Biloxi

In September of 2005, I picked up the phone at the suggestion of Hugh Hewitt on his radio show and I called a church in Biloxi, MS. It was answered by Gary Taylor and he and I began a conversation that started a friendship–that led to a large series of efforts to help rebuild and restore the Gulf Coast. Since then, I set up partnerships between Bethel Lutheran Church in Biloxi, Beauvoir United Methodist Church and my home church, Westlake Lutheran Church. Together with California Lutheran University, my alma mater, we have sent two sets of students and countless numbers of supplies–including a donation of 35,000 pounds of food from Fiore di Pasta in Fresno, CA to the area. We have worked hard to help the good people of Biloxi rebuild. My commitment was highlighted by my trip to Biloxi in September of 06 with my friends and fellow parishioners, Joe Bulock and Ray Chodd. We were there merely three days–but we learned a lot.

One of the people we met on that trip was Judy Bultman. She is the wife of Pastor Jerry Bultman of Bethel Lutheran Church and she is also the Lutheran Disaster Relief Coordinator for the Biloxi Gulf Coast area. Tonight, when I spoke to her–she was here in California. She’s on a two week tour of the west coast and it is her first time ever west of the Mississippi River. In September, we set into motion events that would bring her here to talk about what is happening on the Gulf Coast, to raise funds and to talk about the face of God in areas of such need today. She is a powerful speaker, a dynamo with boundless energy and a deep and abiding faith in Christ.

What knocks me out is that ultimately, she’s here because of me. I put the ripple in the water and we’ve begun something powerful. Many, many people have joined me and been instrumental in getting supplies, creating awareness and ultimately going to Biloxi to help rebuild. I too will go back–though I am not sure when.

I have been reminded by my own Pastor and by some recent reading–that love is not a noun. It’s not an emotion. Love is a choice–and it is action. Biloxi needs a lot of love.

Soft Landing…

Well now–I shall sleep the sleep of the contented, the job-well-done (or so I hope). First day of the new semester and the newspaper, which I advise, is rebuilding from the ground up. Great new kids, great vibe in the room…American Studies is rolling right along into the WWII unit, English started a new novel–Their Eyes Were Watching God, which I dearly love and the Yearbook seems to be back on track after getting a little behind the eight ball.

Meanwhile, I was assigned a piece from Wine Country This Week on Thursday and finished writing the piece tonight. The deadline isn’t until next Monday and so I wanted to beat that significantly while still hopefully writing a piece that meets with the editor’s standards. As a freelancer, I’ve learned that one of the many things editors like is a quick turnaround. If the piece is well written, that’s obviously the best thing–but the biggest and best bonus you can provide is to show your editor that you’re taking them and their assignments seriously.

Something must have worked because I’ve already been given a second piece to do–and I’m planning on finishing that one by Friday. It’s a little more work, yes–but it’s also a lot of fun, a good strong challenge and it fulfills a deep need I have, a real passion for writing, for reportage and for stories.

So, while not yet tired enough to hit the hay, I know that when I do—it will be with a clear head, a full heart and optimism for the next few weeks of work.

Back in the Saddle

Fortuitous events led me up to Paso Robles this morning as I got my first assignment from Wine Country This Week. I interviewed Gary Eberle of Eberle Vineyards and Winery. He’s a great guy with a great story to tell–and you should know more about it. So–when the article comes out on February 22nd, I’ll link you to it. If I write it here, something tells me my editor wouldn’t like that very much.

Suffice to say that Eberle has a passion for Cabernet Sauvignon and that passion is the bedrock on which his Paso winery was built. He came to Paso in 1973 and was one of the first to set up shop there. The Cab is delicious, too–and he seems to have coaxed a unique and even storied Bordeaux champion out of the Central Coast soil. I’m pretty excited to write about it all, actually. But I’m also pretty worn out with sore hips from a long day in the car. No, I’m not old–but I am older and things don’t quite, well—bend–the way they used to.

And now—sweet oblivion.

Surprises

Ahhhh. Here we are back in the command center–the leather recliner is in half or partial position, feet are up, lights are out–some mindless blather is playing on the TV and I have my laptop back in my lap. All is right with the world.

It’s been a day of delights, actually, and some surprises have added to the mix. Thursday is usually HH or happy hour night for the guys—been that way for about 18 years. We’ve missed here and there, but generally, Thursday is Thursday–and it means beer with the boys. It’s evolved over the years and now it’s generally at one of our group’s houses, but the theme, if you will, is the same. Tonight, however, was far different…

No HH tonight for myriad reasons. So, the family decided to have our own HH. We drove out to Ventura to meet Aunt Laurie at Eric Ericcson’s restaurant on Venutra pier. So, here we are cruising along the 101- freeway notorious for its crowded and nameless traffic. I’m in the second lane from the right and as I’m driving along, I note VW Jetta V6 that has been tastefully souped up. Noting that just such a car was done just so tastefully by my friend Frank, whom I have not seen in nearly a year–I suddenly realize that Frank is at the wheel and waving at me. He and his significant other, my wife’s good and close childhood friend, Jane, are cruising North on the 101.

So–off at California street headed for Eric’s and some cold beer and a few appetizers and Frank and Jane were apparently of the same mind. We met in the beachside parking lot and walked up the stairs to enjoy a California winter sunset. Good friends, good conversation, beer–food….no need to attempt more, really.

Meanwhile, since the semester is over today and tomorrow is a “need-to only” day at school, I fell into a happy circumstance that puts me back in the writing room again. I’m writing for Wine Country This Week as a freelancer and had not heard from their fine editor in a while so I popped a quick e-mail over to her. She responded within minutes that things had been a little crazy and the only Central Coast story she needed was a profile of Eberle Winery in Paso Robles. The only catch was that Gary and the crew were going out of town on Sunday and she wondered if on such short notice I could do a piece. I picked up the phone and called Eberle and got right to Gary, the owner. I told him I was writing for the magazine and asked him if I could come see him on Friday with the purpose of writing a profile on Eberle winery for Wine Country This Week.

And off I go—to Paso Robles in the morning. I fired back a response to my editor and she seemed genuinely grateful that I could go on short notice. It’s a step in the right direction–and the best part? It’s fun.

So, the computer works, 15 and a half years of teaching are in the bag, a good dinner, a quiet evening before a writing gig–and, I almost forgot, the patio cover for my little retreat out the French doors off the dining room of the house is almost done. Charlie and Scott, two very good friends and school colleagues of mine, have gotten into the business of building these covers and they did such a good job on the back yard that we had them put in a fully covered structure on our side-yard where we spend most of our outdoor time.

I know–a hodge podge, and not carefully written. I save that for the magazine. Cheers.

Mac saga continues

The thing is taking a lot longer than I thought. I have a new appreciation for why computers cost what they do and what is involved in keeping them going. It makes perfect sense that they cost so much money–they’re friggin’ complicated…

I never imagined that this small little laptop could have as many layers as it does in that thin aluminum shell. There are no less than 6 different layers of logicboard and modem and all the rest of it that simply blow me away. I was with Edd for about 2 and a half hours before I had to return home to do some things. It did not occur to me that it would take the better part of his afternoon to get this done and I feel bad. I will, of course, compensate him for his time and effort.

In any event, if all goes well–I shall post tomorrow from my laptop. Keep your fingers crossed.

State of the Household

The parts for the Mac should arrive tomorrow. Thursday morning early, Edd and I will see if we can piece the thing back together in an acceptable way.

That’s not all that is occupying me tonight–but what is occupying me is Sue has a girls’ night thingy and I’m in charge at home. So Peanut and I are going to eat warm baked apples (I’ll wash that down with Kris Curran’s Grenache Blanc–lovely stuff, a Spanish grape grown near Lompoc that just melts in your mouth), watch Disney channel or Food Network, she likes Rachel Ray, and then I’ll be in charge of bedtime. So-a veritable novel ahead tomorrow, but for now–go watch the State of the Union speech.

The Path to 9/11

Cyrus Nowrasteh is a name I’ve mentioned before. He’s a fine writer and his latest film that aired on ABC last September was The Path to 9/11. It was an extraordinary docudrama that focused on the steps and mis-steps that led us up to that horrible day. The movie focused pretty closely on John O’Neill , a former FBI agent who was involved in the original attempts to capture Osama Bin Laden after the 1993 WTC attacks and other terror plots.

It is, of course, the ultimate in irony that O’Neill took the post as director of security for the WTC and ended up dying there on September 11th.

From the moment the film was publicized, political hacks from the Clinton Administration (this in no way denies the fact that there are political hacks in the Bush–and other administrations) began attacking it. Not having seen the film, they launched a publicity crusade that offered up defense after defense, lie after lie (at one point, President Clinton said on Larry King live that he felt he didn’t do enough to capture Bin Laden–then, two weeks later in his now infamous explosive interview on Fox News Sunday, he said that he came closer than anybody ever did and tried very hard to get Bin Laden), and in the end got about 2 minutes of the film censored.

The section that was cut dealt with a point in the Clinton Presidency when CIA operatives found Bin Laden with the help of the Afghan Northern Alliance and attempted to capture him. The film portrays CIA director George Tenet, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and White House Terror Consultant Richard Clarke all connected electronically and asking permission from Berger to give the order to grab Bin Laden. In the film, creative license is taken and has Berger sever the communication line before he allows any responsibility to take place. According to multiple sources, though this situation did not go down essentially this way—it did indeed go down.

A reasonable viewer would understand, of course, that this was all before September 11th. In the light of political fallout and perhaps the fear of backlash (which there would assuredly have been), Berger refused to give the order and the mission was aborted. Politics happens and all that. Certainly in the second night of the film (which ran over two nights on ABC), the Bush Administration looks just as feckless, just as lost in the headlights of an impending terror attack.

It is in light of this information that Sandy Berger’s recent slap on the wrist for the crime of raiding the National Archives and hiding documents in his pants leg and jacket, that Cyrus spoke to an audience on the campus of California State University, Channel Islands. Cyrus made the point that Berger was saying rather vociferously that the film wasn’t true–and the Clinton-ites denounced Cyrus in droves, calling him a political hack, etc. Cyrus is lots of things, but a political ideologue is not one of them. I know–because I know Cyrus and taught his eldest son at Adolfo Camarillo High School. Cyrus came into to speak to my Composition class about writing and, out of the three speakers we had that year, was by far and away the best and most helpful when it came to talking about the craft of writing. That’s what Cyrus is–he’s a writer, passionate about his craft and committed to telling the story as accurately as he can.

Indeed, many people have come forward from former FBI and CIA agents, to former members of both the Clinton and Bush Administrations and said that the film is quite accurate in its portrayal. In light of this and in light of Berger’s grand theft at the National Archives–which has been covered up pretty plainly–it is apparent that what the Clinton Administration does not want is to show its own mistakes in dealing with terror.

Cyrus is a man on a mission–and the mission has grown in scope. What started out as a compelling and gripping story–has now become yet another in the long line of political footballs. The mission now is to save it from the spin that is ultimately applied by politicians of every kind, and to allow the truth to come out. For if we admit our mistakes, we can then seek to mend them. No one could seriously blame President Clinton for missing the signs–after all, it’s not like he was the only one. The question now–is whether or not in wartime we have the courage to face our mistakes, count our blessings and look forward to victory over an enemy that will not give up. But that’s OK–because as long as there are people–Americans–like Cyrus–we won’t give up either.

Computerless

Sigh.

I write this from my wife’s computer. It scorns at me while I do so. It’s not a Mac. But it’s a great machine and I am sheepish. As my friend Jason has reminded me, I don’t fit the typical Mac profile–and it’s true, I don’t. I really don’t know why I love Macs as much as I do–but I have to tell you that my love for them is tempered by their atrocious tech support and help. However, they are pretty reliable for the most part.

Sigh…again.

I’ll be doing some writing for a magazine called Wine Country This Week. I was introduced to them by my friend Len Napolitano who is living the wine dream, as they say, moving to Paso Robles and writing about wine quite often in his column and other places. Looks like he and I both will be writing for the mag. I’m pretty excited about it and cannot wait to get started.

I’m rewriting the curriculum for the journalism classes at the high school. As the school–for good or ill (mostly ill) enters the phase of making everything college preparatory, the journalism class is not up to snuff. It does not qualify under the UC/CSU A-G requirements and that all happened on my watch. I’ll be hard at it in February.

So–I’ll thank my lovely and gracious wife for allowing me to post from here–and I’ll await Wednesday with bells on–as the parts for the Mac arrive that day. Hopefully, Edd and I can crack it open and get it all installed lickety split. Then, I’ll be back to normal.

The lesson learned is a hard one and expensive. As I’m going to be more involved in deadlines and writing, I’m going to need backup computing. I knew I would–and even if I had this machine, I’d still need a laptop. So–I’ll wait for a couple of writing checks to come in and get a hold of a Mac mini for the office. These little guys have everything I need in a small and (for Macs) relatively inexpensive package. That way, I can leave the mini upstairs in the office and keep the power book downstairs for maximum use.

I’ll be posting tomorrow on having gone to see Cyrus Nowrasteh speak last night. Fascinating stuff about his film The Path to 9/11. He’s a man on a mission–and it’s a good mission, I think.

Thanks for your patronage–such as it is.

The Nerd-tacular Specifics

I haven’t much time. I’ve switched to auxiliary power and it will run out within the next 30 minutes if I keep using the machines this way. The story is a sad one and when we are fully charged, I will tell you the whole thing.

For now–know two things: 1) The power cord broke off in the Powerbook and and cannot be pulled out. The result is that when the battery loses its charge, it will be the end for the Powerbook. 2) The Apple store is peopled with insufferable weenies who appear very much like that guy that plays a Mac in the commercial. The only difference is, they’re more arrogant, more annoying and the one I “worked” with referred to me as “dude” more than once. His solution to the problem was prefaced with an elongated version of the word “dude” and then followed by his pronouncement that just to look at this particular problem would cost $380.00 and that it could take up to 11 days. He recommended I “go to Hollywood, dude–and find one of the geezers who can work on these machines. Some of ’em are totally magicians and they won’t cost you as much….”

I don’t know Hollywood well, so I asked if there was any place in particular I should go in that town and he said, “just drive around. They’re all over…”

Nice.

So, I went for what I should have done. I called Edd–and he put me on track. This morning, we ordered the parts over the web and Edd and I will attempt to put it together when they arrive. Total cost: $160.00.

And now I know why Macs have the reputation they do. It is deserved. The pompous asses at the Apple store, who insist on chewing their gum fast–and loud–while they’re talking to you, have no real answers except to charge you a LOT more money. To be honest, if this ends up costing any more than $300.00, I’ll go out and buy another P.C. At least when it breaks down, it can be fixed without having to consort with the “Apple Geniuses” who amount to nothing more, really, than computer geeks gone very, very awry.

I shall try to post from other venues. Until we’re up and running. I bid you all good-night. I still have e-mail access–so don’t hesitate to write.

Come to think of it–that’s everything.