffman who is the Commandant at the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base and a 1988 USAFA Graduate; Kern County Superior Court Judge Susan Gill of Bakersfield; and Dr. John Snavely who is Superintendent of the Porterville Unified School District and who served in the United States Air Force for serving on my Academy Interview Committee this year.
 "As Christmas approaches, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

San Luis Obispo picked as one of the top five college towns in America (no surprise there) and who knew the Border Collie was the smartest of all the breeds?

* … COLLEGE TOWNS: This is one list that won't come as a surprise to all you Cal Poly graduates, but San Luis Obispo has been recognized as one of the best college towns in America. That's according to a new survey by Travel and Leisure, which ranked San Luis Obispo as the third best college town in America. Running ahead of Cal Poly were Burlington, Vermont, and Charlottesville, Va. Rounding out the top five were Williamsburg, Va. and Harrisonburg, Va.

 * … SMART DOGS: So you think your dog is Smart? Check to see if it makes this list of the smartest breeds. According to a survey of more than 100 veterinarians, the smartest breed is the Border Collie, followed by the German Shepherd, Poodle, Australian Shepherd and Golden Retriever.

* … CHRISTMAS MIRACLE? Here's a local version of a near Christmas miracle, compliments of reader Gina Hayden. "Last Saturday morning Sue Anthony from Youth for Christ and volunteer Lewis Lowe were driving up to Camp Owens bringing Christmas dinner to the boys there. The truck Sue was driving blew a tire, shot up an embankment, flipped and rolled back down. Sue and Lewis were banged up but unhurt, but the turkeys, potatoes and pumpkin pies… scattered across the road. They called for help and rescuers came. While Sue and Lewis were taken to the hospital to be checked out, the food was gathered to see how much could be salvaged. As it turned out, all the turkeys and potatoes were fine and the 20 pumpkin pies… ot even the crusts were cracked! Dinner was a little late but it was all there."

* … GOODWILL: Mark Wyatt is the principal of the Bakersfield Adult School who was recently singled out for his generosity to a student there. He wrote me with this thoughtful message: "Student success stories are the fuel that drive great teachers to do what they do. There is a symbiotic relationship between student and staff and nowhere is it more evident to me than at Bakersfield Adult School.  Difficult for me is to receive or accept any credit for playing such a small part in someone else’s accomplishments.  Please give credit where the credit is due, a tenacious student, dedicated teachers, a hard working staff, and a community who supports adult education."

 * … TOYS: Local Democratic activist Linda Fiddler dropped me a note to tell me about what the local Young Democrats have been up to this holiday season. "They are an energetic group of '20 somethings' that collected over a hundred coats and sweatshirts this fall and donated them to McKinley School for students who needed them. This December they asked people to bring unwrapped toys to all of their events. They have a SUV full of donated toys they are dropping off at the Homeless Center this week. I love these kids!"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The United States is well on the road to not only energy independence but also to record high oil production, and more good deeds about town

* … OIL: More good news on the oil front. The Energy Department is now saying that the United States is fast approaching energy independence. Thanks to huge production surges in North Dakota and Texas, not to mention here in Kern County, U.S. oil production is reaching record high levels and could contribute to a decline in the world benchmark price. Daniel Yergin, an energy historian, told The New York Times that the "United States really is experiencing an energy revolution."

 * … HONOR: Hats off to Susan Soria, the director of brand marketing at the Walt Disney Co. who recently was honored as one of the most influential Latinos in the entertainment industry. Soria was born in Bakersfield, raised in Visalia and graduated from San Diego State. Her proud grandmother, Zelma Lopez, lives in Bakersfield.

* … THEFT: John Mixon had this advice if your cell phone is ever lost or stolen. "Each phone has a unique serial number. If you key in *#06#, a 15 digit code will appear on the screen. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. If your phone ever gets stolen, you can call your service provider and and give them this code number. They will then be able to block your handset, and your phone will be totally useless. You may never get your phone back, but at least you will know that the thief can't use it either. If everyone did this, there would be no point in stealing mobile phones."

  * … OVERHEARD: A patient at Mercy Hospital is telling a visitor: "My cat trained my pit bull how to use the litter box. Really."

 * … BAD FORM: A local grandmother was out at the Southwest Baseball park watching her grandson pitch when she had this encounter with the mother of an opposing player. "I said 'strike him out' when this mother from Taft told me to shut my mouth or she would shut it for me. I was so disappointed that she wanted to fight over a baseball game. Can't I just root for my grandson?"

  * … GOOD FORM: I am always happy to pass along some examples of good customer service. This one comes from Reba Mullen, who bought a $100 gift certificate from Dick's Sporting Goods but inadvertently left it at the store. "I checked my bags, the car and rechecked my purse but no card.  I called the store and the gentleman who listened to my story said, 'It's right here.' Needless to say how happy I was. I just want to give that gentleman some publicity for being so honest. He could have easily kept the card and I would have assumed I lost it.  His name is Justin Gonzales and I believe he is the store manager,

  * … MORE GOOD FORM:  And Etta Robin shared this experience at the local Albertson's on Stockdale Highway and Coffee Road. "I recently purchased two gift cards for my granddaughters from Albertson's. The cashier was kind enough to indicate the particular gift cards that would provide me with a personal benefit of a $20 coupon for groceries at Albertson’s, so those were the cards that I purchased. A week or so later I noticed that the expiration date on the $20 coupon had expired the previous day.  I went into Albertson’s the next morning and asked if I could still use the coupon even though it had expired the previous day.  I was told that it was up to the manager.  Well, the lovely manager by the name of Dave told me that it was fine for me to use the coupon even though it had expired the day before.  And so I did happily use the coupon.  I thanked Mike and went home and phoned the corporate headquarters of Albertsons and told them this story.  I suggested that they give Mike a pat on the back for such generous customer relations—I do hope that they do so.  At any rate this is just a simple kind gesture on the behalf of Albertsons that I wanted to share with you.  It certainly put a smile on my face."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bako Bits: Holiday crime takes a spike, a homeowner gives chase and running into former Assemblyman Trice Harvey at Luigi's Delicatessen

 * … PURSUIT: Curt Kunzman runs a high end custom cabinet business called Best Cabinets and lives a quiet life downtown. His home was burglarized last week, and while I wouldn't recommend reacting as he did, you have to admire his chutzpah. It was around midnight when his wife was
awakened by noises outside, and when Kunzman investigated, he found a hooded intruder in his back yard going through his tool shed, carefully piling up items to steal. Kunzman pursued the man, grabbing on his legs as the intruder hopped over a concrete wall separating the Kunzman property from the home next door. In hot pursuit, Kunzman hopped in his white Ford pickup and drove the alleys downtown looking for the suspect, eventually finding him on a bicycle riding down 21st Street with two cardboard boxes on his handlebars. "I drove up next to him, going slowly, rolled down my window and grabbed his jacket," Curt told me. "He told me the boxes contained bottles and cans so I told him to pull over and let me see what was inside." The suspect agreed, slowed down and then sped off. The chase continued and later the suspect crashed the bike and fled on foot. Kunzman stopped, threw the bike and the boxes in his truck and called police, who were there in minutes. Inside the boxes? Jewelry stolen from another house just a few blocks away. A suspect was later arrested and charged.

* … TRICE: I ran into former Assemblyman Trice Harvey at Luigi's last Saturday. Harvey was wearing a Fresno State letterman's jacket and quipped that normally, he roots for USC football but not when the Trojans face the Bulldogs in the Last Vegas Bowl game. "That's the only time I root against USC," he said. (Trice Harvey with a friend in a file photo)

* … THEFT: My post about two purse snatchings at local Starbucks drew this response from reader Janice Witcher: "I was at the Starbucks by Target on Rosedale Highway, sitting outside reading a book with my phone on the table. All of a sudden a man grabbed my phone and ran off to a car parked in front of Rubios (conveniently parked backwards and jumped in the car and sped off). I ran after him but the El Camino he was in had no rear license plate. I was stunned to say the least. Just a word of advice from someone who learned the hard way, never put your phone or purse on the tables. It is sad to see how desperate people have gotten."

 * … GOOD FORM: The author of this note wishes to remain anonymous, but it speaks for itself. "I work at the Bakersfield Adult School and wanted to share something about an extraordinary individual that I work with. A student came up to me the other morning and mentioned that he had overheard another student talking about how overjoyed he was that he was indeed going to be able to participate in our December 20 Commencement Ceremony. =Apparently he was not going to be able to accept his diploma due to not having the money to purchase his cap and gown. It is heartbreaking to see such strive and perseverance not be acknowledged because of a minimal monetary expense that for most of our students can be a huge dent in their pocket book, something that some of us may take for granted.   Well it turns out that our wonderful Principal Mr. Mark Wyatt heard of this and he himself took the student to purchase the cap and gown needed to walk and received that hard earned diploma. This is what the true meaning of Christmas is to me and how this school is filled with truly self-less staff members who care about our students."

 * … MEMORIES: Erica Langstron wrote to remind me that the "little green store" near the airport is still operating and serving the community. "It is owned now by a wonderful family that has been a great boost to our Oildale community," she said. "We have known them since they were first here. We have watched our children grow up together, shared joys and sorrows. No, you no longer can see the terminal, but we all look up and see the beautiful cloud formations, sunsets and gifts all around us. The memories abide."

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy: The American people deserve better than the Affordable Care Act

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "This week, Congress took a small step forward in moving back to regular order with the House passing a budget agreement and also approving the National Defense Authorization Act to fund our military to ensure that they have the resources they needed to defend us around the world.

 "The House also passed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act that provides additional funds for targeted and coordinated pediatric medical research at the National Institutes of Health.  The additional funding will be provided by ending the funding of political party nominating conventions with taxpayer money. Whether its childhood cancer, autism, or juvenile diabetes, this legislation would be an important step to helping our scientists and researchers find cures for many of our childhood illnesses.

 "Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee as she continues to deliver more bad news to the American public on Obamacare. She admitted that health plans on the group market could be cancelled, that many of the exchanges are still not complete, and that individuals who may have enrolled may not really be enrolled due to errors and incomplete files.  In addition, the Administration now is calling on additional delays for different parts of Obamacare.  The American people deserve better and we will continue to work to stop the harmful effects of this unworkable law.

 "Finally, for those who are football fans, Bakersfield is certainly making its mark. I wish the best of luck to the football teams of Bakersfield High School and Bakersfield Christian High School as they represent our community tonight earning spots in CIF State Regional Bowl games! And as the college football season comes to an end, I know many of us are excited to watch the de facto “Bakersfield Bowl”; as quarterback Cody Kessler of the University of Southern California (USC) plays Fresno State, with quarterback Derek Carr, in this year’s Las Vegas Bowl.  In addition to these two quarterbacks, we have Andre Heidari, Cody Temple and Craig McMahon on the USC roster and Brian Burrell, Shannon Edwards, Kyrie Wilson, and Patrick Su’a on Fresno State’s roster as well. Good luck!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bakersfield High School Driller alum launch drive to support the football program, and lots of good deeds abound this holiday season

* … DRILLERS: There is a drive among alumni of Bakersfield High School to raise $25,000 to pay for Valley championship rings and to help the athletic program grow. I am told that almost $10,000 has
been raised already. If you are a Driller and want to contribute, make a check payable to BHS Athletic Booster Club and note "football" on the memo line. You can mail them to Bakersfield High School,
1241 G Street, 93301. The Drillers, 11-2, will face Mission Hills in San Diego in the first round of the state Division 1playoffs Friday.

 * … CRIME: Local plaintiff's lawyer Matt Clark was with his wife Molly, son Harry and their two standard poodles outside Baja Fresh at the Marketplace recently when "two young kids, in an older model, teal, Toyota pick-up stopped in front of the outdoor seating.  The passenger jumped out, ran up to a woman who had her purse sitting next to her on the ground, and took the purse. He jumped back in the truck and they fled. The truck had damage on the side, and numerous bumper stickers on the back. Harry remembers seeing the truck driving around on the opposite end of the shopping center, 30 minutes before the theft. Obviously, they were staking the place out looking for a target."

* … MEEK: Kudos to Harold Meek, the former Bakersfield car dealer who has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Bakersfield New Car Dealers Association. Meek is the first recipient of this new award. Meek and his wife Kay sold their shares in the Three-Way Automotive Group in 2008 when he retired from the business. The Meeks have long been active in our community, in both charitable causes as well as Republican politics.

* … GUARDIAN ANGEL: Shirley Machado shared this uplifting story of a stranger coming to her aid. "After visiting the tax office, I returned to my car parked in the garage and promptly spilled the contents of my purse. As dark as it was I thought I had everything and drove home.  My surprise came when a young man came to my door and explained that he was returning my wallet which I had never missed. He told me his name but I'm afraid It didn't register (I was too stunned). All I know is that he had to be my guardian angel in a black sweatshirt with MORRO BAY on it.  If you see him, he just might be your angel, too." Thanks for sharing, Shirley.

* … MORE GOOD FORM: McKinley Elementary kindergarten teacher Jolie Brouttier was driving down Union Avenue when she spotted a young girl in front of a local motel, in the cold with no socks. What did she do? She pulled over and gave the youngster a pair of socks. "Thank goodness Ms. B always carries extras," she said.

 * … AND THIS: Can you stand one more uplifting story from our week? Al Garcia was with a group of about 15 Vietnam veterans having lunch at the Roadhouse Grill when, to his surprise, a young man insisted on picking up the check. "Can you image how this made 15 to 18 of us feel?" Garcia said. "He wasn't a veteran and just wanted to do something nice." The good Samaritan identified himself as Chris Russell, who runs an oilfield construction business.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Two dogs are reunited with their family thanks to the kindness of strangers, and another view on those puppies dropped off in the cold at the SPCA

 * … LOST DOGS: If ever there was a reminder of how caring a community Bakersfield is about its pets, it is the odyssey the Edmonston family has been on when two of their beloved dogs went missing in northeast Bakersfield back in September. Since then the family posted signs, placed ads, visited all three shelters multiple times a week, and bombarded social media. Then last
month, a total stranger scrolling through Craigslist for their own lost pet,  spotted one of the dogs and reached out. One down and one to go. Again last weekend, another Craigslister who'd seen the Edmonston's many posts contacted them about a stray someone else was trying to adopt out. Christmas came early for them, who now remind everyone to microchip and collar the four-legged members of their family. Back home, I'd bet these dogs end up on the Edmonston family Christmas card. (family photo of one of the Edmonston dogs)

 … ANOTHER VIEW: This note came from a reader responding to the case involving newborn puppies being left in the cold at the SPCA. "It is wrong, in my opinion, to continue to bash the person who delivered these puppies to the doorstep of the SPCA. We lack facts in this case.  Is it possible the mother died and the person did not know what to do?  Is it possible the person who delivered these pups found them on the side of the road?  Is it possible the person did not have 30 dollars per puppy to pay the SPCA to relinquish these puppies? We should focus on the fact that 15 puppies were not simply thrown in the trash bin...So I say great job to the person who at least tried." (file photo is of other puppies)

* … PURSE SNATCHERS: There have been at least two instances of purse snatching at local Starbucks outlets. In both cases, a young man wandered into a Starbucks, snatched a purse from a customer and fled. This happened at the Starbucks at the Marketplace and the one in the Town and Country Shopping Center. In the Marketplace incident, the man actually hit a woman who resisted.

* … SPOTTED: On a friend's Facebook wall: "Unless you are five years old, there is no reason for you to be in your pajamas in public."

* … MEMORIES: Linda Meadows Polston, whose grandfather was head of all Kern County airports, provided some rich history of the neighborhood near the airport. Said Linda: "I was only months old when my young parents rented an apartment which my mom always called the old Army barracks.  We lived on Charlana Street right next to the little green store which was owned by Neva and 'Pappy' Sprayberry called Choice Food. We lived there until I was 3 , then moved to USC student housing to live with my dad who was attending law school at the time.  I remember a small living area with white railings on each door step.  I believe the Sprayberry store you mentioned this summer was owned by Mr. Sprayberry's brother.  We moved back when I was 6 to Arvin Street, just down McCray a few blocks from Neva's store and I spent my childhood walking up McCray to their store to buy my weekly supply of new comic books or down McCray to St. Mark's Methodist Church  to Sunday School and the children's choir where Neva was the leader, and was very involved in every aspect of the church.  I went all through school with her daughter, Judy.  I have great memories of that area.  My grandparents ( the Meadows) lived across from the old airport terminal as my granddad was the Superintendent of All Kern County Airports, and we spent a lot of time at the airport just watching the planes coming in and out.  They had a big old house on an acre of land where Airport Drive deadended on China Grade Loop. "

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Crabtree Report says the local housing market is improving with demand up and prices rising.

 * … HOUSING: Good news for our local real estate market. According to the Crabtree Report, it appears that the "mini bubble" in waning and 2014 should bring more of a moderate recovery. Said market expert Gary Crabtree: "Based upon the above, the Bakersfield market is quite stable for the
winter marketing season.  Supply decreased slightly from last month and demand remains constant, leaving the market with a little over two months unsold inventory. (Historically, the Bakersfield market has averaged a 3.1 month unsold inventory from 1999 to present)." Crabtree said the demand for housing is creasing and the media price increased $5,000 last month and almost 27 percent over the same period next year.

* … BAD FORM: Hard to find an example of bad form worse than whoever dropped off a box of new born puppies in the cold at the SPCA. This message was posted on Facebook by the SPCA: "We want to thank the person who dropped off a box of 15 puppies (eyes not even open yet) at 12:42 a.m. outside the Bakersfield SPCA this morning in freezing temperatures in a damp box. Perhaps the time may come when you cannot take care of yourself an someone will return the favor of dropping you off in the middle of the night in freezing temperatures in an empty parking lot. Happy Holidays!"

 * … SPOTTED: From a Facebook post: "Child Protective Services needs to have a mobile office at Wal-Mart."

 * … SMALL WORLD: So you don't think it's a small world? Then listen to this from Barry Rosenfeld, who spent Thanksgiving with his wife Pat in Ireland. "On Sunday evening (December 1) we were admiring the lights, vendors and happy faces at the Christmas Market in the town square in Galway. And standing right in front of us were Barry and Theresa Goldner! They told us their daughter is a university student in Galway and they too were touring Ireland. But that's not all. The very next day Pat and I were in line to purchase tickets for the tour of the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin and sitting in the bar was Elaine McNearney. She was having a drink with her cousin from New Zealand prior to a family reunion in Ireland that week. Wow, it is a small world, after all."

 * … MEMORIES: Nelda Oldham remembers the old military housing near the airport. "I believe they are referring to a WW II Veterans' Housing Project of 90 units built following the war under the Veterans' Emergency Housing under Title V. Due to an acute housing shortage after the war, the government passed legislation to build these complexes. The one referred to was called Veterans' Square, was designed and built strictly for veteran families, was of minimum design with concrete floors, plywood walls, etc. and the demolition was provided for in the legislation following the lack of need. The Housing Authority County of Kern built and managed a number of these projects, the largest of which was located on the north side of 34th Street and totaled 140 duplex apartments.  I'm sure there are many people in Bakersfield who lived in this housing as children. I still remember the names of some of the managers so I, of course number among the old-timers."

Friday, December 6, 2013

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy: Obamacare weighs on U.S. economy and impairs our 'engines of prosperity' from running at full throttle

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip and Bakersfield Republican, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "In this stale economic climate, this morning’s unemployment numbers were encouraging, but one thing remains clear:  America’s engines of prosperity are not running at full throttle.  This week,
the President accused Congressional Republicans of not offering solutions to the pressing issues of our day.  He should know that as the first session of this Congress comes to a close, nearly 150 bills passed by the House have yet to be acted on by the Senate.  More importantly, dozens of those bills seek to not only boost job creation nationwide, but also strengthen our local and state economy.  From increasing domestic energy supply by opening up federal lands for production,  to reforming job training programs, reducing unnecessary regulations and providing more flexibility to working families – these bills have been collecting dust as the Senate refuses to serve the will of the American people.

 "We cannot talk about our country’s business climate without pointing out the obvious weight of Obamacare on employers, employees, and families.  I refuse to accept the President’s logic that Obamacare is the only single way towards affordable health care.  While he claims that Republicans have never offered any ideas of their own, back in 2009, both House and Senate Republicans introduced several patient-based alternatives to Obamacare.  These alternatives, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would have reduced average health insurance premiums in the individual market 5-8 percent while simultaneously cutting the federal deficit by $68 billion over ten years.  These alternatives would have offered safeguards for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and allow the purchase of insurance plans across state lines.  Most importantly, our plans would not result in the skyrocketing prices in the way Obamacare does.  

 "This week, while the President touted enrollee numbers of 29,000 during another “re-launch” of HealthCare.gov, he ignores that the law has resulted in the cancellation of 5.6 million insurance plans.

  "It’s time the Senate begins considering the jobs bills gathering dust on Harry Reid’s desk to put Americans back to work, and it’s time for the President to come to the table and have a real conversation on improving our business climate and jumpstart our economy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New report shows the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire lagging behind coastal counties in job grow and economic recovery, and did you hear about the mice drop in Guam?

 * … ECONOMY: There was little surprise in the latest UCLA report on the California economy, which showed an uneven recovery across the state. Coastal counties, from San Diego north, have shown strong gains in employment and housing, while here in the San Joaquin Valley we actually may have lost ground. Some areas of the coast boast jobless rates about half of what they are here and in the Inland Empire.

 * … COURTESY: Most of the random surveys you see online - covering everything from sex to intelligence to healthy communities - aren't worth their weight in salt, but that doesn't mean we don't read them. Which is why I am passing along this survey from the online news aggregator buzzfeed.com ranking the most and least courteous states. This information was gleaned from hundreds of telephone surveys, or so I am told. The most courteous states: South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana and Georgia. The least: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio.

 * … SNAKES: And speaking of odd stories, did you hear the one about the U.S. government dropping thousands of dead mice on a U.S. military base on the island of Guam? That's right. Apparently they did it to thin the population of the brown tree snake, an invasive species that has
"caused millions of dollars in wildlife and commercial losses since it arrived a few decades ago." The mice were pumped full of painkillers. As NBC reported: "The unlikely invasion was the fourth and biggest rodent air assault so far, part of an $8 million U.S. program approved in February to eradicate the snakes and save the exotic native birds that are their snack food."

 * … STEPANOVICH: Mike Stepanovich, executive director of the Bakersfield College Foundation, has announced he will be retiring next year. The gregarious Stepanovich, known for his knowledge and love of wine, has long been active in our community. Next year, Stepanovich will serve as president of Breakfast Rotary. Previously he worked at Cal State Bakersfield as well as The Californian.

* … FIRST FRIDAY: The Bakersfield Art Association's art center will be holding a Christmas open house party this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. There will be a raffle for workshops and art supplies valued at $600. And make sure you stop by the art center, located an 1817 Eye Street, on First Friday to view the works of more than 40 local artists.

* … MEMORIES: Reader John D. Mixon wrote to say he remembers the old World War II military housing site near the airport.  "After I returned from the Korean War in the summer of 1951, I bought a house on Margo Lane from Ralph Smith. Brand new three bedroom, hardwood floors, for $7,600, with a GI loan of 4 percent... just south of the Wingland School which was built later, around 1955. (Reader) Russell (Rink) should remember the 'Little Green Store' which was just southeast of that complex, and the fact that you could see clear to the old airport terminal."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

U.S. 15-year-olds lose ground to other nations in math, science and reading on international tests, but at least we have First Friday to look forward to

 * … SCORES: A new international research survey shows that U.S. 15-year-olds have lost ground to their counterparts in other countries when it comes to math and science. The study showed that the
American students slid from 25th to 31st in match since 2009, from 20th to 24th in science and from 11th to 21st in reading. All this does not bode well for students who are growing up in a global economy. While we slide, other countries like Poland and Ireland improved and moved ahead of the United States.

 * … FIRST FRIDAY: It's time for the December First Friday downtown, and there's no better place to pick up unique Christmas gifts. My suggestions: Start at the Ice House Framing and Gallery on 19th Street, then head to Kuka's Folk Art across the street or In Your Wildest Dreams across from The Padre Hotel. Or pick up gift certificates from any of the locally owned downtown restaurants, including Muertos, The Mark, Uricchio's Trattoria, Chef's Choice Noodle Bar or the fun and funky pet store Biscuit Boutique. The downtown art galleries open at 5 p.m. Over at The Metro Galleries, a stunning new show will feature the work of Pasadena artist (and former Bakersfield resident) Faith Taylor while The Foundry will hold its last exhibit before closing its doors for good. (photo of one of Taylor's paintings).

 * … PHOTOGRAPHY: Meanwhile there is another interesting show this Friday at the Ice House Framing and Gallery on 19th Street. The business will be featuring the photography of Anthony Ghighia, a well known surf photographer whose images are breathtaking.  The La Jolla-based Ghiglia is a senior photographer at Surfer Magazine.

* … HELMETS: The Bakersfield Family Medical Center/Heritage Physicians Network are running a commercial on local television that has some folks scratching their heads. Among them is Elton Kelly, who noted the commercials show a mother, father and two children on bicycles at a local park, not wearing helmets. Said Kelly: "I have a vested interest in wearing a helmet as 20 plus yearsm ago I crashed and smashed my helmet - but, saved my head."

 * … MEMORIES: Russell L. Rink has a question for all you Bakersfield old timers: "I was wondering if anyone remembers the old military complex in Oildale that was bounded on the north side by Douglas Street and was called Veterans Square.  The complex was converted to apartments for veterans after WW II.  I lived there in the late 1940s. We lived on Highland Drive.  It was just east of the Kern County airport and east of the now existing Wingland School."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bako Bits: Bicyclist is assaulted on the bike path near Chester Avenue and more stories on dirty diapers discarded in the most unlikely places

* … LONGEVITY: Some interesting tidbits from an essay in the Sunday New York Times on again: "Just 10 percent of the population - mainly the elderly - consumes about 80 percent of health care expenditures, primarily on expensive chronic illnesses and end-of-life costs. Historically, the longer lives that medical advances have given us have run exactly parallel to the increase in chronic illness and the explosion in costs. Can we possibly afford to live even long - much less radically longer?"

* … ASSAULT: For all of you who use bike path near Beach Park, always be aware of your surroundings and personal  safety. The bike path is typically safe, but I spotted this warning on a cycling email thread posted by a Bakersfield teacher. "On Tuesday, November 26 a friend of mine was riding at 4:30 in the afternoon under the Chester overpass. A black male approximately 6-foot, one-inch leapt from the rocks and knocked my friend from his bike. A lengthily tug-of-war ensued but the rider eventually scored a solid left to the temple of the would be thief which caused him to stagger off at a quick pace.  The cyclist got on his bike to chase and ran into a police officer who was making a double arrest only 600 feet away but somehow the assailant escaped.  Be careful and make sure to keep a proximity to others when possible."

* … DIAPERS: Mike Sullivan dropped me this note about his own brush with bad behavior. "I hope you wouldn't mind hearing another note with reference to the totally sick behavior inflicted upon society by mindless diaper changing antics. This past week I had the honor to escort my sister and niece into one of California's and our great nations treasures, Yosemite National Park. Upon going thru the tunnel they experienced the majestic site of the valley for their first time. After having a late lunch at the hotel we were getting into the truck, when lo an behold there lay a neatly rolled dirty diaper. This was within 50 to 60 feet from a trash can."

 * … ACHIEVER: More positive news on local Bakersfield products going out into the world and making a difference. Dick Taylor, director of the Kern County Veterans Service Department, shared this information his nephew, Matt Barnes. Barnes, now 41, is the men's soccer head coach at Lubbock Christian University. He was introduced recently as the Premier Development League soccer franchise's third coach in its six-year history. He graduated from Judson University and previously served on the staff of the CSUB men's soccer team. He also coached at the high school level at both Centennial and Stockdale high schools.

 * … SPOTTED: Gerry Huggins, a Bakersfield native and saxophonist who moved to a small community in Missouri, recently shared this on Facebook: "Almost all of the convenience stores here have drive ups. I have never seen or even heard of this in California! You can pump your gas first, then pay for it. I think they abolished this in California when I was a kid."

 * … BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield if you remember the "house below the (Panorama) bluffs," an old water company house built to manage the weir.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bako Bits: Thanksgiving in Bakersfield, some really good form out at CSUB and a shout out to the Bakersfield Museum of Art

 * … GOOD FORM: Here's a feel-good story about how one person can make a difference. It comes from an anonymous CSUB professor. Enjoy. "I am writing to you today as an anonymous professor here at CSUB to tell you about an amazing CSUB student. His name is Nima Mashoon. I have never done this before but I could not resist. He is currently a masters biology student and I do have to say a great one indeed. He is always offering to help people in need and this quarter he’s gone far and beyond. He started talking about a canned food drive to help the homeless and less fortunate this
holiday season, as 'every person deserves a warm meal.' Well with his diligence and hard work his small canned food drive has been spreading like wildfire. He has reached across campus and what was supposed to be a small drive has turned out to be over 1,200 items with more to come. Even with this he still seeks for more items so he can help as many people as he can. I can truly say that I have never seen a student that has been so great in all my years of teaching here. He is a great person and I would want nothing more than for everyone to recognize him and what he is doing. He has been an inspiration for not only faculty but also other students and me alike and maybe he can reach even more people."

 * … GOOD FORM: Deanna Haulman gave a big shout out to the "delightful young man that is often found working the drive up window at Taco Bell on F Street.  He greets the drive up cars with 'good morning sunshine.' We found out the other day he also works across the street at the Chevron station and is going to school majoring in accounting.  He is not only a great asset to his current employers but any company that hires him in the future. Heads up human resource directors watch out for this guy and snap him up quickly before another company does."

 * … PIE RUN: It was a record turnout for the Thanksgiving morning Pie Run out at Hart Park. More than 400 walkers and runners showed up this year, bringing with them piles of cupcakes, scones, cakes, breakfast muffins and breads. Pie Run founder John Rous told me the crowd gets larger every year, and this year they were treated to a spectacular sunrise. All the left over food was donated to local homeless shelters. (sunrise photo by Don Martin)

* … MUSEUM: Sometimes it takes a newcomer to the area to truly appreciate everything that Bakersfield offers. Kathy Harlan and her husband moved to Bakersfield in March, and are now enthusiastic supporters of the Bakersfield Museum of Art. "Every time we have visitors, I show them around and they are always impressed, too. Currently there are three great exhibits, one is a California modern landscape painter, another is pop art ceramics and paintings, and Alfredo Arreguin’s tile-like paintings. Each is very different but equally enjoyable. The price is great, too, for less than a movie ticket. I mentioned to an acquaintance that I was a docent at the BMoA and she asked, 'The Kern County Museum?'  No, the museum of art downtown. She looked at me like I had two heads!"

 * … TRASH: Reader Gerhard H. Schmidt wrote to suggest I stop writing about trash around our  community. "The people that are the culprits obviously don’t read the paper. The suggestion of photographs documenting offenders sounds good. However, in the past, when this came up, I believe there was some response from the police department, that only if an officer saw it, could there be any action taken. But many offenders might well use the internet. Is there some web site where pictures could be posted, showing the actions of these people?  Only some way that shows this behavior as shameful could work for change."

 * … MORE TRASH: Yet other readers, like Walter E. Stewart, thinks shedding more light on the issue is a good thing. And he added: "The south end of the alley between California Avenue and 14th Street… K Street and L Street … is a habitual pigsty. This is not way out in the boondocks… this is central Bakersfield. Why don't we rename it Bakersfield Trashfield?"

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's Thanksgiving Day message of gratitude and thanks

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip, gives us his Thanksgiving message.

 "As families and friends gather for Thanksgiving, let us all reflect on the many blessings in our lives.  Many of us will be traveling around town, throughout California, and across the country to see loved
ones and enjoy the tradition of turkey and gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and a little football. As we count our many blessings, we should all do our part to remember and help those who are less fortunate as that is the true Thanksgiving spirit. What makes our community great is its giving spirit and the willingness to help those in need.

 "While we gather with our families this week, let us also remember to be thankful for the brave men and women in uniform who are away from their families defending the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy. Generation after generation, our nation has been blessed with courageous individuals who serve and sacrifice for all of us.

 "Judy and I and our entire family want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving thanks as we all prepare for Thanksgiving, North Rotary reaches out to those in need and a last reminder of the Pie Run

* … THANKSGIVING: So many things to be thankful for this time of year. Among my blessings are: two successful daughters who are both employed and out there making it on their own; good health and a job that keeps me challenged; wonderful friends; a sweet gray tabby named Latte who never fails to greet me when I arrive home, and neighbors who always have a roaring fire with champagne when the nights get chilly. Expecting or wanting anything more would seem greedy.

* … ROTARY: Here's a big shout out to the men and women at Bakersfield North Rotary who are providing full turkey dinners for 350 need families. The food baskets are brimming with traditional holiday fare including a turkey, pie, stuffing, rolls, various canned veggies and five pounds of potatoes. Now in its 12th year, Rotarians, along with the help of North High Interact students, will assemble baskets and distribute them on Wednesday at the Standard School gymnasium.

 * … GOOD FORM: And while we are in the spirit of Thanksgiving, this note comes from Crissy Keller of West High School :"During the season of thankfulness, I want to take the opportunity to be truly grateful for such a genuine person. Craig Odom recently wrote in about an individual paying for his anniversary dinner and displaying such genuine kindness; however, I feel he should be recognized for already 'paying it forward'… in not only good form but in GREAT form. Craig stepped up this school year to volunteer as an assistant varsity volleyball coach with only one purpose of being an advocate and supporter of student athletes at West High. He saw a need to not only assist with coaching duties but also the opportunity to impact and influence the lives of our lady Vikings in a positive, enthusiastic manner. In my opinion, Craig has definitely paid it forward tenfold. A huge thank you shout out to Craig for being such a selfless, humble, exceptional, kind-hearted, and dedicated role model."

* … SPOTTED: On Facebook: "Note to self. Pajama bottoms and slippers are welcome at the DMV."

 * … MOOSE: Reader Jim Delmarter posed this question:"Has anyone seen the 'moose' overlooking the westbound California Avenue on ramp to northbound Highway 99?  It is actually a pine tree with the upper branches resembling the antlers and snout off a moose."

 * … PIE RUN: One last plug for the annual Thanksgiving Day "Pie Run" at Hart Park. There is no better way to start the day than a brisk walk up the hills at Hart Park with a few hundred of your neighbors (and not to mention their dogs) while returning to a roaring fire with plenty of food. Walk starts promptly at 6 a.m.

* … CHUCKLE: And finally, there is this from Mary Moreland: "Years ago when our twin grandchildren, Bryn and Thalia, were coming to Bakersfield with their parents Margalo and Will Weissman from the Bay Area for Thanksgiving they were delighted that they were going to stop at Paris, France for lunch. They were only slightly disappointed to find out that they were lunching at Harris Ranch."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Former Centennial hurler Jarret Martin put on the 40-man roster for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and preparing for the annual Pie Run on Thanksgiving morning

 * … DODGERS: Hats off to Jarret Martin, the hard throwing Centennial High School graduate who has been put on the Los Angeles Dodgers' 40-man roster. The move protects Martin from being acquired by another team, and puts him on a major league contract. Martin graduated from Centennial
in 2008, was drafted out of high school by the Orioles but decided to pitch for Bakersfield College for a year. The Orioles drafted him again in 2009 and ended up trading him to the Dodgers. His last stop was the Arizona Fall League. Jarret is engaged to Allie Wiener, a CSUB nursing student at the top of her class. His mother, Dana Martin, is a freelance writer, author and editor. (photo of Jarret Martin and mother Dana courtesy of Dana Martin)

* … OUR TOWN: I had a chance to catch up the other day with Jennie Warren, one of the owners of Bakersfield Plumbing, a family business that has served our community well for many years. It was three years ago that Jennie's longtime husband, Jerry, died suddenly two days after Christmas. The ever gregarious Jerry and his company served my family well for many years, and now Jennie and her son Tony continue that legacy. I have lived in some of the world's largest cities where life affords one more "cultural" amenities and excitement, but only in Bakersfield do vendors and small business people become more like friends than a faceless repairman.

* … GOOD FORM: Craig Odom and his wife, Mary Ellen, were dining at Tahoe Joe's last week to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. What happened next was unexpected. "We were enjoying our meal and having a pleasant conversation with a former student of mine from Shafter High School, who is an employee at Tahoe Joe’s. My wife and I are both teachers. A younger couple with three daughters was sitting in the booth behind us and must have heard our conversation about our anniversary and us both being in education. The meal and the conversation came to an end and I expected to pay the bill for our meal. Our waiter told us that another patron had picked up the tab and wished us a happy anniversary. We were fortunate to find out that it was the husband of the younger couple sitting behind us. We were both overwhelmed by his act of generosity. I introduced myself and we thanked him for being so kind. I made him a promise that we would soon pay it forward. Thank you Bo and we look forward to passing along your generosity to us and wish you and your family a happy holiday season. "    

* … PIE RUN: One of our community's signature, fun events happens Thanksgiving morning with the annual "Pie Run" at Hart Park. It all starts at 6 a.m. when a couple hundred walkers and runners, many with their favorite canines in tow, show up to walk the hills to kick off Thanksgiving. It's the brainchild of longtime runner and cyclist John Rous, who told me the only cost of entry is a contribution of a pie or cookies. Rous will be cooking hot dogs and tri tip to greet the runners and walkers at the end. Follow the lights to the campfire and prepare to start the run promptly at 6 a.m.

* … MOCK TRIAL: The Bakersfield High School mock trial team had a chance to meet Gov. Jerry Brown when he swung through town last Friday. District Attorney Lisa Green arranged the meeting for the Driller mock trial team. Among the team members attending were Jazmin Reyes, Jasmine Greenwood, Emily Hazelton, Miguel Hernandez, Imani Jordan, Keshay Patton, Daijah Thomasson, Sophia Caputo, Peige Daniels, Yingyi Xu, Safiyyah DeSouza, Luis Martinez, Teresa Malis, Emma Doty, Mario De la Pena, Grant Schramm and LeJohnea Anthony.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

McCarthy: Private business, not government, is how the United States became the largest oil and gas producer in the world

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "As Californians, we know all too well the slightly sinking feeling in our stomachs when the gas gauge in our car points to ‘E.’  And across the country, utility costs remain top of mind to Americans when
budgeting month to month.  But the energy resources that power our cars, heat our homes, and keep the lights on have undergone resurgence in our country, leading to an opportunity for increased standard of living for all Americans.

 "This week was an important week in the U.S. House of Representatives for Americans seeking lower energy costs and an overall more robust economy.  Three bills were passed that will increase the production of American-made energy, ensure states remain the primary overseer of the work in their communities, and will help deliver affordable energy directly to our communities.

 "By the end of this year, it is expected that the U.S. will be the top oil and gas producer in the world – surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.  Astonishingly, these accomplishments have come from private and state owned lands and not lands owned by the federal government.  To ensure our energy future remains in our hands and not OPEC, we cannot remain static.  On Wednesday, the House moved to end the bureaucratic delays that have so far prohibited us from harnessing all our energy blessings on federally owned lands.

 "Once this opportunity is provided however, future actions by the federal government further threaten our energy independence and the affordable energy it brings along with it.  The innovative process known as hydraulic fracturing that has enabled us to access previously inaccessible oil and gas in an environmentally sound manner is currently regulated by the states – and they are doing a safe and responsible job.  The Obama administration wants to change that and add unnecessary interference from Washington.  So rather than impose an average of 228 days of permitting time by the federal government’s involvement, the House voted to keep it where states have it now – at 30 days.
"Turning these newfound energy resources into actual savings for the American household requires reliable and efficient infrastructure networks to transport them.  Unfortunately, our current system cannot keep up with the increased energy production.  To incentivize the free market to invest and upgrade our aging infrastructure, the federal government must be held accountable to reasonable permitting timelines.  The last vote in the House this week did just that.

I"n this energy lifecycle, new American jobs will be created and monthly gasoline and utility costs from Boston to Bakersfield will be reduced.  Lower energy costs are a bipartisan goal and the votes in the House this week represent that - each bill garnering bipartisan support.  I remain committed to an energy policy that embraces American energy and eases the angst of that next stop at the gas station.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy launches spirited defense of hydraulic fracturing, and the Fox Theater launches a fund raising drive to save the grande dame of downtown Bakersfield

 * … SHALE: Bakersfield Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy has launched a spirited defense of hydraulic fracking, the petroleum extraction method that has drawn scrutiny from environmentalists. In a piece written for The Sacramento Bee, McCarthy noted that the "Monterey shale is projected to hold greater potential for oil than any other shale play in the country – more than 15 billion barrels or 64 percent of total undeveloped but recoverable shale oil, according to a 2011 International Energy
Agency report. To put this into perspective, this is five times more than the amount of oil in North Dakota, where the unemployment rate is the lowest in the country. As our state, particularly the Central Valley region, grapples with high unemployment and few new job opportunities, the potential for prosperity in an industry that is well established in California cannot be ignored." McCarthy called some of the fracking opponents  "long on exaggeration but short on fact... hydraulic fracturing has been demonstrated to be safe. In fact, California’s own director of the Department of Conservation, Mark Nechodom, stated in a recent interview that hydraulic fracturing has been used for the last 40 years and there has not been one record of reported damage."

* … FOX: The historic Fox Theater is holding its year-end fund raising drive, asking folks to reach into their pockets to help support this wonderful old theater. The Fox was opened on Christmas Day 1930, fell into disrepair over the years and is now in the capable hands of a local foundation. This is a charity worthy of your consideration. Go to www.bakersfieldfox.com to donate online, or call (661) 636-0918 to learn how you can support a remodeling project.

 * … CONCERT: If you are interested in helping CSUB athletics, make sure to check out a concert coming Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the Fox Theater. Called "A simpler holiday," the show features Wynonna and The Big Noise with an opening act by Bakersfield's own Whitney Wattenbarger. Tickets are available at the Fox Theater box office or at all Vallitix locations. (Photo of Whitney Wattenbarger compliments of her Facebook page)

 * … SPOTTED: From my friend Linda Welch: "This one made my day. A lady was driving a pretty new Cadillac Escalade. She threw a lit cigarette out the windows and didn't notice the pretty black and white car behind her until he turned on his pretty overhead lights … yep he nailed her."

 * … MEMORY: Kevin Flom wrote to remember the Sub Machine sandwich sop on Wilson and Wible roads. "I was a frequent visitor of that place. Great sandwiches! I became a good friend to the owner, Fran Barnes.  She lived in Tehachapi but it has been some years since I last saw her  After the Sackett and Peters  and Vons closed down, the loss of foot traffic caused her to close the store. I too often think about her and the great sandwiches she served. To this date, I have never had a pastrami sandwich like hers."

 * … ROTARY: And hats off to the folks over at Breakfast Rotary, who delivered a van full of professional work attire to the American Job Center (formerly known as Career Services Center).  The clothes were gathered during October.  The Tuxedo Man van, owned by Breakfast Club member Carl Leech, transported the clothes to the center.