Categories
California

Trip to Paso Robles

Last weekend was a three day holiday due to President’s Day so we decided to take a trip south.  We left on Saturday morning arriving in Monterey around 10: 30 AM to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It is good to get there early before the crowds of tourists who usually show up around noon.

My boys had an excellent time, especially the younger who really likes sharks and fish.  He ran around the place pointing and exclaiming ‘shark,’ and ‘fish.’  It was very cute and made for a wonderful memory.  My favorites are the jellyfish and sardines.  The jellyfish really is their most beautiful attraction and serves as the aquariums main photo for advertising.  The sardines have two or three displays:  one of them is them swimming in a silver circle above your head as you enter the “Open Oceans” exhibit.  The second is in the ceiling high, enormous tank which is to mimic an open ocean.  In this display they swim around in a gigantic ball of fish that moves and flows like a glinting silver cloud.  It changes shape avoiding passing sea creatures returning to a ball or stretched out stream.

We had lunch at Loui Linguini’s on Cannery Row.  Like the aquarium, we were also very early for lunch and were the first ones there.  This meant we could have a table right by the window overlooking Monterey Bay.  The food was also pretty decent and much better than expected for a tourist spot.  To pay for the meal I used Samsung Pay which has surprised almost every vendor where I’ve used it.  Loui Linguini’s staff was most surprised first telling me “sorry, we don’t have a scanner.”  I told them I didn’t need a special scanner.

The terminal on the restaurant floor was broken so the one just around the corner in the kitchen had to be used.  Our Mexican waiter went into the kitchen to ask the manager and came back out telling me it wouldn’t work.  I told him it would and he disappeared back into the kitchen to ask the manager again.  Finally, I was allowed to try, put my phone up to the normal credit card swipe on the terminal and lo and behold it worked like I said it would.  The manager was dumbfounded and said “That makes no sense to me.”  It was quite obvious he didn’t like being proved wrong in front of his staff but I really wanted to use my Samsung Pay as I get points for every purchase!

Samsung Pay is great especially for the fact that it amazes most vendors.  With Apple / Android Pay the vendors need to have a special scanner but not so with Samsung.  Samsung is the only phone maker with a special chip inside where you simply need to set it next to the card reader.  You activate payment with a fingerprint or pin and then a magnetic field is created for 10 seconds only on the phone.  It really is pretty neat how it works.  The only places I’ve found it doesn’t work well are at gas station terminals and vendors that need to punch in the CVV code which of course is used to prove you have the actual card at time of purchase.

We left Monterey around 2:00 PM heading for Paso Robles arriving around 3:30 PM. Whenever I go to Paso Robles the only place I’ll stay is the historic Paso Robles Inn.  In fact, I won’t go to Paso Robles until the reservation is secured because this hotel is half the reason we go there at all;  the other half is wine tasting.  In fact, we go there so often that I’m actually the Duke of the Paso Robles Inn on Yelp!  I like to check-in as soon as possible just to always confirm that we have a bottom level room, overlooking the garden with an extra bed (cot) set up inside.  I’ve already confirmed that there is a jacuzzi, all of which come with the natural heated spring water that Paso Robles is famous for.

The check-in was quick and we were then off to Tooth and Nail winery.  I love this place for a couple of reasons:  the first is it is a castle complete with a moat; the second is the wine bottle labels are absolutely beautiful – have won awards – many with a Don Quixote theme which is one of my favorite novels; and finally the wine is delicious and has gotten better as new ownership gets their bearings.

Upon entering we learned that they had created a members only area in a small room straight ahead as one first walks into the castle.  We were the only members there so had the small, but comfortable room to ourselves.  They also go straight to the reserve tastings which of course is free.  The boys put out their toys and had some fun playing while I spoke with Teri who has a son trying to get work in Japan and also had adopted from Vietnam.  I happen to know these two countries very well so the chat was both interesting and long.

I then thought it would be nice to pop into the main tasting area as the ambiance was a bit better with a nice fireplace, smaller crowd and a little less claustrophobic.  We did the regular tasting there by the fireplace while my youngest son made friends with a ‘glam dog’ owned by one of the three trendy ladies sitting on the couch next to us.

Next it was back to the forever sedate downtown Paso Robles for dinner.  We were not very hungry so I looked for a Spanish tapas place and found La Cosecha right next to the park which also happens to be right in front of the Paso Robles Inn.  Unfortunately there was an hour wait although many tables were empty.  That is the thing with Paso Robles, it always looks half deserted yet you’ll always need to make reservations well in advance for the hotel and restaurants.  The wineries on the other hand still maintain their countryside charm where the people are friendly, the tastings *mostly* free, and gaggles of bridesmaids parties have not yet overrun the place.  Actually, there was an event at Tooth and Nail but I wasn’t sure if it was a bridesmaids party or after event of a wedding.  Either way there were a number of single ladies in attendance and on the hunt in their semi-intoxicated state.  One gave me the eyes as I passed by and although I’d at least like to have acknowledged with a glance back so as not to be rude, I had to maintain indifference as I’m not available and she would have thought me a creep anyway once she realized I’m chasing kids around.

Back to dinner, we weren’t going to wait for an hour which would have been easily doable by passing time in the park except that there was the extremely rare instance of actual rain along with restless children.  So we went for a little stroll looking for another restaurant and found Odyssey World Cafe.  It is an unremarkable restaurant with less than mediocre ambiance at best but they did have a decent menu for both kids and adults alike.  It was acceptable and we were not entirely displeased.  They also had Trivial Pursuit decks at the table and my six year old was actually beating my wife by two questions at one point!  One question he got was which letter of the alphabet has the least amount of words beginning with it.  Of course the answer was X and he got it faster than my wife.  But neither of them could answer very many and so I eventually just made up questions about Pokémon all of which my son answered correctly.

Speaking of Pokémon we hadn’t played Pokémon Go in a while because it became boring.  However, just a little while ago they released a whole bunch of new characters and so my son and I really enjoyed catching the new ones around Paso Robles.

After dinner it was back to the hotel to soak in a naturally heated mineral spring water bath on the patio.  That was nice especially with the weather being crisp, cool and rainy.

The next morning I woke up very early and drew another bath on the porch.  It was extremely peaceful sitting in the heated waters in the silence of the morning whilst listening to a very gentle rain during the beginnings of dawn. I tried clearing my mind to really soak in all the peacefulness I could get of this beautiful moment but random thoughts kept popping up and I’d soon realize, ‘hey, I don’t want to think about this or that, I want to think about nothing!’  To think about nothing is extremely difficult to do given this age of infinite distraction and information.

My oldest son was the first to wake up and joined me for the peaceful scene outside.  Pokémon was on his mind however and so after a while we went for another stroll looking for those elusive rare characters all whilst holding an umbrella for the rain which delivered on its continual threats more than a few times.

My wife and youngest are always the last to wake up and once I received a text it was off to the hotel breakfast.  I really like the restaurant at the Paso Robles Inn for breakfast.  There is a fireplace, it overlooks the garden and their menu rivals any iHop or Denny’s even though it is much more pared down.

After breakfast we went to Sextant Winery which had been recommended to my wife by one of her friends.  My wife prefers Zinfandel and was told the Zinfandels of Sextant were outstanding.  We were the first to arrive, sometime after 10:00 AM and had the place to ourselves as it was not only very early but also raining.  We had a very nice discussion with two lovely young ladies, one of which kept my youngest entertained; my youngest decided to pull out all of his toys and place them on the wine bar in order to show the young lady who seemed to really enjoy the interaction.

The wines were indeed outstanding and we there was  flash of an instant where my wife actually considered joining their wine club.  Sextant also has a fantastic members only area (fireplace!) but unfortunately no children are allowed which is pretty much a deal killer for us.

Sextant Winery Members Area

After Sextant we went to Peachy Canyon for a brief tasting and to pick up some of their fabulous port.  Unfortunately their port is indeed fabulous; they were sold out and like the grapes from which it is made, I was crushed!  (that was terrible but I’m leaving it in.  🙂  ) We had a nice tasting anyway and then it was time to head back home which turned out to be an adventure of its own.

Usually it only takes three hours to get back but there were torrential rains and when it rains as much as it has in California things break. In fact, an entire bridge broke on Highway 1 closing a very large section of it down.  For us however there was a flooded section of Highway 101 which was causing massive delay.  I had my Waze app running and it rerouted me off the 101 just in time which I thought was a brilliant move.

I was wrong.

We got off on Stagecoach road near Salinas and it should have been just a quick bypass of the 101 congestion.  The bad news – which Waze hadn’t computed yet – was that detour roads it had wanted me to take were also closed.  So we found ourselves getting farther and farther out into the countryside not being able to take two of the roads Waze had wanted.  There were floods everywhere and it was lucky we were in an SUV so we could pass the flooded sections without much trouble.  Pacific Gas and Electric were also out there taking care of snapped utility poles and downed trees affecting electric wires.

After we were unable to take the next detour suggestion I did start to become worried as we only had 60 miles of gas left.  It would have been a disaster if, after spending 40 or so minutes driving into the country, it turned out that roads ahead of us were closed and perhaps even roads behind us recently closed.  We could have been stuck in the absolute middle of nowhere without gas!  We were on San Juan Grade road (near San Juan Bautista)  which was as country of a road as one could get leading us high up into the hills that with the rainy weather could be easily mistaken for the Scottish Highlands.

There was one point that had absolutely terrific scenery and a motorcyclist had actually stopped to take a picture.  We would have done the same had there been room for a car, there wasn’t a caravan of cars – many had been rerouted – and if I wasn’t anxious about getting stuck in the country.  There was also no cell phone reception which also added to my worries.

This was one time our built in car navigation came in handy as it relies on satellite connections and so is always reliable even if the GUI is from 1992.  It let us know that a Valero was upcoming and our gas worries would soon be over.

We eventually made it out of the countryside but one of these days, when the weather isn’t as treacherous, I’d like to go back that way and get my scenic picture I missed.

Here are the maps of the route:

 

 

Categories
Journal

The Year 2016 in Review

It is now 4:07 AM on January 14th, 2017.  The holidays of Christmas and New Year are distant memories that seem to have happened long, long ago.

The time off was not relaxing due to two little boys.  Yes, we had fun and yes we made great memories but with two little ones there is no free time, no relaxation.  I’ll enjoy the holiday breaks more when they are older and I have time to do the things I want to do: relax, read, take a nap, watch an adult movie, mountain bike, hike, and many other things.  But at the same time I will also miss the kid versions of them so it becomes  a complete catch-22.

But the holidays are a distant memory as we took down the decorations on the second of January and quickly resumed the normal routine.  I do not like to keep decorations up because they just become a sad reminder that the holidays are over and make it even more depressing.

I’ve just decided that I’ll write down my thoughts on 2016 since it gets farther away with each passing day and I’ll start to forget.

Two thousand and sixteen was a good year.  We took a number of trips, met many friends, had and went to a number of parties and everybody is happy and healthy.  The kids continue to grow up and life continues its long, slow march of change.  Everyday there are little, almost imperceptible changes that take place in our bodies as well as the world around us.  The days go by in a blur and before long all these little changes have added up and things look quite different to the way they were a year, two years, a decade ago.  Our faces have changed, friends have come and gone, the babies are gone having grown up to become toddlers and little boys and girls, cracks appear in not only the house but also in marriages of people we know.

This year I’ll turn forty and this is a very big psychological event!  I just read a very long post from an old friend I’ve known since grade school who reflected on her life and the road she has taken.  I think everyone does this to some extent when they hit 40.  It is after all the mid-life point as perhaps only the median of my contemporaries will make it to 80.  In my view, life is now more than half over if we take into account that life speeds up as we get older.  A year to a teenager is a lot longer than a year to a forty year old; the rate of speed increases with each additional year and soon we must look to the end.

I’ve learned to pause and enjoy life and I hope that in 2017 I will continue learning how to make the most out of this existence I’ve been given.  Before I go too far waxing philosophic let’s take a look back at 2016.

January

Sunrise on January 1st, 2016 @ Pillar Point Harbor, CA

New Year’s Day started off with the sunrise (video) at Oyster Point, my usual spot for sunrises.  I came home and we then went to Fitzgerald’s Marine Reserve which has become a new tradition for us on New Year’s Day.

Our first trip was on the sixteenth to Paso Robles winery.  In 2016 Paso Robles became my new favorite area for wine and wine tastings.  Napa has become too crowded, too expensive, too exclusive and generally just a pain to deal with.  Paso Robles is quiet, laid back, there are over 300 wineries and there are hot springs!  The wine is bold, the fruit easy to taste on the Zinfandel is to die for.  I discovered Paso after a failed attempt at trying to secure a decently priced hotel room up in Napa.  Everything was sold out, too expensive and all the wineries want reservations and up to a $40 tasting fee.

I then searched for hot springs and discovered Paso Robles.  Not only where there hot springs but it is also a very respected wine region!  This discovery was actually in 2015 but in 2016 I firmly planted my flag there by renouncing my membership at Artesa and switching it to the newly formed Tooth and Nail Winery.  The place is a castle, Don Quixote features on many labels, it is laid back and the wine is incredible.  I needed no further convincing and joined the membership.

There are also three Spanish missions on the way there which I like to visit.  These missions hit me very deeply as they connect me with my past in a way.  I studied in Spain and Mexico and these experiences set the foundation for what my life was to become. My studies in Spain remain unparalleled and an experience which has defined a very big part of who I am. I know the history, where the Padres came from, the horrors the Native Americans experienced.  And so, when I set foot into these missions my soul fills with wonder, with awe and with a solemn sense of history and what occurred.  I wrote a post about my thoughts and experience when visiting these California missions in my other blog that is worth a read.

I experience something profound when I visit these missions, something unique that occurs only to me given my experiences, travels and understanding of history.  My son on the other hand doesn’t like certain parts of the missions however as he told me, “Papa, there is a dead guy up there, it is scary!”  “Yes son,” I responded.  “It is quite scary indeed.”

I’ve written a lot and I haven’t even made it past the first trip in January!  I better speed it up or this post will never be finished!

February

In February we took another trip down to Paso Robles for my cousin Nick and his wife Stephanie were in town.  Much wine was consumed and many hot spring baths taken.  During this trip we discovered Sculpterra winery and I took this virtual reality image.  I remember we went out back and sat in the gazebo and had a nice discussion.  Nice discussions are a rarity when you have children that cannot sit still.  The wife is patient for a while and watches the kids but soon one must end the nice discussion and help out.  Again, I’ll be both glad and sad when the kids are older.  Now, I’d like to have more nice, adult discussions without the bother of kids, yet when they are older I’ll miss the little ones.

March

In March we took a trip to Lake Tahoe with our friends.  It was the first time that the boys really got to experience a massive amount of snow.  We went sledding, built snowmen, took a few hikes and had a wonderful time.

We also went to Filoli which I’ve always enjoyed.  Our membership ended in 2016 and we haven’t renewed.  Looking at the beautiful pictures makes me want to visit again but I’m also thinking that the money could be used to explore new places.

April 

In April, the first exciting thing was going to a Guns N’ Roses cover band called Roses N’ Guns at the Longboard Margarita bar.  This was in anticipation for the real Guns N’ Roses who would play At&T Park in August after a very long separation.  Guns N’ Roses were my favorite band growing up and listening to their music not only brings back great memories but if I close my eyes transports me back in time.  The intense feelings from 8th grade and high school come rushing back and for a brief moment I am my old sixteen year old self again.

Next up in April was a visit from my dear friend Nicola Connolley.  I know Nicola from my days in Vietnam.  She had visited San Francisco once before around 2007 and it was a pleasure to see her.  I feel it is very important to keep in touch with old friends and she is one of the few who actively tries to do so.  It was great seeing her and I look forward to our next rendezvous whenever and wherever on this planet that may be.

The last thing I have for April was the Japan Town Cherry Blossom Parade.  My wife and oldest didn’t want to go so I took my youngest who couldn’t say no!  We had a good time by ourselves and I really liked spending a little bonding time with just him.  One of my favorite events there was the Enshin Karate presentation which got me thinking about joining a dojo not only for my son but myself as well.  That has gone from a thought to reality and I’ll be going to practice today, just as I have for over six months now.

May

In May a most epic trip occurred.  Brandon finally got the timeshare room he had been trying for for over a decade at the Four Seasons, Punta Mita.  I took this virtual reality photo of the main room and patio and as you’ll see was simply fantastic.  The gate is around the plunge pool due to my youngest but normally isn’t there.  This was the most exquisite, fanciest place that I’ve ever stayed in my life.  They drive you around on golf carts, there are cabanas on the beach, a lazy river, kids activity building, tequila tastings and the list goes on.  Everything that should be in a fancy resort is there and it was fabulous.  As always it is the experiences that make up the trip and I really enjoyed the ocean fishing and ceviche on the boat, the golf, the lazy river with kids and drinking great wine in our fabulous accommodations overlooking the Pacific while the kids played in the plunge pool.  Luckily I do not have to rehash everything here as I wrote a post about the trip back in May.

June

In June my buddy Ryan who I’ve known since Ohio State came into town.  I studied with Ryan in Lyon, France and it is always great getting together and rehashing those stories.  Ryan also came to visit me once when I was living in Japan and again when I lived in Vietnam.  Needless to say we have a lot of stories and it is always a pleasure having many beers / wine and rehashing the stories that came out of those trips.

This time one of his friends from France was in town at the same time.  Sylvain is a great guy and a lot of fun; I was very happy to make a new friend!  We went to Napa for a night.  Again, no need to re-write this as I already wrote a post all about it.

Also in June my friend Ana who I’ve also known since Ohio State moved to Florida from San Francisco.  She moved here a few years ago but I only saw her on occasion since I really do not (am not able?) to go party in the city all that much.  Ana also had a beautiful baby and so that changed things quite a bit.  She now resides in Florida and rents out the loft in San Francisco so there is always hope she and her family may one day move back.

July

In July we did a number of things.  The first adventure was a trip down to the San Jose Japanese festival.  Not too much to report on that; they had good music, good food and good beer.  Next, Daisuke and his wife came for a visit.  They did a lot of the tourist stuff on their own and so I only took them to: Moss Beach Distillery, Twin Peaks, The Golden Gate Bridge and Marin. His wife has a sister who is married to someone who works at NASA’s Ames research center which has a large tent like structure set up for visitors/tourists.  It was very neat to visit although there really isn’t much there.

At the end of July we took my youngest to “A Day Out With Thomas.”  That is down at Roaring Camp Railroads not far from Santa Cruz.  When were down south I like to shoot over to Paso Robles and this time we met up with my longtime friend Kazuko and her family; I mention both of these trips in this post.  We met at Tooth and Nail winery and also went to Peachy Canyon.  After that it was off to the California Mid-State Fair.  At the fair we spent most of our time in the kids area so they could ride the rides.

August

The first item of note was that my friend Dale and his new wife Emma came for a visit.  I took them to Alice’s Restaurant,  Thomas Fogarty winery, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and the old bar at Duarte’s Tavern.  The bar opened in 1894 and has been open continuously except they couldn’t serve alcohol during prohibition.  I had always wanted to have a drink in that bar and Dale being here gave me an excuse!

The other event of note is that Dale and Peter joined Brandon and I for the Gun’s N’ Roses “Not In This Lifetime” concert at AT&T Park.  Brandon and I had planned this forever and Peter and Dale joined at the last minute.  Dale and I started out the evening in San Francisco at Mikkeller Bar, moving on to Local Edition and then connecting with Brandon and Peter at Hakkasan for a bit of food and of course more drinks.  Next it was of to 21st Amendment for more beer.  Had the evening gone perfectly we should have started and stayed  at 21st Amendment since it was packed with GnR fans.

We then walked over to AT&T park and it was just amazing seeing everyone in Guns N’ Roses shirts.  The crowd was older but there were a large number of younger people as well.  Everyone says that the music of their generation was the best but I feel that the music of my generation was the last of really true, great music that hasn’t been overrun by the music industry who only concentrates on generating profit.  It was the last generation of music that really captured an entire nation for their audience.  Yes, there is great music now, but you have to really search for it in Sound Cloud or Spotify.  The stuff they play on the radio is complete garbage.

Anyway, we arrived at AT&T park and were in for quite a shock!  The lines were a mile long to get it.  We saw the caravan carrying GnR into the stadium and didn’t make it to our seats until around the end of the first song which was Mr. Brownstone.  It was a great concert in that it really transported me back in time to 8th grade and high school.  It was great that Guns N’ Roses were *mostly* back together and I could have this experience.  But if it weren’t for those things, we were in the nosebleed seats, it wasn’t an intimate setting by any means and it seems as though GnR wanted to get in and out of the place.  But again, it was a fantastic experience.

At the end with the rush of the crowd and the fact that we had a lot of beer we ended up losing Dale for a bit.  Luckily he was found and the experience now makes a good story.

The next event in August was another trip up to Lake Tahoe.  The weather was warm and the kids (and adults alike) enjoyed playing in the lake.  My favorite part was the kayaking.  It is incredibly beautiful to see Lake Tahoe surroundings from out on the lake itself.  I’m always in awe at the beauty of the place and seeing it from a different vantage point inspires even more wonder and awe.

The reason for the trip however was for me to attend my childhood friend Terry’s wedding.  He lives in Carson City, Nevada and that is just a short drive from Lake Tahoe.  It was due to the generosity of our friends that we could stay with them and enjoy a weekend, and I could also leave them there while I went and attended the wedding.  Terry was a close neighbor of mine in Golfview Woods and we hung out a lot, especially in grade school.  We went to different high schools, did different activities and thus didn’t see much of each other and then he went to the Marines and I went to Ohio State.  We had only met up one time for just a hello really in a bar while I was still in college and then didn’t have any contact for over a decade or so.

It was through the magic of Facebook that we were able to reconnect and I caught up with him and his soon-to-be wife when they came for a visit to San Francisco.  I hope to catch up with them again in 2017.

Towards the end of August my sister came for a very brief visit as they were also going to visit her husbands relatives in Nevada and then I believe off to Yosemite.  We took them to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and all the little ones really enjoyed the tide pools.  We were also able to get some great pictures up in the “Enchanted Forest.”

September

September was relatively quiet except for a visit from my parents.  We’ve done many travels and visited many sites over the years so their visits are usually quiet and peaceful without too many activities these days.

October

October was the month of festivals.  There was the Millbrae Japanese Festival, the Renaissance Festival, the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival and various Halloween parties.

Unfortunately the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival was pretty much a washout due to rare rain.  We went anyway so we could get our pumpkin picture and the rain did let up for a bit while we where there.  We also got the closest parking that we will ever get thanks to the rain.

One new thing we did this year was go to Arata’s Pumpkin Patch.  It is crowded and a little expensive but everyone should experience the haystack labyrinth just one time.  We did and it took us about thirty minutes to find our way out!

November

November was Thanksgiving and the Dicken’s Fair.  Kazuko and her family joined us for that and I was very glad they could do so.  Everyone should experience an American Thanksgiving at least once!  I wrote a post on Thanksgiving.

Also, there is no better way to get into the spirit of Christmas than to spend a day at the Dicken’s Fair.  Like most fairs and events, I really cannot enjoy it as much as I’d like due to kids but one day I will and perhaps they will join me.  For the Dicken’s Fair I’d really like to sit in and listen to many of the shows and especially learn something at “The Adventurer’s Club.”  I’d also like to enter into the adult area “Mad Sal’s” and listen to some of the Sea Dog’s saltier sea shanties.  I can do none of these things with children although we do go to the lite opera every time and they’re pretty good and sit still.

December

December was relatively quiet with no trips and no visitors.  We put up our decorations and got ready for Christmas!  This years main toys were Pokemon cards, a Minecraft book, and Little Live Pets for the youngest.

For the first time we did attend the Rockaway Christmas Tree lighting which was a great community holiday event and something we’ll try to attend in the coming years.  The parking was very difficult though so we’ll have to go early or perhaps ride bikes there.  Santa also looked like he had a number of beers across the street at Nick’s, but you know, Santa is under a lot of work-related stress at this time of year so I really don’t blame him.

And then the sun set on 2016.  It was a very good year full of fun, friendship, adventures, travels and experiences.  I hope for the same in 2017.

Final sunset of 2016 from Pacifica, California

 


**I may edit/add more to this post later.

Categories
Journal Politics

Journal Entry 8.2.2016

It is now 5:32 AM.  I woke up earlier than usual and so went to the gym earlier then usual and thus have more time than I normally do this morning.

Let’s start with this past weekend.  We went down for “A Day Out With Thomas.”  The purpose of the trip really was to join friends and get a picture in front of the life sized Thomas.  Ren isn’t nearly into Thomas as Kai was; this is due to the fact that Kai has moved on and Ren wants to play with the same things as Kai.  All of this costs about $200 but it makes a decent memory.

After that we went down to Paso Robles to meet up with Kazuko and her family.  I’ve known Kazuko for almost 20 years; we studied in France together and got together a few times when I was living in Japan.  I’ve learned that I’m much better than most at keeping in touch and part of the reason is I’ve always been very adept with computers and the internet; thus, I never lose information and in this case contact information.  It also seems I have a very good memory as I remember very clearly the old times and can easily pick up wherever we’ve left off.  I’ve learned that most of my acquaintances my age have trouble with this.  Time degrades friendships and people forget.

Anyway, our families have gotten together these past two trips to Japan and now her husband had the opportunity to go on sabbatical in Santa Barbara.  Since Paso Robles isn’t too far from Santa Barbara we asked if they’d like to join us for wine tasting and to check out the California Mid-State Fair.  They did and we had a nice time at Tooth and Nail Winery then the fair.

Now for some random thoughts:

I have an idea to write down my experiences living and growing up in Golfview Woods.  I have very good childhood memories and I’d like to get these down before the memories fade too much.  The problem is just finding the time and motivation.  I guess this time of day would work but I think I’d feel a bit rushed.

Trump continues his buffoonery across the country and he was right:  Republican voters are the dumbest voters which is proven daily in their support for him.  It is quite amazing really in that he can say just about anything and still get wild applause.  I’m still baffled that in a country where we have mandatory schooling and the best universities in history that such a vast amount of people can still be so stupid.  Whether we know it or not yet, this has changed America for the worse and I imagine something history will point to as part of a long, slow downfall of this empire called the USA.  If something as sacred and important as our democratic process – which pretty much defines us as a nation – can only produce two candidates such as these something is incredibly wrong.

I have to say I’m incredibly astounded at the amount of influence Fox News has in shaping the minds and opinions of its viewers.  Most of their ‘news’ is absolute crap and a good amount of the population eat it up!  Seems to me humanity is not intelligent enough to keep pace with technology and the barrage of information thrown at us.  Fox viewers do not have the ability to think critically:  they are told what to think by attractive women with big boobs who appeal to base emotions, most often that of rage!

Anyway, I write this for my own benefit, to read in about ten to fifteen years for entertainment.  It will be interesting to see if it is possible for Republicans (Trump supporters) to become even dumber than they are now.  I wonder if the Republican party will even resemble what it looks like now, or perhaps even exist?  The GOP has absolutely shattered and it will be interesting to see how it evolves.

This is not to say that I’m a big fan of the Democrats at the moment either.  I still hate that our candidate is the wife of a previous president even if she is a long term public servant.  Successive family members in power makes for a banana republic in my opinion.

Putting the politicians who briefly steer the ship aside, where is America heading?  We’re in a perpetual state of war and the main target has changed four times since I’ve been alive.  It looks like ISIS is becoming just a flash in the pan and America is setting its sights back on Russia for the long term.  My current thought is that America and the constant need to find an enemy is the greatest threat to world peace; however, I’m certain any other country would do the same given the same amount of power.  We are just not advanced enough as a species to live peacefully with those who are not in the same tribe.  Money, power, greed and God, these are the things that make the world go-round.