Thursday, June 11, 2015

More scams about town, the dismal lack of landscaping around the Westside Parkway, the quest for the best hamburger and will Aldi stores come to Bakersfield?

 * ... SCAM: Jenifer Pitcher is an intelligent young professional who is aware of the world around her, yet even some of the smartest among us are susceptible to scams. Last month, a group of gardeners
knocked on her door and offered to mulch her garden, at a cost of $8 a bag. After they put five bags down, she agreed they could do the rest of her garden. "About 30 minutes later I come outside as they were finishing up and they had a pile of bags they 'used.' The guy counted the bags… 88 bags! At $8 a bag? I was furious.  I told him, 'there is no way in hell you used that much.' We argued for a while, he was VERY pushy, and eventually I ended up writing him a check for $400. That was $400 I was NOT planning on spending that day. I also kind of got a little worried since now they know where I live so if I didn’t pay them anything, I was worried they would come back.  I had a horrible feeling about the whole transaction, so I immediately called my bank and stopped the check. I went to go run some errands, still didn’t feel right, went home and checked my bank account online. The $30 stop check fee was posted, as was the $400 check to Ernesto Vides. But the check number wasn’t right. I went to my bank (Kern Schools Federal Credit Union). I was frustrated to tears at this point.  Apparently, they went straight to the bank with my check at the same time I was calling to stop the check. They had altered the check number so that it went through. The manager at the Kern Schools on Coffee and Olive was so fantastic and worked so well with me, and I was able to get my money back.  It was a horrible experience. And I’m usually pretty skeptical of people in general, and the fact that I went against my gut was the worst part."

 * ... WESTSIDE PARKWAY: Well that didn't take long. The landscaping of the (relatively) new Westside Parkway between Truxtun Avenue and Coffee Road is so full of weeds it now resembles Highway 58.

 * ... FOODIE: I was asked the other day what happened to my hunt for the best burger in town. Well, it's still on (why quit now?) but if I were to decide today, it would be the Hudson burger at downtown's Muertos Kitchen and Lounge followed closely by the Sonny burger at Mexicali.

 * ... SPOTTED: I spotted this on Twitter: "Imagine being naked in a room full of people who speak a different language and everyone wants to touch you. That is the life of a dog."

 * ... ALDI: If you haven't heard of Aldi food stores, you will soon. The Los Angeles Times reports that the German-owned company plans 45 stores in Southern California. Aldi stores are about the same size as Fresh and Easy but are focused even more on deep discounts. You have to pay 25 cents for a shopping cart (you get the quarter back when you return it, which prevents thefts) and many of the specialty items are featured on palates on the floor to reduce stocking fees. No word yet on if Aldi is headed to Bakersfield, but sounds like a perfect fit for our market.

* ... BAD FORM: I don't normally like to run anonymous comments, but this one from a "concerned citizen" is worthy of airing: "To the person that dropped off the light colored pitbull on Country Club Drive on the morning of Friday, June 5: Shame, shame on you. She was a new mom, and ran all over the neighborhood, probably looking for her puppies. She cried all night, and a neighbor had to call animal control to come and get her. She was probably euthanized. You probably kept the puppies to sell, and dumped the mom when you were finished using her for your benefit. I will pray that this sweet dog will haunt your memories every single day."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Texas regulators look into a possible link between fracking and increased seismic activity and the issue of state public pensions gets readers riled up

* ... FRACKING: Keep an eye on Texas where regulators are investigating a potential link between hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and earthquakes. At issue is whether the use of injection wells to dispose of fracking wastewater is linked to increased seismic activity. According to The Wall Street Journal, experts are divided on the issue but one executive, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance, conceded there may be a link. Of concern are a series of mild earthquakes in and around Dallas and Fort Worth, an area that until recently rarely experienced quakes. Texas state regulators have already altered regulations so they can modify or end disposal wells if data links them to seismic activity.

* ... PENSIONS: My comments about the need for pension reform triggered a couple of responses, including this one from from Jean Hughes Gutierrez: "Welfare recipients also reduce funding for police, fire, schools, and road repairs. Many have more spending money than most taxpayers and government drones who serve them: free food, medical care, housing, cell phones, child care, training, and transportation. It is beyond ridiculous. ... While pension reform may be a valid endeavor, not all are free to workers, and I suggest equal concern for stopping fat cat government workers with free cars, gas, meals, Las Vegas trips, hookers, and line dance lessons.  And we have that right now with county higher ups and SEIU higher ups." Thank you Jean, that about covers it.

 * ... DROUGHT: It was Terrie Stoler's question that sparked the dialogue about the the lack of an incentive to install artificial turf: "I think the reply from California Water Service Co. answer in 'Ask TBC' today was ridiculous! We’ve NEVER hosed down our artificial turf! The question of hosing it down to cool it off is ridiculous. How long would that work at 105 degrees? Play on the turf when it is cooler, early morning or late evening. Water is used to make a lot of things. What a cop out from Yvonne Kingman and California Water!"

 * ... SPOTTED: I saw this on Twitter: "A woman saying 'I’m not mad at you' is like a dentist saying 'You won’t feel a thing.'”

 * ... FOODIE: One of my favorite appetizers in town is offered by Uricchio's Trattoria, the popular downtown Italian eatery over off 18th and K streets. It is a miniature meatball pizza that is outstanding. Between that and its other popular appetizer - a small plate of fried clams - it's hard to go anywhere else.

 * ... OVERHEARD: A high executive of a local technology company is telling a friend: "I am almost embarrassed by it but I love 'Game of Thrones.' Sex, torture, dragons... I can't believe I am watching it."

 * ... DEVIL PUPS: I recently wrote about the young men and women who volunteer to become
"Devil Pups," a rigorous team-building exercise that tests their physical limits. Dick Taylor is one of the volunteers who works with these kids, and he noted that the program ends with a 10-day encampment at Camp Pendleton. "It's interesting to note that this is not a recruiting tool for the Marine Corps, and about 23 percent of our teens eventually join the military (not just the Marine Corps), another 18 percent end up in a first responder career like law enforcement or fire, and about 70 percent are high school athletes. Kids completing camp tell us it is the hardest thing they have ever done, and also the coolest thing they have ever done."

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The EPA clears fracking from causing widespread damage to drinking water, but the Sierra Club spins in the other way, and a local group joins the statewide effort for pension reform

 * ... FRACKING: The Environmental Protection Agency issued a report saying hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has not resulted in widespread damage to drinking water, but that won't stop the anti fossil fuel crowd from claiming otherwise. In what can only be described as an example of extreme chutzpah, the Sierra
Club said the EPA study "confirms what millions of Americans already know -- that dirty oil and gas fracking contaminates drinking water." Say what? The EPA in fact said just the opposite, though it did say there might be "risks" if wells were poorly constructed. Well of course there are risks. There are risks in driving, in breathing, in exercising, in not eating right and in walking down the street. The EPA said fracking should be regulated by the states and can be managed, which it is. Isn't that was life is all about, managing risks? Folks like the Sierra Club should just come clean and admit they don't approve of any fossil fuels. At least that is an honest position.

 * ... PENSIONS: Meanwhile, it was good to hear that the Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government is joining Reform California, the statewide initiative for pension reform in 2016. Reform California is working to place a pension reform ballot initiative on the November 2016 ballot. This is long overdue but you can bet every local and state public union will gear up to fight this, not because it's not a sound initiative but because the unions believe more in featherbedding their members than they do the health of the state or local governments. The initiative would require voter approval of any defined benefit pensions for new government employees, or any increase in pensions for existing government employees. And why not? After all, you and I are paying for these pensions. Said former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed: "The cost of public employee pension benefits continues to skyrocket across California, crowding out funding for important services such as police, fire, schools, and road repairs."

* ... SPOTTED: On Twitter: "Dear life, when I asked if this day could get any worse, that was a rhetorical question, not a challenge."

 * ... OVERHEARD: A bartender is recalling an animated conversation by a customer about Bruce Jenner's transformation into Caitlyn Jenner. "All she could talk about was why she spelled Caitlyn with a 'C' instead of a 'K.'"

 * ... HIKE: It was a beautiful weekend and I spent a few hours Saturday hiking the hills above Hart Park. Along the way I passed a lot of hikers and picked up animated conversations in Spanish, Tagalog (one of the languages of the Philippines), French and of course English. Like our country, the Hart Park hills are wide open and welcome anyone regardless of language or background.

 * ... DEVIL PUPS: While hiking I spotted a large group of Devil Pups, young men and women working together to gain confidence under the direction of some current and former Marines. Some of these kids no doubt will end up in the Marine Corps, and watching them work together to conquer some of the area's toughest climbs was inspiring.

  * ... HONOR FLIGHT: Kudos to local talk radio host Ralph Bailey (KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM) who raised $18,000 for our local Honor Flight program. The money was raised during a single show and the money was presented to Honor Flight organizer Lili Marsh just one day before the 71st anniversary or the invasion of Normandy.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy remembers D-Day and thanks those who serve our country

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader, remembers D-Day 71 years ago.

"Seventy one years ago, thousands of American soldiers embarked on a mission that held no promise of success and no guarantee of survival. As the best of our nation cut through the fog that morning and landed on Normandy Beach, their valor and sacrifice lifted our nation and our allied forces to eventual triumph that preserved and expanded freedom to millions around the world.  More than 160,000 Allied soldiers landed on June 6th along a 50 mile stretch with over 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supporting the D-Day invasion.

 "We honor this incredible devotion to our country as they fought to preserve the freedom we enjoy every day. Many of these men and women, our community has had the honor of recognizing as we have taken them to Washington D.C. to see the WWII Memorial on various Honor Flights. Words cannot adequately say how grateful we are to individuals of the Greatest Generation.

 "There are countless ways we honor all of the men and women who have served our country. In Congress, perhaps no act does this more than providing the resources necessary to prepare the men and women of today’s armed forces to carry out their duties and to care for the individuals and families that have already served selflessly.

 "This can be done through the National Defense Authorization Act and the corresponding Department of Defense Appropriations Act.  These critical pieces of legislation provide critical support for the men and women of our military. Congress has passed the National Defense Authorization Act, and we will work to pass the Department of Defense Appropriations Act next week.

The world is a more dangerous place than it was just a few years ago. Our allies don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear us. Now, we must do everything we can to keep America safe and strong and to serve the men and women who show proudly serve our country.