Being a California Writer

It’s tough enough being a writer anywhere these days, what with Universal Education and every pipsqueak with the skills to lambaste you for the use, or misuse of the Oxford comma. Going through the same batch of prose 100 times, as Amy Tan was said to do for her fluid easy style, is not for the faint of heart. In terms of economic gain for ergs expended, the grill-chef at McDonald’s has a better deal.
So what with the awesome writerly competition, and the lure of the California sun, surf and scuba-diving, why would anyone waste their time tickling the keyboard in the vain hope of being noticed, never mind paid for one’s labor.
So it’s very right and proper that the THIRD WEEK of October has been declared “California Writers” by the State Legislature, thus crowning all the sweat, effort and frustration with a halo of respectability and deserved honor.QnPflowerDoc.jpg
Just in time for NanoWriMo in November, that triathalon of effort to Write a 50,000 word Novel in a Month (hence the name.)
It’s a bear of an effort in which you log in their web-site with your text for the day, week, month until the month is over. You sign out of everyday pleasantries, leisurely lunches with friends, laundry, housework. Groceries you stock ahead of time.
A worthy and useful taste of what a writer’s life is really like.
It’ll verify this punishing occupation is really for you.
Should you fail, no worries, join your nearest California Writers Club for educational meetings, bull-sessions, critique groups and a chance to call yourself, yea verily, a California Writer.

List of branches of this organization founded by Jack London and friends in 1906 follows. Parties, lectures, chances to read your work aloud, help and pointers on how to publish, not overlooking the monthly newsletter and summer picnics. What could be more supportive? The writers life doesn’t have to be lonely unless you want it to be. Warning: you’ll certainly have a bunch of alert and grammarly educated readers.
California Writers Clubs are found at:
Berkeley: Oakland
Central Coast: Pacific Grove
Fremont Area:Fremont
Marin:Corte Madera
Mendocino Coast:Mendocino Hotel
Mount Diablo:Pleasant Hill
Napa Valley:
North State:Chico
Redwood:Santa Rosa
Sacramento:Rancho Cordova
San Francisco/Peninsula: Redwood City                                      SF South Bay: Santa Clara
Tri-Valley Pleasanton

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Deaf Post


Many of us are hard of hearing, if not increasingly deaf. As Baby Boomers join our ranks, problems for others get more annoying, both  for us, who miss a lot,  and for friends and family becoming accustomed to having repeat everything.

Remember, being deaf or partially so: IT’S NOT OUR FAULT. If we became this way due to infection, loud concerts, work conditions, or heredity, it is a distressing condition we hate and would change if we could.

Diagram of ear

Ear Image

If communication is hard in your household, here’s a fast tip: don’t try to talk to someone in another room or with their back to you. Catch their eye, touch their arm, make sure they can see your lips. Lip reading is possible for many sufferers.

See about hearing aids as soon as possible. Get tested. Measure the rate of deterioration, and head off loss of communication as soon as you can.

Hearing loss has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s as the sufferer slips out of the customary world. Get the very best hearing aids you can afford. And wear them. The aids are not worth a hill of beans if they are in a drawer somewhere.

Practice using them in a wide range of situations, develop different programs for various environments.

If you can’t afford the hearing aids, ask your hearing specialist about refurbished ones. Trade-ins may be workable and certainly better than nothing.

Get the best but get wired. Your brain demands it.

Stop saying “What did you say?”  and join the world.

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Sailing into Summer

If you’ve passed over the Golden Gate bridge on a Sunday afternoon around 2pm  you’ve seen my first love. The sight of sailboats leaving harbor with the wind in their sails–it always thrills me.

I’ve sailed small boats, in the Caribbean, from Cabo San Lucas to Mazatlan, across the Sea of Cortez to La Paz, and over the years around the San Francisco Bay, Monterey and Santa Cruz. I’ve had some rough passages and heavy weather, but I love it still.

The thing that always puzzles me is why? What’s the attraction?  As my friends ask, Why would anyone pay good money to be wet and cold, stand long watches, eat foul food, and wear damp clothes for days on end?


Treasure Island in an Evening Hush

I don’t know how to answer, except by saying: I grew up on an island, and learning to sail seemed like a good exit policy in a pinch. Not only is England a fair sized island, the British Navy has a long and illustrious history. So there’s the contagion answer. I wouldn’t have been nearly so passionate about the pastime if I’d been born in Kansas, for instance.

But there’s another answer that’s closer to the truth. One of my favorite times to sail was Friday evenings after work at Redwood City’s Spinnaker Sailing. For thirty bucks or so you can go out on a small sailboat, whether you’ve sailed before or not, and find out whether it appeals to you. There’s an instructor on each boat, and most Fridays the crew has at least a first mate with some experience, so there’s not a lot of risk. You sail out the slough with the tide, face a moderate chop in the Bay, then about the time the sun sets, turn back with the wind behind you, and laze your way back to the marina. It’s that part of the sail that truly appeals to me.

Of course there are racing sailors who want to be twitching at the sails to get the last knot of speed out of the boat, but that’s not me. My pleasure is in floating on the surface of the water, with nothing between me and the sea but a thin fiberglass hull, and no sound but the lap of water and the rustle of the wind in the sails. Absolute heaven.

It probably all started when I crossed the North Atlantic on my way to England at less than 2 years of age in a ship of the Cunard White Star Line. But I didn’t really begin to sail until I moved to Texas—of all places.

I’d sketched and photographed boats for all the intervening years, until one day I just broke loose and took a sailing class. Before long we were living in a house on a lake with a 25 ft. sailboat nearby. I called it “the floating bathtub,” so badly did it sail.

A lake is a good place to learn to sail, but the challenge of sailing is at sea. That’s where the romance is. Besides the sea stories of Jack London, Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the most inspiring stories is Joshua Slocum’s book “Sailing Alone Around the World.” I think every lover of the sport wants to sail around the world.

Several years ago I met a fellow just back from sailing his 78-ft wooden schooner around the world. It took Merl Petersen 7 years. He didn’t keep a log, but he agreed to talk about it while I taped the conversation. So I wrote up the post-log, and I learned that was too much for me. The way Merl told it, it’s hard, dangerous and messy work, and things break down at the worst possible moment. And there’s the danger of getting run down by a 900 ft freighter in the middle of the night, outside shipping lanes. Certainly way beyond my capabilities.

But I love reading about other people doing it. A local magazine that’s free at any marina office or marine supply is Latitude 38; it appeals to anyone interested in sailing. It has an electronic site: Lectronic Latitude <> People write about their lives as they sail around the world, and it’s a great resource for the armchair sailor.

If you’ve ever had an interest in boats, visit your local marina this summer, and get the magazine Latitude 38. Maybe you’ll become as passionate about sailing as I am, and help keep the sport afloat in our glorious SF Bay.

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The Color Pink

Pink bathroom walls, pink cooking stove, even a pink fridge

Long colorless years of war in an English convent set me up for this. That and the ever more drab “Utility”years, when new clothing required tags with the bitten circle to prove its manufacture of the cheapest cloth, minimal seams and hems of  frugal depth. Stafford Cripps’ post-war regulations overcame all joy. After that, anything of color looked marvelous to me.

Pink was all I could think of when planning our first American house. An explosion of bright color and pinkness dominated my desires (muffled, of course, by the farm-boy scrappiness of my new husband’s upbringing. Everything else had to be grey or tan because that would wear longer. Why that was I never discovered. Perhaps it meant grey or tan wouldn’t be noticed, so any dominant color would do.  But I had other thoughts.

Pink rose in half-light

Shadowy rose

If I could have a pink Magic Chef gas oven I might even learn how not to burn every pot on the stove-top. But that would only work if there was a pink fridge to go with it. When you pick a color to dominate your vision you have to be unreasonable about it. It’s the only way.

Unfortunately there wasn’t such a thing as a pink fridge. Then we came across a bargain gas fridge.  Since the house was in the building stage, gas plumbing was installed for the already out-of-style fridge. Fortunately gas was cheap to run, and painting the fridge pink was no big concern.

I finally got my pink fridge and lived with this huge efficient pinkness for interminable years, until the fridge and my marriage failed about the same time. I doubt the fridge had anything to do with the marital failure. Exhausted dreams are a common occurrence with the passage of time, giving us an opportunity to make a change.


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The Times A-Changing For Kindle

This is something to get excited about. When I read an evocative passage, I want to nudge someone literate and say, Hey, look at this!Your comment shows how. Thanks.

Libby Cole

Change is coming to Kindle! This is particularly big news for romance readers and writers, because damn, we get through so many books that most of us are eReader addicts.

I know, change is scary, but I think these are genuinely exciting! For one thing, it’s linking to your Goodreads and Amazon wishlist. So you might actually get through that enormous TBR list. (However slow the process may be…)

Home-Screen_MRL-2._V299522329_ Here’s what those wishlists will look like

You can also get recommendations from what your Goodreads buddies are reading, as well as bestsellers in the genres you read. It refreshes every time you turn on the Kindle from sleep mode.

Home-Screen_Bottom-Slot-2._V299523962_ Fun!

The last change I’m most excited for is the ease of sharing favourite quotes – because let’s face it, I’m reeeally lazy about that on Goodreads currently. Now it can be as simple as highlighting!

KP-CRM-landingPage-5-971x1079-2._V299520948_ So. Easy.

I promise this isn’t…

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Tanks & a Sewing Machine

We lodged briefly upstairs near London’s Highgate Hill during those fraught wartime days. From the bedroom window I could see a pub on the corner where the road turned. Downstairs lived the landlady who complained of our footsteps going up to our quarters.

Brrrrrr brrrrr. Granny’s industrious work at her hand-operated sewing machine added to the landlady’s distress. Patching threadbare linen bed-sheets became a necessity with England cut off and surrounded by submarines. So Granny would turn the most badly worn sheets sides-to-middle, sewn with a flat run-and-fell seam.The sound of her  brrr brrrr went on well after tea-time. These were big sheets after all.

The landlady complained ferociously about the noise, so Granny tried to slow her work. Brrr became mmzzz mmzzz which helped only marginally and went on longer.

One afternoon there came a tremendous clanking clatter in the street outside. I hoped it was the steam roller which had mended street outside the country cottage. I dashed to the upstairs window. Now I could hear the revving of engines. The ground shook, the building trembled. Pushing aside the blackout material, I hung on to the window frame and looked down.

Over by the pub squatted a ferocious row of camouflaged tanks with their engines running.

I raced back to Granny. “There’s tanks outside,” I panted.

Granny looked up from her sewing and smiled mildly. “Mrs. Moore won’t like that,” she said before resuming her up-tempo rhythm. Brrrr brrr.

That was the day the warning went out “Invasion Imminent.”



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For Those who Served

For veterans and those who served in the hopes that others wouldn’t have to, a vote of thanks doesn’t seem quite enough. Take a just and honest pride in having paid a debt to a country that has given so much to those in great danger elsewhere.

From those in peril on the sea, to those who faced the guns and worse. And to those who supported their efforts month after long month after a brave and illustrious president led the way. Rosie the Riveter included.

Thank you.

ship at pier 47

Jeremiah O’Brien from Pier 47

o Not just because I sailed aboard the Jeremiah O’Brien in October’s San Francisco Fleet Week celebration…
o Not just because of the memories raised by this venerable “Liberty Ship” pushing off from Pier 47 that Sunday October morning due to efforts of countless volunteers, with the families of those who sailed, built, and took part in the Normandy beach-head…

o Not just because this ship, and many like her brought food, materiel and troops to our beleaguered isle of “Battleship Britain.”Tug pushing ship

For all these reasons and more, these words of gratitude and thanksgiving express what many who were not able to return might have said:
Thank you for the sacrifices you made, the work you did so ably, leaving friends and a safe environment to help those unable to help themselves.

Find out more about the Jeremiah O’Brien at:

For below-decks photos and how to get there by BART go here:

Jeremiah O’Brien at Fleet Week, 2015.

For the ultimate post go here: They deserve more

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Clutter or Visual Triggers?

When I tried to explain a recent technical problem to a visual but orderly friend, it was completely over her head, and I realized something vital.

Visual people (un-math) actually think differently than techies (geeks). Really. It’s not just “don’t want to make the effort.” I experienced the same frustration in talking with other math-oriented friends. They just don’t get it. Perhaps I use too many words, my cadence and syntax is incomprehensible.

Which brings me to the core of my issue. Too many words, in an unexpected order are what baffles most tech readers. (Which, of course, makes them look—and probably feel—illiterate) Thus explaining Twitter’s success.

But it’s the thinking process I’m trying to document here.

The tech/geek is one-pointed, which makes them insistent in their opinions. No stroke of genius for them. No thanks, not interested. Nothing is worth considering if it hasn’t been mined with pick and shovel from solid rock,, fully documented and understood, proved and tested by tech articles in esteemed publications. It’s a cautious, bridge-building approach, carpentered in such a way as to be unshakeable. It’s the Industrial Revolution approach to problem-solving.

Keys, sunglasses, plastic reward tags

Things you group together

The Vision-ary approach which I call problem-solving by looking at Things is messier—Things must be laid out on the floor/table/ or the wall-of-mind—before they can be comprehended, truly “seen-for-being-what-they-can-be.” It’s this approach that is tested by showing you a tray of unrelated stuff, all disorganized, tangled, mucky, not what anyone would want in a sterile environment.

This must be the Hunter-Gatherer approach—kids start this way; some of us never outgrow it. We are the collectors of memories and Things, (which may suggest another approach to the treatment of Alzheimers.)

Perhaps that’s why we hang on to our possessions and some things are so hard to throw away. Do our Things possess memories, do we actually need them to trigger memories of a life well-spent or do the Things themselves possess memories, embued as they are with our thoughts, our handling, our smells, our touch? Do our Things make us who we are? Hunter-Gatherers at heart.

*Visual Organizer
You can understand humor in a cartoon with no labels.
You keep reminder objects in full view: empty bottles upside-down to remind you to get more.
Keys in familiar place in full view.
Hazard: They get covered, hidden, misplaced.
Note your reaction:
o Panic
o Going senile
o Frantic retracing
o Loss of hours, days, $$$
When doing normal errands: commuting, shopping, etc.) if you always take the same path and the path is blocked, do you . . . (see above @ panic)
o Try another, and another and another random route
o Sit and stew- do some frantic phoning
o Access Mapquest– but you’re in a tunnel, no signal, so swear off tech forever.
o Finally give up, turn around, go home, take the kids/dog to the park.
Congratulations on your creativity. You can always read a book,

*Verbal Organizer
You make lists of things to do, things to get, and lose the list
– Find its habitual HOME, it’s still missing
– Stick next list on your usual pathway
– Your house begins to resemble a board game so you quit inviting visitors, and go out to meet them in public places, and get lost.
– See above at Mapquest.
Just so you know how you habitually think, and can find the resources to deal with it.

This article originally appeared in Fremont Area Writers newsletter, a California Writers Club organization.

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Art on a tuk tuk

Photo post. How gloriously the art of India deals with the transport “problem” !!!


Source: Art on a tuk tuk

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An Elephant’s Blessing

Source: An Elephant’s Blessing

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