Friday, September 30, 2005

Podcast: A solution to the high cost of textbooks?

I did this podcast last week on my vacation. It was fun going to Berkeley and talking with Fred Beshears. He is a sharp guy and a good speaker. I really enjoyed the visit!

Edupodder Podcast, A conversation with Fred M. Beshears.
To listen to audio, click here --> MP3 File Here
Fred Beshears, the University of California Senior Strategist of Educational Technology Services talks about the high cost of textbooks for college and university students. He is proposing application of open source, creative commons solutions, based on the UK Open University [Link], as a partial solution to this serious student cost issue. This conversation occurred September 20, 2005 on the Berkeley campus.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Podcast with SJSU Professor Gus Lease

A conversation with Gus Lease, Looking at the labor movement in the California State University System.

To listen to audio, click here --> MP3 File Here
SJSU Music Professor and good friend Gus Lease has been with SJSU since 1950. He joined the California State Employees Association (CSEA) before it was a union. This union now does not include faculty, but then it was an association that everybody who worked at the university could belong to, including managers. He describes how the association evolved and discusses the upcoming statewide CSEA meeting, General Council.

Looking back on our trip

We had a great time on our trip to the Santa Barbara County wine country. It was very pleasant and I look forward to going back again after knowing what we learned. We had some great wine, great food and great times.

Susie at Pismo
Seeing the whales at Pismo was a perfect cap to the trip. I had heard people talk about seeing the whales along the coast but I never imagined that we would.

Whale breaching

That was something I never thought I would see. I wish I had had a bigger telephoto lens, but at least we have the memories.

The Road Less Traveled
There is a poem by Robert Frost called The Road Less Traveled [Link]. It is an inspirational poem about choices and the thrill and challenge of not taking the easy choice or the well worn path but instead about the challenge to take the chance of taking the less traveled path and all its associated risk. Author Scott Peck wrote a similar named book [Link] that once served as a powerful inspiration for me to take that path when I was facing a major life changing decision in my life. It is with sadness that I learned that he died recently. He was a good man, a good author and he helped a lot of people live better and more meaningful lives, myself included.

Wine Reviews
I have posted winery reviews on my opinion blog [Link]. This link is to our tasting at Babcock Winery [Link] on the last day. More reviews will be coming.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Day four, Sideways Vacation & Wine Reviews

The Hitching Post and Sideways Sequel News
On Saturday night we went to the Hitching Post [Link] and had the best steak I remember ever having. I think it was the best steak I have ever had in my life, but after turning 50, I don't know. It was hopping. The waitress at the Hitching Post said that since "The Movie" (as Sideways is called there) business has increased 40%. at the Hitching Post. She said they just learned last Wednesday (at the Hitching Post) that they are doing a Sideways sequel soon. She said that now she will have to kill herself. It will be so cool if they do a sequel to Sideways and and I guess that the folks at the Hitching Post would possibly be the first to know if the folks at Fox/Searchlight were going to shoot it there.

Susie and I at the Hitching Post

Anyway, the food at the Hitching Post was better than I expected. The wine was superb. We had the Highliner (as featured in "the movie." It was so good we bought another bottle to take home. I had heard they had went down hill after "the movie" but I guess they made adjustments. It was fun watching them do the oak wood barbecue, (you can see this in "the movie.")

We got naughty in Neverland
The next day was Sunday and it was back to Solvang for breakfast, then we did the only wine tasting we did this day. We stopped at Babcock Winery and Vineyards [Link]. Man, there wine is great! They have some great Chardonnays with less than 30% MLF, killer Syrahs, a yummy Super-Tuscan and surprisingly good Bordeauxs. They make an out-of-this-world Meritage blend. I know this is not Bordeaux country, but they grow grapes in a vineyard called "Hidden Valley." Reportedly this area has been getting quite a bit of acclaim from folks like Robert Parker and Wine Enthusiast has name them one of the top 100 wineries of the year. There Pinots are on par with Sanford. Plus, the Sanford family has sold their interest in Sanford. So we did the naughty, we joined the Babcock wine club! We decided to quit Sanford, after all these years.

A whale of a good time
We came home via highway one to Pismo Beach where we stopped to stroll out on the pier. While out there we were delighted to see a number of migrating whales pass by. What a wonderful end to a great trip. So far, turning 50 has been pretty cool!

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Day three, Sideways Vacation & Wine Reviews

Fun factoid:
According to our waitress, the record at Andersen's Pea Soup in Buellton, California is 17 bowls of soup consumed by one person in one meal. I had two bowls and felt like a stuffed pig. How can anybody consume 17 bowls? That is about two gallons of soup.

We had another great day of wineing and dining. We went to Sanford [Link], Melville [Link], Buttonwood [Link] and Rideau [Link]. The last two were from a sudden lack of imagination (we found coupons for free tasting.) They were very commercial. But, both seemed to have good value wines. Rideau has a premium line, but that was not included in the tasting. We liked a few of their wines and bought their 2003 Solvang Tempranillo. Their facilities are nicer, much nicer than Buttonwood. The Buttonwood wines were good for the price, but their tasting room was loud and blared music that made it more suitable for the college crowd.

Our friend Tyler recommended Melville, and that was a real treat. The pourer there was great. I liked their Chardonnays, which have lower malolactic fermentation (MLF) and are crisp and more like the European style of white burgundy. These were very yummy. Their Santa Rita Hills Pinot was quite good, but we already have a lot of Sanford Pinot. They make a Syrah that is very different, inky and spicy. Susie and I liked it but not as much as Tyler, whom we picked up a bottle for. We got the Chardonnay.

Susie and I are members of Sanford and had a very enjoyable drinking experience there. We have quite an inventory of their wines already, but Susie really like their Sauvignon Blanc, and so we bought that. Their Chardonnays were good, their 2003 Chardonnay: Santa Barbara County is great with partial MLF and similar to the Melville and the 2003 Chardonnay: La Rinconada Vineyard is a buttery 100% MLF powerhouse. We have some of each already, so we bought neither. To me Pinot is king at Sanford and we tasted the 2002 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, the 2002 Pinot Noir, La Rinconada Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills and the 2002 Pinot Noir, Sanford & Benedict, Santa Rita Hills. The latter two were knock your socks off good and we bought the Sanford & Benedict as we did not have that.

We really took our sweet time at Sanford and Melville. These were real treats! Thank you Tyler for the suggestion.

Susie in Solvang

Elaine Whitebook [Pic Link] recommended the Solvang Restaurant [Link] to us and it was a winner! Thanks to Elaine we had Aebleskivers for breakfast. They were really yummy. I had not had them for years and I got to introduce Susie to them. That was too much fun! Then we went walking around the Danish-like town of Solvang before we went wine tasting. We later had lunch in Lompoc and saw the bowling alley that was in Sideways. Ohhh-Ahhhh...

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Day two, Sideways Vacation

Susie finishing wine taste
We are now staying in Buellton. We are at the "Quality" Inn in Buellton, which is a real dive. It is AAA approved but it sounds like the trucks are driving through the bathroom, I intend to let AAA know what I think! It is dirty, trash is on the ground and construction dust is in the pathways. How can this be what AAA approves of?

Other than that we are having a great time. We went to Foxen Winery [Link], Zaca Mesa Winery [Link], Fess Parker [Link] and Longoria [Link].

In general we liked Foxen less than I thought we would and Fess Parker more. The Foxen tasting room was so small we missed it the first time. Their wine was good, but not great, and the tasting room was full of bugs. It was a flying mass of flies and bees there were constantly landing all over us, we bought nothing there! At Zaca Mesa we liked their wines okay. My favorite was their 2002 Z Three Cushman Blend. It was yummy, but not $50 yummy. Their 2003 Chamisal Chardonnay was good, but not $35 good, in my opinion. The first place we bought was Fess Parker. their 2001 Santa Barbara County Syrah was a deal at $18, we bought it. It was very fruit forward and a joy on the palate. the 2001 "American Tradition Reserve" Syrah was even better, but not twice as good (even though it was twice the price.) Longoria is an old and respected name in the wine industry. Like Garretson, where we went before, I have read about Richard Longoria in Wine Spectator. Their 2003 Santa Rita Hills was very nice. With 50% Malolactic Fermentation it was buttery, but not over the top. We also liked the 2002 Santa Barbara County Syrah a lot! The 2002 "Hoo Doo Red" blend was good, fun and only $14. The Fe Ciega Pinot Noir was great, but out of our budget! We bought the Chardonnay and the blend.

We had Pea Soup at Anderson's for dinner, and no more wine. Tomorrow we are going on another adventure. We have a winery one friend told us about and a restaurant another turned us on to. Stay tuned folks for more to come!

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First day of Fall 2005 wine adventure

Ripe Castoro grapes up close
September 23, 07:00, Santa Maria - We are in Santa Maria, California and I cannot get an Internet connection, so this may be late in getting posted. Yesterday we drove down 101, stopping in Paso Robles for coffee and wine tasting. We went to Garretson [Link] and Castoro Cellars [Link], and tasted and bought some really nice wine. I took the photo of the Zinfandel grapes at Castoro. They were hanging from the trellis leading up to their tasting room. The grapes grown around the winery go into their Cobble Creek Zinfandel. This some of their finest Zin, in my opinion. This is real yummy stuff, At Garretson we focused on their Syrahs. They make only Rhones. As I understand it, the Rhone region of France is an area where certain varieties of grapes were created and are grown. Like other regions of France (like Burgundy and Bordaux) grapes that are of these Rhone varieties are called Rhones. One of these Rhone varieties is Syrah. I really like Garretson's Syrahs. The owner of the winery, Mat Garretson, has been in Wine Spectator and on Grape Radio [Link] (a podcast about wine) where he was interviewed about his passion for Rhones. Their wines are so good and popular they are increasingly selling out in futures. Rhones are coming on very strong in the Paso Robles area. I have heard the area could become the Napa Valley of Rhones. Zinfandel is not a French variety, (it is principally an American variety and was developed in the USA.) Paso Robles has some very big, fruity Zins that are sometimes called Monster Zins. As the pourer at Castoro said, "Zinfandel still rules here." It is hard to imagine Paso Zins being eclipsed by Rhones as the trademark wine of the region.

After Paso Robles we drove to Santa Maria. I have not been to Santa Maria for twenty years or so. It is not the sleepy little retirement town I remember. We're staying at the Santa Maria Inn, which is nice, except the hotel's wireless network will not work with my Macintosh.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Summer is over, Fall has begun

Riders on Hicks Ride
I used to hate Fall. It was a symbol of decline, of coldness and the impending dead of Winter. Today I climbed a mountain on my bicycle. It was steep and not an easy climb and I was not the first or the oldest one to make it to top.

But, when he was my age my dad had arthritis and had a hard time walking. He could hardly climb the steps to get into the cab of a locomotive (he was a train engineer.) Eight years later he was gone. Today I climbed a mountain on my bicycle. What a great way to celebrate the end of summer. What a great way to celebrate the arrival of Fall. Pretty good for a guy my age.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Enough alike to be related?

Susie and Joanne
Ever since Joanne and her husband Lee Thrall joined the club, I have heard comments about how she looks like my wife. The Saturday party was the first time I saw them together. Like me, Joanne and Lee also ride Rivendells!

It was a fantastic fifties weekend

So much happened that I cannot even begin to write it all. We had a great bike ride followed by a fantastic party at our house on Saturday. The ride was a 40 mile ride with perfect weather. Our friends John and Rosa were camping at Uvas Canyon Park, and we met them there. Saturday night we had a combined party celebrating both the end of the 2005 whine-n-dine season and my 50th birthday. Jeff ran the grill! Many others cooked and brought great food to the dinner.

Jeff, Nicole, Ken and I
Susie, Frances, Diane Chauncy and many others did a ton of work to put the party together. We had about 42 people here. I got many great cards, gifts and some great bottles of wine!

Last week I had many family and friends take me out to lunches and dinner, call and send cards. When you do it with so many wonderful friends and family, turning 50 is not so bad after all.

Sunday I put together our bike club newsletter and we had a nice dinner with Kathy and John. Here is a link to the bike club newsletter [Link, 1MB, PDF].

Friday, September 16, 2005

Family and friends helping me celebrate turning 50

My Help Desk Kids

So many wonderful things have happened in the last couple of days regarding family and friends doing neat things for me for my 50th birthday. For example, right now my job at San Jose State is running the University Help Desk. I have five students who work there doing first level phone support. All of them are from India and knowing them has really made me want to visit their home land. I am very proud of them. I just turned 50 and they surprised me today with a birthday cake and sang happy birthday to me. It is the students that make working at the university so special. I feel like I have been able to touch so many lives. I know they have all touched mine.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The price of truth

"Fear not the path of truth, for the lack of people walking on it," Robert Kennedy.
It is easy in the present to praise folks in the past who were willing to stand up for truth in the past and suffered the consequences for it. We see their courage but pay no cost for honoring it. We safely celebrate Galileo, Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez and at SJSU, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. It is easy in retrospect to pay respect to these folks who stood up to the establishment, the then existing administration, when we are not in their time. It is easy to sing their praises when doing so is safe.

The real challenge is in the present, to suffer the consequences for speaking the truth when it costs your job, a better job or the wrath of your boss and/or coworkers, or worse. That is the measure of courage, in my opinion. Courage is standing up for the truth when doing so is not the easy path. Courage is standing up for the truth when standing up for the truth costs you. Too many times in my university career this is exactly what I have seen happen, good people suffer in academia for standing up for the truth. This has been happening in academia since the days of Galileo. This happens still.

SJ Bike Shop Wants to Buy Votes?

It appears STBikes, a San Jose, California bike shop, wants my vote bad enough that they may be willing to bribe me for it.

ST Bikes Ad

This came in my E-mail today (September 6, 2005.)

If I am reading this right, if you vote for them in Metro Magazine's [Link] "Best of Silicon Valley Contest" you will receive a discount. Plus, if I am reading this right, the more times you vote for them, the more times you will get the discount. If they win this "contest" they get "free" publicity in Metro magazine.

Am I reading this right? Is this is really as this appears to me? If so, how can this possibly be ethical?