Monday, November 17, 2008

Elephant Seal Friends

photos by California Sue

The 30-day countdown begins for this blog's namesake: My big 6-0-dear! And life offers a brilliant array of possibilities, focus, confidence and newness. Aligned in the new column is my recent designation to serve as a volunteer docent for the Friends of the Elephant (FES) Seal on California's Central Coast.

This new life slice began in September when an advertisement caught my eye--an elephant seal sporting a red, white and blue Uncle Sam's chapeau and asking for volunteer guides. I applied on-line, noting my previous volunteer efforts, was asked to have some coffee and conversation at the French Bakery in "downtown" Cambria, which ended with, "You'll receive a letter soon that will outline the training schedule. Welcome aboard."

So, various experts in marine mammals, oceanography, local sea-life, ecology, and birding filled my head with magical visions and priceless information. The best elephant seal docents mentored me, I shared time with other volunteers who started this Friends of the Elephant Seals organization when the seals first hauled out on Piedras Blancas and humans were mindlessly running around these creatures on the beach (endangering themselves and the seals), and I now know fellow freshman docents.

Last week a raucous sea churned tons of kelp. Kelp hills lined the incoming tide line. I led spouse down and groused through the fresh kelp mounds looking at what I once saw as nothing but a pile of fly-attracting goop to discover a plethora of kelp varieties full of color, sizes, habitat and mystery. Saturday, California Sue and Janet were treated to another kelp show and tell. Soon, Janet was collecting pieces to take home. We talked about all the crafty things we could do with these samples of beauty. We headed north for my docent time at the elephant seal viewing point. I donned my blue FES jacket and began asking visitors if they had any questions about these creatures, that like the kelp, at first look like recently washed up do-nothing mounds of sea life, but when further explored harbor only just-begun investigation, all while California Sue lost (gained??) three hours and 129 photos of elephant seals.

Go to my page to view Sue's complete photo collection.

For more information about Friends of the Elephant Seal visit You can also write Friends of the Elephant Seal, PO Box 490, Cambria, CA 93428.

BTW if you are visiting the Central Coast, let me know and I'll be happy to give you more info about visiting the elephant seals.

Who are those docent mentors? Jim Brownell, Ann Grossman, and Bill and Pat Johnson.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why Barack Obama is President-Elect

The Santa Fe Mother Blogger spends too much time on her computer. Email debating is a big portion of my computer time with a group of near and on six-oh-dear! birth dates. It's called The Sandbox. Three sandboxers sent me their thoughts about this year's election. Thanks to Bob Johnson, California Sue and Jay Pelzer, all of today's guest bloggers. Please take a minute to read these diverse and thoughtful pieces.

By Robert Johnson

As I write this short reflection, we are three days removed from selecting the twelfth President to serve in office during my "60 O' Dear" years on this small planet.  I thought it best to put down these thoughts without reference to winners and losers. 

Political pundits have beaten the drum for almost two years and yet I find little or nothing in the candidates that strikes a strong chord, that truly resonates with me.  Although I found myself much more immersed in the day-to-day roller coaster rides of the candidates-in-waiting than in prior quadrennial bouts (one of the joys of semi-retirement) I could find little to recommend the process that I was witnessing.  Perhaps it is the dumbing down of our national discourse--a Presidential campaign reduced to meaningless sound bites, repetitive stump speeches, empty promises, sub voce innuendo - politics as usual on both sides of the narrowing aisle. 

Before dotting my ballot with a black marker (no hanging chads this go-around) I decided to do a quick historical survey of Presidents who served in office during my lifetime.  Since 1948 there have been eleven, six Republicans, five Democrats, comprising 35 and 25 years in office, respectively.  I thought it might be illuminating to peg specific moments in my life on the Presidential time-line.  Perhaps that sequence of dates would somehow demonstrate a recurring pattern of good times/bad times in correlation to the holder of the Presidency.  No luck!  I was born with a Democrat in office, married and had our children with a Republican in office, received my Bachelor's degree under a Republican, and my law degree under a Democrat, got divorced under a Democrat and retired from my government years under a Republican. 

Quite a mixed bag, but nothing substantial enough to sway me to the left or right for this election.

 After taking a short break to refill my empty glass with a mediocre California red (these being hard economic times), it dawned on me that perhaps all of this election brouhaha is nothing more than sound and fury, an empty tempest, signifying  nothing.  I came to the realization that the occupant of the Oval Office has a net-zero effect on the day to day lives of those around me, whether rich, poor, black, white, green or pink.  We live our lives as a "do-it-yourselfers". We don't look to government to solve our problems.  No one in government  stands in the way of what we choose to do with the remaining years of our lives.  So I shall leave it at that. 

Personally, I do not find my heroes in the West Wing or in the hallowed halls of Congress, I find them in much simpler places, a family gathering, a church service, a community project, a walk around the block.  From this election day forward my mantra shall be: "Let all the scalawags have Washington, D.C., just stay clear of 74th Street and its nearer environs.  My neighbors, friends and I will do just fine looking after each other without you. "

 From my perspective, we become a nation divided when we are bombarded, each and every day, with those societal issues that separate us from one another.  From my small corner of the urban wilderness, the issues that divide us are most loudly trumpeted in four year intervals, coinciding with election cycles.   Our more unifying qualities are somehow forgotten, our more divisive qualities brought to the fore.  Enough is enough, it is time to ring the bell, bringing an end to Round Twelve of the Ultimate Presidential Fighting Championship.  Here comes the referee and it looks like a split decision.

Why is it time for Barack Obama to be President of the United States?

by California Sue

 We need to thank one political party for the other's election. Simply put, Conservatives have made it possible for Obama to be elected in the 2008 Presidential election. Why:

 1. We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the great depression. Corporations and individuals' wealth, retirement funds, and home ownership have plummeted.

 2. Since the early 1990s, Conservatives have either held the Presidency or the majority of Congress, or both for all but two years.

 3. In the eyes of other nations, the United States foreign affairs approval rating is abysmal.

 4. The Grand Old Party, over the years, has metamorphosed into something unrecognizable. It now holds itself in such high esteem as to define which religion is good and which is not, who is a Christian and who is not. To be a Conservative used to mean respect for civil liberties and passed on the message that we should conduct our lives standing up for the basic freedoms we ALL hold so dear.

 I have an acquaintance that is conservative- born of many generations before him.  I respect and admire his passion for, and belief in the conservative ideology.  Politely reminded of the definition of conservative, I was prompted to look up the same for liberal. This is when I knew Obama would win the 2008 Presidential election.

 My Webster's New World Dictionary defines conservative as: 1. tending to conserve; 2. tending to preserve established institutions, opposed to change; 3. moderate; cautious.

It also defines liberal as: 1. generous 2. ample; abundant 3. not literal or strict 4. tolerant; broad-minded 5. favoring reform or progress.

 Given the four points listed above, it was not hard to figure out that this great country needs more tolerance of the world around us, reform of economic policies, and additional progress to become a better functioning society as a whole.

 The conservative party needs to find itself again, and reinstate the original values, before it can elect another Republican to the office of the Presidency.

A Tongue In Cheek Thought About What If McCain Won

by Jay Pelzer

McCain won because Obama knocked on the wrong door in Akron, Ohio. "Joe the Plumber" walked outside to talk to him. And, with all the media watching, Obama said he wants to "spread the wealth." And the whole country heard him

Then, instead of letting the story die, Obama and his liberal media cohorts gave it "super life" by drawing more and more attention to it. To discredit him, they dipped so low as to say that Joe's real name isn't "Joe." It's his middle name. (My mother has always gone by her middle name ... Lina. You can scream "Mary" at her all day long and she won't turn around.) They point out that he isn't a "licensed" plumber. But they fail to point out that he doesn't have to be as long as he works for a licensed company. Obama ridicules Joe for days asking, "Does anyone know a plumber who makes $250,000?" Biden is out asking crowds the same question. But everyone clearly heard Joe say that it is the COMPANY that "makes $250,000, or 270 or 280."

And the best thing they all did was to show the brilliance of the Republican Party. The media were all trying to paint Joe as a "plant" by the Republicans. So, 14 years in advance, the Republicans knew:

• Obama would be the candidate;
• Obama would go door to door in Ohio
• Obama would go to the door of the house in which Joe lives; and
• the taxable income level that would be in question would be at $250,000. The sheer clairvoyance of the Republican Party amazed every one.

Even after having the media score another victory for Obama in the debate, on the "night of Joe," his lead in the polls fell from 7 points in some polls, to 14 points in another, down to 2 to 4 points in all the major polls ... all in less than three days.

At the Inauguration John McCain gave a shoutout to Barack Obama ... who was at home writing his next book, "How America Stole the Election ... The Defeat of a Black Socialist.”