Pismo Beach

Spent the day up in Pismo Beach Saturday with the family culminated by an underwhelming dinner at Jocko’s. Great steaks, but a cranky, hungry, tired child who didn’t like what she ordered sort of slowed the evening.

We walked on the beach at Pismo and we looked around at houses with the purpose of thinking about buying a second home. The reality and practicality of such a thing was brought home to us during the day and while we found some truly beautiful homes, we have to bring this mortgage under more control before we think about making a second one.

Still, spending the day there was just more proof, and I didn’t need any more, of how badly I want to live up on the Central Coast. It’s just a better place for me to live, a place where I’d be more at home, more comfortable.

Alas, my wife, my sister-in-law and daughter aren’t really keen on moving just now. So, I bide more time.

The rolling hills, the soft sunsets and wide, clean beaches are dotted by small apple farms and wineries large and small along with dairy farms and horse ranches. Then, rolling closer to the coast, small villages, like Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Pismo grow out of the hillsides. Quaint downtowns with tourist trapping shops, narrow roads with minimal traffic, friendly folks and constantly wonderful weather are the norm. It’s home, really.

Well, fantasies abound. Who knows? Maybe I can get them to come around…

Slow Joe versus Sweet Sarah, eh?

Yes, it’s the first week of school down. Yes, all went well. Yes, Peanut is doing well at school. All of that is good.

But this is bloody brilliant. Best news in a long time. absoultely farging brilliant!

McCain sealed his maverick reputation. He picked Sarah Palin, about whom I’ve blogged previously and some time ago, too. I said then and I say now, she’s a brilliant choice. It’s actually hard to imagine a scenario right now, short of Palin or McCain themselves blowing it with some completely left-field comment, in which Obama wins the Presidency. I don’t think he can, actually.

But, then, I’m nowhere near naive enough to say it’s locked up. It’s a close race–and if you pull the camera far back enough, you get the historical brilliance of this fight: If the Dems win, a black man becomes President. If the Reps win, a woman becomes Vice-President. It’s actually very, very cool.

But, I’m a partisan. I’m not interested in a person’s race or gender, for that matter. Still, the choice of Sarah Palin for Vice President is an inspired one that has really created smiles across the conservative spectrum. As for liberals–well, what can I say? My friends and colleages, Don among them–he has posted comments here before–are attempting to pull the absurd, “she’s not qualified…” meme. Funny. Don walked into my classroom today and said, “a beauty queen is one heartbeat away from the Presidency?” My reply–though I’m not sure Don heard it was, “yes, Don–our V.P. candidate is ALMOST as inexperienced as your Presidential candidate…”

Palin has Executive experience. She has nearly single-handedly taken on the corruption of people like Ted Stevens, a Republican Senator from Alaska who brought pork, pork and more pork to his state and destroyed them. Remember the bridge to nowhere? Palin got rid of that.

Palin took on special interests in her state and won. Palin went up against oil companies who wanted more breaks than they already got and she won. Palin is for drilling in ANWR. Palin is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-faith, pro-growth, anti-tax and is an absolute dream V.P. candidate.

This race is in overdrive and Obama is playing catch up. I made a prediction about Sarah Palin sometime ago–so, I’ll double down. If McCain-Palin can keep from major gaffes, the Republicans not only keep the White House, they may gain seats in the House of Representatives and the White House will be won by more than 2 percentage points (est: 52 for McCain Palin…48 for Obama-Biden).

I’m jazzed. This is a better announcement than I could have hoped for. This is better than Kasich, even and I’m a John Kasich fan. But Sarah Palin is an inspired choice. She’s not without risk–she’s young, she’s untried in National politics–but it is a bold move and McCain needed a bold move to change the ground game.

Today–he did just that.

Updating the Rant

Thptpthpthpthtppththpp…..Etc. Air out of tires and all that. Apologies for the lack of updates since the venerable tequila post. I simply ran out of time in the day. No kidding. First week back to school for both me and Peanut, working very hard to meet today’s deadlines for the project that must not be named (I made the deadline and will know if I made it to phase 2 tomorrow), and trying to drum up some other freelance work as well. It’s been a busy week. Top it off with tonight’s excursion to a Mexican restaurant where I ate and drank too much and you have a recipe for…well….malaise.

So, it was malaise that propelled me to sit through and watch reaction to the Obama-mania speech. He revved ’em up, no question. I caught the end and then the analysis. It was a spectacle that I have to believe the Dems fear did exactly what I think it did do which was highlight the fact that this man is all style and no substance.

The speech was typical Democrat fare: “Your life sucks, you should count on us to make it better. And, oh yeah–Bush sucks, too.” Old. Tired. Hackneyed. But, lots of pep and style.

Obama will definitely get a bump, but it won’t be huge. And when it comes right down to it, tomorrow is a new day and also a day in which John McCain will announce his running mate. The fact that he is making the announcement in Ohio leads me to hope, though not necessarily to believe, that it is John Kasich who will get the nod. If that’s the case–it is, in my opinion, a brilliant move.

The Presidential race is in play in a big way and the Democrats simply have to be concerned that for all the pomp, all the money and all the hoopla–they still don’t have that much to work with. Their candidate is weak and his V.P. pick was uninspired. Obama can talk about change all he wants–but what he represents is very simple: If you like a country under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the Dems in congress, then vote for Barack Obama–because he’ll sign all of their legislation. If, on the other hand you want real change, the kind that will A) make your life better because it will allow you to choose what you want to do and B) will work hard to protect you against the growing threats of a world filled with murderous terrorists and totalitarian governments on the march yet again. That’s it.

It is now–and always was–an easy decision. Pro-life, pro-responsibility, pro-America, pro-growth, pro-McCain.

Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila

As a sommelier, I confess that my experience and expertise are in wine–not much in spirits. However, there are spirits I do truly enjoy and I’ve written about Ventura Limoncello, one of the greatest local products I’ve ever tasted.

I was given the opportunity to taste Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila this evening and as my wife is a big tequila nut and I’m a fan as well, I took advantage of it. There are a lot of tequilas out there and unlike wine, there are very few differentiations. Tequila is tequila, yes? Well, no.

Maestro struck me as smoother than most and I have now come to the point where I won’t buy the usual amber colored tequila. Truth be told, tequila is supposed to be clear, not amber. When it is amber, it means it’s not 100 percent agave. The Maestro isn’t entirely clear, but it is mostly. If there is any amber color at all it is a tint, a hint–not a “full throated shout” as Niles Crane might say.

It’s a blended tequila, but it is brewed, distilled in small batches and it is all done by hand. It’s signed by the Dobel family and it is uniquely mild, I thought. The makers describe it as crisp, but I wouldn’t use that description–which is not to say I’m detracting from it. It’s a good, smooth, mellow tequila without any harshness to it and it’s obvious that this one is a top shelf beverage.

We made margaritas first with it because, well–we’re traditionalists. We had my wife’s low-fat burritos for dinner and I went to Trader Joe’s for tequila mix. I’ve found theirs to be the best that I’ve tried as I am not fond of Jose Cuervo or other mixes that tend to overpower the spirits creating an almost lemonade type of drink. Too much sugar. TJ’s doesn’t seem to do that, though I am uncertain why.

In any event, the Maestro is as good as advertised. It’s beautifully clear with, as I mentioned, a hint of amber and it is smooth. Barrel aged and brewed with care, it seems, this is a keeper.

If you care about tequila, you should try this one. Yes, it’s retail price is high at $75.00–but this is a luxury beverage. As a reposado tequila, it really is top notch and better, I think, than the Patron Silver about which I’ve written in the past.

As an aperitif, it is lovely and sweet, oaky and smooth with that citrus hint that lets you know its ancestry. I’m impressed, to be honest. Have at it.

Summer's End

Well, it has all come to this. It has indeed been the greatest summer ever for Sue, Peanut and me and officially, it ends tomorrow. Peanut still has a couple of days of vacation, but I report in tomorrow and so the summer is over. Over. That sounds so final, doesn’t it? There’s always next year.

I won’t do a retrospective here, I’ve covered the summer fairly well. I really enjoyed working as a reporter for the local paper and I continue in that role, now, with fewer assignments than normal. I’ll try to keep up with one a week or more if I can. I will also be writing for Wine Country This Week and on occasion, for Decanter.com They aren’t the only ones, though. The project that must not be named is coming closer in and so far, I’m surviving the preliminary training and testing phase fairly well. I cannot give details yet, as I say. But, it will be one more thing I’m doing.

Keeping busy this way is important for me. It’s my 18th year of teaching and I really want to get myself into position to have other revenue streams, if you will. I also want to keep my mind occupied in something other than just the classroom. I don’t hate teaching–far from it. But, I am getting a bit bored at times. So, this year, I changed my schedule around, dropped the yearbook which I ran for three years and added in some new courses. It should be a bit more fun, more challenging. But, even so–the writing keeps me challenged and it adds a few more dollars to the kitty which adds to our family accomplishing some things we’d like to in the next few years.

Rambling. Thursday, as previously reported, I awoke with a fever and a sore throat. The fever is gone, the throat is still a bit sore–but what’s been added is a terrible fatigue. I cannot seem to shake it. Sleep is all I want to do, that is until I get into bed. Then, I lie there unable to sleep. It’s a vicious cycle. Last night and today, I’ve had some tenderness in my left side under the rib cage. It dawned on me that I’ve had this feeling before, of course. In 1983, when I was 18 years old, I contracted mononucleosis and had it for nearly 6 months. It was a rough road. I feel that way again and it surprises me. I’m hoping it’s nothing more than a simple virus, maybe a strep throat thing–but I’ll tell you, if I have mono at 43 years old–it’s going to be a craptacular fall. Say a prayer or two, would you? I appreciate it.

Well, my kids don’t come until Tuesday, but tomorrow is the promise of meetings and bureaucracy–all well designed to put yours truly sound asleep. Oy. Goodnight.

The Veepstakes

Caution: Decidedly genuine political thought ahead. It may offend you because it chooses a side right of center and it is generally right, that is correct, thinking. If you’ve no stomach for my political views (and again, who could blame you?), read no further:

He picked Joe Biden? Allow me to point out here that if I was clever enough, I’d have audio of a ridiculously loud laugh. Slow Joe is definitely the man, yes? Obama wasn’t satisfied with pointing out the “vastly superior” Chinese infrastructure. I wonder how that went over with the loyal labor movement in the U.S.? He wasn’t satisfied with his ties to an American terrorist and he wasn’t satisfied with attacking McCain for his home-ownership only to leave the door open to his own dark dealings with Tony Rezko in Chicago, a man who has been convicted on 16 felony counts of fraud.

Slow Joe. Hugh Hewitt, the nicest guy in media, has all of the particulars and his reactions, aside from a few typo’s, are absolutely right on. I’ve followed Biden since he first ran for President way back before the 21st Century. You know, when he plagiarized?

Look, I’m a McCain guy. I have been for some time now–well before he was the last man standing. But like Mr. Hewitt, I really kind of thought that “the one” would be smart enough to go and make a good V.P. choice. His entire candidacy is based on change, on bringing new ideas to Washington–so what’s he do? He picks the ultimate Washington insider as his running mate. There’s change for you, no? The fact is, Mr. Biden is an affable sort and he’s got an easy style along with some serious street cred. on foreign relations. Trouble is-his street cred. is based precisely on what conservatives like–he voted for the Iraq war, he said that an early withdraw from Iraq would be dangerous and he also believed that setting a time-table for troops leaving was also a big mistake.

Still, I was, like Mr. Hewitt, thinking that Evan Bayh would be chosen or Tim Kaine of Virginia. Both of those men would have been tough campaigners. Hewitt says he was afraid that Obama would pick General Anthony Zinni or even Hillary Clinton. It would have been a much tougher race had he done so. One thing is certain–if Mitt Romney is the V.P. candidate for McCain, which looks increasingly likely, The Massachusetts Mormon will wipe the floor with Slow Joe of Delaware. It won’t even be a contest.

This is not to say that it won’t be a tough election. I know it will and McCain is going to have to earn every vote he gets. Three months is a long time in the media and things can happen, to be sure. But, the good Mr. McCain has just been handed yet another gift from the questionable Mr. Obama. In a package marked “from Delaware,” Mr. Obama has ensured that any convention bump he gets will be much smaller than the one Mr. McCain gets when the RNC meets next month.

Thank you, Mr. Obama. Thank you for choosing the one V.P. candidate that could well ensure that the Republicans not only hold on to the White House, but actually gain a few seats in the House and Senate as well. Those of us Republicans out here, “clinging to our guns, churches and morals,” are sincerely appreciative of your choice.

Update: Tom Bevan of RCP points out this in a post today. If indeed John Kasich is in the mix for McCain V.P. choices, he would immediately become my favorite. I think John Kasich is the real deal, a Midwesterner with real conservative credentials, common sense and the ability to talk (he’s done time as a radio and television host).

Words, words, words

I make myself a promise that I’ll try to write a thousand words a day in some form or another. There are days when that doesn’t happen, but truthfully not many of them. Today, however, I exceeded my goal by 200 percent or more and this just adds on to that.

Got a breaking story from the newspaper and got to write that which was pretty interesting and disheartening all at the same time. Taggers and graffiti punks laying waste to one of the local parks and as usual, ruining for those that want to use the facilities without harming them. It made for a good story. It’s happening right down the street from my own home, however, and the people involved aren’t just painting pretty pictures illegally. In fact, there’s nothing pretty about what they’re painting. Swastikas, graphic obscenities and assorted other absurdities. Sigh. Is there any escape from the nihilism of the skateboarding community?

Meanwhile, that project-that-must-not-be-named required more content from me and I worked on that for the better part of last night, polishing it up this morning. I counted it as half of yesterday’s work and half of today’s. I look forward to being able to share it with you, which rest assured, I will, when it is time.

Meanwhile, the last weekend of summer is here. It was one year ago today that Sofie arrived on our doorstep and that’s hard to believe. The time has flown, everyone is a year older, everyone has a new perspective in our home–one that includes the inner workings of the mind of a teenage girl from Belgium who a year ago, changed our lives forever. Now, we’re just about to start school sans one member of the family and with a whole new focus on all of our lives. Peanut in second grade, Sue taking on another consulting gig and I writing for as many publications as I can while teaching a full load of high school English and Journalism.

Method to the madness? Of course there is. Will I share it with you? Not really. Suffice to say that our family has some goals that we seek to accomplish in the next few years and that we’ve all come to agree on. The first is rather mundane and that is that when we moved into this house two years ago this month, we got a HELOC loan and we will pay that off in the next three years. After that–well, it gets rather personal.

This has been the very best summer our family has had since Peanut was born. The others weren’t bad, understand–this was just the best. The best vacations, the best work, the best sleep, the best learning, the best fun, the best everything. And here I am at the end of it. I can remember last June anxiously awaiting August so we could go on our vacation. Now, I’m looking back at the memories. Time goes by so…blah blah blah. I know.

Happy Friday, good people.

Under the Weather

Whoa! How did that happen? I was minding my own business, writing a post, reading a little, boning up on some research I’m doing for the as yet unnamed project and got tired. I went to bed expecting to lull off to a long and good sleep. It was anything but….

I awoke an hour and a half later with the chills and remained rather in and out all night with a fever and this morning, a wicked sore throat. No other complaints–no other symptoms and an onset like a train wreck. Felt a little better this afternoon, though pretty exhausted, and tonight I’m just beat. Fever’s still there, though–I can feel it. It’s not very high, but then, I’m not a fever person. I don’t get them that often and when I do, it wears me down.

The as-yet-unnamed-project has required from me a great deal of research and writing. In the end, I believe it will pay off–but it will take about another 3 weeks or so before I know anything. Part of the issue is, I have to start getting a better night’s sleep because this work is requiring a bit of effort from me. It’s a different kind of writing than I am used to and it doesn’t come as naturally to me. Still, I like doing it and I’m excited by the opportunity. Cannot wait to share it–but alas, it will be as yet another 3 weeks or so.

I’ve been losing weight—on purpose. My wife and I decided to make some positive changes and they’ve worked pretty well so far, I’d say. We’re going slow and at the same time, making a change in lifestyle as to the food choices we make, avoiding the things that will cause us to use phrases like, “my cardiologist says…” when we’re 50.

School starts Monday, as I’ve written previously. I suppose I’m ready–or at least, resigned. Because I no longer run the yearbook, I’ll be keeping a lower profile this year. I’m excited about that. I’ve actually already begun doing so. I have been sparse in my e-mailing of staff, an unusual quiet for me, and when I’m forced to respond to something, I do so in as few words as possible. I think after 17 years of teaching, I’ve finally begun to understand what my mentors and friends used to say to me all the time: “You learn to just shut your door, do your job–and keep your nose clean.” That’s probably true of many jobs, I suppose–but in the realm of public education, where opinions are so free for the taking, asking, giving, etc.—it’s easy to argue points and make claims. I’m done with that. I’m a little more interested in “shutting my door, doing my job and keeping my nose clean,” I think.

Once again, the fever and tiredness creep up on me. Good night, all.

Irons and Fires

We got home late last evening from Carpenteria State Beach near Santa Barbara. It’s about a half hour’s drive from here. Our friends the Davis family are camping there while their kitchen is remodeled and they had a beach-front spot. We went up and had dinner at Senor Frog’s downtown. A good time–summer winding down, sunset over the water and the sea lions barking out on the rocks.

I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire just now and sort of awaiting various things. Unfortunately, I really cannot mention any of these issues because none of them are certain yet and I’m not comfortable discussing any of it until I kind of “hit the ball in the hole.” Once I do, I’ll shout it from the rooftops, as they say. The one thing I will say is that these particular irons have to do with a much more prominent Internet presence.

Meanwhile, the last week of summer rolls along. Peanut finished her summer swim lessons today and is doing remarkably well. She’s a fish, as they say, and she loves it. We’re encouraging this because to be honest, swimming is just an awesome sport and all of the kids I know at the high school who were swimmers had and have jobs as lifeguards making more than 12 bucks an hour and staying in shape. It’s also a great boost for her self-esteem and it has been a really fine way for her to get out and play. Good stuff.

I’m on as dad, chef, house-cleaner, dog caretaker and the rest today–so, I’m off….

A Summer worth Remembering

Took a little downtime from the post-vacation unpacking, laundry, etc. I’ve got no reason to be, but I’m absolutely exhausted. Point of fact is probably that my body is catching up on all the sleep it didn’t really get. You never really sleep well in a hotel–well, not never–but when you’re with a child and the beds aren’t as comfortable as they could be. You get what you basically need, but not enough. By the time I got home and tried to “get back to the grind,” well, I was pooped.

School starts up for my 18th year as a teacher next week. I report on Monday and aside from dropping by my classroom tomorrow for assorted other reasons, I’m not going in until that time. Just not interested in doing it right now and pretty focused on life in this side of the summer.

Still keeping up the writing schedule, though I have not written anything for the paper since I’ve been back. I imagine I’ll get something this week. I’ve been pitching stories like mad to Decanter.com and they are lovely people. So much so, in fact, that when they tell me “no” they’re so good at it, so polite–that I feel good about the response.

OK. Not really “good” per se, but good enough to keep pitching other material.

I’m also pitching to other magazines to see what trouble I can get into. Now that I’m doing it, my philosophy is…to keep doing it. No reason to stop. Rejections don’t bother me and haven’t really now for more than 5 years. I’m hitting enough that it’s comfortable for my writing ego–if such a thing there be.

What a glorious summer it’s been with the early San Diego and Disneyland trip with Sofie. Seeing her off was hard, but necessary and we still keep in touch. We miss her dearly and think of her all the time. Every night, Peanut prays for her–as do we all–and it’s hard to believe that she arrived a year ago this Friday. Amazing how the time simply evaporated before our very eyes.

Then I got very busy with the newspaper and the wine magazine. When I got a hit at Decanter, well that was the highlight for me in terms of career. The real highlight of the summer, though, was our recent vacation up to Pleasanton via Santa Maria, Cambria and Paso Robles. I cannot think of a better vacation.

As I say, tiredness is creeping up on me just as the summer creeps away. Off, gentles–to sleep.