Had an absolutely useless dinner last night. Annoying, really. What’s worse was that it was started with good intentions–but, it turned out to be a feckless, tasteless waste of time…

Peanut’s school had what they dubbed their “first annual mixer…” Sounds like fun, eh? New to the school and we could get to know parents of other kids–and we did indeed meet some truly nice people. Our pals Lance and Dee-Dee were there. Barb and John were great as were Manuel and Lily–all very nice.

But, for the most part, there was an abundance of piss-poor wine–and I mean bad, people. 2 buck chuck would have been a positive change. This stuff sucked on a level not previously recorded by man. And the food? It was done by a local long-time landmark in our fair city called Ottavio’s. Now surviving on reputation and tradition, Ottavio’s essentially is an old-world style Italian restaurant. The food is average, the prices are high, there is a full-bar at the actual restaurant (this event was catered at a different venue) though, so I suppose that’s where the money is. Honestly, I’ve lived here in town about 5 years–and before that we’d lived here for about 2 years having left to buy our first house in Ventura–and Ottavio’s has gone down hill since. The ingredients used are obviously cheap and the result is flavorless pasta and sauce. The cost for the event last night was 10 bucks a plate, however. Rather low, yes? Well–now you know why: It sucked.

The rest seemed to be an excuse for most people to get drunk on the aforementioned bad wine and then–and this is the worst part–begin dancing to a pre-recorded mix of 80’s hits like Tears for Fears, the Go-Go’s and Dexie’s Midnight Runners. If the food was enough to make you gag, the music brought you into full-blown vomitrociousness.

Not a whole lot worse than the combination of bad food, bad wine and bad music to ruin an evening. I was glad there were some nice people around because it could have gotten a lot worse. The event began a little after 7 and by 9, I was dragging my wife to the car as fast as I could.

Look–being a dad is fun. So is being an adult. I have no desire to relive my 20’s. If anything, I like to occasionally relive my childhood–but even then, it’s because I want to see it again through my daughter’s eyes. I’m beginning to think that the number of us who actually enjoy being adults–is dwindling. And that’s a scary thought.

Day Fire–week 4

The Day Fire continues to char hundreds of thousands of acres, cost millions of dollars, tax the resources of the Counties, indeed the state’s and other states’ fire resources and burn nearly unchecked above Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. At the current time, the fire is less than 50% contained and has now been burning for a month.

A month!

4,000 plus firefighters from all over the west are keeping the fire from swallowing up homes and vital resources, but the acreage that has been burned looks like a veritable moonscape. In many ways, it looks desolate and haunted. Pics are available at the link above.

What keeps this from being the monster that it could become, of course, are the firefighters. They are preventing the fire from taking people’s homes and businesses and for that–we must all be thankful.

Justin 2000 Cab

Oh, friends….I have tasted beauty–glory–and it is from Justin. I’ve known for many years that Justin’s wines were among the best of the Paso Robles group–and that is saying something, I’ll tell you. I also have to give full disclosure and point out that Paso wines hold a special place in my heart: My father lived in Paso about the time that Sue and I started getting into wine pretty seriously. The result of this was that we got to learn about wine, winemaking and delicious tastes from perhaps the most significant wine producing area in California. Napa and Sonoma folks beware….Paso’s Cabs are AWESOME and they are cheaper than yours.

Tonight–Lance ran down to our house (he sold us this place–and lives two doors away) and poured Sue, Laurie and I a glass of Justin 2000 Cabernet. Black cherry, leather, herbs, a hint of licorice, a smoky core, edges of luscious dark fruits, pomegranate and other wonders. This is extraordinary stuff. I mean over the top.

Great with peppery sauces and steak, heavy chicken dishes, cream sauces. Wow! Grand drinking!

The Day Fire continues…

The Ojai Post continues to run an incident page on the Day fire. The latest information is that the fire jumped the dozer line at Piru creek and has begun a 1,000 acre “finger” of fire burning down into the Lockwood Valley. There is a recommended evacuation in that area—near and dear to my heart as the place we took Peanut to see her first snowfall and before her time, Scoop the wonderdog’s first snow romp as well. We actually get up to Lockwood Valley frequently and so our hearts and prayers go out to the folks dealing with the Day fire–now officially in its third week of existence and still only 41% contained.

Having been down to Biloxi fairly recently and seeing the devestation there from Katrina—it is hard to compare the Day Fire to such a cataclysmic event. However, when your home is on the line–the disaster is very real and the sky is very dark indeed. Disaster planning is a must these days and it reminds me that my family needs to create our own disaster plan.

OK, I don’t understand it either. I mean, all of a sudden I turned into Mr. Community access blog. I didn’t mean for that to happen, but suddenly I just felt complelled to hook into what’s going on up there in the hills above our County. But I suppose there is more happening around here….And I’ll get to that when I can.

Day Fire-Sunday Updates

The Day fire continues to burn with only 40% containment. I’m turning my attention to this because the resources that are out there need to be utilized more by local residents all over our (Ventura) county. Please visit The Ojai Post as well as the Ventura County Fire Dept. Homepage.

Tyler, over at the Post, is reporting the very first use of an old DC-10 airliner in battling this blaze. Apparently, there was a great deal of bureaucratic red tape involved in getting this giant trans-continental aircraft to the scene, but just today, it was seen skirting the hills over the Topa Topa range and dropping thousands of gallons of fire retardant on the Nordhoff ridge. I’ll provide updates and links as I can.
UPDATE: Though the Post has this as the first use of the plane, I’ve linked above to an article showing that it was used once on the Sawtooth fire back in 05. No matter–it’s help is needed and appreciated, I am certain.

Santa Ana winds continue to be a problem and hot, dry weather is firmly in place over the Southern California area. The good news is that so far, there are not too many other fires on the radar. The bad news is that if any do flare up, a considerable amount of resources is already dedicated to this 120,000 plus acre catastrophe. Firefighters in upper Ojai are on building protection duty and are attempting to contain the blaze away from Highway 150 in Santa Paula and Ojai to keep it from claiming structures.

The Day Fire and Other Oddities…

UPDATE: For constant Day Fire updates, check out the Ojai Post. Tyler is keeping up to date information from the Ventura County Fire Dept. The fire has burned over the ridge of the Topa Topa range and is threatening Santa Paula and Ojai. Many evacuations. Follow the links….

The Internet is a great thing, you know? Through youtube I found the video posted below from my childhood–and from there, I got on e-bay and found a DVD of the full-length Christmas shows featuring our heroes Hardrock, Coco and Joe–and Suzy Snowflake. I get to relive a part of my childhood that I thought lost to geography (that show was only on in Chicago) and history.

But the blogosphere, within the Internet, is also a grand thing. The Ojai Post is keeping us updated on what is now Ventura County’s as well as Northern Los Angeles County’s problem–the Day fire. The Santa Ana winds kicked up today–as they always do this time of year, causing temperatures to soar well into the 80’s and 90’s and fueling the fire that has already charred over 100,000 acres. Residents of Ventura County–including yours truly–are under a health alert due to smoke and ash as well as high temperatures and the result is it’s our own little slice of hell.

Click here for Ventura County Fire Dept. Quick time video of aerial footage of the Day Fire in the Los Padres National Forest.
Even from our home here in the western part of the county, the site of smoke pluming over the moutains with ash clouds moving behind and around us is simply uncanny. This has happened before, of course, but it is a question more of degree. Last year’s fires were directly in Ventura County as well as other places. The Day Fire has been burning in very rugged mountain terrain where fighting it simply isn’t an option until it gets close enough to civilization to warrant making a stand. The paradox there is that when it does burn close to civilization, it does so after tearing unchecked through mountain terrain where it has fueled itself into a frenzy with flames as high as 100 feet or more and fighting it becomes hazardous to the extreme.

For us, the fire is not a danger in the real sense that fires are considered dangerous. Rather, it poses the looming threat of air quality difficulty that is quite nasty with particulate counts in the very high parts per thousand or parts per millions. People with respiratory issues, like my wife for instance, can be very badly affected by this kind of thing. Even I have trouble at times. So far, Peanut seems OK, but she too is susceptible to asthma and so we are very careful about playing outside today.

Luckily, the wind and smoke did not kick up until after about 10 this morning and so Peanut’s soccer game was still on. I imagine they are cancelling them now, though. It’s a bad, bad scene out there.

These photos are taken from my front yard. In and of themselves, they are not remarkable I suppose. But the grayish haze in the distance is not cloud cover. That’s smoke and it covers the northwest horizon as far as the eye can see from here:

Finally, there’s this: I was driving the car around to pick up the girls after Peanut’s soccer game. The fields happen to be by the Ventura County Animal shelter. Now, living in this county, it’s not unusual for the shelter to occasionally house horses, goats, sheep–even the occasional mountain lion or black bear can find its way here temporarily. However, as I drove by–I could not believe my eyes as these two guys peered out at me through the fence. You just don’t expect to see camels at your local animal shelter.

Rumor has it that they were part of the Michael Jackson menagerie at his ranch about 88 miles north of here. However, those reports remain unconfirmed at this time…

Useless and bygone ephemera…

OK, the title of this post is hoisted from James Lileks site–but it’s true here, as well…

I found this little diddy on the Youtube which I grow to love more each day. I spent a good part of my childhood in Chicago, IL and this little feature was on WGN for us kids during the Christmas season as part of the Garfield Goose show. Bozo the Clown, Ray Reynerd, Garfield Goose and Hardrock, Coco and Joe—now that’s a great childhood memory. The song even sounds like I remember it.

Pretty wild, actually, because I suppose that unless you grew up in the Chicago-land area, you wouldn’t know these little guys–but oh, how it brings back memories of the split-level house on Pratt or the two story on Whitcomb drive. Jane Addams Elementary school–and my friends there. Summertimes in the community pool with a kid named James who wore long pants to swim in–winter snow tunnels in the front yard and the egg sales route I ran with my brother. Ah, well–here they are!

The computers, the yearbook, the door and what the dog did

Some success. The rather extraordinary, and may I say neanderthal, way in which the computer problem I faced with my yearbook class was handled has finally come to a climax. It’s not the end…but it is, perhaps, the beginning of the end…

Finally I got a chance to allow my publishing rep. to speak to the head of IT for our district. In what must be a landspeed record for district personnel (some four hours…), a technician was in my classroom turning on a computer for himself discovering what problems we faced. He then, as prescribed by the head of IT, took one of the laptops back to the deep and mysterious IT workshop where they will “tinker” with it until they figure out how to make Adobe In-Design with its plug-ins and temporary files work with a system that requires deep freeze, a program that forbids you from saving to the hard drive.

A quick note–I was going to attempt being funny as I wrote this, but as my poor wife is currently sitting in the ER right now with a deep and serious cut as well as a broken finger (it involved a door, a dog, a collar and metal. That’s about all I know), my funny has descended to rather mildly amusing.

Anyway–the upshot here is that there is light at the end of a tunnel. Now, the tunnel might have another 7 miles to go, but there is light. IT now has to configure my production software with their security needs. Prediction: Not going to happen. They will not be able to work deep freeze around the problem and they will not have a solution. There will be an attempt to tell me–or even my company–that I cannot work with them. But that will fade away under the contract I have with an exceptional yearbook publishing company–and they will allow me to do what I wanted to do all along–and that is, take the computers off of the network and use the software the way it was intended.


Onward….I have nothing. I await my wife’s arrival home after the accident and Peanut is in bed after a long day. I know, more humor—less drama….

Couldn’t agree more.


Perhaps it is the lack of anything substantive to say. Or the smoke-filled sky brought on by the Day Fire, as it’s called, now burning into its 17th day. I don’t think it’s any of these, though. Quite honestly, it’s the biggest problem I’ve faced in 16 years of teaching–and it never should have even happened…

I refuse to bore you with minor details. The jist of it is this: Our district IT dept. has one way of looking at things and the needs of the yearbook, brought about by the software we use and the way in which we use it, has another. The two are not terribly compatible and the result is, I’ve done nothing yet with the system. It’s not up and running, I’m not using any of the new software–in short, the yearbook is not being produced and I’m tired of it.

I haven’t slept well, I’ve had tightening in my chest, my stomach hurts and I cannot get around this problem. I’m somewhere in the middle, I suppose. Oh, the powers that be don’t like to call it that–but that’s what it is. I’m supposed to hear more tomorrow. We shall see…

I have tried very hard to get it out of my head, but it’s difficult. This afternoon was wonderful, though, as I came home to see Peanut and she immediately recited the Pledge of Alliegance to me. Wow! I have to admit, I’ve never thought more highly of the pledge (and I think pretty highly of it) than when my little girl recited it. What a moment!

I’m working with the folks in Biloxi on bringing Judy Bultman to California to speak to us and get some inspiration and motivation going to get more volunteers down to Mississippi….

But unfortunately, the dark side of my personality comes out and all I can really think about is this incredibly difficult failure of getting the IT dept. to see rational points of view.

And it frosts me pretty badly.


The previous post is indeed accurate, and it is driving me nuts. The IT dept. at the district is not interested in the needs of our yearbook class, it is interested in its own security needs. I’ve been so stressed about it, I got chest pains. I am now going to attempt to let it go….And I mean tonight.

So, Cy Nowrasteh called me over the weekend. I’m writing this because I am in hopes (since I cannot contact him) that he contacts me again. I am going to write a piece about what he’s been through for a local magazine.

His film, The Path to 9/11, is an exceptional piece of work and well worth watching. If you have not seen it—the DVD’s are coming out and you need to avail yourself.

I am in the midst of trying to right the ship, as it were. Things are off kilter at work, my back is out of whack and I am stressed, tired and duly frustrated. It’s partly my own fault for not letting go–and so writing tonight cannot get beyond the dark clouds. I used to call it “the funk.” So did a million others, so I will refrain.

There is some good news in that I will be working with Ray and Joe to show our photos of Biloxi and share our experiences to our church. The idea is to do more–to get more actively involved and get the church to commit to the next phase which is to help replenish the builders, their funding and their emotional and spiritual needs. It is going to be GRAND, I tell you.

If I could, I’d drop everything right now and move my family to Biloxi, MS. I’d buy a house there and dedicate my family and myself full-time to rebuilding down there.


Because it needs to be rebuilt. Because the people there need us–need our help and need their homes. They’re in a kind of post traumatic stress disorder a year after the storm, but they’re not complaining. What they are doing is surviving–and they need to survive a little bit better.

That, my friends, is perspective. I’m whining about a job that doesn’t tax me much—and I’m busy stressing out. Meanwhile, friends I know—people I love—are fighting just to make ends meet and get themselves into a home instead of a tent, say, or a trailer. It makes things a little more focused.

So—peace tonight. Sleep—and may your dreams be realized.