Thursday, November 25, 2010

Purgatory in the Garden of Eden

Bet you think this post might be about politics - we do live in California, but vote opposite of most of the state. No....this post is about the Garden of Eden - Marina Bay of Richmond.

I took a walk today-my usual 2 miles and ended up appreciating even more where we live. Take a look at the Marina - boats lined up, water still reflecting a cloudless sky and the air was crisp for Thanksgiving, 2010.

We have everything here! You can see the yacht harbor, but on my walk I visited the playground (Barbara and Jay Vincent) where all the grandkids have played one time or another. Then there is the beach! OK, so it is small, but it is a great place to view the July 4th Richmond Fireworks show.

Want to learn how to sail? Try out the Tradewinds Sailing Club which is an inexpensive way to do it. Check out their website.

This is an historical area - all built on the land previously owned by the Kaiser shipyards where many ships were built during World War II. Right here is the Rosie the Riveter National Park & Museum.

There are miles and miles of the Bay Trail to amuse any walker, runner, biker, skateboarder, skater, etc. etc. One can go from here down to the Bay Bridge or over to the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. Along the way, you can visit the Point Isabel Dog Park and let your pet take a walk in the park as well.

Before I bust my buttons let me at least give a mention to the best restaurant in Richmond - Salute Ristorante and it is walking distance from here! See what I mean - we have it all? What makes your location a Garden of Eden?

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Call to Action

DIXON, Cal. -- Anne Loucks Chapter NSDAR is leading the pack to honor fallen veterans this Christmas, but we are worried we won't be able to pay tribute to all of them.

Sue Busenius is leading the local Wreaths Across America effort. Cities nationwide are participating to collect wreaths for their own national cemeteries to place on the gravesites.

Busenius said 4,000 wreaths still are needed, in order to place one on all the gravesites, at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.

"We want and need to recognize them for their service to our country," said Busenius.

As of Friday, Busenius said they were short 4000 wreaths.

She's grateful to those who have sponsored a $15 wreath, but the chapter needs more help to reach their goal, she said. "We will take anything that anybody has to offer because it will all add up."

The deadline to buy a wreath is Nov. 29. To make a donation visit Sacramento Valley National Support Committee website.

The Wreath laying ceremony is Saturday, Dec. 11 at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

This blog post has been in the back of my mind for some time. What more appropriate day to take a position on the topic than Halloween 2010.

My belief in ghosts began on a walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg.
We signed up for the tour based on the advertising: "Your fearless guide leads the brave down the dark streets of Williamsburg protected only by the glow of a single flickering flame, the only protection keeping the reputed walking dead, ghouls, goblins and ghosts from trying to do their worst with you." One stop on the tour was a house inhabited by the ghost of a young boy with dark hair. I remember taking a picture with my cell phone and seeing the boy in the picture. He's looking out of the window. Can you see him?

This picture was the highlight of the tour and has been shared with the grand children, who ask to see it on a regular basis.

In the October issue of Spirit magazine (published by Southwest Airlines) there is a special guide to America's most spirited places. First on their list is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Washington DC. Yes, the White House is spirited and sightings are documented. Grace Coolidge, wife of Calvin Coolidge, was the first person to report having seen Lincoln's ghost in the White House. She said that he stood at a window of the Oval Office, hands clasped behind his back, gazing out over the Potomac.

Two surprising places are on the list: Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas and the Birdcage Theatre in Tombstone Arizona. The ghost bride haunts Hotel Galvez and people report smelling cigars and hearing laughter in the Birdcage Theatre. One place where I would expect ghosts is Gettysburg Battlefield where more than 50,000 soldiers lost their lives. All of these places have ghost tours where you, too, can decide for yourself if you are a believer.

Let me know - Do you believe in ghosts?

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Last year our mobile GPS device, a Garmin, was stolen. After replacement analysis, we determined that the best financial decision was to pay monthly to use GPS on my Blackberry phone.

Not only are we pleased with this application, we're glad that the thief forced us to make this decision.

Through AT&T (the service provider) the GPS application is Telenav. The most recent version (5.8) became available while we were traveling on the east coast.

Let me tell you some of the features we experienced on recent use.

First, the app tells you the speed limit for the street you are on. And, it lets you know if you are exceeding (over 5 mph) the speed limit via a red rim around the miniature speed limit sign. Nice!

Second, the app warns you if there is a "traffic camera" ahead. Very nice!

Third, you can speak the address rather than type it (NO texting while driving). Super feature if you don't have a navigator with you, although I suggest it is safest to pull over to enter/speak the address.

Finally, the directions given are exact, even down to the number of feet before turning. This last feature has led us to give her the name "Demanding Diva". But we are considering a change to "Deliverance".

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Parking Karma

The Urban Dictionary defines Parking Karma as the uncanny ability to find an open parking space in a desirable location of a busy parking lot.

There are people who have parking karma and my husband is one of those people. While on our trip recently to the east coast, there were two scenarios where his parking karma proved beneficial.

Scenario 1: Provincetown, Mass. center on a busy "tourist" Sunday. As we headed into town to find a parking spot to join the other tourists, we drove to the main street and expected to be circling the block a few times. Our guide even said to head to the outskirts and we would walk in. Just as those words were said, we spotted an open space - actually the space was nearest to the main street. Voila! We were out of the car and having a grand time.

Scenario 2: Boston, Mass. Park Street, close to the State House. We were returning to Boston for one night before going to the airport to return the rental car and catch our flight the next day. Our GPS guided us neatly to 8 Park Street (Union Club of Boston), our hotel for the night. Our plan was to drop off the bags and locate a spot in the Boston Common parking garage at a HUGE fee (absolutely never expected to find street parking). Much to our surprise, there was a metered spot available almost in front!

This Parking Karma is a wonderful benefit of being married to my husband. Somehow, it has even rubbed off on me as I often locate a spot close to my destination. How about you? Got Parking Karma?

Monday, August 30, 2010

A message from Michelle

For only the second time in my adult life, I am not ashamed of my country. I want to thank the hard working American people for paying $242 thousand dollars for my vacation in Spain. My daughter Sasha, several long-time family friends, my personal staff and various guests had a wonderful time. Honestly, you just haven't lived until you have stayed in a $2,500.00 per night suite at a 5-Star luxury hotel. Thank you also for the use of Air Force 2 and the 70 Secret Service personnel who tagged along to be sure we were safe and cared for at all times.

Air Force 2 only used 47,500 gallons of jet fuel for this trip and carbon emissions were a mere 1,031 tons of CO2.These are only rough estimates, but they are close. That's quite a carbon footprint as my good friend Al Gore would say, so we must ask the American citizens to drive smaller, more fuel efficient cars and drive less too, so we can lessen our combined carbon footprint.

I know times are hard and millions of you are struggling to put food on the table and trying to make ends meet. I do appreciate your sacrifice and do hope you find work soon. I was really exhausted after Barack took our family on a luxury vacation in Maine a few weeks ago, and we are now in Martha’s Vineyards although I can’t find the vineyards. We just had to get away for a few days……after all, we had been working in DC for 8 or 9 days in a row.


M. Obama

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Before you send that email....

I received this in an email today and enjoyed it, so I did a little research to find its origin. I also thought it might make a fun blog entry. So I did several google searches and came up with a blog entry from a law firm and a snopes entry. Snopes tells all, so I would not forward an email with this in it, although it is a good story. I'm surprised that the law firm bought into it and ran it in their blog January of this year. The story follows, however, my Bits n' Bytes wisdom is to check things out first before you send that email!

A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer three months to track down. After sending the information to the FHA, he received the following reply.

(Actual reply from FHA):

"Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral property back to 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin."

Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows:
(Actual response):

"Your letter regarding title in Case No.189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 206 years covered by the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the United States from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application. For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France , which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain . The land came into the possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Queen Isabella. The good Queen Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus's expedition. Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made that part of the world called Louisiana . God, therefore, would be the owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of time, the world as we know it, and the FHA. I hope you find God's original claim to be satisfactory. Now, may we have our damn loan?"

The loan was immediately approved.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Make A Difference

Volunteerism in the United States is alive and well. According the the Bureau of Labor statistics, "both the number of volunteers and the volunteer rate rose over the year ended in September 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January 2010. About 63.4 million people, or 26.8 percent of the population, volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2008 and September 2009. In 2008, the volunteer rate was 26.4 percent."

Another perspective presented by Independent Sector is that "the estimated dollar value of volunteer time for 2009 is $20.85 per hour."

The estimate helps acknowledge the millions of individuals who dedicate their time, talents, and energy to making a difference. Charitable organizations can use this estimate to quantify the enormous value volunteers provide.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, "about 63.4 million Americans, or 26.8 percent of the adult population, gave 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth $169 billion in 2009."

Statistics are wonderful, but it's the actual volunteers that tell the story.

In my neighborhood, a gated community, we have a volunteer committee and in particular, one homeowner who is very good with tools and can fix anything. Jim has saved the association thousands of dollars just because he is handy and is willing to give his time to the community. He has made a difference for over fifteen years!

Another friend of mine has spent months revamping a manual of procedures for the organization to operate properly. Keith wants to ensure that the organization can grow effectively and achieve the mission to help Christians at risk in the holy land. Keith volunteers much more of his time in other ways, but revamping the manual will make a difference now!

Just think of all the service organizations that could not survive without member volunteers. I'll get off my soap box now - go out and make a difference! It will be personally satisfying to you and will help others in the process.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Perseverance Pays Off

For several months, since acquiring Photoshop, a desired effect to create on photos is the "drop shadow frame". This effect was used on every photo on the St. Paul's Episcopal Church website and when new photos needed to be added, the effect also needed to be added.

Try as I might, it could not be done! Now, I know my way around software and the keyboard, so another software product (Snagit) was used as a substitute until I could figure Photoshop out. This morning was the turning point - determined, I sat down to try once again (this was to be probably my tenth go-round).

Now, those of you who KNOW how to do it are probably laughing because it is easy, as I found out just now. Thanks to I now know how to add the desired effect to photos.

So what made the difference? It must be that I set out to learn as opposed to an urgent need. Needless to say, I have a copy of the instructions in order to repeat the process on other work!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Soccer - Not for me!!!!

I'm afraid to admit this: I do not like to watch soccer on TV! Admittedly, I checked in a couple of times during the recent FIFA World Cup to watch the Americans, but quickly switched the channel to more pleasing viewing.

Why is there always a humming sound that emanates when soccer is on? Maybe it is just me, but that humming is annoying. I have always wondered if the fans are given something to make the sound and they use it!

Well, according to an FIFA soccer trivia site, I'm definitely in the minority. They say "With nearly half of the world’s population expected to tune in during the 2010 FIFA World Cup championship, interest in the sport is at an all time high".

Personally, give me a good bowling tournament to watch and I'm there!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

After 33 years in IT for one company, retirement as a volunteer for many organizations has generally been satisfying. Web development skills have been increasing and new skills are learned as more challenging activities are undertaken.

My newest opportunity is to learn Joomla and develop more proficiency with PHP (Hypertext PreProcessor). Later on down the road, will be the need to develop expertise with MySQL.

Joomla is a content management system (CMS), which enables building Web sites and powerful online applications. As a site developer, knowing XML is great, however, for the organizations that I support technically, use of a CMS will allow me to not spend so much time writing XML and allow the organization the flexibility to keep the content fresh without my involvement. At least that is the theory!

Joomla is "open-source" which means it is free, so the components have been downloaded and extracted. Next is the installation - guess I better get busy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On making greeting cards

Making greeting cards is so much fun - allows my creative side to come out. Often, as I am driving, I will think of cards that I need to make and design them in my head first. Then, I can hardly wait to get home and do them.

There are four important aspects to this fun hobby.

The first is the paper. I happen to prefer GCD Studios paper over any other because each one is two-sided. The paper is just the right weight for a greeting card. They have so many designs to choose from that I keep a good supply on hand for that "perfect" card creation. I only wish that I could purchase the paper packs online, but I cannot find them (will again now).

The second aspect is to keep the event/person in mind as you create their special card. An example is the recent graduation of Kori from high school. Her card was made using her school colors. No other graduate received a card tailored specifically to them!

Third, to spur your creative juices, have a few card making magazines available to look at to see what others have done. Keep in mind however that your special touch with embellishments and paper selection make the card still one of a kind.

Finally embossing the greeting helps to make the card professional and as my husband expresses: "a keeper! No one ever throws away a Kathy card"!

There is one more facit that I'd like to share. In all the samples I find from Vamp Stamp News, GCD Studios and other sources, you NEVER see what is done with the inside of the card! And this is what I find the most challenging effort to creating a wonderful greeting card what to put inside!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our tax $$ at work

A registered mail package was accepted at the Mandeville, LA post office on May 24, bound for Richmond, CA. There was absolutely no tracking available on the document from the USPS UNTIL it was first delivered on June 11. The receiving party was out of town on that day. A re-delivery was scheduled for June 17, a day that the party would be home.

Rather than deliver the package as requested on June 17, the post office attempted a 2nd delivery on June 15 (again, no one home). The re-delivery on June 17 did not happen, however on June 18 another notice was put in the mail box that an attempt was made on June 17 (a lie). This notice was marked "final" notice and the package would be returned to sender on July 11.

Upon receipt of the final notice, the recipient picked up the package from the local Richmond postal annex.

Moral of the story: use FedEx or UPS when sending a package.

There is a free ride

So, upon return from West Point to the Big Apple, we became tourists and wanted to travel to the Museum of Fine Art last Monday. As usual, I previewed the trip on the internet using the NY MA trip planner. Found the right bus to take up Madison Ave.

At the bus stop we found out that the trip would cost $2 - no problem except that the bus driver would not accept cash. Only a metro card would work!

We must have looked like tourists because the bus driver said to hop on - he would let us ride for free.

What a great guy David (the bus driver) was - he let us off only two blocks away from the Museum. Unfortunately for us, the Museum is closed on Mondays.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New York, New York

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it - new york, new york
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it - new york,
new york

I wanna wake up in a city, that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill - top of the heap.

We arrived about 8:15 ET and are staying at the Union League Club (we have reciprocal privileges). A club is owned and financed by its members primarily for their own use. Both federal and state tax codes and liquor laws reinforce this. There is nothing automatic about reciprocal privileges despite the fact that uninformed individuals and organizations pass this word along. Suffice it to say that as members of the Union Club of Boston we have reciprocal privileges at the Union League.

Tomorrow we head to West Point to attend the Grand Convent - GPUSA Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem. Sunday we return to Manhattan and will have a couple days to site see here. We are definitely top of the heap and enjoying a little down time vacation.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

If you have a black thumb (like me) then your garden needs help. The best decision ever made was to plant yellow Calla Lily in the planter area in the front of our house. Our neighbors are impressed with the bright yellow color splashed in our front garden.

Planting these wonderful, easy to care for, flowers makes the sun shine in my heart when they bloom and we are the envy of the landscape committee in our gated community.
We have so many of these plants spread in our garden because they multiply each year. I can now see them from the bay window looking at our back yard.
Yellow Calla Lily is the best plant for anyone with a black thumb.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Introducing Bits n' Bytes!

On the way home yesterday, it struck me that it would be easier to keep family and friends up to date through a blog rather than create new pages on a personal website (not happening-way behind). We discussed what it might be called and came up with Bits n' Bytes.

What will you find here? Little snippets of each day, a picture here or there, thoughts to share, lessons learned in life, maybe some techie information to share-just about anything that might interest others.

Today was a first ever train ride on the Niles Canyon Railroad with the Ariel Bradley Society of C.A.R. (Children of the American Revolution). Besides the fun we had being with four of our grandchildren (Sophia, Haley, Xander, and Lexie), there was seeing the Niles Canyon for the first time. Check out their website to read some of the rich history.

What piqued my interest today is that the grandchildren wanted to have the train run over coins to flatten them out. Only it did not work. They had placed the coins beyond where the train would run. So, the coins sat there on the tracks while we rode the train from Sunol Depot to Niles Station and back! They were disappointed that they had not been flattened, but as resilient as they are, before getting in the car, they picked up their coins and returned them to their pockets.