Thursday, December 31, 2015

Welcome to 2016, have you set your goals yet? And remembering the remarkable life of Jim Murray when Bakersfield was a rowdy little cowboy town

 * ... NEW YEARS: Welcome to 2016, have you set your goals yet? If you smoke, now is a good
time to try to kick the habit. If you don't exercise, start tomorrow. Drop a few pounds, pull your friends and family closer and remember kindness and smiles don't cost a thing.

 * ... BAD AND GOOD FORM: Here are a few things I can do without in 2016: Miley Cyrus, any of the Khardasians, selfies, selfie sticks, litter, bad service, gossip and pettiness. We could use more gratitude, graciousness, charity and a more civil discourse.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Chickens: The only animals you eat before they are born and after they are dead."

 * ... MORNING CHUCKLE: From my pal Bryan Kelly: "Never take a chess player to a restaurant which uses checkered tablecloths... it will take them an hour to pass the salt."

  * ... JIM MURRAY: I was saddened to hear of the passing of Jim Murray from congestive heart failure. He was 94. I met Jim two years ago when I interviewed him on First Look with Scott Cox, where he entertained us with stories of old Bakersfield. From that interview: Murray was a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator during World War II and later spent years working for S.A. Camp Co. Among his other memories, he recalled the excellent food in the old Southern Hotel, a bar called the Drink-a-Link that featured a restaurant and putting green where downtown Mexicali is today, and a bar called the Oil Zone in the old El Tejon Hotel where oil executives and businessmen would make deals. "Bawdy houses," or houses of prostitution, were common back in the day when Chinatown flourished in the "tenderloin" district a few blocks behind Brock's on Chester Avenue. And of course, as a young boy, he and friends would sneak into the Fox Theater and pick up ticket stubs to "prove" they had paid to enter.

 * ... MEDIA MOVES: More moves on the local media scene: Cristi Jesse, KBAK/KBFX News Director for the past four years, is leaving the Sinclair owned CBS and FOX affiliates and is joining KVVU FOX in Las Vegas as news director in February. During her time at KBAK/KBFX the stations have seen an uptick in the ratings, particularly their morning newscasts. Jesse arrived in Bakersfield after working in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Little Rock, AK and Grand Forks, N.D. Also, KGET TV morning anchor Kiyoshi Tomono has left the station to work in local health care.

 * ... MEA CUPLA: I make a mistake in reporting about the history of the Wind Wolves Preserves. Turns out the Wildlands Conservancy was incorporated in 1995 and the purchase of the San Emidio Land Grant (once owned by John C. Fremont of all people) was purchased the next year. Truly an amazing place and right on our doorstep.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On wolves, racoons, the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and other wild things, and celebrating a land conservancy that sets aside beauty for generations to come

 * ... WIND WOLVES: Earlier this week I shared my discovery of Wind Wolves Preserve, the 93,000-acre conservancy off Highway 166 that has been set aside for future generations. When I mentioned how surprised I was that I had not heard of it, reader Marcia Hirst offered this bit of useful information: "Richard, part of the reason you haven't known about the Wind Wolves Preserve for your 20 years in Kern is because it has only been a part of The Wildlife Conservancy for 11 years. Previous to that it was Tenneco Land Company's San Emidio Ranch." Thank you, Marcia. As it turns out, Wind Wolves is the west coast's largest nonprofit preserve.

 * ... WOLVES: And speaking of Wind Wolves, don't let the name lead you to believe there is an abundance of wild wolves on the land. Instead, its name derives from the fact that when the wind blows, the tall grasses sway back and forth giving the impression wolves or other animals are moving through the terrain. The area is, however, home to tule elk, the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and the blunt nosed leopard lizard.

 *... RACCOONS: Retired Superior Court Judge Jon Stuebbe doesn't have to worry about wolves, but he does have the occasional encounter with raccoons. Said Stubbe: "Re your recent articles on the coyote in the area of Beale Park, this morning when getting my paper from my front yard just north of the park I was greeted by two fully grown raccoons coming down the street in broad daylight who stopped, stared at me and then meandered across the street and into the back yard of a neighbor. It seems wild animals are as invasive of us as we are of them."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Everyone needs to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.

 * ... TACOS: Richard Marquez and his wife were visiting his sister in Charlotte, N.C., and had a chance to stop by a restaurant named in honor of our town. "We enjoyed 'Bakersfield Margaritas,' chips and guacamole, and excellent short rib tacos. A huge mural featuring the Bakersfield arch and the Fox clock tower graced the wall. After learning we are from Bakersfield, the manager comped the guacamole; what a fun experience."

 * ... GOOD SAMARITAN: Casey Christie is a longtime Californian photographer and he happens to be one of the nicest and kindest gentleman I have ever known. So this note from a reader really comes as no surprise, but he deserves the recognition. A woman named Kathleen was driving up the Canyon (Casey lives in Bodfish) when she blew out her two front tires on a cold and dark night. A Good Samaritan pulled over and offered to call her husband once he got to cell service. "After I thanked him, as he was walking back to his car, he said, 'My name is Casey and I live in Bodfish.'  I connected the dots and realized it was Casey Christie. I would like to thank him again and, also thank Linda Deitzel and her daughter. They stopped and offered assistance and called my husband when they reached phone service in Lake Isabella. It’s nice to know there are still kind and caring people around."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A day trek to Wind Wolves Preserve off Highway 166, remembering some good men who died too early and who remembers full service gas stations?

 * ... WIND WOLVES: How is it possible that I have lived here for more than 20 years and never set foot in the Wind Wolves Preserve off Highway 166? At the invitation of my friend Bob Smith (not the city councilman or the builder but the retired endodontist) we drove out to this 93,000 acre piece
of heaven owned by the Wildlands Conservancy. We hiked 10 miles and enjoyed some incredible vistas on a day that was as clear as it will ever be here in the southern San Joaquin Valley. You don't have to hike, or mountain bike, but simply drive out and enjoy the day. With permission you can also camp, picnic or attend nature hikes. If you haven't checked it out, you need to do so.

 * ... GOOD MEN: I spotted a remarkable old picture on Facebook the other day, snapped while Action Sports owner Kerry Ryan and others were competing in the 1995 Race Across America bicycle epic. The picture showed two good men alongside a race van: the late Norm Hoffman and the late Alton Saceaux. Ironically, both were killed while riding their bikes. Hoffman was killed by a distracted young driver in 2000 and Saceaux died in 2009 when he was hit by a driver who had been drinking. Good memories of two good men who were taken too young.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My workout plan really only consists of me wandering around in parking lots because I forgot where I parked."

 * ... FULL SERVICE: Bow Porter wrote in response to Gene Bonas, a Navy veteran, about the days when gas stations offered full service. "And yes, I remember this, and miss it. I am  a San Diego old timer, who remembers sailors in bell bottom trousers, with 13 buttons, pea coats, blouses with big square collars in the back and a dixie cup on the head. Bet Gene remembers those days... Not a Navy veteran, but worked for the Navy at San Diego and Third Fleet Headquarters at Pearl Harbor."

* ... MAIL SERVICE: Joe Moesta wrote about something that has puzzled me for a long time. Consider this: "Has anyone ever ordered something on line and wondered why it took two weeks to receive it? Out of curiosity I followed a package in the FedEx tracking system. Our order was made to a company in Virginia on Dec. 7. It went from Martinsville, VA, to Concord, NC, to Hayti, MO, to Grover City, Ohio,  back to Joplin, M0., then to San Jon, NM,  to Lake Havisu, AZ, to Chino, CA, finally arriving in Bakersfield and delivered on Dec. 21. Another good reason to buy locally if you can find the product you want."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

El Nino brings snowpack to the Sierras but it's too early to declare the drought over, and some really good form around town

* ... EL NINO: We spent the early part of the year waiting for El Nino to arrive, hoping a strong storm season would help alleviate our long drought. Well it is here, and there is encouraging news
even if no one is ready to declare the drought over. A series of storm in the Sierras has pushed the snowpack to 111 percent of the average for this time of year, bringing joy to the ski resorts and the mountains. But we have a long way to go and the key date seems to be in April, when the snowpack traditionally peaks. Stay tuned and enjoy the weather.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The two best times to keep your mouth shut are when you’re swimming and when you’re angry."

 * ... SPOTTED: John Strand spotted this message written on a sweatshirt in a Lake Isabella market: "Life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes."

 * ... LOCAL BUSINESS: Shopping at a locally owned business is always a good idea, and Kay Bardin just gave me another reason to do so. Said Bardin: "Stopped by Knight's Jewelers for a watch battery recently. When I got ready to pay, they said 'Just put the money in the Salvation Army kettle' which was located between their door and Trader Joe's! Wow, that's the Christmas spirit in action."

 * ... GOOD FORM: LaVonne Templeton shared this bit of good form after she locked her keys in her trunk at the Walmart parking lot near East Hills Mall: "Standing there trying to think what I could do, a young couple with two small children came by and asked if they could help me. He got on his cell, found AAA, told them 'There is a lady here that needs help'" and handed me the phone. Their little boy, about four, said to me 'You can come to our house.' How sweet! I apologized to the couple that I was taking up their valuable time but they said they were in no hurry AAA was then on their way.  We exchanged names and hugs and I am sorry to say that I don't remember. I am soooo grateful to them to help a 79-year-old lady in a stressful situation. I hope they read this."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: When Gene Bonas wrote recalling the days when folks would fuel your car and clean your windshield, it triggered some memories from Stephen A. Montgomery. Said Montgomery: "Back then I may have been that guy wearing a white shirt, bow tie and dark blue slacks fueling Gene’s car and cleaning his windshield and checking his tires. Back in the day I used to routinely fuel State Senator Walter Stiern’s car and clean his windshield. However he never let me open the hood. Then I worked for Art Folsom who operated Union 76 stations at the corner of 21st Street and Union Avenue. (a tacky check cashing shack is on the site now), F Street and Golden State, (Mobile station now) SR 99 frontage road just north of 7th Standard. (Volvo equipment rental now) There one of my jobs was to drive the water truck to a fire hydrant on Snow Road to supply the station with water since it had no well or other water supply connection."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Students at Oberlin College complain their dining hall sushi has been "culturally misappropriated," some kudos to our local AAA office and some other good form about town

* ... CAMPUS LIFE: Are you ready for the latest silliness making news on college campuses? Consider the small liberal arts school of Oberlin College where a group of students are complaining that food in the dining hall has been "culturally misappropriated." That's right, the students are demanding changes because,
according to them, sushi recipes have been manipulated and are "disrespectful" to Japanese. As reported in The Atlantic: "The core student grievance, as reported by Clover Lihn Tran at The Oberlin Review: Bon App├ętit, the food service vendor, 'has a history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines. This uninformed representation of cultural dishes has been noted by a multitude of students, many of who have expressed concern over the gross manipulation of traditional recipes.'” Fredrik deBoer, an academic, posted this on Twitter: "When you’re defending the cultural authenticity of GENERAL TSO’S CHICKEN, you’re a living Portlandia sketch."

* ... GOOD FORM: A bit of good form to start your day. This from Deanna and Wally Haulman: "Disappointed and encouraged at almost the same time. Someone dumped three very tiny baby kittens at Hart Park. They were cold, shaking and scared... (until) a lovely couple from The Cat People scooped them up so they had a second chance. We just wanted to thank them for their willingness to help."

 * ... AUTO CLUB: And speaking of good form, it's hard to beat the service at our local AAA office over off Truxtun. The annual membership fee is a bargain compared to the misery of standing in line at the DMV office, and the AAA customer service reps are always knowledgeable and friendly.

 * ... BAD FORM: And then there was this, compliments of reader Doug Wagner: "I guess the holidays can make some folks really impatient. On Sunday, as I was coming out of the Smart and Final on Rosedale Highway, trying to make a righthand turn onto northbound Calloway Drive. I was waiting for a pedestrian who was using the crosswalk, to make it all the way across. I figured that was the right and legal thing to do. Well, I thought wrong, as the young lady in the white sedan behind me honked her horn for me to start moving, which I couldn't. Well, at least I received a 'thank you' hand wave from the pedestrian. As for the impatient young lady that honked her horn at me for waiting on a pedestrian, I hope she got to were she needed to get to in a hurry. As I don't like to wish bad on anyone, but in the honor of holding the Christmas Spirit, I hope the Grinch steals all her presents and she gets a lump of coal in her stocking hanging over the mantle. Merry Christmas, everyone!"

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "I don't care what your religion is as long as you use your turn signal."

 * ... SPOTTED ON THE ROAD: Linda Welch spotted this bumper sticker about town: "My son was inmate of the month at Lerdo."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: My good friend Gene Bonas, a Navy and submarine veteran, says you may be a Bakersfield old timer "if you can remember when you pulled into a real service station and got you car windows cleaned, oil checked, tires checked for correct air pressure, and gas pumped all for free. And you got green stamps to boot!"

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Remembering some lives cut short while celebrating a youngster named a partner in a law firm, and our signature local eateries enjoy huge holiday crowds

* ... LIVES CUT SHORT: We've lost a lot of good people this year, and their contributions to our community should not go unnoticed. In the past week, we noted the death of Steve Starbuck, the 48-
year-old partner in the tax/audit firm of Brown Armstrong, and Ray Bishop, the former head of the Kern County Airport who helped build the Bill Thomas Terminal. Bishop was a Vietnam veteran who left Bakersfield to run the airport in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He was 69. In October, we said goodbye to Steve Ruggenberg, former head of Golden Empire Transit who left us to pursue his love of baking and cooking. Also a Vietnam veteran, Ruggenberg was 70. Three good men, now gone. As my friend Brad Barnes says: "Every heartbeat counts."

* ... LAWYER: Here's a reason to applaud those children who go away to college but return to put down roots in our community. One of them is Neil Gehlawat, who has been named a partner in the plaintiffs law firm of Chain Cohn Stiles. Gehlawat is a Stockade High School graduate who went on to attend UC Berkeley and the University of Texas School of Law. Not a bad accomplishment for this 27-year-old wunderkind.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "They don’t make pizza or beer out of celery. And that is all you need to know about celery."

 * ... HOLIDAYS: One of the great joys of this time of year are the holiday parties that showcase our community's signature restaurants. On a rainy weekend like the one we just experienced, you could barely find a seat in the iconic food joints like Luigi's Delicatessen, Noriega Hotel, Uricchio's Trattoria or Pyrenees Cafe and Saloon. Good to see these locally owned eateries doing so well.

 * ... FOOD: And did you catch the mouth watering, special Pete Tittl section of food and restaurants in the Saturday Californian? I did, and I immediately hurried over to Coconut Joe's for their signature fish and chips. Located off California Avenue, Coconut Joe's has always offered some of the most consistent food and service in town.

 * ... SCAM: We have yet another scam to worry about, and this one could destroy your credit and put you at risk in other ways. Here's how it works: you receive a check in the mail from ATT for $3,650, part of a larger gift you have "won." The letter says the check helps cover a $1,450 tax fee. This happened to reader Carla Rivas, and when she checked with her bank, she was told if she cashed the check the scammers would have access to her checking account number, routing numbers, Social Security and other information. "I am so angry because I know that some elderly people will fall for this, and they will be out the $1,450 'tax fee,' and their vital info will be stolen," she said, "After the check bounces, I have to pay the bank back and now I have sent a Western Union payment and I am out that." The lesson: if it looks too good to be true, it normally is.

Friday, December 18, 2015

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy: lifting the ban on exporting oil allows producers to search for new markets as Iran enters the global energy market

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

 "Over forty years ago, the United States responded to an oil supply crisis driven by Iran and the
Middle East by instituting a ban on American exports of crude oil. The reasoning was simple: given the conventional wisdom that oil was a resource of limited supply, any discovery of it in the U.S. should be kept within our borders for the use and benefit of our economy. With this acknowledgment we were essentially bracing for a world without oil.

 "But like so many other instances, American ingenuity rejected this belief.  The advent of innovative techniques and technologies that uncovered and extracted newly found oil and gas has reshaped America’s energy future into a world leader. A game changer.

"A focal point of this influence continues to be right here in Kern County.  Our ties to the black gold that powers our way of life run deep. This is why my commitment to a strong American oil and gas portfolio is steadfast.  I believe that greater times of prosperity in this country can only be achieved if we have the energy to achieve it.

"So while the U.S. has flexed its energy muscle to the world (and quite impressively so) the economics have been a boon to consumers but is placing our producers and the communities they support in perilous times. Unfortunately, our community is not exempt from these conditions.

 "Given the economic situation, the domestic abundance, and the reentry of Iran to global marketplace thanks to Obama’s dangerous nuclear pact, the most obvious policy response was to lift the relic that is the ban on crude exports. In doing so our producers can search for new markets while offering our allies a reliable trading partner and limiting the influence the Iranian regime can impose on the world.

 "This week, Congress successfully lifted the ban on oil exports, which the President is expected to sign into law. This decision signals to the world and our communities that Congress ready to do all that it can to support a strong energy future and stronger communities.

Former Kern County airport director Ray Bishop found dead in Wyoming

 Ray Bishop, who was at the helm of the Kern County Airport revival and the construction of the Bill Thomas Terminal, was found dead in his home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There was no immediate cause of death for the 69-year-old Bishop.
 Bishop left Bakersfield and ran the Jackson Hole Airport for eight years. While in Bakersfield, Bishop was highly popular and admired for his work ethic and discipline. Bishop, an Air Force veteran who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, headed the Kern County Airport for more than a decade.
 He leaves behind his wife Debbie, and three children.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

So much trouble in the oil patch that even lifting the ban on oil exports may not help, The Habit Burger opens to big crowds and some of my favorite local eateries

 * ... OIL PATCH: These a tough times in the oil patch, and with the price hovering around $36 a barrel, it won't get much better anytime soon. Here are some disturbing facts for a community so
closed tied to energy: the price of oil has sunk by two thirds since the summer of 2014, Iranian oil will soon hit the market and global production continues to flood the market. Locally, layoffs are almost a weekly occurrence and those who remain employed live in fear of the next round of cuts. All this comes as President Obama is expected to sign legislation to end the ban on U.S. oil exports, a law that was passed after the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Supporters say lifting the ban is long overdue, but they concede
it will have little immediate impact on the price of crude.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I like holding the door for people who are far away, you know so they have to run a little."

 * ... HABIT BURGER: In true Bakersfield style, the Habit Burger Grill officially opened on California Avenue this week and it was a scene of long lines and massive crowds. We love a new eatery, and most of the reviews for this burger joint were positive. If the past is any guide, wait a few months before you stop by the Habit to try their specialty burgers.

 * ... FOODIE: Forget fast food, the best food in town is at one of our locally owned restaurants where the owners are there to personally greet you and the kitchen takes pride in consistency and creativity. Take your pick, but some of my favorites include Uricchio's Trattoria, Cafe Med, KC Steakhouse, Steak and Grape, Muertos, Mexicali, Jin Suishi, Casa Munoz, Luigi's Delicatessen, The Padre Hotel, The Mark, virtually any Basque eatery (Woolgrower's, Noriega's, Pyrenees Cafe), just to name a few. Take your pick.

 * ... CHEZ NOEL: I touched based the other day with Donna Chertok over at the Assistance League, which just came off another successful Chez Noel Home Tour. She reminded me that all proceeds from the home tour benefit the League's philanthropic programs, including Operation School Bell. And it was particularly heartening to hear that the young men from CSUB's Kappa Sigma fraternity worked with the League to so some of the heavy lifting. Hats off to those young men.

 * ... LIBRARY: With all the concern about funding our public libraries, it was good to get this note from sixth-grade teacher Roberto de Leon. "Edison Middle School was recently awarded a $6,000 grant award from author James Patterson to support our school library!  In addition, Scholastic Reading Club is matching the dollar donation with bonus points for individual classroom libraries. Edison is going to use the funding to buy new books for students. We've put together a group of kids who love reading - or, at the very least, have incredibly discerning tastes about books - and they'll be our primary book buyers. Imagine going on a $6,000 shopping spree at age 11?  It's an incredible gesture from Mr. Patterson, and one that a tiny school like ours is grateful for."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

If you can't show some good form around the holidays, then when can we? A local girl has a Chanukah photo on display in Washington, D.C., and Bako loses a power couple to Texas

 * ... GOOD FORM: Here's some good form for the holidays, compliments of Janis Varner. Said Varner: "I had breakfast with my WW II veterans at Pappy’s Coffee Shop on Rosedale. We were
celebrating early the birthday of Mr. Bill Kehoe, my veteran from April 2013. Mr. Kehoe will 104 on December 28th! I had the whole place sing Happy Birthday to him and a few came up after to shake his hand and wish him well. When I went to pay the bill, Sarah – one of the owners – said a Vietnam veteran – whom wanted to remain anonymous – donated $50 toward our breakfast  Just another example of one generation thanking the Greatest Generation for their service. Thank you Mr. Vietnam Veteran for your generosity and service to our country."

 * ... MORE GOOD FORM: And Rita Loken added her "heartfelt thanks to Cindy and Kevin Trueblood who gift our city each year with their beautiful production of the Nutcracker Ballet. I went again this year and it absolutely took my breath away! The dancers, the costumes, the scenery, the orchestra – everything about it was first class. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

 * ... CHANUKAH: Congratulations to 13-year-old Leah Schlanger, a young Bakersfield student who has a photograph on display at Vice President Joe Biden's residence in Washington, D.C., this month. The photo of a Chanukah Menorah with colorful candles, along with images from nine other kids from across the country, were chosen as part of a new collaboration between National Geographic Kids and Dr. Jill Biden to celebrate young photographers.

 * … SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If pigs could fly imagine what their wings would taste like."

 * ... HALL OF FAME: I finally got a tour of the new Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame and it is everything it is billed to be. Thanks to Kyle Carter and his wife Kim McAbee Carter, the old sound studio underwent an extensive remodel and is now ready to open its doors to the community. All of this did not come cheaply, and I was happy to sign up and write a check as one of the community "members" who has pledged to support this new venture. The Hall is located at 23rd and Q streets.

 * … FAREWELL: Congratulations to Ty and Christina Sweet who are leaving Bakersfield for new opportunities in Austin, Texas. Christina is a well known local artist who has been instrumental in the downtown arts scene and her husband works in the energy sector. Said Christina in a Facebook tribute to Bakersfield:  "Thank you for being the ground beneath my feet my entire life starting out a barefoot country girl living on Superior Road then growing up in the Southwest and making the greatest friends of my life. Rio Bravo Greeley, Seibert Elementary, and Thompson Jr. High where I learned who I wanted to be – an artist." Good people who added value to our community. Bakersfield's loss in Austin's gain.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A lost and abandoned Boxer mix is rescued off of South H street, more on the litter problem and look for familiar faces during the Tournament of Roses Parade

 * ... LOST DOG: If you believe one person can't make a difference, consider this uplifting note
 from reader Kristin Townsend about a Boxer mix who had been abandoned and was living for months in a field near the intersection of South H Street and Pacheco. He was elusive and scared, yet Townsend said he "developed quite a fan club... people left food, water, treats and even a dog house! But Bubba defied being caught until an animal advocate named Barbara Stubblefield became involved and spent weeks visiting and feeding him hot dogs and treats to gain his trust. Well this
morning she got him in her car and he is on his way to rescue! So many people cared and reached out to him. Thank you all! Bubba is now safe!"

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I know you’re supposed to have three balanced meals a day, but how many can I have at night?"

 * ... BAD FORM: You don't have to go far in this town before you find old sofas, chairs, televisions and refrigerators discarded in alleys, along roadsides and in parking lots. So it should not have surprised me when someone dumped a filthy old sofa and matching chair at the end of the bike trial off Enos Lane.

  * ... ROSE PARADE: If you are watching the Rose Bowl Parade you might spot a couple of familiar faces. Barry Rosenfeld and former local TV executive Jim Bell will be walking alongside Rotary International's 37th consecutive entry in the parade on Jan. 1, 2016. Rosenfeld and his wife Pat will be part of the group who will be assembling the float in December. Rosenfeld is a member of the Twilight Rotary Club while Bell serves as Rotary district governor.

 * ... THEFT: The theft of packages off our porches is a national trend, but Aneta L. Adams has a word for all those UPS and FedEx drivers out there: make sure to ring the doorbell. Said Adams:
"We had been expecting a delivery, so we were waiting for a knock or the doorbell. We went on with our business and forgot about it, until about an hour later.  We checked out the front door, and lo and behold, there the package was, behind one of our columns. The driver, however, never rang our doorbell or knocked on our front door, and we know for sure because we have two dogs! ... We understand their not wanting to wait at the door, but waiting is not necessary.  Notifying us that you just delivered a package at our front door, a package that we've been anticipating, or needing, or planning on giving as a gift, is mandatory.  This package was a gift, packed in dry ice, and therefore, perishable! For the love of God, drivers, KNOCK or RING!"

 * ... GOD: Jim Rummell of Springville sent me this note about the state of our nation: "I always enjoy your insights on current events, not only locally but in the world as well. I couldn't help but notice that it is easy to 'connect the dots' on several of the stories that you mentioned. Many people have turned their backs on God, in fact, it is now common to find an outright distain for those of us who pray and still believe. The handwriting is on the wall on where our world is going, and it starts with having no respect for the law or God, and begins with 'running stop signs' no matter who gets hurt. But Richard, make no mistake, putting 'gates' at every stop sign, or gun control laws, will not fix this world. Only a return to the teaching of Jesus will put an end to this madness. Maybe we should start by putting prayer back in school or teaching the 10 commandments. Just sayin."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Amazon enters the war of streaming content as consumers abandon cable and traditional TV programming, and local donors make a local children's hospital a reality

 * ... AMAZON: The long, slow decline of cable and local TV is showing signs of accelerating with the announcement by Amazon of plans to stream popular new content via its Prime membership.
The idea: offer Amazon's Prime members (they pay $99 a year for free shipping and streaming video) access to Showtime, Starz and more channels at a low added cost. As noted in The Los Angeles Times: "Traditional pay-TV operators have struggled for years to come up with easy-to-use streaming options for their consumers." Amazon's move is similar to that of Hulu and Netflix, which charge a monthly fee so folks can cut the cord to traditional cable. This fragmentation in programming has been long in the works, and it has already taken its toll on the once robust marketshare of the major networks and their local affiliates. Millennials and those younger are leading the charge in cutting the cord (there has been a 16 percent decline in viewership for young adults aged 18-24), and it won't be long before most of us are cobbling together streaming options that bypass cable.

 * ... MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: We live in a generous community, and sometimes we forget to thank those for have done so much to lift the tide for all of us. So here's a big hats off to all the people who contributed to the Bolthouse Family Pediatric Department and the Helen Taylor Cobbs Children's Healing Garden over at Memorial Hospital's Lauren Small Children's Medical Center. (Joe and Jana Campbell funded the garden in memory of Jana's late mother, who loved gardening). Memorial is doing something important here, putting together a facility so local families with ailing children will not have to leave town for treatment.

 * ... NORM HOFFMAN: I took a short bike ride up Fairfax Road the other day and noticed that someone repainted the yin-yang symbol at the spot where Norm Hoffman was struck and killed by a motorist back in 2001. Hoffman, the popular Bakersfield College health professor with a larger-than-life personality, inspired many with his healthy lifestyle, outgoing personality and emphasis on the spiritual. The ancient Chinese symbol for yin-yang was painted after its death, it faded, but someone freshened it to remind us of a life well lived.

 * ... POLITICAL HUMOR: A Muslim journalist from Chicago posted this on Twitter: "Does anyone know if the concentration camps Trump is planning for us Muslims will have WiFi?"

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Beer comes from hops. Hops are plants. Beer is salad."

 * ... SPOTTED: On Mount Vernon near the Starbucks a late model SUV is spotted with these two messages taped to its windows: "Radical Muslims R Here ... Buy a Gun!"

 * ... ACTIS: Hats off to the girls volleyball team from Actis Jr. High, the lone team from the San Joaquin Valley to make it to a tournament in Los Angeles. The team compiled an overall record of 37-3 and capped off the historic season with a 16-14 victory over Commerce Jr. High in the final game on the LA tournament. Congrats to coach Dan Letourneau, his coaches (daughters) and these amazing student athletes. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The oil sector and environmentalists square off at Vision for the Valley at Bakersfield College, more rants on climate change and and some really bad form at a local Target

 * ... ENERGY PANEL: Can you envision a time when the Kern River oil field is shuttered and its wells capped? It's hard for me to fathom, given the abundance of affordable oil and natural gas here, but the
Natural Resources Defense Council thinks that should be our ultimate goal. That was the word from NRDC's Victoria Rome, a legislative advocate who appeared on an energy panel at Bakersfield College Tuesday morning. Rome's organization has long been at loggerheads with energy companies, arguing for a full moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and an accelerated timeline to end our use of fossil fuels to help combat global warming. Tupper Hull, vice president of the Western States Petroleum Association, argued that fossil fuels should always have a place in our world, even at a diminished state, and he lamented how oil companies have become demonized in the conversation about climate change. The event was organized by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and TBC Media and was held in the Simonsen Performing Arts Center.

 * ... SIMONSEN: And speaking of the Simonsen, this was my first visit to the relatively new performing arts center and it is a stunning venue. If you are a BC graduate and haven't been in the Simonsen, stop by to catch this new addition to your campus.

 * ... BAD FORM: Don't you hate it when people leave used napkins and other trash in their shopping carts? Well it just got worse. At the local Target near East Hills Mall, someone left a soiled paper plate with uneaten food and - yes, you guessed it - a dirty diaper perched on the cart handle, leaving it for the next person to discard in a trash bin just a few feet away.

 * ... TRASH: And speaking of litter, reader Nancy Vibe recently took matters into her own hands. In her words: "I just thought I would fill you in on a rather interesting and fun day I had. I made room
in the trunk of my Buick... then I gathered up my tools of the day (trade). Lets see, one long handle flat edge hoe, one small metal ladder and a pair of garden gloves. And off I went... I filled that trunk in no less than 20 minutes. And it was full too. Of what  you ask? Those hideous plastic signs that are nailed up on telephone poles, or stuck in the ground with wire supports. The ones that read 'Diabetic test strips' or  'Part time jobs from your home' or 'I will buy your house.' The really fun part is taking a razor to them and slicing them up, never to be used again. My point...  IT'S GRAFFITI  PEOPLE! Take is down, rip it up. No one has been given permission to put these tacky, invasive and useless signs up around Bakersfield."

 * ... CLIMATE CHANGE: Dan McGuire responded to an earlier post from a reader casting doubt about climate change. Here is his take: "When you share your reader’s rants I’m not sure if you’re making fun of their ignorance or showing your own. Your posting of Joe’s rant about climate change was even below par. The tens of thousands of expert scientists from every country in the world are not trying to save the planet. The planet has got along fine for over four billion years before humans, and will get along fine without us if we become extinct like 99.9 percent of all living things that have already gone extinct. What over 98 percent of the experts are warning us about is the energy we humans have been pumping into the atmosphere is creating atmospheric conditions and rising oceans that will probably not kill us for another few hundred years or so, but displace hundreds of millions of people. Won’t that be a fun world for our grand kids to live in? Maybe you and Joe can share a room or two for the twenty million folks from Bangladesh which will be under water before the end of the century."

 * ... PRAYER: Can you stand one more rant from a reader? This one was responding to my blog post lamenting "prayer shaming." Said Alan  Neumann: "This morning Richard Beene opined about the NY Daily News cover and the idea of 'prayer shaming' and how bad they were. He commented on the headline 'God Isn't Fixing This' and said no one was suggesting he would. Yes Richard, they are, that is what prayer is, asking God to help with what you can't handle, change or in some cases, what you can't get." Thanks for your note Alan but when I pray and don't really expect God or any other higher power to directly intervene on my behalf. Rather, for me prayer is a deeply personal exercise in empathy that - contrary to what you think - really doesn't anticipate action from above.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

'Prayer shaming' takes the level of civil discourse to a new low, the annual Christmas parade is a trash fest, and more rants on climate change

 * ... PRAYER SHAMING: Right when you thought the level of civil discourse in this country could not get any worse, it did. Now comes a concept called "prayer shaming," which arose when
Republican presidential candidates sent out messages on social media saying they were extending their "thoughts and prayers" to the victims of the San Bernardino shootings. Seems innocent enough, but then anti-gun lobbyists struck back, belittling the idea of prayer if those offering the prayers were not supportive of gun control. First came the New York Daily News which devoted its front page cover to this headline: "God Isn't Fixing This." (No one suggested he would, by the way) That prompted one U.S. senator, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, to come forward with this missive: "Your 'thoughts' should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your 'prayers' should be for forgiveness if you do nothing—again." So now offering a sincere thought and prayer is subject to public ridicule? And so it goes.

* ... TRASH: The annual Bakersfield Christmas Parade is a great way to usher in the holiday season, but it also reveals a dark underside of our community. When the festivities ended the parade route downtown, along 21st Street particularly, was left with mountains of litter that city crews were left to collect.

 * ... VALLEY VISION: An important panel discussion on the future of the Central Valley will be held Tuesday at the Simonsen Performing Arts Center at Bakersfield College. The event will cover the energy sector, agriculture and water and housing, land use and transportation and will bring together some of the foremost experts on these topics, including spokesmen for the oil industry, environmentalists, state officials and conservationists. The first Vision for the Valley is sponsored by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and TBC Media and will begin with a 7 a.m. with breakfast with the first panel under way at 8:30 a.m. Contact the Chamber for tickets.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My special talents include: jumping to the worst conclusion possible and worrying about that thing for hours."

 * ... BAD FORM: Gabrielle Lopez shared my concern with those folks who blow through red lights, putting them and others at risk. Said Lopez: "I am so sick and tired of seeing all these people run red lights every day. I mean they CLEARLY could stop but choose not to and just blow right on through like there is no one else on the road. I had an idea come to me today which while probably costly to implement may be a good solution: at random stoplights around town we could install a gate that pops up when the light turns red. So if there is a red light runner they will severely damage their vehicle and since they are randomly placed they don't
know when they will pop up and MAYBE people will think twice about running that red light if it costs them MONEY which is the only way that some people are going to get it."

 * ... CLIMATE CHANGE: And finally, reader Joe Chavez shared with me this rant on climate change: "Climate change. Well here they go again feeling like they can control nature. The world is going to do whatever, be it heating, cooling, icing. Just like it's done for eons. To think we humans can save it or help it is ridiculous, We can't  even care for ourselves yet were going to save the planet. So ignorant, so self important."